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Obsessions #3: How Is Coraline a Children's Movie?!
Everything I've Been Reading, Watching, Listening To and Cooking in October
This is the third edition of Obsessions, a monthly newsletter-within-a-newsletter highlighting all of the things I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, and generally obsessing over for the past few weeks. Make sure to comment on everything you’ve been obsessing over lately too!
What I’ve Been Reading:
You might be wondering why I haven’t done a book review in more than a month. I’ll admit it: I’ve been in something of a reading slump ever since I finished A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Even though I have my criticisms of it, it was a reading experience unlike any I’d ever had before. For all 720 pages, I was fully absorbed in the world and characters she created. Leaving that high level of engagement with a book was rough. Still, I’ve tried to keep reading some new releases to get myself back in the saddle again. I only have to read ten more books to make my 2021 Goodreads challenge and firmly believe that I can do it!
The best book I read in October was The Listeners by Jordan Tannahill, which was published in July and made the shortlist for this year’s Giller Prize. I didn’t quite know what to expect at first and was initially a bit hesitant. The book follows a white suburban mother who suddenly starts to hear a mysterious hum. However, the novel is written as if the woman is penning her own memoir, and acknowledges from the start that she has become a mockery in the press due to a neighbourhood scandal.
Although that premise felt a little like Reese’s Book Club to me at first, I was blown away by how Tannahill used The Hum as a metaphor for queerness and neurodiversity, two subjects I love to read about in fiction. The story also didn’t shy away from the uncomfortable, which made it a pretty thought-provoking read. Overall, I would definitely recommend it, and I think this book would make a good Christmas gift for even the most casual of readers.
I’ve been meaning to read The Secret To Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel ever since it was published last spring. Lucky for me, it finally came in at the library! While her first two graphic memoirs deal with her relationship with her parents, this one focused on Bechdel’s lifelong obsession with exercise and how it related to her own mental health and romantic relationships. Although it wasn’t necessarily mind-blowing, I still enjoyed reading it and would recommend all of her work if you enjoy graphic novels.
I’ve been anticipating Rax King’s first essay collection, Tacky, ever since it came onto my radar a few months ago. It was published last week and I made the trip to my local bookstore to buy it right away. As a lifelong enthusiast of many tacky things, most notably reality television, I had high hopes that King’s writing would live up to her subject matter. And it did! In a light, breezy and funny tone, King takes on Creed, Jersey Shore and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, all as it relates to herself and her relationships. Even though I wished some of the essays were longer and the collection flowed better as an entire narrative, I still really enjoyed it and finished it in three days. If you like Samantha Irby’s writing, I think you would really like this.
What I’ve Been Watching:
Shocktoberfest ‘21: October is the month where I try to watch a scary movie every day. This year, I watched 26. One of my favourites that I had never seen before was The Stepfather. It’s a pretty conventional late ‘80s slasher flick, but it has a great performance by Terry O’Quinn, as well as strong feminist undertones. The sequel, which I am saving for next October, is (seriously) titled Stepfather 2: Make Room For Daddy.
Another new-to-me movie was 2009’s Coraline. My boyfriend and I had both never seen it before. We’re always a bit cautious of animated films since those are the ones that can really tear out your heartstrings as an adult. Coraline, however, wasn’t a sad movie; it was FUCKING TERRIFYING. How was it marketed towards children?! If I had seen this as a kid in theatres, I honestly would have shit my pants and never stopped crying. Five stars!
Twilight Movie Marathon: Around Thanksgiving, I had a fever dream weekend where I watched all five Twilight movies in order. Honestly, I had never even finished watching all the movie adaptations; by the time Breaking Dawn: Part 2 came out, I was graduating high school and officially Too Old for it.
It was very strange to watch them all together. They’re such a time capsule of the late ‘00s. It broke my brain to think that indie darlings Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were in the entire franchise, the main characters and dating in real life at the time. The movies also felt so… Mormon?! The first one is by far the best one, with Breaking Dawn: Part 1 being my second favourite, simply because of how deranged it is.
Titane: I’d been anticipating seeing French director’s Julia Ducournau’s Titane ever since it won the Palme D’or at Cannes this year. It blew my mind wide open. While the trailers led me to believe that the film would be one thing, the story shifted about 25 minutes in to become something completely different. A stunning meditation on the collapse of binaries around gender, family and love, Titane is by far my favourite new movie of 2021. There is quite a bit of disturbing and graphic content, but it honestly never felt gratuitous to me. The less you know, the better, so I’d recommend going to see it as blind as you can.
You (Season 1 & 2): Somehow when You came out in 2018, it missed me completely. With the release of the third season, however, I couldn’t help but feel like I had to catch up. You is essentially Dexter for people under 30, but with a more Gossip Girl energy. It’s compulsively watchable but it’s definitely not an amazing show per se, apart from Penn Badgeley’s extremely good performance.
I also appreciated all the literary references in the first season and died of laughter at Beck, the stereotype of the wannabe-writer who never actually writes. However, the Chris D’Elia storyline that echoed later real-life events added a bizarre undercurrent to everything. I wouldn’t recommend watching this if you’re sensitive to on-screen violence or just don’t want to watch a show where women get stalked and killed.
What I’ve Been Listening To:
Eating For Free: Eating For Free is an investigative podcast hosted by reporters Joan Summers and Matthew Lawson that looks deep into all things trashy pop culture. Lately, they’ve been diving deep into all of the current Housewives drama, which I’m highly grateful for since it’s basically a full-time job to keep up with. The recent episode “The Great Fuckening: A Unified Theory of the Kourtney Kardashian Travis Barker Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly Extended Universe” melted my brain in the best way possible.
Pop Pantheon: Pop Pantheon has become one of my favourite podcasts over the past year. Released every two weeks by LA-based DJ Louie XIV, each episode is a 60-90 minute deep dive on a pop icon from the present or decades past, as well as an examination of their influence and legacy on music as a whole. It’s really rare to find works of music history that take pop music this seriously, so if you're a music nerd, this podcast is ESSENTIAL. I loved the latest episodes on Charli XCX and Justin Beiber in particular.
Fall Dance Mix: My taste in music has evolved over the pandemic to a galaxy-brain level that even I find bizarre. Lately, I’ve been playing my Fall Dance Mix on repeat, which is probably the only playlist in the world that goes from “N.E.O.” by Chai to “Mass Romantic” by The New Pornographers. I don’t care about genre anymore, I only care about DANCING IN MY KITCHEN.
What I’ve Been Cooking:
In short, BEANS! I’ve really gotten into dried beans during the past two years, a survival tactic from early quarantine that has deliciously stayed with me. For white beans, I really like Alison Roman’s Brothy Beans, as well as her Spicy White Bean Stew. For lentils, I’m obsessed with Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil Soup with Lemon, although make sure to double the water and carrots. For canned beans, I really liked making Rick Martinez’s Chicken Tinga Tostadas with Bacon-y Black Beans (the texture after you mash them up is SO good).
I also present the recipe for Slow Cooker Baked Beans, which I originally got from a bean cookbook, although I can’t remember which one, but have modified it to be perfectly attuned to my palette. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can definitely make it in a pot on the stove, just let the beans simmer for 60-90 minutes.
ALANNA WHY’S SLOW COOKER BAKED BEANS:
Dice one onion and cut 6 slices of bacon into strips. Cook in a pan on medium for 5-8 minutes, until onion is golden brown and bacon is crispy.
Add to a slow cooker, along with two cups of dried pinto beans (no need to soak), five cups of water or broth, 3 tbsp mustard (any kind), 1 tbsp chili powder and ½ tbsp smoked paprika. Set on low and cover. Let cook for 7 hours, lifting the lid once to stir half-way through.
After 7 hours, take the lid off and add ¼ cup of molasses, ¼ cup of brown sugar and 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Let simmer for 30-60 minutes and enjoy!
Sparkling Water of the Month: This is a new segment of the newsletter in which I review the sparkling water that I drank the previous month. Sparkling water is only available in cases of 8-12 cans, meaning I only go through 1-2 cases a month, meaning I normally only drink one flavour. Sometimes I pick badly and curse myself, other times I strike gold.
This month I tried President’s Choice Vanilla Cherry Soda Sparkling Water, which I did not love at first, but definitely grew on me as I drank 11 more cans of it. It tastes almost identical to a Dr. Pepper. However, if you’re looking for a soda dupe, I’d highly recommend the Farm Boy Orange Vanilla Sparkling Water or the City Seltzer Orange Cream, which both taste exactly like Orange Crush. However, they’re both more expensive and limited to Ottawa. How I yearn for them in Montreal!
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