Mandy. Psychedelic revenge horror. This was a little too drawn out for me. You’re just immersed in suffering. But its mood and wholeness was great. The woozy rainbow colors and lens flare (like Annihilation), the washes of color. Excellent soundtrack – I’ve been using it for work music ever since.

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.

Avengers: Infinity War


Avengers: Infinity War. It was mildly distracting to see the movie’s first major battle taking place in my downtown Atlanta neighborhood, just blocks away. Is this how New Yorkers feel all the time? Thanos is a great villain. Maybe knowing they’d have him around later let them invest more and give him some motivation beyond destruction? I like the several scenes where loved ones are torn between hard choices – Vision and Scarlet Witch, Thanos and Gamorra, Starlord and Gamorra, etc.. My main frustration with the movie was the big Wakanda scenes. We are convinced this is the most technologically advanced civilization on the planet, and they are fighting a crucial battle… with infantry, hand-to-hand? It’s a shame. They could have done something more interesting. The giant roto-tiller machines were cool, though.



Searching. This is a nice little manipulative thriller. Respect for how they experimented with form to give life to an otherwise straightforward tale. The opening montage killed me.

Lady and the Tramp


Lady and the Tramp. I saw this a million times as a kid (my sister had the VHS). Saw it again on a whim when I was in Los Angeles. Fun screening with a theater fool of kids who were super into it. The stereotypes… don’t age well. But the rest does. I’d forgotten about the music. Several good tunes in this one. I’d totally forgot about He’s A Tramp (those back-up vocals!). Bella Notte is unforgettable. And La La Lu? Just perfect.

Leave No Trace


Leave No Trace. Second viewing (the first). What is appropriate for an adult who can’t make peace with the world isn’t appropriate for a kid who’s just becoming ready for it. Using “You Are My Sunshine” as the opening song… :'(. Noticed the color yellow appears a few times – her favorite color, the bees, the yellow blanket at the first house they settle in, the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag when the bulldozers tear down the encampment, and when dad is brought back to the house, there’s a yellow blanket or sweater where Tom puts her stuff. The list of “inspiration source materials” in the closing credits was a cool addition. And there’s a fern at the very end of the credits – looks like a seahorse, doesn’t it? I love this movie.

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.