Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel… is one of my favorite albums of 2012 (and maybe ever), and I absolutely loved our own Sady Doyle’s recent essay about one of the best songs on the album, “Werewolf.” Insightful, heartbreaking, and beautifully written, the piece compares the song with another track, “Regret,” and talks about each captures a woman in a different stage of a damaged, and damaging, relationship. If you’ve ever been involved with someone who brings out the worst in you, and vice versa, this essay might make you wince with recognition, which can also happen when facing the sometimes uncomfortable beauty of Fiona’s own work.

Like Emma D., I’m a big fan of online mag Booooooom. Right now I’m getting a ton of art inspiration thanks to their top 15 posts of 2012. My favorite on this list is “Sandwich Artist,” wherein Brittany Powell crafted edible homages to famous artists. Here, for example, is her tribute to Mondrian:

Booooooom also put together a post of 64 photos by 64 photographers, which is great to scroll through if you want motivation to pick up your camera or just want to be cheered up by a load of well-curated photographs of many different styles and themes!

This post at Peta Pixel introduced me to the photographer Jill Peters’s absolutely stunning series “Sworn Virgins of Albania.” The title refers to women in rural northern Albania who take a vow of celibacy in return for the right to live their lives as men, with all the rights and privileges that come with manhood in a patriarchal culture. The practice goes back some 500 years, but is, thanks in part to more rights and better opportunities for people living as women in Albania, dying out. Jill Peters sought out the handful of sworn virgins still alive today, and her portraits of them are just beautiful. She’s now at work on a documentary film about the same subject.

The Design Observatory has a weekly column called “Accidental Mysteries,” where they post a series of visual images focused on a theme. This week’s offering is the “Top Ten Most Popular Accidental Mysteries.” Great eye candy and a great source for inspiration!

It’s that time of year when everyone and their mother writes up a top-ten list, and we all fill up our Netflix queues and Amazon wishlists with all the stuff that passed us by. By the end of December, I’m starting to feel maxed out on “must-see” lists, yet I still search out the stuff that helps me understand what the hell got done last year. New Scientist compiled a mind-blowing list of their favorite stories from this year’s life science news, including the fascinating report that biologists may have discovered the “grandfather biological clock,” an enzyme present in most life-forms on earth that appears to keep us running on an internal 24-hour metabolic cycle, regardless of whether we ever see the sun.

The New Yorker just owned, and ended, the whole best-of list game with this list, by Gary Belsky, of the 100 best lists of all time.

I am a childless, heartless human being, so this adorable video of parents torturing their small children by giving them super-sour Warheads candies and recording their reactions made me laugh almost as hard as that time when Jimmy Kimmel got parents to tell their kids that they’d eaten all their Halloween candy.

Last month CNN ran a piece called “Where are all the millennial feminists?” that bemoaned the lack of interest in feminist activism among young people today: “even young women who know what the word means and are aware of inequality among the sexes don’t challenge the system,” wrote Hannah Weinberger, a young person herself. It was accompanied by a slideshow of portraits of important second-wave feminists like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, entitled “Famous feminists from generations past.” In response, my buddies Shelby Knox and Steph Herold created Feminists of Generation Now, a Pinterest board featuring young people around the globe who are working hard on behalf of women’s rights and equality (full disclosure: one of ’em’s me!). Shelby and Steph just gave me pinning privileges on the board, and I feel like I’ve won the lottery. I can’t wait to add more unsung heroes to that list—young people who are somehow overlooked every time some mainstream media organization decides to write feminism’s obituary.

Amy Rose
This interview with my all-time favorite director, Paul Thomas Anderson, got me really psyched for his next movie, an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice. This will be the first time Pynchon, who is such a private dude that not only does he never give interviews or allow his picture to be taken, but in this interview Anderson won’t even say Pynchon’s NAME, has authorized an adaptation of any of his books, which makes the whole thing extra bonkers exciting.

I loved the Lord of the Rings movies, on account being a giant nerd and all. However, here is a list of 250 reasons not to see The Hobbit. It’s convincing!

Oh, Quentin Tarantino! I never know how to feel about your movies! And it looks like Django Unchained–a fun, violent action movie about slavery–is going to be harder to figure out than anything else. Is it callous exploitation? Politically provocative art? Some intensely conceptual thing that makes you want to pretend to like it so that all your friends don’t think you’re stupid? I haven’t seen it yet, but here, Cord Jefferson unpacks his own experience of watching it, and identifies what he calls the Django Moment–exactly when it feels really, really ominous for white people to laugh at this movie.

Lately, I’ve been finding myself obsessively comparing my writing to that of other writers, feeling jealous and resentful of other people’s successes, and so sorry for myself that I’m hardly able to write. And that feels rotten. Jeffrey Eugenides’s speech from the 2012 Whiting Award ceremony, posted this week on The New Yorker’s site, is the beautiful kick in the ass I desperately needed. It’s full of REAL TALK for young writers, such as: write like you’re dead; write like you’re a teenager (most of you Rooks have a leg up in this department); write to understand the world rather than for fame or respect. I think his advice can extend to all forms of creative life, and it’s an absolutely breathtaking read if you, like me, need an articulate and elaborate reminder to stay true to yourself.

This NPR article about a group of female computer programmers in Kenya who founded a ladies-only club to encourage girls to get involved in geek and computer culture makes me so happy! I love that they named their club Akirachix after the Japanese cyberpunk film Akira, but more than that, I love that these women are taking the future of their country into their own hands. Instead of allowing technology to increase disparities between rich and poor, male and female, and first and third world, they’re are using technology to narrow those gaps.

On her blog Native Appropriations, Adrienne K. went after the Atlanta Braves’ decision to use a batting-practice hat that features a caricature of a “screaming Indian,” and called out the sports fans who have emerged online to defend the Braves’ use of an “Indian” mascot. Adrienne’s dismantling of the usual arguments excusing racist depictions of Native Americans is effing brilliant.

The literary website The Rumpus just previewed a bunch of songs from an upcoming companion album to T Cooper’s new book Real Man Adventures, and one of them is by Kathleen Hanna’s band the Julie Ruin! The catchy, clever song, called “Girls Like Us,” is, in Cooper’s words, “about buying boxer briefs at Century 21 in New York City, and Marky Mark in his Calvin Kleins, before he was Mark Wahlberg and nominated for an Oscar.” It features vocals by homocore artist Vaginal Davis and lyrics like “Girls like us might flock to scandals / But girls like us don’t give a shite / Girls like us pick up the hot handles / And burn our hands and get over it.” Awesome. ♦