The Dailies

The Dailies will be concluding on November 5, 2019. As part of our closing, we're compiling a "Greatest Hits" collection, so send us your favorite items from our six year history.

Word of the Day

Perpetuity (n., purr-peh-TCHOO-ih-tea)

The state of being eternal, of going on and on into the future, with no end in sight and no reason to stop. It can also refer to an annuity that's payable indefinitely or a legal condition relating to estate law. Just remember, kids, even if you die, the government and lawyers still have to talk to you.

Gif of the Day

TagsMoviesSlow gifsPokerEndlessly looping gifsCasino RoyaleShaken, then stirred?

Link of the Day

IV. Share the world

I’m not sure why, but a lot of the TV shows I’ve loved have always been on the verge of cancellation or outright cancelled due to low interest. A number of them have happened to be on NBC, the network with the best shows that the internet watches and you don’t. Chuck was the first I remember. The action-comedy beloved by fans and a handful of critics got saved through a viral grassroots campaign built around one character’s briefly-professed love of Subway sandwiches. It limped along for three more will-they-won’t-they-be-canceled seasons, eventually becoming an anchor in multiple senses of the word for NBC. The peacock network had a lot of shows in the same boat: beloved by critics and cult audiences but not the masses. Of the others, Parks and Recreation hit closest to my heart but Community was my brain’s playground.

Community was the brainchild of Dan Harmon, the meta mad scientist who would later go on to create Rick & Morty. Community was, at surface level, the story of a study group created by a lawyer who was forced to go back to school to get the degree he said he had. But the show never stopped there. It grew famous for its concept episodes that applied a theme to the group’s escapades and the episode’s presentation. In the show’s highlight, the first paintball episode, the paintball competition itself is lightly treated as a metaphor for the tension within the study group. A scene where an Asian character walks in is shot like a John Woo movie. A Die Hard reference is made at the end (of course). The show developed a reputation of being willing and able to shapeshift into any genre it wanted to hit.

This show was easy to love. There haven’t been many shows with this kind of ambition and the talent to pull it off. It was a funny show to begin with, but the allusions gave it layers and in-jokes. Community developed a fervid fanbase which helped the show to keep being renewed in different formats even after NBC dropped it. If you were Yahoo, why not pick up Community? You knew the audience would follow it, and it probably would be a bigger audience than anything you could make. Despite cable TV-low ratings, Community got six seasons.

Somewhere around season 4, I realized how perfect the title of the show was. Just as Community was a show about many things, the title Community could refer to many things. It could be the show’s setting, Greendale Community College. It could be the study group on the show or even the entire college. It could also refer to the fans who enjoyed the show and the culture that grew up around it. Or it could refer not to a group of people but to a feeling of belonging, friendship, and peace.

Community had a symbiotic relationship with the internet. It wasn’t toying with the internet the way Lost or even Game of Thrones did, knowingly stoking the fires of “guess what will happen this week!” Community’s bond was more limited in scope but deeper. It leveraged the internet’s ability to bring isolated passionate people together to communicate and mobilize. Community barely had a foothold on network TV as it was; without the internet, it wouldn’t have found its audience of nerds and wit-loving Redditors. The comments threads of Community reviews were always fun reads, as fans would explain references and Easter Eggs for those who hadn’t picked them up. Those, in turn, shed light on what the episodes were trying to do. Community’s jokes were often meta; it required a group that understood or could deduce them. The internet provided that.

But that hasn’t been the entirety of the online experience. A community of people coming together to enjoy something more deeply is very much an idealistic, web 1.0 idea. Over time, the web has shifted from creating and enjoying into curating and branding. The social media (and video) revolutions pushed people towards creating their own online presences. To my eyes, the communities that i see around the content creators today are more built around consumption of information than around sharing. A YouTube channel is much more a one-way street than a message board. There are countless channels built around “reaction” videos where people simply discuss another video or item. This isn’t about breaking down what is interesting about something or creating a network of like-minded people or getting them talking to each other. It’s about one thing only: building an audience that can be monetized.

This has been the exact opposite of what we’ve been about since day 1. The Dailies was born out of sharing. The word of the day happened because I started coming up with a fun English word for my coworker from Colombia who was married to a German. The gif and links of the day came from similar places. They were things I enjoyed and wanted others to enjoy as well. I’ve loaned out countless books, movies, and music with no expectation of getting them back. If they come back, great. If not, I’ll buy another—good for the artist, and good to get something of value into the world. One of the movies I’ve most loaned out is Babette’s Feast, a movie we discussed last year. It’s a movie that shows us the grace and beauty of sharing. The gift is its own reward. The joy and appreciation of others is a double blessing. Through sharing, individuals become communities.

I’ve chosen to focus a lot on physical, realistic art in my links. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good Scandinavian modern design—I frequently send one of my friends great examples of that design style—but the hard lines and tense interplay of item and world make it harder to embrace. I choose realistic things because they reflect the beauty of the world around us, which forces us to get out of our consumptive treadmills and into the space around us. I choose manmade things because it encourages us to appreciate the skills that people have been given and have honed, nudging us towards doing the same. I choose art that is tangible because it reminds us that the world is made to be interacted with outside a black border and set of pixels. Ultimately, I focus on art and beauty because they remind us what it means to be human. Good, beautiful art awakens us—all of us. It is a communal experience. It is why we care about the dress: because it will be worn down the aisle, with all eyes beholding the most beautiful form of someone, and its craftsmanship and character reveal and enhance the person wearing it. The feelings we have as we see that, understanding what it means and reflecting on who it shows, cannot be captured in even the most perfectly composed photo. It is alive in front of us. Our hearts come alive in response to it.

Good, beautiful art is both the sharp “oh.” inhale of surprise followed by the long, peaceful holding of breath while we absorb. I felt this during a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art earlier this year. The Museum has a very large, vaulted room with some massive oil paintings. The room is large enough that the sound dissipates. You’re able to sit on the benches and gaze upward at the oversized, multi-hued portrait, awed not just at its shape but also at the paintings you see in your periphery. Everyone in the room is quietly in awe. Even if you catch eyes with another, there’s a knowing head shake in reply. We both know we’ll never be that good. After seeing that, though, we both might pick up a paintbrush.

This is near the end of our farewell essay season, and it links nicely with some of themes we’ll cover in our wrap-up essay on Tuesday. One of them is this: the goal of this website was never to just to keep you on this page. It was always to broaden your horizons to the great big beautiful world out that there that needs exploring together. Watterson understood this. The last words of Calvin & Hobbes are “Let’s go exploring!”—Let /us/ go exploring. You and I, together, taking in what the world has to offer. It may be as simple as sitting on a porch and taking in a sunset. It may be working on a complex project together. This is the life of the Earthbound creator: seeing glimpses of glory, then trying to remake the world into that vision. It will never get there. But it serves to remind others of where the glory comes from and draws us closer to it and to the others who are moved by it. Heaven and earth coming together. What a vision! What wonderful community!

TagsEssay SeasonCommunityArtSharingTough sledding?