Thank You, Friends, Thank You Again

I have found myself thinking, more than once lately, about the fact that I wish I could give more money to more Patreon campaigns. I already contribute to a bunch via the shared Patreon for the Wait, What? podcast — Jeff and I agreed when we launched that, that a percentage of what we made would be passed on to other campaigns — but there are more people I find myself wanting to support. The problem is, affording that.

In the wee small hours of the morning recently, I found myself imagining setting up another Patreon, just for me, not the podcast. It would be something where I could support personal writing and have more time and space to write the World That’s Coming, I told myself in a sleepy haze, but I was actually imagining a system with which to raise funds that I could then turn around and give to others.

Maybe I should simply set up a crowdfunding campaign explicitly targeted at funding other Patreons. Call it the Help Me To Help Others campaign. Just be blunt about it.

Everyone Round Here Lives In Silence

At some point, I stopped discovering new music.

Once upon a time, doing that was easy. I was young and in the UK in the 1990s; I just listened to Radio 1 all day, through the Britpop daytime and into the evening Evening Sessions, Mark And Lard, John Peel, whatever. New music came to me that way, or during the weekly weekend trips to record stores where I’d buy singles based on their cover artwork or how strange a band’s name seemed.

A decade later, and it was the era of the mp3 blog, an online network of friends I’d never met sharing the sounds they’d discovered for themselves and gotten excited about. It wasn’t the same as before; it was slower and less passive, but I discovered a number of favorite acts that way. (Curiously, most of them being solo female performers; I don’t know whether that was a bias on my part, or the bloggers.)

Now, I rarely find new things. Perhaps it’s my age, or that delivery systems have changed again. (I’m on Spotify, I promise; I just rarely use their Daily Mixes or whatever.) I find myself reading reviews of things and then searching them out, instead of things finding me with the lucky happenstance of before. Occasionally, it still happens — I’ll hear something by chance and have that What was that, I have to hear more response — and it’s especially thriling when it does, now. But for the most part, I’ve stopped discovering new music.

It’s something I miss, dearly.

No Loitering

I can remember with surprising clarity the circumstances in which this photo was taken; I was walking around San Francisco in the evening, having just taken a meeting about my immigration status at the time. (I wasn’t a full citizen yet, but that was about to happen; that’s what the meeting was about.) I’d become obsessed with signage in the city, as well as images of decayed materials, so of course this called out to me. I didn’t realize at the time that I was going to leave the city for Portland within the year, but on some level, I must have known — before I left Aberdeen for the final time, I became equally obsessed with the signage in that city, too.

In contrast, I went through a Portland signage obsession maybe a year or so into arriving, and I’m still here, a decade later. Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m going to stick around.

Yes I Know We Can Make It Girrrrrrrrlllllll If We Just

I’m writing this on the plane back from Chicago at the end of Star Wars Celebration — a five day trip (and four day convention experience) that pretty much took over more than a week of my life considering the prep required to be able to leave in the first place. To give a brief idea of what it was like — and, more honestly, to keep track of things for myself — here are photos I posted to Twitter from the show, most of which from the first afternoon when everything was new and exciting and not oh my God is there actually life outside this massive convention center which is somehow also two hotels how does that even work.

(No, really, how does that work? It was a really strange thing.)

Aside From The High-Minded and The Paranoid

But apart from the high-minded and the paranoid, privacy per se is not a major issue in our politics. Most people want the convenience of the internet far more than they want the private spaces that older forms of communication protected. They shrug off the stalker-ish ways that corporations hurl their ads at you throughout your day. They put surveillance devices in their homes and pockets without a qualm. They accept hackings and online shamings the way a Californian shrugs off earthquakes. They assume that the extremists being surveilled and censored and sometimes arrested probably deserve it. And they welcome the possible advantages of panoptical living, hoping for less crime and less police misconduct, better public health, more exposure of corruption — plus, of course, the chance to see their favorite celebrities in the nude.

So for those who object inherently to our new nakedness, regard the earthquakes as too high a price for Amazon’s low prices, or fear what an Augustus or a Robespierre might someday do with all this architecture, the best hope for a partial restoration of privacy has to involve more than just an anxiety about privacy alone. It requires a more general turn against the virtual, in which fears of digital nakedness are just one motivator among many — the political piece of a cause that’s also psychological, intellectual, aesthetic and religious.

From here.

We’ve Got To Try

I’m having a very surreal and emotionally scattered weekend. For one thing, as I write — although this will be in the past as you read this, because of scheduling and choices I’ve made that make sense in the moment but likely won’t when this appears — I’m in Chicago, because I’m working Star Wars Celebration for THR. It’s a strange show, because, well, it’s literally a strange show for someone used to covering comic book conventions: It’s five days all based around one property, as opposed to four or so for an entire medium and multiple other related media. It’s exhaustive, sure, but also exhausting and arguably too much.

There’s a thing that normally happens to me at a long-running convention, you see. By “long-running,” I really mean, “more than two days.” It’s traditionally been at its worst with San Diego every year, in large part because that runs Wednesday through Sunday and is entirely immersive; it takes over my life for those days and the outside world ceases to exist. Now, factor in the fact that Star Wars Celebration is that length, but only about one subject. It’s as if the rest of the world has ceased to exist.

And yet, at the same time, at the back of my head, I’m hyper vigilant in a background radiation-type way of the fact that this weekend has also been the weekend where Eisner Award judges are meeting and deciding the nominees for this year’s awards.

It’s not just that I was a judge last year and feel nostalgia for the surreal process of the entire thing — although that too, yes — but also, I submitted THR’s Heat Vision for the Comics Journalism category this year and ever since I did so, awkwardly and apologetically because I can’t get over my anti-ego that easily, I’ve been unable to wait patiently to find out if we’ve made it to the nominee list or not.

I’m fully prepared to not make it — not only because, hey, maybe we weren’t that good, but also because I’ve been a judge and I know how wacky the process is; not making it to the list isn’t necessarily a sign of anything other than the process itself. That said, I am unreasonably excited by the prospect of being able to call myself an Eisner nominee, if it happens. More even that potentially winning, I think, I just want to be nominated. I want that far more than I expected, before I submitted.

So this weekend, I’m feeling disconnected from the real world, running around surrounded by Stormtroopers to a constant soundtrack of John Williams music, and dealing with ambition and a desire to be recognized for my efforts, all at once.

It’s a disorienting experience.

I Was A Freelance Writer

First I was busy because I was a freelance writer who wanted to cause the world to give me the support I needed to just write. Then I became a freelance writer who could write all the time. Then, a freelance writer who needed to pay for more things. And then I nearly died a couple of times over ten or fifteen years. So I should slow down, right? I’m coming up on the fourth anniversary of The Last Time I Nearly Died.

From here. Worth noting especially because I’m actually taking a day off today, in honor of the fact that I am feeling especially exhausted after Star Wars Celebration. I honestly can’t remember the last time I took a day off when it wasn’t (a) a national holiday or (b) I was sick.

You Got The Looks

Another selection of THR graphics, starting with a variation of one where neither editorial nor I knew what we wanted and the deadline was, like, ten minutes or something. (They went with the first one; the only direction I got was, “It can’t include an actual gun or anything connected with that,” because a mass shooting had (of course) just been in the news.)

Secrets behind the design/Me entertaining myself: The background reverse text in the above is the introduction from Junkie XL’s Wikipedia page.

Secrets behind the design/Me entertaining myself 2: The text in the above is literally just me typing “This is a graphic for THR” and cutting and pasting it.

All I Used To Be Will Pass Away And Then You’ll See

There was a time, not so long ago now, where I believed firmly that I didn’t get to be happy, per se. I could have moments of happiness, sure, and events or circumstances could make me happy, but long term, sustainable happiness as a baseline was an impossibility.

This, I suspect, would shock a lot of people who know me. I am, after all, a mostly upbeat, optimistic person who seems happy almost all the time. People have commented on that to me, more than once; that I appeared to be happy and upbeat no matter what was going on around (and to) me. So, if that’s how I presented to the world, the idea that I didn’t think that I “got” to be happy feels like a significant disconnect.

And yet.

The trick was that I just didn’t believe in optimism for me. The rest of the world deserved the best, I wholeheartedly and fervently thought, but not me. It was this strange, inexplicable (Well, almost) idea that I was special because I alone was a failure, a bad person, someone who didn’t amount to anything worthwhile deep down. I know some reasons why I thought this, and they’re no longer present in my day-to-day life, but where this attitude came from originally remains a mystery. That part’s important; because I couldn’t explain it entirely, I decided on some level that it just had to be true on a cosmic level.

My therapist, whom I adore for numerous reasons not least of which being her bluntness, repeatedly talks about the session where I told her that perhaps I “deserved” to be happy as the breakthrough session, the one where everything changed. And that might be true; it definitely happened during a time where a lot of my assumptions were being questioned for a number of reasons, changing how I thought about myself and how I fit into the world.

What followed my saying that was a reassessment of my life and who I was and who I wanted to be. A reassessment of priorities and a rediscovery of the importance of kindness and vulnerability and actually feeling things — that part, I’m still working on — and all the messiness surrounding it. At one point, I asked my therapist, “Is this just a midlife crisis? Am I just being a cliche?” and she said, basically, it’s not and even if it was, midlife crises aren’t automatically invalid in and of themselves.

Now, I feel like I… am happy…? It’s not permanent or complete because, well, shit happens and moods change as a result. But I’m happier, and that feels like something, considering that felt completely impossible just months ago. My therapist describes me as being “more buoyant,” and then laughs at how ridiculous the phrase sounds. Another reason why I appreciate her.

Hello Hello Hello

Last week, it was the 25th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, something that took me by surprise — the anniversary, I mean, although it’s not as if I’d expected his death when it happened, either. Today is the anniversary of the discovery of his body; I’d never realized there was such a gap between death and discovery before.

As always happens in situations like this, the media was filled with reminiscences of where I was when I heard the news or how important Cobain was to me, to remind those who were there of how young and vital they used to feel, and to educate those who weren’t about who Kurt Cobain was.

I wasn’t really a Nirvana fan, although that was slowly changing when he died. Weirdly, I had a copy of In Utero, even though I didn’t own Nevermind, but beyond “Serve the Servants” and it’s ersatz Beatles riffing, I hadn’t listened that often. Nirvana felt part of the cultural conversation and I was curious, but not a believer, per se.

My main memory of Cobain’s death is, I suspect, a false one. Somehow, I remember myself in my hometown with a copy of the Melody Maker for that week, filled with tributes and memorials, reading through it and feeling a sadness not specifically about Cobain’s death but about not feeling the grief and loss as intently as others. I felt as if I was missing out, excluded from a moment that was momentous and important, purely because I didn’t get the music, or the band, in the “right” way.

Looking back now, I feel like Cobain’s death was in some way an early echo of Elliott Smith’s — that was the death that impacted me, that ripped my heart out and still saddens me deeply to this day. Maybe there’s only one musician whose death feels like a loss in your family for each person, and Cobain was too early for me. Maybe I was never a grunge fan. Or perhaps I was simply an outsider to the outsider genre.

I still read the thinkpieces and op-eds this month. It’s just that they remembered a time I was there for, but never really a part of.