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[personal profile] rinue
2014. 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?

We moved to Italy; specifically to Pescara, in Abruzzo. I'd never been to Abruzzo before, and hadn't been to Italy since I was 9. It's the first year I've been remotely functional in a language that isn't English, although I still have a long way to go to reach the kind of fluency that lets you hold a normal conversation.

I also made forays into a visual language: emoticon. I got my first smartphone almost exclusively so I could engage in the long text conversations tnat are today's main long-distance communication, and sometimes the messages I send go [confetti] [wine glass] [big smile].

I became a regular contributor to The Billfold; one piece I wrote for them (futurist guide to retirement planning) was favorably discussed in the New York Times editorial blog, and another (value of a stamp) was recommended by the editors of Medium. I also started writing for Atlas Obscura, which I've been reading since before internet 2.0 existed. I'm still not making much money through writing, if you're curious, partly because I've been focusing on prestige stuff and/or magazines for which I have a personal affection. This year, around $600, although I'm owed another $200 that hasn't come in yet.

My publications:
(fiction)
Every Hand A Winner (Farrago's Wainscot)
The Eggshell Curtain (reprint, Daughters of Frankenstein, ed. Steve Berman)
Unattached Metaphors (The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts)
(poetry)
Counter Rant and People Yelling In German (Punchnel's)
Splinter Song (Liminality)
(essay)
The $500 Wedding: An Assessment (The Billfold)
A Futurist Vision of Retirement Planning (The Billfold)
DIYing a Second Language (The Billfold)
The Trouble With Being Scrooge (The Billfold)
The Sex-Obsessed Poet Who Invented Fascism (Atlas Obscura)
The Complicated Costs of Marrying a Dual Citizen (The Billfold)
The Value of Having a Piece of Paper with an Official Stamp (The Billfold)
Enough Tacos to Get a Spaceship Past Neptune: Small-Time Dreams for 2016 (The Billfold)

My SF microfiction concern postorbital is up to 234 followers, and occasionally has influence disproportionate to its size. Somebody (I think an undergrad) wrote an academic paper about it.

With filmmaking, nothing's been in production, but I pitched a TV show to a German production company, which I definitely haven't done before. (They passed, but my collaborator and I are going to try shopping it around a little more.) I'm in talks to screenwrite something for another director, which is also new. And I've hooked up with a small Italian production company that mostly makes animated ads (to pay the rent); I'm helping them with English translations.

I started tying my shoelaces with a surgeon's knot; up to this point, I've used granny knots and double knots, and they came untied at least once an hour. I knew there had to be a better way, but since I mostly wear slip-on or buckle shoes, I wasn't highly motivated to learn it. However, I finally sat down with a video and practiced, and now my shoes stay sorted. Like magic.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't make any resolutions, unless you count that I intended to move to Italy and then did. This year, I have a lot of pre-sold writing stuff that I need to actually write, and some fiction which I've let fall by the wayside that I need to wrap up. I'd like to have another feature script (about a castle siege) finished by summer, and hopefully be in a position to start pitching it to investors.

But my major goal is that by the end of the year I'd like to be making $400/month from writing. Presumably, this will happen a lot sooner than before the end of the year, since I'm already halfway there and the only thing that's been stopping me is lack of time, not lack of buyers. The dream is that I make closer to $7000 in 2016 and can pay off my student loans once and for all - which doesn't seem impossible, but doesn't seem certain either, partly because I'm figuring out how to balance the stuff that isn't guaranteed to pay (my weirdo fiction projects) with stuff that pays but I don't take seriously as art (comedic personal essays which plenty of people like, but which feel like cheating because I'm not making them up and will therefore presumably run out of material).

And obviously I have to get better at Italian and pass various citizenship exams. Which means I need to know a lot more about Italian civics and history than I currently know. (I know a lot for an American, but not much for an Italian.)



3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Two of Ciro's cousins (who are brothers) both had babies. I have met one of them, but she was asleep at the time.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My co-worker Bill Udler, who I admired greatly, died unexpectedly of cancer which he'd kept hidden. (It was unexpected to him, too, even though he knew he had cancer. Treatment was going well and then suddenly wasn't.) He was incredible. I can't imagine working at NCI without him there, because he was the one who made everything work, who had always made everything work. When hurricanes struck simultaneously in six places, he was the guy who made sure there were captions going out in all of them, and also the one who made sure any individual captioner was protected from overwork or something that would emotionally exhaust them. I would be proud to have had his life. I'm sad it's over. I wrote this epitaph about it.

My cousin Kerry committed suicide sometime on New Year's Eve. (Scarlett's older brother, Uncle Rex's stepson.) It's hard to know whether it was 2015 yet, but I'm inclined to think it was, since he was still alive at around 10 or 11pm. It was a strange situation emotionally, because he'd been suicidal for a while, but not in such a way that we could have committed him, because he wasn't making actual attempts; he was suicidal not in a "cry for help" way of wanting to show that he felt like dying, but suicidal like it was obvious without his having to say so that he was hoping to no longer be alive soon.

His suicide felt like someone dying of a chronic illness, or maybe getting lung cancer when they smoked for 50 years. Like we'd all just been waiting, grieving the whole time for what we knew we couldn't stop. I'd known Kerry since he was 11 maybe? (I don't remember how much older than me he was.) He was always sad. I don't exactly mean depressed, although yes depressed, but I've known plenty of depressed people who have sometimes been happy. Even when Kerry was happy, he was miserable. I think the only person he felt comfortable with was his best friend, who hung himself earlier in the year. So then it got to be New Year's, and I guess Kerry looked around and thought, I miss my best friend. And he went out to the back yard.

5. What countries did you visit?

Just the U.S. and Italy. I had a plane transfer in Ireland, but that's not really visiting. Ciro had a longer stopover in Turkey that allowed him to actually exit the airport for a few minutes.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

A permesso di soggiorno that will allow me to be part of the Italian health system. A clearer sense of what my taxes will look like as a US non-resident citizen who still works for US companies. It's all paperwork stuff, really, and I'll probably have most of it by the end of January.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

August 26 is when I left the U.S.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Obviously, the move is something Ciro and I had been working toward for 5-8 years, depending on when you start counting. It took that long for all the pieces to fall into place. But the thing I've really found exciting is that, in general, once I was ready to participate in things (after a few years of being a hermit), there was space for me and my skills hadn't atrophied. I thought "ok, I have time now to start writing for these publications I like," and the pitches were accepted immediately. I thought "ok, make some friends now," and pretty instantly had a full social calendar. That's how I'd anticipated it would work, but you never know until it works.

Professionally, I got the most notice, probably correctly, for the futurist retirement piece (which, side note, I'm one of very few contemporary women who claims the mantle "futurist") and "Every Hand A Winner." I was really, really glad to finally find a home for that, and for "Unattached Metaphors." They're fiction I'm very proud of, but were not stories that immediately suggested obvious markets. It took a lot of searching (and a lot of rejections) to find places that could embrace them.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I think I'm doing pretty well, to be honest. As I have recently observed in a comments section, I am still not very good at making eggplant, even though I try. I use all the tricks, I promise. I think I'm just bad at eyeballing how much oil I need (or don't).

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Head colds almost constantly. A couple bouts of stomach flu.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I started wearing a wristwatch, which is something I've spent 35 years not doing. When I was 18-20, I had those watches that clipped to your belt, but otherwise I've always looked for a clock, looked at my cell phone, or just estimated. Although I wear a lot of rings and a lot of necklaces, bracelets bug me. I own a lot of them, because in theory I like them, but I have little wrists and I gesture a lot, and I get tired of things sliding up and down or else digging into my skin. Or sliding up and down until they reach the point where they dig into my skin. Watches fell into this category.

However, for the last several months I've been wearing a purple plastic watch, which I wear fairly high on my forearm, on top of my sleeve or sleeves. (It's winter. I'm layering.) It's been amazingly convenient, this being able to check the time without having to move. I don't know whether the watch will accompany me through the summer months or be purely a cold weather accessory, but it's given me considerable pleasure.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I've been annoyed with the German government for the last several years because I haven't agreed with their eurozone policies (and particularly Wolfgang Schäuble's behavior toward Greece. Typically, when I say I'm annoyed with Germany, what I actually mean is Wolfgang Schäuble.) But I've been awed by their refugee policies this year. They've accepted more than a million people fleeing the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and have moved heaven and earth to do it. Italy's been on the side of the gods too, with a large number of naval rescues.

There are at least 22 million people who can't go home right now because their homes are now war zones; that's a conservative estimate. If 21 more countries could follow Germany's example, imagine the pain and death that would be averted.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Let's say that I'm following the rhetoric from Trump supporters fairly closely.

Something I've thought about a lot in the last few weeks is how quickly a government or a culture can change, even without a civil war or coup. For instance, before 20 years ago, Israel had a mostly secular European-like Labor majority government. The last 20 years, dominated by religious conservatives; liberals are now less than 15% of the electorate, and there's no reason to think that will change soon. Somebody who grew up in Israel 30 years ago literally grew up in a different culture, one almost antithetical to the one that exists now.

In 2001, when the U.S. reacted to the Twin Tower attacks by launching a major war, militarizing the police, creating Homeland Security, passing the Patriot Act, opening Guantanamo Bay, becoming torturers, and flagrantly violating established international law, I looked at the jingoism the country was leaning into, especially in bumper-sticker Texas, and I thought (and said at the time), "this is it. My America is over and is not going to come back. My country no longer exists in a form I can recognize as home."

Later on, I walked back on that idea. I thought, "nah, you're overreacting. A lot of the things you perceive as strange probably aren't, and others are probably being walked back." I started to think that maybe what I had actually felt in 2001 was my impending graduation from college and entry into the "real world" of adulthood. Maybe those ideas I'd had about America and what it meant had been things that only existed for children.

And then, for instance, Obama was elected, which seemed to be a clear statement that, no, we're turning the page on all that. And other great stuff happened, like we finally recognized gay marriage, and passed a health plan (which is deeply flawed, but still something after so many years of nothing).

But I don't know anymore that I wasn't right in 2001. The anti-Muslim stuff scares me. The police brutality scares me. Endless expensive warmongering doesn't seem to have slowed down at all, or to have a point to it. The bombing of the MSF hospital and subsequent coverup attempt makes me feel hollowed out. It's strange to be in the place where I'm constantly thinking "America is dead" and simultaneously thinking "no you're just being dramatic and naieve."

14. Where did most of your money go?

The move. Specifically, since we don't have a rental history in Italy, we had to pay the entire year's rent up front. So all the savings that were supposed to smooth out the first six months, no. They're in the account of our landlords.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I don't really do that? But I've been extremely satisfied with the window shades throughout Italy. They make rooms dark. Really dark. Totally dark. The kind of dark I have always wanted to be able to create even at high noon.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?

"Take Me to Church" by Hozier. I don't own it. It came out in 2013. But it was everywhere, constantly on the radio, constantly the muzak of every store in two countries. During the first week I was in Pescara, when we hadn't moved into our apartment yet and were still getting utilities switched on, I guess the hotel had a mix CD they played during breakfast service, and the time I woke up meant I arrived each morning at exactly the right time for "Take Me to Church." Every morning.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Happier.

ii. thinner or fatter?

Thinner, but about the same weight. That's a guess based on how I look in the mirror and how I feel on my feet; my bathroom scale didn't travel with me, and since I don't have a clothes dryer I can't use the "how my clothes fit" metric because "looser" may only mean "weren't heat shrunk."

iii. richer or poorer?

Poorer. We're currently making around $1200 per month (take home) instead of $2200 (take home). Our cost of living is low enough that it's an amount we can live on, but it does mean we're not putting anything into savings or anything extra into loans. Presumably this is our income nadir and we make more as we roll into January and both of us don't have so many work interruptions (for paperwork, for travel, for illness).

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

With all the colds, my throat has been pretty raw, so I haven't been able to sing much. Which is particularly rough because it's one of the most mood-stabilizing things I do.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Staying up too late hoping I'd find something cool on the internet that would allow me to feel a sense of satiation regarding the internet. Which is not what the internet does or is ever going to do.

20. How did you spend the holidays?

Thanksgiving was in Massachusetts with my parents (though Ciro stayed in Italy for work); and while I was there, we celebrated Christmas on December 5 (St. Nicholas Day). Actual Christmas was low key and in the apartment in Pescara. New Year's Eve, we went to a party in Chieti. There were too few of us to make the traditional Italian many courses of fish for Christmas practical, but for the New Year we did eat many lentils and grapes, and dance through a lot of bursting balloons and sparkly paper.

23. What was your favorite TV program?

Silicon Valley, hands down. Season one was good. Season two was genius. I can't think of a comedy that's made me laugh harder.

Otherwise, my shows are Drunk History and Nashville, the later of which I watch at least partly as an excuse to read the Vulture recaps by Max Weiss. Lately, I've been watching old episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks while playing Spider Solitaire, to flaunt to myself that I'm on holiday.

I've enjoyed both seasons of Serial. It's not a TV show, but there's not a seperate space for podcasts. I've also been liking Starlee Kine's Mystery Show. The episode of This American Life about desegregation made my heart fall out of my chest.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Not particularly. The people who were horrible before are still horrible.

More notable is who/what fell off the hate list: IKEA. It's still not my favorite place in the world, but I don't mind it any more. I'm even a bit fond. It's probably a combination of exposure (I have by now been to enough IKEAs in enough places that I find them easy to navigate) and my preference for Italian crowds instead of American crowds. Italians are better at sharing communal space than Americans, but more importantly, they're physically smaller. In the U.S., I fall smack in the middle of the height distribution, which means half of the people around me are taller than I am. In Abruzzo, I'm as tall or taller than at least 80% of the people I run across. When a crowd doesn't block your sightlines at all, it's much less intimidating.

I still find the commissary mostly unpalatable. But I like the broad selection of LED lights, a technology I find wondrous.

25. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot of good books this year, but the best of them was probably Into Thin Air by Jon Krackauer. It's probably the best first-person account of a disaster I've ever read. (The other contendor is Scott's antarctic diaries.) Other highlights were Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenedes), Amerikanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), and The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt). From Best American Poetry 2014, "Story Problem" by Kiki Petrosino, which I've re-read at least a dozen times. It was originally published in The Baffler, so you can read it here.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?



Public Service Broadcasting is a British electronica duo who released an album called The Race For Space which samples audio from the Apollo program.

Other bands I've recently discovered are Sylvan Esso, Dengue Fever, and Vitas

27. What did you want and get?

I was pretty sure I was going to have to head back to the States for a while, just when I'd settled in, for visa reasons, but it turns out EU law is pretty forgiving when you're married to a citizen.

28. What did you want and not get?

I was robbed and it was dumb, and I'm still mad about it. On the trip over to Italy, I was extremely clear with all the members of my party that of all the luggage, there were only two bags whose contents were irreplaceable - my purse and camera bag. Eyes on them at all times. At all times. They are never set down. Several times on the trip, people told me to calm down about it and for instance feel okay about leaving them on the luggage rack of the train. No. Definitely no.

The one second when I was called away to check in at the hotel in Rome, and I allowed someone not-me to keep eyes on the bags? Stolen. Just those two bags. Just the two important ones, which contained all my most sentimentally important posessions in the world: my dead grandfather's tie pin, a necklace from a place in Syria that's almost certainly been bombed out of existence, a WWII gas mask bag that was my main memento of film school, the glass pen I've written with since I was a tween, the good-luck beaded shrimp that reminded me of my dead aunt? Gone. My passport was forunately in my hands and my citizenship documents were in another bag. I was given reimbursement money more than double the estimated worth of what was lost, but irreplaceable is irreplaceable.

However, more than missing the actual objects, the reason I'm still angry is essentially "I told you so." My parents and Ciro tend to nobly convince themselves that I'm high strung rather than somebody with an accurate perception of risk, even though by training and history...I have an extremely accurate perception of risk. I would rather just relax. I would also rather maintain a state of high alert for 20 hours and then not have it be totally wasted the second I hand off.

If you're curious, I was told again to relax about bags a couple of days later, and another of my bags was left on a train platform because someone else was taking care of it. It was the bag with all my underwear in it. I got that one back, though.

29. What was your favorite film this year?

I haven't seen much that came out this year. I suspect I'm going to be behind on films for a while, since not a lot plays original-language here and I don't like dubbing. I'm pretty sure that my favorite movie of 2015 is down in that "still want to see" category.

watched and liked: Jupiter Ascending, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road

watched and disliked: Fathers and Daughters

currently sitting in a cue to be viewed within days: Inherent Vice, Two Days One Night

still want to see: Carol (Haynes), Sicario (love Emily Blunt), Youth (Sorrentino), Macbeth, Beasts of No Nation (Fukunaga), Bridge of Spies (written by Coens), The Big Short (love Michael Lewis), The Hateful Eight (Tarantino), Grandma (Lily Tomlin), Spotlight (newspaper drama), The Forbidden Room (Maddin), Tale of Tales (gorgeous fantasy movie with Selma Hayek and Vincent Cassel), The Look of Silence (obviously), The Seven Five

caught up on from 2014: Frank, Noah, 22 Jump Street, of which Frank was my favorite, kind of obviously since I own basically everything Jon Ronson's ever published.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was ill or recovering from illness; I can't quite remember. Both Ciro and I were terribly sick and couldn't do much other than vomit. By sheer luck, my parents were in town and able to do things like bring us water. We therefore celebrated several days later, with cake and ready-made food, our first meal in the new apartment (where the utilities weren't all on yet). Mom bought me a very mod minidress. I turned 35.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Well, I've been editing this book by Val that I promised myself I'd be done with by New Year. Before that, I promised myself I would be done by Thanksgiving. Before that, I thought before I left for Italy. I am currently about halfway through. It is my George R.R. Martin edit. I am so sympathetic to that man now. I want so much to be through with it, and I am so unable to go any faster.

There is also a coat rack which has not been attached to the wall. It has not been attached to the wall for at least two months. I need to borrow or buy an electric drill.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?

Classic American sportswear, primary colors mixed with jewel tones. A lot of corduroy and denim. Flats. Stripes. Skulls. Op Art. Cardigans. A particular magenta flannel shirt I wear all the time. Hair that has gotten progressively shorter throughout the year. Minimal makeup with a slight emerald cat eye and a bold lip. A few people have called the combination Audrey Hepburn-like, but I don't see it.

33. What kept you sane?

Rosetta Stone, oddly enough. Not in any kind of functional "because I am doing so much better at understanding Italian" - sure, that's happening, but that's not really relevant. I find the program itself calming, kind of like doing finger exercises. I'm nearly done with the entire course, and I'm considering redoing it not because this is a good way to improve my language skills (probably not, probably would do better devoting that time to other forms of practice rather than redoing beginner drills) but because what am I going to do without my RS fix? (No, not learn another language. I need to stick with this one until I have it.)

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I don't think I had any new crushes. I agree with the internet in general that I would be the most impressed with myself if I were dating Lupita Nyong'o.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Middle east refugees. Which is tied up with climate change. I also care about gun control, voting rights, police brutality and lack of culpability, minimum wage, labor law violations by "sharing economy" companies, and an end to tipping as primary compensation. Basically, if you read the Democratic party platform, it represents my outlook.

36. Who did you miss?

It's a drag that my parents aren't here, and Rex, and my friends from Dallas (especially Tom, who is not great at long distance but is one of my favorite people). On the other hand, I'm hanging out with Val constantly on WhatsApp, to the extent that she feels like an extra roommate who lives in my pocket. It's wonderful.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

Gabriella is the main one, but there's a second Gabriella (G2) who is a corporate lawyer and arty free spirit, and Daniela who is a local film director. I've also been gradually meeting Ciro's relatives: so far, my favorites are Antonella and Rosella. I also like Antonio's girlfriend, Manuela. I've met a lot of other people. I've met a lot of people.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.

I continue to do my best work mostly by pretending nobody's going to notice it. Which in some cases they don't until much later. I've also - I don't know that this is a lesson exactly, but I've decided that since I'm in d'Annunzio's city I will render what I believe would be his judgments about the things named after him. This is delightfully entertaining and I recommend it.

39. Quote a song that sums up your year:

dreaming of a new land
where the rivers wind through the villages
and the people breathe so easily
all the region trees go the same way
don't have to go
i know you know you know
but if you gotta go
whoa-oh
safe travels

"Safe Travels" by Peter and the Wolf

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-03 12:44 am (UTC)
knaveofstaves: A picture of an interpretation of the Knight of Wands Tarot card featuring the Egyptian God Thoth (Default)
From: [personal profile] knaveofstaves
As it is impossible to fully convey tone through text, let me explain that the following is asked without judgement, that the pitch and inflection if spoken aloud would reflect mild curiosity:

Jupiter Ascending? Really?

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-03 04:25 pm (UTC)
knaveofstaves: A picture of an interpretation of the Knight of Wands Tarot card featuring the Egyptian God Thoth (Default)
From: [personal profile] knaveofstaves
In hindsight it is not.

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rinue

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