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Tyler Daswick

Guardians of the Galaxy

There were a lot of movies in 2014 that I liked more than Guardians of the Galaxy, but five years from now, I believe we’re going to look back as a generation, point to this flick, and say, “Ah, ‘twas where it all truly began.”

The rapid bloating of Marvel’s cinematic universe is no longer news. We know about every movie they are going to release between now and 2020. We have blasted through Phase One, and are now standing on the brink of Phase Two’s conclusion. Guardians, amid all of the Iron Mans and Captain Americas and Thors, was easily the riskiest film Marvel has conceived up to this point. No actors who would be considered A-listers, no recognizable branding, just potential. The die was cast.

Of course, the film made more money in the United States than any other movie this year. The gamble paid off in a huge way, and Marvel emerged with another powerful tentacle added to its gargantuan, money-munching monster. The flick was entertaining as hell, easily the funniest Marvel movie yet, and it launched Chris Pratt into bona fide stardom. However, like cheering for the Cubs, Al Pacino’s acting career or trying crack for the first time, one instance of triumph could lead to years of negative fallout.

More than anything else, Guardians of the Galaxy defined 2014 as a year where film grew increasingly franchised. While Marvel and its rival DC Comics might be the most prominent offenders, we see that also in the three-part mud-march that is the Hobbit trilogy, the indefensible divisions of Mockingjay and the soon-to-come Allegiant films, and the rising presence of the “is this really necessary?” brand of sequels like Finding Dory, Avatar 2 (and 3… and 4), and the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trilogy. I mean, where will it stop? If Guardians is any indication, we are going to consume just about anything. Since the last risk of these companies turned out to be such a huge non-risk, there is nothing to stop the avalanche of franchises and brands to come.

Ultimately, that was the scariest thing about film this year. Now, we have no choice but to go and watch, lest we miss something. Movies are like television now – to miss an episode is to miss out on context you need for the next fifteen films. We’re trapped.

Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel reaching out and asking us to take its hand, and like the young Peter Quill, I’m not sure I’m ready. Past the gorgeous vistas and ragtag characters, something else was at work. Somehow, in retrospect, space has never felt more confining.

Sylvan Lane

Marijuana Legalization

We’re at the beginning of a golden age of marijuana in the United States, and 2014 is one of its watershed years.

While more Americans favored marijuana legalization than opposed it for the first time in 2013, this year saw landmark policy victories that have fueled the slow decline of the stigma surrounding marijuana use.

On Jan. 1, recreational marijuana dispensaries opened in Colorado and Washington, which were the first two states to legalize non-medical use in 2012 through a ballot initiative. At the time, President Barack Obama said he and the executive wing would sit back and let the western states see what works best, but as long as the weed didn’t cross state lines or end up in kids’ hands.

Colorado made about $60 million in taxes on weed between January and July 2014, and preliminary studies have shown that total marijuana use hasn’t increased, nor has marijuana use by kids. That said, don’t jump on a job offer in Denver just so you can toke without legal consequences: The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that employers can consider marijuana use an “unlawful activity” since the federal government bans all uses of marijuana. The state’s Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments on an appeal, so look for a ruling in 2015.

But that’s not the only legal trouble marijuana legalization has caused in Colorado. Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado, arguing that legal marijuana in the Rocky Mountain State is finding its way into their states.

Before that lawsuit was filed in late December, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. all voted to legalize marijuana this past Election Day. The path ahead for Alaska and Oregon is pretty clear, but things get tricky in D.C. thanks to laws about ballot initiatives and budgets, and potential federal interference.

While total marijuana legalization hogged the pot-policy spotlight in 2014, there were major wins for medical marijuana advocates, too. Minnesota, Maryland and New York all legalized medical marijuana, though the latter two stipulate that the weed must be in non-smokable form. Maryland also decriminalized marijuana while New York City did so de facto, when NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced office wouldn’t make arrests for small amounts of weed.

And even though the federal government bans marijuana in any form, Congress just passed a law that prohibits the Drug Enforcement Administration from using any money to interfere with states’ medical marijuana laws.

Quinn Schoen

Carry that Weight

Under the strain of a 50-pound mattress, Emma Sulkowicz carries the burden of her sexual assault, trauma and history across the streets of New York – block after block, day after day.

Sulkowicz says she was raped her sophomore year at Columbia University by a fellow student, someone she thought a friend. Columbia dismissed Sulkowicz’s case, and the student continued to attend the school – a crippling, omnipresent reminder of the assault and the pain left by it. After speaking to The New York Times her junior spring as one of 23 Columbia and Barnard students to file a federal complaint for alleged violations against Title IX, Title II and the Clery Act, Sulkowicz decided to create her senior thesis, a performance inspiring an active conversation on campus assault, a New York Magazine cover, an article in Time and a reevaluation of sexual assault policy around the country – even here at Northwestern. 

A visual arts major, Sulkowicz’s senior thesis, “Mattress Performance,” more publicly known as “Carry that Weight,” physically documents Sulkowicz’s protest of her rapist’s continued presence as a student at Columbia, and the fault of the school to successfully punish him. By dragging the mattress – both a scar and a branding of her assault – alongside her wherever she goes, Sulkowicz projected attention to college rape culture, sparked outrage at Columbia and inspired, on October 29, a day of protest where students at campuses across the country carried their own mattresses in solidarity.

Sulkowicz’s movement – and the attention that followed – shined a light on the grey area of campus assault, a reality that Columbia and other colleges are being forced to examine. The Justice Department said in December that only 20 percent of campus rapes are reported to police, a number startling and necessary to discuss. With California legislature passed in late September enforcing a policy of “affirmative consent,” the conversation on campus rape has morphed from a “no means no” mentality to one where “yes means yes.”

The day of the nationwide protest, Columbia students piled 28 mattresses at the door of the home of university president, Lee Bollinger. Their mattresses were removed by the school – the cost fined to the students – but Sulkowicz still drags her own mattress through the streets, a performance that brought campus assault and administration failings to the public forefront but has yet to find its own resolution.

Jasper Scherer

Notre Dame Football Game

We all expected it to be over by halftime.

When Northwestern traveled to South Bend, Ind. on Nov. 15 with a chance for back-to-back road victories against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish – separated by a mere 7,014 days, with the previous win coming on Sept. 2, 1995 – it seemed almost like a formality for the Wildcats to even make the trip.

After rushing for a collective -9 yards against Michigan the previous week and losing 48-7 to Iowa the week before that in a game that was best described by various forms of the word “slaughter,” it was pretty astounding to see Northwestern score 40 points in regulation, plus three more on a Jack Mitchell game-winner in overtime, just seven days removed from one of the least inspiring offensive performances you'll ever see.

Armed with a killer hangover and what I assumed to be enough warm clothing (I was wrong), I hopped on the charter bus that would take me to and from the aptly named Notre Dame Stadium. To be clear, a big part of the excitement of the day was simply being inside such a historic venue. Since its inception in 1930 at the end of Knute Rockne's days as head coach, the stadium has housed too many memorable games, players and coaches to count. The atmosphere – Notre Dame's famous marching band, the always sold-out crowd, the massive press box, the touchdown push ups, the leprechaun mascot, Touchdown Jesus – was as much a part of the experience as the game itself.

Standing in the designated NU student section on the south side of the stadium, I felt my toes freeze into icicles by the end of the first half. My face became red (not pink, red), and my throat and voice box didn't operate the way they were supposed to by the time Mitchell knocked his 41-yarder through the uprights in overtime to end the game.

How did Northwestern win the game? We could talk about Trevor Siemian repeatedly connecting with Kyle Prater in clutch situations during the senior QB’s final full game, or Justin Jackson using his shifty running to go for 149 yards on the ground. It would be remiss not to throw in Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's mathematically challenged decision to attempt a two-point conversion with an 11-point lead.

But maybe it was something else. Touchdown Jesus might have felt some pity for Northwestern, the loser in three-quarters of the matchups between the two sides, including 14 straight defeats spanning almost 30 years before the 1995 win. Maybe Notre Dame was spooked seeing Pat Fitzgerald on the sideline after the former linebacker recorded 11 tackles in the '95 game and "was everywhere," as Dave Eanet recalled to the Trib's Teddy Greenstein.

Whatever it was, the Wildcats simply refused to stop trying in a game that seemed ready to slip out of their grasp at any given moment. Right when Mitchell’s game-winner sailed through the uprights, Northwestern experienced its highest point of the season, and the Fighting Irish – well, they sunk even lower after their season went completely off the rails with a 49-14 loss to USC. But in terms of unforgettable-ness, this one is hard to beat. It’s one of those games that you look back on 30, 40 years from now and realize how fortunate you were to be a part of it. I might never see a better football game or spend a better $80 in my life, and that’s okay with me.

Ali Pelczar

Comet Landing

The European Space Agency made history when the team running its Rosetta mission completed the first-ever landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

The Philae lander touched down on comet 67P about 510 million kilometers from Earth, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, on November 12. This came after a 10-year journey aboard the Rosetta spacecraft to catch up with the comet. It has been orbiting the comet since August.

The journal Science named the probe’s landing the top scientific breakthrough of 2014.

While the landing went smoother than expected, it was not perfect; Philae’s anchoring harpoons did not deploy and the lander bounced on the unexpectedly hard surface of the comet. It landed about one kilometer from the intended target, putting it near a cliff or crater wall where recharging its solar-powered batteries will be difficult.

Scientists raced to perform a few tasks before Philae’s batteries died. It drilled about 10 inches into the comet’s surface and radioed its results back to Earth. While attempts to analyze soil from the drill appear unsuccessful, the orbiting Rosetta detected organic molecules in the comet’s thin atmosphere.

The lander is now hibernating. Rosetta project scientists hope that it will be able to wake up again as the comet draws closer to the sun, and are trying to determine its exact location on the surface.

The goal is to study changes in the comet’s behavior as it approaches the sun, which it will pass in August 2015. But the Rosetta mothership will be responsible for this; the Philae lander will likely stop working by March, when the equipment will become too warm to operate correctly.

On the day of the landing, which took seven hours, nearly half a million Tweets mentioned the landing. The lander’s own Twitter page sent updates until its batteries ran out on November 14.

Since 78 percent of those half-million Tweets were from men, perhaps it’s fitting that one of the project scientists, physicist Matt Taylor, was called out for wearing a bowling shirt featuring a collage of pinup girls.

Shannon Lane

NU Unionization

Former quarterback Kain Colter brought the question of collegiate athletes to Evanston, Ill., and sparked a national debate that isn’t going down without a fight. The Northwestern football team made headlines off the field when its players, led by Colter, announced they had petitioned to unionize as employees of the university.

On Jan. 28, Colter teamed up with Ramogi Huma, the president of the National College Players Association, to give “college athletes a seat at the table,” Huma said, in negotiations with the NCAA. In an unprecedented move, Colter filed to form a union for college athletes at private universities like Northwestern. In solidarity with their former leader, at least 30 percent of NU’s scholarship athletes signed union cards and submitted them to the Chicago chapter of the National Labor Relations Board, which agreed in February that Northwestern athletes could be considered employees of the university due to the time they spend preparing and playing for the ‘Cats. In March, the players voted whether or not they wanted to unionize. Pending the Washington, D.C. NLRB decision, their votes (and lips) remain sealed.

Though complicated and messy, Northwestern took the lead in confronting questions that have plagued NCAA athletes for years: do players deserve a chunk of their schools’ earnings? Is it fair for schools and the Association to use players’ likenesses for a profit? Are players more athlete than student? It even had a hand in creating some new ones, if its unionization petition succeeds: could a player be “fired” if he or she fails to perform? How will this affect the sports that are supported by football and men’s basketball? Will Title IX be a factor?

Colter didn’t have an answer for all of these, but simply maintained "the NCAA is like a dictatorship. No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union."

Northwestern’s players are not asking for a salary or a change in scholarship fees, but rather protection and representation in the multi-million dollar college athletic franchise. Perhaps this will be the first step.

Samuel Niiro


The end of 2014 saw pro-Europe protests in Ukraine gain momentum and turn into massive, city hall-seizing affairs, as President Viktor Yanukovych built ever-closer ties with Russia. This year, Ukraine’s internal conflict – broadly, between more continental western Ukraine and Russian-leaning eastern Ukraine – boiled over into civil war.

After widespread protests over draconian anti-protest laws in the beginning of the year, Yanukovych reach a tenuous agreement with opposition leaders in February. Literally one day later, he had disappeared, Parliament had voted to remove him from power and his opponent in the last election, Yulia Tymoshenko, had been released from jail. By the end of the month, pro-Russian gunmen and soldiers in unmarked uniforms had seized power in the Crimean Peninsula, which Russian President Vladimir Putin would go on to annex in March.

Despite commitment from major powers to try to de-escalate the Ukrainian crisis, the spring saw secession in eastern regions and violent battles between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian forces. While Ukraine’s president (elected mostly by the western half of the country) negotiated greater ties between Ukraine and the European Union, western leaders accused Russia of supplying munitions, training and troops to secessionist forces in Crimea. The broader conflict over Ukraine led the U.S. and EU to implement sanctions regimes against Russia, which together with plummeting oil prices have led to rampant inflation and economic crisis. Unlike the 2008 Georgian war, it doesn’t seem likely that the U.S. and Russia will be able to “reset” relations after this.

Ukraine’s future continues to be uncertain, though a ceasefire in place since September has reduced (but not ended) violence in the country. As of writing, the death toll from violent conflict has nearly reached 5,000 with more than twice that number of wounded.

Candace Butera

Joan Rivers

On her show Fashion Police, Joan Rivers always joked about how she was going to die. Rivers had a distinct voice, low and raspy, a sound you would never expect to come from her little 5-foot-2-inches self. However, it was the words that she spoke that truly caught the audience’s attention. At 81 years old, Joan Rivers was at what many called the height of her career, when a routine vocal chord surgery led to her untimely death.

Rivers’ searing wit and humor paved the way for many female comedians and was specifically known for her up close and personal red carpet interviews. The content of Rivers’ material was almost always as jaw-dropping as it was hilarious, to the point where you couldn’t even believe the words that had just come out of her mouth. Every Sunday, my family would gather around the TV in our living room to catch up on the episode of Fashion Police, hosted by Rivers’ on E! every Friday evening. Although my family held little interest in fashion, it was truly Rivers’ humor and vivacious personality that drew us in and made the show addicting. I was devastated when I heard the news of Rivers’ death on September 4, 2014, shortly after news of her hospitalization and complications from a minor procedure earlier on August 28, 2014.

Rivers’ will always be regarded as a comedic pioneer and her work will continued to be recognized for its influence on the entertainment industry. To me, Rivers was a brave and inspirational role model, a woman who couldn’t care less about what other people thought of her work and comedic material. Rivers was always one to speak her mind and share her opinion, whether it was asked of her or not. She was a dedicated mother and best-selling author, and as she continued to work her way to the top, despite her age and prior hardships in her life. It was evident to her audiences that her work and time in this world were cut short.

Anne Li

Occupy Central

No one was surprised when Occupy Central finally erupted in the financial district of Hong Kong this past fall. It came after more than a decade of growing tension between the special administrative region and the People’s Republic of China.

The trouble really began on July 1, 1997, when the British returned Hong Kong to China, who had lost it in the First Opium War of 1842. But while China did grant Hong Kongers some rights that Mainlanders cannot enjoy (“One country, two systems”), Hong Kongers have been disgruntled by the sort-of-but-not-really democratic elections for Hong Kong’s chief executive. Yearly protests have been staged for want of universal suffrage every year on July 1.

Throughout the years, tension has emerged between Hong Kongers and Mainlanders, sometimes over issues like pollution, luxury bags and overcrowding.

On Sept. 28, 2014, what began as a student protest evolved into Occupy Central. Thousands of protestors took to the streets, using their umbrellas to block the tear gas attacks from the police. The “Umbrella Movement” gained sympathy for the protestors worldwide, including from students at Northwestern, but failed to change China’s mind regarding suffrage and democracy or to garner impactful support from the United States.

After two months of protests, authorities finally announced that they would clear protest areas, and with that, the “occupy” phase of the movement was over. But while Occupy failed to bring about immediate change, they made it clear to Beijing and the rest of the world that all is unwell in Hong Kong, and that one lost metaphorical battle does not signify the end of the war.

Nicole Zhu

Net Neutrality

The last time politics and the Internet were such a widely debated topic was the controversy of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), introduced in Congress in late 2011. In protest, websites such as Google and Wikipedia restricted or completely blocked access to their content. This past year, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed rules that would allow Internet service providers such as Verizon and Comcast to essentially create “Internet fast lanes,” supporters of net neutrality rallied.

“Net neutrality is actually hugely important. Essentially it means that all data has to be treated equally, no matter who creates it.” explains John Oliver in a Last Week Tonight segment that has over seven million views on Youtube. In his discussion of the FCC’s “troublingly cozy relationship” with cable companies, Oliver also encouraged Internet trolls to make themselves useful and submit comments to the FCC during their open comment period from May to September (they ended up receiving 3.7 million comments on net neutrality). On September 10, websites such as Netflix, Tumblr, Twitter and Kickstarter participated in the “Internet Slowdown” to demonstrate the effect of the new FCC rules should they be put in place.

The FCC has delayed voting on net neutrality rules until 2015. In the meantime, President Obama has declared himself a proponent of net neutrality, citing a free and open Internet as a reason for “incredible growth and innovation.”

That’s really what this whole net neutrality debate is about: equal opportunity. “It’s why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field, and start-ups can supplant established brands,” says Oliver. It has been crucial for entrepreneurship and creativity. It has influenced how we work, play, learn and communicate. Net neutrality was the founding principle of the Internet, and its preservation is increasingly important for maintaining our connectivity and unrestricted access to information.

Elizabeth Santoro

Robin Williams

“Comedy is acting out optimism.” – Robin Williams

While playing the Genie in Disney’s 1992 Aladdin, Robin Williams could only offer three wishes, but real-life Robin Williams provided endless laughs. Known for his iconic humor, Williams had the talent to the make the blunt truth funny. His acting will always be well-remembered through his timeless impact on the entertainment industry.

Sadly, Williams died this year on Aug. 11 in his home at Tiburon, Calif., after he committed suicide. He suffered from depression, and his death shined a light on the seriousness of mental illness. He left behind a wife, Susan Schneider, and three children, Zachary (from a prior marriage), Zelda and Cody.

Featured in countless movies over the years, Williams made his entrance onto the big screen with his role as Popeye in the 1980 Popeye movie. From there, he would go on to receive numerous award nominations from which he won six Golden Globe Awards, four Grammys, two Emmys, one Academy Award and a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1990.

Born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago, Williams’ career first began on television. After acting on various shows, Williams got his own television series, Mork and Mindy (1978-1982), where he played Mork, an alien visiting Earth. His notable comedy roles included the famous Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Bob Munro in RV (2006) and Tom Dobbs in Man of the Year (2006), Alan Parrish in Jumanji (1995), and Peter Pan in Hook (1991). In 2009, he also took to the road to perform his comedy show, Weapons of Self Destruction.

However, Williams’ career was not always marked by comedy. Williams played the passionate therapist Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting (1997) and received the Best Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Award. He also took to a serious side in his roles as the obsessive employee, Seymour Parrish, in the thriller One Hour Photo (2002) and the inspiring teacher, John Keating, in Dead Poet’s Society (1989). Late in his career, Williams assumed the supporting role of the President Dwight D. Eisenhower in The Butler (2013). His last production to hit the big screen was Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014).

Amal Ahmed

Jill Abramson

In May, the first female executive editor of The New York Times was fired.

Jill Abramson may have been fired for perfectly legitimate reasons, but many speculate that it was something else. She may have been fired for investigating the pay discrepancy between herself and her predecessor, who was male. She may have been fired for her leadership style, which has been described as stubborn and pushy.

In the aftermath of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and a renewed interest in gender equality in the workplace, Abramson’s firing from the Times ignited fierce debate on the resilience of the glass ceiling, and how it will affect young women who aim to achieve top positions in the nation’s best companies. Would a man have been pushed out of the same position for being pushy and stubborn? Or are these leadership qualities not critiqued but valued in men?  

Jill Abramson proved that women still face an uphill battle against gender stereotypes in the 21st century. For all the progress we’ve made, it seems that women are supposed to be caring and maternal, instead of aggressive in their career paths, lest they be portrayed, as Abramson was at various points in her career, as cold, calculating or even bitchy

Abramson’s firing reopened the debate on equal pay – women, on average still make somewhere between 77 and 84 cents for every dollar a man makes (depending on which statistics you use). 

As one of the few women in a top position in the media industry, Abramson represented the epitome of many of the problems the media industry has when it comes to women: according to the Women’s Media Center, 64 percent of “bylines and on-camera appearances” at the top 20 media outlets went to men during the last quarter of 2013. The same study also found that women journalists are still more likely to report on lifestyle, culture and education as opposed to “hard news” such as politics and crime, or even technology.  

Ironically enough, the Women’s Media Center also found that “The New York Times had fewer female bylines than any among the nation’s 10 largest newspapers.” 

Jill Abramson showed us that women are more than capable of climbing ladders. But she also showed us that success comes with endless scrutiny, and there’s still a lot of work to be done after reaching the top.

Aileen McGraw

Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks conquered 2014. She publicly demanded that Interscope drop her contract in July, and in November (à la Beyoncé),she unexpectedly dropped her much-anticipated album Broke With Expensive Taste to critical acclaim after three years of creative explosion and power struggle. It’s a brilliant work that swivels from deep house to rap to Dominican-inspired lyrics, and every track title makes me want to throw a #BWET party (Ice Princess? Nude Beach A Go-Go? The wardrobe possibilities are limitless, and if inspiration’s still needed, December’s #16DaysofAzealia provided a track-by-track video commentary from Banks herself).

Her album made headlines, and so did her friendships. Banks and Lana Del Rey were hailed as the perfect celebri-besties. They didn’t just fuck the haters, but also called out misogyny and domestic violence (looking at you, Slim Shady).

Banks brought a bang all year. She imbued Tweets, interviews, confessionseverything – with her stakes in gender, sexuality and race. When Iggy Azalea remained silent on the non-indictment of officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner, Banks responded to what she calls “cultural smudging,” or a white woman appropriating sonic blackness while revering her own ignorance.

Yet Twitter followers and the music industry alike harped on Banks for being angry, a bully and, as Iggy Azalea would put it, “poisonous” (to which you’ll find Complex’s apt “weekly reminder that Iggy Azalea, a blonde Australian who raps as if she's a black woman from Atlanta, doesn't give a shit about black women or black transcendence in general”).

In her December 18 Hot 97 interview, she went in on what this selective portrayal means: “All it says to white kids is, ‘You’re great. You’re amazing. You can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to black kids, ‘You don’t have shit. You don’t own shit, not even the shit you created yourself.’ And it makes me upset.” Her interview discussed how this amounts to people who don’t feel at all – not art, culture, anything. Banks felt deeply, however. In many ways, 2014 created “the bad picture of Azealia Banks,” a picture that resists what Banks promised in the interview’s closing: “My black story is deeper.” In fact, her story includes the fable she’s in the midst of writing. Its working title? Broke With Expensive Taste .

The world needed Azealia Banks in 2014. Banks’ soul glowed in lyrics, on Twitter, always in-your-face. She didn’t apologize. Instead, she put any demand for “sorry” on the media and society that paint her as angry.

Clayton Gentry

Scotland Independence

On Sept. 18, 3.6 million Scots showed up to the ballot box to answer one question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” These six words raised many questions, reaching deep into the region’s past and its future alike. How were Scotland and the U.K. united originally? Would Scotland need a new form of currency? Would English, Welsh and Northern Irish students at Scottish universities have to pay international student tuition?

In the end, the “Yes” camp, led by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party, came up short by about 400,000 votes. Scotland’s final answer was “No.” The nation and the Kingdom remained united.

In spite of the Scots’ disappointment and heartache, the referendum was one of the finest examples of “democracy done right” the world saw all year. More than 84.6 percent of Scots showed up to the polls, the largest turnout for an election or referendum in the United Kingdom since 1928, when universal suffrage became legal.

In the days after the referendum, I dropped a line with Cameron Newell, a student at the University of St. Andrews, in Fife, Scotland, to gauge the sentiments of the losing side. A supporter of the ‘Yes’ camp, Cameron found himself in the minority of most university students.

“On referendum night, we split the price of a bottle of champagne before the results came in and said whoever won would get to drink it,” he said. “That sucked because I had to watch them drink all my champagne, when all I wanted was a drink after the yes campaign lost.”

Julia Clark-Riddell

Obama comes to Northwestern

Week two of Fall Quarter will forever be the stuff of legends, known in the history books of the University Archives as the week President Barack Obama came to speak at Northwestern University.

The first hints of a presidential visit came on Monday Sept. 29, when a military helicopter test-landing at the Lakefill spawned rumors that Malia Obama was going to tour the campus and an article by the Chicago Sun-Times, referencing “multiple sources,” said the President himself would be speaking. Then, on Tuesday Sept. 30, the university confirmed the president’s imminent arrival. And finally, on Thursday Oct. 2, Obama came to Northwestern for one of the most fateful 90-minute visits the campus has seen.

As the first sitting president to visit the university since President Dwight D. Eisenhower 60 years ago, university staff and the Evanston police had to intensely coordinate every aspect of Obama’s visit. After the president landed on the Lakefill, his motorcade drove down a Sheridan Road cleared of all cars and packed with hundreds of studentssome protesting Obama’s policies on immigration and the national debt – to a packed and fully secured Cahn Auditorium. There, Obama spoke about the economy to graduate students, faculty, administrators, a few undergraduates and a host of local political celebrities, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

Only 900 people were able to fit inside Cahn, so across campus, hundreds of students unable to get a ticket watched live broadcasts of the president’s speech in other auditoriums. Obama focused the speech around his “four cornerstones” of economic policy – technological investments, improving education for future jobs, health care reform and fiscal stability – all while citing some less-than-perfect statistics. The president’s speech was a major assertion of his economic policies, so his visit to Northwestern continues to be cited by major news organizations as they discuss everything from the job market to political gamesmanship.

Shannon Lane and Nicole Zhu

How to Get Away with Murder

“Why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?” If that doesn’t get your attention, this show is not for you.

Thursday nights are for ShondaLand dramas: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and ABC’s newest addition, How to Get Away with Murder (HTGAWM). Viola Davis stars as Annalise Keating, a defense attorney and law professor at a prestigious fictional Philadelphia university known for its repetitive bonfires. While Annalise kicks ass in the courtroom and deals with her boring (and slightly terrible) husband, her group of students selected to work at her firm compete for a class trophy and, as the series name suggests, figure out how to get away with murder.

HTGAWM continues the Shonda tradition of a diverse cast and multidimensional characters. Holding a mirror up to us viewers, these people all carry baggage, ranging from overbearing future mothers-in-law to big-time judge fathers to murder suspects living across the hall, into the courtroom; sometimes this means they are pretty awful human beings, but hey, such is life and this show. It has also openly depicted gay sex and relationships, courtesy of the crafty and promiscuous Connor Walsh, portrayed by Jack Falahee (Remember this name. And this face. He’s not going anywhere).

The show isn’t perfect and the characters all make bad life choices at one point or another (ahem murder), but it’s fast-paced, addictive and worth watching for Davis’ performance alone. Besides its progressive depiction of sexuality, HTGAWM also portrays Annalise as a female antihero (compared to all the Walter Whites and Don Drapers of the world). She oscillates between intense courtroom drama and emotional talks with her cheating husband. She is smart, manipulative, caring, ruthless, vulnerable. She is flawed, but real.

In one scene, Davis removes her wig and makeup while getting ready for bed, both a subtle and revolutionary moment in which a woman of color is shown with her natural hair on TV. In her speech at The Hollywood Reporter “Women in Hollywood” Breakfast, Shonda Rhimes sums up what makes HTGAWM and her other Thursday night dramas so powerful:

“This moment right here, me standing up here all brown with my boobs and my Thursday night of network television full of women of color, competitive women, strong women, women who own their bodies and whose lives revolve around their work instead of their men, women who are big dogs, that could only be happening right now.”

Samuel Niiro

Winter Olympics

2014 is on the slightly underwhelming four-year cycle. Unlike 2012, a cool and fun year with a presidential election and the Summer Olympics, 2014 had midterms (usually underwhelming) and the World Cup (theoretically exciting but your pretentious friends pretend to care about soccer, so it’s a wash). It also had the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and as is widely known, the Winter Olympics are the Luigi to the Summer Olympics’ Mario.

The Winter Olympics really just aren’t as cool as the Summer Olympics. The Summer Games have basketball, track and field, swimming, gymnastics, diving, volleyball, ping pong, badminton and multiple sports that involve people fighting each other. The Winter Games have curling, hockey, skating (figure and speed) and about a dozen variations on the basic theme of “strap yourself to this board and go downhill.”

Sochi, though, was something special, even before the games began. Russia spent $51 billion on the games, making them the most expensive Olympics of all time, even more costly than China’s elaborate 2008 Beijing stint. That wasn’t necessarily apparent from the accommodations. Problems with Sochi’s hotels (three of the nine weren’t finished in time for the games) led to the meteoric rise of #sochiproblems, a hashtag that combined schadenfreude, Russia-bashing and amusement with poorly-translated signage to great effect. A major technical problem during the opening ceremonies seemed to signal the start of something gloriously terrible when a set of elaborate lighted Olympic Rings didn’t quite open properly.

The Games themselves went fine. Sure, the United States underperformed overall, didn’t medal in hockey and got entirely shut out of singles figure skating for the first time in over 75 years, but Team USA did great at the sports that involved hurtling down hills with boards strapped to your feet.

Off the slopes and ice arenas, the Olympics were as complex as ever. With major protests over Russia’s anti-LGBT legislation, allegations of anti-Russian sentiment in Western media coverage, the planned slaughter of stray dogs and the requisite kerfuffle over figure skating judging, the Sochi Olympics were every bit the contentious event we expected when a corrupt and controversial nation was designated as the host for one of the world’s most corrupt sporting events. Between the political issues and the overly elaborate ceremonies, the Winter Olympics in Sochi almost felt like the Summer Olympics but with curling, which is high praise. Of course, maybe they just felt like summer because Sochi is like 50 degrees in winter.

Lucy Wang

Oscar de la Renta

On October 20, just six weeks after his last ready-to-wear runway show in New York, Oscar de la Renta passed away of cancer complications at age 82. Marked by sophistication and elegance, his fashion career spanned over half a century at labels including Balenciaga, Lanvin, Elizabeth Arden, Jane Derby and his eponymous fashion house Oscar de la Renta. De la Renta dressed both fashion royalty and the regular kind, with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Oprah Winfrey, Taylor Swift, Michelle Obama and Queen Noor of Jordan among his loyal clientele. Peter Cropping, former artistic director of Nina Ricci, succeeded de la Renta as creative director of the Oscar de la Renta label.

Katherine Richter

It's On Us

“It’s On Us” became the tagline for eliminating college sexual assault in September when President Obama headed a campaign – along with nonprofit Generation Progress – to reject the “quiet tolerance” of these crimes. The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault – assembled in January – released a PSA featuring celebrities like Kerry Washington, Joel McHale, Connie Britton and Jon Hamm, each pledging his or her responsibility to combat the problem. Another, entitled “1 is 2 Many,” featured male celebrities, the Vice President and the President describing consent and urging an end to sexual assault. Pillars of the campaign include recognition, identification, intervention and the ultimate creation of a new environment where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors receive the support needed. Women and men are encouraged to sign the pledge with the hopes of implementing bystander intervention attitudes and broad sweeping culture change, shifting from asking the wrong questions to the right.

Northwestern’s Associated Student Government partnered with other student groups to give the “It’s On Us” platform campus footing beginning in September. In November, ASG released promotions with each student group’s logo emblazoned upon the White House’s own “It’s On Us” logo. 

The PSAs and campaign itself create a climate of invitation rather than indictment, according to The Washington Post. Excitingly, more than $6 million in grant money will be distributed among 18 colleges to develop sexual assault prevention and response programs. Eliminating gaping statistics – including one in four women being sexually assaulted in college – begins on campuses like Northwestern’s, and 2014 in particular received a burst of momentum and reinvigorated safety agenda from the White House.

Tyler Daswick


When I go home for the holidays, the only way I can go see movies is if I convince someone in my family to go with me, and I was lucky enough to drag my mother to see Dallas Buyers’ Club with me last December. She went because she thought Matthew McConaughey was hot. She walked out thinking he was a heck of a lot more, and there you go. That’s the McConaissance.

Let’s break out some arbitrary McConaughey stats:

2001-2010 (before The Lincoln Lawyer): Average Tomato-meter – 40%, Average Metacritic Score – 44

2011-present (Lincoln Lawyer to Interstellar): Average Tomato-meter – 79%, Average Metacritic Score – 69

I love arbitrary McConaughey stats. Did you know he only has one “rotten” movie since 2010, and only one non-positive consensus on Metacritic in that same span? Did you know he has more Oscars than Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Michael Keaton, Will Smith, Jet Li, Samuel L. Jackson and Harrison Ford combined? Did you know he has the same amount of Oscars as Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, Al Pacino, Adrien Brody and the immortal Nic Cage? I love arbitrary McConaughey stats.

The peak of the McConaissance, however, was True Detective. It was the best thing on television in 2014, and the main gear holding together all the cultish, backwoods treachery was our main man Matty McCee (I’ve been experimenting with nicknames). His character gave us TV’s best scene of the year – the “Time is a Flat Circle” monologue from the excellent “Secret Fate of All Life” – and as he now flips between the big screen and the silver screen, he has become one of those If-he’s-in-it-then-I’m-there guys. Indeed, last year the thought of McConaughey teaming up with Christopher Nolan was laughable, but when we saw those ads for Interstellar, the hype train was already speeding down the tracks.

When we look at all this through the rearview mirror, we see that McConaughey became the poster boy for major actors coming over to television, and the poster boy for actors looking to break out of their molds. True Detective is the flagship show for the modern television formula – big names, mature themes, and a good slathering of style. Dallas Buyers’ Club, in turn, is the flagship movie for the redefine-your-career phenomenon (just look at what Steve Carell did with Foxcatcher, what Michael Keaton did with Birdman and what Chris Rock did with Top Five – that all happened this year; McConaughey tread the path first).

In that way, the McConaissance is greater than one man. Matty McCee seized control of his career and pointed the way for others to follow. He didn’t go gently into that good night – he went with authority into his new dawn. And don’t worry, he still looked good doing it.

Quinn Schoen

UVA Scandal

When truth is morphed, inconsistent and blurred, should we blame the victim or the messenger?

In the aftermath of an explosive, searing Rolling Stone article on a 2012 rape at the University of Virginia, the article’s truth unraveled, spurring a public attack on journalistic integrity, ethics and responsibility.

The piece, “A Rape on Campus,” written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was published in Rolling Stone on November 19. The 9,000-some-odd word article vividly, graphically documents a UVA undergraduate’s account of her brutal, horrific gang rape at the hands of multiple members of the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi. UVA, a school with a strong presence of Greek life on campus, was shown as a breeding ground for sexual assault, alcohol abuse and an omnipresent notion that rape should be covered up rather than confronted. Jackie, the victim, recounted her friends’ vapidly debating the effects that contacting authorities would entail “social suicide.” The article discussed the bewildering historical presence of sexual assault in UVA’s culture, and the difficulty for Jackie to achieve any reconciliation or peace.

Days after the story was published, UVA suspended all fraternities on campus and held press conferences in regards to the allegations. In a year when movements like Carry that Weight have brought conversation to the often skirted subject, campus sexual assault came under the social spotlight.

Yet, when the dust of the article’s explosive release settled, the piece’s veracity found itself questioned.

The friends who purportedly advised Jackie to think about social ramifications spoke up and claimed they told her to call the police. People said that Jackie relayed to them different intimate details of the rape. The alleged assailants were never reached for a comment, nor, many thought, did Erdely work hard enough to find them.

As fragments of the article fell under suspicion, outlets like the Washington Post, National Review and Fox News attacked Rolling Stone and Erdely, blaming faulty journalism, errors in reporting and credulous methods of sourcing. Other news outlets condemned Jackie; Rolling Stone even claimed that it was their fault to trust her.

With the reputation of the piece shattered, Jackie’s harrowing tale was diminished, rejected and minimized, replaced by a larger attack on reporting and ethical standards. After article upon article attacking journalism, the painful, frightening truth that rape culture permeates university life lost its spotlight.

Abigail Stratton

India Elections

The world followed the 2014 Indian general election, which was regarded as India’s largest and most important election to date. Due to the massive number of votes tallied to elect members of parliament from all 543 Indian constituencies, it was the longest running election in the country’s history, lasting from April 7 to May 12.

Not only was this the largest election in Indian history, but with 814.5 million eligible voters, it is the largest election the world has ever seen.

Controversy over corruption within the Indian government was rampant leading up to the election, and the anti-corruption movement gained momentum in the months preceding the vote. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came out on top. The BJP, which translates to the Indian People’s Party, heavily supported the anti-corruption campaign and, as a result, received support from India’s youth. India’s newest prime minister, Narendra Modi, a BJP member, also drew support from the youth, which contributed to his 31 percent popular vote in the polls, bringing him a landslide victory.

The Guardian reported that India has recently been experiencing a “general sense of instability, insecurity, and drift.” However, the new prime minister is expected to confront these issues as he strives to bring rapid progress and a general sense of order and direction to the Indian government.

The previous parliament was not highly regarded and seen as an institution of corruption with an inability to maintain control and cultivate new generations of leaders for the country. These 2014 elections, however, provide a vision and a new hope for India as they move towards stability and development.

Michael McCarthy


It’s not often that the federal government is called “savvy”: it’s sad we don’t have an entry for James Flacco this year. But our government is responsible for a hashtag that won’t go away.

Whether you think it’s as awful as “Chi-rish” or an accurate description of arctic Chicago, you or someone you know has used #Chiberia to compare our lakeside ice palace to the Siberian taiga sometime in 2014.

Chicago rang in this year with a barrage of snow and arctic air, pushed down from Canada by a weather phenomenon we all know well: the Polar Vortex.

“Richard Castro,” a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Chicago was first to coin and use the hashtag on the agency’s Twitter account.

On January 6th and 7th, Northwestern cancelled classes due to the cold. The low temperature at O’Hare for January 6 was a record 16 degrees below zero. The high was only 2 degrees below zero. For good measure, temperatures were in the -40s in Dzalinda, Siberia on that day.

Social media didn’t leave all of the fun to actual meteorologists. Working from home on January 6, 2014, RedEye reporter Mick Swasko* conducted experiments from the comfort of his snow-covered back porch.

The hashtag has had a healthy lifespan since hell froze over in early 2014. Like the potholes that a bone-chilling Polar Vortex brought us, #chiberia hasn't fully disappeared. On December 19, Navy Pier used the hashtag when the temperature was above freezing. Thanks, Richard Castro.

With 2014’s #chiberia behind us, it’s time to sit back and 2015 has in store.

* Not a scientist.

Sarah Turbin

Gone Girl

On the surface, it’s just a story of how a man deals with his wife’s sudden disappearance, but Gone Girl has something for everybody. Didn’t read it first with the rest of your mom’s book club two years ago? That’s okay, because Northwestern alum Gillian Flynn adapted the script from her book herself, which means that the movie doesn’t stray far from the novel. David Fincher directed it, so maybe you and your RTVF buddy went to see it together (spoiler alert: She will still tell you Gone Girl has nothing on The Social Network). Ben Affleck bares all in it, so your thirstiest friend may have considered it one Friday evening. And Rosamund Pike plays the female lead, a woman named Amy, who has the possibility to fuel your most ardently feminist speeches on the representation of women in the media – or the exact opposite.

Along that same vein, Gone Girl also has something for everybody to avoid while watching it. Those who have read the book may just opt for a reread, as the movie really is that faithful to the original text. It’s too gory for those who don’t like the slightest whiff of blood (or, understandably, violence against women) in their book-adapted thrillers. Affleck’s nude scene is far too short to mean much.

Still, who hasn’t been in a room this year where you or someone you knew covered their ears, humming, yelling out that old familiar cry: No spoilers! If you haven’t seen it yet, then I hope you can – if only to understand the title’s double meaning. Or if only to understand what celebrities mean when they reference the movie in their tweets.

Alex Nitkin

Weird Al

Whether you relish in “Weird Al” Yankovic’s absurdist music industry satire or cringe at the sound of a shrill white-guy voice over-enunciating your favorite songs, you can’t deny that the 55-year-old knows how to change with the times.

Yankovic made his parody debut in 1979 with My Bologna, a polka-style lunchmeat love song played to the tune of The Knack’s My Sharona. Since then he’s been steadily mocking whoever’s popular, from Michael Jackson to Nirvana to Lady Gaga, all leading up to a full skewering of 2014’s stars in July’s Mandatory Fun.

Bucking the conventional approach of releasing a single before the album’s complete unveiling, Yankovic released one music video each day over the course of a week. His cryptic advertising campaign showed only the intrinsically hilarious image of Al’s unmistakable Cathy hairdo in the middle of Soviet-style propaganda, and his choice to partner with a different site to release each video – CollegeHumor today, FunnyOrDie tomorrow, Nerdist the day after – made the album a sort of unifying cross-section for sources of funny shit online.

His first video, for “Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell’s sickeningly pervasive “Happy,” was a one-shot tour of an abandoned building featuring some breezy physical comedy from obnoxiously-dressed stars including Jack Black and Kristin Schaal. The song took shots at some modern-day cultural faux pas (“I Instagram every meal I’ve had,” “I would live-tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased”) while subtly suggesting that a bunch of celebrities dancing around while singing about how happy they are is – let’s be honest – pretty fucking tacky.

Other pop hit parodies on the album included “Word Crimes,” a grammar manifesto whose video wisely substituted some nifty kinetic typography for Robin Thicke’s naked models, and “Handy,” which will embed the image of a mustachioed Al gyrating with a tool belt every time you hear Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” Mandatory Fun also includes a few pure originals, most notably “Sports Song” and “First World Problems,” challenging the critique that the man doesn’t come up with any of his own music.

But the album’s buried gem may have been the short but memorable “Foil,” which begins as a ballad for a mundane kitchen accessory but suddenly becomes a catalog of hair-brained conspiracy theories, all to the tune of Lorde's "Royals". The shift is quick enough to miss if you’re not paying attention – one moment he’s singing about trapping in freshness, the next he’s warning you about the Illuminati’s plan for world domination – and the end brings it all together perfectly.

Weird Al’s novel release strategy paid off, and on July 23 Mandatory Fun edged out Jason Mraz’s Yes! to reach the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 for the first time in Al’s marathon career. So hopefully, 2014 will always be remembered as the year this man finally earned the right to be taken seriously.

Candace Butera

World Cup

"Los, Deutschland, los!" fans cheered, as Germany clinched the victory in this year’s FIFA World Cup. The tournament took the world by storm beginning on June 12. Held in Brazil, this year’s World Cup was a battle among the greats and an upset for the host nation in a devastating loss to Germany in the semi-final round with a final score of 7-1. To add to the blow, Brazil was unable to claim third place, as they fell to Netherlands in a third-place playoff game, 3-0.

The United States had a great run in this year’s tournament, making it past the group stage despite an extremely competitive group consisting of Germany, Portugal and Ghana. They ultimately fell to Belgium in the first game of the elimination round.

Fans worldwide tuned in for the final match between Germany and Argentina, replicating the final of the 1990 FIFA World Cup. The teams battled in an intensely close match, showcasing the skills of the world’s best players of the game. Argentina player Lionel Messi, arguably the world’s greatest player, could not clinch a goal for his team. Viewers kept their eyes fixated on their screens as the match went into overtime, scoreless, until the 113th minute, when Germany was able to get the ball in the back of the net.

This World Cup featured new technologies that made an impact throughout the tournament. Primarily, the introduction of goal-line technology helped referees make game-changing decisions. Vanishing foam, used by the referees, was also a new introduction on the field as a temporary marking during free kicks.

Tanner Howard

Too Many Cooks

What really can be said about “Too Many Cooks,” the runaway viral success from Adult Swim? After all, most people’s initial reaction to the video is a stunned silence, punctuated with nervous laughter, uncomfortable sideways glances and a burning desire to close the tab without another word.

As someone who’s intimately familiar with the inner recesses of Weird YouTube, enjoying the types of videos that many would find either profoundly disturbed or bewildering, I quickly latched onto the video. There was no turning back from the opening moments, even as the too-catchy theme song bounced along for nearly three minutes without change. From there, the video only gets better, unfolding into one of the most creative short films I’ve ever seen. Just looking at the list of characters throughout the film’s 11 minutes yields too many cases of those that deserve far more airtime. At 1:10, Gwydion Lashlee-Walton charms with an inexplicable leather vest look. Around 3:10, charming bad guy Josh Lowder beams at the camera, mid-arrest. And then there’s Smarf, the rainbow-hands, possibly robotic cat-puppet that does its best to escape the maddening world that surrounds it. Should Adult Swim choose to, I’d happily tune in every week for a show dedicated just to his exploits.

What’s most impressive is how deftly the video builds an entire universe within such a short time span. By showing the Cook’s home not merely in the context of the imaginary show “Too Many Cooks,” but instead as a working, real-life studio setting, the video creates a space in which television invades our own world, perhaps a sly commentary on the pervasiveness of media in our culture.

Another important aspect of “Too Many Cooks” and its rise to fame is the inordinate amount of think pieces dedicated to dissecting it. British publication The Daily Dot summed it up best: “In certain corners of the Internet, it’s probably the only thing you’ve been seeing over the past few days.” Any pop culture that can keep dozens (if not hundreds) of Internet bloggers gainfully employed gives me hope that the next Internet sensation will do the same for me when I’m on the job market.

Ultimately, “Too Many Cooks” is too much for some people. Shortly after it came out, I tried showing a friend the video, thinking she’d be a huge fan. After four minutes of deathly silence and a stony expression that conveyed a strong sense of “WTF,” she refused to watch any further. Even after a second viewing, where she decided to endure the entire clip, only a few muffled laughs resulted. For her, the beauty of “Too Many Cooks” simply didn’t exist.But that’s okay. 2014 was a divisive year, in nearly every regard. Amidst important debates about police violence, sexual assault and a myriad of other issues, there was something comforting about debating an “infomercial” that originally debuted on Cartoon Network at 4 a.m. Life isn’t always going to be as low-stakes as “Too Many Cooks,” but without it, we’d lose an important perspective: if we can debate a stupid Internet video, we’re capable of debating anything, even (hopefully) the important stuff.

Natalie Escobar


If you’re anything like the average procrastinating college student, you’ve probably used (and abused) Netflix to marathon entire seasons of television shows. As the binge-watching phenomenon has continued to grow, services like HBO GO and Amazon’s Prime Instant Video have started to challenge the defending champ’s claim to the streaming throne. But thanks to two huge recent acquisitions – the entirety of the Gilmore Girls and Friends series – Netflix can rest easy on its laurels.

Gilmore Girls, was released in late October, accompanied by a surge of Internet fanfare. The show features the mother-daughter duo: Lorelai and Rory, who live in the sleepy town Stars Hollow, drink inhuman amounts of coffee and make loads of pop culture references. The cult hit ran on WB from 2000 to 2007 before being cancelled and airing its last season on the CW. Since then, fans of the show have had to resort to hunting down the seven seasons on DVD. Now that all 153 episodes are on Netflix, though, fans can power through 115 hours of witty banter—a little under five days of nonstop watching.

But Netflix fully secured a solid fan base by acquiring Friends. On January 1, fans were able to marathon all 236 episodes of the show. The sitcom, which aired from the 1994 to 2004, centers around a group of friends who live in Lower Manhattan and (also) drink inhuman amounts of coffee. Although it went off-air 10 years ago, there’s something about watching a bunch of twenty-somethings struggle to figure out their lives that has made it remain popular.

Irresponsible binge-watchers, rejoice – with these new additions, you have hundreds of hours of new marathon material for your viewing pleasure just in time for the start of classes.

Shannon Lane

Ray Rice

The NFL’s biggest storyline this year had nothing to do with touchdowns or sacks or kickoffs. No, the biggest storyline came out from a videotape of an Atlantic City casino elevator, and it’s the story the NFL never wanted you to read.

In February, Ray Rice, then the star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was arrested on assault charges after a “minor physical altercation" with his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer. After a video footage of Rice dragging the unconscious Janay from a casino elevator surfaced, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for only two games. (Rice had already been indicted on assault charges and eventually enrolled in a pretrial intervention program with his now-wife.) This decision outraged feminist groups and NFL pundits alike, who alleged the NFL was too soft on domestic violence.

That was nothing compared to what happened when TMZ posted a second video, this one of Rice punching Janay out cold inside the elevator, prompting Goodell to change his mind and suspend Rice indefinitely. Many called for Rice to be permanently banned from football and others questioned why Goodell waited until another video was released to hand down a harsher punishment. Rice has since appealed the decision and won the right to return to the game as a free agent, though no team has signed him.

The debate about who knew what at the time of the initial two-game suspension not only demonstrated a potential NFL coverup, but also revealed the league’s lack of guidelines in dealing with domestic abuse cases. In a game played, coached and governed by men, it soon became clear that it had no idea how to handle women’s involvement in football, both in the stands and behind closed doors. Now, if you watch football on Sunday afternoons, you’ll see a series of players either declaring “no more” excuses for domestic violence or shifting uncomfortably in front of the camera when asked to talk about it, presumably the NFL’s way of trying to repair the PR nightmare the situation has caused.

Janay Rice was also criticized for apologizing for her role in the incident, for marrying her husband the day after he was indicted, for not leaving him once the story went public, for asking for forgiveness on his behalf. The couple has continually reaffirmed their commitment to each other and to Rice’s career, but the damage to his reputation – and the NFL’s – is done.

Clayton Gentry


As Boyhood opens, we see a six-year-old Mason Evans (Ellar Coltrane) gazing deep into a blue sky, not unlike the way I remember once doing, wondering how it’s so big, what’s in it, why it’s blue. Then I blinked, July 2014 came around and I saw Boyhood for the first time, right in the twilight of my teendom, not much older than that same Mason Evans by the film’s end.

The film’s summer release marked the culmination of more than a decade of vision – once a year, between May 2002 and October 2013, director Richard Linklater gathered his cast and crew to film part of a two-and-a-half hour movie to represent almost 12 years of time.

Over those hours, Evans matures from an imaginative boy into a sensitive, artistic young man. Alongside him, his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette), his father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) grow too, together weaving not so much one central story, but a quilt of vignettes anchored from the vantage point of one growing boy. Mason’s are the quintessential moments of so many boyhoods – a baseball game with Dad, the talk, a semi-serious girlfriend, high school graduation. And they feel genuine because, in a sense, they belong not only to Mason and his fictional family, but the actors themselves, too.

In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Coltrane said Linklater never wrote down exactly how the 12-year story would play out, and when he called to ask about piercing his ear, Linklater said, “Do your thing.”

“That was always Rick’s idea, was to just have it kind of go where I went,” Coltrane said. “When I had acne, he kind of made a point not to cover it up because most teenagers have acne at some point.”

Many film critics would say “escaping” into a film is bad juju, especially when you’re expected to write about it – your judgments aren’t objective, your criticism becomes personal. But I would challenge anyone, no matter your age, to walk out of Boyhood without having flashed back to one’s own simpler days.

But ultimately, Boyhood isn’t a movie about the past. It’s a movie about the moment. “It’s constant…. It’s like it’s always right now,” Mason says, caught up again beneath the one thing that never changed.

Benjamin Din

Facebook Stickers

Every time Facebook decides to roll out a new feature or change its layout, everyone seems to hate it. That is, until a few months later, when no one can remember the way Facebook looked before the change.

Facebook stickers are no exception.

When Facebook stickers were first introduced in May 2013, they seemed so foreign and strange. They introduced a new form of communication, where stickers replaced words and messages. After all, what’s the point of typing “lol” when you can just sent an animated sticker of a laughing cat?

Why would anyone need gigantic stickers to express their feelings, opinions or thoughts? Maybe it’s because Facebook stickers have us feeling some type of way. The last time we communicated with pictures was probably in elementary school. And a lot of us peaked in elementary school, so reminiscing on the glory days doesn’t seem all that bad.

Fast forward to the end of 2014 – Facebook stickers are now ubiquitous. The only way to get away from them is to muster up enough willpower to log off Facebook (full disclosure: that’s harder said than done. I haven’t logged out of my Facebook account for the past three months). Now, the question seems to be, “How did people communicate before they had the ability to send gigantic Pusheen and minion stickers?”

In October, Facebook finally unveiled what we had all been waiting for: sticker comments. Before, stickers were available exclusively in private messages. Gone are the days of typing witty retorts and brilliant comebacks to that high school friend who doesn’t seem to understand why people are so concerned about the news. All you need to shut him up now is a judgmental Pusheen sticker.

To increase the ubiquity of stickers, Facebook launched “Stickered for Messenger” in December, a new app that allows users to edit photos by adding stickers and sending them over Messenger, the Facebook messaging app. At this rate, Facebook stickers will probably rule the world by 2020.

In a short time frame, Facebook has managed to show the world that the age-old adage is still true today: A sticker is worth a thousand words.

Alex Sher

Ellen's Selfie

Over 43 million people tuned in to the 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. From feeding her audience pizza to embarrassing Jennifer Lawrence by assuring her that she would not mention Lawrence’s fall (5:30), DeGeneres had all the proper workings of a fabulous mother and a wonderful entertainer.

But all of that was not enough. Ellen also had to break Twitter.

She walked into the audience and began snapping selfies with some of the stars there. She waltzed right up to Meryl Streep and decided she wanted to break the most retweets. One thing led to another and the result was the famous selfie with Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper and more.

Those watching the Academy Awards were able to experience Streep’s very first tweet. After the picture was taken, she cried out jubilantly, “I’ve never tweeted before!”

Not only did Ellen’s picture get the most retweets ever, with over three million retweets and over two million favorites, it also disrupted Twitter’s servers. At a rate of 254,644 tweets per minute, Ellen’s star-studded photograph was too much for Twitter to handle. Twitter ultimately released an apology because it was not working properly for over 20 minutes, thanks to those damn Oscars.

Justin Bieber had the second most retweeted tweet of the year, but it was nowhere close to Ellen’s, with just about 500,000 retweets.

The selfie made waves that lasted for months. In fact, USA Today focused on it in a December article, 283 days after the Oscars, while it was recapping that year on Twitter. According the article, Ellen speaking directly to the audience is what sparked the photograph’s Twitter success. By retweeting, viewers felt like they were a part of the action.

Even more, that was not Ellen’s only Twitter success of the night. Her pizza delivery made it to the fourth most-popular entertainment moment on Twitter, with over 150,000 tweets per minute.

Samuel Niiro

Midterm Elections

Republicans may not be big fans of Common Core, but they’re clearly no strangers to the classroom, given how they took Democrats to school in November.

Despite widespread predictions that the 2014 elections would be a hard-fought battle between the two parties, Democrats received a thorough drubbing, as the GOP walked away with a number of new seats in the House, several new governorships and most importantly, control of the Senate. Postmortem analyses have pointed to a number of potential factors, but whether you want to chalk it up to Obama’s weak approval rating, an electoral map that largely focused on red states, historically low voter turnout or any number of other possibilities (Ebola, anyone?), the takeaway was that this was a red-letter year for Republicans. Democrats haven’t done this poorly in the House since the 1800s.

Of course, 2014 wasn’t all about electoral issues. Politics is also stupid and weird! Mitch McConnell released B-roll footage that turned out to be gloriously exploitable. Michelle Obama, on the campaign trail in Iowa, called Rep. Bruce Braley by the wrong name seven times in a row. Joni Ernst won Iowa’s Senate seat with a campaign that appeared to outside observers to be primarily about castrating hogs, a skill we’re excited to see her employ in Washington.

Losing total control of Congress doesn’t seem to have sunk Democrats into a state of listless despair. Instead, President Obama bounced back from midterms with a number of historic initiatives: decisive executive action on immigration, a landmark deal on climate change with China, big support for net neutrality (“Obamacare for the internet,” if you’re Ted Cruz) and liberalizing relations with Cuba. And Democrats did win big on ballot initiatives, as voters overwhelmingly supported higher minimum wages and voted in Oregon, Alaska and D.C. to liberalize marijuana laws. Midterms might have gone poorly for the left, but they’ve only set the stage for a bigger showdown in 2016.

Rachel Fobar

Taylor Swift

You could say Taylor Swift had a pretty busy 2014 with selling 1.287 million copies of her new album 1989 in the first week after its release, performing on everything from Jimmy Kimmel Live! to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and gracing the cover of nearly every majormagazine.

While we all know that Miss Swift was hugely successful this year, her biggest accomplishment was completely overhauling her image. The Taylor you heard about at the end of 2013 and present-day Taylor are two entirely different women.

The most obvious change is her crossover from a country-pop hybrid songstress to a purely pop artist. She announced that 1989 would be her first country-less record. She also attempted to shed her boy-crazy image by parodying the media’s portrayal of her in “Blank Space” and by repeatedly announcing that she has been happily single for over a year now. In a profile in Time’s November edition, she says, “It’s so refreshing to see people move on from the idea that all I do is sit in my lair and write songs about boys for revenge.” Swift also joined the ranks of Beyoncé and Lena Dunham this year, officially labeling herself as a feminist. Her songs don’t focus on girl fights or on putting other women down anymore, and she has surrounded herself with a new posse of female friends including Lorde, Selena Gomez, Karlie Kloss and Emma Stone.

Last but not least, Taylor rebranded herself as a powerful and opinionated woman; gone are the flowery dresses and the curly hair. In Billboard’s cover story, she discussed the biggest challenge she faced this year: convincing members of her team that her executive decisions were the right move. She stood her ground, even though people who had worked for her for years opposed her and questioned her decision to transition to pure pop. She says, “They said, ‘Are you really sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want to call the album 1989? We think it’s a weird title. Are you sure you want to put an album cover out that has less than half your face on it?’” Ultimately, she says her “biggest struggle turned into the biggest triumph when it worked out.”

In 2014, Taylor transitioned from the sweet, innocent girl who had her moment stolen by Kanye West to a superstar pop singer and powerful businesswoman. As far as her future goes, 2015 holds a lot of promise for Swift. She helped us welcome the New Year on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, and she’ll be on her 1989 tour. Businessweek put it best: Taylor Swift is the music industry.

Grant Rindner


I failed an Econ final because of 2048.

Well, actually it was the Northwestern Frat Rankings version of 2048, but let’s keep that between us.

Made by a then-19-year-old Italian web designer in March, 2048's simplicity made it an instant viral hit. The game is incredibly easy to learn and has a staggering amount of replay value for something that is basically just glorified addition.

The beauty of 2048 was that it could be as strategic or impulsive of a game as you wanted. For as many people as there were who made it a cerebral game (and there were whole websites devoted to it), there were just as many who went with the “fuck it” approach and just arbitrarily moved blocks around the screen (myself included).

I’ve never been much of a gamer, and even iPhone games don’t hold much appeal to me, but I was full-blown addicted to 2048 for about three weeks. Any spare minutes were enough time for a few rounds, and because the game constantly shows your high score, you always know exactly what benchmark you’re shooting for.

There’s a reason the game has been compared to Flappy Bird, although it’s not nearly as mindless so you won’t feel quite as bad about yourself for playing it through an entire lecture.

On top of being just plain addictive, the game’s open source coding meant that countless new versions of 2048 would spring up every day. Tired of adding numbers together? How about rappers’ mugshot or Benedict Cumberbatch vs. Otters? How about a version made out of other versions of 2048

Gotten too good at the original version? Well why don’t you try 9007199254740992, a version so big I can’t even fit the entire board on my laptop screen.

Nowadays, it’s kind of refreshing that something as simple as 2048 could become a global sensation, and even just in the time it took to write this piece I probably reeled off 20 more rounds.

Rosalie Chan

Unaccompanied Minors

Unaccompanied children have been entering the U.S. from Mexico and Central America in increasing numbers, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and Salvador. This increase in migration has been due to poverty, crime, gang threats and violence in their home countries.

President Barack Obama called this an “urgent humanitarian situation,” and this summer, the Justice Department announced a plan to provide $2 million to entice attorneys and paralegals to represent undocumented immigrant minors. According to federal budget sources, the estimated cost of caring for and resettling these children could run as high as $2.28 billion.

In November, President Obama used his executive authority to provide deportation relief and temporary permission to work for up to five million undocumented immigrants.  According to the Migration Policy Institute, nearly half of all undocumented immigrants could benefit from these actions, and according to the Pew Research Center, up to 3.8 million immigrants will now be eligible for deportation relief.

The influx in minors this past year has overwhelmed Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security, and people have raised concerns over the mistreatment and deportation of the minors.  

According to a study from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 58 percent of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America and Mexico potentially need international protection.  This means they qualify as refugees or should have access to a process to help them attain legal status.

Sarah Turbin

Kim Kardashian

It is funny that “Break the Internet” is the phrase that is emblazoned below Kim Kardashian’s bare, buttered buttocks on the now-famous cover of Paper magazine. It is funny because it is untrue – Kardashian hasn’t broken anything. She has only ever been building. Her empire is vast and influential, her selfies adored, her family name branded to infinity and beyond. And so many of us seemed to forget these facts when we gazed upon her posterior this year. Here is a woman who, seven years ago when her sex tape was released without her consent, was supposed to fall with shame then into obscurity. She did neither. Well, Kardashian seemed to think, they want a sex symbol? I’ll give them a sex symbol. If Kim Kardashian’s ass is astonishing, that is because Kim Kardashian is astonishing.

But let us recall the spring of this year, many months before we saw Kardashian pose for the cover of Paper. Kardashian flew to Versailles for her wedding rehearsal dinner. Then she was off to Italy, where she married a rapper named Kanye West at the Forte di Belvedere, a fortress that was built in the 16th century at the request of another famous family. Perhaps you have heard of them too: The Medicis. Will the Kardashian name be remembered like this? Her dominion is vast as well, after all.

This year, as we do things like speculate on the use of Photoshop and plastic surgery that may or may not have gone into this Paper magazine cover, Kardashian quietly worked on her mobile app, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. The Wall Street Journal would soon publish a piece after its release to answer the question of whether or not she had a hand in the app’s creation. If you have been following along, it will not surprise you to learn that she had, extensively. Since the app’s release in June, it has raked in millions of dollars. The Kardashian Midas touch is all-encompassing. And as we wonder whether or not Kardashian is a good mother for cropping her daughter out of a photo of herself, she still has her book deal - a book of her selfies that is due to be published in a few months (titled Kim Kardashian Selfish.) Kardashian sometimes lets others take photos of her body, yes. But she calls all the shots.

Nicholas Hagar

BoJack Horseman

BoJack Horseman came at the moment that suited it best – when Netflix original content started to pick up steam, big-name celebrities working on smaller passion projects became a normal occurrence, and cartoons with adult humor were immensely popular.

The 13-episode animated series, which premiered on Netflix in August 2014, follows washed-up sitcom star and anthropomorphic horse BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett) as he attempts to rebuild his career. On the advice of his agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), he commissions a ghostwriter to produce a memoir on his behalf.

Rounding out this high-profile cast are Aaron Paul, who voices BoJack’s perpetually unemployed roommate Todd, and Paul F. Tompkins, who voices the canine and significantly more successful television star Mr. Peanut Butter. Also making minor appearances are characters voiced by Patton Oswalt, Stephen Colbert, Olivia Wilde and John Krasinski.

BoJack Horseman’s humor is, at times, both incisive and silly, smart and dumb. The show explores themes of America’s obsession with celebrity and past regrets, poking fun at everyone from Ira Glass to Andrew Garfield along the way. However, there are also the obligatory fart jokes and other slapstick gags scattered between, including one scene which has BoJack vomiting an entire mountain of cotton candy. Something for everyone.

Critics were far from unanimous in reviewing BoJack Horseman’s initial offering; Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times called the show “a combination of droll and naughty that seems improbable but works deliciously,” while the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lori Rackl gave it one star, saying it “seems to have stemmed from a trippy night on ‘shrooms.” Despite these mixed reactions, Netflix renewed the show for a second season of 12 episodes only days after it premiered.

Madeline Coe

Yik Yak

If you hear someone talking about “yakking”, it’s not about who vomited in the girls bathroom last night. It’s a new gossip app catching fire around high schools and universities across the nation (although, let’s be real, it’s a college campus – vomit isn’t entirely out of the question).

This anonymous social media app allows the user to view posts within 1.5 miles, making it more of an intimate gathering, if you like that kind of stuff. However, the features do not stop there. Users can “peek” into other regions, universities, or even music festivals to see what unusual events are occurring without their knowledge. The best thing about the app is that users have full control over what is seen and what isn’t. A yak receiving five “downvotes” disappears forever from Yik Yak – personal profile and all. The more “upvotes” a yak receives, the higher the “yakarma”, which is just a fancy way of saying “points that don’t mean anything”– utilizing the same mentality of Whose Line Is It Anyway.

Yik Yak has become a key aspect of Northwestern’s social media atmosphere. Yaks such as “have a paper to write, gonna do my nails instead” and “shoutout to the guy who unicycles to class” are repeat offenders to the Northwestern University page. Common topics include procrastinating homework (hence using social media), complaining about the lack of a TA’s actual teaching ability and attempting to find addresses for parties.

Yik Yak hasn’t always received amused approval. Some high schools are dealing with bullying and harassment scandals over this “Gossip Girl” influenced app. This app has increased the means for cyberbullying while encouraging rumor culture and even violence. Unfortunately, the anonymity of this program leaves little room to reprimand students for their actions. Just think before you yak.

Frank Avino


September 9th, 2014. I still remember the day.

It was the day of Apple’s “Special Event” in Cupertino, California. You know, their yearly event where they announce new products and share revisions of old ones.

But that day was destined to be different. U2 would, somehow, be involved.

You’ve heard of U2, right? The Irish band, with lead singer Bono, that had that commercial with an iPod?

The rumor was that U2 would be making an appearance at the event to announce their new album, in order to share news about their latest work in a familiar spotlight.

But that day was destined to be different. U2 would somehow not only announce their album Songs of Innocence, but also upload it for free to over half a billion people’s iTunes libraries.

And the world and internet loudly reacted – with surprise, with confusion, with joy and with disdain.

Admittedly, I am biased. Very much so. U2 has been one of my favorite bands since I saw them live in 2009 at Soldier Field in Chicago. I follow updates about Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. just about as often as some of you follow One Direction and Taylor Swift.

Because I’m biased, I reacted to the surprise release with great joy. I’ve come to love some of the songs on the album, especially the ballad “Every Breaking Wave.” But not everyone felt that way.

Patrick Carney of The Black Keys claimed the move by U2 “devalued their music completely.” Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters felt the album’s forced release on iTunes accounts drew a parallel to George Orwell’s 1984. And Tyler the Creator wasn’t too happy either.

Reviews of the album have been generally positive, with The Telegraph calling the album “a celebration of the transformative power of music,” Consequence of Sound noting it “lingers comfortably in your ears the same way just about any other U2 record does” and even Rolling Stone hailing the album as the greatest of 2014.

But as my good friend Tom August wrote earlier this year, “music is extremely subjective.” My favorite parts of Songs of Innocence include the outburst of optimism in “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone,)” the sunshine-inspired melody of “California (There Is No End To Love,”)” the journey of first love of the main character in “Song For Someone” and the desperate melancholy of “Every Breaking Wave.” But that’s just what I currently like about this album. If you haven’t heard the album yet, I invite you to check it out, regardless of how you feel about U2. I also recommend you read Bono’s essay about the album.

Hey, if Tyler the Creator can go from ”FUCK BONO” to “BONO IS FUCKING AWESOME GOT DAMN” in about ten minutes, maybe there’s something special about this band.

Kelly Gonsalves

Celebrity Nude Hacks

Involuntary pornography – the sharing of explicit photographs without the subject’s consent – unfortunately got one of its biggest publicity boosts this summer. Beginning on August 31 and extending into early October, hackers poured hundreds of naked photographs of female celebrities – including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande and many others – onto the internet. Dubbed “The Fappening,” the leak sparked nationwide discussion on the (im)possibility of digital security and the vibrant, ever-evolving culture of sexually violating women in the U.S.

Likely obtained by a number of individual hackers, the celebrity photos began circulating on image-hosting site 4chan and an involuntary porn project called AnonIB in mid-August before a single “collector” publically released them, apparently in an attempt to earn some cash. Other hackers and hoarders followed suit. The photos quickly spread to Reddit and other seedy corners of the web, where the media finally caught wind of the ongoing leak, which occurred in four “waves” stretching into the fall.

Although ultimately denying any security breach had occurred, Apple admitted certain celebrity accounts had been “compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet.” Apple CEO Tim Cook later blamed phishing schemes and brute-force password guessing, but as critics pointed to the iCloud backup storage system’s allowance for unlimited login attempts, the company quickly added a series of fixes meant to bolster its user data’s defenses. Nice dodge, Apple.

While iPhone users across the world frantically changed their privacy settings, the media quickly took a deep dive into the shady history of involuntary porn. It didn’t take much to prove this kind of thing is anything but rare: Just a month before the celeb hack, the hashtag #twitterpurge went viral, in which Twitter users (mostly men) would “purge” their phones by tweeting nudes of girls they’d received in the past. Just for fun.

Jennifer Lawrence, one of the most targeted victims of the first wave of the leak, called it a “sex crime” in a Vanity Fair interview in November: “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.”

Fortunately, the hackers, vengeful exes and misogynistic jerks of the world don’t get the last laugh on this one. While it’s absolutely unacceptable that anyone is victimized in such a way, this high-profile case of non-consensual nudes has given new fuel to so-called “revenge porn fixers,” the lawyers and activists hard at work at getting legislation passed to specifically target those who post other people’s naked pics without permission. California’s revenge porn law even saw its first conviction this December.

So watch out, Internet scum. The battle is just beginning.

Amal Ahmed

Hobby Lobby

The Supreme Court ruled in July that Hobby Lobby, as a family-owned corporation, is allowed to cite religious beliefs as a reason to not fund four types of birth control mandated under the Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare).

The decision was seen by many Americans as regressive, blatantly pro-corporation, and an attack on women’s reproductive rights.

Twitter subsequently exploded, with thousands of users tweeting to Supreme Court to voice their discontent, disagreement, and disgust with the decision. There’s only one problem: The Supreme Court of the United States is far too dignified to have an official Twitter handle.

So who was the angry internet mob attacking with its digital pitchforks? They chose @SCOTUSblog, which, as it turns out is a blog dedicated to explaining the Supreme Court’s decisions to the average citizen. The blog is not affiliated with the Supreme Court, but is run by lawyers and reporters who have an appreciation for Constitutional law.

Those who run the @SCOTUSblog account decided that the best way to deal with thousands of angry internet trolls was to troll them back, replying to the angry tweets with a strong dose of sarcasm and wit, much to the confusion of said trolls.

If we learned anything from Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., it’s that you can’t always win-- but sometimes, you can try and out-snark them.

Here are some of the best replies served up by @SCOTUSblog.

Megan Thielking

Hilary Duff

Let’s go back, back to the beginning. Back to when the Earth, the sun, the stars all aligned. The year 2003.

I received Hilary Duff’s album “Metamorphosis” for my birthday that year and I swear to you, the karaoke contest at my sleepover was a watershed moment for music history. For so long, Hilary Duff has reigned as queen of my heart.

First she conquered the tween years with awkward grace and her best friends, Gordo and Miranda on “The Lizzie McGuire Show.” Then, Hil took on an Italian vacation in “The Lizzie McGuire Movie,” upstaging a Vespa-riding lipsyncer with terribly swooped hair. She defeated a villainous Botoxed stepmother, served burgers on roller skates and found love with heartthrob Chad Michael Murray in “A Cinderella Story.”

IRL, Hilary Duff grew up, got married to hockey player Mike Comrie and had a baby. And things started to quiet down for her work life, so it seemed. But we true fans knew all along we hadn’t seen the last of her.

I waited quietly, crimping my hair while watching the iconic “Hey Now (What Dreams Are Made Of)” Colosseum performance on repeat. And then, one day, after months of Instagram self-promotion, it came. She had a new album on the way, and her first single was out. “Chasing the Sun” took YouTube and my heart by storm in July, becoming Duff’s fastest-viewed music video ever.

It’s poppy, fresh and has everything you need: karate chop massages by a muscular shirtless guy, martinis in the break room, Eos lip balm and a weird dude who rubs sunscreen on her in what makes for a very uncomfortable scene. The music video for Hil’s second single, “All About You,” came out in September. It’s one big party of Amazon phones and high-waisted shorts, with Duff line-dancing her way through a pursuit of leather-clad, vinyl-toting lover.

Hilary Duff’s music has this magical power to make me look deep into my soul and question myself. Why not do a crazy dance? Have I ever wondered what life is about? Come tomorrow, will it seem so yesterday?

If that wasn’t enough, she’s also coming back to the small screen, starring in “Younger,” a TVLand show out next year from creator of Sex and the City Darren Star. The planned October release of her album was delayed, but the certain masterpiece is expected out sometime soon.

Duff’s comeback this year has reminded us that before her, our lives were duller. Now everything’s Technicolor.

Carrie Twersky

How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother. 208 episodes. 13 Interventions. One yellow umbrella. And a countless amount of Canadian jokes.  

For those who have never watched the show: It begins in the year 2030. Ted, the main character, is telling his future kids, Penny and Luke, about how he met their mother, hence the title. The entire series is made up of flashbacks of Ted telling stories about his friends to his kids. His friends consist of Marshall and Lily, the perfect couple; Barney, the playboy who is constantly finding new creative ways to hit on girls; and Robin, the Canadian news reporter who had an on-again, off-again relationship with Ted throughout the series, but who we learn in the first episode, is not the mother. 

The concept of the show was perfect. It was the Friends that replaced Friends. The How I Met Your Mother gang’s adventures and running jokes in New York City kept us watching every week. 

Who didn’t dread the finale? No one wanted this show to end, but when the night came, I couldn’t wait to see what creative ending the writers had come up with. 

And I was not pleased. 

The finale was a sham. After nine seasons, some better than others, the How I Met Your Mother finale was disappointing to say the least. 

Not only was the finale disappointing, but the whole last season, which all took place during the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding, failed to reach expectations. This might be due to the fact that their marriage dissolves approximately 14 minutes and 28 seconds into the finale. What a waste! In that short time, a whole season of buildup was knocked down and destroyed. 

In my opinion, the writers could have spent the season showing how Ted and Tracy (the mother)’s ended up. But no, they left all of that for the last episode, giving Tracy and Ted mere minutes to show their life together before Tracy dies.

The writers could have ended it there. No, they should’ve ended it there. 

Instead they brought Robin and Ted back together. They rekindled a relationship that should have stayed dead. Robin and Ted are not supposed to end up together, that was made clear. If they were, they would’ve gotten together eight seasons ago. 

So, after nine seasons, eight slaps, and a whole lot of memorable moments, we end right where we began. And it makes me ask myself a question that I really don’t want to ask. Was it worth it?