MAD magazine, Harlan Ellison, and a fistful of forbidden magazines feature as we continue our trip through how we got here
Plus we review Cronenberg's latest CRIMES
It’s Monday, June 6th, and here’s where we are…
If you’re subscribed to The Last ‘80s Newsletter (You’ll Ever Need), thank you, and I hope you enjoyed the wrap-up to November 1980. On June 15th, I’ll kick off my coverage of December 1980, wrapping up the first year of this project and as proud as I was of ‘80s All Over, I think this is the superior product in every way. The show offered you a quick mention of things, but the newsletter is a real review of every single title of the decade, big and small, and it’s been a real stretch for me as a writer. I think it’s a clear-eyed look back, and there’s some autobiography built into the framework as I talk about how I first encountered these things. You’ve still got a few days left to get in for the start of the month!
This makes me almost absurdly happy.
Somewhere in the world, George Miller is making a new chapter in his ongoing Wasteland saga. We have a new George Miller film in theaters in a matter of weeks, and he’s already rolling on the next one, and if you’d asked me a decade ago if we were ever going to see any George Miller film again, much less this kind of wild productivity, I would have bet against it. I’m so happy I was wrong.
I saw that Our Flag Means Death was renewed for a second season, and I’m happy for everyone involved as well as the fans of the show. Even a show that strikes a clear chord with an audience isn’t guaranteed a second go-round in this era of constant content churn. It doesn’t surprise me that shows disappear without a trace right now. Even when I want to see things, I can’t because there’s just too much. I’ve seen the second episode of Stranger Things now and the first episode of The Boys, but honestly, we’re still chipping away at the last season of Ozark and the first season of Maid and the new seasons of Made for Love and The Flight Attendant and Hacks and we just finished Schmigadoon! and just started The Time Traveler’s Wife and we haven’t even started the new Russian Doll yet. That’s just the stuff we watch together. I’ve got shows I’m watching myself without my girlfriend like The Offer and Strange New Worlds and The Man Who Fell To Earth, and there are probably 20 shows that we’ve got on a playlist that we haven’t even been able to sample yet like Candy and Under the Banner of Heaven and We Own This City and Pachinko and Shining Girls and The Staircase. All of those are shows we’d love to see that we can’t even start because of all the other things that are out there already, not even including the new seasons of For All Mankind and The Umbrella Academy and Only Murders In the Building and new shows like Ms. Marvel and Irma Vep and Players and Loot. It’s overwhelming, and there are shows we’ve just skipped completely because we felt like we missed the onramp and there’s no time now to go back and catch up. Even if I wanted to watch something like Yellowstone, for example, it seems like there are 40 spinoff shows and 10 seasons of the main show and so much I’d have to watch that it’s impossible.
How is any of this sustainable? How can anyone possibly feel like they actually see everything they want to see? What’s the difference between constant entertainment and exhaustion? Do you just decide at a certain point that you don’t care anymore? Just let it wash by if you miss it? Do you let it stress you out at all?
All of this, of course, excludes making any time for movies or music or reading or any other kind of media. The competition for your attention has never been more brutal than it is right now, with more viable options available on pretty much every device you can name. I find it harder and harder to tune out the noise just because every time I watch something, I know there are a thousand things I am specifically not watching at that moment, and it makes it harder than ever to just connect to something and enjoy myself. That’s not great.
I like to try to make an event of it if I can, especially if it’s something I’m excited about. Thursday night, for example, I headed downtown to the Alamo Drafthouse for a 10:00 screening of something I’ve been itching to see all year…
NEW FLESH, SAME AS THE OLD FLESH
My left ear has been bothering me for months. There’s something slightly off with it. I had a terrible infection for a few weeks but that was addressed. Before that and since then, though, there’s something slightly weird about it. It gums up if I sleep on it. I don’t know any other way to describe it. It itches all the time, but deep inside the ear where there’s no way to reach it, even if it wasn’t insane to reach inside your ear in the first place. I try not to think about it, and sometimes I’ll go a few hours and get lost in something I’m writing or watching and I’ll actually stop thinking about it. But it’s inevitable right now that it always ends up back in my thoughts, a low-grade annoyance that has just become part of the wallpaper of daily life.
I’m sure I’ll figure it out sooner or later. Once I do, though, some other new issue will make itself known. That’s how it works. Our bodies are in constant revolt, and part of the process of being a human being is learning how to successfully drive and maintain this disgusting meat suit we have to wear. More than anything, my ongoing issue with my ear just plain grosses me out. I hate that my body won’t just work correctly. My eyes have been an ongoing issue for most of my life, and as I get older, I am sure that will only accelerate. Whenever I get freaked out by some weird thing my body does, I count myself lucky because I know it could be different, that there are so many more radical ways it could betray me. In my darkest late-night moments, the things that scare me the most involve my health and my body. David Cronenberg’s films, especially in the first half of his career, have offered up a profound and often darkly funny exploration of those fears, and it is thrilling to see him return to this fertile and freaky ground with his latest release, Crimes of the Future.
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