The 196 Moments in Music, Art, Books, Theater, Film and TV That Helped Us Survive 2016

by Stranger Staff

It will come as no surprise to anyone that 2016 was the kind of nightmare where you wake up just as the killer's knife is about to pierce your rib cage, only to find that you just slipped off the edge of the sheer cliff and are falling into the lake of hot lava. Taking in the year's most memorable music, film, TV, art, theater, and books was necessarily to view those works through the lens of misery, and to assign them the job of being little therapeutic nuggets. That's not always the most interesting task for art to do, but in a year as unrelentingly fucked as 2016, it was nice to have something to turn to.


By Sean Nelson, Rich Smith, Dave Segal

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• The sharp intake of breath between realizing David Bowie had made a great album again, finally, with Blackstar, and realizing it would be his last. The genius of that gesture was almost enough to overpower the grief.

• Joanna Newsom at the Paramount (March 29), a master class in harmonic complexity, instrumental virtuosity, and verbal ingenuity.

• Kevin Cole's "Nothing Compares 2U: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Prince" on KEXP on May 6, a four-hour stretch of rare numbers, live recordings, and incredible stories that provided a ritual so rare and familiar, you almost forget how important it is: the chance to share an essential experience—as a city, as a community, as individuals—by listening to the radio.

• Beyoncé's gut-wrenching rendition of Prince's "The Beautiful Ones" at CenturyLink Field on May 18.

• The spryness of the production and the playfulness of the language in Paul Simon's utterly disarming, totally unexpected song about the role of income inequality in the coming apocalypse, "The Werewolf."

• Solid States is the Posies best album in years, but special notice is reserved for "Squirrel vs. Snake," an urgent epic in the form of a flawless power-pop diamond. If songs like this were still allowed to become hits, the world would feel a lot more just.

• "I was young and I was such a flirty bitch / Shit's less cute when you're 36," from Bird of Youth's "Bitter Filth."

• The drowsy melancholy of "Me & Magdalena," Ben Gibbard's contribution to a new album by the Monkees, featuring the particular beauty of Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz, their tenor voices weathered but still vital, harmonizing.

• "We the People," from A Tribe Called Quest's miracle comeback, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service. As Phife skewers "false narratives of guys that came up against the odds," Tip ironically sings to Black folks, Mexicans, and poor folks that they "must go"—and to Muslims and gays, "boy, we hate your ways."

• Silas Blak's astonishingly strong performance of "Cops on My Back" silencing the sold-out Moore Theatre at the Stranger Genius Awards on September 24.

• The Fabulous Downey Brothers. Best band. Go look them up. GO.

• Discovering that Sloucher's EP was more than just a promising debut and one of the richest listening experiences available from any rock band this year, with live performances that deepen the songs even more. Whatever they do next will merit close attention.

• Not to put too fine a point on it, but every video and any live performance by DoNormaal. She appears to be the rare artist whose talents have only been partially glimpsed by all the people lining up to give her praise. It feels good (and significant) just to be in her time zone.

• As densely packed with great songs and moments as Car Seat Headrest's album Teens of Denial is, it was their frequent live cover of David Bowie's "Blackstar" (not easy) that endeared them most—not simply for the skillful execution of a difficult song, but for the statement of purpose and allegiance. No one needs to hear another rendition of "Life on Mars" (or "Hallelujah" or "Purple Rain" for that matter).

• The delicacy and tenderness with which Frank Ocean navigates the awkward phrase "You're a positive, motivating force within my life" in his cover of Aaliyah's cover of the Isley Brothers' "At Your Best (You Are Love)" on Endless, perhaps the most under-acclaimed but over-anticipated record ever released.

• The bit of analysis we read on Rap Genius about how the repetition of the words "I," "Leave," "Tonight," undercuts sympathy for the apparently vulnerable speaker in Frank Ocean's "Self Control," the best song with a Prince reference in it on Blonde.

• The pained, warbled, Auto-Tuned cry that follows Frank Ocean quoting Barack Obama on Trayvon Martin in the song "Nikes."

• The double take Frank Ocean induces when he says, "Why you think I'm in this bitch wearing a fucking yarmulke" on "Nikes."

• André 3000's solo on "Solo (Reprise)," accompanied by piano, on Frank Ocean's Blonde.

• The single, terrifying violin the Seattle Symphony Orchestra string section became when, musically, Stalin walks into the concert hall during Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11.

• The increasingly desperate and angry and dissonant protestations in the last three lines of Bon Iver's "715 - CR∑∑KS," which read: "Turn around, you're my A-Team. / Turn around now, you're my A-Team. / God damn turn around now, you're my A-Team."

• Every single bit of glorious trumpet on Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book.

• Julia Jacklin hitting the vowels and then the consonants in the lines "You grew smaller to me that Saturday when / You came crashing, crawling down through the back brush" with the weariness of a woman who has absolutely survived a physically abusive relationship. That's in the first verse of "Pool Party" on her album Don't Let the Kids Win.

• The fuck-it-all joy contained in the line "It's going to be a funky fresh Christmas and I don't think I can handle it / When there's so little dignity in anything" in Okkervil River's song "Frontman in Heaven."

• Angel Olsen singing the words "I seen youuuuuuuuuuuuuu changin'" with the disdain of a woman who has washed her last fucking dish.

• The three-alarm guitar riff in the opening gesture of Nail Polish's "Chophouse Row," on their album Abrupt.

• Julianna Barwick singing beyond the genius of her instrument when she muddles her violin-like voice with the violin on "Beached" from Will.

• Earth bassist and Master Musicians of Bukkake drummer Don McGreevy donning his serious-composer hat for the "Sulphuric Symphony" he titled Temporal Nature of Stability

at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center on January 30. Written to evoke the tragic poisoning of unsuspecting citizens by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986, the powerful poignancy of the piece did utmost justice to its grave subject matter.


, the 2016 album by Orcas Island native Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith,offering pop music for a world that's ascended to a much higher IQ level and has eradicated all bellicose impulses.

• At the :|Depths|: monthly, watching Meridian Arc (Andrew Crawshaw) and other musicians create a chilling new soundtrack for E. Elias Merhige's horrifying existential mindfuck Begotten on March 14 at Substation.

• At Northwest Film Forum on March 19, Ecstatic Cosmic Union's psychedelic grandeur turned Jim Henson's fantasy-adventure movie The Dark Crystal

into a much stranger trip than it's ever been.

• Baltimore's Horse Lords at Hollow Earth Radio on May 16, calling to mind noise-composer maximalist Glenn Branca jamming with African trance rockers Group Doueh during one of Terry Riley's all-night drone concerts. How does a band sound that tightly wound yet so free?

• Throughout their May 23 set at Sunset Tavern, Asheville duo Ahleuchatistas delivered brutal, radiant epiphanies, indelicate displays of virtuosity, and radical eruptions of inventiveness, proving that the lexicon of guitars and drums hasn't been exhausted yet or worn threadbare through cliché.

• The life-giving, Terry Riley–esque drone weaving of Sarah Davachi's Dominions.

• The vastly influential director/composer John Carpenter playing his own scores in front of scenes from his own horror flicks at the Paramount on June 14. His between-song humility and humor were unexpected bonuses.

• Chanting and meditating with dozens of others at the late, great Pauline Oliveros's Deep Listening workshop at the Northwest African American Museum on July 9.

• Minnesota electronic musician Eric Frye disorienting and subverting equilibrium on a six-speaker sound system at Chapel Performance Space on August 26.

• Philadelphia producer/vocalist Moor Mother railing against centuries of oppression toward African Americans in a most unconventional and effective manner at Machine House Brewery on September 11.

• Tabla master Zakir Hussain and sitar demiurge Niladri Kumar freezing time and elevating space at the Moore Theatre on October 23.

• Nordra's calamitous industrial-electronic score for Pylon II performance at King Street Station for the 9e2 Festival on October 26 was a shocking complement to the dancers' graceful, paranoiac moves.

• English/German ambient-dub pioneers the Orb blowing out their greatest hits at Neumos on October 26—pure ecstasy for chill-out aficionados of a certain age.

• The young gay couple kissing and groping each other for the entire 17-minute duration of Kraftwerk's strange krautrock odyssey "Klingklang" at the Chop Suey Den.

• Soundgarden's 22-year-old deep cut "Head Down" capturing the dejected, resigned mood a month after Trump's Russia-assisted victory. Because we can't all live in a state of apoplectic rage 24/7.

• Sorcha Faal + L-System—a new post-techno project by Newaxeyes members Jordan Rundle and Tyler Coray—weirding out Bar Sue on a snowy Thursday at Freakout Festival to about 19 people. They proved that odd synth spasms, sinister drones, and industrial-strength cranial clobber should be next year's big thing.

• Majeure (Zombi drummer Anthony Paterra) outshining the much-hyped, Stranger Things soundtrackers SURVIVE at the Crocodile on October 12.

• Legendary avant-garde improv ensemble Musica Elettronica Viva—some 50 years into their career—sowing elegant chaos at Chapel Performance Space on November 5.

• The exhilarating nihilism of UK duo Emptyset's Borders—whose J.G. Ballard–ian grimscapes won't be released until next year on Thrill Jockey—encapsulate the feeling of impending doom that the current international political situation portends.

• Seattle all-star tribute group led by Wayne Horvitz and Sly Sun Sivad smoothly seguing from Miles Davis's "On the Corner" into Sly & the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music" at the Royal Room on November 26.

• LA saxophonist Kamasi Washington and his large, virtuosic band's uproarious spiritual jazz at the Moore Theatre on December 2.

• New-age artist Laraaji coaxing a bizarre billowing of ominous drones by rubbing his microphone in concentric circles against a gong at Q Nightclub on December 6.

• At Vera Project on December 9, Matmos made John Cage sound like the 1910 Fruitgum Company, summoning an array of wonky and funky mechanized eructations from a laptop and a washing machine.

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By Jen Graves

• When my baby son learned to howl at the moon in order to accompany the howlingly gorgeous drawings of wolves made by living Native Salish artists in the (best ever) 2014 board book, Goodnight World.

• Marina Abramovic making all of Town Hall scream.

• Comics artist E.T. Russian sitting high up in the stands at KeyArena, sketching hundreds of dental patients laid out down on the stadium floor receiving free, no-questions-asked treatment during the Seattle/King County Free Health Clinic.

• The loving audience-within-an-audience that Romson Bustillo preselected to encircle and inspire dancer David Rue while Rue performed at King Street Station during the art-and-tech festival 9e2.

• Artist Maggie Carson Romano's beautiful torn face photographed plainly, and all that displaying it meant about seen and unseen pain.

• Weston Jandacka's Glass Box Gallery. Every month. But especially walking through No Touching Ground's exhibition with Dorli Rainey, the small woman who's a giant of Seattle activism. (And, always, No Touching Ground himself.)

• Curtis Steiner's ecstatic coat rack with drinking straws at studio e gallery.

• The way that abstraction held space for Black artists Steffani Jemison and Brenna Youngblood in Seattle in 2016.

• Storme Webber's butch timeless Seattle, enacted on video in Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects by Chris E. Vargas. Also in Vargas's exhibition, looking across time and locking eyes with Harry, the trans man defining his own freedom despite being hounded by police and displayed by newspapers in early 20th-century Seattle.

• The private conversation in which art dealer James Harris described artist Akio Takamori's new, still-unseen series portraying men struggling to make their apologies while they still have time.

• All the unglamorous, archival work Martha Rosler did to update for Seattle her 1980s exhibition on the New York housing crisis, at the New Foundation gallery.

• The feeling of turning a corner and seeing Seattle artist Cris Bruch's transubstantiation of a thin slab of material and some light on a wall into a distant horizon pregnant with sunrise.

• The following Claudia Rankine lines, from her book Citizen: "White people wanted to be white just as much as we did. They worked just as hard at it. They failed just as often. They failed more often. But they could pass, so no one objected."

• The moment when the light of the imaginary train appeared in Seattle sculptor Rick Araluce's reincarnation of the Great Northern Tunnel. A new train would come, always a new beginning from out of the dark, because you imagined it.

• The mandatory smiles of Black men, lasting an hour and a half, in Kehinde Wiley's 2001 video Smile.

• At Seattle Art Museum there was a small, out-of-the-way show featuring, among many other things, a tiny man carved in low relief atop an ivory tusk made on the Loango Coast of Kongo during the height of the slave trade there. His body is bent in half, his head in his hands. There, here, he is.

• The deeply private expressions on the faces of the male prisoners posing in front of cheery murals for the only photographs allowed inside American prisons, collected and commissioned by Alyse Emdur and included in Pete Brook's show Prison Obscura at Evergreen State College.

• Those two pink peonies hovering above their vase without stems, plump as blimps yet afloat and fragile, in Jeffry Mitchell's drawing at Joe Bar.

• Keller Easterling's tragi-sarcastic giant stack of gift boxes wrapped in coded paper representing the different aspects of all those things a city offers to the corporate campuses moving in, at the Henry Art Gallery. From the legend to Gift City's wrapping paper: "Of all the incalculable gifts a city has been saving up for its investors, maybe the most priceless one is diversity and complexity."

• After-hours at Seattle painter Norman Lundin's studio, caught in it's-so-late-but-the-light-isn't-gone still-lifes displayed at Greg Kucera Gallery.

• That first ride up the escalators from underground at the University of Washington Light Rail Station, Seattle artist Leo Saul Berk's homage to sedimentary earth made of silver-and-blue light twinkling all around.

• Unplaceable scents in tiny bottles of liquid, set out on a low, inviting little shelf at Interstitial gallery by Seattle artist Mario Lemafa.

• The quiet, long-haul irrepressibility of Seattle artist Jed Dunkerley.

• The Henry Art Gallery's neglected, skylit real ceiling, usually obscured by a layer of solid white panels, temporarily torn open and exposed by Seattle artist Jason Hirata for his Goya-inspired installation Fodder.

• The small, square Noah Davis canvas—unframed, made recently, not long before the remarkable young artist, and Seattle native, died of cancer—tucked in between all the Frye Art Museum's big, gilt-framed paintings from a century ago. Those big paintings are supposed to be the most important things at the Frye, and nothing is supposed to join them in this room, according to Charles Frye's will. But this Davis was hiding out in there, a little subversive act of inclusion, a painting showing an endearing, brown-skinned man, the face bespectacled and open, curious, ready.

• Noah Davis's last collages, made when he was so sick that he could barely sit up. They are raw yet indirect, giving plenty but also holding on to their own secrets, mixing recognizable and abstract imagery, news clippings, and every kind of brush stroke and color wash. Each one is no larger than a page in a diary. They deserve their own church. They lined the hallway leading down the length of the Frye Art Museum during the unforgettable exhibition Young Blood: Noah Davis, Kahlil Joseph, The Underground Museum, curated by the artists' friend, another Seattle artist, Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes.

• The drips and sheer sunspots in Noah Davis's 2015 untitled painting of a man lying alone in a boat. The awkward woman on the right in Davis's 2008 Casting Call. The mountains and that pink shirt in The Internal Contract, 2009.

• Noticing that mega-developer Martin Selig placed a huge naked-man bronze sculpture by Colombian artist Fernando Botero in front of one of his buildings in the middle of downtown. Calling Selig and asking him why he didn't place the penis at polishable level, the way they did when that same sculpture was displayed in New York. Being met with an absolute refusal to discuss the potential fun of penises.

• The washed-out purplish fabric of the greatest Korean wrapping cloth, or bojagi, that Seattle Art Museum owns, made sometime in the 20th century from leftover scraps by an unnamed woman. It looks on the verge of dust, but there it always stands, still ready to embrace a gift.

• The flaming macaw feathers that were buried for centuries under the extremely dry high mountains of Peru, now emblazoning a miniature children's tunic at the Asian Art Museum.

• Visiting the woman who spent untold hours alone in the Seattle Art Museum basement with Goya's Caprichos, reframing each of the printed horrors that have been too beautiful to look away from since they were made in brutal 18th-century Spain—and that shouldn't be so relevant.

• The brilliant, relevant shows at the Alice Gallery in Georgetown every month, accompanied by press releases that are pieces of poetry inspired by love, not publicity.

• Learning about the great Seattle artist/musician Milt Simons (1923–1973) by coming face-to-face with his swirling, surreal, monumental Seattle cityscape Introspection at Tacoma Art Museum. Simons suffered a life of brutal racism, but his work still sings.

• That proud, angelic, wispy-eared black terrier Sherry Markovitz made out of paint on fabric.

• The face-switching feature on Snapchat.

• Watching master Seattle ceramicist Patti Warashina use glass.

• The throbbing red butterflies Tracy Rector stenciled across Capitol Hill, each marking a spot where a woman was raped or murdered.

• The subterranean world of Push/Pull collective in Ballard.

• The way that Patte Loper's maze of sculpted, drawn, painted, and digitally rendered models of Seattle's pasts and futures suspended time itself inside Suyama Space, and the fact that my teenage son was the first one to notice and diagnose what we were experiencing.

• The emergence of Satpreet Kahlon.

• Pat DeCaro's girl roaming completely free in a big, dark night made up of several midnight landscapes all tied together in a huge grid that spanned the walls at 4Culture Gallery.

• Coming upon an installation of pretty gray soaps set on a shelf by the Seattle artist Julia Freeman, who is white. Then the label: "soap made from wood ash from family farm in southern Missouri owned pre-Civil War." Then the chilling, mournful title, Lady Macbeth.

• The recorded voices of Tariqa Waters's boisterous Southern family overhead in the gallery of her vibrant photographs and her grandmother's church hats (themselves sculptures) at the Northwest African American Museum.

• The righteous label the Northwest African American Museum put on Edward Curtis's 1898 photograph A Desert Queen, of a busty, unnamed Black woman who directs her expression of mild disgust right at the camera: "Curtis displays his subject as royalty. Does he honor her by this designation or demean her by creating a sexualized fantasy? Virginia writer Ana Edwards finds 'peek-a-boo, Victorian pornographic fashion' in the image. 'I hate this picture,' she concludes."

• The poetry of Tivon Rice's algorithm that took a city planning database and turned it into an absurdist script about Seattle, with only two characters: planner and public. It ought to be performed.

• Seeing Donnie Chin and Chinatown, USA, through the eyes (and words and lens) of Dean Wong.

• Knowing that Paul Rucker and his family sewed those Klan robes themselves, and reading Kate Boyd's writing on that process in artist Matthew Offenbacher's zine, La Norda Specialo.

• That painting at the Ballard Farmers Market of a dolphin rising from a painter's palette and examining itself in another painting. Oh, yes.

• Talking art and the status of unmarried ladies with collector Kim Richter.

• Discovering that the fever and music of Senga Nengudi is not limited to her (admittedly tremendous) pantyhose sculptures—not at all.

• That one place in the Barbara Earl Thomas paper cut where the blood turns to bowl.

• The old Yesler Terrace featured in the truly great film Hagereseb by Zia Mohajerjasbi, which came out in 2015 but I only saw this year.

• The warm air coming off C. Davida Ingram's photographs printed on sheer fabric at Bridge Productions.

• Not feeling the need to genuflect, so not feeling the need to dis.

• A new generation of civil rights photography and strategy.

• The continued inhabitation of King Street Station by Seattle artists during Seattle Art Fair.

• What You See Is What You Sweat during Seattle Art Fair at the Center on Contemporary Art in Pioneer Square, curated and with art by—take all their names for history's sake—C. Davida Ingram, Chieko Philips, Christopher Shaw, Leilani Lewis, Zorn B. Taylor, Alex Anderson, Juventino Aranda, Romson Bustillo, micha cárdenas, Nicholas Galanin, Satpreet Kahlon, Mark Mitchell, Darius Morrison, Jeffrey Veregge, and Viradeth Xay-Ananh.

• That time when Takashi Murakami got on Facebook Live with me spontaneously at Pivot Art + Culture, where Juxtapoz x Superflat was showing, and where across the street in a parking lot, for the same show, a Japanese avant-garde floral arranger did a performance in the middle of the day involving an "arrangement" of shopping carts and a couch piled on top of a car he lurched around and climbed on dangerously, which involved him adding actual blood to the sunny, art-fair-y day.

• Britta Johnson in her nonthreatening elementary-school-teacher outfit, passing out fictional bake-sale flyers outside Paul Allen's Seattle Art Fair to protest Allen's defunding of Seattle arts nonprofits.

• The happiness of those who deserved to make sales, and did, at Seattle Art Fair.

• That one guy at Seattle Art Fair who met the glitz and glamour with just the most major butt crack.

• The fact that on the day that Stephen Lyons graciously closed the physical Platform Gallery (it exists online and in pop-up form), vestiges of the nearly decade-old Brad Biancardi painting still remained on the concrete floor.

• The fact that Seattle Art Fair included dance. In other words: Tonya Lockyer. (Always Tonya Lockyer.)

• Emma Amos at Ryan Lee Gallery at Seattle Art Fair. (Look her up.)

• When artist Christopher Paul Jordan took a chance and told me the way he really felt about something I had written.

• The self-challenging, forward-charging excellence of pretty much every single person at Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture. These are the opposite of bureaucrats.

• The places where black-and-white plastic films pull on each other in Clay Apenouvon's tapestries at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

• When the clothing Fay Jones paints is see-through.

• A few hours with Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, wind in her hair, at NOAA.

• Every time Akio Takamori has opened his studio to me.

• The way that the collaboration between Mary Ellen Mark, Martin Bell, and Erin "Tiny" Blackwell—which began on Pike Street in the 1980s—ended up with photographs of the unjudgeable complexities of Tiny's proud motherhood, seen at Seattle Public Library.

• What Carlos Ruiz and Ty Ziskis can do with a former peep show.

• The swimming pool that turns into a tunnel with a light at the end of it (okay, it's the sun, but it won't hit you that way, and also, isn't it right to think of the sun as a tunnel with a light at the end of it, anyway?) in a mural made by John Osgood, Zachary Bohnenkamp, and Sensei 23 in 2010. The mural travels around empty storefronts up north. I saw it at 105th and Aurora.

• Seeing late Seattle artist Alden Mason's 1960s painting of a deconstructed clown (it's smart and hilarious) in a hallway at the main campus of Swedish Hospital, on my way to meet a newborn, giving me another reason to reassure the newborn this was an okay world.

• When Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's facial-recognition installation tried to find one of the 43 missing Mexican students while only being able to look at me instead, in Amanda Donnan's smart show Robots Building Robots at the Hedreen Gallery.

• The way Dakota Gearhart reveals strangeness we try to cover.

• Justen Waterhouse's text panel at INCA, made in ink that turns black over the course of many years. Actually, that whole group show (which she organized), The Crossing Over Place.

• Happening to visit the warehouse-fulls of installations by the Japanese collective teamLab—at the most elaborate pop-up in world history in Silicon Valley—with my teenage daughter, because nobody else seemed to grasp the unlimited hilarity of the music in the bird room.

• The just barely visible message held aloft by the cheerleader in Franc Guerrero's terrific painting at V2 at the tail end of November. It murmured, "ILL," and there were so many ways to relate.

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By Rich Smith, Sean Nelson

• This line from Ed Skoog's Run the Red Lights: "A lot of 20th-century business coming due / at once," in a year where a lot of 20th-century business seems to be coming due all at once.

• At Elliott Bay Book Company during Indies First, the day after Black Friday that celebrates buying books from independent bookstores, Eloise stood straight-backed in her fuchsia power-tutu, her hands on her hips, her eyes trained upward, not in fawning admiration of Sherman Alexie, but as a kind of challenge: He should be grateful for the opportunity to sign her copy of Thunder Boy Jr., Alexie's children's book released this year.

• In November, Sherman Alexie pulled his car over to the side of the road to talk with me about writing and Trump, which resulted in this perfect summation of the rhetorical strategies taken up by the US far left and the far right: "One side rooting for an America that never existed and one side rooting for an America that is never going to exist."

• In Barkskins, Annie Proulx's masterpiece of historical fiction about international deforestation, the image of a mama bear engulfed in fire and frantically gulping water from a lake.

• Introducing Cave Canem, an African American poetry collective that won a Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community at the National Book Awards this year, Terrance Hayes told the story of hearing a poet named Avery, "a cross between Sun Ra and Donny Hathaway," sing a blues poem during one of the organization's retreats. "He started singing: 'Where were you when they killed that boy? Where were you when they killed that boy? Would you kill the men who killed that boy? Would you kill for that boy? Would you kill for that boy? Would you live for that boy? Would you live for that boy?'"

• Max Porter's gorgeous, genre-transcending, and yet anti-pretentious Grief Is the Thing with Feathers distills the secular magical thinking required to deal with death in a single sentence: "We miss our Mum, we love our Dad, we / wave at crows. / It's not that weird."

• During the "Fuck Yo Couch" reading at LitCrawl in October, hearing Anastacia Renee Tolbert's poem about being a mother in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, listening to her question whether raising two black children in this country is essentially "doing enough."

• During a Q&A at Elliott Bay Book Company in September, legendary L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet Rae Armantrout fields a question about the failure of her early poetics to produce desirable social effects by saying something like, "You know, the thing scholars never mention when they write about that movement is we were all kids. We were twentysomethings living in San Francisco."

• In his National Book Award–nominated novel Imagine Me Gone, Adam Haslett's full-throated defense of disco in the voice of Michael, a Klonopin-popping white guy dedicated to African American studies who advocates for sensible reparations policies as he works on his theory that black music is a vehicle for the inherited trauma of slavery, and the greatest literary character we came across this year.

• Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for literature and not giving a fuck, which birthed the Nobel Prize for being Bob Dylan.

• When Tommy Pico said at Hugo House in July that he'd never read with only indigenous writers before and then paused as if he couldn't believe it himself.

• At the book launch for Ed Skoog's Run the Red Lights this November, Skoog mentioned that his old college friend heads up the department of agriculture in Kansas. When asked if she should be doing that, he said: "Of course. It's a job. What a rare thing to have in this world, a job."

• Katrina Dodson, translator of Clarice Lispector's The Complete Stories, in January presenting a long argument about why she translated the word "galinha" as "chicken" instead of "hen," and then going on to describe the moment when she found herself watching a makeup tutorial by a Brazilian teenager with a hick accent on YouTube because she was trying to figure out something about the way Brazilians use the words "eyebrows" or "eye shadow."

• During APRIL Festival this March, Jenny Zhang read a poem while standing on a table beside a lizard eating peaches in a glass case at Indian Summer.

• Oxford Dictionary choosing "post-truth" as word of the year for 2016.

• The idea that fucking in an airport is more daring than fucking in an airplane, which Maged Zaher laid out frankly and lyrically in his book of poems The Consequences of My Body.

• During an iteration of Hugo House's Literary Series at Fred Wildlife Refuge in September, Tyehimba Jess projected onto the walls a poem he'd written about vaudevillian geniuses Bert Williams and George Walker. The poem was really two poems, twin ghazals that could be read left to right, right to left, top to bottom, and bottom to top. Normally that kind of bullshit doesn't work. But when Jess read it, bouncing from line to line, it all made sense. Because he's a genius.

• In a note at the back of Mary Ruefle's My Private Property, she writes that one could replace the word "sadness" with the word "happiness" in all of her poems and nothing would change.

• Laura Albert, famous literary hoaxer, followed through on her promise to mail me a raccoon penis bone. She signed the bone in print "JT LeRoy."

• I'm glad someone found Pablo Neruda's lost poems, and that Copper Canyon Press published them, because now we have this metaphysical take on the moon: "It grew swollen cruising the air unhurried, unmarked / and we didn't imagine that you and I made up one element of its motion, / that it's not merely hair, languages, arteries, ears that compose the shadow of a man / but also a thread, a fiber stronger than nothing and no one, our time coming and running down and swelling to fit this attenuated hour."

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By Rich Smith, Christopher Frizzelle

• The fever-dream-lime-green polo Richard Prioleau wore when he played Walter Lee in Seattle Rep's early autumn production of A Raisin in the Sun.

• The Odyssean shock of seeing a handful of women eating potato chips and drinking LaCroix in Annex Theatre's vestibule during its production of Girl.

• Back in March, Roger Guenveur Smith as Rodney King trying to balance on an imagined surfboard onstage at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, believing he could ride that wave.

• The horror of a white man in a suit dragging Markeith Wiley as Dushawn Brown by his arm, facedown, offstage, out the door, and into the light during On the Boards' production of It's Not Too Late this November.

• A video projection of what looked like billions of sperm overtaking a planetary mass as heavy industrial sludge metal crescendoed almost beyond the human body's capacity for reception during Verdensteatret's Bridge Over Mud at On the Boards this September.

• During Seattle Rep's production of Disgraced, Amir (Bernard White) punches his wife, Emily (Nisi Sturgis), in the face. That's all one audience member needed to see. He shot up out of his seat, yelled "STOP THIS! THIS IS RIDICULOUS!" and stormed out, falling down face-first in the aisle on his way. He then stood up, yelled "SHAMEFUL!" and left. During the talkback, this white deacon demonstrated the moral fortitude to spit out a few platitudes about equality and then throw the mic on the ground in protest.

• Before the second performance of That'swhatshesaid at Calamus Auditorium got under way, the packed house of maybe 50 buzzed with anticipation. Over the speakers, the familiar sound of recorded silence began to play. Then the voice of Bruce Lazarus, executive director of the publishing house that tried to silence the play about women being silenced, seethed through the speakers. His impotence, their power.

• Jason Sherwood's giant sun/moon swinging low and slow over gold-rich ground in 5th Avenue Theatre's production of Paint Your Wagon.

• The cinematic slow-motion ballet street brawl in Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of Roméo et Juliette.

• Also during Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of Roméo et Juliette, the shock on Noelani Pantastico's face when Romeo (James Moore) escapes her embrace so that she accidentally kisses her own hands, an early flirtatious flub that foreshadows the moment at the end when he actually becomes a ghost in her hands.

• When Prince Eric got tossed off a ship in act one of the 5th Ave Theatre's absolutely fantastic production of The Little Mermaid and falls into the ocean. The easy way to stage this would be for him to be tossed off the ship and then to cut to Ariel tending to him on the beach. But instead they have Prince Eric tumble off the side of the ship, then immediately fall through midair, through "water," from the top of the proscenium, slowly, while Ariel, also "swimming" through midair, swims up to him and grabs his limbs and pulls him—in midair!—to safety.

• A serpentine line of blindfolded dancers relying on each other's bodies for support as sacred harp singers sing ghostly harmonies over them during zoe | juniper's production of Clear & Sweet at On the Boards.

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By Charles Mudede, Sean Nelson

• The moment when, in Black Mirror's "San Junipero," "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" plays and Yorkie rounds the bend in her little red convertible and Kelly comes out to greet her and you realize that in this horrible Trumpian universe, good things can happen and love can live. And then you weep tears of relief and joy.

• At Northwest Film Forum, the producer Jennifer Roth explains why she was awarded the prestigious Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and had it pinned on her by the French ambassador to the UAE. We asked, "Do you have it on you?" "No," Roth said, "I wanted to bring it to the party, but it kind of hurts to wear it."

• The scene in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story where a dead Star Destroyer is slammed into an active one, and both crash toward a planet's force field.

• Sidney Lumet describing in the documentary By Sidney Lumet a gang rape he witnessed while on a Calcutta train.

• The awesome destruction of Jedha in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

• The awesome destruction of a car by Beyoncé in Lemonade.

• The opening 12 minutes of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

• The first and brutal oyster-factory scene in Kazuhiro Soda's long but rewarding documentary The Oyster Factory.

• Every fucking minute of Mauro Herce's slow and gorgeous documentary Slow Dead Ahead.

• In A Bigger Splash, Tilda Swinton plays a rock star (PJ Harvey x Patti Smith ÷ 1973-era Bowie) and Ralph Fiennes her debauched, impossible, charismatic former lover/producer. While telling stories about working with the Rolling Stones (on Voodoo Lounge, so you sense he's a bit past it), he finds the vinyl of Emotional Rescue, plays the title track, and begins dancing in this headlong, spastic effort to keep the party going—any party will do. And when his cohort won't oblige, he takes his solo dance party out onto the terrace of this gorgeous European villa, drenched in late morning sun, dripping with sexual possibility.

• Of all the movies we watched in 2016, Barry Jenkins's Moonlight was by far the most original. There has never been a film like this: the love story of two black gay men who first met and fell in love as boys, had their first sexual encounter as teens, and, after being separated for a decade, reuniting as grown men. One of the lovers, the film's main character, Chiron, becomes a standard issue street hustla.

• That moment in O.J.: Made in America when The Juice is being interviewed in the locker room after breaking some rushing record. He is surrounded by his teammates. He names each one. It's not possible to be happier than that.

• Michael Shannon's next-level brilliant performances in two very bad films, Elvis & Nixon and Nocturnal Animals. The latter would have a pretty good claim to being the worst film ever made were it not for Shannon's insane small-town sheriff, who is clearly in a whole other movie (the one you would rather be watching). In the former, the absence of a resemblance to Elvis Presley makes him seem like an Elvis impersonator who has gone over the edge into thinking he's the genuine article, which lends his every word and move a kind of derangement that is thrilling to see.

• That moment in O.J.: Made in America when we learn the father of The Juice is gay.

• That moment in The People v. O.J. Simpson when Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) first utters the immortal word "Juice."

• Watching people watch Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time at the Pacific Science Center PACCAR IMAX Theater.

• That brief, lovely moment between everyone getting super excited about Stranger Things and everyone actually finishing it and realizing it was only okay.

• The lesbian time-travel episode of Black Mirror season three.

• Watching Weiner after the FBI used Anthony Weiner's addiction to sexting to destroy Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

• Clyde Petersen finally premiering his feature film Torrey Pines after many years of work.

• The pleasure of watching Steven Schardt's short film on VR is hard to describe. It felt very new, very exciting. You felt like you were watching the future.

• The performance of Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the liar, thief, horndog, and unreliable narrator of Fleabag, a show she also created and wrote.

• The ending of the underappreciated, feminist examination of Wall Street, Equity.

• Laurie Metcalf's monologue about the sexual tension between her and her father-in-law in Horace and Pete. If there has ever been a more startling performance on TV, please inform The Stranger immediately because we need to see it.

• Watching how offering a cigarette has become a kind of cheap (and indeed automatic) bribe for low-income Chinese in the movie Old Stone.

• That erotic moment in The Handmaiden: It has a countess in a bathtub and a thief with a finger in the countess's mouth (we will not explain how they got into this position). Steam is rising from the tub's hot water, the countess's skin and nipples are red with heat, and the thief's finger is probing the teeth at the back of her open mouth. This is an eroticism not of gas or glow but contact. As the film progresses, the contacts become more and more direct.

• A contemplative Amanda Knox on a ferry approaching Seattle in her Netflix doc Amanda Knox. What is she really thinking about? What is on her mind. Gray clouds are low in the sky.

• The slow public unraveling of the veracity of Making a Murderer after everyone (who had apparently never seen a documentary before) would NOT shut up about how brilliant it was.

• The raw and deeply troubling sex scene that happens in a Vancouver, BC, alley in The Tree Inside.

• The dark joy of hate-watching Cameron Crowe's Roadies, Martin Scorsese's Vinyl, and all other TV shows that struggled manfully to mis-depict the rock 'n' roll lifestyle.

• The cow getting its nails clipped in the documentary Milk Men.

• The realistic grit and dirt in the Civil War–era film Men Go to Battle, which was made on a microbudget.

• Christopher Doyle's magical, startling, darkling cinematography in Ruined Heart: Another Lovestory Between a Criminal & a Whore.

• The virtual reality Luminous Analemma installation at the Giant Steps exhibition—it involved floating around the moon.

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