How do you measure a decade of work?
“In daylights, in sunsets / In midnights, in cups of coffee”? as Jonathan Larson wrote.
For Cog, which published its very first piece on July 5, 2012, the answer might be in Red Sox World Series wins. Or presidential elections covered, Supreme Court nominations witnessed, Taylor Swift albums released, natural disasters survived.
There’s no one perfect way to sum up a decade. So, in this final post celebrating Cog's 10th anniversary, we’re relying on one of the starkest metrics in media: the sheer number of readers, audience favorites.
That’s what you’ll see below — our 15 most-read pieces of all time.
In this list, you’ll see reflected some of the biggest stories and themes from the last 10 years: the ongoing conversation about race in America; our reckoning with a global pandemic; the continued fight over women’s bodies (and women in politics); the enduring power of friendship; humans’ deep desire for community; stories of grief; and hope.
Sometimes our seasons of life are colored by the books and shows and music we’re consuming at the time. My time in Washington D.C., for example, is inextricably linked to my love for “The Wire.” I can’t think of my favorite vacation ever — a pre-kids trip to Greece with my husband — without thinking of Annie Dillard. I nursed my infant twin girls to many, many hours of “Parenthood.”
For me, this fall — which has included lots of reflection on Cognoscenti, what we’ve built and what the future holds — will forever be linked to Pamela Adlon’s show “Better Things.” The FX show didn’t draw “Game Of Thrones”-size audiences, not even close, but it was critically acclaimed, even in this era of HBO spectacle blockbusters. I love its intimate and authentic portrayal of family life. I love that it’s a pure articulation of Pamela Adlon’s creative vision — as the seasons progress, it feels more and more like she is unafraid of making a thing that is telegraphed directly from her heart and brain. There’s something affirming about witnessing someone so bravely allowing us to see their true selves.
A New York Times piece reviewing the show’s fifth and final season includes this line: “To care about someone, in ‘Better Things,’ is to see them honestly — even unsparingly — but also to exalt them. You help them find their light.”
In Cog’s own way, in our own little corner of the internet, I hope we’re doing something similar for our readers, listeners and writers.
Thanks for spending time with us these last 10 years.
-- Cloe Axelson
The third week of September is dangerous for asthma sufferers. It's when germs and allergens come together to make breathing particularly difficult. If only Peter DeMarco's wife Laura had known. (September 18, 2019)
At the first debate, it became abundantly clear that Clinton stands a very good chance of becoming the first woman president. Joanna Weiss writes that is worthy of a little dance of joy. (September 27, 2016)
It would be terribly unfair and unwise to expect my male partner and young daughter to fill the enormous void regular contact with my girlfriends provides, writes Nicole Rodgers. (February 11, 2021)
To protect my son and other Black children, we must do the work of stamping out white supremacy where it lives: in our systems, and in ourselves, writes Calvin Hennick. (June 22, 2020)
We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse, writes Jonathan Smith. This is not an opinion. This is the unforgiving math. (April 3, 2020)
I live in a cohousing community, writes Ben Brock Johnson, and not only is it far from weird, I think it should be a lot more common. It’s like living amidst a brain trust, a flash mob, a grounds crew and a therapy group. (October 9, 2019)
NBC was right to fire Matt Lauer, but wrong to dump Curry. Now is the network's chance to right its wrong, writes Eileen McNamara. (November 30, 2017)
Here are some steps you can start taking now to keep your family safe and do your part to avoid a worsening crisis, writes Dr. Asaf Bitton. (March 14, 2020)
Frequent subtle and less-subtle messages betray the assumption that I’m lacking in smarts, untrustworthy or even a threat, writes Tafadzwa Muguwe. (June 18, 2020)
There is plenty of cause for despair, and rage, at the acquittal of Donald Trump, writes Steve Almond, but there is also cause for hope. (February 5, 2020)
By focusing so much on the Duchess's flawless appearance, writes Cloe Axelson, we are distracted from the real trauma that is childbirth. (April 30, 2018)
I don't know for sure if I have the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, writes Kat Powers. But I do know that I feel miserable. (March 26, 2020)
No destination, no text, no drink, writes Shane Snowdon, is worth knowing that you have killed another human. (March 7, 2017)
Author Megan Devine discovered our culture's unwillingness to acknowledge grief after her partner died suddenly in 2009. (March 7, 2018)
Joni Mitchell’s songs remain my lifelong companion, my provocations, my speed bumps, my streetlights, writes Julie Wittes Schlack, in this essay about the artist's 1971 classic, "A Case of You." (February 12, 2021)