I wasn’t about to stomp on the Friday Twitter Roundup or the Free Culture Book Club, but I didn’t want the new year to pass without establishing my “things to look forward to” post as an annual tradition. So, happy new year! 🎉 Again, unless you’re on a different calendar.

2021

Media

I didn’t expect last year to be a huge one for media, and the pandemic made sure that was the case. This year will probably be more substantial, though the parts that interest me might be thinner.

Note: The odds of this including many Free Culture items are extremely low, both because there isn’t an assembly line churning it out and because very little of it has a release schedule or even easy release announcements. Sorry!

  • Doom Patrol, Season 3: As yet, I have no intentions of subscribing to HBO Max, so I’ll be waiting for the DVD set to come out, but the show is always a winner, and the second season ended—mostly inadvertently, because time on set was curtailed due to the pandemic—on an extreme cliffhanger.

  • Dear White People, Season 4 (again): This is another show that’s frequently funny while also hitting hard on key issues. It’s a comedy that may (or may not) revolve around a secret society. It also avoids turning the show into a parade of college tropes, like so many other shows seem to find acceptable, especially when the cast is diverse. The fourth season was supposed to get released in 2020, but…wasn’t. I mentioned last week that I’m basically waiting for one show on Netflix, before I can conclusively say that it’s not worth the money. That’s this show, and I also suspect there’s a chance its renewal could get rescinded at any time.

  • High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Season 2 (again): This is a great mockumentary shows, and apparently the first show renewed by Disney+ before the first season even ended. I don’t have a connection to the original musical (maybe I watched it, once?), but I think that might make the show funnier. Basically, if you subscribe to Disney+ and aren’t watching this, you’re not getting the most out of your subscription fee. It’s that funny.

  • Undone , Season 2 (again): This might be a psychological thriller/mystery involving ghosts, time travel, and connecting with one’s roots…or it might be a story about mental illness, instead. Either way, it’s top-notch. Oh, and the series is animated, but rotoscoped over live acting, to integrate the special effects. It should be a much bigger deal than it is, and Amazon Prime should put more marketing muscle behind it than just showing the logo from time to time. But is it still happening? Like Dear White People, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the announced renewal no longer applies.

Last year, I said that I’d like 2020 to be the year that I stop watching shows that I don’t love. Probably mostly because I spent so much time around the house, that didn’t quite happen—if you read my monthly newsletter, then you probably already know that I slogged through six seasons of Longmire despite my better judgment—though I have gotten better at it.

For 2021, my goal is to drop streaming services that don’t provide me with enough value to justify the cost. I already mentioned that I’m already probably passing on HBO Max. Cable TV will probably finally go, or at least get stripped down to minimal service. I’m starting to think that it’s time to drop Netflix, too, since my queue currently only has six shows left in it, without much coming that excites me. Of those shows, most are ending when they return (Hilda, Lucifer), some could easily get quietly pulled from the schedule (Dear White People), and the remainder probably wouldn’t bother me to miss.

Plus, in many cases, I could just buy the DVDs on a good sale and watch them through Emby for significantly less money (and less support for manipulative media platforms) and more enjoyment.

Catching Up

There’s some media from 2019 that I skipped over, for various reasons, which I look forward to prioritizing this year. Most of them are because I don’t have the patience to go out to the movies and can’t be bothered to subscribe to every last streaming service just for a couple of shows.

  • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn): I both haven’t really gotten around to this and it also hasn’t been streaming anywhere I watch. I’d like to. The Birds of Prey is a smart franchise, conceptually. I have a copy, so it’ll happen, but haven’t had the time to watch it.

That’s really it. I didn’t watch much new media, but there also hasn’t been much that I wanted to watch. As much as I want to support the character, Wonder Woman 1984 sounds unpleasant, for example.

Public Domain Day

Here’s something that at least borders on Free Culture: At the stroke of midnight on Friday, all media from 1925 fell into the public domain in the United States, assuming it was published here at that time. Some examples in the general adventure-fiction genre and related genres follow. Hopefully, the British books were also published in the United States, or else this could get awkward.

Novels and Other Books:

  • The House Without a Key, Earl Derr Biggers, known primarily for the creation of Honolulu detective Charlie Chan.
  • Some Beautiful Letters, Dorothy Parker, including Observation, News Item, RĂ©sumĂ©, and others. Parker has more than two dozen works entering the public domain, in fact.
  • Literally everybody in the world has mentioned F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and while I don’t enjoy the story, I still look forward to the final realization of the fan theory that the main characters all come together from disadvantaged backgrounds, pursuing wealth to protect themselves.
  • More interesting than Gatsby, though, is probably going to be Manhattan Transfer, by John Dos Santos, which arguably does a better job of intertwining personal stories to condemn the Gilded Age.
  • Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time shows up in a lot of lists, too, though I don’t really care about Hemingway.
  • Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, has been compared to Ulysses, by James Joyce.
  • Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy is a fictionalized version of a real-world murder from 1906.
  • The New Negro, edited by Alain Locke, but with contributions from names you’ll definitely recognize.
  • Agatha Christie, The Secret of Chimneys
  • Porgy, by DuBose Heyward, which would later become the basis for the Cole Porter opera Porgy & Bess

Movies:

  • Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman and The Merry Widow
  • Buster Keaton’s Go West, His People, Lovers in Quarantine, and Seven Chances
  • Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush
  • Don Q, Son of Zorro
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Ramon Novarro’s Ben Hur
  • Rudolph Valentino’s The Eagle, where he plays (inexplicably, if you know the book it’s based on) a masked vigilante
  • The Plastic Age, starring Clara Bow
  • The Wizard of Oz, starring Oliver Hardy

Music, although recordings are always a different and much messier story:

  • Sweet Georgia Brown, I assume everybody knows as the music played at Harlem Globetrotters games.
  • Always, by Irving Berlin
  • Various songs by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, which is why you probably saw a couple of documentary projects about her, recently. Examples include Army Camp Harmony Blues and Shave ’Em Dry, with collaborators.
  • Yes Sir, That’s My Baby
  • Quite a bit from W.C. Handy and collaborators, such as Friendless Blues, Bright Star of Hope, and When the Black Man Has a Nation of His Own
  • Duke Ellington’s Jig Walk and With You
  • “Fats” Waller’s Anybody Here Want To Try My Cabbage, Ball and Chain Blues, and Campmeetin’ Stomp, again with collaborators
  • “Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith’s Dixie Flyer Blues, Tired of Voting Blues, and Telephone Blues

It would appear that the public domain has fully entered the Blues era. Oh, and as I mentioned last week, Tom Lehrer and the trust that manages his assets released his work into the public domain, though much of the parody relies on other copyrights, and thus requires some extra care.

There’s also a handful of paintings, among the most famous being:

  • Edward Hopper’s House by the Railroad
  • Picasso’s Les Trois Danseuses

House by the Railroad

And, of course, there’s plenty more that either isn’t as famous or comes from genres I wouldn’t normally look at deeply. But either way, that’s a shocking amount of new material, and quite a bit of it has been tested for decades in the public sphere.

In a lot of the rest of the world, instead, you’re looking at material created by people who died more than seventy years ago. So, you’d want to look for authors, songwriters, or other artists who died in 1950, to access their work. The headliners for the English-speaking world are probably George Bernard Shaw and George Orwell, but there’s much more.

Technology

Chances are, the only technology headline that most people are watching, just now, is how the COVID-19 vaccines are working out, in terms of both effectiveness and deployment.

Law/Politics

Similar to the COVID-19 vaccines, at least in the United States, the headlines that currently matter most are how the incoming Biden administration is going to deal with the crimes and general belligerence of the outgoing Trump administration. History clearly shows us, unfortunately, that leaving them be just emboldens the next group of bad actors to be worse. So, as painful as it might be, the country may need to prosecute everybody involved, so that we can reduce the chances of going through four years of powerful people suggesting that maybe fascism is good, again.

What are you looking forward to seeing in 2021? Other than it not being 2020, I mean…


Credits: The header image is adapted from New Year 2020 by Henk Adriaan Meijer, made available under the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. Surprisingly, there aren’t many Free Culture “2021” graphics available, yet, so I needed to do a bit of remixing. Edward Hopper’s House by the Railroad is also used, and (as is the entire point) in the public domain.