In a lot of ways 2021 sucked big floppy donkey dick. So I want to take a moment to review some of the things that helped me to get through the year. These aren’t meant to be anything other than a list of things that brought me joy. Not all of these things are from 2021, but I did initially discover them in 2021.
FAVORITE BOOK: THE BOOK OF ACCIDENTS BY CHUCK WENDIG
I haven’t read a ton of Chuck Wendig, despite appreciating his blog and Twitter presence, and what I have read (WANDERERS, a handful of his craft books) have been good, but haven’t blown me away. But then this year I read THE BLUE BLAZES and THE BOOK OF ACCIDENTS and he officially became an author whose books I will continue to preorder and support.
What I loved about THE BOOK OF ACCIDENTS had less to do with the story itself, although that was definitely fun and interesting, and more to do with the way Mr. Wendig built the story. For one thing, the characters (Nate, Maddie, and Oliver, primarily) are really well drawn. They’re smart, loving, and drive the plot forward with their decisions. What I appreciated most, though, is that they don’t keep secrets from one another for no reason. They are open, and honest, and there isn’t a point in the book that felt like the characters were doing something because the author needed them to, which is a difficult thing to pull off.
Another thing I loved about this book is how Chuck lays the groundwork for things that pay off later. He doesn’t immediately explain anything. Instead, he leaves clues and drops the reader into situations in media res that only become clear later on. In this way, he allows the reader to piece the story together on their own before he confirms (or twists) what we think we know.
FAVORITE BOOK OF POETRY: I’LL FLY AWAY BY RUDY FRANCISCO
I made it a point to read more poetry this year. I enjoyed much of what I picked up (probably because I know my tastes), but Rudy Francisco’s collection stands out to me. He writes with heart, and humor, and wit, and can turn a phrase like no other.
FAVORITE MOVIE: GODZILLA VS. KONG
This is a tough thing to choose for me. I watch a lot of movies (although this year it felt like I didn’t?) that range from the ridiculous (MORTAL KOMBAT) to the artsy (DAYS OF HEAVEN). That said, there is really only one movie that I found myself wanting to revisit this year, and have a hard time not turning to when I pass by it on HBO MAX: GODZILLA VS. KONG.
Why? It’s fun. I needed that this year. Sometimes that’s enough.
FAVORITE TELEVISION: INFINITY TRAIN
INFINITY TRAIN’s final season aired this year on HBO MAX, but I hadn’t watched any of it before Elijah was born. I remember learning of it a few years ago, thinking it sounded interesting, but then forgetting about it since I haven’t had Cartoon Network as part of a cable package in ten years.
I’m glad I remembered it, though. The episodes are a great length (~15 minutes) for when you’re dealing with a newborn and contain a surprising amount of depth. Each season follows a character (or two or three) that are on the Infinity Train, a train that has an infinite number of cars that each act as their own worlds, as they try (or not try) to become a better person. To say how or why would ruin some of the surprises, but the show goes deep on themes like abandonment, friendship, sense of self, memory, broken homes, and more. It’s not afraid to go dark, especially for what is ostensibly a children’s show, but carries with it a lighthearted tone that balances the darker themes.
Each season is self-contained (although there are plenty of callbacks and references to events from other seasons). The first and fourth seasons are virtually perfect, while the second and third seasons are great but a bit more uneven.
FAVORITE BAND: THE SONDER BOMBS
This is a bit of a cheat for me, as I first discovered The Sonder Bombs in late 2020. But whatever, I listened to a hell of a lot of them this year and so they’re going in this spot.
The Sonder Bombs have a great, fun sound that utilizes a lot of ukulele. Their lyrics are thoughtful, riffs are catchy, and the lead singer, Willow Hawks, has a spectacular voice. Specifically, check out Twinkle Lights (above) and K.
FAVORITE SONG: BRAGGING RIGHTS BY PROPER. FT. WILLOW HAWKS
Surprise! Willow Hawks has a prominent role in this song. That said, Proper. is a solid band that sings about issues not heard of in the mainstream. This song, specifically, paints a picture of an artist doing whatever they can to succeed, perhaps to their detriment but also feeling like there’s no other choice.
And, I mean, why wouldn’t I relate to that?
It’s also emo as hell, which is something I look for in any music I listen to.
MY FAVORITE BABY: ELIJAH
Sorry to all the other babies in the running. It wasn’t even really a competition this year. Luckily, Elijah moves up to the “Favorite Toddler” group next year, where he is a heavy favorite.
MY FAVORITE CATS: TIE(!) BETWEEN BELLE AND ATHENA
For the third year in a row, we have a tie between Belle and Athena for the title. It’s hard to choose between Belle’s beauty and gentleness, and Athena’s beauty and fierce loyalty. Maybe next year a true winner will be decided.
FAVORITE PLACE TO GO WITH MY FAMILY: LONGWOOD GARDENS
Longwood Gardens is 1,100 acres filled with trees and plants from all over the world, in addition to fountains, sculptures, and exhibitions. It’s one of my wife’s favorite places because she’s into flowers. Me? Could never bring myself to care about them.
This year, though, I found myself appreciating what Longwood offers on an experiential level. Being there is relaxing. Watching Elijah experience it for the first time was awe-inspiring. We became members this year and try to get there once a month or so. It’s always worth the drive. I can’t wait to spend more time there in 2022.