Friday, December 29, 2017

2018 and more

I've spent most of adult life focusing much of my energy on one kind of "social media" or another online. Before it was Facebook and Twitter, it was their predecessors, such as Myspace, and before that it was message boards and Usenet, which weren't named as such. And that's not to mention that Golden Age of Blogging that this blog was a minor player in for a brief period.

The things I'm about to get into will undoubtedly make it sound like I feel more negative about it overall than I mean for it to.

As someone who suspects myself of being on the Autism spectrum and realizes that regardless of that, am quite introverted, I can't imagine what my life would have been like exactly if I hadn't come of age at a time when the commercial Internet was also coming of age.

Too often I hear people decry "social media" and Internet communication as making people antisocial and taking away from the social experience. I've felt frustrated and guilty about this at various times, in various relationships. I suspect that in some previous time I would have spent much of that time I spent on these doing something else that was solitary, compared to directly interacting with people, reading or something. I consider that might have been writing or learning to animate or something else that would have benefited me creatively, emotionally and possibly financially. I consider that often.

I'm not here to feel sorry for myself. Honestly, that possibility hadn't prevented me from the easy time dump of "social media" before and it's not going to now.

I've made some kind of friends, as good as I ever do in general, with a number of people on "social media" over the decades. Many I care a lot about. As such, I am not in anyway trying feel sorry for myself over the life I've lived or choices I've made.

That said, in the age of Trump, I think many of us are killing ourselves online. I think we are angrier than ever, which makes sense considering out justifications, but we are also able to release just enough microdoses of rage out by sharing our outrage with others, who just make a little angry emoticon at the same thing, and we've all done essentially the least we could possibly do, but doing it often enough feels like just a little something, rather than the nothing that it is.

I think a lot of people, especially progressives, are caught in this rage cycle. I think we need to get a lot more of out there.

I, for one, need to find a better focus my energy. As a starting place, some of that will be creative. I have things to be written and finished. I have moviemaking experiments to attempt. Fuck, I even have a movie I need to figure out what I can do to finish, so many years later.

There are so many reasons I should be doing these instead, including the arguments that have been there all along.

So, I'm going to try to make a lot of changes at the beginning of 2018. One will be to step away from "social media". I might occasionally take to this blog to express things I really need to put out there or ideas I need to explore through writing them.

I'm both hoping that I don't drop this plan too soon, as I've done before, and that I also find a comfortable time to come back to in which I can have a healthier relationship with it and share things with the many people I care about around the world in a happy productive way.

I'm looking forward to the changes and hope I can make them work.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Silver threads

I have a weird obsession with the song "Silver Threads and Golden Needles". Not specifically because of the song. It is a song I grew up with. My mom really liked Linda Ronstadt, so it was one of the songs I heard.

And of course, it has an important message, "Rich people are fucking garbage", that's always worth coming back to.

Having grown up, the thing that confounds me is that there's a verse that disappeared. It's in the original by Wanda Jackson.

Over the years, The Everly Brothers, The Springfields, Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Johnny Rivers, Loretta Lynn, The Cowsills, Sandy Denny, The Brothers Four, Brenda Lee and Skeeter Davis and, of course, Linda Ronstadt all stick to that one verse, repeating it over and over as if wishing there was more, which is bizarre since there is... and it's even fucking better.

No, it's way fucking better!

"I grew up in in faded gingham, where love is a sacred thing.
You grew up in silk and satin, where love's a passin' game.
I know now you never loved me, and I know I was the fool
To think your pride would let you live by the golden rule."

I mean, it's not a competition. It just takes what the first verse begins and takes it all the fucking way, like a next verse does.

And with at least half those artists, it would fit better with their image and what not. I can not, for the life me, figure out how that verse got essentially lost.

There's an early demo with the Grateful Dead doing it without that verse, but also a live version in which they open with it.

There's also a mildly reggae tinged version by Molly Sue Gonzalez and the Mean, Mean, Men that puts it back.

So, as far as I can tell, that brings it up to three version out of a few dozen. I'm curious how it got dropped in the first place.

But I'm also curious how none of those people ever had it brought to them to re-discover and add back at any point. Like I said, a number of these artists have images well suited to that verse. It seems like someone around them might have brought it to their attention.

As a footnote, might I also add that anyone who was interested enough to read this post might be interested in Cocaine & Rhinestones, a podcast by Tyler Mahan Coe about 20th Century Country Music that's consistently entertaining and wonderful. It's kind of my current obsession, and I'm slightly annoyed it doesn't come out faster.

Most last Jedi

I already wrote The last Jedi, which was not terribly specific about the themes and ideas I was so impressed by. I'm not sure why I didn't. In some ways I just used so much energy discussing my conflicted feelings that I was ready to finish by the time I got to the part of the things I loved. It probably has more just kind of simple thoughts, so it might be the better post to begin with.

Now I've given some of my defense of the prequel trilogy in Star Wars saga. Roderick Heath did a much better job in Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) / Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) / Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).

What's important about the prequels in relationship to Star Wars: The Last Jedi is that Rian Johnson understood them and took them seriously as backstory. Whether he liked them or no not being relevant.

When Luke denigrates the failure of the Jedi, and when Yoda confirms that, Johnson is continuing the theme George Lucas built the prequel trilogy to show. It's that thing people tend to try to write clever articles that say "Hey, you know, if you really look, the Jedi totally screwed up. Snark. I figured out what Lucas did wrong." I guess because it's more fun to think you've got one over on Lucas than it is to think Lucas subverted your expectations and you didn't notice.

I think that's where Johnson's inclusion of Yoda to confirm that is excellent as a nod to that intention. By having a character who has existed through all of that recognize it is to acknowledge it as a core piece of the story.

Now, Supreme Leader Snoke being nobody in particular and Rey being descended from "nobody" is subverting what Lucas did, and for good. Man, do I love that.

I've got Star Wars fandom in my blood at this point. I might be more comfortable as one of those people who dismisses them, hates them or, more likely, was just pleasantly indifferent to them, as I am to so many similar franchises. But I'm not. It's one that caught me.

But the obsession with blood lineage, and the idea of social and historical importance descending through genetics, has disturbed me for some time. Yeah, "I'm your father" is a great story twist.

It kind of led the stories as a whole to a bad place on that one issue.

So, big kudos to Johnson for dumping that.

Especially big kudos for dumping that with such a vengeance. Allowing the voice of contempt for the idea to heard most clearly, even if it was the voice of the villain.

It is a contemptible idea and a shame on Lucas for keeping it going for so long.

And too bad, because I personally think that, for whatever one thinks of his success in executing them, his other ideas and themes are really strong and worthy of big movies that everyone sees to make them think about and consider.

There's also a lot about legends, people and storytelling that could, and should, be taken as a view of moviemaking and storytelling generally and making Star Wars specifically. I think finding a Luke/Lucas parallel in The Last Jedi would not be inappropriate.

But most importantly, it's a message of creation, which is one I needed the most right now, and what I need to take forward.

I find that all social media has this way of both making me - I think this is true in a much, much larger sense, but I'll stick with myself for now. - feel more frustrated and angry about the world, but to relieve just enough of that by "sharing" it. It's literally the least any of us can do, but in doing it so often, it feels just a little like it adds up, even if it adds up to nothing, or even diminishes itself with repeating. As such it's a habit I need to break off until I'm successfully doing something I feel good about.

I need to be saving what I love.

There's too much I hate for me to destroy it when it's all I'm focused on. I have Kim and Conan. I have stories I want to tell. In building those things up, I'll bring not only more joy to myself, but expand the joy of the world.

So, that will be a major part of a series of major lifestyle changes I'll be making in 2018, because that's what I grew up wanting to be. It's what I expected to be until I was thwarted by many things I was ignorant of. There might be another story in that, but for now, the point is I've spent a long time failing to live up to being who I think I always was at the core of all this madness, and it's time I do.

Thank you, Rian Johnson, for that much needed reminder, as well as for making a movie that subverted all of our expectations in such fun and meaningful ways.

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