Favorite Tunes of 2023

Guess what? I continue to buy music…and barely listen to it! Throwing more money down the drain in 2023. Of course, I listened to *some* of it, but my bark is always bigger than my bite when it comes to consuming pop culture (of all types. obvi.). That said, I only bought albums during six months of the year (January 13, March 4, April 6, July 2, September 4, October 1). So, perhaps I was more controlled than it feels like now reviewing my iTunes. (Yes, I still use iTunes, and an iPod, and shut up, get off my lawn.)

Favorite Singles:

  • “Paper” Kenzie I don’t even know if this was a 2023 release but 2023 is when I got it. I think I heard it on a TV show. I will put this on repeat for my entire bus ride to school. Can’t stop. The ultimate “how TF is it that you don’t love me” song. Story of my damn life.
  • “Flowers” Miley Cyrus Doh, was this not the song of most of the year. Even Diane Keaton (!!) made a video of herself singing along to this.
  • “Be On Your Way” Daughter I never listened to the rest of the album as much as this one song.
  • “Ignore Me” Mothe When am I not feeling ignored? Was this song stolen from my brain?
  • “Ghost in the Machine” SZA featuring Phoebe Bridgers All you had to do to get me to listen to a song this year was put Phoebe Bridgers on it (and yeah I don’t even think this song is from 2023? maybe?). That said, I never figured out what the SZA hype was. I maybe didn’t give it enough of a chance.
  • “Runner” Tennis Total epic movie soundtrack feel. Is that where I heard this first? We’ll never know.
  • “And We’ll Leave It There” Olafur Arnolds & Ella McRibb I don’t remember from where or why I found out about this but I watched a whole video of how this song came together and it’s just gorgeous.
  • “A Good Love, Part 1” Bear’s Den if you got a mix from me this year, this was probably on it, heh. I think I kept trying to add it to every one and then realizing I had already used it, oop.
  • “Run Away to Mars” Talk Every time I played this song, I thought maybe I WILL run away to Mars. How much worse could it fucking possibly be?!? I listen to it on the bus and pretend I’m on a spaceship.
  • “Our Song” P!NK I liked her whole album really but never listened to it *that* much.
  • “Lift Me Up” Rihanna from the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. I think that means this song didn’t come out this year, but I listened to the fuck out of it. CHURCH.
  • “Just Like Heaven” Hannah Peel. Cover.
  • “Puzzle Peace” SAILR Aw. So pretty.
  • “If I Could” Charlotte Day Wilson If only
  • “Everywhere, Everything” Noah Kahan Someone (can’t remember) said to them when someone mentions Noah Kahan they just think “yeah, come to Nashville, meet every single long-haired boy.” Ha. I do know that his songs are all the same song to me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them.

I made three mixes in 2023. I know I sent a bunch out early in the year. Email me if ya want a copy. 1: Ease on in. 2: Church. 3: Sing Me to Sleep.

Favorite Albums: Basically in the order they came out, with maybe a little slippage on that from The National.

  • Jacob Banks “Lies About the War” I’ve mentioned this before: the way Hanif Aburraquib writes about music convinces me that I will 100% completely adore every album he talks about. And it turns out, we just generally do not have the same taste in music and that’s almost always wrong. Heh. It’s to the point where I am no longer allowed to buy albums he hyped until I’ve listened to the samples at least 20 times and still want it. Yes, that’s how bad my Hanif persuasion goes. Regardless, I bought this in January based on his recommendation and I love it so so so very much. Deep and dark and tangly. What a voice!! Fave songs: “Just When I Thought”, “Our Song” (feat. Anna Leone.
  • Anna Tivel “Outsiders” Another January purchase that I never stopped listening to. You know, January, the month where I buy everything everyone else loved in 2023 that I missed. This one comes from Kiki’s husband Steve’s recommendation. My favorite song was “Heroes”.
  • boygenius “The Record” Anything that needs to be said has already been said by a bajillion people. I’m not all “I repost every picture boygenius ever posts on their instagram” levels of obsession, LIKE SOME PEOPLE I KNOW (not a joke), but there’s no denying how good this album is. At first, I was like obsessively figuring out who wrote which song and did that mean I liked one artist more (since I didn’t love any of their solo stuff as much as I loved this) but now I just think of it like the Beatles: better together. Favorite songs: “Not Strong Enough”, “Emily I’m Sorry”, “True Blue”, and “Cool About It”.
  • The National “First Two Pages of Frankenstein” AND The National “Laugh Track” I mean, what the AF, my favorite band in the world put out two massively fantastic albums in the same year. AND I got to see them in concert again (it was just such a fabulous night). Honestly, I love both albums in their entirety, but if you want just some snippets, here you go: Fave songs FTPF: “New Order T-Shirt”, “Eucalyptus” (that ending), “This Isn’t Helping” (w/ Phoebe Bridgers bien sur). “Your Mind Is Not Your Friend” (also w/ PB). Fave Songs LT: “Weird Goodbyes” (w/ Bon Iver), “Hornets”, “Laugh Track” (PB again), “Crumble” (w/ Rosanne Cash).
  • Olivia Rodrigo “Guts” For the twelve-teen in me, that never completely goes away. Silly, goofballs, OMG I’M SO IN LOVE and OMG I’M SO NOT music. Fun times. Favorite songs: the back to back play of “Logical” and “Get Him Back!”
  • Sufjan Stevens “Javelin” I’m sorry whut. Can words. No, they can’t. Fucking stunningly beautiful that’s all you need to know. STUNNING. Amazeballoons. Favorite songs: “Goodbye Evergreen” (THAT BEGINNING), “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?”, “My Red Little Fox” (kiss me like the wind), “Shit Talk.”

Albums I really liked when I listened, but just didn’t keep hanging with much beyond their purchase:

  • Natalie Merchant “Keep Your Courage” Dang, Natalie Merchant, I’ve been enjoying your tunes for over 30 years.
  • Tommy Prine “This Far South” Doing his dad proud.
  • Daughter “Stereo Mind Game” I did put one of their singles above. I liked this. It just dropped off my radar too fast.

Albums I’m enjoying on my 2023 review that I don’t even remember from actually during 2023:

  • Future Teens “Sensitive Sessions”
  • Wild Rivers “Sidelines”

Duff at the Movies 2023 / Review style cuz… I forget to keep a list!

Oh nooooooo I never kept my list! What happened in 2023?!? Here’s what I can remember off the top of my increasingly forgetful head…

On the big screen, in general:

  • Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning part 1 Loved it. One of the funniest action movies I’ve seen in ages. They definitely try to bring the drama, but so much of it made me laugh. That chase scene!!!
  • Asteroid City This was just a very Wes Anderson-y Wes Anderson movie. There were moments I enjoyed, but I would not put it in my top five Wes Anderson movies.

At home, but came out in 2023:

  • Cocaine Bear Unbelievably good, given its title. I would watch this a billion times.

At the Chicago International Film Festival: Yes, I finally made it back to the CIFF! After maybe a decade? I was soooo happy, but one movie every single day for 11 days was a LOT during the teaching year, heh.

  • All Happy Families Fun, good performances, but not a lot of plot. More a “moment in time” movie.
  • Eric LaRue I thought this movie was a COMPLETE MESS. I see some of the things it wanted to do or criticize, but I didn’t think it did a great job. Also Michael Shannon in the Q&A afterward seemed messy as well.
  • The Love Stories of Liv S. It was an enjoyable watch but not something I’ve thought about a lot since.
  • The Delinquents This was a WILD ride (and maybe I should check how long a movie is before I buy a ticket for 7:15 on a school night!!!) and very long but I definitely enjoyed it, even though the plot takes a lot of goofball leaps.
  • Only the River Flows I sat next to the most lovely people at this show and one is a film professor who really helped me decipher the ending! This movie was like a fever dream.
  • Solo This Solo, not Star Wars. This movie was gorgeous. Sad, frustrating (Don’t make that decision! Don’t do it!), beautiful songs, costumes, makeup, etc.
  • All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt Beautiful. Possibly the slowest paced movie I’ve ever seen. The atmosphere is amazing. But I think you definitely come away with unanswered questions as to what and why. Here’s a hint I would have liked to have known going in (took too long to figure it out!): it’s jumping back and forth in time. Those are meant to be the same girl at different ages! The pacing and contemplativeness (and overall experience of being in the theater) really reminded me of Tree of Life, but this one is much more realistic.
  • The Bride This was a rough movie to sit there. Nothing is explicitly shown, per se, but some really crappy handling of the main character, her agency, and her body. ūüôĀ
  • The Taste of Things Bring a LOT of snacks to this movie, you are going to be sooooo hungry. It was beautiful, wildly intriguing and engaging if you know anything about cooking, and an interesting peek into a different world. Binoche was gorgeous in this flick.
  • Hard Miles Matthew Modine was at the screening and WHOA I had no idea what a total goofball he is. Also hats off to the dude who yelled VISIONQUEST as they started the Q&A. This was an engaging watch, the acting by all the boys was really good.
  • Perfect Days Another one of those movies that has almost no plot, just this weird repetition of this dude’s highly scheduled life and a few occasions where something happens to throw off his balance.

OK, I paged through the first 100 on IMDB’s list of movies that came out in 2024, and didn’t notice any others that I saw. So… maybe? that’s it. Sigh. Not a great year for Duff at the Movies.

√Ä la Super Eggplant, currently I am…

Watching: I am in season 4 of Yellowstone and… I love it and hate it to equal degrees. I think Taylor Sheridan is an amazing writer…but I hate his acting on the show (thankfully he’s a minor character). It’s hard to find anyone to root for here–every character you like turns out to also be a murderer or worse. Beth Dutton is possibly the world’s worst person, but she’s so amazeballoons, it’s just awe-inspiring to watch. It’s SO violent, I’ve actually had to cover my eyes for some scenes. But the dialogue is just aces. So. Kindof a toss-up, heh. I am also eagerly anticipating Mayor of Kingstown season 2 (another Sheridan show, I watched season 1 all the way through twice this summer).

Reading: I just finished a reread of The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson in preparation for reading the sequels which I finally bought over the summer (so so good, just touches your heart) and No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull, who I found out about from this short story collection (and its two sequels. So many good stories in that trilogy!!). It was a wild ride (and I should have done a character map as every new-seeming person seems to be connected to numerous previous characters in many ways) but very good. I am terrible at updating this blog (doh) but if you follow me on either Goodreads or Instagram, I do update my reading on those sites in a pretty timely manner.

Listening to: All about the new Lizzo. I also looove the new Maggie Rogers. And my friend Becki turned me on to Gang of Youths new album, which the more I listen to it, the more I realize it’s this summer’s substitute for a new National album, heh.

Writing: This is a repost from last September, and it’s STILL TRUE. Lesson plans. Wasting time spelling out the 97 steps I already know how to do to teach what I need to teach. What a waste of veteran teacher time. I will admit, I think they should be required of new teachers. Lesson plans were very helpful to me the first few years, especially if I needed ideas to fill extra time (paralyzing!), or really know what I was going to teach. And if you had a mentor teacher, they gave you a base to start from. You could use them for reflection: what worked, what didn’t, Now I already know how to do all of that and it’s so stupid to have to write them out, especially when it’s become very clear that NO ONE is actually reading them.etc.

Cooking / Eating: Due to ridiculous stomach issues, especially during school, I am back to PB&J for lunch every single day. Yup. Current non-lunchtime food obsession is this summer sweet corn and cucumber salad. SO GOOD.

Drinking: Trying to decrease my soda consumption (why? I’m going to die anyway), I am obsessively drinking the orange and lime Sunkist Singles to Go. I pour all the packets out into a Tupperware because I only use half a packet at once. I use a tiny bit less than 1/2 a teaspoon with 8 oz water (turns out I have NO glasses that can hold 16 oz!) and this thingie to mix it up.

Sewing: I made two new dresses the week before school… but never got to the one I cut out months ago. Hopefully in a week or two I’ll feel less overwhelmed by the school day and be able to get back to some crafts at home.

Quilting: Thinking about it, but not doing it.

Knitting: I’m a one-project, only-on-facetime-Saturday-nights knitter right now. I’m making a scarf from some red and orange Lobster Pot Yarns cashmere I bought a bajillion years ago at a yarn store in South Street Seaport (back in my NYC days). (Ooooooo look at this pretty skein.)

What’re YOU up to? ūüôā

The Rooster Shortlist Has Arrived!!

You can check out the official post here.

I’ve read (only) two so far so I’ve got 16 books to read before March!

My already reads:

“The Matrix” by Lauren Groff — I have been a Groff fan for a very long time now. This is so unlike everything she’s ever done, it’s wild to think the same person wrote this!! Heh. I would say I liked this book, thought a lot of it was so unique and outstanding, but did not 100% die for it. (I did buy it for someone as a Christmas gift, however…) It definitely has a bit of a “written at a remove” feel to it. I could see this winning the tournament because it’s so unlike what the rest of the world is writing right now and also because it’s got SUCH buzz… OTOH, I think it would be easy to prefer something more modern, something that’s perhaps civil rights focused vs women in the middle ages focused, something less mystical and more modern. (Here’s my goodreads review. How am I able to keep goodreads up to date, but not my own blog, is a question for the ages.) (p.s. and JUST NOW I learned that this is based on a real person, thank you New York Review of Books.)

“Libertie” by Kaitlyn Greenridge — This book was overhyped, for me. I read about it EVERYWHERE and then I read it and did not think it was as amazeballoons as advertised. But the talk about the book definitely also had that vibe of “if you don’t like this book, what is wrong with you” so… I didn’t feel like the writing was at a tour de force level–the story did some interesting things, and some things that didn’t seem like they fit. I could see this winning the tournament as it’s a historical novel that also deeply ties in to our current-day problems. Like The Matrix, it’s received a LOT of buzz: Roxanne Gay gave it ifive stars.

Dad’s and My Reading Challenge for 2022

I know you are as excited as I am to hear that we are doing this again!!! We are pairing Shakespeare plays with novels inspired by them and doing two-month periods so technically this challenge goes mid-way through 2023. We’ll see what happens!!

Jan-Feb: Lear + “Fool” by¬†Christopher¬†Moore

Mar-Apr: Hamlet¬†+ “Something Rotten” by Alan Gratz

May-June: Macbeth¬†+ “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith

July-Aug: Merchant of Venice¬†+ “Shylock is My Name” by Howard Jacobsen

Sept-Oct: Twelfth Night¬†+ “The Madness of Love” by Katherine Davies

Nov-Dec:¬†Taming of the Shrew + Midsummer Night’s Dream + “Wise Children” by Angela Carter

Jan-Feb: ¬†A Winter’s Tale¬†+ “Gap of Time” by Jeannette Winterson

Mar-Apr: ¬†The Tempest¬†+ “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

May-June:¬†Romeo¬†+ Juliet¬†+ “These Violent Delights” by Chloe Gong (YA)

The Matrix — past, present, future.

So, The Matrix 4 (The Matrix Resurrections) is on its way (possibly before Christmas?!?) and it seemed like a good time to go back to the past and revisit 1-3.

The Matrix (1): Quite possibly the best movie ever made. I could watch this every day until the end of time and still enjoy it every time. (I watch it at least a few times a year, still.) Kysa and I saw it 18 times in the theater when it came out (a number of those at that old cheap theater on 51st or 52nd [NYC], where people brought like whole meals in with them). It still holds up. The story is fabulous, the filming is fabulous, the… EVERYTHING ABOUT IT IS FABULOUS. Also, Keanu is just such a stunning specimen of humanity. Trinity kicks so much ass in this flick. Cypher is such a perfect (AWFUL) idiot. Morpheus is just the right amount of mysterious and not downtrodden by the horrors of this world. I know the entire plot of this movie like the back of my hand and STILL: the fight scenes are fantastic, some of the drop dead moments (Trinity’s hand on the phone booth as she vanishes while a truck inches away; the moment she sees the homeless man turn on the platform) are still SO satisfying even though I know they’re coming. “YOUR OTHER LEFT!” How hilarious that they even use an old TV trope like that one. Neo’s glee at learning karate. When he HOLDS THE HELICOPTER UP. The gun reveal in the lobby. Tank and Dozer. Gaaahhhhh there’s so much about it I love, I could write an entire book about it.

Matrix 2 (The Matrix Reloaded): Wow, so bad. How is this even made by the same people? The scene where Neo fights like 400 agents = looked SO INCREDIBLY FAKE. It basically seems like suddenly the same people who made brilliant, unbelievably wild fight scenes in the first movie just can’t use technology anymore?!? The sex scene seemed basically gratuitous. The Neo worship and prophecy doesn’t really seem to make sense here. If he’s meant to change things, and he’s here, then… where’s the change? All the spooky illogicalness of the first movie is just sliding down a slippery slope here. I remembered bits and pieces of this movie, but it was so awful, I’m pretty sure I only saw it right when it came out and then never again.

Matrix 3 (The Matrix Revolutions): When you thought Matrix 2 couldn’t get any worse… The whole plot with the Merovingian seems ridiculous both because it makes no sense and because of the ridiculous acting. The ghost twins seem to only use their power sometimes–there’s a whole bunch of times in that highway scene, they could have materialized into another place and ended the entire situation. The explanations by the keymaker and the oracle and the architect and all the other bajillion random people explaining the Matrix to us did not make any sense whatsoever. A lot of the stuff in Zion also makes no sense. The grody bug machines seem to kill off at least 2/3rds of Zion, at least most of its army, and yet the dance sequence at the end could have (probably did!) used the same strip of film as the one at the very beginning–no visible decrease in Zion’s population whatsoever. I remembered almost nothing of this movie and I CAN SEE WHY. It sucked.

So…. fingers crossed for part 4?!?!?!?