Tropics of Meta “Staffers” Pick the Best of 2014


Each year, Tropics of Meta’s intrepid team of cultural critics reports on the best of the year’s music, movies, TV, scholarship and so forth.  We’ve commented on artists as humorless as Aimee Mann and as humorful as Chance the Rapper; we’ve listened to Harry Nilsson and showered with Greta Van Susteren. (And that was before her head transplant!)  This year, though, we decided to sound out our contributors on a battery of highly social-scientific questions, prompting some fascinating responses.  You think you know, but it’s weird to learn what your friends and colleagues are actually into.  So here you have it: the first-ever ToMmys!

1. Best Academic Book/Article

Nick Juravich: Roberta Gold’s When Tenants Claimed the City and Sonia Lee’s Building a Latino Civil Rights Movement.

Antonio Del Toro: Not sure if it counts because I don’t have the study with me to check the publication date, but it’s the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. It’s a very interesting/depressing/informative study of the effect that traumatic experiences during childhood have on adult behavior. According to the folks who presented the data at my workplace, the study was inspired by a Freudian slip. The authors were completing a questionnaire with a set of twins, one morbidly obese and the other at an average weight, to see what body image/sexual activity factors influenced their weight divergence. One of the authors intended to ask the heavier twin, “how old were you when you became sexually active,” but accidentally asked, “how much did you weigh when you became sexually active.” The Patient quickly responded that she had been a bit over 40lbs (ie: when she was a child). The quickness of her response and the obviously powerful link between the weight, the abuse, and her own reference point, made the authors reconsider the focus of their study from sexuality and body image to childhood trauma. For those of us who work in the ‘helping professions’ and tend to get empathy fatigue with our more challenging Clients, it’s a reminder that they struggle with so much trauma, and buried so deeply, that it’s a wonder they are able to cooperate with us and their medical providers at all. The link also has a quiz you can take to find your own ACE score, and then you can check the stats and get depressed! I myself am a 6!

Lauren MacIvor Thompson: Kimberly Hamlin’s From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America. A fantastic book that weaves together the stories of science and the feminist movement at the turn of the century.

Joel Suarez: It came out last year but: the one that stands out is still Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams. With the exception of a few lapses of academese, the book is incredibly well written. It’s about as vivid as any modern academic book is allowed to be and passionately argued. Despite the specialized nature of the slavery-capitalism historiographical debate, Johnson makes it all come alive and makes it seem as if the stakes could not be higher. That being said, it’s not the first time the argument has been made (there’s a lot to it, but: 19th century capitalism is inextricably linked to American slavery) and, unlike his first book (which is a masterpiece), he overreaches rhetorically and analytically on a few occasions. Nevertheless, overall it’s an engrossing read written in the gothic mode that can appeal to people not invested in the academic debate.

Alex Cummings: Sarah Mayorga-Gallo’s Behind the White Picket Fence: Power and Privilege in a Multiethnic Neighborhood, published this year by UNC, offers a powerful sociological portrait of a changing community in one of America’s most interesting and dynamic cities, Durham, NC.  Looking at the pseudonymous neighborhood of “Creekridge Park,” Mayorga-Gallo disguises her informants while recounting her observations at neighborhood association picnics and intimate personal discussions with residents about diversity, race, and sexuality. In the process, the author is able to reveal a great deal about the tensions of identity that run through a fairly liberal and diverse neighborhood in a city whose demographics are rapidly shifting, thanks to forces such as immigration, gentrification, and economic development in the greater Research Triangle area.  Behind the White Picket Fence raises serious questions about what “diversity” and “integration” mean when a neighborhood looks multicultural but remains riven by distinctions based on class, race, and ethnicity, where people from different backgrounds live cheek-by-jowl but rarely communicate with each other on equal and familiar terms.

Adam Gallagher: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable.  Mercifully, I no longer have to read a lot of “academic” books or articles anymore. But, this is a pretty serious work of scholarship from Marable. He is sympathetic to Malcolm, but evenhanded. Marable also does a superb job of weaving in important international and American political events into the narrative, which provides some really useful context when trying to understand someone as eclectic and mutable as Shabazz.

Mindy Clegg: Grace Elizabeth Hale’s A Nation of Outsiders: Oxford University Press published this in 2014, and it addressed the notion that white middle class privileged Americans (especially males) have come to see themselves as rebellious outsiders, and Hale helps us to understand how this came to be (via popular media and culture, mostly) and the real world consequences of this, including ignoring of very real social problems of having real outsider status for some groups in American society… which leads me into #2….

Ryan Reft: Believe it or not (and yes, not is perfectly acceptable), I read several great academic works. Laura Barraclough’s Making the San Fernando Valley and Wendy Cheng’s The Changs Next Door to the Diazes are fascinating new additions to California urban history as each looks to deconstruct identity and suburbanization in San Fernando Valley (Barraclough) and L.A.’s too often ignored San Gabriel Valley (Cheng). Andrew Friedman’s Covert Capital, discussed ad nauseam this year at ToM (here and here) serves as another recommendation and one that combines foreign policy, postwar suburbanization, and transnational forces of identity and militarization into a coherent overview of the Northern Virginia suburbs and their dizzying diversity.

2. Favorite Hashtag/Meme

Nick: The NYPD twitter fail.

Antonio: #YaMeCanse, because I too am tired of fearing for the lives of my relatives who are still in Mexico. Murillo-Karam must still be dislodging his foot from deep in his epiglottis.

Lauren: #AlexfromTarget. Just kidding. #FeministTaylorSwift?

UCSD White Coat Die In 12/10/2014
UCSD White Coat Die In 12/10/2014 #BlackLivesMatter

Joel: #blacklivesmatter. Because it matters.

Mindy: Race/gender: The online discussions over events such as gamergate, the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner (among way too many others), or the “fappening” have created some good, thoughtful online articles and twitter discussions (just do a search and you’ll come up with a treasure trove of articles). It’s hard to drill down on a single meme/hashtag that’s been useful in thinking about the continued sexism and racism in our society and culture (just a taste of these: #yesallwomen, #gamergate, #notallmen, #icantbreathe, #ferguson, #iftheygunnedmedown, etc). The discussions have been in some ways quite productive, even as some have used these technologies to troll and harass people of color and women, there has been a wave of people sharing their stories around the issues, talking person to person, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Adam: Meme’s have a shelf life of about 10 minutes in my brain. Sure, they’re funny sometimes, I just don’t give a shit about Jack White at a basketball game or an awkward high school year book photo with a a bunch of dumb internet buzz words on it (pwned!). I’d say the most important hashtag this year (that just sounds like an insane phrase to utter) would be #BlackLiveMatter or #ICantBreathe. In their own way, I think that these hashtags, as part of the larger media firestorm, help keep issues on the table longer than they normally would be.

Ryan: #Economistbookreviews – Well what do you expect from the fading vestiges of British imperialism? Yes, the Economist worries about the feelings of slaveholders, why don’t you? In a disastrous review of Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (2014), an Economist reviewer worried about, well better to go to the source:

“Mr. Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.”

Surely, we’ve looked too dimly on other past atrocities and villains perhaps we judged too harshly. It sparked an outpouring of tongue in cheek historical revisionism:

Ultimately, the Economist big wigs put down their gin and tonics to issue an apology.

3. Favorite Website/Blog

Cherie: Feminist Philosophers Blog.

Nick: Brian Jones on Belabored.

Antonio: Excellent news source in Spanish, and extremely courageous. They’ve endured death threats, harassment, and cyberattacks, but they remain undeterred. It’s the first site I check for updates on the situation in Mexico.

Lauren: Nursing Clio – such a good roundup of  issues surrounding gender/medicine and run by a crack team of historians.

Joel: Grantland, the AtlanticJacobin, and Freddie deBoer’s blog.

Despite being mainly a sports site, Grantland consistently features some of the best writing on the web or in print. Wesley Morris in particular has written some of the most powerful, elegant prose I’ve read anywhere.

As for the Atlantic: Ta-Nehisi Coates. Enough said. (The rest of the magazine can for the most part be burned to the ground, especially Jeffrey Goldberg.)

Jacobin: It’s not quite as fresh and exciting as it was a year ago, but it’s nice to see a reliable outlet for radical criticism.

Freddie deBoer: he can write, his politics are generally pretty good, and he gave us this gem:

The New Republic was never anything but a warmongering racist antileft trashpile and I hope the whole enterprise burns to the ground and if you are nostalgic about it you’re nostalgic for The Bell Curve, the war on Iraq, and Marty Peretz’s Muslim Hating Neo-Fascist Jamboree. The whole enterprise was corrupt right down to its colonialist bones and if some Facebook billionaire wants to turn it into Tinder For Politico Jagbags it could not possibly suffer in comparison. Shedding tears for Leon Wiseltier’s job is like worrying about what became of Stalin’s cat. I only pray for the day that your twisted obsession with Village bric-a-brac is performed by the unpaid interns that are the inevitable future of Big Media, which will be celebrated by you neoliberal clowns right up until some 17 year old earning nothing but 3 $9,000-a-credit-hour credits literally unplugs the keyboard from your workstation. Tell Stephen Glass I said hey and shut out the lights on your way out.

Mindy: Boing Boing is always a favorite blog for me. This blog emerged out of a zine put together by Mark Frauenfelder, that brought together all manner of weird subcultures in the 90s into a thoughtful zine, and eventually found itself in the digital age, and has since been a directory of wonderful things. The icing on the cake has to be the happy mutants found in the comments, who hold a wide vartiety of pedestrian and esoteric knowledge. Though is coming in a close second lately. Annalee Newitz, the editor always has interesting and insightful articles about science fiction, fantasy, science, comics, books, and history.

Adam: I’m going to be annoying and name two. On the more political, rigorous side of things, Jacobin has become an indispensable source of great writing from a leftist perspective on everything from college athlete unionization to Palestine. From a more fun-to-read perspective, Grantland is one of the few non-newspaper websites that I can say I make a daily visit too. Couched as a sports and culture e-zine, Grantland features great writers and some excellent long-form journalism. If you’re not a sports fan, there is plenty of great content on music, movies and TV.

Alex: Metafilter–it’s like Reddit but without the company of Date Rape, Cokington, Cheeseball and Jag.

Ryan:  I won’t mention Grantland or Nursing Clio, both favorites but already discussed. Since we’ve apparently become a site for flag-burning leftists (I kid, more like left-of-center bonfires fueled by Fourth of July-themed napkins) as the site’s most conservative writer (it’s all relative), I’m going to throw out one my favorite blogs, the positivist influenced Democracy in America blog over at the Economist. I know, I can hear some of you grinding your teeth especially after #Economistbookreviews, but what do you want, I played pick up basketball in college with Tucker Max. Guy had handles and a solid jumper, how was I to know he would rise to fame/infamy writing dubious lad books like I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell?

In all seriousness, the larger point here is give Democracy in America a shot. The blog has a host of writers who espouse a broader selection of views than one might expect. Sure as noted, the Economist worries about the sensitivities of nineteenth century slaveholders, but they also promote gay marriage and gun control. The magazine and blog house the kind of conservatism that once struck “grand bargains” with their liberal counterparts, before purity tests in both parties (but really mostly the GOP) seemed to erode such negotiations. In the end, hearing an opposing voice can be a good thing.

4. Favorite Podcast Episode

Cherie: New Books in Philosophy on R. Jay Wallace’s The View from Here.

Antonio: WTF with Marc Maron: The episode where he interviews RuPaul. He got some flack for using the term “she-mail” in his show RuPaul’s Drag Race, which some folks felt was crossing the line into the language of transphobia. The podcast was recorded shortly after that and the incident is briefly discussed in the interview, but I liked it for all the other subjects they touch on (be warned, the discussion about the ‘she-mail’ incident was not framed as an apology). Still though, even though my perspective on transphobia differs from his, it was a fascinating conversation.

Mindy: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: Well, less a podcast and more a radio drama I listened to online, based on one of Gaiman’s earlier novels. It’s a story of young man who falls into London Underground, a quasi-Medieval world, full of monsters, warriors, lords, ladies, and a powerful angel. One great thing about the program was the emphasis on color blind casting choices. Although it’s not currently available on the BBC radio, it can still be found on the youtubes. Even better, at the end of this year, a new radio drama will be broadcast of Neil Gaiman’s and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. I love Gaiman’s work, and I find it great that he’s getting a bigger audience for his wonderful work!

Adam: On a given day, I probably listen to at least two hours of podcasts, so this one is tough. The one particular podcast from 2014 that really sticks out to me is no longer available. On September 22, Bill Simmons of Grantland called Roger Goodell a liar on his podcast, the B.S. Report. ESPN suspended Simmons for three weeks as a result. That episode was rather heated and it was great to see an ESPN employee go after the NFL chief in a less measured way than usual.

Alex: Radiolab‘s “Rodney versus Death.” This is the episode that truly turned me on to Radiolab. It’s everything.  But since that episode technically first aired in 2013, I would probably say This American Life‘s utterly mind-boggling story about the war over control of the school system in East Ramapo, New York.

Ryan: Howler.   Along with the former Grantland, now NBC-sponsored Men in Blazers podcast Howler provides some great soccer commentary that also takes the sport in the context of larger issues. In an era where more and more writers use sport as a lens to dissect broader society, this podcast features the likes of the masterful David GoldBlatt among others. Equal parts soccer commentary, political critique, and pints of Guinness, Howler delivers the kind of finish that Liverpool’s Mario Balotelli once performed with regularity but now only experiences in his wildest dreams.

5. Favorite Discovery of 2014

Cherie: Favorite things I learned about: self-reproducing machines, the many accomplishments of John von Neumann, quantum collapse postulate, and stack overflowThis is a catch-all category, and doesn’t even need to be a product from this year.

Nick: The Google Streetview “Time Machine” feature (for charting urban redevelopment and gentrification, in particular)

Lauren: Orphan Black on BBC America! Best show, hands down, on tv. Also Drunk History on Comedy Central. I think ToM needs to create their own version, stat.

Joel: I don’t know if it’s a “favorite discovery,” but finding out that one of the most prominent lefty academics in the world had a Nazi dad that chilled with Eichmann is pretty shocking. Pretty amazing story.

Mindy: I’d have to say the game Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games. A nice split between traditional role playing game, but with the brevity of a card game. Perfect for a fun family hour or so. Also, THERE IS AN ADVENTURE TIME VERSION!!!

Adam: An Honorable Woman. For people who like Homeland (or use to like it), this show will make you really mad. It’s exactly what Homeland c(sh)ould be.

Alex: The Southern Reach trilogy by sci-fi novelist Jeff VanderMeer was the discovery that most transfixed me this year.  I don’t read a lot of fiction, but when I do it generally has to be something that is instantly engrossing.  The trilogy (AnnihilationAuthority, and Acceptance) definitely meets that standard.  When I first read about the series, it was pitched as a sort of novelistic counterpart to Lost that won’t send you into a life-destroying rage spiral when you reach the end.  The story, broadly speaking, deals with a territory somewhere in the southeastern United States known as “Area X,” that somehow fell under the control of some kind of occupying force or intelligence thirty years ago, and the Southern Reach, a government agency whose purpose is to study and explore the region.  That description hardly does the three novels justice, but fans of the likes of David Mitchell and Haruki Murakami will not be disappointed.  I haven’t finished the third book yet, though, so I can’t make any assurances about whether the author can pull all the threads together in a way that doesn’t make you want to go on a killing spree.

Detroit's Protmartyr looking generally disinterested
Detroit’s Protmartyr looking generally disinterested

Ryan: “Have you heard all the bad news? We’ve been saved by both coasts,” lead singer Joe Casey of Detroit’s Protomartyr mumbles/sings over Wire-like metallic guitar riffs on “Come and See”. “And I’ll try to live defeated, come and see the good in everything, outside the animal sounds, come and lead us on to heaven.”  Their 2014 release Under the Color of Official Right recalls 1970s punk rock equal parts the aforementioned Wire, the Clash, and cough syrup. They sound like the soundtrack to a 21st century decade that feels more and more like 1970s redux.

RIP Tommy
RIP Tommy

With this in mind, the album also serves as a disturbing reminder that life no longer had a time for the Ramones. Tommy Ramone, aka Thomas Erdeyl, died in July, marking the passing of the last remaining Ramone. If you’ve seen End of the Century, the brilliant Ramones documentary, you know the band was the personification of dysfunction. Yet, Tommy always seemed like the most level headed. He lacked Joey’s bohemianism/OCD complex, Dee Dee’s drug addiction, and Tommy’s, well, orneriness/racism. He drummed on the band’s first three albums and produced the two records that came after, but Tommy remained a part of the broader scene. He later produced arguably one of the Replacements’ greatest albums Tim, which it seems considering the Minnesota band’s recent revival, all too appropriate.  I guess the discovery is that I’ll miss the Ramones.

6. Favorite Rediscovery of 2014

Nick: The Replacements (whose Pandora station is fan-damn-tastic).

Lauren: Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy album. My dad and I used to listen to this when I was a kid and I have recently become re-obsessed with his whole catalog.

Joel I’ve been listening to a lot of cheesey, old merengue when I run (think Oro Solido…oh yeah). This doubles as my guilty pleasure.

Mindy: 80s movies/TV: So, having kids means you get the opportunity to review the media of your childhood with fresh eyes (actually, this is probably especially true for those of us from Gen-X who are raising children, as they have unprecedented access to an almost limitless supply of entertainment from the past). We’ve been especially happy to share with our daughter Jim Henson’s work (the Muppets show and muppet films, The Storyteller, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal – all of which hold up so well) and John Hughes’ films (recently rewatched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, for example). Plus, Goonies never die!!!

Adam: I use to go to all the time. It’s a great aggregator of snobby, high-brow internet writing. For whatever reason, I slowly stopped visiting the site. This summer I rediscovered it going through my favorites folder on my Chrome browser and I’m back visiting it a regular clip.

Ryan: T.J. Maxx. What do you mean these pants are “irregular”? They look fine to me. Ok T.J. Maxx and rewatching all five seasons of The Wire. You know how you worry about returning to an old favorite only to discover you ignored its obvious flaws the first time through or worse, the material has become dated, a relic of our light speed media consumption? Well The Wire actually gets better on subsequent viewings and now with the HD versions out it even looks pristine, a descriptive not usually associated with the show. Besides any narrative about the failure of institutions (or that’s how this writer views the show’s main theme) will always be relevant in America.

Alex: Mingus’s Blues & Roots (1960) has been one of my favorite albums for about a million years.  But finding his Mingus Plays Piano (1963) on Spotify as I wandered the streets of Durham, NC this summer was truly a revelation.  It’s basically a genius gratuitously showing off what he’s capable of — flowing with unparalleled precision, like Monk on a beer/adderall cocktail, or Chewbacca uncircumcised, or what-have-you.

7. Favorite Gaffe/Scandal

Cherie: drama at the Philosophical Gourmet Report.

Lauren: When  Gwyneth and that guy from Coldplay “consciously uncoupled” over the summer, AND LIKE THE FIRST THING HE DID WAS TAKE THEIR KIDS TO EAT AT MCDONALD’S. Well played, Chris Martin, well played.

Nick: Still the NYPD twitter fail.

Joel: The United States of America.

Mindy: Elizabeth Lauten’s comments on the Obama daughters: The fact that she called out two teenage girls for rolling their eyes at their dad while pardoning a turkey says more about Lauten (and maybe the GOP as a whole) than Sasha and Malia Obama. It’s not like they were rolling their eyes and dressed casually for a visiting dignitary, it was a damn turkey pardoning ceremony (it sort of reminds me of a recent SNL sketch which sort of speaks that that – How’s he doing?). Overall, Lauten’s comments really illustrate how much the politics of respectability still haunt our public discourse on proper behaviors of teens of color.


Adam: Remember that Cliven Bundy guy? I loved how all the Republicans and Fox jumped on his anti-Obama train so fast, then had to jump right off when he started talking about black people being “better off as slaves.”

Alex: It’s almost impossible to choose, but I’d say watching the American right-wing work itself into a rabid, mouth-foaming frenzy bent on ripping freed prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl limb from limb in early June was highly instructive.  Support the troops!

Ryan: GamerGate. I’d say more but I’m afraid I’m going to get a million hostile tweets in my feed.

8. Favorite Comeback

Nick: Chris Rock (not that he was gone, but he’s killing it right now):

Lauren: Oh – I’ll think about this one! My first reaction was… Kim Kardashian’s butt?

Joel: Lebron James returning to Cleveland. That’s a comeback, isn’t it?

Mindy: The weird denizens of Twin Peaks: I know, not a celebrity, politician, or a personal comeback and it won’t be on TV until 2016 (20 years, according to Laura Palmer!!!), but I really can’t wait. I’ve always loved the surrealness of David Lynch’s works, and like many others in the early 90s, I was glued to the TV over this odd program. Now that a new series has been announced, it’s time to dust off the series for a serious rewatch!

Adam: How about the ol’ swaggering Matthew McConaughey? I know a lot of the stuff that got him on everyone’s radar is from 2013 (Dallas Buyers Club, Wolf of Wall Street, etc.). But, I just saw Interstellar and 2014 was the year he really seemed to be riding high.

Alex: Andre Braugher never really went away either, but his return to TV in Brooklyn 99, one of the more promising new sitcoms of 2013-4, has been fun to watch–especially as the actor uses his natural gravitas for a deadpan comic role. Kwazy Cupcakes!


“How about the ol’ swaggering Matthew McConaughey? I know a lot of the stuff that got him on everyone’s radar is from 2013 (Dallas Buyers Club, Wolf of Wall Street, etc.). But, I just saw Interstellar and 2014 was the year he really seemed to be riding high.”

Those are ToM foreign correspondent Adam Gallagher’s words and well yeah, McConaughey probably was high, I mean did you hear his Oscar speech, “My hero is me at 35.” With all due respect to Mr. McConaughey, my comeback is marijuana, which undoubtedly fueled McConaughey’s own rise. I mean legalization in Colorado and Washington State was not followed by ravenous mobs of red eyed stoners descending upon and denuding 7-11’s across the land but rather windfall tax revenues that hopefully will plug budget gaps, reduce mass incarceration, and fund declining public education.   All of a sudden there is real meaning, nay even respectability attached to the term “pot policy.” To quote McConaughey, “Well alright, alright.”

9. Favorite Guilty Pleasure

Cherie: eating vegan mayonnaise from the jar.

Nick: 25-cent-bags of bodega peanuts.

Antonio: The Walking Dead… it’s probably the worst show I’ve ever watched for this long. It had turned into a hate-watching cycle of dysfunction, but then this season it got good for all of 4 or 5 episodes. That mid-season finale though. I think we’re back to hate-watching.

Lauren: Anything musical – Frozen. I cried at the end when you learn it’s about the love between two sisters, and has nothing to do with the standard princess-prince Disney love story. I also hate-watched the live Peter Pan on NBC. It was so creepy and amazing. And of course, the Sing-Off. #Acapella4lyfe.

[Editor’s note: A-ca-scuse me?]

Mindy: The A-Team: OMG! Dolphin Flips!!! And cars that explode for almost no reason whatsoever!!! In EVERY.FREAKING.EPISODE!!!  And there is an episode where Boy George shows up to play a country bar for an absurd amount of money and ends up solving the towns problems along with the A-Team for NO REASON WHATSOEVER!!! Also, Mr. T! Although, I’m happy to admit to watching that, along with any number of schlocky bits of pop culture (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, anyone?)… I think it goes along with a working class upbringing?

Alex: Guilty pleasures are notoriously hard to confess.  The temptation is too great to name something that’s genuinely good and pretend that it’s the low end of your taste scale–a type of snobbery jujitsu akin to the humblebrag. I wanted to say The New Girl, which has a host of likable actors (Damon Wayans, Jr., Jake Johnson, Hannah Simone) who are better than the hit-or-miss script they have to read.  It’s neither sufficiently entertaining nor awful enough to be a guilty pleasure.  Benched is a new USA comedy that initially promised only to rise to the level of second-rate basic-cable original programming, but it actually scores more laughs per episode than most sitcoms and boasts the wonderfully expressive face of mean-girl Eliza Coupe, formerly of Happy Endings (along with other talented sitcom refugees, such as Oscar Nuñez of The Office and Jay Harrington of the late, great Better Off Ted).  Benched might actually have the potential to be more than a guilty pleasure.

For my choice, I’d have to say How I Met Your Mother, a show that I often enjoyed but would readily admit wasn’t all that good.  The show limped through its last two gratuitous seasons, as CBS milked one of its few halfway decent programs for all it was worth.  And the big reveal of the show’s final episode (spoiler alert) left many fans infuriated–but I loved it.  There was a macabre charm that nine seasons of treacly memorializing and misdirection ended with the mother being dead the entire time and Ted finally getting with Robin, a brilliant twist on the Ross & Rachel bullshit that ruins pretty much every non-family sitcom.


Adam: Love me some Taylor Swift this year.

Ryan: Seriously, I’m not dating Gallagher, at least as far as you know, but I’d have to agree, Taylor Swift’s 1989 album is pretty great. “I stay up too late/Got nothing in my brain/That’s what people say/That’s what people say.” Well I can relate to that, have you ever seen comment sections on reddit regarding ToM. Uh yeah . . .

I’d also be remiss to not mention The War on Drug’s 2014 release Lost in a Dream which probably nails a sound that combines the fictional Eddie and the Cruisers with a bit of psychedelia or as hipster standard bearers pitchfork related in its review of the record, “the tremulous haze of late-era Spacemen 3 and the sort of flyover-state Americana anthems used to sell pick-up trucks.” Yeah, Spacemen 3, that juggernaut. Granted, the band’s name has permanently warped my interpretation of my twitter feed; “End the War on Drugs” has a vastly different meaning in this context, but it’s a guilt inducing sacrifice worth making.