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Aesthetics Media

Day 829 and Parasocial

As you may have seen in past posts, I am a fan of reality television. I believe it shows us a lot about popular culture and the human dramas that resonate this us.

There is something about being let into someone else’s life that is perhaps too titillating to resist. If you watch you will begin to empathize. And as we are social animals we will want to engage. We project some of our own things onto other lives that we see only dimly through the filters of editing and Instagram accounts.

I’ve been watching Love is Blind with a group chat. To say that the messages are spicy is an understatement. We are all engaged in the high human drama of dealing with your bullshit, finding a life with someone, and seeing your boundaries with a partner. Basically it’s trauma porn. You are seeing people’s open emotional wounds. But it’s also edited to make you feel that way. And we want to look because we might learn something about ourselves.

So the last weeks I’ve spent a bunch of time having opinions about Kwame and Chelsea and Micah and Paul. I care about what happens. And not just because someone’s mom is a stripper. It’s no wonder I’ve developed a parasocial relationship with television characters.

I’ve started to care about them because I see myself in them. But it’s messier and weirder so it’s safer. Surely we are better. And yet we see ourselves in them. It’s empathizing with humanity. And quite honestly I think more of you should watch these shows. It’s good to recognize the breadth of human love as revealed in all trashy glory that is reality dating shows. Honestly it’s fucking art.

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Media

Day 813 and You

I took some of today off to watch television as I’ve been in a bit of an overwork tumult. I finished the 4th season of the psycho-sexual thriller You starring Penn Badgley.

I recommend the streaming series on Netflix (I’ve not read the books on which it is based) unabashedly to all women who have ever dated men seeking to save them and to men with mommy issues seeking salvation in broken women.

I may get a bit spoiler-y in this post so now might be the time to peel off if you don’t like knowing anything about a show though I promise to avoid big plot twists.

I was struck recently by an excellent Twitter thread from journalist and my favorite therapy poaster Heidi about how men are socialized to “never be the bad guy.” I felt it was particularly salient as I finished the newest season of You which hinges on the tricks ego plays on you to help you ignore your shadow.

Realizing that what you do and who you are are not the same thing but that we have responsibility for the consequences of our actions is kind of the whole enchilada of therapy. If you’ve ever worried you are a bad person or struggled with shame you recognize this.

You makes some clever stabs (pun intended) at dealing with the darkest manifestations of this by pairing women who need saving with a serial killer. Empire of skulls becomes a bit more than metaphor as it closes in on how wealth intersects with mommy and daddy issues and inter-generational trauma. I really do recommend it watching it.

In true “it’s hip to be square” American Pyscho style, it’s unclear how much we are meant to consider whether it’s possible to have “a good kill” as an intellectual exercise. What we do end up considering is that shadow integration work is invariably a dangerous Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde affair. And what kind of lies we are willing to tell is a function of our relative power as it intersects with a traumatic childhood.

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Media

Day 810 and 90s TV

I’ve not had a lot of spare time for entertainment and recovery in what turned out to be a very busy month. This left me in a small quandary as Alex and I finished both a comedy and a hour long drama right before all hell broke loose.

My husband and I tend to always have a short form sitcom and a longer prestige piece in rotation depending on how tired we are at the end of the day. We’d run through all the comfort shows and couldn’t fathom testing a new something more serious.

I’m not entirely sure how but we decided to pick up two classic 90s era shows. For our comedy we picked That 70s Show and for our drama we picked the procedural NYPD Blue. Our expectations were that these would be easy to watch simple shows without much depth. And boy were we wrong.

I don’t recall watching a ton of television when I was a kid and I doubt I would have been allowed to watch gritty cop dramas. But the way folks kvetch about how network television sucks I went in expecting middle brow fare. Millennials have had both streaming and cable for so long we’ve come to expect tv that caters to our preferences tend to look down on anything made for the masses.

As it turns out, having to appeal to broad swaths of people actually has some advantages. Both shows are steeped in deep emotions and relatability. The writing is snappy and straight forward. The characters are multifaceted even as they work through their personas.

The fact that I’m relating to the struggles of a shitty racist balding drunkard detective and a pack of Wisconsin teenagers is probably a positive thing. Shared humanity is getting lost in consumer preferences and social identities.

We think unless we see ourselves on the screen we couldn’t possibly relate. And I’ll say I’ve appreciated more representation in entertainment as I often feel hopelessly un-relatable. A

nd yet I’m enjoying relating to humans that never even existed as portrayed by professional liars. So maybe there is something in that. The human experience is the thing, not that the experience must demonstrate it’s connection to your life.

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Aesthetics Media

Day 773 and First Contact

I’m a big fan of Star Trek. I have attended conventions, worn a Captain’s uniform for Halloween, and most damning of all, saw the reboot sequel on a first date with my husband. I am a huge nerd and some credit is due to Star Trek.

So I am aware that in the cannon of Star Trek’s first timeline it is Bozeman Montana where humanity makes First Contact with an alien species. I don’t want to spoiler anything but if you don’t know it’s the Vulcans you probably don’t care that I’m spoiling it.

Now I’m not saying I live in Montana because the aliens are coming, but I am fascinated by the role the Rocky Mountains play in alternative histories. It’s a particular nexus for science fiction. The future happens in the west and nothing is as canonically western as purple mountain majesty.

Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are often settings for demilitarized zones, zombie apocalypses, and other plots appealing to the survivalist mindset. It helps to have nuclear missile silos and Cheyenne Mountain to stoke the imagination.

So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that as a doomer I am absolutely thrilled that Montana has now been the center of two ridiculous science fiction narratives recently. We had the Chinese weather balloon last week and Saturday night we had a full on unidentified flying object “alien” invasion over Montana.

Whatever it was ended up over Michigan, but for a brief glorious moment we got to consider whether Bozeman Montana would be the actual site of First Contact. But it’s not yet 2063 and I haven’t invented the warp drive so I’m not holding my breath.

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Emotional Work Politics

Day 768 and Memory

I’ve not ever read Proust in its entirety, because what am I, an eternal being who exists outside of linear time? But, thanks to Wikipedia and university survey courses, I am familiar with its basic themes of memory and it’s frustrating insufficiency.

Anyways, when not pondering madeleines, I am often confronted by how resilient the mind is in protecting us from the horrors of the world. Memory is a very funny thing. As good a reason as any to maintain diaries or engage in hagiography, is that you’d be surprised at what you forget if you don’t write it down.

A doctor asked me to get a pelvic ultrasound. I surprised myself by saying absolutely not unless it’s an emergency life or death situation, I am not doing that. And she, in sincere surprise, asked me why not.

And, because I guess therapy works, I recalled a pelvic ultrasound from maybe 10-12 years ago. I’d been referred in to a specialist as there was concern about a uterine cyst. This doctor, a gentleman over 50 in the kindly white patrician archetype, who I did not know know, proceeds to tell me this won’t hurt a bit.

But it does hurt. I am screaming bloody murder. It hurts so much I cannot stop. He tells me he will call security unless I quiet down. I cannot and I am in tears hysterically trying to convey the pain to him. I pass out.

I had utterly suppressed the memory till today. It happened to coincide with my husband mentioning a think piece in New York Magazine about women who empathized with the Clare Danes character from Fleishman Is In Trouble. There is a profoundly violating scene around reproductive health and consent that culminates in dark emotional trauma.

And of course, because it’s happening to a striving insecure aspirant white bitch, it totally doesn’t count right? The internet is not sympathetic to whining Clare Danes types. Fucking Karens. It’s super cringe to consider where the system hurts you, because, you dumb bitch, you benefit more than anyone else except the men.

So I guess I am not surprised I had banished the experience of something bad happening to me at a doctors office, but you know, it was not so bad that I am allowed to complain about it. And that is how the patriarchy perpetuates itself. Shut up you are rich. Look at the skulls upon which your empire is built you witch.

What I’m saying is that maybe you need to remember who it is that benefits from you not remembering the pain. Who benefits from forgetting? And trust me they are very scared when you realize that you remember. Even the rich striving white bitches have scares from this system.

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Internet Culture

Day 759 and All Dressed

Social media has given us so many ways to become fans. We have ever more content thanks the streaming wars. Give content a chance to live everywhere online and it will develop a fanbase beyond its intended audience. The internet gives small shows outsized impact.

I’m a fan of a Canadian comedy called a Letterkenny. It’s about a small town in Canada. It’s got people and their problems. It’s a very funny character study and has fundamentally warm and loving humor. I’ve watched every episode and the spin-off. I’ve taken a lot of solace in the very human nature of the show, particularly during the pandemic years when everyone felt far away from each other.

There is a phenomenon that is particularly prominent online called parasocial relationships. Someone creates art or a personality and it develops a fandom. Over time, the fans, through repeated exposure to a character or show, believe they know them like a friend. It is fun to be in the fandom. Enjoying art is a universal experience. I am a stan for Letterkenny. I’m in a parasocial relationship with the Letterkenny crew and it’s universe.

How deep is it? Well my husband and I recently ordered some Canadian chip flavor called all dressed featured on an episode of Letterkenny. The chip is, as the name suggests, every single type of flavor. It is salt and vinegar, bbq, ketchup (weird but crucial), and sour cream & onion. And it is absolutely delicious. As a Twitter friend said to me, it is the Dr Pepper of chips. It’s not for everyone but it’s spectacular.

All dressed ruffle potato chips

Because it is Sunday, I am taking a medically necessary amount of THC. I’ve had a gummy. And I thought this was a perfect moment to try the Letterkenny chip.

And it was indeed glorious. All dresseds is a chip made for the munchies. It’s got bite and taste and texture and it all rolls up into an experience. It’s a chip worthy of the extra attention of weed focus.

And because I am extremely online I shared my appreciation for it on Twitter.

Now on Letterkenny there is a clique called the Skids. They are the weird kids. They are the hipster ones. They are the nerds. They are small town weed dealers. Asking me to pick a favorite on Letterkenny is like asking me to pick a favorite child. One of the Skids is Roald. He is a loyal friend but his own man. He definitely likes weed. I love Roaldie.

And I’m delighted to learn through my all dressed munchies Tweet, that the actor who plays him, Evan Stern, is following me. He likes the tweet. What a perfect way to enjoy a very specific kind of fandom. A parasocial relationship’s individual manifestation through social media. Now that I’ve made a big deal out of all this I should probably say hi to Evan. It’s going to be weird no matter what but it brought me a lot of joy. It’s good to be a fan.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 758 and Two Sides

I somehow missed watching the Mandalorian when it came out. My husband isn’t really into Star Wars and I’m a Star Trek person so as just missed it. I started watching it today for the first time and I’m experiencing it somewhat fresh of its original release context.

But I’ve got a vague memory of the culture war issues that it triggered at the time. Somehow Gina Carano got coded to team red and champion of the downtrodden right wing. I honestly couldn’t tell you why except I think she mouthed off on Twitter. She sacrificed her career as a main character on prestige Disney tv show for shitposting. She thought she had social latitude that she just didn’t when working for Big Mouse. Shockingly naive if I’m honest.

That somehow everything has a side in the culture wars is a real tragedy of our time. Because a couple years pass and whatever dumb stunt that got you put on team red or team blue probably gets forgotten. Normal people have moved on and the discourse gets digested eventually into common knowledge. Memory is a fickle thing. Madeleines and Proust or something in that direction.

If you are team red you go into an alternate universe where apparently being a dick with a right wing slant on YouTube gets you 50 million dollar media deals. I assume there are as many opportunities as now being on team red is a real badge of honor and whole media ecosystems arise because it’s an actual demographic. Shocking somehow to some people but I guess I’ve always lived adjacent to team red. I’ve be always known you could make money on that audience.

I suppose the real tell is that if you are team blue you don’t really change ecosystems at all if you pick their side in the culture war. You get to maintain your plum gig at Disney. You do not have Ron DeSantis gunning for you. I hear that woke mobs come to get you but I’ve never actually seen it in action. The worst part of my chaotic evil leftist Twitter bubble stops at Taylor Lorenz though I am aware that a murky left exists beyond Chapo Trap House and I know about Tankies.

It just seems so strange to take sides in any of this nonsense if your aim is to make a living as a performer. Sure maybe you can cater to one niche or another. But really isn’t the whole point finding the things that bind us all in the human experience? I always assumed art was meant to transcend whatever petty shit happened while making it.

Categories
Aesthetics Media

Day 748 and Molly Millions

I’ve been rewatching the excellent Amazon adaption of William Gibson’s The Peripheral. I’ve said if before but no single artist has had a bigger impact on my aesthetics than him. As the father of cyberpunk, his impact looms large over the computing industry.

Molly Millions is a cyborg in William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy which includes the famous Neuromancer. A dark brunette, she has mirror shade eyes and razors under her nails. Molly is first introduced in the shorty story Johnny Mnemonic which became a Hollywood thriller with the same title. In the movie, Molly is renamed as Jane but is fundamentally the same character.

The cover of William Gibson’s Neuromancer with Molly Millions.

In Johnny Mnemonic we have an entirely new aesthetic for Molly Millions as Jane. The brooding inaccessible brunette is replaced with a curly haired blonde played by Dina Mayer.

Dina Mayer as Jane in cyberpunk style.
On the far left, a strong jawed and sharp featured Jane in a cyberpunk bar
Dina Mayer as Jane

I personally loved Dina Mayer’s energy in Johnny Mnemonic. She brought a kind of girl next door folksiness that brought a lot of humanity to the problems of being a cyborg. She was light where technology dictate a darker aesthetic. Cyberpunk needed a Betty. I assume some of this is related to the creative direction of photographer (of Men in Suits fame) Robert Longo but it could have easily been Dina Mayer’s rising star in Hollywood. I hadn’t thought much beyond it until I watched the Peripheral.

But now all I can see in the Peripheral is how much Flynn Fisher (as played by Chloe Grace Moretz) looks like Dina Mayer’s Jane. In my fantasy, it’s like I’m seeing the first woman Willian Gibson ever loved. It almost makes a romantic of me imagining a world where a curly haired blonde mattered to him. But the essence shared by Moretz and Mayer is hard to deny.

Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynn Fisher

Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynn Fisher

Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynn Fisher

I see a lot of little similarities between the two actresses but it’s ultimately the affect. The bold lip and the harsh pulled back hair is contrasted in softer moments with wild curly halos and warm inviting features. Flynn is a southern girl. I’ve got no idea if Jane had a heritage. But now I’ll always wonder why the dark mirror shaded women of Neuromancer became a blonde.

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Community Emotional Work

Day 731 and Starting Year Three

2022 was a good year for me, but it wasn’t without its losses. I have a tradition on New Year’s Eve with a very old and dear friend. We’d send each other a scene from a comedy show about hipsters in Brooklyn.

The show made a special new year’s episode. In it, the characters play a game where they do absolutely unthinkably cruel thing to their friends. But it all must be forgiven at midnight because “Auld Lang Syne motherfuckas!” Their tradition is you have to forgive each other no matter what has been done.

The Burg

In the real world forgiveness is trickier. Sending the “Auld Lang Syne motherfuckas” was a tradition that stretched some fifteen years. Going into 2023, if did not happen. I’d rather not get into the specifics but some things cannot be forgot even in the spirit of Auld Lang Syne. I hope some year down the road it can be restarted, but sometimes you don’t know what can be forgiven till you do. Fixes, remedies, and recovery take time to mend and set.

For old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot
In the days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of auld lang syne

Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788

I did however, begin the New Year with another respectable tradition. We managed to stay up till midnight thanks to the sparkling wit and hospitality of a new Montana friend’s dinner party. Champagne was toasted. Fireworks were set off.

It’s a strange way to ring in a new year by straddling the two years over midnight. Rare is the person for whom this isn’t a disruption to their schedule. I usually sleep by 10pm, but I found myself sleeping from 1:38pm to 10am on the first day of the year. And then still absolutely needing another nap that afternoon to recover. And I didn’t even drink except to toast.

And so a third year of this experiment begins with something lost and something gained. Auld Lang Syne motherfuckas. I still want more sleep. Revelry and late nights are harder the older you get. But I am excited for what this year will bring.

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Internet Culture

Day 722 and Extreme

When Stephen Colbert was still the titular character on his Comedy Central Show he had the perfect delivery for the word extreme. Imagine a wholesome Mountain Dew meets X Games meets Gen X meets Vin Diesel’s Triple X meme and you’ve got the basic delivery. Extreme!

White conservative beltway dudes pretending to like extreme sports is, of course, a joke from a simpler time. These days extreme sports are now just regular Olympic sports and Tony Hawk is old dude on Twitter. Gen X is turning 50 and the New York Times styles section has a feature on the gold rush for menopause.

Colbert’s kindly delivery of extreme being something fun, sugary and maybe a bit sporty, has given way to actual extremes. Tucker Carlson doesn’t pretend to be a cool for clout. Now we just go straight for extremist politics. All those years Colbert spent imitating Fox News anchors normalized their schtick to such an extent that Bill O’Reilly couldn’t keep up. Now I gather the Colbert spends his time atoning for this normalization by cracking bad Trump jokes. Or so I hear. I’ve not ever watched his new sincere late night show.

The other extreme we’ve got is weather. Which is what I’d actually intended to write about, before I spent multiple paragraphs explaining a joke. You see, America is in the middle of some very extreme weather. And every time I’ve checked the temperature in the last 48 hours I’ve recited Colbert’s extreme delivery in my head. It was terrifyingly cold in Montana yesterday. Bozeman got down to -45 Fahrenheit.

Extreme doesn’t seem like a fun word anymore. I’ve stopped associating it with snowboarding and yellow caffeinated drinks. Extreme is groypers meeting former Presidents and climate change upsetting the jet stream. We’ve collapsed arctic air into the lower forty right just as we’ve collapsed distinctions between parody and reality.