13 of Our Favorite Posts from 2013

ToM Best of 2013 tilted

2013 was Tropics of Meta’s biggest year yet, as we welcomed numerous new contributors (hello LG, Brian, Mark, Jimmy et al) and continued our collaboration with South El Monte Arts Posse, most notably with the East of East community mapping project.  Some of our pieces traveled far and wide online, such as Clement Lime’s spirited defense of Howard Zinn.  Ryan’s Minutemen piece got tweeted by Mike Watt, who is now our bestie (not really).  In any case, let’s take a look back at some of the most interesting writing from the fourth installment of a five-year plan that just can’t fail.  (When have five-year plans ever gone wrong?)

The Spanish Roots of the 99%

Jeffrey Lawrence explores the origins of the Occupy movement and the rhetorical frame of the 99% vs. the 1% in the struggle of the indignados, who have challenged the status quo of austerity in Spain since 2011.

“I’d Tap That,” or Whither General Keith Alexander?

In this investigative report, Larry Grubbs pulls back the curtain on the blandly anonymous yet incredibly powerful figure at the heart of the NSA’s vast campaign of electronic surveillance–an individual who has escaped significant scrutiny, despite the ongoing debate about privacy that has rocked the world since Edward Snowden’s revelations came to light.

The Motor City at War: Mobilization, Wartime Housing, and Reshaping Metropolitan Detroit

Ryan Reft delves deep into the historiography to present a panoramic view of Detroit in the midst of WWII, as military mobilization transformed the politics of race and housing in Detroit.

David Greenberg Doesn’t Hate Howard Zinn Because He Was a Bad Scholar, but Because He Was a Radical

In this blistering critique, Clement Lime takes Rutgers historian David Greenberg to the shed for his trolling of the late radical historian Howard Zinn in the pages of The New Republic.  If self-congratulatory snobs like David Greenberg and Jill Lepore ever inspire a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of a percent as many people to become historians as Zinn did, then we’ll be more than happy to take them out for lunch.

Frankie Fitzgibbons, the Coen Brothers, and the Free Market

Alex Cummings finds improbable linkages between No Country for Old Men and the overlooked 1991 novel Ride a Cockhorse, which stars a semi-fascistic middle-aged sexpot who resembles no one so much as Sarah Palin — albeit a Palin with a powerful command of the English language.  Both Anton Chigurh and Frankie Fitzgibbons ultimately become avatars of a relentless new market logic in the wake of the Reagan revolution.

1181 Durfee Ave: 1983 to 1986

In this lyrical essay, poet and novelist Michael Jaime Becerra reflects on adventures with BMX bikes and Piston Hurricane in the rich social geography of 1980s El Monte.

How Much Have We Got Left? Jason Isbell’s Southeastern

Brian Ingrassia probes into the emotional undertow and rich regional specificity of one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, the solo release by former-Drive by Truckers hero Jason Isbell.

Is White the Only Color in Upstream Color?

Cherie Braden examines the otherwise-totally-unexamined racial politics of what is easily one of the strangest films of the year, Shane Carruth’s follow-up to the celebrated 2004 film Primer.  Going beyond the predictable whiteness of the standard indie, Upstream Color shrouds its weirdly exclusionary take on race in plenty of symbolism about pigs, orchids, and sound waves.

Economic Hardcore: Remembering the Minutemen Nearly 30 Years Later

Ryan riffs on the 1980s, punk, Repo Man, the joys of jamming econo, and the band that could have been (and maybe was) your life.

The Thin End of the Wedge: Faculty House, Columbia University, and the Future of Higher Education in America

A skirmish over a labor contract for a small bargaining unit at Columbia might not appear to have worldwide implications, but as Jason Resnikoff’s explosive piece shows, the Manhattan Ivy is at the forefront of disempowering workers and corporatizing higher education — in the classroom, in the kitchen, and just about everywhere else.

Eyes Wide Shut and the Paranoid Style in American Pop Culture

Inspired by the film Room 237, Alex rewatched Eyes Wide Shut to explore the fever swamp of conspiracy theory that has grown up around the films of Stanley Kubrick. (It’s not just the Moon landing, kids…)

Modern Family: Mr. Mom and Fatherhood in the 21st Century

With more and more men staying at home to raise kids, Ryan’s essay on family, gender politics, and Michael Keaton’s 1980s oeuvre could not be timelier.

Thin Is In: Rethinking 40 Years of Intellectual History in the Age of Fracture

Jude Webre closed out our summertime debate of Daniel Rodgers’s Age of Fracture and neatly summed up the debate with this elegant discussion about what Michel Foucault, Jesse Jackson, and Tim LaHaye have in common.