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  • These Things I Loved in 2019 Will Change Your Life. As terribly belated as they may be. On the other hand, there is a guest blogger joining me for this post: None other than the Myles Tanzer. So, do rejoice and do enjoy. And not necessarily in that order.

    I always think I will have some new kind of introduction to this post, but how can I? The year is the year it is, and was, and so in an otherwise really not terribly great year in so many ways, as opposed to a merely not terribly great year in so many ways, such as last year or the one before that, and for so many people at that, there was still good, because there is always good. There were books, television, music, podcasts, art, comedy and movies. Though even then, it's not enough, never enough, of any of it. But we do what we can and I did what I could do. And here we are, ignoring so much of the year, if only for a moment, to look back, and share what there is, and what there was, with you, now, totally, and yes somewhat belatedly. There was work, travel, family, crafting a "These Things I loved in the 2010s Will Change Your Life" post and I'm happy to blame all of that for the delay. Well, all of that, and this, there is a guest blogger this year: none other than pop culture consumer and son extraordinaire Myles Tanzer.

    Nice, right?

    Totally.

    Ready?

    Word.

    Cultural criticism and memoirs that read like personal essays and personal essay collections that read like memoir and cultural criticism. That sing. And explore sickness, art, nostalgia, pop culture, social issues, literature, the present, past and future, and everything in between.

    Relief by Execution - A Visit to Mauthausen/Gint Aras, This Never Happened/Liz Scott, Go Ahead In The Rain/Hanif Abdurraqib, On Being Human/Jennifer Pastiloff, Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Bookmarked/Brian Evenson, So Sad Today/Melissa Broder, How To Write An Autobiographical Novel/Alexander Chee and Death Valley Superstars/Duke Haney

    A Memoir That (#humblebrag alert) I offered consultation on in its most earliest stages and now it's out in the world and I couldn't be prouder.

    Leaving: One Woman's Story of Verbal Abuse/Marguerite Morris

    The essay collection that was my favorite read of the year and I'm not sure how I didn't know it existed before now.

    Slow Days, Fast Company - The World, The Flesh, and L.A./Eve Babitz.

    Kick-ass short story collections by kick ass writers who, you know, kick ass.

    For Other Ghosts/Donald Quist and Funhouse/Robert Vaughan,

    Books from the terrific Tortoise Books.

    Adult Teeth/Jeremy T. Wilson and Jenny in Corona/Stuart Ross

    And one more, that gets To stand alone, because, you know, Joseph G. Peterson.

    Ninety-Nine Bottles

    Books from the splendid 7.13 Books.

    Besotted/Melissa Duclos and Not Everyone is Special/Josh Denslow

    And books by the equally splendid founder of 7.13 Books.

    No Good Very Bad Asian/Leland Cheuk

    Not to mention absolutely kick-ass books that I was honored to promote and strategize around, which most definitely changed my life, all of which were releases by the quite wonderful, awesome to partner with, Green Writers Press.

    Old New Worlds/Judith Krummeck, Dancing with Langston/Sharyn Skeeter, The Coffeehouse Resistance/Sarina Prabasi, Today My Name is Billie/Neile Parisi, Victoria Falls/James Hornor, Lifeforce/Annie Rodriguez, Offline/Brian Adams, Love, Sex & Mushrooms/Cardy Raper, PhD

    Novels too. Substantive. And wonderful. By substantive and wonderful writers.

    The Heart Crossways/James Claffey, on earth we're briefly gorgeous/Ocean Vuong, The Butterfly Girl/Rene Denfeld, Black Card/Chris L. Terry

    And poetry. Never enough, really not, and so much more next year, promise (and I know, I promised that next year), but what I read, really fucking good this year.

    Blackbirds/Greg Santos

    The movies I was happy I got to see during a year where I did even better than last year, though still didn't see enough to satisfy my movie Jones.

    Good Boys, Knives Out, Britanny Runs a Marathon

    Movies I was happy I got to see because my children said it must be so, but also because Netflix definitely wanted us to.

    Always Be My Maybe

    And a movie I really enjoyed, but only went to because one of my children really loves WWE.

    Fighting with My Family

    Superhero movies good.

    Spiderman: Far from Home and Avengers: End Game

    Superhero movies that are not superhero movies, more origin stories and which I remain conflicted about in terms of quality, but the lead was pretty mesmerizing.

    Joker

    Sequels and reboots that were more than fine enough, but it doesn't matter, because the goodness is baked-in.

    Zombieland: Double Tap and John Wicke 3: Parabellum

    Well-crafted movies I really liked.

    The Irishman, Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, Ad Astra, Us

    The best crafted movies of the year that weren't quite my favorite movie of the year.

    Booksmart, Little Women, Marriage Story, The Farewell, The Last Black Man in San Francisco

    The quite well-crafted movie that is probably the best movie of the year.

    Parasite

    But the movie that is ultimately, probably, my favorite.

    Uncut Gems

    Movies I still hope to see.

    Midsommar, Waves, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Queen & Slim, Dolemite is My Name, Captain Marvel, Honey Boy

    New music which I yet again listened to not much of this year, but I still listened to these. Okay, not true, I'm still really not sure what to do in this post-CD universe, or how to listen, or even how to talk about what I liked this year, but maybe I'll figure it out in 2020. Maybe.

    Music I got to listen to live, which was not enough, and I always somehow fall way short on year after year.

    Sharon Van Etten, Billy Bragg, Steve Miller Band

    Music I got to listen to live that was amazingly joyous and made me happy, jealous and elevated all at once.

    Matt & Kim

    Television shows I kept on watching, finshed watching or caught-up on, that were actually, mostly, usually very good, and got in the way of reading, thinking, getting work done and sometimes sleeping, but ultimately made me very happy.

    Stranger Things 3, GLOW, Handmaid's Tale, Westworld, Daredevil, BoJack Horseman, Black Mirror, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I'm Sorry, Barry, Better Things, Succession

    Television shows that rebounded nicely from earlier missteps.

    True Detective

    Television shows that rebounded nicely from earlier missteps that I'm going to miss.

    Mr. Robot

    Television shows that ended, regardless of steps, mis- or otherwise, that I'm going to miss.

    Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Affair, Crashing, Jessica Jones, Punisher, Casual, Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies

    Television shows that ended, regardless of steps, mis- or otherwise, that I'm going to really miss.

    Catastrophe, Fleabag, You're The Worst, Lodge 49

    Television shows I would have continued to lovingly re-consume, again, and again, summer after summer, because my children say it must be so, and annually at that.

    Freaks and Geeks

    (Though do note, Netflix dropped Freaks and Geeks from its line-up and we we're scared and confused heading into 2019, again, first world problems, I know, and so we went with All Night. Yup.)

    Television shows I lovingly consumed, or continued to consume, because my at least one, or both, of my children said it must be so.

    Black-ish, American Housewife, The Goldbergs, Single Parents, The End of the F***ing World, Bigmouth, F is for Family

    Also, shows I tried to catch-up on and mostly did, with children, and not, and mostly, really liked.

    Insecure, Party Down, Killing Eve, The Carmichael Show, The Bodyguard, Sharp Objects

    New shows, and mostly quite good.

    Russian Doll, Sex Education, The Other Two, Dead to Me, Shrill, Watchmen

    And limited run series that were shocking in their audacity, quality, sadness and triumph.

    Chernobyl, Unbelievable, When They See Us

    Theater, none, horrible, tragic, stupid, but stand-up comedy, yes.

    Christina P, Chris D'Elia, Jen Kirkman

    Art exhibits, way too little, and less than last year, so there's that. And that's terrible.

    Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech | Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Manet and Modern Beauty | The Art Institute of Chicago

    Podcasts I still listen to again and again, if sometimes inconsistently at that.

    WTF with Marc Maron, Other People with Brad Listi, The Slate Culture Gabfest, Heavyweight, Serial

    And one-off podcasts, for now, apparently, that just mostly killed.

    To Live and Die in L.A., Running from COPS, Dolly Parton's America

    Books I just didn't quite read, or finish, by year's end. But I will. Soon. Promise.

    Hunger/Roxane Gay, Walk in the Fire/Steph Post, Coyote Songs/Gabino Iglesias, White Girls/Hilton Als, Pax Americana/Kurt Baumeister, no good for digging/dustin m. hoffman, The Man They Wanted Me To Be/Jared Yates Sexton, Friday Afternoon and other stories/T.D. Johnston

    **

    And now for my guest blogger, the Myles Tanzer, the best of the year and the decade.

    IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

    BEST OF THE YEAR

    TOP 10 FILMS

    1. Booksmart
    2. Hustlers
    3. Joker
    4. Knives Out
    5. Little Women
    6. Marriage Story
    7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
    8. Parasite
    9. Uncut Gems
    10. Us

    HONORABLE MENTIONS
    The Farewell
    Good Boys
    Jojo Rabbit
    Midsommar
    Zombieland: Double Tap

    TOP 10 TV SHOWS

    1. The Act
    2. Atypical
    3. Big Mouth
    4. Elite
    5. GLOW
    6. The Good Place
    7. On My Block
    8. The Politician
    9. Pose
    10. You

    HONORABLE MENTIONS
    Brooklyn Nine-Nine
    High School Musical: The Musical- The Series
    One Day at a Time
    Sex Education
    The Society

    TOP 10 ALBUMS

    1. Cuz I Love You- Lizzo
    2. Dedicated- Carly Rae Jepsen
    3. Happiness Begins- Jonas Brothers
    4. Head Above Water- Avril Lavigne
    5. Homecoming: The Live Album- Beyonce
    6. K Bye for Now (SWT Live)- Ariana Grande
    7. Lover- Taylor Swift
    8. Six- Cast Recording
    9. Thank U, Next- Ariana Grande
    10. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?- Billie Ellish

    HONORABLE MENTIONS
    Fine Line- Harry Styles
    Hot Pink- Doja Cat
    K-12- Melanie Martinez
    No.6 Collaborations- Ed Sheeran
    SHE IS COMING- Miley Cyrus

    BEST OF THE DECADE

    TOP 25 FILMS

    1. A Star Is Born (2018)
    2. Blockers (2018)
    3. Booksmart (2019)
    4. Bridesmaids (2011)
    5. Brooklyn (2015)
    6. Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
    7. Crazy Stupid Love (2011)
    8. Flower (2017)
    9. Frozen (2013)
    10. Girls Trip (2017)
    11. Hidden Figures (2016)
    12. Hunger Games Series(2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015)
    13. I, Tonya (2017)
    14. Ingrid Goes West (2017)
    15. Inside Out (2015)
    16. Into the Woods (2014)
    17. Knives Out (2019)
    18. Little Women (2019)
    19. Parasite (2019)
    20. Pitch Perfect Series (2012, 2015, and 2017)
    21. Searching (2018)
    22. Selma (2014)
    23. The Help (2011)
    24. Wreck It Ralph (2012)
    25. Zootopia (2016)

    TOP 25 TV SHOWS

    1. The Act
    2. American Horror Story
    3. Atypical
    4. Big Mouth
    5. Black Mirror
    6. Bob’s Burgers
    7. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
    8. Degrassi
    9. Elite
    10. Glee
    11. GLOW
    12. The Goldbergs
    13. The Good Place
    14. Grown-ish
    15. The Office
    16. On My Block
    17. One Day at a Time
    18. Parks and Rec
    19. The Politician
    20. Pose
    21. Pretty Little Liars
    22. Raising Hope
    23. Superstore
    24. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
    25. You

    *COMPETITION SHOWS: Amazing Race, America’s Got Talent, Face Off, Glow Up, Next Food Network Star, Skin Wars, and Top Chef*
    *REALITY SHOWS: 19 Kids and Counting, Cake Boss, Dance Moms, and Keeping Up With the Kardashians*
    *OCEANIA SHOWS: Back with the Ex, Dance Academy, H2o: Just Add Water, Little Lunch, and Yummy Mummies*

    TOP 25 ALBUMS

    1. 1989- Taylor Swift (2014)
    2. 21- Adele (2011)
    3. 8 Letters- Why Don’t We (2018)
    4. A Star Is Born- Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (2018)
    5. Cry Baby- Melanie Martinez (2015)
    6. Cuz I Love You- Lizzo (2019)
    7. Dedicated- Carly Rae Jepsen (2019)
    8. Electric Light- James Bay (2018)
    9. Ella Mai- Ella Mai (2018)
    10. Expectations- Hayley Kiyoko (2018)
    11. Glory Days- Little Mix (2017)
    12. Golden Hour- Kacey Musgraves (2018)
    13. Happiness Begins- Jonas Brothers (2019)
    14. Lemonade- Beyonce (2016)
    15. Lover- Taylor Swift (2019)
    16. Nation of Two- Vance Joy (2018)
    17. Phoenix- Rita Ora (2018)
    18. Prism- Katy Perry (2013)
    19. Rainbow- Kesha (2017)
    20. Sweetener- Ariana Grande (2018)
    21. Teenage Dream- Katy Perry (2010)
    22. Tell Me You Love Me- Demi Lovato (2017)
    23. Thank U, Next- Ariana Grande (2019)
    24. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?- Billie Eilish (2019)
    25. Youngblood- 5 Seconds of Summer (2018)

    **

    Most finally, there are many people to thank for making this a good year or just rule in general) in spite of all that has been going on and feels like still will be. And I'm most definitely overlooking some, a lot maybe, and I apologize for that, but there you go.

    Matt Rowan, Jacob S. Knabb, Jason Behrends, Jason Pettus, Moeses Soulright, Ryan W. Bradley, Steve Lafler, Lavinia Ludlow, Rob Funderburk, Greg Olear, John Barrios, Joseph G. Peterson, Michael Seidlinger, Gabino Iglesias, Adam Lawrence, Dave McNamara, Mike Smolarek, Beth Gilstrap, Duncan MacKenzie, Andrew Keating, Matty Byloos, Brad Listi, Michael Czyzniejewski, Ken Wohlrob, Myles and Noah Tanzer, Leza Cantoral, David Masciotra, Clayton Smith, Bryanna Tartt, Mel Bosworth, Paul Cohen, Todd Summar, Eric Vaubel, Megan Stielstra, Hosho McCreesh, W. Todd Kaneko, Jim Warner, Mathieu Cailler, David S. Atkinson, Debbie Pritzker, BL Pawelek, James Yates, Kristin Fouquet, Clayton Smith, Seth Berg, Maggie Manoyan, Amber Sparks, Mike McClelland, Lori Jakiela, Robert Vaughan, Michael Gillan Maxwell, Meg Tuite, Robert Duffer, Brian Alan Ellis, Keir Graff, Emma Irving, Joanna Topor MacKenzie, Jeff Linkenback, Anthony Michael Morena, Brad Wolff, Bob Hartley, Joanna Shroeder, Johnny Misfit, Greg Gerding, Victor David Giron, The Book Cellar, Gretchen Kalwinski, Michael Paige Glover, Jennifer Banash, City Lit Books, Marilyn Atlas, Matt Fitzpatrick, Art Edwards, Judith Tanzer, Kimberly Ann Southwick, Erika T. Wurth, Leesa Cross-Smith, Brian Gresko, Garret Schuelke, Shaindel Beers, Chris L. Terry, Kara Vernor, Adam Tanzer, Patricia Ann McNair, Sean Beaudoin, Sean H. Doyle, Ken Sherman, John Reed, Jerry Brennan, Serena Makofsky, Callie Nelson, Lauren Becker, Marisa Siegel, Brad Listi, Robert James Russell, Melissa Duclos, Brian Gresko, Lori Hettler, Sharyn Skeeter, Tobias Carroll, Christian Winn, Charita Cole Brown, Spencer Dew, Glen Binger, Neile Parisi, Steve Karas, Aubrey Cox Warner, Sarina Prabasi, Barry Graham, Jennifer Steele, Wendy C. Ortiz, Dave Newman, Jeremy T. Wilson, Steve Eisner, Donald Quist, Christine Maul Rice, D. Foy, Ben Drevlow, JH Palmer, Cari Luna, Amber Griffin, Elaine Soloway, Duke Haney, Dede Cummings, Rachel Slotnick, Judith Krummeck, Behn Reza, Alex Rhodes, Largehearted Boy, Cyn Vargas, Greg Santos, Allison Joseph, Alan Heathcock, Tony Brunelli, Keith Lesmeister, Sara Lippmann, Mikaela Shea Fowler, Ariel Rudolph, Giano Cromley, Zoe Zolbrod, Kali VanBaale, Tom Williams, Jennifer Pastiloff, Joshua Mohr, Amy Danzer, Patrick Wensink, Nicholas Barron, Stuart Ross, Alice Kaltman, Paul Cohen, Susan Messing, James Hornor, Rick Kogan, Amy Guth, Khloe Karova, Andie Lorch, Jeff Pfaller, Shaindel Beers, Christine Eberle, Volumes Bookcafe, Susan Messing, Leland Cheuk, Rebecca George, Robert James Russell, Donald G. Evans, Davis Schneiderman, Ray Charbonneau, Sam Slaughter, Gina Frangello, Steph Post, Rachel Hyman, Nick Ostdick, Len Kuntz, Pete Anderson, Terry Hiner, Alicia Del Real, Pam Hoadley, the Tomaloff's, Paula Bomer, Brandon Will, Melissa Faliveno, J. Bradley, Jason Fisk, Gint Aras, Yogi Roth, Eric Spitznagle, Beth Gilstrap, Ryan Ridge, Lisa Fay Coutley, Jeffrey Pfaller, Lee L. Krecklow, Keidra Chaney, Christopher Bowen, Liz Mason, Chris Tarry, David Olimpio, Jessica Kashiwabara, Micah Philbrook, Christoph Paul, Ines Bellina

  • A moment to pause and appreciate all the glory that is This Podcast Will Change Your Life soaring passed 100,000 all-time downloads, even as I must admit that I expected it to all go down somewhat differently than this.

    On the cusp of releasing the 200th episode of This Podcast Will Change Your Life, I definitely had a different narrative in mind.

    It appeared that the show would cross 100,000 all-time downloads upon the release of that episode, a neat sort of synchronicity and alchemy that I could not have orchestrated on my own, nor would have even tried to plan.

    But, I do love finding a story, and I'm always trying to craft the proper narrative, and so the idea that these events were clearly about to coincide delighted me to no end.

    Then reality fucked with my plans, in a good way, certainly, this has been a huge month for the show, following many now, but huger still, and it soared passed 100,000 dowloads some time early this morning and ahead of when I anticipated.

    Is that less sexy?

    I think so.

    Is it cool though?

    Yes.

    Do I think this number is especially impressive, maybe not, not when I think about the shows I listen to (OTHERPPL with Brad Listi, WTF with Marc Maron, Heavyweight, The Culture Gabfest), and have listened to (SERIAL, Mystery Show, Sampler, S Town, Missing Richard Simmons), and what their numbers must be, but it's big and round, and the earliest shows from way back in February 2010 only got around 10 downloads or less.

    Yes, that's possible, traffic can total 10 downloads or less.

    The numbers never bothered me, I was talking to authors and writers, ideamakers and changemakers, and I always wanted that, one-on-one or group time with creators, and this was a path to that.

    I always hoped it served their work and that I did them justice.

    And I still do.

    There were mishaps along the way.

    The first 50 plus shows were recorded in a primarily drunken state, not a problem in and of itself, but one time, I did fail to record an entire conversation when the audio files were full and I overlooked that completely, and another time I drank so much with one major author that I had become friends with, that they decided not to record the show with me, a first, and we never got back to it. Another time I was so excited to meet someone after loving their book and then their presence so much that I fanboy'd beyond the norm during the interview and found the conversation fun, but somewhat unsharable. When I asked the author if they would re-record it they said we'd never be able to capture the weird, awesome vibe we had worked ourselves into.

    I never ran that one.

    I also once accidentally dosed myself before a show and was certain that it was a disaster, it wasn't, whatever I sounded like in my head, I kept my shit together for the show itself.

    I've always tried to talk to authors big and small, and I'm thrilled to have caught some authors I know and admire on their way up, Lindsay Hunter, Jac Jemc, Gina Frangello (who was pretty up already, but now, yo, come on), Scott McClanahan (for the first ever walk and talk episode) among others, as well as many who remain obscure, though loved by me, or even stopped writing or publishing.

    I love them too. Most of them.

    I've had some multiple guests, and while this is reflectigve of meeting them early on, and their ongoing productivity, it's also a reflection of not just loving them, but falling in love with them along the way. They include Pete Anderson, Keidra Chaney, Wendy C. Ortiz, Amy Guth, Joseph G. Peterson, Giano Cromley, David Masciotra, Patricia Ann McNair, Hosho McCreesh and Jason Fisk, among others. And if I missed you here, big apologies and please let me know so we can fix that.

    I have favored Chicago writers, in part certainly because I live here and they're easier to find, but also because the show has paralleled the ongoing and extended emergence of the Chicago indie lit scene as the center of all things literary.

    I've spoken to at least one hero of mine, Rick Kogan, and made many new friends because of the show itself, people I was dying to meet, or reached out to me, which is always a thrill, and which we most always made work.


    The single biggest episode remains my discussion with the glorious Jen Pastiloff (Episode 116, May 2015), who didn't have a book at the time, I just wanted to somehow capture her amazing energy, but she has one coming out now, and that too will no doubt be as glorious as she is.

    When that show became so big, I decided to formalize things a little more, cleaning-up my iTunes page, and adding both Stitcher and Spotify as platforms.

    I didn't know that it mattered to me before that, but not being all-in after that seemed ridiculous.

    It also led to the one review the show has ever received, which came as part of the piece "The 10 Best Podcasts to Change Your Life," in Elephant Journal.

    Before I close this out, I want to thank the podcast Bad at Sports, and especially Duncan MacKenzie (Episode 125, January 2016), for both existing, and for introducing me to the idea of podcasts at all, when I interviewed them for the now defunct Third Coast Press (thank you Keidra Chaney for that) and thought maybe I could try this.

    All of which is to say, that I remain in the love with the medium, and all, most of, the guests, I also remain lo-fi, and a little scuzzy, my tech skills are still not all that, and I will continue, next with the 200th episode, and then beyond, wherever that takes me.

    Well that, and thank you, first to all of my wonderful guests, but then also, unquestionably, to all of my listeners, whoever you are, and wherever you are, for all of the support along the way.