January 1, 2020
Where 2018 seemed to last an eternity, 2019 just whizzed on by. It was a pretty good year! Here are some of the highlights:
We had a baby! Ryan Wyatt Aparicio was born on January 31, 2019. He is just the best. Such a fun, chill baby. Everyone who meets him is amazed how calm he is. And those cheeks. The first thing out of people's mouth is always, "LOOK AT THOSE CHEEKS!"
It's been a crash-course in fatherhood for me and I've loved every minute of it. Allie is a great mom and her experience raising Joe and being a teacher has been invaluable. It's been amazing watching him grow and develop his personality. It's like each week he's a different person. I already miss who he was last week but I'm eager to see what he'll be like the next. (You can find more Ryan pics on my Instagram.)
I went to Texas. Twice. We took the boys to Dallas for a weekend this summer. Joe, a huge baseball fan, wanted to see the Rangers play at Global Life Park, as they'll be playing in a new stadium next season. Allie and I, not being huge baseball fans, took the time to eat. We had some amazing barbecue at Pecan Lodge. It was probably the best BBQ we've had in our lives. Holy hell. I'd highly recommend it.
I also had the chance to meet my friend Scott and his family in person. Scott and I met playing Destiny and we met up in Dallas for an amazing breakfast.
I also traveled by myself to Austin for Artifact Conference, which was held at the Alamo Drafthouse — a great venue for a conference. I enjoyed all of the talks and even played some basketball with Dan Mall, Brad Frost and a bunch of other people from the conference. It was my first time doing any kind of cardio since my AFib in December 2018 and I was also wearing Chuck Taylor's. Needless to say, it was not my finest performance. I had a lot of fun and it motivated me to at least consider getting back in the gym.
I had some great food in Austin, too. I'd really like to go back to Texas and just eat at a bunch of places. We may not always agree politically, but dammit, you Texans sure make a mean fucking brisket.
We raised over $5,000 for Extra Life. This year we did our sixth Extra Life gaming marathon to raise money for Lurie Children's Hospital in Olivia's honor. We set an ambitious goal of $4,000, which was more than the record we set the previous year. I was skeptical that we would meet our goal but, once again, the generosity of our friends and family, co-workers, and complete strangers completely blew me away. To date, we've raised close to $19,000 to help sick children at Lurie. A huge thank you to those of you who donated!
I gave a talk at University of Illinois. It was pretty surreal returning to Champaign, where I briefly attended U of I before flunking out and ended up living there for four years anyway. The conference was somewhat small but the talk was well received. Like an idiot I left my laptop there and didn't realize it until I got home. Fortunately a kind sponsor drove it back home with them to Chicago and I was able to retrieve it.
On one hand, I'd like to try and pursue more speaking engagements. On the other hand, it requires a lot of preparation and I'm always unsure whether what I have to say on a topic is unique enough to stand out in a crowded field of industry talks.
Things I loved in 2019
2019 was not a particularly great year for movies. Many of the best movies I've seen this year came out within the last few months. As usual, I made a list of my favorite films of the year on Letterboxd. (There's still at least five 2019 movies that are in theaters that could still crack the list.) Here are a few that left a strong impression on me:
The Last Black Man in San Francisco A remarkable debut film by director Joe Talbot. It captured me from its opening frame with its truly unique style. Loosely based on the experience of the film's star, Jimmie Fails, as he and his friend Mont try to reclaim Jimmie's childhood Victorian home in gentrified San Francisco. This film stuck with me all year.
Parasite Director Bong Joon-ho's darkly comedic thriller about a family of grifters insinuating their way into a wealthy family's home is the best of a number of films this year tackling the theme of rich vs. poor. Parasite is a high-wire act, deftly crossing many different genres. Director Bong's finest film to date.
The Lighthouse This is the most bat-shit insane movie I saw all year. Director Robert Egger's follow-up to The Witch stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as two lighthouse keepers slowly going mad on a New England island in the 1890s. Shot in black and white and in an almost square aspect ratio, you can feel the claustrophobia of being trapped with these two characters. Knockout performances from both Pattinson and Dafoe.
The Farewell I loved this film, written and directed by Lulu Wang, about a family who reunites in China to say goodbye to their dying grandmother, without her knowing that she's dying. The Farewell features a really great ensemble cast, led by Awkwafina. Her character, a Chinese-American writer, struggles to reconcile her American upbringing with her Chinese roots as the family tries to keep their matriarch from learning the truth behind their reunion.
The Art of Self-Defense This truly bizarre dark comedy from Riley Stearns, stars Jesse Eisenberg as Casey, a milquetoast (I love that word) who signs up for karate classes after being assaulted. Alessandro Nivola plays his sensei, who takes Casey down a dark path. I loved the stilted dialogue of this movie and its twisted commentary on masculinity. I can't imagine another actor other than Eisenberg in this role. One of the more underrated performances of the year.
Honorable Mention: Atlantics, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Midsommar, Dolemite is My Name.
It was another great year for television. So many good new shows came out and many old favorites continued to shine. I've already written at length about my love for Netflix's Dark, which remains my favorite show on television. But here are a few more worth checking out:
Chernobyl (HBO) This limited series was absolutely riveting. Knowing the outcome, if not all of the details, it was absolutely dreadful watching these characters make horrible decision after horrible decision, leading to one of the worst disasters of our time. And the aftermath and government cover-up resonated with our current government's aversion to truth.
Watchmen (HBO) Though I read the graphic novel and watched 2009 film, I didn't have a deep attachment to Watchmen. This new take on Watchmen, by Lost and The Leftovers co-creator Damon Lindelof, fast-forwards to the present day, where white nationalism has eclipsed the cold war as the defining issue of our time. I loved how they played with time in this show, and how it subverted the superhero genre in various ways. Regina King, Jean Smart and Hong Chau delivered excellent performances in this delightfully female-centric show.
The Mandalorian (Disney+) A welcome respite from the never-ending Skywalker saga, with not a Death Star in sight. I loved the small scale of this show and its format, a throwback to the wandering hero shows of my childhood, such as The Incredible Hulk and Kung Fu. Every show these days tries to one-up the next with complex, serialized narratives and twists. The Mandalorian is a love letter to a simpler time. Plus, how could you not love Baby Yoda?
The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu) My wife and I really enjoyed the third season of this dystopian drama. This season got some mixed reviews but we found it to be harrowing and completely riveting. It's pretty amazing the amount of world-building they're able to do on this show with what seems like a pretty limited budget. We're looking forward to seeing how they wrap this story up.
I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (Netflix) This new sketch comedy show completely blew me away. Every sketch is aggressively funny. The show's characters constantly commit social faux pas and then double-down on their choices in a hopeless attempt to save face.
Deadwood: The Movie/El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie I had to throw these two movies in the TV section. Who would have thought when these two excellent shows ended that many years later we'd get to revisit the characters, with nearly all of the casts returning? Though neither movie topped the highs of their respective shows, it was such a treat to return to these worlds. I hope more beloved shows follow suit.
Honorable Mention: Barry (HBO), Fleabag (Amazon), Terrace House (Netflix), Big Mouth (Netflix).
A large chunk of my gaming time was spent, as usual, on Destiny 2 and NBA 2k. But a new game, Slay the Spire, completely sucked me in this year. I wrote about how it took over my life during my paternity leave. Here's a few more games that I really enjoyed this year:
NBA 2k20 I have a love/hate relationship with this series. (In fact, I've had a 10,000 word blog post about it sitting in my drafts for months.) This year's edition added a couple of new features that really elevated it from past iterations. First, they revamped their badge system, in which players are assigned tiered (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Hall of Fame) abilities which add to their uniqueness outside of just their statistical ratings.
Second, MyTeam — the card-collecting mode — added Evolution players, where you get a lower rated player (think a rookie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and you can increase his ratings and abilities by completing various objectives, like scoring 1,000 points.
These features added a new dimension of replayability and I've had a hard time tearing myself away from NBA 2k long enough to give other games a fair shake, including Destiny 2's latest expansion.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order This is probably the first Star Wars game I've enjoyed since X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter (1997)! It's basically a mashup of Dark Souls and Uncharted/Tomb Raider, which is right up my alley. I enjoyed the set pieces, puzzles, and combat even if it doesn't quite match the games that inspired it. There's nothing more fun then sending a Stormtrooper flying off a cliff with your Force powers.
Fire Emblem Three Houses The latest entry in this turn-based combat series took me awhile to get into, but once it finally clicked, I was hooked. One of the unique things about Fire Emblem is how it gets you to care about your soldiers by giving them personalities and having you form bonds between them. You really get to know the characters and become attached to them, making it all the more sad when you get them killed.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare I used to love the Call of Duty series until the team that made the original Modern Warfare left to start their own company and made Titanfall (which is amazing). Since then, Call of Duty has been trying to ape Titanfall by moving into the future and incorporating (read: stealing) Titanfall features like wall-running and double jumping. This reboot of Modern Warfare goes back to basics combat-wise and serves up a really compelling campaign.
I only briefly dipped into multiplayer, where the fast kill times and ridiculous kill streaks left me wondering what I ever enjoyed about Call of Duty's PvP. After years of playing Destiny and Battlefield, it just seems dated now.
Resident Evil 2 This reboot of the PlayStation classic was a blast to play. The gameplay mechanics feel clunky by today's standards (and probably did back then, to be honest), but the pacing of the game and the tension it creates are really something special. It looks and feels like a modern game, while delivering all of the scares and fun of the original.
I didn't include this section last year, but wanted to highlight a few podcasts I started listening to this year.
The Big Picture I added a bunch of podcasts from The Ringer to my rotation this year, but The Big Picture is my favorite. Sean Fennessey and Amanda Dobbins discuss new releases and the awards races. Nearly every episode, Sean interviews an actor or director about their experience and process in conversations that I find incredibly fascinating.
The Rewatchables Each episode, various staff members from The Ringer discuss the merits of a movie they find endlessly re-watchable. There's a big difference between a re-watchable movie and a good movie. Sometimes a movie can be both, but not always. This podcast led me to watch some great movies I hadn't seen (The Talented Mr. Ripley) and some I wish I hadn't seen (Den of Thieves — sorry Daanish).
Culturally Relevant The latest podcast from prolific podcaster Dave Chen (The Slashfilmcast, Cast of Kings, The Tobolowski Files) features one-on-one interviews with an eclectic range of authors, actors, directors and more. I especially enjoyed his interview with author Jayson Greene, on his book Once More We Saw Stars, in which Jayson writes about the experience of losing his young daughter, which obviously resonated with me. This podcast opened my eyes to new media and new perspectives and I highly recommend it.
Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend Each week Conan interviews a celebrity guest in hopes of turning their acquaintance into an actual friendship. I really enjoyed getting to know Conan through his interviews, as he shared his insecurities and a darker sense of humor than what you usually see on his show. I also love his rapport with his assistant, Sona, and producer, Matt.
Unspooled Actor Paul Scheer and film critic Amy Nicholson watch and dissect every movie in the AFI's Top 100 movies of all time. I love Paul and Amy's enthusiasm for film. Their discussions of the merits of each film and whether it deserves its place in the list are great. I tried to keep up with watching the movies but fell behind pretty quickly. Happy to say I've watched 50 of the 100 so far!
Looking forward to in 2020
Reconnecting with people. I feel like as I've gotten older, I've drifted apart from a lot of my friends. Maybe that's just a part of getting older. We all have families now and better shit to do than sit around drinking and shooting the shit. I'd like to at least take a crack and meeting up now and again, getting lunch and catching up with people. It's easy with social media to think we know what's going on in everyone's life and so we don't reach out as much anymore. There's always so much more going on than what we post in our curated online worlds.
Advancing my career. I wrote about how I was feeling a bit restless last year, and I still am. Though I don't think a career change is in the cards, I'd at least like to do more than just building websites. This year I've been working on our design system, which has required a lot more planning, research, and educating than previous years. I'd like to push myself to do more than just what I'm comfortable doing, whether that's at Groupon or someplace else.
Trying to make EVEN BETTER use of my time. Last year, I wrote about how I wanted to make better use of my time in 2019 and, as you can imagine, it didn't quite turn out the way I had planned. I did have a stretch at the beginning of the year where I was taking better care of myself but I slowly fell back into my old, sedentary ways. I'm going to try and get back into that mode with a renewed focus on learning new skills and being healthy.
Blogging more. I set a goal when I redesigned the blog to write at least one post a month. I started off 2019 strong but my writing really tapered off in the second half of the year. I'd like to try and hit that goal in 2020, with more writing about design systems and the pop culture things I'm loving. Is there something in particular you'd like to see me write about? Let me know!
We're going on a cruise. My in-laws are celebrating their 50th anniversary next year and so my mother-in-law is taking the whole family on a Disney cruise next summer to celebrate. I've never been on a cruise before and I've heard good things about Disney's cruises, in particular. It should be a fun getaway, even if she forces us all to dress like pirates.
I'm turning 45. Okay, I'm not really looking forward to this, but it's a thing that is happening. It's pretty disheartening to think that I might have more time behind me than ahead of me but I have a lot to be thankful for and I'm looking forward to what the future holds.
Trump not being President. This has to happen one way or another, right? I don't even have a strong preference for his replacement right now. I really just want to go back to not having to hear from or about the President on a daily basis. It's just so exhausting.
Thanks for taking the time to read this! I hope you have a great 2020!