Red roses mean true love. Buckbeans mean calm repose. Wild tansy means this is war.
Red roses mean "true love." Buckbeans mean "calm repose." Wild tansy means "this is war." KATI LACKER

1. Victorian Flower Languages
In my piece on romantic customs for The Stranger's Valentine’s Day issue, I slipped down a deep and winding rabbit hole about how people in different cultures use flowers to communicate. Expanding on a practice started by Turkish concubines, the famously fastidious (and also famously horny) Victorians created an entire flower dictionary, where certain flowers represent certain words or phases. To this day I will never forget that a vase full of wild tansy means, “this is war.” RICH SMITH

2. The Office
I’ve seen clips and even full episodes of The Office but have only recently taken the time to sit down and watch the series properly. And—it’s funny? Hilarious, even. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m glad I waited. I think 11-year-old Jas wouldn’t have fully sympathized with the existential despair that comes with having to fill a whole eight hour day with mind-numbingly banal tasks. Or the light throb of thirsting after a coworker. Or the pleasure in devising ingenious ways to make your overbearing boss and deskmate a bit more bearable. Watching The Office now serves up a healthy dose of nostalgia—their drab early millennium attire; Jim’s white guy version of “The Rachel” haircut, which I’m pretty sure every boy I ever knew had in middle school; the Bush presidency. And, God, is there anything so achingly 2000’s as the cast in a Puma ad? JASMYNE KEIMIG

3. CBD pills from Haystack 4 Life
A woman in a swimsuit is on the cover Haystack 4 Life’s CBD capsules. She has long blond hair, lots of legs, and a juiced smile. Her dark eyes are fixed on the acronym for cannabidiol, a chemical derived from the hemp plant. (I do not know much about this substance; I’m a very casual consumer of, and have a weak interest in, all things related to the “devil’s cabbage.”) But in the fall of this year, I found a packet of Haystack 4 Life’s CBD capsules in my possession and decided to try one. The pack was empty within 3 days. I loved them all. The pills. The drug. Perfect stuff. Breezy buzz. All somatic. Clear skies. I’m sold for life. CHARLES MUDEDE

4. Reason Magazine
Until this year the only thing I knew about libertarians was that they dislike the government treading on them and rarely win elections. And then I discovered Reason, the 50-year-old DC-based magazine, and learned that not only do libertarians dislike the government treading on them and rarely win elections, they also actually do give a fuck about civil liberties. And while I don’t always, or even ever, agree with the writers of Reason when it comes to free markets and deregulation, it’s good to see some people are still sticking up for civil liberties while others seem to have given up the mantel (ACLU, I’m looking at you). KATIE HERZOG

5. Hiroshi Yoshimura
Hiroshi Yoshimura has been dead for 15 years, and his most important works, as far as I can tell, were composed around 30 years ago. But I discovered him this year after reading a post about an ambient movement in Japan that occurred in the 1980s and has been mostly neglected in the US. The post recommended Yoshimura's 1982 album Music for Nine Post Cards for beginners. I listened to it once and was converted. Reissued by Empire of Signs, and distributed by Seattle’s Light in the Attic Records, the album contains nine tracks that are melodically similar and composed with just a keyboard and Fender Rhodes. But each track captures what feels like different aspects of a tranquil day viewed from different windows in a house that is, one imagines, built with exquisite minimalism. Yoshimura also completed other impressive albums during this fertile period. Nothing, for example, in his 1986 Soundscape 1: Surround, sounds like 1986. It is music that exists in the future, even in 2018. CHARLES MUDEDE

6. Navvi
I love it when a music festival does the thing music festivals are supposed to do: introducing you to new talent while enticing you with bands you already love. That more or less happened at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party, where I stumbled on Navvi, a local electronic music outlet that sounds like Tron + FKA Twigs. They played seductive break-up songs in a pinkish purple cloud for 45 minutes. In my happily lonely little brain we call that heaven. RICH SMITH

7. The View
I'm not sure how I started watching The View. I think I came home one day and my boyfriend had it playing. I was offended. Why would he put on such horrible, middling, suburban garbage? But then forty minutes passed. Whoopi Goldberg and Meghan McCain were going off on some political tirade and I was glued to the TV. It was... refreshing? Funny? Kind of genius? Hear me out: The left, the right, the middle, everyone keeps talking about "bridging the divide," but there are hardly any examples of how to do this. Enter The View, a show that's surprisingly political, savvy, and has the attention of one of America's most important voting demographics right now: suburban women. I reckon The View has far more political power than it's given credit. CHASE BURNS

8. Tampopo
Directed by Juzo Itami, Tampopo is a comedy that follows the story of Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto) who runs a lackluster ramen shop in a Japanese city. Fate brings two truck-drivers-cum-ramen-connoisseurs, the dashing Gorō (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and his sidekick, Gun (a young 'n' hot Ken Watanabe), through her front door, who resolve to make her noodle dish the best in the city. It’s a “ramen western” that splices the main story with short vignettes that pay homage to American western films. Tampopo enunciates the pure pleasure that comes from a good meal and celebrates it. It ignites a hunger for not just any food, but good food, the kind that fills the stomach and warms the spirit—never has noodle slurping sounded and looked so good. This is the kind of film that reaffirms your love of film. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Liudmyla Supynska / Getty
9. Kombucha
So, I had to drink less wine this year. It happens. But there was a major problem: Non-alcoholic wine is as unthinkable as it is undrinkable. Non-alcoholic beer, for sure, is much better; but I hate beer. I experimented with non-alcoholic cocktails, but they are packed with sugar and soon ballooned my belly. After weeks of confusion and frustration, I finally discovered kombucha. This happened on August 5, in a grocery store. I was looking for anything that somehow was low on carbs and had the bite of sin that makes booze so transgressive. I read the nutritional facts on a bottle of GTS’s Cosmic Cranberry Organic Kombucha (only a few carbs), bought it, took a sip of it on a park bench, my favorite drinking spot, and there it was: the sin without the sin. Kombucha is packed with friendly bacteria and has a dash of naturally occurring alcohol (Nevertheless, GTS recommends those who are avoiding alcohol for religious reasons not to buy their product). CHARLES MUDEDE

10. The Wenatchee Witch Hunt
Did you know that in the mid-‘90s, 43 adults were arrested on nearly 30,000 charges of child sex abuse involving at least 60 children in the small town of Wenatchee, Washington? And that parents, foster parents, Sunday school teachers, and pastors were accused, and even charged, with ritualistically raping their own kids? People were imprisoned, parents lost their children, and somehow I only learned about this strange and tragic period of Washington history this year. The crimes never took place, but Wenatchee was hardly alone: People were falsely accused by their own children all over the U.S. There’s much more to this story, so the next time you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or killing time on the toilet, google “Satanic Panic.” It’s a dark and fascinating hole to fall into. KATIE HERZOG

Jolene Unsoeld was a founding member of the Coalition for Open Government, which brought together reform-minded Democrats and Republicans in the push to get Initiative 276 passed.
Jolene Unsoeld was a founding member of the Coalition for Open Government, which brought together reform-minded Democrats and Republicans in the push to get Initiative 276 passed. KATHY QUIGG, ABERDEEN DAILY WORLD
11. A 1972 Law That Can Be Used to Open Big Tech’s Ad Books
Oh hey, look, back in 1972 Washington State voters passed a forward-thinking law that mandates serious transparency in political advertising! Nice. Even better, this law was written in such a way that it can be applied to Facebook and Google, digital behemoths that operate in a medium that didn’t even exist in 1972. (The worst thing we discovered in connection with this: Facebook and Google, which make a lot of money selling political ads that influence Washington state’s elections, aren’t complying with our state’s longstanding election ad transparency law. But, after The Stranger called attention to that failure, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Facebook and Google. As a result, Facebook and Google are both pausing political ads in Washington State.) ELI SANDERS

12. The Grand Cinema
If I learned anything at the Tacoma Film Festival 2018 it is that the city has, among other things, a great movie theater. It’s called Grand Cinema. It’s in the north part of downtown. It is in a beautiful brick building. It is not big and not small. But most importantly, one feels here the warmth, the comfort, the cinematic calm, that defined two important theaters that Seattle painfully lost—The Seven Gables and Harvard Exit. This is the species of theater that is Grand Cinema. CHARLES MUDEDE

13. The Barkley Marathons
Nothing tests human endurance like this 100-mile non-stop race in the back hills of Tennessee. It’s an annual event and must be completed in at most 60 hours. Only a handful of people have ever finished, yet people from all over the world attempt every year—if they’re selected, it’s a very exclusive process. The race is loosely based on the route James Earle Rey took through the mountains when he escaped from the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in 1977. He got lost for 55 hours and only covered 8 miles. The Barkley Marathons trace this route and build on it. The course remains the same but you run it three times—one way, then the other way, then whatever your preference is. It’s wild, it’s weird, and it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. It puts you in the shoes of these people testing their endurance to their limits. NATHALIE GRAHAM

Trumps small loan of $1 million from his dad was, in truth, worth more than $60 million.
Trump's "small loan" of $1 million from his dad was, in truth, worth more than $60 million. JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES
14. Trump’s Tax Scams, Thanks to the New York Times
You knew this was coming, and finally, on October 2, almost two years after Trump was elected, a New York Times investigation delivered the goods: “President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.” Also, the Times investigation found, the supposedly self-made Trump, who’d claimed he only ever took a small $1 million loan from his father, in fact, took about $140 million in today’s dollars from his dad. (“By age 3, Mr. Trump was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire,” the Times wrote. “He was a millionaire by age 8.”) And… he’s still president. ELI SANDERS

15. The Radical Political Agenda Behind Jane Fonda's Original Workout Series
This year, I seriously fell down a Jane Fonda clickhole. (You can hear me talk about it on this episode of Blabbermouth.) Though I've been a fan my whole life, HBO's new documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts really sent me over the edge. My most favorite Jane Fonda fact is this: Her workout empire, the Jane Fonda Original Workout Series, was created as a way to fund her and her husband's "New Left" political organization in California, the Campaign for Economic Democracy. Fonda claims 100% of the series' proceeds originally went to the campaign, which fought for solar energy, "economic democracy," and getting corporations out of politics. Most of America thought the videos were helping them get a tight ass, they had no idea they were helping Hanoi Jane's far left causes. This is my kind of radicalism. CHASE BURNS

Kelly O
16. Toyoda Sushi
Toyoda Sushi is in Lake City. It has been around forever (30 years). I only entered its doors on October 16—10 hours before it opened at 5 pm—to shoot two scenes in a movie. Between takes, I got to watch the preparation of the fresh fish, the frying of eggs that would end up in the core of sushi rolls, and the steaming of rice. I even saw the chef pray to this pot of rice with a short bow and resounding clap. He does this every day. The place is run and owned by a family (the Toyada Family), and the food, which I eventually ate at the end of the shoot, had the richness and traditional depth of the family that lovingly prepared it. CHARLES MUDEDE

17. The Toughness of Nancy Pelosi
“Don’t characterize the strength that I bring,” Nancy Pelosi told President Trump in a testy Oval Office meeting / Trumpian ambush that was broadcast live on cable on December 11. The right-wing media machine has long tried to caricature Pelosi as a weird, effete, out-to-lunch “San Francisco values” liberal. But by helping lead Democrats in recapturing the House, by staving off left-led challenges to her presumed speakership in the next Congress, and by shutting Trump down in his own office, Pelosi is proving to be the thing that both far right and far left don’t like to admit she is: tough. ELI SANDERS

18. Grosse Pointe Blank
There’s this scene in Grosse Pointe Blank, a 1996 action movie meets campy '90s rom-com, where John Cusack, a hitman-for-hire, is at his 10-year high school reunion. He’s beating up a goon that’s out for his blood because a billionaire’s dog got caught in the crosshairs of one of his kills a while ago. That German song "99 Luftballoons" begins softly right as his long-lost high school sweetheart (Minnie Driver) sees him covered in blood, hovering over the dead body. She screams. The song picks up its pace. Cusack’s character and his friend, the actor who I just know as the agent from Entourage, wrap the corpse in some school banners and dispose of the body. It’s fun. NATHALIE GRAHAM

19. The Sexual Life of Catherine M.
150 person orgies. Fucking in the countryside, in cars, on cars, in parks, in public, at the dentist’s office. Very vivid odes to blowjobs and watching oneself have sex. Fellow art critic Catherine Millet’s sexual memoir, The Sexual Life of Catherine M., is rife with encounters that most only dream of. Despite descriptions of what the book contains, the account itself is neither overtly erotic nor clinical—just honest. It’s a recollection of a woman’s sexuality that isn’t written to tantalize, moralize, or historicize, but can perhaps be better understood as a stepping back, to take in the craggy and unhemmed quality of a sexual history, largely characterized curiosity and later, pleasure. And though a lot of Millet’s broader opinions on sexuality and man-woman relations fall in line with stodgy French sexual mores, that, for me, doesn’t negate the value of her refreshingly earnest account of her own sex life. JASMYNE KEIMIG

20. Frozen
I made it five years before ever actually seeing Frozen. Yeah, I’m SO late to the party, and it’s so played out to everyone who has kids/enjoys Disney movies/has lived in an American reality for the past five years. My first watch was in the ER with my daughter right before she had to be intubated due to croup gone wild (it nearly closed up her trachea and regular treatments—steroids and nebulized epinephrine—weren’t working). I saw it at least seven times over the four days she was there, enough that I was humming the melodies to “Let It Go” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” near constantly, and I was pretty much okay with it. My heart was warmed during a particularly trying time. By Frozen. Ironic! Also, those songs are catchy as fuck. LEILANI POLK

21. Football
I did my best, in my adult life, to surround myself with people I enjoyed and people who did not enjoy football. For the last four years, I’ve been able to forget that America’s Sport exists. Then I met Harry. I started dating Harry in the summer. By fall, he informed me that he was “kinda into football.” I did not know that football happens (at least) three days a week. I did not know that “kinda into football” meant that he was managing three fantasy football teams and that every Sunday he has a standing reservation with his ass planted in front of ESPN Red Zone. I have watched more football games this year than I have in my entire life. I outwardly detest those three-hour allotments that I’ll never get back. I whine, I protest. The Seahawks play every Sunday? Football exists, I know this now. It’s not going anywhere. I listen and I watch and I see how happy it makes Harry. I suppose I’ll allow some football in my life. How about that Pat Mahomes, eh? NATHALIE GRAHAM

22. Sisters and Brothers
I can say this without a doubt: The best bar in Georgetown is Sisters and Brothers. True, the wine there could be a touch cheaper, but, all in all, the mood of the place, which I discovered on October 26, 2018 by accident (I happened to be in the neighborhood scouting for a movie), is just perfect for real drinkers and drinkers who are not sentimental but want to leave Amazon’s Seattle for a moment. The food here must be taken seriously. Buy and eat the Fried Cotija Corn. And the Cabbage and Pepper Slaw. And the Nashville Hot Chicken! Lawd have mercy. CHARLES MUDEDE