I started this page at the beginning of 2018 with the intention to keep an archive of things that I like, use, and think about often.
ALERT: Spoilers ahead.
- Lady Bird
It’s hard to pick what I love best about Lady Bird – the writing, the acting, the sun-drenched California filmography, or the story. For me, the characters of Lady Bird are like a collective mirror – they are all unique individuals and yet I can see myself in and empathize with each of them. Lady Bird is terrifically funny, poignant, and above all, human in every way.
- Black Panther
The women of Black Panther are my favorite part of the movie. While they are obviously strong and beautiful, they are also multi-dimensional, flawed, and without them, Black Panther would be lost. They are more vital to his overcoming adversity than perhaps even the Amazons are for Diana in Wonder Woman. I wish the stories of all women in superhero films were told with as much love and care as they are in Black Panther.
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Watching the adult actors pretend to be teenage stereotypes (that don’t at all match the actors’ identities) who’ve been body-transported into typical game character stereotypes (that don’t at all map to the teenagers’ identities) – the smoldering hero, the plucky sidekick, the smart guy, and the literal lady killer – is the best part of this film. Many, many actual LOL moments for both us and the six year old.
- The Last Jedi
I don’t care for the story of Star Wars as much as I love the visuals, especially the beautifully abstract compositions of the landspeeder battle sequence at the fortress on Crait. These scenes stuck with me long after the movie, in the same way that I was entranced by the quantum realm sequences in Ant-Man.
Want to see: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Minnesota, I, Tonya, The Shape of Water
- Kaijumax by Zander Cannon
For those who take their social commentary with a side of fantastic city-stomping monsters, Kaijumax tackles racism, drugs, power struggles, class divisions, religion, family relationships and more in a prison run by humans who are seldom humane. Powerfully moving, uplifting and completely engrossing, I LOVE this series and highly recommend it.
- Head Lopper by Andrew MacLean
- Paper Girls by Cliff Chiang
I’ve been reading Paper Girls since it first came out a couple of years ago and I still really have no clear idea where the series is going. And I don’t really care. It’s a crazy, time-traveling, rollercoaster ride of beautiful art, great, great female lead characters, and brilliant writing. I consider it the unholy union of Neon Genesis Evangelion and the Golden Girls with a splash of Lumberjanes.
- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North & Erica Henderson
- Monstress by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
- The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage bu Philip Pullman
La Belle Sauvage feels more “grown up” than His Dark Materials, perhaps because the main characters are older than Lyra. Seat-of-your-pants survival ride from start to finish? Check. Girls who can rescue themselves? Check. Boys who can feel AND show a wide range of emotions? Check. Daemons that will make you wish you had your own (AGAIN)? Check. I’m re-reading His Dark Materials now to see how it compares but so far, I think I like La Belle Sauvage best of all his books. Update: His Dark Materials is still really fantastic, especially now that I’m older and more cynical.
- The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
I read this book from cover to cover in three days. Super fun story without obnoxious fantasy cultural stereoypes? Check. Female characters that hold their own? Check. Magic, swashbuckling, monsters, and cardamom tea? Check. Really looking forward to the next installment in the series.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
I wish Tolkien’s obsessively detailed and bombastic writing didn’t get in the way of the story as much as it does and I wish the pitifully few female characters had been better handled. Given the context of the author (Old. Old-fashioned. Classist. Uber-language-nerd.), I can forgive these things. These books are important in the development of fantasy as a literary genre but I find many other books more entertaining.
Kids’ Books as curated by Belén
- Human Body Theatre by Maris Wicks
Hands down Belén’s favorite book of this year – this book is detailed without being boring, informative without being dry, and so much fun. It’s remarkable how much my barely six year old has learned (and retained) about her body from this book.
- Do I Have to Say Hello? by Nora Ephron
We read this book a chapter or two at a time. My six year old loves the ridiculous quizzes and the illustrations and I love reading the multiple choices in silly voices.
- Pretty much everything by The White Stripes
A new discovery for me. I’ve checked out all their CDs from the library and am amazed at how consistently good they all are.
- Tiny Epic Quest
I have to confess to falling in love with the tiny items for the meeples. Adorable as they are, this game would still be fun to play without them. It has a really fantastic balance – the game mechanics are deep but also straightforward and the cooperative elements make the competitive dynamic richer. A single game only has five rounds – once you’ve learned the game mechanics, it’s easy to replay several times in a night. All of the game pieces are lovely and easy to use and, perhaps most importantly, it’s light-hearted and fun.
- iPod Classic 5.5th Generation
I picked up a refurbished one on eBay to store loads of music (60GB!) and play it in the car. Because it has actual buttons and a click wheel, it’s super easy to use without looking at it, which is pretty important when the driver is also the only passenger. It also sounds amazing. I was curious why and ended up falling down a fantastically nerdy wormhole of articles like this one that minutely break down the differences in music handling between iDevices.
- Nokia 3310 (3G)
Yep. I ditched my smartphone. Group Messages are my only complaint: I can receive and send them no problem but the replies aren’t saved in a group thread as they are on a smartphone; they are stored individually under each user. I wonder if Nokia updates this when they release the new 8110 later this year? Otherwise, call quality is great, battery lasts for days, it’s got a flashlight and a calculator and I only pay attention to it when it a call or text comes in. Easily bought used on eBay for less than 40 bucks.
- Fujifilm X-T1
Getting rid of my iPhone meant finding a way to replace Hipstamatic, the “camera” I’ve been using for personal work. I like shooting in 1:1 format so much that I built my own grid picture frames for the family “photo feed” in our dining room. Thankfully, in addition to all the other cool stuff it does, X-T1 will let me shoot 1:1 just like on my old iPhone. I haven’t fully adjusted to all the controls yet but one feature I do really love is the adjustable screen – I angle it 90° up so I can look down on the camera in my hands while I shooting as if it were an old Rolleiflex. So far, the 18mm lens in my favorite.