From the worst roommate to rediscovered mixtapes and a whole lot in between, these are our favorite quick culture recommendations from this year.
This year has not been an easy one for many Americans, and especially for American journalists. There have been depraved incidents of violence—which have put the United States on the list of “deadliest countries for reporters” for the first time ever—accompanied by president’s constant berating of the media.
We have covered much of that strife, alongside some of the most daunting stories on climate change, immigration, public lands, and more. But while we keep an eye on these stories, we also like to take time to appreciate and share some of our favorite music, books, journalism, podcast, and television shows.
Below is a collection of highlights from the Pacific Standard staff’s culture picks this year.
- “Leslie Jamison’s Memoir of Addiction,” by Ted Scheinman
[The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath] offers a pleasing corrective to the ideal of the drunken seer-poet, swilling gin in the hope that it might bring them one woozy step closer to the tragedy and poetry of life. It also proceeds with accessible lyricism and disarming frankness, a style that serves as an extension of the book’s message that sobriety hardly means the end of poetry, of the clarifying intoxification of language.
- “Echoes of History in Heart Mountain,” by Rebecca Worby
Heart Mountain [by Gretel Ehrlich] is worth reading for the way it gives color and texture to a horrific violation of constitutional and human rights. The book came out the same year that the Civil Liberties Act granted reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned. That was only 30 years ago. It might be helpful, then, to consider how slowly history moves, how rashly a government can act and how slow it can be to realize its mistakes, and how much closer we are to this history than we’d like to imagine.
- “Liz Phair’s Girly Sound Mixtapes,” by Jack Denton
Part of the appeal of The Girly-Sound Tapes is the thrill of the uncanny, of encountering a refracted version of the familiar—the Ur-forms of the shadows on Exile in Guyville’s cave walls. But it’s also hard not to cherish them as a prelapsarian window into the mind and maw of a brilliant 23-year-old, still untainted by the starmaker machine, by the press, and by us.
- “Worst Roommate Ever,” by Ben Rowen
I live alone and have always thought my joke that, as such, I have the worst roommate possible was truthful: I procrastinate on dishes, leave clothes laying around, forget to take out the trash—the whole gauntlet of lazy bad roommate traits. But then I read William Brennan’s “Worst Roommate Ever.”
- “Blood Orange’s Deconstruction of Masculinity,” by Alexa Lee
For Dev Hynes, an artist who works under the stage name Blood Orange, there isn’t a singular way to express either masculinity or grief. Upon the release of his penultimate album, Freetown Sound, Hynes stated on Instagram that the album is dedicated to those who were told they were “not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way.” His songs, while unequivocally sad, express feeling without being whiny, and articulate his male identity without hyper-masculine hang-ups.
- “Queer Eye Reboots Masculinity,” by Ian Hurley
Netflix’s reboot of Queer Eye is the most important show of 2018. That is not something I expected to say about what is ostensibly a makeover show, but here I am, saying it. I didn’t expect Queer Eye to be a show about so much more than taking a semi-tragic, often straight white male and encouraging him to dress better, eat better, and learn to actually listen to other people. I didn’t expect the show to be more of a referendum on the idea of masculinity. I didn’t expect it to get me thinking about what it means to be a man.
- “Hanging Out in Purgatory,” by Max Ufberg
I suspect [Tyler] Childers will remind a good many people of where they grew up, regardless of geography. That’s because his songs deal in simple truths, diving into the tiny interactions and observations that define our days. In that way, Pennsylvania becomes Kentucky, and—in a similar transference—the listener comes to inhabit Childers’ characters. In my case, substitute Yuengling for moonshine.
- “A Podcast Heavyweight,” By Emily Moon
“Heavyweight” returns to moments of deep regret—times where lives diverged or relationships ruptured—and attempts to remedy them through humor, counseling, and a splash of investigative journalism. It is indeed a load of chit-chat. But it’s some of the best chit-chat out there.