This Is Us

A complicated love letter to music

Black and white side rear photo of a person’s face wearing earphones, hand moving towards ear.
Black and white side rear photo of a person’s face wearing earphones, hand moving towards ear.
Photo: Jordan Cameron/Flickr

This is a love letter. It’s also a story about depression and autism and music, but it’s still a love letter. Remember that as you are reading this. And if you know me or care about me a little, please know that I’m okay.

I am.

I’m not great, but I’m okay.

I’m never going to be great, and that’s also okay.

I don’t like binaries, but I’m guessing either you know what I mean when I say that music has saved my life, or you don’t. Not everyone has this kind of relationship to music. I guess other forms…

One of my dream projects is to write a book about fame. I don’t know why the concept has always fascinated me, because I absolutely do not want to be famous. But I do want to talk to famous people worldwide about their experiences (and their sense of self) in a conversation where they aren’t promoting something. And I especially want to analyze what their experiences say about us. Since I don’t have access to famous people, I have to write this from the perspective of being a fan and a consumer of popular media for nearly four decades.


I stopped writing this past year. I did so for a few reasons that aren’t worth getting into. But I’m not going to break my eleven-year tradition, so I’m writing this year’s post for myself.

There’s really no need to rehash how hideous the past year has been.

My mind is always on a loop of rage and despair thinking about how people just accept the way things are or deny reality in front of them, and events of the past year have made it worse.

Things like the unbridled pursuit of profit at the expense of all else, tireless…

If you know me, you’ve probably seen or heard me refer to myself as a robot. An alien. A cryptid. An android. And, when I am feeling human, a bad person. I learned recently that this is common among people who discovered their autism later in life.

My cryptid brethren. From the Patterson–Gimlin film

Full disclosure, I haven’t been diagnosed with ASD by a professional [UPDATE 9 Sept 2020: I did end up going through the testing process, and I do meet the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1]. It’s difficult to diagnose in people who aren’t boys, and I only started looking into getting…

I have been thinking a lot lately about Uemura Naomi.

Uemura is considered the first person to reach the North Pole by himself, to raft down the Amazon by himself, and to climb Denali by himself.

Credit: Wikipedia

He was part of a community of adventurers, of climbers, but he did many of his excursions alone. He wrote, in what’s become his most famous quote: “In all the splendor of solitude… it is a test of myself, and one thing I loathe is to have to test myself in front of other people.”

Uemura disappeared in 1984 while climbing Denali in the…

The majority of cowboys in the supposed “wild west” era of US history weren’t white; words like “bronco” and “stampede” came from Spanish; and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries many Western towns barred you from entering if you were carrying a firearm.

The image portrayed in Western films of the clean-shaven, but rugged white man protecting towns from Indian raids and outlaws with quick draw shootouts largely comes from Wyatt Earp selling his exaggerated life story to Hollywood.

Western films are usually fictional, though some are based on actual events, like the shootout at the OK Corral…

I’ve seen other people explain why “everyone is entitled to their own opinion” and “everyone can believe whatever they want to believe” are bad arguments. But I continue to see people use these arguments, so I’m doing it again. And because I’ve seen it come up recently, I want to apply it to people who say that they “just don’t believe in gay marriage.”

A legal designation isn’t even the type of thing you can believe or not believe in to begin with, but we use the word “belief” in very bizarre ways in the 21st century. …

Content warning for mentions of suicide. Also contains spoilers for The Magicians.

When companies do market research, presumably they get feedback from customers — what they like or don’t like, what they need, and whether they’ll buy products from that company again. I assume it’s not much different in the entertainment industry, because in spite of the connection to creative expression, it’s still a business.

Pop culture is by definition popular, which in the 21st century means it uses mass media to reach a lot of viewers, listeners, readers, often to the point where devoted fans and fandoms crop up…

I write a post each year on January 1. Sometimes these are personal, but this year, I want to talk about time.

I don’t believe in time itself. What I mean by this is that time is a reference frame and a useful tool, but it isn’t a real thing beyond that. Beginnings and ends are all relative.

As far as ends go, there are countless ways for human beings to go extinct. We could blow ourselves up with nuclear bombs. Climate change could lead to the planet being uninhabitable for humans. …

I keep waiting for a review of a BTS concert or album that doesn’t first comment on screaming fans, often describing them as manic, crazy teenage girls, or dismissing BTS’s music as canned pop music, or pointing out that 6 out of 7 members don’t speak perfect English. Even reviews that point out the positive message of BTS’s latest Love Yourself series of albums miss what’s really going on in those words.

The thing that these reviewers miss, that maybe even a lot of fans miss, is that there is something inherently political and radical in this idea of loving…

Heidi Samuelson

PhD in philosophy | Feminist | Anarchist | Pop culture junkie

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