Doldrums Defied: A January Recap
January lasted about 37 days. It wasn't a bad month, but it was a long month. 2023 has come in like... a... Do we even have anything to compare to anymore? Whatever it was, here is how the start of 2023 went for me:
The month started off with a discovery: Aloy, our kitten, Champion of the Nora, Savior of Meridian, was... a boy. We got Aloy (yes, named after that Aloy)in late October when they were about two months old. We were told they were female, and had no reason to question that. Since then, three different vets and who-knows-how-many vet techs examined this cat, but it was only as they were literally about to spay her that they realized, hold on, that's a penis.
Our vet called us from the operation, moments before the first cut, and she was so embarrassed. We weren't mad at all, but we were... surprised. So, Aloy got neutered instead and we had to re-learn our cat's pronouns.
Aloy the Boy got to keep his name, lost his balls, and gained... a cone.
Oh God, the cone. Could one apparatus simultaneously confer such shame, confusion, rage, humiliation, helplessness, and desperation upon its wearer as this cone did to poor Aloy? The looks of abject sadness. The complete inability to remember how to eat in it, how to drink. The repeated, melodramatic attempts – FLIP, SIGH, PLOP – to get comfortable.
Once the cone was off and new normality was established, it was time to make the basement Aloy-proof, or at least approach that impossible goal as thoroughly as we could. Since his arrival, Aloy had been restricted to roaming the first floor, and I have been working most days up there with him and D. But my office is in the basement, and I was ready to get back down there – though I didn't want to do so until Aloy was ready to have access to expanded territory.
The basement has needed to be cleaned and severely reorganized since the Fall anyway. It wasn't remotely cat safe, but Aloy wasn't remotely cat-responsible enough to be down there, even if it was made “safe”, until very recently. So over the first few weeks of the month, I cleaned and prepped my office and solidified the main room down there as The Studio, half workout gym/studio for D, half craft/collage/workshop space for both of us. Frankly, the basement has probably never been this clean or organized the whole time we've lived here. All it took was a tiny cat with apparently confusing genitals.
The Arch-Book, etc.
I've been puttering around with this blog, my website, and web-related creativity on and off (more “off”) for a while now. It's been part of a larger project to pivot how I spend my time, and to engage with new and refined practices and processes. In short, I'm trying to live a more deliberate life, spend my time the way I believe I want to, instead of the ways I happen to drift into. This has manifested in redefining my daily routines, the devices I use, and how I use them.
And somehow as part of that quest, quite randomly, I decided to make my erstwhile Chromebook an intrinsic part of that processes.
I've discussed elsewhere the project and how unexpectedly it came to be. Basically, my MacBook is getting old, and likes to stay plugged into the wall most of the time, so I needed a device I could bring around the house with me, more focused on typing and creating content. The MacBook's battery has been flakey for a while, and I've been working around that by just... not doing the sort of generative, creative work I claim to want to do. With the MacBook downstairs plugged in and a new cat upstairs quite literally demanding my attention, it was the perfect excuse to keep kicking the can. Until one day, I picked up the can, opened it, and out popped the peanut brittle snakes of a knotty hardware project.
So for about 10 days, I spent nearly every moment of spare time learning how to install and use Linux on a machine intended to serve a purpose I have to some degree been avoiding for... twenty years? And it's... worked?
arch-book and redistributing my digital life across a different arrangement of devices naturally triggered many knock-on projects, but the majority of them were all still aligned with my larger set of goals: spend my time deliberately, facilitate meaningful reading/watching/listening experiences, build creative and journalistic practices.
By the end of the month, by and large the infrastructure of this part of my life is up and running. It will always be an active process; there will be endless tweaking (both with Linux, and my life), but so far the maintenance hasn't over-shadowed the actual work I want to get done. The
arch-book sits right in the middle of all of this, and besides being an important cog, and a valuable tech project... it's just damn fun to use.
Building, Creating, etc.
I've been more active on this blog, comparatively speaking. Although, as you can see it took my until late February to actually finish and post this January recap so let's just keep things in perspective, right?
I've also finally completed a several-year (albeit with huuuuuge gaps) project of organizing and cataloging my personal digital photo archive. Most significantly, I've made dozens of themed albums, in part for personal organization, but also so that I can begin to go through these photos and albums, and begin to create themed public galleries to be posted... somewhere. I'm still figuring that part out. Stay tuned.
I've always thought in a different universe I would have got deep into photography. I took 3 years of (film) photography classes in high school and by the end was developing color photos by hand. That was nearly the post-high school path I took. Maybe it should have been? Another post, for another day.
I'm looking forward to sharing the pictures I have taken with... whatever random internet weirdos happen to find this place. Welcome weirdos, I am one of you. Take me in and share your weird secrets with me. I'll show you cool pictures of cats and flowers and the sky.
I want to read more this year, but I'm also broadly focused on taking stock of what is around me, clearing out archives, and being deliberate with that reading – especially internet-based reading. I've been pruning my digital inputs, trying to remove sites and apps that I don't actually engage with, but rather keep scrolling through hoping for a hit of dopamine.
This tactic, of locking myself in a playpen with options, but healthy, curated ones is something I've been implementing in stages since the Fall, and it seems to be working for me. To that end, instead of scrolling Instagram, or the algorithmically-focused-on-outrage news app, I've been diving through my embarrassingly huge Pocket archive, and even stepped back in time and set up a good old fashioned feed reader with limited and deliberate subscriptions. I no longer want access to anything and everything I might want to read; I want easy, direct, no-distraction access to a few, carefully selected feeds from sources I am looking forward to reading each time they post. I don't want to skim, to get the gist. I want to engage and build relationships with pieces, authors, and sources.
At some point, I should probably document here the feeds I do follow and consume regularly (Man, people really seem to hate that word, “consume”... I recognize how it can be seen as a shallow replacement for engagement, but to me it also can have connotations of engaging-with-wholehearted-aplomb. Devouring, etc.), but for now I just want to mention the current highlight and darling of my regular 'net-based reading has been the posting of British author Tom Cox.
I get like this sometimes, lose my focus, then reel it back in. It’s part of the pattern, inevitable, crucial. But I notice I need to guard against it more than I did in the past. It’s the incessant, troubling speed of everything.
I love his style, from his journal-style compendium posts to his more creative and wonderfully weird writing and ramblings. Probably the most excited I've been to find a new writer in a long time. Now I should probably read his books...
Perhaps the only thing more embarrassing and daunting than my Pocket queue is my comic book backlog. The good news about such a large backlog is that I can grab literally anything from it and find something I enjoy. And that's why I've been devouring Sonic the Hedgehog comics, the most recent run, available with my Comixology Unlimited subscription. These aren't the deepest and most life-changing books, but they are fun as heck, vibrantly drawn and colored, and a wonderful companion to Sonic Frontiers.
However, for something with more artistic substance and depth, I finally started Kelly Sue DeConnicks's incredible, revolutionary and beautiful Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons series. There's no way in a few lines to describe how great and intense this book is, from the writing to the jaw-dropping art. Just read it. That's what I'm doing. First two issues down, though I keep re-reading them instead of moving on the third. Like Sonic Frontiers, I just don't want it to be over...
For Christmas, D got me the collected poetry of Gary Snyder. Despite being and English major and loving poems, I can't remember if I've ever sat down with a book of poetry and just went through it beginning to end, page by page. I've read a lot of say, Whitman, but by bouncing around from thing to thing, following threads and thoughts, flipping to random pages, etc. There's nothing wrong with that approach; it's organic and leads to wonderful discoveries, but this time, I wanted to try something more measured.
I've made it through Riprap, Snyder's first collection, and loved it. Poetry in general is a real challenge to me in a lot of ways. It must be sipped, cannot be gulped. It openly mocks and destroys the “pages-per-day” type quantification I usually plan and measure my reading habit in. This is exactly why I need it in my life. Interaction with poetry takes as long as it takes, and rewards not by completion but engagement.
Reading Riprap has made me want to reread Dharma Bums, where I was first introduced to Snyder via Kerouac. I didn't get to start the novel in January. Let's see if that's something that shows up in the February recap...
And in the remaining hours...
I didn't game nearly as much as I thought I would in January, mainly because I spent so much of my free time working on the above mentioned projects. I am always so hot and cold with this sort of thing, I either do nothing but game – often at the detriment to anything else I want to engage with – or I don't touch the controller for weeks, absorbed in other things. I really would like balance. Some of everything. Slow, steady movement forward through a few different streams. That is something I am working towards, trying to train myself for – though I wonder if it is something that is even possible for me, and if I should just embrace this particular part of my nature. But that's a whole other post for another time.
I did play Sonic Frontiers, which I started essentially the day it came out in December. I absolutely adore it – and Sonic in general – but as alluded to earlier, I admit I've been slow to finish it, in part because I just don't want it to be over. This is why I have never actually finished Breath of the Wild despite it being possibly my favorite game ever and having it since 2017.
I also started and got a fair way through Final Fantasy Adventure for the Game Boy via the Collection of Mana for the Switch. I got that compilation for Secrets and Trials of Mana, which I've never played and only recently heard of (I was a Sega kid, hence the Sonic obsession). But I am weird about starting at the beginning of series, and a sucker for Game Boy games, and so had to dive into this one. So far, despite its age and related clunkiness, I am enjoying it a lot, and the chance to name the two main characters after both our current cat and our recently departed one has been unexpectedly meaningful...
(The main hero is male, and I decided to name him after Aloy before we actually discovered his true sex. An interesting premonition?)
A great addition to this year has been me and D's decision to commit to weekly movie nights. We both love movies and always want to watch more, but as with so many things we just... don't, at least not regularly. But in December, D said enough was enough and she watched 31 movies in 31 days! I watched most of them with her and was vaguely around for the rest and while that kind of hyper-focus is a lot even for me, it inspired us to try and commit to a movie-watching practice in 2023 that was perhaps a little more manageable. So enter Weekly Movie Night! In January we watched:
- Knives Out
- Only Lovers Left Alive
- Jurassic World
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Generally, we're going to alternate picking movies, with Knives Out being my first pick and Only Lovers, D's. But we also decided to go through the Jurassic World Trilogy with my dad, which none of us had seen yet (the movies, not my dad – we can see him, and do, fairly regularly). Every movie we've watched so far has been highly enjoyable, with the first two quickly becoming deep favorites for me and D. Fallen Kingdom is the weak link of the bunch, but I still enjoyed it and am a sucker for the entire larger franchise and am looking forward to finishing it out in February.
...and further on
That was January. It was... a lot? And by that, I mean, I did a lot? I just can't help ending those sentences with question marks because I am still not used to the fact that I am, indeed, Doing Things. The Things I want to be doing, no less. I don't expect February to have the same sort of momentum (spoiler alert: it does not) but I have enough moving that I am optimistic I can build on this month, lay down more coats on this foundation, and continue to make incremental progress on the things that are important to me.
And if all else fails, there is still cat. Good cat. Pretty cat. Speaking of, behold, Aloy, Prince of Cones:
Cat tax paid. See you next month!