September

Books:

  • The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson ~ New favorite book of the year for me. Giant, copious airplane tears on the way home from visiting my sister. It is about sisters. It is about love. I can’t remember reading a book that captures better what first love feels like. It is just so beautiful. Death and grief and healing. I just got her next book and I am so excited to read it I might freak out. His eyes warm at that — it kills me. What are we going to do with all this love? Good question, Jandy, you beautiful genius. I loved this book.
  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman ~ Honestly kind of ridiculous but that doesn’t mean I’m not reading the next one, Just One Year.
  • Threatened by Eliot Schrefer ~ Read because it made the National Book Award longlist and I liked Endangered. This is really good. I feel like it needs to be a movie for sure. He is a really good writer.
  • Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle ~ I think everyone knows that he is an unbelievable writer and everything, and this book is obviously so imaginative and well-written, but I found it so upsetting on the whole that I kind of wish I hadn’t read it. But it really was quite beautiful. I don’t know that I will forget this book any time soon even though part of me wishes I could. That said, I definitely recommend it? I am confused by my feelings about this book. This is a wonderful review that I am going to read again just to help suss out my reaction to it.

Movies:

  • How I Live Now ~ I liked this book (Printz Award winner by Meg Rosoff) and decided to check out the movie. I thought it was scary and lovely and good. Atonement is just so upsetting overall that I never fully engaged in Saoirse Ronan, but she is SO good. It’s kind of Instagram-filter-ish but in a nice way, and it’s genuinely scary, and Edmond is 100% dreamy.
  • Your Sister’s Sister ~ Enjoyable. Mostly just because I think Emily Blunt can do no wrong.

TV:

  • Aside from Rectify, no show has moved me as much this year as Transparent. It is simply wonderful. And I love, love, love the music.
  • Happy Valley led me straight to Last Tango in Halifax – same star, same creator, wildly different show - which I watched in a marathon obsessive fashion. Sheep farmers, lesbians, old people in love in Yorkshire – the works. It’s perfect.

Music:

  • I listen to Consummation every day. It was featured in the Daniel Goes to the Museum episode of Rectify and it just does something to me. Same with Fratres by Arvo Pärt, also featured on this amazing show.
  • It’s time for everyone in the world to listen to everything by Lydia Loveless, every last thing. Unreal.
  • Also, I think I might be in actual legit love with Hozier. My brother saw him recently in a very tiny crowd and said it was amazing and told me about him but I already knew, of course, because of this.

Podcasts:

  • Latest faves – both Mike Birbigilia episodes of You Made It Weird. I also very much enjoyed the one with John Mulaney, who I find so adorable it makes me die a little inside. He’s also very good at Catchphrase.

Favorite things on Internet:

  • This tweet. I saw a local production of In the Heights and it brought me back to how much I love this show and how it meant to me to see it on Broadway closing weekend and how every time I go to New York I literally imagine seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda on the subway and holding up my iPhone on which I am invariably listening to In the Heights and telling him how much I love it. It is maybe kind of psycho to imagine this but I do it anyway.
  • Party of Five season 1 oral history … I think we can agree that the Thanksgiving episode remains the best.

Best Food Eaten:

Gonna have to go with breakfast with my sister.

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The best drink was this sidecar on a Sunday afternoon.

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Best Trip:

I flew North to meet my new baby niece and she’s the cutest. She just is so snuggly and delicious. And my nephews, as ever, crack me up like no one ever has.

Flowers, Plants, and Trees:

You know what New England has in September? Apple orchards and trees on fire.

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Best Fall Activity:

Returning to this place always makes us happy, even when our team is doing things on the field that are straight up insane.

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Pets Still Alive:

Both. Historically, the dog’s main goal in terms of the cat is to eat her alive. I’m working on seeing if he’s is too old at this point do that. So we’ve been having a little face time. He’s okay with it; she is so terrified that it scarcely seems worth it. Here was a moment of temporary peace.

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Bullets Being Bitten:

Honestly, who knows what is next? All I know is I waited a lot of years for a surprise lily to pop up in my yard, and at the end of this month, one finally did. I’m thinking it’s a sign.

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August

Books:

  • Calm, Cool, and Contentious: Essays by Merrill Markoe ~ A delight from start to finish.
  • Adoption for Dummies ~ This is a real book. On a topic about which until recently I was pretty dumb. But you have to start somewhere, and I’m learning.

Movies:

  • Boyhood ~ I don’t think I could ever love a Richard Linklater movie more than the Before Sunrise-Sunset-Midnightrilogy, but this was quite a feat and ultimately very moving to me, especially the scene with Patricia Arquette in the apartment at the end.
  • Ghostbusters ~ How fun was it to see this on the big screen for the first time in 30 years? Fun. Very fun!

TV:

  • Playing House is obviously my comedy of the year, and the drama of the year slot is now officially filled by Rectify. Holy crap, did this show make me cry. I’m still kind of working my way around this one in my head and heart. But I can’t recommend it enough. First season is on Netflix, and you can buy the second season’s episodes, which just ended their run on Sundance. Or maybe they’re on Sundance On Demand if you get that channel. I truly, really love it. I love the actor who plays Daniel the best, but they’re all so good. And it features Luke Kirby, who played the actor who played Romeo opposite Rachel McAdams’ Juliet in my beloved Slings and Arrows, and that makes me happy, too. Mostly this show is like a boot on the heart but with bursts of beauty that made me sigh and weep about a million times. I can’t believe I am done. I remain devastated.
  • Happy Valley is my latest and greatest marathon experience. Thanks a lot, Allison! I’d never heard of it until she wrote about it, and now I think I am probably obsessed and I’ve only watched two episodes. It’s really upsetting and REALLY good.

Music:

  • I’ve been listening to my Vince Chao’s band’s new album a lot. It’s excellent!

Podcasts:

Favorite things on Internet:

 ”Rectify” wants to know everything about its finely drawn characters. It wants to examine, rigorously yet gently, all the things that bring them both joy and despair. It’s deeply interested in what makes Holden and his family members tick, and each one of them is realistically messy and complicated. As the second season progressed and filled out each person’s psychological backstory, Holden and his friends, family and enemies grew into some of the most fascinating characters on television.

Gravity yanks us down, even a man as stunning in every way as Robin. We need a lot of help getting back up. And even with our battered banged up tool boxes and aching backs, we can help others get up, even when for them to do so seems impossible or at least beyond imagining. Or if it can’t be done, we can sit with them on the ground, in the abyss, in solidarity.

As many know, my performance as Olaf in Frozen is inspired by the great Robin Williams. When I first met with the film’s directors, I told them I wanted to create a character as free and as wonderfully surprising at every turn as the greatest Disney sidekick I had ever known: the Genie. Olaf will never remotely touch the tour de force that is Robin’s Genie. Because there is only one Robin Williams. But the joy and laughter that my little snowman has brought to children is because of the man who has left this world far too early. A man who taught me to be free, to be childlike, and a man who taught me to get out of my own way as a performer. His gift was to take all of our pain away and to allow us to escape. If only we could have returned the favor.

But I know how tired he must have been. I know how tired I’ve been with it. I wish this weren’t the only way he could find to rest. I hope he does rest; I hope all you other Robin Williamses out there know that someone will come. We’ll get to you somehow. Please stay.

  • Still loving Price Peterson’s SYTYCD recaps with Joe Reid’s editorial comments very much.

Best Food Eaten:

This ice cream cone beside Lake Harriett in Minneapolis. It tasted like summer and everything good about the United States of America.

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I wish I had taken a photo of the pre-game spread concocted by my friend PG before the first LSU game because it was a meaty spectacular featuring chicken grilled in a muffin tin. But I was too busy eating my face off. I am so lucky to have the friends that I do; I will never know what I did to deserve them.

Best Trip:

I drove to Monroe for Anna Beth’s back surgery and watched the sun rise through the car window and drove over one of my favorite old bridges. Even though this trip wasn’t for the merriest of reasons, it was nice to see my sweet friends.

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And I flew for a mini-First Descents reunion with my friends Katia and Bourbon to Minneapolis, where we visited cute shops, practiced Yin, sampled delicious bourbon, ate hundreds of fried cheese curds, wore pajamas, walked around beautiful lakes, pet a sweet dog, and celebrated outliving it together.

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Best walks:

My favorite walk was a sunny day through some gardens in Minneapolis. Just lovely summer goodness.

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Flowers, Plants, and Trees:

In a garden in Minneapolis I saw what I think is the most beautiful rose I’ve ever seen.

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Pets Still Alive:

Both! Though Marley is still barfing on the serious reg despite all kinds of thyroid medicine adjustments. Who even knows anymore?

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Best August events:

S. and her family have returned from Japan, and we’re all just very stoked about it. And my sister had the cutest and best baby ever born in the whole wide world.

Bullets Being Bitten:

My friend Allison sent me this tiny wooden box. We’ve talked a lot over the years about her adoption experience and how it’s something I was thinking of pursuing, and every hesitation or question I’ve ever presented her to her, starting years ago but especially recently, has been met with the following: “Yeah, but if you want to do this, you just have to bite the bullet.” How do regular humans afford adoption? “Well, there are loans and cash-out refis and HELOCS and such, this is what people do all the time, you just have to bite the bullet.” Home study? “It’s a pain, but it’s not that hard, it’s just a lot of paperwork, you just have to bite the bullet.” Child care? Pediatricians? “Just ask your friends for recommendations, it’ll all work out, just bite the bullet.” But will people think this is a good idea? “Of course they will, you lunatic. You just have to start biting the bullet and telling people what you’re doing.” And she’s right — everyone is psyched and being super supportive all over the place. It’s basically short-hand at this point: “BULLET.” And I think it’s good advice and now I look at this box all the time as I basically bite bullets left and right. One wild and precious life. Whatever your bullets are, bite them. The End! Namaste.

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July

Books:

  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart ~ I think I was one of the few people who was not in love with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I did like this book – I found it very cinematic, and it was a fine airplane read.
  • Winger by Andrew Smith ~ I liked We Were Liars, but I liked Winger more. It’s just such a lovely boarding school / rugby / first love / brotherhood kind of a book.

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  • Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer by Susan Gubar ~ I recognize the importance of Susan Gubar as a scholar and the importance of this work, but that doesn’t mean I could get through the whole thing. Maybe one day.
  • Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns by John Green ~ Re-reads. They hold up pretty well. I liked Paper Towns more this time around, mostly because I kept picturing Nat Wolff as Quentin, which made the whole thing that much more delightful. I don’t think I’m emotionally prepared for the Sarah Polley film adaptation of Looking for Alaska, but I trust what it will become in her hands.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr ~ Probably the best book I’ve read this year.

Movies:

  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes ~ Perfectly enjoyable. I really like these ape movies.

TV:

  • No TV of the year has matched Playing House for me, so I just keep watching it. It’s currently available on USA On Demand, at least on my cable box, and here.

Music:

  • In keeping with that theme, I’ve been listening to the opening titles song a lot this summer. Back Before We Were Brittle by Say Hi:

 

Favorite things on Internet:

  • Price Peterson’s recaps of So You Think You Can Dance. Anyone who loves Cat Deeley as much as I do is fine in my book.  He and Joe Reid, who contributes excellent parenthetical editorial comments, just get it:

Seriously, is there a more joyful show on television than this thing? The question is rhetorical, because no there is not. For two hours every week SYTYCD presents a total reprieve from the seeming nonstop darkness and cynicism of nearly every other hit show, reality or otherwise. It’s earnest, it’s unhip, it’s undeniably celebratory.

  • An intensely wonderful essay about The Fault In Our Stars. I keep wanting to go back and read this again, but I don’t know if I can because it’s so beautiful it hurts to read it, much as Jordan Catalano was so beautiful it hurt Angela to look at him. But seriously. I’ve read a lot of things about John Green, and about this book. I’ve read mostly everything there is to read. I mean that in all seriousness. But this one is something special.

Best Food Eaten:

A very saucy First Descents friend came down to New Orleans, and we had a rather crazyballs delicious brunch, including bacon stickybuns at Dante’s, which is always perfect. And there’s a new pork place nearby, and I don’t know what has come over me, but I’ve wanted to eat all of it.

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And this was God’s perfect cupcake at my beloved neighborhood coffee shop.

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Best Trip

I flew to Hilton Head to visit my friend who moved there, and I’m here to tell you that Hilton Head in the summer is a beautiful thing. We biked on the beach, ate at Chow Daddy’s, kayaked in a creek, jumped in the warm waves, went to a low country boil, and I just kept thinking about how much Pat Conroy’s books meant to me when I was a teenager, never mind how cray they seem now, and about the Wingo kids rescuing the porpoise.

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Best walks:

I went on a long walk one day with the boy next door and his dogs, and we stared up at the trees and sang songs and I will always be so grateful for my neighbors. The best baby of the month was his baby brother, who was born and is so yummy and delicious.

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Best visitors:

My sister and her family and our brother all came to town at the same time in July, and there was lots of swimming and eating, swimming and eating, and guitar strumming and fun.

Best reading:

I went to church one Sunday in July because my dad the deacon was giving the homily, and this was the second reading, and it struck such a chord in me that I whipped out my phone and took a photo of it right in the middle of mass.

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Flowers, Plants, and Trees:

Crape myrtle season blazes on, and I trespassed on a walk one day into someone’s yard to take a photo of his lily, which I guess is a spider lily but I’m not 100% sure. I’m kind of obsessed with it, though.

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Poem of the month:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like a flame.

and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

–Rilke, Book of Hours

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