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totally top three: november 2018

I know that there have been a million memes and jokes about how 2018 has had zero connection to the space-time continuum, but WHOO-BOY, that shit’s no joke. There was an Olympics this year. AN OLYMPICS. How even? And now it’s December? What am I supposed to do with this?

Crystal and I have been watching — and rewatching — The Great British Baking Show because it is deeply soothing while still being fun. It’s engaging without being mentally taxing and I find the majority of the bakers incredibly charming AND easy to cheer for regardless of who progresses as the competition does. This newest season was particularly enjoyable with 11 competitors I liked immediately and one I learned to tolerate pretty quickly. (Look! I just did NOT care for Karen’s smug attitude from the jump! Humility is a VIRTUE.) I was also so satisfied with the winner, even if that pita challenge stunt was stupid enough to seem like it was pulled from an American cooking competition show.



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My scalp is STILL driving me crazy after more than a year of giving up dry shampoos almost entirely — I think I’ve used styling products maybe… three times? In more than a year? — and I finally got angry enough that I tossed all the half-used shampoos and conditioners and bought the Amino Acid Shampoo and Conditioner from Kiehl’s, which I’d seen recommended frequently for dry scalp and fine hair. I can’t say it’s life-changing necessarily — if I ever find an actual life-changing hair care routine, you will DEFINITELY hear about it — but it smells nice and gently cleanses my hair and scalp without making either one feel stripped and the conditioner keeps my hair from getting staticky but also doesn’t make it flat and greasy. Also, you need a TINY bit of each to get it done, so the price doesn’t seem as daunting. And U KNO WUT, I’ll take it!



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Jeffrey Burton & Don Clark’s All Is Merry and Bright is a really beautifully illustrated kids book for the holiday season. The pages are almost overwhelmingly full and super fun to look at and though what little writing there is could be stronger, it’s genuinely just NOT the point of the book anyway. We have this one out on our coffee table as part of our holiday decor and even just glancing at the cover makes me happy. So lovely.


And three to look forward to…


      

totally top three: october 2018

October has been a MONTH, man. Since the end of it is going to be a mess, I started this on the 10th and am now finishing it on November 2nd. 2018 is really blasting by, isn’t it? I’m exhausted.

Crystal and I saw Fall Out Boy live twice this month and the shows were honestly spectacular. We saw them together in November 2007 and then for a variety of reasons (none having anything to do with Fall Out Boy, to be honest, just L I F E) hadn’t seen them again and it was really weird and interesting and exciting to see what ten years can do for a band. We had so much fun it was kind of unbelievable and I came out loving a couple songs that I was sort of meh about previously. (You cannot watch Patrick Stump jam out while doing “American Beauty/American Psycho” and not come out obsessed with it.) I love live music so much, it’s hard to articulate. It was so important to me for so many years and I took my access to it so extremely for granted. These last few months of shows have been massively revitalizing to me and I hope we can do it again soon.



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I hate brushing my teeth! This is literally a thing I have struggled with my entire life. As an adult, I am lucky to 1. know that it’s partially a sensory issue, and 2. have a very good dentist & hygienist who help me take care of my teeth, but also, I just want to be better about it! Generally, if I can get myself started, I can brush fine, but it can be hard to make myself do it twice every single day. (I read that the optimal number is actually three times in two days, but dentists say twice a day because it’s easier and humans are big dumb forgetful animals.) I figured the best thing I could do to improve on it (after YEARS of trying to make myself a twice every day person) was to make sure I was always brushing for two minutes every time I brush. I have a Sonicare which I like a lot AND has a timer, but also can’t handle using every time I brush my teeth (GOD WHO KNEW YOU COULD HAVE SO MANY PROBLEMS WITH SUCH A SIMPLE LIFE FUNCTION) so I bought myself a timer in hopes that it would inspire me to brush for the full two minutes! And when I found one that looks like a rocket, I knew it was meant to be. And you know what? Two minutes is a LONG time. But staring at a lil rocket helps.



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Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism was such a good, fun, creepy read with a really wonderful core of friendship and love. It reminded me of my favorite kind of campy 80s horror movies and also my favorite stories about loyalty. It has a great cast of characters, makes good use of pop culture (without being annoying or feeling phony), and an ending that made me tear up. And definitely a great read for spooky season!


And three to look forward to…


      

totally top three: july 2018

July was kind of a weird month for me with lots of going and doing and very little time to chill and take in new things. I barely even made time to read, which is the easiest thing to make time for in my life! But I still liked some stuff!

Pray for the Wicked is so, so, so good and I wasn’t really expecting it, even though I was excited to hear it. (I’m a firm believer that life is best lived with low expectations! Disappointment is worse than surprise! Don’t be cynical, be chill!) It’s a nice follow-up to Death of a Bachelor and the songs were amazing live. I won’t say too much since I’m pretty sure this one will end up on my year-end list, but what an album of jamz, man. Tracks to Check: “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” & “Roaring 20s” & “Dying in LA”



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It took me a while to read Rebecca Stead’s First Light but thankfully that isn’t the book’s fault, I’ve just been terrible at follow-through this year. This was a conceptually great story with characters it was easy to care about and follow, even in the more high-concept side of the story. As I said in my review, I’m not a scifi/fantasy person generally, but I would definitely read more of this universe, which I think is a great sign.



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Crystal and I have dedicated our summer (and our October…) to live music because we have missed it so, so much since we moved to the middle of nowhere. We saw The Used in May which was an excellent show in an incredible venue and in July we saw Panic! at the Disco and Coheed and Cambria, both in Minneapolis in wildly different venues. Coheed and Cambria were spectacular even 11 years after I saw them the last time, with an incredible stage setup and lighting package, and Claudio Sanchez’s absolutely mesmerizing… everything. It was a big, awesome show put on by really talented musicians for fans who were so extremely into it and I’m so glad we went.

We bought the Panic tickets on a whim and it was ABSOLUTELY the best thing we’ve done so far this year. (We actually ended up not going to Warped Tour because we’re old, which I do not regret at all which I was worried about, so that’s good.) It was SUCH an unbelievably good show with great sound and some of the most spectacular showmanship I’ve ever seen. Fire and sparkles and lasers and smoke and a flying piano and Brendon Urie’s golden voice, which he likes to show off as much as possible to the audience’s very vocal delight. We danced and sang along for TWO ENTIRE HOURS, twenty-eight songs, which is just absolutely insane to imagine doing night after night. What a damn show. We’ve got more live music to come before winter sets in (KNOCK ON WOOD FINGERS CROSSED) and I can’t wait!


And three to look forward to…


      


Panic! at the Disco photo is by Jake Chamseddine & technically Crystal and I are both in it!

totally top three: june 2018

Everything is so, so awful, so I escaped into gay love stories this month! Coping methods are what they are, man. (Also, queer joy is radical.)

Netflix’s Alex Strangelove was very charming and very sweet and pretty funny with likable characters that I super enjoyed spending time with. I was a little bored with the root of Alex’s repression (and repression in general, some people don’t figure it out ’til later on and that’s FINE, it doesn’t always have to be about trauma) but overall this was a really fun, really joyful gay romcom. Daniel Doheny was very good and I loved seeing Jesse James Keitel’s character Sidney be really unapologetically visible in the face of Dell’s dumb straight boy ranting. Fun and sweet!



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I had been very eagerly awaiting Love, Simon since I read the book way back when and had loved it pretty thoroughly and I think it translated really well to screen and was a fun, sweet watch. It was lovely to see so many characters of color and teenagers just being teenagers and also to see dumb, shitty bullies get told off and punished by an adult in a really satisfying way. Everyone was really great in this — I particularly loved the parents and teachers — and I was particularly impressed with Clark Moore’s Ethan who, in a movie made even five years ago, would have been a one-note joke.



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Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World was a gift from the Amazon algorithm, recommended to me based on the probably pretty high volume of queer books I both peruse and buy. I really liked the writing in this one and Stephen’s inner monologue and the secondary characters we get to spend time with. I also especially liked seeing it take place in an semi-unfamiliar place and time, the 80s in Nova Scotia, and the fact that it is a real coming-of-age story, following Stephen for a good long while. This one is less happy than the the stories I tend to love (and beware if you’re particularly sensitive to violence) but it is really hopeful and kinder than a lot of books set in similar times and places. It reminded me some of Marie Sexton’s Trailer Trash, which I loved a LOT, so now I’ll probably think of them as a little gay small town 80s American-Canadian set.


And three to look forward to…


      

totally top five 2k17: reading

2017 was an awful year for me in terms of reading, so much so that I actually decided to halve my Goodreads challenge for this year so that I wouldn’t feel quite so disappointed in myself over something, uh, fairly trivial. (I haven’t completed a challenge since 2015! I’m a disgrace!) But I did like a lot of what I read and here are my Totally Top Five for 2017!

5. Finding Audrey, Sophie Kinsella – This was my only audiobook of the year and it was a joy. A sweet story with a great reader and a nice rendering of the struggles of teenagerdom, but a version where there are institutions and people in a place to provide care for your mental health with little stigma. I had some issues with the story (there’s some med-shaming and too much emphasis placed on a romantic partner in the recovery process) but I enjoyed my time with these characters.

4. Trouble Makes a Comeback, Stephanie Tromly – This is the sequel to Trouble Is a Friend of Mine which was my favorite book of 2016 and though it wasn’t quite as good as the first, it was just as much fun. I love these characters and the way that they talk to each other and the dubious capers in which they get embroiled and I cannot wait to read the next one.

3. Say What You Will, Cammie McGovern – I absolutely loved the characters in this book and was so grateful to see disabled teenagers with full narrative voices living their lives and having a romance! I also really appreciated that the depiction of mental health and disability were more complex and uglier than the sort of soundbite version you often see in media, especially because it was largely devoid of pity AND inspiration porn. I also just really love a story where two people are kind of tossed together and you get to see how they fit into each other’s lives and this is an awesome version of that.

2. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, Kate Hattemer – This was an absolute joy to read, funny and charming with engaging, vibrant characters who I wanted to spend lots and lots of time with. I loved the friendship in this and the dialogue and the way that characters interacted with each other. Also, I think this book genuinely has one of the weirdest, goofiest, and most unexpected Chekhov’s Gun situations in the history of, like, human language and I am better for having read it.

1. All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders – I have a habit of buying books based on the absolute shortest blurbs or, in this case, pretty much just based on their covers and then forgetting everything I know about them before I read them. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, sometimes good, but in the case of All the Birds in the Sky it was a complete windfall because I absolutely never would have bought or read it if I’d know what it was about and I would have missed out on my absolute favorite book of 2017.

It’s weird and funny and charming and unexpected and the characters are engaging and well-developed and they grow and evolve and I am not going to tell you a single thing about it because I can’t do it justice. If you haven’t read it yet, do.


Honorable Mentions

Courtney Milan, Trade Me | Kasie West, By Your Side | Diane Adams & Claire Keane, Love Is


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