Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Notes From The Ironbound's Best of 2014

As the year ends, it's time to reflect.  Much has gone well in my personal life, such as moving to a new house I really like, getting to see my daughters grow up, and being honored by my students.  On the other hand, my beloved cat passed away, and the day to day stress of being a teacher along with a parent of two toddlers with a long daily commute makes workday weekdays feel like military missions more than anything else.  In broader social and political affairs, it has been very momentous.  The horrible deaths at the hands of the police by Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown have thrown the violent, institutionalized racism of American society into stark relief.  It has also sparked social movements that give me hope for change, despite the current backlash.  The Republican attempt to gain power by destroying the government's ability to work bore fruit.  At the same time, a newly emboldened President Obama has given up on appeasement, and acted decisively on immigration and Cuba.  It's been a year of contrasts, but I do think that good things may just be coming in 2015.

Here's a list of posts (in rough chronological order) that I am particularly proud of this year.

Memories of a Farm
My grandmother died last November, leading to my grandparents' farm being auctioned off.  It is a place indelibly attached to my childhood, and seeing it sold prompted lots of memories.

An Appreciation of the Star Wars Expanded Universe
With Disney and Abrams owning Star Wars and needing to plot sequels, the expanded universe has officially been jettisoned.  I wrote a fond look back at a time when it was the only outlet Star Wars nerds like I had in the late 80s and early to mid 90s.

Critics Of Academic Hiring Practices Are Not Merely Pining For A Lost Past
I have cut back on the anger about academia's injustices, mostly because I am so far removed from it and others who are closer have more important things to say.  I stand by this post, aimed at those who keep willfully misunderstanding critics of academia in order to serve their own self-interest.

Newark Is The Canary In America's Coal Mine
I miss living in Brick City, and go back when I can.  This article is about how the problems facing Newark are a taste of what the rest of America will soon be experiencing.

Stop Telling Young People to "Follow Your Dream"
My bitter old man side comes out in this one.

80s Soundtrack Music
An examination of the importance of film soundtracks to the 1980s musical landscape, and one of my better pop culture posts.

Track of the Week: Sonic Youth "Teenage Riot"
One of my better entries in this series.

12 Years A Slave And The Opportunities It Presents
This post expressed my hope that the film would open up more honest conversations and films about America's difficult history.

The Psychological Toll of Contingency
I've been writing less about academia, but seeing the struggles of people I know stuck on the contingent track reminded me of my own past, and the need to discuss the mental effects of it.

An Incomplete Guide To The Best New Jersey Hot Dog Joints
One of my really bad habits at least led to one of my favorite posts.

My Marriage of Convenience to the Democratic Party is on the Rocks
The title pretty much says it all.

The Loaded Meaning Of My Grad School Newsletter
In a nutshell, they praise those who make it, and pretend those who didn't never existed.

Ode to a Video Store and A List Of Memorable VHS Boxes
This pair of posts touches on my nostalgia for the old days of mom and pop video stores.

The Heartland Doesn't Want To Be Saved
One of my best posts this year about my Nebraska homeland, a place outsiders of all stripes fail to understand.

When Cable Sucked
More 80s nostalgia, this time for when cable was low rent.

David Brooks, Ross Douthat, and Cultural Conservatism's Contradictions
This gets at the fundamental contradiction that the same people who uphold "traditional values" also cheerlead for unchained capitalism, the greatest destroyer of traditional values ever devised.

Remember: An Academic Job Is Just A Job
So many people sacrifice so much for academic jobs with low pay, insane workloads, and undesirable locations.  You don't have to do it.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Existentialist Post-Modern Hero
This one has received a lot of traffic, which kinda surprised me.

1994 In Historical Perspective
I contend that it's one of the most important years in recent history.

Academia's Teaching Problem
I discuss the paradox of a profession tasked with teaching college students while simultaneously seeing that task as something beneath them.

How Will The 2002 USMNT Go Down In History?
One of my better sports posts, and one that seems especially relevant with Landon Donovan's retirement.

A Nebraska Boy Falls In Love With The Jersey Shore
Growing up on the Plains has given me a real fascination with the ocean.  Being close the Shore is one of the best things about being in New Jersey.

The Civil Rights Act And The Birth Of The GOP
The great Rick Perlstein gave me a comment on this one, quite a thrill.

What I Learned By Taking My Dad To A Baseball Game
I learned a lot, especially about what my immersion in electronic media is doing to my brain.

On Rooting For A Losing Baseball Team
This is something I have a *lot* of experience in.

U2 Albums Explained Through Their First Tracks
This was probably my most-viewed new post this year, and one that I put a lot of time into.

Putting Ferguson In Historical Context
I probably sound like a broken record by now, but the events in Ferguson cannot be properly understood if you don't know their history.

Cinematic Subgenres: Star Wars Cash-Ins
I spent WAY too much time this summer watching B-grade sci-fi from the late 1970s, and this was the result.

We're Living In America's Brezhnev Years
I've been thinking this for about a decade now.

Geezer Rock Of The 1980s
One of the strangest and least rewarding genres of popular music.

The White Male Pathology Files: Sports Hooliganism
I wrote this in response to events in Ferguson, where many in the media act as if white dudes rioting and burning stuff over sports teams isn't something that happens all the damn time.

Cranky Bear Asks America To End Its Football Addiction
My pal Cranky didn't show up too often this year, but when he did he really gave it his all.

An Ode To Paul Konerko
A dedication to one of my favorite baseball players ever.

Classic Music Videos: Olivia Newton-John "Physical"
This cultural artifact is the Holy Grail when it comes to understanding that strange late 70s early 80s period of moral decadence and narcissism combined with resurgent political conservatism.

Suburbia Is America's Fear Factory
I wrote a lot this year about fear being a driving force in American life, this post I think is the best of the lot.

Ode To A Cat
My wonderful cat Stella died unexpectedly this year, and this is my eulogy for her.

Why Soccer Is The Sport Of The Future
Don't deny it, you know it to be true.

The "Didn't Vote" Party Wins Again
In the aftermath of the election I couldn't believe that the GOP was claiming a mandate, and that the media was letting them get away with saying that.  If anything, this election showed the total lack of confidence in the system.

Dark Thoughts On Armistice Day
My confidence in the future is slipping even further, if that's possible.

The Casino-ization Of America
This one didn't generate a lot of traffic, which bummed me out because it expresses something I've been feeling for many years now, but have been unable to express.

The War On Thanksgiving
I got into real preacher mode on this one, but seeing Thanksgiving turned into just another shopping day makes me ill.

Ferguson And Why We Need History
History matters, because without it we cannot understand the world we are living in.  Attempts to do so without historical knowledge are doomed to failure.

Giuliani, De Blasio, and Why Elections Matter
The fact that the NYPD is attacking de Blasio while Giuliani refuses to criticize it tells a lot about why it matters who we elect.

Torture Report Time Machine
This post is a reminder of the time of mass hysteria that led to the torture that has only just been made public.

Key Moments In My Gen X Political Awakening
Talkin' 'bout my generation.

On Weimar Metaphors
A lot of people critical of the NYPD's insults to the mayor occasioned lots of comparisons to the Weimar Republic, which I deal with here.

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