In an effort to be more cultured, I’ve taken on a schedule of reading and watching more things. I’ve also read that part of being an artist is sharing not only your work, but your inspiration / things that help / inspire you to create art.

So maybe every week I’ll post something new that I’m listening to, watching, or reading.

This week, two things in every category: one new, one old.

LISTENING

NEW: Courtney Barnett’s new album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.

I’ve heard people compare her to Bob Dylan, but I prefer to hear the Nirvana influences. Her more fast-paced songs sound like Kurt Cobain at his happiest, so still tinged with some depressed elements. But also super fun. And also Kurt Cobain sometimes just wrote nonsense lyrics, but as you listen to the lyrics on anything by Barnett, you can hear the craft involved.

Fave track: “Aqua Profonda!

OLD: L’Afrique Danse 3.

Stream it on Spotify. Then when you can’t get enough, buy it on Discogs. I first ran into this over two years ago in Kenya, but I only had one track: “Camarade Ya Kinshasa.” Recently I found the whole album associated and it’s awesome. A compilation of some really cool stuff. If I ever made a film in the tone of Wes Anderson, I would include a track of this album.

Fave track: “Mbombo ya Tsimbalanga.”

WATCHING

NEWOur Times (Chinese title 我的少女時代 Era of My Girl Teens) (Frankie Chen, 2015).

My school gave us free tickets to this movie. I was surprised that they would subtitle a Chinese movie in English here, but they did, so I went. It was hilarious. Set as a flashback, it was cool to see this film’s portrayal of teen Taiwanese life in the 1990s. Of course there are extremely cheesy romantic parts. The tone jumps around more and stretches longer than I feel like a similar American film would, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. Screenshots and review available here or here.

Fave moment: When one of the characters, while inciting a riot at school, shouts: “Director! You are my chocolate!” What?!

OLD: The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls In Love (Maria Maggenti, 1995).

Actually recorded in the ’90s, not just set there like Our Times, this dramedy also follows the story of teens in cheesy love, although considerably less heteronormative. The film distorts the rich-girl-who-falls-in-love-with-the-girl-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks premise a bit by having the rich girl be BLACK and the poor girl be WHITE. WHOA. THREE PROGRESSIVE IDEAS IN ONE FILM: HOMOSEXUALITY. INTERRACIAL/INTERSOCIOECONOMICAL RELATIONSHIPS. BLACK PEOPLE CAN BE WEALTHY. Although I guess mid-nineties was when The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was around, so that’s not that far of a stretch.

Fave moment: In the credits seeing Lisa Cholodenko was a third grip on this film. I mean, there were other hilarious parts too, like when the Mom finds the two girls together, but is more pissed off that the kitchen is a mess.

READING

NEWDeath Switch by J. J. Green.

A speculative fiction novella that gets right to the action, with just enough description for me to get an idea of the motivations of the characters and want to follow them along on what I expect is going to be an insane ride. I haven’t finished reading it yet, so we’ll see. It’s about a woman who grows genetically identical organ donors, but instead of making one for her client, she makes one for herself, because her life is pretty shitty, because patriarchy. So far I dig it. I joined a writing group here in Taipei and this is one of the writer’s publications. Quite cheap on Amazon, so if you’re looking for fun quick reads, check this out.

Fave part: The book goes between being from one of three main characters POV: Ching Mei (the woman who is supposed to have a donor growing for her in case of emergencies), Yi Ling (the technician who is supposed to be growing Ching Mei’s donor), and the genetic copy of Yi Ling. It’s really interesting to see how Yi Ling’s genetic copy sees her very new world.

OLDOur Nig: Sketches From the Life of a Free Black by Harriet E. Wilson.

I actually found this book in the library at the Princeton Charter Club, so… what does that tell you about the Princeton Charter Club (that there was someone who was reading a slave narrative written by a slave, but then also that they didn’t think the book was that important so they left it at Charter, or they thought it was so important they left it at Charter for future generations to share in the wonders of it), or about me (I’m the type of person that takes books from informal libraries with no plans to return them).

I’m trying to write a historical non-fiction about the Oregon Trail in which there is a female freed slave character, so Our Nig seems an apt place to start getting a feel for characterization. Ripped from Wikipedia: “It is considered the first novel published by an African-American woman on the North American continent.” THAT MEANS IT’S HELLA IMPORTANT. Also, it’s FREE AVAILABLE ON PROJECT GUTENBERG. WHY ARE YOU NOT READING IT NOW? SCREW THIS DUMB BLOG. HARRIET E. WILSON ACTUALLY WROTE SOMETHING IMPORTANT.

Fave moment: Honestly, it’s pretty sad so far. I haven’t finished reading it, but her Mom (Mag Smith) is a poor white woman who is shunned by other whites for having a child out of wedlock (the child is not eventually dies). Later her black husband (who is the father of Frado) dies too. Basically, it’s very serious of unfortunate events. The only fave moment so far is that the title is “our nig,” which just sounds kinda funny. But it’s not really funny once you read it because you realize that’s what the white family that takes her in after her Mom can’t support her, calls her.

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