A Top List of the Year
I love a yearly round-up. I love to know what I've watched, read, listened to, and what I've enjoyed and maybe what I've hated. I dive into the lists and roundups from friends and critics. I love to populate my Goodreads with to-read books recommended by friends, and it makes my heart happy seeing books I've recommended pop up on your lists, friends.
What I struggle with the most is the "listened to" category. I'm of a certain age — 35 — and you may know that after age 33, most people do not listen to "new" music. Music has changed enough over your lifetime that you become unaccustomed to that noise. But it's not my age, but my constant feeling of un-hipness around the music I enjoy that stops me from sharing my Spotify Year Wrapped publicly like all my other lists. Even though my friend Matt R. assures me I'm cooler than I think.
Publicly sharing music and I have a weird relationship. Until age 10, I was largely only exposed to Country & Western (the two types of music my parents found acceptable), 80s kids music (think "Wheels on the Bus"), and Classical. The latter because from ages 8 through 14, I took piano lessons. I was the kid who, badly, played simplified versions of Beethoven and Chopin, and who also lined danced to "Achy Breaky Heart" in my cowgirl boots thanks to my VHS instructional tape.
Every year, my elementary school had a Sock Hop, and I remember filing away the 50s pop songs as interesting. But when I was 10, kids started bringing cassette tapes to school and dancing during recess, or if the songs had swearing, passing around walkmans and headphones. This is how I first heard Pearl Jam, Green Day, Ace of Base, and a whole host of early/mid-90s music. This was stuff in my hometown you couldn't hear even on the radio. These kids probably lived in town and had MTV! My cousin Sean introduced me to the Stone Temple Pilots, and our matching bullcuts bobbed as we head-banged in his bedroom until dizzy.
I did what any kid in the 90s did — I ordered those free CD deals from BMG and got into trouble with my parents. But eventually my mom doled out those CDs when she got tired of them sitting around, and I had my first music I "discovered." I spent a lot of time with Sheryl Crow's first album and Melissa Etheridge's Yes I Am. (Please insert your knowing laughter here.)
I used my discman, or the radios — listening to music and NPR — either in my bedroom or in my rabbit barn. (Among my other cool hobbies, I raised and showed rabbits, and for over a decade had anywhere from 25 to 80 rabbits.) When you listen to music alone and you're going through puberty, music is intense. It expresses all the feelings. All the feelings you are feeling that no one has ever felt before, which this music perfectly encapsulates. Alanis Morissette knew me.
And it's weird when you discover the song you love is popular with millions of people worldwide and they too know the lyrics and feel a deep connection to it. One of my favorite TV scenes about music is in The L Word when, on a road trip together, the main cast sings the Indigo Girls' "Closer to Fine" together, and you see how all these different characters — and their audience, including me — deeply love that song.
But connecting with people over music can also be magical. In 7th grade, my parents shipped me over to Lutheran school, and my new friend Katie and I bonded over our shared love of music. Her parents were ex-hippies, so she grew up on rock n' roll. We spent hours in her bedroom, lying on her bed, reading teen magazines, and listening to our favorite rock stars. I went to my second concert — to see Sheryl Crow — with Katie and her parents, and Katie introduced me to her favorite band Bush.
Together, our obsession grew. We can talk critically about how Bush's music fits into the alternative mold or if and what parts are actually good. However, for two tweens in rural Oregon, Bush had everything that fit for fangirl obsessions. 1. Our parents did not get them. 2. Their lyrics spoke to our soul. 3. Their lead singer Gavin Rossdale was a hottie. 4. They were popular and famous enough to be continuously published about in teen and entertainment magazines. They were our British invasion.
We'd beg our mothers to take us to Barnes and Nobles to find the latest issue of Spin or Seventeen. We discovered the one local record store that carried all sorts of music, including coveted bootleg concert recordings. In teaching my mom how to use eBay for her beanie baby collection, I'd get her to order UK-only Bush posters for my bedroom. My room was soon wallpapered in posters and photos I'd printed off the internet with our 24k modem. I wrote Bush fanfic, and eventually learned how to code HTML to build a fansite on Tripod.
Then like so many tween friendships, things started to change. Katie and her parents visited Sun Valley, Idaho every summer, and she claimed to have met Bush, also on vacation, there. Adult me knows that kids lie to impress their friends, and even at 13, maybe Katie suspected my skepticism. We'd sit in her computer room — while she played Laura Croft Tomb Raider — and she'd tell me all about the conversations she'd had with Gavin and the gang. Instead of just embellishing a possible lie, Katie went in full hog. She claimed that she and Gavin had exchanged email addresses, and they'd be regularly corresponding with each other. Katie hinted he was flirting with her. When pressed about their conversations, Katie never gave real details we didn't already know from fanzines that asked Bush about themselves, up-to-and-including their preferred toothpaste.
Katie's behavior became more erratic, and by 8th grade's start, it was clear there was something more going on with my friend. There was something I couldn't explain happening, and it wasn't just that Katie didn't want to plaster pictures of Bush all over the brown paperbags we used to cover our textbooks. In early fall, Katie called me to inform me that she'd started hearing voices when listening to Bush's music and she was going to burn all her Bush CDs, merch, and memorabilia. She was also adding all her secular music — except Hootie & the Blowfish — to the pile. To my knowledge, she and her father burnt hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in their backyard bonfire.
Why did Katie hear voices? Satan.
I knew our friendship was over when she tried to get me into Christian bands like DC Talk, Jars of Clay, and Audio Adrenaline. They did not, friends, have the makings of fangirl obsession. Nor did they make good music. Katie was sure my immortal soul was in danger.
Our most evangelical teacher Mr. Young used Katie's mental illness to expose the truth of secular rock n' roll. He made us again watch an '80s movie connecting the devil to rock 'n roll, featuring Ozzy Osbourne's infamous and accidental biting off a live bat's head. And Mr. Young encouraged the rest of us to burn our secular music. There was particularly pressure on me, having been Katie's best friend and outspoken music lover.
While I didn't burn my music, shame's a powerful tool. I bought a few Christian CDs, but then I just stopped talking about the music I enjoyed. I became best friends with Charlie, who was also outcast for his love of music and sci-fi, but who already had a trouble-marker reputation so my parents did not approve. For years, Charlie was the only person I shared any of my growing musical tastes with. He bought me Tori Amos' From the Choirgirl Hotel for my 14th birthday, and changed his family's answering machine message to Hole's "Celebrity Skin" and Marilyn Mason's "Dope Show."
Throughout public high school, I was particularly aware of how my peers and adults reacted to the music I listened to — even if they didn't think Satan was behind it. When someone liked the music I liked and we discovered this, we usually became friends. But I also stopped wearing my Bush t-shirts, got in a fight at 7am with my father over my Nirvana t-shirt, and I never talked about the woman-fronted bands or solo female musicians I liked in front of my male peers. They were too punk rock, and I desperately wanted to impress them. But even when my friend Megan and I ventured to the record shop, I noticed the adults rolling their eyes when we'd buy the Sex Pistols, Bikini Kill, the Velvet Underground, or Bad Religion as if we were in High Fidelity.
I was definitely not going to buy pop music! I remember seeing Spice Girls CDs by the palette at Costco and thinking, "Who'd listen to that?!" Me, in 10 years, that's who.
Me, who's spent my whole life catching up with popular music and seeking women and queer artists, and trying to learn about pockets of music I missed either generationally or culturally. Me, who boys loved to introduce to Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Leonard Cohen, and Miles Davis. Me, who still discovers music via NPR or fanvids or enough peers mentioning them over and over that I guess I have to see what the hype is about. Me, who stills picks up when my music tastes are not of the group I'm surrounded by and who still cannot figure out what adults listen to. Country & Western, according to my family.
One of the most radical things I ever did was have an alternative college radio show. My friend Matt B. described it as bisexual music. My show was on Saturday afternoons when no one was likely listening except my boyfriend Chris. I called it Campaign 2020, because 2020 is the first year I'm old enough to run for POTUS. My mega fan was a little boy and his dad, who lived near campus, and they stopped by for my last show and the boy wore a Spider-Man costume.
I still listen to most music alone. When I commuted, I woke myself up by blasting Lady Gaga or Born in the U.S.A. With the advent of open office plans, music was a way to block out the noise. Now I work from home, but I garden or go for a walk with earbuds in. (Though I'm often listening to a podcast.)
I'm still surprised when groups of people know songs I know too. I continue to have close bonds I've made with friends over music from Julia and I holding hands throughout an entire Florence + the Machine concert to another best friend and I enjoying naked spa fun to Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid. I even organized an entire trip to Portland to see Bruce Springsteen with former coworkers.
But I continue to carry with me the sense of shame around what I listen to. Recently, my friends Sam and Charlene were shocked to learn that I love Cardi B, and I've tried to twist the shame into now just bugging Sam with Cardi B news updates to his displeasure.
My brain gets tangled in the web of trying to anticipate an acceptable answer when people ask me what I listen to that I come up with nothing. A bit of everything, I'm sure I can come up with something you like too! Opera is the only genre I cannot get into. I just want you to like what I listen to with the eagerness of a tween shamed and condemned to hell for her musical tastes. Please, I'll just tell you something you love too.
I finished some books! Yeah, I went on this streak where I was reading like 10 books and couldn't finish any of them. I have a few that I've told myself I have to finish before the end of the year. Of which, I have one to finish.
My 2018 book recommendations post itself will likely hit in the new year, and I'll have a slew of longer reviews I've been stock-pilling — because I'm terrible at publishing on my blog apparently — to share.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling ⭐ 2/5 stars
My well-documented harshness around businesses books continues. The 4 Disciplines hopes to bridge the gap between strategy and outcome. You know, how shit actually happens and what you — and more importantly, your team — can do to affect your top-level company goals. Most of this is common sense. But a lot of it is about continuing the Covey family legacy, and the examples are highly problematic. I read about half and skimmed the rest.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon ⭐ no rating
I tried to read this book. Again and again. For like five months, I'd pick it back up again. Not for me, and I made it about 200 pages, then decided not to put the tome back in my suitcase, leaving it in Arizona.
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen ⭐ 4/5 stars
I love Bruce Springsteen. He's an incredible storyteller — just look at his many records — and his memoir is a great tale of a true rockstar and musician. While I believe he believes every word here to be true, his memories are his memories. I laughed a lot through his retelling of recording Darkness on the Edge of Town, where the documentary about it shows how much his band wanted to murder him. Most of the book takes place pre-Born in the U.S.A., no doubt to protect the privacy of his wife Patti and their three children, which is fair enough. What I did appreciate the most was Bruce talking about his own mental health, his father's struggles, and being honest about therapy and medication being a life saver. His recent Broadway show, streamable on Neflix, is the short version of the memoir with songs, if you just want the highlights.
🎶 Also — I put together a playlist of every single song Bruce mentions in the book. 🎶
Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight by Ursula K. Le Guin ⭐ 4/5 stars
The short stories in this are incredible. The one sharing the title with the book I cannot get out of my head how it deals with colonization and adopted/found family. The poetry, on the other hand, while sometimes amusing, wasn't my jam.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold ⭐ 2/5 stars
There are reasons this book is awful and emotionally a torture, and there are reasons this book is a best-seller and many of my friends rated it 5/5 stars. It is a longer review than I'm putting here.
The Night Season (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #4) by Chelsea Cain ⭐ 3/5 stars
The weakest of the four books with a noticeable lack of Gretchen. Much more Archie and Susan and how they find themselves in the middle of the danger again. Surprise? There were a handful of situations which felt unrealistic or incredibly unlikely.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo ⭐ 5/5 stars
A powerful book about how to talk about race. Or really, how to break down common white supremacist tropes around race, like, yes, Susan, the police are targeting black people more than us white people. You can tell Oluo had these conversations 10,000 times, but she remains an incredibly talented writer and communicator. I love how she ends the book saying that we need to stop talking so much and take action.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris and Ian Falconer (Illustrations) ⭐ 3/5 stars
Some of these stories were memorable. But all stories were incredibly cynical and really about people, not animals. Of course, this is Sedaris' voice. Which I found more palatable once upon a time.
The Wee Free Men: The Beginning (Discworld - Tiffany Aching #1-2) by Terry Pratchett ⭐ 5/5 stars
When I couldn't seem to finish a book and needed some comfort reads to Pratchett I went. Luckily, I was on the first Tiffany Aching book. This version covers the first two of her books, The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky. Yes, to a young witch discovering her powers, coming into her own, and realizing her role in the big ole world. I did find A Hat Full of Sky featured more of Pratchett's trademark humor.
Things I wrote recently
Another Top 10:
The Best and the Worst of 2018 Comic Books
The list is here, friends! Dive into my favorites and my least favorites of the comic books I reviewed in 2018.
For Tawny Rose Case's blog Planning for Community Management in Your Annual Budget, I created a department budget template.
Reviews on my comics blog:
- Animosity Evolution #2, #3, and #4, book by Marguerite Bennett, Eric Gapstur, Rob Schwager, and Marshall Dillon, rating 3/5 stars
- Black, book by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, and Jamal Igle, rating 3/5 stars
- Flavor #1, #2, and #3, book by Joseph Keatinge, Wook Jin Clark, Tamra Bonvillain, Ariana Maher, and Ali Bouzari, rating 3.6/5 stars
- Lumberjanes #46, #47, and #48, book by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Ayme Sotuyo, Maarta Laiho, and Aubrey Aiese, rating 4/5 stars
- Lumberjanes #49, #50, and #51, book by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Dozerdraws, Brooke Allen, Maarta Laiho, and Aubrey Aiese, rating 4.5/5 stars
- Ms. Marvel #27, #28, and #29, book by G. Willow Wilson, Nico Leon, Ian Herring, and VC’s Joe Caramagna, rating 4.3/5 stars
- Moonstruck #4, #5, and #6, book by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, Kat Fajardo, Kate Leth, Clayton Cowles, Caitlin Quirk, and Laurenn McCubbin, rating 3.3/5 stars
- My Brother’s Husband Vol 2, book by Gengoroh Tagame, rating 5/5 stars
- Runaways #4, #5, and #6, book by Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, Matthew Wilson, and VC’s Joe Caramagna, rating 4.3/5 stars
- She-Hulk #162 and #163, book by Mariko Tamaki, Jahnoy Lindsay, Diego Olortegui, Federico Blee, and VC’s Travis Lanham, rating 4/5 stars
- Shipwreck #4, #5, and #6, book by Warren Ellis, Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur, Mark Englert, and Marshall Dillion, rating 2.6/5 stars
- Supergirl #15, #16, and #17, book by Jody Houser, Steve Orlando, Robson Rocha, Julio Ferreira, Daniel Henriques, Michael Atiyeh, and Steve Wands, rating 2.3/5 stars
- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #25, #26, and #27, book by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Madeline McGrane, Iris Holdren, Tom Fowler, Michael Cho, Anders Nilsen, Jim Davis, Chip Zdarsky, Carla Speed McNeil, Rahzzah, Rico Renzi, and Travis Lanham, rating 5/5 stars
- The Wicked + the Divine #36, #37, and #38, book by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles, rating 4.3/5 stars
- Wonder Woman #35, #36, and #37, book by James Robinson, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Saida Temofonte, Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Sean Parsons, Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert, and Raul Fernandez, rating 1/5 stars
The salt hill I will die on
Besides this take down of the bullshit that is pink salt, this is your yearly reminder that there’s no different between table salt and sea salt in health or contents. It is chemically the same.
The only difference is how it's collected: mined or desalinated; mined salt is worse for the environment. Yes, some chefs argue that sea salt and table salt melt differently on food and can affect flavor…which is why I don't put big sea salt flakes on my popcorn. Gravity and size.
Also, you don't need extra iodine if you live in the US, don't have a medical condition around it, and aren't going hungry. Next time, how the salt lobby turned me into Lot's wife…
Green thumb update
The garden beds are full of shit. Literally. (Little gardening humor for you.)
For my birthday, I did a plant and baked goods swap party. I put in 14 plants, and ended up with 14 plants, which I don't think is how that's supposed to work when I'm the host. But this was not like when I made 100 cupcakes. Here are some pre-party photos:
[PUBLIC SPEAKING] Speaker Guide, Part 1: How to write your pitch by Lisa Hunt. My excellent girlfriend wrote an excellent post about pitching for conferences. Yes to everything she said here.
[ART] My beautiful death by Gillian Genser. Art, climate change, pollution, illness, and death in this haunting piece.
[PRIVILEGE] Back of the class by Juila Bell. As someone who was the first person in my immediate family to go to college and didn't come from a place of knowing about college, I felt every bit of this. Even if I didn't have to interview in-person for my university.
[BOOKS] NPR’s Book Concierge — Fill up your reading list!
[WORK] From Maker to Manager: How to Take the Leap by Marcus Wermuth. One of the most honest pieces I've read about the initial career change from individual contributor to manager.
[💚] Hannah Gadsby meets Roxane Gay: ‘Trolls get incensed by a woman daring to think she's funny. I'm very funny.’
Can't wait to see your best ofs, friends! Happy New Year,