Tears in the Rain
One reason to write more is as an aide-mémoire; the older I get, the more my life (and increasingly my daughter's life, as we get more of it!) seems to be just a blur. So even before I decided I was going to try to resuccitate some sort of writing habit, I began jotting down some notes on things I might want to remember and things that are more indicative of my tragic decline. In 2019:
- I took Jane to her first taekwondo lesson; she's really enjoying herself so far, although she's only a couple months in.
- I saw a single Best Picture nominee in the theater. (Parasite.) This one may say more about the Academy than it does about me, to be fair; I went to a fair number of movies this year, including both Hollywood junk and art films. The cinema experience of the year for me was seeing Bela Tarr's epic Sátántángo, in its seven-hour entirety, in October at the Cleveland Institute of Art. It's a brilliant movie somewhat marred by how indulgent the last 90 minutes or so was. That seems like a ridiculous thing to say, but the first five hours never felt like Tarr was engaging in some sort of joke on the viewer, even when you were watching the famous opening shot (seven characterless minutes of cows wandering through a largely abandoned Hungarian village) or five minutes of the alcoholic town doctor truudging through the rainy night to obtain brandy, but the end felt like a death march towards Tarr's vision of filming every scene in the book (somewhat relieved by the amazing coda, as the doctor awakes alone in the abandoned village to the sound of church bells).
- I made it out to only four rock shows: Helen Money opening for Fugazi spinoff the Messthetics; the Regrettes (the rare band I've seen that didn't exist in the first decade of this century; I think the last one was Spain's Hinds); Pelican, with Chicago's Bloodiest opening; and Cave In (with Converge's Nate Newton substituting for the late Caleb Scofield), with Lazer Wulf and Baltimore's War on Women.
- I released a fresh version of Jumpcut, the Mac clipboard buffer I wrote in… 2003? A long time ago. It hadn't been updated in literally a decade, and was facing a looming deadline due to the arrival of macOS Catalina (10.15), which killed a whole bunch of older OSX programs stone dead. This is unpleasant old code, desperately in need of a refactor or a rewrite, but it remains one of the very first pieces of software I install on any new laptop (and based on the few but fervent responses I got, I'm not the only one). Hopefully I can keep it chugging along for another ten years of life.
- I read a lot of books, most of which were, broadly, light fiction. Back in the before times, I once tried to write a short review of every book I read for a year. I don't have it in me to do that any more; nor did I bother recording every book I read (how many times will I reread Dorothy Sayers or John D. MacDonald or Michael Swanwick in my lifetime?), but I did take a stab at noting at least every book I read that was new to me. A few highlights: two books by personal friends (Michael G. Williams' A Fall in Autumn and Melissa Caruso's The Unbound Empire); W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants (every bit as good as he's been represented as; I should circle back to see if The Rings of Saturn works better for me as fortysomething than it did as a twentysomething); Jack Vance's The Palace of Love (the highlight of his Demon Princes series and one of his best books, I think); How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell's consideration of Thoreau, birdwatching, capitalism, and place in the age of social media. The book I've recommended to people the most is Isaac Feldman's The Breath of the Sun, a sui generis fantasy novel about a celebrated mountainer/memoirist and a scientist/nun climbing the world's largest mountain. I didn't do a great job with my efforts in reading more work by African diaspora writers, with both A Brief History of Seven Killings and My Sister, the Serial Killer remaining unfinished by December 31.
- Finally, in news that would have amazed my 15-year-old, Games Magazine-reading self, I wrote an MIT Mystery Hunt puzzle. I really wrote it in 2018, but it ran as part of the 2019 "Holiday Town" Hunt. I would be the first to admit that It's not a particularly great exemplar of the form (as a first-time constructor I would have been shocked to discover that it was), but people were able to solve it. Behold! I also collaborated with my wife and our very clever friends who are longtime members of Setec Astronomy on a puzzle based on the social game iPod Submarine, which I think is pretty funny even if you're not trying to eke out a puzzle answer from it.