The Best of Earn This: Dan’s Picks

For the past few months, I’ve been meaning to do a sweeping revision of everything I’ve written for Earn This. I finally waded through the archives, polishing and trimming and clarifying to make my writing stronger. I’m notoriously bad at picking up every grammar or wording error before I publish an article, but my archive of articles should be pretty clean now.

The revision process also allowed me to figure out what has worked for me as a writer and what hasn’t. I was pleased to find that I did not hate my writing quite as often as I expected to. Here are ten of the articles I most enjoyed writing and re-reading, sorted loosely by how highly I regard them:

Most of my favorite articles have been about topics I’m particularly passionate about, so I’ll start with my retrospective on my favorite band of the 2000’s. I had a lot of fun digging deep in to Relient K’s seven albums. The result is, as far as I’ve been able to find, the most extensive critical analysis of Relient K’s artistic growth ever written. Clocking in at nearly 5,500 words, it’s among longest and most detailed pieces I’ve written for Earn This.

I’m an unabashed Pixar fanboy — as everyone should be — so it was a real pleasure to revisit and break down exactly what’s so magical about these films. My biggest regret with this article is that I didn’t space it out into multiple articles like I would with the Relient K retrospective; 4,000 words is easier to process in ten chunks than one.

While I’m on the note of animation, I should probably point out that I attempted to spend an entire month writing every day about animation. Though I aborted the endeavor  — and the notion of a themed month — about halfway through the month, it was still a learning experience. I spent dozens of hours reading books and watching movies to write this retrospective on Disney’s Golden Age. It was a lot of effort but a lot of fun, and I’m pleased with the output.

I’m a huge fan of TV comedies that take their characters and plots seriously. The best TV shows are funny and substantial. That’s why I get bummed when sitcoms that verge on brilliant slip backwards into inanity. During a spring when a couple of my favorite shows made some serious plotting missteps, I wrote a post recounting a few of my least favorite examples of “The Moonlighting Fallacy.”

Towards the end of 2009, I sat down and started riffing on some of my favorite albums and artists of the past decade. The result is goofy but still one of my favorite articles I’ve written for the site.

While I’ve tended towards features and retrospectives, I’ve written some reviews for Earn This, too. The review that I had the most fun writing was a 3.5 star appraisal of How to Train Your Dragon. I actually saw the film twice and did a lot of research on the making of the film prior to writing this. My goal was to take a more analytic and deep look at the film — which I adore — than any of the other critics did.

Despite my love of animated features, I’ve never been impressed with animated TV series, with a few exceptions — The Simpsons and Batman: TAS, mostly. This year, I added another entry to that list. Avatar: The Last Airbender is streets ahead of any other kids-oriented animated television show I’ve ever seen. Everything about it — the plot, the characters, the animation, the world, the attention to detail — is phenomenal and worthy of attention from serious TV fans. I never got around to reviewing the second or third seasons of the show (I’d like to some day), but I did get to overview a bit of what makes this show stand out in my review of the first season.

I’ve been a lifelong admirer of the 1995 Toon Disney film A Goofy Movie. It’s not perfect, but it’s a funny, engaging, heartwarming classic as far as I’m concerned. I loved writing this piece not just because I got to defend that long-held opinion of mine, but because I had the chance to go through the movie and pick out screenshots from a few of the movie’s most representative scenes. It was the first time I tried taking my own screenshots to include with a post, and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve repeated this several times since.

I’ve had multiple people read this article and tell me “you should write more articles like that.” I asked them to clarify, and they said they meant: concise, well-researched, entertaining stories about currently relevant topics. I find its warm reception strange, because I wrote it in about a half hour between classes.

A stupid article for many reasons: It compares items from different, apples-to-oranges forms of media. The article is more than 6,000 words long; nobody would ever want read that in one chunk. Plus, the holes in my movie/music/games/etc. knowledge are glaring. And yet, I don’t think any article has been so much damn fun to write.

Dan S.

Dan is the editor of Earn This. He co-founded the site in 2009.

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