Just Enjoy: Why I Have Tried to Stop Theorizing About My Favorite Media

By Michael W. Harris

Sad Matt Smith is Sad

It was around the time when Matt Smith was leaving the TARDIS in the epic three-part “The [blank] of the Doctor” episodes that I began to realize that it was sort of pointless to endlessly theorize. In those episodes, there were so many aspects and moving parts that Steven Moffat had to pay off, not to mention the longstanding issue of how many regenerations Time Lords had, plus the epic reveal of the “War Doctor,” that the creeping sensation of inevitable let down began to sink in. In the months in between “The Name…” and “The Day…” my friends and I had numerous conversations about what we thought was going on and where it was going to lead. For my own part, I injested classic episodes of Doctor Who in order to track down the sources of Whovian lore that Moffat was pulling on. And for all of the hints that he laid out in “The Name,” and for all of the awesome fan service found in “The Day,” the final installment, “The Time of the Doctor,” just sort of limped along and barely paid any of it off. A problem that was compounded by the Peter Capaldi era and its hints of some awesome meta story of how Capaldi had appeared in early parts of the Who franchise. And as I sat in the theatre watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it hit me: I need to relearn how to just enjoy my favorite media properties. This isn’t to say I will stop writing about and analyzing what has already come, not by a long shot. It means that I will try to stop speculating about what might come next. Continue reading “Just Enjoy: Why I Have Tried to Stop Theorizing About My Favorite Media”

On Blogs and Craft Beer: Modern Approaches to “Jobs”

By Michael W. Harris

How do we judge meaning and fulfillment in our lives? How do we judge success? Is it some measure of your personal life? Is it something to do with professional recognition? These are very personal metrics and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. For most it is probably a combination of feeling happy with both work and personal life, that precarious “work-life balance” which is a buzzword of so many HR emails.

A recent article in 1843 Magazine (published by The Economist) talks about the rise of the craft/artisanal industry and how much of it is being fueled by white-collar workers fleeing from office drone jobs. There is a lot to chew on in the article, but the trend seems to be the convergence of many factors in modern society: the rise of automation which is driving the rise of more boutique items that fit with a part of society’s growing preference for handmade, locally sourced, and sustainable goods; the desire to control your own labor and thus personal fulfillment in your work (the end result of a late-capitalist moving towards a post-capitalist economy); and a growing dissatisfaction with the economic opportunities available among the younger generation. Continue reading “On Blogs and Craft Beer: Modern Approaches to “Jobs””

Not The Films We Need, But the Films We Deserve: Safe vs. Daring Yet Flawed Films

By Michael W. Harris

I really wanted to love Pacific Rim. Like, unabashedly, giggling like a little kid at a silly joke, deliriously love it. And the trailers set me up for such a love! I mean, the plot was something that two eight-year-olds playing with their toys would dream up on a weekend: giant robots fighting giant monsters. It was a live action anime. It was every nerdy “what if” conversation you would have as an undergrad when you finally found “your people.” And that line from the trailer was perfectly hammy yet earnest: “WE ARE CANCELLING THE APOCALYPSE!”

So what happened? Why didn’t I have that complete rush of joy when I left the theatre? I liked it, sure. I even enjoyed it. But the giddiness I felt at the first trailer didn’t materialize. And the “apocalypse” speech fell flat. It was too short and didn’t earn its tag line, like “TODAY IS OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY!” did during the summer of 1996. And I think that is a good point of comparison, as I view both films similarly as to what I wanted: a fun, goofy, science fiction romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That is what Independence Day is and what I thought Pacific Rim was going to be. So where did PacRim go wrong where ID4 went right? Well, the latter went for broke with the goofy one-liners and tongue in cheek remarks, whereas the former played it too safe and didn’t lean into its silly, kids playing with toys premise. Continue reading “Not The Films We Need, But the Films We Deserve: Safe vs. Daring Yet Flawed Films”

Two Minutes of Perfection: The Beatles’ “For No One”

By Michael W. Harris

Back when I was teaching rock history at the University of Colorado, I used to end my lecture on the Beatles with the summation that they were the most influential band in rock history. Full stop. That every artists who was serious about writing and recording pop music, regardless of how they actually felt about the Beatles, would have to at least reckon with them and form an opinion. Love them or hate them, if you were to be a serious pop artist, you had to know the Beatles to either be influenced by them or to reject them.

However, before I ever taught that lecture, I also had to form my own opinion on the group. Sure, as any musician living in a post-Beatles world, and especially as one who grew up listening to rock of the ’60s thanks to my parents, I “knew” the Beatles. I knew the big hits from their early years, knew the weird tracks from the White Album (and would also tell you that it was actually called The Beatles when I wanted to be pretentious), and listened to Sgt. Pepper’s on a semi-regular basis. I absolutely adored Abbey Road and would sing the praises of the medley that took up side two, and was divided as to the legacy of Let It Be. But I did not truly know their entire catalog and was woefully understudied when it came to any of their pre-Sgt. Pepper’s albums. I “knew” the Beatles, but I didn’t really know the Beatles.

So, when I finally set about teaching my first semester of rock history and planned to spend a week’s worth of class time on the music of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, I faced the fact that I had to finally sit down and listen to their complete catalog. In doing so, I stumbled upon a two-minute-Mozartian-miniature of perfection. A simple, lilting, wonderfully lyric and floating tune from Revolver titled “For No One.” Continue reading “Two Minutes of Perfection: The Beatles’ “For No One””

On The Transmigration of My Soul

By Michael W. Harris

Fun fact, I have also lived in five area codes along with three time zones.

It is strange to me, when I think about too much, that I am one move away from living in all four continental US time zones. This strikes me as odd because I am, at my very core, a person who loathes to move. And even more so, when I was younger, I considered myself to be someone who was going to probably die not far from where they lived most of their life (i.e. – Kansas City, Missouri). Or at the very least, be within driving distance. So, when I stop and really consider that it has been over a decade since I last had a Missouri address, have now called three different states in three different time zones home, and, if I am being honest, feel a strong urge to eventually move to the fourth (preferably Washington or Oregon), it seems like there is a disconnect between who I am now and who I think I am…or at least who I used to be. Continue reading “On The Transmigration of My Soul”

The Everyday Carry -OR- The Makings of the Man Purse

I have been doing more airline travel in recent years and my desire to NOT pay bag fees has caused me to reevaluate my luggage and packing styles. This led me to utilize a large backpack style suitcase and shoulder bag which allows me to carry on all my necessary items, even for a 1 ½ weeklong trip to both New York and England last year. But that trip also coincided with a bout of on-going backpain (lessened by physical therapy in the months since), and my obsessive need to get my daily miles led to some rather severe bouts of pain as I walked for miles and miles through airport terminals in my quest to reach five-plus miles a day.

So it was that I reevaluated what I carry with me in my everyday bag to work and elsewhere. I took a long look at what I considered the essentials that I always need or would most likely need during an average workday. This is not a new concept as the internet is full of pages and videos devoted to the idea of “prepping” with survivalist and gearheads alike talking about what I was only vaguely aware of beforehand: the Everyday Carry, or EDC. Continue reading “The Everyday Carry -OR- The Makings of the Man Purse”

Four Years Gone: Looking Backwards and Forwards

By Michael W. Harris

The “fishbowl” at my old library at The University of Colorado Boulder.

Almost two years ago I wrote a post entitled “On Rage Quits and Academia” that was part of a trend of “quit lit” about academics leaving academia. The reasons for their exit and taking to the internet to talk about it varied, but for many of them it was because of the exploitation of the working underclass of higher education commonly called adjuncts.

I was an adjunct, it is certainly why I left, and that was the experience I wrote about in that post. However, now that it has been almost four years since I left the adjunct life, and three years since I finished sending off the last of my applications to library schools, I would like to reflect upon what I didn’t really talk about before: why libraries are the right place for me. Continue reading “Four Years Gone: Looking Backwards and Forwards”

Humans Form Communities: Patriotism and Nationalism in the Long September

Marvel has been repeating this formula for event books for way too long now.

I was recently reminded of Green Day’s 2004 album American Idiot, its reflection on post-9/11 America, and the presidency of George W. Bush. I had already been ruminating on the meaning of patriotism vs. nationalism—how they are often conflated but are actually quite different, at least in my mind—but in thinking about and re-listening to Green Day’s album, I was reminded of my personal interpretation of my favorite song on the album: “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” Continue reading “Humans Form Communities: Patriotism and Nationalism in the Long September”

On Shaming and Harassment: The Limits of Speech in the Digital World

By Michael W. Harris

Justine Sacco might be the unintentional poster child for our digital communications era. Over Christmas vacation in 2013, while travelling to South Africa, she tweeted a joke and then boarded an eleven hour flight from London to Cape Town. By the time she landed, the then director of corporate communications for IAC was in the middle of a public relations nightmare. Just the sort of thing she would normally be in charge of managing the fallout from. Despite her meager 170 Twitter followers, her tweet had resulted in a worldwide trending hashtag, a feverish watch of #HasJustineLandedYet, and an internet mob piling onto her simple, albeit incredibly insensitive and racist, joke of: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” The fact that she was completely unaware of what was going on in real time while her plane was traversing the length of the continent she had insulted with her tweet created the perfect storm for internet schadenfreude. Continue reading “On Shaming and Harassment: The Limits of Speech in the Digital World”

All Those Moments Lost in Time: Remembering and Forgetting the 21st Century

By Michael W. Harris

There is little doubt that our lives are fully enmeshed with our digital technology now. From digital assistants like Alexa and Siri, to wearable technologies that track our health and steps, to the smart house that functions more and more like the computer on the Enterprise with every passing update, all of us put our trust in these technologies and the “cloud” with very little thought. And at the risk of being branded a Luddite, there is reason for concern about all these developments, but these concerns must always be balanced by the benefits that they can bring to society. Continue reading “All Those Moments Lost in Time: Remembering and Forgetting the 21st Century”