Today is the last day of 2014–it may already be 2015 depending on where you live. This is the final article in my series of my favorite blog posts that I ran during 2014. Not the most popular or the most clicked, but the ones I think represent my best work this year. Here are numbers 10, 9, 8 and 7, and here are 6, 5, and 4. Now here are the top three. To go to the article itself, click the image or the heading.
3. The Last Wacken (series). [Chapter I] [Chapter II] [Chapter III] [Chapter IV] [Chapter V] [Chapter VI] [A Photo Farewell].
After going to the Wacken Open Air heavy metal festival in Germany 11 previous times, in 2014 I made what will likely be my last trip, at least for several years. This series of articles, which ran in August, present my “Wacken diary,” an hour-by-hour summary of what it was like to be among 70,000 metal fans, 80+ bands, good friends from many countries, more beer you can drink in a lifetime, and endless repetitions of the Star Wars cantina song. Almost all the photos in this article are my own and I finished up the diary with a potpourri of Wacken photos. No metal fan’s heart is truly far from Wacken.
2. Victory! The University of Oregon GTFF3544 Strike is Over, But the Battle Over Quality Education is Just Beginning.
If there was one event of 2014 that defined me more than any other–more than Wacken, the research trips, Norway, or anything else–it was the strike. In December 2014 the union of which I’m a member, GTFF (Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation) 3544, went on strike at the University of Oregon after the university administration refused to grant the basic decent human rights that all workers should have, a living wage and paid family leave. But what started as a struggle over benefits quickly escalated to a war over what quality education means at American universities. The administration sought to break the strike by degrading the quality of student education, and our union fought back–and we won. This article, written the day the strike ended with the University’s capitulation to most of the GTFF’s requests, explains how and why this struggle was so important and why the UO graduate students’ victory is a likely to be remembered as a historic milestone in modern academic and educational history.
Although this was the last in the series about the strike, I posted several other articles while it was going on. You can see those here, here and here. I’m still incredibly grateful to all the supporters who stood up for us and for the right to receive a quality education at the University of Oregon.
Although the “Bush’s dream” article, which ran in April, was always one of my favorites from this year, it was not until last night, and the suggestion of friend and site contributor Robert Horvat, that I realized I should probably put it forward as the single best article I did this year. This article arose from a vivid dream I had one spring evening, where I dreamed I was at George W. Bush’s Presidential library, and Dubya himself appeared to share a bottle of wine and his thoughts on politics, history and the issues of the day. As I am a committed progressive, G.W. Bush is definitely not one of my heroes, and in fact I’d venture to say that he’s the worst President in modern history. But that’s precisely what made this article work.
My fictional conversation with G.W. Bush turned out to be more than just idle ruminations on the Iraq War, WMD, a mission to Mars or climate change. In writing it I learned a lot about myself and about the very real human possibilities that arise from reconciliation and forgiveness. In an era when the mere appearance of a politician we dislike is all too often an invitation to start screaming insults and flinging invective, coming face-to-face with someone you profoundly disagree with–even in a dream–is a sobering moment that offers a choice between a future of negative conflict, or one of positive opportunity. That’s why I love this article and I think it represents the very best of what I want this website to be about.
Thank you deeply, all my friends, fans, family, readers and followers. I wish you the very best in 2015. Happy New Year!