The Middle Spaces has not quite yet been around a year. While there are posts that go back into 2012, they are backdated re-posts from my We Are In It tumblr—tumblr , as it turned out was not a great format for my posts, which tend to be long and get longer.
Anyway, rather than do a typical “Year In Review” as 2013 comes to an end, I thought I’d do a “The Year It Wasn’t”—an overview of all the things I planned to write or started writing or even nearly finished but never quite came together or I thought better of. I tend to write very quickly, but for most things – even blog posts – I’ll write two or three versions (usually the third is material cut and pasted from the first two and re-framed). Sometimes, things don’t make it past the first version. Sometimes the third version is very different from the first. Some of the things listed here I simply have notes or an introductory paragraph for and have decided to put off until next year some time.Look for some of these in 2014 either here and/or at The Hooded Utilitarian.
What Is and What May Never Be
Big Love: My wife and I watched all five seasons of this HBO drama that aired from 2006 to 2011. It’s about a fundamentalist Mormon polygamist family, and I was considering writing about polygamy, my conflicted feelings about it and parallels between those feelings and my feelings about porn and other sex work. Essentially, there is a tension between institutions that I feel are historically exploitative of women and my feeling that part of seeing women as adult people with agency and an ability to give consent and think through the consequences of their actions is respecting those choices. Thus, a woman can decide, for example, to be one of many wives, if she so chooses. So in short, while the incestuous fundamentalist compounds that confine and control women and their children are clearly dangerous, in theory there should be nothing stopping a group of consenting adults from constructing whatever form of relationship they want with each other. All that legal prohibitions against polygamy and the like do is limit the legal recourses and social protections of women and children in those forms of family. This topic was recently in the news when a Utah judge made a ruling striking down the “ban on cohabitation by multiple partners living in what they view as a polygamous family.” Ultimately, I decided I didn’t know enough about the topic and didn’t have that much to say aside from what I’ve already said above.
Superior Spider-Man: I got about 1200 words into writing about Dan Slott’s current Doc Ock as Peter Parker/Spider-Man series and its potential commentary on the arc of superheroic figure in never-ending serialized comics, but realized my assertions were too tenuous without knowing exactly how it will resolve back into the status quo, which we all know it will. I’ll get back to Superior Spider-Man eventually, but in the meantime I decided to write about Slott’s She-Hulk run instead. Update: I ended up writing about Superior Spider-Man in August here.
Real Rap: I found out about Real Rap by Benjamin Urkowtiz from a review of it over at the Hooded Utilitarian by Jacob Canfield and was immediately fascinated with the premise. I ordered my own copy of the current issues of the mini-comic, but much like Superior Spider-Man decided to wait until the 6th and final issue is available before writing about it. I also plan to write a little about it in the fourth chapter of my doctoral dissertation (which focuses on popular music and comic culture in connection with collection and identity in transnational American literature) along with Ed Piskor’s highly-acclaimed Hip Hop Family Tree. Look for this some time in 2014, probably cross-posted on The Hooded Utilitarian.
Fast & Furious: Another one that was just never gonna come together. I recently had the experience of watching part of one of the Fast & Furious movies without any sound, as the guy sitting next to me for most of my morning commute was watching it with headphones on his tablet. I thought the experience might be something worth writing about. I had never seen any of these films, but maybe now I will. I was just struck by how ethnically diverse it was, and by “ethnically diverse” I don’t mean there were mostly white guy main characters and a handful of PoC supporting roles (which is how it is often measured), but most all the principle characters (at least by my viewing) were black and brown, Asian and Latino. I loved it. I was going to connect this rather facile observation to a thought I had when Paul Walker recently died. Until the news of his death I only knew him as “that one white guy from the Fast & Furious movies,” and I wondered if they’d let those movies continue without him. That is, allow ALL the principle characters to be people of color and not try to replace him with some other vaguely handsome white dude. Is it wrong of me—someone who has never seen one these all the way through—to think that’d make the movies better?
“La, La, La, He, He, Hee”: I was going to write about one of my favorite Prince B-sides, the 10½ minute flip to “Sign o’ the Times.” The song is bizarre. Based off a bet with Sheen Easton, it has a sample dog-bark snare drum, a sick bass guitar solo and with its changes the song is a sort of suite. It also adds to the strange belief that Prince seems to have that dogs are male and cats are female and the former want to get with the latter that can also be found in the “Atomic Dog”-inspired b-side “Scarlet Pussy.” Anyway, the fact that it is nearly impossible to find Prince’s music on YouTube nipped this one in the bud, since it seemed ridiculous to write something about a song readers couldn’t listen to.
Songs I Hate: I started this post as a kind of follow-up to “Ain’t Got the Same Soul,” wherein I got academic in getting my hate on Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock n’Roll.” I planned to pan all the shit I find unlistenable, like “Crocodile Rock” and “Angel of Harlem.” I wasn’t even going to bother with the lowest of the low, like so much of Eric Clapton (save for his work with Cream) and basically anything by the Eagles, and maybe if I had saved it for Christmas time I might have mentioned Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” of which a friend recently said,
“Of all the musical crimes perpetrated by Paul McCartney – and they are far too numerous to count – ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ is certainly among the gravest. I think I’d rather listen to an entire Linda McCartney solo album sung by the anus of her reanimated corpse.”
And just because it always seems to offend sensibilities I would include The Beatles’ “In My Life”—a song whose only achievement is its nauseating mixture of maudlin and the saccharine. I hate HATE HATE that song, nearly as much as I generally love LOVE LOVE the Beatles. Oh, and probably “Maggie May”. . . Just the grain of Rod Stewart’s voice and the insipidness of his songs… I could go on and on. Anyway, this is a post you are likely to never see as it’d require me to actually listen to these songs to write about them in hateful detail and why put myself through that just to broadcast more negativity? No fun. [Note: I didn’t link to these songs because I don’t want to put readers through that and I don’t want to deal with even the few seconds of those songs I’d have to hear when finding them on YouTube.]
Miley vs. Lordes: Speaking of songs people hate. . . A while back I tweeted that I couldn’t be the only one that found the refrain to Lordes’s “Royals” song to a be a form of racial dog whistle, which some friends objected to, but looking it up it turned out I was not the first to make such a declaration. As part of my songs in conversation series, I thought it might be interesting to put “Royals” in conversation with Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop.” For my money, I prefer the latter’s earnest appropriation however problematic to the former song’s seeming contempt (and dare I say, a little envy?) for the accoutrements of contemporary hip-hop/R&B culture (i.e the popular vision of Black American culture that is exported to the rest of the world). The song’s indictment of materialism comes off as myopic when put in those terms by some white girl, as if she is trying to claim some form of working class authenticity to express a superior class ethic. At least I can relate to Miley’s desire to have rebellious fun—to not be told what to do, to do some drugs in the bathroom—however misguided it may be. Really it’s the video for the song that is the most problematic, because when I just listen to it, I totally feel it. Anyway, by the time I thought of this, it seemed like old news and like something someone had probably already written, so before I even started, I stopped.
X-Women: After reading Orion Martin’s piece “What if the X-Men Were Black?” and Noah Bertlanksy’s follow-up “The X-Men: Establishment Lackeys” I decided to re-read the recent X-Men series by Brian Wood featuring an X-Team of all women, several of whom are nostalgic favorites of mine (Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Storm, Rachel Summers) and that was terrible on several levels. At first, I thought that its terribleness was despite its all-woman focus, but upon reexamination, I realized, nope the gender angle is fucked up, too. I will get around to writing this early in 2014, after considering cramming it during the holidays. Update: I wrote about “The Failures of Brian Wood’s All-Woman X-Team” in April.
MIND MGMT: This is currently at the top of my list of post ideas in the moleskin I keep for such things: something about Matt Kindt’s awesome comic as dream interpretation. I love this series, just wish that for something so global in scope it’d depict more non-white people. Note: You can now read, “On the Interpretation of Mind MGMT” here.
The Other Half- N[word]: This one made it through two different versions of a few hundred words each before I gave up. I was basically try to write something that put the Miami Dolphins Ritchie Incognito debacle in context with Ty Cobb and his beating of a disabled spectator for calling him the same thing Incognito called Jonathan Martin. I wanted to build on that to say something about how the culture of professional sports has not changed in many ways since 1912—it is just that now African-American pro-athletes are subsumed into the system of white supremacy, forced to be complicit the tangle of racial politics that also seeks to measure masculinity. What strikes me about the Cobb story is that the striking of his teammates to protest his suspension didn’t have to do with respect for Cobb (they HATED him) and everything to do with the fact that they were all racists, too. I may come back to this at some point, but for now it isn’t coming together.
There you have it. As I said above, look for some of these in 2014 either here and/or at The Hooded Utilitarian where I have been invited to regularly contribute. I also hope to write more this coming year about representations of women in comics and write some about women comic creators, which I think is an area that is sorely lacking on this blog. In addition, I want to include more guest posts like that by Charles Stephens, Jr, including hopefully a friend’s comparison of the dark future of the original version of X-Men’s “Days of Future Past” two-parter to the surveillance state of 2013 (when that dark future was taking place back when the comic was printed in 1980). So if you have something you want to pitch to The Middle Spaces (especially if it concerns the afore-mentioned representatons of women in comics and/or about women comics creators) I’d love to hear it. Speaking of which I will be presenting a paper (based on the first chapter of my dissertation) at NeMLA in Harrisburg, PA) in early April, entitled, “Succeeding in the Super-Biz: New Worlds Through Disidentifcation in Xaime Hernandez’s God & Science.” So if you are going to be there drop by and say hi!
See ya next year!