At least once a week I think “weed van” like on the bus or something and start giggling uncontrollably to myself.
Team Weed Van needs to be the official name of The Resistance.
Ten years ago, I received an email from Athenae asking if I’d like to join the First Draft team. It was a no-brainer: I said yes, yes, yes a thousand times yes.
My first post landed on 9/19/2009 and was called Greetings From Debrisville. That was my nickname for post-K New Orleans, which given the whole car in the drainage canal thing may be ripe for a revival.
You know much I love self-quotation so here’s how I kicked off my tenure at First Draft:
Thanks to Athenae for the invite and the warm welcome. She just did something either foolhardy or semi-brilliant by inviting me to join the gang at First Draft. I’ll let you be the judge of that. For my own part, I’m happy to be here: I’m a longtime reader, occasional commenter and sporadic passenger in the crack van. Love that shag rug, A. I hope that Scout will still bring the ham…
I’ve lived in New Orleans (aka Debrisville) since 1987 and have been blogging as Adrastos since December 2005. I suspect you can figure out what inspired me to start bloviating on the internets: Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent federal flood.
To paraphrase the late, great Greg Peters that qualifies as lazy quoting of myself. It beats the hell outta self-dealing. I’ll leave that to the experts in the Trump regime.
A lot of excellent writers have come and gone since I sold my soul to First Draft: Scout Prime, Virgo Tex, Doc, and Jude to name a few. I linked to their work because they’re all fine writers even if Jude is incapable of writing a paragraph without using the word fuck. That inspired this fucking closing of my fucking introductory post:
The only thing that gave me pause about joining the First Draft krewe is that I don’t say fuck as much as Athenae or Jude. Once I was assured that there wasn’t a quota I said: what the fuck, why the fuck not? But just in case I’m expected to swear like a Greek sailor, here’s Warren Zevon with My Shit’s Fucked Up:
Our current krewe of writers may be motley but they’re equally wonderful: Michael F, Tommy T, and our awesome publisher, Athenae. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Tommy but I’ve hung out with both Michael and Allison. One thing that changed when we migrated First Draft to Word Press was that Allison and I revealed our “secret identities” which were lying in plain sight anyway.
Allison attended Rising Tide 6 and Dr. A took the obligatory picture of us with Michael F:
It’s not a particularly flattering picture but it’s all we’ve got so I won’t suppress it. Somewhere there’s a pretty good picture of Allison with the late great Oscar but I cannot find it. So it goes.
It’s been a helluva ride and we’ve only just begun to amuse, inform, and outrage you. We couldn’t do it without our readers. That brings me to the obligatory plug for our 2019 fundraiser. If you like what we do here at First Draft, please throw a few drachmas our way but do it in dollars: Greece adopted the Euro years ago. Click here for more information on how to donate from the boss lady.
Our plan is to go on and on and on; much like one of my windier posts. The last word goes to Neil Young and Stephen Stills:
UPDATE: You are all the absolute best, and thank you all for contributing. It’s much appreciated and will help keep the old place humming for the next year, during which — and this is just a guess — some stuff might happen that we might want to write about. It means the world to know that what we do here matters to you. Thanks again.
Fifteen years, bitches. Time for an annual fundraising post.
Once a year we ask those of you who enjoy this site and have a little cash to spare to throw some our way to help keep the lights on.
I still miss Oscar. This is an image I’ve used for past fundraisers.
Here’s a weird reason to donate. Once we meet or surpass our goal, I won’t have to use this as my twitter avatar:
Please save me from Dollar Bill. It’s what Oscar would have wanted.
I had a lot of fun writing Life Imitates The Untouchables: Scarface Paul Manafort. It occurred to me that I missed the chance to raise some money for First Draft. The last I heard from our publisher/Chancellor of the Exchequer, Athenae, we were 2/3 of the way to our goal of $1650. It’s time to go gangster on your asses:
Don’t worry, Gabby Hartnett won’t get it. The Hall of Fame Chicago Cubs catcher died on his birthday in 1972. Capone was long gone.
Hartnett got in trouble for signing an autograph for Capone’s kid at Wrigley Field. Then commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis called the Cubbie on the carpet and told him not to consort with gangsters. There are many versions of this story but my favorite is that Gabby said to the irascible commish, “You try saying no to Al Capone, Judge.”
That was a long-winded way to ask you to support our annual fundraiser. We’re the most benevolent shakedown artists you’ll ever encounter except for Della. She’s a badass.
The last word goes to the Grateful Dead. Let’s take a trip to Shakedown Street:
Let’s see, I gave you gangsters, baseball, cats, and the Dead. How can you not donate after that? Here’s the link again.
UPDATE THE THIRD: We did it! Thank you to everyone who contributed. This Sunday look for special Kick-and-cats-blogging in joyful celebration, and we really, really appreciate the ability to keep the lights on around here for another year!
Update II: CRAZYTOWN WE ARE ONLY $400 AWAY FROM OUR GOAL. You guys get a Kick and Catz video if you put this thing away by midnight!
Update: WE ARE HALFWAY TO OUR GOAL AFTER 2 DAYS. You guys are amazing. Thank you all so much. Click here to keep it going!
Here’s what we’d like to do this year, in addition to covering our hosting fees and getting my laptop a new battery: Continue to deal with the general stupidity of the state of government and chronicle the trash fire that is American journalism. Pay the electric bill. Keep Paul, Della, Slade, Ada and all our other asshole pets in Fancy Feast. Continue Kick’s education by buying poster board for her to spell our protest signs. COVER THE DANG MIDTERMS.
For 14 years (JESUS) we’ve only ever asked once a year for your support. Our goal this year is $1,650. Can you help us get there by next Sunday? I have something special planned if you do.
Over the course of the first season, the show focused on crisis-of-the-week storylines, such as the station dockers going on strike after Earth refuses to pay for more advanced and safer equipment after a horrendous accident kills several workers, and also on a series of longer-running mysteries. Sinclair’s missing memories (which gradually start to return) is the most prominent of these, but there are also the military provocations by the resurgent and belligerent Narn Regime against their former conquerors, the Centauri, which infuriate the proud Centauri Ambassador, Londo, whose constant plans to stymie the Narn are frustrated by what he considers to be a cowardly government…until he is offered a deal with the devil that rapidly spirals out of control. Other storylines are more mundane, such as Security Chief Garibaldi’s constant struggles to stay sober and first officer Ivanova’s constantly painful family and love life. In Season 2 the show unexpectedly has the Babylon Project’s mission of peace ending as two of the major powers go to war, manipulated by shadowy forces behind the scenes. Later seasons see the outbreak of a massive galaxy-spanning conflict, with the station’s crew going from bureaucrats and pen-pushers to big damn heroes, doing whatever it takes to make sure they and their homeworlds survive.
This show and the battle behind it came into my life through the very early fandom internet, where a big sprawling listserv run by the creator and writer J. Michael Straczynski broke down not only every episode but every bit of maneuvering behind the scenes to tell the story the way he wanted it told. He’d answer fan questions for HOURS, sometimes the same one three times, and talk and talk and talk about the writing of the show:
There will always be short-term setbacks, but as long as we climb back a few inches higher than we were before we fell down, we keep moving toward the goal of becoming a better people, and getting off the planet. Taking our place among the stars. While it’s vaguely possible that I may *see* a Mars colony sometime within my lifetime, I know that I will never live there…but that ain’t the point, it isn’t a victory if *I* do it, and a failure if *I* don’t, it’s if *we* do it or not. Maybe we’ll do it today, maybe we’ll do it tomorrow, the point is to decide to DO it, and then by god DO IT.
It’s all still online as the Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5, and you have to know what you’re looking for but it’s there:
… the most any writer can ever ask for. To tell a tale worth telling. To make people cry. To make people laugh. And even, once in a while, make them think about things, and see the world just a little differently than when they began.
And then they can centerpunch me on the freeway, or throw a plane at me, and I won’t even mind. Because everything I set out to prove, I proved. Everything I set out to say, I said.
I’ve carried this story like a hermit crab carries its shell for five long years, counting the pilot. It’s been an *awfully* long and difficult road, and no one will ever really know just how hard this show was to make. Nor should they, because it isn’t the difficulty that makes the story, the *story* makes the story.
I used to go back to that passage from the listserv (which refers to the end of the series as it was intended to end, not as it might have been cancelled by some capricious bunch of suits which was a serious fear at the time) over and over. I can recite it to you from memory. I used to read it in the middle of the night and I’m pretty sure at certain points in my life it kept me alive.
See, Babylon 5 was about an isolated place that became a symbol, an outpost that became a cause, and the unlikely victory it won against impossible odds, against cosmic forces, against cowardice and pettiness and revenge and death itself. It was about taking all the broken shit you have, and banging on it with a hammer until it became something useful, something good and true, something capable of saving.
It was about what happened afterward, too, about the aftershocks of war and the way symbols are twisted and turned, the way friends and comrades change, the way all the dark things you put aside in the struggle wait, and come to claim you.
And as all works that become important to you do, this hit me at a time when I needed what it had to offer.
I was part of an organization that was almost dying, that my friends and I were fighting every day to keep going. We fought outside forces and we fought each other, too, and then I’d go home at night and watch this group of people try to keep their station alive, and I’d log on to watch somebody try to keep his show alive, and I’d send friends who didn’t even watch the thing quotes I thought might help them, because we were all alone in the night. We had a lot of broken shit. We had a lot of hammers, and not a lot of hope.
May the gods always stand between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk.
The effects look cheesy now. Some of the standalone eps rely on outdated sci-fi tropes, or are dumb. But oh, these people are real, and their story — about what we owe one another, about the futility of vengeance and the need to reach upward, always — is more important than any 20 “prestige TV” shows I’ve watched in the past decade.
Delenn of the Minbari, a woman alone, saying to a bunch of nasty old fossils who’ve ruled her world since time immemorial: Your system serves us no longer so we will tear it down.
(Also Delenn of the Minbari, pulling her derpy boyfriend out of an interstellar jam and making her enemies glad they wore the brown pants that day.)
Ivanova and her bravado and her fear. Garibaldi and his impulsiveness and his regret. G’kar and Londo and Vir and acts of courage alone in the dark where no one will ever see them. The writing the writing the writing, good God, read this:
Mary Ann Cramer: I have to ask you the same question people back home are asking about space these days. Is it worth it? Should we just pull back? Forget the whole thing as a bad idea, and take care of our own problems at home?
Sinclair: No. We have to stay here. And there’s a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you’ll get ten different answers. But there’s one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us. It’ll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes, and all of this…all of this…was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars.
I mean good God. Sometimes you’re reading or hearing someone’s work and you can just tell they were in a complete and total OTHER FUCKIN’ PLACE when that happened, and they must have come back to themselves stunned and bewildered.
And if there’s a message we need to hear more than this right now, I don’t know what it is:
Ivanova: This is Commander Susan Ivanova of Babylon 5, and this is the first official broadcast of the new Voice of the Resistance. We’re sending this signal out to every ship that wants to hear the truth, to our fallen comrades and freedom fighters on Mars and Proxima 3, and to Earth, which, despite what you may have heard, is still our home and still the one dream that we are as loyal to now as we ever have been. Over the last three years, ever since President Clark took over after arranging the assassination of President Santiago, you have been hearing nothing but misinformation, propaganda, and outright lies. Now we’re going to tell you the truth, and we’re going to keep telling it until they shut us down or until President Clark steps down and returns Earth to the hands of its people. You can kill us, you can bomb our colonies, destroy our ships, murder innocent civilians, but you cannot kill the truth. And the truth is back in business.
So happy anniversary, Babylon 5. And thanks for everything.
I have many thoughts which are not organized into any sort of coherent thing. Deal with it.
I mean us, of course.
Remember this? Yeah, it’s real.
Today I’m gonna write about our fundraiser because we’ve been doing this Internet thing for 17 years now and sometimes it feels like no time but sometimes I feel like Internet Grandma talking about the good old days when if you knew what HTML was you were like some kind of magic genius and people threw money at you.
Well, not really, but it did seem back in 2004 when we merrily threw ourselves into fighting the Bush administration’s bullshit that there was gonna be some kind of knocking down of barriers. I should have been smart enough to know the world always gets rebuilt as closely as it can be to the way it was before, but it was my first time through the meat grinder and I thought better of us all back then.
A lot of the smaller blogs that started out when we started out have folded. A lot of the bigger blogs that started out when we started out have folded. A lot of writers wound up at other publications, bigger publications. A lot of writers wound up with day jobs that became day careers. A lot of people gave up, moved to Twitter, moved offline entirely.
A lot of writers flounced out of the Internet entirely because it’s mean. But a lot of us stayed, even though it’s mean.
It’s understandable. This was never any kind of new media world, and going it alone means the work’s never done. (If anyone wants to buy us, please, give me a call!) I’m the daughter of a small business owner who always said it’s great to own your own business because you can pick your day off. You get one day. Per year. Off.
Ads were plentiful for a while. Then they weren’t, or they got intrusive, or they depended on some kind of #sponcon non-disclosed dodge that felt like lying to you, or they demanded traffic numbers we couldn’t sustain. Our backbone has always been our annual reader contributions and I’ve never wanted to change that.
We don’t do this every quarter. Everybody’s a volunteer. This fundraiser covers basic costs like paying our hosting fees and, you know, the electricity. And if it feels more critical this year it’s only because it’s been 17 years and we’re all exhausted from staying alive and it gets harder every day and we lean into it and tell you to do the same.
Everybody’s a volunteer. Everybody’s got a day job or two. My side hustles have side hustles. That’s my choice, I get that, but this is important. I hope it’s important to you if you’ve been reading all this time. We’re about a third of the way to our goal. Our goal, by the way, is $1,500. That’s it.
Can you help us get there?
Apologies for not getting this up Sunday night. We moved house Saturday and then I worked all day Sunday and got home very, very late and didn’t have it in me to do more than crash on the mattress which is on the floor right now because our bed is in pieces in the garage.
She’s a wolf. Forget that at your peril.
The reason this post is late is because I spent the last hour and a half looking up everything I could find on Carry-Lite Duck Decoys manufactured in Milwaukee.
Am I a hunter? No.
Do I care about becoming a hunter? No.
What the hell is wrong with me? A lot, it turns out.
I picked up six of these decoys at a rummage sale today, so duck decoys have become my obsession of the moment. A friend in California is a hunter and mentioned how to locate interesting and valuable decoys at one point. A friend here noted that a neighbor of his sold some for a pretty high price once.
A woman about my grandmother’s age had dumped a dusty box full of these things at the end of her driveway just as I drove up. She said she had no idea what they were, but her husband used them a long time ago. A price of six for $20, made of paper mache with a “Patent 1941” stamp on the bottom seemed like too good a bargain to pass up.
I scoured the Internet looking for various types of duck decoys and places to find them. I have yet to find one stamped like mine, so I either have a rare find or a box of shit. Eventually, I found myself going crazy so I stopped to write this post (Side note: I’ve stopped writing this a few times to go back to Google with the hope that maybe THIS set of search terms would yield an answer about who made these and when.).
It was at this point that a realization hit me: Rummage sale season is officially upon us.
This is a sacred time of year in Wisconsin, due in large part (I suspect) to the fact we spend nine months of the year housebound by snow and ice, so anything that gets us outside in sunny weather is worth doing. Neighborhoods get together to host 30, 40 and 50-family sales, in hopes of drawing massive amounts of traffic to their neck of the woods. Subdivisions are packed with trucks, vans and SUVs creeping along the winding roads in search of the next sale on the map someone at the last sale handed out.
Certain cities and towns are “known” for having certain citywide sales during certain weekends. Winneconne was two weeks ago, Omro was last weekend… I still have yet to attend the infamous “Irish Road Rummage” which is a cross between an insane asylum and an endurance test.
Rummaging was pretty much tattooed onto my DNA as a child, long before the “American Pickers” crowd made it trendy. Each summer, Mom would have off from teaching and I’d have off from school, so off we’d go every day we could find a sale. Estate sales, rummage sales, moving sales… It didn’t matter. If we were looking for bargains, at least she wasn’t making me scrape and paint the storms and screens around the house.
I still remember one find she made in the basement of a house that smelled like mold and cat pee: A 1950s-style grocery cart with two detachable wire baskets. The asking price was something like $12, so she had me haul that thing out of the cobwebs and somehow stuff it into the backseat of our 1979 Ford Thunderbird.
When we got it home, my father saw it and bitched up a storm: “The hell do you need that for? What the hell did you pay for that? Where the hell do you think you’re going to put that?”
Mom had an answer: She was going to have me spray paint it a couple bright colors and she was going to use it to shuttle stuff around her classroom. I think I was 16 at the time we bought the cart and I was more than 40 when she finally retired. The grocery cart was an integral part of her classroom for the quarter century in between.
To be fair, Dad wasn’t anti-garage sale. He just had his own way of valuing things that came from the sales. If you want to watch a 73-year-old man outrun Usain Bolt, just put some sports shit at a rummage sale and mark it “FREE!” I can’t tell you how many times we bought something on a Saturday and sold it for a profit on a Sunday at the card show.
My first and favorite big score was when I was 11. I rode my bike to a sale a couple miles from our house. I found a really cool flag I wanted and when I picked it up, I noticed a bunch of paper placemats under it with the box scores from Milwaukee Braves games. I asked the lady how much for each placemat.
“Take them all for $2.” So I did.
I had no idea what they were worth, but it was something I could show my Dad, so I tucked them carefully into a sack and rode home. He’d never seen one, so he went to one of “his guys” who happened to run a sports card place on Lincoln Avenue.
“They’re not worth much,” Leroy told my dad. “Maybe $5-6 bucks each…”
The next show, we put four of them in the auction. I watched as two guys went after these things until they finally sold for $26. The next month, we did it again. Same result.
I was thrilled to be getting $26 a month, but Dad had a better angle. He found the guy who lost the auction and asked if he wanted to buy some. We took him out to the car where we had the rest of them and Dad negotiated a price. I walked away with another $185 and a hyper-inflated lust for rummaging.
Over the years, we’d found a few things like that: Dad would see something of value, he’d ask what it would cost for all of the stuff there and then we’d resell the stuff at a profit. Still, nothing will ever top the Saga of the Beer Cans.
It was the weekend of my wife’s baby shower and we had come up from Indiana to Milwaukee so all of our family could attend. My mother took my wife for a spa day, leaving Dad and I to our own devices.
We decided to “take a walk” which usually led to us walking past rummage sales. At one in particular, we started poking around when a woman asked, “Hey, do you guys wanna buy a beer can collection?”
To this day, neither Dad nor I can figure what it was about us that said, “Hey, ask us about your beer can collection,” but there we were, looking at hundreds of cans stacked up in a row.
As if we knew the difference, the woman tossed in this pot sweetener, “I’ve even got some cone tops in there.”
Neither Dad nor I would have known a cone top from a Conehead, but for some reason, Dad asked, “How much?”
We started walking back home when I noticed we were both really quiet.
“Dad, I know you’re thinking about those cans,” I told him. “I can hear that gerbil on the treadmill in your head.”
“That’s only because I know you’re thinking about them too,” he told me.
We went home, looked up what the hell a “cone top” was and then decided to drive back. Just as we pulled up, a collector was there talking to the lady.
“No, no,” she said to the guy, as she pointed at us. “I promised these guys first.”
So, we essentially bought a beer can collection at that point, having no idea what we were going to do or how to sell it. Still, it seemed like we could make the money back even if we just scrapped the damned things, so we had that going for us. We had the entire SUV filled with several cases resting near Dad’s feet, when the lady said, “Don’t forget the ones on the side of the house.”
When we looked down the side of the house, we saw cardboard beer cases stacked four high as deep as the entire length of the house. It took us three trips to get all that stuff back to my parents’ house and it filled the whole garage stall.
Cutting to the end of the story, it took two trips with two SUVs to get all the stuff down to Indiana and we made more than $1,500 together from it.
Also, it was a miracle my wife didn’t murder me, even after I said, “I hope you get a lot of gift cards so we can take some of these cans home with us right away.”
Sorry, honey, but there are no “sacred cows” when it comes to rummaging.
I was once running late for church when I spotted a guy closing up a rummage sale. He had a lawn mower and a beer sign for sale, so I pulled a bootlegger turn in front of his house. He asked $3 for the beer sign and said the mower didn’t work. “Take the damned thing,” he pleaded. “Just get it out of here before my wife comes home.”
This led to me wrestling a push mower into the back of my SUV and spending an hour-long mass smelling like gasoline.
Mom and I will often be late for something but spot a sale and have to pull over. On Thursday, we were taking some furniture to a friend of hers when we noticed a sale. We almost tossed the stuff out of the truck on the lady’s lawn so we could get back there and look at the sale. I ended up with a liquor cabinet, a bench and a cuckoo clock. I also grabbed this gorgeous antique table that was about the size of dinner plate. It had an oval top with pressed flowers under a broken glass top. The top also flipped up so you could just display the art. I bought it for $12 and was thinking about how I could redo it and display it at our antique booth. As I was loading it into the car, Mom noted, “I want that. Can you refinish it for me?”
Again, no sacred cows. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up pulling out of a funeral procession at some point because Dad spotted some bobble heads for sale.
Still, it’s not all about making money when it comes to garage sales. I can’t tell you how many times I ended up with a piece of furniture or something else because Dad found it at a yard sale and proclaimed, “I couldn’t buy the WOOD to make it for that cost!” My Mom loves to pick up cross-stitched pillowcases because nobody does that stuff anymore and she loves the details. Dad finds golf stuff and other stuff he already has three of but just “couldn’t pass it up at that price.” Eventually, when he stockpiles enough of the “had to have it” bargains, we do our own sales.
Each year, we have two sales: One up at my house and one down by my folks. I usually have tons of refinished furniture, sports memorabilia and rebuilt lawnmowers for sale, most of which came to me in damaged format from other rummage sales. It’s a good gig if you get a nice weekend, as people tend to flock to us in droves when it’s sunny out. Rainy weekends kill you and make you wish you’d never thought about doing one of these things.
This weekend is what we call a “half and half” sale: Friday is gorgeous without a cloud in the sky, but Saturday is supposed to bring torrential downpours. This leads to a great amount of self-deceiving justification on the part of people like me. I was headed to work at around 8:30 when I saw a sign for a “60-house rummage” in a subdivision. I was planning to do some writing for a book I’m finishing, submit my annual report information to my department chairperson and write this post.
Yeah, but… See… Rummage!
Obviously, the best stuff is available earliest on the first day and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so it’s clear I can’t go out tomorrow and it’s a beautiful day… Besides, I can do that shit later…
Thus, I spent the next four hours wandering through a subdivision, buying tons of stuff I might or might not need. A Blackhawks hoodie for my wife, a dresser to refinish for $10, a set of chairs for my buddy who has a buyer for a table we own if we could find chairs, a 1973 Bucky Badger Boxing decanter (sans booze), a couple tools and, of course, the ducks.
I had to have the furniture people hold the furniture for me after I paid them because I was driving Betsy and there was no way I’d get any of that stuff into her trunk. I was having an existential argument about buying a second dresser when someone else bought it first, so that ended up going that way.
Still, I eventually got the truck, got the furniture, got to work and got everything done, including this post, so no harm, no foul.
Speaking of fowl, time to figure out these ducks…
P.S. — Just for darrelplant
We’re in a place now, in our culture, where we’re talking about time travel a lot.
Those of us that aren’t talking about killer robots and how to screw them are talking about time travel. For a while we were talking about World War I a lot, which was understandable given the unwinnable, inexplicable wars grinding trenches through our public life. Then the trenches gave up their dead, and we talked about zombies for what seemed like forever.
Now we’re building time machines, trying to fill in the trenches before they’re dug. Trying to figure out if there is any way forward that doesn’t end up here. Can you blame us? Have you SEEN the world? David Bowie’s dead and Mitch Albom is alive and Coldplay is still making music; things are emphatically Not Good.
The destruction stories have gotten seriously tiresome, too. A few years ago maybe it seemed like fun, to burn it all down. In the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis and the seeming paralysis of anyone to do anything reasonable about it, it seemed prudent to read a lot of post-apocalyptic literature and stockpile dry goods for the siege.
All those stories, though, are about the people who magically survive and Become King in the new, desolated world. Let’s face it, the chances of that happening to you or me is pretty slim. And it’s always such a mean, small story: millions of people died, but let’s get invested in the five guys who could finally put their archery skills to good use!
So instead, we’re talking about a re-set. We’re talking about time travel. Which means I’m going to talk to you about 12 Monkeys.
Time traveler James Cole travels from the year 2043 to the present day to stop the release of a deadly virus by the enigmatic organization known as “The Army of the Twelve Monkeys”. That virus, in Cole’s future, caused the death of most of the world’s population. Led by a cryptic message from the past, Cole makes contact with the brilliant virologist Cassandra Railly, who he believes is the key to stopping the virus. Cole also enlists the help of Jennifer Goines (the insane daughter of the virus’ creator), and his best friend Ramse to stop the initial outbreak. As Cole journeys through time in an effort to stop the virus, he realizes the Army of the 12 Monkeys have a larger, more mysterious agenda.
Are you already bored? I was, too. I don’t blame you. Time travel shows make me exhausted in the way arguments about most trivia make me exhausted, like don’t make me do homework to enjoy something. If I have to build a conspiracy wall to figure out your story, generally, that’s too much work for me to do after a day of work, and getting all up in a fanboy argument about if you can kill yourself from the past or whatever is similarly not my idea of a party.
12 Monkeys isn’t about time travel, though. It’s about time.
The woman who invented time travel, who enlists Cole in this mission to undo the worst of humanity’s atrocities, is called Jones. Jones opens a box, midway through Season One. She takes out a blanket, embroidered with her daughter’s name. Hannah.
Hannah choked to death on the sickness, while Jones sang her a lullaby.
All Jones wanted was to make a timeline where her daughter didn’t have to suffer. All she wanted was for her child to be safe, and for that, she needed a clean slate. Cassie was trying to cure the plague, but Hannah was dead, and a cure wouldn’t change that. Jones needed to undo it.
Everything she did came from that impulse. She built a machine that ripped time apart. She killed dozens, maybe hundreds, chasing the moment when her daughter might have lived. She splintered men and women, sons and daughters, over and over and over again.
Wouldn’t you, in her place?
If you thought you could stop a war? If you thought you could save your child? If you thought you could save everybody’s children, in the few minutes a day that your breathless pain let you consider someone besides yourself, if you thought you could save everybody? I mean it, what wouldn’t you do?
You’d become a monster. You’d become a thousand monsters, and she did, Jones, only to find that timeline after timeline, splinter after splinter, the plague still came. She sent boys and girls back and forth until they literally exploded: Someone’s daughters, someone’s sons. She killed and killed and killed, and still it followed her, covering her footprints.
So she learned to live with Hannah’s ashes, finally, in Season Two. She learned to love and trust again. She found people she couldn’t sacrifice, not even for her blighted goals, not even for Hannah. Jones burned the world down and found nothing, and at that exact moment, when she’d exhausted every resource and spent every inch of herself, then Hannah stepped out of the darkness and into her arms.
The reason for everything, alive all along.
A lot of people thought it was a cheat, or that Jones should be shattered or angry or feel that she’d wasted something. That’s absurd. Nothing was wasted. A cure won’t save the dead and that’s still true. Hannah lived. So many others didn’t. What of them?
Do they not deserve every inch of Jones? Did someone else love her child any less? You don’t heal the world by loving you and yours. You heal the world by loving beyond family, beyond obligations of blood and bone.
This show is about time. There are so many other daughters.
When I first found this show, it was dark and cold, and I had a baby barely a year old, was working two jobs, and felt good about almost no part of my life at all. Insomnia addled the senses not already in a tailspin from the work schedule and the kid’s sleep strike, stress drinking got old pretty quick and so I wound up binging Jennifer Goines at 3 a.m., which is precisely NOT the time you really want to be hanging with this chick.
Jennifer is a very real person to me, almost as real as Starbuck. She’s been running forever. From her rich dad, from her doctors, from the voices she hears, from Cole, to Cole, time roaring in her mind like the ocean going in, coming out.
Her mother tried to kill her. Her father locked her up. She kept all his secrets and she never told a soul, and he left her in a cell to rot. She saw her co-workers die all around her, and she wept and raged, and she opened the door that ended the world.
The eye of the hurricane, where the winds go still and the light pierces through, the speck of earth the tornado touches. Primary.
She’s used by the others, uses them, fights them, fights with them, and in the end she comes face to face with herself. Literally; Jennifer young meets Jennifer, old, and they stare at each other across the room. They’ll explode if they touch, if they get too close. It’ll cause a paradox.
If you met the you you’re going to be, 50 years from now, and the one you were, 50 years ago? If you met the person you needed to be to live in the world as it will be then, could you embrace that woman, that daughter, and sing her a lullaby?
Could you say to her, as Jennifer Goines did to her younger self, I know everything about you, every mistake you are ever going to make, every awful stupid cruel thing you’re ever going to do, and I don’t need to forgive you because there’s nothing to forgive?
Jennifer, in that room, owned up to how long she’d been running. How many times she’d stuck her fingers in the pages of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, trying to game the endings out, trying to get it right. And Jennifer said to her, there are many endings, and the right one is the one you choose.
You’ve got to pick, and if you let yourself go back over it and over it and over it trying to find a way out, you’ll scorch the ground you stand on. Jennifer’s been running so long. She’s been running in her head long before the world burned down. They put her in a cage and she built herself a wheel, turning and turning. The second season was Jennifer letting herself off, letting herself out.
We say you have to forgive yourself, and it always sounded like such a cop-out. Like sure, just tell yourself all your horrible things are okay, let yourself off the hook, how convenient. I never knew what that looked like until this show made it literal.
Forget the costumes and the clocks. This show is about time, and what it does to you, and what you do back.
Season Three starts with Cassandra Railly (separate from the entire character that is Her Hair) pregnant, frightened, cradling her belly. The beginning of anything is terrifying, and there is more ambivalence and fear than we admit, in childbearing. A child is optimism in its purest form, is hope embodied: Their world will be better than ours. But hope is helpless where we live now.
In Cassie’s world, everything’s on fire. Time is tearing itself apart. In ours, same, but so much more mundane: A small group of nasty people is destroying American government, has been for a while now, and has finally done enough damage to be noticed by those not directly targeted. Every damn day is a fight, about who we are and what we stand for, about things that shouldn’t even be a fight, like everybody’s full humanity, and if we can afford to teach people to read. The key attraction of the end of the world is its clarity: we dream of a single moment in which we could rise up heroes, instead of a thousand moments, every single day, which pass us by unnoticed.
My own daughter wants to right every wrong. Hearing a crying child in the store, she asks, “What’s the matter with that baby?” Seeing a schoolmate hurt she asks, “Are you okay?” We took her to the Women’s March in January, and she rode on her father’s shoulders, waving a sign that said, “Future President.” All I could think was that this would be the first world she would know, and if she would know that it was dumb and small and mean, then she’d also know that some of us fought back.
How do we raise our children, knowing the cruelty of the world? Knowing the plague is coming? They roll and twist inside us and we think we can protect them from their fate. Burn every spinning wheel in the kingdom and the princess still pricks her finger; build a wall of thorns a thousand feet high and someone will hack his way through. Save every penny and hide behind your bank account, hoard food in the cellar, weapons in the attic, ammunition in the coffee can under the bed.
You can flash card them in Mandarin and drive them to piano lessons and teach them to swim and hunt and start a fire, but all you’re doing is arming them for the fight. You still have to trust their strength is greater than your own. You can’t protect your children. You can’t stand guard against the world. You can’t choose their endings for them; if you’re very very lucky you won’t even witness them. The unimaginable courage, in Cassie’s hands, to know everything about what her baby will become, and still hold him, and sing him a lullaby.
This is a story about time, and mercy, time and hope, time and fear. There are no clean slates. There is always forgiveness. And however long you have with your darling daughters, it’s never going to be enough.
Season Three of 12 Monkeys drops Friday. We may have more threads. Stay tuned.
Thanks to the contributors who helped First Draft hit its goal. I’m informing the chinchillas that we are Making Them Great Again, by which I mean hit the road, we’re gonna get a lemur up in here.
In all sincerity, thank you all for supporting what we do here. On to the next debate!
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The First Draft fundraising link is staying up through Sunday because, well, we only do this once a year. We don’t need tens of thousands of dollars ever quarter like the Freepi, because we don’t have as much of our souls to try to get out of hock, but we do want to keep the experience ad-free and pay for a nice van for election night so people stop getting kicked out and left by the side of the road. And right now our total stands short of that, less than half the number of contributors we had last year.
I don’t love admitting that. It’s not about guilting you into giving. It’s about feeling guilty I haven’t given people enough reason to support us. I know back when we started there were like six political blogs and whatever the fuck Andrew Sullivan was doing, and probably by now we should have all gotten real jobs and moved on.
But. Whenever I think about shutting the site down at some point in the future, I think about the people who read us and have for years, and who come around for every van we have, for whom we do what we do. It’s not just about having a place for US to talk (though, holy hell, without it I’m pretty sure we would have all gone crazy this election), it’s about having this place, for us to talk with you. I read every single comment on everything that gets published, even if I don’t respond, and you make us better, smarter, more open and compassionate and aware, every single day.
If you care about that, if you value that, consider contributing. If you think someone else already has and your support isn’t necessary or won’t make a difference, trust me, it is and it will.
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Watching otherwise intelligent people make common cause with scumbag assholes just because they both hate Trump is going to be the thing that ends me this election cycle. Jude and I have been texting this GIF back and forth to each other for like a year now:
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 25, 2016
On the one hand I think it’s pathetic that these people think this is the highest and best use of their time. On the other hand, I do not want my daughter seeing this kind of thing (hopefully Google can remedy this). I bring it up, because there’s a lot of talk about what the Alt Right really is. Are they really anti-Semitic or are they just transgressive white identity politics radicals fighting back against political correctness? Are they a bunch of idiotic trolls or are they half-smart self-styled new nationalists? I don’t think one really has to pick and choose. Some descriptions fit some self-described alt-righties better than others. But one thing unites them all: the “movement” thinks b.s. like this (and far, far worse) is either very funny or trivially harmless, and they don’t mind being associated with it.
This deliberately stupid motherfucker was mocking Katrina victims AS THE HURRICANE WAS HITTING THEM. His mom made her bones convincing women to rat out other women in order to get likes back when likes were just dollars, and then he got a job appealing to the people even he thought were gross. And now, NOW, he wants to know who will speak up for him?
Buddy, you made sure anybody who would have been on your side was already six feet under politically. We tried to tell you this would eventually turn around on you, but you looked at the spreadsheet and called hippies smelly, called liberals fascist, called John Kerry a traitor and when called on your snide shit thought only of your sacred reputation.
Supposedly intelligent people should not be moved by pleas for sympathy from the likes of this. Jonah up there is the equivalent of those fratbros who buy a tiger as a pet and then are absolutely astonished when it grows up and rips their faces off.
Example two: ANYTHING Little Green Footballs tweets or posts regarding the unhinged-ness of Republicans and how awful and racist and crazy the party is now. I see people who are not otherwise idiots approvingly retweeting this site and again, forever, INTERNET GRANDMA, but back in my day LGF was not something you went near without garlic and a big bag of sharpened stakes.
The man who was almost president shares a stage in Davos, Switzerland, with a rogue’s gallery of enemies, including the former president of Iran and his Iraqi puppet.
Nearly beyond belief. But this is John F. Kerry, doing what he does—giving aid and comfort to the enemies of America during wartime.
When reporter Jill Carroll was captured, then freed, by terrorists, this was LGF’s measured response:
Note that even after her release, Carroll maintained that she had been treated well by her captors—so it would appear that this journalist for the Christian Science Monitor made these anti-American comments voluntarily.
Jesus H. Cuttlefish Christ. The “leftist-Islamist axis?” I almost forgot how fucking stupid everyone talked back in those days.
You don’t get to walk back from that and get anything other than a shortened wait time in purgatory. Like good for you for figuring it out before approximately 65 percent of your other wingnut friends, but I don’t think you’re due a parade. You certainly don’t get a cookie from people who at the time were looking at you and saying, “the FUCK, dude” while you were smearing your own poop on the walls and yelling about ISLAMOFASCISM.
I’m not saying people can’t come to Jesus. Plenty of them do and that’s fine, apparently, with Jesus. But I’m not Him and I don’t have to forgive, and with the Internet being a permanent record of everything ever, I’m certainly not willing to let anybody else forget.