Monday, December 10, 2012

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2012, pt. 1: Nisi Shawl

Keeping Calm and Carrying On
by Nisi Shawl

In the US this was an election year, which made a profound difference in what I found fascinating to view. Otherwise things went pretty much as previously.

Music continued to come to my notice via Pandora. My “Strict Machine” channel gave me a new mantra:
Don’t think about all those things you fear
Just be glad to be here….
Sung breathily by FC/Kahuna, "Hayling" helped me keep going. Sometimes I truly needed that help. Also evocative: “I Remember,” by Deadmau5 and Kaskade (“Can’t have a revolution if the music isn’t right!”); and “Edge of the Ocean,” by Ivy. Yeah, electronica from ten, twenty years ago.

I’m old school. I’m still reviewing books for The Seattle Times, and still getting paid for it. Want to know which were the best? I picked Nalo Hopkinson’s The Chaos of the titles covered within the paper’s pages, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s two-volume story collection The Unreal and the Real of those not. I also enjoyed Salsa Nocturna by Daniel Jose Older, a relatively new writer with audacious stuff to say.

So the election. I’m not the world’s most political person, and yet I found the 2012 election cycle quite compelling--far more compelling than 2008’s. In some ways it doesn’t matter who is this country’s president. The government will go on being a murder machine no matter who ostensibly has their hands on the steering wheel. But in some ways it matters profoundly, in my non-humble opinion.

My first sight of Obama was in a documentary film shown by the union I belonged to four years ago. He was mopping a floor. An office-holder is only a human being. It was abundantly clear to me he understood what it meant to be one. I mean, he was really mopping that floor. Before, it was dirty. Afterwards, it was clean.

 Though my friends were climbing lamp posts and cheering Obama’s initial election, I just couldn’t relax. Not his whole first term. Not till now, really. Because I knew he’d be hated for his race. I knew his presidency would be regarded as a fluke. I knew there’d be some ugly ish coming down around him, and only re-election would prove him a winner.

Without a TV, I watched highlights of the Republican and Democratic conventions. I watched the US presidential and vice presidential debates. It is possible, these days, to do that online. My sleep patterns became highly disturbed in late September and all through October, shredding to pieces the first week of November.

Thank you dear, sweet, kind, restorative Nate Silver. His website, in case you’re unaware of it, offers statistical analyses of polls and voting projections. He kept saying Romney would lose. I kept hoping he was right.

 I also found plenty of relief for my barely bearable tension in humor. I watched Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show four times a week. Full episodes are available on its website the day following broadcast. The Daily Show’s team put together some great live coverage of the conventions, and there was also a (fairly brief) live segment on election night.

But before November 6 rolled around a friend introduced me to Key and Peele, a pair of comics with a show on the same network as Stewart. Again, sans TV, all my viewing took place online. I began with their “Anger Translator” skits, in which Jordan Peele does an impression of No Drama Obama, glossed with hopped up interpretations of what he really meant by Keegan-Michael Key. Here's an example. Warning: there’s a considerable amount of obscenity involved.

Of course my favorite now is Key and Peele's "Victory" segment. Soon I developed a taste for their non-POTUS pieces as well. I hope to see more of them in 2013. For now I’ll conclude with something seasonal: Key and Peele’s violent send-up of the far-too-rapey classic tune “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Happy Holidays!

 Nisi Shawl is the author of Filter House, which won the James Tiptree Jr. Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, Something More and More, her WisCon GoH collection, and, with Cynthia Ward, the co-author of the celebrated Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, and the editor of The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 5: Writing and Racial Identity, all of which are published by Aqueduct Press. She reviews science fiction for the Seattle Times, is a member of the Clarion West board, teaches writing workshops at Centrum in Port Townsend, WA., and is the reviews editor of The Cascadia Subduction Zone

No comments: