La La Land

This was a really fun movie, but I’m not sure if it lived up to the hype. I don’t know if living up to the hype would be possible considering how many incredible things I heard about this movie. None of those incredible things are wrong, per say, it’s bright and bubbly, it’s charming and sweet, very colorful. It just doesn’t add up to a whole lot. It’s fun, but I’m not sure what the lasting impression was. The music was good, but not exactly memorable. The ending was muddled. It kinda seemed more preoccupied with being a charming movie and showing us a good time than actually saying anything. Which isn’t bad, necessarily, but also, I expect something more substantial from a film in best of the year talks. This was a blast, you should go see it if you like musicals or Hollywood charm, but I don’t think it’s life changing or anything.

Moonlight

This was a beautiful sweet film. My sweetheart and I saw it on the day after the election, and it was a perfect reminder that there are good things in the world. It’s the story of a boy in Miami, growing up and dealing with his mother’s addiction and his own sexuality.

All of the acting is excellent, the visuals are stunning. Go see it, it’ll make your life better. I don’t really have a lot to say. I’m going to see it again. I’m rooting for it to win all the awards possible. I think it’s a beautiful movie, and an important one. It really did make me feel better about the universe. I know that’s an odd thing to say, but it’s true. Go see it.

The Handmaiden

This was so beautiful and twisty. It’s based on Sarah Waters’s novel, The Fingersmith, but transported to Korea under Japan’s colonial rule. I haven’t read the book, and I don’t know much about this part of history, but it all works so well.

I loved that it’s a movie about lesbians who get a happy ending, where all the men are terrible and get what they deserve. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The cinematography is beautiful, the costumes are incredible, the cast is a delight.

It’s a dramatic movie, with some weird dark twists, but I laughed a ton. It had great timing, and knows how over the top some of the situations presented are. It takes itself the perfect amount of seriously. Even when the stakes are high, there’s plenty of room to breath.

There are a lot of sex scenes, and I’m not sure what I think about them. They aren’t strictly necessary, but they don’t feel creepily male gaze, except for the parts that are supposed to be creepy. It reminds me of fan fiction, where the sex is a part of the story, a part of the character’s life, not something to fade away from. All of the sex scenes serve some sort of plot point, except for the last, which is shot oddly, and fairly ridiculous, but I’m going. It’s a very fan fiction thing to end a story with sex to reassure the audience that everything ends happily, and that’s how it functions here.

It’s absolutely one of the best movies of the year. I can see how it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a stunning work of art, and I am so glad it exists. It’s a really phenomenal strange movie about lesbians — the world needs more of that.

Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Goldenhand, latest installment of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it did not disappoint. I love this whole world so much. I read the first book, Sabriel, when I was really young. I think I must have been in fifth grade, and I remember absolutely devouring it in a single sitting. Loral, and Abhorsen built on  the world and the characters in such a brilliant way. Goldenhand picks up not far past the end of Abhorsen, and goes even further, pushing the borders of the map. I loved it. The adventure story is great, the romance was so beautiful. I love relationships between two people who are equally terrible at knowing what to do with feelings. The new characters are cool, and all of my old favorites were back. If you aren’t already an avid reader of this series, what’s wrong with you? Get to it, it isn’t just some of the most interesting YA fantasy around, but one of my absolute favorite things in the whole world.

Gambler’s Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem

I really like Jonathan Lethem, and I’m interested in checking out whatever he does. This isn’t his best work, it doesn’t have that punch, but it is interesting, and I did enjoy it.

It’s about a professional backgammon player Bruno, who has a blot in his vision, and I don’t want to say any more than that in case you want to go read it yourself. I hate giving plot summaries, and I’m bad at it. He goes back to where he grew up, and there might be some magical realism, and it’s all very interesting.

There’s a whole part about a t-shirt with the Dude on it. Bruno doesn’t know anything about The Big Lebowski, but the picture of Jeff Bridges’s face with the word abide resonates with him on some level. Abide is such a great work, and playing with that was cool. Also the whole idea of a film creating a thing, the face and the word, which as been so thoroughly contextualized by consumer culture, stuck on things and sold. It’s such an odd specific movie, and obviously it struck a chord with a lot of people to be a cult classic, but nothing can exist only for it’s fans, not just for people who are in on the joke, it’s out there drifting. That’s so weird, and really in sync with the tone of the novel.

It sort of made me want to learn to play backgammon, kind of, and i’m not a board game person AT ALL. If I actually tried I’m sure I’d get bored soon enough, but this book did give the game a certain allure. It’s a pretty cool book, that knows it’s pretty cool.

I don’t love how he wrote the women, but hard to tell if that’s a writer concern or a character pov thing, but generally uncool. There are some weird invocations of anarchism that don’t really work. It gestures to politics, but never gets there in a meaningful/interesting way. (Or, possibly, I’ve been reading too much Mieville and it’s warped my perceptions?)

There’s a magical realism thing that I didn’t appreciate. Bruno might be able to read minds, but maybe he’s just crazy? The novel never makes this clear, which could be an interesting ambiguity if done right, but I just found it frustrating. I know Lethem is someone who likes to play around in genre fiction, which I usually love, but damn, I am not a fan of murky magical realism.

The surgical bits were so perfectly disgusting. Lethem thanks a bunch of doctors in the afterward, and he must have done some serious research to make this so intense and specific and gross.

I want to address the ending, so don’t read the rest of the paragraph if you don’t want spoilers: I think I love how the ending loops back, that things haven’t changed as much as it seemed like they might’ve. That there is something to return to. Alexander Bruno couldn’t return to his actual hometown of Berkley, but he could go back to his world of being a non-person in Singapore, maybe that’s who he actually is.

Overall, I liked it? I think? I didn’t love it, but it gave me plenty to think about, and I enjoy going along with authors I like do different things.

We Won’t See Auschwitz by Jeremie Dres

This was a really interesting well done graphic memoir about two brothers who travel from Paris, to Poland, to see where their Grandmother lived, and examine their Jewish heritage. Dres talks to a lot of different people and gets different perspectives on what it means to be Jewish in Poland. He provides plenty of historical context for the reader. It’s clearly drawn, full of expressive buildings and expressive faces, giving the character of the city and conversation.

Jewish roots are one of the things I’m not sure how to write about. I’m an agnostic, who was raised attending a radical methodist church, but my great grandmother came over from Holland because of Anti-Semitism. I was named after my grandmother, who was named Bessie as an Americanized version of Betje, named after her aunt, who died in Auschwitz. This is a part of my family history,  but not a piece that I’m close to. I think I’m Jewish enough for someone who would have a problem with that, but not enough to claim it for myself.

One aspect of the book was that a lot of young Poles are starting to uncover Jewish heritage that had been neglected or denied. Now, in an environment where it’s more acceptable to acknowledge such things, they’re starting to explore what that means. I feel like this isn’t a thing we talk about when we’re analysing identity, and I think that’s a shame. Even if we know where we come from, what that mean to us can change. It really resonated for me, especially with the world right now.

It’s a good little book that I picked up from the library on a whim, and really got a lot out of.

i don’t know about posting this, but it helped me, so maybe it will help you

This is a thing I started writing a while ago that never got finished. It felt less important, or less urgent, or too depressing. Instead I’ve been writing West Wing fan fiction and existential hockey dread and the start of a weird romance novel about fake Nate Silver. Yeah, that last thing was a weird life choice, I don’t even know, I’ll probably be embarrassed about telling you that tomorrow, but there will be a lot things to worry about tomorrow. I’m taking the GRE on Thursday. I’m going to have to ask for letters of recommendation really soon. When I get anxious I physically make myself sick. The goal is to get to the end of the week without throwing up. I’m crying while I write this because I talked to my best friend on the phone and she was so kind to me, and I wish the rest of the world could be that kind.

So here is our big thesis, the thing I’m holding onto right now, the part I wrote last month:

A Trump presidency would not be the end of the world. It would be terrible, but we would have to keep going. No matter what happens, we will have to keep struggling.

As the election cycle has dragged on there has been an increase in apocalyptic rhetoric coming from liberals. The horror of a Trump presidency has been built into a final defeat, the end of everything. There’s been a pervasive sense that it would be the worst thing to ever happen, and nothing we could ever recover from.

Bullshit. This sort of catastrophizing doesn’t do anyone any good.

I grew up under the Bush regime, and have felt disenfranchised from politics as long as I can remember. I grew up in a radical progressive community. Everyone i knew was always protesting something. The war, road construction that cut down old trees, there was always something wrong with the world, with the government. I remember being very young and going along, agreeing with this as much as i could. I was raised a part of the legacy of radicalism.

I still feel disenfranchised with a liberal democrat in office. Better, because Obama seems like a cool dude, and Hillary is certainly a better choice than an actual fascist. but we still need to protest. We still need to move politicians towards really caring about people instead of politics. There was an interview on Politically Reactive, I think it was with Shaun King talking about Black Lives Matter and how in Obama’s second term activism did more to move him, that there needs to be people in office who listen, and people in the streets shouting about what’s happening.

Even electing a competent mostly benevolent commander in chief doesn’t mean we could shut up, or trust the government.

Imagine the activism that comes from a Trump presidency. Imagine the protests. Imagine the punk rock albums. American Idiot changed my whole life. Like, think about The Great Depression by Defiance, Ohio. Fucking killer album. Imagine the liberal television fantasy administration. Imagine the Colbert clips. He’d kill it. I don’t want to live in that world, but I know that no matter the outcome of the election we will still make a world. It will be scary, and hard, but we can do it. We can keep going.

Beautiful things come out of struggle. Think of protest music, and punk rock, and god, Regan did terrible things for the country, but we have American Hardcore as a result. We have ACT UP, and A Normal Heart, and Angels in America. I would rather have my godfather to have lived, but those are some great plays. Whatever happens we will make noise, and make art, and do what we can to make the world a better place in any small way.

We can do all that with Hillary as president too, and it will probably be easier, because the arts will be at least slightly better funded. But we need to remember that a Trump presidency is not the end of the world.

It would not be an opportunity to give up. It would be a reason to get louder and bolder than ever. It isn’t an incitement I want to live through, but if it comes to that, I’ll be here, fighting back with words and art and everything I have.

I worry that Hillary were to win liberals would get comfortable. It would be easy to back away, say, “Thank god it’s a Democrat,” and not question how she handles surveillance and cyber warfare and drone warfare. Is the way Trump would handle this be worse? Absolutely, yes, but we’ll fight him on that.

That’s what I wrote last month. Now that doesn’t seem as serious of a concern. I would be happy to say, “Thank god it’s a Democrat,” because I would be happy to not be crying tonight.

When I talked to my best friend on the phone, appalled that Minnesota was too close to call, she reminded me that we have Keith Ellison, the first muslim in congress, was re-elected tonight. His son went to my high school, and I believe in him. Ilhan Omar was elected the first Somali-American legislator tonight, in the district next to mine, where my best friend lives. We have Al Franken, who used to write for SNL, then was inspired to carry on Paul Wellstone’s legacy by becoming a politician. We have Guante, who’s an activist and an inspiration, who came into the bookstore where I volunteer today and asked about consigning his book. I follow the former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak on twitter and sometimes he writes haikus.There are people I believe in who are going to continue to do good things.

I got sick of the MSNBC and switched over The Daily Show, and Trevor Noah and Keegan-Michael Key are talking about how they’re going to have to figure out how to satirize this. Right now it’s hard because it’s all very emotional, but they’ll figure it out. We’ll figure it out, when we get over the shock.

I’ll take the GRE on Thursday, and I’ll do well on the useful parts and horrid on the math, and that should be good enough. I’ll find a way to ask for letters of recommendation. I’ll get in somewhere, I hope. Want to hear the backup life plan for if I don’t get into grad school, that so far only my girlfriend has heard? She doesn’t think it’s a great plan, and it isn’t, but I needed to have a fallback to have a direction in my life. If I don’t get into grad school I’m going to try stand up comedy. That’s a pretty good joke right there.

I’m not crying anymore, for a moment at least. Tomorrow is going to suck. Thursday is going to suck. I have to work Friday, and that will suck. The Wild play the Flyers on Saturday, and I expect that to suck. Lots of things are terrible all of the time. Lots of things are not terrible. There are books to read, and movies, and good tv shows. Living well is the best revenge. Do everything you can for people who are hurting. Do everything you can to make the world better. Be kind. Fight back. Survive.

This isn’t the end of the world if we don’t let it be the end of the world. Don’t accept the apocalypse. Keep going.

That’s all I have for tonight. Writing this made me feel better enough that I’ll be able to fall asleep as well as I ever can. That’s still pretty poorly, but that’s fine, I’ll still wake up in the morning.