I didn’t expect this post. I didn’t expect that Sense8 would already belong in the “Throwback” category.
No matter how corny the song, or Pink's delivery of the same, it's quite a moment when all those youngsters throw the peace sign in the air and sing "hey hey hey hey, what's going on?" In fact, it's this element of pop community that I like best about Pink concerts ... So now Pink sings that song as if she's known it all her life, and based on the voices in the Fillmore who sang every word, her audience has known it all their lives as well, and it's a great pop moment that reflects the optimism of the young just as other Pink songs reflect their sadness. The song indeed no longer belongs to Linda Perry, it belongs to Pink and the fans who know and sing all the words.
After Season Two, I connected my attachment to Sense8 to my connection to the world:
When I see the characters in Sense8 merging, I experience the most beautiful community of them all, one that results from the blending of the eight into one. It is as if my long-ago dreams are manifested on my television screen.
When I wrote those words about Pink, I was reeling from the news that Sleater-Kinney was going on “indefinite hiatus”. As the years approached a decade, “indefinite” seemed like a tease.
But then Sleater-Kinney came back.
After 23 episodes, 16 cities and 13 countries, the story of the Sense8 cluster is coming to an end ... It is everything we and the fans dreamed it would be: bold, emotional, stunning, kick ass, and outright unforgettable. Never has there been a more truly global show with an equally diverse and international cast and crew, which is only mirrored by the connected community of deeply passionate fans all around the world.
And so, one more time:
We were going through some old stuff ... I was posting pictures of our wedding on Facebook ... and Robin came across a sealed envelope for her with a handwritten date: May 26, 2013. Her name is in my handwriting, the date is in her handwriting, so I’m thinking we read this, sealed it, and forgot about it. Until today.
She opened it and found two pages of single-spaced writing from yours truly. Some excerpts:
[I] remember that when we were in high school, and sometimes even when we were first married, and I’d be fucking up like usual and you wouldn’t be able to get me to understand, and so you’d sit at home while I was gone and write me these letters that would tell what you’d been thinking about and you would always tell me that you loved me the most.
And since I don’t know what else to do, I’m writing you a letter now, like you used to write to me, and when I’m done maybe you’ll know that I love you the most!
I think when I was miserable all the time I probably told you more about what I was thinking than I do now, because in those days I would get where I couldn’t take it anymore and I’d freak out and we’d have a long talk and I’d confess stuff. Since I don’t freak out as much as I used to, I don’t confess as often. Somehow it ends up that the more normal I get the less I tell you, or something like that....
[I]t’s hard for me to decide if you think the first 20 years of our marriage have been the best, because I’m not quite certain what you have wanted from those years. That’s not quite it; what you want seems so low-key that I keep thinking you want something more and it’s my fault that I don’t know what it is.
I haven’t the foggiest idea what I want. I’m sure I’ll come up with something by the end of this paragraph, and I’ll mean it when I say it, but I’m not much for long-range planning. I just let stuff happen for the most part. For all my navel-gazing I sure don’t spend much time thinking about anything real, do I? But if I am honest, I can at least say that I couldn’t imagine the last 20 years without you, anymore than I can imagine the next 20 without you. I don’t know what love is, but when you can’t even imagine life without a certain someone special, it must be something like love, don’t you suppose? ...
[H]ere I am, writing and writing, and who would have thought it, but as I near 40, we have basically established that I am a dork with few skills and useless talents ... but I know how to write. And so this letter is kinda like if I was a carpenter and I built you a bathtub. (Who builds bathtubs, anyway?) ...
And I couldn’t have gotten to the place I am now, without you. I’m sorry this is turning out to be more about me than about us, but I guess that’s how is always turns out when I’m doing the talking, and I can’t help but look back on our 20 years of marriage and think how lucky I am to have you, and how little my life would have meant without you. Everyone else I know, no matter what else they do, when they go home, they don’t get to go home to you. I do. That’s why I’d rather be me than them, why I’d rather be me than anyone ... because I get to be with you....
Maybe you could stick this letter in your purse or something, and put a date on the outside that reads “May 26 2013” and then when that date comes we can open it up and read it again and laugh about how silly we were way back in 1993. I know it seems silly to think about us in 1973. We didn’t know shit, but we turned out pretty good, don’t you think?
In the early years of our marriage, I had the idea that we should buy a large table for the kitchen, so we could invite groups of our friends for dinner parties. We’d get six or eight folks, eat, and have great and friendly conversation. It was a vision of community that may have grown from the utopian dreams of hippiedom I had as a teenager.
The reality was, and is, that I’m riddled with anxiety and paranoia, such that I rarely even have six or eight people who I’d invite into my home. I know many more people than that, fine people, but my hermit-like existence no longer has room for those idealistic visions.
There was one time in my life when I participated in a communal enterprise. I took part in a journal called Bad Subjects, “Political Education for Everyday Life”. I wrote my first piece for them in 1992, and soon after joined the production team, on which I worked until approximately 2001. In that year, I wrote “Feel Like Going Home: Notes on Self-Marginalization”. Although it’s 16 years old, some of it still resonates for me.
Eight years haven't done as much for me as I'd hoped. Bad Subjects was kind enough to take me in. There was room then, and in fact there has always been room, in Bad Subjects for marginal folks. All we had to do was commit to the attempt, and we were accepted into the community. The beautiful utopian vision of Bad Community has made a difference in the lives of all who have participated in it, myself included. But I've been fooling others and myself; I've been posing, I haven't been a true believer. I thought it would happen, but so far I've fallen short. At times, I've misrepresented myself, but for the most part, I think it has been clear where I come from. The anti-utopian in a group of utopians, the non-believer in the midst of faith, the loner in the middle of the community. It's a sign of the magnificence of the Bad Community that there has always been a place for miscreants like me, and always will be. But Lord, I feel like going home.
I’m reminded of this because of a recent series of posts on Facebook, which began with a fellow Bad Subject from Australia saying that her memory of those times was jogged when she saw Ana Marie Cox on TV. (Cox had spent a year with Bad Subjects in the mid-90s.) While the journal had its start in Berkeley, once it went online its community became international, and an email list lasted for some time that featured lively debate amongst like-minded folks. Our Australian friend got the attention of others, and a new Facebook group was quickly formed so we could talk amongst ourselves once more. It is good to see that old communal spirit rise again.
But, I still feel like going home. As Pee-wee says,
Which leads me to Sense8. It’s hard to explain the series. Heck, I’ve just spent several paragraphs talking about everything except Sense8, and when I wrote about Season One, I spent the first half talking about Pink and Linda Perry, as if I can only come close to the show’s essence if I work in the shadows. In Sense8, eight people from across the globe share a connection that is odd enough to place the series in the sci-fi genre. They are “sensates”, linked to the others in their cluster emotionally and mentally. One way the connection works, that goes unexplained, is that they seem to be able to be there for each other in a physical sense. So if one sensate is about to be overpowered by a few bad guys, the sensate that knows martial arts will take over and kick some ass, without ever actually leaving her jail cell.
In a recent review of Season Two, Tim Goodman wrote, “For Netflix's ambitious drama Sense8, the path to entry – and the ability to truly appreciate what comes after – is deceptively simple. You have to give in to it. You have to go with it. ... Sense8 is probably better described as a series you experience more than understand”. It shares some of this with the recent Legion, another show where the pleasures did not come from “figuring it out” but by letting it wash over you.
What entrances me about Sense8 grows out of that unexplained connection among the cluster. I spent my earlier years wishing for community. I spent some time later dipping my toes in the river of community, but not making it to the other side. And now, I’m old and a hermit.
But when I see the characters in Sense8 merging, I experience the most beautiful community of them all, one that results from the blending of the eight into one. It is as if my long-ago dreams are manifested on my television screen.
And they do the impossible, taking the cliché song choice and making it new again:
Back in 1970-71, my brother and I lived in a little apartment in Capitola, California. We didn’t have a phone, and of course, this was long before the days of cell phones. So no one could call us, and if we wanted to make a call, we walked down the street to a motel that had a pay phone in its parking lot.
Now, Robin and I have several phones. There’s her phone, and my phone. She has a couple of work phones. We have two phones we don’t use (one we have never used).
Thursday, my phone quit charging. Friday, I took it to the shop and was told the charging mechanics inside were broken, and that I’d need a replacement, which was covered by the insurance our son always convinces us to get. Friday night, I did a web chat, after which I was told a new phone (not exact, but equivalent) would be on its way that day, with an ETA of Monday.
Within half an hour, I got an email telling me my replacement phone was on backorder, and there would be a 3-7 day delay before they sent my phone.
So, no phone. I have a tablet, and I have that leftover from the dinosaur era, a big-ass desktop computer (on which I am typing this post). But no phone. No text messages while I am out and about. No camera for quick pix. No Google Maps telling me where to go, step by step.
I am bereft.
This blog turns 15 years old today.
I was 48 years old when I started.
The first music post (second post overall), from that first day on January 6, 2002, had a picture of Robin I called “The Cowgirl and the Cactus”, and a link to the Bruce Springsteen song, “Used Cars”. There was no apparent connection between Robin and the song.
Here is what I wrote on the occasion of the 14th birthday:
There is something old-fashioned about persisting in a format that has long been overtaken by other forms of online presentation.
And there is something odd about continuing to write for the smallest of audiences.
But think of this: my blog has never had advertising. I’ve never made any money from it, unless you count published writing that had its root here (i.e. I was “discovered” via my blog writing ... of course, much of my published writing has been unpaid/academic). This allows me to pretend my writing is “pure”.
Changes have occurred over time. I used to write about a broader area. I hesitate now to write about things where I know people who can do better jobs, so I rarely write about politics, and I write less about sports than I did in the past. The blog has become an arts site, where I write about TV, movies, and music ... and admittedly, when someone has asked me to write for publication, it’s those areas that come up.
I know there is some good writing buried in the past fourteen years, pieces where I happen to read them by accident and don’t always know they are mine until I’m finished, and I think, “I am good enough”. The published stuff, which doesn’t appear here, is of varying quality ... I think my piece on punk cinema for Nick Rombes was good, ditto for my Bugs Bunny Meets Picasso essay for Michael Berube. My Battlestar Galactica and King Kong essays might be the best of my Smart Pop work. Point is, the form is shorter, but I occasionally reach those heights on this blog. Maybe for 2016 I should find a way to foreground Past Classics.
What I hope to avoid as much as possible is the type of naked confessional I am far too capable of indulging in. It’s worth repeating every once in awhile the motto for this blog, Kael’s “I’m frequently asked why I don’t write my memoirs. I think I have.”
I am a curmudgeon when it comes to Xmas. But this year was different, because I spent it with a four-year-old.
Our grandson, Félix, has reached the age where he really understands what’s up with Xmas. He knows there are presents ... he knows there’s Santa ... he probably knows he is the center of attention. Watching his joy made Xmas more than bearable, it made it enjoyable.
He handed out the presents. He can’t really read yet, but he knows his own name, and “Mom” and “Dad”. So he could look at a wrapped present and tell if it was for him when he saw his name. He got thrown off a bit when he’d see the word “From”, because once he saw “F” he hopefully assumed the rest of the word was “élix” and he’d announce it was for him. So it wasn’t perfect, but he did pretty good. And he was dedicated ... even after he opened something for himself that he really liked, he’d put it down to grab another present for someone else.
I usually say he wants to be a DJ when he grows up, but that’s not really accurate. He thinks he is a DJ now. He loves playing DJ, plugging in various things (or “plugging” them in, since in many cases, they aren’t working so he won’t electrocute himself). One of the presents he got on Xmas Eve was DJ Lights ... disco lights, really ... it sends colored lights across the room and the ceiling, makes for a festive atmosphere. His dad helped him mount it on a wall, so we got to watch his lights most of the night. On Xmas morning, he found that Santa had brought a kid’s DJ board, with a pretend turntable for scratching, and a keyboard, and lots of sliders and preset drum beats. He loved it.
Like many middle-class Americans, Sara and Ray got an Amazon Echo for the holiday (Ray’s boss gave them to employees). Later, it turned out I’d gotten TWO, and then we went to my sister’s, and she had one, too (her’s was the big model ... the rest of us had Echo Dots). This meant all of us spent a lot of time asking Alexa questions, smart and stupid. Félix was once again the star. He took to the AI machine instantly. They called theirs “Echo” because he has a brother named Lex, and they worried saying “Lex” all the time might set Alexa off. Félix took a nap with Robin ... she said when he woke up, he quietly whispered, “Echo, play ...” (she didn’t catch what). He already expects the Echo to be ready and responsive to his every beck and call. He was so cute ... if he asked a question that didn’t get answered, he’d walk over to the Echo and talk into it directly, as if that would help.
And at one point, apropos of nothing we could figure, he said something like, “Echo, what can we do for homeless people so they won’t be homeless anymore?”
So, yes, this was a good Xmas.
Meanwhile, 2016 sucked, as everyone knows. Our family survived, at least. We haven’t seen Neal and Sonia yet this holiday, but hopefully we will very soon. Oh, and Spot made it through another year: