The Warm Lovelies of Portside Stories

Courtesy of Val Halla (pun apparently intended)

Courtesy of Val Halla (pun apparently intended)

You wake up at five in the morning, even though you set your alarm for six, feeling fully refreshed. Your body has decided to gift you an extra hour in your day, and the universe wrapped that gift with a big ol’ bow in the shape of a sunrise. You look out your window, holding a stiff cup o’ joe and think, damn, this is as good as mornings get. Sometimes the universe bequeaths you a hug, and there’s little you can do but hug back.

Valerie Halla’s Portside Stories is a lot like that cosmic hug. Everything about it breathes warmth. The plot, centering around best friends Alex and Nat and their adventures in gender fluidity, takes place on the intimate scale. Transitioning between genders is as much of an internal conflict—and initially, a literal dissonance—as an external one, and Portside Stories’s inaugural chapter concerns itself with the former, a struggle with the ambivalence lurking within. There are secrets revealed, hearts broken, and bras panickedly removed during Nat and Alex’s respective, four-years-separated comings out (coming outs?).

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First Annual Your Horrible Family Top Five Superlatives of 2014

Holy moly! Hot dog!

Holy moly! Hot dog!

The holidays mean lots of things to lots of people, but for me it’ll always be about the endless ranking, the distribution of hundreds of lists across thousands of locales tabulating how, exactly, anything and everything in the past 365 days added up. Go ahead and call it pointless, call it shouting into a storm, call it navel-gazing. I don’t care. When it gets to December and all the big blogs start breaking out the big fonts for their big wrap-ups, my heart gets a-stutterin’.

There’s something about standing in the center of the critical echo chamber, taking a few moments to let it all wash over and soak in, that I really like. For me, the act of going through row after row of wrap-ups and best-ofs is one part mixtape, one part sabermetrics: the mass attempt to turn people’s opinions into objective fact is oddly addicting and, frankly, more often than not makes for damn good recommendations. For someone, such as myself, who constantly feels like they’re lagging behind the zeitgeist, it’s pure manna.

Before I get into my awkwardly constructed and woefully underpopulated favorite whatnots of 2014, I would like to take a step back tonight and thank all of those people out there with capable literacy and the means to project their voices throughout the information superhighway. I know that just sounded snarky as fuck but I mean every damn word of it. It’s the time of a season to share your thoughts, rank your opinions, and tabulate the stats on your year-end lists until you’ve got enough scribbled ticker-tape to fill the stockings. If one person reads this list and finds just one thing that they’d like to explore more in these coming winter months, then we’ve all done our job as critics.

Now, having laid down all that praise for praise, please note that you are now to bear witness to some true hating dabbled here and there within this list. “Best of” is a bit of a narrow window for a year partly defined by hate, fear, and disappointment. Great artists embarrassed themselves. Everyone was racist. Kanye West did practically nothing of import. So let this be a (media-focused) reminiscence on not just the best, but everything else interesting enough to warrant mention on the other sides of the emotional prairie.

Plus, like the most accurate year-wrapup lists, this shit is actually coming out in after the year is fully over. Take that, everywhere else!

Anyway,

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