issue 033 • 2020-09-20
Finding the Light Inside of Darkness
So, on Friday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, at the age of 87.
Suffice to say, hers was a life well lived, doing more in her time than most of us could ever achieve. A quick highlight reel from NPR’s obituary:
She changed the way the world is for American women. For more than a decade, until her first judicial appointment in 1980, she led the fight in the courts for gender equality. When she began her legal crusade, women were treated, by law, differently from men. Hundreds of state and federal laws restricted what women could do, barring them from jobs, rights and even from jury service. By the time she donned judicial robes, however, Ginsburg had worked a revolution.
That was never more evident than in 1996 when, as a relatively new Supreme Court justice, Ginsburg wrote the court’s 7-1 opinion declaring that the Virginia Military Institute could no longer remain an all-male institution. True, Ginsburg said, most women — indeed most men — would not want to meet the rigorous demands of VMI. But the state, she said, could not exclude women who could meet those demands.
“Reliance on overbroad generalizations … estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not suffice to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,” Ginsburg wrote.
She was an unlikely pioneer, a diminutive and shy woman, whose soft voice and large glasses hid an intellect and attitude that, as one colleague put it, was “tough as nails.”
By the time she was in her 80s, she had become something of a rock star to women of all ages. She was the subject of a hit documentary, a biopic, an operetta, merchandise galore featuring her “Notorious RBG” moniker, a Time magazine cover and regular Saturday Night Live sketches.
Suffice to say - in a time like this, in a year like this, it’s easy to look at this loss and (understandably) tack it onto the series of losses which 2020 has rained upon us.
But at the same time, I look at this and I see a message. Ginsburg spent her life fighting for what was right. Fighting for a better world. Don’t let this be the moment of darkness which snuffs your light out.
We can all strive to be better and do more for others with our time. She used up every one of her 87 years to do that. What can you do with yours?
Mourn? Yes. But give up? Don’t you dare. We need you.
Now, onto the things…
Thing #1: Letterboxd - A Taste of the Olde Internet, Today
It makes me a crank, but I do adore the pre-Facebook/pre-Twitter Internet.
It was such a cool resource of data, information, and communities which I dove headlong into — probably to my parents chagrin, but it is what it is.
While I still hold on to some elements of the old web — by hosting my own blog, by writing this newsletter, by still visiting message boards and keeping up with co-horts from now defunct ones — there’s still as service which feels like the web of old, but delivered in a way of now, and that’s Letterboxd.
If you’ve never been, Letterboxd is best described as being like Goodreads, but for movies. A living, breathing community of people sharing reviews and experiences with cinema, and exclusively that, all while finding a shared language of creativity. It’s a joy to be a part of, and now, it’s going a little bit more mainstream thanks to this piece by Scott Tobias at The Ringer:
For as long as users have trickled onto it, Letterboxd has seemed less like a dot-com than a utility—something that is simply on the internet, changing so incrementally that it never appears to have changed at all. There was never a time when its presence was trumpeted to the world, no event or scandal that suddenly drew attention to it or led to an eye-catching spike in membership. Most people either stumbled upon it themselves or had it recommended to them by a friend, and its growth to 2.5 million users (1 million of them active) over the past eight years has been slow and organic. Modesty is a defining aspect of Letterboxd: It’s the rare social media site that could be described as self-effacing.
Still, even though a site like Letterboxd could never have “a moment,” the winds of film culture are shifting in ways that are favorable to it. The pandemic has hastened the migration from theaters to home viewing, as well as the migration of film criticism from vocation to hobby. Fewer people are watching movies at the same time, and the traditional windows that used to separate theaters, home video, and cable television were already eroding before they collapsed entirely during the COVID shutdown. Whatever non-virtual ways we used to talk about films before—in college clubs or post-screening dinners or run-ins with fellow obsessives—are all but canceled for the time being. Letterboxd is suddenly positioned to be that place.
It’s a great piece, rightfully celebrating a corner of the web I adore. And hey, if you want to follow me on Letterboxd, you can do that too.
Check it out here.
Thing 2: 2020, as Encapsulated By Beach T-Shirts
Is there anything more a time capsule of “the now” than the storefront of a beach boardwalk-based T-Shirt print shop?
Every Summer, when I find myself in Bethany Beach, DE, I am fascinated to walk by these copyright infringing storefronts, and see what the best selling designs are, which they put out front. They always serve as a cross-section of American interest at the time, and thankfully, Dan McQuade at Defector did the hard work of archiving what Summer 2020 feels like…at least to the fine folks of Wildwood, NJ.
From All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter shirts sold side to side, to crude caricatures of the current President, to, of course Friends, this is 2020, by way of the bootleg shirt.
Check it out here.
Thing #3: What the Hell, They Did an Oral History of Wishbone?
INT. MARTY’S BASEMENT OFFICE - DAY
MARTY is browsing the Internet. He clicks a link and an amused look appears on his face.
They made an oral history of WISHBONE? Like, of the PBS TV show where classic stories are retold with an adorable dog?
MARTY pauses for a moment to consider his next steps.
Well, that’s going in the next edition of the newsletter for sure!
Check it out here.
Until next time…
Don’t be a jerk. Wear a mask. Register to vote. See you next week.