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totally top five: 2020

You ever spend at least five or six minutes a day staring into the middle distance and trying to process that we’re all living through like, three to five global catastrophes simultaneously? And then get up and put your clothes on and go to work anyway? Oh yeah of course you have that’s what 2020 was all about.

I know that, functionally and realistically, absolutely nothing is going to change between December 31, 2020 and January 1, 2021, but holy shit am I be glad to close the door on this shitshow of a year regardless.

My attention span went to hell this year, amongst other attributes, and I pretty much ceased watching or reading anything after about… August? I did continue to listen to new music as without it I die, but everything else was just a barren field of nothingness. My Goodreads year-end roundup felt particularly pointed this year, but what can you do, right?

ANYWAY, here’s my top five for the year. Just the one list, categories be damned.

Orville Peck was my most listened-to artist this year. Crystal gave me Pony at the start of the year when she did her annual comb-through of all the year-end lists; I was hooked from the jump and I stand by everything I said about it in January. Peck’s voice is so easy to listen to even though it’s deeply emotional and there’s something really magical about his arrangements. I’ve loved everything he’s done this year as well — the cover of “Smalltown Boy” is one of my favorite pieces of music from 2020 and “No Glory in the West” just absolutely kicked my ass across the prairie — and I also have to blame and thank him for really opening me up to country music this year. I had, obviously, moved away from my youthful “everything but country” attitude to music, but the algorithm responded to my listening habits and offered up a ton of new music I wouldn’t have necessarily been interested in before because it was country or country adjacent including some new legit favorites like Colter Wall and Evil and Sunny War.

Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes is still really the only piece of media I consumed this year that really fucked me up emotionally in exactly the way I like to be fucked up emotionally. My Goodreads review is still right on and what I said in May here still stands as well. This is just a really lovely story with characters it’s easy to care about and get invested in with complex life experiences that complicate how they relate to one another. I’ve bought, I think, almost ten copies of this book for other people since I finished reading it and if that’s not a ringing recommendation, I don’t know what possibly could be.

I joked earlier this year that since Crystal had decided to attempt to claim her Canadian citizenship, I was going to try to get into The Tragically Hip so that I could be adequately prepared for whatever it meant to live with a Canadian, but it turns out that they’re great and I was just missing out all these years. (Not that I necessarily assumed they weren’t good but like, you know… Canadians, right?) I would start listing the favorites I’ve accumulated here, but there are just too many to be honest. I do have a favorites playlist but it is incomplete, so tread with that in mind. Truly, RIP Gord Downie, and thanks for the boss tunes.

Letterkenny ended up being one of the only media experiences we had this year and I still stand by every word I said about it in March. Just thinking about it can make me laugh and we’ve held off on watching the new episodes specifically because we want to have something to look forward to. Crystal and I had a long conversation the other day that meandered over a bunch of media and it ultimately came down to the idea that not enough weird shit is getting made. Everything is a remake or re-adaptation or a sequel and I know we’ve all been screaming about that for more than a decade at this point, but it’s nice to watch something like Letterkenny that is weird and funny and has a big heart too.

As previously discusses at length (kinda), I watch hockey now! Again! Regularly for the first time since I was a youth. This was an exceptionally weird season in which to get invested in sports of any kind and by the end of it I had attached myself to thirteen teams (seven “primaries and six “auxiliaries” because I certainly cannot do anything normally) and several of those teams went to the playoffs, some of them deep, and one of them all the way to the Cup final! Which was rad, but also sucked because they lost, though it was tempered by my enthusiasm for the finals being between teams from non-traditional hockey markets! Anyway, I think cishet men should be banned from talking about sports where other people can see it, but otherwise I’ve been having a spectacular time and can’t wait for the new season even though having it happen under the current conditions of the world also terrifies me. The grueling mechanism of capitalism, etc etc.

      

Happy New Year! Here’s to high hopes and low expectations for 2021! I hope this year treats you kinder than the last and I hope you’re kinder to yourself than you ever have been before. I love you! Be safe!

totally top three: october 2020


I watched five entire movies this weekend — yay — all of which I had seen before — boo — but that I did watch and finish while mostly not staring at another device — YAY — and it felt unbelievable to actually do it. Attention span, friend, is that you? (Please hear this in a Kate Bush “Wuthering Heights” falsetto, thanks.)

Highly recommend revisiting The Rocky Horror Picture Show if you haven’t in a while. It’s still so, so fun and still makes me feel like I’ve got a whole community of weirdos and queers where I belong, even when I can’t be with them in physical spaces due to the plague and also living in a nightmare place. I only got to see it once “live,” but it was the 30th anniversary show at the Hollywood Bowl and it’s hard to beat Par-tici-pating with 8,000 other nerds, you know?

I got a new favorite hoodie in October, the Smalltown Famous hoodie from Ohio In My Mind. Marty’s a lovely person and the stuff they make is great and charming and makes me feel like I belong to the community of the Greater Midwest even when my Local Midwest is waving Trump flags and giving me constant low-grade anxiety. New stuff drops all the time and it’s making up my entire wardrobe right now. I even ordered a back-up of this specific hoodie and one in a different colorway just to be safesies.

I also finished a book recently! Devin Kelly’s Blood on Blood which is a poetry based on a Springsteen album I’ve never heard — I love the Entity, but the music’s not really my thing — and I loved it very much, especially each of the versions of “The Story of How You & Your Brother Grew Up.” Me, liking poetry! 2020 surprising me yet again.


      

It’s November. Tomorrow is election day. Please vote for Joe Biden, even if it hurts. Any other option will hurt us all worse. I’m sorry we haven’t done more. Please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able. Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay safe. I love you.

totally top three: september 2020


Okay, this is where I have to be like, uhhhhh I didn’t actually consume jack shit in September? I watched the NHL Playoffs (and am so proud of my lil underdog Dallas Stars for going all the way to game six of the Stanley Cup Final! My boys! ;_; My babies! ;_;) and I spent a lot of time on Twitter screaming about nonsense, but I did not watch or read a single thing because apparently six-ish months is where I hit the maxcap on my ability to continue blasting-ass through this year without finally feeling it.

I’ve kept up with the news. I’ve done my best to help however I can and continue to try to maintain perspective on how lucky I have been through all of this comparatively. My job has never been in danger, the people I love have been well, I’ve been safe and largely comfortable. I have been lucky. (Hey! Isn’t that a whole other fucked-up issue?! Sure is!)

But even knowing that, at some point you have to crack, right? I’m emotionally exhausted. I’m isolated and I’m fucking sad. I am a person that thrives on random human interaction. I love small talk! I live to make a cashier laugh! I try to bring kindness and goofiness around with me wherever I go! And I feed off that energy. And I haven’t had any since March.

I am a husk of the person I was at the beginning of 2020 and it is basically impossible to sit down and do any of the things I love when I feel like this. So I don’t have anything to share with you right now and I worry that I won’t next month either and that really stresses me out! I worry that I’ll never be able to just sit and enjoy something again because my brain has been fundamentally broken by the experience of this year. I hope you don’t feel the same. I worry you do. I hope we both find a way through.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about you. I’m sending good energy your way. Please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able. I love you and I hope I’ll see you soon.

Here’s some pictures of Bruno with his last dumb haircut of the year to maybe make you smile. He’s technically always in my Totally Top Three of like, everything. 💜

   

ETA: I scheduled this post this morning and then this afternoon this post crossed my dash and really relieved some of my anxiety about this experience. Maybe it will do the same for you.

totally top three: april 2020

Remember how March was approximately 12.5 years long? Remember how April wasn’t even like, its normal number of days long? What the hell is that about?


In March, even before isolation started, I changed the configuration of how I use Spotify on my desktop computer at work and home so that I could see the little Friend Activity tab while I was doing other things and started sort of paying attention to what people were listening to, partly because I’m p voyeuristic by nature, partly because I thought it might be funny (I feel about 97% confident that I know a complete stranger’s sex playlist now!) and I ended up getting super into it and playing Spotify Chase while dicking around on the internet and half-assing something I’m supposed to be doing.

By Spotify Chase, I mean, hitting the songs that people are listening to that I don’t know and adding to them my queue and seeing what’s what. I canNOT recommend it enough as both a way to get to know friends and strangers better, but also because you will find some jams! And a lot of them will probably not be anything you would have found otherwise! Unless all your friends are boring or have identical taste to you, I guess, but that’s a You Problem, so sort that shit out on your own time.

ANYWAY, I have discovered a lot of jams this way!

The first album it gave to me is 070 Shake’s Modus Vivendi which is not something that the algorithm could have served me, so big thanks to the kid I went to high school with but only interacted with maybe twice and I don’t think liked me AT ALL, but for some reason has been my friend on various internet platforms post-graduation all the way back to like, XANGA. Also, I’ve seen Ryland Blackinton listening to it like, three times now, so that’s got to be a good sign.

The album is great, chill and artful and with a nice pace from beginning to end and it’s somehow something that I can both put on and forget about and something I can pay attention to the entire way through. That’s magic, man.

It also gave me Atoms for Peace, AMOK, which is a Thom Yorke fronted ~supergroup project from 2013 that I don’t think would have ever reached me algorithmically based on how much I don’t listen to Radiohead. This is also a well-paced album that I can drift with or focus on, but the real star is “Ingenue” which I have listened to on repeat for long stretches of time more than once.

My last album for the month — because I truly didn’t manage to do… anything in all of April except listen to music and write 50k words that will never actually go anywhere — was not served to me by either the Algorithm or Spotify Chase, but instead is an old fave’s new one I was greatly anticipating. Pokey LaFarge’s Rock Bottom Rhapsody is so, so, so good and satisfying. It feels almost like a movie score except it also feels like it’s telling a story. we were supposed to be seeing Pokey in June in Minneapolis, but it’s been rescheduled for 2021 already, which seems so far away as to be impossible, while also seeming so soon as to be hopelessly optimistic about the state of things. Life and art in quarantine, eh?


And three to look forward to…

the half of it   mia mercado, weird but normal   valley girl

totally top three: march 2020

Ho-ho-holy shit what a fucking month! I know there was like, absolutely no way to anticipate what 2020 would be like, but like, good god damn, what the hell, you know? Whooeee.

Here is some stuff that I managed to enjoy despite of or in fact possibly because I’m not currently leaving my house very often and don’t like, have much to do besides work and consume media, just like before except now I waste less time getting dressed and I’m always with my dog. I hope this finds you safe and healthy and as sane as you can be. <3


I had a great time plowing through Roni Simunovic’s Little Warlord which was just fast and fun and easy to read and sweet and satisfying. I said in my review that it’s like if mob movies were made for someone other than white guys and I stand behind that almost a month later. There are a lot of really likable characters in this and a lot of gentleness for a universe that could just have easily disposed of it entirely. Glad I found this when I did.


The highest compliment I can give I Am Not Okay With This is that we haven’t finished it yet, despite there being only a single season, because we like it so much and didn’t want to rush through and then just be out of it. Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Olef, and Sofia Bryant are all really great and I love the place-making and especially the set-dressing, the way everything feels a little out of date and the only difference between it being in a good way or a bad way is how the characters compose themselves around it. I love the music a lot and the dialogue is fantastic and the second highest compliment I can give it is that Crystal and I have both paused it to scream about how much it sounds like something I would write, which is narcissistic probably, but also true.


We also started watching Letterkenny, which we have also been savoring as slowly as possible and which we also pause to scream about constantly, but for entirely different reasons, the first of which is that we live in in like, American Letterkenny Lite (though the people of Letterkenny are consistently better people than I’ve ever experienced here) and the second of which is that every fucking thing about it is weird and hysterical in a perfect way. If you had told me in February that I would sometimes pause a sitcom about Canadian hicks to yell about the way they’ve staged a particular shot for Maximum Art, I would have scoffed. It’s also really funny to watch something that’s really stylized and goofy and feel weirdly represented and safe as a queer person. Everyone is so good at embodying these really weird, extreme characters and they all seem like they’re just committing every second they’re on screen. Every thing that comes out of Jared Keeso’s mouth is the funniest thing I’ve heard in my life. It’s also masterful at knowing exactly how hard to push a repetitive joke so that it always sails through the funny-too much-funny again-hysterical track every freaking time. I finally upgraded to ad-free Hulu to be able to watch this without interruption: I six-extra-dollars-a-month love it.


And three to look forward to…

grady hendrix, the southern book club's guide to slaying vampires   pokey lafarge, rock bottom rhapsody   promising young woman