Apologies for the lack of content in the last month! I’ve been hard at work on my end of year media writeups which are projected to be even longer than last year…likely the length of a small novel all told…which is no small amount of work! I’m hoping to get at least one other small thing done before those but we shall see.
I’ve been pretty swamped with work, moving and LARP in the last couple of weeks, so have an old post I never actually posted, lightly edited.
Originally written sometime in 2016 as far as I can tell.
Release Date: February 19, 2008
Platforms: DS, iOS, Android, 3DS
Price: Varies, at launch was $40 I believe; can be found for $20.
Genre: Visual Novel, Adventure
Number of Players: 1
Offline/Online Play: Offline Only
Games as a Service Plan: None
Downloadable Content /Season Pass: None
Loot boxes/Micro-transactions: None
Length: ~20 hours.
Metacritic Score: 78
Control Options: DS touchscreen, buttons
As I write this, I am watching the end credits for Apollo Justice.
*Pats self on back for finishing game.*
Going into the game, I wasn’t sure I would like it. I thoroughly enjoyed the prior three entries, but how would the new protagonists hold up? I wasn’t sure.
Trucy won my heart. She is adorable, endearing, capable, and I just want to hug her and watch her magic shows. Maya and Pearl are also both dear to my heart, but having Trucy be a companion, like Pearl, that the protagonist had no romantic tension with, certainly helped to make her a stronger character.(Something that is in Donna from Doctor Who’s favor as well.)
(That’s not to say I didn’t love the Feys. Just saying that I like Trucy Wright as well.)
Klavier was the biggest surprise for me. As a longtime player, Edgeworth holds a special place in my heart. Francesca is also wonderful, but Godot never really struck the chord that Edgeworth did, nor did Manfred.
But while Edgeworth is motivated by perfection and victory, Klavier’s laid back search for truth reminded me of two of my favorite cases in Ace Attorney–that against Damon Gant in the bonus case of Phoenix Wright, and that glorious single day where you play as Edgeworth in Trials and Tribulations.
That idea of the defense and prosecution teaming up to find the truth, not simply to get the verdict they want, appeals to me.
Apollo…I found Apollo, not to be less than Phoenix, but not to be Phoenix. That isn’t something he can help of course, and I certainly didn’t dislike the poor guy. But, I am looking forward to once again being Mr. Wright in Ace Attorney 5.
Anyway, as I watch all of these photos go by, with little quips from the characters, I realize that, storyline wise, I am quite satisfied with the game. It kept me hooked, made me invested despite my doubts, and, in the end, I found it was certainly worth playing.
I played a lot of things at PAX East 2019, and saw even more of them. Here I have tried to include as much info as was reasonable about each, and impressions when relevant. This took far longer to get all the information I wanted than I ever expected but hey, a month after the convention is still on time for writing about it right?
5/7/19 Update: Added Rubi: The Wayward Mira, as I had somehow erased my notes on it so missed it in the original list.
Games I Played
Rubi: The Wayward Mira
Developer: Kieryst Studios
Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Release Date: TBA
Platforms: Steam, itch.io, Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Number of Players: 1
Offline/Online Play: Offline
Games as a Service Plan: Unknown
Downloadable Content /Season Pass: Unknown
Loot boxes/Micro-transactions: Unknown
Control Options: Full controller support
Playing Rubi was an interesting experience–one of the devs was at my shoulder the whole time, and we spent a lot of time talking about the design choices and some of just the little things that had been tweaked. He asked questions about why I thought some things were possible or what signposting I was seeing, and generally was good conversation. The game itself is a 16-bit action-platformer, one that focused at first on NOT being able to attack, which was a fun way to learn how to use the movement techs available.
Heterotopias In the 1989 Future
Developer: Giant Incubator
Publisher: Giant Network
Release Date: 2019
Platforms: PC (Windows 7, 8, 10)
Genre: Action Adventure, Cyberpunk
Number of Players: 1
Offline/Online Play: Unknown
Games as a Service Plan: Unknown
Downloadable Content/Season Pass: Unknown
Loot boxes/Micro-transactions: Unknown
Control Options: Had controller support on the show floor, other options unknown
An isometric action game with a fun, heavily Chinese mafia-styled story about agents hunting down illegal genetics amidst a cyberpunk aesthetic (lots of neon); though the localization and sound mixing were both not fantastic. Gameplay felt good–I had a lot of fun learning how to deal with the demo’s boss–a mecha-gorilla–even if I found a bug in the physics engine while doing so. The developer was pretty chill about the fact I broke his game, and even loaded a file for me that was right at the start of the boss battle so I could give it a proper go. (I promptly hit the same bug, but this time found a workaround.)
The team was Chinese, and I’ve had a devil of a time trying to track down info about the game (due to the name being a philosophical concept) and all the info I could find being in Chinese. I did consult these sources to verify what I learned on the floor and find out the Developer’s name.
Images courtesy of those sources, seems to have been some sort of press docket as they all use the same ones. Note: none of those are game play footage, which has the same style but is more of an isometric camera.
Developer: Giant Network
Publisher: Giant Network
Release Date: Summer 2019 on Steam, Already out on Android and iOS
Platforms: Steam, Windows only., Android, iOS
Price: Steam: Unknown. Free on Android, $0.99 on iOS.
Genre: Rougelite, Card Game
Number of Players: 1
Offline/Online Play: DLC only functions when online, game logs you off if you play while offline. (iOS.)
Games as a Service Plan: N/A
Downloadable Content/Season Pass: Some additional characters are available for $0.99, as well as larger packs of the characters and cards for up to $3.99.
Loot boxes/Micro-transactions: None.
Control Options: Touch screen (phones). PC controller support unknown.
To quote the dev “it’s basically like Slay the Spire”. You play as Little Red, of little Red Riding Hood fame, on a quest to find her grandmother. Along the way you fight monsters and villagers, use various tools to improve your deck, and hope you don’t die of poison damage. I played as one of the more difficult starting classes–the Nun–and while the prayer cards, which you choose a delay for, and the longer you wait the greater the effect of the card, were a fun mechanic to play with, I did indeed die of poison damage. It has a different action economy than its inspiration, with many basic cards being free, and different classes focusing on “actions” or “mana” for more powerful or complex cards. The art was a charming cartoony style, and I do like the story focus, but I also feel like I’d be hard pressed to recommend it, at least in current state, over Slay the Spire, which has other systems laid on top that made it unique and riveting.
Developer: Headbang Club
Publisher: Whisper Games
Release Date: April 11th, 2018 (Steam, Early Access); Summer 2019 Full Release
Platforms: Steam, Itch.io, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Rhythm, Zombies, Metal
Number of Players: 1
Offline/Online Play: Unknown if single player requires internet connection.
Games as a Service Plan: None
Downloadable Content/Season Pass: Soundtrack available for $9.99
Loot boxes/Micro-transactions: None
Control Options: Can be set by player to some extent, buttons can be remapped on Switch, fight stick possible (and recommended) on PC.
So I played Double Kick Heroes last year at PAX East, where the only available control scheme was a fight stick for the PC build. I enjoyed the games art, post-apocalyptic zombie setting and metal music, but I did find the actual rhythm game at its heart a little loose. This time, I played the Switch build on a Switch pro controller, and it was really disappointing. The default controls, which can be changed in the full game, used the right joystick to hit the notes, flicking it back and forth to fire your characters’ guns at the top and bottom of your car to kill the zombie horde. It felt extremely imprecise, and felt nearly impossible to maintain a streak when the notes moved quickly.
And then I tried to lower the difficulty and the game crashed, followed by the developer helpfully starting it back up for me–still at the max difficulty available in the demo. Going to have to follow this closely to know if it is worth a pickup.
Developer: Stitch Media
Publisher: Stitch Media
Release Date: March 20, 2019 (Early Access)
Platforms: Steam (Early Access)
Genre: Strategy, Puzzle
Number of Players: 1
Offline/Online Play: Level sharing online.
Games as a Service Plan: None
Downloadable Content/Season Pass: None
Loot boxes/Micro-transactions: None
Control Options: Mouse and keyboard.
Described by the developers as Pikmin for horrible people, Terrorarium has you solving environmental puzzles to get to a goal with enough of your Moogu (little mushroom guys) intact in order to break the force-field on the exit. As I understood the story, you control an old space grandma that’s stealing from people’s dangerous space gardens so that she can have the best garden for an interstellar gardening competition. It’s charming while also being horrifying, as your Moogu are very easy to sacrifice, and you create new ones by having your existing ones reproduce with the uhh…corpses of the fallen.
It also includes a full featured level creator (Maker Mode I believe they called it) which was used to make all levels in the game, but I did not try it.
Developer: Exato Game Studios
Publisher: Exato Game Studios
Release Date: August 8, 2018 (Early Access)
Price: $19.99 (Season Pass)
Genre: Interaction Fiction, MOBA
Number of Players: Online Competitive, Single Player Narrative
Offline/Online Play: Online MOBA, unknown if can be played offline.
Games as a Service Plan: None.
Downloadable Content/Season Pass: $19.99 season pass is the only purchase available. One of three narrative parts of the game are out currently, and the MOBA has some of its features. Two more parts are planned.
Loot boxes/Micro-transactions: None.
Control Options: Mouse and keyboard.
Narrative adventure game, which are kind of my jam, focusing on the daily lives of some MOBA players; the demo was specifically based on the around when a new game comes out. Has all the story branching and character interaction goodness, and judging by footage from other computers, some mini-games, but I just don’t have much connection to MOBAs and that kind of play, so it didn’t really gel with me.
Abbreviated Comments found below, in alphabetical order by track:
2 Tales of the Working Class
Los Skagaleros – L@s Skagaler@s – 2019
One of the bands I was introduced to via Skatune Network’s video on ska bands active now that you should listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU6FXwfi9WU — I love how much they embrace one of my favored styles of ska, which I affectionately call “brass punk”. Its noisy, its socially conscious and it has a bass that’ll drive you forward until there’s no more road to tred. Solid track.
Athletic Theme (from “Super Mario World”)
The Hit Points – The Hit Points – 2018
Appalachian strings are rather atypical to be used as the core instrumentation for a video game cover band, but oh boy do fiddle and banjo really make some tracks, like “Athletic Theme” shine.
Billie Eilish – WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? – 2019
Yes, I did somehow miss this track last year. Its morbidly catchy to sing, has some fun moments in it (the “duh” comes to mind), the breathy style of the lyrics works well with the pounding bass and almost too localized finger snaps to make the entire song feel like its being whispered in your ear at a club your friends told you to avoid. Also “might seduce your dad-type” is a great phrase. As is “I don’t see what she sees but maybe its cause I’m wearing your cologne.”
Birds of Chicago – Real Midnight – 2016
The opening a capella section sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it, and the entire song has just a powerful soulfulness to it. This isn’t a resistance song for me, but it is one that I can feel in my bones. I may have gotten it from the Luke Cage soundtrack, but it’ll have much longer legs in my library than its source.
Taylor Swift – folklore – 2020
My favorite Taylor Swift has always largely been the early stuff – corny and sappy and honest seeming. Betty is a return to that sort of style — a safer evolution of the girl who wrote Teardrops on My Guitar than who she became. I’m still filling in the gaps in my head where queer love songs fit and so it has earned a place.
The Big Game (Movements 1 & 2)
Sledding With Tigers – Come on and Slam – 2015
A musical accompaniament to the hit movie of my childhood and maybe yours – Space Jam – I didn’t really end up resonating with most of the album. The final track though, a narrative piece reminisicent of a guy on a chair with a guitar telling a story to a room of kids, just really..works? Its funny and heartfelt and just, it works you know?
Big Yellow Taxi
Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon – 1970
Confession time: I heard the cover of this one by Counting Crows and Vanessa Carlton as I child and I do adore it, but Mitchell’s reputation as a songwriter and performer is and was well-earned, and the song easily stuck in my songs of the year playlist as soon as I heard it.
Black Hole Sun
Scary Pockets, Maiya Sykes – Single – 2020
A cover of the original by Soundgarden, its funkier, easier to understand the lyrics, and and just more interesting in general than the very unsettling drone feeling that the original can lend itself to.
Grace Petrie – Queer As Folk – 2018
A UK-based artist making folk music from the viewpoint of actual queer folx? And she isn’t a TERF? AND THE MUSIC IS REALLY GOOD??? The whole album is wonderful, but Black Tie was my introduction to it and its the track I keep going back to – a reassuring letter of an older performer to their younger self that things will be all right, and that they will find a place where they can be themselves.
Video Game Jazz Orchestra – Hang on to Your Hat – 2020
Honestly just a really solid jazzy orchestration of a beloved track from Mario 64. I’m a sucker for jazz covers of video game soundtracks as I really enjoy jazz with hook and throughlines, so its an easy fit.
The Boy with the Arab Strap
Belle & Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap – 1998
Despite the uhh…meaning of the phrase “Arab Strap”, the fact it was literally just taking the name of another band and other drama, I still find this track to be a really soothing few minutes; the first song by the group that I’ve latched onto outside of the soundtrack to the hit movie about trans-teen pregnancy, Juno.
Brave as a Noun
AJJ – People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World – 2007
It wouldn’t be a top songs of the year from me without some folk-punk making it on the list. Brave as a Noun is short but direct, and gets me in the mood for more folk-punk and how could that be wrong?
Alexi Murdoch – Time Without Consequence – 2006
A champion of my fledgling “Just Breathe” playlist for when the world is too much, “Breathe” was featured at the end of the opening two-parter for Stargate Universe, a show that I thought was actually mostly pretty decent, but music choice of having a song called “Breathe” be the ending track to a pair of episodes largely about being in space running out of oxygen was so on the nose that I couldn’t help but to latch on.
AJR – Single – 2020
AJR was one of my surprise favorites a few years back, so it was great to have Bummerland blasting in my ears a few times — its an anthem of being in the pits (mostly financially) firm in the belief that it IS going to get better. I don’t think its as good as “Sober Up” or a few other tracks off of The Click, but its still good.
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – 1993
Wu-Tang’s raps have such a great rhythmic feel to them bouncing off of the looped instrumentals on this piece that I can’t help but to just let it loop and try to learn a few more lines each time. I’m late to the party but its quality stuff.
Can You Keep Up
Blue Kid – Upright, Love – 2012
Blue Kid appears to be defunct which is a shame cause this first track off of their first (and perhaps final) release is a great lyrically driven jazz piece. I particularly appreciate the various inflections that the singer uses to emphasize different sections of the song, from an almost too annoying whine to a much more sultry purr.
Chemicals – Stripped
Halestorm – Vicious (Stripped) – 2020
Halestorm put out, not acoustic covers of themselves, but pared back versions, letting the vocals really shine. Its dark hard rock reduced to the interstial track in a concert while some of the band needs to swap instruments and reset –but its still really really good.
Circuits and Wires
Motion City Soundtrack – Go – 2012
As someone who still listens to the entirety of MCS’s Even If It Kills Me on a regular basis, “Circuits and Wires” was essentially just comfort food for my brain. Gimme that punk-pop.
Come out 2 Nite
Kenickie – At The Club – 1997
Bratty brit-punk-pop bands echoed in my head quite a bit this year – I read the first volume of the comic Phonogram, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, who would later really hit had with a music themed comic with The Wicked + The Divine, but Phonogram still had a way of getting the tracks on the pages to worm their way into my ears, helped along by Gillens public playlists for most of his writing projects [link].
Good Lovelies – Let the Rain Fall – 2011
Stripped back instrumentals with multiple vocalists harmonizing just really does it for me, specially when its as catchy as “Crabbuckit” pulls off being. “No time to get down cause I’m moving up” is a great mantra to adopt to.
Quail – Single – 2020
A band that hasn’t actually finished their first album, Quail has a great pop-jazz feel, and while I almost included “Blue Sky” instead, “Crazy”‘s lyrics put it over the top for me — opening with “you should get some kind of company and friends that don’t include me” is just one of the most relatable ways to demonstrate a failed connection.
Joe Stevens – 3 Guys & 6 Strings: The Encore – 2012
An unapologetic guitar-driven ode to himself, a transman who does not hide that fact about himself. Its just great, and it does the heart good to hear people who have found their place like he is singing of here.
decide to be happy
MisterWives – SUPERBLOOM – 2020
Indie-pop is one of my favorite holes I’ve fallen in in the past few years, and MisterWives has been there for me all the while. They make tracks that are just BURSTING with the vibes and good moods that you need to survive something like the current state of the world.
Didn’t Have Time to Think
Math The Band – Math the Band the Band the Album – 2015
The band itself uses a fun mix of rock intrumentals and chiptune adjacent synths, while the track reminds me of the sort of things I wanted to hear on the radio in 2007. It isn’t going to change your world, but it might help you recast some old rotten memories of car trips in a warmer light.
Drink About You
Kate Nash – Yesterday Was Forever – 2018
Kate Nash went on a hiatus for a few years but Yesterday Was Forever was a great return, which “Drink About You” epitomizing both the irreverence and frank emotion that I loved from Made of Bricks, or “Don’t You Want to Share The Guilt”.
yMusic – First – 2017
If you like instrumentals. If you want to be taken on a goddamn trip through the woods chased by a beast that you can’t quite see, listen to this track. Listen to it twice. Thrice. Breathe it in and never let it go. Contemporary “classical” music IS worth your time.
Talisk – Beyond – 2018
Beautiful and resonant Scottish instrumental folk, “Farewell” does a wonderful job of capturing the feeling of a farewell relying solely on the timbre of the instrumentation to tell the narrative.
Feel Good Inc.
Housebound Ska Collective/Skatune Network – Single – 2020
A cover of the fantastic track by the Gorillas, this just takes that track and ratchets up everything. Its fast, its fun, it hits hard and then it leaves you wanting to pick up more ska. Just an all around top-notch cover.
Fight Gods/Mike Townsend Knows What He’s Gotta Do (Live)
The Garages – The Garages Kill the Gods/Live at Heckdang – 2020
The Garages, the band formed as part of the fan community around the game Blaseball, is my band of the year. There’s just so much heart and energy and the narrative threads tying everything together just really end up selling it for me.
“Fight Gods” is a thesis statement of a song–the game has a lot of unknowable beings that have a habit of killing players, and “Fight Gods” is the players saying enough’s enough.
“Mike Townsend Knows What He’s Gotta Do” is the third song in the Mike Townsend pentology, dealing with the subpar player on the Garages, Mike Townsend, replacement pitcher after one of the best players was incinerated by a rogue ump, resolving to sacrifice himself to bring back his predecessor. The live version is just so. damn. good.
CrazyGroupTrio – Single – 2020
In a year where Final Fantasy 7, the Final Fantasy with one of the best soundtracks, was rereleased, it is hardly a wonder that a cover of one of my favorite tracks, the boss theme “Fight On!” made it to my top list. Its a rocker of a piece, and will definitely drive you forward as you tackle your day.
Finally // beautiful stranger
Halsey – Manic – 2020
I don’t have much to say about this one; other than “oh, and we’re dancing in my living room, and up come my fists // and I know we’re only playing but, the truth is this //” is unexpectedly evocative.
The First Big Weekend
Arab Strap – Arab Strap – 2016
Another band I checked out due to Phonogram and Kieron Gillen, “The First Big Weekend” is one of those munbly mostly spoken word narrative songs that I end up latching onto when I just want to hear a story. I love when songs have just, incidental details that really only mattered to the singer but now are recorded in their art. (“Closer” by the Chainsmokers has some good examples of this too.)
The Fox, The Crow and the Cookie
mewithoutYou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright – 2009
An “experimental rock” piece, TFTC&TC is essentially a fable or local legend told in the form of a piece of music; I tend to get too distracted by the violin to follow the plot each time I listen but one day; one day.
Mystery Skulls – Ultra Rare Vol 1 – 2015
The only reason I know this group exists is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlEb3L1PIco&list=PL0fvOtjetDLFH_avalzdmSLL91rvwiE07 – a wonderful set of slowly released animated music videos for some of their pieces. “Ghost” is likely still my favorite but “Freaking Out” is solid.
Future Teens – Breakup Season – 2019
A song about a breakup, and just how sometimes, well, all you do is cry. A lot funner to jam to than that makes it sound. As someone who is single but also on HRT and therefore cry more than I used to, I get it.
Frank Turner – Positive Songs For Negative People – 2015
“We can get better because we’re not dead yet” is one of the best things I’ve heard to tell someone stuck in a loop of “I screwed up and I will screw up.” We’re all gonna get better. We CAN get better.
Good Gone Girl
MIKA – The Boy Who Knew Too Much – 2009
Great vocalist and fun instrumentals help drive a song with completely missable lyrics to a catchy piece with a welcome place on upbeat playlists.
Harleys in Hawaii (KANDY Remix)
Katy Perry/Kandy – Single – 2019
Sometimes a song just has a good beat, you know? I don’t think it uhh, makes much sense lyrically but hey, its fun.
Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse
of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? – 2007
Its weird while still staying foundationally approachable — it is recognizable as a rockish piece while having synth breaks and lyrics pleading with the singers own mood disorder. Definitely one of the pieces a listener is likely to bounce off of.
Heterosexuality Is a Construct
Onsind – Dissatisfactions – 2010
A bit on the angrier side of the queer songs in the list, Onsind’s track is folkpunk (at least in my opinion, genres are uhh, wild) and is exactly what it says on the tin.
Hold On I’m Coming
Solomon Burke – Hold On – 2020 (PostMortem Collection)
Just some good quality soul music I found after I acquired an unrelated 45″ of Solomon Burke in a lot and had to know more about the man. Great great stuff.
Home / The Weatherman
Blue October – Home/This is What I Live For – 2016/2020
I listened to an unhealthy amount of Consent to Treatment and Foiled in college — dark albums for the most part, almost cruel at times, but they sang to every hormone coursing through my veins. I’ve calmed down a tad over the years though, and its hard to really get into something dripping with as much angst at Blue October’s early work.
“Home” is an almost perfect u-turn from the lyrics of those times. It’s a love letter to a simple life of a stereotypical nuclear family. It’s not the most groundbreaking of works, but in an age where most days have uncertainty or outright hate, that kind of dream has a certain comfort to it.
“The Weatherman” is closer to the angst, but softer. A relationship has fallen apart, the intimacy having gone silent. But its core is a message of hope — the weatherman says the storm is gonna clear and we’re on the edge of a blue sky. There aren’t many songs I’ve heard about a relationship that’s in a rough spot but that’s worth saving — “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” is the only one that immediately comes to mind, but “The Weatherman” has an earnest honesty to it that that classic song of trying to cheat on your spouse lacks.
Hot Dad Summer
Ritchie Branson – Single (Camp Camp) – 2019
Ritchie Branson is a great lyricist — his 2013 “From Guardia With Love” is one of the two best Chrono Trigger rap albums out there — and he’s one of the few “nerd” rappers that I get excited to see a new drop from. “Hot Dad Summer” has such great dad energy that I couldn’t help but to pick it for my placelist.
House of the Rising Sun
The Dead South – Single – 2020
A cover of the oft covered song by the Animals shouldn’t make an impact, but these Canadians really know how to make a piece sound like it was written in a weird cabin off the road by a jug band. Its now my second favorite rendition of the piece, after the original.
Husavik (My Hometown)
Will Ferrell, My Marianne – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – 2020
Here me out, but this parody film about the Eurovision Song Contest is A) really good and B) actually has a soundtrack that functions as both parody and a love letter to what viewers love about the contest. I’ve only been watching Eurovision for around half a decade, but hotdamn did these tracks still hit hard at times. Husavik is likely the most musically impressive of them–fitting for the apex of the film where its from.
I Don’t Wanna Get Wise
The Who – WHO – 2020
I honestly didn’t know that The Who was still making new music. Its a piece about getting old despite trying to live wildly in their youth — a process not all of them lived through. Kind of dark to thing about but it still rocks.
I Got a Form
K-Murdock, Doug Funnie – Hero Muzik, Vol. 2 – 2016
Man this whole album is fire but “I Got a Form” stayed on the list if only for being the only piece of fan media from Chrono Trigger I’ve seen really taking advantage of the “Delightful Spekkio” theme from the game, which is among my favorites.
I Know You Know
Esperanza Spalding – Esperanza – 2008
This is the kind of jazz that if its playing in the club lets you know that this isn’t a seedy place, this is a place where the shadows pull close to hug you and your fling(s) as candles dance on the table. I really really need to listen to more of her work than a few tracks off of this album.
I Split My Ribs Open
Left at London/Open Mike Eagle – Transgender Street Legend, Vol. 1 – 2018
I got way more into Left At London this year – a trans musician who does rather introspective pop music — “I Split My Ribs Open” made the list by viture of Open Mike Eagle’s guest verses helping elevate the track above LaL’s other tracks.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Dan Avidan/Super Guitar Bros – Dan Avidan & Super Guitar Bros – 2020
A standout from an album of covers, Dan and the Bros’ take on U2’s track has all of the emotion I love in the original without actually needing to listen to U2, a prospect that feels anachronistic in 2020.
I Wish I Was Someone Better
Blood Red Shoes – Box of Secrets – 2008
Sort of a counter to pieces like “Get Better” or “The Weatherman”, “I Wish I Was Someone Better” is full on dwelling on being a bad person — or at least having screwed up. I wouldn’t recommend it as one’s favorite track, but it can be cathartic.
I’ve Been Waiting
Lil Peep/ILOVEMAKONNEN/Fall Out Boy – Single – 2019
I like ILOVEMAKONNEN and have an extensive Fall Out Boy playlist, so this track was a sure fire hit for me. I’m a huge fan of tracks with cycling vocalists — not just like, call and response but multiple singers taking turns being the lead. Likely the same reason I dug that FourFiveSeconds a few years back.
Daisy the Great – I’m Not Getting Any Taller – 2019
More indie rock about ended relationships — this one more playful than some of the others on my list; “I don’t know why I kissed you in the first place” sung at a quick clip is a noteworthy line — and the song is real short too so it doesn’t get into too many sordid details.
The xx – xx – 2009
One of the more popular tracks from a fairly popular indie pop group, a great track for having as you just cruise through darkened streets.
BONNIE PARKER – Single – 2019
A song as much about longing as anything else, “Jason” puts you in the shoes of the singer, a presumably gay drag queen, who’s crushing real real hard on a football player named Jason. Or more accurately, he’s been with Jason but Jason hides the relationship from those around him, which obviously is hurtful to the singer. Another of those songs that, when straight, we have a ton of but the queerness of it adds value.
Dolly Parton – Jolene – 1974
I don’t know what in popular culture came about to both reintroduce this song but also specifically to do so as a song about a woman crushing on the same gal her man is cheating on her with, but I’m here for it.
Autoheart – Punch – 2013
The inflection the singer holds to for almost all of the lines, a da-da-da da-da-da really helps keep carrying the song through its saga of a toxic relationship, keeping everything sounding inappropriately peppy in an almost auditorially addictive way.
The Raincoats – The Raincoats – 1979
Its been almost two decades since I heard the original version of “Lola” by the Kinks and to this day two things are true:
- I like the song
- I have no idea if Lola is supposed to be a very convincing drag queen or a less-than-stellar representation of a transwoman.
Main Theme (from “Chrono Trigger”)
Videri String Quartet – Bits and Bytes – 2020
There are many video game string quartets out there — in fact there are even many that are good. What Videri brings are not just competant arrangements of beloved songs played well, but those arrangements interspersed with non-game music, allowing the album to transition from known to the unknown quickly, but without losing its grip. Definitely worth a listen.
Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter – 2015
I guess if you listen to enough Sheryl Crow eventually Brandi Carlile appears in your playlists unbidden. “Mainstream Kid” is a fun track though.
Major Tom – Coming Home
Peter Schilling – The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime) – 1989
A fan song playing off of Bowie’s “Major Tom” tracks, “Coming Home” was used expertly in season two of “The Umbrella Academy” and now its a regular in my rotation. Good chaos energy.
Maker – Acoustic Version
Anjimile – Single – 2019
Queer folk music seems to be one of my themes of 2020, and “Maker” falls solidly into that bucket as well.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Bandshes – Beautiful World – 2015
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope doesn’t hit as hard as it did in 2015–fighting aginst it was something friends of mine dealt with on a regular basis in high school and college — but sometimes we (those socialized initially as “men”) could do with a reminder of how toxic that trope is and was.
My Darling Dopamine
Days N Daze – Show Me the Blueprints. – 2020
A more approachable introduction to folk-punk than AJJ’s “Brave as a Noun”, Days N Daze continually hit it out of the park for me with there blend of rough vocals, aggressive rhythm guitars and trumpet. Yes, trumpet. Underutilized on this track but its a true sign of their sound in my opinion.
My Own Worst Enemy
Get Scared – Punk Goes 90’s, Vol. 2 – 2014
The Punk Goes… series of albums tends to always be a mixed bag, but some of my favorite ‘punk’ songs have come from them, and in some cases, like in Get Scared’s cover of Lit’s classic, actually become my preferred version of the song.
Bear Ghost – Blasterpiece – 2016
So apparently there is this genre called Adventure Rock — its sort of like a rock version of filk, which are nerdy folk songs. This song is literally about dancing skeletons. It also does a wonderful job of having layered pieces running through that give the song more musical depth than that description would evoke.
Not the End of the World (Even as We Know It)
Faded Paper Figures – Relics – 2014
A response of sorts to REM’s classic; Faded Paper Figures seems to understand that everything is just going to keep happening. And happening. And happening.
Only Anarchists Are Pretty
World/Inferno Friendship Society – Red-Eyed Soul – 2006
A laid-back ska piece about falling in love with a frequently-demonstrating anarachist. More fun to sing to than one would expect.
The Roots/Bilal Oliver, Greg Porn – Undun – 2011
Y’all, The Roots are just really good. Their rhythm section never dissapoints and their flow is always clean. I really need to listen to more of their stuff.
Central Park Cast – Central Park Season One, The Soundtrack – 2020
I have not watched a single clip of Central Park — its currently limited to only Apple TV which I don’t subscribe to, but “Own It” came up through a Discover Weekly and it hits all the right buttons for me for a song from a “musical” — multiple view points, shifting tempos and feels, layered vocals — particularly when you have different parts of the song happening on top of each other — I love picking apart stuff like that. “Own It” is simple compared to say, “Snow” from Rent but it scratches the itch.
Bring Me The Horizon – POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR
One of the heaviest pieces in my playlist–a friend of mine got really obsessed with this album when it dropped but only “Parasite Eve” really stuck to me, probably due to how often the song shifts feels in terms of both the vocals and backdrop. Actual contrast really helps music stick out.
The Party Song
blink-182 – Enema of the State – 1999
At this point in my life I just refuse to go back and listen to old blink-182 albums so that when I do stumble across them I get more/new blink-182. Its a flawless plan. (Is “The Party Song” good from a moral standpoint? Probably not. Is it fun? Probably yes.)
Perpetual Mild Illness
The Original Crooks and Nannies – Soup for My Girlfriend – 2015
“I know I’ve got lungs cause they ache a bit // I know I’m meant to be an artist cause I feel like shit // all the time.” is an anthem if I’ve ever heard one. I don’t think I know of any other songs specifically about being sick all the time so props for that as well.
Post Break-Up Sex
The Vaccines – What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?
Aww yeah, songs about unhealthily rebounding from your ex by sleeping around and how that doesn’t really fix your problems wooo.
fox capture plan – Discovery – 2020
If the opening piano riffs to this track don’t get you raring to go than I don’t know if any music I could recommend would. fox capture plan are one of my favorite Japanese instrumental rock groups — and they should be one of yours too.
The Real Folk Blues
Mason Lieberman et al – Single – 2020
This group cover of one of the most famous songs from the life-changing soundtrack to Cowboy Bebop is a rocker of a track, integrating a myriad of elements not present in the initial — group vocals, greater variety in instrumentation, even a rap break. Its phenomnal, but mostly in that it gives me an excuse to tell people to go listen to The Seatbelts.
Relatable (peak OME)
Open Mike Eagle – Single – 2018
Open Mike Eagle peels back some of his persona to show how incredibly normal other people really are. What other kind of track is going to include lines about forgetting people’s names or trouble with a garbage disposal? Oh, and then institutional racism.
Scratch Me Up
Catbite – Catbite – 2019
If you’ve gotten this far down the list then by now you’ve realized that I listened to a lot of ska this year. This one, well, this one is about rough sex. What would you expect from a band called Catbite?
Noname – Room 25 – 2018
Noname is one of the best lyricists writing rap today, likely. Her intro track, “Self” is just gold from top to bottom. “My * wrote a thesis on colonialism” is one of the lines you just…aren’t gonna forget anytime soon.
Dance Gavin Dance – Songs That Saved My Life – 2018
“Semi-Charmed Life” is a classic, no doubt about it. Dance Gavin Dance’s cover is just as hard to pick out every word from, just at different points, making them great compliments to each other. The cover doesn’t do anything extraoridinary to the base track but it does have great energy.
Sexy Anarchist Boy
Cheese On Bread – The Search For Colonel Mustard – 2007
Unrequited love between a person who seems to worship organization and an anarchist whose views she doesn’t respect and who isn’t interested in her. Cheese on Bread is a weird band but I dig it.
Alfred. – One Trick Pony – 2020
One of the newer entries onto my list — I definitely need more time to parse the words and understand them all but hot damn does it just like, wash over me and leave me feeling calm and ready.
Pomplamoose/dodie – Single – 2019
A love letter to riding on the open road in likely a convertable. No one’s really doing road trips this year so its nice to put this track on and just pretend for a few moments.
Simple and Clean
J-Music Ensemble – Time to Play – 2016
Kingdom Hearts 3 may have been a dissappointment this year, but this jazz cover of the opener to the original PS2 game certainly does not.
Maisie Peters – Birds of Prey: The Album – 2020
Did y’all realize that Birds of Prey came out this year? Time is a construct and we’ve voided the warranty. The whole album is full of great tracks, but “Smile” ended up on a different playlist of mine so due to sheer exposure its risen above the rest.
Speed Me Up
Wiz Khalifa/Ty Dolla $ign/Lil Yachty/Sueco the Child – Single – 2020
So I haven’t seen the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, but this promotional track is just a bop and I will take no criticism of it. (Except valid criticism of course.)
HAIM – The Steps – 2020
HAIM is just great — I don’t know how I’ve slept on them this long; I didn’t hear any of their stuff till 2018. Steps is just another solid entry in their discog.
That Kid – Crush – 2020
The future is queer. This dude is gonna go places. His tracks are just stellar — I first heard him in 2018’s “Dial Tone” but “Taco Bell” proves that he can hold his own without sharing the track with other artists. Its such a both sweet and sexual song at the same time, which also being, again, hella queer.
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra/Monsieur Perine – Tokyo Ska-Lorful Collage – 2019
Less a ska song than it is a pop song backed by one of the best ska ensembles in the world right now, “La Terminal” is easy listening that could get you listening to some of TSPO’s harder hitters from the album, like “HAMMERHEAD” or “Ska-lorful Collage”.
Think About Things
Daoi Freyr – Single – 2020
In a year without a pandemic, “Think About Things” would have won Eurovision. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFZNvj-HfBU. The combo of heartfelt lyrics about being in love with someone learning how to speak your language with the almost absurd deadpan nature of the visuals in their video would and should have rocketed them to the finals and beyond. What a damn shame.
Two of a Crime
Perma – Two of a Crime – 2013
A love duet of a murderer and a woman whose just like “that’s awesome let’s have kids.” Feels like its from a stage play, but its not!
A Very Musical Meltdown
Reb Day – Single – 2018
A single by a YouTuber I believe with no other tracks on Spotify, and it was written for a year that was less chaotic but I think everyone’s having a meltdown this year so it felt particularly appropos.
Of Monsters and Men – Single – 2020
I will always be hunting for Of Monsters and Men tracks that make me feel like their debut My Head is an Animal album did. Visitor doesn’t — but its close, and its a pretty good jam in its own right.
Fitz and The Tantrums – More Than Just a Dream – 2013
I am a sucker for whistling in music. I don’t know why, but when your track opens up with whistling I’m a good 900% more likely to listen to the whole thing. “The Walker” is no exception but the song itself does have a great groove to it to back it up.
We’ll Be Alright
RADWIMPS – Single – 2019
RADWIMPS work on the soundtrack for Your Name is the stuff of legends, so I’ve tried to keep tabs. “We’ll Be Alright” is a wonderfully evocative track, even if like me you can’t understand spoken Japanese.
You Are The Apple
Lady Lamb – Ripely Pine – 2013
I’m not gonna lie, this is a deeply weird song. Its melanchony, deeply overdramatic and yet somehow I keep coming back to this song of how the woman is still very very into her ex.
Yours Truly, 2095
The Megas – Snakes – 2020
The Megas and their alter egos The Belmonts consistently put out solid video game rock, and the Snakes album is no exception, with “Yours Truly, 2095”, being among their more ambitious tracks, far more adventurous than their debut “Get Equipped” which stuck far closer to the text of the original tunes.
Polkadot Stingray – Single – 2019
Polkadot Stingray rocks. Nuff said.
As with last year the categories for comics are largely based on just what I read this year. Sections are arranged roughly in the order I read the works.
My recommendations for must-reads are marked with a 🌟
Please note: Year of publication is based on the translated works when applicable.
Adaptations and Side Stories
Ace Attorney Volume 2 (Kenji Kuroda & Kazuo Maekawa & Alethea Nibley, Kodansha, 2011)
Comic companions to the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games, my favorite part about these manga cases is that they aren’t the cases from the games, giving you not only new fun whodunits to witness but also a strong idea of how long Capcom actually thinks it takes Phoenix to figure things out. It’s a nice low pressure change of pace, particularly compared to the less forgiving early entries in the series.
Miles Edgeworth Volume 2 (Kenji Kuroda & Kazuo Maekawa & Sheldon Drzka, Kodansha, 2012)
Like with Ace Attorney, I’ve really been liking the different look at Miles, less restricted than he is in the games themselves. It rags on Gumshoe perhaps a bit too much, but it’s great to see Miles’s basically Sherlock Holmes-esque persona shine through, with Gumshoe as a hapless Watson.
Persona Q P3 Side, P4 Side volumes 1 (So Tobita, Mizunomoto, Kodansha Comics & Atlus, 2015)
A pretty run of the mill manga unfortunately. It has a cute art style but it didn’t feel like any one character had any time at all to shine. The P3/P4 side gimmick did help them get more out of each event, and does follow the game, but putting them in separate volumes just felt like a way to pad wallets and pages beyond what the story really needed.
The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and Phantom Hourglass (Akira Himekawa, Viz Media, 2009-2010)
I love how much personality each incarnation of Link gets to have in the comics. While silent and relatively flat in the games, here he’s a jerk or a naive fool or whatever personality fits the author’s vision for the game’s story. Cramming each game into a single volume seems like it would lead to a lot of plot threads being dropped on the ground, but in the end it mostly ended up feeling like each plot had just enough room to really exist before having to move on to ta new game, a new Link, and a new adventure.
Dream Daddy (Leighton Grey & Vernon Shaw & Kris Anka & Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou & Wendy Xu & Ryan Manuilit & Lee C. A. & Jack Gross & Jarrett Williams & Jeremy Lawson & C. Spike Trotman & Drew Green & Reed Black & Josh Trujillo & D. J. Kirkland & Matt Herms, Oni Press & Game Grumps, 2019)
A collection of comics by a new team each issue that take place in the Dream Daddy setting using the dateable Dads. Ranging from a meditation on past relationships to a Dungeons and Dragons game, it’s quite a bit of fun. And it reminds me that I should finish a playthrough of the game–maybe in 2020.
Final Fantasy Type-0 (Hikoki Chiba & Tetsuya Nomura, GanGan Comics & Square Enix, 2018)
Fine? Fine. Makes me more worried about the actual storyline and pacing in the game than anything else to be honest. It’s a bit harder to parse than the introduction to a story really has any right to be.
Suikoden III 1-11 (Full series) (Aki Shimizu & Various Assistants, TokyoPop, 2002 – 2006)
The story is pretty basic popcorn fantasy fare, nothing to write home about, and likely something I wouldn’t have pursued if not for getting the first 6 volumes extremely cheap and then having to get volume 7 in French from a German reseller in order to get it for less than $80, giving me the drive to finish the series to show it what for. Was also a nice challenge to have to read a book in French; I hadn’t done that in a few years.
Gravity Falls: Lost Legends (Alex Hirsch & Many Artists, Disney Press, 2018)
Great little treat for those of us that enjoyed the original show, it has show-accurate art and, considering it is by the show creator, writing to match as well. A set of unrelated stories that each felt like little episodes; my favorite was the third, which revolves around Mabel having to deal with her equivalent from a bunch of other dimensions, including one who tries to replace her–very Goosebumps but with a happy ending.
Separated between the films I liked and those I didn’t, here are all of the movies I watched in 2019, roughly in the order I watched them.
Spoilers are included.
📽Indicates Films I Saw in Theaters
🌟Indicates Films I Consider to be “Must-Watches”
Pass the Popcorn
🌟Your Name (Makoto Shinkai, 2016)
A beautiful film with a narrative that I found myself enjoying just unfold in front of me rather than trying to guess at how it would happen. It’s emotionally tangible in a way that I’m used to seeing in Mamoru Hosada films, and I’m glad to find another directly that is good at it. A couple of weird panty shots that had no place in the movie keep it from being faultless, but it has a really good portrayal of teens, strong supporting cast. even a good use of phones–they’re a part of lives now and it was nice to see them utilized in a realistic way.
📽Aquaman (James Wan, 2018)
I had a lot more fun with Aquaman than I expected. It’s a world-crossing adventure romance thing with Aquaman not needing to be convinced to do heroics but to be king, which he doesn’t really want to do, being more invested in just wanting to stop a war. The fight scenes were really cool, the vistas under water were awesome, and I didn’t like the romance. Mera wasn’t a bad character, I just didn’t understand her falling for Arthur considering how often she’s just so. Done. with him for the entire film. The movie ends with his parents reuniting which I thought was a nice bookend to the movie’s start.
🌟The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson, 2008)
This is among several of my friends’ favorite movies, and I can’t blame them. It was funny, adventurous, hard to predict and emotionally satisfying. The backgrounds of shots were fun, constantly full of little extra bits. The acting was great, the soundtrack sublime, and it offers a masterclass in setup and payoff in big and little ways. Highly recommended.
Thank You For Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005)
Wanted to see this for a while. It was fun; the main character is very obviously a bad person but that’s sort of why you watch–it’s a comedy about what drives a person to do something almost comically evil like lobby for Big Tobacco.
🌟Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
I normally don’t go into classics with too high of an expectation–films and tastes have changed so much after all. So I was surprised that I rather liked Casablanca. It didn’t change how I viewed cinema or anything–sure now I get a ton of things that reference it– but being 75 years removed from it means the things it did well, or well first, I’ve seen done since. I’m glad I watched it though, and its still worth a watch by anyone who hasn’t seen it.
📽Captain Marvel (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, 2019)
I forgot that this was this year. Hot-damn I enjoyed this movie. A large part of that may been that it was the first female led Marvel film, and another that I watched it while on a self-imposed mental health vacation, but in the end it was an enjoyable sci-fi romp, and Captain Marvel kicked butt, which was most of what I needed from the film.
📽🌟Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)
Us was the first horror film I saw in theaters(ok, it is more of a thriller movie), and it was also really really really good. Each time I thought we had hit the last well-shot scene, with stark colors and stellar, stellar acting we hit another. I wasn’t super into the final fight, but the last moments, that last shot was a punch the way The Outer Limits used to hit me. Spot on.
The Losers (Sylvain White, 2010)
Like what a goshdarn cast, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba; like geez. Basically a typical soldiers that have to fight against the government story, but it was a lot of fun. Some of the fight camera work was way too disorienting, sure, but the acting was good at least. I really want shaky cam to just…stop being a thing ever.
📽🌟Avengers: Endgame (Anthony Russo & Joe Russon, 2019)
When the film finished my opening thoughts were “they didn’t have to land that that well.” The film wasn’t perfect — there were just enough characters for a couple of arcs to fall flat, Black Widow’s sacrifice was both the only way that scene was going to end and also emblematic of the corner that they had written her into, etc etc, but overall the fan service of Cap with Mjolnir, or the Women Protecting Spider-man scene helped bring it from “very much a comic book” to a fitting conclusion to a decade long story. Well done has-enough-money-to-do-that-kind-of-CGI-Disney.
📽Detective Pikachu (Rob Letterman, 2019)
I was likely one of the few people in the theater when I saw this movie that had played the game, and yes, it was very much not needed to enjoy the film, seeing as how the plot was mostly the same. The principal cast did a fantastic job –and the animators, particularly for Pikachu himself, deserve awards. I did not expect him to be that believably in the same space as the humans, not even close.
📽Spider-Man: Far From Home (Jon Watts, 2019)
Like Homecoming, Far From Home was a bit too high-school drama for me at times, but the conflicts the characters faced were far more compelling than expected, and Mysterio, while having almost the same motivation as Vulture, was a shockingly well-played villain. Best stinger in a Marvel film by far too.
Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (Justin Lin, 2006)
Possibly my favorite Fast and Furious film? Maybe? Good fish out of water story, mostly avoids issues of like, white savior-ism or white supremacy that you would expect to have happen in such cases. The drifting is really fun to watch and way easier to follow than a lot of the later films action scenes. The smaller scope of what was being dealt with also helped keep the action and emotions grounded in a way that the later films begin to spectacularly fail at.
Whisper of the Heart (Yoshifumi Kondō, 1995)
I tried to watch a bootleg copy in Japanese with a friend and the subtitles were such mismatched and incoherent garbage after the first ten minutes that we had to switch to the dub so I have THOUGHTS on the lyrics that the main character is writing for the song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” but thoughts that would likely only make sense if you watched the exact same bootleg. A genuinely heartwarming film; it isn’t my favorite Ghibli but I would watch it again in the right company. All I had known going in was that it was about a violin maker…a fact that isn’t relevant or known for the first forty minutes of the film, so heads up if that’s all you know about it as well.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Angela Robinson, 2017)
Occasionally painfully close to home to watch in terms of how non-heteronormative lifestyles were treated by the people around them, but seeing a depiction of the humanity behind a historical footnote was lovely–as was seeing things like the love and attraction between the female leads, and a depiction of polyamory, which I haven’t seen many positive depictions of in media.
📽🌟Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2019)
- GAY ACTION FIREFIGHTERS
- I’m sorry did you need more?
- Ok fine; it’s a GORGEOUS film. The action is just so so so well shot and delivered, everything except one early fight that left my head spinning, though that may have been just me adjusting to the sheer color overload of the film. The plot wasn’t anything unexpected, though the sheer audacity of doing everything with fire was commendable. And it was so so so gay that I’m honestly angry that the leads never kiss. They goddamn should have. And burst into pink fire as they did so.
FYRE Fraud/FYRE: The Greatest Party that Never Happened (Jenner Furst & Julia Willoughby Nason/Chris Smith, 2019)
I watched both of these documentaries practically one after the other and while I remember a ton of details about Ja Rule, Jerry Media and co’s fraud, I could not tell you which film was which, other than that one definitely painted the ad company that caused the problem in a more favorable light and the other actually dealt with how shitty the situation left the workers on the island themselves(largely due to Jerry Media being involved in the doc’s production). Together they paint a fuller picture than either could on their own, a picture of excess, overpromising and the building of a hollow hype engine, not to mention that of people failing upwards, even with the questionable involvement of the various parties.
The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2015)
My favorite Tarantino film, hands down. I love locked room mysteries, and bottle episodes, and ensemble casts where you aren’t sure who’s on what side really. I love that it had an intermission, and that everyone pretty much gets what they deserve. The acting is top notch and it doesn’t have a lot of the weirder things Tarantino tends to favor in his films. Just a solid piece of cinema.
📽🌟JoJo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, 2019)
I’m not sure a director outside of Waititi currently making movies could have made an ultimately heartwarming tale full of riotous laughter punching up at Nazis. The leads were ON POINT, impressive due to most of their youth, and quite frankly Scarlett Johansson put out possibly my favorite performance I’ve seen her do. (Alfie Allen is also utilized FANTASTICALLY as the mostly useless bottom to a captain’s top). It’s incredible the number of times the audience just got to laugh at Nazis in this movie. Much much needed in today’s day and age.
Electra (Rob Bowman, 2005)
Honestly, this movie is better than I thought it was going to be. Low expectations certainly had an impact but I enjoyed the action, enjoyed how it basically was a typical assassin-with-a-heart-of-gold thriller that just had some foes that could do insane things, etc. Shockingly worth the watch. Don’t really understand why its rating is so low in reviews.
Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964)
Considering how much I didn’t enjoy the other Bond film I watched this year I was surprised to find myself ignoring the other work I was focusing on to watch Goldfinger. I do like that old style of gunfights, everything feeling very final and sudden, and the hand to hand combat felt so desparate and real in comparison to the heavily choreographed look of many other films. I was surprised by how brutal the film was overall–many characters die, some quickly after being established, which helped make the film like there were real stakes involved…at least if your name wasn’t Bond.
🌟Blade (Stephen Norrington, 1998)
I can’t believe I slept on this movie. The first few moments were rough (the trilogy has a tendency to have club scenes and that level of flashing lights is no bueno for me) but the action is so so good. Like, I just loved watching Snipes and his Stunt actors fighting. More compelling than almost every fight in the Iron Fist Netflix show that’s for damn sure. The acting was a little much on Snipes’ part, but I liked the supporting cast, specially that the “love interest” was a skilled individual with a lasting impact on things.
📽🌟Parasite (Bong Joon Ho, 2019)
I don’t think I’ve been as tense as I was in this film since I watched Train to Busan (coincidentally, also a Korean film.) Going in blind was one of the best film-going choices I made all year. It’s very, very good and I hesitate to explain why beyond saying that the film has a masterful grasp of building tension and tears it down to great effect.
📽🌟Knives Out (Rian Johnson, 2019)
What I knew about Knives Out going in was simple: murder mystery and Chris Evans in sweaters. What I didn’t expect was the lovely, detective novel-esque use of clue and follow-through, Daniel Craig’s cajun accent, a wonderfully acted cast of characters and, straight from the soundtrack, the Stupidest Car Chase ever. I’ll refrain from more details to avoid spoilers, but Ana de Armas’ s Marta was fantastic and Rian Johnson deserves a round of applause for this one.
Acceptably Good for the Time They Take to Watch
Resevoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
I found it hard to care about anything going on for the first few chunks of the film–things go bad so quickly that you don’t really have time to register all of the characters first–the only characters getting real work before shit hits the fan being Joe and Mr. Pink. By the time Mr. Blonde was being a torturer I was more on board, but I wish they had timed the reveal of the mole better–it ends up having far less impact than it could have. The movie is fine, but I have no real interest in it.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (Ron Howard, 2018)
It’s fine? As an action film it’s fine but it didn’t have the Star Wars magic–maybe the lack of the force, maybe having nothing to do with the main narratives, I’m not sure, I just know it felt off. The Han in the movie never felt like the Han in the original trilogy–and sure, he isn’t that person yet, but still, it didn’t even feel that he would become that person. It also did what Rogue One avoided and left characters that now lacked resolution going into the movies we have, giving us gaps where questions now naturally form, without plans to answer them.
📽LEGO Movie 2 (Mike Mitchell, 2019)
Sequels are bound to be defined in terms of their predecessors, and LEGO Movie 2 is no exception. Telling a tale of a world in chaos due to the conflict between two siblings works at first, but knowing that the toys are being controlled in almost all circumstances kind of just made character choices feel flat? And while the chaos of the first pieces of the film when the world first goes to hell was a good like, sit-down whiplash, I just found myself bored by the end of the film, hoping it would just finish up.
Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1979)
So far my only exposure ot the famous thief was a middling one. It’s a fun film but looking back on the year it doesn’t really stand up to a lot of the other things I’ve seen before and since.
Hellboy (Guillermo Del Toro, 2004)
I know I watched the whole fllm, but I can’t seem to recall anything except for the pieces that I had already seen years ago.
Fast and the Furious (Rob Cohen, 2001)
If it wasn’t like, 90% shaky cam I would have enjoyed it better. You can see the heart that will be the center of the franchise for a while, and everything feels impactful due to just being new.
2 Fast 2 Furious (John Singleton, 2003)
Takes the first film and starts to up the ante. Better/more stable shots which is nice, though we’re starting to see the actual character drama taking a back seat to wild car moves–that scramble scene is real nice though.
Fast and Furious (Justin Lin, 2009)
The last one before they start being just blockbuster thrillers, I don’t really remember a ton about it to be honest. Cars go vroom vroom vroom. Gal Gadot is a nice addition though.
Fast Five (Justin Lin, 2011)
Dwayne Johnson is almost always a welcome addition to a cast, and here is where the cars and the gunfights both get crazier, and the latter more prominent. At this point all of the films are basically the same film with different objectives and a sliding cast of characters.
Furious 6 (Justin Lin, 2013)
Really leaning into the more action and less racing side of things, Furious 6 has shootouts galore, The Rock being more of an ally, and a scenery chewing villain in Owen Shaw.
Fast and the Furious 7 (James Wan, 2015)
I think at this point the problem is that I would need to write these with a plot synopsis on hand. They all have distinct elements I can remember (the plane fight at the end of 5?, the street shootout in 6? All the nonsense with Letty and Owen Shaw etc etc, but they blend together so much as one narrative at this point, making it had to recall sort of the overall timeline across films.
The Big Lebowski (Joel Cohen & Ethan Cohen, 1998)
People have been telling me to watch this for years and sure, it had a few funny moments? But it felt like a stoner comedy before those were cool, and John Goodman’s crazed right-wing nut just does not hit the same in today’s climate of violence.
Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1998)
Another film that I took a long time to actually watch; Beetlejuice has some funny moments sure, but overall just didn’t really captivate me. The visual effects were fun and dated though.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (Peyton Reed, 2018)
All I wanted from the original Ant-Man was Wasp to actually get to do things, and this time she does, and like, it was adorable having Paul Rudd be all excited about his house arrest ending and all the shenanigans he got up to, but I almost would rather have seen Wasp do even more and that house arrest stuff be a short film attached to a different work, or even on its own. More commercially viable short films please!
Doom (Andrzej Bartkowiak, 2005)
Really only interesting for how much it tries to follow the plot of the games — scientists messing with Mars and/or Hell— and the first person shooter segment, which still is pretty cool if you don’t see it coming.
Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird, 2018)
There’s a moment in the film where the kids are on their way to save their parents, infiltrating a boat filled with foes, and have to pause to change Jack Jack’s diaper. It isn’t like, an argument and a plot beat, just an almost throwaway moment. That was the sort of thing Incredibles is good for. I liked Elasti-Girl’s action scenes, I thought the villain was perhaps a little, anti-tech but still fun, even if that sort of tech is a little alarmist. I liked all the new supers too, especially since one appears to be trans WHICH THE FILM COULD HAVE JUST COMMITTED TO. Not as timelessly awesome as the first unfortunately.
R2-D2: Beneath the Dome (Don Bies & Spencer Susser, 2001)
A fake biopic, very MTV behind the music style, drugs and girls and depression etc, but as if R2-D2 was just some actor who happened to be a droid. It was kind of funny, and remarkable that they got so many of the actors and crew to do interviews but perhaps a bit long, and all the jokes were the same joke.
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
Definitely has the aesthetics down pat but honestly found it to be poorly acted? I just didn’t find the emotions very believable — maybe that was the point? Or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mindset? Hard to know for sure why, but it wasn’t for me.
Justice League Dark (Jay Oliva, 2017)
Basically a long episode of Justice League Unlimited but focusing on mostly more magical folks. It’s fine. Zatanna is honestly underutilized and Batman doesn’t really need to be there–though props for it being well, DARK in terms of the opening subject matter I guess.
Blade 2 (Guillermo Del Toro, 2002)
More great action, though starting to lean a little too over the top. I wouldn’t have gone with super-vampires so early in the franchise but hey, it worked mostly. Hated that Whistler’s death was cheapened and was very mixed about the vamp squad Blade leads for a bit, but still satisfying.
Blade Trinity (David S. Goyer, 2004)
Bringing in Ryan Reynolds et al was an odd move, and there is documented evidence of Mr. Snipes hating this film and also accusing the director of being racist–I wasn’t able to really track down a truth in that regard. The movie definitely slanted funnier, and I loved the archer chick and just ensemble casts in general, but it was definitely weaker than the first film.
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost (Atsushi Takeuchi, 2012)
Having an animated film focusing on James Vega wasn’t necessarily what I expected to find on Hulu, but it was a pretty watchable film. A decent science fantasy flick, though not really filling the Andromeda 2 sized hole in my heart.
Animatrix (Peter Chung & Andrew R. Jones & Yoshiaki Kawajiri & Takeshi Koike & Mahiro Maeda & Kôji Morimoto & Shin’ichirô Watanabe, 2003)
As a series of short films, anyone’s reaction is going to vary from piece to piece of the Animatrix. I couldn’t stand the final two-parter and the visuals that they used for merging AI and Human minds, which made me feel sick to my stomach. The opening film I found really engaging though, and I liked the one with the kids who find a place where the Matrix is error-ing, letting them float and other unusual things (Beyond). The two-parter explaining how we got to the state things are in the Matrix was cool to see laid out, and I loved the styles of World Record, about an athlete who manages to basically run so fast that he starts to wake up in reality, and of A Detective Story, which shows a noir lens of the Matrix that we don’t otherwise see.
What I didn’t like, at all, was Matriculated, the final and longest piece with the visuals mentioned above. That one was also directed by Peter Chung, who created Aeon Flux, the movie adaptation I also saw this year and also really didn’t like.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (Sam Liu, 2017)
A serviceable film. The Teen Titans show does the plot better, but had far more time. Young Justice does it better, but has it as a subplot for a larger, more important arc. It seems to just exist because they were trying to redo some old stories with a slightly updated team (Blue Beetle is great, but my least favorite incarnation of the character that I’ve seen. Why would you ruin his connection to his family? That’s part of what makes him special!)
Odd Thomas (Stephen Sommers, 2013)
I read the book for this a few years back and liked it well enough, but seeing it on screen (while the actors(Anton Yelchin wooo) put on good performances and the story itself was a “page-turner” so to speak) was dragged down somewhat by Odd’s love interest dipping a bit too deep into eccentric weirdo with a body to knock a person down. The script’s treatment of her in the ending, while it is thematic, ends up feeling dirtier for that–objectifying her even after her death. The book pulls the same trick, so sure, it isn’t a question of an adaptation change, but I would criticize the same thing in the book if I had read it nowadays.
Constantine (Francis Lawrence, 2005)
This movie is kind of surreal. It balances Constantine having power and being powerless in the face of the real foes on a razor’s edge, and as much as I love the version currently running around in the CW, Keanu Reeves’s take on the character, a reserved edge lord basically, fit so well with the tone of the film that it felt like it was pulled right out of the comic.
Mind you I’ve never read the comic, but I’d watch this movie again.
Bad Times at the El Royale (Drew Goddard, 2018)
I didn’t really know what to expect with this film — something like a murder mystery maybe, or maybe I just read the description and was reminded of Hateful Eight, but what I got was a lot of people lying to each other, layers of secrets, a kind of useless FBI agent and Chris Hemsworth getting to be a real sack of shit which I was hear for.
Same director as Cabin in the Woods, which makes a lot of sense when considering the pacing and narrative twists.
Missing Link (Chris Butler, 2019)
Laika films always have impeccable production quality, but I just kept bouncing narratively off of scenes and characters in this one, keeping it in this half of the list.
Remove From Your Watchlist
Never Say Never Again (Irvin Kershner, 1983)
I don’t see a lot of Bond flicks. I find him kind of predictable and hard to approach in general, but I had a copy of this so I tried to watch it.
I was so bored I didn’t finish it. Mind you, watched this same day as Brothers Bloom but still. Trés bored.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Simon Kinberg, 2019)
I don’t really understand how you take one of the most well known X-Men plots–one that already has to do with all sorts of interesting and barely dealt with factions in Marvel–and make it have the ultimate enemies be weird plant aliens. It just. Gods I didn’t enjoy it.
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (Guillermo Del Toro, 2008)
Didn’t finish. For some reason couldn’t stomach it.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Luc Besson, 2017)
Didn’t bother to finish. It was flashy and I did like the concept of the virtual reality market where a decent chunk of the film takes place, but I didn’t buy the dynamic of the leads, found the plot to be too difficult to parse and overall the film just to not be very…well… good.
Agatha and the Truth of Murder (Terry Loane, 2018)
Bounced off; couldn’t see myself finishing it.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (Gore Verbinski, 2007)
I like, sort of remember the events of the film? Really the only good Pirates of the Caribbean is the first one and the only other interesting one is the fourth, just because it deals with such a different tone. Johnny Depp is a terrible human being from what has been reported, disqualifying this film from having a good rating.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg, 2017)
Gotta love a good legacy film. Was a nice way to sort of end the whole franchise….hopefully. Johnny Depp is a terrible human being from what has been reported, disqualifying this film from having a good rating.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (David Yates, 2018)
Dull. Confusing. Too many characters with next to no introduction; too many plots setting up future films that they decided had to exist. The action pieces are almost incomprehensible — any understanding of scenes in the original books the reader has from knowing what magic CAN DO in a situation has long since been left behind in favor of Hollywood and CGI flair. Even my favorite character from the prior film is relegated to a more obnoxious role(the “Nomaj” whose name I can’t even bother to lookup right now), and all of this is ignoring the issues with Johnny Depp as a human being being cast in the film.
Dumbledore was suitably hot though? I guess?
Shrek Forever After (Mike Mitchell, 2010)
Shrek 1 and arguably 2 are fantastic films. Three was..not but at least was still trying to do some new things. Forever After is a boring, tired, retread of things that were funny the first time maybe. Removing the children that should have guided the whole arc for Shrek and making it him having to re-woo Fiona was just…uninspired drivel. 1 star.
Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981)
I just couldn’t really get into the film. I likely was just in the wrong frame of mind — people I trust are quite fond of it after all — but I found it unfunny and had difficulty keeping track of who was who and why I was supposed to care. Also apparently Gilliam is a TERF now so not really inclined to give it a second try.
Transformers: The Last Knight (Michael Bay, 2017)
I started to watch this only to realize I had definitely at least watched part of it before. In a theater for the spectacle sure, it was probably great, but otherwise just bounced off.
Robin Hood (Otto Bathurst, 2018)
Was this the worst incarnation of Robin Hood I’ve ever seen? Yes. Was it at least interesting having him be some imposter? Sure. Did they ruin that by making him important anyways? You bet your bottom dollar they did. Skip it.
Aeon Flux (Karyn Kusama, 2005)
Maybe if I was more familiar with the source material I would have understood the movie more, but it felt convoluted for the sake of convolution. The setting wasn’t really anything to write home about and the acting wasn’t doing me any favors. Just a hard pass from me.
And that’sa that’sa that’sa that’s all folx!
Roughly in the order that I read them: My favorite books of 2019:
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, Hank Green, Dutton, 2018
I started the New Year (well, when I woke up after a party) by reading the first five chapters of Hank Green’s debut on my roof, before having to shelve it for a while to finish my year end lists. When I picked it back up I basically read the rest of it in a day. It’s good, real good, in unexpected ways. The story of a young woman who ends up famous by making first contact with statues that appeared overnight around the world, it’s less a story just about aliens, and more about branding, the effects of fame, and the weaknesses of human character that break relationships. It also features a main character that is queer–and while I do have reservations considering the author is a straight white man–it felt reasonably authentic. It’s just a real good book y’all.
Feet of Clay, Terry Pratchet, Harper Prism, 1996
I should have started reading more Pratchett a long time ago–he’s one of those authors that are genuinely funny; not just utilizing cheap gags but with a sense of situational humor normally only seen on the stage. Feet of Clay is one of only two Ringworld novels I’ve read but that’s something I intend to fix — the setting is vibrant and the prose is hopping and I can’t wait to get back.
Uncomfortable Labels, Laura Kate Dale, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019
I’ve been following Dale’s work for a few years now, as a games critic, but mostly haven’t interacted with who she is as a person. Her memoir is both clinical and personal, laying her triumphs alongside her faults and inviting judgement for both. She’s had to face a lot, but I hope that writing and releasing this book has been helpful for her.
All The Crooked Saints, Maggie Stiefvater, Scholastic Press, 2017
Stiefvater writes closer to how I think than I ever would have expected when picking up the book–a book I definitely snagged thinking it was something else entirely. The story of a family in the middle of nowhere America with a mission and the power to grant “miracles” is one that kept me engrossed as every now character and problem was introduced and has cemented its place on my bookshelf.
I want to also stop and to talk about examples of the prose. From the back of the book:
Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle. Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.Stiefvater, 2017
That construction is used to introduce characters, and while I certainly wouldn’t want every book to use the technique, it gave you a great sort of baseline for every character in a large cast–and that want/fear dichotomy is important to understand to understand how the miracles work. Very well done.
Blue Bedroom, Rosamund Pilcher, St. Martin’s Press, 1985
I spent a lot of time reading fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative works that use the real world as at best a springboard to another land; another set of rules. Blue Bedroom does not do that, being a collection of short stories as heartfelt as they are domestic; a cup of tea and a scone at the end of a day of dreaming. Unexpected, pleasant, and pleasantly unexpected.
Binti Trilogy, Nnedi Okorafor, Tor, 2015-2017
The Binti novellas are one of those singular works of science fiction that broadens what you expect from the genre and becomes a touchstone that other books are compared against. For instance, Mass Effect did jellyfish aliens first — but Binti did it far better, giving the creatures such a wealth of personality and belief that I’m unsure I’ll ever not think of the book when I see such a being. And that’s just one aspect: the mathemagic, Binti herself’s culture–a number of things from this series of novellas jumped out at me and hopefully shall color my perceptions moving forward.
The Astroboy Essays, Frederik L. Schodt, Stone Bridge Press, 2007
I have never seen an Astroboy cartoon, or read an Astroboy comic, or played an Astroboy game, but I know who he is all the same. He’s a staple of Japanese animation in a way few figures can be, and this book detailing where he came from and the life and other works of Tezuka was an engrossing read and one that left me with so many other works to pursue. [See; Princess Knight, which I’ll talk about in the comics roundup.]
Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland, MacMurray and Beck, 1999
A novel of vignettes, Hyacinths tells the story of a painting, possibly a Vermeer, as it was passed through time, eventually ending (at the start of the book) in the study of a private school teacher. Each piece functions as a stand alone tale–the painting an impartial background character as you move from the 1960s through World War II and into slices of time in the Netherlands that I’ve never thought of, let alone read about.
Broken Irish, Edward J. Delaney, Turtle Point Press, 2011
Broken Irish hurt to read. Not due to being poorly done, but from the sheer darkness in the pages. An inspired-by-reality story of the poorer parts of Boston, it tells several interlocking tales; tales of a drunk, a victim, a mother, a priest, and more. No one ends happy, few really get what they want, and I have no idea what to do with this book, which feels stuck to me like a blister I can’t bring myself to pop.
Hear the Wind Sing, Haruki Marakami, Penguin Random House, 2015 (Translation)
Reading a Murakami piece is like getting off of the subway and the sun is in the wrong place in the sky, and your brain starts reciting a Robert Frost poem but you’ve forgotten his name and the last line and so you’re looping and everything is tilted slightly to the left. His book 1Q84 is specifically about sort of crossing a threshold into a world that isn’t quite right, but Hear the Wind Sing has the same timbre, the same taste of grey ink as your pen runs dry. Everything is normal, little is happening, but there must be some meaning, some reason that the main character is just some jerk crossing streams with a woman who misses the dream part of the manic pixie dream girl in favor of having no resolved tension and a propensity to quote an author neither of them should care about. In short, it is a novella that made me feel displaced but not alienated, and I enjoyed it.
Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, Kathleen Collins, Harper Collins, 2016
A collection of short stories, focusing on couples with one or more Black partners–another painful book. There’s a lot of evil that has been done in America; a lot of pain caused by people unwilling or incapable of looking past skin color. It isn’t simple, it isn’t solvable simply from force of heart, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Few works I’ve read drill that lesson home as hard or as painfully.
The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead, Doubleday, 2019
I read The Nickel Boys in two days on my commute, lapping up the pain it contained, pain I still could see reflected in the people around me. What is detailed within is a horrific fictional account based on real crimes committed by real people in the good ol’ US of A. I’m white and between my current neighborhood and uncomfortably overwhelmingly white friend group, I don’t come face to face with the level of racial hate in our recent past, or our present. Here’s a 2020 goal for y’all; do better at that. All of us need to.
Books I read that didn’t make the cut but I still have something to say about and you’re still reading this so I guess I didn’t waste my time writing it.
Artemis Fowl Files, Eoin Colfer, Miramax, 2004
A collection of some info docs (including a language key for gnomish, which takes the fun out of that) and a couple of ok short stories. Was never going to be the thing that got me to care about Artemis Fowl again. It was just sort of trying to fill in narrative gaps that didn’t need to be filled.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain, Public Domain, 1876
I’m quite conflicted about Tom Sawyer. It paints a picture of people I barely recognize as being American compared to today’s age, with one of the few constants being the racism. It was a fun adventure in its own right, and I do love Twain’s tendency to end chapters with things like “Let’s draw the curtain on that scene” and not dwelling on things with known outcomes, but I kept bouncing off of the sensibilities of the characters. I might re-evaluate after I read Huckleberry Finn.
Ticknor, Sheila Heti, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005
This is a very, very strange book. A fictionalish biopic about the biographer of a historian, himself an academic, that echoes and wraps around the actual biography in question. I feel like I need to read the original piece to really understand what we’re dealing with. The voice of the main character also takes some getting used to–I had to read the first dozen pages aloud and add inflection just to keep his thoughts in order–but by the end it had painted quite a dashing picture of a miserable, miserable man, kept warm not by his own merits but only by the light of a friend he mooched off of.
NP, Banana Yoshimoto, Grove Press, 1994(Translation)
NP is trying to be a Murakami book(or rather, is coming from the same sort of voicing), and succeeding where he fails in not being quite so goddamn creepy as the sex in his books tends to be. It’s almost impregnable in its oddity–months later I can remember flashes of scenes and themes and almost nothing concrete–but there was something to Yoshimoto’s work that I simply can’t seem to shake. I’ve picked up another of her books to see if it was a good Author match but not quite the right book for me.
Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth, Travis Langley and Mara Wood, Sterling, 2017
Pop psychology – fine I guess but extremely repetitive. An interesting counterpoint to Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman, which dramatizes some of the events talked about in the collection of essays.
More Than A Flag, Monica F. Helms, MB Books, 2019
Biographies are hard to read, and autobiographies even more so, being as much a judgement of the words on the page as they are the person or persons being discussed within. I found no real issues with the prose in More Than a Flag, which details the life and activism of the creator of the Trans Pride Flag, but I did find issues with the author herself, a woman I realized as I was reading that I likely would not like in person, but whom has contributed something to my life central enough that it will likely be inscribed on my skin. I’m trying not to think about it too much. It’s very likely that what it comes down to is that the environment in which I am transitioning is radically different from when she did and that certainly impacts some of her choices, but her flaws shine through perhaps more than her accomplishments in her book.
Pinball 1973, Haruki Murakami, Penguin Random House, 2015 (Translation)
Where Hear the Wind Sing left me displaced, Pinball 1973 left me simply discomforted. From the plodding pace to the lackluster protagonist; from the fetish twin supporting characters who seem to only exist because someone liked the idea of sleeping with sisters to the callbacks the Hear the Wind Sing that barely advance the character arcs from that novel, Pinball 1973 just felt a mess; a real shame considering how much I liked the prior book.
Through a Glass Darkly, Kathleen Burkhalter, Firefly Press, 2013
There isn’t anything remarkable about Through a Glass Darkly; a collection of short, purportedly true tales of oddities in one woman’s life; but Kathleen is not just any one woman. She was a force of nature, a force for good, a powerhouse of a woman who’s passing her family feels every day, and my life is richer for knowing that she was in it, and my shelf blessed to have her words upon it, even if I don’t feel most others would resonate with them in the same way.
I don’t bake nearly as often as I aught, considering how much I missed having an oven for the year I didn’t have one, but recently for a work event I had volunteered to bake some cookies, so I hunted for a recipe, found one by Cooking Classy, preheated the oven and got to work.
Ok, I lie, I found the recipe a good week before I actually made the “test batch”…which was the first batch of the night when I was making them for the event. I’ve been busy and just didn’t find the time to make a bunch of sweets just for me and the cat to nibble at.
Of course, I also decided that I wasn’t satisfied with just making “peanut butter” cookies, but instead wanted to use up some Nutella I had bought and never opened.
Oh, and I didn’t actually go shopping with the list of ingredients, glancing at it and assuming that so long as I grabbed butter and peanut butter everything else was already in my cabinet.
The first problem was that that was wrong — I had maybe a tablespoon of brown sugar — nowhere near enough for the doubled recipe I was making. Sadly, I didn’t even have molasses, which I might have been able to sub in taste wise.
So, first substitution: 1/2 cup of brown sugar became a healthy squirt of honey.
Second substitution: one batch had the 3/4 cup of peanut butter replaced with 3/4 cup of Nutella.
For those of you who have done such things before, you have surely found my error: Nutella and peanut butter have no where close to the same consistency. Where the peanut butter batter was sandy, also dry to the touch, the Nutella batter was a gloppy mess.
So of course, being me, stubborn and filled with visions of unearned successes, proceeded to plop down a few spoonfuls of each on a try, split the piles in half and rejoin them so that each dough parcel was half peanut butter and half Nutella, pressed down with a fork (with some effort as the Nutella kept sticking, and baked.
They came out uneven, the Nutella halves having flattened out far more than the peanut butter halves, and even under-baked in places. Undeterred, I did it again, this time baking them for slightly longer, but following the same construction.
They’re fine? Fine. But I knew, I knew in my heart of hearts that I could do BETTER. At this point I was tired, it was after 10pm due to a Dungeons & Dragons game going way later than it was supposed to, and I maybe should have asked for advice.
Instead I plopped down the spoonfuls of peanut butter batter, slapped some Nutella batter on top of those and smooshed ’em down with a knife to try to make a layered cookie, than baked.
It worked! Mostly! They were quite uneven, and prone to falling into disarray in the assembly, so I took a gulp of water, told my cat I loved her, and made one final batch.
As you might be able to see from the pictures, I put all of the peanut batter down, folded the silicon mat over it and pushed down to flatten and spread it out, than added the Nutella batter and repeated the process. Once baked and cooled, I cut it in rough squares and packed it up to bring to the office.
Lesson 1: Maybe try a test batch of an untested recipe BEFORE the night before the event.
Lesson 2: Different batters bake at different speeds; when doing this sort of layered nonsense bake the bottom layer for a minute or so first (maybe? hopefully?) and then put the more liquid batter on top for the remainder of the time.
Lesson 3: Apparently the base recipe is pretty good cause on a day where we have literally a dozen varieties of cookies to eat my coworkers ate like, three dozen of these things.
But yeah, that was my Tuesday night. I wrote it up as a post because after the second time I started to tell the story to an uninterested party I realized that I needed to get it out of my system, and why not do so here?
Some of you may know that one of my hobbies is doing work with perler beads. I even have an Etsy store that occasionally people buy things from; it’s wiLd. But one thing that I’ve struggled with since starting to work in the medium a few years ago was converting the colors in existing pixel art images (say, sprites from games) into the colours available in the beads. There are a variety of homespun programs for this, of varying usages, and for a while I’ve been using one that I can’t find the initial source of, and is simply saved as “perler.jar.”
However, that program doesn’t really let you selectively tweak colors or regions to better fit a particular feel you may be going for, and it doesn’t have all of the colors now available. The solution, in my opinion, was to use a program like Aesprite with a custom palette that I kept up to date with any new released colours.
I decided to start by downloading all of the images of the existing colors from the official Perler website, by going to each color in the 1000 bead range (mostly the matte, non-stripe ones) and downloading the webp files that they were using to advertise the colors. I immediately hit an issue–there are only a few actual pictures that they’ve doctored to make look at the different colors. Now not every image is a duplicate (the newer the color, the more likely it appears to have a unique image, but some of them are just very very obvious.
I did my best to then take the colors from those images and make a palette–first a png and then an Aseprite compatible file and probably due to my inexperience with such things, it was really..off and gave me a set of colors that were inaccurate and unworkable.
So, like any denizen of the internet, I looked online for an up-to-date palette.
And no one seemed to have one. The subreddit didn’t seem to have one. The most prominant YouTuber I know of in the scene (Pixel Art Shop)’s palette was multiple sets of new colours out of date. Even the most up to date chart I found was missing the most recent set of eleven colours.
I took what I had found and updated the file I had made, and set myself to the task of the remaining eleven colors. I tried to use a phone app for determining the color in a photo or being looked at by the phone’s camera, but I quickly found out that my phone processes at least some purples as rich blues, and other colors were also not quite right.
Out of quick options I did my best to match the remaining colors using https://encycolorpedia.com/ , and while none of them are perfect, I finally have a working palette and can actually use it for the intended purpose.
All that done (which all in all happened across several days) I decided to write this post and attach the files I have; maybe they can help someone else along the way.
The files I have currently can be download from here.
I have played…approximately 227 hours of Fire Emblem: Three Houses since it was released in July. I have beaten every route once, engaged in every gay romance option the main character can pursue, and now that I am free of the fixation, wanted to do something on the blog to celebrate the game.
So, I forked the generic favorites picker used for https://www.dragonflycave.com/favorite.html and made https://m-racine.github.io/fire-emblem-three-houses-picker, a favorites picker for all the characters in the game, with filters to only do the students, only playable characters, etc etc.
As a bonus I have here my list of all of the characters, ordered using that app, and a blurb about each of them–think a top 10 list just way, way, way, (did I say way?) too long.
Please note: My list is divided into two groups: the playable students and all other characters. Since this contains all of the characters in the game there is risk of spoilers–I have tried to keep them to a minimum but several characters very existence could be seen as such, particularly for the Verdant Wind and Crimson Flower routes. Also, characters that have a disguise are treated as two characters in regards to entries on the list because that was fun? I guess?
Numbering reflects the COMPLETE ORDERING of all characters.
Also please note, dear lord I do not recommend trying to write sixty-something blurbs about characters no matter how much you love many of them. My words are tired. This is all terribly written, just use the fun tool.
To see my list in my picker app, go here.
It’s National Coming Out Day and I’m seeing people sharing their identities in chats Heart reacts only, finding comfort in each other’s acceptance.
It’s National Coming Out Day and the Supreme Court is debating whether I can be fired for who I am.
It’s National Coming Out Day and I’m learning more about my friends and neighbors, who they are; why they are. It’s affirming to know that I am not alone.
It’s National Coming Out Day and I’m reading a blog where a mutual was beaten for being trans. For being like Me.
It’s National Coming Out Day and I all I can remember is what I’ve lost getting to his point. The dear, dear friend who, upon being the first person I ever came out to, cut ties. The faith that had no place for someone outside of their goals. The privilege of walking down the street without worrying if someone will decide that my very presence is an affront to their senses.
It’s National Coming Out Day and all I want to do is not be seen.
– Morgan L’Fey
So! This is the launch of a new irregular column in which I talk about the projects I like to work on that aren’t covered by non-disclosure agreements (sorry anyone interested in my day-job). It will be divided into sub columns for lack of a better phrasing by project, and numbered, just to enable someone overcome with curiosity mixed with boredom to read about a project from its relative inception.
So what is Codename: Polycule?
Well, about a month and a half ago I was having a conversation with a couple of friends over dinner that drifted, as conversations do, to whether between the three of us we could assemble a cadre of evil exes á la the Scott Pilgrim franchise. Now, normally, this is the sort of thing that gives you some catharsis, maybe leads to a few jokes about y’all dating and then be over with.
But it stuck to me. I started just thinking about how that dynamic would work–the three of us as a power trio. And so this project was born: A turn based RPG made in RPG Maker (due to ease of use) about a polycule having to team up against their evil exes.
But wait, what is a Polycule?
A Polycule is a term for a multi-person relationship. There are some example polyamorous structures to the left, but essentially it’s a way of portraying the way multiple people are connected in the same visual style one draws out the atoms that make up a molecule, or the vertices and lines that make up a polygon.
Ok, back to the GAME
So, I drafted up some fictionalized versions of some of our exes, earmarked some ideas to fill in the gaps, mapped out what I want the trio’s roles in combat to be, planned out the rough setting, etc etc etc. I tend to use JIRA for ticketing when working on projects–I need to have more structure than just some notes–and so I’ve been building out tickets; I’m up to almost 100 so far, mostly just figuring out what I need for the first ex’s segment.
I also have set up a twine story that’s basically just for me to model narrative flow and write scenes. RPG Maker is great, but is a little clunky for on the fly edits. So lots of planning done.
And of course I’ve started to plan out locations and graphics within RPG Maker itself, and I have at least my initial graphics for the main trio. Names, appearances, everything is super subject to change, but hey, that’s how it goes.
I think that’s a good place to end this first update: Next up will likely be about the first Evil Ex and their arc/dungeon/minions but we’ll see! The winds of change are fickle and chilly. Wear a sweatshirt.