Looking Forward, Looking Back: The Past and Future of The Temp Track

By Michael W. Harris

Pen, paper, and coffee…the beginnings of so many posts this past year.

It has been a year. While I did not go into 2018 planning on doing one post a week, that is how it ended up. It just sort of started, kept going, snowballed, and before you knew it I had a pattern established, and I am loathe to break patterns. And looking back, I am really glad I did it. It was part therapy during what was one of the most difficult periods in my life, part exercise in finding a good writing process as I try to integrate my love for the craft of the written word into my life, and part needing an outlet for some of the smaller scale projects that I want to pursue.

However, more than anything else, I just wanted to write more. I have always loved writing, and it is a big reason why I decided to do a PhD and not a DMA all those year ago. When I thought about which I would rather do, practice bassoon for eight hours a day or read and write for 8 hours a day…the decision was easy to make. And now, with (hopefully) my last degree a year behind me, another year of tumult and upheaval over, and job stability ahead, it is time to think about what the future of The Temp Track looks like.

After a year filled with gin reviews, musing on stationery, some rather personal essays that made some people worry about my mental and physical health (and I share those concerns…hence writing as therapy), and other random musing on life, the universe, and everything, what does 2019 look like?

Let’s first look back before we look forward, shall we?

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Because I am an anal retentive, OCD, ass hole at times, here is the complete list of my posts from the past year:

Week 1 (1/4) – On Questions
Week 2 (1/13) – FOMO NOMO: Or How I Learned to Stop Trying to Keep Up With Everything
N.B. – The above post set the precedent for my post Saturday schedule.
Week 3 (1/20) – All Those Moments Lost in Time: Remembering and Forgetting the 21st Century
Week 4 (1/27) – On Shaming and Harassment: The Limits of Speech in the Digital World
Week 5 (2/3) – Humans Form Communities: Patriotism and Nationalism in the Long September
Week 6 (2/10) – Four Years Gone: Looking Backwards and Forwards
Week 7 (2/17) – The Everyday Carry -OR- The Makings of the Man Purse
Week 8 (2/24) – On The Transmigration of My Soul
Week 9 (3/3) – Two Minutes of Perfection: The Beatles’ “For No One”
Week 10 (3/10) – Not The Films We Need, But the Films We Deserve: Safe vs. Daring Yet Flawed Films
Week 11 (3/17) – On Blogs and Craft Beer: Modern Approaches to “Jobs”
Week 12 (3/24) – Just Enjoy: Why I Have Tried to Stop Theorizing About My Favorite Media
Week 13 (3/31) – William Of Gin
Week 14 (4/7) – …six months later
Week 15 (4/14) – Where Do We Go From Here?
Week 16 (4/21) – Ginology: A Beginning
Week 17 (4/28) – Ginology 1: Beefeater
Week 18A (4/30) – A Night at the Star Wars
Week 18B (5/5) – How I Lost It, And the Ongoing Battles Therein
Week 19 (5/12) – Ginology 2: Tanqueray No. 10
Week 20 (5/19) – The Struggle Is Real: Meditations Upon Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”
Week 21 (5/26) – Ginology 3: DoG Street Pub Selection and Cocktails Reviews
Week 22 (6/2) – Ginology 4: Hendrick’s Gin
Week 23 (6/9) – Leaving The Matrix Behind – AKA Taking the Red Pill
Week 24 (6/16) – Ginology 5: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin
Week 25 (6/23) – Ginology 6: Dogfish Head Compelling Gin
Week 26 (6/30) – Food So Good It’ll Blow More Than Just Your Socks Off: Shokugeki no Soma
Week 27 (7/7) – Of Pens and Gins: My Analog Revival
Week 28 (7/14) – The Middle Children of Technology: Living [Digital/Analog] in a/n [Analog/Digital] World
Week 29 (7/21) – The Return of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine
Week 30 (7/28) – Ginology 7: Cadenhead Old Raj Red Label
Week 31 (8/4) – Finding Reservations in Parts Unknown: Anthony Bourdain and the Travelogue (and my own hopeful travels)
Week 32 (8/11) – A Playlist of Parting -or- Mentally Leaving Virginia
Week 33 (8/18) – The Curated Life: Social Media, Identity, and Image
Week 34 (8/24) – The Makings of History: Vintage and Modern Heirlooms
N.B. – My only deviation from the Saturday posting schedule, it went up on Friday because the next day I was getting up early to climb a mountain!
Week 35 (9/1) – On the Meaning of Pens and Gins: Eros and Thanatos
Week 36 (9/8) – My Personal New Year’s: The Birthday Hike and Recommitment/Reflection
Week 37 (9/15) – The Pelikan M491: A Pen History
Week 38 (9/22) – Ginology 8: Ventura Spirits Wilder Gin
Week 39 (9/29) – Artificial Reports of the Worlds: Steven Spielberg’s Early 2000s Sci-Fi Trilogy
Week 40 (10/6) – Ginology 9: Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin
Week 41 (10/13) – Stardust to Stardust: An Adagio to Life and Death (Alex Garland’s Sunshine)
Week 42 (10/20) – Ginology 10: Tom’s Town McElroy’s Corruption Gin
Week 43 (10/27) – The Real Test: Humanity and [Artificial] Intelligence in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina
Week 44 (11/3) – Visions of the Things to Be: Reflections on M*A*S*H
Week 45 (11/10) – Ginology 11: Beefeater 24
Week 46 (11/17) – It’s Got to be the Goin’: The Journey of (Self) Annihilation
Week 47 (11/24) – Dreaming of a Future: RADWIMPS’ “Weekly Shonen Jump”
Week 48 (12/1) – Finding Happiness in the Dark: The Aesthetics and Beauty of Stationery
Week 49 (12/8) – Ginology 12: Hayman’s Royal Dock at Deptford Navy Strength Gin
Week 50 (12/15) – Ginology 13: A. Smith Bowman’s Sunset Hills Pioneer Spirit Gin
Week 51 (12/22) – Ginology 14: Nikka Coffey Gin
Week 52A (12/29) – Ginology 15: Caorunn Small Batch Scottish Gin
Week 52B (12/31) – A Year in the Fountain Pen and Stationery Game: AKA My Top 5 (Personal) Pens of 2018

It is kind of remarkable looking at that list and thinking about everything that happened during that time: applying for and then interviewing for jobs. Moving for the second time in less than a year. Starting a new job. To say nothing of various conferences, trips, and numerous other activities. I am honestly surprised that I was able to keep up the pace, though I freely admit that I started doing the gin reviews to give me an “out” to write shorter pieces. For my normal post I feel like 1500 words is the minimum to write for most essay topics, and some were beginning to approach 3000 words!

When I get talking, it is sometimes hard to get me to shut up.

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I realize looking back how much this past year of blogging was me trying to work through so much of a life transition. As I will detail in the LONG delayed hauntology project (more on that in a moment), my time in Virginia and separation from Colorado, was really a beginning, an ending, and a state of limbo. I was trying to write my way through a lot of complex emotions, sort through who I was now that I had left the safe embrace of the Centennial State, and also reckon for the first time with being someplace where I wasn’t thought of as being a student first. Or at least where people did not know me as a student first. Where I might even be seen as an expert, a professional. It was a strange realization and feeling.

Because I mentioned the Hero’s Journey, here is the obligatory photo of the book.

Even more so than leaving home for college, leaving Colorado for Virginia was truly my moment of “becoming an adult.” This was my leaving to enter the world. My “call to adventure” in the Hero’s Journey. Except that instead of entering into adventure, I was thrown into a world of anxiety and despair. But if my separation from all that was familiar had one positive effect, it was to serve as the liminal space between Colorado and where I am now.

Looking back, I was hoping Virginia would be something that it was never going to be: permanent. It was only going to be that temporary stopping ground, the space in-between. A place of pause between what was and what is yet to be.

And hopefully that is this job in Memphis, but the future is always cloudy and uncertain. Slippery. And just when you think you have it figured out, life laughs at you. “The best laid plans of mice and men,” and all that jazz.

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So, while I have no idea what my future in Memphis will be in terms of my job and personal life, I do know, or at least have plans for, what the direction this blog will take in the immediate future.

First, I am ending the Ginology series. I am not saying that I’ll never do a gin review again, but after fifteen reviews I think it is time to put it to bed. My enthusiasm for the project started to wane around review 9 or 10 as I figured out that I really did not like to “review” things. Or at the very least, reviewing things that are enjoyable hobbies for me like pens or gins. The pressure and drive to constantly review a new gin, to buy new bottles, to force myself to drink pink gins (I really will not miss that one), and the grind of reviewing…it was killing my enjoyment of something I love.

This is to say nothing of the fact that it was rather hypocritical of me to review things after I spent two posts this year (“FOMO NOMO” and “Just Enjoy,” weeks 2 and 12 respectively, see links above) extolling the merits of trying not to be critical and to find enjoyment where you can. To stop chasing down novelty or attempt to keep up with an endless cycle of consumption. To say nothing of the fact that I flatly said that I would never tell anyone that they had to try/see something.

It is for these same reasons that I will never do pen reviews, why I don’t do formal music reviews, and likewise movies. I would much rather spend my time reflecting upon, analyzing my reactions to, and critiquing such items in a more academic manner than actually “reviewing” them. It is a much better use of not only my time, but more importantly, my talents.

Probably my best gin photo this past year.

So that is the first change you will see here. Last week’s review of Caorunn Scottish Gin will be my last formal gin review. However, I still have an unopened bottle of Suntory Roku Gin…maybe I’ll try out a more rhapsodic format on it once I break the seal?

The second, and admittedly larger, change is that I am dropping the weekly schedule. It has been a great exercise for my writing skills, but the grind has been too much. It helped sustain me through many dark days in Virginia, but now it is causing me anxiety to try and keep up. Not to mention that it is also preventing me from actually getting the hauntology series off the ground. I actually have a solid 5-6 posts for it that just need a little editing, but I have had too much else to do give them a proper polish. And these posts are LONG, like I will probably break them up into smaller posts long.

Which brings me to the last change: from now until the foreseeable future, I am going to devote this blog space to that project. This is not to say that I won’t sneak in the random essay in at times, but I will have to have a really good and important idea that I want to talk about. I plan to start posting what I have of the hauntology series by the end of January, but don’t hold me to it (I do have around eight posts worth of material written and am in the process of editing right now). I will probably quickly post what I have in the next few months as I try to restart my watching and writing routines. However, after that I am going to take my time with this project as I hope to produce around 50,000 total words (probably more) that I could possibly turn into a book down the line.

But we’ll see. I have a lot going on in the new job and my life in Memphis, and somethings have to be given a lower priority in order to maintain balance.

*          *          *

Well, I think that is it for now. Thank you for being with me on this journey the past year. 2018, much like 2017 and 2016, was a bit of a dumpster fire for a whole lot of people and the world. But there is light in the dark, signs of hope in the world. So, here’s to a better 2019.

Cheers. Peace. Love, luck, and lollipops.

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