Something Good #50: Only Nice Things
Attention: this one has a lot of video embeds and would probably be experienced better in the web view. Click on the headline above to go to there.
Lately I’ve been unwinding by watching poorly-ripped YouTube clips of scenes from Amadeus. Most of my faves look like total shit:
Doesn’t matter. Have you seen Amadeus lately? Good lord, it’s good.
It’s Erev Christmas Eve (or Christmas Eve Eve, depending on which tradition you follow).
Everything is uncertain and everyone is anxious. That’s why this 50th Anniversary Edition of Something Good (Icouldn’t let the year end at only 49) is dedicated, in its scattershot way, to Only Nice Things. Forgive the lack of any more concrete through line than that. I’m just gonna zip around here.
First, if the above clip got you in a Mozart mood, I highly recommend this production of The Marriage of Figaro, directed by Sir Thomas Allen. Watch it or let it play in the background. Listening to this opera is a magnificent way to spend a Sunday afternoon puttering around the house, or, in lockdown, any afternoon.
Last week I asked former Something Good guests to share things that they loved from 2021. One person I did not get a chance to talk to (OK I forgot) was Rollie Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon, who has had a hell of a year since he spoke to me in April. His album Parallel World took home the Polaris Prize, pretty much the only music accolade that matters in Canada, and The Globe and Mail named him the 2021 Canadian Music Disruptor of the Year. The year-end 10 Albums + 100 Songs issue of his newsletter is full of music and books you might love. And check out the accompanying playlist as well:
Seven years ago, BuzzFeed’s Mark Slutsky wrote about “Sad YouTube,” the comment sections underneath old pop songs that had become “a repository of memories, stories, and dreams, an accidental oral history of American life over the last 50 years.” I found out about this article because I’d noticed the same thing, tweeted about it, and the Boston Globe’s Kevin Slane said: Oh yeah, Mark Slutsky wrote about that already.
I was pleasantly and extremely surprised to see Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel write a long essay about Sad YouTube for his newsletter Nova Express. Although I am not, nor will I ever be, “BuzzFeed’s Mark Slutsky,” and though he seems not to have noticed that Sad YouTube was a whole project apart from that one article I wrote about it, it’s still nice.
Some nice things from reader Ilaria Vigorito in Rome:
2021 has been a strange and complicated and somehow even fulfilling year. I enjoyed a rewatch of all the seasons of Lupin the III with my sister on Amazon Prime – a staple of our childhood, since Italia 1, an Italian TV channel, used to broadcast the first three seasons in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I also discovered a new favourite manga series, Jujutsu Kaisen, a battle shonen manga with magic, curses and some really interesting female characters – yeah, I’m a big fan of anime and manga.
But I realize that I didn’t have much time to browse new movies, TV series, comics and books, since I was pretty busy working on my own books. 2021 has been a fulfilling year, because I finally managed to publish for an Italian publisher a monograph about the comic series and the movie of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, one of the masterpieces of Hayao Miyazaki. And earlier this month I finally published on Amazon my first sci-fi novel, Ganymedian Meltdown, a story I was working on since 2011. For now it’s only in Italian but I’m going to start to translate it soon in English. It’s set in the future on a Jovian moon: there’s a bit of environmentalism, thriller, political drama and even a romance in it!
I want to read this book! Thank you Ilaria!
Have you ever read John Donne’s “Elegy V: His Picture”? Though written in the 1590s, it is clearly the first work of poetry in the English language on the topic of selfies.
Here take my picture; though I bid farewell Thine, in my heart, where my soul dwells, shall dwell. 'Tis like me now, but I dead, 'twill be more When we are shadows both, than 'twas before. When weather-beaten I come back, my hand Perhaps with rude oars torn, or sun beams tann'd, My face and breast of haircloth, and my head With care's rash sudden storms being o'erspread, My body'a sack of bones, broken within, And powder's blue stains scatter'd on my skin; If rival fools tax thee to'have lov'd a man So foul and coarse as, oh, I may seem then, This shall say what I was, and thou shalt say, "Do his hurts reach me? doth my worth decay? Or do they reach his judging mind, that he Should now love less, what he did love to see? That which in him was fair and delicate, Was but the milk which in love's childish state Did nurse it; who now is grown strong enough To feed on that, which to disus'd tastes seems tough.
I think that either way we can agree that it is pretty much the ultimate dirtbag anthem, and it is one of my discoveries of 2021.
OK fine, here’s my list. Not all of these things are native to 2021, or even new at all.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke—far and above my book of the last few years, and one of the first topics of this newsletter
The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman (which I actually read in 2020 I think but who cares)
Maybe the People Would Be the Times by Lucy Sante
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Lovers Rock by Steve McQueen
First Cow by Kelly Reichardt
The Kid Detective by Evan Morgan
Zola by Janicza Bravo
My City, designer Reiner Knizia
The King Is Dead 2nd ed., designer Peer Sylvester
Inscryption, Daniel Mullins Games
Unpacking, Witch Beam
Psychonauts 2, Double Fine Productions
I won’t do TV because everyone knows what the good shows are and I don’t have much to contribute there. I still think there are too many shows. I don’t know how I am supposed to watch all of those shows. Also… I’m working on a music list.
For the end of the year, a very special video #nojacketsrequired from reader and friend of the newsletter Heather Lou. I eagerly anticipate your dejacketed discoveries in 2022; as always, please send them to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every now and then I will send you Something Good. This will almost definitely be the last issue of the year. Thank you so, so much for reading these letters and for participating in this project, truly one of the most satisfying pursuits I have pursued possibly ever. I hope you are all safe and well and healthy and remain so for the foreseeable. Do you need something to read while you’re in lockdown? I’m going to be printing up some more zines and sending them out at some point in the next few weeks, at no charge to you, no matter where in the world you are.
And as always, if you like this newsletter, please tell a friend or subscribe below: