2023: Well, that was shit, wasn’t it?

This is the LAST POST on this site!

For 2023, that is.

In terms of content creation, I have motored right along on this site, after migrating from BlogSpot almost a year-and-a-half ago. What follows is a selection of posts from this year I particularly like (hey, writers! It’s OK to like your own writing!):

On Sweaters
“Inedible”: a linguistic pet peeve
The Indecision of Mr. Gooddell
The “Greatest” comeback?

On Manufactured Outrage
60 of 23 (he’ll never be 45 to me)
President Carter

At least I didn’t speak ill of marjoram (in which I offended the Bay Leaf Gods)
On “common sense”: It can’t be common if nobody has it
Knox Farm: A bittersweet return
Actress Julie Bowen on how overalls changed her life!

I spent a lot of April focusing on the 150th birthday of Sergei Rachmaninoff. All those posts are gathered under one tag, here.

Sunset over Lake Erie
Weird logic from gun worshipers
Chang chang, changitty-chang shu-bop: Thoughts on Grease at 45

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right”: On Shirley Jackson
Searching for Jose Iturbi: On Anchors Aweigh
Three unrelated thoughts that are actually highly related
Striking: On the Hollywood labor issues

A cuppa…bacon???
Thoughts on every Gordon Ramsay show I’ve watched
Another year, another greyhound (his name ended up being “Hobbes”)
Robert and Bruce: Truly the Odd Couple!
“Still in all, I’m happy”: Versions of a great song that makes me think about my father

Two sentences each on some movies we watched  (I think I may adopt this format for writing about movies in general next year, as not every movie we watch really warrants an entire post. Also, reading that post, I described one movie as “a rom-com you won’t remember the next day, and damn that was accurate, because I just looked it up and I have zero recollection of watching that one!)
Why write bad reviews?
A metamorphosis begins…
…and ends! (These last two go together, and what a joy that was!)

T-shirts, sandals, and walking in the sand: On Jimmy Buffett
On Tim Wakefield
“In spider’s web a truth discerning”
All spiders are named “Phil”: On Matthew Perry
On Festivals and dating thereof: Maybe we should look at the calendar differently

On Intermissions at movies
On making Alton Brown’s Aged Eggnog, part 1  (Huh. I never blogged about the tasting, and now I’ve consumed the entire batch, after opening the first jar two weekends ago. Oops! Maybe next year. Spoiler: ooooooh, that stuff is good. Next year I think I’ll make the Nog a month earlier, during our long Ithaca Weekend.)
To the Eternal Flame
Coffee Memories

Adventures in Hot Booze
A fine addition to the overall discourse (in which I feature a TikTokker who created one of the funniest bits of content about overalls I’ve ever seen)
“Lets get the shit kicked out of us by love”: A slightly-modified repost of my years-old love letter to Love Actually

I wrote a lot about my explorations of photography this year; those posts can be found all tagged together, here.

Events of 2023 made it hard to keep my newsletter, Dispatches from the Forgotten Stars, updated as much as I would have liked, but I wrote some good stuff there, too, exploring specific pieces by Rachmaninoff (and I still have to write about one more work of his), a farewell to an old friend, and more. Please check it out and subscribe! (Yes, it’s on Substack, and yes, I’m aware of the current issues and controversies surrounding that platform. No, I have not made any decision yet as to whether or not I’ll migrate to a different platform.)

And now, a more general exploration of What 2023 Meant To Me:

I don’t recall off the top of my head if I’ve ever dropped an F-bomb on this site. I swore like a sailor on Twitter, and I’ve continued to do so on Threads, but for some reason, I try to stick to PG-13 here.

So it means something when I say that if ever a year was going to make me drop the Big F on this site, left and right and up and down, it was going to be 2023. This year was fecking awful. (See what I did there?)

So, here is my final summation of a year that I’m more than happy to see in the rear view mirror…but you know what? As I look back, it was astonishingly not all bad. In fact, there was some real good in 2023. If I can sustain the good from 2023 and eliminate the crap, then maybe it’ll be a good year.

Let’s see how it ended up, with this: my annual Year’s End Quiz. I’ve been answering these questions about the ending year every year for…well, a whole bunch of years now.

Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My resolutions never change much: “Read a lot, write a lot, eat healthier, walk more, listen to more music.”

Whew. Yes, I read a lot. Did I write a lot? I guess. I’m not thrilled with my output, but I didn’t dry up completely. Walk more? Eventually. Losing Cane in 2022 made it hard to go back to some parks, but go back, I did. And I’ve been walking a lot more since the one big development in my life this year, but we’ll get to that.

That leaves “Eat healthier”, and…no. It’s not been a great year for healthy eating, for many reasons. I was amazed that at my last doctor appointment, I had actually lost two pounds. That was a couple months ago, and I don’t think I’ve gained much back at all, but all the salty crap I’ve been eating has led to a frequent feeling of bloat, which is not pleasant. And even though I haven’t gained very much weight at all, a few times this year I found it necessary to loosen the shoulder straps on various pairs of overalls, and that’s never something I’m happy about.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, but there are several co-workers who had babies, so, yay!

Did anyone close to you die?

And here it is.

Mom finally died on November 11, after a year full of struggle and strife. I’ve been undecided as to how much to write about it, and if I do it will be a while, but right now all I’ll say is that dealing with the health problems that eventually turned into Mom’s final downward spiral consumed much of 2023’s mental and emotional energy.

What countries did you visit?

We actually left the country! After an unacceptably large number of years away, The Wife and I finally made it back to Toronto. I love that city deeply and I hate that I’ve been there only four times in the last fifteen years. I wrote about our visit here and here.

What would you like to have in 2024 that you lacked in 2023?

Inner peace? A return to routine? Better literary focus? All of those, I suppose.

And not once did I receive a pie in the face in 2023. Zero pies. What gives!

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I started learning seriously about photography! This was a rather surprising development to me. It started with a vague sense that I should upgrade my old point-and-shoot camera with a newer point-and-shoot camera, and it turned into me getting a very sophisticated “bridge” camera and starting to really learn about how to compose photos, how the “exposure triangle” works, and more. It was a fun hobby that suddenly morphed into a significant passion in my life, and given everything else that’s been going on, that new-found passion has been a needed place for focus.

What was your biggest failure?

I can’t really count it as a “failure”, but the way my mother’s passing ended up transpiring, there’s simply no way to look back once in a while and wonder if there’s something I might have been able to say or do to maybe stave off what eventually happened. I don’t think there is, and I am not beating myself up about it, but it was something of a failure.

A bigger failure that I didn’t catch, unfortunately, was the toll it was taking on my mental life, until one of my bosses at work felt it necessary to sit me down for a “Come to Jesus” talk. And he was right. Happily, more recently he was able to sit me down just a couple of weeks ago to praise the degree to which I’ve been able to turn all that around, but I am still annoyed with myself that I let it get to that point in the first place.

What was the best thing you bought?

It’s not really a contest:

That’s my Lumix FZ1000ii, which I first wrote about here and here. Learning to use it, and hopefully starting to use it well, has given me a place to center my brain…the old “idle hands” thing, and I’m always a believer in learning new things. See those dials and buttons? I still haven’t used half of them! I’m particularly interested in this camera’s video capabilities…but hopefully more on that in 2024.

The camera isn’t all I bought, though! Of course I picked up some new overalls, my favorites of which are a vintage pair of hickory-striped Key overalls with really neat elastic shoulder straps.

I’ll never forget getting three compliments for that outfit in one day. That made me very happy.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

Oof. Not a great year for asking that question, huh. American voters do seem to be less-than-sold on the creeping fascist behavior of the Republican Party, though.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

They neither appall, depress, or surprise me anymore, but if you can look at the Republican Party in 2023 and not realize there’s just no bottom for them, I don’t know what to tell you.

Where did most of your money go?

Books, booze, food, overalls, and that camera.

What did you get really excited about?

Getting that camera and using it!

Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

You know, I think I’m just going to punt this question for this year. Not that it’s a slam-dunk that I’m sadder, as you might think, but because it’s so complex that I literally do not know how I’m feeling these days.

Thinner or fatter?

See above! Not really either, but it doesn’t feel thinner.

Richer or poorer?

Richer, though not by much. I’m hoping to start doing things that might lead to good things later down the road!

What do you wish you’d done more of?


What do you wish you’d done less of?

Eating badly, second-guessing myself, and lots of things. More relevantly, though, I wish I hadn’t had to do as many of the things I had to do in 2023. There’s no getting around some of that, though; the cards landed the way they landed.

How did you spend Christmas?

With my father. It was a low-key and bittersweet Christmas.

Did you fall in love in 2023?

I tried to.

How many one-night stands?

Even if I had any, I wouldn’t tell you.

What was your favorite TV program?

The Repair Shop continues to be a balm in hard times. We also found Bridgerton delightfully trashy.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don’t like to do hate, but Republicans make it so hard.

What was the best book you read?

Here are a few I rated highly this year:

The 1619 Project, various
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick
All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me, Patrick Bringley
No Name in the Street, James Baldwin
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

What was your greatest musical discovery?

My God, this was not a good year for musical discovery. I listened to a lot of old favorites, and mostly just that.

What did you want and get?

That camera!

What did you want and not get?

My mother’s health to improve.

What were your favorite films of this year?

We didn’t see much at all that was new this year, and what we did see, we saw via streaming; we only went to the theater three times in 2023 that I remember, and those were for re-releases: Casablanca, Grease, and Return of the Jedi. I recently had a long discussion with a friend on social media about this, but for me personally, the movie theater experience in and of itself is not of sufficient value to prioritize movies at the theater over movies at home.

Also, I have always been bad at seeing (or reading) the New Thing in the time of its being the New Thing.

That said, movies that stand out that we did watch this year are: Love at First Sight, Always Be My Maybe, and Bullet Train. Oh, and Gucci. That was a very interesting movie.

What did you do on your birthday?

We made our annual trip to Ithaca, and a great time was had by all.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2023?

More poofy tops with the overalls? I almost wonder if I should retire this question. I have, though, found myself increasingly able to stomach hot weather, which means I’ve been able to wear overalls through the summer. Time was when I would basically retire them completely from roughly June 15 to September 20, but the last two years, I’ve been able to wear overalls to the Sterling Renaissance Faire and to the Erie County Fair!

What kept you sane?

Writing and photography. Seriously, you can NOT underrate how helpful it is to have something new to learn when everything else is going all cattywumpus. (There’s a word I don’t normally use! And apparently I’ve misspelled it. I’m not looking it up.)

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I’m honestly not sure. This was not a fantastic year for celebrities and public figures, in all honesty.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Abortion, climate change, and America’s ongoing flirtation with shitcanning democracy.

Who did you miss?

My mother. I really, really, really wish her last months hadn’t been what they were.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2023:

I always recycle this, plus some things I added last year:

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”.

And, via Letterkenny: “More hands makes less work!”, and “Pitter-patter, let’s get at ‘er!”

For 2023, I would add: Take pictures. Lots of pictures. And if all you have is the camera on your phone, who cares? Take the pictures!

If you take selfies, post your six favorite ones:

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

If you’ve held on through all of this post to this point, you’re probably looking at this last question and thinking, “How on Earth is he going to boil down his 2023, which seems to have been one 365-day exercise in yin-and-yang, to one song?”

Obviously…I’m not. This year gets two songs. The first is the sad one.

Feel it,
You feel it all around you,
and I see it;
I can’t be the one
to tell you how it ends
or how it’s gonna be
but it’s gonna get

I’ll hold you
when there’s too much
to face and you feel empty
and everything unravels
and you let it out
and fall apart again

but it’s gonna get

That’s from “Better”, a single released in 2023 by Canadian singer-songwriter Shannon Dooks. I’ve been following her and her music for several years now. She writes the kind of searingly personal songs, grounded in relatable emotions, that I find deeply appealing at this point in my life. “Better” speaks to the hope and faith that things will, in fact, not be forever as bad as they are, even in the face of one’s own powerlessness to force it in that direction. It’s a gorgeous song. She put two versions into the world, a studio version and an acoustic version, and I love both equally, so I present them both. The studio version also includes a short film surrounding the song.

It’s probably obvious what it was about 2023 that made “Better” an anthem for much of the year for me, and it’s probably also obvious what about 2023 makes this next song appeal. Learning about photography wasn’t just about getting a new camera and learning about ISO settings and aperture values and shutter speeds; it was about finding new people, a new community, to start connecting with. It was about, in part, at least in a new way…finding my people.

You gotta find your peopleThe ones that make you feel alrightThe kind you want to stay up with all nightYou got to find your peopleThe ones that make you feel wholeThat won’t leave your side when you lose controlThe ones that don’t let you lose your soul

Here’s “Find Your People”, by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors:

“Better” and “Find Your People”. Wow, was 2023 a trip or what.

Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s face 2024 together, shall we?

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One Response to 2023: Well, that was shit, wasn’t it?

  1. Roger says:

    “I started learning seriously about photography! This was a rather surprising development…” I see what you did there.

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