Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

My Favorite Things

More than just raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, there is an entire world of culture out there that finds a way to impact us in personally meaningful ways. Much of it slides past us without leaving a mark, but occasionally something grabs our attention and then refuses to let go, touching our lives and causing us to mark it as a favorite.

Be it a book or author, a movie or filmmaker, a musician or album, a performer, a comic strip, a piece of technology, your favorite place to be creative, or your favorite place to eat, investing ourselves in these items makes them a part of us, and they inform who we are in the world. From the life-changing to the comfortably reassuring, our favorite things become touchstones for how we navigate the cultural currents.

My Favorite Things offers contributors the chance to declare their own favorites and explain why that thing or those things are so special to them. Rather than critically objective arguments for greatness, these are the favorites that we cherish simply for what they offer us individually. The essays encountered in My Favorite Things are deeply personal, reflective in nature, and always fascinating in their ability to reveal how those attachments are formed and what they come to mean to each of us.

Friday, February 7 2014

We’ve Seen This Movie Before: Trying to Make Sense of Philip Seymour Hoffman

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman hurts more than the typical "gone too soon" tragedy because we are being robbed of an artist performing at the height of his considerable powers.

Monday, January 20 2014

Beware Soaring Yarmulkes! Jon Madof and Zion8 Are Making World Music for a New World

With Zion80, Jon Madof is not making a departure so much as a logical, if inspired, continuation of the ground he’s covered the past decade.

Monday, March 29 2010

Smoke Up, Johnny: The Breakfast Club, Still Gloriously Poignant 25 Years Later

The Breakfast Club remains a defining moment for a generation 25 years later. What endures is the sheer heart that defines the film, the way that it supplies stark, grave candor and quirky spunk in equal measure.

Monday, April 13 2009

All the Faith in the World: Holiday

Holiday is the sort of movie that gives those who do know it the satisfyingly superior glow of being in on something really good.

Thursday, June 5 2008

Shriekback and Me

Rett Snotherly reflects on the familiar tale of the emotional ties to a beloved band stretching across time, and how the impact of youth's engagement remains a part of us that lingers years later.

Thursday, March 27 2008

Bob & Ray: The Two and Only

Turning back the clock, Kerrie Mills explores the pairing of two men who became cornerstones of modern American comedy, as well as icons of the mid-20th century media landscape, Bob & Ray.

Wednesday, November 28 2007

Let Me Into Your Mind: How J.Ralph Changed My Life

Evan Sawdey gives his personal take on the familiar tale of first musical love, explaining how stumbling across the work of under-the-radar musician J.Ralph opened up new doors into a consciousness of music's capabilities.

Sunday, June 10 2007

Scud Mountain Boys: How to Burn a Silo

Matthew Fiander rediscovers the Scud Mountain Boys with his own move south, and realizes that stories are rightfully entangled in their settings.

Monday, February 19 2007

Bright Eyes: In Defense of Preciousness

Despite all the self-absorption, and directly in spite of criticisms about the brittle timber of Conor Oberst's much commented on voice, Feldman lays her love for Bright Eyes out in public to defend the mysterious power of the hope that slips through the cracks in Bright Eyes' usually gloomy demeanor.

Tuesday, October 31 2006

Jessica Lange: The Anti-Streep

Can childhood epiphanies really translate into critical pursuits of acting nuance? For Matt Mazur they most certainly can, as attested by his lifelong devotion to the immersive acting of cinematic chimera Jessica Lange.

Thursday, October 12 2006

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior: “Here Comes a New Challenger!”

In the twilight days of the old video arcades, a coin-op game emerged that changed everything about the way fighting games were played and created a minor renaissance. Ryan Smith reflects back on the heady youth of global warriors, quarter match challengers, and "shoryuken!" with the original Street Fighter II.

Wednesday, September 13 2006

The Slow Dance by Mark Janka (The Lesser Birds of Paradise)

the Slow Dance.

Friday, August 25 2006


While the demands of many gamers and the dreams of many game designers seem concentrated on increasing layers of complexity, critics continually praise those games that buck the trend and opt for playable simplicity. Richard Jude Goodness explains how one such game helped spark the gamer urge inside him while showing him the way a game built on simple gameplay could also be thoroughly engaging.

Monday, August 21 2006

Top Ten Tight-Arse Tricks: Saving Money on Tour by The Grates

For frequent flyers, especially musicians, the expense of travel can often be a real strain. To help their fellows, the Grates offer these ten favorite tips for saving cash on the road without risking jail time.

Friday, August 18 2006

CBS Radio Mystery Theater

Spinning the dial and turning back the clock, Bill Gibron travels back in time to nights bathed in darkness and pierced by the crackle of static. Emerging from the speakers, voices beckon our traveler to reflect back on ghostly images of time gone by, revived and resuscitated like the radio drama format itself, and inexorably tied to the long moment-out-of-time that was .

Friday, July 21 2006

Sid Meir’s Pirates!

In contrast to the the infamy surrounding its more contemporaneous descendents, G. Christopher Williams explores the past of the free-roaming criminal video game in its more swashbuckling origins, noting that Pirates! not only made history, but that history made the game less unsettling without losing the fun. Avast, maties!

Thursday, July 6 2006

We Can Rebuild Him: Bionic Commando

Open-ended gameplay, environmental interactivity, bionic arms, and exploding Nazis... on the Nintendo Entertainment System? Mike Schiller explains why the old-school classic Bionic Commando had it all.

Wednesday, June 14 2006

Madison Park Is Into Farm Animals

Madison Park's DeAnna Cool takes her spot on the soapbox to defend herself for her perfectly natural love of farm animals.

Wednesday, June 7 2006

Marykate O’Neil’s Personal List

Singer-songwriter Marykate O'Neil lists in no particular order the things that enrich her life, from the sick day strolls through New York City to the whimsy of '50s TV to the Flowbee. It's all far out, daddy-o.

Wednesday, May 31 2006

Talking Heads’ Remain in Light A-side

Lotus - Jesse Miller of the band Lotus explains how just three songs from the past, namely the A-side to the seminal Talking Heads album Remain in Light, could survive years of genre-shifting tastes and still reveal answers to current questions about the marriage of rock and dance music.

Monday, May 8 2006

The Necks’ Sex

In an hour-long marathon session, Adams revels in the intricacies and slowly building intensities of Sex.

Wednesday, March 1 2006

FOUND Magazine

Gazing at the collected fragments of other people's litter, Schabe finds a little bit of himself and a lot of humanity in the magnifying glass world of the lost and FOUND.

Wednesday, February 22 2006

Bob Greene’s Be True to Your School

After exploring Bob Greene's diary of 1964 for the past 15 years, Besenyodi is able to move past Greene's very public fall from grace and maintain an appreciation for the book and its influence on his own origins and high school memories.

Wednesday, February 1 2006

Family Circus: Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love

Abernethy learns to look below the surface of appearances with the aid of a book that funhouse-mirrors our own ugliness and holds it up to the light in lurid spectacle.

Wednesday, January 25 2006

Escape to and Return from Witch Mountain

From childhood experience to childhood memory, Ward unravels the tangled knots of an oddly affecting story to reveal the connective tissue of a mainstream cult classic.

Wednesday, November 9 2005

Where’s My Dylar?: Don DeLillo’s White Noise

DeLillo's 1985 masterpiece has its finger on the pulse of our most universal preoccupations.

Wednesday, November 2 2005

Urban Urbanity: Fran Lebowitz

Gibron salutes the Messiah of Misery, a humorist ensconced in the concepts of camp and kitsch, the glee in gay culture, and inspirational insights into the life of the mind that would make Barton Fink balk.

Thursday, October 27 2005

From Your First Cigarette to Your Last Dyin’ Day: Schlong’s Punk Side Story

Horn discovers the hidden connections between Berkeley and Broadway. Start snapping your fingers....

Tuesday, October 4 2005

Moon Musick: Coil’s Musick to Play in the Dark

In which Schiller discovers beauty and majesty that he never thought possible in experimental electronic music.

Wednesday, August 24 2005

The Iliad

Pride, lust, mortality, and divinity -- McClinton breaks down the heady language and epic grandeur of this classic of classics to reveal a heart that speaks to modern life as easily as it did the ancient world.

Wednesday, August 10 2005

Pizza Pizza

Taking a large, appreciative bite of bland consistency and ubiquitous uniformity, one writer challenges refined taste to prove an old adage right and discover a slice of identity.

Tuesday, August 2 2005

2001: A Space Odyssey

In the journey from utter bewilderment to appreciative awe, Gibron explores how this most contentious film unfolds its philosophical messages slowly, on-screen and over the years.

Thursday, July 14 2005

Iron Maiden’s Live After Death

A young metal-head Begrand discovers heavy metal's Holy Grail of live albums, sparking a passion that continues to inspire two decades on.

Wednesday, June 22 2005

The Adventures of Pete and Pete

In the deceptively surreal trappings of a children's television show, Devine finds real art, capturing the essence of childhood struggles and the spirit of individuality in characters strange, great, and small.

Monday, July 26 2004

Radiohead: Kid A

On Kid A, Thom Yorke uses his voice more as an instrument than as a vehicle for his lyrics. And it’s a beautiful instrument—mournful and keening one minute, pissed off the next, jubilant the song after that.

Monday, December 23 2002

Blonde Redhead: Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons

In the end, I was a damaged lemon in need of healing, and Blonde Redhead’s album offered me an empathetic treatment for my sadness. What a release.

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