Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Last Post / Quite Likely Not the Last Post

The previous post being the final one where I will get personal and introspective and weird on Back of the Cereal Box, I’m adding one more to the top of the stack to direct anyone who comes to this website toward all my other creative efforts. The previous top-of-the-stack post sat there for nearly three years, and as a result it’s been viewed thousands and thousands of times and has directed quite a few clicks toward the stuff I’m working on now, so I figured I might as well do an updated version of that.

The most successful project I have launched in my life so far is Gayest Episode Ever, the podcast where Glen and I discuss the LGBT-focused episodes of classic sitcoms. In the context of this blog, it’s maybe surprising that this is my go-to project now, because it has the word “gayest” right there in the tile and I downplayed my sexuality on this blog for a long time. Funny how that works. But it is also appropriate, because Glen and I only ended up becoming friends as a result of this blog existing. More recently, our friend Jeff Hinchee drew us an alternate logo that we use for the Patreon-only feed, and it’s one of my favorite depictions of me. I’d never posted it here before, so now is my chance.

Not only has Gayest Episode Ever reached a larger audience than this blog ever did, but also I think the work we’re doing on the show is more focused than anything I did as a blogger. You can listen to our most recent episodes here, and if you were jumping in blind without ever hearing me talk before, I would say our best episode is actually about Dinosaurs — the TGIF sitcom with “not that mama!” and people wearing big dinosaur suits, because it did actually do a gay episode. The sexuality part is coded as herbivorism, but it’s very clearly riffing on queer themes in a way that flew directly over my head when I saw it when I was a kid, and I’m willing to bet it went over yours too.

You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify, and probably other places too.

Though the podcast itself is doing quite well and I’m very proud of its success on that platform specifically, its profile got a major boost at the beginning of this year when I put out a project that I worked on for all of 2020: a video compilation of every single LGBT joke on the history of The Simpsons. (Read all about it here.) Few things could have been any more me, and while I thought it might get Gayest Episode Ever an additional few followers, it ended up exceeding all of my expectations.

As of the posting of this, it’s been viewed more than 420,000 times, which is to say considerably more times than anyone has viewed any post on this blog — except for the “It’s a Secret to Everyone” video game names origin post, which was viewed a few million times but which Blogger just recently deleted without my permission, and for no stated reason. (It still exists, broken up into chapters, BTW.) The Simpsons video brought in a great deal of new listeners to the show, and also it got covered by a few reputable sites, A.V. Club and Boing Boing included, but the thing we really did not expect was the fact that it helped get our friend Tony Rodriguez cast on the show. In the corresponding podcast episode that goes with the video, we noted how the character of Julio, a sassy Cuban-American gay resident of Springfield voiced by Hank Azaria should be voiced instead by Tony, who is both Cuban-American and gay in real life, and now Tony actually voices the character. We effected a change on The Simpsons. I am still boggled by this. (If you want to know all the specifics of how this came to be, we interviewed Tony about the whole process, and you can listen here. Yahoo! Entertainment also wrote the whole thing up.)

Gayest Episode Ever is not my only podcast. I also have Singing Mountain, which is about video game music and which is in a state of semi-hibernation now just because it takes a great deal of time to put an episode together, though I do intend to do more. Over the run of its hundred-plus episodes, it’s become very vibey and moody, and I realize I’m using it more as an art project than as a means to just share VGM, but I like it that way. I’d point you in the direction of my 16-bit forest music episode if you want to relax. There’s also the one where I did chilled-out, fuzzed-out kinda-sorta remixes of Super NES and Genesis music just to see if I could do it. Did I? Unsure!

You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify, and probably on some of the weirdo apps too.

These podcasts are both part of TableCakes, the company I started with Katherine in 2018, where I produce two other shows: Underbelly L.A., which is about the dark side of Los Angeles history and is hosted by Hadley Meares, and Sam Pancake Presents the Monday Afternoon Movie, which is about made-for-TV horror movies, where I actually did guest on one episode about a movie where Valerie Harper is menaced by a child wielding a rolling pizza cutter. The best episodes, however, are the ones with Naomi Ekperigin as the guest, because she gives really good podcast.

Later last year, I started a new podcast as a little side project. It’s called Deep Cuts & Superficial Wounds, and it’s about lesser-known 80s music. It’s actually doing pretty well, and if you want to listen to a show that is very much so like radio but not played on airwaves, this is the one for you. Start anywhere, but the Halloween special is by far my most-listened to one yet. I think my tribute to the doomed new wave girl from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning is also pretty good.

You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts but not Spotify because they rejected me, even if the show did originate as a Spotify playlist. Jerks.

I don’t just do podcasts. I am considering places where I’d write again, and when I do I will post here, hence the less-than-final title attached to this. I do currently have a small, bare-bones blog up that’s just about etymology. It’s called The Singing Wolf — and no, no real relation to Singing Mountain, except for being by me, I suppose — and it’s the first step to correct a problem that I feel prevented Back of the Cereal Box from getting a larger following than it did: the fact that it was about one third etymology, one third video games and one third personal stuff, and those three elements don’t have much overlap. The portion of the audience who enjoyed all three was basically Nate and Jill, and I should have split the project into three parallel efforts in order to better focus what it was about. If my podcasts have taught me anything, you generally can’t go too niche. So in that sense, if you get a rise out of finding a strange linguistic parallel between taking umbrage — asserting that you think you’ve been slighted — and throwing shade — slighting someone without making them suspect it — then this blog may be for you.

Finally, there are the videos. I never really thought they’d be much more than artsy little weirds I’d leave online for people who are also weird to find and enjoy. I’ve collected the worthwhile ones on their own website, which you can peruse at your leisure. But if I ever have to point anyone in the direction of a single example where I think I achieved something cool, it would be Marion / Marion, the video where I overlaid first half of the original Psycho and the Gus Van Sant remake and cobbled together a music video set to The Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor.”

I just think it turned out well, and if this blog was ever for anything, it was to point readers in the direction of the stuff I thought didn’t suck, and in this case the non-sucky thing was made by me.

I’m still on Twitter, where I take my shirt off a lot because it demonstrably increases engagement with my podcasts. (No, really. It works.) I’m also still on Instagram, thought strangely less often shirtless. Thurman has his own Instagram, in case you like Thurman but don’t like me. (I am almost never shirtless on Thurman’s Instagram.) But since I bring it up, here is what I look like shirtless now.

Drew Mackie

There, doesn’t that make you want to listen to my podcasts?

Monday, May 10, 2021

An Endless Series of False Starts

I’m not going to be writing here anymore, for the most part. You maybe already figured that out, but I wanted to make at least one thing in my life official.

It would make more sense if I just said that I lost my love for writing and that I’m now focusing my creative energies on a host of other outlets, but that would be a lie. I did burn out as a writer, having spent the better part of my twenties writing for pleasure, writing for self-expression and writing for work. It bothers me less that I never ended up taking it far and that I never ended up writing anything that really mattered. What pains me even today is that I didn’t properly care for this gift I was given — that gift being a love of writing, not being a good writer — and it died like a mouse in my pocket, which is a bad metaphor, I realize, but like I said, I was never a good writer.

It’s been more than two years since I’ve posted anything here and more than four since I wrote here with any regularity. I kept thinking that if I just took a long enough break from blogging, the passion I had for writing would eventually come back to me. And it did, in a sense, but as a result of the amount of time that has passed since Back of the Cereal Box was part of my life, I realize that any writing I do in the future will have to live somewhere else. I don’t know the person who kept this blog. I’ve grown up and I’ve grown apart from him, and while I can imagine trying to find my voice again, I doubt I can do it on a website that connects me to a version of me that existed five, ten, fifteen years ago, who wanted different things from life and whom I can’t look at now without thinking that I failed him in some way.

I’m not sad about this. I’m mostly okay with where my life is now, and I am engaged in a variety of creative pursuits that have found audiences far bigger than what I ever achieved with this blog. But I’m also doing that in a world that’s different than the one I expected to live at this point in my life, for reasons that should be obvious — unless you’ve been you living on Mars, in a cave, with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears — but also for reasons that aren’t obvious, because of a thing I have hardly told anyone about, which changed how I think about life and which I consider to be equal parts horrible and beautiful. This latter thing I have tried to write about many times, but I always end up deleting it, because I’ve never been able to find a way to put it into words that makes me sound anything other than crazy.

Maybe words will always fail me in this respect, but just understand that this thing is a sea monster in the ocean on an old map, and it changed how I spend my life, for good and for bad in a way that somehow doesn’t total out to neutral. This will not be the last post, technically speaking, but this is the one where I wanted to leave a small part of myself for the last time, because I often used this blog to figure out who I was, and even in writing this post, which I’ve been composing in my head for the last few years, I may have figured a thing out one final time.

Often, the introspection I was able to do on this blog was done through pop culture, where I looked deep into movies or TV or music and saw myself, Magic Eye-style, and I will be leaving you with a pop cultural thing this one final time. But whereas I usually name-checked the references and connected the dots in a bid to seem clever and hip and culturally literate, I’m going to post this last bit free of any context, because I think it will actually mean more if you take it away from the source material. If you’re curious, you can google it. If you really know me, you could probably even guess where it’s from. But also maybe don’t search for an easy answer, at least for a little while. Just think about it and decide for yourself what it means to you and what you imagine it could mean to me.
What I’ve learned from this place and about these people terrifies me, I’ll frankly admit that. How much of what I know, what I’ve been culturally attuned to believe, feels like the set of a play on a strange stage I’ve wandered onto without knowing why I’m here. I don’t know the lines, I don’t know what part I’m playing, I don’t even know what the play’s about or what it’s called. I'm just here onstage, stuck in a dream, lights shining in my eyes. Is anyone out there watching?

The play stumbles ahead, feels like artifice, mistakes, frippery, an endless series of false starts, bad assumptions, all the while shadowed with the constant horror that something unforeseen could drop down on me from above or lurch in from the wings at any moment, that the floor could open beneath me and instantly erase even this small, pitiful existence, put out the lights for good.

Chief, this has changed me. You predicted that, and I should have known you’d be right, but you can’t know what you don’t know until you do. It’s because you’ve already been through it, I think. Does this feeling end? Can you tell me you come out the other side to some kind of understanding, or do I have to take that as another article of faith? There’s only one redeeming feeling I can cling to, provided I ever get that far — and I’m not saying I’m there yet, by any stretch — but when it’s all stripped away and you realize you’re the only one who can put the pieces of yourself together, by yourself, alone — no easy answers from a book, song, or movie or the reassuring words of someone older and “wiser” — I’m noticing it has a tendency to focus and sharpen the mind, and strengthen the will to live constantly with all my senses wide-open to the here and now. One clear idea emerges from that crucible, forged and hard as rolling steel: We mustn’t give up. Ever.