SwanShadow Gives Thanks, Volume 18: Emerging From the Silo Edition

So, yeah… this pandemic has been, and continues to be, a thing.

But here we are. A year ago, we were all pretty much locked down, shut in, and wondering if or when we would ever be able to resume some semblance of normal life. Today, we’re several months into having effective anti-COVID vaccines available — many of us have already received both initial doses, plus a booster — which have facilitated at least some measure of mobility.

At our house, having everyone vaccinated meant enjoying the in-person Thanksgiving dinner with close family that would have been unthinkable last year. The Pirate Queen and I were able to take the Hawaiian vacation we’d had to postpone for a year and a half. And I got to see the two most recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films — Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals — in an actual movie theater. I would not have believed how much I would treasure such experiences, until they were snatched away.

None of that erases the fact that more Americans died from COVID-19 this calendar year than last, or that millions of people both here and abroad continue to suffer from the consequences of this plague.

But I’m thankful for the progress that we’ve made.

As always, my Thanksgiving list of gratitude is topped by loved ones — the Pirate Queen, The Daughter, and The Daughter’s family, which expanded by one in April. The Little Dude is a genuine delight, and is as adorable as it’s possible for an infant human to be. I wish I had a better world to welcome him into. But it is what it is.

Without further folderol, then, here’s this year’s A-Z sampling of people and things for which I’m grateful this Thanksgiving season. As is our tradition in this space, this list is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather a kind of synecdoche (look it up) standing in for the countless reasons I have to give thanks.

Thus, in November 2021, I’m thankful for:

Adobe Audition. I’ve toyed for years with the notion of upgrading my digital audio workstation (a technical term for “recording software”) from freeware to something more professional. Even though I’ve had extensive experience engineering with Audition in a studio setting, I hesitated to replace the familiar and comfortable Audacity (which I was using long before I got into pro voiceover work) in my home environment. This year, I pushed myself to make the switch. My only regret is that I didn’t do it ages ago.

Brandon, Buster, and Belt. My beloved San Francisco Giants returned to playoff form with a 107-victory season in 2021, with the Three-B Triumvirate of veterans leading the way. Shortstop Brandon Crawford not only earned his fourth Gold Glove, but also finished fourth in the National League MVP voting with a career-best offensive campaign. First baseman Brandon Belt blasted 29 home runs despite a couple of significant injury absences. Catcher Buster Posey capped a stellar career — he announced his retirement at season’s end — by winning the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

The Chase. What I was NDA-bound not to reveal in last Thanksgiving’s list became clear in January, when I added a few seconds to my 15 minutes of TV quiz show fame (I say, “fame,” as though I were actually famous) with a successful appearance on ABC’s revival of The Chase. My teammate Daniel and I managed to outrace Jeopardy! superstar James Holzhauer to split a bankroll of $325K. Although it aired this year, our episode actually taped in November 2020 under strict COVID protocols.

Dr. Strange. He’s guest-starring in the third MCU Spider-Man film next month. He entered my statue gallery earlier this year. I’m wearing his T-shirt as I type this post.

Everything bagels. Not literally “everything,” but still, a savory flavor combination that’s hard to resist. So popular that you can now get “everything” seasoning on dozens of other foods, or even just by itself you that you can apply it to your own creations. There’s a bottle in my spice rack.

Fandango. It was pleasant to return to the cinema after nearly two years, with the ubiquitous movie-ticket app making the admission process contact-free. Also pleasant: being able to see how many other tickets had been sold in advance for each performance, to have a sense of how crowded (or not) the theater might be.

The Gospel According to Luke. I’ve read a fair number of rock star bios and memoirs in recent years, but none I’ve enjoyed more than this one by longtime Toto guitarist Steve Lukather. In addition to his decades-spanning Toto run, Luke has played hundreds of sessions behind other music legends — everyone from Michael Jackson (that’s Luke playing the non-Eddie Van Halen guitar parts on “Beat It”) to Elton John, from Aretha Franklin to Boz Scaggs, from Stevie Nicks to Chaka Khan. But I was surprised to learn just how deep his backing credits run. That’s Luke on Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me”? On “Talk to Ya Later” by the Tubes? On Spinal Tap’s “Break Like the Wind”? Who knew?

Haiku. A mere three brief lines. Just seventeen syllables. Poetic word art.

Insecure. Issa Rae’s groundbreaking HBO series about a young African-American woman navigating life with her circle of friends and lovers is currently in its final season. It’s impossible to overstate the power of seeing Black people on television leading authentic lives and dealing with everyday relationship complexities that always feel real. I’ll miss Issa, Molly (played by the sublime Yvonne Orji), and their crew, and I’ll look forward to seeing what Ms. Rae brings to the table next.

Jodie Whittaker. Speaking of TV departures, I’m also going to miss the Thirteenth Doctor when she departs Doctor Who at the end of this series. It took Jodie’s quirky, impetuous Time Lord (and her glorious Yorkshire dialect) to get me back on board with a show I hadn’t cared about since halfway through David Tennant’s run as the Tenth Doctor. I can only hope that whoever the Fourteenth Doctor might be (the role has yet to be cast), they’ll bring as much joy to the character as did Whittaker.

Kailua. One of the highlights of our Oahu trip this year was touring this delightful town on the Windward Coast. Between its world-class beaches, walkable central district, and relaxed, congenial vibe, Kailua’s an easy place to love. (The other Kailua, on the Kona Coast of the Big Island, is pretty awesome too.)

Little Dude. Did I mention that he’s adorable? Yes, I believe I did.

Magenta. It’s been a long while since I added a new entry to my catalog of all-time favorite bands. These Welsh progressive rockers cracked the code this year. A three-person core — multi-instrumentalist Robert Reed, guitarist Chris Fry, and vocalist Christina Booth, plus Reed’s brother Steven who contributes lyrics — supported by a changing cast of supporting players, Magenta takes cues from such earlier prog acts as Yes, Genesis, and Renaissance, but ends up sounding very much like its own thing. What separates Magenta from its prog predecessors for me is Rob Reed’s insistence upon “giving priority to melody rather than technical showmanship.” Magenta’s music focuses on evocative songs rather than endless instrumental noodling; songs sumptuously conveyed by Booth’s alternately delicate yet powerful voice. Magenta also takes the well-worn trope of “concept album” in interesting new directions. Their most recent effort, 2020’s Masters of Illusion, dedicates its tracks to once-prominent horror film actors, including Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Ingrid Pitt. Previous albums have employed such themes as the seven deadly sins (Seven) and rock stars who died young (The Twenty-Seven Club).

Nachos Bell Grande. You know that craving you have every now and again for something that’s barely food, but that satisfies that craving like nothing else can? Of course you do.

One hundred eighty. My Common Elements comic art commission theme reached this milestone number in 2021. (A couple of entries are still in the hands of their creators.) Seventeen years ago, when I first got the idea to commission an original artwork featuring otherwise unrelated comic book heroes who shared some feature in common, I would never have predicted that I’d eventually own 180 of them. And yet, here we are. Which of the 180 Common Elements drawings is my favorite? The next one.

Packing cubes. They seem like a gimmick at first, but these magic pouches have become an indispensable part of traveling. I have always struggled to fit everything for a trip into a single suitcase. Packing cubes transform my checked bag into a TARDIS — bigger on the inside.

Queen of Swords. I was reminded recently of this short-lived period series from the early 2000s, in which Tessie Santiago starred as a kind of female Zorro. You can find a handful of episodes on YouTube, which only make me wish some streaming service would collect the entire run. Also: the title of one of my favorite songs by Idina Menzel.

The Real Housewives of Henry VIII, my Online Quiz League team. The name derived from the fact that the team originally had six members. When two of our players moved on after the first season, we kept the name. Since I usually occupy the fourth position in our playing rotation, I hold the Anne of Cleves seat. (From a historical perspective, Anne did alright for herself — she got a rich settlement, was beloved by everyone including her servants, and never had to be intimate with Henry, whom she outlived. None of which can be said for Anne Boleyn or Catherine Howard.)

Smart Resume. Why doesn’t every channel offer this feature on every DVR recording? Because they want us to watch the commercials, obviously. But I employ Smart Resume every chance I get.

TD Ameritrade, the nice folks who provide the tools to manage my investment portfolio. For the record, today (Friday, November 26, 2021) was not a good day for the market. But I can’t blame TD Ameritrade for that.

“Unpretty.” Still my favorite TLC jam, with an ever-relevant message — especially for young women — about not allowing other people to define you.

Vaccines. As I noted in the introduction to this post, vaccines have helped ease us back onto the path toward a semblance of normal life. We’d be even further along that path were it not for an active misinformation campaign sponsored by villains about whom, quite frankly, I don’t have much positive to say. Vaccines helped rid the world of smallpox and, for the most part, of polio. Vaccines reduced the threat of measles, a disease that used to kill millions of children, and of other scourges such as typhoid, cholera, tetanus, and diphtheria. Just get your shots, people.

Warriors. The Dubs are back in full force, after a few seasons on struggle street. Steph Curry has redefined basketball — bold words, I know, but I can’t think of a more accurate way to put it. And Steph once again has a supporting cast around him that’s capable of a deep playoff run. Just wait until the other Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, returns to the floor next month.

Xiao long bao. I don’t know who invented soup dumplings, but whoever you are, bless you.

Yu Oughta Know. Lynn Q. Yu’s daily current events email/quiz helps keep me up to date on what’s fresh and exciting in the world, as well as information that just might turn up in competitive trivia sometime in the near future. I’d need more fingers than I have to count the number of times recently that something I only knew because of Lynn’s newsletter fell into my lap during a quiz. Every point matters.

Zot! Cartoonist Scott McCloud might be better known these days for his Eisner Award-winning Understanding Comics and its sequels, but long before those seminal masterworks, he was known for Zot!, a superhero pastiche about a relentlessly positive do-gooder from a utopian parallel Earth. We could all use a bit of Zot’s cheerful optimism these days.

As I express every year, I am thankful for you, friend reader. I hope you’ll use this opportunity to reflect on the people and things for which you’re grateful. May we all survive another circuit around the sun, so that we’ll have even more to celebrate in a year’s time.

Explore posts in the same categories: Aimless Riffing, Cinemania, Comic Art Friday, Hawaii, I'm a Warriors Worrier, Jeopardy!, Listology, Soundtrack of My Life, SwanStuff, Teleholics Anonymous, Thanksgiving, That's Cool!, Trivial Pursuits

One Comment on “SwanShadow Gives Thanks, Volume 18: Emerging From the Silo Edition”

  1. Donna Says:

    Still crazy after all these years. We’ve orbited the sun together at least 43 times. May we have many more!


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