To wrap up 2020, here’s an index of just about everything I’ve shared in my personal newsletter, Poste Italiane Sunday Edition, since its inception in late 2019. (Link above in the site menu if you want to subscribe.) It doesn’t include every single link from the issues, but covers all of the stuff I mentioned that I was watching, listening to, reading, etc.
Looking back now, it’s not actually super representative of all the stuff that’s been in my life in that time period. But there are certain qualities that make me choose something to go in the newsletter: it should be a little bit off the wall, not something all my readers would have heard of, something that may surprise them, something that they may not all think they’d enjoy or get into. A little randomness, a little potential to make a discovery.
Things I did or participated in
National Novel Writing Month — Every November hundreds of thousands of people around the world attempt to write 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days. (I’ve done it many times before, but did a modified version in 2019.)
xuanjitu — My online, web-based implementation of Xuanji Tu (璇玑图), an ancient palindrome poem by Chinese poet Su Hui.
GitHub Arctic Code Vault — The time I found out that some code I’ve written will be preserved on film reels in a vault on Svalbard, right near the Global Seed Vault. For Humanity™, basically. The film reels are supposed to last around 500-1000 years, way way longer than computers or hard drives.
pidgin country — My micro-blog I started, for very-short-form posts: links, recs, shower thoughts, and other procrastination fodder.
nothing to say — My new letter series for artists, kindred spirits, and anyone involved in the mystery of trying to create things.
Documentaries and nonfiction TV series
Shangri-La — 4-part docu-series on Showtime about music producer Rick Rubin and his recording studio in Malibu.
Abstract: The Art of Design, Season 2 — But if you watch one episode of this show, let it be S1E7 “Platon: Photography.” If you watch two, let the other one be S1E1 on Christoph Niemann, which I’ve watched about 5 times.
Maidentrip — Documentary about Laura Dekker, the 14-year-old Dutch girl who in 2010-2011 became the youngest person to ever sail around the world, solo.
10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki — 4-part miniseries documenting the creative process of Hayao Miyazaki, known and beloved for Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and many more.
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo — I’m a long-time fangirl of Marie Kondo, but this series really cheered me up as I was going through my own ordeal of getting rid of all my crap.
Miss Americana — Finally, a doc in which Taylor Swift doesn’t play down her actually-high degree of intelligence and self-awareness.
Kedi — A documentary about the cats of Istanbul, of which I met and loved many.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey — A docu-series in 15 x 1-hour episodes. More of a “revisionist” history, in that it goes against more Hollywood-centric narratives, and instead highlights tons of filmmakers and actors around the world who influenced the form.
The Artist is Present — Documentary about Marina Abramović, perhaps best known for the time she spent 2.5 months sitting in a chair at the MoMA and you could go sit in a chair facing her, and she would look you in the eyes.
Fiction movies and TV series
The Handmaid’s Tale — One day you’re laughing off the election, the next day they kill your family, take you away and force you to make babies.
Şahsiyet (Persona) — A man diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s realizes he can do… whatever he wants… and he won’t remember any of it. This series is/was super popular in Turkey and is also pretty good! (You can watch for free on puhutv, but you have to be VPN-ed into Turkey.)
(120) Beats per Minute — A gorgeous, gorgeous, sweet and heartbreaking movie about a group of activist friends in ACT UP Paris in the 90s, fighting for HIV/AIDS awareness.
Violette — Biopic about Violette Leduc, “France’s greatest unknown writer,” and Simone de Beauvoir. If only we could all have a [famous] friend who would tell us to quit our whining and get back to work, so that she can get our book published whenever we finish it.
Synecdoche, New York — The most unknown and underrated Charlie Kaufman movie.
Arrival — So much more than just a movie about aliens and linguistics. Pair Arrival with the short story that the movie is based on, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (PDF). I watched the movie first, and I’m glad I did, but the story and the movie each have their own distinct strengths and they are both worth the time.
We Are Who We Are — It’s more about a feeling and an atmosphere than a story. You just sort of make yourself comfortable and soak it in.
Lovesong — Watch it if you’re prepared to suffer. You may wake up with heartache that lingers into the next day, and yet feel compelled to watch it again after a little while.
Aimée & Jaguar — Lesbian love in Nazi Germany. What could possibly go wrong?!
Happiest Season — Just the wholesome, feel-good queer holiday rom-com I have always wished for. Almost two full hours of Kristen Stewart’s flawless hair and outfits. That’s all I ever wanted for Christmas.
Edward Norton on the Tim Ferriss Show -— If you’ve ever started a project that meant a lot to you, and put it aside because you got stuck, then became kind of afraid to pick it up again, but also couldn’t seem to let go of it… you’ll find a friend in Edward Norton.
Ocean Vuong @ On Being [Unedited] — This much-beloved poet, novelist, all-around truth teller dropping the realness about violence and language in the American psyche, about poetry, about the immigrant experience, about the Vietnam War, about the failures of language, and more.
Chrono Trigger OST, Final Fantasy VII OST — Classic video game music.
Cigarettes After Sex — Put their music on, slow dance with your loved one in the kitchen.
The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices — Bulgarian folk singing: Kaval sviri, Svatba, Duda E Bolna (mislabeled “Vito Horo”), Ergen Deda. Some of these songs are like a thousand years old and I feel like they reach down into something deeply elemental, beyond culture and even the passage of time, into something universal about being a human, and about being a woman. Listen on Spotify.
Spiritfarer — You’re responsible for ferrying spirits (people who have died, who are now in all kinds of animal/plant forms) to the afterlife. Along the way, you spend time with them, explore different towns, try to fulfill their requests, and generally help make their last days happy and meaningful ones.
The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, by Amanda Palmer — The best book on how to think/feel about art and commerce, that I have read. (Here is her TED talk on the same topic.)
YouGlish — I’d originally used YouGlish to look up stuff in other languages, but now I actually use it mostly to see how people pronounce certain names when speaking English.
Zombies, Run! — I never realized until now that what was missing when I went for a run, was the “raaowruggghhh” sounds of zombies coming after me.
Ulysses — For working with big writing projects that span multiple files or even folders and may include things like notes and research material, or where you might want progress tracking or version history.
With Category Theory, Mathematics Escapes From Equality — Guess what, equals is so last year. What?
tnf 50–the farewell — My friend Pei ran her first 50-miler (that’s 80 km, folks), as a farewell to SF and the Marin Headlands, and was still somehow chipper enough at the end (after ~11 hours?!?) to jump across the finish line.
On the Making of “Illusory Borders”: Field Notes — My friend Heidi had two(!) books of poetry come out in November 2019. This is a 3-part series (parts 1 2 3), on one of those books, Illusory Borders.
You Should Be Getting Your Biographies in Children’s Picture Book Form — By my friend J.
The 20 Best Works of Nonfiction of the Decade — I like this one because it includes at least a few that I noticed going by through the decade and always meant to read.
James Baldwin spent a decade (on and off) in Istanbul — where he could more safely be black and gay. And wrote a number of his most well-known works there, too.
France’s #MeToo movement and the time Adèle Haenel walked out of the Césars — Self-explanatory.
30 Animals That Look Like They’re About To Drop The Hottest Albums Of The Year — Self-explanatory.
The Great Climate Migration — Ongoing series on trends in climate-change-induced migration happening now and over the next century, tying together science, economics, agriculture, and geopolitics. Here’s the first and second articles at NYTimes. (Try a fresh incognito tab to avoid the paywall. Otherwise, here’s the exact same first and second articles on ProPublica, which are free.) The first focuses on global changes with emphasis on Latin America, the second on the US.
A Translation Crisis at the Border — US immigration/border practices assume all migrants arriving from/through Mexico speak Spanish, when a significant (and growing) number of them speak primarily indigenous languages and might not know Spanish. The result is not great.
Thanksgiving on the L train — The time some people threw a full Thanksgiving feast on a Brooklyn-bound L train in NYC, passing out plates of turkey and sides to fellow riders.
Slack Jaw – Emma Portner & Elliot Page — Cry a little, feel like there’s a place for you somewhere in the world again.
Italians singing together from their balconies — Early Covid days.
Fireplace 10 hours full HD — No music, just the soft crackle of the flames.
“Singularity (after Stephen Hawking)” by Marie Howe — Watch this and feel like a human person again.
Ingredients of the week
pumpkin. Pumpkin soup, roasted/baked pumpkin, pumpkin pie…
red cabbage. Or alternatively try radicchio, technically not a cabbage but also delicious if you can find it.
oats! Overnight oats; homemade granola (it’s SUPER EASY); oat milk heated up over the stove (or in a latte if available at your cafe); oat cream for cooking with.
stale bread. Ways to transfigure stale bread tend to go in one of two directions: you can make it softer via eggs/milk/etc, which usually makes it into a sweet dish like bread pudding or French toast. Or you can make it crispy via toasting it in the oven, as in crostini or croutons.
ginger. I make ginger tea (ginger slices, hot water, honey) which is a comforting pre-bedtime ritual. Try it!
yogurt. (in a savory dish)