2017 was meme-level ridiculous, but I’d rather remember the good parts than the bad parts. Even if those good parts mostly involved sushi and Zima.
Below are eleven things I loved about this year. I hope you can find at least as many things that you loved about it, too. Give it a shot, and post your lists in the comments.
#1: Star Wars: The Last Jedi!
Plenty of peeps weren’t into The Last Jedi, and that’s fine. It was a different kind of Star Wars movie, and it wasn’t going to work for everyone. It did work for me, though. Like holy shit, it REALLY worked for me. I left that theater feeling like I’d just pounded five Red Bulls.
Every time I expected the movie to zig, it zagged. Some fans took that as a slap, but I saw it as a jolt. Within minutes of the opening crawl, I realized that I had no idea what the film was going to say, do or be. As someone who considers Star Wars his only real area of expertise, that was exhilarating.
One of the more divisive aspects of the film was the “presentation” of Luke Skywalker, with some feeling that Luke wasn’t very Lukeish. I didn’t see it that way. I loved his jokey, brooding cynicism, and I triple-loved how Luke got to conquer his demons — especially because I only expected Luke to watch other characters conquer theirs.
I’m very glad that The Last Jedi is part of the Star Wars universe, even if I still don’t know how to pronounce “Praetorian.”
#2: Conveyor Belt Sushi!
At a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, endless plates of fishy things glide past you on a — duh — conveyor belt. Pick whichever ones you want, and at the end of the meal, your waiter just counts up the tiny plates to see how much you owe.
I’d spent almost fifteen years reading about these places and salivating over their combined convenience and novelty. They’re not easy to find in the States, but last February, I finally got to experience tuna on a treadmill.
Mr. and Ms. Sexy Armpit took us out for my birthday, and hiding in West Nyack’s cavernous Palisades Mall, there it was: An honest-to-goodness conveyor belt sushi restaurant! It was glorious. I felt like Lucy in the candy factory, and I was even wearing a similar hat.
#3: Still-Operational Video Stores!
I’m SO glad we tracked down all of those still-running video stores this year. Those were experiences I never thought I’d have, or even could have. Real actual mom-and-pop video stores? That still dealt mostly in VHS? In 2017?!
I covered six of those stores on Dino Drac. Each one was a time capsule, happily oblivious to the ever-changing world. Walking into those stores was like drinking concentrated nostalgia. They didn’t just evoke the past — they were the past. They even smelled like it.
We hit ’em just in time, too. Of the six stores I featured, two have since closed. If the remaining haven’t already followed suit, I don’t like their chances for 2018. (I’m still pulling for them, of course!)
If you missed my trip reports, they’re some of my favorite Dino Drac articles:
#4: Get Out!
If you still haven’t seen Get Out, believe the hype. It’s as good as you’ve heard. I’m notoriously generous with my ratings, but I wouldn’t throw the word “masterpiece” around unless I meant it. Get Out absolutely was one.
I’d call it my favorite film of 2017, and in a year when the competition included Luke Skywalker milking a goddamned walrus-cow, that’s saying a lot.
As an aside, I guess now would be a good time to confess that I will always love Catherine Keener.
#5: Zima Returns!
To be real, I didn’t flip when I heard about Zima’s return. I knew it’d be good for a quickie article, but it wasn’t even close to an Ecto Cooler situation.
Seems I underestimated Zima’s power. Tasting it again unlocked so many memories from the mid ‘90s, covering everything from high school frenemies to street corner swigging to Real McCoy’s Another Night. It was almost overwhelming.
Zima is back off the market now, but there’s a rumor that it’ll return again in 2018. If you’ve never had it, picture tonic water cut with lemon seltzer, and then give that concoction a name that sounds like some enemy bug from Zelda. It’s good!
#6: Halloween Haunts!
I had a great Halloween season, mostly thanks to getting out in the world and actually doing stuff. (And by “doing stuff” I don’t just mean going to Target.)
I can’t remember exactly how many haunted attractions I visited between August and October, but there were a bunch. Some were better than others, but all were like gas stations for Halloween spirit. I’d spend an hour looking at plastic mummies in a modified cornfield, and then I could make it through another week.
Before 2017, “do stuff for Halloween” was something I always preached but never really practiced. Now I can speak from experience: It’s SO important! I consider “wallowing in Halloween” my biggest site-related responsibility, but the difference this year was that I swam in it.
#7: Gremlins Cereal!
Back in July, I opened a box of Gremlins Cereal. That was a good day!
#8: Streamin’ Robert Stack!
I still can’t get over it. The original Robert Stack episodes of Unsolved Mysteries, streaming on demand! It’s bigger news than some of you realize. Before now, so many of those classic segments were almost impossible to find.
Years ago, I spent too much money on a bootleg DVD set, complete with a dice roll on a shady seller. The video quality was so bad that I could barely make it through ‘em. At the time, that was the literal only way to get at certain segments — segments that you can now summon in five seconds flat. You lucky spoiled monsters.
The streaming episodes are more “curated” than “actual,” if that makes sense, but they still hit all of the important notes: The old music! The original graphics! Robert Stack vamping in dark alleys!
You can find the episodes in a few places, but I prefer Amazon, where they stream free for Prime members. Unsolved Mysteries is still as creepy and fascinating as ever, and being able to constantly binge on it was one of 2017’s bright spots.
It: Chapter One isn’t on this list because I found it terrifying, because to be honest, I didn’t. For me, this film was all about the strength of its performances. The super solid script helped, but those young actors — all of them — were just phenomenal.
I’m not going easy on them because of their ages, either. I can’t think of many other times when I left a theater feeling so enormously impressed by the a-c-t-i-n-g. Even now, months later, I have to remind myself that the kids who played those kids aren’t actually those kids.
Count me in for It: Chapter Two, and good luck to the poor motherfucker who has to cast it.
#10: Return of Dino Drac’s Videos!
I was determined to publish videos again this year, and not just ones where I play catch with giant rabbits while wearing vampire makeup. The “regular” videos are super important to me, and I feel like the site just isn’t what it’s supposed to be without them.
So, confession: I’m pretty hard on how I look. By “pretty hard” I mean I once tried to skip a sibling’s wedding because the mirror was being a dick that day. Prior to this year’s Halloween Countdown, I hadn’t done a me-as-me video since October of 2014. That’s why.
Earlier this year, I started living cleaner. I did it for a hundred reasons, but near the top of the list was being comfortable with posting videos again. All I had to trade was some tequila and about six dozen boxes of Red Vines.
My “return” video was that review of Pepsi Halloween Cola. The night it was published, I was so proud and so happy. Specifically, I was proud and happy that I felt okay-in-my-skin enough to let strangers look at me for four minutes.
#11: You guys!
I mean it. You are wonderful. I could certainly daydream about a bigger audience, but I’d never wish for a better one.
I come here and I make silly things and I never once feel like it’s not worth it. Even when you’re not wholly invested, I can count on you to play along. It’s a blessed thing, and I never take it for granted.
At this point, it’s not like I’m actively trying to grow my audience. I just do what feels right and let the chips fall where they may. With readers/watchers who are so vocal and so encouraging, I never feel like I’m wanting for much. I can spend an entire day stuffing celery with sour cream, and you’ll tell me I did good. You’re the best kinds of enablers. You’re my drug.
Sometimes a person who used to read X-E will breeze through here and think of Dino Drac as my Old Man Logan era — to put it generously. But I don’t. To me, these are my good years. Whenever this ends, this is the era I’ll want to remember.
I can’t thank you enough for being a part of it. For justifying it. Every comment, like, retweet, Facebook share, virtual high-five, Funpack sub, whatever — it’s like having a thousand invisible friends constantly tell you to be happy being yourself. When I put it that way, I feel insanely lucky.
I look forward to spending 2018 with you. And hopefully 2025, too.