As we stand on the precipice of yet another year, staring into its tractor-beam-like embrace, we are once more prompted, as every year, to ask the following question:
What’s your personal pop culture resolution for 2019?
My pop culture resolution is inspired largely by our excellent year-end comics coverage: I’m going to work some graphic novels into my reading rotation. I read comics voraciously throughout childhood, and have dabbled with a few heavy-hitter graphic novels in the years since (Maus, Watchmen—obvious stuff), and would say I’m generally fond of the medium, but have never really found an enduring habit with it. I do most of my reading on the train, but comics are too unwieldy for that, so I figured: Why not just keep them at home? The stack of unread graphic novels is already building by my bed. I’ve got 40 years of catching up to do, but hopefully by the time we get to next year’s best-of list, I won’t be so in the dark.
For a year, I worked at a small experimental publishing press. It mostly published fiction, some nonfiction and poetry, much of it in translation. Reading and being surrounded by that work energized me, both as a reader and a writer. Those books, whether because they were written elsewhere or because they were unabashedly experimental, felt outside of the trends of contemporary American letters. They often skipped over basic elements of traditional fiction—like plot or character—or at the least used them in ways that felt unexpected. One of my favorite books from this year was originally published in Spanish, and it served as a good reminder that I could stand to read more books in translation. I’m sure to find another favorite soon.
I ended up slightly cheating on last year’s resolution (to try every local pizza place that would deliver to my address), for the simple reason that after six months or so I found a pizzeria that so far outstripped everyone else, I just stopped experimenting and stuck with it. (Thank you, Longacre pizza.) But also, that was a smidge too ambitious, so for 2019 I’m going to set my sights a little lower and attempt to achieve something that I used to pull off without blinking: Attend a live music show every month of the year. Sure, there are times when I’ll see three bands within a week, which is great and as it should be. But then there’s also October and November of this past year, where I blinked and suddenly realized I hadn’t been to see a single concert in more than 60 days. That seems stupid, and a gross waste of living in one of America’s biggest cities, teeming with artists blowing the doors off of places nightly. So I’m going to try and hold myself to getting the hell off the couch each lunar cycle, and crossing off a show every 30 days from January through December—even if it means rearranging certain voracious moviegoing habits, my love for nighttime nachos be damned.
Drafting off of Laura’s answer, I’d like to watch more films and TV that aren’t in English. It’s never been easier to do so: Netflix’s global reach brings a new batch of imports into my queue on an almost daily basis; our pick for 2018’s top movie is in Korean. Granted, we’re living in a time when it’s impossible to watch everything that’s a) being produced in my chosen area of coverage and b) my native language, but it’s not like I’m talking about spending all of 2019 in subtitles. I’m just saying that I could stand to watch a little Terrace House now and again. Or, you know, one of zillions of world-cinema masterpieces I’ve never seen. Look, I’ve got all of 2019 ahead of me, so there’s room for the Herzog Blu-rays that have been gathering dust on my bookshelf and some Japanese strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped.
My 2019 pop culture resolution is incredibly straightforward: commit to using my AMC Stubs A-List subscription. When I first signed up for it, I reasoned that if I watched two-three movies a month, it would justify the expense. But I could be watching so many more movies that range from average to Film Club-approved. I’ve stepped it up to six-to-eight movies over the last two months, which I think has gone a long way to helping me grapple with my seasonal depression (which is its own flavor). I also work within walking distance of multiple AMC theaters, so 2019 will be the year of multiple weekly viewings, starting with Spider-Man: Into The SpiderVerse.
My resolution is to expand the sorts of material I read. My bookshelves are 80 percent novels and 20 percent socialist texts—I’d like to conscientiously consume more non-fiction, especially history, science, and biographies. I have, over the last few years, cautiously dipped a toe into random books about geography, the McCarthy era, cults, alchemy—and the water is fine. I should really dive in. I used to like reading Aristophanes. What happened? Why do I only read novels interspersed with whatever radical publisher Haymarket put out this year? So I’m branching out. Stephen Hawking, here I come.
My resolution for 2019 is simple, and less about what I consume than what I produce: I want to make more shit next year. Writing for a living is an incredible privilege that I dearly love, but it also makes it feel a little harder to find energy for stuff that’s just for me. I want to try to overcome that weekend lethargy this year and create more stuff, specifically in the field of games, where the joys of troubleshooting and tinkering help exercise a different part of my brain than the parts I use on Newswires and reviews. I’ve already set a loose goal for myself—entry into next year’s installment of IFComp, the annual throw-down between modern fans of text-based old-school adventure games—and I’m hoping I can stick to that commitment to intentional digital anachronism (and my own creative growth) as the year moves on.
I’ve always enjoyed world cinema as a whole, and try to keep up with major international releases, but in 2019 I’d like to make a point of watching more films from Africa. African cinema is often an afterthought for critics and film festivals here in the U.S., which is a shame given the breathtaking diversity of perspectives available on that vast continent. I took an African cinema course back in college, but that was more than 10 years ago now, which means it’s time to revisit classics like Black Girl and Touki Bouki—which I remember liking, but as I said, that was a long time ago. I’m particularly interested in exploring more African genre movies after seeing Five Fingers For Marseilles, which I wrote up for our best films we didn’t review feature, earlier this year. But first on my list are Rafiki, Wanuri Kahiu’s film about forbidden love between two young women in Kenya, and Beauty And The Dogs, a Tunisian drama exploring the country’s rape culture through the story of a woman who’s attacked by several police officers at a club. Not light stuff, admittedly, but neither are a lot of the English-language movies I see.