It’s time for my annual look back at the year that was. I did this every year on Byzantium’s Shores, and now I do it here. Generally, 2021 wasn’t terrible for me personally, even though it was not a fantastic year for many. I try to maintain my occasional optimism, but it is hard sometimes.
Time for the annual quiz! As always, many of my answers stay the same from year to year. But some don’t! Let’s see!
Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Heh! Aside from “Read a lot, write a lot, eat healthier, listen to more music”, I don’t do much in terms of resolutions. I made a decent dent in the stack of books that I wanted to read in 2021, and some of those titles are shifted to my “Hopefully in 2022” List. (I tend to deviate from planned reading lists when I see a book somewhere, be it a bookstore or a library or my own shelves, and I say, “Oooh! I wanna read that NOW!”)
And I did write a lot. I’ve blogged more this year than in the last several years, and I’ve been toiling away on the first draft of Forgotten Stars V: A Fifth of Space Princesses (not the actual title) pretty much since January 1. I took a break from that book for Hawaii, which was a good thing anyway as I bogged down on the book’s story a bit. After doing some plotting, I plan to return to it on January 1. Again.
I have also started doing a round of edits on my supernatural thriller Into the Jaws of Cerberus (the actual title!), with an eye on publishing it in 2022.
As for reading, it was a great year! According to Goodreads I read 57 books this year. (It’s probably give or take one or two. Goodreads’s accounting of stats can be a bit of a mess as sometimes it credits you for two editions of the same book, and other quibbles. Goodreads is actually a pretty frustrating tool to use–I’m not sure why Amazon bought it, if they’re not going to do anything with it–but as I use it exclusively to track my reading, I don’t feel like bailing yet.) I usually set a challenge of 52 books on GR each year, so I made it again. Yay!
Here are my ten favorite books from 2021 (links to posts in which I wrote about those books specifically in this space):
- Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters
- Why We Swim, Bonnie Tsui [post]
- This Will All Be Over Soon, Cecily Strong [post]
- So Many Ways To Lose, Devin Gordon [post]
- Pychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, Lester Bangs
- The Last Stargazers, Emily M. Levesque
- Mary Astor’s Purple Diary, Edward Sorel
- The Smallest Lights in the Universe, Sara Seager
- The Deficit Myth, Stephanie Kelton
- World of Wonders, Aimee Nezhukumatathil [post]
You can see my complete 2021 Reading List on Goodreads here. I liked almost everything I read this year; my biggest reservations were Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule (the first book in the Star Wars: The High Republic publishing venture; based on other reactions to this book I saw online, I feel I may owe this a re-read), The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book by Deborah Lipp (enormously frustrating because here’s a Bond fan who loves Bond as much as I do and yet our opinions throughout the series vary wildly), and A Thousand Country Roads by Robert James Waller (which I read out of curiosity after a Bridges of Madison County re-read and…well, it’s not great).
Some titles I hope to read in 2022:
- The Expanse, complete, James SA Corey
- Winter’s Tale and In Sunlight and In Shadow, Mark Helprin
- Jade City, Fonda Lee
- Victories Greater Than Death, Charlie Jane Anders
- The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
- A Promised Land, Barack Obama
- Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Timothy Ferris
- Alice in Sunderland, Bryan Talbot
Living healthier? I did that! I recorded weight losses at each doctor’s visit this year, and my numbers rock across the board. And I listened to a ton of new music. Onward and upward!
Did anyone close to you give birth?
There’s a nice young couple down the street who welcomed their second child this year, but that’s about it.
Did anyone close to you die?
No, but several people I know passed away.
What countries did you visit?
Again, I never left the United States. But I did leave the continent! Hooray for Hawaii!
What would you like to have in 2022 that you lacked in 2021?
An end to the pandemic, and a feeling that my country is moving toward rationality and a renewed commitment to thinking collectively and valuing democracy.
What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Frankly, having as good a year as I had amidst all of this [waves at everything] was quite an accomplishment, I think. I kept living, kept writing, kept reading, kept learning. That’s an achievement, I think.
What was your biggest failure?
Not sure I’d call it a failure, but I’m disappointed that once again my plans for drafting a novel proved very unrealistic. Every time I’ve written one of these things I’ve bogged down and taken longer to get it done than I expected, and yet, every time it happens again, I go through several days of panic–“OMG, I’m losing it, my writing is deserting me, I’m doomed! DOOOOOOMED!”–before the clouds start to part and the dust cloud starts to spin and slowly become an accretion disc which then becomes a celestial body all its own.
And then I write.
I also spent too much time noodling about on social media. One approach I’ve taken thereof is to always have at least one e-book in progress, so I can pull up my Kindle app instead of Twitter or Facebook.
What was the best thing you bought?
My new phone: A Samsung Galaxy s21 Ultra! With 512GB internal storage! [look for post, if not, write about it here]
I bought a lot of nifty stuff here and there, with some cool book hauls along the way, but for sheer amusement, nothing beats this necklace for The Wife:
In Waikiki there is an alley that has been converted into a marketplace of stall and tent vendors, hawking t-shirts and jewelry and knick-knacks, gewgaws, and tchotchkes of all kinds. None of it is high-end stuff, but it’s generally fun souvenir stuff. One woman was selling pretty jewelry, and in such situations The Wife and I have developed a routine: she notes that I’m lingering over jewelry and wanders off for a few minutes, so I can buy something as a surprise. Except this time, she stuck right by me, just as the woman operating the booth–an Asian lady–starts into her spiel, which she delivered stream-of-consciousness without stopping for breath:
“Ooooh, you’re looking at this set? It comes with earrings! Isn’t it pretty? It’s the color of the sea, note the blue and the green, like the waves here. It would look lovely on your wife! Ohhh, is this your wife? [to The Wife] Wouldn’t this look pretty on you? Yes! In fact, let’s see how pretty it is on you! [swoops behind The Wife and in seconds the necklace is on her neck] Ooooh, this is so pretty! [to me] You see how pretty she is? She loves it! Look how happy she is! And it comes with the matching earrings! They’d be so pretty on her….”
This goes on, even though I’ve already got my wallet open.
The set was about $30, so again, this wasn’t a back-breaking purchase, and it wasn’t even the only jewelry I bought for her on this trip! But it was the most memorable sale that I was a part of all year, I think.
Whose behavior merited celebration?
Anyone who kept masking, got their vaccinations and boosters, and behaved like members of a functioning society without bleating about “liberty” and “freedoms” and all of that crap. Also, anyone who continued to stand up for democracy. We’re gonna miss that when it’s gone, folks.
Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and Republicans of just about every kind. Anyone who acted like “Critical Race Theory” was the most important thing under the sun…until the November elections, after which nary a word was heard of it. And our Supreme Court, whose conservative majority is in the process of installing every policy for which it was bought, paid for, and stolen.
Moving on to more positive stuff:
Where did most of your money go?
Same as always: Books, booze, food, gifts, and vintage overalls. And I paid down some debt, which was nice. Oh, and a Big Trip!
What did you get really excited about?
The afore-mentioned Big Trip! That was huge. A part of me didn’t believe we were actually going there until the Captain on the last plane (our route was BUF-ATL-LAX-HNL) came on the speaker and said, “We’re beginning our final descent into Honolulu.”
Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
I’m really trying to concede as little ground as humanly possible to the idea that as we get older, life gets sadder.
Thinner or fatter?
See above: thinner! Though I will admit that my eating habits the last three weeks or so have slammed the brakes on things in that regard. It shouldn’t be too hard getting back in the swing of things, though.
Richer or poorer?
I paid down a lot more debt this year, and I am getting more and more aggressive with my 401K with each year, so I guess the end result of that is “richer”.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
Besides the usual stuff, well…more cooking! I need to rekindle my enjoyment of cooking.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Eating crap. I can’t give up all of my vices, but I would like to indulge them in higher-quality items.
How did you spend Christmas?
Eating, opening gifts, worrying about our luggage, and generally being jet-lagged. It took until just this past Wednesday before I really felt like I’d acclimated back to Eastern Time.
My sister was here in person this year–no Facetime on Mom’s iPad this year, yay!–and we ate pretty well. But as Christmases go, it was pretty lethargic.
Did you fall in love in 2021?
Well, there was this really pretty woman I spotted at a bus stop in Waikiki….
How many one-night stands?
A gentleman doesn’t answer such questions. Besides, it’s zero. Married, y’all!
What was your favorite TV program?
Shows we found and enjoyed this year include Leverage (a heist show about a younger, hipper, edgier kind of “A-Team” group who go around doing “rob from the rich” type stuff), Good Girls (a comedy-drama about three women who have been best friends since grade school who decide, in their financial stress, to commit robbery to pay their bills–and thus get embroiled in a life of crime), and my favorite, The Repair Shop. This show will be getting its very own post at some time soon. I love it to death.
I haven’t tried any new network shows of late, after we had terrible luck last year with show’s we’d discovered and loved being canceled after one or two seasons.
Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I really try to avoid hate. I am not always successful, but I’d rather not name names.
What was the best book you read?
What was your greatest musical discovery?
I focused a lot on the music of Jean Sibelius this year (and I still need to work through his larger works). I had always struggled to love his work in the past, but there’s something in his austere heat and chill that appeals to me at this point.
And this year I listened to a lot of Taylor Swift. I think she’s an amazingly talented person and I’ll entertain no debate on this point.
What did you want and get?
A new President and a Democratic Congress.
What did you want and not get?
An end to the filibuster.
What were your favorite films of this year?
I saw exactly one movie in a theater this year: No Time To Die, which has a post of its own forthcoming at some point in January. We also watched all of the Ocean’s movies, the heist flicks with George Clooney and company, as well as the one with Sandra Bullock and company. We enjoyed these greatly, though at times I wonder why a team with the financial resources it apparently has really needs to be stealing money at all.
What did you do on your birthday?
As usual, we journeyed to Ithaca and the Finger Lakes. This year’s trip was shorter and we missed the Ithaca Apple Festival by a week (they didn’t finalize dates for the Festival until after we had to commit to booking a hotel room), but it was still a lovely time.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2021?
It didn’t really change much, did it? Though I’ve diversified in the shirt department, though. As I neared fifty, I finally embraced flannel. Also, I added “Renaissance Faire” shirts to my repertoire.
What kept you sane?
Books and music and dogs and cats and overalls. Walks in the woods and by the water. I cope best when I’m allowed to focus my energies inward.
Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
The afore-mentioned show Good Girls is loaded with terrific acting, but my favorites were the duo of Christina Hendricks and Manny Montana, whose chemistry is utterly scorching onscreen. I loved their scenes together so much that I decided that when the show ended I wanted them to go off and do a gender-bent Indiana Jones movie, with Hendricks as Dr. Jones and Montana as Dr. Jones’s occasional lover and occasional sidekick, Mario Ravenwood. (Sadly, I have since learned that Hendricks and Montana may not have gotten along terribly well on the Good Girls set, so my fantasies of Hendricks in khakis and a leather coat and a hat and brandishing a whip, and Montana in a tux with white jacket and a rose in the lapel, remain just that.)
What political issue stirred you the most?
We live in a terrible era, politically. But what’s bothering the most is the Republican Party’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy and lock themselves into power, at a time when their policy positions are entirely based on nonsense, irrationality, and error.
Who did you miss?
Once again, I miss the local geek community. I hope we can have cons again soon.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2021:
Leaving last year’s answer intact:
Read a lot, write a lot. Listen to music. Go for walks and look at sunsets. Take all the pictures you want. Learn new things and try new stuff. If you have a dog, take him for walks. Buy books for your daughter, even when she complains that she likes to pick her own books (let her do that, too). Nothing fits your hand so well as your lover’s hand. Eating out is fine, but learn to cook things, too. Have a place to go where they know you and what you order. Don’t be afraid to revisit your childhood passions now and again; you weren’t always wrong back then. Overalls are awesome, it’s OK to wear double denim, and a pie in the face is a wonderful thing!
To this I’d add: The United States of America desperately needs to re-embrace rational and collective thinking, and ditch its mythologies about rugged individualism and the eternal wisdom of “the Founders”.
I’d sum it up with a quote from the afore-mentioned Enola Holmes: “Our future is up to us.”
If you take selfies, post your six favorite ones:
If you have a blog or other online writing forum, share some of your favorite work from this year:
This is a new question that I’ve just added! I don’t really want to have an entirely separate post for Favorite Posts anymore; all of my yearly sum-up will be in a single post. That said, here’s some stuff I’ve liked from the year gone by. (Format might be a bit screwy on some of these since I’m linking the versions that were imported to this site from Byzantium’s Shores.)
Finally, while I won’t link them all, my posts from Hawaii can all be found here. I will be adding to this later on!
That’s just a smattering of everything I did in this space this year, so I do encourage you all to look through the archives. I’m still a blogger at heart!
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Most years this one is really super-easy. This year, I had to struggle a bit…until I realized there’s really only one choice. In fact, it was so obvious, given my interests and the feeling this year of time either standing still or running out…and the role this song plays in one of my favorite movies of all time and in a movie that just came out this year.
With music by John Barry and lyrics by Hal David, here is Louis Armstrong.
We have all the time in the world
Time enough for life
To unfold all the precious things
Love has in storeWe have all the love in the world
If that’s all we have you will find
We need nothing more
Every step of the way
Will find us
With the cares of the world
Far behind us
We have all the time in the world
Just for love
Nothing more, nothing less
Every step of the way
Will find us
With the cares of the world
Far behind us, yes
We have all the time in the world
Just for love
Nothing more, nothing less
Only loveOnly love
And with that I bring my year of blogging to another end. This year began on Byzantium’s Shores, and now it ends here on ForgottenStars.net. A brief word about that: I’ve known for a number of years that this was a move that I should make–even though I don’t have any idea how many readers have come along for the ride–but I hesitated for various reasons. Finally, though, I really couldn’t wait any longer. I do rather miss the heyday of blogging, and I do rather miss my “old stomping ground” that I set up in a bit of haste way back in February of 2002. Some people have turned blogging into a career, or they’ve managed to parlay their blogging into new careers. I haven’t been so lucky, but that was never the point…and who knows what the future holds as I move forward with this format. Anyway, I hope you’ll stick around and tell all your friends. I like to think I produce decent content here!
With that, I bid 2021 a farewell. Not really a fond farewell, but I will say this: for me, 2021 was better than 2020. I realize that we’re not exactly setting the bar very high there, but every improvement starts somewhere. I seem to remember a certain Starfleet captain advising a war-addicted planet to give up its ways one day at a time: “We’re not going to kill, today.” A lot of wisdom there.
Thank you, readers! See you in 2022!
Exit, pursued by a greyhound who wants a cookie.