Twenty songs, twenty years apart. This year’s edition of the 1997/2017 summer jam catastrophe playlist is 97.1 WJMZ.
(I almost called it “Summer Thoughts on the Common Toad.”)
In April my friend Russ Gilman-Hunt died. He was one of the first four people who worked at my job with me. He was funny, kind and clever. He was not very much older than me, but he had a deadpan world-weary affect and a quiet warmth that made him seem like everyone’s dad. I wish I had known him better, but most of his life was outside work, with his wife and two children and his community in the SCA. I wish they still had him.
In May I lost the job where I had worked with Russ, as did a number of my colleagues. I have a lot of support from people who care for me, and I am lucky in my socioeconomic class; that has allowed me to inform myself that this is an opportunity, more than a setback. (I have done so often and stridently.) I will probably have a new job soon. I like working, if not always working terribly hard. I hope I can make that work amount to something good.
It sometimes feels like the only things I write here are podcast show notes and epitaphs. I haven’t allowed myself much time to work on podcasts in the last month; hunting for what I perceive as a replacement means of survival has meant little available concentration for creative work. So this goes in the epitaph category. Sure wish there were fewer of those.
I didn’t always love my old job but I always liked it, and I took comfort in the idea that I was cultivating a good place to bring in new people and help them excel. I wanted to contribute patches to the leaky pipeline. I think Russ did too. I don’t know how much of that we managed. Some of the people I patched in got laid off with me. I’d say we did what good we could while seeing to our own survival, but. Well.
A job that you treat like just a job is, eventually, just a job. I want the work of my life to be more than that. Maybe in seven more years—if, God forbid, this WordPress install is still operating—I’ll tell you how that’s going.
In February I got an email from my old laptop, and then another, both suggesting that it was in Germany. I had not seen that laptop since it left the back of my car through a shattered window in 2010. The home page of its default browser, at the time, happened to be one I controlled and that was not linked anywhere else, so I told that page to blare alarms and notify me when and whence it was requested. It took seven years for that to (probably?) happen. I wonder if someone actually has that laptop, in more or less the same crumbling shape it was when it vanished. I wonder how well they read English, and what they can find out about me if they dig around on it. Surely nothing worse than the things I’ve written here myself.
I guess what I am doing here is reflecting, which is to say, looking for myself in a flawed surface. I started writing online in part because I wanted attention and in part because I already knew that my built-in memory could not be trusted to retain my life. My pipe is too leaky. All pipes are too leaky. Among my driving fears is the idea that anything I lose is lost forever, and that history unminded is a black hole, a /dev/null, a point of no return.
But to really believe that is to assert that I know the future, which is presumptive: the future and I have never met. Sometimes a setback is an opportunity. Sometimes the past writes you an email. Sometimes a kid whose dad dies grows up a whole person anyway. Even black holes leak back.
Okay not all of the last ten years have been Top but they certainly are Late. I was startled to realize it had been a decade since I listed my ten favorite movies, and there has been a bit of a shuffle, most significantly affected by the realization that I am a different person and that things catering to my narrow demographic no longer carry as much appeal. Some of these are pretty ossified regardless, though. I look different than I used to, but I still have all my own bones.*
Fighting it out just below the 9/10 zone: Toy Story 3, Grosse Point Blank, Punch-Drunk Love, The Matrix. Movies that might work their way up in another ten years: Moana, Arrival, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
* yes even teeth mostly
I watched Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about Studio Ghibli. It was filmed there in 2012 and 2013 while Hayao Miyazaki made his final feature film, and it had an extraordinary impact on me.
I haven’t stopped thinking about the documentary, or about that specific exchange, ever since. Tonight I finally watched the feature film itself.
It’s time once again for Reel 90s Kids, the podcast you have forgotten that we did one time! We have now done it again. Here is the audio click button thing that tells you the wrong file duration, and below it are the show notes.
0:00 – Thanks to Oliver Schories for this episode’s intro song, which I think has a 40% chance of deeply irritating my cohost.
5:23 – I could put links to the Wikipedia articles for Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Dangerous Liaisons here, but you can type names into Wikipedia as well as I can.
10:48 – Sorry, Mr. Lester.
12:41 – Shooter the 2007 movie; Shooter the 2016 TV series. Since we recorded this episode, USA has apparently decided we’ve had a long enough gap between mass shootings to actually premiere and air it! Yaaaay
19:03 – I cannot put anything about the confluence of Bittersweet Symphony and Shakespeare in Love in the show notes, because my brain completely manufactured it. Why did I think this was a thing?! If you have a clue, please call our toll-free line.
20:13 – Audio taken from this Fusion interview.
22:48 – Movie studios were forced to stop running their own theaters by United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc, in 1948.
31:13 – I neglected to congratulate her, but Anne batted a thousand on these!
37:35 – See you back here for the Drive Me Crazy episode in June 2019!
38:11 – And thanks to Jade Berlin and her terrifying accompanist for our outro music:
And indeed I think it is best not to be comfortable, no matter how much I want to. But there are still sources of strength.
Apparently the thing I do here now is, once a year, post a podcast I made with friends about a movie that already came out. This time I made one with my friend Anne! It’s about the non-classic 90s Teen Film Varsity Blues, for no clear reason that either of us could recall. Despite our claims at the beginning, we DID think of a belated title for it: Reel 90s Kids.
Because we remember.
I’m not going to link to the site we discuss for the latter half of the podcast because I don’t want to make anyone’s life sadder, including yours. I have faith in your ability to find it if you want to. Please don’t. Special thanks to small genius Aidan James for our outro music!
I really love Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but my fondness is as nothing compared to that of my friend Rachel, even though she’s actually more a fan of a work derived from—well, we’ll get to that. Sometimes we exhort each other about it on twitter. Our mutual friend Sumana (star of many recent entries here) has found this charming, and a while back she urged us to record some kind of longer discussion and put it on the Internet; we did so, but not without making her complicit.
This is a podcast! It’s about 53 minutes long and covers a broad range of topics, which I have tried to annotate below. It is centered around the reasoning behind our affection for the movie, and especially the treatment of sexuality, gender and kyriarchy therein. I have been lax in my duty as its producer and am posting it months late, but fortunately it is now in time for Chris Evans and his portrayal of Steve Rogers to reënter our consciousness in Avengers: Age of Innocence. I found this conversation valuable and was grateful to be a part of it; I hope you like it too.
3:40 – Steve has wood.
4:00 – Sumana’s reference to difficulty reading about torture “today” refers to when we recorded the podcast, in early December of 2014.
7:10 – Rachel and Sumana both knew the origin of the term “Winter Soldier” (it was news to me! I am a failed American).
10:30 – “Mothering versus Contract” by Virginia Held is an amazing piece of work, which came to me by way of my friend Monica; it first appeared in Beyond Self-Interest in 1990, and you can read some of it via Google Books.
20:25 – Specifically, Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1940. The joke about the title of this post is that they created him for a publisher known, at the time, as Timely Comics.
37:40 – Rachel here references Ursula K Le Guin’s classic short story (PDF): “Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No? Then let me describe
one more thing.“
39:00 – The Strong Female Characters are a joint creation of Kate Beaton, Meredith Gran and Carly Monardo.
40:15 – I couldn’t find an easily viewable version of the full pilot, but here’s a few minutes of footage from Global Frequency.
42:55 – Sumana is a graduate of Hacker School, now the Recurse Center, in Manhattan.
44:15 – I left this bit in because it has good comic timing.
46:05 – Sexy Murder Walk owes its name at least in part to Charlize Theron.
46:50 – The actress Rachel mentions, playing Bucky’s date and later starring in Doctor Who, is Jenna Coleman.
47:30 – Much of the inspiration for this podcast came from Sumana Meets Doctor Who!
52:35 – As requested.