As the year draws to an end, we prepare to farewell our brilliant 2014 Killings columnists. Over two days, these discerning arbiters of all that is noteworthy and significant in popular culture will share their highlights for the year from their fields of expertise. Today, we hear from our TV, Books and Technology experts.
Best TV – Stephanie Van Schilt
I’m not good at playing favourites or even making lists of favourite things. I’m very fickle with my affection and attention, just ask my friends. So I’ve decided to spend these limited words listing twelve television shows that you could (should) spend your twelve days of Christmas (or Hanukah or non-denominational time off work) watching.
It’s very unlikely that this list will shock or surprise you; they’re mainly ripped directly from my columns this year because one of the best parts of this gig is I get to write about the things I love and share that love with you. It also means I get to watch a whole lot of TV, hence the inability to whittle this down. So here, listed in alphabetical order, are some shows I’ve fallen for this year that get the big thumbs up endorsement from me: Adventure Time, Bob’s Burgers, BoJack Horseman, Broad City, The Comeback, The Good Wife, Hannibal, High Maintenance, How to Talk Australians, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Please Like Me, Real Housewives of Melbourne (I’m surprised too!), Transparent.
Oh my, that’s 13. See, told you I was bad at playing favourites and making lists. Regardless, the great thing about these recommendations (and the loose definition of what constitutes TV now) is that you’ll be able to get your eyes on them with the mere click of a mouse. So shove them in your mind stocking (or someone else’s as a gift) and enjoy your holidays!
Read more from Stephanie here.
Best Books – Carody Culver
The shiny new releases that the festive season brings shouldn’t distract us from remembering just what a damn fine year 2014 has been for books, particularly non-fiction. My top two picks of the last 12 months are both essay collections by young women with incredible talent and insight: The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison’s eloquent exploration of pain, and The Opposite of Loneliness, a posthumously published compilation of short pieces (including fiction) by 22-year-old Marina Keegan, who died in a car crash just days after graduating from Yale in 2011.
Another standout non-fiction pick (although it reads just like a novel) is Joanna Rakoff’s beautifully nostalgic memoir My Salinger Year, about the year Rakoff spent working at the New York literary agency that represented JD Salinger – an experience for which many a bibliophile would happily part with a kidney. On a much darker but equally satisfying note is Hilary Mantel’s masterful short story collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, which grasps tightly at the darker aspects of human character and experience and drags them into the literary light; it should surely also win some kind of ‘best title of 2014’ award.
Australian writers have given us a wonderfully bold and diverse collection of work this year, too – highlights include This House of Grief, Helen Garner’s astute and heartbreaking account of the Robert Farquharson case; Heat and Light, 2013 David Unaipon Award winner Ellen van Neerven’s inventive and evocative debut; and Lorelai Vashti’s charming memoir Dress, Memory, which gave me an extreme case of sartorial envy. And although it came out last year, I can’t not mention Richard Flanagan’s powerful and poetic The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which deservedly won this year’s Man Booker Prize.
Read more from Carody here.
Best Technology – Connor Tomas O’Brien
At the start of this year, I was feeling very ‘End of History’ about technology. It was beginning to seem as though we were entering a ‘chindōgu culture’, in which we’d end up being sold new gadgets explicitly to solve the First-World Problems our existing gadgets had already created for us. 2014 kind of bore this out. The Apple Watch, the biggest (and tiniest) new piece of technology announced this year, is a gadget designed to stop us looking at our phone screens… by encouraging us to stare endlessly at a screen attached to our wrists. I kind of hope we reject this trend in 2015. When technology is already always-on and totally pervasive, we should start figuring out ways to spend less time in front of screens, not working out how to, say, graft them to our eyelids.
But also: screens can be fun, and perhaps my favourite technology trend of 2014 was the rise of sophisticated mobile games that actually work on touchscreens. Playing iPhone games has often felt like an exercise in frustration, with developers leaning on virtual on-screen buttons and interaction techniques better suited to consoles. This year, though, we were spoilt for choice, with games designed for phones and tablets that just couldn’t have worked out on any other platform. Hitman Go, a turn-by-turn strategy game for iOS and Android, was designed to look like the world’s most incredible board game, while Monument Valley allowed players to directly manipulate impossible Escherian structures. Tools like the Osmo (really little more than a mirror that clips onto an iPad’s camera) are also opening up new ways to play with mobile devices that bring physical objects into the mix – at a time when we’ve never been surrounded by more screens, it’s nice to see developers thinking about how to encourage us to engage with IRL objects once in a while.
Read more from Connor here.