Um okay, so I talk about The Amazing World of Gumball a lot. OKAY A LOT. I can't help it. It's a nearly perfect show.
I've said before that Steven Universe is what I want the world to be: kind, loving, full of hope and love. Adventure Time is what 14 year old goth me would have loved, and I do love it, and it makes me FEEL so profoundly.
But Gumball. GUMBALL. This show is my heart and soul. At turns absurd, kind, sharp, cutting, funny, sweet, and always with a deep undercurrent of suspicion held in check by the belief that nothing is beyond the power of imagination of a young person. I joked once that I would keep a running tally of the number of times that Gumball and Darwin tell each other "I love you," but it wasn't coming from a place of malice. These two are best friends, and the strength of their love and care for each other is sorely missing between two male child characters. Sure other male child characters on other shows are friends, but deep expressions of love, including saying the words? This is still beyond the pale in almost all media.
I did say I would curate a Top Ten best episodes list, but I'm still only a smidge over halfway through a dedicated binge of the series. As it stands I would recommend the following (order irrelevant, and not chronological):
I've been a fan of RadioLab and co-host Jad Abumrad since it's early NPR days. I've followed the show into the podcast format and have stayed enamored all along the way. When Jad started the More Perfect podcast I jumped on board. Who doesn't want a solid primer on some of the most pivotal and inflential U.S. Supreme Court cases in history?
Recently, More Perfect put together an album with songs about the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It is called 27: The Most Perfect Album and it is phenomenal. With tracks covering nearly every genre in American music, including Dolly Parton as on brand as I've heard her, this album and the artists who contributed to it do not pull any punches. "2nd Amendment" by Flor de Toloache had me sobbing in my car on the way to work this morning, and "6th Amendment" by Sons of an Illustrious Father gave me chills. There's not a skippable song on the album, in my opinion.
And the songs themselves are good! Even if you want to ignore the messaging, there are some jams here. Well worth a listen. And 27: The Most Perfect Album includes notes about each of the amendments and songs in an online approximation of liner notes. It is really lovely.
I was a latecomer to Destiny. I had no interest in playing because everyone said it was "Mass Effect without a story." I picked up my copy with The Taken King came out, as there was much fanfare about the sudden rise of storytelling and I was excited to see what the buzz was about. I have been in love ever since.
These games hit every chord for me:
I haven't believed in anything for as long as I've known that believing was a choice. It leaves an empty space in my heart, but one that I cannot fill because I cannot make that choice to believe. At least, not in real life.
My favorite thing about worlds like Destiny are that I can just BE my character. And unlike games like World of Warcraft, there is massively limited human player interaction (on PS4 at least there is no chat window, no voice lines, and if you choose to do strikes you can do them without voice). I am in this world and we are all mute, but working toward a common goal. My immersion is complete and it is deep and it wrenches my heart.
Even before the death of Cayde-6 this game has stirred in my strong feelings. Every day of the winter festival I would log in, pick up a light globe, and say a silent prayer before releasing it to float up to The Traveler. For me, this belief system is just as real (or not) as any Real Life Religion (whatever that means) but UNLIKE real life, my character fully believes in it. So I get to believe. And it is real. The Traveler is real and alive and speaking. So, better than real life.
I have pages in journals dedicated to writing about this game, and how it has gotten me through rough patches. I am fully invested in where this story is going, and I am excited for all of the revelations to come.
There's a trend in American media to give us unlikable heroes, but like with most trends we started with something that could be artistically interesting, its edge has been dulled. It is now only the hollow, disgusting, and unlikable among us who still employ this tired trope of hollow, disgusting, and unlikable men who deserve neither our time and attention.
Miéville does a great service here in presenting a woman who is closed off and somewhat hard to come to terms with as the reader. She is not like those male fascimiles of tropes that litter the landscape. This is also not to confuse her with the protagonist of Vandermeer's Annihilation, though they are familiar in that they are aware of their limitations and largely at peace with them. Avice Benner Cho is not hateful, or even unlikeable really, but more of a puzzle unto herself. I found myself time and again wondering what her reaction would be to a situation as much as I was wondering how the situation itself would play out.
This can make the front half of the book seem slow and at times inscrutable, but it is a pretty good bait and switch for the weirdness of the greater story of Embassytown.
For fans of Le Guin, the intense focus on world-building and language is something that is fascinating, frustrating, familiar, and fantastic. It is hard to speak to the storytelling itself because the unfolding of the narrative is inseparable from the story itself. It is a story of embassies and governments. Of communicating with aliens so alien that we cannot share an understanding beyond the surface. It is a story of addiction and subterfuge and death and a desperate search for what it means to see beyond the veil; to lie.
Le Guin herself called this book a "fully realized work of art" and as was her way, her thrift of language leaves my longer writing both bereft of meaning and overrought. If you enjoy Miéville's politics and writing, this book
I only finally saw this movie for the first time in the waning days of my 37th year. I got to see it in 4K restoration thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse's dedication to getting movies on the screen that keep me in theater seats without ever having to see a new movie.
It is not enough to say this movie was amazing, and heaping praise is boring. Instead I'm going to focus on the small things that really spoke to me, mostly in terms of technical and stylistic choices.
The animatronics in the ape's faces was astounding. The actors' commitment to motion that was believable, and kept the action believable while a 3rd party operated their faces? Ugh, it was so perfect. Just beautiful.
The quiet. Fuck, THE QUIET. I wish I could find this kind of blistering quiet in real life. Kubrick's decision to have a good 3rd of the film scored with just the sound of breathing through a respirator is probably one of the most beautiful scoring choices in the entire film, especially contrasting the bombast of the mundane that preceded it. I cannot express the exuberant joy I felt throughout these sequences, not at the action, which was brutal and terrible, but just the fact that he DID it. Beauty.
The aesthetic of the entire film just defies its era. Instead of looking weird or anacrhronistic, or out of place in the future, every artistic choice in wardrobe and set and style feels at worst (which is not at all bad) to be purposefully retrofuturistic. I want to live in this aesthetic future. Well....
There are two things that make this film alarmingly Made in the 1960s. 1) Wow, that's a lot of only white people. 2) They asked him for his "christian" name? I was raised catholic, and in the 1980s and even I'd forgotten that was a thing. Oh my.