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My 5 Favorite Books of 2017

2017 has been a whirlwind of a year for me. I took on a new job, learned of some big family news, and also confronted some health issues and personal demons of mine..
One of the biggest and most constant sources of joy to me this year was when I read.

I love books [really any form of great writing, short or long form]. I like them for the following reasons:

  1. I can escape into them: On a good, restful day, taking the time to read for myself helps me achieve an even higher state of zen, and on a crazy, tiring day, I can escape the traps of “my depressing life” thinking and jump instead into the world of the book I am reading, and this gives me deep solace and strength. Sometimes they even help me cry and grieve for the things I’ve probably been meaning to cry for, and they help me bring my guard down even if it’s for only a minute to feel what I have been feeling that day, that past week or the past year. Sometimes they bring a greater joy to the things I’ve been experiencing in my life by offering up similar and parallel scenarios that add more color and zest to the contexts of my real life stories.
  2. The authors help me live lives I’ll probably never have the chance of living with this one body. You can’t be in three places at once, but with books– you can! Limits to time, geography, and resources are blown away like “chaff from the wind” (sorry, I had to add in the Biblical reference – har har). I can imagine myself in the village of Combray, France, or find myself the next day in Middletown, Ohio on the suburban streets. I can bring myself back to post-war England in the 1940’s, where the last of true aristocracy habits were finally coming to an end. I can put myself in the shoes of the invisible black man of the early 19th and 20th centuries, of the white man experiencing discrimination from those that cry out “down with white privilege!” or even of the young Irish orphan in Tuam, relegated to a life of social marginalization and impoverished youth.
  3. Books elucidate thoughts I’m thinking and am grappling to understand better. They give me a deeper wisdom about the things out there and add another puzzle piece to the mental “map” I have about the kinds of people, lives, and thoughts I see co-existing in the world at large, from Chile to Cambodia, with time unbound. They tell me I really don’t know much, that I only know so much, and that I need to learn so, much, more in order to do the things I think I’m meant to do in this life (apparently according to the Social Security Administration, I have about 61.6 years, 739 months, or 22,484 days left to figure life out- time’s a tickin’). Every book, every line of well written prose gives me a deeper understanding for the human experience, of the brokenness amongst our global communities, of the complexities of our problems and our progress, and of the shared experiences we as humans all go through, sometime and somewhere on this Earth.

For those who’re not too much of a book reader, I’m sure you probably experience the same kind of things through a different medium. Maybe it’s art. Maybe it’s music or film. Maybe it’s through your career vocation, I don’t know.

Anyways, without further ado, here are my favorite books of 2017:

 

  1. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight

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2. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

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3. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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4. Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter by Barbara Leaming

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5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (recommended by friends Max and Sewon)

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If you’re interested in seeing what else I’ve been reading, feel free to check out my Reading List, with a list of the books I’ve read from 2016 to present, and Wordy Treasures, which includes my favorite excerpts and aphorisms.

 

Burgers of New York

So here we are.

I have a professed love for burger that has burgeoned into a near weird obsession and I thank my friends for bearing with my interest and passion for these cute little potato bunn-ed/brioche bun things for the last couple of years.

Here are nyc burgers that a vast majority of New Yorkers or I have strongly liked for your perusal and fancies.

Curious as to know which burgers are my favorites in the city? (HINT: I love those verging on the salty, savory, packed styles, and I most certainly love a thick, tall patty, YUM!)

On a scale of the basic to the experimental:

My Homily to Burgers

Savory Experimental;

Le Rivage

Dudley’s

Comments: Patty is on the sweeter side

LIC Market

Comments: Very good, it’s worth venturing into another borough

Savory: 

Bar Sardine

Comments: Vertical burgers

The Spotted Pig

Comments: Burger is on the salty side because of that delicious cheese. You’ll either love it or hate it.

Barneys New York – Chelsea Downtown

Comments: Not fond of the fries, “pomme frites,” that come with it, but the burger is delicious.

Minetta Tavern

Salvation Burger

Comments: Sadly closed. (RIP)

Savory Traditional:

Bar Luxembourg

The Jane Restaurant

Comments: Solid, greasy shoestring fries

The Breslin

L’Aile ou la Cuisse

Ruby’s

The Wren 

Comments: Eh.

Minimalist Traditional: 

Nectar Cafe

Comments: Very good, but I think the patty is very fatty or something. I get sleepy quickly whenever I go here to have their burger.

Mel’s Burger Bar

Park Avenue Tavern

Minimalist:

J.G. Melon: Not really a fan, (gasp) sorry.

P. J. Clarkes: Not really a fan, (gasp) sorry.

Wilfie & Nell: Not really a fan, sorry.

Comments: From the times I went to get burgers here (more than a few times), all of them had a weird aftertaste smell. Maybe it was just me, or the times I went. Either way, a good burger joint’s burgers should be consistent, non?

Eli’s Market:

Comments: Eh. It is clean. Not bad.

Note 1: I know I’m forgetting a lot, but there were just too many burgers!

Note 2: Maybe you’re all right. Maybe I’m eating too many burgers. 😀

Note 3: I’ve purposely omitted Shake Shack, and In-N-Out. Those aren’t the point of this.

Note 4: If you have suggestions for burgers in the city, please, please send them my way.

Bon exploring good burgers :).

Saying Something: Toyin Ojih Odutola

 

Say hello to the newest heavy-weight in portraiture, Toyin Ojih Odutola.

I first became acquainted with this Nigerian artist’s work during a run at the galleries in Chelsea a couple years ago. I remember being so viscerally struck by her drawings that day. They were white pencil on white paper– I had to lower my body and kneel closer to the ground to see what the drawings held. It was a moving experience to encounter the fullness of these white identities she drew out for the appraiser– very controlled and calculated.

I’ve since become fascinated by the unique mark-making techniques she employs.

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Imagine a big drawing like this, except everything was white on white.

 

The Brooklyn based artist uses whirls and lots of hairy (really that’s what it looks like in person: the wispiest of wispy hairs) detailing to create rich visual narratives that surround her already deeply contextualized subjects. If you look at her artwork in person, you’ll see all the swirls and membrane-like pieces that make up the sum of a composition of faces, bodies, and identities– so much integrity and thought put to paper face via graphite, charcoal, or pastel:

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Toyin toys with anything from discussions on natural identity to more poignant POVs on say, racial profiling.

 

I’m happy to share that Toyin Ojih Odutola will be holding her first solo exhibit at The Whitney Museum this month, a commission that is well deserved by this outspoken wunderkind.

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Pregnant, 2017

 

Check out her upcoming show, To Wander Determined, at The Whitney Museum of American Art on 99 Gansevoort St., open to the public from October 20th.

I can’t wait to see it.

 

On Cheering to Death

“On my deathbed, I will instruct a nurse to bring me the following:

 

A bag of parmesan flavored Cheese-Its, a burger, the crispiest rosemary covered thin fries, a glass of Diet Coke (lightly chilled), dill flavored waffle chips, a steak tartare with extra capers, the creamiest strawberry choux-creme cake, a McDonald Big Mac, and a Burger King Double Bacon Cheeseburger.

 

In my final moments, I will consume this food slowly and delicately as I fade into oblivion.” – Marina Keegan

 

Complement this creative marriage of Keegan’s prose from  The Opposite of Loneliness and my appetite with If I Die Tomorrow, by Korean hip-hop artist, Beenzino.

September: Art Shows

Here are some shows to be excited about and below is a view of my favorite works from the referenced artists. Look out for them if you go!

Suzan Frecon’s Oil Paintings, David Zwirner Gallery, 525 West 19th Street, New York (9/15)

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Campana Brothers: Hybridism, Friedman Benda Gallery, 515 West 26th St, New York

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Noah’s Chair, Noah’s Bench, 2017

 

 

Ad Reinhardt’s Blue Paintings, David Zwirner Gallery, 537 West 20th Street, New York

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Number 88 (Blue), 1950

 

 

Rodin at the Met, Metropolitan Museum of Art (9/16)

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The Age of Bronze, 1876

 

Home Secrets

I don’t call myself the ideal homemaker, and my friends know I rarely cook. I’d also prefer to use FlyCleaners, but they “don’t yet service in my area”.

However, thanks to the Amazon savvy lady that is my mother, combined with my penchant for taste, I have picked up some tips and tricks à la “Health, Household, and Baby Care

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that make me feel somewhat better about my aforementioned failures.

 

  1. Dry Shampoo

The Harmless One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk

 

My All Time Personal Favorite

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warning: it does have a strong English garden-like smell to it.

Batiste Instant Hair Refresh Dry Shampoo: Floral & Flirty Blush. I found this at Boots back in England. It will be a staple for life. I only recommend this scent. I’ve tried the others and I wouldn’t say I recommend.

What The People Say

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Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray: People have recommended this to me as one of the best on the market, but frankly the smell really irritates my nose and affects my sense of smell. Perhaps you might enjoy it. After all, we are all different.

 

Stains, the bane of white blouses.

If you are busy, sometimes messy, and selectively lazy like me, you’ll need something quick, effective, and something that won’t frustrate you for taking so long to remediate.

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Shout Wipes is your man (your men?). Many people swear by Tide Pens, but this is has taken out more stains for me from experience, and I also appreciate the fact that it’s technically impossible for the treatment to “dry” out before you use it because they sell these in single-use AIR TIGHT packs that retain all that good moisture and active chemicals. That’s what I primarily don’t like about Tide Pens. The pens aren’t dependably juicy. I like consistency.

Start with a 24 pack (I’ve linked you to that one), but I’d say go for the 80! No regrets.

 

Do you even know how humid your room is?

If you don’t believe me, take a look

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While the current humidity level of your rooms won’t affect most of you, you should care because your clothes are the ones that will receive the brunt of all the moisture. Save yourself the emotional pain that comes with a moth having eaten away at your $2,000 mohair knit sweater and buy these miracles that are the Damp Rid Hanging Moisture Absorber.

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The smell is also quite nice.

 The end.

But wait!

One more.

This isn’t really a home – grooming hack– it’s really just a life hack that’s made my life incrementally happier this past month:

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Limitless Coffee, an lllinois based coffee and tea company, has created some of the best flavored coffee I’ve ever tasted in The United States of America. For context, I’m a big coffee enthusiast, and while I don’t regularly go to cupping classes and such, I feel I have sufficient experience to tell you that this truly is different [a gem!] from any of the coffees that you or I’ve ever tasted— even judging against the big coffee names and my favorite coffee makers such as Toby’s Estate Coffee. I don’t know how else to say it.

It’s not sold in Whole Foods yet, but I hope a buyer finds it and places some big orders for New York, and quick!

 

Complement this homey read with some splish-splash music by Caravan Palace, a fairly unique electro-swing French band. My favorite song of theirs is Aftermath.

 

Gehard Demetz, my modern day Geppetto.

Formally trained in religious sculpture, Italian artist Gehard Demetz has progressed to become one of the most talented artists of our century. He wields his art technique and experience to create works, many with children as subject, that explore the dichotomies and marriages of contradiction… between that which is evocative and whimsical – provocative and contemporary. His sculptures often carry an energy verging on the socio-political.

He relies on mediums like wood and bronze and certainly knows how to make dry wood come alive.

These are my favorite works of Demetz throughout his career as a sculptor:

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Introjection. 2017, Wood

 

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Life Without Christmas. 2017, Wood

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Dirt on my Shoulders. 2016, Wood

 

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Restoring My Blisses. 2015, Wood.
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My Parents’ Stories Sound Different. 2015, Wood.

 

Personally, I would say his best works were made in 2013.

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Stones In My Pocket. 2013, Wood.
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Mom’s hands and daddy’s nose. 2013, wood.

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Complement these visuals with a contemplative rendition of Bach’s Christus, Der Uns Selig Macht, BWV 245, arranged by one of my favorite composers and pianists, Chad Lawson.