Thoughts on Endings and New Beginnings


Andrew Sullivan's The Dish, which began publishing online 15 years ago, formally retired with its final day today. It's been a period of sad goodbyes, warm memories, fond farewells and bittersweet anticipations for the unknown future. It feels a little like graduating high school. And it's given me the opportunity to think and reflect on my own future as well.

I have been writing and self-publishing online since January, 2003. I studied HTML and web design and built my own website, danielthomas.org. It was an online home for my personal artwork and writings, which included film criticism, video game essays, and political commentary. My first essays on the site were a 2001 review (saved from a message board, thankfully) of Daytona USA on Sega Dreamcast, and Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies. That eventually mutated into two weblogs in 2006: "Conversations on Ghibli," which morphed into Ghibli Blog, and "Videogames of the Damned," which mutated into Daniel Thomas Vol 4.

I've been writing about Studio Ghibli at this home for nearly a decade, and writing lengthy reviews for twelve. I originally wanted to share these wonderful, obscure Japanese movies with a Western audience, at a time when they were largely unknown and unavailable. In '03 and '06, only a few DVDs were commercially available, and there was virtually no online resources for people to discover and learn. Today, nearly all of Ghibli's feature films are commercially available, including Blu-Ray (Porco Rosso, Pom Poko, and Tales From Earthsea arrived this week). And fans are far more familiar with Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and their many collaborators and contemporaries. I am humbled and proud to have played a role in that change.

Let me reassure you that I am not retiring or closing down Ghibli Blog. But I am very mindful of endings and new beginnings, that all things must pass. Miyazaki and Takahata have, in all probability, created their final feature films, and Studio Ghibli faces an uncertain future. It feels like an end of an era. And if it's not time to begin another song, it's certainly time to change the chords.

I find myself with an aching sadness at Sullivan's departure. He has always been an inspiration for me personally, and as a writer. Much of my writer's "voice" comes from him. I also feel an uncertain excitement, an anticipation for...something. I don't know what, but it's something new. The Beatles had this wonderful phrase on Abbey Road, "Out of college, money spent, see no future, pay no rent. All the money's gone, nowhere to go...But, oh, that magic feeling...Nowhere to go."

I have a number of big plans for 2015. I want to start my own publishing company, a small indie label, and make it happen this year. I am working on several volumes based on my many blog writings over the years. Four books are currently planned, tentatively titled, "Zen Arcade Vol 1," "Videogames of the Damned," "Daniel Thomas Vol. 4," and "Conversations on Ghibli." I really want to have these volumes published, to finally clear my table so that I can engage in new projects. I need to publish art books of my paintings; heck, I really need a gallery showing for my current "desk calendar" artworks.  And I really want to begin podcasting this year. I need better equipment than what I used to hack together my Horus, Prince of the Sun commentary track.

Back in 1993, when I was 20 years old, I began a video game zine, called "V: The Videogame Experience." Eventually, I shortened it to just "V" and expanded my focus to include new interests in art, music, current events, whatever. I also wanted to redefine video games as part of a broader spectrum of popular arts, integrate everything into a greater whole. It's this same quality that I loved so much about The Dish. I need to bring that artistic, personal spirit to Ghibli Blog. I am not quite certain how to achieve that, or what it looks like.

What do you think? Where do you think we should go? What chord are we going to play?

4 comments:

Christian Kent said...

Just my luck. Two weeks ago, I finally discover the Ghibli site of my dreams and now its future seems as dubious as the studio itself!

Love the podcasting idea, Daniel. I've often thought of starting one myself (as there seems to be a curious lack of Ghibli-themed content in that specific arena), but can't seem to get the ball rolling. You've got so much passion and such a wealth of knowledge on the subject, I can't think of a better person for the job. I've been going through your older posts and reviews, just catching up, and it's so refreshing to read well-thought-out opinions from someone who actually has something of value to contribute. I'd love to hear them translated into a podcast!

Please don't let a lack of quality equipment deprive us of your voice. All that can be sorted in post. A wise old lady once said: "You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose."

So choose, Daniel-san. So choose.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Don't panic. I'm not going anywhere. I just want to expand the content in more directions, that's all. But I'm also thinking of long-term plans. I don't want to be doing this 5 years from now, especially if it doesn't pay. Fornow, don't worry.

Kuruma Torajiro said...

Daniel, thank you for all these years.

If you're getting into publishing, you must author a book on Paku-san and his collaborators. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but the only non-Japanese Takahata book out there is in Italian. He needs to be written about more, his work and history need to be documented and annotated in the English language.

And then there's his own books and essays. Miyazaki's Starting Point is out in English. Wouldn't it be englightening and amazing to read Paku-san reflect on his life and work?

Gnickerson said...

Type the word "Ghibli" into the iTunes store for podcasts and what comes up? Not a whole lot.

A "Conversations on Ghibli" podcast would be pretty sweet. With the proper host(s), it could definitely find an audience. I think a Ghibli podcast is one that would do really well with some roundtable discussion. Basically pick a topic and go.

I tried about 4 years ago to get an animation podcast going with the idea of talking about Ghibli, Satoshi Kon etc. But after a few episodes I just didn't have the time to do it on my own.

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