“…my fellow soldiers will tell you I’m a terrible shot.” – Aaron Burr, in the musical “Hamilton”
I begin by expressing my deepest gratitude. First, I am today and on all days incredibly grateful to you, dear reader, for keeping up with my smatterings of blatherings here. It means more to me than I can say.
Second, “look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” Lin-Manuel Miranda gave us that refrain in his musical “Hamilton,” and he claims he says that to himself every day. Not a bad way to live, I agree.
Third, my wife and children. They make all things possible, and worth it. And yes, partly thanks to imitating his brother, Dar is getting very incrementally better.
Fourth, I have to say that 2016 was a good year for me, national affairs, global calamities, and celebrity deaths aside. What do I mean? Well…
First there was the travel: a New York weekend with the 9/11 museum and “Hamilton”; a Toronto weekend with a Chinese wedding and Niagara Falls; a Southeastern road-trip where my family saw peak cherry blossom bloom in DC, Presidents’ homes in VA, and the major cities of the Carolinas and Georgia, including Savannah; Peru, including Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, the Amazon (Posadas Amazonas, if you’d like to google it), Arequipa, the Nazca Lines, and Lima; Alaska, including Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Homer, and two remarkable day cruises of glaciers; and L.A., the Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Manzanar, Mono Lake, Tahoe.
Second, there was the sleep. In 2015, wifey and I were averaging scant hours of bedrest, because of an autistic kid as well as his non-autistic younger brother who managed to find reasons to wake us up in the night. One of these included his apparent inability to re-cover himself with a blanket; this from a four-year-old! Wifey and I were growing wrinkles like a paper crumpled in the bottom of your bag. Two changes occurred in 2016: we began giving Dar Benadryl before bed, which seemed to get him to at least dawn; and we told his brother that if he got us up at night, he would be forced to bathe/shower in the morning. Little R hates hates hates the portable shower nozzle thing. Do I have mixed feelings about using shower water as torture? Sure. But it worked like a charm. And Dar seemed to outgrow the need for the Benadryl. By the last few months of 2016, wifey and I were regularly sleeping eight hours a night for the first time since Dar was born in 2009. Ahhhhh.
Third, professionally, I still felt, in 2016, incredibly privileged to be paid to do what I love, even if I was not always paid as much as I’m worth. I made a terrific film! (Sure, it may not have set the world on fire, but it’s gratifying to think that when people do bother to look me up, I can show them art that I’m proud of.) I saw my book on Netflix get published by Bloomsbury, and I submitted the proof-drafts of my next book on performance (in blockbuster films) to Palgrave MacMillan. I taught well, and that’s not as easy as it looks. I mentored. I presented at my discipline’s leading conference (SCMS), this time on body cameras and surveillance.
Fourth, blogging. I love this blog! Look, here are some new year’s resolutions for 2017, in alphabetical order because what the hey:
Making new film (already in process)
New job-searching, including pavement-pounding that I haven’t done in years
Potty-training Dar (this has been a resolution for several years, but there’s new hope lately)
Preparing book proposal for HarperCollins (already in process, with friend/co-author to be named later)
Teaching Dar RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) as much as possible
Volunteering at an organization that helps the world (I know its name, but not going to reveal it here yet)
Check this: I am incredibly proud of the blog work I’ve done for the last three years. Three (well written!) 1000-word-plus posts every week for three years! Who has done this? Anyone? (Link me to them!) Anyone who isn’t paid to do it? Does that make me crazy? Maybe. I looked into an award for “best blog” but based on an hour of googling, I don’t think anyone is bestowing such awards anymore. I seem to have missed peak tumblr era. That’s okay. I still believe in this blog, for more reasons than I plan to list right now. But here are two: one, it’s starting to pay off, as I have recently been contacted for interviews by The Christian Science Monitor and The New Yorker; two, I’ve been prescient as hell, even if my prescience and $2 is worth about the cost of a Big Mac. I have warned and warned about liberals ignoring and disparaging the white working class since before Donald Trump was even a candidate. (Really, just look at all of my headlines from a year ago.) I’ve devoted a third of the blog to populism since January 2014. So compared to me, someone who just started writing about populism is like someone who just started rooting for the Cubs.
On the other hand, being right about the rise of PC overreach and Donald Trump has been incredibly depressing.
This leads me to the reasons for the blog’s evolution in 2017.
1. I want the above resolutions to go well, and that involves less weekly blogging than I’ve been doing.
2. Wifey tells me that no one really notices if I keep to my self-imposed blog schedule of media/movies posts on Mondays, autism posts on Wednesdays (Waaaambulance Wednesdays), and populism/politics posts on Fridays.
3. Let’s face it, thanks to Trump, the line between politics and entertainment is blurrier than ever. When I double-majored in Politics and Film/Theater 25 years ago, that was a novelty, but now, everyone is Andrew O’Hehir or Ross Douthat; everyone is talking about politics and “screen content” all at once, together.
4. I have a novel that I’ve been wanting to share with you. And if I do, then it “counts” as maintaining my self-imposed word count/post count every week.
So here’s the plan for 2017:
The blog will look different, and now have four main-page categories.
Mondays will now be media, or populism, or TV, or society, or whatever I’ve decided to cross-post to medium.com.
Wednesdays remain the same. Some of you are here to read some autism atomization. Fair enough. That won’t change.
Fridays in 2017 (I haven’t yet figured out 2018) will be “To The Future.” Beginning this Friday, January 6, each Friday will premiere a chapter of my novel, which I here publicly announce for the first time, “The War For Mars United.” I might add that I paid an editor a healthy four figures to give me extensive feedback on this thing. I revised it. I love it. I think it’s terrific. And I love the format; serializing myself this way goes back to Charles Dickens and other greats.
Hard as it will be to believe, I wrote my novel before I ever heard of Andy Weir and his novel “The Martian” (made into a movie directed by Ridley Scott, starring Matt Damon). But after hearing of him and reading his outstanding book, I am happy to admit that Weir is an inspiration in more ways than one. Our books aren’t similar, outside of the Mars angle, but I like the story behind the story: Weir sent his novel to agents and publishing houses who all turned him down. (Same here.) So Weir self-published on his blog, a chapter at a time. His friends began looking forward to the chapters, and they told their friends, and their friends told their friends, and…now the fortysomething Weir is a force to be reckoned with. I certainly don’t presume that will happen here, but I certainly won’t complain if it does.
Age is a crazy thing. Generational change is a crazy thing. How strange to think that 25 years ago I was a leading “voice of my generation.” Little did I then know how much “voice of a generation” means. Oh, if only the internet had been around then. No one told me, that when I sent around my resume, I should have also sent my Newsweek article along with Bill Clinton’s letter of its approval. Who does such things? No one told me to do it, but I should have figured it out for myself. Perhaps with a little more assiduousness I might have become a junior/intern speechwriter for Bill Clinton. These sorts of people have gone on to the sorts of careers that I should have had by now. OR maybe if that had happened I would have been struck dead by a bus by now. You never know. But in 2016 I felt oddly stricken by regrets for what I didn’t do 25 years ago – regrets that I didn’t feel five years ago. So another important resolution of 2017 is to put aside those regrets. The last thing I need at this point is another reason to lose sleep.
In a world where every paid under-35-year-old writer rushes to remind you of their youth by recounting how old they were during their first crush on ___ or first viewing of ___ (Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert never did this, even when they were young), writing at my age has come to require – dare I say it? – more courage than ever. My final new year’s resolution of this blog post: to continue to bring the courage in 2017. Bon courage, mes ames. May the new year be a great one for all of us.