Volume 3, Issue 44: Red-Eyed and Blue
"Alcohol and cotton balls, and some drugs we can afford on the way."
|Will Leitch||Jan 2|| 4|
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Last week’s newsletter was a year-end recap of all the good stuff we did around here last year, but it was too long for many email clients. (Sorry.) If you missed it or if it went to spam, you can find it right here.
I am not a New Years resolutions person, not because of a lack of ambition but because having a resolution would require a change of personal habits and rigid routine, and that is not how things work around here. You are reading the words of a person who runs the exact same route at the exact same time every weekday, who spends his Sunday nights meticulously mapping out his hourly schedule for the upcoming week, who still uses the same Yahoo Mail account he’s been using for 20 years, for crying out loud. I have my system, and a resolution would be an admission that the system is not perfect and the system is perfect goddammit.
But 2021 is obviously different. Hopes for 2021 are not based in magical thinking. As awful as 2020 was, there are reasons, many reasons, to truly believe that 2021 will be better. It does not mean that the world will be perfect, or all our problems are going to go away, or that hard work, persistence and struggle will not still be required. It just means that many—not all, but many—of the sources of 2020’s pain will not be with us, at least not in the forms they have been, in 2021. There will be more problems, new problems. But there are people in charge who care. That is, at least, a start.
I do not want to get ahead of myself, though: “It’s going to be an incredible year!” sure looks like the sort of statement that would look delicious on a tombstone.
I want my, and our, aims to be modest. But I also, in one last document of 2020, to have how I’m feeling, and maybe we’re all feeling, right now to be down for posterity—to note what, at the beginning of 2021, all one could reasonably hope for in the upcoming year. So here are 10 modest goals for 2021. I don’t need to make a billion dollars, or win the Pulitzer Prize, or learn to fly or anything. As I look forward, here is all I’m asking for, from myself and others, in 2021. If I can look back on New Years Eve 2021 and get, say, seven of these … it will have been a smashing good year.
For my parents to get the vaccine in the first three months, and the rest of us to have them by June or July. We sure aren’t on path for this—it was pointed out this week that at our current rate of vaccination, we should reach herd immunity by … 2030—but here is where I suspect having human beings who aren’t actively trying to break all the nice dishes might make a difference. My parents retired and moved to Georgia to be near their grandchildren and to have the freedom to do all the travel they were all too busy working 50 hours a week for 40 years to have time to do, and just when they were about to do it … a global plague hit and now they’ve been locked in the house together for a year. I want to go out and do things. But I really want my parents to be able to. Plus: I’ve been driving my parents crazy for 10 months now worrying about their safety, and if they don’t get the shots soon, they’re going to come over here and stab me in my sleep.
A collective renewed emphasis on shopping local. To see what has happened to local and small businesses, and how little help there has been for them, has been staggering, if not surprising. It is particularly distressing to see how few places there already are left: We are dangerously close to, by 2022, to ordering all essential goods from Amazon and eating every meal at Applebee’s. We all learned a lot about our communities in 2020, and not all of it was positive. But we’ve also learned how valuable having places, our places, near and available to us are. If they are able to survive this, it is our responsibility to reward them for it.
To not think about politics or the federal government for one day. It is vitally important for us to stay alert and aware and vigilant moving forward: We have now seen just how bad it can get when people this deeply craven are allowed to run free and wild. But one day where I’m not terrified that the people in charge are trying to kill us? One day where I just walk around the world and totally forget about politics and governance? That would be nice. I would like that.
For us all to say yes to everything. I’ve always been a doer; I’m antsy and driven and restless by nature. But even I fall prey to the “yeah, I could go to that event, but it has been a long day and boy is this couch comfortable right now.” We cannot spend a year complaining (justifiably!) about being stuck in our homes and then remain there when we are able to leave. I want to see some craziness, people. Time for that orgy you’ve always been putting off!
To see every concert of any band I’m even slightly interested in. Being old, this is a depleting reservoir, I grant, but no longer will I learn that Dinosaur Jr. or Stephen Malkmus or TV on the Radio played less than an hour away and I didn’t bother to go see them. My next scheduled concert is Wilco and Sleater-Kinney on August 14. If we’re all good to go by then, it will be just the start. Standing in a pool of beer behind a tall guy who won’t stop talking for three hours has never sounded more appealing. Also, while I have you: Please go out to the movies as soon as it is safe to do so. We should all cheer for movie houses, and that viewing experience, to be with us forever. I’m tired of movies I can pause while I do something else. Aren’t you?
To fly, personally, to Los Angeles. You don’t have to go to Los Angeles; this one is just for me. Though you should go! I lived in New York for 13 years, but I am not one of those (former) New Yorkers who has some sort of rivalry with Los Angeles. Southern California is the most gorgeous place to be as your home falls into the ocean, and sometimes I wonder why not everyone on the planet lives there. Plus, it has been, shockingly, more than four years since I have seen Tim Grierson, A.J. Daulerio and David Hirshey, three of my favorite people in the world, all of whom live in Los Angeles. That is unacceptable. You should go wherever you want to go the second you get a chance to as well: Other places are great! But I gotta get my can to Los Angeles.
For there to be an NCAA Tournament. There are many, many debates to be had about the wisdom and safety of playing sports, college and professional, in the middle of a pandemic. I’ve made quite a few of them myself. But, along with the World Series and the World Cup, the NCAA Tournament is my favorite sporting event on the planet, and we didn’t have one last year. We’ve already started the season, after all: Might as well finish it at this point, yes? Am I saying this because this is the best, most purely enjoyable Illinois men’s basketball team in 15 years? It is possible. It is very possible.
Maybe I should chill it with the scheduling a little bit. If any year will teach you that making plans and trying to control the near- and long-term future is futile, it was 2020. I’m not sure who I’m trying to kid here.
For all good-hearted and right-minded souls to buy “How Lucky,” the new novel by local author Will Leitch, out in May 2021. The new year is here, which means this book is about to become a regular presence in the life of subscribers to This Here Newsletter. You have been warned. Buy the damned thing. It will make 2021 better.
To forgive, and to be forgiven. We’ve all learned more about our friends and neighbors, and ourselves, during the pandemic than we ever could have wanted to. There are people during this who have been reckless, and cruel, and thoughtless, and self-centered—sometimes in ways that were actively harmful to to the people I care most about—and there have also been times during this that I have been short and snide and self-righteous and dismissive. Eventually we are all going to have to go back to living with one another, knowing what we know now. I hope that we can do it. I hope that we can gather as one again, to let the past go, to move forward instead of holding on to our grievances. I believe it will be hard. But I believe that we can. I believe that we have to.
I wish you and yours a path forward in 2021. And thank you for spending time with me here. This is a place where I can try to make sense of the world, and there have been no years that the world has made less sense to me than this last one. I’d be lost without it. So, seriously: Thanks.
TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2020
I always finish the newsletter year with the top 10 movies of the year from the Grierson & Leitch Dorkfest podcast, but this year there were a few too many ledgers to be balanced to dedicate one final newsletter to the top 10. So I’ll just list them here. This was, obviously, a weird year for the movies. But there were still some great ones. Here’s my top 10. (Here’s Grierson’s, if you want a good list that is nonetheless not as good as mine.)
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, directed by Jason Woliner
The Assistant, directed by Kitty Green
One Night in Miami, directed by Regina King
Collective, directed by Alexander Nanau
David Byrne’s American Utopia, directed by Spike Lee
The Father, directed by Florian Zeller
Nomadland, directed by Chloe Zhao
Boys State, directed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss
First Cow, directed by Kelly Reichardt
Hamilton, directed by Thomas Kail. (It turns out: That musical’s pretty good!)
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality.
We Made It to the End, Medium. I wanted to take one last big swing before the year was over.
The Ten Most Formative Sports Figures of 2020, New York. Making the case for Brian Kemp!
The Ten Biggest Baseball Stories of 2020, MLB.com. The pandemic was not the only story.
MLB Greats Who Died in 2020, MLB.com. There were way, way too many.
The Worst People of 2020, Medium. This probably required a more thorough investigation than I was able to give it.
Grierson & Leitch, no show this week, but you can hear me talk about all the above movies on our year-end Dorkfest show.
People Still Read Books, no new show this week, but you should still listen to David Wallace-Wells about his groundbreaking book The Uninhabitable Earth.
Waitin' Since Last Saturday, previewing the Peach Bowl.
LONG STORY YOU SHOULD READ THIS MORNING … OF THE WEEK
“The Plague Year,” Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker. Lawrence Wright is the greatest on the planet at this stuff—his The Looming Tower is an incredible book—and The New Yorker gave him their whole issue this week, 40,000 words worth. It’s definitive, and it’s also sad and meticulous and moving and infuriating.
ARBITRARY THINGS RANKED, WITHOUT COMMENT, FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON
Georgia Senate Candidates Ranked by Likelihood of Them Winning Their Runoff Tuesday
Look, we’re all doing our best down here. But it’s a tough hill to climb. It’s going to be very tight. But if I have to give a prediction, this is it. I very much hope I am wrong. After all: I was wrong about where Georgia would land in the Presidential race as well.
ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!
If you’ve received one of these, you already know this, but: Sorry about my handwriting. Write me at:
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
“This Will Be Our Year,” The Zombies. I believe. I believe.
Remember to listen to The Official Will Leitch Newsletter Spotify Playlist, featuring every song ever mentioned in this section.
How’s 2021 gonna be, kids?
That’s right: It’s gonna be great,
Be safe out there, everyone. Happy 2021.