This year marked my 4th XOXO, and my 3rd at Revolution Hall. Last year was big, which meant it was even harder to wave at, or spend time with the other amazing attendees I knew. This year, it felt just right. I still waved at too many folks, and wished I had time to have a number of small dinners over the next year instead of so many “hey, I see you, sorry I’ve gotta run!” However, I got to spend time with a smallish group of friends, see all the talks I wanted, and even play some amazing new games. If you’ve never been to XOXO, and you make things on the internet, and enjoy building relationships, this is a great place for you.
As usually, the first day of the conference was a social one—with Glitch doing an Appy Hour, and Panic showing off the Playdate. It was super cool seeing all the strange community games and creations of Glitch users, along with a few presentations, and the Playdate is something I can’t wait to own. Topped-off with a dinner at Kachka, a lot of upcoming games, and one of the most hilarious videos I’ve seen in a while, wherein Brian Gilbert attempts to calculate his pet’s HP, Friday was a delight. The weather held, the toilets were uniquely chill, and the layout of the festival ensure I could wander and find neat things.
One of the first pieces of advice I’d give anyone going to a multi-day festival is “don’t drink too much on the first night”. I didn’t take my own advice. I wasn’t ill, but a combination of 3 glasses of wine and too little sleep meant 10am felt very early. Thankfully my hotel had Proud Mary coffee, and XOXO had Deadstock. A breakfast sandwich from Fried Egg I’m in Love completed my resurrection.
Day two felt a little longer, as I sat through every talk, alternately crying and laughing. A definite emotional rollercoaster. Helen and Hrishikesh were excellent hosts, and seeing their banter develop over the weekend makes me hope they host again next year. I missed the Andy’s camaraderie at times, but I hope only being responsible for the whole festival was a nice change from also MCing.
Lunch was Basilisk. Unbeatable fried chicken I eat every time I visit Portland. Yes, even when I’m there for hours.
Favorite talks from Saturday: Harry Brewis (very funny guy who I didn’t know anything about beforehand), Hundred Rabbits (delightful French Canadian vegan sailors), and Soleil Ho (what happens when you become the representation?!).
After a quick dinner, I sat down for a night of unforgettable podcasts. I watched a man interview a chainsaw, and was utterly destroyed by Demi and Miel with special guests Neil and Mike doing Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbuster song. The number of folks I heard singing “bustin’ makes me feel good” after this podcast taping tells me I wasn’t alone.
Coffee. Sandwich. Almost there. I was wiped at this point, but the talks were delightful. Mikki Kendall, Jenny Odell, and Rhea Butcher were my favorites from Sunday. A great mix of comedy and art. Food highlights were Navarre (another favorite), and dinner at Sardine Head. OMG Sardine Head. Oxidated white wine. Salt-cured anchovy. Dang.
The karaoke list was full by the time my friends and I got back from dinner, and a cab ride that included an episode of King of the Hill. It was fun watching various speakers and friends sing Pavement, Lizzo, and of course, the Ghostbuster’s theme. I ended my night with my friends Jenny and Joe, drinking on the balcony at my hotel. Our friend André’s room was right by the balcony, and he wandered out mid-way through. That moment of kismet was generally how the whole conference felt—friends wandering by, saying hi, and going on adventures.
XOXO at its best feels like what I imagine a community should feel like. It’s full of new people, old people, dear friends, and acquaintances. If XOXO was every day, I would lose my mind, but once a year, it feels incredible to be surrounded by so many people I care about, as we’re inspired together by talks, art, and each other. I’m so glad I got to go to Portland, for the first time as a non-resident, for XOXO. I can’t wait for another year of this magical festival, and hope many of the same folks will get to attend. My only regret is that I can’t somehow bring Snorri with me too. He’d hate it.
I wish I knew more about art. Reading the titular story, I found myself reaching for my phone to understand each scene in the strange and delightful post-apocalyptic tale. As I held the painting in my mind, and explored the flooded wastes with Liam, Nell, and Co. I found myself enamored by the framing. How often are our relationships held together by a retelling of an old picture? Are we always trying to build a life out of the classics of our youth? There’s a survey of life, and an exploration of lost moments in these vignettes.
The opening tale of this collection plants us in Ohio, a place, we see, where even supportive friends or loved ones can’t save you from the yawning abyss. The suburban Olive Garden echoes in my mind with all the breadsticks I absorbed through my high school years. These youth were me, and the chasm felt real then too. From there, we follow a mother who lost a son, and a sliver of a life exploring a name—just enough of both to leave the reader wanting more. Then, a journey through art, mentioned above. It’s strange and beautiful, and a great opportunity to learn about the great works of fine art, if like this reviewer, you largely skipped-out on art class.
Finally, we readers are washed up on the shore, like so many dead fish, with a man watching a lodge, and time-displaced, dealing with an all-too-familiar moldy bathroom. A word of warning: if you’ve lived in the the Pacific Northwest, the squelch of wet tile will be all too real. This novella is reminiscent of Jack and the Beanstalk, or another fairy tale of exploring a new land. The phrase “crotchal belch” made me laugh out loud. There are so many great turns of phrase in Masterworks. The story propelled me forward, alternately laughing and cringing. I wanted the protagonist to seize his agency, and change in the ways he so clearly desired. I find these characters at turns fascinating and deeply frustrating. There were so many places where I yelled, “say something” in my head, but this isn’t a story of success, but learning and remembering.
On the whole, I loved this book. Masterworks, by Simon Jacobs, is a fantastic collection of imagination, and creative bombast. At times it leans into magical realism, in others outright fantasy. There a slightly disjointed nature to these stories, as they’re collected over years of writing, and lead me to hope Simon writes more—a novel perhaps—in the future.
The Light Brigade — Kameron Hurley
Definite Catch-22 vibes throughout this book, with a hearty helping of Starship Troopers. If you like time-travel and space military, this is a solid read.
The Psychology of Time Travel — Kate Mascarenhas
Ah, time-travel and lesbians: two of my favorite things. This book was an interesting take on time-travel, and inevitable meeting of your future and past selves. I really enjoyed the small strange moments between characters.
From the Fatherland with Love — Ryu Murakami
One of the more bonkers books that Ryu Murakami has written, it combines both his fascination with violence with a scathing satire on bureaucracy. I couldn’t put this down and found myself alternatively horrified and laughing.
The Book of Joan — Lydia Yuknavitch
This was a very strange, disjointed tale of a post-apocalyptic redemption narrative. I can’t say that I know a lot about Joan of Arc, but I trust that Yuknavitch drew from her history to write this. I can’t decide quite how I feel about this, but I will say that I found the author’s obsession with genitals and gender rather much. Does the author dislike trans people? Was she attempting to suggest that they are leading us to a dark, genderless place? This was unclear. There was a blurb that claimed this author is at the forefront of writing about gender fluidity, and I would say instead, she is mired deep in the past.
Magic for Liars — Sarah Gailey
Ah! I loved this book. What a brilliant marriage of noir and magic school. I devoured it in two sittings with a big grin on my face. Gailey is a delight, and after seeing them read the first chapter in person, I couldn’t wait to dive in. I hope they write more novels soon.
River of Teeth — Sarah Gailey
What an absurd romp. This would’ve worked better for me if I enjoyed cowboys or the romance of men, but still it was fun enough. I don’t think I’ll read the next few books in this series, but I’m certain my friend in book club will devour them. Well-written and imagined, just not for me.
Battle Angel Alita
I read this comic when I was younger, and it’s kind of neat to see it made into a live action film. I still can’t get over the uncanny valley eyes that Rose Salazar’s character has though. Overall, this was ￼￼a fun action film.
I’ve seen folks watching this on a bunch of planes in the past year or so, and as a long-time fan of the Predator, I entered into it grudgingly. The first two films were tight thrillers, but at this point, I can’t tell what the series wants to be. If you can watch this for free, I guess it’s ok?
Bad Times at the El Royale
This was fun enough, with a pretty good ensemble cast. Nothing really stuck out as excellent, and in a few ways it felt like a less-ambitious Tarantino film.
A good reminder that disaster movies don’t need to have the glitz and glam of a big budget Hollywood film. This sequel to The Wave was rather slowly-paced, but exciting as it picked up steam.
Killing of a Sacred Deer
Wow, this was an eerie film. At this point I’ve enough of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films that I enter into them thinking “what’s the strange twist?” This film delivered on that quite well. I love the strange, flat performance Lanthimos actors provide—they lure you into this world with everything just /a bit/ off. Also the young man in the film was /haunting/.
I went into this movie thinking “it’s about religion and maybe climate change”. That covers it to a degree, but beyond that is so much truth and sadness. This was a grim, beautiful film that struck me right at the core—both as an ex-religious person, and someone who often mourns for the end of life for so many folks effected by climate change. The movie, at it’s core, asks if there’s any forgiveness for our destruction of the planet, for our destruction of humanity. I don’t have an answer to that question. This film however, was excellent.
I can now say that I have indeed considered the Lobster. After seeing The Favourite earlier this year, I decided to go back to watch Yorgos Lanthimos‘ other films. I’m glad I did. This was fantastic.
The Ceremony (儀式)
A bizarre 70s Japanese film about family, duty, and incest. Reading about this film, it seems like much of it was meant to be an indictment of the older generation, as well as the younger generation’s unwillingness to speak out against tradition. As a film, it’s truly strange, but also brutal in its methodical breakdown of the protagonist.
Hobbs & Shaw
A very silly buddy comedy. They talk about balls a bit too often for a movie with two 50 year old protagonists, but it was fun at times. There’s very little connection between this and Fast & Furious, but if you like Stratham & The Rock, you’ll have fun.
As my clothes gradually wear out, I’m slowly trying to replace everything with my current favorites. This makes for a very simple wardrobe that works for all 4 seasons.
Lots of this stuff is wool, all of it is pretty durable, and when possible I tried to find vendors that were environmentally friendly and smaller.
4 tank tops — These are fantastic tank tops. They wick well, don’t get stinky, and look good enough to wear outside of the gym.
4 t-Shirts — Comfy, and cool looking. There’re a lot of colors if you don’t want to wear all black all the time.
2 tailored dress shirts (long sleeve)
3 pants — I just keep buying these. They’re comfortable, stretch well during activity, and hold up to a lot of punishment.
2 pairs of shorts — Great for lifting weights, yoga, or just when it’s hot. I wouldn’t wear them to work, but I wouldn’t wear shorts to work generally.
2 pairs of leggings — These stay up during yoga and powerlifting really well. They’re comfortable and keep you dry even if you go out for a drink after working out.
10 pairs of underwear — Wool underwear rules.
5 sports bras — I keep trying to find something that’s more comfortable, but I keep coming back to these. Simple, and easy.
8 pairs of socks — Great wool socks that pack light and dry quickly.
3 Shorts with pockets — I love that i can throw a phone or keys in here and check the mail if I’m too lazy to put on pants.
1 sweater — You never know when you need a nice sweater.
Hoodie — Great hoodie. I own two because I think they’re discontinuing them sadly. My backup is probably a Chrome one, I guess.
Coat — Very low-key and stealth. This jacket looks just as good in the city as it does on a hike.
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