Summary of the Law (said at every Sunday Mass)

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A Year in Revue

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2017, the year of Are You Kidding Me With This Shit, has drawn to its close; some of my family have chosen theme words for 2018 (I guess it’s a custom like a New Year’s resolution?). I have selected the word blood-feud.

I generally do an arts review for the past year on New Year’s Eve, and this year is no exception. First up, much to my own surprise, is Kesha. She started making music when I was in college (in fact, we both went to the University of Maryland, though we never met), and I had always assumed she was just a forgettable, fun, kind of trashy singer who would have a few years of popularity and then fade. However, this year—after a lengthy legal battle with her ex-producer—she released a new album, and when I heard the single Praying, I was floored. Not only is it head and shoulders above her earlier work, it’s a good song in its own right: in particular, it showcases her remarkable vocal range, which I’d never guessed at before. The music video is compelling, too, featuring a lush mixture of Christian and Hindu religious symbolism, from Salvation Mountain, a dramatic example of American Christian folk art, to Holi, the Indian ‘festival of colors,’ which celebrates renewal, forgiveness, and the triumph of goodness over evil.

Though decidedly late to the party, I also have to give props to The Young Professionals, an Israeli pop-electro fusion band that I discovered thanks to a friend. Their music is fun and catchy, as pop should be, with a delicious Middle Eastern edge that sets it apart. Their music videos are deeply baffling; they’ve been compared to a high-end Milanese fashion show, and they’re certainly as bizarre as anything I’ve ever seen on a catwalk. But despite this, they are well-suited to the music, and their imagery is striking rather than repellent in its weirdness.

Another instance of me being late to the party would be that, thanks to Film Theory, I’ve just discovered Gravity Falls. I haven’t finished Season One yet, but I’m already a solid fan: it’s almost as good as Rick and Morty. In fact, there are some pretty persuasive fan theories that the two shows are secretly connected—theories bolstered by the fact that Alex Hirsch, the creator of Gravity Falls, is friends with Justin Roiland, one of the two minds behind Rick and Morty. (Falls has the added bonus of being something you could watch even if the kids are still up.) I’m not familiar with Hirsch’s other work, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled for his name in future.

In writing, I am super excited that the lovely and talented Eve Tushnet has another novel in the works, which she kindly asked me to beta-read. It’s about 250 pages and I got through it in three or four days; usually when I’m reading or watching something, even something I like, I’ll take frequent breaks, because I have the attention span of a coked-up squirrel. Not this. Every page of her writing makes me want to read the next one. If you’d like to get a taste of her fiction RFN (and you do), I strongly recommend her novel Amends, in which a group of alcoholics are put into a rehab reality show. It’s one of the cleverest, funniest, most empathetic, and shrewdest books I’ve ever read: her characters are so well-crafted that I feel like I’d recognize them if we met in real life.

Lastly, but not leastly, I recently found out about Drew Magary, author of several iterations of The Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalogue. Apparently he’s been at it since 2012, and a friend of mine recommended it to me. Reminiscent of Mallory Ortberg or P. J. O’Rourke, Magary roasts the Williams-Sonoma Christmas offerings (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) not only with gusto, but with profound, nay, philosophical insight into the raving stupidity that would make any single product advertised seem worth the price.

Finally, as the custom is, I’d like to wish my ten biggest readerships, or at any rate my best guess at them, a happy 2018. This year it’s English, Russian, French, Ukrainian, German, Polish, Irish Gaelic, Portuguese, Hindi, and Indonesian.

Happy New Year
С Новым Годом
Bonne Année
Щасдивого Нового Року
Frohes Neues Jahr
Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku
Bhliain Nua Sásta
Feliz Ano Novo
नया साल मुबारक हो
Selamat Tahun Baru

Catch you all on the flip side!

PS: I have been having some seriously strange formatting problems, hence the absence of pictures and mixture of fonts; advice is welcome.

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