So far, the biggest upside to my attempts at deliberate living is the ability to invest time and energy into the exploration of ideas. And further, to divorce that exploration from the need to act – either because an idea isn’t ready or because I’m craving the approval of anyone else. The downside, of course, is that it ideas tend to turn into creatures of their own and that can take me down some odd turns.
The art of creation is, like others, an art of balancing. Of waiting too long and moving too soon. Of the perfect and the good and the just plain shit. I’ve been wrestling with that balance regarding this set of nebulous concepts that have been floating about in my head for a few months now. I’ve been turning them over and over, examining them, hoping for (a rare concept for me, I know) a sense of logic to appear that ties them all together.
So far, that list can be summed up (but not done justice) in a list of rather scary words and phrases – Determinism, entropy, Nihilism, Pessimism, the harm and benefit of expectations, and the illusion of choice.
It…it’s not really as dark as that list makes it out to be. Mind you, there is little sunshine in my head, but I’ve got this nagging sense that if I just find the right project, the right means, I can tie all of the above together. And I can tie them together in a way that reasonably approachable, and clever, and – if I’m really good – perhaps uplifting without being saccharin.
I’ve explored a few possible concepts on how to do that, on how to really say something about that list. There’s always the threat that I’ll write another book. And I’ve toyed with the idea of a rather long essay. I have even been exploring the idea of a video game. But lately, the leading concept has been a title which quickly turned into the pitch for a sitcom. And that title was the first real thing to sum up the list of dark thoughts above.
The title-as-start angle is rather apt. That’s almost always where I begin constructing concepts – especially those that get made. Even if the final title changes, I rally behind the tone of the initial name. That’s actually why Timothy ended up being a chatty task bot and not “yet another mobile app” – the name dictated the personality, and that was too big of a concept to lock away behind an icon.
The recent title, the one that’s dominating 2017, is “2000 and Kate.” I came up with that name while riffing with some friends, and the idea just seemed to very quickly gel.
You’ll need to adopt your best sitcom narrator voice for the next bit, because here’s the high concept:
Kate’s just your normal high school junior, living in 2017. Her life is school, sports, boys, and dreaming about the day she’ll leave her quiet New Jersey town for college. And then, one September morning, Kate wakes up to…an alarm clock…in the year 2000. She’s in her room, in her house, with her family, but 17 years in the past.
On the surface, it’s a rather trite fish-out-of-water sitcom premise, not unlike a teenage take on Quantum Leap (minus Al and Ziggy). The obvious stuff writes itself. Oh my god, how will Kate live in a world without smart phones, SnapChat, and selfies? And the fashion? Did people really used to dress like that?
There’s a lot of room for comedy. The year 2000 was a strange time. Boybands were, for some reason, huge. The internet was still mostly dialup. And reality TV had yet to poison it’s way to the White House.
But once you dip just the slightest bit below the surface, once you really start to examine the situation, the biggest difference between 2017 and the year 2000 – 9/11 hasn’t happened yet. And young Kate is the one of the only people in the world who 9/11 is coming.
There it is. There’s the through line, tying everything together. Kate’s fish-out-of-time tale is a gift – she can stop 9/11.
But she can’t. She’s just a kid.
Don’t feel bad for her. You likely couldn’t either. I am fairly certain I couldn’t. If you plucked me out of my chair right now and sent me back in time, I could name three people responsible for the attack, and the government knew about all of them before the attack. And I was an adult on 9/11. I was already a soldier in uniform. I was in New Jersey. I should know how to stop it.
Kate, our protagonist, would have been an infant on the day of the attacks. She would only have known about 9/11 through the ripples, the after effects and rebroadcasts. To her, and I’m assuming other current high school students, 9/11 would be a terrible day that happened in the nebulous past. For Kate, 9/11 would be a fear she lived with her entire life, but one that she always knew she couldn’t change, and certainly one she never experienced.
Kate couldn’t stop 9/11 even if she was given the chance. There is literally no possibility-space that would allow for it.
Kate can’t tell anyone – she has no proof and likely only knows one person (Bin Laden) and the date of the attacks. And she can’t tell anyone how she knows that, because if she says she’s from the future, she’d likely get locked up. And she can’t pull a Jack Bauer and hunt the terrorists down herself – because she’s not a trained fictional government agent, she’s a high school girl.
The only option Kate has, and it’s the one that seems the most systemic, is to address that life is inevitable, a series of events, of cause-and-effect, and to carry on being a teenager. Sure, it’ll be difficult not questioning her own sanity, but as she gets into her twenties she’ll know that investing in a few choice companies will be a damn good idea. She’ll do alright. And maybe, one a sunny Tuesday in September 2001, she’ll fake being sick and stay home from school that day.
Maybe the video game is a better idea.
And as per usual, I picked up my three records for March. I’ve been sticking with my theme of only buying albums that I can listen to in their entirety from start to finish, without tiring. This month I got Pet Sounds (in mono), OK Computer (the 2-LP version) and one of my all-time-favorites, Neptune City by Nicole Atkins.