Nostalgia Television

Recently I’ve gotten a Netflix subscription and one of the first things I did was try to finish watching Breaking Bad, as I’ve been trying to finish that series for a year but I find it as uncomfortable as chewing a lightbulb. I keep getting TV show recommendations about edgy and dark dramas which have foreign languages and murder stories or complex psychological profiles (I must admit I recommended Luther to a friend on that very basis). The one kind of show, however that is the complete antithesis of the modern edgy television show is what I call Nostalgia television.

 

Nostalgia television is of a time that is no longer immediately relevant. Nostalgia TV is something we like simply because we happened to grow up with it despite how naff the production values were, or how problematic its gender and racial politics were.This principle also relates to me love of the 1980s and 1990s action film.

 

When I watch X-Men, the animated series, I am taken back to the wonder of being 6-7 years old and getting up at 6am just to get the VHS tape recorder ready to record X-Men on BBC’s Going Live. I see how my nephew is always talking about things like Ben Ten and Ultimate Spiderman (I will never tell him that I actually watch that too). Nostalgia television is a comfort, a sense of familiarity, a nice bit of kitsch that doesn’t challenge you.

 

There’s something about reminiscing the past. The past to some degree is fixed (but not our perception of it), and being fixed there is a permanence to it. Watching old episodes of X-Men I will know how it ends as I’ve seen many of the episodes countless times. I know when the good bits are coming, and sometimes I notice new details that I didn’t notice before, within the context of what is familiar.

 

Another recent bit of nostalgia television that I’m watching is Highlander: the series. There’s a lot about the show that seems to have seeped into my adult psyche and its kind of obvious too. The ponytail on Duncan McLeod, the reverence of japanese bushido customs and sword play and those cape like long jackets.

 

Highlander is not a great show objectively speaking, but to me, it is an amazing show for reasons that I can only communicate through my own personal preferences (namely, how it has shaped mine).

 

Another thing that has become nostalgia television for me is Peep Show. As I am getting to the ages of the protagonist characters in the early seasons, I am starting to the banalities of Mark Corrigan’s mundane life, things such as deciding ‘socks before shirt’ when getting ready in the morning or obsessing over Alpen cereal. Because Peep Show is a series which has gone on from 2003 until recent years (said to have its final season this year) I can see a continuum of how the show has come from 2003 to the present day and in so doing I see the little idiosyncracies of a recent yesteryear as opposed to a distant one.

 

Peep show counts as nostalgia TV to me because as the seasons go on, the premise of the show wears thinner, but also there are aspects in which the show really shows its age, such as referring to politicans who are no longer in their referred offices today. Maybe nostalgia television happens too quickly. In watching recent episodes of Breaking Bad circa 2010-2011, or even episodes of House, MD. I can see things like flip-opening mobile phones and other pre-smartphones.

 

I am reminded of how quickly times change when I have reflected on certain views that I’ve had and blogged about around 2008-2009 and they are out of date. Even as I live in the present I am a dinosaur becoming slowly obsolescent. It’s so hard to capture the zeitgeist that I don’t even try when I enjoy nostalgia television. It is, I suppose, a part of my aesthetic character to enjoy ordinary garden variety things, despite the pretentions I otherwise purport to of more ‘challenging’ things.

 

Some thoughts on my music playlists

Lately I have not listened to as much underground black metal music as I would like to. This is for a variety of reasons (scarcity being the main one). I always make a point of keeping a diverse set of listening interests. Sometimes if I hear a conversation about a band going on and I don’t know much about it, I will make a note in Google Keep and check on them later. I also have a rolling task every month of making a ‘big fuckoff playlist’ which lasts anything from 8-12 days (as in up to 300 hours).

 

I like to organise my playlists in ways that try to acknowledge the greatest amount of unity through the greatest variety of depth. I’m sure Kant didn’t envisage the application of schematic concepts in this way. I listen to music with a variety of different personas and hats. With my spotify subscription I try to organise my music in as rational a way as possible.

 

I am interested in learning about early 20th century music from the perspective of being a fan of Modernist thought. My interest in modernism also informs my interest in black metal (but that’s another story). I am also interested in connecting to understand my old piano teacher’s Jazz heritage. I had initially been listening to the early jazz of Jelly Roll Morton and Benny Goodman, and then I evolved to exploring John Coltrane most recently.

 

I am also exploring composers that I haven’t known very much about and trying to get an informed opinion of. I listened to the works of Krenek, CPE Bach, Aaron Copland and I am currently exploring Jean Sibelius, Gerald Finzi and I have about 3 different Leonard Bernstein playlists. There seem to be three Leonard Bernsteins: the conductor who was well known for performing the greats and the classics of European artmusik; Bernstein the composer who wrote works that reflected this meshing of his distinctly American and urbanite sensibility with someone who is steeped in the history and heritage of the Europeans; and finally the ‘popular’ Berinstein who lives on as the dude who did West Side Story and those other Jazzy tunes. I think that through listening to all three of these Bernsteins concurrently I am having a better appreciation of his perspective and the interesting cultural soup that formed his outlook.

 

I was recently watching a MOOC on modern music which discussed the recent composer George Crumb (Whom I know nothing about). Crumb said in an interview how growing up in the USA with parents who were local band and orchestra musicians influenced him, as well as the multicultural agenda of the music department at his university. Music is alive insofar as it is both current and historical. I love listening to music through different personas, similar to how I have conceptualised Bernstein. I enjoy listening to music as someone who is a bad amateur musician. I enjoy listening to music as someone who is interested in its history and culture. Then there are the sensibilities of someone born in the 1980s and was a kid of the 90s and a 20-something through the 2000s trying to negotiate getting a bit older and uncool.

 

When I listen to all this music I explore things I like and things that I don’t like but still try to be informed about. I love the idea of trying to find some kind of unity in all the musical personas that I have, but on the other hand I think it is not possible or desirable. I want to have Shining’s Förtvivlan, min arvedel as something relatively recent that I absolutely adore and feel encapsulates me as a person, but at the same time I also feel the same kind of identification and emotion (albeit different emotional colours) about Beethoven’s Sonata no. 8, which I am currently working on and trying to deal with the tremolando of the left hand in the first movement (the word pathetique comes to mind!). Often people talk of historical periods and some have referred to the present as ‘postmodern’. Let’s say that I accept this label. Being a post-modern means that I can go to the gym listening to the music representing my outlook through Black Metal when I’m walking around with my headphones in; but also write blog posts at 3am while listening to Blaise Pascal on audiobook and listening to the music of Darius Milhaud (of les six) fame. Postmodern is one word to describe it perhaps, or perhaps muddled, confused. But not to say that these are necessarily bad things to mix it all up.

In praise of the notebook

Since the start of the year (I still can’t believe it’s been 6 months), I have begun re-organising my normal inventory to include a notebook. It has changed my perspective on things. I am often of the view that paper is archaic, antiquated and will soon be obsolescent.

 

I was on a train last weekend reading a book on my tablet and the train passed through a tunnel. At that point there were no light sources anywhere in the train, but I barely noticed this as my tablet had a backlight and I continued to read Spiegelman’s Maus. I then noticed that people on the train reading magazines and books (P-books as I might call them) were noticing that I was not hindered by this tunnel and enviably observed how I was like the only person with an umbrella in a sudden spate of rain.

 

I am a keen user of Google Keep and I have found that it has really made an impact on my productivity and I use an account of Keep at work to keep track of multiple things going on. I also love the way in which Keep is like a post-it note and a back of an envelope all at once.

 

However for all this innovation and integration into a centralised cloud based centre, I have still fallen love with this old-fangled notebook. There are things that I love about my notebook which are irreducible. I love how my notebook has a little tab that keeps a pen, which has usages for other things besides that book. I love the physical size and weight of it. It is unimposing yet distinctly present. I have a 32gb microSD card that I often carry on my person which is a back up of a lot of files that I have had since 2006, but I barely remember its there and it is far to small to remind me of this fact.

 

I love the way that my notebook has visible signs of aging; it has discolourations, coffee stains, nicks here and there and other unaccounted for discolourations. I love how my notebook has a few torn out pages for when I’ve given my phone number or email to somebody. I also like using the lined pages for whatever I want. Unlike Google Keep, which presently allows pictures, checked lists and free text, my notebook is used for newspaper cuttings, scrawlings of logical proofs (Fitch, truth table and tableaux), I have some odd number chains and rough calculations, I write up my decision matrices there. I keep notes of meetings that I go to and I keep odd mementos there. I have for example a ticket stub from when I saw X Men: Days of Future Past alongside a picture of Schoenberg. I sometimes make a 5-line stave and write up some harmonic ideas in my head.

 

The novellist Lawrence Norfolk once described the notebook as being a junkyard of the mind. I love this conception, because I’d put things in my notebook that I’d never want to be on my blog, or twitter, or on Google Keep. I use Keep for strictly professional purposes at work and my home Keep account is strictly for productivity purposes. I have so much going on that I have to keep any kind of junkyard in a place that doesn’t affect that which is clean cut and polished.

 

Although I’ve always written this blog as a notebook form of sorts-  where I might state a view and possibly change my mind. I realise that this blog has become so established that I can’t always use it to post pictures of Pusheen. I am so besotted with my notebook that I should give it a name. Glenn Gould once described his chair as a boon companion and something that was quite close to him in more than a figurative way. Perhaps I might refer to my notebook as Gould. Although, I do have my worn-in-all-weather winter jackets that I refer to as my Glenn Gould jackets. There’s something to be said about the power of personal effects. My notebook has become almost talisman like, and as someone with a physical issue with handwriting, I am highly surprised to find this is the case.

 

The “Dear” (or, On Email Salutations)

The fact of our social reality is that we are judged by such silly things. But when we think about how deliberate some of those things are, maybe they aren’t so silly. The decision to favour trousers over a skirt has a distinctly gendered set of connotations for women. I have heard ad nauseam many conversations from women stating to the effect that they hate wearing high heeled shoes but it is expected of them.

 

Thinking about the micro level of interactions. I’ve been thinking a lot about emails. As someone who has to do a lot of emailing for work, and job applications, and everything in between (such as say, organising family things with my sister), I’ve been thinking about email salutations.

 

The issue of email salutations has been on my mind because it has encroached on issues of interactions in terms of gender, age differences, cultural/social backgrounds and just protocol. The issue really boils down to this: can or should I still use “Dear …” as a greeting.

 

Let’s consider a variety of cases:

 

Case one: working in a formal place

 

I sometimes work at a place where protocol is very important. Observing people by title or their ceremonial roles are very important as some of them occupy ancient institutions and are key civic figures. In this context it is not only appropriate, it is a sign of good Britishness to uphold the ‘Dear’ and other related customary salutations. This is the case in which the Dear is absolute, and in this situation I cannot ever get rid of the Dear.

 

Case two: at work: emailing someone who is literally behind you

 

I also work in a context where I am often in a lot of different desks and departments (see hotdesking) and there are often a lot of first introductions with people, sometimes meeting them physically after I contact them by emails (so I don’t recognise them by face). I usually do an anonymous Dear as a form of protocol to email people, including when I am unfamiliar as to where they physically are. If in some instances I am near someone that I need to contact, but I would need to email them because they are working on a caseload or on the phone or I just can’t judge their availability to deal with something, I would email them. I would often agonise over whether Hello is too informal for someone I don’t know, or if Dear is too naff and over-formal. These tend be the main cases in which a salutation becomes an issue of social interaction.

 

Case three: Dear and Gender

 

Antisophie put it to me in this way: would you call someone Dear to their face in the same way I might in an email with the same frequency? The answer to that would be a resounding no. It is true that when working with senior figures; Rt. Hon., Lords or your everyday Sith Lord, you would accord the correct title and greeting to them. If I worked more in this environment I certainly would take formality to be more frequent. Going back to the question Antisophie posed: would I call someone Dear? No. It’s incredibly gendered, and context of the other party’s acceptance of the term needs to be established. For example, an acceptable instance of me using Dear would be as a joke or an informal or familiar context with someone, and usually its to men and women that I know very well, and the quaintness of the utterance forms much of its acceptability. Outside of that it seems distinctly patronising at best, misogynistic at worst and horridly outdated. Antisophie gives me a reason to think that I should purge Dear altogether! Although if I’m writing a job application I wouldn’t want to undermine any chances by getting a little thing like the protocol of a salutation wrong. If we were living in a philosopher’s world I’m sure something like ‘Dear’ would be eradicated as a default.

 

Case four: to and fro emails

 

The usual kind of emails I get, which go something like:

 

Me: Dear n here’s my update on the situation

n: Great thanks, can you also account for so and so?

Me: Sure thing here you go

n: great thanks

(a bit later)

n: (unrelated question/topic with previous thread included in body text for some reason)

 

In these instances, sometimes it is a really quick fire of emails in a short period of time. Or it might just be a long thread. In these instances I think that putting Dear at the top is not only artificially distant, but also not germane to the discussion’s material. To and fro’s typically requires just the facts and even a greeting after the 2nd or 3rd reply isn’t necessary.

 

Case five: making an impression

 

I sort of hinted at this with the job application point. There are points where the formality of a situation is not established because you don’t know the person and or they are new to you (note I made a distinction here). Having a clear greeting and honorary salutation is crucial here. Having the Dear is important to establish a new connection, as in this context it is not presumptuous as a more informal greeting might be. With someone new having an impersonal distance is the default. My Latin American friends think that this impersonal distance with new people is absolutely quaint and quintessentially English (or in their words: soo cute!). There are instances where Dear is used to communicate a lack of salutations. Hi is too informal, Hello is awkward sometimes, and Hey? Well lets go to that.

 

Lemma: On ‘Hey’

 

Like the 19th and 20th Century aestheticians who had a fundamental dislike for the sublime. I too am not a such a great fan of hey. Hey is an informality that needs to be earned, like people who call me Mike. I am not a fan of hey and instead of communicating disapproval openly to practitioners of the word, I simply avoid participation.

 

Our salutations reflect our definition of the situation. I am eternally reminded of Dr. Kieran Flanagan’s example of the definition of the situation, in which a younger version of him was in a hotel in Minnesota and the hotelier asks: how are you today? To which he replies: I’M FUCKING AWFUL! Despite the values we have on authenticity, we still aren’t allowed to be honest when we aren’t okay, or in Flanagan’s case, fucking awful. I suspect that salutations exist in this same baffling way.

‘Because, Pusheen’ – on the cute internet cat

Over the past maybe couple months, I have been increasingly a fan of an internet phenomenon called Pusheen the Cat. I discovered Pusheen through Facebook chat and it was so incredibly cute that I surrendered a sense of seriousness about things to adore a fat kitty doing various things like riding a bike or reaching for a cupcake. I then discovered that Pusheen is a wider phenomenon than emojis, Pusheen has her own Tumblr, which is described in the metadata: ‘Miow! I am Pusheen the Cat. This is my blog’.

It is so incredibly adorable that I can only express its cuteness in Pusheen pictures.

Why am I writing a post about Pusheen? I suppose the reactions from it kind of had certain morals for me.

The surprise of its cuteness

A well known adege says: the internet is for cats. There is something directly appealing about the frivolous and the cute. I use Feedly to aggregate all of my news feeds and I use categories (schema) to sort through them. I have various ones to distinguish between philosophy feeds (such as philosophy/culture, philosophy/journals, philosophy/academic or philosophy/feminism) and I like to read on an extreme variety of feeds. Anything from Depressive black metal bands to secularism in the UK, and in between that very heavy sandwich I put a little bit of comedy into feedly. I love the website ‘pictureisunrelated’ for the ‘wtf’-reaction that I get from the pictures, and I quite enjoy sharing them with other people.

Communicability

I love looking at Pusheen because it is something cute that I can communicate about and share with others. There are lots of things that I accept that not everyone (and in many cases, probably no-one) shares an interest with me regarding. I’ve shared Pusheen and Pusheen accessories with various friends. One new friend of mine I have a particularly strong bond with about Pusheen, we communicate our feelings through Facebook stickers of Pusheen.

Cuteness and gender lines

It’s not very male to talk about cuteness. I have a friend who is so proud that he won’t accept that he likes Pusheen, and so when I send him Pusheen images he says how ridiculous they are and then says: have you got any more? Reflecting on Pusheen shows me how differently gendered views of certain objects are, such as Pusheen sleeping on a bear. I wonder to myself if this male recitence about cuteness is a different way of seeing the world, or a barrier of appreciation. I share my appreciation with Pusheen with friends of various genders, and I must admit I notice a marked differential response along gendered lines.

because, internet’ : Teaching me about comedy

I love things that are funny, I like to see why things are funny. Non-sequiturs such as in the ‘pictureisunrelated’ bamboozle people who have no preconception of what to expect, perhaps in the parlance of this age, we have a reaction of surprise to absurdity which encapsulates Kant’s view of, although in more contemporary terms, it can be summed up by the term: lolwat.

I like the way that Pusheen portrays an antrhopomorphic persona while also being obviously a cat. Pusheen portrays a child like mentality and one focussed on base needs like the desire to sleep and eat, so much so that it is to a fault. Perhaps it is that character flaw of Pusheen that we see in ourselves, or that we find amusing about human nature. Pusheen displays akrasia on a regular basis, in her most recent post, “Santa Claws”, Pusheen parodies the Christmas cultural figure but reverses our expectations by using the big sack to steal cookies instead of deliver gifts to (presumably) children. At this story we laugh, because of the supplanted expectation we have of Santa.

Perhaps there is no justification or reason to the things that appeal to us, perhaps I simply like Pusheen, because Pusheen.

The age of crossovers

There are just too many intellectual property crossovers right now. I saw a film that I quite liked recently, ‘The Wolverine’. I liked how the human side of the mutant character was emphasised. I liked the exploration of the psyche of Logan’s persona, his vulnerabilities and his outlook explored.

 

I have gotten quite big into Marvel recently. I am currently reading a volume from last year’s ‘AvX’ comic event, where there is quite a completist aspect about all the various series that tied into the story, and all the follow-up IPs since then. Due to work and other real life things, I don’t have enough time or energy to pay attention to more Marvel stuff, like Age of Ultron.

 

I wrote a while back about how I missed the ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ (EMH) Disney series. As it happens I am now following 3 Marvel animated series, and they all seem to have a decidedly purposeful intertwining. The problem is…there’s a slight inconsistency.

 

So the most recent Avengers’ series is supposedly a continuation of the series cancelled last year, but more re-formed to orient the recent interest in Marvel’s cinematic universe. However, in an episode that featured a flashback, it referenced something that points to how the new series (Avengers Assemble) is a continuation of EMH. However, due to transitive relations this would lead to some problems.

 

The recent Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. features characters from the new Avengers series and Ultimate Spiderman, suggesting that they are in the same universe, the Avengers’ Fury character also references Ultimate Spiderman. However, the ultimate spiderman is a different character to the spiderman referenced in EMH (which is supposedly in the same continuity). Not least to mention how ‘Don’t Call me Power Man’ Luke Cage is a vastly different character between EMH and Ultimate Spiderman. Okay, so this is a kids show and these kinds of continuities don’t really matter.

 

There is something quick and easy about crossovers. DC has an upcoming Batman vs. Superman film coming up, for which the announcement of Ben Affleck has brought some notoriety. There’s more Marvel IPs coming out soon for the cinematic universe: Guardians of the Galaxy, in particular. Crossovers and team ups are also popular in action films. Note the success of the films Expendables and Expendables 2, which is an admittedly shameful guilty pleasure for me. The day my friends went to see the Expendables back in 2010 was so notable that it was a day that one of our friends met his now girlfriend, she has recently moved in with him and they are very much together. I think we can thank Stallone’s dream team making a film together as an efficient cause to their relationship. Perhaps cynically, I was recently drawn into the Fast and the Furious action films, when I found that cockneyed action hero hardman Jason Statham has a cameo at the end of the recent 6th outing of Vin Diesel’s action vehicle. This doesn’t even mention the capitalising of the pairing between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson’s odd couple relationship.

 

So many things in popular culture emphasise the bigger and the bolder, the teaming up and the crossing over. There is a problem when we have too many characters, not enough genuine development. It seems culturally and in terms of consumption, there is a definite market and desire for such tastes today. I must admit, I quite enjoy the unusual pair-ups in Avengers vs. X Men. However with staple characters such as Captain America or Wolverine, I wonder how much Brian Michael Bendis can put in of personal insight into these characters. I see it as a potential tension, although Bendis manages it quite well.

 

Michael