Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best : December 2015.

Okay let's do this! I WILL get this done before 2015 finishes because that is definitely the most important thing to do on New Year's Eve!


December was the Month of Charcuterie. For our New Restaurant o' the Month, we visited Cheese and Crack off of SE 28th, and it was so damn good. And pretty. Very pretty. Inspired, we later bought a bunch of fancy cheeses and meats and chocolates and little pickles and stuff to make our own charcuterie for Christmas Eve. Herein we learned that when you assemble your own, there is no one to tell you when to stop and how to properly balance your small plates, and you will eat nothing BUT cheese and little pickles all night and then feel sick. But Cheese and Crack will not make you feel sick because they know what they're doing.



I'll be honest; December wasn't the best month. However, I DID read a lot of good books! The Walls Around Us is dark as hell, you guys, dark dark dark daaaark, and more than a little scary at times, but Nova Ren Suma just writes so damn well and creates that magical realism so, well, magically, that I enjoyed it a lot more than all the other dark "literary" YA I've read lately. Also, that cover! Gorgeous! Highly recommend.

I've also been reflecting lately about how I feel like I've been abandoning my middle school library at least mentally in comparison to the reading/work I've put into the high school this year so far. Did you know that trying to run two separate libraries is kind of a lot sometimes? Anyway, when I was asked to give some book talks this month at the middle school, I realized I hadn't read any new middle grade in a looong time. And even though The One and Only Ivan isn't new, I thought it would fit the reading level of the kids I was talking to well, and I should really be up on all those Newbery winners anyhoo, so I read it over a weekend and OMIGOD. Good middle grade fiction, man, it can just punch you in the gut. This one was based on a TRUE STORY of a silverback gorilla that was kept cooped up in a circus-themed MALL for over TWENTY YEARS. UGH. UGH. UGH. The book is told from the gorilla's point of view, and there are elephants, and a small dog, and a wise and compassionate little girl, and ugh. It killed me.

On a lighter note, let's talk about Felicious Day! She is just SO FREAKING LIKABLE, you know? And her book, You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) only confirmed that over and over. I mean, that title alone! How can you not like it! I do admit that I only knew of Day through the Whedonverse really, so I never watched The Guild and accordingly never REALLY knew the extent of her nerdiness, but man, it is DEEP. She's also able to be completely humble and human and enjoyably self-deprecating WHILE ALSO making clear that she is pretty much a genius who has worked freaking hard to accomplish the things she has. It was a thoroughly fun read and I think the book and Day herself are so inspiring for young people to have no shame about loving the things they love, and making amazing things happen because of that love. Also, because she is so golden and lovely and good, the chapter on #GamerGate will make you want to punch someone in the face. Actually, many people in the face. But I'm sure it wasn't easy for her to write or include, and I'm very glad she did.

Finally, March Book Two knocked me on my feet even more than the first volume of this non-fiction graphic novel series. I personally found the interweaving of the tumultuous 1960s time period events with John Lewis's attendance at Barack Obama's inauguration moving, even though I kept thinking it would be a turnoff for all the students who I know have been raised to hate Obama. And then I started thinking about how sad it is that so many children have been raised to hate Obama, and it's a whole 'nother spiral, but anyway. If I could make young people read ONE THING next year, it would be March. Just so well done.



Right, so I am not the biggest Star Wars aficionado in the world, but I do love witnessing other people loving something real hard! And the anticipation and excitement of our movie theater crowd when that logo came up and that magnificent John Williams score burst into our eardrums again! So great. I enjoyed the shit out of this movie. BB-8 and Rey! I love you!



When I scrolled through my Camera Roll to refresh my brain parts about what I actually did this month, I realized (as I normally do) that even though there were crappy parts of this month, there was also a lot of good things. One particularly good night was Kathy's work Christmas party. These parties are notorious for being hot drunken messes, and over the years I've learned that that mess can be a GOOD hot mess, but it can also be a baaad one. But good news is that this year's was good! One of the most epic White Elephants that was ever elephanted. For real.



For our friend Arielle's birthday, we went to a pottery-painting place, which I had never done before. And as happens sometimes with things you've never done before, I was sort of like "eh, sure" beforehand, but then once we got there, I was immediately like THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER. I also got sort of Surprise Drunk in the middle of the day, so, that could have also contributed to the enjoyment. Either way, would go back, four stars.


This week our friends Becky & Nick let me borrow their perfect dog Mixie and we went on a hike at Cape Falcon on the coast, part of Oswald West State Park. I should note that I wasn't planning on going to Cape Falcon, or even the coast at all; there were two separate hikes on the way that I had researched but I couldn't find the effing trailheads even though they're supposed to be RIGHT OFF THE HIGHWAY. Anyway, Cape Falcon was well signed so eventually I said SCREW IT MIXIE GIRL, LET'S GO HERE. And it must've been fate because this was one of the best damn hikes I've ever gone on. I'm hoping to write about it in full on my dorky hiking blog soon. I'm actually hoping to write in my dorky hiking blog a whole lot in the upcoming year because I'm prepping for possibly hiking the Oregon portion of the PCT next summer and I have some hiking muscles to hone like whoa. Did I mention that Mixie is a perfect dog?


Even though we haven't been able to spend Christmas with our families on the East Coast in a long time, I love Christmas in Portland, too. I love Peacock Lane and the large but random assortment of Christmas decorations we throw all over our little apartment. I love anxiously waiting for packages full of presents from our loved ones scattered across the country. I love opening one stocking gift and one real gift Christmas Eve. I love Kathy making breakfast Christmas morning. I love making Christmas cookies and I love Christmas songs and watching the same damn Christmas movies over and over again each year. I love Christmas and I love New Year's Eve, too. I love reflecting on the year gone by and planning and scheming for the year ahead. 

I know holidays aren't always happy for everyone, but I hope yours were as happy as they could be. Happy 2016!

Best : November 2015.

Well, on the upside, I updated this blog in 2015 more than I did in 2014--by a few more measly posts! Heck yeah, pathetic to slightly-less-pathetic! And this Best series was fun for me and helped me remember a lot of cool stuff. On the downside, I was TOTALLY POSITIVE that I had hit up the best of every month of this delicious year but in reviewing the facts today, I have discovered that I TOTALLY LEFT OUT March and April. Huh. Which is too bad, because who the hell knows what I did then? Those months are FOREVER ago. 

However, I am committed to starting 2016 fresh and clean clean, and closing up shop on the Best series for 2015 RIGHT NOW. So bam, November and soon December, here we GO go go go goooo--



For the last few months of the year, I've been trying to cram in as much reading from two book lists as possible--one, Young Readers' Choice Award (YRCA) nominees for this year, as I promote them at school, and two, Mock Printz 2016 nominees for an uber-nerdy library workshop I'm attending in January. Basically, one is full of books that teens thought were good over the last few years, and the other is full of books that adults thought were good this year.

Guess what?

The books teens thought were better are SO MUCH MORE FUN, KIDS.

In fact, most of the Mock Printz ones I've read so far have been so gloomy and tedious that I'm almost starting to be mad bout it. But it's okay; the YRCA ones are making up for it, and one of my faves so far is Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza, nominated in the Intermediate (7th - 9th grades) division. It's about a teen female android! Who doesn't know she's an android for the first like six chapters! (This is not much of a spoiler because the plot is outlined on the back cover.) I mean come on, that's fun.

The Port Chicago 50 is wayyy different in that 1) it's non-fiction and 2) it's not very fun at all. Well, it's fun in that it's a really fascinating and incredibly readable piece of youth non-fiction, as is all of Sheinkin's fantastic work, but not-fun in that it's about a grave injustice in our nation's history that still hasn't been totally rectified and that I previously knew NADA, ZILCH, NOTHIN' about. It tells the tale of African-American soldiers in the World War II-era segregated Navy, working at a port near San Francisco called (confusingly, imo) Port Chicago. You see, at the time, we allowed black folk to risk their lives by loading bombs onto ships (with absolutely no training), but we didn't trust them to actually, like, take a step onto a ship, or fight the enemy, or whatever other little things they ACTUALLY wanted to do. So then when, unsurprisingly, one of those freight ships full of bombs blew up in Port Chicago and killed a whole bunch of people, the black soldiers started saying oookayyy now, let's cut this out and STOP loading bombs onto ships without proper training, or at least give us the option of doing other things to help with the war effort because, you know, racism sucks. And the United States said nahhh, we'd rather charge you with mutiny! Good times. Not really, but a good read.



I've always liked Aziz Ansari, but after watching his greatest achievement to date, Master of None, I LOVE him. This show is just so good. It feels authentic and real without being pretentious or tortured; it is HILARIOUS while also being downright sweet at times and almost always touching somehow. His parents are AMAAAAZING in it and I am obsessed with Dev's friends Denise and Arnold. It also deserves all the awards for the Dudes Walking Home From a Bar v. Girl Walking Home From a Bar scene. Just watch it and you'll know the one. Aziz gets it, you guys.



After feeling perfectly neutral about a lot of music this year, some tunes popped up into my atmosphere this fall that are all pretty different but are all my JAMS, son.

S.O.B. by Daniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats (hahaaa, what a gross/great band name): Ugh, OK, so local radio has already started overplaying the shit out of this song so its magic has started wearing away for me, but the first few times I heard it! Hot damn! The chorus is just him yelling SON OF A BITCH and GET ME A DRINK! And it's all very gospel-folks-y complete with hand claps and background mmm-mmms and ohhhs that are just spot on with his gravelly voice. My wheelhouse completely.

Downtown by Macklemore: So this whole song is pretty aight, but what I really just LIVE for is the chorus where the singer just let this line RIP: "Have you ever felt the warm embrace of a leather seat between your LEEEEEGGGSSS" and it is just SO SEXY AND FIERCE. And up until this moment I always, stereotypically, pictured a fab black woman singing those lines. So I just went to look it up so I could give that fab black woman proper credit here, and I discovered that that fab black woman is actually...uh, a white dude. Named Eric Nally. So, boys and girls, this is what happens when you assume! AND when you are a victim of a gender binary society that taints your brain!

The Things I Regret by Brandi Carlile: Brandi's latest album, The Firewatcher's Daughter, contains so much joy and energy and kick-ass-ed-ness that her previous, more sorrowful releases were sorely lacking. Her latest single from it, The Things I Regret, is one of my faves, particularly because of the way it ends! LIKE A HOLY ROLLING STONE!!! - CUTTTTTTT, BOOM, MIC DROP, SO GOOOOOOD. 

WTF by Missy Elliott: I must admit that other than her huge '90s singles I don't know much about Missy. When hipper people my age were listening to her in her heyday, I was mainly listening to, you know, Simon and Garfunkel. And Hanson. But I am more than willing to start my education now because each time I listen to WTF I like it more. That beat! If this doesn't make you want to dance, well, I'm sorry for you.

I should note that one of my other normal favorite things to talk about each month is favorite food, but I think I just ate like shit all November (other than Thanksgiving, which I'll get to in a sec, but that counts as a whole separate thing, obvs), and life is too short to really comb through my memories for one decent meal to share. So we'll skip it and just start the Best Things of November 2015.


We got to see Carrie Brownstein do a reading/interview/talk thing on her promotional book tour for Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl and originally Tig Notaro was supposed to be her interviewer, but at the last second she couldn't make it so instead Janet and Corin were there. Because OF COURSE. It almost felt like this was inevitably going to happen always. We learned that Carrie has a very large and impressively nerdy vocabulary and that Janet is hilarious and sort of rambly and Corin is very Corin. It was a way too brief event but also felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It was also very, very Portland-y. I still haven't actually sat down to read Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl but I already know it is going to make feel a lot of feelings.


Kathy and I took a super quick but super great day trip to Seattle one weekend to see Sam (who I still refer to as Sam M., even though she's technically Sam L. now) who was in town for a conference, and then a "quick" visit to Kelly and Ash's, which Kathy was originally convinced we could make last only 20 minutes so we wouldn't get home too late, hahaha. Late arrival at home = worth it. God, Seattle, and all of the people I mentioned in this paragraph, are the best.



Food! Food! Fire! Food! While we normally spend Friendsgiving in Eugene at Kim and Cliff's, for multiple reasons this year we opted out and had a Kathy-Manda-Jill-sgiving at home instead. And if you're wondering just how much food the three of us can whip together for, you know, just us three, well, it is a lot. Thanksgiving also commenced Kathy's Obsessed With Fire period, an affliction which is still ongoing, but does make the apartment rather cozy.