Due to a longstanding terrible work schedule, it still feels like a rare moment when I have an evening at home with my sons.  Last week I had such a moment, and since it is getting darker sooner and sooner, dinner was done by 6.  I suggested a movie, but am always at a loss as to which – Netflix helpfully suggested Aeon Flux and I was floored.  I said ‘wow’ and they said ‘what’?

How to explain Aeon Flux to 21st Century boys?  ‘It was a weird short cartoon on late at night on MTV, before I joined the Navy’.  ‘What’s MTV?’, of course. What the hell is MTV, or was?  ‘It was a channel on cable, before the internet, and was an outlet for new music and weird shows’ (thinking of The Young Ones, a game show that had contestants sitting on couches, and Liquid Television).  How to explain Money for Nothing or Take.On.Me to kids that watch Youtube videos on their IPods?  Or odder still, I remember seeing Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs on SNL and having no idea who they were and being blown away while their friends will just send them a link to cool stuff.

The movie was fine, with several ‘a-ha’ moments (rim-shot) as I still remember being mostly bewildered by the random 3 minute shorts.  Also, I forgot that she mainly ran around naked.

But I was really struck by trying to explain MTV to my sons, and recursively trying to crack that nut.  They will never relate to the boon of what basic cable was to the world that previously contained channels 11, 13, 27, 41 if the weather was clear and at some point the ‘new’ channel 49.

So of course I thought of Emily Dickinson.  I’ve been thinking of Emily a lot, and am now finishing a two-volume biography that has brought me no closer to understanding, really, what the hell.  It is so hard to grapple with ED on her terms.  We have words, some letters, but no answers.  At times who wouldn’t want to retire upstairs, put on a white homespun dress, and deal with the world through a door, slightly ajar?  Trying to engage with the genius more than 100 years after her death and fame, I am faced with a similar chasm of what the world was like, then, to understand, now, in the now.

She made these choices, which we have to respect and abide, as we keep poking and rearranging the dull shards we are left, hoping one or two more letters may yet emerge.  So would a ‘Northampton Social Group for Writers’  Meetup group http://www.meetup.com/Northampton-Social-Group-for-Writers/ keep Emily out of the attic?  Would we still get fluttering – and dashing—and well, randomly, this:

There is a finished feeling

Experienced at Graves –

A leisure of the Future –

A Wilderness of Size.

By Death’s bold Exhibition

Preciser what we are

And the Eternal function

Enabled to infer.

I don’t know, I have to strive mightily to not feel sorry for our alabaster recluse.  But the movie was pretty good, and like the rest of human history before 2005 or so my boys will simply have to learn some history and empathize with us sorry kids that grew up in the olden days with static and test signals and the National Anthem signifying the show was over and it was time for bed.  Poor kids.


‘Insert some sort of random dad quote on women, and bodies, and art, and illusions of perfection’

‘Yeah, plus she’s hot dad’