The Best of 2017 (in Pop Culture, Anyway)

In 2014, I sent my old LiveJournal gently into that good night, and since then I haven’t really had an outlet for keeping track of the good things in my life. Sure, I could journal by hand, and I do have one that I write in from time to time, but a) it’s mostly for personal stuff, and b) it’s mostly about stuff that bums me out. Plus, you can’t put fun stuff like GIFs or videos or music in a written journal. The point is, I’ve missed writing and I thought it would be nice to have a positive reason for doing so. In that spirit, here’s a giant list of the best things about 2017—things I saw, things I did, and things that just made me happy.

I wanted to write this post before the new year—it just seemed more fitting to talk about 2017 while it was still 2017—but I never got around to it because I’ve basically been in a coma for the past three days. I was supposed to get home from spending the holidays with my mom in North Carolina on the 30th, but my flights were canceled due to a snowstorm in Philadelphia (where I was supposed to make my connection to Boston), so I couldn’t fly home until early in the morning on New Year’s Eve. I was really glad to get an extra day with my mom, but because a) I had to fly out from Wilmington at the asscrack of dawn (i.e., 5:40 a.m.), and b) I’m an extremely nervous flyer even with the aid of antianxiety medication, I got approximately 37 minutes of sleep on Saturday night. I got home just before 11 a.m. on Sunday and immediately went to sleep, which was a terrible idea, but I wanted to be rested because I’d been invited to a NYE party and had been looking forward to it all week. So I slept until 5 p.m.,1 got ready to go out, and stayed out until well after 3 a.m.2 But I didn’t wake up on New Year’s Day until 2 p.m.,3 and despite having gotten nine hours of sleep the night before, I went back to bed at about 9 p.m. and slept until about 10 a.m. on Tuesday. I managed to do some housekeeping—took down my Christmas decorations, anyway—and tried to go to bed at a halfway decent hour, but I woke up this morning still feeling like I was dragging a ten-ton sandbag around, so I took a sick day and vowed to be in good shape for work tomorrow. But we’re getting a snowstorm tonight, which means the office might be closed. So hopefully by Friday I will definitely feel like a person again.

Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) from New Girl screaming

(All this to say: a) I wanted to post this before the 31st but I was too tired, b) I’ve been out of the office since December 19th and am extremely anxious about it, and c) Where can I buy a circadian rhythm? Because mine is clearly broken.)

Ron Weasley to Harry Potter in A Very Potter Musical:

Anyway, this post is going to be a BuzzFeed-style listicle with a lot of GIFs, links, and commentary from here on out, so if that’s not your bag, this is not going to be your kind of blog. If you made it through that 300+ word paragraph that boils down to “I was tired” without wanting to reach through your computer screen and choke me, congratulations!4 Please enjoy my rambling.

I know the title of this post is “Best of 2017,” but “best” is a relative term and your mileage may vary. The following are my favorite things from this past year.

Best Performances of 2017

Between music festivals, concert tours, comedy shows, musicals, ballets, and orchestral performances, I attended nearly 25 shows in 2017.5 Because this is such a broad category, and because it’s too damn hard to whittle it down to a mere five, I’m listing ten of my favorites.

Franz Ferdinand at Warsaw (June 5, Brooklyn, NY): I finally got to knock seeing this band off my bucket list in 2017, and how! I’ve been obsessed with FF since I was 15 years old—practically since the first time I saw the video for “Take Me Out” and was therefore alerted to the existence of Alex Kapranos and his skinny ties and pointy boots and dope-ass guitar licks. But, much to my dismay, I was never able to see them until this summer, when they played a set on the last night of Governors Ball and a headlining set at a club in Brooklyn. I got two nights of Franz Ferdinand in a row and somehow managed to not explode from sheer joy.6 I walked back to my friend’s apartment in the rain afterward, having sweated through all of my clothing and completely obliterated my eardrums, and I don’t think I’d ever been happier in my entire life. And I get to do it all over again when they play the House of Blues here in three months!!!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre (March 16–17, London, England): When the stage show was first announced, I thought it would be the perfect reason for me to finally get my ass across the pond like I’d wanted to for so long. I bought tickets pretty soon after they went on sale, socked away my tax refund for souvenirs, and finally put those frequent flyer miles to good use. I’ll admit I wasn’t all that impressed when I read the script after it was released in book form, but I would unreservedly recommend seeing the show, even if you don’t care for the story. The effects alone are completely worth it—it definitely felt magical—but the performances were really great as well. I’m pretty sure at least a handful of actors from the original cast will be opening the Broadway production this spring.

The Killers at Lollapalooza (August 5, Chigago, IL): It wasn’t my first time seeing them (as it was for the vast majority of the shows on this list), but it was a really wonderful show. I’d only come to Lolla to see The Killers and Muse,7 who were supposed to headline the first night of the festival. However, Muse’s set was canceled three songs in because of a goddamn thunderstorm.8 But the next evening, perfect earth angel Brandon Flowers said he’d make it up to us poor bastards—so, midway through their set, the Killers played Muse’s “Starlight.” Reader, I wept. I mean, it didn’t totally make up for the disappointment I felt at flying halfway across the goddamn country to see my favorite band only for that chance to be from my hands untimely ripp’d, but it definitely calmed my rage, at least a little bit.

Phoenix at Governors Ball (June 3, New York, NY): I’ve liked Phoenix since about 2010, but never got around to seeing them because they’re not super popular in the States and they were never a top priority of mine the way that Muse or Franz Ferdinand are. But when I found out that they’d be headlining Gov Ball along with Lorde, and that FF would also be performing, I bought a weekend pass. And as much as I hate music festivals, their set was worth all of the pain from standing around.9 Plus, they played my favorite song and I totally cried.

John Mulaney at the Wilbur (November 16, Boston, MA): I can’t remember another time when I’ve laughed that hard. Like, to the point where I was so lightheaded after the show that I had to walk across the street to Rock Bottom and eat something before I walked back to the T to get home because I thought I was going to pass out if I didn’t. I mean, I knew he was funny—after all, he created Stefon, my favorite SNL character—but wow. He is an incredibly gifted comedian.

Regina Spektor at the Orpheum (March 8, Boston, MA): I went to this show the night before I left for London and I’m glad I was able to squeeze it in. I don’t particularly like going to gigs at the Orpheum because it’s seating only and it’s cramped as hell (like, worse than the Wilbur, I think, and that’s saying something), but I’ve been a longtime fan and it was my first time seeing her, so I sucked it up. God, she sounded absolutely stunning in real life. I was a little lukewarm on her most recent album on my first listen, but I quickly realized the error of my ways because it’s gorgeous.10 Plus, she played some fun stuff, like the Orange is the New Black theme.

Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton at the ICA (December 3, Boston, MA): This show was great for two reasons, the first being that it was my 29th birthday, and the second being that it was held at possibly the most beautiful venue I’ve ever been to: the Barbara Lee Theater at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston’s Seaport district. What’s cool about the theater is that the back wall (if you’re standing on the stage) is all glass, so as you’re watching the show, you can see the water stretching out behind the performance space. It was incredibly beautiful at night. And it was an unusual show because it was not only a concert but also performance art. And it was extremely intimate; the theater only seats about 300 people, so even though I arrived on the later side and was a few rows from the back of the house, I could still see Emily’s face very clearly. Definitely one of the more memorable shows I’ve attended.

Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) flinging a scarf around his neck while saying

The Nutcracker, performed by the Boston Ballet at the Boston Opera House (December 2, Boston, MA): I really treated myself this year on my birthday weekend! The day before my birthday, I went out with some friends to see The Nutcracker because the last time I’d been to the ballet was probably sometime around my sixth birthday and I have very few memories of it, so it was nice to go at an age where I could actually appreciate it! I love the Nutcracker suite, and the staging was so beautiful and festive. I’ve been meaning to get to the ballet for years now and it was definitely worth the wait. I’m actually going to see another ballet (Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet) in March and I’m really excited about it.

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience at the TD Garden (March 6, Boston, MA): Man, the week leading up to my trip to London was jam packed! This was such a neat concert, though, and it was actually conducted by the composer, Ramin Djawadi, which made it even more special, in my opinion. The staging was very cool; it was done theater-in-the-round style, so there wasn’t really a bad seat in the house. There was a lot of room for the guest vocalists to move around and I remember there being a giant weirwood tree that dropped its leaves after one of the pieces concluded. There were screens all along the top of the stage that played clips from the show that went along with the music (the map sequence for the opening theme; the Battle of the Bastards with its accompanying score; Lannisters and Starks partnered with their respective themes, etc.). I wish they’d release it on DVD because I’d love to see it again.

Harry and the Potters 13th Annual Yule Ball at the Middle East (December 17, Cambridge, MA): I went to the 12th incarnation of this show last year and this one was just as delightful—if not more so because the Moaning Myrtles finally reunited for the first time in yeeeears! I was sort of bummed that Blue Milk Run didn’t come this year but the Myrtles more than made up for it. Also, embarrassingly, I sort of started to cry when Lauren Fairweather played “It’s Real for Us” because Harry Potter turns me into a sentimental mess. But the rest of it was very upbeat and fun—Draco and the Malfoys are still my wizard rock faves,11 but Harry and the Potters are such great hosts and clearly enjoy doing these shows every year. I hope to continue going to them because they’re just so wholesome and fun and they make my heart lighter in these dark times.

Best Songs of 2017

Only a couple of the artists I follow closely released albums in 2017, and I wasn’t super keen on most of them in terms of the complete package, so I’m sticking with songs instead.

  1. Green Light,” Lorde [lyrics]: I was cleaning my room the night this single dropped, and I distinctly recall dropping whatever I was holding and just dancing like a maniac as soon as the chorus came on. Holy hell. What a jam. I saw her in June at Governors Ball and she closed the set with this and the entire crowd was just a single gyrating organism. Incredible. I’m seeing her this April here in Boston and I’m so psyched.
  2. The Man,” The Killers [lyrics]: Few songs make me want to strut down the street or speed down the highway the way this one does. It’s so different from anything else the Killers have ever done but it still seems to fit into their catalogue really nicely. I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t like Wonderful Wonderful as a cohesive piece of art, but it’s been downhill since Hot Fuss. Still, I’m super jazzed to see them at the TD Garden this weekend (and next month in Vegas).
  3. Fior di Latte,” Phoenix [lyrics]: I don’t know why this is my favorite song off of Ti Amo. Music is weird that way. Something about the combination of the cadence of the lyrics, the layers upon layers of synths, and Thomas Mars’s voice just makes it a very enjoyable listening experience. The writing on this album is a lot raunchier and more suggestive, but I guess that makes sense given the album’s title.
  4. Legend of the Wild Horse,” Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton [lyrics]: Choir of the Mind is an incredible album, but this song really spoke to me. “Yeah, I’ve been punched out, ba-dum, ba-dum / Ten times before / I swore I’ll be your warrior.” It’s as much an ironic take on escaping something only to discover the alternative isn’t much better as it is an anthem for perseverance. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what Emily’s getting at in her lyrics, but her songwriting is compelling all the same. It’s funny because I kind of hate abstraction in art and literature, but I like the interpretive quality of songwriting (and poetry, for that matter).
  5. TIE: “Let’s Generalize about Men,” Rachel Bloom, Donna Lynne Champlin, Vella Lovell, and Gabrielle Ruiz [lyrics] / “The End of the Movie,” Josh Groban [lyrics] (both from the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season 3 soundtrack): It’s too hard to choose between these two tracks from the front half of CXG’s third season, so I’m not going to. Major spoilers in “The End of the Movie,” so maybe hold off on that one until you’ve seen the episode (S3E4).

Best Books of 2017

I’m a terrible person because I think I can count the number of books I read in 2017 on one hand. I used to be such an avid reader! But it’s not like television and video games are completely to blame. I got really into the needle arts in 2017—knitting, sewing, cross-stitch, embroidery—and you can’t really do that and read at the same time. And yes, I know there are audio books, but I own about three of them and NO, FOR THE LAST TIME, I DON’T HAVE A VALID LIBRARY CARD, GET OFF MY BA—

Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) says,

Anyway.

  1. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan: The very satisfying finale of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. If you’re unfamiliar, fix your life and go read the first one. In short, it’s about an American-born Chinese woman named Rachel Chu whose Singaporean boyfriend, Nick Young, invites her to his best friend’s wedding being held back home in Singapore. It’s a fascinating look at class and cultural differences, but it takes a deliciously gossipy tone about all of it, complete with snarky footnotes. Can’t wait for the movie to come out later this year!
  2. A Study in Charlotte and The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro: The first two volumes of a trilogy doing a YA take on Sherlock Holmes. Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson are the great-great-great-etc. grandchildren of the original detective duo, and that legacy seems to weigh pretty heavily on Charlotte in particular. I absolutely love detective stories as well as the character of Sherlock Holmes, and the content is complex enough that it would definitely appeal to the adult reader as well. The finale, The Case for Jamie,12 comes out in March and I am so! friggin’! pumped! The question is when they’re going to make a movie or TV miniseries out of this trilogy because I would be all over that.
  3. A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold: Columbine was sort of like 9/11 in that it happened during my formative years and has therefore scarred me for life even though, obviously, I wasn’t there. It was interesting to read Klebold’s perspective on what her son did that day and how he got to that point, and I really sympathized with her and empathized with him, which I found somewhat discomfiting. Was I emotionally manipulated? I don’t know. Was she too quick to blame Eric Harris for giving her suicidal son the idea of going out in a blaze of glory (from their perspective, not mine)? Maybe. Should she have seen the signs? She’s not the first parent to have missed them, and she surely won’t be the last. It was a very disturbing memoir—how could it not be?—but I think it’s still worth a read.
  4. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott: This was a Book of the Month Club selection and I read it when I was in London to while away the time on buses and trains. It’s sort of like Big Little Lies but it centers around a bunch of teenage gymnasts and their parents. I didn’t have any strong feelings about it, good or bad, but it was compelling enough that I read until the end.

My goal for 2018 is definitely to read more, although I fear I’ll have even less time for it this year now that I’m freelancing a lot more.

Best TV Shows of 2017

Television: my third parent, my one true love, my reason for living! This decade has brought us a golden age in television history. I mean, seriously—what a time to be alive! Again, if you think I can limit this to only five shows, you’re out of your damn mind. The following are my top ten in some semblance of preferential order.

Daenerys Targaryen rides Drogon across a battlefield swarming with her Dothraki troops.

Game of Thrones (S7): I was super depressed this spring, but knowing that Game of Thrones was coming back made me feel a little less miserable. Sundays couldn’t come fast enough this summer.13 Season 7 didn’t provide the same emotional payoff as season 6 did,14 but hoooooo boy, did it set the stage for the final season. I won’t say more in case somebody reading this hasn’t seen it—but seriously, what have you been doing for the past seven years that’s more important than this?

Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) spins around in a cloud of glitter in "Let's Generalize about Men"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (S2/S3): Okay, the middle section of season 2 was a little flabby, but by the time they brought in Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster, aka Cappie from Greek) I was 100% back on board. And season 3 has been simply phenomenal—I can’t say much more than that. If you aren’t watching this show, just stop whatever unimportant crap you’re doing and hop to! The first two seasons are on Netflix!

Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), bound and gagged, is escorted away by two Gileadean officials.

The Handmaid’s Tale (S1): Shouts to Hulu and Margaret Atwood for building on the world presented in the novel and making it even more grimdark and terrifying, and for proving that yes, Alexis Bledel can act—and she doesn’t even need to open her mouth to do it. I am both excited for15 and dreading16 season 2.

The Good Place's Janet (D'Arcy Carden) giving a thumbs up accompanied by the words "ride or die."

The Good Place (S1/S2): I started watching this because I ran out of other stuff to watch while knitting and holy crap, am I glad I did. It’s produced by Michael Schur, one of the showrunners behind Parks and Recreation, and it has a similar sense of humor. The first season is only 10 episodes, so you could easily knock it out in a single afternoon. I haven’t really latched onto a network comedy since 30 Rock and Parks and Rec went off the air, so I’m glad to see that NBC’s still got it.

Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) standing on a balcony looking down at Jamie Fraser (unseen), saying "It's me."

Outlander (S3): I’ve read the first six of these books so I know it’s all downhill for the show from here, but I feel that season 3 has been the best so far, in terms of the actors’ performances, and I am beyond furious that Sam Heughan has yet again been snubbed by the HFPA for a shot at a Golden Globe. Catriona Balfe does a wonderful job17 and I wish Sam got the same kind of recognition because the show wouldn’t be half as good without both of them. But, meaningless awards ranting aside, I thought the writers did a good job of distilling a very long book with a complicated split narrative into a 13-episode series while also managing to change some (but not all) very problematic elements of the story.18

Prince Philip (Matt Smith) hugging a massively pregnant Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy), who's got her hair in rollers

The Crown (S2): I don’t think the second season was as successful as the first because it didn’t have the benefit of an obvious narrative arc (i.e., Elizabeth making the jump from young wife and mother to queen in a very short span of time, far sooner than she should have had to). Still, the overarching theme of her evolving relationship with Philip was very compelling, and the performances were incredible.19 I thought Vanessa Kirby got to work with some great material as Margaret, too. I’m sad that this is the last season featuring this cast (not least because I didn’t get to see nearly as much of Matthew Goode as I wanted to). The predictions (more like wishful thinking) for next season are pretty interesting, but I don’t think we’ll see season 3 much before 2019.

Dev Patel (Aziz Ansari) jumping into his friend Arnold's (Eric Wareheim) arms.

Master of None (S2): I love how every episode of this series is like a short film, and how they’re all shot in different ways. The overarching Dev/Francesca romance plot left me a bit cold, but there were definitely some standout episodes (“Thanksgiving” being one of them). I love how the format of this show (not to mention the diverse cast of characters) allows Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang to explore a lot of different issues in a fairly in-depth way. Among other topics, this season tackles religion, online dating, and communication in a somewhat unorthodox but still compelling and relatable manner.

Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) saying "YOLO... and all that" to her friend Kelsey (Hilary Duff)

Younger (S4): I discovered this show the weekend before I went home for Christmas and binged the entire series in about three days.20 I’ve liked Sutton Foster ever since I first saw her perform her big number from The Drowsy Chaperone at the 2006 Tony Awards, but I’d never seen her TV work before I started watching Younger. The show follows Foster’s character Liza, a 41-year-old recently divorced mom who wants to get back into the publishing biz21 but finds that no one will hire a 41-year-old for an entry-level position, so because she looks like Sutton Freaking Foster, a little balayage and an updated wardrobe has her looking 26 in no time. Of course, the more time she invests in this lie, the more hurt feelings there will be when those closest to her (her stupidly hot 26-year-old boyfriend, Josh, played by Nico Tortorella, and her new work bestie, Lizzie McGuire Kelsey, played by Hilary Duff) invariably figure out the truth. I was kind of shocked at how racy it was considering it airs on TV Land, but I find that pretty refreshing, in all honesty.

Diana St. Tropez (Tina Fey) holding Carol Wendelson (Andrea Miller) at arm's length.

Great News (S1/S2): This show is the brainchild of Tina Fey’s protégé Tracey Wigfield, and you can definitely see that it owes a lot to 30 Rock in terms of its irreverence and the fact that it’s a zany workplace comedy (which is probably why I like it so much). The premise is this: Katie Wendelson (Briga Heelan), a producer for a news network, has an insane mother (Carol, played by Andrea Martin) who goes back to college and gets an internship at the same network where Katie works. Hijinks ensue. I have literally screamed with laughter while watching this show.22 This is another one with a short first season, so if you have a free afternoon, I highly recommend checking it out. Andrea Martin is hilarious (particularly anytime she has to interact with John Michael Higgins), and I’m glad that Daddy’s Boy Adam Campbell has a leading role because I really enjoyed his appearances on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) boasts to Alex Karev (Justin Chambers),

Grey’s Anatomy (S14): I have nothing to say except I love this show and I’m not sorry okay bye

Honorable mentions to the BBC’s Poldark23 as well as the Cormoran Strike miniseries, which I livestreamed via dubious means because I couldn’t wait until it was aired on HBO, and to ITV’s Victoria, which isn’t necessarily historically accurate24 but I don’t really care because the costumes are incredible and Prince Albert gives me the feels.

Best Movies of 2017

Is it just me, or was it just not a great year in film? I saw a grand total of seven movies in 2017, and three of those were in December alone. So here’s my very short list in order of preference.

The shivering soldier (Cillian Murphy) in Dunkirk

Dunkirk: I saw this film on my way home from Boston Comic Con, so I suspect the mood whiplash was partially what inspired my extremely emotional response to it. I knew it was a war movie, so I expected it to be pretty grim, but I was on the verge of hysterics when the lights came up and the credits began to roll. I haven’t seen it since then so I can’t speak in specifics, but I recall a lot of close-up camera work that made me feel very much as if I were there on the beach with all of those terrified young men. I can’t remember a more harrowing film-viewing experience, but as traumatic as it was, it felt really good to be transported in such a way by the power of cinema. I think this is Christopher Nolan’s best film to date and I will be very surprised if it doesn’t sweep its categories at the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) training with Luke Skywalker's lightsaber on Ahch-To

Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi: Honestly, this movie is only second place so I can have some semblance of objectivity. I adored this installment of the Skywalker saga. It’s officially my favorite Star Wars movie. I really loved how the The Force Awakens played with ambiguity and explored the thin line between light and dark, and this episode continued to do that while also delving deeper into the frenemyship between Kylo Ren and Rey—one of the most compelling relationships I think the series has ever presented. Plus, there’s just a bunch of really dope fight sequences.

Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) stepping off the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express: I have never read an Agatha Christie novel in my life, but I feel like I ought to now because I really enjoyed this film. I didn’t know much about the cast going in25 so it took me a solid 20 minutes to realize that Poirot was played by Kenneth Branagh! I thought he carried the film really well, but the ensemble as a whole was very engaging to watch, and it was filmed beautifully. And I love a good whodunit.

Eggsy aka Galahad (Taron Egerton) talking with one of the Statesman agents

Kingsman: The Golden Circle: I didn’t like it as much as the original,26 but I still found The Golden Circle to be enjoyable, funny, and touching—I’m pretty sure I actually cried at one point!27 I used to think I didn’t care for action movies, but in 2015 Mad Max: Fury Road, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Kingsman: The Secret Service managed to convince me otherwise. So maybe it’s not that I don’t like action movies across the board—it’s just the humorless ones with shitty dialogue that rub me the wrong way.

Christine

Ladybird: I was a few years younger than the titular character was in 2002, and our adolescent years were very different—I was an extremely naive overachiever and have always had a good relationship with my mother—but I was kind of tickled by the fact that a movie was made about the years I grew up as if it were a historical period. Like, there was something familiar about it in that it was a coming-of-age film that conceivably could have applied to me, and I haven’t often felt that way about movies centered around teenage girls. I mean, I enjoyed Mean Girls, but that didn’t reflect my experience of navigating high school and transitioning to college or feelings about my friends and family and hometown the way Ladybird did.

Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) punches a shark balloon at the aquarium

Pitch Perfect 3: I just want Universal to know that it’s okay to have one really great film and then not try and pull two additional movies out of it. Like, it wasn’t terrible by any means, and the music sounded great (especially their arrangement of “Toxic,” the best Britney Spears song of all time28), but I could have done without it.

Belle (Emma Watson) holds up a candelabra to see the Beast's (Dan Stevens) face

Beauty and the Beast: It’s weird—I really love Emma Watson as a person, but I think she’s godawful as Hermione Granger and she sure as hell can’t sing well enough to carry this movie. I wanted to like it, considering the animated version is one of my favorite Disney movies, I obviously identify very closely with Belle, and Ian McKellen played Cogsworth, but alas, I did not.

Best Podcasts of 2017

This year, I finally got over my inability to listen to anything but music and started following a handful of podcasts, and I’m really glad I did. They kept me politically engaged and taught me things I might not have learned anywhere else—and they were also really fun. You don’t know how many times I had to cover my mouth to keep from bursting into laughter in the middle of our open office!

  1. Binge Mode: Hosted by Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion from The Ringer, Binge Mode started out as an episode-by-episode analysis of every single Game of Thrones episode leading up to the seventh season premiere. They recently brought it back as Binge Mode Weekly, so every Thursday they release a new episode featuring the same kind of analysis on some other pop culture topic of their choosing. And this spring, they’re going to be doing Binge Mode: Harry Potter!!! Get hype, y’all!!!
  2. Lovett or Leave It: One of several Crooked Media29 podcasts that I love, this one is a live panel show hosted by Jon Lovett, a former Obama administration speechwriter. Regular segments include OK, Stop! (where a clip of a dumb right-wing talking head is played and abruptly stopped when one of the panelists needs to talk about why that particular part of the clip is so wrong), the Rant Wheel (exactly what it says on the tin; the wheel is spun and a panelist or audience member gets to rant about whatever topic is landed on), and Too Stupid to Be True (audience member has to guess which quote from a political figure is the real one; usually fairly easy to guess for comedic reasons and so the participant can’t lose), among others. I’m a big fan of Pod Save America and Pod Save the World as well,30 but Lovett or Leave It is ideal because it tackles serious issues but not in a way that makes me despair for the future of this country and/or cry in the shower.
  3. Crazy Ex-GirlFans: This one is practical only if you watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and obsess about it the way I do, but if you do like the show, it’s well worth listening to this podcast.
  4. The Watch: Another pod from The Ringer Podcast Network, hosted by the other half of The Ringer’s Game of Thrones fan squad, Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald. The Watch is a twice-weekly podcast about movies, music, TV, and other forms of media. I just really happen to like these two dudes as media critics, even though I literally never understand any of their sports references.
  5. DirtCast: If you read Jezebel’s Dirt Bag feature, this is essentially that but in podcast form and expanded. Each episode opens with The Dirtiest Dirt, a general rundown of celebrity gossip for the week, and then launches into the main story, whether it’s a look into the rampant sex abuse in Hollywood that’s been revealed over the past few months, an in-depth discussion of Princess Diana’s relationship with the media, or how tabloids work and how celebrity publicists do damage control—among many other interesting topics.

Honorable mention: 2 Dope Queens!!!! It’s my go-to shower podcast these days, but I’m limited to their back catalog right now because they’re on hiatus until whenever their next season starts.

Favorite Parts of 2017

Taking my first trip to the UK. I saw alllllll the palaces31 and way too many museums, went on the Harry Potter studio tour, took a day trip up to Oxford essentially to make pilgrimage to all of Tolkien’s (and a few of Lewis’s) old haunts, had Nando’s for the first (and second) time,32 attended London Book Fair, got to meet up with some pals, and did a bit of the normal touristy stuff (walked around Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, etc.; got fish and chips from a proper chippy; had cream tea nearly every damn day; ate a pasty at the train station; etc.). It was everything I wanted it to be, even though I couldn’t pack every possibly thing I wanted to do into two weeks. So I guess I’ll just have to go back as soon as I can manage it! Definitely need to fit Scotland in this time, though.

Deciding that I respect myself enough to stop putting myself through the hell that is weekend-long music festivals. After they canceled Muse’s set at Lollapalooza, I was like, I’M DONE. Forever. That’s it. At least indoor venues can’t get rained out.

Taking care of my mental health. I guess that’s not so much a favorite part, because it’s been difficult and exhausting, but it definitely had the most impact of anything I did in 2017. And losing a bunch of weight was a nice side effect.

Editing my first MIT Press book. That was a really big deal for me, in terms of my self-confidence in my work and feeling like I was using my editorial judgment effectively. MITP is huge in the university press game, so I was really anxious about my work living up to that reputation. And of course I was worried about how the authors would receive my edits and whether I had done a good job. But they were really pleased with my editing and were very easy to work with, thankfully, and I feel like I learned a lot about what it takes to edit a scholarly text. Also, I am so much better at working with notes and bibliography or reference lists now than I was when I edited my first book as a freelancer. I feel a lot more confident in my copyediting skills across the board, and that will be helpful when I edit my next book.

Finally feeling like I have a decent number of adult friends. They never tell you in school how difficult it is to make friends as a grown-up.33 But I was introduced to a lot of really cool people this year and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s nice to have an active social calendar.

Liz Lemon sleeping with her mouth wiiiiide open, like a lady

WELL. That only took me all day. But it turns out I DO have the day off tomorrow, so I’ll catch up on my freelance work in the morning. Because why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?34

notes

  1. Mistake.
  2. Another mistake.
  3. Do you see where I’m going with this?
  4. Or condolences.
  5. Don’t make the mistake of thinking I have money for this habit of mine. I just have a lot of available credit that will invariably catch up with me and ruin my life someday. 🙃
  6. I did, however, full-on scream for about five seconds when they played the opening riff to “Michael,” and that’s about as close as I’ve ever been to feeling pure ecstasy.
  7. My favorite band in the universe, if you’re just catching up.
  8. Never mind that some friends and I had staked out prime real estate at the barrier and had been standing there for nine fucking hours. Cue the screaming and tears and cursing and rage-tweeting and stress-eating. I don’t think I’ll ever recover, if I’m being honest.
  9. It even made the truly disgusting bathroom situation less awful.
  10. I posted the video for “New Year” at the beginning of this post, but I also really like “Grand Hotel.”
  11. Funny, really, because I cannot stand Draco Malfoy as a character.
  12. Spoilers for book two in the synopsis!
  13. As evidenced by my weekly livetweets.
  14. Although, now that I think about it, I did cry at least once during every episode this season.
  15. Because new material!
  16. Because HORRIBLE CRAPSACK WORLD
  17. And I would love for her to win, finally, but her category is stacked this year—Claire Foy and Elisabeth Moss are also up for awards—so I don’t see it happening.
  18. Looking at you, Mr. Willoughby.
  19. But good god, were their accents almost distractingly plummier than they were in the first season!
  20. Including one ill-advised all-nighter on the evening before I flew to North Carolina
  21. Here’s how to get me to watch your show: give me an opening to criticize your portrayal of my industry! In all seriousness, it’s not that off-base, but there are occasional contrivances cooked up to serve the plot that don’t have any basis in the reality of working in publishing.
  22. Seriously, you can ask my mom if you want proof.
  23. Because Aidan Turner, Luke Norris, and Josh Whitehouse in one show? Yes, please!
  24. For one, Jenna Coleman is far too pretty to play Victoria. Also, Victoria was way more in love with Albert than he was with her—which made me really, really sad for her. I mean, she wore widow’s weeds for more than forty years after he died and all but blamed Edward VII for stressing his father to death, but he probably wouldn’t have done the same for her.
  25. With the exception of Johnny Depp, but considering he’s the victim of the titular murder and so isn’t in it for very long, I didn’t feel so bad paying money to see it.
  26. Fact: The only sequel that’s as good as the original movie is Shrek 2.
  27. In fairness, though, everything makes me cry these days. I was watching Return of the King over Christmas and started to cry when the Witch-King of Angmar is about to deliver the killing blow to Théoden and suddenly Éowyn steps out and says, “I will kill you if you touch him!” Most of the time all I can think about during that scene is how they boiled down her amazing little speech from the book, which literally sends chills down my spine, into one line, but nooooo, now I get emotionally overwhelmed and I cry.
  28. Fight me.
  29. A company that rose from the ashes of Keepin’ It 1600 and is now keeping us all on our toes with its many podcasts, blog posts, tweets, and other forms of communication
  30. And I know I’ll love Erin Gloria Ryan’s newest venture, Girls Just Wanna Have Pod
  31. Well, most of the ones I wanted to see, anyway: Hampton Court, Kensington, Windsor Castle, and the Tower of London, plus the Royal Mews. No Buckingham, but that’s only open in July when the Queen goes to Balmoral for the summer.
  32. I totally get the hype but I’m sure it’s even better with quality banter.
  33. It’s also difficult to feel like a grown-up when I consistently use the word “grown-up” to describe myself…
  34. She said, ignoring the fact that this course of action has only ever blown up in her face.

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