Time to look back on 2014, and like SOCO in an abattoir, carefully pick through the mountains of shit in the hope of discovering something worthwhile.
1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Visited the Moondyne Joe Festival
in Toodyay. And presented a workshop at the Perth Writer’s Festival. Which, basically, means that I peaked in February.
Apart from that, this was pretty much a rinse-and-repeat kind of year.
2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
Let’s be honest, I don’t even remember what my goals were, but let’s be even more honest: no, I didn’t achieve them. It was that kind of year. I’d make some for 2015, but let’s be even super-honester, I doubt I’ll achieve them either. I can’t even tell you if I’ll still be writing at this time next year, and if we’re super-duper-holy-shit-we’re-being-honest-now-aren’t-we-honestest with each other, if I’m not writing it’s not like very many of you will be here this time next year to read whether or not I’ve reached them, is it?
I’m moving house in January. Let’s just see what a new neighbourhood and new financial situation bring before we make any rash promises.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My Bonus Daughter Cassie gave me tickly-sausage grandchild number 2, Anthony, in February.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Luscious’ Uncle Neville died in October. Not close to me, but it touched Luscious and that’s close enough for comfort.
5. What countries did you visit?
A country road took me home, to the place I adore. Somehow I ended up in West Virginia.
Or nowhere, take your pick.
6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
Inspiration, independence, the means to be my own man instead of exhausting myself at the beck and call of whatever bureaucracy pulls my strings for once.
7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Because I am a time-traveller, the date from 2014 that will stick with me is 10 January 2015. That’s when we leave this white elephant of a home I have hated for over 4 years and re-establish a new, streamlined Batthaim in a house we can afford, with gardens I can maintain, in a town we want to get out and about in with facilities and social opportunities we want to pursue.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I achieved goose eggs this year. My biggest achievement was in allowing Luscious and the kids space to achieve. And did they and how: I talk about that below. But some days, the best thing you can do is be support staff for others, and that pretty much sums up my domestic and professional lives.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Burning out. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to get to this place.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, but Master 10 had enough for all of us.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
A smaller, more manageable house closer to work and the activities and facilities we use on a regular basis. We move in January.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Miss 13, who was made Head Girl of her primary school, became a Junior Councillor at the City, and topped a year of hard work and academic extension programs by being awarded dux at her graduation. As far as perfect children having perfect years go, she was, well, perfect.
And, as a pair, Luscious and Master 10. Apart from an abortive attempt to enter the school system, which lasted less than 4 weeks, Master 10 was all but housebound with Rumination Syndrome for the past 18 months. Together, he and his Mum tackled this enforced isolation with a combination of positivity, focus and determination to maintain a quality of life that left me stunned in their faith in each other and the size of the obstacles they conquered on a daily basis: so much so that Master 10 graduated year 4 in mid-November, a full month early. In between times, Luscious maintained a full external load of University study, never dropping below a Distinction in any assessment, maintained a functioning household, and still found time to fit writing in around the edges.
As I began to burn out under the strain of a stupidly high-pressure job and the need to shore up a stuttering writing career, I have watched in little short of awe as they continued to confound despair, illness and ongoing stress to have the kind of year that would make any husband and father weep with pride. They have been my inspiration, and more often then not, the only thing that dragged me out of my bedroom to work in the morning. Faced with their sheer brilliance at life, I have been shamed into attempting the minimum many times more than I wished to.
I have an incredible family, but even more so, they are superb people.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Can we go past the vicious, incompetent, and downright criminal bunch of thugs, sociopaths, and bigoted zealots that the repressive, inbred right-wing of this country voted into power?
Nope. We can’t.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Keeping our heads above water, with the occasional foray into a quick weekend away with the kids.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The opportunity to start buying some of the classic space Lego sets I not only had as a kid, but also the ones I missed out on. What can I say? Escapism’s been pretty big for me this year.
Master 10 conquering his Rumination Syndrome and insisting he be enrolled in school for 2015 was the most brilliant thing in the world to witness. As of the time of writing, he’s 12 weeks recovered and counting.
16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
More tired, fatter, and flatter.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Getting out of the spiralling circles inside my own head and enjoying simple interactions with the real, outside world. I spent far too much of the year gnawing away at my own stresses, and far too little using the small oases of peace to find some joy.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Hiding in social media. The fucking stuff is a virus
, giving me far too many opportunities to spit out pronouncements instead of reflecting and taking positive action. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… all we do is shout at each other in simple sentences (verbal or visual), all of us at the same time, until the signal to noise ratio is so overwhelming, so all-encompassing, that we wire ourselves up to it and stop believing in the real world. And maybe, if you have a great work-life balance and your keel is set to the optimum angle, that’s okay. But I’ve spent too long this year scurrying into it as if it was some kind of refuge from the process of dealing with my real world careers, interactions, and problems. And because I’ve viewed it as a refuge, I’ve used it to build up walls of unhealthy behaviour and statements I would never say in the real world, because this is my refuge, dammit, and here I can choose the manner of my interactions and structure the world to suit my own uneven psyche.
And here’s the thing: I don’t even like it. And somewhere, this year, I forgot that. Because, when it comes down to it, I’d rather kick a football than tweet. And I’d rather read a book than a status update. And while I recognise the irony of announcing all this via a blog post, the truth is, I don’t care: why am I happy to live in a house without terrestrial TV but can’t live without fucking Twitter, of all the useless wastes of my psyche? My balance is gone.
So I’ve canned my Twitter account. And I’ll be going through all my little social media accounts that I don’t use, don’t care about, and am better off without. And if I end up with only this blog– which I’ve been maintaining for over 13 years and is, more often than not, a conversation I have with myself than any brilliant, all-encompassing social connector– and my private Facebook page, wherein I keep in touch with those people I don’t get to see in person and those hobby groups that only exist on-line, well, I’ll probably be all the happier for it.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
We’ll be at Luscious’ brother’s house, with various members from her side of the family. The kids will be in the pool, Luscious will be in her cups, and I’ll be circling the table trying to see if there’s any left-over crackling I can gnaw upon.
21. Who did you meet for the first time?
Several members of the Perth Lego Users Group
, who finally gave me an outlet to attend a build day and meet some fellow AFOLs. I’ll be looking to get out more often in 2015.
22. Did you fall in love in 2014?
No, I have enough love already.
23. What was your favourite TV program?
It was the year of the crime show in the Batthaim. Apart from introducing Luscious to an old love in the always-excellent Dalziel and Pascoe
, we also finished off Ripper Street
from 2013 and ploughed through Vera
, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries
and (my favourite) The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
, all of which were uniformly excellent.
That said, the best thing we discovered this year was nothing of the sort. Last Week Tonight gave a forum to the brilliantly incisive John Oliver, this weekly HBO satirical show presenting him as the outsider who can say the things that established Americans like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart and their mainstream channels can only hint at. And oh, how did he say those things! From incredible skewerings of the Olympics, FIFA, US policing methods, and pharmaceutical lobbyists, to wonderfully absurd campaigns to rescue horny space lizards (and wouldn’t it be wonderful if I was making that up?), Oliver took a format on the verge of saturation, destroyed it, and built it in his own, flame-mouthed image. It was so clearly the best thing on TV it makes you wonder why we can’t all be like that.
If you’ve not experienced, here’s how he covered the subject of our own Unca Jugears, the dumbfuck we have to apologise for every time he opens his mouth:
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Not hate, but I have developed a fine contempt for several individuals that has affected the way I’ve interacted with them. Some I cannot avoid, as they revolve around the same professional circles, but I can certainly feel my career arc altering to exclude them.
25. What was the best book you read?
I handed out three 5-star reviews on Goodreads this year. I re-read The Lord of the Rings for the first time in years, and found it as utterly stunning as I always have. Not always a good book– time has enhanced its flaws as well as its moments of perfection– but it remains a truly great one. I also revisited a favourite writer in GK Chesterton. I read his masterpiece The Man Who Was Thursday for the first time, and found it an utterly delightful, comic crime caper with a philosophical bent that lends the spiralling absurdity a serious underpinning that lifts it above a merely humorous work.
But, overall, I’m going to plump for Lucius’ Shephards’ The Dragon Griaule as my book of the year. I’d read two of the contained stories before, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer scope, ambition and shining brilliance of this collection. You can read my full Goodreads review here, but take it from me: this is one of the best and most important works of fantasy of the late 20th Century.
Honourable mention goes to The English Monster by Lloyd Shepherd, a thoroughly wonderful novel that started out as a fictionalisation of the Ratcliffe Highway murders (a subject of great personal fascination) and then morphed into a fantasy crime procedural that had me alternately gripped and giggling with delight at the sheer narrative chutzpah. Put simply, it’s the kind of novel I want to write when I grow up.
King of the Graphic Novels this year was Thor: God of Thunder #1
by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic, which I called an absolutely stunning re-imagining of the Thor character, with an epic storyline befitting a major player in the Marvel Universe and a powerful God to boot. You can read my full Goodreads review here.
The Will Self Memorial Just Shut the Fuck Up and Stop Award this year went to Michael Crichton’s stunningly awful Pirate Latitudes and Michael Hjorth’s deeply tedious crime novel The Disciple, both of which sit proudly atop a DNF pile of two.
26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
A couple of years ago I gave up on JJJ, as it all it ever seemed to play was second rate American hip-hop, and I was mightily sick of the same whining, out of rhythm yelling, song after song. Halfway through the year, prompted by the death of my iPod, I returned to the station an was immeasurably pleased to find that they’d rediscovered such things as melody and singing. I’ve even gone so far as to vote in the Hottest 100 for the first time in years. So here’s what I voted for, including my favourite pick of the year, a new track by one of my old faves, The Hilltop Hoods:
4. Wrong Direction, British India.
Good old-fashioned tuneful pop music with fresh lyrics and a sense of sweaty urgency. It’s not breaking any new ground. It’s just good, clean fun.
3. Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars. What can I say? I love a big band sound, I love funk. And nobody does it better right now than Mark Ronson. All the sounds and rhythms he perfected behind the likes of Amy Winehouse are in full, ahem, swing here.
2. Maybe, Carmada. I’ve loved electronica since the days when Thomas Dolby and Howard Jones were wandering around sounding like nobody else around them. Not often, but every now and then, a track sticks, and sticks hard. I’m well into this one right now.
1. Cosby Sweater, Hilltop Hoods. Yeah, so I’m old enough to remember when hip-hop wasn’t about hitting women and being a scumbag. Rhythm, message and a sense of fun: there’s no school like the old school, and this is just one hell of a fun, shape-throwing old school hip-hop slice of goodness. It’s also my favourite song of the year.
27. What was your favourite film of this year?
Damn, but there were some good ones this year. First release cinema-wise, my most-anticipated movies were Guardians of the Galaxy
and The Lego Movie
, both of which I found to be fun, funny, and utterly delightful. Both movies were riven with self-awareness, calling out their audience on the geekiness that had brought them to the cinema while simultaneously reinforcing and validating the love of the material from which they were wrought. Cinema has the power to influence, inform, and change modes of thinking, and yet, these movies were built on central foundations of fun and inclusiveness, and I loved them. The other much-anticipated event, from my point of view anyway, was Godzilla
, which, well, wasn’t. A few good scenes, interspersed with dull, uninvolving characters played by actors with no discernible personality, may not make you the worst movie of the year, but it will ensure that I shan’t be picking up the DVD later in the year.
The Battbox played host to a number of crackers, as well: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, Andy Serkis’ love letter to Ian Dury, was memorable for a stunning central performance. Ditto Eric and Ernie, a BBC Made-for-TV effort that cast a sympathetic and nostalgic view back at the early days of the beloved Morecambe and Wise. Longford was emotionally exhausting, The Enemy a labyrinthine and twisted look at a broken psyche that was a most unexpected pleasure and the best thing the terminally inconsistent Jake Gyllenhaal has done in years. Europa Report was the best SF movie I saw this year, supplementing its low budget with a superbly tight script and flawless performances, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was stunning in its brutality and visceral performances.
But for me, Ralph Fiennes scintillating adaption of Coriolanus, transporting the action of Shakespeare’s play to a modern, Balkan setting, was my film of the year. A superb cast at the top of their form– Fiennes and (particularly) Brian Cox have never been better– performing one of the most underrated of Shakespeare’s works, in an adaptation that enhances the scripts’ strength and pares away its weakness to leave a perfectly filmic treatment…. while the 1999 Titus remains, to my mind, the best filmic adaptation ever of a Shakespeare play, this is only slightly less worthy, and easily on a par with Ian McKellen’s brilliant Richard III. It’s a stunning achievement.
This year’s What Did You Expect, It’s an Adam Sandler Hate Crime Stinking Turd Sandwich Award goes to Blended, which is just the latest… well, the hint is in the title.
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
44 this year, and I spent the day at work. Birthdays are nice and all, but when Luscious has a hospital visit you need time off for, you swap your RDOs around.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
31. What kept you sane?
To be honest, I was so burned out by the time I reached my Christmas break I’m not sure I retained it. I find myself utterly repelled by the thought of returning to my day job, of taking up my keyboard, of doing anything beyond keeping my front door closed and the world on the other side of it, that I’m not sure sanity is necessarily the issue.
32. What political issue stirred you the most?
The continuing inhumanity and sociopathic hatred evinced by the current Liberal government. Let’s be clear: buffoons like Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull may be simply incompetent and unfit for office, but Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Christopher Pyne are criminals, and it will be a happy day when they are dragged into court to answer charges. Long may the dwell in ignominy and disgrace.
33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
It’s time to concentrate on my own goals and peace of mind first. I’ll get to the rest of you in your turn.
34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Woman, I know you understand,
The little child inside the man.
Please remember, my life is in your hands,
And woman, hold me close to your heart.
— Woman, John Lennon