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My year in movies and books. A flute. Strange Days. Cyberpunk 2077.

My year in movies and books

At the end of 2023, I found myself tinkering with my personal website and compiling lists — personal catalogs of the books I read and the movies I watched.

Putting these lists on my personal website instead of Goodreads or Letterboxd (and hosting a site at all) feels like a tiny act of rebellion against both the centralized web and a world in which our experiences are increasingly ephemeral. I have a feeling that the web is only going to grow more impermanent and messy, and I'm beginning to have a deep desire to create a simple space that I know will exist for the next decade and beyond.

These pages, to me, act not just as a list of things I consumed but also a personal log file of my year in culture, and I plan on keeping them updated from this point forward. Here are some of my favorites from the previous year:

The Long Goodbye
A masterful smoke-filled tribute to the noir genre that feels as timeless as ever. Elliott Gould's portrayal of Philip Marlowe is one of the coolest characters to ever exist, and the film's meandering narrative and unconventional pacing are a refreshing departure from genre norms. Every time Marlowe struck a match I rewound the film just so i could watch him do it again.


A harrowing odyssey of faith and suffering. Scorsese brings deep empathy and visual poetry to Endo's spiritual saga, faithfully rendering intellectual complexity through a nuanced character study rather than providing easy answers.

A cinematic miracle. Expertly weaves disparate strands of melancholy lives into an ambitious mosaic depicting romantic, parental, and existential disconnection.

One of my favorite movies, I try to watch it once a year. An audacious Old Testament epic that infuses the familiar tale with earthy naturalism and psychological depth. A polarizing, provocative watch, and I love every second.

The Biblical Rock Monsters in 'Noah' Were Awesome, Actually - RELEVANT

Magnolia and Noah were both rewatches — the former a film I hadn't seen since I was a teenager. I wish I had any sort of log of my initial viewing, but now I have a log of this one, and maybe someday in the future, I'll be glad.

You can find many, MANY more here.

Luna // Nine Months // On Nostalgia

Something no one told me about parenting is that it provides ample opportunities to reflect on your own childhood. Just last week, Luna received a set of wooden musical instruments from her grandmother for Christmas. As I unwrapped the gift (Luna is still a tad too young to do so herself), my eyes landed on a small wooden flute. Instinctively, without even thinking about what I was doing, I put it to my lips.

The taste of the wood, smooth and subtly sweet, acted as a sense memory. I remembered receiving a wooden flute of my own, and subsequent days spent in elementary school playing both the flute and recorder. With those moments fresh in my mind, I played the little instrument for Luna.

Regrettably, I never mastered any instrument, so the sounds I made in adulthood were as haphazard and amateurish as ever. My daughter, oblivious to the blast of nostalgia I was experiencing, reached for the flute with curiosity. Her tiny fingers wrapped around it, and she inspected it with an intensity reserved for the discovery of new things. She brought it to her lips and blew, making a forceful, joyous sound. After a few moments of disjointed tooting, Luna set the flute down and toddled on.

The experience was striking, even though Luna didn't know it. There was my daughter, at the very onset of her own childhood, as I reflected on mine. Would Luna have similar experiences someday that tie her back to her own beginnings? Would she one day give a flute for her child, only to be transported back to this moment? Would the taste of the wood and the feel of its weight evoke a nostalgia within her as strong as the one I just experienced?

While Luna's babyhood vanishes in real time, it's comforting to know that the toys she loves and the physical spaces she inhabits will quietly preserve this precious period. Someday in the future, she may rediscover a part of her distant self in the most unexpected places, just as I did today.

What I Watched

I found myself on New Year's Eve wanting to watch a movie, so I decided to watch one that took place on the holiday itself: Strange Days. This oddly prescient cyberpunk thriller feels 'early' to a lot of ideas. Much of it is filmed in the first-person view, predating but predicting the FPS aesthetic. It also has lots to say about the power of virtual reality that still feels unrealized. Beyond this, it uses both LA's noir tradition and its history of riots and racism to tell a story of dystopian violence and class struggle. Bonus: There are a ton of incredible shots of minidiscs throughout the film.

Beyond Games Vision: Recording Memories In Strange Days -

What I Played

Even though I had much, much less time this holiday break than usual, I still ended up in Night City. Cyberpunk 2077 is an interesting game, in that it was much-maligned upon release a few years back, only to receive update after update in workmanlike fashion to become something that many now consider to be best-in-class.

Cyberpunk 2077: Incredible Screenshots With Ray Tracing: Overdrive Mode |  GeForce News | NVIDIA

Open worlds present a challenge: how to inhabit the life of another? Games like Grand Theft Auto leave me feeling like a tourist inhabiting someone else's body. Games like Mass Effect force me to choose between good and evil when most lives dwell in the space inbetween. Cyberpunk 2077 offers nuance, asking you to discover the protagonist's principles for living, beginning in vice but finding room to maneuver.

I'm not sure if I'll have the time in this season to really dive into the world of Night City (already over the last few days I've had zero minutes available for my Steam Deck) but I had a wonderful Christmas break in that world regardless.

That's all for now.

From the present moment,

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