Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
Thus far I’ve been feeling pretty good overall about 2023, and I think in many ways it’s because of the groundwork laid in 2022.
As always I reserve the right to add things as they come to me, but seeing as it’s March and no one’s getting any younger here are some of my favorite things from 2022:
Casey Neistat’s return to New York and vlogging, my Hoka running shoes, George Saunders’ Story Club, any and all content about Stoicism from Ryan Holiday, “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mere Mortals” by Oliver Burkeman, the last scene of “The Fabelmans”, the cold open and last scene of “Wakanda Forever” (pre-end credit scenes), the first hard twist of “Barbarian”, the dialogue of “Glass Onion”, Michelle Yeoh and the unexpected phenomenon of “Everything Everywhere All At Once”, the giddy experiences of watching “Everything Everywhere” and “Nope” and “Glass Onion” unfold in a theater, Angela Bassett in “Wakanda Forever”, Jennifer Connelly in “Top Gun Maverick”, Sandra Bullock in “The Lost City”, Sam Raimi getting to raise a zombie Dr. Strange at the end of “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness”, Owen Wilson explaining a song from Camelot to Jennifer Lopez in “Marry Me”, Austin Butler in “Elvis”, Isabella Rossellini in “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”, James Cameron’s completely virtual world and the pacing of “Avatar: The Way of Water”, getting to watch the final season of “Better Call Saul” in real-time, the incredible premise and often uncomfortable execution of “The Rehearsal”, the mini-arc plotting, production design and mere existence of “Andor”, the hit or miss randomness of the final season of “Atlanta”, the final shot of “Atlanta”, the round summary screen of “Death Loop”, finally playing through “Spider-man” on PS5, playing through “It Takes Two” with Ben, all the great road trips taken this year to visit friends, the annual Christmas trip to California, any and all reconnecting with friends not seen since pre-Covid, Saint Lucia, visiting the FDR museum in Hyde Park, Anthony and Julie’s wedding, Vauhini’s book launch, publishing my first two humor pieces on Slackjaw, saying goodbye to Baobao as a family, the Bears’ Monday Night Football victory over the Patriots (aka the final Bears win of the year), any Eddie Jackson interception, the unexpected performance of Jack Sanborn, Justin Fields, Justin Fields, Justin Fields.
George Saunders was the single most important writer I discovered in college, and Civil Warland in Bad Decline was among the earliest story collections I read while dreaming of being a fiction writer.
So you can imagine my surprise this year when in one of his Story Club newsletters (which is excellent, by the way) he linked to a preface for the book I’d never read before, one in which he describes in loving, misty-eyed detail everything it took to write his first book. Turns out the piece was written for an edition that came out years after the one I read, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of writing I’ve discovered this year. My favorite passage:
I will forevermore, I expect, be trying to re-create the purity of that time. Having done nothing, I had nothing to lose. Having made a happy life without having achieved anything at all artistically, I found that any artistic achievement was a bonus. Having finally conceded that I wasn’t a prodigy after all, I had the total artistic freedom that is afforded only to the beginner, the doofus, the aspirant.
Here it is in its entirety. And yes, I’m mostly linking it here so I’ll have easy access to it for the rest of my life nbd.
All signs point to this season still being a rough one—our roster probably just isn’t strong enough—but WOW did it feel great to start off with this win. Here’s hoping for more pleasant surprises!
If I’m being honest I think that more than a few of my theses these past few years have turned out to be wrong. But the most important thing is that we’re still playing. It’s a privilege to play.
So here’s to the next phase. The new world begins today.
One of the interesting (privileged?) things about Edgar Wright’s screenplay to “Last Night in Soho” is that every needle drop is called out explicitly; it’s kind of fun to play each song when it comes up in the screenplay to see how it impacts the scene on the page, though unfortunately this didn’t make the plot any more appealing for me.
Long story short it led me to rediscovering a bunch of old songs including this one. The original is sung by James Ray but the George Harrison cover has this whimsical video:
I’ll keep adding to this as I think of things but seeing as 1) it’s been a damn moment and 2) Lunar New Year is upon us let’s do a wrap-up for 2021, yeah? In many ways 2021 felt like well more than a year’s worth of material—something to be incredibly grateful for but also not something to make any sweeping statements about yet.
Regardless here are some of my favorite things from the year that was 2021:
any actual movie-going experience with friends, Kristin Stewart in “Spencer”, Mike Faist in “West Side Story”, Jason Mamoa in “Dune”, any score by Jonny Greenwood, John Chu’s direction of “In the Heights”, Lin Manual Miranda’s for “Tick,Tick…Boom!”, the groundbreaking format of “Bad Trip”, Evan Peters in “Mare of Easttown”, Jean Smart in “Hacks”, “How To” with John Wilson, William Harper Jackson and Jessica Williams in “Love Life”, the fun vibes of “Only Murders in the Building”, the production design of “Loki”, any Chase Dreams song from “The Other Two”, that Roy sibling tableau in the “Succession” Season 3 finale, the Butt Plug episode of “The Premise”, the Zillow sketch on SNL, the music and zeitgeist-seizing phenomenon of “Squid Game”, The Secret to Superhuman Strength, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (and any George Saunders podcast interview for that matter), Rusty Brown, that Jeremy Strong New Yorker profile, Olivia Rodrigo, “Being Alive” and “Finishing the Hat” by Stephen Sondheim, Fresh Air’s three part tribute to Stephen Sondheim, every moment of playing through Spider-man: Miles Morales, the three times I played Ring Fit Adventure, finally finishing Zelda: Breath of the Wild, playing through A Way Out with Ben, the Bears trading up to draft Justin Fields, every sack by Robert Quinn, the unexpected success of the new-look Bulls, driving around upstate for Jing’s birthday, getting this story published in The Margins, the birthday dinner at Peking Duck House, philosophical discussions over chocolate with Scott, the Peking duck at Mr. Jiu’s, wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma, the early summer dinner at Mayfield, Sean’s bachelor party, Sean and Stephanie’s wedding, exploring the Jersey Shore boardwalk, every pork roll/Taylor ham eaten, the Kusama exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden, the final set configuration of Shakespeare in the Park’s Merry Wives, the single beach trip to Fort Tilden, the monorail at the Bronx Zoo, the Katie Kitamura/Hari Kunzru outdoor reading under the bridge with Nicole, the epic dinner at Nom Wah, any moment Felicia was in New York, the late dinner at Cha Kee, seeing Stars play at Le Poisson Rouge, being able to watch a Bears-Vikings game with Kishan, eating a legit burrito with Seeyew, the Christmas dinner with relatives in Palo Alto, any pastry from Supermoon Bakehouse or Arsicault, every home cooked meal from Mom, my Airpods Pro, my iPhone 13 Pro, my iPad Pro, my PS5.
Let’s do this, 2022!
Welp, we made it to 2021. There’ll be reflection and analysis (and a “Best of” list of some kind) for 2020 at a future date, but for now let’s celebrate the fact that our Chicago Bears—in spite of a dismal six game losing streak, a suspect offense and a suddenly shaky defense—have somehow made it to a final regular season game that matters!
And against our archrivals the Packers, no less.
A win and we’re in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the undeniably superior Packers have a reason to care as well: if they win they clinch the number one seed and a first round playoff bye.
There hasn’t been a Bears-Packers game with this much at stake in a long time, which unfortunately also means it has all the makings of a colossal letdown if you’re a Bears fan.
I’m writing pre-kickoff but by the time you read this it’s quite likely the game is already over and the Bears have been destroyed, nemesis Aaron Rodgers has locked down his MVP award and we have more questions than ever about the future of our team.
BUT we have a chance. That’s why they play the game, as the saying goes.
And these days, that’s all anyone can ask for.
Well just like that our 5-1 Bears are now 5-4, having lost their last three games in fairly embarrassing fashion.
I didn’t watch a minute of last week’s loss to the Titans and I don’t regret it—seeing this “offense” continually fail to launch is mind-boggling, demoralizing, and worst of all just not fun.
I’m still pulling for this team but sometimes it’s better to keep some psychic distance; I’ll probably check out part of Monday night’s game with the Vikings but with even-lower expectations…something I didn’t know was possible.
But hey: at least we’re not the Jets!!!
I’ve blogged about this before, but it occurred to me that if George R.R. Martin is still willing to recap games of the woeful Giants and Jets this season it’s my duty to post about the Bears at least a couple times.
Somehow our beloved Bears are 5-1 right now, despite the fact that we still have one of the worst-looking offenses in football. The switch from Trubisky to Foles was welcome and necessary, and yet we’re still unable to move the ball consistently. The running game remains nonexistent. I honestly can’t remember a time when our offense looked more inept than it has these past two seasons, which—thinking back to certain Kyle Orton or Marc Trestman years—is really saying something. Basically we’re one of the least reassuring 5-1 teams in history. At least the defense is starting to look better after a shaky start, with rookie corner Jaylon Johnson looking like a great pick.
Still, in a completely unpredictable season, it’s better to be on top than not. And I have to think at the very least this offense will get better by regressing towards the mean—words no one ever wants to hear unless their offense is ranked in the bottom 5.
At least I’m not a Jets fan (sorry, George and Garry Vee).