Friday, January 01, 2021

Children of Misery: 2020 Sounds & Visuals


Didn’t get around to doing the annual summer mixes until year’s end, so they’re fairly indicative of what I was listening to. Only did two this time (a road trippin’ theme never felt right for obvious reasons): bbq and cruisin' jams.

Lots of stuff from the cutting room floor was in constant rotation. Listened to a ton of Nikki Giovanni and Audre Lorde. Plenty of ha has from Jay Jurden Y’all, Who the Hell is Dwayne Kennedy? & Weakness is the Brand. Open Mike Eagle lived my (and I’m sure many others’) dream by interviewing Prince Paul for an entire season of podcast eps. Was also great to learn about Toshi Reagon’s love of Octavia. And I’m always a sucker for fresh Mike Davis content, so this trillbilly chat was a treat.

The best thing I saw—not just in 2020, but in a while—is a generation of youths have a collective lightbulb moment about our carceral culture. Fucked up, f’sure, but happy they have a better sense of how off-course the ship is and where they need to steer it towards.

Otherwise, I didn’t see much worth writing about. We didn’t have the pandemic experience of tucking in and learning new skills or some shit. The main things I ‘watched’ were listenable (and, quite often, tried & true) videos that I would turn on as comfort listening while doing chores. So, loads of Desus & Mero (only the occasional wormhole detour) and talking to myself あっきーさん. john powell & bell hooks came correct. Ocean Vuong is ridiculously talented—and he’s sharing a stage w/ Jacqueline Woodson. Sophia Leung ftw. Btw, I still think Problem Areas season 1 should be required viewing for anyone that comes with that Defund the Police = socialism shit. And thank the content gods for giving us druncle ‘Kiss on the ‘gram.

Screentime generally meant family time, so we had lots of アルプスの少女ハイジしまじろうのわおMolly of Denali, Dr. スランプ, 忍者ハットリくん, ドラえもん, テラスハウス, Hilda, ハイキュー!!, SLAM DUNK, Harvey Girls Forever!, はたらく細胞, からかい上手の高木さん. We exported びじゅチューン! clips (all of Inoue Ryo’s work is highly amusing) to our constant delight.

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Über Everywhere: 2020 Words

Read a ton of winners, re-read some favorites, so I’ll just mention a handful. I finally wrapped my head around Anand Giridharadas’ Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. I’m slow. It ranks up there with Klein’s Shock Doctrine. One of the teens was learning about redlining while I was reading Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's latest Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership. Such clear and focused writing on housing policy -- a topic that doesn’t garner much public attention, but should. I read Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion and Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning back-to-back. Body blows, then gu(il)t punches. And Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay is the best fictional exploration of the parallels and divides between Black and Asian communities I have ever read. It came out in 2019, but reads like a prologue to summer 2020.

I’m working my way through Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. It’s a brick of a book, but she’s such a smooth writer. I’m remembering stylistic reasons why I loved Warmth of Other Suns so much. Margaret Chin’s Stuck: Why Asian Americans Don't Reach the Top of the Corporate Ladder is confirming what I suspected about career barriers against East Asians. Ijeoma Oluo’s Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America bridges my buddy Dave’s high school piece on mediocrity and the path to the promised land for the overwhelming majority of us who are just… ok.

It's not all non-fiction. Just cracked open Murata's latest, Earthlings. The trouble with reading such widely popular works is it's near impossible to avoid seeing headlines. Enjoying it, nonetheless.

Thank you, Daniel and Joel, for getting me into the audiobook gang. Actually, what really got me into audio was N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became. The production was like the radio plays of yore! But Darts really broke the seal for me.

Anyway, here are the highlights from this year’s reads, in no particular order:

Murata Sayaka Convenience Store Woman
Zitkala-sa American Indian Stories
Jordan Ifueko Raybearer
Brandon Shimoda The Grave on the Wall & The Desert
Wanda Coleman World Falls Apart
Kevin Young Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News and Brown
Young Jean Lee Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and Other Plays
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha Dictee
Lama Rod Owens Love & Rage: The Path of Liberation Through Anger
Charles Yu Interior Chinatown
Daniel Lavery Something That May Shock and Discredit You
James H. Cone The Cross and the Lynching Tree
Samantha Irby Wow, No Thank You
Kali Fajardo-Anstine Sabrina & Corina: Stories
H. Scott Momaday House Made of Dawn
Roy Christopher Dead Precedents: How Hip-Hop Defines the Future

N.K. Jemisin The City We Became
Elizabeth Acevedo Clap When You Land
Rachel DeWoskin Someday We Will Fly

And the comix I remember:

Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru Superman Smashes the Klan
Alex Sanchez You Brought Me the Ocean
Minh Lê & Andie Tong Green Lantern: Legacy
Mike Curato Flamer
Robin Ha Almost American Girl
Damian Duffy & John Jennings adaptation of Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower
田中 芳樹 & 荒川 弘 アルスラーン戦記
荒川 弘 銀の匙

The kid is on a reading tear. Still a lot of familiars: Raina, Dav, 鳥山先生, Adventure Time, Jen Wang, ヨツバと!. But the evolution is fun to watch.

Finally came around to comic strips, so doing the rounds on the classics: Peanuts, Boondocks, Calvin & Hobbes.

Plus some more grown comix: When Stars Are Scattered, All’s Faire in Middle School, Dragon Hoops, Stepping Stones, Amulet, Legend of Korra, Primer, 甘々と稲妻, ブラック・ジャックNew Kid/Class Act, Twins, Goldie Vance.

Expanded some existing tastes: ちびまる子ちゃんBaby-Sitters Little Sister, Hunter x Hunter, ナルト, Steven Universe, Jonesy, Bee & Puppycat.

Chapter books are solidly in the mix: Princess in BlackMeet Yasmin!Jasmine ToguchiZoey & Sassafrass, Dyamonde DanielJulian’s World.

Thankfully, still plenty of picture books: Margarita Engle’s All the Way to Havana; Julia Alvarez’s A Gift of Gracias; Duncan Tonatiuh; Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.

Some non-fiction of the fun factoid variety: A Manga Lover’s Tokyo Travel Guide, Guinness Book, biographies, science experiments, how-to manuals.

Bedtime = comfy time, so the staples remain: 間瀬 なおかた (でんしゃでいこう / でんしゃでかえろう), クレーンクレーン, そらまめくん, 日本昔話.

And the partner did it big with Educated, New Jim Crow, and On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous.

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...because no one is free when others are oppressed
so, we hit the stage and then we fly back to our nest 
growing old

~'dre 3K

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