Tenured Radical’s New Media: Best Discoveries of 2012

December 31, 2012, 11:25 am

How do other bloggers keep up the page and still find time to read and watch new stuff? How do they even manage to read the newspaper every day — and if they do, how do they find time to read anything else? And if they read, how do they find time to watch TV?

This year, I did take Facebook off my iPhone: that saved about an hour a day. I’m going to take it off my iPad in 2013.

With this caveat about how much I miss in our media-rich environment, I offer you my best discoveries of last year. Remember, to make the Radical’s “Best of” media list, you don’t have to be new — just new to me. You cannot, however, win a prize if you are my friend (which, for example, would rule out awarding best blog relaunch to Madwoman with a Laptop, so we are leaving that crown vacant this year, or best #ASA2012 panel to Historiann, Madwoman, GayProf, Tenured Radical, and The Woman Formerly Known as Goose.)

Best Literary Magazine: It’s N + 1, hands down. I would want to write for them, but I suspect I’m too old and slow. This Brooklyn-based literary mag is well-written, well-edited, feminist and it offers some of the freshest analysis of contemporary events that I am aware of. It’s like a blog on paper, it’s that good.  My favorite pieces, I admit, are the editorials, which are unsigned: go to Big Babies (#14), an analysis of mysogynist conservative white boys and their peculiar resemblance to large, overgrown babies; and The Intellectual Situation (#15), an incisive takedown of several prominent mass circulation magazines.

Best blogging platform: Twitter. Not new, not new at all, but on the other hand it isn’t as old as Facebook, and it isn’t as hard to follow as Pintarest. If I made New Year’s resolutions, I would resolve to get off Facebook and devote myself full time to Twitter. This interest isn’t just prompted by the exchange with @grumpyhistorian (who I noticed because of a takedown of one of my recent posts published on the Twitter aggregator, Storify) and other Twitterati (see the Twitter Box to your left) but because Twitter seems to be evolving as a medium faster than anyone can interpret it as a form. Being part of that project is exciting: if it is like Facebook, I’ll give Twitter about another year and a half before it’s over, so get on board.

Best New TV Show: Homeland? Girls? Homeland and Girls? I have to go with Girls, for three reasons: the first is that it is actually newer than Homeland; the second is that Claire Danes is brilliant, and given that, Lena Dunham is on the verge of faking Danes out of her acting shoes; and the third is that I hated the show and then it won me over because Lena Dunham made me care about what it means to be a young person trying to be an artist and a feminist at a moment when everything about the art world and feminism is changing. If you didn’t see Season 1, you have time: Season 2 doesn’t begin for another two weeks. If you can’t wait for Season 2 to start, do the following: watch Dunham’s first film, Tiny Furniture, on Netflix; follow Lena Dunham on Twitter; and read this New Yorker profile about Lena Dunham’s mother, the artist Laurie Simmons. That should keep you busy.

Best Documentary: First Position, which is about six young ballet dancers as they work their way through the layers of a prestigious international dance competition that will push them to the next level of their art. For one, who is aging out of the youth dance world, success means getting a job with a regional dance company; for another, it means being recognized as an African-American classical dancer; for a third it means making the trip between a small Central American Village and the Royal Ballet in London, via Queens, NY.  And here I can’t help myself — worst documentary: Waiting for Superman. I dislike everything about it, but what is worst is that the film makers can’t even imagine a functioning public school system as an option, even though it has been demonstrated over and over that charter schools do not produce better results than traditional public schools. And yet director Davis Guggenheim keeps the lie alive! Brilliant, dude. Way to keep the corporate sponsors happy.

Best Feature Film: The Sessions, a true story about a man in an iron lung who is determined to have sex and find love. The movie manages to achieve this without being “feel good” or wrapping it up with a bow at the end and demonstrating that disabled people can triumph over all adversity if only they show optimism and grit. (Pthuie! to that, I say.) The big mystery about this film is that three great actors — John Hawkes, William H. Macy and Helen Hunt — are all, in a sense, supporting cast to each other. So who will be nominated for Best Supporting Actor? Best Actor? To complicate the Oscars further, we have Adam Arkin thrown in as sex therapist Hunt’s seemingly dopey — but in the end, not so out of it — husband.

Best New Blog: And the winner is…. Nursing Cliobay-beeNC is feminist, it’s fun, it’s history, it’s men and women working together in a group blog format, and it has gotten off to the best start since Edge of the American West debuted back in 2007. These historians of science, health, gender, motherhood and medicine include a trained midwife, an experienced blogger (Heather Munroe Prescott, of Knitting Clio fame, who this year also taught me with great patience to stop using “crazy” as a negative modifier– thank you, Heather), some young proffies, and a number of graduate students. The writing is great, they post regularly and they are smart, smart, smart. They also take guest posts, which is how I got to them in the first place, through….

Best Post Inspired by Naomi Wolfe’s Endless Rumination On Her Vagina: The Myth of the Vajazzled Orgasm, by Thomas A. Foster, Associate Professor of History and department chair at DePaul University.  Yes, an educated man can write about the clitoris too, and not just on South Park. No stranger to the blogosphere, Foster does a better job writing about the history of female sexual desire than did Naomi Wolfe, Naomi Wolfe’s vagina, and everyone who wrote about Naomi Wolfe’s vagina, together.

 Best Radical Sighting of a Media Figure. Rachel Maddow, sitting across from me on the train from Shoreline to New York, and I got the pic on my iPhone to prove it. What convo passed between us? I never tell on celebrities, and in return, they never tell on me.

And last but not least, the media you have been waiting for:

Best Book.  GB Tran, Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey (Villard, 2011).  The only thing that pisses me off about this graphic memoir is that it isn’t out in paperback, which means I can’t ask my students to buy it and I can’t afford to give it to everyone I know. A multi-generational story about the Vietnam War, colonialism and a Vietnamese family’s complicated journey to the United States, it’s scope and narrative style push several genres — history, memoir, graphic narrative — to new levels. You can keep up with Tran at his blog, here.

Happy New Year, folks. See you in 2013.

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