I’d be lying if I said I’d accomplished all I wanted to do in 2015 or in my life to date. And yet, I find that this blog right here has become much of what I want to do, a repository of my ideas and even dreams. One thing that fires my passion is that there’s no blog like this one. Who else writes a thousand distinct and distinguished words on each of three topics every week?
I do this as self-therapy. I do this because I love it. I do this because all my life, people have asked me for more of my writing. I do this to leave a legacy to my kids. I do this to live. So…how did I live in 2015?
The year began with my annual reflections on the year’s Oscar race, includeding: extended looks at Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel; a piece modeled on Bill Simmons’ many “Why You Eventually Regretted Taking the ____” pieces, about why you eventually regretted choosing, as Best Picture nominees, American Sniper, Foxcatcher, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Nightcrawler, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken, and Whiplash. (Birdman, Boyhood, Selma, and The Imitation Game were already Best Picture nominee locks); two dissection/refutations of the new #oscarssowhite campaign; the brand-new “Hagio-Warts Metric” to measure historical-fiction films’ fidelity to facts; a provocative way of revisiting a 20-year-old, still-reverberating Oscar race that suggests Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and The Shawshank Redemption had far more in common than people realize; and a general look at the whole mishegoss, including this observation about Birdman, the big winner:
For the third time in four years (after The Artist and Argo, also about Hollywood), [the] Best Picture says (in Mark Harris’ terms) “Aren’t we a glorious mess?” To go beyond Harris, for the fourth time in fifth years – to add The King’s Speech to the generalization – a white man comes up with a soul-saving, career-saving performance in Act 3 to tie a happy bow on everything.
I was very proud of this post, a 30-year-anniversary-palooza, which reviewed why everyone involved with “We Are the World” had failing careers afterward, and everyone who missed it but might well have gone (e.g. Neil Young, Madonna, Tom Petty, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, others) went on to career peaks.
TV was a bit of a preoccupation, a surprise to me. The end of Mad Men and the end of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart each occasioned two unprecedented examinations of their legacies. David Letterman deserved more, and got less. I also brought idiosyncratic perspectives to House of Cards, Scandal, Veep, Game of Thrones (uh, of course), Orange is the New Black, Masters of Sex, You’re the Worst, Sesame Street (yes, I have a 3-year-old), and The Cosby Show (in light of everything).
I gave some crazy love to this year’s Emmys and answered a question that TV critics are afraid to answer, namely “How much TV should you watch?” Because “Saturday Night Live” was on summer hiatus during the first two Republican debates, I “did” them (you’re welcome, Lorne). I even gave a historiography of the first Bush era at work in the concurrently released Straight Outta Compton and Show Me a Hero.
I presented some of my outstanding, out-of-left-left-field ideas for content: a superhero group called The Cinematics http://maptothefuture.com/the-cinematics-superhero-group/ The Food Critic http://maptothefuture.com/the-food-critic-the-1000-word-treatment/ Unbelievable http://maptothefuture.com/unbelievable-the-treatment/ The Other Side of the Story http://maptothefuture.com/the-other-side-of-the-story-1000-word-pitch/ and more http://maptothefuture.com/eight-film-ideas-i-had-during-the-1990s/
My interests spread far and wide, to a new interpretation of The Book of Mormon, to love for my Golden State Warriors’ ascent to the championship after 40 years of frustration (“This is what it sounds like when Dubs fly”) to thinking about the 200-year-old “Haunted Summer”, to making a plea for Disneyland to replace Tomorrowland with Star Wars Land (instead of its planned half-measures), to explaining the real influencer of Donald Trump’s politics, namely Howard Stern, to original thoughts on the cancellation of Grantland.
But of course I always come back to movies. There was my look at stars quite unlike Johnny Depp, who refuse to star in franchises; there was my whimsical mashup of Inception and Inside Out; my look at the truth behind Bridge of Spies; and my love for Fruitvale Station in light of #blacklivesmatter and Creed. I reflected on the new nerd hegemony and postulated a serious problem with sequels, later somewhat refuted (hey I can admit I’m wrong) by the changes wrought over the summer.
I was hardly the only one to note October 21, 2015 as Back to the Future Day, but in my big fat, seven-part look at Back to the Future and this year’s one-time event, I offered only material that was unfindable elsewhere. Finally, I wrapped up the Media/Movies third of the blog with three unusual perspectives on the Star Wars supernova.
How about the year in having a child afflicted with severe autism?
Well, we covered Dar’s first haircut, my emotional connections to the movie Boyhood, my love for the Berkeley Special Needs Parents and my equal love for the book and experience of “Carly’s Voice.” I discussed Dar working for the first time with an iPad, when autism becomes ought-ism, Dar’s bout with pica/geophagia, and Dar’s specially called March IEP. I gave a look at Dar’s school, leavened with a book of love from his classmates.
I talked about two films that simulate the perspective of autism, and a play that does even more toward the same goal. I explored putting a permanent GPS device on Dar, gave my very original take on anti-vaxxers (I could hardly ignore the controversy) and mounted a salute to Eunice Shriver and the Special Olympics. I also told you about swimming classes at the YMCA, in two parts, and made philosophical ruminations on Dar in two other parts.
Perhaps I should consider a tag called “Taking Dar Places.” This year such posts would include Taking Dar to birthday parties, Napa, the zoo, a memorial service at my alma mater, the Central Coast, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, five National Parks in five days, Safari West, and simply the doctor’s office.
There was a bit on Dar’s brother and when he learned to play games with Dar. There was reckoning with Sunnyvale neighbors who apparently chased away a family because of its child with autism, there was the new Disabled For Life Veterans memorial, there was a treatment for a movie starring me and Dar, and speaking of entertainment, there was welcoming the new autistic character to Sesame Street.
A year in autism, wow.
The year in populism has been quite a ride. I’m regularly amazed that I don’t see, elsewhere in the media, anything like my perspective. (Oh, other sources are better informed and sometimes have more time to do research, but they don’t come from my populist point of view and they rarely advocate my solutions.) Since everything is political, and everything political gets back to the will of the people (or should), this particular third of the blog has contained a little bit of everything. But recurrent themes continue to arise.
Oddly, many of those themes were contained in the very first weekly blog post of the new year, about the importance of free speech, even un-PC speech, after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Then came my modest proposal for alienated police (like the ones then turning their back on NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio): let them control our gun policies. Again, surprising indices with issues that would plague America throughout 2015. Then, a little comedy after the death of King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia.
There was thinking about diversity-shaming and how Obama will be remembered. And why 2006 (and not Obama) stimulated our current PC-dominant era. I contrasted the visits of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Pope Francis. I celebrated the anniversary of the near-simultaneous births of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. I provided a short disquisition on animal rights. I speculated about Latin@s in America in 2015. I connected to role models and Presidents on my 44th birthday. I responded to David Brooks’ latest misfire regarding social media, saying
David Brooks wants to reach out to millennials who look at their phones and feel rejected. I want to reach out to people in the post-baby-boom, pre-millennial generation who refuse to do much looking at social networks at all.
In March I talked about Congress’ woes, and suggested a third (or fourth) party, and then in April I suggested that our current zombie politics is untenable in its current fights between Democrats and Republicans. The rise of Trump would prove me more right than at least two-thirds of paid pundits.
The next months were spent figuring out the 10 most conservative countries in the world (no one else was doing this!), commemorating the sesquicentennial of the most important month in America’s history (April 1865, obviously), suggesting a movie about the Armenian genocide as its centennial rolled around (writing this blog has proved to me that I’m really into historical anniversaries), hearing from my St. Mary’s College students about Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight in the wake of #blacklivesmatter and protests against police brutality here and around America, talking about why #hispaniolalivesmatter and celebrating (in this case, along with a LOT of other pundits) the octocentenary of the Magna Carta.
And then there was my take on Edward Snowden and trading freedom for supposed security – I wrote:
What happens when everyone’s salary is published online? That day is coming a lot sooner than you think. What about your address? Heck, why do you close your front door, ever, if privacy means so little to you? What happens when the casual remarks you made in your teenage texts gets compiled and yellow-flagged because you said certain words (perhaps “I want to punch her in the face” or “our President is an idiot”)? What happens when you can’t get a job because of those yellow flags? After all, every business pays taxes. What’s to stop the government from offering tax discounts to businesses without any yellow-flagged employees?
And then I expanded on this with my very original and worthwhile ABCs of Privacy.
Speaking of lists, this is amazing, really. My 100 Dos and Don’ts of Life.
In the wake of British elections, I explained why choosing between regionalism and populism is in fact a false choice. In the wake of Ebola, I wrote that even non-Ebola-stricken parts of Africa have seen their tourist industries decimated. So I gave you 15 places to check out.
I love this post about why we need better street names in planned communities.
Anything else? Yes! Here’s an original perspective on the sudden obsolescence of the Confederate Flag. There’s siding with Sondheim over snopes regarding the significance of major assassinations. Here’s “The Lion, The Witch-Hunt, and the Web-Rage” in reaction to the famous death of Cecil the Lion. There’s an appeal, no doubt falling upon deaf ears, for provisos that acknowledge the importance of novelty. Here’s one man’s walk through post-Katrina New Orleans, presented as part of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. There’s a handy refutation of George Packer’s “The Populists.” There’s thoughty-thoughts about the Populist Pope, upon his first visit to the USA. Here’s 100 responses for you the next time you hear someone say “If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”
There’s a rethinking of Columbus Day versus Indigenous People’s Day. Here’s a plea to celebrate World Science Day the day before Veteran’s Day. There’s 5000 words about how sports make us. Here’s fewer words against Godwin’s Law. Because 70 years after Adolf Hitler’s death, he’s still everyone’s favorite straw man. GET OVER IT.
This one took me forever. Why Queen Elizabeth > Queen Victoria, upon the day of the former’s reign surpassing the latter.
Ah! And now back to everyone’s favorite, American politics. It’s the return of the zombies (left, center, and right) for Halloween, in two parts. Oh and also, how Trump, like the Hulk, uses liberal/conservative anger to become stronger.
If Democrats really want gun violence to change, and aren’t just pandering to their base, there’s a solution that no one is talking about right here.
And then, finally before my Christmas hiatus, tying together many of the year’s threads, the 100 reasons that political correctness may well be the defining issue of 2016 — much to the chagrin of Democrats who will have to defend it.
Yes, some of these pieces have been published on other sites, but I’m not exactly setting the world afire. No matter. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, I have to believe that these are vital, crucial thoughts. That it matters that I contribute as a citizen in the best way I know how, and that my best way is actually a lot better than most of the others that I read. I tilt at that windmill, and I’ll see you for more tilting in 2016.