Happy New Year! I’m glad to see you survived the thing at the place with the people and the midnight and I don’t even want to talk about what that one guy did. He’s not going to be able to live that down, maybe ever.
But we made it.
In the end, isn’t that all that matters? We made it. We’re here. Sometimes that’s more than enough.
And what better way to celebrate the achievement of being here on the commencement of our journey that is 2014 than a look back at the big stories that shaped the mighty “In Other News…” column in 2013.
And we’re off!: “In Other News…” debuted on April 26, so the title up there is not strictly true—we don’t have a full year to review just yet. My mission: to provide a weekly archive and recap of national coverage on things Louisville and Kentucky related, though mostly Louisville.
And sure, we’ve managed to work in other things into our “Other News…”—the Paula Deen controversy, the Miley Cyrus VMA ado, politicians and celebrities who are actually lizard people, Ben Affleck as Batman and otters that look like Benedict Cumberbatch—but mostly that’s the deal.
I have regular readers who still don’t know that’s what I’m doing, so I should probably look at making that more clear going forward.
That inaugural week, Derby was just around the corner, we talked about Cardinal athletics, politics, and Jennifer Lawrence. All but Derby still pop up damn near every week.
Orb won, by the way.
Since its debut, your weekly review has been here every Friday, save for July 19, when we took a detour to talk about what was happening at the time with Kentucky Shakespeare. So 36 of these, for those keeping score, and I’m already working on number 37.
It also means I haven’t slept on a Thursday night in eight months. You like how I include that last bit as though the Thursday Insomniac is one of Jung and Campbell’s hero archetypes?
On The List: Louisville found its way onto just about every “best of,” “most of” and “top 5” list going. If there were a list of places that made it onto lists, we’d be on that list. Some of these distinctions are better than others:
Heaviest Drinking City (No. 7 for women; No. 2 for men)
America’s Most Hipster Cities (No. 9) Thrillist
Four listings on Southern Living’s 100 Places to Eat Now (610 Magnolia, Milkwood, Proof on Main, and Serviche)
One of Zagat’s 20 Hot Food Neighborhoods (NuLu)
Affordable Housing for the Middle Class (No. 12) Trulia
Best Cities for Money-Savvy College Grads (No. 5) CreditDonkey
People’s Choice Award for Best Drinking Water, American Water Works Association
ParkScore Index (49 out of 50)
Least fit Cities (47 out of 50) American College of Sports Medicine
State of the Air, Most Polluted Cities (No. 17 for high ozone days; No. 41 for 24-hour particle pollution; and No. 12 for annual particle pollution out of 277 metropolitan areas) The American Lung Association
We’ve also been featured in Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic and USA Today; The Association of Zoos and Aquariums recognized the Louisville Zoo, we had a write-up in New York Magazine, hailing Louisville as a “design-bound destination;” AOL gave “15 Reasons the Best Place in America to Start a Road Trip is Louisville, Kentucky;” and The National Review declared us practically the center of the universe.
Rising Star: Louisville Chef Damaris Phillips was voted the Next Food Network Star in August. She beat some guy named Rodney, who most experts on such matters suggested never had a chance. The prize—her own show; “Southern at Heart” premiered in October.
RapCast: In September, WHAS’s Adam Lefkoe dropped 46 rap references into his Sunday sportscast. RapCast went viral and received all sorts of coverage from TIME to AllHipHop.com and everywhere in between.
He produced a few other themed reports in the past—a WrestleCast, filled with professional wrestling references galore, and a SeinfeldCast, paying tribute to the sitcom of the same name—but it was the RapCast that went crazy, with over 400,000 views to date.
He took a break from the themed segments until a few weeks ago, when he returned with Christmas VacationCast, a salute to the Chevy Chase holiday film.
And so now, a visit from the usual suspects. As mentioned above, these three have been with me since the beginning.
L1C4: Louisville First, Cards Forever. I’ve no idea what that means, really, but the people like the L1C4 so who am I to say? What I can say is that this has been a year for your Louisville Cardinals.
The big story: Your battling basketball Cardinals won the National Championship in early April. That victory predated the mighty “In Other News…” column by a few weeks.
And over in football, your Cardinals just won the Russell Athletic Bowl this past Saturday. I’ve not even had a chance to talk about that one yet.
Paul-itics: It took 37 weeks for me to use that particular pun.
When I started in April, this whole thing wrote itself because Derby was hitting its stride and coverage of that was everywhere.
I lamented publicly that this was the case until I remembered who we had in public office. And no matter which side of the aisle you happen to fall—or if you’ve fallen somewhere outside or in between—you can’t deny these guys make headlines, particularly our junior senator, Rand Paul.
I had this to say about Sen. Paul back in April:
One problem with being a political figure can be that you have to talk a lot, and people seem to be writing it down.
That’s still pretty much true. And that basic premise has landed the senator or his associates in some delicate spots.
Or maybe not.
In July, a reporter for The Washington Free Beacon wrote a piece on Jack Hunter, Paul’s director of new media. Hunter was a former shock jock who called himself the “Southern Avenger,” wore a Confederate flag luchador mask and said all kinds of secessionist and maybe racist kinds of things. He recanted his earlier writings and radio rants, but was quietly let go by Paul a week or so later.
And he was heard on a live mic strategizing with Mitch McConnell over the government shutdown in October in a way that seemed more strategic than compassionate, and then there’s Gattaca and the whole plagiarism scandal that plagued the senator for almost a month.
But none of that seems to have hurt him too badly, as it’s still widely assumed he’s going to run for president.
That kind of Teflon savvy may be why The Washington Post called him the “most interesting man in the (political) world.”
Meanwhile, minority leader Mitch McConnell, the nation’s most unpopular senator, finally received an opponent for next year’s race. Two, in fact.
And then there’s this:
McConnell is also credited with ending the great government shutdown of 2013 along with his Democratic counterpart, Harry Reid.
Louisville’s (and America’s) Sweetheart: I have a special place in my heart for my final column stalwart, Jennifer Lawrence.
When I first sat down to write the first column, combing the Internet for Louisville and Kentucky headlines, she was far and away turning up the most hits. Which makes sense—she’s wildly popular, currently IMDB’s No. 1 star in the entire world of stars.
But the big story that week, generating three times the hits of the Kentucky Derby and politics combined?
She cut her hair. Not for any particular reason. Just did it because she wanted to do it.
And from that, the whole satire and analysis of media and celebrity was born. Because people will do anything for hits. Take this, from the September 20 column, for instance:
I give some media outlets a rough way to go in this section. A little bit of the business, if you will. And it’s all in good fun. No one at E! fancies they’re doing Woodward and Bernstein level investigations on Snooki’s shocking baby news or helping us piece together the timeline on Miley and Liam from beginning to tragic end.
But I still don’t know quite what to do with these kinds of stories from E!: “Jennifer Lawrence Hits Up Fried Chicken Night With the Farrelly Brothers and Jeff Daniels!”
That piece is pretty much what you’d think it is: 200 words about four people eating. An excerpt:
The 23-year-old Oscar winner and the guys ordered “almost all of the appetizers to share…[including] the spicy pork and olive meatballs, pimento cheese toast, crawfish pie and oysters,” says a source. The foursome “loved everything” at the farm-to-table eatery, “had a great time and were friendly to everyone around.”
“Says a source?” No one was willing to go on the record about the olive meatballs? The source later confirmed that they had the chicken and liked that, too.
Two people shared the byline on that report, by the way.
But a funny thing happened along the way: If you’re watching—which I clearly am—you really can’t help but like her. And it’s not like I didn’t like her before; more that Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t the point of the Jennifer Lawrence section. What the media delivers and what and how much we’re willing to consume of this type of thing was the point. And mostly still is.
And “media out of control; cult of celebrity” isn’t exactly the most original thing to explore and I’m certainly not a pioneer here, but it fascinated me at this level, particularly with someone who doesn’t seem all that interested in playing her part.
So it’s hard not to be taken with her.
Just this year, she: turned 23; won the inaugural Friendship Award from Down Syndrome of Louisville; set up two local premieres for her films this fall: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” to benefit St. Mary’s; “American Hustle” to benefit West End School; popped up in a series of new ads for Dior; she’s nominated for a SAG Award and a Golden Globe, though she’s already won Spike TV’s Woman of the Year, so those other nominations are going to pale in comparison; and she dropped in on Kosair Children’s Hospital just before Christmas.
And she cut her hair again. And it was a bigger deal than it was in April.
That’s quite a 2013. And that’s not even counting the Oscar she won before “In Other News…” started.
Then there was this whole “husband for life” stalker situation, in which her stalker, Canadian Zhao Han Cong, said he “for sure wouldn’t kill anyone.” Which was reassuring, I’m sure.
But one of her biggest stories came at the end of the year and is still going strong: speaking about issues with body image and the media’s role in negative expectations for young girls. It started with an interview she gave Harper’s Bazaar UK, recalling a story early in her career in which she refused to diet to conform to Hollywood norms. And that interview begat more questions on the same topic and she’s not shied away from it a bit.
And so I’m going to play my hand a little and say I’m impressed with her and not in that idolatry kind of way that comes with celebrity, but in that she seems to be living her life in a way most of us would want to, as her own captain.
The Third Man: Honorable Mention for frequent column appearances goes to another Louisville luminary and favorite: Jim James. He’s been popping up in just the most Jim James cool kind of ways. A couple epic performances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, both solo and with My Morning Jacket.
He had the cool Pixelated remix of his single “Know Till Now” available as a free download from Stereogum.
And his cover of Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” is the teaser track for the upcoming “Sweetheart: Our Favorite Artists Play Their Favorite Love Songs”
Just cool, is all.
And with that, my friends, a couple of quick thanks to throw out.
First, to Insider Louisville. This is an odd little column and as I alluded to earlier, a lot of it gets done up to the wire, if nothing else because we want it to be as complete a wrap up as we can make it. And I will milk a deadline like nobody’s business.
But with that comes an insane amount of trust on the part of the editorial staff, for which I’m grateful and something I take very seriously. I’ve only been in trouble a couple of times, which isn’t bad over 37 weeks, especially given the snark to news ratio of the column as a whole.
It’s not important what got me in trouble. Don’t dwell on that.
And the second thanks, of course, goes to you. For reading, for your feedback, for your thoughtfulness throughout the year. And blah, blah, blah, whatever, hack drivel sentimentality. But really, I can’t say enough: you’ve made this fun. And it would be wrong not to say so.
So thank you for that.
And I’ll go you one further: I have so much faith in you, I’ll go ahead and thank you for 2014 in advance. We’re going to have a good year, I think. That’s my resolution, anyway.