Despite what your friends were saying, despite the praise of your favorite critic, despite the fact that you couldn’t walk three blocks without hearing someone mention it, you just weren’t into it. You couldn’t be bothered, you worked late, you had cooking class on Thursday nights, your favorite bookstore closed. Who knew vampires were going to be such a BFD? Who knew that crazy show on the island was going to become such a cultural touchstone? Then it was too late, no time to catch up, all hope was lost. Then you read it. You heard it. You watched it. And you loved it. You’re a little behind the times, but you’re in the loop now; here are some of the TMN writers and readers’ latest, belated discoveries.
Not sure if you’ve heard of this television show called Arrested Development, but hey, is it ever breaking the rules of television/the best show on TV/can’t believe they’re canceling it/back on!/Juno/maybe a movie now! There’s no excuse for not having watched this even once in the past five years. Thank you, Hulu, for streaming some sense into me. —Andrew Womack
I got into Facebook too late, as it is now the “New Facebook.” —TMN Reader C.W. Thompson
Despite a score of recommendations from trusted sources, I’ve stayed away from The Shield because of some unfair and subconscious Commish bias, but mostly because I knew it couldn’t be as good as The Wire. After my Wire mourning period officially ended, I started watching it and, while L.A. is no Baltimore, The Shield is pretty great. Michael Chiklis is terrific and so is C.C.H. Pounder, and the guy who plays Dutch looks exactly like a dude I went to college with. In unpredictable times there’s something oddly comforting about six seasons of a single awesome show lined up from first episode to last in your Netflix queue. —Kevin Guilfoile
First it was the girl I sat with on the school bus. Then it was the boy sitting next to me in homeroom. Then it was a roommate, then a coworker—there’s always that one friend who can’t wait to tell everyone, first thing every morning, about the dream they had last night. My mind invariably wanders around minute two of any vague recollection of flying/falling/being naked/whatever, and I always make a point of keeping mine to myself. That is, until now—I’m taking a class on Buddhism that requires keeping a dream journal. As it turns out, my dreams are, like, crazy! Want to hear about the one I had napping this afternoon? Some make no sense, some are frighteningly meaningful from a Freudian perspective, and I’ve already started reading my wandering dream accounts to any friends who make appearances in them. I’ve become my own worst nightmare, and I should have started doing this years ago. —TMN Intern Nozlee Samadzadeh
Jonathan Coulton writes beautiful, geeky folk music. I only started listening to him after hearing him sing the song that goes over the end credits of Portal (he wrote it, but GLaDOS sings in the game). With lyrics like “these points of data make a beautiful line/and we’re out of beta, we’re releasing on time,” how could you go wrong? You can’t. He played Big Rock Candy Mountain for one hour straight as the background for John Hodgman’s 700 Hobo Names. Typical song subjects: furry lobsters, robot overlords, giant squid. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. —TMN Reader Vicky Johnson
There’s this show called The Office. Sometimes it’s so funny it’s not even funny, it’s just physically uncomfortable. Some movie star is in it. There’s a cute couple. A bunch of Emmys. The season premiere was the other night. It took me five seasons, but here I am, four sets of borrowed DVDs later, hooked. Is it funny to anyone who never had a ridiculous boss, who never knew a Michael? Who knows. It’s funny to me. And to all my friends. And to everyone, everywhere. All right, I know, I got it. —Bridget Fitzgerald
As someone with a nasty contrarian streak, I have a terrible time with art I deem to be “overhyped.” I swear, if oxygen got a rave in the Times and The New Yorker, I might seriously consider huffing carbon dioxide. So as a University of Texas senior who pretty much figured she knew everything about anything that didn’t involve a checkbook or sports, I bristled when my know-it-all colleagues at the college daily began singing the praises of Homicide: Life on the Streets, a cop show that ran on NBC from 1993 to 1999. (Rudimentary equation: I had not seen it = It was not worth seeing.) At the time, I enjoyed middlebrow TV crime procedurals like Law & Order and was utterly obsessed with the gangland fantasias of Scorsese, Coppola et al. According to my buddies, Homicide was different; it was the real deal. But at the time, I suppose, I wasn’t all that interested in the deal being real.
More than 10 years later, I became obsessed with David Simon’s urban epic The Wire. It is everything that slick cinematic operettas like Goodfellas are not: Factually precise, unsensational, at times frustrating to follow. And yet, I adored it. When the show ended its five-season run last spring, it left me bereft and grabby for something to fill the void. That’s when I started reading Simon’s journalistic masterpiece, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the award-winning 1991 book that inspired the eventual TV drama. Simon, then a crime reporter at the Baltimore Sun, spent a year trailing the men (and yes, they’re all men) of the Baltimore Homicide Department to thrilling and unsettling results. Simon is at the top of his form as observer, stylist and interpreter. In a post-Jayson Blair/Stephen Glass world, reporters are often (rightfully) accused of fudging with the details, of embroidering the truth with their own showy flourishes. But Simon is a testament to the power of not fucking with the facts. As crime novelist (and Wire writer) Richard Price puts it in the book’s introduction, Simon reminds us that “God is a first-rate novelist and to be there when He’s strutting his stuff is not only legitimate but honorable, part and parcel of fighting the good fight.” Amen to that. —Sarah Hepola
Remember those old posters from elementary school: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? Well, I have always taken the recycle and reduce notions to heart, but lately I am all about reusing: Planting herbs in my bean/corn/tomato tins and crossing my fingers that something will actually grow. Using glass pasta sauce jars to collect quarters for the Laundromat, store soups, and keep oatmeal and rice fresh and organized. Using a dijon mustard jar to hold my wasabi bean snacks at work. Reusing fancy lotion jars to hold tacks, safety pins, bobby pins, and whatever small item fits inside. Everything is labeled, and placed on a shelf, making my tiny apartment, for once, seem a bit less cluttered. Also, it looks rustic and fancy, making me appear more innovative than I actually am. —TMN Reader Kelsey Amble
The outdoors isn’t a place I’ve experienced so much as heard about from blog posts and Wikipedia entries. It never seemed all that appealing, with its unregulated temperature, allergenized air, and unsanitized humans and animals spreading around their human- and animal-ness. But after a rare bout of ambulating around San Francisco this summer, I found myself in need of a nap, and Dolores Park was the closest option for safe snoozing. Really it’s just a grassy hill that overlooks downtown from the Mission. But there, sprawled out alongside one of the few souls I knew in a new city, it became something more: a site of Togetherness and Awareness of the World Outside of Oneself. The weather was a cool kind of warm an AC unit would be hard pressed to replicate. The humans and dogs that romped there were filthy by Purell standards, but seemed content—even happy. God knows what was in the air, but who cares. It was gorgeous. —Heather Rasley
I would not call myself a hipster as I have friends that are more hip than I (who would not call themselves hipsters, either). I have other friends that think I am quite hip. So it is that I find myself in a sandwich position; the skinny-jeaned margarine that separates the truly cool proscuitto ham from the plain white sliced loaf. The regurgitator of trends. Simultaneously three months behind the curve and six months ahead of the game. Recently a friend of mine (confirmed hipster) lent me his Fleet Foxes LP. I was aware of the buzz but had put it down to the music press’ near-constant hyperventilating. But oh my golly, is it pretty! It’s Jack Kerourac spliced with Arthur Lee and Brian Wilson’s mutant love-child. It’s the Pacific Coast Highway set to music. It’s sure-fire record of the year and one of the few true greats this decade. It should not be the sole reserve of hipsters. Like me. —TMN Reader Steve Turner
Everyone told me about it. Friends forwarded me videos. They burned CDs. I don’t know what more they could have done, save from hiring John Cusack to hold up a jambox outside my Brooklyn apartment. (And that neighborhood is full of crackheads.) But it wasn’t until last Friday night, sitting at my place with a friend and drinking beers, that he told me, offhandedly, “It’s like how Vampire Weekend has that song about serial commas.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa. SOMEBODY WROTE A SONG ABOUT SERIAL COMMAS?
I went immediately to YouTube, watched the video for “Oxford Comma” (like a Wes Anderson short starring someone hotter than Jason Schwartzman), and listened to it for about 20 seconds before declaring, in a rather startlingly loud voice, “I’m sold!”
Jesus, people: Why didn’t anyone tell me? —Sarah Hepola
I’m not normally one of those “finger on the pulse” sort of dudes, but I have to ask: Am I really all that behind on this? Probably. It’s too good, too hilarious not to have become crazy-popular by now, but I don’t have a true sense of when it started, or which cool sites have already linked it or blah-blah. Regardless, Garfield Minus Garfield is just that: the comic strip, with Garfield, (or any other animal-ish distractions), peeled out. The result: a manic, severely mentally disturbed Jon Arbuckle who feels more like a Samuel Beckett character than staple comic-strip icon. Side-splitting, but almost kinda sad, too. The dude who thought to do this is brilliant. I’d like to buy him a lunch or ten for the laughs alone. —Eric Feezell
One of the reasons I haven’t missed television since my parents took it away in 1998 is that actually watching TV is horrible. The commercials are so loud, and although you’re so tempted to turn it on as soon as you get bored, most of the time there’s nothing worthwhile on. That’s why I just started watching 30 Rock last weekend. I know it’s gotten rave reviews, I know Tina Fey is everyone’s dream girlfriend, but with NBC sending threatening letters to everyone using Bit Torrent, what could I do? Luckily, this season the peacock came slinking back to iTunes, dragging its tail and a roster of award-winning comedies behind it. My boyfriend bought the first season of 30 Rock a couple weeks ago, and finally, we both get it. —Meave Gallagher
Up in Canada, where I grew up, there may or may not be a conspiracy to shelter the citizenry from certain great American writers. This has to do, I’m pretty sure, with feeding us a steady diet of Alice Munro and Michael Ondaatje to assert tenuous notions of national identity—much the same way there’s only hockey on TV on Saturday nights and the only animals in our zoos are moose and grizzly bears. Anyway, at long last I’m finally getting to the books (Gatsby, Moby-Dick, Invisible Man, etc., etc., etc.) that most Americans read at some point in school, and guess what? Turns out they’re all crazy good. So, in the spirit of sharing, if any of you CanLit neophytes wants to borrow my copy of Lives of Girls and Women, drop me a line. Actually, don’t bother. I had to burn it for heat last winter. —Pasha Malla
I’ve known about TV on the Radio since, you know, forever. Half the band seemed to work at Verb Café in Williamsburg circa Y2K, and I bought a biyali there every morning, and I was always impressed by their beards. But until this new album came along last week, “Dear Science,” I’ve been a singles guy when it came to TVOTR—an iTunes-shopping kind of guy, the guy who grabs the occasional song and then lumps it in with the rest of the Brooklyn bands. But this new album! Give me this, the collected Richard Hawley, some Count Basie records, and I’ll be off to my desert island. —Rosecrans Baldwin