Thursday, June 30, 2016

2015: On the Page

I continued to increase my books-read amount this year, which sort of makes up for the sting of failing in the movie count. I also continued to notice the phases I go through when I read. My genre-reading tends to cycle through a "comic-YA lit-modern fiction" loop, with slight sprinklings of the occasional essay compendium or non-fiction pop-culture related title. It's probably a sign that I need to push myself out of a reading comfort zone. Maybe my next challenge should be a non-fiction science text. Or a historical biography (which you'd think I'd enjoy more, but....ehhhhh).

Or maybe I should stick with what's working for me.

Perusing through this year's list, I was struck with the glory of text and place. While reviewing titles, I kept getting flashes of where and when I read them.

I remembered running to job interviews while Syllabus roasted in sunshine on the front seat of my car. Each interview I half-hoped someone would ask me what I was currently reading, so that I could brag about a book that was esoteric AND related to teaching practices! Just look how committed I am to professional development.

I remembered polishing off The Knife of Never Letting Go while lying on the floor of an unfurnished second bedroom, reveling in the fact that I could go to a place that wasn't my bed and wasn't the living room, but an entirely separate room in itself. I also remembered wondering why so many of my colleagues loved that book. Chalk that and Maze Runner up as tomes I'm glad kids love, but which leave me cold.

Fevre Dream was my airport book during the flight to Boston when I graduated with my Masters. I sat around airports during redeye flights, trying to place this tale in the greater structure of vampire lit and nervously dreading a trip that turned out not so bad.

I didn't finish The Brothers Karamazov, but I did attempt it again. And it did keep me company as the most absurd beach book in history while I chilled/burned to a crisp at Carkeek Beach during the most idyllic (read: toasty) summer Seattle has ever had.

2015 was a great year for books overall. I read in more places, read more diverse things, and had recommended reading lists yield better fruit than I'm getting so far in 2016. It was the year I got a Kindle, and even begrudgingly used it (though still sparingly). I found new soul books. And I found some beautiful memories.

Total Books Read: 68

Incredible Comics: Ms. Marvel: Generation Why. Every preteen and teenager should read Ms. Marvel. Not only does it have one of the best superhero origin stories I've read in a long time (not in this volume, but the sentiment stands), but Kamala's continuing adventures seem realistic to her age, while containing a warmth and humor that any book could seriously use. Highly, HIGHLY recommend. Syllabus. Lynda Barry is a new hero. Reading this completely amped me up for teaching again, and after using her journaling formats in my ELL class I can testify: this practice of creativity works! She's a marvel. Everyone go draw spirals right now. An Age of License. I really enjoy Lucy Knisley's voice. She somehow manages to do the impossible when it comes to memoir: be introspective without being indulgent. None of her remembrances seem whiny or entitled, and they all strike a real and familiar emotional chord. A must-read for those lost twenty-somethings on the cusp of a great future. American Vampire vol. 7. I owe some serious, life-changing decisions to Scott Snyder and this series, so it will always be on my favorites list. Also, despite Skinner Sweet being mostly unseen throughout this volume, 7 seriously amped up the big bad facing the American vampires (and vampire hunters). A solid addition to the story. Through the Woods. I love Emily Carroll's art, and the somewhat terrifying tales are right up my tonal alley. Slight unease and a touch of darkness make this a quick but satisfying read. Two Brothers. Ba and Moon's last work, Daytripper, was one of the most incredible books I've ever read. This second take, based around two unlike brothers in Brazil, packs artistic dynamism with an equally heartbreaking tale. It's an all around beautiful work.

Fantastic Realistic (read: ANGSTY) YA Lit: It's Kind of a Funny Story. Some of the greatest descriptions of depression and mental illness I've ever read. Totally captured how in the moment it doesn't feel like an affliction, but just feels like incompetence. Love Letters to the Dead. The ultimate in teen novels--feeling ostracized, finding a cool friend group, overcoming a deeply repressed past, hero worship of super-cool past idols. All familiar, but done in a way I dug. Jumped In. I loved the focus on poetry and music (plus, the local aspects were none too shabby). It managed to have teens growing and becoming adults without a completely earth-shattering trauma, which was a pleasant surprise. Adolescence is difficult enough without all the dramatics added on. I'll Give you the Sun. Gorgeous prose, told from two distinct and lovely character voices. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of falling in love, which were shown in a way that, if not emotionally healthy, at least felt true to the feeling of infatuation.

Favorite New Books: A Tale for the Time Being. This book, while initially difficult to get into, was stunning. Told from the perspective of an author in Canada reading a journal she found on the beach, telling the story of a Japanese school girl. The way the stories intersect is beautiful, and while I found the sequences in Japan more compelling, the entire thing was well-crafted. Child 44. One of my favorite books from the past few years was The Orphan Master's Son, and this very much felt like the Russian complement to that novel. A tight read that helps the layperson fear government a little bit more.  The Walls Around Us. It is a YA book, but it wasn't necessarily angsty enough to fit in my last category. Mostly because this book is mind-blowingly cool. It's told in a weird, time-bending format, and the central mystery (while not too obtuse) is fascinating.

Favorite Classics that I Re-Read and Which Comforted Me in Their Glory: Dandelion Wine. Mister Pip. A Swiftly Tilting Planet. All the Pretty Horses. I don't have much to say about these, other than I love them all and they are must-reads.


  • Saga vol.4 by Brain K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • Batman Zero Year vol. 5: Dark City by Scott Snyder
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  • Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
  • Rat Queens vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
  • Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
  • Alex and Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan
  • Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli
  • 27 by Howard Sounes
  • Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L'Engle
  • Ms. Marvel: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, and Adrian Alphona
  • Syllabus by Lynda Barry
  • Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • I am Princess X by Cherie Priest
  • American Vampire vol. 7 by Scott Snyder
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • This One is Mine by Maria Semple
  • An Age of License by Lucy Knisley
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Feed  by M. T. Anderson
  • Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
  • Swamp Thing vol.1: Raise Them Bones by Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette and Marco Ruby
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  • Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
  • Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho
  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  • Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The White Mountains by John Christopher
  • Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander
  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King
  • The City of Gold and Lead by John Christopher
  • The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith
  • Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
  • Death Note vol.1 by Tsugami Ohba and Takeshi Obata
  • Ungifted by Gordon Korman
  • Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
  • I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • The Dead and Buried by Kit Harrington
  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll 
  • War Brothers by Sharon McKay and Daniel Lafrance
  • Creatures of the Night by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli
  • Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • The Tyrant's Daughter by J. C. Carleson
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Two Brothers by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Anti-Club Year

This is me, being 27.

Grand questions for this year include: will I ever stop feeling completely incompetent with selfies? Will my regrettable haircut* grow out successfully? Will this be the year I appreciate not being a world-acclaimed artist, since it significantly lowers my chances of joining the infamous 27 Club? What will my next year of teaching look like? Will Radiohead ever tour in my area? Am I going to be a good mother!?

Because oh yes, I'm about six months pregnant.

Can you blame that deer-in-the-headlights look I'm rocking?**

To reward those who visit the blog, have a bump picture. Facebook doesn't get this. In fact, it only exists thanks to the persistence of one Diane Robinson, whose requests/pestering finally wore me down.

Look upon my works and despair.

As has become custom, I have to say: this birthday felt pretty anti-climatic. My big present had happened the week before. I had to give a talk in church. And my over-whelming reaction to the actual age milestone was, "huh, didn't that pass by about five years ago?"

In fact, the most exciting part of my birthday was finding my first gray hair the day before.

I desperately hope this is the start of something, and not some random pregnancy-hormone-fueled fluke. I actively yearn for the signs of visible aging. I smile and laugh and grimace and crinkle my eyes in the sun deliberately, praying for crow's feet and laugh lines. I envy my mother's hair, generously salted with streaks of white. The wrinkles and whitening serve as benchmarks of a life well lived, trophies of survival I ache to flaunt. When my soul feels so wizened, shouldn't my exterior match?

I don't want vaulted "maturity," the posturing of knowing more than others and smugly throwing that knowledge around based on nothing more than years-by-the-number. I don't want to pretend to be in world-weary middle-age, the world-weariness a facade masking insecurity and true fear of the aging process, fear that life has slipped by unnoticed. That's not what the gray-haired are about. A gray-hair soul cannot be a douchey soul. Gray-hairs aren't cynical. Gray-hairs aren't full of regret. Gray-hairs don't chase after that which can never be.

Gray hairs come with acceptance and experience. Gray-hairs have sipped the wine of life, the sweet and the bitter, giving each sensation full acknowledgement and denying nothing. Gray-hairs don't give a damn what anyone else thinks, because they've worked and sweated and cried enough to reach a place of rare self-contentment. That being said, gray-hairs know the value of each person, each individual path, and they graciously choose to accept others with a full and welcoming heart. Gray-hairs exude warmth and humor and deep satisfaction. They've seen everything and know that, in the immortal words of Freddie Mercury, nothing really matters. Or to be more accurate, they know that very few things actually matter, so nourish those few things and leave the rest to worry about itself.

In aging, I hope to accept a gray-haired fate long before time forces my hair that way. I hope to embody a happy, optimistic age. I hope to pass the wisdom of the gray to my daughter, to quell doubts and uncertainty in favor of love. And if this year brings more gray? It's free to stay awhile.

26. 25.

*This current ode to David Lynch is the fixed version of truly, the worst haircut I have ever received. I've never seen a hairdresser so afraid of hair. It was an hour in the chair with his hand legitimately shaking as he trepidatiously picked up a lock, cut it haphazardly, observed my head for a few seconds, chose another lock at random, checked the mirror for validation from my glowering face, looked away as he made another cut, then looked back at the mirror for the whole process to begin anew

**To be fair, that's due more to selfie annoyance than any existential fear and gloom. Those emotions were reserved for the first five months. I'm mostly over it now, and on to nervous excitement.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

2015: On the Screen

This year's movie scene started out promising. I averaged around two movies a week, helped in part by a lack of steady employment and by a volunteering gig at Scarecrow Video. Honestly, it was a creative haven for me. I was watching movies outside my comfort zone, studying directors, becoming more of an auteur completist. Taylor and I barreled through 70s war movie and Kurosawa phases, dipped our toes into classic works we'd never seen. For my sadly short-lived Most Worlds blog (short-lived due completely to my own personal failings), I immersed myself in glam and vampire films, forced myself through horror flicks. With so many opportunities for new and great films, it was a golden age for the expansion of world views and massive explosions of personal creativity.

And then in July, I embarked upon the Grand X-Files Rewatch of 2015.

Watching one episode a day of any TV show is unexpectedly taxing. It's a lot of screen time, especially when you fall behind and have to catch up on six hours over the weekend. Compound that with rejoining the teaching force and my treasured film time seriously deteriorated. I was lucky to get one a week, if that. It left a surprising hole in my heart. To those who argue movies are a waste of time and brain, I say PHOOEY. It's a necessary boost for my mental acuity. Without movies, my brain is sludge. With movies, my brain ticks and whirs. Go figure.

So, without further ado, my 2015 movie round-up:

Total Movies Watched: 112. A serious dip from last year (133). Again, I blame the X-Files rewatch.

Movies I Saw By Myself in Theatres: The Imitation Game. Selma. Cuidad Delirio. Amy. Ricki and the Flash. Crimson Peak. Steve Jobs. The Big Short.

Movies I FINALLY Watched, Under Much Duress: The Hunt for Red October. It was not as boring as I thought it would be. However, it was also not as great as I'd been led to believe. It was a solid "a'ight."

Movies I Watched for Halloween: Monster Squad. Shaun of the Dead. MST3K: Manos. Corpse Bride. The Worst Witch. The Witches. Young Frankenstein. Something Wicked This Way Comes. 28 Days Later.

Martial Arts Movies: Police Story 3: Supercop. Armour of God 2: Operation Condor. Legend of Drunken Master 2. Fist of Legend. Rifftrax: Miami Connection.*

*I'm counting it. I mean, martial arts IS the co-main focus of the movie (next to neutered 80's pop songs).

Classic Movies I'd Never Seen: Heat. Zodiac. His Girl Friday. Ran. A Streetcar Named Desire. THe Shining. The Deer Hunter. Fight Club. The Silence of the Lambs. Jaws. The Seven Samurai.**

**Flawless Film

Movies Whose Awfulness Angered Me: The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies. Avengers: Age of Ultron.***

***Sweet mercy, I hated this movie. I'll be the first to admit I suffer from superhero film fatigue, and the whole building-smash-quick-cut style in this film didn't help. And then there's what they did to Hawkeye. Clint is not a family man. It does not make sense. And the love story was dumb, and they barely gave Quicksilver any lines so WHO CARES. You can tell that Whedon was exhausted with the film, because every frame resonates with a lack of caring. OK, do an explosion, fine. That's your delivery, Ruffalo? Cool, whatever. "Let's just finish the thing and go home" must have been Whedon's mantra as a director, and it was definitely my perspective as a viewer.

Movies That Filled Me With Righteous Anger: The Big Short.

Favorite Movies Released in 2015: The Big Short. Ex Machina. Star Wars VII. Crimson Peak. **** Straight Outta Compton. What We Do in the Shadows.

****Pure Gothic giddiness throughout. A typical del Toro visual feast, but with enough story to keep me interested.

Clint Eastwood Movies: Gran Torino. A Fistful of Dollars.

  • Almost Famous
  • The Return of the King
  • Pee Wee's Big Adventure
  • Election
  • Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin'
  • Heat
  • Velvet Goldmine
  • Mud
  • Punk-Drunk Love
  • The Fifth Element
  • Wayne's World 2
  • Zodiac
  • The Imitation Game
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
  • Snowpiercer
  • The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies
  • Can't Hardly Wait
  • Patton Oswalt: Tragedy Plus Comedy...
  • Donald Glover: Weirdo
  • Police Story 3: Supercop
  • Gran Torino
  • A Fistful of Dollars
  • John Wick
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • American Sniper
  • Selma
  • His Girl Friday
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2
  • Remember the Titans
  • Fantasia
  • Fantasia 2000
  • Armour of God 2: Operation Condor
  • Gremlins
  • Trading Places
  • What We Do in the Shadows
  • 20 Feet From Stardom
  • Horns
  • The Big Lebowski
  • She's All That
  • The Crow
  • Legend of Drunken Master 2
  • Spirited Away
  • Ran
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Life Itself
  • Cuidad Delirio
  • The Shining
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • West of Redemption
  • Fist of Legend
  • The Spy Who Loved
  • Fight Club
  • Hot Fuzz
  • The Man with the Golden Gun
  • Inside Out
  • The Lost Boys
  • We Are the Best!
  • Ray
  • Django Unchained
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Rifftrax: Independence Day
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Jurassic World 
  • Attack the Block
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Sharknado 3
  • True Grit
  • Mr. Holmes
  • Amy
  • Ricki and the Flash
  • Bridget Jones's Diary
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • From Dusk Till Dawn
  • Benny and Joon
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Throne of Blood
  • Jaws
  • The Seven Samurai
  • Monster Squad
  • Casino
  • Hercules (2014)
  • MST3K: Manos
  • Rifftrax: Miami Connection
  • Black Mass
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
  • Corpse Bride
  • The Worst Witch
  • The Witches
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • 28 Days Later
  • The X-Files (Fight the Future)
  • Crimson Peak
  • The World's End
  • Spectre
  • Steve Jobs
  • Coco Before Chanel
  • The Godfather
  • Laggies
  • Kill Bill vol. 1
  • Kill Bill vol. 2
  • Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
  • Sisters
  • The Dark Knight Returns
  • Ex Machina
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • The Big Short
  • Leon: The Professional