Thoughts
December 18, 2023

23 things I enjoyed in 2023

Personally and globally, it was a bit of a weird year in terms of media and culture. The dual writer and actor strikes this summer turned a lot of scripted media on its head. I spent a lot of time writing a book, and conversely wasn't able to read as many as I wanted to. But still, we had some great travel, fun times with friends and family, and loads of other lovely stuff sprinkled in between.

So, as list season, and 2023, nears an end, here's my tally of 23 things I liked this year. (Check out 2022's list for more good things.)

AMC A-List

This one is the gateway drug to a number of other things I loved this year. With A-List, for just twenty bucks a month (prices vary a little bit depending on where you live), you get to see effectively unlimited movies in theaters. IMAX, 3D, everything is all included. So far in 2023, I’ve clocked 21 movies, with at least another 1-2 coming up over the holidays (Jewish Christmas). I don’t think I saw that many films in theaters over the decade prior to signing up.

Godzilla Minus One

Speaking of movies, this could be the best one I have seen all year. I’ve always loved Godzilla, even the terrible ones – however, this film might be the best installment in the entire seven decades of the franchise. Like many movies featuring the big green guy, it’s a standalone story, so don’t feel pressured to watch anything before checking this one out.

Mission Impossible, all of them

Last year, the new Top Gun was my favorite movie of the year. So, before its newest sequel this summer, my wife and I wanted to get caught up on the other blockbuster Tom Cruise franchise. It did not disappoint. I last saw the second film in theaters as a kid, but man, I sure was missing out on some good stuff since then. Turns out that the new one also rules.

Barbie

Of course, the biggest movie story of the year was Barbenheimer. I liked them both, but I think Barbie was the harder film to get right – and Greta Gerwig nailed it. It’s rare to see things have such high expectations and still beat them.

Star Trek: Picard

When Star Trek was re-invigorated by Paramount+ a few years back, Picard was the most anticipated and intriguing of the new shows. It stumbled around for the first two seasons (largely watchable, but not great) before pulling off the most incredible turnaround any show has ever done, giving us a final season that redeemed the whole endeavor. I’m not being hyperbolic about that turnaround, statistically it’s the largest swing in IMDb user ratings in history. (Spoilers at the link)

Apple News+

They got me. I got sick of ads and spammy stuff on Flipboard. Feedly always felt clunky. But Apple News, it just works. In my continued, often losing, battle against the junk food of screen time, Apple News serves up some nutritious pixels in an attractive and easy-to-use app. It’s $12.99 a month, which is way cheaper than subscribing to all these magazines and newspapers separately.

Crosswords

A friend brought a crossword puzzle book to a Super Bowl party in January. I was confused at first, but now I get it – I’ve since found myself tapping away at both the Apple News and New York Times crosswords on the train most days.

The Puzzler by AJ Jacobs

Inspired, at least a little bit, by those crosswords, I had fun reading AJ Jacobs’ book about puzzles in all their forms. Jacobs is one of the most entertaining non-fiction writers working today, and I really enjoyed following along as he tried his hand at solving (and building) some of the world’s toughest puzzles.

Silo

More Apple content, more Rebecca Ferguson content. Silo, a mysterious sci-fi show set in a giant underground bunker with no sense of history or time, is the show that we were most excited about getting weekly new episodes of this year. It has an excellent cast – and a cliffhanger that I’m still thinking about.

Skillman Avenue

My biggest life change this year was moving one neighborhood over to Sunnyside, here in Queens. I’ve been familiar with the area for a long time, but living off Skillman Avenue has been a bigger treat than I expected. This tree-lined strip of bars, restaurants, and shops has quickly become one of my favorite micro-neighborhoods in the whole city.

Bolivian Llama Party

Speaking of Sunnyside, this South American spot is serving some of the best bites in town. While it’s window-service only, you’re in for a treat no matter what you order – empanada-meets-soup-dumplings saltenas, croquette-like rellenos, and seasoned-fries papitas are some of our favorites.

Doing podcast interviews

As part of promoting Simply Put, I’ve been flattered to be invited on to dozens of podcasts over the last few months. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my work, and I’ve just flat-out had fun chatting with many great hosts.

Sending my email

Maybe you got here via my 3 Simple Things email – but if you didn’t, go sign up! I’m proud of keeping this up every Tuesday since the beginning of the year, and I look forward to continuing to grow this project in 2024.

If Books Could Kill

This podcast, from Michael Hobbes and Peter Shamshiri, is one of my favorite listens. In each episode, they critically review a popular “airport best-seller” (think The 5 Love Languages or Rich Dad, Poor Dad), and dissect how they “captured our hearts and ruined our minds.” It’s funny, insightful, and I hope my book never ends up on there.

Late Developers by Belle and Sebastian

I wasn’t that surprised when “I Don’t Know What You See In Me,” the lead single off Belle and Sebastian’s latest album, was my most-played song on Spotify this year. This Scottish indie band has been pumping out great work for nearly three decades now, and this new album might be one of my favorites. It’s brighter and poppier than some of their other recent stuff, and it’s a great antidote to any dreary winter day.

Stop Making Sense

Despite being a big Talking Heads fan, I only ever saw this seminal concert film one time before catching it during A24’s recent re-release. It’s still the best of the genre, and we danced in our seats the whole time. I’m so glad I caught it on a big screen – and with big speakers.

Copenhagen

We went to Copenhagen for a few days in May, and it instantly vaulted into the top tier of favorite destinations. The vibes, as the kids say, were immaculate. The food is awesome. The urbanism is excellent. And they somehow let me drink wine and rent a boat to drive around the harbor.

The Juan Soto trade

After the Yankees re-signed Aaron Judge, I was more excited for this baseball season than any other in recent memory. But it was also the most disappointing season in recent memory. In classic Yankees fashion, they are trying to fix it by getting one of the brightest young stars in the game, outfielder Juan Soto, to play alongside Judge and the rest of the Bombers. Maybe we’ll see the playoffs again in 2024?

Apartment tours on YouTube

With the new apartment, I ended up watching a few apartment tours on YouTube for inspiration. And then YouTube’s algorithm made sure that I watched more, and more, and more. These are mesmerizing in the same way that peering into stranger’s windows is as you walk around the city at night – what do they got in there?

Eight Billion Genies

I’m not usually a big graphic novel person, but I spent some time trying to appreciate the form this year. And with Eight Billion Genies, I think I kinda get it. In this series, every person on earth suddenly gets a genie that will grant them any single wish, and chaos immediately ensues. It’s an interesting concept, executed beautifully.

Let’s Game it Out

Video games are another form of media I haven’t fully embraced (at least not in recent years). However, I still have enough memories of weird creations in Roller Coaster Tycoon to appreciate what Josh Knowles is doing on his YouTube channel. In his often-hilarious videos, he purposely misplays simulator games like Planet Zoo or SimAirport to such an absurd level that the results are almost a work of art. Watch this channel if you want some low-brow laughs.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

There’s a beautiful black walnut tree hanging over our lawn upstate. I look at it out my window whenever I’m working there, and every summer, it provides dabbled shade while we play cornhole or cut the grass. It’s my favorite tree, and Peter Wohlleben’s book about how trees live, feel, and communicate has made me appreciate it even more.

Bluesky… maybe?

I’m still a little bummed about the fate of Twitter, even if it’s probably good for me to not spend as much time scrolling as I once did. I’ve since deleted the app and installed Bluesky in its place. I’ve found that it’s generally the most lively of any of the Twitter alternatives, but most importantly, it has the fewest amount of terrible people. It’s not perfect, but it beats that old hellsite by a million miles.

About the Author

Ben Guttmann ran a marketing agency for a long time, now he teaches digital marketing at Baruch College, just released his first book – Simply Put, and works with some cool folks on other projects in-between all of that. He writes about how we experience a world shaped by technology and humanity – and how we can build a better one.

Get my new book, it just came out.

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