year: a review

What can be said about 2018 except that it went by very quickly for a shitty year that felt like it was never going to end? You know, because of The Everything. The Overwhelm. The Unrelenting Horrorscreams of living in this now with these people in charge.

I spent the year feeling like I should be doing more, then tallying up what I was doing—the phone calls, the postcard parties, the donations, the bowlathon, the fundraising, the election protection—and I still felt isolated, depressed, exhausted, convinced I wasn’t doing my share.

Saying it was a hard year feels selfish. All things considered, I’m doing better than a lot of people. And at least I can get regular therapy for the depression and anxiety that have been breaking my spirit like it’s their job (it is. They’re very good at it, and I think maybe they got promoted or something this year because they’re showing some admirable hustle).

I wanted to put a regular year-end Top 10 list together, but I realized that I probably haven’t even seen 10 movies in the theater this year, or 10 concerts, or even 10 plays, which is rare. I spent a lot of time alone indoors, declining invitations and indulging the worst parts of my introversion (I did kick the shit out of my Goodreads challenge this year, though—woo!). I quit Facebook, deleted my Tumblr, removed all my old Rubbernun sites, ditched Twitter (for a while) but check in sporadically because it’s weird being THAT disconnected but every time I look at Twitter, I can feel my depression getting worse—like a hand reaching into my ribcage and dragging me down. But there’s also WeRateDogs, so.

I just spent a lot of time in my head this year. It was not a wise decision.

When I did do stuff, I liked these things. Maybe you will also like them.

  • Superchunk. I like Superchunk every year, but they put out a fantastic album in 2018 about the aftermath of the 2016 election and the importance of not giving in to despair. Their set at Riot Fest rocked my face off (and I don’t blame them for the skull-shattering migraine that followed. I blame the sun. And whoever decided to face a stage into the setting sun on a hot September day. Because why? Why would anyone do that?). Plus I got to perform some of those songs myself—figuring out the bass parts and everything—with the Merge Records Ensemble class at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Weekly classes and the occasional performance with a group of friends and good musicians helped pull me out of myself this year. Learning an instrument in my dotage is a gift that keeps on giving, people.
  • Other music that was really good this year: All Nerve by the reunited Breeders. And I was so happy to see them live—they sounded great, and they played the Pixies’ “Gigantic”“Nameless, Faceless” by Courtney Barnett; the I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats covers project, particularly the breathtaking “Balance” by Dessa and “Color in Your Cheeks” by Ibibio Sound Machine; “An Ambulance” by Mike Krol, which we learned in Merge class and just could not stop playing (see also “Fifteen Minutes” because Mike Krol is fucking great); Waxatchee’s Great Thunder EP, especially “Singer’s No Star”; the album was a mixed bag, but “I’ll Be Your Girl” (“I could be your man, but I’ll be that much more…”) by the Decemberists was lovely, and “Sucker’s Prayer” sounded like an outtake from All Things Must Pass, in a good way; everything Lizzo does, including her Instagram; and I mean come on, Dirty Computer was fucking brilliant and that’s just the end of it. “I Like That” makes me cry every single time.
  • I read some great books this year: Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers (devastating. It absolutely gutted me); Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ When They Call You a Terrorist (research for work, because I got to interview her, but it was gripping and lovely and everyone should read it); Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties; George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo (it’s from last year, but I listened to the audiobook this year and loved it all over again); Ben Passmore’s Your Black Friend (read this, white people).
  • GLOW made me so happy. Nanette made me think about stuff. And Flowers probably has a very limited audience (the humor is so dark it’s like if Anish Kapoor did a comedy series for Channel 4), but if you are that audience, you will LOOOOOOOOOVE it.

I don’t know. I guess that’s it. Here are some better year-end lists:

Let’s hope 2019 is less sucky for everyone.

“love makes it worse”

Hey, did you see that movie where Olivia Colman plays a queen who goes mad? Or maybe you liked that detective show she was on? Or all the great sketch shows she was on at the beginning of the century. Anyway, she’s a frickin’ genius, and you should watch everything she’s in. And now you can watch Flowers, which was on Seeso back when Seeso was a thing and is now on Netflix. There’s even a new Season 2!

If you like your comedy pitch black to the point where you will probably weep openly, this is the show for you. It’s very much a fable that could be set in the 70s or now or whenever (there are no cellphones or computers, and cassette tapes play a major role), but it’s also a heartbreakingly realistic depiction of mental illness and its impact on the people who have it and the people who love them. And children’s books.