Welcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? E-mail us at email@example.com.
This week’s question:
Same one we do every year: In the spirit of the New Year, here’s our annual opportunity to contemplate the year to come, and reflect on all the things we vow to read, watch, play, create, listen to, or change about the way we approach pop culture. What are your pop-culture resolutions for 2014?
Last year, my resolution was to ease the pressure I put on myself to see and hear everything, and if there’s one resolution I can succeed with, it’s one that asks me to do less! Having a baby has drastically curtailed my available time to consume media, particularly films and hourlong TV shows, but I’d like to improve that a bit this year. I only saw one movie in the theater in 2013 that wasn’t work-related (World War Z—Brad Pitt showed up! OMG!), and I’d like to see more of them in that environment (with Brad Pitt introducing them, if possible). There are also a ton of important movies I haven’t seen and directors whose work I’d like burrow into, so who wants to join me for Hanekuary and Herzoguary? Wait, maybe it’s not a good idea to watch a bunch of Michael Haneke or Werner Herzog films during the bleakest months of Chicago’s winter.
In preparation for an upcoming Nerd Curious, I wrote a bunch of short stories. Some of them need more work than others, but I feel comfortable saying all of them are pretty good starts, things worth tinkering at in the next few months to come. But I’ve been talking about branching out into writing fiction for years now without actually, y’know, doing anything about it, so I think my goal for the new year will be to try to get at least one of them published. I’m not going to be too picky, and I’m not going to assume they’re any good. But I’ve spent the last several years coming up with stuff and then not really doing anything with it, so it’s probably time to put my money where my mouth is. And if that pays off, I’m buying everybody Jet Skis because short-story writers are paid in the millions, right?
My pop-culture resolution is to slow down. I’ve managed, for the most part, to keep up with my favorite mediums, but have fallen out of reflective routines. I no longer sit in the theater until the last credit rolls before leisurely making it to my next destination as I contemplate the pros and cons of the film. I rarely take the time to discuss aloud the books I’ve read, and, lately, music has been in one ear and out the other. I imagine this is a result of how readily available these things are and a busier schedule. Regardless, I’m hoping to go back to a time where I fostered longer relationships with the things I take in. So, no more rushing home after a movie, immediately shelving a book after finishing it, or listening to an album only once before I’m onto the next. Instead, I plan to give pop culture the time it deserves.
In 2014, I vow to buy and use more pop-culture-related coffee mugs. I have a Star Trek mug, but that’s about it, and it’s getting lonely, being the only geek-themed article of kitchenware in the whole apartment. But perhaps more ambitiously, I also need to get back into tabletop RPGs. My old friends Frank and Charlie have been making plans for us to do this for a while; we started gaming together when we were in high school, and back then we played everything from Dungeons & Dragons and DC Heroes to Paranoia and Call Of Cthulhu. We’ve been trying for a couple months now to get a Mutants & Masterminds campaign started up—with our superheroes transported to a Weird War II milieu, no less!—but it’s hard as hell to get our schedules synched up. I also bought a copy of the old Chaosium sourcebook for Stormbringer, the game based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric novels, but it’s just sitting on my desk with all the other books I don’t have time to crack open. If only Frank, Charlie, and I could go back to those golden days of having no lives and fuck-all better to do.
Last year, I aimed for the stars and promised I would do something about a damn novel I was damn writing. (Actually, the damn novel is in its damn fourth draft, so it’s not like I’m lagging that badly.) This hasn’t quite happened yet, so for this year, I’m aiming lower. My sole promise is that I will finish watching Deadwood. I own the whole series on DVD and enjoyed the first season a lot, but have yet to get past the first episode in season 2; this is horribly embarrassing. There are other things I’d like to accomplish—re-read Infinite Jest, finish some video games, watch a whole lot of other TV I should get caught up on, and oh yeah, find a damn agent—but I think I’ll set myself up to (hopefully) succeed. Deadwood is a great show, there’s not that much of it to get through, and hell, I might have the whole thing polished off before the new year, which would make this the first time I’ve ever finished a resolution before it was supposed to take effect. Can’t beat that!
My biggest regret from 2013 was how few movies I went out to see. I know that’s not as sexy an answer as “this cool thing I’ve been meaning to do, but haven’t gotten around to,” but it’s an important failing in my attempt to remain involved in cultural discourse. Part of it is settling into a new job, home, etc., but part of it is, honestly, the easy availability of whole TV shows I can marathon on my couch instead of braving the elements and paying money for a movie. If 2013 was the year where I watched a whole lot of TV, here’s to 2014 being the year where I reacquaint myself with film. This year, I only stepped foot in Chicago’s beautiful Music Box Theater one time. In 2014, I’ll aim to double that.
God, I need to watch more movies. At the risk of cribbing too much off of Noah’s response, in the past few months I haven’t seen a single new release: The last one I saw was probably Before Midnight, over the summer. That shit is embarrassing, yo. I’ve gotten lazy, and it really begins to show at the end of the year when the Oscar debate starts. I am a professional keeper of opinions, but this year I have almost no opinions on the films that came out. Plus, I’m bored with the idea that television and film are in a big fight to the death, where one is better than the other—it crops up every few months, and it’s tiresome. Movies have a lot to offer us, as does television, and the more I watch of both, the better informed I can be.
I’ll go the opposite direction. I’d really like to go back and watch some classic movies that I’ve never seen. Sure, there’s Casablanca, and I need to see that, but I also haven’t made it all the way through Animal House yet. This year, I finally saw Die Hard, but now I need to see all the Die Hard sequels, except for maybe the new one. And I have to see North By Northwest and Vertigo and Psycho and Real Genius… The list goes on and on.
I’m seeing an awful lot of big, broad, conceptual resolutions here, guys. Those are the easiest to break, though. That’s why I’m not making my 2014 resolution “Read more widely heralded literature” or even “Read more,” and I’m setting myself a specific, narrow goal: 2014 is going to be the year I finally read a Salman Rushdie book. He’s been on my to-read shortlist since the Satanic Verses debacle a million bazillion years ago, and somehow I just never get around to his books, even though we have several in the house. This is not an insurmountable hill to climb. Everyone tells me I’m going to love his lyrical, expressive work. I just need to stop not reading him, and reach for one of his books next, instead of something else.
I’m going to take a cue from Tasha and steer clear of grand pronouncements that will haunt me come December 2014. It’s time for a book-nerd confession: I never finished Moby Dick or Ulysses. (I know! Stop judging me.) So I would love to make 2014 the year I mark one of those off the ever-growing list of things I really should complete if I’m going to continue to call myself a bibliophile. That said, I really have to weed the piles and piles of books I have at home. I love those bound dead trees, but at this point my place is less an apartment and more just book storage space. Also, maybe 2014 will be the year this Val Kilmer film marathon my best friend and I have been planning becomes a reality. (Real Genius, Willow, The Doors, Tombstone, Heat, The Salton Sea, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in one day. That’s right. Let’s do this.)
I’d like to go through all my physical media and see what I really need. With CDs and DVDs becoming increasingly unnecessary, I’d like to get to the point where the only stuff taking up physical space is something I really want to have. I did a pretty massive purge when I moved from Milwaukee to Chicago about eight years ago, getting rid of tons of CDs and vinyl (not to mention toys and promo items amassed over many years). I set a semi-arbitrary limit of 2000 CDs (because that’s what I have shelf space for), but even that seems too much at this point. Do I need 50 Clem Snide live discs (all courtesy former A.V. Club editor Stephen Thompson) when I have digital copies of all of them? Do I need every Catherine Wheel and Inspiral Carpets CD-single? Do I need copies of New Order’s “Temptation” on both 7-inch and 12-inch? (Yes! Different artwork and mixes!) On the flipside, why don’t I own a physical copy of Shudder To Think’s Pony Express Record, especially since it’s available used on Amazon for 45 cents? I’m flirting with the idea of doing something along the lines of Noel Murray’s awesome Popless series from 2008, listening to every damn thing I own and deciding whether I need its physical manifestation, or if bits and bytes will suffice.