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totally top three: june 2020

It’s July! 2020! Holy shit! Hi! Please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay safe! Stay sane! I love you!


I held off on watching The Half of It for a bit because I’d seen a thread on Twitter from writer-director Alice Wu talking about how it was based vaguely on a friendship from her youth and how it had ultimately ended badly and I was just not prepared for the chance that the movie might end similarly — I’m a big proponent of writing from your own history, but I also don’t know why anyone wouldn’t write themselves a better ending. What’s the point of fiction otherwise? — but I was wildly pleased to see that was exactly what she’d done and it was such a joy to watch. I laughed a lot, I cried a little, I felt immense satisfaction. Ellie, Paul, and Aster are all great and I loved Ellie’s dad very much too.

Based on what I saw in my Spotify friend activity bar, pretty much the only thing anyone was listening to was Run the Jewels’ new one and that was pretty much my MO for June too. Every song on this one is great, but I’m particular to “out of sight,” “holy calamafuck,” “walking in the snow,” “JU$T,” “never look back,” and “the ground below,” which, to be fair, is uh, most of the album. Run the Jewels always hit me really well musically — for reasons I don’t know enough about music to articulate, but I think it’s a combination of bass lines and tempo? maybe? — but this feels as lyrically pertinent as ever.

My review of Avon Gale’s Breakaway covers pretty much everything I loved about it, but as I was reading through my Kindle highlights right now, I ended up laughing and being wildly charmed all over again. Lane is one of the most fun narrators I’ve spent time with in a long while and I’m so glad I tried to reset my horrible attention span with this one. There’s not a single character I don’t like! The dialogue and sex are fun! There’s emotionally satisfying resolutions of parental relationships! People like each other! Professional athletes are chill about having a queer teammate! This was a great time and I’m excited to read more from Gale.


And three to look forward to…

dream wife, so when you gonna   jennifer honeybourne, the do-over   fontaines d.c., a hero's death

totally top three: may 2020

Black lives matter. If you think that statement needs a qualifier or a rebuttal, I am begging you to interrogate why you think that. Start learning and start helping. Amplify, donate, do good.

I thought about skipping this post entirely because it’s hard to talk about trivial things when massive, important things are happening in the world, but these posts are important to me and I hope, sometimes valuable to you, if you’re looking for stuff to get into. People need escapism and that escapism is always inherently easier for me because I’m white. Black people rarely have that luxury.

I try to do better by reading, watching, and listening to more things produced by people of color. I am going to work even harder at that now. Reading theory is extremely important even when it’s hard, but engaging with pleasurable content about and most importantly by people of color is incredibly powerful too. Fiction teaches us empathy and diverse fiction teaches us to empathize cross-culturally.

That said, all three of my faves were pretty fucking white this month. You can’t do better without acknowledging where you haven’t done great, right?


Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes really fucked me up in a way that I needed. I already wrote a sizeable review, so here I just want to say that I am a big crier in general. I cry at happy things and sad things and frustration and anger and pretty much constantly. I’m easily moved and I have a lot of emotions and emotional problems. But pretty much the second isolation started, I dried up. I wanted to cry; I needed to cry, but I just couldn’t, no matter what, and it was starting to make me feel awful. I needed some catharsis, you know? This book was the first thing to unlock me in 70+ days and god, was it satisfying.

Crystal’s been trying to get me to watch Field of Dreams for most of the course of our relationship so that I could be adequately horny about Ray Liotta’s version of Shoeless Joe Jackson with her, but I finally gave in because a friend and MFA classmate said I needed to watch it because it’s a weird as hell premise that everyone just accepts, which is one of my favorite things in the world and I wasn’t disappointed! It genuinely moved me — We watched it after I’d been unstoppered by We Contain Multitudes and I teared up! It felt amazing! — and it is another piece of evidence in how hideously backwards we’ve gone in the last thirty years. The protagonists stand up against book banning! And it’s presented as an absolute truth instead of an opinion. Also, it really is a weird as hell premise and everyone just accepts it and rolls with it. Refreshing.

Orville Peck’s “No Glory in the West” has also made me cry a whole bunch since it came out both because I identify with and am deeply moved by the isolation in the music video, but also because his beautiful, warbling voice reaches the dark, sad places inside of me and opens them up to the light. There are lots of talented queer people (and people of color and women!) making contemporary country music even if it’s sometimes hard to find, but Peck’s hits me in a way I couldn’t have expected, the parts of me that are married to the prairie where I live go deeper than I knew, I think, and I am grateful for the way his music makes me feel seen.


And three to look forward to…

bethany c. morrow, a song below water   run the jewels 4   miss juneteenth

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

totally top three: february 2020

I turned 35 this month! That’s pretty cool! I spent absolutely the entire month doing nothing but watching hockey! But here we are anyway!


I somehow missed the Mitski train when everyone went buck wild for Be the Cowboy last year, but because The Algorithm, as always, serves me well, I got served a bunch of her stuff whenever Orville Peck’s Pony finishes and I started paying attention. I’ve listened to most of her stuff now and I like it all, but Bury Me at Makeout Creek is the standout for me. I’m obsessed with “Townie” (the vocal warbles!) and “Jobless Monday” (sounds like Clara Rockmore!) and “Drunk Walk Home” (that big angry instrumental crescendo!) and the album as a whole just works and feels super soniccally and emotionally resonant.


I have such good luck with the algorithm, seriously, and I think serpentwithfeet is going to be my algorithmic find of the year. This album is so beautiful, musically and lyrically, haunting and thoughtful and romantic and so god damn artful I kind of lose my mind. Spotify gave me “whisper” and I immediately listened to the entire album and got obsessed with “mourning song” and “wrong tree” and “seedless” and “waft” and “slow syrup” which contains the lyrics “when you made a chorus of your painful things / didn’t know it was a song you hated to sing” and “I longed for the rapture between your knees / you need the calm, I need the world to end inside of me” which just absolutely knocked me on my ass in the best way.


I watch hockey now! Well, okay, I watch hockey again, but I’ve spent enough time rambling about my ~sports history~ on Twitter to do that here, so instead: I watch hockey now! A lot of it. Like, at least a half-dozen games a week, but usually way more. I follow seven teams and not all of them because they’re hot. My attention span has just been deeply non-existent lately and instead of trying to force myself to watch something and then getting frustrated when I can’t get through it, I just put hockey on which is both exciting and soothing simultaneously. I can look away and do something else and still follow commentary audibly and because I am not competitive and always hope that both teams have fun, I don’t get stressed out about it the way I think way too many sports fans do. It’s been so so so fun and will be genuinely sad when the season is over.


And three to look forward to…

roswell, new mexico season 2   one day at a time season 4   the hunt

totally top three: january 2020

2020 is a futuristic-ass looking year, isn’t it? Will I ever get used to it? Will I ever stop accidentally typing 2002 instead? Who knows!


Harry Styles’ Fine Line is so lovely and so artful and delicate and poppy and fun and emotive and I was so looking forward to it and so glad to not only not be disappointed, but to be deeply impressed and MOVED. I’m particularly fond of “Adore You” and “Cherry” and “To Be So Lonely” and “She,” and “Canyon Moon,” and okay, really, not going to list the entire album, but I am really into the whole thing. This is just a lovely cohesive experience that’s very repeatable.


Though I don’t consider myself a sports person, as surely I have mentioned before like the obnoxious pain in the ass I am, I’m not not-interested in sports and have often gone through phases of getting really into watching hockey and/or baseball depending on my ~mood and the season. This winter, Crystal and I have gotten pretty into hockey compilations on YouTube (I love injuries and fights. I know what this says about me. Hush.) and because of that, the algorithm served us a Bardown Quiz and we kind of fell in love. Everyone who shows up for the quizzes is a delight and we like the dumb inter-office competition and the yelling. The other Bardown videos are great too, but nothing tops the quizzes.


Orville Peck’s Pony is absolutely going to be on my top five of 2020 because I listened to it at least once every day in January. AT! LEAST! ONCE! A! DAY! FOR! A! WHOLE! MONTH! And I am not even a little tired of it yet. ORVILLE PECK SOUNDS LIKE QUEER “I LOVE YOU BECAUSE”/”I WILL BE HOME AGAIN” ELVIS MADE AN ALBUM IN TWIN PEAKS. If that doesn’t sell you… Well. This probably isn’t the album for you, I guess!

a tweet from ash which reads orville peck's kansas (remembers me now) makes me feel like i'm slowly bleeding out from a knife wound in a seedy small town honky tonk bathroom, but in a way where i've made peace with both my fate and my misdeeds and welcome the relief of the coming darkness


And three to look forward to…

nada surf, never not together   birds of prey   green day, father of all motherfuckers