This is gonna be long, and it’s going to be all over the place. There are going to be (some) highs and lows (one of which is rough; consider yourselves disclaimed). Last year, I did things monthly. We’re not doing that this time. I’m gonna go by subject, and do my best to be concise, in light of…well, 2020.
Some website-centric/house cleaning kinda stuff, first:
If you didn’t notice yet, I’m not formatting paragraphs on this website like this anymore.
For a time, I liked it aesthetically because this was such an image-centric website, but I’m told that it messes with readability, particularly for disabled people (while doing some research on accessibility, I read that it can mess with how Autistic people process what they’re reading; and you’re one of my readers and this has been your experience, I apologize, and I’ll do better moving forward), so it’s officially out.
Also, as I predicted it would, figuring out image captioning slowed things down a lot, but that doesn’t make it bad, and I’m practicing it a lot over at Substack, where I’ve been doing far more writing of late. I’m still going to tinker with it a little, because I did it two different ways on this site, and I think that a hybrid of those ways is probably going to be the best way to go, moving forward.
Speaking of, I’m sure those of you who aren’t interested in Another Thing, or aren’t that interested in the rest of what goes on in my life and are Just Here For The Cards, Man are gonna be like “awww, come on” if I spend any more time plugging the Substack like the rest of your middle-aged, white, male, at least marginally sports-inclined friends are, but I can tell you (and you can see) that I’ve been writing here very little, and over there, I’ve written or posted at least something literally every day since August 31st. I don’t make it easy to sign up (you have to actually contact me and ask, and I reserve the right to say “no” or kick people off the subscriber list if they’re lousy in the comments or spread what’s in the newsletter around to the general public), but it’s free and will remain that way, which most other Substacks that have that kind of output are not. If we’ve known each other long enough to have a cordial personal relationship, either through my comments section, by enough trades that the emails aren’t just “PLEASE SEND BASEBALL CARD THANK U” or some other way, I think you’ll enjoy it, even if a good chunk of it isn’t specifically what you come here for.
Classic Posts didn’t get added much, if at all in 2020, and I might take down the old site entirely soon because it’s pretty ephemeral. Do any of you actually think “Hey, I want to read what Scott had to say about The Empty Monster Box of Shame in 2013″ as part of your regular practice? (OK, I probably will add that post to this site, because it’s an evergreen, but still.) Let me know where y’all are at on this one. It’s not costing me anything, but it’s still an old and now-neglected portion of my Internet presence, and I’ve been trying to avoid having those these days.
With all of that out of the way now, let’s begin the recap…
2020 was a weird, no-good, awful, terrible, screwed-up, lousy stinkin’ year. We are welcome, and I’d say, we’ll be encouraged to keep sayin’ it for the rest of our lives. If we made it this far, we’ve earned it. I hope that all of you who were readers of mine before March 11th, 2020 are still with us and in good health, because so many people weren’t as fortunate, and that’s still very much an ongoing thing.
On this note, I’m going to try to tie a few threads together here at once, and this may or may not work well as an example of good writing, but please bear with me.
As longer-term readers of mine may remember, this was The First Card of 2020. I’m just posting it here to cover the usual First Card/Last Card traditions, and we can move on from it after looking at it, as it’s otherwise not relevant to what I have to write (though it’s still really cool).
While there has not yet been a First Card of 2021, a 1951 Topps Red Back Duke Snider was The Last Card of 2020.
As a bunch of people have in recent months, because happenings on the site were so unstable for so long, and I’d heard a bunch of vague noise about it on card Twitter and elsewhere, I’ve cleaned out my COMC port for now, mostly so, if anything went terribly wrong with the company, I’d have at least gotten something for what was left in my inventory there. When I did that, I had a good handful of credit in the account, and I used it to buy Duke here, and have him shipped to me. I’d other made single-card eBay purchases from them earlier in the year that were shipped swiftly, and (incorrectly) assumed that they’d be processing shipments of single cards from their website at the same speed. (My assumption is that, at least at the time I ordered the Duke card, though they may have course-corrected by now, all eBay shipments were prioritized over their website orders, because there are actual consequences to late shipments, in the form of persistent negative feedback on a user account, if you’re late shipping items you sell on eBay, whereas, on their own platform, there were no lasting, persistent disincentive to delaying shipments.)
There was a mildly tense exchange between COMC customer service and I at one point, because they were late well above and beyond their stated shipping delays, and were also, for a time (and I’m sure they won’t be thrilled about my saying so, but I have emails and screenshots of both my account and tweets from the company that back my position), publicly dishonest about the circumstances of it, but they did apologize, and they resolved it to the best of their ability at that time. Eventually, if things do stabilize for their business, which went through the double whammy of COVID and a huge surge in business that they were, for whatever reason, unprepared for despite the writing being on the wall for a few years that it was coming, I may eventually do business with them again, because, as I said, they did put in the effort to make things right. Your mileage may vary after reading about my experience, but I don’t have overwhelmingly negative feelings about how they did business in the end, and my experience with COMC, up until the most recent one, was actually an overwhelmingly positive one.
Unfortunately, the delay in shipping did cause a somewhat painful, and completely unexpected thing to happen, as, in the last real conversation I had with my mother, I told her about the 1951 Topps Red Back Duke Snider I had bought there. She loved the Brooklyn Dodgers, had met Duke a couple of times (and once drove 20 miles, paid to get into a card show, and waited in line to get a ball signed by him for me, because I couldn’t be there), was actually named in my will, until very recently, as the recipient of my Brooklyn Dodgers cards, and was excited to see it, but while I held it up to a screen in video chat near the end of her life, I don’t know if she was aware that I was doing it. A lot of times, when something fun but non-essential that we order from somewhere ships late, and even when the person we buy it from or trade something to for it is not great about being consistent in how they do business, it’s frustrating, but the stakes are ultimately pretty trivial. I will be hopefully abundantly clear to those who read this that I don’t think this was specifically COMC’s fault or anything, as none of us knew how things would play out, certainly (and at this point, I’m going to stop talking about what COMC did or didn’t do and move onto the next subject, which is a little bigger in my life than the business practices of a consignment company), but this felt…a little less like one of those times.
It wasn’t a direct COVID-19 thing (though COVID affected everything from my ability to see her in person over the last year of her life to, undoubtedly, the quality of her treatment), but to come back to the subject of those who didn’t make it through the year, and confirm something I alluded to in the previous paragraph, my mother passed away on Christmas morning. It would be impossible to state in a hundred articles like this how much I loved and still love my mom, how much my mom meant not just to me, but also, and this is where this loss isn’t just crushing, but also on-topic, for those fun-at-parties people who are sticklers for that sort of thing even at the worst times, how much she meant to each and every one of my hobbies, and I’ll probably never really know if I was able to convey to her how grateful I was and still am.
She went through so very much shit supporting me in all of them, not just buying me stuff, but driving me all over to get it, sitting in stores she mostly didn’t give a rat’s ass about for long periods of time while I looked through things, dealing with this stuff being all over the homes we lived in together, listening to me talk on and on about it all in the same ways I see my friends with kids around my age complain about how all their kids know how to talk about is Minecraft and Fortnite and whatever else the youth are playing these days. She did all of that and then some, for longer than most human beings have a mom doing that stuff regularly in their lives (because I am a disabled person who lived with family for a long stretch of my life), and she did it just because she wanted me to be happy. I owe her my life and then some, a bunch of times over, and it’s a debt I never would’ve been able to repay even if she’d lived for a long time past when she did, because this is something (along with all of the other stuff that good parents do, even if you don’t have a bunch of hobbies) that she’s done for me from the time I was a small child to the end of her life, and even beyond.
There is $25 cash in my wallet right now that I got from her as a birthday gift this past year, but haven’t been able to spend because I haven’t been in situations where cash is required since March. Eventually, when it’s safe to be out at flea markets and hobby stores and yard sales again, that $25 from her will pay for at least one more fun thing, one more gift, even though she isn’t here to give it to me or see it. It’s going to be tough letting go of it when the time comes, and I may get and use other cash before I use that cash, because I want what I spend it on to be really good (and yes, if you’re careful about it, you can get great things with 25 bucks, still), but that’s the plan, and I’m going to try to stick to it, because it’d be a waste of her resources (which she never really had an easy go of mustering, either) to do anything less.
I’ve said it elsewhere, but she deserved so much better than she got, in all aspects of her life, and I hope I was able to give her at least a small fraction of it back, in her mind. I will miss her terribly, for the rest of my days, but I’m so grateful that I had her as a mom, and knew her as a person.
With that very necessary, but very sad part of the discussion of this year having been covered, not everything that happened in the entire year was terrible (though no matter how bad the rest of it was, nothing in my life to date, speaking purely personally, has been as terrible as losing my mom, and I’m really only about a week out from that, so go easy on me here), and I’ll now attempt to make a really sharp turn back over to “what happened for me in the hobbies I participate in over the past year”. As I mentioned above, I’m going to do things by category this year, in the most concise manner available to me, given how I write (I’m not into the whole brevity thing, man). I’d have given all of these subjects their own posts, but that didn’t end well for any of us last year, and I’d say that a lot of this stuff’s interconnected, too. It should, at least, be less than the 13 part nightmare that was last year’s “year in review”.
I’m not collecting 2021 (and forward) Topps baseball sets by default anymore. If there’s a set design I really like, or if circumstances dump a complete set of something in my lap, then fine, I’ll re-evaluate things on a case-by-case basis, but I can’t keep devoting my time, energy, and resources by default to Topps, with them not really interested in doing the same for my type of collector. As I said when I was planning for 2020, 1951-2020 has a really nice ring to it, and I’m going with that for now. If I regret it, I regret it. I don’t want to try to compete for new cards in a world with card bubble scalpers/flippers, though. That’s what pushed most of us out of the hobby as kids in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and apparently people have learned nothing from history, as usual. I also don’t have strong ties to present-day MLB. There are a few players I like, but I don’t have a team, and Rob Manfred is determined to “hold my beer” the shit out of Bud Selig’s tenure as Commissioner, so I’m not feeling a strong inclination to buy licensed merchandise.
I’m still going to do player collections of current players, so I’ll be picking up individual current cards from time to time, and will probably devote at least a little more energy to them, but as someone who once put effort into a Ray Rice player collection (and is still stuck with the goddamned things), I really need to carefully evaluate and regularly re-evaluate those collections, and also come up with an exit strategy (ideally one that doesn’t have me feeling like I need a Silkwood shower after I’m done with it, because of who I might have to deal with to make those cards go away; I’d like, if possible, to avoid the types that aren’t bothered by players doing terrible things…) for any and all of them, should the players in question out themselves as people who I don’t want to have a bunch of pictures of. Even if I resolve to only buy cards of theirs in dime boxes, those dimes do add up.
It’s not fun to think about any of this stuff, but I think it’s worth viewing media consumption (and cards are media) critically, and with at least some eye toward having it be consistent with your own personal ethics, no matter how much you want your hobbies, your sports, or whatever else to be pure escapism. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect everyone who works in every field you have an interest in to be a good person, and it’s basically impossible to avoid engaging with all known terrible people in your entertainment (and ultimately, you won’t be able to, because there’s a lot of terrible people out there, and they don’t always have press conferences to announce that they’re terrible, even if that’s become a popular pastime in recent years), but to me, it feels worthwhile to try and minimize that. All the talk I hear from other people about “separating art from artist” is ultimately a privileged position, because some people, who have had certain unfortunate experiences, can’t do that, no matter how much they’d like to.
Also: in general, this applies, pretty much.
With all of that said, there’s still great stuff in trading cards, and things I love about this hobby.
While that Duke Snider card I posted above is always going to be bittersweet for me in ways I didn’t understand when I purchased it, I do love it, and I think there’s at least a chance that it’s going to end up living on my desk permanently.
I feel like, over this year, I’ve found and gotten to know a part of the card hobby community that aligns a little more closely with my beliefs systems, and that feels good. The people I still follow on Twitter, for instance, are really a good bunch, and I’m glad to know them to the degree that I do. Thanks for having me around, if you’re one of ’em. I also came across people who weren’t and aren’t like that, and that’s disappointing, but I’m choosing to focus on the positive here.
I mentioned dime boxes above, and let me tell you, I was a little skeptical going in, but The Internet Dime Box is a good one. Spent an entire day making an order, got it relatively quickly, and with great customer service. Highly recommended.
Gavin made me copies of some of his customs.
I also ordered the Negro Leagues Legends card set by Negro League History while it was still available, which by now those of you who read more card blogs than I do have probably seen everywhere and hopefully ordered (or I hope you have, anyway), though I’d intended on posting about it much earlier (this year had so many different ways of getting away from us all), and it’s terrific. Over time, I’ll likely share more from the set (it was the surprise I alluded to earlier in the year, and I’ve got a bunch of cards from it scanned, but it deserves its own post, late or not), but for starters, here is the card from the set that moved me the most. I’ve written out the entire caption in the image description of the back of the card, and I’ll let it speak for itself…
I got a small number of actual trades done this year, though I’ve really tried to stay the hell out of the post office or anywhere else since March as best I can, but if you were in on those trades, thank you. Madding of Cards on Cards sent me too much stuff above and beyond the one actual trade I think we managed to complete either late last year or early this year, which was very nice of him. I have to figure out a return package, but it’s getting harder to find Cardinals he doesn’t have already, and I’m not getting box lots from the flea market at the moment. I wonder if he likes 1988 Topps Mets cards.
I know I completed at least one card set this year, possibly more. 1991 AW Sports CFL cards is confirmed, because I got the last two I needed from the Internet Dime Box recently. I haven’t put them away yet (it’s been a rough month or so), but I finished it. I’m also 1 card away from the following noteworthy-ish sets, if anyone’s holding, and can make something happen through the magic of either PWEs or PayPal:
1954 Bowman Brooklyn Dodgers Team Set: 170 Duke Snider
1990 Score Rookie & Traded: 100 Eric Lindros
1992 Score: 788 Award Winners Cal Ripken Jr. MVP
1992 Pinnacle: 161 Tim Wallach (this will be my second copy of the set, so it’ll be available for trade as soon as I get a Tim Wallach and can go to the post office safely again, or when I have no choice but to go to the post office for official business of some kind)
1951 Topps Red Backs Brooklyn Dodgers Team Set: 16 Preacher Roe
1985 Topps Traded: 43 Ozzie Guillen (also a second set that I’ll be able to trade or sell someday, albeit one with no box)
1967 Raybert The Monkees A: 13 The Monkees (Pic of all 4 members on stairs)
There are also these sets, which I’m close to finishing, but I need to update this list, because it’s 9 months out of date, I believe.
I wrote about how I was having a lot of fun with digital cards earlier in the pandemic, but that really kinda crapped out. Are any of you still doing this stuff? Do any of you want to make some deals? Let me know.
I’ve made no further progress on the Player’s Wild Animals’ Heads set, but they’re on eBay, so it’s just a matter of wanting to spend money on them.
I think that’s it for cards.
Spent a bunch of time in Second Life this year, though mostly at other peoples’ places. Need to get Heck resuscitated for like the billionth time (it turned 14 on December 15th, but I was, um, preoccupied, so there was no celebration…if the place makes it to 15, we’ll have a big ‘un).
I did get to do an interview this year, which I haven’t done in a long time, and I’m happy I told y’all about vroum Short and her collective at VeGeTaL PLaNeT, even if I’m reasonably sure some of you are not sure why I told you. Explore the (real and virtual) world a bit. Live a little! It’s fun!
Online Multiplayer Solitaire: I’m currently ranked at #349 worldwide out of 466,882 on iOS MobilityWare Solitaire in their online multiplayer game, and closing in on 10,000 wins (about 180 to go there). I played about 2400 multiplayer games this past year (and completed all 366 Daily Challenges (I’ve completed all 2286 since they started them, across 2 iPads), but, as with most things, there were definite “I don’t give a rat’s ass” gaps. I didn’t have many long “complete Daily Challenge in same day” streaks, I’ll tell you that. You’d think someone stuck in the house would play more solitaire, not less…
I didn’t play enough No Man’s Sky this past year, despite being in the house for almost all of it, and I’m way behind, because the developers are saints and have released an absolute ton of new expansions for it. Looking for people who play, to help get me back into the game some.
I beat Tony Hawk 1 + 2, and in the case of 2, it was for I think the 5th time on the 4th platform (Playstation, Dreamcast, Playstation 4, and once I even beat the game on a Mac that had it running in a CompUSA, because it was on there and I had nothing better to do for a little while). It’s still one of the best games ever made. I’m nowhere near as good at it as the kids playing online multiplayer, though, because it’s all they do. Some games (Burnout Paradise comes to mind), there’s actually a cap on how good you can get at them, I guess because of the physics of the game, and you don’t ever really lose the skills. Tony Hawk, people are still figuring out ways to get much better.
I’ve started Stardew Valley over like 3 times, because I can’t seem to get the hang of playing it at the pace the game seems to want me to. It’s fun, and I could just, you know, play it at my own pace, but even if I opt to do that in general, I’d like to understand what doing it “successfully” means, if anything. It seems like a trap they’re using to find out if you’re a cop or something, though.
I played around with Dreams a fair deal, but I may not be imaginative or patient enough to really make the platform work for me as a creator, in the same way I have (sorta) with Second Life.
I’m a few levels into the PS4 remake of Medievil, and I will probably get back to it soon, because the gameplay is still good, but it should be said that Sony really could’ve used a sensitivity reader back when they made the original. That’s true of a few of their big games, though (Crash, Spyro, etc.).
For whatever my reasons, I got both Tempest 4000 for PS4 and Tempest X3 for PS1, when I already owned Tempest 2000 for Jaguar. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna go out and try to get a Nuon, though I have played Tempest 3000 on one before. I can’t promise that I’ll never buy the Sega Saturn version of Tempest X3, though.
Wii: still not using it much, but I really need to. Wii Fit balance exercises would probably still help with ongoing vertigo issues, and I could play Nights on it, too (it didn’t get great reviews, but I still love the original, got the sequel years before I got a Wii, and am curious).
Movies and television, going by memory and viewing histories:
I initially did not plan to continue writing about anything but physical media at this site, on the movies and TV front, as seen here, but I forgot about that, wrote a ton, and I don’t feel like moving it elsewhere, so it can stay for this year.
I think the only 2020 first-run movie I saw in the theater was Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), which was outstanding (and the best DC Comics movie since Batman Returns), and I saw it with a group of friends right before everything went south, and if that’s the last movie I ever get to see in a movie theater, I ended on a very high note.
I can confirm that, via streaming services and what have you, I watched at least 47 other movies. Of everything relatively new that I saw this year, Birds of Prey, Ready or Not, My Dad is a Heel Wrestler and Beastie Boys Story were probably my favorites, and from what I can remember of what I watched this year, Return of the Secaucus 7 and One Million Years B.C. (no, really, I’d never seen it) were probably my favorite older films that I’d never seen before. I really enjoyed revisiting Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Fade to Black and Motel Hell, too. Yes, it was a “watch horror to escape other horror” kinda year, and we used a lot of October for horror movies.
Running counter to the entire world, I didn’t binge-watch a TV series on Netflix after February 29th (I Am Not OK With This was the last one). Nope, I haven’t seen The Queen’s Gambit yet, and I didn’t watch that fucking Tiger King show (and I’m not even gonna link to the Wikipedia entry on it). What’s wrong with y’all, anyway? Jeez. Now, in 2021, I’ve already binged one complete season (Cobra Kai Season 3), and I had it done by 8:37 AM on January 1st.
I did watch 6 complete seasons of television between 5 shows last year (Grace and Frankie, I Am Not OK With This, I’m Dying Up Here, Truth Seekers which I unfortunately didn’t love, but that’s a long story, and The Mandalorian), though, one of which (I’m Dying Up Here) was the complete series, and my second time through, to see if I still loved it as much, and I did. My favorite new series of the year was I Am Not OK With This, which won’t surprise anyone who knows me. Among a lot of other things I’ve been hopping around between (lots of which are from the old WPIX repertoire), I’ve also started watching Bourdain from the beginning, have been slowly working on Julia, getting The Dick Cavett Show in when I can, rationing Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories episodes, and using YouTube to get The Hollywood Palace and Insight in there when I wanna get weird.
Speaking of, after a zillion years, I finally started subscribing to YouTube channels. I recommend the Norwegian train driver’s channel, Ed Sullivan’s, Beyond Wrestling’s , Brick Mantooth’s, and Pop Arena’s, especially for Nick Knacks – A Nickelodeon Retrospective, which is outstanding.
That’s more than enough about my viewing habits, though!
Music (hard copies): here, I remembered that I’m only doing physical media for this site. Of course, I can’t remember what CDs I bought between January and March 11th, my Sleep Envy cassette will get here when it gets here, and I only got two records (both great, though): The Stooges’ Live at Goose Lake: August 8, 1970 and Glossolalia by Zambri (which is dried up on the physical side through Bandcamp or their label, but can be had through a few third party sellers affordably on hell site that I’m not linking to), so while I listened to a lot of music last year, and loved a bunch of it, this section’s probably not gonna set you on fire this year.
Comics: comics are weird, because the industry got knocked on its ass this past year, so even more of what I enjoy reading got cancelled, there was another pointless reset of a comics line (DC), and it became harder, not easier, to order them when DC stopped doing business with Diamond, their longtime distributor (one of many “What the hell are they doing over there?” things about the AT&T/Time-Warner situation).
Of new books I liked this year, Amethyst, Power Pack, Inkblot, and The Other History of the DC Universe have probably been my favorites, so 3 YA books and Black Lightning (though The Other History… has a rotating cast), pretty much. Power Pack and The Other History of the DC Universe are only 2 issues and an issue in, respectively, so you may still have a good chance at being able to jump on if you like single issues, whereas Amethyst just wrapped up, and Inkblot’s ongoing, at least for now.
As far as books that started last year or earlier went, Hawkman (sadly cancelled), Legion of Super-Heroes (maybe cancelled or at least being reworked because DC can’t leave well enough alone), Far Sector (almost over) and Ascender (ongoing, and hopefully it will remain that way for a while) were probably my favorites.
On the back issue front, thanks to the spouse, I finished New Teen Titans Vol. 1 (I was missing the first appearance of Dick Grayson as Nightwing, and that was my birthday present), and thanks to me, I finished (and actually read all of Son of Satan and…I finally grabbed dat ASS (All-Star Squadron #3, to be exact…) and finished that run, too. I still need to read the bigger runs. I started Titans, but, sing it with me…”this friggin’ year…”
Megos: I got none for most of the year, because scalpers had gotten really greedy with the late 2019 wave, but I rallied toward the end. Phantom of the Opera, The Egyptian Mummy, Khan Noonien Singh (from The Wrath of Khan, as opposed to the original series), The Headless Horseman, Swamp Thing, 3 more Target Skeletons were in my haul for the year, and 2021 started off with a bang…
I may have snapped and spent too much money on what was pretty close to the Grail for over 42 out of my 46 years. Ironically, he’s been in my house since 1988, but because that’s a carded example of the figure (and in French packaging that says “LA CHOSE”, so removing him was out of the question; it was better than not having him at all, but it was a really cruel twist of fate, if you think about it), I never got to actually play with the Mego action figure of The Thing until late yesterday afternoon. This was 100% a “life is too fucking short” purchase, on the morning of December 24th (for some context), but it was worth it, and my only regret is that my mom, who spent over 4 decades hearing about how I never got to play with this action figure as a kid or an adult, never got to see me do that. I did tell her he was coming, and hopefully she heard me and understood, but Benjamin J. Grimm finally came home today, a little over a week after she left us.
There are two more are on the way, too, because yes, it was a bad week (the Gillman from Creature from the Black Lagoon and Peter Criss).
I’m still after the Figures Toy Company Metamorpho (once they release him with his packaging), Hawkman, Atom, Betty Kane Batgirl, and Removable Cowl First Appearances Barbara Gordon Batgirl, and Leatherface, Regan from The Exorcist and The Fly from the 2020 Mego waves. I’m also excited about Willy Wonka, Ultraman, Bride of Frankenstein, Hammer (Christopher Lee) Dracula, Phantom of the Opera in Masque of the Red Death outfit, Straitjacket Hannibal Lecter, and the second wave of DC heroes (Flash, Riddler, and Green Lantern) in 2021, but I really need to hit the lottery or something, because this habit’s expensive.
This is what the family looks like now…
DC Directs: I don’t think I got any. I have no recollection of adding any. The ones I want are getting older, so they’re probably going to become even harder to get, but I’ll do my best, when I can.
Heroclix: I still have a shit-ton of Heroclix, and will sell or trade them for basically anything else. Get me your list, if you’re serious about wanting any.
Tabletop Games/RPG stuff: I did little to nothing. My local game was playing Gloomhaven before the pandemic, and I think we may have gotten in one 2020 session before the shit hit the fan. We all kinda froze after it started, despite best intentions and efforts. Got no Marvel stuff done. A lot of areas where other people really went to town in 2020, I went in different directions, and this was one.
Fantasy Sports: Fantasy baseball was a wash, and, had our league not had nearly 20 years of history, it probably wouldn’t have run. It probably shouldn’t have run, anyway. We’re not sure what we’re doing about it this year, since things are most certainly not back to normal.
Travel/Visiting: really not much in the first 2 months (I made it to northwestern Connecticut I think once, northeastern Connecticut once, and Providence once), and we know what happened from there. Nothin’. No Brimfield. No flea markets at all. No trips back to New Jersey to visit family. This part of it ended up being pretty painful, because of Other Life Circumstances, as it really was and still is not safe to travel down there, so I had to go the last year and 18 days of my mom’s life without seeing her in person. Wear your goddamned masks, get vaccinated as soon as you can, wash your hands and/or wear gloves when appropriate, stay away from each other, make your elected officials’ lives MISERABLE (trust me, if they still think they can show their faces, the overwhelming majority of them are not miserable enough yet) until they have our backs a little more than they do now, and let’s be done with this horseshit once and for all as soon as we can. If we don’t, we’re all toast.
NJPW/Pro Wrestling In General: for the same reasons I was just talking about, this was a weird, awkward, and at times very bad year for wrestling, particularly, but not exclusively by any means, in the United States. While shows have still been running, and in some cases they’re running as almost as much a matter of personal survival as the stuff people in the service industry are going through, I haven’t been to any of them, and I won’t be back out there until it’s genuinely safe. I’m still watching some of the American shows on television, but at times, it’s kinda like I’m watching with my eyes peeking through my hands, because I’m worried about people who’ve entertained me, and who, in some cases, also seem like really good people, getting sick.
Japan was so careful re: COVID, and so strict about doing things the right way that eventually, without incident so far (at least as far as we know), New Japan Pro-Wrestling (and some other promotions) got back to where they could have much smaller live audiences in attendance in relative safety, though they’re still ready to bring the hammer down again at any moment in that country, even with the biggest Japanese pro wrestling event of the year scheduled for this week. Alas, this careful attitude doesn’t extend to every corner of their business.
Over here? It’s been much rougher, and while there have been what feel like very bad decisions made even by “the good guys” (as pro wrestling promotions go), I don’t know that there were any good decisions to make, because the government failed everyone so thoroughly. With that said, some decisions have definitely been worse than others (and they’re pretty well-detailed here).
Life for a wrestling fan has been even sadder this past week (even for those of us who were already pretty sad for other reasons), because Brodie Lee died on the 26th, not entirely, but still kind of out of nowhere, from what apparently was a case of his lungs just kinda failing out of nowhere, completely unrelated to COVID, which he never tested positive for. There was a vibe around him like something more was wrong than they were letting on while he was quietly off television for the past couple of months, but it still didn’t seem like the next thing we’d hear about him was that he passed.
With all of this said, which is a lot, no doubt, and as conflicted and guilty as I feel sometimes about watching any of it (That was a thing before COVID, too, because it is such a dangerous form of entertainment, but throwing a pandemic into the mix? Oof…), I’d be lying to you if I said that it wasn’t still one of the things I look forward to, in a world that’s a lot shorter on them right now than it was a year ago. I’m rooting for these people doing costumed murder gymnastics to come through all of this OK, during a really hard fucking time that just got even harder for many of them, with the loss of a colleague and friend.
I’m also amazed as I watch people I saw in a high school gym and a White Eagle Hall a little more than a year ago become national television stars during one of the most surreal times in our history to do so (there were 11 wrestlers on the two American independent wrestling shows I made it to in 2019 who I’ve seen at least once on TNT since AEW Dynamite launched, without any prior experience of that kind; another’s working for WWE now, so I won’t see much, if any of him for the time being, because I actively avoid what the McMahons do, and one more is probably headed to AEW once an injury heals), and get action figures. I’ve not met a ton of people who have their own action figures without commissioning them on their own in this lifetime, and I usually end up meeting them after they hit “action figure” levels of celebrity, even if they don’t have the figures just yet. Seeing one in particular get there has been a bright spot this year.
Books: I did pick up some books, and I’ve even read them a bit, despite my attention span being shredded. I’m almost done with Kitchen Confidential (as I said in the TV stuff, I’m starting at the beginning), I got I’m Dying Up Here, I picked up a signed copy of Split Season 1981 from my erstwhile trading partner Jeff Katz, I caught David Bowie Is on sale, after seeing the exhibit a couple of years ago, snagged a cheap copy of Dali: The Paintings to remember my excursion from a year and change ago by, got Hiding In Plain Sight as soon as it came out (before I knew that Sarah Kendzior was signing copies in a back alley, near a dumpster for Left Bank Books, which I linked to for the book title, so you can get your own copy with a little stank on it), scored a lot of interesting cookbooks (including the awesome The Veselka Cookbook and the deeply disturbing Best of the Best from QVC Cookbook: Favorite Recipes from Viewers, Hosts, Employees, and Friends) and I’ve even started reading my signed copy of The Calamities of Kalamity Kate (which is available directly from the publisher, signed, on that hell site), by this lady…
Currently obsessed with Leta Powell Drake, the greatest interviewer of all time. pic.twitter.com/3oCYAd9vZD
— John Frankensteiner (@JFrankensteiner) November 12, 2020
…and we’re gonna wrap 2020 with Leta Powell Drake, because where do you go from there?
So, 2021 Hobby Goals (and yes, these are all Hobby Goals):
- Don’t die.
- Don’t kill anybody.
- Have fun.
- Finish updating my will, and simplify the hell of it, because it’s a rat’s nest right now.
- Trading Cards: simplify the player collection stuff, figure out what to do with the digital cards, if anything, stop buying full retail packs of any new product, don’t build or acquire any 2021 sets without a really good reason, maybe finish a few more older sets, make the posts about the scans I have backlogged, especially the Negro Leagues Legends cards, and seriously, look into non-sports cards more. They’re fun!
- Second Life: do more with Heck, and DJ at VeGeTaL PLaNeT again soon.
- Video Games: keep climbing the solitaire ladder, get back into No Man’s Sky, finish Medievil, read a Stardew Valley strategy guide and try again, figure out if there are games and systems I’m really never gonna use, and also never gonna regret selling like I do Panzer Dragoon Saga, and maybe get a PS5 at the end of 2021, so the people of my household can play the game with the kitty on a machine that can run it properly. Oh, and use the Wii more.
- Movies and Television: plug away at getting stuff from the list of DVDs and Blu-Rays I don’t have, still want, and won’t be able to stream easily, and figure out what, among the stuff I have, I’m not going to watch again or care about watching again, then see if anyone can use that stuff.
- Music (hard copies): figure out where my Sleep Envy cassette went, get copies of the only two other cassettes I care about owning (Lene Lovich’s No-Man’s Land and a replacement of my Siouxsie Through The Looking Glass cassette), figure out which CDs of albums I can’t live without I don’t own yet because I usually stream the stuff, and keep slowly plugging along on the last few interesting bits of vinyl I’d like, if I even come into much contact with vinyl.
- Comic Books: do another audit of what books I want to keep, get even more serious about not buying single issues of non-ongoing series that are just gonna come out as trade paperbacks anyway, and read all of New Teen Titans and All-Star Squadron. Maybe finish a few more series.
- Toys: try not to go too nuts buying Mego-scale figures. See if there are some available, affordable DC Directs I really want out there. Find ways to display toys I currently don’t have on display in the house, and figure out if there are toys I really don’t need to still own, that someone else would show way more love to. Get rid of some of those goddamn Heroclix you bought on a whim.
- RPGs/Tabletop Games: get ahold of my crew and play something online soon. Invite others to play games online, too. Hey, everybody. Wanna play some tabletop games online?
- Fantasy Sports: the baseball league turns 20 this year. If the season happens, I guess I have to at least play the anniversary season. I guess.
- Travel: gosh, I hope it’s not too dangerous to travel soon.
- Pro Wrestling: watch what I feel comfortable watching, and don’t watch what I don’t.
- Books: Read some! Finish them, too! Stop buying so many!
- Did I mention “have fun”?
Wow, I actually got through writing this goddamned thing, all 9000+ overwrought words of it. (Remember when I used to post like this here and on the old card site ALL THE TIME? You poor, poor people may have actually read some of that.) If you got through reading it, thank you for doing so, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments (as long as your comments aren’t awful), and here’s to all of us having a much happier and better new year, even if your 2020 somehow didn’t suck.