The year continues and I have ingested more art (that I have a surprising amount to say about).

Here’s Part I.

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1. The Argonauts (Maggie Nelson, 2015)
You know, The Argonauts was an exciting experience for me. At times it’s a riveting stream of consciousness piece of personal essay writing that feels exactly like how my brain functions: long stories about experiences, quotes from other creatives peppered in, and an individual processing their conflicting thoughts over concepts that are ever changing. Though it sometimes leans a little too much on citation and analysis of academic texts — and it can sometimes feel like a series of essays that bounce between interesting and exhausting — some of the ways that Nelson approaches these theoretical concepts really speak to me as someone who spent a grand portion of their twenties unsure of what the word queer meant to me personally. There was once a time where anything that wasn’t simply “this has gay characters” wasn’t queer in my eyes, which, in hindsight, was dumb as shit. For Nelson, there’s a real interest in the malleability of the term and how it applies to everything she experiences (and not simply limited to “sex” and “gender”) and exploring that comes with its own minefield of possible ignorance.
To be honest, there were moments when reading The Argonauts that I found myself flat out rolling my eyes at the way she discussed her partner Harry because it reeks of a cis person trying to sort of garter sympathy for the way they are experiencing someone else’s transness. It doesn’t always happen in a “woe is me” kind of way, but there’s an undercurrent of that in certain passages that can get a bit annoying. That said: I have probably been that person in the past myself. Even now, having come out as non-binary, I still find myself prone to questioning myself and others about our genders or lack thereof and stumbling when discussing certain things.
Hell, the other day I was too anxious about clicking “I am a trans critic” on a Sundance application simply because I felt insecure about what it meant to be trans. Is the fact that I feel deep discomfort when people refer to me as a “he” (though still allow it in certain situations because it’s easier than exposing myself to jokes or discrimination within a work environment)? Is it the fact that I wish I had a big pair of boobs but still enjoy having a dick? Is it the fact that I find myself most comfortable when dressed like Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give? Yeah, sort of, but it’s a lot of other things too and I use my writing to explore those concepts (and I’ll probably expand on these thoughts in a later piece about some trans lit I’ve been reading).
It’s easy for me to not be as critical of the things she does as many individuals I know are (and as they have the right to be!) because I know that part of existing in a queer landscape is not always knowing what the best way to navigate that queer landscape is (and, in reality, there is no ideal way to navigate it outside of just respecting others’ identities and experiences). However cringe I find some of the things she writes (particularly the sort of excessive name dropping that happens throughout and the way she sometimes discusses her partner), Nelson is just trying to figure out how to navigate her own queerness and the queerness of those adjacent to her, and I respect that as someone doing the exact same thing.
I’m also very fond of the way Nelson approaches criticism in here, not just of her contemporaries and icons in numerous fields, but of her own follies. Is there anything particularly radical about the book overall? Maybe not, but I admire an individual willing to put herself out there in the way that Nelson does, even when I find some of the passages to be somewhat indulgent and endless. …

This was originally a list of anime for Kyle to watch (mostly focused on film and specific auteurs in the medium because getting Kyle to commit to watching any series that isn’t limited to under thirteen episodes is like pulling teeth), but, in the spirit of coaxing other folks into watching some potentially new works, I wanted to make it public!

This also totally sidesteps anything from Studio Ghibli (because they’re almost entirely very accessible and widely seen, although some folks have skipped out on Isao Takahata’s work in favor of Miyazaki and you should remedy that ASAP) and Satoshi Kon’s films (because Kyle has also seen those and, if you haven’t, you totally should). …

Now that my life is less busy than usual (though I’m facing an existential crisis about what to do next with it), I’ve decided to keep track of every work of art I ingest and write about it in some capacity. There will be films, shows, books, plays, games, etc. Each entry will range in length, but I’ll be trying to post weekly or biweekly in order to not keep things too long (and also offer some recommendations). This is entirely a personal exercise in order to keep myself writing more often.

So here’s the first collection of things I watched in 2021. …

I am a simple person who always poorly attempts to keep an ongoing log of the books they read throughout the year and always manages to fuck it up somehow. This time, I will simply be listing everything I read this year; some with notes or thoughts attached.

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Wonder Woman: Dead Earth
  1. Uzumaki (Junji Ito, 1998–1999)
  2. The Drifting Classroom (Kazuo Umezu, 1972–1974)
  3. Gunji (Gengoroh Tagame, 2005)
  4. Chicago (Fred Ebb, John Kander & Bob Fosse, 1975)
    This was an especially fun one, for a group performance of Chicago for Kyle Turner’s birthday in which I played Velma Kelly and he was Roxie Hart. One of the most delightful events of my year that came pre-COVID (and was paired with the experience of us going to Company and Sleep No More together, which was great and something I miss a whole lot). …

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With a pandemic ravaging the world and in-person events still not particularly safe, Miami Book Fair has pivoted to virtual panels and conversations instead of in-person events. Last year I unfortunately missed Ann and Jeff VanderMeer discussing their editorial work on The Big Book of Modern Fantasy at the festival, but was lucky enough to have interviewed John Waters [both for Miami New Times and in person at the festival (viewable under Tuesday, Nov 19th)].

This year, following the release of his latest novel this summer, VanderMeer will be part of a panel titled Perilous Schemes, Dangerous Skies at Miami Book Fair. Over the phone, we spoke about Floridian insanity, his stunning oeuvre, and the absurdity, characters, and politics of his young adult novel, A Peculiar Peril. The first portion of this interview is available at Miami New Times, but there was plenty more conversation that couldn’t fit in. …

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via Fake Friends

[A note: the following article features spoilers for Circle Jerk. Quotes were taken from live screenings of the production.]

Fake Friends’ digital theatrical production, Circle Jerk, is something of a wonder from the moment it begins. A troll wanders the streets, acting as a one fag Greek chorus to tell the tale of queer culture in the 2020s; a tale of memes and brands and rebrands, of TikTok’s and sociosexual flip-flops, of conspiracy theories and the complex politics of cultural appropriation.

This troll is merely our Virgil into the Inferno that is the contemporary queer online landscape and the human beings that exist beyond one’s digital footprint. To say Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley’s show is a wildly entertaining, academic assault with a side dish of tea isn’t a stretch. We have stirred it, we have sipped it, and girl, the tea is piping hot. Circle Jerk presents a moving and bitter reflection of a queer community that is eating itself alive, an ouroboros of imitation that we may never find the end of. …

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I’m Thinking of Ending Things | Netflix

This month I found myself reading a number of criticisms towards some film adaptations of recent years. The first was that of the Dune trailer, which has sent a number of people into a tizzy over how “faithful” it looks to the novel, and which I believe should have a little more color and feel less like any other given modern blockbuster picture. My feelings were echoed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, who said, “The form is identical to what is done everywhere. The lighting, the acting, everything is predictable”. …

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I don’t really like talking about death.

Well, that’s not true. I frequently joke that I wish I was dead, have lengthy discussions about suicidal ideation (that have decreased ever since I started therapy and medication), and watch films that are full of dead bodies from start to finish.

But that’s all, sort of, death in the abstract. I don’t really like talking about or dealing with death in its concrete form, particularly when it’s personally linked to me. I always joke that I sort of relate to the Midsommar cult in their view of death; there’s a time for growing up and there’s a time for dying. …

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Little Women (Sony Pictures)

Greta Gerwig’s Little Women opens on Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) pitching her short story — under the guise of “her friend”, fooling no one — to a publication run by Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts). He, rather shamelessly, scratches away a number of pages of Jo’s short story with his quill and notes that she should take care to make sure her women are either married, or dead, by the end of any stories she pitches. …

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[This is a journal. Or something.]

I was at the beach recently, a clothing optional one. It isn’t my first time — and heaven knows I have no issues with being naked around strangers, and have frequently been nude around two of my friends who had invited me this time— but the crowds I’ve gone with before have usually varied in size and shape. Their bodies weren’t necessarily exactly like my own, but they existed in a space that was relatively free to judgement. …


Juan Barquin

Neurotic queer Latinx. Programmer for Flaming Classics. Florida Film Critics Circle. Writer for Miami New Times, Dim the House Lights, and more.

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