Today’s eel: every edition of this newsletter is named after an eel. Today’s is Anarrhichthys ocellatus, or the wolf eel. Technically, the wolf eel is not an eel, but we have never let that stop us here. They are long, and strange looking, and that’s enough for me. Linneas doesn’t subscribe to this newsletter. Jerk.
Wolf eels are a bit like the mullet of the eel world — blobfish in the front, moray in the back. Juvenile wolf eels are bright orange, and very conspicurous. Almost Guy Fieri like.
The North American Fish Association describes the wolf eel in weirdly horny terms: “The large puffy lips of this gruesomely attractive fish belong to the Wolf-eel,” they say. “They are said to mate for life and live in the same cave for years. Personal experience, however, reveals a different story...” Reader I will admit that I thought this person was going to admit to having a… relationship with a fish. The Affair, but replace Dominic West with “the large puffy lips of a gruesomely attractive fish” (frankly not far off). But no.
“Although they are believed to hang out in the same cave with the same mate, this diver has seen some individuals change homes more than once. In addition, I have seen the unthinkable -- wolf-eels living in trios! The trios I have seen included 2 males and 1 female. Wolf-eels, I believe have distinct personalities (or at least distinctive behavior). One juvenile in particular we called Wild Thing, because she would race out of her cave and straight for any diver who came near her lair.”
Also and this is a complete aside, can we stop projecting human relationship ideas onto animals? Every so often I see some headline about how an animal is polyamorous or gay or are swingers or something and every time I’m wonder why we must thrust our weird sexual relationship baggage and labels onto unsuspecting frogs! Let them live! They have no idea what ethical non-monogamy is and they don’t want to be lectured about it!!!! Okay moving on.
According to some sources I read, among Indigenous groups wolf eels are not only tasty, but a special food reserved only for tribal healers.
Now please enjoy the wolf eel’s author photo.
Current status: Well well well, 2020. What can one say about this year? It's been so long. And so short. And so hard. And so strange.
My brain didn’t feel like it worked particularly well this year. I had had a lot of half ideas, thoughts that I felt were connected but couldn’t articulate how or why. I sent my editors and agent a series of half baked ideas, still gooey in the middle. It felt a bit like when you’re in a crowd, and you’re looking for a friend, and you are trying to peer around and above all the heads, and you catch some glimpses of them but you can’t quite track them well enough to actually meet up. That was how my brain felt this year, trying to formulate ideas.
It’s trendy to shit on resolutions, and this year, the end of year hate has been extra-intense. There’s a kind of hipster nihilism that has only gotten worse recently. It’s trendy to shit on people who express excitement that 2020 will soon be over, as if they’re hapless rubes who think that magically the stroke of a clock will change everything. Or who think that the year, the arbitrary concept of “a year” is to blame for the ills of the last 12 months. I see so many Tweets that can be summed up as: “Haha! You fool! You ridiculous naive waif, don’t you know that it’s CAPITALISM and FASCISM that ruined this year, not the CONCEPT OF TIME?”
Yes, my dear Internet-poisoned friend, we know. We can still be excited for an excuse — however arbitrary — to take stock and plan and think and hope. I reject the idea that hope is naive. It can be, but it is not inherently so, no matter how many Internet mean girls say so.
I love resolutions. And yes, I know, the science shows that New Years resolutions are rarely kept. But I love goals. I love thinking about what I want to be doing next year. I love making lists and plotting out big ambitious projects. The act of evaluation, of looking forward, of thinking about the kind of person I want to be and how I might become that human, that’s valuable work in my opinion.
I had a lot of goals at the beginning of 2020. I hit some of them — I made more clay objects, I worked on doing a hand stand, I started learning how to roller skate, I got some rad tattoos. Others were either impossible (I made no progress on my rock climbing because the gyms were closed) or thwarted by the pandemic (funding for a project I was really excited about fell through) or just out of my grasp for whatever reason (motions at the world generally).
I felt very unproductive this year. I had five big podcast projects I really wanted to get off the ground, and I only manged two of them. The other three are staring at me from my white board, taunting me. I hope that you'll hear them all in 2021. But to make myself feel a little better, I listed out all the stuff I HAVE done this year.
This year I:
Created 20 episodes of Flash Forward (okay currently 19, but on January 5th the 20th will come out and I feel confident we'll get there!)
Hired a producer for Flash Forward for the first time! ALL HAIL JULIA!
Celebrated Flash Forward's FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!
Hosted and edited 8 episodes of Open World, an audio fiction anthology about hopeful futures, which Spotify picked as one of the best new podcasts of 2020.
Created 10 episodes of Advice For And From The Future.
Created a whole new production studio to house my experiments.
Performed a live interactive audio piece at OnAir Fest.
Spoke at UC Irvine about futures
Updated my very long menstrual cup review for the New York Times.
Sold 1 secret project to a fancy audio company (more on that soon) and hired an amazing team to work on it with me.
Came up with 18 fake podcasts for my goofy newsletter Podcast Idea.
Had ~362 meetings about something exciting that I’m not supposed to talk about just yet.
Wrote 50,000 words of a young adult novel I’ve been trying to noodle through. (Huge thank you to my writing group who’s been cheering me on as I work on this.)
Wrote 3/4 a screenplay, realized it was really probably a TV show, but just kept writing and will figure out what to do with it later?! (Another shout out to the writing group here!)
Made some new friends despite it being a literal pandemic.
Kept over 10 plants alive!
Got a kiln, fixed it up, and made a bunch of clay sculptures.
Got better at doing a handstand.
Started learning how to roller skate.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the vast majority of this work was funded and supported by members of Flash Forward Presents, and patrons of Flash Forward. If you want to become one of those people, and help make my weird future dreams come true, I’d be forever grateful. If you already are, I cannot thank you enough, and you should be getting something special from me soon in your inbox.
I'm always going to be someone who sees the stuff on the other list first, the list of all the stuff I didn't do, the stuff I wanted to do, the list I'm not really showing you. It's hard for me to remember to take a second and focus on the wins, on the stuff I got done during a pandemic, an economic crisis, and a political environment that is hostile to me and so many of my friends. But this list matters more! And it’s impressive, dammit!
I hope your 2020 was as fertile as possible. It was a hard year. A big year. No matter what made it to your list of things done, I hope you can take pride in each thing. Surviving this year is enough. You don’t have to thrive all the time, and certainly not in the face of adversity. I hope your 2021 is better.
And if you’re a person like me, where you did have time and space and money this year to make stuff and have hobbies, I hope you also spread that money and energy around. This year I comitted to donating a certaing % of my income each month to mutual aid requests and local organizations doing the hard, important work. I recommend following some kind of mututal aid network — I personally like @wearetheonesmutualcare and @blackgirlmighty but there are SO many out there. There’s probably a group in your community doing this work. We can lift eachother up. We must.
I want to leave you with this meme I saw on Tumblr recently. I don’t know who created it, but I love it and might print it out and put it up on my wall. The quote on the left is from Angela Davis and the quote on the right is from The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin.
✨ Onward and upward my friends ✨