I wanted to write this weeks before New Year’s Eve and then I didn’t, so now I have to use the last free day before work begins to hurl out this stupid list just because tradition. Hrmpf. Anyways, as my last entry already stated, from a world political point of view, 2016 was horrendous. Not the worst year ever (seriously, that’s a bad thing to say) but definitely a year that marked a lot of changes that will affect the rest of the world immensely this year.
But I was blessed enough to have a pretty good year personally, I didn’t lose any friends, I even made some new ones, my family is alright, my cat is alright and I still don’t regret moving in with my partner (for someone who needs to rest after a three hour event with people, this still amazes me). But what else made 2016 a little more tolerable?
1. Hansa Toys
My partner and I got into the maybe slightly creepy habit of occasionally gifting us with Hansa toys. Handmade, eco-friendly plush toys that look more realistic than your standard Steiff-animals. We probably have to keep it at bay this year or else we turn into those couples with a whole shrine for these things but so far, I can’t complain that we can call a dodo, a panda, a baby swan and a squirrel our own.
2. Lucy Dacus
I tend to get drawn more and more to the alternative singer songwriter ladies and Lucy Dacus’ beautiful debut hits the mark. Though from a pretty young point of view, her lyrics are crafted well enough to let anyone find their iota of truth in there.
3. Pallas Cat
We got an annual pass for the Berlin Tierpark (like a zoo just with more space and more botanical wonders along the paths), specifically to visit the two pallas cats up on the “Schuttberg” (a mountain made of old debris) of the Tiergarten. The pallas cat is a small, fantastic and aggressive wild cat that has all the fluff but also all the distaste for humans.
For the politically interested, I highly recommend Hend Amry’s twitter profile for political news and commentary pretty much all around the clock. I don’t know whether she sleeps or is a being made of light and universal knowledge of all things that happen at any time, anywhere but her feed is on point and even includes the occasional cat content.
5. Flock of Dimes
Jenn Wasner’s solo project and its debut album is such a lovely, retro and relaxed album that I really really encourage anyone to listen to it at least once. It’s quite a step away from Wye Oak but still carries that deep and emotionally saturated voice that makes these typically 80s melodies more than just a wink to the retro-aesthetic of our time.
6. Channel Zero
I had hardly any favourite horror movies this year because most of them had great ideas and a weak story or great effects and bad acting or were all around a little lackluster. Say what you will but the critic’s darlings didn’t do it for me. “Green Room”, “Don’t Breathe” (which didn’t involve one scene where a character couldn’t breathe for fear of detection) and “Hush” all felt like a one uppance of crass home invasion and claustrophobia. However, most of it touched rather heavy on the sadism and lacked a deeper meaning behind it.
The tv show “Channel Zero” however, even though quite brutal at times, managed to carry the weird atmosphere of movies like “It Follows” or “The Witch”, where you can never quite relax. Not because there’s a killer on the loose but because things just feel off. The show apparently plans to be more of an anthology, tackling one creepypasta story with each season. I hope they continue on because in contrast to “American Horror Story”, “Channel Zero” has a lot more story and a lot less gleefull mucking around.
7. The Witch
My only favourite horror movie delivers a beautiful setting, great acting, a simple yet harrowing story and an admittedly so so ending. However, as previously stated, the atmosphere is there from the beginning (thanks to a killer soundtrack) and you can never not feel slightly creeped out even though for long stretches of time, nothing really happens. It’s a great effect to make the viewer feel the suspicion creeping in on him/her just as the superstition creeps up on the protagonists.
8. Haley Bonar
It’s kind of lovely to listen to musicians who are roughly the same age and therefore tackle a lot of topics that come up in your own life and thoughts. Haley Bonar’s amazing album about nostalgia, melancholy and parenthood/growing up is a real treat, especially with her light touches of country, rock and folk here and there. It’s generally quite lovely and soft but when it cuts, it cuts deep.
I did not expect this movie to be as entertaining as it was. This animated movie is obviously aimed at kids AND their parents (too many pop cultural references) is above all a delight due to the mixture of great slapstick and delivery (Andy Samberg and Katie Crown know their comedic timing) and a fantastic dialogue (even background chatter has thrown jokes in). It’s beyond cheesy and who can’t bother with animated movies will not enjoy this one bit but everyone else might be quite surprised that this is actually more entertaining than most of the other high budget animations of 2016.
10. Celeste Ng ‘Everything I never told you’
I love dramatic novels that are homebound. Stories about a small circle of people dealing with their histories and how everyone sees their history played out differently are my favourite type of books next to my gross and horrible horror novels. “Everything I never told you” is about loss and a family crippled by silence. It’s very touching, sad and still manages not to be hopeless.
11. Vladimir Nabokob ‘Pnin’
My boyfriend is a gigantic fan of Nabokov and I read a book of his each year to show good will but also because Nabokov is a great writer. He also can be a dick (I started with his autobiography “Memory, Speak” and was a little appalled at how arrogant he really was) and his debut novel “Mary” was quite a bummer. But “Pnin” is a warm and humorous novel about a weird Russian academic trapped in American academia, trapped by semantic sinkholes, a romantic past that carries more sighs than romance and haunted by the shivering memories of people who died in the Holocaust. The last part only touches Pnin in short, feverish moments and therefore doesn’t overpower the book’s general light mood but reminds the reader that history can’t be escaped.
12. Aesop Rock
My boyfriend also loves loves loves Aesop Rock, so try as I might I could not get around his album “The impossible kid” with a cover that does not indicate its content (really). Aesop Rock is great in that he avoids pretty much all rap/hip hop tropes when it comes to lyrics. I always wonder why so few rappers actually tell stories because their genre lends itself so much to storytelling, so it’s a delight that Aesop does and does it well.
13. Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary
If you need something in your Facebook-, Twitter- or Tumblr-Feed that offers the occasional beacon of light, please follow this dog sanctuary that has old dogs lying, standing and sitting in the sun and being the purest beings ever.
14. Nocturnal Animals
I am not sure whether Tom Ford’s movie “Nocturnal Animals” is more style than substance but I loved the juxtaposition of a reality where the stakes are low as can be and where the biggest problems are banal in contrast to the emotional and physical turmoil of the characters in the in-movie-novel of the same name. A dissatisfied art gallerist (Amy Adams, amazeballs as ever) receives a novel by her ex-husband whom she hasn’t seen since years. The novel itself is a psycho-thriller whose trauma seeps into real life. It’s a gorgeous movie and it has fantastic acting. At times it feels incredibly stilted but even that seems to be on purpose, so I allow it.
The second album by my favourite pop band did not disappoint and offered one of the craziest music videos this year. If you can, see them live, they are fantastic.
16. Charlotte Wood ‘The Natural Way of Things’
If being a feminist isn’t depressing enough (try it out, it is), this book gut punches you into utter despair. This weird somewhat dystopian thriller (without any sci-fi elements) is a character study of how misogyny works against and amongst women and it is exhausting to read because it is so frustrating. But in the end it’s a great story with a strong statement.
17. Search Party
This is one of the weirdest genre mixes in tv history and it works so well that I urge everyone to see it unfold. If you don’t like slightly alternative hipster aesthetics and characters, then skip this one, other than that, tune in and feel weirdly fascinated by the vapidity of the characters, the humor and even the drama of the quarter life crisis of our generation.
She served it, we were thirsty for it.
I went to Cardiff with my partner and I walked back to my old student’s housing and it was horrible there (they were rebuilding it for obvious reasons). However, it was fun to have the culture shock again of British coupon weirdness, trash culture (I don’t mean the culture, I mean the trash) and the wondrous world of small piers, ice cream cones with a chocolate stick and the most generic pubs you will ever see.
20. Birgit Weyhe ‘Madgermanes’
The German Graphic Novelist Birgit Weyhe documented the lives of the so called “Madgermanes”, African workers that were pretty much exploited in the GDR by the common communist systems from their home countries and the GDR. The usually depressive stories are told by three fictional protagonists and illustrated beautifully. If you like Sarah Glidden’s work on Israel, you will love this one (although I don’t know whether this exists in another language than German).
21. Home Office
I slowly evolved from an office worker to a home office worker and I love it! I have nothing more to say.
22. Steven Universe
I am late again! I finally watched Steven Universe back to back and I am very happy that the age of great kid’s cartoons apparently is not over yet. This is one of the most wholesome cartoon shows on tv right now. It’s inclusive, funny, creative, dramatic and first and foremost enthusiastic. Great show!
23. John Oliver
Even though elitist arrogance like mine and John Oliver’s made Trump win (according to people who arrogantly claim that racism and sexism had nothing to do with it), I enjoyed his approach of stating the facts whilst gliding deeper into despair and then finishing it off with a way to make things better. I wish that more news and comments would try to answer the “so, what now?” that most of them ask or revel in because frankly, I am not Angela Merkel and I have no idea what to do to keep the world intact.
24. Diethelm Brüggemann ‘Die Scherbenkrone’
This is another “only German”-book but boy, what a book! This is the only work of fiction by Diethelm Brüggemann and it is the devastating story of a boy in Hitler Germany (shortly before the end of the war) who gets blackmailed by some other boys in his village. Told from the point of view of a kid, an adult can only agonize over the childish logic which delves the boy further and further into chaos.
Stylistically, Brüggemann is wonderfully German, as the language is highly pragmatic and still manages poetry in the visual moments.
25. La’Porsha Renae
American Idol’s true winner has not released her album yet but her single “Good Women” is a good indicator that we might have a new queen in town.
26. Finding Dory
I previously watched “Finding Nemo” again and I have to say that “Finding Dory” is a lot more enjoyable because “Finding Nemo” – as its protagonist Marlin – is hella depressing. Dory, however, is in her nature less inclined to despair and therefore offers the viewer the same excitement but less moments of crushing existential dread.
27. Pen Pals
I started writing letters with my best friend because we don’t see each other that often anymore and it’s a delight. I encourage you to try the same, there’s something so joyful to find a letter, a handwritten, private letter in your mailbox.
28. The OA
I still don’t know whether “The OA” is just cheesy bullshit or an amazing balancing act of fantasy blended with HBO-styled drama. The acting is so superb that the somewhat ludicrous story actually feels less so and at some point, I completely got on board with it. FYI: Alice Krige is the bomb in this. Personally, she crushed every scene. EVERY SINGLE SCENE!
Besides my besty-penpal, I also took to write postcards to friends, family and my boyfriend because everyone loves postcards.
I am still happy to have my Shnae (Schnügel & Bae) at my side. As much as I think that life would have been fine as a single lady, I am eternally grateful to have found that one person who compliments me in nearly every way.