At the end of every year, my brother sends a long email to an ever-widening circle of friends and family recapping his year in music. He lists his favorite albums, tracks, and concerts, sprinkling in discoveries from another time or era that made their way into his musical lexicon in that particular year. It’s been a delight to read for the past seven or so years, and in 2016 he finally inspired me to tackle a similar challenge. I’ll spare the greater internet (ha) what mostly ended up being a 3,000 word treatise on the joint sublimity of the Knowles sisters and try to do something a little different here.
At the beginning of every year, I tell myself, “This will be the year I finally listen to new music/watch the hip new TV shows/see a single movie!” With the exception of a massive cramming session during December 2016 where I listened to approximately 25 new-ish albums, I fail miserably at this task each time. I also tell myself that I’ll finally start writing in that long-neglected blog I’ve let languish in some far off corner of the web, my memory jolted by a form email from WordPress that managed to pummel through my spam filters.
I’m a person who does things in fits and starts, but as my late 20’s lurk around the corner (shudder), I’m going to give my best effort to becoming one of those fabled people who do things consistently, for longer than six months. I had such a good time writing that long 2016 music email that I realized perhaps I could join my goal of becoming a more Cultured Person™ with that of writing anything at all, and so the idea for this series was born. In many ways, it’s a riff off of the Ann Friedman Weekly (to which I encourage all to subscribe) in that I’ll be making some recommendations based on what I’m reading, watching, and listening to in a given week, with some of my commentary interspersed. Maybe there will be other sections too! Who knows. This is all an experiment at making myself engage more consistently with art, others’ as much as my own. I’ll make it up as I go.
Without any further ado, let’s get into it.
Turns out as I was writing this, a bunch of activist-oriented stuff floated to the fore. Go figure! Here’s some stuff you can do if you’re feeling extremely blue that there are only 11 short days until the incoming administration begins to rip our already-in-shambles democracy asunder.
If you have 5 minutes:
- Check out the Sister District Project and sign up to volunteer. The new organization aims to mobilize activists and voters in blue districts to support their comrades in red districts to build progressive power at the local and state levels.
- Consider how you might participate in the Anti-Inauguration. Might I suggest heeding The Call from the Movement for Black Lives as a place to start?
If you have 15 minutes:
- Flood your members of Congress with phone calls opposing the slate of horrible cabinet appointments on deck for confirmation next week. Here is a list of scheduled confirmation hearings and here is a link to find contact information for your members of Congress.
If you have 30 minutes or more:
- Get up to speed on effective political advocacy. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the Indivisible Guide, a clear, straightforward outline for how to engage in defensive activism against a racist, neo-fascist policy agenda.
- Follow Rewire Media’s legislative tracker, which documents, among other things: proposed legislation restricting reproductive justice; so-called “religious freedom” bills that allow businesses exemptions from complying with nondiscrimination laws; and nefarious “bathroom bills” that enshrine social and economic discrimination against trans and gender-non-conforming individuals.
If you’re looking for a novel:
- I recommend Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s a sweeping chronicle of the interwoven lineages of two Ghanaian half-sisters, one of whom marries an English slave trader and the other who is sold into bondage. This book is stunning in its scope and complexity, and Gyasi’s matter-of-fact prose is at once nuanced, compassionate, and unrelenting.
If non-fiction is more your speed:
- Check out In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi. On its surface, the book is about the author’s Hungarian Jewish father who undergoes sexual reassignment surgery in her 70’s. But deeper than that, Faludi grapples with what it means to forge an identity at the nexus of gender, religion, and nationalism, and what relationship (if any) our present selves have to the past or the “truth.”
If you’re more of a multiple-browser-tabs-open kinda person:
- Here’s How to Save Obamacare by Kevin Drum.
- Your Guide to Overthrowing Media in 2017 by The Establishment Editorial Board.
- How Republics End by Paul Krugman.
- What You Buy Is Permanently Changing the World. Here’s How. by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan.
- Love, Sex, and Loneliness by Hengtee Lim.
- America Is Obsessed with Happiness–And It’s Making Us Miserable by Ruth Whippman.
- How to Design a City for Women by Clare Foran.
- Hayao Miyazaki and the Art of Being a Woman by Gabrielle Bellot.
- I Don’t Want to Be the Most Important Person in Your Life by Danielle Sepulveres.
If you’re a girl who likes girls (romantically or otherwise): Citrine EP by Hayley Kiyoko.
If you’re into sexy, smooth-talking, and kinda minimalist hip-hop: Ego Death by The Internet.
If you want to honor the late, great Carrie Fisher’s give-no-fucks attitude about mental illness: Out of the Garden by Tancred.
If your entire life is one big ’80s dancehall illusion: “Nothing’s Real” by Shura.
If you want a back-to-basics lesson on how to holler: “Your Number” by Ayo Jay.
If you’ve been meaning to brush up on your seductive witchcraft skills: “Potions” by SEE.
If you’re glad (like me) that someone finally wrote a song celebrating the A+ combo of little titties and a fat belly: “Tomboy” by Princess Nokia.
If you were wondering what all this Golden Globe fuss is about: Moonlight, which is so gorgeous that it almost renders all other movies meaningless (I kid, kind of). I’ll be honest: I don’t really like movies that much. But occasionally I feel compelled to see something (in theaters!) and it just blows me away, makes me wonder why anyone allows anything that isn’t up to the same caliber to get produced in the first place. Moonlight was one of the few movies in recent memory that’s done that for me. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Bonus read: this interview with André Holland, who plays adult Kevin with an astonishing level of care and tenderness.
If you just finished setting up your monthly recurring donation to Planned Parenthood: BoJack Horseman, season 3, episode 6. (If you don’t have Netflix, I am sorry. Please enjoy this hilarious link to bojackhorseman.com instead.)
If you’re still using “password” for all your passwords: The Basics of Internet Security.
Until next time, y’all.