That’s a line from the not-very-good Star Trek: Insurrection, spoken with irony by Captain Picard as he and his crew-mates take on yet another political errand in the midst of a big intergalactic war. The words rattle around in my head quite a lot, and not just from general Next Gen overload. (Although - on that subject - yeah. Overload.) It’s a trivial line from a trivial film, but it expresses the soul of a thing to me nevertheless. It’s certainly a meta-commentary on the changes to a television franchise as it moved into feature films. More importantly, it’s a great whalloping reminder that, yeah - sometimes life moves on so fast that you don’t recognize how completely your place in it has changed, until you stop to check yourself. And so that line resonates, and has for most of my thirties. We were explorers. Time went by. Now, if we look, we can scarcely recognize ourselves.
This was meant to be about blogging. Did you know I invented blogging? Sure did, back in ‘97, on a site called “Geocities” that you Gen-Y pups have only heard of in legend and mythology. And then I moved it over to the Main Blog; and then I gave up blogging, and then I found Tumblr, and then I got into Tumblr to get back into blogging. Except, now it’s not anything like the same. I write about Star Trek a whole lot nowadays (which brings me full circle to that Geocities blog, in a not-unworthy dollop of irony), and I have been known to pour my personal journal into the public space anytime I visit a film festival, particularly if it’s a film festival in a far away land. But the personal stuff - the kind of stuff that used to have my close circle of friends, back in the early days of “the internet” when there was nary a Twitter or a Foursquare, alternately fascinated and appalled by the sorts of things I was willing to put “out there,” i.e. my whole life, within reason, on a daily basis - that stuff was gone.
Part of me thinks maybe Tumblr killed the blogging urge forever, and not just for me; for the Internet. Back when the front page of Tederick.com was a regular newsfeed of whatever I was thinking and doing at the time, when the most frequent question I received from the agog introverts in my life (myself included) was “why are you putting this out there?” - a question you’d think I’d be able to answer after fifteen fucking years - the whole process of blogging was simultaneously more singular and more arcane. Now I literally know one person without any form of social media presence - one. I can obviously still write occasional blog posts on public-facing topics like whether a new Star Wars movie is a good thing. But the real genesis of the blogging, as I used to do it, was the more elliptical stuff - the mood in the room, the smell in the air - which Tumblr just does better anyway. There are things I can’t say in ten thousand online words, but an animated gif of Thor and Loki happy-dancing down the rainbow bridge can express in its entirety. Tumblr is the visual imagination of a whole sector of the human race, writ terrifyingly large.
But I still feel like something is back there, missing. Something in the basement, I guess - the awareness that I used to do a thing, and that a part of me (in my mind) still does, but I never write or post anything like I used to, because we used to be explorers, and now we aren’t. And then a few terrifying reminders surfaced in a matter of weeks, from people who used to tell me they admired my blogging, and are now putting things into the sphere that I couldn’t match on my best day - because they’re doing the work, and the work is the work is the work. And it’s like - fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Sometimes, guys. Sometimes the world just hands you your ass - and you know it’s one of those when it’s as beautiful as it is painful, and you’re looking out over the precipice of the thing and you think to yourself - am I jumping, or not? Am I falling? Have I hit the water? And do I have enough air to get to the surface, way, way up there?
And with those being the sensations, I can’t help thinking to myself - what happened? Is it just that it’s more socially acceptable for me to write florid prose about the experience of going to a film festival than it is to write florid prose about the experience of walking through this life? Or is it just that I chickened out? My actual journal, which averages about twenty pages a month, was a whopping fifty for the month of January alone, which suggests - albeit under admittedly unique circumstances - that the words are in there. They don’t make an enormous amount of sense, but surely, at some point, they need to start coming back out.
Off to New Zealand for 3 weeks. I’ll post to Tederick.com when I can.
Gfellers Pizza Parlour - open late.
Ho ho ho, and welcome back to the month a year where I’m the worst atheist alive. Well no, not really: I’m certainly not swanning about celebrating the birth of Christ, at least not directly. I’m swanning about, fetishizing the stuff.
This is what Ebert calls “touching the bases.” I touch them all, and hope to become a better person. Once a year, a random collection of oddments across all media - the musical, the sculptural, the edible, the literary, the cinematical, the biological - has the ability to de-Grinchify my cantankerous heart and send me spiraling backwards to an imagined 1840s London driven dark by furious black and white and poorly-preserved film stock. (Scrooge, the best of the filmed adaptations of A Christmas Carol, plays at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on December 20. This is Base #1. Though I admit, the notion of seeing the film on anything other than a 4x3 television set disturbs me down to my marrow bones.) Base #2 is Dickens’ novella itself, which I do not read every year, but nearly every year. It doesn’t take long - you can crank through it while you’re waiting for the house to go quiet on the 24th, which inevitably takes less time than you think, but no matter; you can stay up a bit past the descent of silence, just to get to Stave Five, a.k.a. the Stave That Totally Owns.Read more
#TIFF12 video blog for September 6, 2012: Blood Orange. In which American Beauty is read live, the Ryerson freight train goes off the rails, and secrets are at long last revealed.
Mark reads about 90s-era homophobia in the new North Toronto, circa May 2012
A couple of years ago, me and some of my high school friends took one last tour of North Toronto Collegiate, due to be torn down. (I was, evidently, in a “very hairy” mode that month.) As someone about as resistant to change as the next fellow I was somewhat internally dismayed at the idea of that old place being gone forever, but the tour reversed my thinking; these kids today deserve something so much better than that beaten-down old schoolhouse. My first tour of the new North Toronto C.I. this spring, to coincide with the school’s 100th anniversary, confirmed the thinking - what a marvelous place the new building is. It is so comfortably familiar and brilliantly modern, all at the same time. It even smells the same. Mark and I went together, and ran into Sandy randomly in one of the hallways, and for about four minutes, it was 1994. The band were even playing the school song when I left. It doesn’t get much better than that.
In the school’s new foyer, they were giving away back issues of the school newspaper, the Graffiti. When I was in high school, one of the larger newspaper-related events was when one of the students came out of the closet in a front page article called “Anxieties of a Gay Student;” I later wrote a follow-up piece called “Anxieties of a Straight Student,” responding to the wellspring of homophobia that bubbled up in reaction to the original article. Those were the days.Read more
Yes, I get it - I get all of it. I get why critics and fans howled with derision upon the release of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland; and I get why it made a billion dollars. It may be the most mediocre, the most automatically-handwritten, movie in the history of movies. There’s something to it, certainly; but every time it threatens to tip over into really having something to it, the film pulls back. It reminds me of that episode of Star Trek where Data prolonged a chess game indefinitely by taking the least risky move at every turn. At a hundred hours long, Alice in Wonderland would still be exactly this tweedle-humdrum.Read more
A kind of old man. May we all retire gracefully and without bad sequels.
I am becoming an old man. Today is my birthday. I am 34. Soon I will be 64 - inside, before outside. I am already mad at those kids and their damn music. I already think people drive too fast and talk too loud. I am ready to ditch my cell phone. I think SeaDoos should be outlawed. Soon I will be sugaring gas tanks.
I say things like this and people are upset. They don’t realize how happy I am to be here, or how quickly I want to get there. I want to be a kind of old man like my grandfathers. They were great old men. My Grandpa Brown was a kind of old man supergenius. He dressed up “70s sharp,” and dressed down “outdoorsman rugged.” He knew the value of an old pair of trousers. He tinkered and puttered around his cottage all summer. He could run a table saw like nobody’s business. He made boats for my smurfs out of spare planks and painted them in primary colours. He liked to paint and liked to work with wood. He wasn’t awesome at either, but he loved both, and he generated work over and over and over again. He could (and did, without knowing it) teach me a thing or two about the rigours of artmaking.
My grandfather Brown at the cottage with my brother, sister and I.
My Nonno was an amazing breed of gruff. He was deeply gentle and loving. He smoked a pipe, an affectation I yearn to adopt. For a long time he couldn’t hear so well, which made a lot of people think he was distant, but when he finally got a hearing aid he was like a new man. He loved my grandmother with startling profundity. He made Easter bread shaped like bunnies. He would sit in his study and listen to the radio, was a deep thinker, and watched us carefully as we grew up. He took my sister and my cousin to Europe when they were teenagers. An old man and two teenaged girls on the Continent? It was an act of love.
My grandfather Loza in Nerja, Spain.
I want to retire to Coldwater, Ontario - as soon as possible, please. It’s quiet there. It is a one-street town. There’s a grocery store and a little river. It is a short drive from Six Mile Lake, where I would live year-round if I could. I could make a life out of reading in my study, working virtually, going for walks, and visiting Toronto on weekends. It isn’t that I don’t like being around people; it’s that I fall in for the Jack White thing, where if you want something to be really good, you should make it a little harder to do. Introduce tension. We live lives of seeming ease, which ultimately just turn out to be lives of mounting frenzy.
Smaller tasks. Quieter times. Things to look forward to.
The old mill in Coldwater, Ontario.
Yesterday I was saying (in an email) that email is about to become an extinct medium, and today I made the same proclamation for the phone call. We’ve gone mobile, ahead of noticing how little mobile works for genuine communication.
Mobile is the PowerPoint of communication forms. Because it isn’t worthwhile to type a detailed message in a mobile device, we are moving towards the Twitterization of all typed communication and the de-sanctification of message importance. (Do you still save all the mail you receive? Should you? Do you save texts?)
Mobile devices are relatively useless for detailed phone calls, too; there’s little point having a conversation of any depth while in line at the Starbucks. Mobile phone calls are little more than spoken texting.
Because mobile is the PowerPoint of communication forms, mobile is by extension as useless, and as destructive to communication and sound decision-making, as PowerPoint. This is actually good news: we may be drawn back to more useful, tactile, “human” communication media like written letters, or towards more personalized online types like video calls.
I begin to suspect that science fiction had it wrong all along, and these retreats into virtual space will not dehumanize us, but force us to reassert our human interests in the midst of the rapidly-forming “cloud.”
UPDATE: Not a day later, this article in the Wall Street Journal on the end of the email era.
I bought Spider-Woman #1 last night, print edition, and lay down on the couch and read it. It’s beautifully drawn and beautifully printed, and leafing through it was like eating a big, juicy steak. Why would we want to take this away?
There are trends in the art forms I admire towards technologies I don’t agree with. I do not think 3-D movies are more “immersive” than regular movies; I think they are significantly less. I do not think motion comics are an improvement over regular comics; in fact, I don’t think they’re the same communications medium at all.
It will be a long time before I am content to read a book on a data pad, either, or watch an episode of Lost on my iPod.
These things are inevitable in their way. Portability in media is clearly the Next Big Thing. But meaningless gimmicks and flashy fripfrappery are only going to get in the way of the tactile, meaningful experiences we, as humans, are going to require in an increasingly cloud-borne world.