If I was going to name one trend from 2013 that I found annoying, it was the proliferation of lists. There were lists for seemingly everything under the sun (95% of which probably came from Buzzfeed.com, which is essentially an entire website of lists), whether it was the best-dressed man in the first scene of the third episode of Mad Men, the worst dress worn by a white cast member of Modern Family, the “most Minnesotan things ever,” or something even more oddly specific or trivial. And unless you were living under a rock at the end of the year, chances are you saw between 10 and 747 year-end lists alone.
I’m not opposed to lists, per se – I’ve “liked” and “shared” several myself, and lists can certainly be a quick and lighthearted distraction from the brain-numbing dreariness that makes up the majority of our everyday lives. Perhaps it’s the jealous amateur writer in me (I like to think it’s the intellectual side of me), but so many lists I see shared on Facebook or retweeted as being “so good” or “So True!” are just lazy stereotypes of a geographical area or bland summaries of the author’s own life experiences. Writing a list is like hitting in baseball: if you’re successful 30% of the time, most people will probably think you’ve done a good job. So what if 7 of the 10 things on your list make no sense at all, or aren’t even true; as long as those other three are zingers that make the reader laugh or resonate with their own life experiences, everyone will forget your seven failures. And, as opposed to squaring up a round baseball traveling 90+ miles per hour with a rounded wooden stick, writing a list isn’t that hard.
So instead of trying to capture the most 90’s things that ever happened in ten allegedly different posts that are really just the same idea recycled ten different ways, I’m just going to list stuff I discovered in 2013 that I think other people might find interesting or humorous or entertaining or whatever. Even if my list sucks, at least I’ll be able to say it’s true.
My List of Stuff I Discovered in 2013 That I Think Other People Might Find Interesting or Humorous or Entertaining or Whatever
Best Twitter Follows:
For funny / snarky posts that encapsulate everything great about the internet, it’s @netw3rk, and it’s not close. I couldn’t care less about the New York Knicks or half the stuff netw3rk tweets about, but he legitimately makes me laugh out loud on a daily basis.
For news / information / amazing nonfiction stuff: @davidgrann.
Best Long Reads:
Speaking of David Grann and netw3rk, netw3rk tweeted a link to this piece written by David Grann for the New Yorker about the Aryan Brotherhood in 2004. It’s an incredible piece of journalism that, as netw3rk put it, is “freaking terrifying.”
A story in the New York Times about the relationship between college football, ESPN, and politics (hint: there’s a boatload of money involved). It got a little “liberal,” even for me, but it was still enlightening.
Lessons Learned / Personal “Eat Crow” Moments:
Realizing that I let my sentiments for the Minnesota Vikings cloud my better judgment when I caved and supported public funding for the new stadium, which, for so many reasons, was/is a horrible deal for Minnesota. (Just like it is for nearly every state / city that builds a professional sports club a new stadium, including Miami, Cincinnati, etc.) It’s probably possible to make a good stadium deal from a public perspective, but to actually cut a good deal, it will take a collective change in attitude (as I wrote to my fantasy football league about what I learned from one of our departing, politically conservative members):
“All sports teams are businesses, and the sooner we start treating them like that – like a business – the sooner we’ll stop getting screwed over on stadium deals. Sports owners are billionaires for a reason: they’re sharks who know how to make a ton of money. We (or maybe I) have been treating sports teams like they’re some special puppy dog who loves us back just as much as we love them. They don’t. And that sentimentality immediately puts us at a gigantic negotiating disadvantage at the bargaining table.”
Obamacare reminded me that a great idea isn’t worth much without great execution (I’m sure there’s a pithy aphorism that more succinctly captures that sentiment, but I think you get the gist). I hate to be “that guy” that links to his own work, but ICYMI, I did write about this previously.
Most Maddening Political Development
The Republican Party’s continued move to the far right as large portions of it (led by the Tea Party) pander to hyper-conservative folks who apparently hate science because it makes them question their beliefs, whether they be religious or fiscal or whatever, leading to the following sad revelations:
(1) Only 43% of Republicans believe humans have evolved over time, which is down from 54% in 2009 (Democrats and Independents stayed basically constant at 67% and 65%, respectively – numbers that are also perplexingly low). If you didn’t learn about evolution in school or haven’t followed the subject, it’s as widely accepted a theory in biology departments as is the theory of gravity within physics departments.
(2) Only 19% of Republicans believe humans are causing global warming (as opposed to 57% of Democrats – again, a number that in and of itself is perplexingly low). If you’re a global warming skeptic, please look at this pie chart. Or read this article (written in 2010, no less).
Louis C.K. Despite his hugely successful TV show and career, he’s still the most real “celebrity” with no pretentiousness whatsoever that I’ve seen in as long as I can remember. In between his jokes about masturbation and fellatio are so many hilarious yet poignant and instructive moments, like this one, or this one, or this one.
Most Surprising Article
The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage by Andrew Sullivan, written in 1989.
Least Favorite Literary Development (I did major in English, after all)
Most Inspirational Discoveries
Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year old who stood up for women’s education in Pakistan and was shot by the Taliban.
“This is Water,” the graduation speech from the late and brilliant David Foster Wallace.
And Finally, My Favorite Daily Show Clip(s) (Because Really, This Whole List Could Just Be a String of Daily Show Clips)