Sunday, January 19, 2020

2019: A Year in Review

Like most years, 2019 seemed to pass by all too quickly, like KFC through your digestive tract. On their own, every moment seems so insubstantial, but each one bears the weight of each that preceded it, so that to examine one in any detail is to stare into that terrible abyss of all of the other moments that had to happen for that single one to come to pass. How many civilizations had to rise and fall, how many people had to die, how much cosmic chaos had to unfold just so that I could buy a couple more blu-rays or spend time at the finest amusement parks Canada has to offer?

The answer: a lot. I honour their memory in my own way and at my own pace, which is the only way one can, really. And so it is that I mark the passing of time with this rundown of some of my own personal memorable moments from 2019, that likely have no significance to anybody else in the universe.

Playing the Game

My 2019 started out like so many of the previous several years with me starting off at a new job. Well, a new old job, with me returning to the company where I got my start in a career that in your imagination can be as exciting as the exploits of an international jewel thief, but in reality is likely just as boring and soul-crushing as your own daily grind. It did come with a big raise, though, so that will likely bring me comfort through all of the ulcers and heart attacks in the years to come.

The Wonder... The Wonder...

This was the first year our family went to Wonderland. The amusement park, not the drug-addled hallucination of Alice in Lewis Carroll's famous tales. For those of you not born and raised in Southern Ontario, Wonderland is the amusement park for anybody looking for such forms of enjoyment in the relative geographic vicinity. It was the perfect storm; we live close enough that it's not a huge hassle to drive there for the day, our children were both tall enough to go on all of the rides without one parent having to stand watch as one of our spawn spent the day on the kiddie attractions, we had enough money to go, and the kids were bored enough of video games and social media to turn their attention elsewhere. In fact my daughter and I ended up going for a second time this summer, this time with a group of her friends from school.

For those of us in this part of the world, Wonderland is practically a rite of passage, and my children passed with mostly flying colours. It seems that my daughter still needs some coaxing to go on some of the bigger rides, although I did manage to get her on the Behemoth, which is something. Even my wife, who is legendarily afraid of heights, ended up going on most of the rides, though not a single one of them would come with me on Leviathan. We still have yet to try the Yukon Striker, which starts off with a near-vertical, hundred-and-thirty-kilometre-an-hour drop, which I'll admit, even gave me pause.

Now that my kids have gotten a taste of it, this feels like the start of a yearly tradition.

Virtually Real

Between work, the kids, watching movies, and a vast wellspring of Internet pornography, I've had to allocate time away from other hobbies, such as video games. I did still find to the time to 
play a few things, and found some gems. For Christmas 2018, I used my PC Optimum points to fund the purchase of a Nintendo Switch, and shortly thereafter in early 2019 also purchased the main reason I had gotten the thing: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I'm not the biggest Zelda fan, but as a Nintendo junkie, the series still holds a special place for me. I'd heard amazing things about Breath of the Wild, and I was still kind of skeptical, but it ended up exceeding every glowing review I'd read, which I had previously assumed was part of the standard industry dick-sucking routine.

I can honestly say that I was blown away by Breath of the Wild, and it quickly climbed the charts to become one of my favourite video games, ever. To the point that I hesitate to replay any previous Zelda titles for fear that their shine might have dimmed somewhat in comparison.

Another game that quickly worked its way up my all time favourites list was Beyond: Two Souls, a little title from Quantic Dream, the same company that put out Heavy Rain. I'm further behind the ball on this one that I was with Breath of the Wild, what with Beyond: Two Souls having been previously released for the PS3 (I played the PS4 re-issue). Beyond is not a game for everyone; like all of Quantic Dream's games, it feels almost like an interactive movie more than a traditional video game, but to me, it is perfect. I love the idea of an interactive narrative, and fleshed-out characters, and meaningful decisions. Beyond: Two Souls probably isn't something that will be enjoyed by the Call of Duty crowd, but with amazing graphics, an amazing story, and fleshed out performances from Willem Dafoe and Ellen Page as the two protagonists, it also quickly became one of my favourites.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention my latest video game obsession, Super Mario Maker 2, which I received for Christmas. Nintendo discovered the perfect way to package up my childhood and sell it back to me while bringing something new to the table. It's the optimal balance between embracing nostalgia without pandering to the audience.

Life on the Silver Screen 

Movies are a big part of my life, and any time I get to share that with the family (or force it on them, depending on your point of view), I feel like I've been able to pass along a little part of myself (kind of like the philosophical equivalent of eating someone else's birthday cake along with all of their saliva expelled when blowing out the candles). Like a lot of movie fans--both casual and hardcore--I enjoy a broad range of films, but two experiences stood out to me this year, both because I was able to share them with my family, and because the films felt like cinematic experiences (I guess what Martin Scorsese would call amusement park rides) that went beyond just watching a movie.

Avengers: Endgame was the culmination of a twenty-two film arc in what is arguably the most successful cinematic universe to date (probably most notably because the MCU even introduced the term "cinematic universe" into the cultural lexicon to begin with). Even though not every film in the MCU is a home run, and some of the themes get to be a little more problematic upon closer inspection, the whole enterprise felt like a unique formation in the current blockbuster landscape, and really a return to form for what blockbusters are supposed to feel like.

Endgame I ended up seeing twice in theatres; once with Ryebone and once with my wife and two children. Being able to experience this with my children in all of its epic grandeur, I couldn't help but think that this is what it must have felt like when Return of the Jedi came out all those years ago, rounding out the original Star Wars trilogy in a time before audiences were all but guaranteed a new Star Wars film every year (whether we wanted it or not). In a lot of ways, the MCU is, in my mind anyway, the heir apparent to the Star Wars cinematic mantle in terms of its capacity for epic film storytelling. As a parent and a movie lover, I'm grateful to have these kind of movies to share with my children. Walking out of the theatre, and seeing the smiles on my kids faces, talking about their favourite parts and their favourite characters and the sad scenes and the funny scenes, and have that kind of connection, well, as a parent, it's something special. 

Speaking of the MCU capturing the cinematic spirit of Star Wars, the other epic movie experience I was able to share with my family was, of course, Star Wars. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker was an opportunity to share my well-known love of Star Wars with my children (and, of course, surreptitiously instill a similar love in their young, impressionable unconscious minds). I love the new release dates of the Star Wars films around Christmas, as I was able to incorporate two of my passions/obsessions into our family traditions. My conflicting thoughts about The Rise of Skywalker aside, I'm just grateful for the fact that there is Star Wars that I'm able to share with my family on the big screen, as an epic blockbuster experience, where you're fully immersed in this other world and get a feeling of that "movie magic" that feels so hard to come by sometimes. My hope is that my kids will be able to look back and remember those times dad took them out to see these films, whether they end up fans of them or not, because the point is that it was something I loved that I was able to share with someone I loved.

Who Collects the Collectors?

I've talked about it before, but my love of movies is tied up in my love of physical media, and my movie collection is a reflection of those loves, and makes a good conversation starter for guests. "How may of these things did you say you have?" Whether or not people are actually into movies or not at this point, it doesn't matter; my collection has reached critical mass to the point where what I'm collecting is largely irrelevant to the outside world, the scope and scale of the collection is discussion worthy in and of itself. Any time you can say that you have, say, a thousand of something (or one-thousand two-hundred and seventy-nine of something in my case), curiosities are piqued, and imaginations are inspired. For example, I'm not into sports, but if somebody told me about their collection of over a thousand pieces of sports memorabilia, I would be (rightfully) impressed, despite not caring at all about the content of the collection (though I suppose any collection reaching critical mass will inspire people to take some interest in the content).

This was the year of Arrow, I suppose, as I started to dig into their catalogue especially of some of my all-time favourite films like Robocop and Waterworld. I also brought my Martin Scorsese Collection up to date (all of the feature films he's directed at any rate) and upped the John Carpenter content of my collection. This year, thirteen hundred is an easily achievable milestone, but the balance it always on the quantity versus the quality of the thing (and I guess the budget of the thing as well). At any rate, I've gone way too far to turn back now, so I'm stuck to the hobby whether I like it or not (luckily for me, the novelty has yet to wear off).

Who Let the Dog In?

The year 2019 will always mark the year that I was finally worn down emotionally and cognitively by my wife and kids to the point that I actually let them get a dog. I was never a pet person, and I having a pet of any variety was never high on my list of priorities, but what can I say? Every man has a breaking point. It turns out that Marceline (named for the Adventure Time character) was actually not a terrible dog, as far as dogs go. At least she's quiet. And it bought me a tonne of social capital with the family, which I've no doubt already squandered. 

Money Matters

It took thirty-seven years, but this year, I finally reached a decent level of financial independence. My wife and I were able to pay off her parents for the down payment for our house that we'd borrowed from them, making it far less awkward to talk about money--or anything that involved money--around them. Through a lot of hard work and sacrifice (and a little luck), we were able to get to a place of relative financial stability, without any extraneous debts like loans, credit cards, or lines of credit.  Aside from the necessary debts like our mortgage and our car payments, for the first time in, well, ever, we could breathe a little easier and not have to stress out (as much) at every little financial transaction, which I've taken full advantage of (see: the previous section in this post on collecting movies).

New Ventures and Old Ambitions

My writing output last year wasn't nearly what I had hoped it would be, though I did start another blogging project with Ryebone. The Reel Film Chronicles is a joint effort on our part, based on our shared love of film and the inability to shut up about it. It's a little bit different format from my typical content here at Feed the Voices in Your Head (read: articles/posts less than eight-thousand words), and a good challenge to keep myself writing and posting more often. It's a modest goal, but better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around. A couple posts a month here and there, and baby, you got yourself a blog going.

There are, of course, probably a lot of things I've overlooked, moments lost in time like tears in rain, which is why I guess there's something to be said for living in the moment; each one never comes again, and most are lost even to memory. A lot of moments are one-time deals, and I guess the point is to try not to squander the precious few that we have. And on that note, I will leave you to ruminate on that particular profundity.

See you on down the trail, partner.


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