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Athena Scalzi

Whatever Best of 2021 (Athena Version)

Athena ScalziHello, everyone! It is I, the junior Scalzi, returning to bring you a few of my favorite pieces I wrote this year. Since I haven’t been writing for the past couple months, I have a smaller selection of posts to choose from than some people on this blog, but I guess that makes the selection process easier for me, anyway.

Before we begin, I’d like to take this time to thank everyone for the happy birthday wishes last week, it means a lot to me! I really appreciate the warm wishes, and for those of you that asked about how my semester away from the blog went, I am planning to write about that soon, so bear with me a little longer.

Back to the matter at hand, 2021 was, as it surely was for everyone, an interesting year. It’s definitely one for the history books, anyways. I have no hope that 2022 will be better, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see. Optimism aside, here are some of my favorite posts from this year:

I was going to go for ten, but I threw a couple extra ones in there, hope you don’t mind. And I hope you have a great day! I’ll be back very soon.

-AMS

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Thoughts on Whatever in 2021, and in 2022

This was an interesting year for the Whatever, in my opinion. It was a pretty good year for Athena Scalzi content in the eight months she was blogging regularly, and a very good year for Big Idea features. It was a middlin’ year for me, though. I wrote some very good work here this year, but I wrote less of it — this was a year heavy on short bits, cat pictures and other fillers than it was on longer, more thoughtful pieces.

I can think of some reasons for this, but most of them devolve to the same culprit: Burnout from the last few years, and recovery thereof. I think it’s fair to say that I had a breaking point of some sort in the last month of 2020 and the first month of 2021, as did a lot of other people. When the change of administration happened, the rush of relief I felt channeled first into getting Kaiju written on a very tight schedule, and then into writing up the third Dispatcher installment, and then mostly just… resting my brain, honestly. In point of fact, what I needed for most of 2021 was down time. I’m lucky to have the luxury to take that time, and I did.

As a result, the one writing thing that is contingent on my doing it between pay copy — the Whatever — got less of my attention than it usually does. I don’t feel particularly bad about that fact, mind you, and even if I did it wouldn’t change the fact that I needed to curate my brain cycles a little more heavily in 2021 than I had in years previous. This web site is free! You get what you pay for! And you get whatever I decide to give! That said, it wasn’t really until the latter part of this year that it solidified in my thoughts what I was doing, and wasn’t doing, here in 2021.

One reason I noticed it is that in the last month, I’ve been feeling (slightly!) more ambitious about what I’m doing here on the site. A slow year is fine, and I needed it. But my brain is feeling at least a little more recharged, and now — 2022 willing, cross fingers, knock on wood — I have some plans to do more writing on the site in the coming year. And a desire to do so, which is actually important. This will need to be balanced with the need to write pay copy and tend to some other projects (hey, did you see that The Dispatcher got optioned?), but I’m feeling optimistic. We’ll see!

(As an incidental side quest to writing a bit more here, I’d also like to bump up visits; 2021 visits were down slightly from 2020, although about equal to 2019. Some of that comes from writing a bit less, and Athena stepping away from regularly contributing in August. Some of it is the continual struggle of any site away from the current social media standard bearers. The online experience is highly centralized these days. This is not really a complaint, since I do perfectly well on Twitter and through my public Facebook page. But I would be happy to convert some of those folks to folks who visit here from time to time as well.)

It’s nice to feel a bit ambitious for this site again, and hopefully it’ll be fun writing here in the new year. Thank you, as always, for coming along for the ride, whatever the ride is at any one time.

— JS

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Brief Review: Don’t Look Up

I liked it a lot, which is not surprising as it combines two of my favorite things — astronomy and satire — into one movie, and then also gives me an excellent cast and a pretty good script. I would have liked it more, I suspect, if we weren’t currently living through a pandemic in which a great many Americans believe an actual virus that could kill them is a fake government plot which nevertheless can be counteracted by consuming enormous piles of horse paste, an idea that they were given (or at the very least encouraged in) by their chosen political idols. So the idea that a planet-killing comet could be met with indifference at best and gleeful avarice at the worst is a little on the nose for 2021.

But if you’re going to whistle past the graveyard, at least this film can carry a tune (literally, as Ariana Grande shows up to sing a song about the end of the world). It’s fun to see Leonardo DiCaprio play against type as a socially awkward nebbish of a scientist; Jennifer Lawrence is more in her own wheelhouse as a sarcastic millennial, and is unsurprisingly good at it. Plus there’s Meryl Streep, Streeping it up Streepily as the sort of President of the United States I fear we’re cursed to have more of in these latter days.

It’s all done well, and all more depressingly likely than I prefer. Satire is harder to do than it used to be. That’s not this movie’s fault. It’s ours.

— JS

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