Hello Dame Friends!
AK and Blair here, a pair described by Dame M. as two of Pennsylvania's finest humans, in every sense of the word fine. In high school we yelled about the Sims together and now we yell about feminism and books.
AK, checking in from Japan!
Hello! I've been eating a lot of food. It's been extremely good. I recommend visiting Japan in the fall. Everyone's all about the cherry blossoms in the spring but we all know FALL is the best season and Japan is no exception.
My brother looking out over Fuji. I included him because otherwise it just looks like I stole a photo from the internet but I assure you, I'm running around Japan.
The Arashiyama bamboo forest. This trip has made me quite sure that nature is the most difficult thing to photograph.
Kakigōri aka shaved ice. It's a summer food but it was 61ºF and raining when we ordered and the woman looked VERY surprised and said "it's a little cold, no?" It's never too cold, I assure you.
The most good and pure thing is this gif of my brother and a deer bowing to each other. I'm biased and also it's made me smile a lot during a difficult week:
The good news about being in Japan for the MLB playoffs is that Japan is at least as baseball obsessed as me so my obaachan and I have been watching baseball while eating breakfast. Her rooting interests are "any Japanese baseball player and the Yankees". Mine are complicated and I will not go into them here but in light of the last week of men I've been thinking about this piece a lot. How do I love a sport that doesn't love me back? How do I love movies or books or an entire gender that doesn't love me back? I do not have the answer. Anyway, here's Chase Utley with a dog (he's a Dodger now but a Phillie forever):
It's a running joke among my friends that I've never understood a non-30 Rock pop culture reference but! Now the joke's on everyone ELSE because I am up to date on TWO tv shows. The first is American Vandal, which I had never heard of until Mallory Ortberg started shouting on Twitter "BUT WHO DID THE DICKS?". If that's enough to intrigue you as it was for me, run to Netflix immediately and @ me later. If not, let certified TV genius Pilot Viruet convince you over at Vice. The other show is The Good Place. If you like Parks and Rec or fun I recommend it. (Dame M., noted TV Expert, ardently co-signs these recommendations).
Books I'm reading: In 2017 I've been prioritizing reading women of color authors and PHEW BOY let me tell you it's been a delight. I could talk forever about books but I'll limit it to three authors and if you want more recs, always @ me.
YA Magical Realism Queen, Anna-Marie McLemore has a new book this month and I am THRILLED. The cover is stunning and so is the writing. Bisexual girls of color grappling with family history, I recommend it (along with her other books but I don't want to get carried away over here).
Alyssa Cole's An Extraordinary Union is a Civil War romance between a formerly enslaved woman and a Scottish undercover agent. I've bought it several times because I keep giving it away in my excitement and the sequel is out next month.
N.K. Jemisin's fantasy trilogies! The Inheritance Trilogy is about gods and their messiness while The Broken Earth Trilogy veers a little more sci-fi than straight fantasy in my opinion and I am EXTREMELY all about that.
Okay I lied. I HAVE to throw Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza on here. My pitch is "if you liked Firefly but also wish it weren't bad".
Okay honestly I’ve been avoiding most news as best I can so here’s some Japanese nature and monkeys I’ve seen:
this is a bridge made of a ladder. I did not love it.
Okay okay last thing: I love tarot cards and want to recommend this extremely not intimidating but also lovely deck that has grounded and guided me multiple times.
In closing, here’s me on a mountain with my brother refusing to look at the camera:
BT, The Bee’s Knees:
Hey there! Here is a recent Instagram of me, so you know what I look like while holding a pair of oversized novelty scissors.
Like many people, you probably have a lot of questions about The Giant Scissors™. Here’s what I know: they are owned by the Chamber of Commerce (not the mayor himself), they are actually pretty sharp, they are actually pretty heavy, and if you so desire you can purchase your own pair PLUS A CEREMONIAL SCISSORS CARRYING CASE at ceremonialribboncuttingscissors.com. (They also sell novelty fire axes for cutting wedding cakes—hint hint, brides and grooms to be!!!) I do not know anything about Oversized Novelty Checks but rest assured that once I’ve learned what their deal is, I will share.
Recommendations! Were you the kind of kiddo who read the World Almanac for fun, or those giant Dorling-Kindersley photo books about dogs? Me too! I love books that I can pick up and put down on a whim, particularly non-fiction, because I feel no commitment/guilt to or about them whatsoever and never have to remember character’s names. It is in this spirit that I recommend to you Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, a whimsical but thoroughly-researched compendium of trivia, folk lore, strange etymology, the different types of crowns, all the screwed-up misprints of the Bible throughout the ages, and MANY MORE. It goes great as evening mealtime entertainment and it’s much less stressful that struggling to hit “play” on Netflix before taking a single bite of your food. Just leave it on your dining room or kitchen table to peruse whenevs. (It’s also a doorstopper of a volume, be prepared).
I would also like to HEARTILY SECOND EVERY WORD of the American Vandal hype!! I didn’t think it was possible to combine my two favorite genres, namely “murdery documentary shows” and “high school video projects,” but lo, someone has. (I award it bonus points for one of the co-creators coming from the small PA town where I live, which has a delightfully witty #teen population based on what I have seen so far of their musical productions/fundraiser skit shows/marching band performances. America!!) I think it does a swell job of crossing seamlessly from “one-note parody” to “layered satire” and I would LOVE to know if you think [redacted] was the actual culprit??? @ me, folks. (I also keep singing the show’s title to the tune of this song, so that I end up belting WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME / I’M NOT AMERICAN VANDAAAAAAL until my neighbors call the police.)
Pictured: me at my very first high school football game, enraptured
But seriously: why are high school video projects so great? Is there ANYTHING educational WHATSOEVER about recreating a scene from Jane Eyre in the woods behind your friend’s backyard? Does adding an abundance of iMovie titles add to the depth of your literary analysis? WHY IS SOMEONE ALWAYS WEARING A BAD WIG?? I have no answers to these questions but I do believe that the beauty of the HSVP is how it both totally gets and totally misses the point of its source material. For further viewing of this folk art form I refer you to the High School Video Projects tumblr I used to run but now have no time for.
Do you know what has a SURPRISINGLY ROBUST soundtrack of sea chanties? Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. I really recommend it! The vocals and instrumentation are done by some of the folks from my favorite Quebecois early-music ensemble and the songs are everything you could want in a sea chanty: longing, lusting, heaving, hauling, flecked with the salt spray of privateering and so on. Here is a particularly poignant video of “Leave Her, Johnny” (which I originally thought was about a lady but may actually be about a ship). (Why do we give ships genders?! Is it just lonely sailors getting fanciful in personifying things, like how they thought manatees were mermaids sometimes? Or is there some other rule of nautical nomenclature I’m not privy to as a civilian? If you have answers, again, please DO @ me.)
Okay, actually, one more musical recommendation, which is this setting of “Behold, a Wonder Here,” a John Dowland song, by the same group. John Dowland, as we ALL KNOW, was an Early Modern English composer whose songs tended to be kind of bummers, earning him the nickname semper Dowland, semper dolens (rough translation: “Dowland? More like DOWNERLAND!!!”) Anyway, this setting takes what can be a rather prissy song, borrows some Irish-esque musical trappings, and makes it much warmer and heartfelt-er. If you like sensitive tenor vocals and the sounds of shruti boxes, you too will be a fan!