Robyn’s 5 Favorite Things From 2014

Sure, there’s the stuff that shows up on roundups of the year’s most popular music, movies, TV shows, books, trendy lettuces, vibrators, painful caught-on-video mishaps, or what have you. But a better way to sum up your own year in culture is to take a look at the things that really hit home and stuck with you. Here are the five things Robyn discovered and loved the most in 2014!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Hobby Lobby Dissent

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, that businesses could claim a “sincerely held religious belief” that would allow them to refuse to provide their employees with insurance that covers birth control, was one of the biggest disappointments of the year.

However, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s epic 35-page dissent on that ruling? It was a thing of beauty. It was perfect. It was everything.

There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts “out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,” or the sincerity with which an asserted religious belief is held. Indeed, approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be “perceived as favoring one religion over another,” the very “risk the Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.” The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield, by its immoderate reading of RFRA. I would confine religious exemptions under that Act to organizations formed “for a religious purpose,” “engage[d] primarily in carrying out that religious purpose,” and not “engaged . . . substantially in the exchange of goods or services for money beyond nominal amounts.”

Jean Ritchie

I’ve always been super into folk music — Joni Mitchell, Odetta, Joan Baez, Judy Henske and the like. I’m also a big fan of the Child Ballads — especially those of the morbid/murder ballad variety, like Barbara Allen, Love Henry/Henry Lee, Mary Hamilton, The Twa Sisters, etc.

However, somehow I’d gone my whole life up until this year without ever hearing about Jean Ritchie, the Appalachian folk singer and dulcimer player who was known in the Greenwich Village scene as the “Mother of Folk.”

Ritchie (who is still alive, FYI) came from one of the “Great Ballad-Singing Families” of Kentucky, and–like Francis James Child–spent a good deal of time collecting and cataloging hundreds of ballads from her childhood and comparing them to similar songs from Britain and Ireland.

She has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard, and I’m still shocked that I somehow didn’t hear anything about her until this year. Here she is singing the fabulously morbid ballad, Barbara Allen.

The AskHistorians Subreddit

I can and have spent hours upon hours just reading through the questions on the AskHistorians subreddit. It is seriously the most fascinating thing on earth. People ask the most random, specific questions about history, and all these historians are there to answer them. It’s better than almost any Wikipedia hole I’ve ever fallen into. Hell, even when the questions go unanswered, I find out about new things I never realized I wanted to know about before!

Oysters And Other Things I Was Too Afraid To Eat Before

My resolution last year was to not be a giant weirdo about food. Which, I must admit, I definitely was. I had a bit of an adult picky-eater problem, and generally balked at eating most foods, particularly those I imagined might give me food poisoning, or which I thought might have a “weird” texture. However, I vowed this year to try things before I decided I hated them, and, as it turns out, I like a lot more food than I thought I did! I even like oysters now! I still do not care a ton for calamari, but I can eat it without freaking out over it being squid. More importantly, I have realized that I can put a bite of food in my mouth of something I don’t like, and not fall down dead. Which is a big step for me.

Nail Art And Nifty Polish

Holy shit, I bought so much nail polish this year. It was ridiculous. I’ve always liked nail polish, and because I have huge nail beds I can carry most anything off–but I never tried to do anything fancy with it. Other than just paint my whole finger and hope the excess washes off in the shower.

However, I’ve discovered that with the help of tools like stencils and sponges and stamps and things, I can do the whole nail art thing despite not being at all coordinated. If I’m not trying to make stripes or galaxies on my nails, I am especially into nail polish with a weird texture–like Essie’s Caviar–and glitter that makes it look as though I did some fancy shit to my nails without much effort other than brushing it on, like Revlon’s Rebel Graffiti

Tags: best of 2014