2020 was the year of waiting, the year of paralysis. I was stuck in the US for most of it due to airport closures. When I finally got back to Panama in time for the holidays, the country began to open up, and life got back to “normal.” My feet have barely touched the ground since. 2021 has been a big blur.

The extremes between this year and last have me reeling, but the results of this period of activity after the lull are incredible! I can’t wait to tell you about all the new developments (coming in my next post), and I am so grateful that my family and I continue to be healthy and safe. I hope you and your loved ones are too.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of the season, I wanted to share my favorite things. This does not necessarily mean they came out this year, but that I discovered them this year. I appreciate good art and artists—those who are bold, curious, inventive, and not afraid to express their truths. One way to support the creators we love (besides stalking them on social media) is to spread the word about their work. Here are the works that made the most impact on me.


Tampa by Alyssa Nutting

I think my mouth was open in shock during this whole book. Nutting commits to her character with the same relentlessness as Brett Easton Ellis did to Patrick Bateman. Here was my review:

Tampa pleased me in all the ways I would never want to admit. It is also so tight and ingeniously written that it left me in a state of awe. Nutting doesn’t let up for one minute, and her wit and insights into the undesirable aspects of humanity cut to the bone, deliciously disguised by provocative and over-the-top erotic fantasies come true. The questions raised and contradictions uncovered in Tampa will make some laugh in recognition, and others, deeply flustered. I was only disappointed, having grown up in the Tampa Bay area, that I felt little of the location. This story could’ve happened anywhere, but maybe that was why Nutting chose a rather indistinctive place to those who don’t know it intimately.

This book is not for 99% of the population. For the other 1%, it’s still is hard to swallow if not for the intelligence and craft that penetrates every sentence.

I was delighted and appalled. A perfect combination. 

Lost Girls and Love Hotels by Catherine Hanrahan

I could easily relate to this expat novel in Japan, the existential crisis of the main character, and all the bar-hopping debauchery. What moved me most was the doomed relationship between Margaret and Kuza and its sad, inevitable end. This book was made into a 2020 film starring Alexandra Daddario and Takehiro Hira. You’ll notice the movie is not on the top of my films watched this year. The acting was moving, but the film failed to pull off the heart-wrenching ending, thus making the rest of the story seem like a road to nowhere.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russel

A young girl becomes her professor’s Lolita. We watch the relationship unfold from the beginning to the bleak end, when they can no longer fit into their roles but are too afraid to let go of each other completely. The book is threaded with Vanessa’s adult point of view as their affair comes to light in the midst of the #metoo movement. Russel walks the razor’s edge in this story and never commits to one side. I loved the psychological depth and complexity of the relationship. Just brilliant character work.


Saint Maud

More layers of psychological depth here. Maud has been hired as a caretaker for a former dancer who is dying of cancer. As she and the woman grow closer, Maud, who has recently had a spiritual epiphany, believes it’s her duty to save the woman’s soul. I don’t want to spoil it for you. This is the kind of slow build I love, each hint making us more and more curious and uneasy. The end will have you jump out of your seat, and the last 2 seconds of the movie says so much, you will be left speechless.

The Duke of Burgundy

This is another slow build that cleverly reveals its secrets at strategic times. It’s a beautiful study of romantic relationships and what one would do to please their beloved. Although it features a lesbian relationship, the story explores universal issues that all couples encounter. I was impressed with the acting of Sidse Babett Knudsen. I never saw her before and would like to see more of her movies.

Birds of Paradise

Another interesting exploration of a friendship between two ambitious ballerinas that fluctuates between admiration and envy, attachment and rivalry. Trying out for a Parisian ballet company is a dancer’s dream, and being I took ballet for most of my youth, I wanted to see the movie for the premise alone. But don’t think it’s going to be a bunch of teens hopping around in tutus. These girls are fierce athletes, the story is shockingly sensual, and some scenes are so visually stunning, it’s worth watching for those alone.


Vlad Holiday – lazy, sexy, raw—So Damn Into You and Like in the Movies.

Empathy Test – synthy, poppy goodness and dark new wave vibes.

MXMS – funeral pop for the morose, their song The Run has been on loop for rewrites of The Sculptor Part II.


November by Max Richter played by Mari Samuelsen

No words needed for this.


Waking Up

I’ve been meditating at least once a week for the past 4-5 years. After having increasingly expansive experiences, I hit a plateau. Then I started the Waking Up app.

I was introduced to this app by the vocalist of PLGRMS, Jacob Pearson. He also happens to be a wonderful human being who took the time to send me the details to sign up. (Check PLGRMS out on Spotify and follow their Instagrams at @jacobpearson and @plgrmsmusic. Their music hits on all levels!). This practice with Sam Harris will rewire your brain and allow you to not only level up in life, but also experience day to day living on many levels simultaneously.

It has increased my happiness, depth of experience, focus, and intuition. This is not faith-based or spiritual, rather it trains you in all the ways you can use your mind and attention. Each day you receive a new meditation. They are short and effective, like HIIT workouts for the brain.

The app also includes interviews with experts on topics like consciousness, time perception, memory, and more. To me, these are the most important discussions in life.

Get free unlimited access to Waking Up for 7 days by clicking here https://dynamic.wakingup.com/shareOpenAccess/e473ac


So what discoveries have you made in 2021?

I would love to know your favorite things. What books, movies, albums, or apps come made your 2021 better?


P.S. Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas has been released. Buy your copy here.