Feature debut: Kevin’s On The Couch

I know it’s been a while since the last post, but there’s good reason. I’ve been working on an exciting new project that has its world debut tonight on The Wandering Lost.

Please enjoy the first episode of the exciting new web series Kevin On The Couch featuring the Kevins’s’ early review of Orphan Black.

Stay close to The Wandering Lostie for more exciting episodes!

Lost: 10 years after the journey

10 years ago tonight Jack Shephard laid down in the bamboo and closed his eyes. 10 years since I sat stunned in my TV chair thinking that’s it? Really??? It was about their journey??? I was not happy.

Little did I know on Sunday, May 23, 2010, the events that would affect the course of my journey were already in motion.

The next morning my bus broke down, which had never happened in the six prior years of my #buslife. Then our replacement bus broke down. 2-for-2. Did everything fall apart when Desmond pulled the plug??? When the third bus finally picked us up I half expected to see Hugo Reyes behind the wheel of my trusted route 53. Wouldn’t that have been a hoot.

I finally got to work at my job leading comms for the Republican caucus in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The legislative session ended the week prior with a budget stalemate and a brewing electoral battle over Obamacare. We intended that to shape the coming campaign season, and boy did it ever.

We rode a wave to historic electoral success in the Legislature but fell just short of claiming the governor’s race. Had we done so, the next two years would have been an incredible high. Instead they were probably the most challenging, frustrating years of my career. Halfway through the next election—2012—I knew I was ready to walk away.

Maybe I would have stayed if things went our way that year. But as Miles Straume said, “Whatever happened, happened.” We got our asses kicked. My time was up. A new chapter of my journey was about to begin, 899 days after the Lost finale.

Other than not politics I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career then. I never wanted to be a political lifer and with nothing but political experience on my resume at age 32 I knew the longer I stayed in the harder it would be to break out. I can only wonder how different my life would be today if I’d taken any of the opportunities I had over the next few months to stay in that world.

To be honest with you, I was not very good at being unemployed. Public relations and communications was the logical next step, so I spent months doing the lazy thing and applying for online listings at companies or industries I thought would be fun. Sports, aviation, business. PR agencies didn’t really strike my interest, but most of the locals had something I applied for at some point. Online listings funnel your resume into a soulless void of online tracking systems. I’m not sure anyone has ever gotten a job that way. The real way to find a job is to network. I am terrible at networking. In fact, I basically don’t do it. People. Ugh.

Except at some point in the mid-2000s I fell in love with online communities. There I could network my ass off from the place I was most comfortable: Behind the keyboard. Everyone else was behind the keyboard, too, so I didn’t have to feign interest in small talk. Or talk at all. I was here for it when social media emerged, and I joined Twitter on September 25, 2007, some 972 days before the Lost finale.

That one little act, so insignificant at the time, altered my journey perhaps more than any other.

Twitter and I fit hand and glove. You couldn’t write more than two sentences in a tweet and most of my thoughts aren’t more than two sentences long anyway. Social media’s rise coincided with my rising position within the caucus. By the time Lost ended I was not only the caucus media director, my tweeting was getting me interviewed on TV and invited to speak on panels. My stupid little profile icon even got me recognized when one lawmaker ran up to me in the Retiring Room to ask, “Are you Kwatt from Twitter?”

Sure am. Do you remember the campaign brochure that popped up in your district, the one designed to look exactly like your local newspaper but was full of reasons to vote against you? That was me, too. Turns out I sort of invented fake news. Sorry. But I digress…

By the fall of 2013 I wasn’t sure I’d ever work again. Then one afternoon an email popped up from a Twitter friend who was writing a story profiling prominent local Twitter users. She wanted to include me. Sure! That’d be pretty cool. So she sent me her list of questions.

I was doing some light freelance work at the time and found myself in the southeast corner of Minnesota one Tuesday. With a few hours to kill between meetings I set up in a local coffee shop and started on my responses for the article. When it came to “What do you do for work?” I paused.

Should I put that I don’t have a job? Naw, that would be cheeky. Wait. You idiot. This is going to get published. Treat it like an advertisement—for yourself. Yeah! So that’s exactly what I did. “Kevin Watterson, age 32, currently looking for a PR job. Previously did PR and communications in the state Legislature.”

Months passed and I forgot about the article. It finally appeared on January 1, 2014. A few weeks later, Kathy Jalivay came across it. Kathy was the head of PR at a marketing agency in St. Paul and just so happened to be looking for someone looking for a PR job. On February 12, 2014, I joined her at Aimclear. I was unknowingly familiar with the office: I stood outside of it every night for the last six years waiting for the route 53 bus to take me home. It was 1,362 days after the Lost finale.

My journey through Aimclear was fantastic. I met awesome people and learned more than I could have ever hoped. At one point I was the Twitter voice of Firestone auto care, handing out coupons for a discount oil change to people who posted the best #roadtrip pics and making the best tire puns. Clients came, clients went. Some were more fun than others. Such is agency life.

My journey rolled on outside of work for those five years, too. I became an uncle. I got some things right, I messed up others. I traveled. Even took my first winter vacation, having been tied to the Legislature from January through May for all those years.

Then in January 2018, Uber called. They needed someone to cover social media while one of their OGs was on sabbatical. They already had one Aimclearian and wanted another. I landed in San Francisco and walked in the door at Uber for the first time on February 13, 2018. It was 2,824 days after the Lost finale.

They must have liked what they saw because by June 1 I was living in San Francisco full-time (2,932 days) and on March 4, 2019, I badged in as an official Uber employee (3,208). My longtime goal of moving to California was complete.

That’s where I remain. Things are good. Once I got settled I decided to live a life that would make my 14-year-old self jealous. So I set a personal record by attending 41 baseball games last year, 29 of which were just down the street at Oracle Park. It’s the Giants, but the Dodgers visit nine times a year and LA is a short flight away. I lounge by the pool for hours reading books. I watch TV whenever I want. I go see the ocean at least once a month, although that’s been hampered by this f*cking virus. Sometimes I walk outside and stare across the bay just to see mountains. I’m from Iowa, so yeah the Oakland hills count as mountains. I spoil my nieces (kids love scratch off lottery tickets, btw). I even own three pairs of Air Jordans just to display on my shelves. Take that, 14-year-old Kevin.

I can’t predict where my journey will go from here anymore than I could have predicted it would lead me here. Maybe in another 10 years I’ll be somewhere else, making 39-year-old Kevin insanely jealous.

It has been 3,654 days since the Lost finale. I get it now.

Review: For All Mankind Not For Anyone

First we were like why is Apple making a Walkman then we were like why is Apple making a phone then we were like why is Apple making a watch now we’re like why is Apple making a television show. After watching the first two episodes of “For All Mankind” I’m still not sure about that last one. 

Several things can make a television show boring. Uninteresting characters, flat storylines, weak dialogue. No single one of those makes Mankind boring, but they all play some part. Instead the show comes up short because it’s alt-history with no stakes. 

For All Mankind takes place in a universe where the Soviets put the first man on the moon. That’s…it. First man, surface of moon. Congrats. The story begins shortly before and takes place mostly after this…after America lost the race to the moon. By like a month. Oh yeah, we got there. Buzz and Neil put Eagle down on the Sea of Tranquility and all that but the soundbite. 

Who thought that was alt enough to make alt-history out of??? For All Mankind gives us no “So what?” to make us care why history didn’t unfold the way we know it did. The only consequence so far to losing the space race has been the ouster of the head of the space program. Whoopee. Am I supposed to be enthralled by Richard Nixon’s quest for a fall guy? 

I’m not. Not even a little bit.

Compare this to The Man in the High Castle. That show has stakes: The end of our country. Japan and Nazi Germany control what used to be the United States of America. That’s alt-history. What happened matters intensely to the characters and in fact the entire world around them. What happened in For All Mankind barely even matters to the people it happened to because the Apollo space program continues undeterred. Wait, sorry, one mopey astronaut had to do desk duty for a while before they let him fly on Apollo 15. My deepest apologies.

No, this show is a dud. 

How this could have been compelling? Here are some ways For All Mankind could have higher stakes:

  • Losing the race to the moon causes scientific investment to flee the U.S. and flow into Soviet Russia, which props up communism in ways no one thought possible. The motherland soars on the international stage. 
  • Developing countries follow the Soviet Union’s lead, emulating the communist dream that took man to the heavens.
  • America’s standing in the world wanes and its morale at home tanks as its people no longer believe it can achieve great things. 
  • Our collective belief in capitalism suffers, here and around the world. 

Slowly but surely all those things could begin to shape a way for viewers to envision a very different modern world. Then we would have something to care about. When I watch High Castle I feel something. When I watch For All Mankind, I don’t. 

Was this all just about the Starks? Game of Thrones finale, part 2

It is canon here at The Wandering Lostie that a series finale will always show you the true story its writers intended to tell. The End revealed Lost was about the journey its characters took together, not numbers or mysteries or any of that. Fringe gave us touching closure to the relationship between Walter and Peter that we didn’t always realize carried the series. The Americans stripped away the Cold War to bare the painful difficulty its two central characters are forever destined to face together.

I am struggling to come to grips with the Game of Thrones finale through that lens. “The Iron Throne” was an unequivocal win for the Stark family. Bran rules the six kingdoms and Sansa the seventh—their ancestral home. Arya is sailing her own course and Jon is with the people he feels most comfortable with in the place he feels most comfortable. All their enemies are vanquished.

But can anyone really believe this show was always supposed to be about the Starks? Am I to believe that the Lannisters, the Targaryens and the White Walkers all entered this saga to support a journey of change for this one family?

I suppose looking at it this way strips out too much of the nuance that necessarily makes up eight seasons of television. They weren’t “just the Lannisters” because Jamie and Cersei died in the penultimate episode anymore than Dany was a bit player because she died one-third of the way through the finale. But if Game of Thrones was truly about them, wouldn’t they have figured more prominently in the ultimate ending?

My view of the series heading into the final season was we had tow primary storylines: The battle for the Iron Throne and the threat from the White Walkers. They traveled mostly on their own until starting to bend in the same direction during season seven. Season eight, I reasoned, must be when they finally and epically collide.

Wronnnnnnnnnng. They dispensed with the Night King halfway through the season, and I was okay with that. Let’s go ahead and have Dany and Cersei throw down for the throne with Jon there to step in if things go really wrong. The way that unfolded felt anti-climactic. Dany and Cersei never got closer than staring at each other at the edge of Kings Landing…two episodes before the finale. When the real fight came, Cersei died without any of her trademark scheming or maneuvering to even try countering Dany’s attack. The full impact of her death even felt muted because we were so thrown by Dany burning an innocent city alive.

That brought us to the finale where Dany’s fate was addressed decisively fast. Jon’s fatal stab pivoted the finale’s big reveal from “Would it be Dany or Jon?” to “Which Stark will rule Westeros?”

Which is where it lost me. Game of Thrones was never about which Stark sits on the Iron Throne because it was never a foregone conclusion that it would even be a Stark. For that to be how the series ended, and to have that ending decided entirely based on a speech from Tyrion, doesn’t mesh with how the story was told for the prior seven seasons.

Game of Thrones finale thoughts part 1: Seriously???

There is a lot to unpack from the Game of Thrones finale. Would Jon really do that? Was it too happy? Why did Dany’s armies just say bye Felicia to Westeros and sail away? Where did the dragon go? Where is Arya going? Who exactly is the Night’s Watch protecting us from anymore? Did we error in assuming Dany burned Kings Landing because she was mad like Aerys.

We’ll get to that in due time. Tonight I want to focus on three things that will prevent this episode from ascending to the pantheon of great series finales.

There were times during The Wire where I forgot I was watching television. The acting and the dialogue were so perfect it didn’t seem like make believe. Not perfect in the poetic, almost lyrical, way dialogue on The West Wing was perfect. But real perfect. What people would actually say to each other perfect.

The Game of Thrones finale had moments so unreal they almost broke the fourth wall. Dany walking into the frame centered in front of her dragon so it could spread its wings exactly behind her. Oh please. What point did that shot serve? We already knew Dany commands dragons. We already knew that made her terrifyingly powerful.

Whenever a show goes so out of its way to create an image like that I look for a religious undertone. Dany…wings…she’s an…angel? Of death, maybe. A Christian reference wouldn’t make much sense in a show where Christianity doesn’t exist, so that’s out.

I settled on the guess that they were trying to portray Dany as the dragon in human form. Great and powerful. Terrifying. Temperamental. Okay. But we kinda got that message when she burned Kings Landing.

Later in the episode we get a scene so ridiculous I legit thought they left an outtake in the episode. The Lords of Westeros are for some reason letting Tyrion guide their decision on who will lead the seven kingdoms (while Grey Worm, who could rightfully claim to lead the army controlling the capital city, for some reason stands idly without a say). Sam, radical thinker that he is, boldly suggests the people of Westeros should choose their king.

Silence.

Then uproarious laughter from the cast. It was such a jolt from serious to unserious—with a type of laughter we rarely saw on this show—that I had to remind myself I wasn’t watching Monty Python presents the constitutional convention. What the hell was that?

Finally we get Davos, Bronn, Brienne, Sam and Tyrion together at Bran’s cabinet. I could buy their uncoordinated send-off for Bran because they’re all new at this. Then the scene went down this absurd road with cracks about brothels versus ships played against Sam’s general discomfort with anything sex.

Come on. I’m for fan service but this was over the top. It was a more memorable wrap for these characters than had the camera pulled back as they actually discussed core infrastructure, but it wasn’t written or acted well enough to feel genuine.

Three moments out of an episode that ran for 80 minutes. They weren’t going to be scenes that made the finale, and they didn’t ruin it either. I wanted to get lost in the final episode of this fictional world. These three moments made that impossible.