Friday Five-Plus: My Top Things of 2016

What else can I say about 2016 that I haven’t already written yet? I wrote the “deep dive” stuff yesterday, so here instead I’ll mention the fun things, because an account of the year isn’t just insights and enlightenments — it’s all those little memories and experiences that give it texture and spark.

What was great in 2017: taking Budgie traveling to Mexico, and going into the ocean with him for the first time! My sister getting married! Writing a ton of short stories! Starting this blog and actually kept going with it! (Between my job and my child, that’s a huge accomplishment.) And we finally got our house organized — though we’ll likely end up moving in 2017! And we got a new car! (Okay, I wasn’t keen on this since it was a bit of an emergency, but it ended up being a real plus.)

I’ll also remember Budgie really starting to talk this year: he went from “mama” and “light” to saying things like “It’s day, mama!” and “Stop it, daddy!” He loves pointing up to the sky and night and whispering “Stars night-night.” I love his sense of joy and wonderment at the world, and hearing it expressed in his ever-growing vocabulary. I also love seeing his reaction to the world around him, to his growing relationships with his many cousins to the songs and shows he loves. (Bieber, Drake, “Word Party,” “Trotro,” “Monsters Inc.” and “WALL-E” are his favorites so far. He also loves “Sofia the First.”)

My own relationship to pop culture seems to be shifting, too. I was once a real music person, but I don’t keep up as much beyond what friends and my sweetheart tell me about. Same with movies — I just don’t have a 2-hour chunk of free time that isn’t co-opted by a higher priority anymore. (MUST WRITE!) But TV shows are rather perfect — an hour is really the perfect unit of time. And books: the ideal companion for those hours after the kid has gone to sleep and you finally have some peace and quiet for yourself. Here were some of my favorite companions during these rare, beautiful evenings this year…

Beyonce’s Lemonade & Solange’s A Seat at the Table. The Knowles sisters really slayed this year, to use a now-common Beyonceism. I don’t really need to say anything about why Lemonade was so popular and incredible — other than it’s a legit phenomenon for a pop album to have such cultural and political resonance, and also be stuffed full with some super-pleasurable pop songs. A Seat at the Table was much more of a concept and a bit less accessible — though still airy, beautiful avant-R&B, and while it takes awhile to get into, it proves just as memorable.

Arrival & The 13th. I didn’t see a lot of movies this year, but I was incredibly moved by Arrival in a way that lingered with me — I’m anxious to watch it again and untangle some of its nuances. And Amy Adams gives such a rich, resonant performance. And The 13th was one of those films that takes full advantage of the cinematic form to make deft, emotional and smart connections between different parts of history and society, in a way that proves visceral, trenchant and moving. Once you’re done watching it, you’ll never look at the U.S. Constitution in the same way again.

Homegoing. I read a lot this year, and I would say my favorite novels were the Elena Ferrante ones I read — but they didn’t come out this year. But Homegoing did, and it quite haunted me — it was one of those rare books where I wanted it to be so much longer than it was. It felt like required reading this year, too, in light of the dialogues around race and history that opened (or rather exploded) up around police brutality, prisons, and Trump. But it’s also just really great storytelling, complete with rich, sumptuous language and unforgettable characters that I wanted to spend longer with. Read it!

SO MUCH TV! Oh, man, TV was really, really good this year. It has been for awhile, to the point where critics say this is a golden age of the medium — and there certainly is a ridiculous wealth of riches on Netflix, HBO and even network TV. This is Us, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Stranger Things, Westworld, Game of Thrones, Insecure, The Night Of, The Crown, Silicon Valley, John Oliver, BoJack Horseman, Love, House of Cards, Master of None, Silicon Valley…gah! There was no shortage of compelling, smart, well-crafted television entertainment this year.

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