2016: WTFTYTW

Can anyone explain what the hell just happened? I mean, I know we had a year, and all, but what the actual fuck? Who gave 2016 red cordial and fizzy lifesavers the moment it woke up?

Anyway, if I can dodge the rain of dropping celebrities long enough, here’s a quick attempt to sum up my year in a slightly longer form than just shouting “dumpster fire!” while pouring liquid lava up my orifices.


1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Had a children’s book published. It’s called Magrit, and if you’ve not heard me mention it before, it’s doing quite well. I accepted an invitation to present at the 2017 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, the first time this writing gig has sent me overseas as the educator, rather than the student. And, though it hasn’t been announced, I’ve been offered a 2-week residency in 2017– again, the first time I’ve received one as a pro rather than emerging writer. Exhibited at the interstate Lego show Brickvention. Attended the Brisbane Writers Festival, and what’s more, did it as an invited guest presenter. (Oh, and also sold out a Writers Festival. Baby.)

See what I mean? None of these were frigging goals. None. And yet, when you say them like that……

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
 I didn’t achieve a single one, but the shape of my year changed so prodigiously that they became irrelevant around about May and simply didn’t appear on the radar after that. For 2017, we’ll be setting some goals as a family and any personal goals I set will be in service to them.

Other than writing. Man, I have to get back to writing. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My first-cousin-once-removed-in-law (she let’s me call her Jessie) had her second. 
4. Did anyone close to you die?
My cousin Amanda took her own life in July. I’ve never been overly close to my cousins, but Amanda and I had reconnected over Facebook over the last 3 years or so, and had chatted happily enough. I didn’t know it was coming, but then, isn’t that the nature of such things?

And, of course, every single celebrity in the Western world died, including several who played important roles in my cultural upbringing, not least among them David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali and Leonard Cohen. It was that kind of year.  

5. What countries did you visit?
Melbourne. Which, admittedly, is just a different part of Australia, but may as well be a different country. A different country filled with hipsters and deconstructed vegan air-fried health cafes on stilts. And late-night bookstores. And cool things. 

Also Brisbane, which is also not another country, but seems to be where I keep an awful lot of my friends, so it’s nicer to call it that than a friendcloset. 


6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Adequate meds. 
7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

27 February. The day Magrit was launched upon an unsuspecting, and somewhat distracted, world.
25 November. The last day of Lyn’s degree. She’s fought so hard, and overcome so much, for so long.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Honestly? Despite all the good things that happened, it might just be surviving the damn thing. 

Keen-eyed readers will notice I’ve said nothing about my day job. Keen-eyed readers would be right. While my writing world has had a lot of momentary ups (although no real, actual writing)– and my family continue to be my strength, my support, and my happiness– my professional life has been the kind of dumpster fire other dumpster fires dream of being when they grow up. The smoke is slowly clearing at the moment, but from October last year until a few weeks ago it was a spiralling descent into despair and depression that I genuinely saw no way to escape. It coloured every aspect of my life, killed my creativity, and came very close to derailing me permanently. 

Thankfully, some things have changed, some people have moved on, and I’m slowly clearing away the accretions, but 2016 will still be the year I look back on as the one where it all came crashing down and I had to claw my way back out of the rubble.


9. What was your biggest failure?
Not recognising the signs and looking for the exit sign.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A vicious and hard-fought 12 round split decision victory over depression. 
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our super-comfy bendy relaxation zone. Other people call it a recliner couch. I call it a horizontal puffy heavenpod.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
As always, my family amaze and inspire me.

Ms 15 glided her way to a report card that I might be able to equal if I cut up all of the report cards I ever received and glued the best bits back together again.

Luscious finished her University degree with a grade point average that resulted in her being invited to study (it seemed) every post-graduate course her University has ever offered, and saw her awarded a paid internship for the graduate diploma she’ll be completing next year.

Master 12 fought and scratched and pushed his way past illness, extreme bullying, and an incompetent and weak school administration to make his way back into the school system and graduate primary school surrounded by school friends, teachers who backed him, and a school that understood his situation.

My bonus daughter Cassie stayed strong like a mother bear in the face of a toxic and dangerous partner, and managed to extricate herself and her children in such a way that her kids remained safe and protected the whole way through. The war continues, but she wins battle after battle, and her strength is amazing to watch.

And my nephew, who came out at age 15 with grace, dignity and maturity, secure in the knowledge that his identity is strong. He’s a hell of a kid, and I’m proud of him. 

Honestly, as far as this family goes, I really am just the fat one who follows at the back and hope the cool kids let him hang out with them. 
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Holy Jeebus, where do we start? 
The filth that make up the Government of this country. America: I mean, just all of them. If you don’t know why, come back from space and pick up an internet. Vladimir Putin and the warmongering, evil, fascists who prop him up. The troglodyte State Government we suffer under, and their mindless slashing of arts finances and illegal acts on the Roe Highway extensions. Lionel Shriver, who came to Brisbane and betrayed the organisation she represented by spouting a tirade of such ignorance and racism that it still makes me angry and ashamed to be part of the same industry.
Also, a puppy shat on my lawn at some stage and never came back to pick it up. 
14. Where did most of your money go?
Credit card debt, mortgage refinancing, and as I made the mistake of letting Luscious come with me, Christmas decorations.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
2017.
16. What song will always remind you of 2016?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
Definitely happier, all things considered, and more content. I’m thinner, just– at one stage I did dip below 100kg, but I’ve wavered back up to 104kg at the moment, which is still better than the 112kg I was at my heaviest, so I’m calling it a small win. And, thanks to various refinancing efforts and redistribution of debt, the decision to move to smaller, lower-mortgage house is finally beginning to pay real dividends. which means that we may not be richer, but we’re far more comfortable on a pay-to-pay basis.

Overall, it feels like we’re in a good space, and ready to add the final pieces to make sure 2017 works its arse off for us.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing. Happiness.Making the most of my time away from the workplace.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stress, depression, fear, worry. Fighting for the right of my family members to simply be. 
20. How will you spend Christmas?
Tradition is for us to wake up with the kids and do presents at breakfast, before the grandparents take them for the rest of the day to do big-family-gathering things, and Lyn and I settle in with a platter, some wine, and a few good movies. I see no reason to change this arrangement. 
21. Who did you meet for the first time?
About one hundred million billion jillion gazillion Queensland schoolkids. Several very cool writers including Carole Wilkinson, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, and the super-lovely Katherine Battersby, who I met when we checked into the Brisbane hotel at the same time and completely messed up the programming of the poor staff trying to check us in simultaneously.

Also, a whole bunch of very cool Lego people (IT’S A THING!), including the incomparable Shannon Sproule, Damien Saunders, and Paulius Stepanas, the last of whom helped me laugh my arse off through the most ridiculous game of Dirty Brickster I’ve ever witnessed

22. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Stayed in love. Guess with who. Go on. Guess.

Hint: she’s graceful, and dignified, and looks like this:

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Longmire was excellent, right up to the point where it wasn’t. That might say more about me than the show– I have a low tolerance for serial TV, and get bored once I perceive the characters turning into templates of themselves or the plots beginning to waver away from a strong central theme. The Flash had a great first season and a slightly-less great second season. True Detective Season 2 was an odd come-down from the brilliant first season: not bad per se, but just…. less good, relying on some fantastic performances to keep it going, instead of fantastic performances over a scintillating plot.

Stranger Things was delightfully wonderful, packed tight with fantastic performances from a collection of young actors who absolutely nailed every aspect of every moment they were given. The plot was pure fantasy brilliance: by turn delightful, creepy, outright terrifying and emotionally gripping. It was a tour-de-force on every level.

But just pipping it, for me, was Netflix’s let’s-fuck-up-the-superhero-template-and-see-how-they-like-it Jessica Jones. Incredibly bleak, powerful, fraught, and unmissable. I was hooked from the beginning and had to carefully ration it lest I run out of season before I ran out of messed-up feels.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I have a deep and dark dislike and mistrust of a work colleague who proved herself untrustworthy, malicious, and altogether the kind of person I would happily emigrate to avoid. Not outright hatred, but I’ll be glad to tell her exactly what I think of her, in  minute detail, on the day I leave.

Outright hatred? Let’s mention my daughter Cassie’s former partner Ashley: an abusive coward who threatened the safety and welfare of her and their two children under the age of five. Room 101 is too good for him– he should be expunged.

25. What was the best book you read?
I gave 5-star ratings to a couple of old masters this year: I revisited Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange for the first time in 20 years, and was blown away by it all over again; and Elmore Leonard’s Fire in the Hole was more of his typical brutal brilliance.

I didn’t read anything that was truly atrocious this year, largely because I stuck mainly to graphic novels. But Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Guardians of the Galaxy was the last word in blandification, turning Dan Abnett’s wonderfully screwy and charming collection of lunatics into just another pale B-Grade Avengers clone. 

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
It was a good year for music. A whole bunch of songs found their way down the tube to the iTunes account. Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker and Nevermind were stunning, as was Montaigne’s Clip My Wings. Bowie’s final album produced three songs I keep coming back to: Blackstar, Lazarus and ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. Say My Name by Peking Duk. Jen Cloher’s cover of The Slits’ Typical Girls. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s wonderfully odd People Vultures.

But my number 1 pick, when Hottest 100 time comes around, is Illy’s joyful Catch 22. I’m not the hugest hip-hop fan, but this balances all the right components perfectly. It’s tuneful, catchy, with a great turn of phrase, and compulsively singable. It is, quite simply,  my favourite song of the year.

27. What was your favourite film of this year?
It was a wonderful year for movies, or maybe I just didn’t have the money to fling on too many outrageous dogs.

Honestly, three weeks ago, when I watched Doctor Strange twice within 24 hours, I’d have said it was the most enjoyable film of the year by the length of the straight, At the time of writing, having watched Arrival last night, for the second time in just over a week, I’d say toss a coin. Either or. Or, to quote Chris Hemsworth’s hilarious Kevin from first runner-up and Fuck-You-Whiny-Fanboy delight, Ghostbusters: Potato, tomato.

Doctor Strange. Arrival. Go watch Ghostbusters, too.  Whichever one, I don’t care. You’ll thank me.

And this year, I’m adding a new award to my filmic list. The Those Who Can Do-y Award, which I’m awarding to the much-maligned Suicide Squad. It might be because I’ve been a fan of the Squad since I was knee high to something that isn’t quite knee high, but damn it, I bloody well enjoyed this movie, despite every critic in Christendom parping on about what a despicable piece of shite it was. Well I enjoyed it, and I pre-ordered it on Blu-Ray, and I enjoyed the extended cut even more than the theatrical cut, and I’m giving it an award, so fuck you, headless ghost of Roger Ebert!

I may be working through a few issues at the moment.

The Shut Up And Die Already Will Ferrell Award for 2016? I can’t remember if I saw the terminally tedious and overblown snoozefest The Martian this year or last: either way, I’d rather get the 19 hours I spent watching the damned thing back than talk about it, so I’m giving a great big bear trap to the filmic gonads of Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not even naming this film’s mother Martha would have made me like it. And if you get that gag, you know.

You. Just. Know.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

46, and I worked. Yay. But Lyn did make me my favourite meal, and I was showered in money for a most unusual present– my very first tattoo, which I’ll be having inked next week– by friends and family, so it was pretty symptomatic of my year: not the way I expected it to go down, but pretty bloody good nonetheless.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Financial independence.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Indifferent.

31. What kept you sane?
Lyn. Always Lyn.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Heh. Heheheheheheheheheh……. Whadda ya got?

American elections. Australian elections. The rise of fascism (Fuck you with your ‘alt-right’. If it marches like a Nazi, and salutes like a Nazi…) in my own country and across the Western world. The Henna Nazi’s return to the Australian senate like some zombie boil that refuses to be lanced. The destruction of arts funding in Australia. The rise and rise of Donnie Drumpf. Having to listen to that freaky little piss-stain Malcolm Roberts talk. Ever. The climate of fear, bigotry and outright terror that friends, peers, and people I admire are living through simply because they do not conform to the outdated and ignorant world view of people who wear suits on Sunday or tie a flag around their shoulders like a cape when they get pissed on National Nationalism Day of Your Choice.

Take your goddamn pick.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
Change is inevitable. The rate of change should be in my hands, and nobody else’s.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim.


      — You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen.

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