Consumption and immersion. The pandemic upped the ante on the screen experiences. Add on a new VR kit and there were many new worlds in my life this year. Here are the best. I’ve included the 8s, 9s, and 10s in both category (movies and games), and it does seem like my interests continue to both expand and refine each year.
I listened to 1,098 albums this year. I know this because I obsessively track all the music I listen to, and I mostly focus on listening to full albums. This is something I’ve been doing for years now, and it’s clear the music train just isn’t going to quit. What I find profound in one year I intentionally listen to a second time the following year. “Profound” is pretty arbitrary, much like a five star scale, and so I’ve limited my analyses of any given album to a binary approach: an album is either profound and exciting or, well, not. Here’s a list, for the curious, of all the albums I identified as profound for this year (out of that 1,098, there’s a total of 322, which includes the unlisted 2004’s Madvillainy in honor of the late MF Doom). The list is in alphabetical order by the artist’s name.
I read a lot this year. 130 books to be exact. Many of them were amazing. Most were informative and educational. They’ve set me off on many new paths as a reader–arguably more new paths than any other time in my adult life. Could the pandemic be to thank for this surge? Perhaps. I also think there’s been some major shifts in my life recently that have inspired me to go further and understand more about the many perspectives that surround us. And audio books. The Libby app has never been so approachable and wide-reaching. Being able to read while commuting and hiking has been a marvelous gift.
In any case, here is the list. The top section are my “five star” books (as per Goodreads) and after that are the rest.
How to begin the year 2020 in my consumption patterns? With a footnote that says, this is how I begin:
The Outer Worlds, Plague Tale: Innocence, Life is Strange 2, and Call of Duty (this last one is for a very special project that will hopefully send the new decade into a more critically-thinking space).
Roxy Music, Taylor Swift, Swans, Stereolab, Sonic Youth, Ritchie Valens, Ricky Martin, Prince, Prefab Sprout, Jimi Hendrix, Jim O’Rourke, Jennifer Lopez, Floating Points, clipping., and DaVido.
The Witches (1990) and Destroyer (2018).
The Water Dancer, and Dawn of the New Everything.
I listened to 215 albums in 2019. Incredible, really, now that I’ve been able to track the albums I listen to and find appropriate ways of listening to them. They weren’t all released in 2019, of course, but many were. Below you’ll find my favorite albums that came out last year. This is a new type of post for me, so feels a bit basic, but I have the data, so why not share it? Note: some of these may be re-releases. And note: they are listed in alphabetical order.
Silences by Adia Victoria
Malibu Ken by Aesop Rock
Sunshine 3 by Aleksi Perala
I’m Losing Myself by An Isolated Mind
ANDRES IV by Andres
All the Mirrors by Angel Olsen
Death Becomes Her by ANGEL-HO
thank u, next by Ariana Grande
Organism EP by Ariel Zetina
Signal Bulletin by ASUNA & Jan Jelinek
Cows on Hourglass Pond by Avey Tare
Gold and Grey by Baroness
Dark: Cycle 1 (Original Music From The Netflix Series) by Ben Frost
Dark: Cycle 2 by Ben Frost
Odds Against Tomorrow by Bill Orcutt
LOVE AND AFFECTION FOR STUPID LITTLE BITCHES by Black Dresses
Destroyer by Black Mountain
Blacks’ Myths II by Blacks’ Myths
Animated Violence Mild by Blanck Mass
i,i by Bon Iver
Free Company by Boy Scouts
Let’s Try the After by Broken Social Scene
Scholars by Buke and Gase
Dive / Rain by Burial and Bug
The Act of Falling from the 8th Floor by Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy
Myths 004 by Cate Le Bon
Zandoli EP (Bandcamp by Charlotte Adigery
Stuffed & Ready by Cherry Glazerr
Immaculada High by Cherubs
Brace Up! by Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt
Ancestral Recall by Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Hectic Shakes EP by Christoph de Babalon
Gazing in the Dark by Copperhead
I Need a New War by Craig Finn
Pure Imagination No Country by Dave Harrington Group
Occulting Disk by Deathprod
Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? by Deerhunter
I Don’t Know How to Be Happy by Deli Girls
Deceiver by DIIV
PURGE by Dis Fig
Kinshasa One Two by DRC Music
Sweet Princess EP by Dry Cleaning
New Atlantis by Efdemin
Empire EP by Eli Keszler
Water Memory by Emily A Sprague
Scenery by Emily King
Musical Prophet – The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions by Eric Dolphy
Neighborhoods by Ernest Hood
Agora by Fennesz
MAGDALENE by FKA Twigs
Emily Alone by Florist
Hi This is Flume by Flume
Unsound Festival mix (YouTube) by Forest Swords
Close it Quietly by Frakie Cosmos
Haunted Items #1-4 by Frankie Cosmos
Failed Entertainment by FURY
A People’s History of Gauche by Gauche
The Envoy by Gavilan Rayna Russom
Phantom Rhythm by Gong Gong Gong III
After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house by Grouper
This is How You Smile by Helado Negro
A Fossil Begins to Bray by Hiro Kone
Modern Nature by How to Live
Venus in Leo by HTRK
Mdou Moctar by Ilana (The Creator)
Sulphur English by Inter Arma
Otoboke Beaver by Itekoma Hits
FLY or DIE II: bird dogs of paradise by Jaimie Branch
Tatizo Pesa by Jay Mitta
Tracing Back The Radiance by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
On the Line by Jenny Lewis
Mise En Abyme by joni void
Mandatory Reality by Joshua Abrams and Nautral Information Society
La Onda de Juan Pablo by Juan Wauters
Tides: Music for Meditation and Yoga by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Lux Prima by Karen O
Origin EP by Kelly Moran
No Home Record by Kim Gordon
Solitude by King Midas Sound
Lifetie by Klein
The Bells by Kornél Kovács
Panorama by La Dispute
Ancestor Boy by Lafawndah
DJ Kicks by Laurel Halo
Loom Dream by Leif
River without Banks by Leo Svirsky
Thanks for the Dance by Leonard Cohen
October Song by Lighting Bug
Caligula by Lingua Ignota
Gray Area by Little Simz
lofeye by lojii
Antidoes 1 (Open Spotify) by Lucinda Chua
Many Any by Max D
Dolphine by Mega Bog
Fever by Megan Thee Stallion
Komachi by Meitei
Coastal Erosion (YouTube) by Merzbow & Vanity Productions
Tears of Joy by MIKE
Power Chords by Mike Krol
How to Live by Modern Nature
Lost Wisdom Pt 2 by Mount Eerie and Julie Doiron
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire by Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire
Volume One: Dilemmas Of Identity (YouTube) by Nate Young
Colorado by Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Miss Universe by Nilufer Yanya
Radiant Dawn by Operators
basking in the glow by Oso Oso
Phoenix by Pedro the Lion
Nighttime Stories by Pelican
Tasmania by Pond
Morbid Stuff by POP
The Seducation of Kansas by Priests
Am I Who I Am by PTU
Self-Titled by Purple Mountains
Guns by Quelle Chris
Cages by Redbait
ATAXIA by Rian Treanor
Inferno by Robert Forster
Oli XL by Rogue Intruder, Soul Enhancer
Stars Have Eyes by Saint Abdullah
That’s Harakiri by Sd Laika
We Are Not Your Kind by Slipknot
Self-Titled by Sofia Kourtesis
When I Get Home by Solange
Mazy Fly by Spellling
Beware of the Dogs by Stella Donnelly
Athena by Sudan Archives
Life Metal by Sunn O)))
Illegal Moves by Sunwatchers
Leaving Meaning by Swans
Toothsayer by Tanya Tagaq
Dreams Are Not Enough by Telefon Tel Aviv
No Geography by The Chemical Brothers
The Devil You Know by The Coathangers
In League with Dragons by The Mountain Goats
No Holiday by The Muffs
Vessel (Revolver) by Theories
ANIMA by Thom Yorke
No Treasure but Hope by Tindersticks
II by TNGHT
Outer Peace by Toro y Moi
Deforming Lobes by Ty Segall
First Taste by Ty Segall
Signals Into Space by Ultramarine
Pacific Breeze by Various
Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood
Girl With Basket Of Fruit by Xiu Xiu
SECOND LANGUAGE by XXX
Mujeres by Y La Bamba
WAHALA by YATTA
Spirit Said Yes! by YATTA
ATO by Ziur
Though I haven’t been posting the games I’ve been playing over the last few years (the last time was in 2016), I have been keeping track each year (obsessively, even). Here is a list of all the games I’ve played this past year, with some statements on the in-game representation/diversity in each of them (something I’ve started tracking as of 2019). Bolded titles are my highlights. Note: I couldn’t think of a proper way to sort the list, so they are from oldest played (at the top) down to newest. I’ve included two pieces of data in this list as well–a relatively objective “platform” and a relatively subjective “rating out of 10.” 9s and 10s are bolded.
Note: I do plan on expanding the diversity and representation comments for the 2020 year. I am grateful to have been able to start looking at these games through this lens, and feel fortunate for encountering games that were above average in this context by default, to serve as inspiration for the second year going.
Coaster Combat (VR, 6/10): No diversity, really.
Dark Days (VR, 5/10): Female lesbian protagonist
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst (PC, 6/10) Female protagonist; very diverse characters.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PC, 10/10): Female protagonist.
Playable Teaser (PC, 6/10): None really.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (PC, 9/10): Mental health, female protagonist.
Cuphead (YouTube, 10/10): Cartoonish; no real diversity representation here.
Bioshock Remastered (PC, 10/10): Diversity is minimal, with some Asian stereotyping (the doctor).
Resident Evil 2 Remake – Leon and Claire (YouTube, 9/10): Very minimal as most of the characters that aren’t zombies are white.
Traveling While Black (VR, 9/10): African American story and lens. Note: this isn’t so much a “game” as a non-interactive VR experience.
Project Rampage (VR, 2/10): None really.
Pinata Party (VR, 7/10): None really.
Rush (VR, 10/10): None really.
Eastshade (PC, 8/10): Amazing degrees of diversity across genders, backgrounds, etc.
Notes on Blindness (VR, 10/10): Focuses on a disability.
Devil May Cry 5 (YouTube, 7/10): Very minimal representation of women; mostly white men.
Far Cry New Dawn (PC, 8/10): Pretty diverse cast of characters, including race and age and gender.
Devotion (PC, 10/10): Taiwanese, parents and child.
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition (PC, 9/10, second playthrough): Some diversity racially, but not much.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit: (PC, 9/10): Playing as a child in a middle class household.
Nier Automata (PC, 10/10): Fairly diverse in terms of robots versus humans.
Pikuniku (PC and YouTube, 9/10): Pretty strong instance of representation between beings and robots and animals.
What Remains of Edith Finch (PC, 9/10): Really great representation of ages and backgrounds.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC, 7/10): Great representation of different cultures and awesome use of native language tracks.
A Way Out (PS4, 5/10): Barely any diversity beyond the white homogeneity.
Metro Exodus (PC, 10/10): Age and some racial diversity.
Hitman (2016) (PC, 9/10): Fairly good at representing the multiple countries that are featured in the game.
Hitman 2 (2018) (PC, 9/10): Once again fantastic representation from cultures all over the globe.
Dead or Alive 5 Last Round (PC, 7/10): Pretty awful portrayal of women. Multiple cultures but stereotypes only.
Deltarune (Undertale Sequel) (PC, 9/10): Amazingly beautiful game representing many perspectives.
Observation (PC and YouTube, 10/10): Mostly white; interesting taking the robot perspective.
Blair Witch (YouTube, 6/10): Not much racial diversity; inclusion of dog companion is okay.
Control (PC and YouTube, 7/10): Some diversity, but the focus doesn’t appear to be on representation.
Outer Wilds (PC and YouTube, 7/10): Not much focus on others in the human sense, and diversity exists but doesn’t speak too directly to it.
Greedfall (PC, 6/10): Diversity is apparent; not much commenting on race. There is a lot on colonialism and indigenous domination, however (that’s really the point of the game).
Disco Elysium (PC, 10/10): Incredible range of characters, worldviews, and backgrounds.
Metro 2033 Redux (PC, 9/10): Not very diverse. Typical straightforward monoculture.
Layers of Fear 2 (PC and YouTube, 6/10): Unintentional representation; not particularly engaging.
Metro Last Light (PC, 9/10): Not very diverse, but a lot of range in morality.
It feels like just yesterday I posted about the 2018 books I read. The year most certainly did not fly by, and perhaps that’s because I was caught up in so much excellent reading over the past 12 months.
As per last year, what follows is a list of every title I read, with bolding for my “picks” or personal favorites. Note that some of these books made it into reviews, so they weren’t merely leisure reading.
Before the list, I need to shout out Goodreads, which now provides a snapshot of one’s reading. The data highlights are pretty fun, and open to the each user. They are also available to the public (see mine here).
Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti
Ensō by Shin Yu Pai
Earth by Hannah Brooks-Motl
Chasing Clayoquot: A Wilderness Almanac by David Pitt-Brooke
Sailing by Ravens by Holly Hughes
What Rain Does by Ann Spers
26 Abductions by Maya Sonenberg
Preserving Fire: Selected Prose by Philip Lamantia
Water by Edward Burtynsky
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
One Hundred Myanmar Poems edited by Min Swe Hnit
Codex by Joshua Lew McDermott
A Slow Boiling Beach by Rauan Klassnik
Make It True Meets Medusario edited by José Kozer
On An Acre Shy of Eternity/ Micro Landscapes at the Edge by Robert Dash
Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell
Hawai’i by James Yeary
The Darkness Call: Essays by Gary Fincke
Remembrance of Water / Twenty-Five Trees by John Taylor
The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return by Zeina Abirached
Twilight (Twilight, #1) by Stephenie Meyer
Things That Go by Laura Eve Engel
AUX ARCS by Shin Yu Pai
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld
Army of God: Joseph Kony’s War in Central Africa by David Axe
Latino USA: A Cartoon History by Ilan Stavans
The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault
Against Everything: Essays by Mark Greif
The World Is All That Does Befall Us by Thomas Walton
The White Book by Han Kang
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
The Good Rain: Across Time & Terrain in the Pacific Northwest by Timothy Egan
Paper Towns by John Green
Call And Response: A Migrant/Local Poetry Anthology edited by Joshua Ip
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My Lot Is A Sky by Melissa Powers
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
The United States of Wind: A Travelogue by Daniel Canty
Ideas Have No Smell: Three Belgian Surrealist Booklets
No Finis: Triangle Testimonies, 1911 by Deborah Woodard
Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky
Seminary Poems by Diane di Prima
Poems of Federico García Lorca chosen and translated by Paul Blackburn with twenty one drawings by Basil King
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Soundtrack to a Fleeting Masculinity by Benjamin Schmitt
Habitation: Collected Poems by Sam Hamill
Huge Cloudy by Bill Carty
What I Knew by Eleni Sikelianos
The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book by Gord Hill
Widowland by Pamela Manché Pearce
Poems from the Passionate Heart: Reflections on Healing and Awakening by Roy Holman
In These Curved Spaces by Andrea Yew
Footnotes on Falling by Joshua Ip
Afterimage by Werner Kho
The Woman Who Turned Into A Vending Machine by Natalie Wang
Human Acts by Han Kang
BEEF by Nurul Amillin Hussain
To the Barricades by Stephen Collis
The Divine Within: Selected Writings on Enlightenment by Aldous Huxley
Futurist Performance by Michael Kirby
All Actors: Fifty Poems by Min Swe Hnit
The Post-War Digital Radio by Kyi Zaw Aye
Alphabet for the Entrants by Vasilisk Gnedov
Feed Me Weird Things by Lisa Rogal
I Have Never Been Able to Sing by Alexis Almeida
Bones Will Crow: An Anthology of Burmese Poetry edited by James Byrne
Meadowlark West by Philip Lamantia
A Drink of Red Mirror by Kim Hyesoon
The Burden of Being Burmese by ko ko thett
My Own Voice by Zeyar Lynn
First Mountain by Zhang Er
Sugar Factory by Emily Wallis Hughes
Midden by Julia Bouwsma
follow the mekong home by Krystal M. Chuon
Mexico City Blues by Jack Kerouac
American Prophets: Interviews with thinkers activists poets and visionaries by Paul E Nelson
A list of the 119 books I read this past year. Bolded are my favorites.
This post is meant to serve as a personal reflection and a relatively-public expression/acknowledgment of my violence, harm, and the abuse I committed between 2014 and 2016. It is only a partial exploration, one that has had precursors and will continue indefinitely as long as I am still alive and thinking. Please email gregbem @ gmail.com if you are inclined to communicate about this.
“I was in a band.”
Friend and nearly-neighbor Paul Nelson recently interviewed me about all sorts of things, as part of a series for the South Seattle Emerald.
I wholeheartedly approve of the piece, which is found here. Additionally, visit this page on Paul’s site for the audio recording of the interview, and other fun additions. Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to think I was a good person to profile!
The following is a list of the games I played (completely) in 2016, along with ratings I’ve given for those games.
What a year in reading! I just did an extract of my Goodreads account and after some mild formatting, this list is what I came up with.