The Most Useful SternJourn Recs of 2022
This list will have 0 overlap with any list you've read all week
Est. Read Time: 5 minutes. Read Time brought to you once again by the Ashburton Energy + Hair Logistics Group, in association with the Bradley Hills Bureau of Corrections + Housing.
We’re in the annual time of lists. I know of lists. For better or for worse, a part of my soul was given to and forged in the fires of the Maxim Hot 100. So I have respect for the craft of year-end lists, but I know better than many that they serve a dual purpose of brand-bolstery and phone-in-ery.
BUT if we’re being honest, we all skim. We don’t just skim. We skim and graze and glaze over the things we consume, even the ones we love. So the upside of year-end best-of etc-etc lists is that you’re being given a final chance to not miss any of the best stuff of the year. In that regard, they aren’t totally useless.
The fact that these best-of round-ups are only available for fairly meaningless things is only a function of the information we have available. Once we all have brain implants recording every experience and AI systems tracking and categorizing our relative feelings towards them, it won’t be unheard of to be fed “The 10 Most Meaningful Conversations You Had With Your Mom This Year.”
BUT I techno-pessimistically digress.
The real fault of most lists is that, for the most part, they’re all the same. The list below is not. I combed through all of the past 50 weeks of Sternal Journal 2022 and pulled the end-of-article recommendations that I don’t think you’ll be served anywhere else. Hence an actually useful list!
There’s a bit of things only I could have recommended (Putting flowers in a toilet in a park) and a bit of seemingly commercial things that I really enjoyed but heard nobody else talking about (the movie See How They Run—see it. If you remotely enjoyed Glass Onion, this is such a better whodunit!), but many of them are the category of Sternal Journal rec that is “This thing I found this week that really made me think or smile.”
I included the ones that still made me think or smile when I revisited them, so it’s a clean 18. I kept the text of the original recommendation, but tried to amend/clarify in a couple cases where I thought it might be helpful.
It includes two YouTube videos, three individual podcast episodes, one short story, four movies, four songs, one album, one activity, one cocktail, and one full podcast season.
Enjoy, think, smile!
Nardwuar vs. J. Cole (2021). Interview. A wholesome and joyous conversation between two geniuses. It was the first thing I watched on New Year’s Day and I forgot to mention it last week.
For a French Burglar, Stealing Masterpieces is Easier than Selling Them. Podcast Episode. This one’s a twofer: (1) an exciting, real art heist story (are fine art heists the final frontier of true crime stories you don’t have to feel bad about enjoying?), and (2) a piece of audio that really helped me fall asleep multiple nights in a row this week!
“It’s Not Your Fault You Can’t Pay Attention. Here’s Why.” Podcast Episode. I’m back on an Ezra Klein kick and really enjoyed this interview with Johann Hari, the writer of a new book Stolen Focus, which tackles various factors that deteriorate our ability to pay attention. Buzzy fact that I took away from it: research shows that, when something interrupts a state of deep focus, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back into that state (As if I’ve gone 23 minutes without getting a text!)
Annunciation. Short Story. I picked up a recent issue of the New Yorker to read over breakfast a few mornings ago and started reading this story by Lauren Groff, thought it was boring a half a page in, then was suddenly floored by a paragraph about a tree and finished it slowly over the last few days. I think it’s now one of my favorite short stories ever!
The King’s Man. Movie. Very popcorn-y action spy movie that takes place over the backdrop of World War I. It is very historically inaccurate, but still pulls in a lot of real events that had me googling every ten minutes saying “Damn, that’s actually how that happened??” Has like 40% on RottenTomatoes, but I liked it. Felt like a lowbrow Grand Budapest Hotel (also stars Ralph Fiennes).
Underwater - Orchestra Version. Song. I’ve surely recommended the full-orchestra version of this Mika classic before, but mentioning it again because it’s the only song that comes close to rivaling anything Enya as a sonic shower beer companion.
Mama Tried. Album. Merle Haggard (and The Strangers) has always been a loose blindspot for me in my country music love. I listened to this one while making breakfast this week and loved it. If you’re intrigued, but not intrigued enough for a whole album, my favorite is “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me.”
Putting flowers in a toilet in a park. Activity. I meeeean look at this:
Burn Down Hollywood. Song. Happened upon this artist Halo Boy playing at Harvard+Stone on Friday and he was pretty rockin’. Also cannot emphasize enough that this does not feel like an artist that should do well or sound good live, and he did both.
Riverside Motherfucker. Song. I was at a wedding this weekend and met someone from Riverside, California. I told them about how one time I was visiting the groom at University of Maryland and there was this song that come on at a bar called “Riverside Motherfucker” and a bunch of guys broke out into a coordinated dance of some sort, but that I had NEVER been able to find the song—that it was ungooglable. And then the bride said that she had actually told this Riverside person who was playing the song about the song because it was huge when she was in high school in Jakarta. And then we googled it, and it’s so googlable. Everyone roasted me for being bad at Google. So if there’s something you googled 13 years ago, maybe try it again. Google’s gotten better. But I’ll still never know why they were dancing.
Spagliato. Cocktail. This is the Italian word for wrong or mistake and was created (supposedly) because someone grabbed Prosecco instead of gin when making a Negroni. Cocktails and etymology AND bloopers? Come on, it’s a lock for me. (NOTE FROM JULIAN ON DECEMBER 18, 2022: I included this one which is from July 4th just to memorialize that I was into them before the meme which happened in September. Harumph!)
Ambulance. Film. Holy shit, I watched the newest Michael Bay movie on the plane and it was amazing. It’s Speed meets Training Day meets Love Actually meets 9-1-1. It’s got Garret Dillahunt. Bay is back, baby!
Shia LaBeouf on REAL ONES with Jon Bernthal. Podcast. I started watching this with the same skepticism, morbid curiosity, and irony as I’ve watched some episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience, but I was pretty captivated by it. Will probably write more in a future SternJourn. They don’t shy away from talking about LaBeouf’s abusive history and he’s very intentional about stating that he unequivocally hurt people and talking through his journey to make amends, but of course there’s no reason to engage with any of it if that is a triggering topic.
See How They Run. Movie. But Chris and I saw this one this week and both thoroughly enjoyed. Well-acted 1950’s whodunit loosely inspired by the work of Agathe Christie. I saw some write-ups call it a parody, but felt more like a zany homage to me. Good times, great actors, give it a watch if you’re dying to see that next Knives Out movie.
Hot Money: Who Rules Porn? Podcast. This 8-part series from the Financial Times follows the money in porn to find out who actually gets to dictate what performers are allowed to do with their bodies on the internet. It’s a pretty wild answer!
Generative AI: Who Should Control It? Podcast Episode. The episode that inspired this SternJourn, although there’s not much overlap and much more expertise with what I talked about here. Great podcast in general. Highly recommend.
Falling for Christmas. Movie. This Lindsay Lohan Netflix knockoff Hallmark Christmas movie is much worse than Glass Onion, but I had lower expectations going in and therefore enjoyed it significantly more. (NOTE FROM JULIAN ON DECEMBER 18, 2022: I’ve actually watched it twice now. It’s so bad, but so watchable.)
Country Road (Cover). Song. I stumbled upon the Toots & The Maytals reggae cover of this classic. It BANGS and it is SMOOTH. Give it a listen.
I know it seems crazy to add another rec to this, but just so it doesn’t get lost, I really enjoyed Ali Siddiq’s comedy special, Domino Effect (which I did finally listen to because of Vulture’s year-end list which placed it at #3 for comedy specials). Also available to watch on YouTube, I just happened to listen to it while driving. Very very very funny and great.
That’s all! Lotta love and happy holidays! If you loved or hated any of these or felt like I missed an unsung rec of 2022, let me know!