A list of things in 2020 that didn't completely suck.
30 December 2020
So, 2020, huh? What a chill and nifty year that everyone enjoyed a lot.
A couple of years ago, I adopted the policy of eschewing any sort of “best” end-of-year list in favor of a thoroughly subjective, highly emotional “stuff I just liked” list. That policy seems particularly wise in light of this year, when I couldn’t muster the energy to objectively collect and rank art and/or items even if I wanted to or were in any way qualified to do so. If there’s a lesson to take away at the close of 2020, it might be that it’s okay to spend a little time on the good things for yourself.
- Films I liked in 2020 include: Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), I’m Your Woman, Emma., The Old Guard, The Invisible Man, Gretel & Hansel, Selah and the Spades, Blow the Man Down, Palm Springs, Shirley, Relic and The Vast of Night.
- Seasons of television shows I liked this year include: Dark (Season 3), The Great (Season 1), What We Do in the Shadows (Season 2), Kingdom (Season 2), The Twilight Zone (Season 2), The Mandalorian (Season 2), The Haunting of Bly Manor (limited series) and The Queen’s Gambit (limited series).
- I watched a lot of short films over the past year. On the fiction front, I can recommend seeing Marcy Learns Something New. As for non-fiction, I enjoyed The Claudia Kishi Club (streaming on Netflix).
- I read a lot of books, but few recently published ones. A handful of the newer books I liked are: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, Monster She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson, The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson and Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami. A high point in not-so-new books I read is the autobiography of offbeat horror film director Curtis Harrington, Nice Guys Don’t Work in Hollywood: The Adventures of an Aesthete in the Movie Business.
- My podcast listening was relatively light, but I discovered two narrative fiction podcasts of note: Old Gods of Apppalachia and The White Vault. As for non-fiction, I enjoyed Morally Indefensible, the companion podcast to the docuseries A Wilderness of Error (in fact, I think I enjoyed the podcast more than the television series). And, like many others this year, I joined the You’re Wrong About fan club. Start with Diana.
- Music! I listened to it. Highlights: Lydia Loveless, Daughter; Lucinda Williams, Good Souls, Better Angels; Margo Price, That’s How Rumors Get Started; Bruce Springsteen, Letter to You; Fiona Apple, Fetch the Bolt Cutters; Haim, Women in Music Pt. III; Open Mike Eagle, Anime, Trauma and Divorce; Nine Inch Nails, Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts (free download).
- The articles I read this year that stuck with me include: Josie Duffy Rice on the prison abolition movement; Jerry Casale on the fiftieth anniversary of the Kent State massacre; Billy Bragg on the fallacy of “cancel culture”; Miles Corwin on the long, strange history of the Black Dalhia ; Daniel Hernandez on the haunting of Girlstown; Rhaina Cohen on the people who prioritize friendship over romance; and Germain Lussier catching up with the The Lost Boys’ Sax Man.
- I know I am not the only one who reacquainted themselves with the joy of watching Columbo in 2020, but I did in fact do that. Kind of—I’ve been a dedicated Columbo fan for a while, but the addition of the entire series on Peacock (including the not-as-well-known later seasons), plus the more desperate need for quality comfort as the year went on, inspired a full rewatch. A decent, working-class detective repeatedly piercing the smug arrogance of rich scofflaws with a cleverness they can’t imagine he has. What could be more comforting than that.
- I liked giving some more attention to hobbies, most notably miniatures. I’ve always been fascinated by miniatures and this fall I finally bought myself a miniature room kit and started putting it together. Pursuing an activity for no other reason but that it interests you is refreshing and feels like a solid blow to the addiction of productivity.
- I liked taking many, many walks by Lake Michigan. I made the habit of capturing a moment from most of them (more at Instagram).
- I did not initially like the necessity of straining to meet difficult circumstances, spending more time with myself and seeking out small ways to get through—but, with the acknowledged and appreciated luxury of reflection, I learned to like it all.
- And I liked being introduced to Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender.
(If you really like reading lists, you can also read the list of list of things I liked in 2019.)