Good Things in 2018

It’s never too late to reflect.

I walked a lot. It’s the best. One of my goals was to walk every street in downtown Atlanta. Done.

I also walked from my place downtown out to the peak of Kennesaw Mountain. This was ~23 miles of mostly road walking that was mostly… pretty miserable. It’s hard to feel like you’re living your best life when you’re walking a narrow strip of grass next to a 4-lane divided highway through light-industrial zoning. But you grow in some odd way. You feel a bit more sympathy for when you see someone doing it who maybe didn’t have the same choice in the matter. Similar to my walk to Stone Mountain I featured in Good Things in 2017, “Really glad I did it, and I will never do it again.”

I also got some good walking when I made a summer visit to Glacier National Park with my dad and brother. We hadn’t had a guys-only trip like that since… I couldn’t tell you when. No place like it. Only downside was not being able to disappear into the wilderness immediately.

Glacier was my second National Park of the year. Earlier in the spring I went on a volunteer trip to Saguaro National Park, working on a long-running project to remove invasive buffelgrass (which increases wildfire risk, among other issues). It was the most incredible experience. I’ve long loved the outdoors and hiking and such, but there was something about that trip where nature just really bowled me over. I was there after a dry winter (I am told), but rains had come through just before I arrived. Over the course of the trip, I got to see the desert wake up. Spring was beginning. So many crazy plants I’d never seen up close, or even heard of, were leafing out over the course of the week.

To see the dry brown scrubby landscape come alive, and then return home to the lush damp south… I was absolutely drunk on nature. I went to my usual weekend stomping grouds, a favorite state park, and I was just in aww. “Look at these grasses! These leaves!”

That new appreciation for nature ended up feeding into an amazing reading streak. I surfed one of those rare waves of books, hitting a stride where every book leads to the next and the next and the next.

I think it really kicked off with McPhee’s Encounters with the Archdruid, just before the Saguaro trip. I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and that led me to The Hidden Life of Trees and then I figured I’d give Desert Solitaire another shot, and loved it this time around. I read Goodbye to a River, where I got a feel for the frontier, and more curiosity about the history of the west and non-white experience of the environment. Empire of the Summer Moon was a nice complement. A Natural History of the Senses worked its way in, and Black Nature, and This Radical Land, too. (In the midst of this I took an excellent workation trip to Toronto, and saw Niagara Falls on one of those little boats, and had an out-of-body experience.) After adding Coming Into the Country and Rainy Lake House to the reading binge, I’d touched just about every region of the country. This all tied together and peaked with what I think was my favorite book of the year, Empires, Nations, & Families. Whew. What a ride.

Outside of that, some other 2018 reads I enjoyed more than average, with especially goods ones asterisked:

  • Hamlet* (Shakespeare: pretty good writer)

I watched some good stuff, too. Many of the stand-outs were smaller-scale movies. Favorites, among those new to me, mostly in reverse chronological order:

I built on my daily push-up and squat habits, slacked off on meditation, and got a lot better at flossing regularly. (Don’t economize on floss. Buy the good stuff and use it liberally.)

I started doing evening journal to match my morning one. I’ve really liked this addition. It’s a good opportunity to scrub my brain clean before I sleep. Usually it’s just bulletpoints of what happened during the day, and that’s plenty.

Good year, though it didn’t always feel like it. 🤔

Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade. I largely can’t relate to this, because I think I was mostly too oblivious in middle school to feel terribly awkward or unfit. The movie is still great, though. Loved the use of the soundtrack, emphasizing the cuts and subjectivity. Great closing speech at the end. Not eloquent but heartfelt, which is maybe better.

Black Panther

Black Panther. Solid entry. Great villain, but our hero is kinda bland. I’m not over the moon with it. Lots of humor falling flat. I selfishly liked seeing the High Museum as a featured setting. Seemed like there’s some Star Wars influence here. Also, love to see MMA becoming a part of the action movie vocabulary. Not just punches and kicks, but the grappling, throws, chokes, holds, etc.. These people should be complete martial artists. The star of the soundtrack was the talking drums. 👌

Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2. I took a break from superhero films for a while but couldn’t have found a better way to return. I was just so impressed with this movie. Even more so because I never liked Spider-Man comics. The pace, the stakes, some great slapstick and sight gags. Just firing on all cylinders.

What Do We Mean When We Call Art ‘Necessary’?

The effect is something like an absurd and endless syllabus, constantly updating to remind you of ways you might flunk as a moral being.

Glad to see someone writing about one of my least favorite descriptions for art.

This usage seems to gesture everywhere but at the art itself, both as an admonishment to the audience and an indictment of the world that has begotten the themes contained in the work being discussed.

万引き家族 (Shoplifters)

Shoplifters. It’s bittersweet and so, so good. I like this improvised family, formed by choice and by happenstance, lasting as long as convenience and commitment allow. But for how long? Lots of beautiful moments – out thieving, on the beach, enjoying a rainy afternoon. I like the “mother’s” transformation over the course of the film. Interesting to see side of Japan I’m not used to – the poor, the neglected. I like this one more and more since the time I saw it.

Asking yourself, “What am I doing when I like who I am?” seems to me to be a more direct way to figure out what you need more of (and what you need less of) in life, regardless of what you think you should need. Often, the healthy, fulfilling things we’ve drifted away from are things whose significance probably wouldn’t occur to us, until we start doing them again and see how much they contributed to our well-being.

Where Self-Esteem Comes From

The Equalizer 2

The Equalizer 2. I hope they just quietly let this franchise slip into obsolescence. Too much going on here plot-wise, and this edition of McCall seems to have a haranguing Cosby-esque vibe where the first one had more charm. I think the highlight for me was seeing Donald Cerrone’s bit part.