Tuesday, December 13, 2016

16 things I loved in 2016.


This year was rough, and so many of my 2016 "favorites" were things that helped keep me distracted amidst all the crap that happened over the last 12 months. So, in no particular order, here's my annual list that I probably won't keep doing in the future because monthly favorites are way easier to keep track of than these end-of-the-year giant roundups that, inevitably, leave out many things from the first half of the year...

One disclaimer: not everything on this list came out in 2016. I'm just really late to things.

(Also, in preparation for my end-of-the-year lists, I asked my friends on Facebook what some of their favorite pop culture things were in 2016, and their super cool and interesting answers reminded me how behind I am on pretty much everything.)

1. Binge by Tyler Oakley
I picked this up on a whim at the store one afternoon. I'm not sure why (I think it was on sale?) because I've never really watched Tyler Oakley's YouTube videos, but not having an enormous background on his life didn't really detract from the pure joy that this book exuded. It made me laugh, it made me tear up, it made me put the book down occasionally so I could look up a video or two he was referencing. I know that books by YouTubers aren't seen by some as being high quality, but I really enjoyed reading this – and isn't that a mark of a good read?

2. Dodie Clark's Intertwined EP
It's just six songs, but the story this EP tells is absolutely lovely. Listening to Intertwined is like watching a dance performance that begins with a strong ensemble and ends with a single ballerina shrinking as she pirouettes at center stage. I don't know if that's the best description, but I don't know if I have words that really describe this. If you're familiar with Dodie's music on YouTube, you'll instantly recognize the ukulele and the harmonies even underneath the more produced tracks of her better known songs, like "Sick of Losing Soulmates" (being in studio added a hundred layers to this song and made it sound so...big. And, yet – simple).



3. Pop Rocket podcast
I know, I know. I'm late to this game for sure (and definitely late to podcasts in general), but I just started listening to Pop Rocket, and I love it. It's fun, it's topical, it's introducing me to new stuff all the time. This is quickly becoming my favorite thing to listen to on my commutes.

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
I still can't stop talking about this film. If you know me, you know I'm a big Harry Potter nerd, and just hearing the theme music in a theater again made me more excited than I probably should have been. It was fun to see the wizarding world come to life in 1920s New York City, and watch a story unfold that fits so seamlessly into the Potter world we all know.

5. Amsterdam
TFIOS bench, of course
My new favorite city, I think! Even in the rain, walking around the city was breathtaking. The city center is walkable, the canals are gorgeous, and the food was delicious (although what's up with all the cafes except for Starbucks closing so early?). Seriously, Dutch pancakes are delightful and I would've made multiple trips in a day to Albert Cuypmarkt for the stroopwafels if we didn't already have a packed agenda.

Also, because one of my favorite things to do in a new city is to learn about history (double nerd alert), visiting Anne Frank's house was my favorite part of the trip. We also went outside the city to see the tulips, and it was magical...even if the day ended with the bus we needed just passing us by because we didn't know the proper etiquette for flagging a bus down.

(I realized as I was thinking about my 2016 favorites that I never wrote a blog post about Dublin and Amsterdam after the trip, but it was definitely a highlight of the year. Maybe I'll do a "16 favorite photos from my phone of 2016"...)

6. Switched at Birth
I wrote about this at the start of the year, but I can't stress enough how incredible I think this show is. Since the final season got delayed, I have nothing new to add to that blog post, so...just read that for my take.

7. The Good Place
Kristen Bell is a delight, the character of Chidi one of my new favorite TV characters ever, and the twists and turns of the plot are just shocking enough to make you go "whoa!" without making you hate the show for jerking you around.

8. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My favorite fiction read of the year, even though it came out in 2014 (told you I'm behind). I missed several subway stops while reading this book because I was just so engrossed in the story. It's intriguing and heartbreaking, and I found myself walking in every one of the character's shoes at one point or another in the book, which helped bring the story to life in my own mind.

9. Vogue's "73 Questions"
One of the smartest digital video series I've seen from a media company. The interviews are personal and funny, and the production is impressive. I mean...what kind of rehearsal/walk-through must this go through to get it all in one take?? I've watched some of these videos multiple times just to try and figure out the choreography.



10. JetBlue
This might seem like a random thing to put on a favorites list. But I flew a lot this year (I'm talking 2-4 times a month) and have decided, without a doubt, that JetBlue is my favorite airline. Every interaction I've ever had with a member of the flight crew has been wonderful, they actively encourage you to take multiple snacks during the flight, and most of the planes come equipped with free wifi now. And even though I'm going to miss out on making Mosaic status by the tiniest margin (damn), I'll still be flying JetBlue whenever I can next year.

UPDATE: I REACHED MOSAIC OVERNIGHT WHAT :O

11. Hamilton on stage
I'm specifically saying "on stage" as a favorite because listening to the soundtrack is one thing (and don't get me wrong, it's an incredible experience in itself), but seeing it on stage was a whole other ballgame. Seeing the choreography and how the actors interact moves the story in a really breathtaking way.

12. Lush's Rose Lollipop lip balm
The only beauty product on this list, though I have a lot of other beauty favorites I'm happy to share with you anytime. This might be one of my favorites though because it's the first lip balm I've used that really works. Rather than just sitting on your lips like petroleum jelly-based products do (i.e. Vaseline), the shea butter in this lip balm absorbs into your lips to keep your lips moisturized. It works wonders and I recommend it to anyone I bring into Lush.

13. The Great British Bake Off
Or, as it's known on Netflix for rights reason, The Great British Baking Show. I went through a whole season on Netflix one weekend to take my mind off some family stuff, and it was the perfect comfort show. The contestant are all lovely to one another, which is such a nice change from American reality TV, and every creation made me want to get into the kitchen and make things.

14. The Bacchanal Buffet
This seems random, but when I think back to some of the more crappy moments of the year, there were some definite bright spots amid the muck – and one of those standouts was the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace. We joked about going all week ahead of our trip to Vegas for AAJA, but I was up to my eyeballs in both stress and rage over various things related to that specific trip, and so instead of walking straight into the lion's den upon arriving in town, I decided to treat the team to the buffet, and it was worth. It. Everything from the staples like seafood and meat to the dim sum were all A+, and we made sure to dive into dessert too. Just thinking about it again makes me hungry (and it's, like... 1AM right now).

Our buffet trip's only photo – proof we were there
15. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
Despite my mixed feelings, the return to Stars Hollow was still full of magic and hope. And while I have many criticisms that have already been well-documented, at the end of the day, being able to hear the show in its original voice again brought me nothing but joy.

16. "NBC Asian America Presents..."
Is this cheating? I told myself before I made this list I wasn't going to put anything on this list that I had made myself, but I didn't really make this, did I? I created the concept and programmed everything, but it's really the work of the creators that brought my vision to life. If you have time this holiday season to catch up on all of these original videos and series, I would highly recommend it :)

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