2019 ended up being very busy, in a surprising––but good––way. I wanted to do a multi-day reflection on the year and its many facets like I had last year, but when I finally looked up to do so, it was already the end of December. So, this year, we will do this over two days with today’s post covering all the things that kept me motivated, working, and inspired throughout the year while tomorrow’s will be a look at the year in Long John itself.

With that being said, I’m going to mostly talk about one item in each category while also citing two “runners up”, for lack of a better word, with a quick summary of my thoughts for each.


Wondercon exclusive poster for Dark Phoenix by Orlando Arocena. Source: 20th Century Fox.
  • Dark Phoenix written and directed by Simon Kinberg. Starring Sophie Turner.

2019 ended up being the year where I confronted my fandom with the X-Men head-on. I have no problem being vocal about what I love, but there is a distinct line in my head that defines the difference between me arguing with someone and me straight-up fighting with someone.

The former is defined by rational thought––I have valid points that I know could stand up against an equally valid argument to the contrary. This is the type of argument you can hear me making on my weekly nerdy discussion podcast, A Podcast [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes, when discussing my “Week in Geek”, a segment where I make a case for some nerdy thing I did that week. The argument is based on experience with a text (and I’m speaking broadly here) and have formulated conclusions based on that time with it. Usually, this comes down to the types of texts listed in this post: movies, books/comics, music, games, tv shows, etc.

From “Sketch Fridays #64 – Dark Phoenix.”

On the other side of the line, however, are the things to which I am profoundly devoted––while mostly rational, they are things to which I have such a strong nostalgia or emotional attachment that I breach the bounds of civil discourse into zealotry. I have learned over the years to not bring these items up with other people because any comment about them that differs from my own will impact my mood.

Things in this category (and I break out into sweats as I type this out) are things like my love for Twisted Sister, The Transformers, the fantasy film Willow, Highlander, among others––things of which most people either have no opinion or have a tossed-off negative opinion because they have put away childish things or have heard bad things. But the items on this side of the line defined a lot of my morals, personality, and ethos and, therefore, mean the world to me and are, basically, not up for discussion because to attack them is to attack me, in a way.

I actually think Dark Phoenix is a master class in subtle and powerful character drama, especially amid the popcorn glut of superhero cinema. Source: 20th Century Fox.

Even though it only came out this year, I have a feeling that Dark Phoenix has already slotted in with that crowd of texts. The movie was so universally derided––unfairly and irresponsibly, in my view––that I found that I had to actively disengage from any conversation about it, even with my friends, because I was immediately taking any criticism of it as “fighting words”, and I was getting way too worked up about it to keep my composure.

That being said, it’s a movie that I think is very good and will gladly watch as the world moves on from it, celebrating whatever the hell Marvel Studios does with the X-Men since it has purchased the film rights back from 20th Century Fox (by straight-up buying 20th Century Fox). I’ll watch those, too, but I’ll always have a soft spot for the Fox X-films, especially Dark Phoenix.

  • Letterkenny from Hulu

Every now and then you find a sitcom that makes you laugh like you’ve never laughed before. This year, Letterkenny was that show for me.

  • Alita: Battle Angel directed by Robert Rodriguez, starring Rosa Salazar.

I waited for this movie for twenty years and it did not disappoint.


The band, Queen (L-R): Brian May, Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor. Source: QueenOnline.
  • Queen

I’ve always been a fairweather Queen fan, saying that I love their music while only really knowing one album (1986’s A Kind of Magic because it had the songs from Highlander on it) with the rest filled in with what’s played on the radio or on the greatest hits compilations.

A friend of mine rightly took me to task a few years ago and, since then, I kept in the back of my mind the implicit challenge he put to me: you’re not a fan unless you can speak to all of their music. This year, I decided to put my money where my mouth is.

So, 2019 kind of became the year of Queen for me. I started with their second album, Queen II, and created from there a pattern of buying one Queen album per month––at the beginning of the month––so I can spend the following 27-30 days absorbing the music it provided. I’ve ended the year with their hit album, The Game, being the album for the month of December. It’s been seven albums over seven months with as many more to go before I can consider myself fully informed.

It’s been quite a journey…and it didn’t start well.

Queen’s 1978 album, Jazz, is the album that really found a way to merge their proggy eclecticism, pop mentality, and disparate personalities in a way that really worked from start to finish. Source: EMI/Elektra

I didn’t like Queen II. I found more to like but still bounced off of its follow-up, Sheer Heart Attack. A Night at the Opera was, to me, their first good album, but the progressive rock lineage still bloated parts of it. I also enjoyed A Day at the Races, but it didn’t keep the momentum that its predecessor established. News of the World was tighter, more concise, and an album I really liked––thinking they had finally found the balance between their mercurial creativity and pop-minded songwriting. But it was Jazz that actually took the lessons from its predecessor and honed them even more to create an incredible album from front to back. Sure, Jazz is loaded with the big hits––”Fat-Bottomed Girls”, “Bicycle Race”, and “Don’t Stop Me Now”––as obvious standouts, but their deeper cuts––songs like “If You Can’t Beat Them”, “Dead On Time”, and “More of That Jazz”––impressed me even more. Their next album, The Game, is fine.

What I can do at this point, about mid-way through their catalogue––is say that I am a Queen fan. I have a more full understanding of what kind of band they are and I revel in that personality. They are eclectic, melodramatic, clever, and obtuse at times.

But what truly comes across is that this band is a collaboration between four very unique musicians, each with their own voice and musical tastes and goals. If you take them individually, it seems like Queen is an impossible supergroup comprised of musicians who have no business working together. In actuality, they were people that enjoyed the push and pull of working together both with and against their individual tastes. It’s in that musical morass that they became unique, edging near a space that, in my mind, has only really ever been occupied by The Beatles before them.

As I buckled down with the myopic task of getting Chapter 4 done this year, the sonic eclecticism of Queen has always kept things interesting and, most importantly, fun.

  • Judas Priest

I just can’t stop listening to them. It’s clear that, in many ways, they wanted to be the heavy metal Queen. And, in many ways, they fully accomplish that.

  • “Let’s Rock” by The Black Keys.

As a fan of the band since their early garage days in 2002, they shaped a lot of my musical aesthetic. I drifted away from them when they evolved their sound about ten years ago, aiming for musical targets that interested me less and less with each successive album. “Let’s Rock” is not a return to the form I fell in love with, but rather them taking their evolved sound and making it rock in a way I can appreciate. This is a fun, straight-forward rock album.


Source: Mobius Digital
  • Outer Wilds by Mobius Digital (played on the Playstation 4)

Based on this list of games, it seems to have really been a year of indie gaming for me. Outer Wilds stands above any game I’ve played this year if only because it brazenly gives players an indie ethos in a game that easily has a scope the big-budget studios only yearn to have.

By “indie ethos” I mean that it is a game that is isn’t doing much on its surface––you’re a traveler sent by your planet to explore your solar system. You control your ship and bounce from planet to planet looking at their unique geography (and physics) and explore the ruins of a long lost civilization. There is no combat in this game; you have no weapons. It is literally just a game about exploring and learning.

It’s fun to buzz planets like Maverick in Top Gun. Source: Mobius Digital.

There is a story and a twist, but the game never strays from those mechanics. The reward is piecing together the story that you find through your travels––a goal that is remarkably well-designed, to that end.

And though it’s simple on the surface, reflecting on what is going on under the hood reveals how incredibly remarkable this game is. It’s clockwork. This studio designed an entire solar system with unique planets that have their own unique feel, look, and goals all weaving together in an intricate tapestry that I’ve never seen before in a game. The whole game is a mechanism whose very complexity comes together and becomes important to finishing the game itself.

This game runs the gamut from beautiful to terrifying; sometimes, it even blends the two. Source: Mobius Digital.

More importantly, the game worked flawlessly. I’ve played games with quadruple the budget and staff that still crash or break during gameplay. As complex as this game is––with all the ways it could go wrong––it never broke nor pulled me out of the reality of its world. All the big studios should take note that this upstart studio at the very least makes games that work.

It may be recency bias, but this game is on the wind of gaming discourse right now, but it has every right to be. I found it incredibly fun, rewarding, impressive, and cool while others found it to be those things as well as emotionally powerful and moving. While I didn’t get that from it, it’s definitely a game to play and will most likely be one I remember.

This year also marked my foray into (digital) card games, specifically with the genre of “deck builders.” Dicey Dungeons is a simple but challenging game with great music and a charming aesthetic that goes very fast, which is also nice.

  • Halcyon 6 by Massive Damage, Inc. (played on Steam)

I think my favorite games are not necessarily the ones about acquiring more power and slaying more foes; it’s the games that are about people just doing their jobs and doing them to the best of their ability. This game sucked me in at various points this year where I had to help rebuild a humanity lost in space and on its last legs (think Battlestar Galactica). There’s a calming effect to the stress of managing not only a fleet of space cruisers but also making sure your station’s crew quarters are as upgraded as possible.