Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
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.
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.
Let’s not beat around the bush: 2019 damn near killed me. It was a tough year on a personal level. One could certainly also point to the world at large etc. etc. but sometimes it’s comforting to be distracted (or mortally threatened) by what’s directly in front of you. So 2019 wasn’t great, but that’s okay. Some years are up and some years are down. That’s why we play the game.
But alas, dear reader, what this also means is that I’m not really in the mood for a best of/year in review post. That’s not to say 2019 wasn’t without its beautiful moments, it’s just that everything might be a little too fresh. The preponderance of “Best of Decade” lists being thrown around also feels premature—what say we give this sucker some time to sink in?
So where does that leave us? I don’t know what kind of creature 2020 will turn out to be but thus far it’s been pleasant enough. So I promise to keep slugging away. There will be at least one 2019 movies post because I’ve actually compiled the data. And yes, I promise I’ll post more than once this year.
Welp, another year in the books. Posting this a little late after recovering from a whirlwind trip through India and Asia in January—more about that later (i.e. probably in 2019’s review 😅)—but I’m certainly not gonna pass up the opportunity to celebrate what turned out to be a great year indeed. It’s insane to think that this decade is almost over, that I’ve been living in New York for so long etc. etc. but time don’t stop so let’s get on to the things! I’ll do a separate post for 2018’s Top Movie rankings but otherwise here are some of my favorite things from 2018:
Celebrating Anthony’s birthday at least three times in January, the treasure trove of science fiction artifacts in the Museum of Pop in Seattle, the croissants at Arsicault Bakery in Scott’s neighborhood in San Francisco, the single burrito I had at La Taqueria this year, Alex and Amy’s breakfast wedding in Pasadena, packing up the Crystal Lake house with my family, seeing “In the Heights” at Prairie Ridge, driving an actual bulldozer in Vegas at Kishan’s bachelor party, performing best man duties at Kishan and Elizabeth’s picturesque Sedona wedding, the legacy of Anthony Bourdain, my three-day solo retreat at Bard with an extra large pizza, the Far Rockaway beach trip with Ashleigh and Mackenzie and crew, any visit to Spicy Village and/or the Up Stairs Bar with Jing, every afternoon or evening spent at the beautiful new Domino Park, streaming play-throughs of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and the Overcooked! games with Ben, Key Bar drinks with Son, every Ghibli Fest or MoMA movie screening I made it to, Michael Swanwick asking for a round of memorial applause for Gardner Dozois at his KGB reading, the brief and wondrous life of trivia nights at Golden Years, our second straight year of Honey Deuce cocktails at the U.S. Open, seeing the column of science fiction authors’ autographs at Powell’s Books in Portland, attending the New York premieres of “Eighth Grade” and “Mid90s” with Jenny, any sandwich from Faicco’s, the surreal moment when I found myself doing tequila shots with a well-known author and a famous actress, dinners at Sushi Noz and Decoy with Felicia, any karaoke or movie night with the Stanford writer crew, any dive bar in the Lower East Side, new Thanksgiving traditions in Philadelphia with Val, Thomas, Clarissa and Max (including my first Escape Room experience), the incredible stagecraft and special effects of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” Christmas at Mom and Dad’s new SoCal house with Aunt Crystal,
Olivia Colman in “The Favourite,” Lana Condor in “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” Steven Yuen in “Burning,” Zoey Deutch in “Set It Up,” Michelle Yeoh and Awkwafina in “Crazy Rich Asians,” Raffey Cassidy in “Vox Lux”, the power of croquettes in “Shoplifters”, Michael B. Jordan and nearly everything else about “Black Panther,” Carrie Mulligan in “Wild Life,” Ethan Hawke in “First Reformed,” Cynthia Erivo in “Bad Times at the El Royale,” Viola Davis in “Widows,” the score for “First Man,” the score for “Annihilation,” the first half hour of “Sorry to Bother You,” the helicopter crash finale in “Mission: Impossible Fallout,”
the “Metalhead” episode of “Black Mirror,” Brian Tyree Henry and Lakeith Stanfield and all of “Atlanta” season 2, Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh in “Killing Eve,” most of “The Haunting of Hill House,” the workman-like precision of “Better Call Saul,” the short episode lengths of Sam Esmail’s “Homecoming,” the “Diner Lobster” sketch from SNL, “Aggretsuko,”
“What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky” by Lesley Nneka Arimah, “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” by Alexander Chee, any story by Karen Joy Fowler, “Triumph of the City” by Edward Glaeser, “Thrill Me”
by Benjamin Percy, “Stories of Your Life and Others” by Ted Chiang, “The Gone World” by Tom Sweterlitsch, the short stories of Gene Wolfe, this piece on how to be an artist by Jerry Saltz,
“Delicate” by Taylor Swift, “God’s Plan” by Drake, “Lost in Japan” by Shawn Mendes, Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video, “Nobody” by Mitski, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears (you know why), this Pomplamoose cover of “Make Me Feel,” “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande,
this episode of “The Daily” about North and South Korea, The Dave Chang Show, the Cast Royale podcast, every postgame show of the newly renamed Chicago Audible podcast, the Coin Talk podcast, the Robin Hood app, Swift and Node.js courses on Udemy, working afternoons at any Spacious location,
Tom Brady’s “Tom Vs. Time” series on Facebook Watch, Doug Pederson’s play calling and the Philly Special in Super Bowl LII, this Cubs walk-off grand slam, any Chicago Bears play with Khalil Mack on the field, jet sweeps with Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen and any other crazy offensive formation, any pass not overthrown by Mitchell Trubisky, Club Dub, Matt Nagy, Matt Nagy, Matt Nagy.
Honestly it still hurts to think about. We certainly didn’t play our best but this season sure as shit didn’t deserve to end the way many feared it might: on a missed Cody Parkey field goal. I spent most of this season trying to give Parkey the benefit of the doubt but it was clear that our kicking game was one of our major weaknesses.
What’s crazy to me is that if Parkey had actually made the kick it would have been the ultimate redemption story. What’s crazy to me is that icing the kicker actually worked for once–Parkey nailed the initial kick he tried right after the Eagles’ planned timeout. What’s crazy to me is that on the real kick the ball hits the upright at exactly the right angle and speed to fall onto the crossbar, at exactly the right angle and speed to bounce backwards and not forwards. What’s crazy to me is that replay eventually showed an Eagles player might have barely tipped the ball on the way up, which (infuriatingly) makes it harder to know how much Parkey’s to blame. And the final kicker (sorry, had to do it): Robbie Gould was at the game, watching from the stands. You can’t make this stuff up.
There were ample missed opportunities for the Bears–the three red zone trips which resulted only in field goals, the failed two point conversion, the second-to-last 4th quarter offensive possession that netted negative yards, the short punt and defensive failures that enabled the Eagles’ game-winning touchdown drive–but somehow at the end we still had a chance. With the game on the line Trubisky actually delivered a game-winning field goal drive; we just didn’t get the field goal.
Never has the single-elimination format of the NFL playoffs felt more cruel (though come to think of it, that playoff loss to the Panthers in 2006 felt terrible too). Having such a fun, fantastic season end so abruptly was a real gut punch. I watched the entire game streaming on my phone early in the morning from Shanghai, which only made it all the more surreal–though maybe a bit more bearable. And next year will only be tougher: we won’t have Vic Fangio, we’ll be playing a first place schedule and every team will have better scouting on us.
The silver lining is that this actually does feel like the start of something. The Bears significantly outperformed expectations this year, and we’ve got plenty of young talent that should only get better. Arrow trending up!
Surprise, mafakkas! Despite having managed not to make a single post in 2017 I’m posting a year in review.
It goes without saying that 2017 was a roller coaster for everyone, which in my view makes it more important to highlight the good and meaningful. In addition to a wealth of personal lessons learned, 2017 was full of good stuff. I’ll update this list as more comes to me but here’s what I’ll remember most:
Any and every time the movie club got together, wandering Savannah late at night with Honmun and Pauline, the total eclipse experience in North Carolina, watching Miyazaki movies with Felicia, any night I was able to sleep in rejuvenating suburban silence, hanging out with Chris and Honmun in New York, my first bike ride in the city, every dumpling, wonton, bowl of pho or baked good consumed in Flushing, the barbecue at Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, the barbecue at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis, the hot chicken at Prince’s in Nashville, the cheese steak at Pat’s King of Steaks in Philly, every burrito consumed in the Bay Area, any seltzer water of any flavor anywhere, the mixed doubles and womens finals at the U.S. Open, the birthday dinner at Birds of a Feather, the rooftop view of the William Vale, jazz at St. Mazie, Game of Drones trivia nights, closing down the Hi-Fi Bar and Rosamunde, wandering the Presidio with Ben and Sofia, the ingenious experience design of “Then She Fell”, the family vacation in L.A., Halloween with the queen and reaper crew, Output/drink nights with Anthony B and the old coworkers, Flash Fiction Online and Daily Science Fiction, Isaac and Saeed getting their very own talk show on Buzzfeed, the launch of Jenny’s book, crawling Austin with Nicole and Karan, driving the U.S. highways and listening to “Train Dreams” with Karan on our epic 10-state road trip, our visit to Lexington, VA, streaming games with Ben, Traghaven Whiskey Pub and upstate hiking with Karan and Anthony, wandering Chicago and staying at The Gwen with Kishan, watching old Christmas party videos with Jordan, Scott and Rebecca, the backfield tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, the improved play of Kyle Fuller and Vic Fangio’s defense, the strange Nikola Mirotic resurgence, Episode 6 of “Life is Strange”, Tiffany Hadish on SNL, Willem Dafoe in The “Florida Project”, Robin Wright in “Wonder Woman”, Cate Blanchett in “Thor: Ragnorak”, Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird”, Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water”, Daisy Ridley in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, the opening scene of “Baby Driver”, Lily James in “Baby Driver”, Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour”, Saoirse Ronan, Saoirse Ronan, Saoirse Ronan.
Favorite movies seen:
Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Get Out, Blade Runner: 2049, Spider-man: Homecoming, Beginners, Tokyo Story, Point Break, The Thin Blue Line, all Miyazakis watched
Favorite books read:
The Handmaid’s Tale, The Haunting of Hill House, The Demolished Man, Self-Help, Birds of America, Sour Heart, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, When Watched, Mastering Bitcoin, Brave New World, Understanding Exposure, The Everything Store
“Fake Love” and “Get It Together” by Drake, pretty much all of Lorde’s “Melodrama” but in particular “Homemade Dynamite” and “Perfect Places”, “Los Ageless” and “New York” by St. Vincent
Nintendo Switch, Canon G7 X, Nikon f/1.8G lens, Surface Pro 4, The Daily podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, Da Bears Brothers podcast, Calm, Things 3, Pocket Casts, Clash Royale, Hearthstone, mint chip Halo Top, coconut oil, Tesla Model X (not mine)
My favorite product I bought last year was a dustbuster. No joke. And in a way, wasn’t the majority of 2015 about busting the dust of life? I wrote the most words, wrote the most code, took the most flights, took the most vacation and spent the most time in my hometown of my adult life. I went to Disneyland for the first time in two decades. I went to a feminist science fiction convention. I went to PAX in Seattle. I became an HBO subscriber. I went house-hunting in San Diego. I built a new computer in real life, and time machines in my writing life.
Still, time moves on. I’ve only managed to post a Best Of list two out of the past four years so let’s not get too precious about it. Here are some of my favorite things I remember from the year that was 2015: