Vote For Me And I’ll Set You Free

I’ve been thinking about “influencers” since watching that Netflix documentary about Fyre Festival recently; the notion of holding such social currency that a recommendation from you has monetary value to others. I’m egotistical/realistic enough to know that I’m a quasi-influencer in the world of comics — at least, insofar as what I write about in outlets can be influential — but no-one has ever tried to pay me for that purpose. It’s something that makes me uncomfortable, anyway, the idea of me recommending some random comic and it becoming a thing, and I do it far less often than I might otherwise for that very reason.

(Also, I tend to recommend things that are niche, if not downright obscure, which arguably devalues my nascent influencer status. This might be unintentional self-sabotage, I wouldn’t like to say.)

Still; I cant quite get my head around either the influencer or the influenced. What is the appeal? That you too could be like this person if you like what they like and buy what they buy? Is it aspirational in that sense, or simply the effect of fandom and wanting to understand and share your hero’s tastes? Is there a hope that, if you follow in their cultural and capitalist footsteps, they’ll know and like you more, or that you’ll share their inexplicable power, somehow?

All of this was in my head as I watched Fyre, distracting me from the (genuinely staggering) story of mismanagement and enabling and greed, because even as the festival got shoddier and more pathetic as it edged closer to existence, I couldn’t shake this one thought: All of the attendees kind of deserve this for falling for it in the first place.

The Making Of The Law

As the new Drokk! podcast has just launched, finally — Jeff and I have been talking about this for months, having decided to do it back in September last year when we knew that Baxter Building was wrapping up — I thought I’d share the (simple) process behind the show’s logo.

It was, of course, going to be a drawing of Dredd. For various, “I’m not sure of the legality of using existing artwork but I don’t want to get sued in case it’s not fair use,” reasons, it was almost certainly going to be an original drawing from the word go. So, sometime around the holidays — I think it was the day after Christmas? — I sat down and drew this:

Note the lettering on the side for the logo, which I ultimately decided not to use, opting to just redraw it on the computer. Anyway, the drawing was meant to look like “classic” Dredd without looking like any particular artist’s Dredd; I’m not sure how well I accomplished that, because I don’t draw like the classic 2000 AD artists. It does, however, look recognizably like Judge Dredd, so I’ll take it.

I scanned the drawing in, and started coloring it. Here’s what it looked like without the linework:

And here’s what it looked like with the linework:

Because it’s me, I put the colors through a benday dot filter. I couldn’t really tell you why, other than the fact that I’m really into that right now. (As if the THR Heat Vision logos doesn’t make that clear.) And then it turned into this:

That is the finished image, but, there’s this alternate done at Jeff’s behest and direction, that neither of us particularly loved:

So now you know.

Birthday or Break Up?

Like most good people, I’m currently watching/enjoying/theorizing wildly Netflix’s Russian Doll — I’m only halfway through the season and watching sporadically, on the evenings where my brain feels up to it, so no spoilers, please. In addition to all of the many joys of watching Natasha Lyonne’s wonderfully subtle, off-kilter performance (I love the way in which she continually veers from losing it to faked-confidence, trying to convince herself as much as anyone else that she can work out what’s going on, that she’s in “control”), I’m constantly in awe of the musical choices of the show. It just sounds great.

Of course, the Harry Nilsson of it all is central, with “Gotta Get Up” playing with each reboot. It’s such a smart choice of song; the repetitive sound of the piano echoing the ways in which Nadia can’t stop returning to that point, the obvious lyrical note with “Gotta get up/Gotta get out/Gotta get home before the morning comes” seeming to explain what Nadia is going through with each successive reboot, and the fact that it’s such an earworm of a song, one that starts off being fun and addictive and then, the more and more and more you hear it, it becomes wearing and exhausting and ultimately annoying. (And I say that as someone who genuinely loves the song.)

But it was only this morning that I realized that the real lyrical key to the show was midway through the song: “There was a time when we could dance until a quarter to ten/We never thought it would end then, we never thought it would end/We used to carry on and drink and do the rock and roll/We never thought we’d get older/We never thought it’d grow cold, but now…” For a show that is — to the point I’ve watched, at least, like I said, I’m only halfway through the season — as much about the idea of being forced to re-evaluate behaviors and re-examine choices made to that point, it’s so on the nose, I’m amazed I missed it to this point.

Of course, wait until I catch up with the rest of the season and realize how wrong I am about it all.

“To Say How Good, To Say How Strong”

I made a Spotify playlist, for 2019 to begin. Something that was less a statement about what I was leaving and more what laid ahead — 2018 was an unimaginably hard year in so many ways, and I just wanted to leave it there to die. (This was, for all kinds of reasons, never going to happen; parts of what made it so hard were always going to live on into 2019, and when the New Year finally did arrive, it came in like a surprise, somehow. I remember on December 31 thinking, Wait, isn’t this early?) So, I made this playlist that was, for want of a better way to put it, songs about my emotional state and being strong and starting over and and and I’m sure you can imagine the kind of thing.

Mirah’s “Energy” was the first song on it.

I love Mirah. I have done for years, but my affection for her music has only grown in recent years, and her most recent album may be one of my favorites, and this track — the last one on there — one of my favorite songs from her altogether. I love the sonic structure of it (The second half feeling like a response to the first, a defiant build from the cautious optimism of what had come before), and I love the language of it, too: “No, we can’t choose/How the day falls/How the stars lift/We can just, we can just give tenderness,” or especially, “When I’m mad and I’m burdened/And I’m feelin’ uncertain/And I just want to lay down my mind/I’ll wake up again/And a new day begin with more energy.”

It’s a song that’s a little sad, a little tired and a lot ready to keep going because things will get better. And that’s exactly what I needed to start my year. “We only know that it’s not that easy,” indeed.

A More Flexible Frame

Writing online has always been a good way for me to get ideas out in front of me where I can see them properly.  Which is another way of saying I reached a personal completion of the goals of the game but kept playing it in weird ways.

But the elder game notion is fascinating to me.  Given that I’m never going to blog like it’s 2001, or 2009, or 2010… and I wanted a more flexible frame to present thoughts and not fully baked considerations (there’s an elder blog phrase for you, from Simon Reynolds on Blissblog, once a distant blogging relation of mine) and status notes/images and even station idents if I feel like it.  These things are, in large part, captured in the net of elderblogging, in that they are things that surround “a blog” without actually, kind of, beinga blog.  Tumblelogs gave us permission for quotes and asides and photos to be in the weave of a blog, and, without wanting to get into the ancient hellscape of blogging about blogging, it’s sometimes worth considering how the vocabulary of writing online evolved over the years.

From Warren Ellis’s newsletter this week. Things I’m thinking a lot about, especially as I restart this place as a going concern again. The “elder game” mention is a reference to this.

The New World

Winter has arrived with savage consequences for digital publishers, including BuzzFeed. In the space of two weeks, about 2,100 jobs have been lost across the media, with many disappearing from purely digital publishers. BuzzFeed’s layoffs amounted to 15% of its total staff, a loss of around 220 jobs across all departments, including in its widely admired New York newsroom. On Friday, Vice, another media company once associated with fast growth, said it would lay off 10% of its workforce, while last month, the phone company Verizon, which owns Huffington Post and Yahoo, cut 800 workers in its media division. In the UK, the Pool, a website aimed at women launched in 2015 by radio presenter Lauren Laverne and magazine editor Sam Baker, went into liquidation, with 24 journalists facing redundancy.

Many of these layoffs played out in real time on Twitter as journalists reported on the fumbling and often ineptly cruel ways in which they were let go. Reporters at Vice knew of the layoffs and sometimes had their email accounts closed before being told by the company they were among the casualties.

From here.

“What Is Going to Happen, Seeds of Change”

There are songs that are connected, forever, with particular moments and particular emotions; “Seeds,” from Camille’s most recent album (as I write this), is one of these for me. It helps, I guess, that I listened to this song on repeat at the particular time I recall with such clarity whenever I hear this — but there was something about the lines (and the delivery thereof) “How can you serve them?/How can you spoil them?/How can you trade them? How can you grow?” that made me feel as if I couldn’t breathe and needed to cry at the time.

I remember wandering the streets, walking back to where I was staying at the time, feeling at once disconnected from everything I thought about myself and what I wanted out of life — really intense, emotional existential crisis stuff that I’d been ignoring for years — and the sun was setting and I was just listening to this again and again and again. It had come on randomly, and I’d be lying if I said that I’d paid too much attention to the song or even the album it had come from before that. But at that point, it felt as if she was singing directly to me with a code I couldn’t break but could tell was important.

The strength of the memory to me is surprising, synaesthetic. I can remember my legs aching, the hunger in my belly at the time; I can feel the feeling I had at the time as I struggled with the everything in my head and what it might mean for me in the long run. All of that plays in me again when I hear this song, each time, with the verse feeling as if the tension is growing, just constantly ratcheting up until the glorious release of that chorus, the way her voice breaks free of everything being restrictive in what came before.  Each and every time I hear this song, there’s such a beautiful, freeing sense of escape to be found in it. In multiple ways.