Best of 2022

2022. Weird. Short. Dark. Another year that was a little disappointing for being an even-numbered year. Don't have too much more to say about the year that's interesting, so I'll get right to my best-ofs.

Best TV show I watched in 2022: Station Eleven
It's really hard to pick a favorite TV show from this year, but I think Station Eleven has to win just on pure weirdness. About 20 years after a pandemic wiped out most of civilization, Mackenzie Davis is part of a theater troupe that travels around the known world on foot, performing Shakespeare. But then spooky things start happening to the troupe. Also, there is a mysterious graphic novel that ties everyone together. How can I explain that? I can't. It's the only show this year that prompted me to write a 9-page letter to a friend that was mostly about a single episode of it (it was episode 7, in case you're wondering), as well as filling many pages of my journal. It's weird and puzzling and beautiful and haunting.

Honorable mentions:

The Bear. Pound for pound (of BEEF), the most densely packed show in terms of brilliance to runtime. Nothing is wasted. Every line is perfect, every shot is perfect.

The Peripheral. Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy x William Gibson x Chloë Grace Moretz. Highly entertaining on the visceral level of a video game. Also, the clothes.

For All Mankind. Alternate history space race—what if things had gone down completely differently between NASA and the Russian space program, all the way from the time of the moon landing? I mostly watch this for my single favorite character (see if you can guess who 'tis).

Best movie I watched in 2022: Aftersun
I hope I'm not being biased due to the fact that I watched this just yesterday and so it's going to be the last movie I watched this year. I don't think I am. I haven't been this destroyed by a movie in years. It feels so good to have a new beloved director in Charlotte Wells. Go see this movie. Feel something.

I had so many favorite movies I watched in 2022 that I had to limit this whole list to movies that were also released in 2022.

Honorable mentions:

Petite Maman. Perfection, as I expected. Céline Sciamma gets more across in 72 minutes than most people do their whole lives.

Bones and All. Young cannibals in love, portrayed by Luca Guadagnino.. what more do you need?

Everything Everywhere All at Once. Just watch it.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (the movie). Just watch it.

Best book I read in 2022: Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by M. Mitchell Waldrop

This book is about a group of people who in the 80s got together to study a field that wasn't a known field but rather one they defined by discovering surprising parallels between observations in their respective fields in physics, biology, chemistry, computing, and economics: namely, complexity.

How exactly do you create a system of inputs that results in the kind of interesting behavior you see in something like Conway's Game of Life? If your inputs are too few or too orderly, the system quickly dies down and settles into a static state. If your inputs are too many or too chaotic, the system becomes endlessly dynamic but without any apparent patterns. But if your inputs are juuust right, you can end up with a system that's constantly changing, yet shows patterns, shows a balance of chaos and order, and kind of seems to have a life of its own.

When you put together a few extremely simple inputs or building blocks that have just the right traits, you can end up with something that's almost, well, alive. That's what this book is about.

Best practice/habit I developed in 2022: Using a separate bedside phone

I only get a new phone once every few years, and sometimes only when my current phone becomes literally unusable, so it's rare for me to get a new phone and have an old one that still works. But I got a new phone last month, while my old phone was annoying but usable. So I realized that I can use my old phone to solve my problem of looking at my phone too much right when I wake up, and also before sleep (a problem because it puts my head in the wrong space at these very anchoring moments of the day).

So my old phone now lives exclusively on my nightstand, connected to wifi with no cellular data and no SIM card or phone number, purely for the things I need when going to sleep and waking up: alarm clock and Spotify (with Bluetooth). It stays logged out of all messaging, social media, email. So I don't look at any of that stuff, sometimes not until I have my coffee in hand.

So far, it's been amazing and made such a difference in how I start each day. I spend my waking-up time remembering about my dreams; I think my random thoughts about faraway people. It's quiet in my head. At this point, if I didn't have a working second phone, I'd probably buy a cheap one just for this purpose.

Best purchase under $100: an RGB light strip

This is a staple of gamers' "battlestations" that it had never before occurred to me to acquire for myself. It's a cheap strip of lights that you can stick to the back of something (I have mine along the back edge of my desk) and for which you can change the color via an app, which creates an instant ambient light of your color of choice. It completely changes the experience of night coding. I now have mine on all the time when it's dark, often on a soft orange like a perpetual sunset, sometimes other colors depending on my mood or depending on what I'm watching on TV in the room. It makes me ridiculously happy every single day when it's time to turn the lights on.

Honorable mention for best purchase under $100: a humidifier

Growing up, in my family we never used a humidifier or dehumidifier for personal comfort. (Eventually the latter was purchased, but only to keep the house from getting moldy and losing property value.) I only discovered this concept because of how unbearably dry it is in the winter where I live now. It's the kind of thing that I feel would only really occur to someone who's comfortably in their 30s: when you're no longer busy having one crisis or another regarding rent, job, love, the meaning of life, etc, and have the bandwidth to realize that you can change the water content of the air around you. And that it would be worthwhile to do so. Through a little device that you have to water and clean regularly and keep it happily humming along, like a household pet.

Best purchase over $100: AirPods Pro

I have to include this because I love my AirPods even despite wanting to not love them. I've just been an AirPods (and wireless earbuds) holdout for.. my entire life.. but finally decided to give them a try early this year. And I just haven't looked back. They are uncannily good at knowing which device I want them to pair with, even when I have several devices in front of me, and they pair instantly without needing to be asked to, so it's easy to switch seamlessly between devices, and between earbuds and not-earbuds.

The biggest difference between the Pro and non-Pro—the noise cancellation—is my other favorite thing about them. Occasionally I like to make a friend try it out for the first time, just to see their reaction. All external noise pretty much disappears. Especially the constant SCREEECH and rattling of New York subways, and the dull roar of airplane engines, and a fair amount of other-people-talking as well. It goes HUSHHH on the outside world, which is indispensable for anyone who is easily overstimulated.

Is this kind of dangerous? Yes it is. Please look both/all ways when walking around with noise cancellation on. What's that you said?—Sorry I have the noise cancellation on and I can't hear you over my Taylor Swift.

See you in 2023!