I’ve been obsessed with R.E.M. again lately; I read Perfect Circle, a biography of the band, over the holidays and that has led me back to the albums I was addicted to when I first discovered them, back in the early nineties. For me, Out of Time was the entry point — I think it was “Losing My Religion” that probably piqued my interest, as it did everyone else, but I’ve always had such a fondness for “Radio Song” that I may be misremembering — but I quickly backtracked through their back catalog, becoming endlessly obsessed with Green and Life’s Rich Pageant in particular.
Of all their albums now, I’ve found that Automatic for the People and New Adventures in Hi-Fi are by far my favorites, although I have a deep love for Monster for all kinds of incidental reasons. (It was the only time I saw them live, that tour; I can’t remember who supported, but I do remember dancing in the stands when “Revolution” played, a song I’d never heard before but somehow knew.)
This middle period of theirs was my period — neither the impressive creative outburst that saw each album build on what they’d leaned last time, nor the slow decline and creative stall that followed 1999’s Up. I’m all about their biggest hits, the albums that worked as the soundtrack of my life from the end of high school through the end of college. For all my contrarian urges, I can’t deny it: when it comes to my fascination with R.E.M., I am unashamedly, proudly mainstream. When they were good, they were great.
It’s been awhile, I know; June turned out to be curiously busy for a number of reasons, mostly work-related. There was a trip to LA that left me oddly… exhausted isn’t the right word, but definitely out of sorts for some time afterwards, more than I’d expected. It was a good trip, though, and something that was exhilarating during the trip itself despite the transcription and work it left in its wake. Still. June was mobbed and then it was over, somehow early, and now it’s July and Comic-Con is just two weeks away as I write and oh God where does the time go, how am I always behind, this is horrible.
I remembered, across the weekend, that when I was a kid, summer was a different time. Not just because of the time off from school, although that was its own reward — the laziness of those first couple of weeks, when it felt as if nothing mattered and everything was strangely unreal because time stretched out, endlessly, ahead of you — but because my dad would play hooky increasingly from work for the two weeks of Wimbledon, and that was always weirdly funny and wonderful.
My dad, you see, was a massive tennis fan. If you asked me at any other time of the year whether or not my fannish tendencies — such as they are — came from my parents, I would likely say no, but at summer, I always feel like I could draw a line from my comic book adoration to my dad’s love of tennis, which was really a love of Wimbledon. He played tennis himself, although that dropped off somewhere along the line of my childhood; I have memories of him in his shorts and his white shirt, racket in hand off to the local tennis club with an air of excitement, but I couldn’t really date them. Definitely, by the time I was finishing high school, he barely played any more, but I don’t really know why or when. Similarly, while he was an avid fan of Wimbledon, I don’t really remember him having the same interest in other tennis tournaments, and I couldn’t tell you why. Was it simply that they weren’t as available on television at the time, or something else…?
Nonetheless, Wimbledon would roll around every year and my dad would be on board. Evenings would be spent watching the matches on BBC2, which would come with lots of verbal appreciation (and advice) from my dad, and mornings would include commentary about what lay ahead that day in terms of tennis. Best of all, my dad would do that thing he never did for the rest of the year, unless there were special circumstances: he would leave his office for lunch, and come back for a lengthy period of watching whoever was playing at the time. If it ended up being a particularly engrossing game, well, that just meant a long lunch.
As a kid, I didn’t have much appreciation for tennis — I still don’t, to be honest — but there was something about my dad’s appreciation of Wimbledon that made me want to join in. Part of it was that the players became characters in this epic narrative that I watched him watch, if that makes sense: I couldn’t tell which players were talented and who deserved to win, but nonetheless I felt like each one was a particular character with defining features, and that was something that I could, and did, latch onto eagerly.
(Occasionally, I frame wrestling in this light, so that I can understand the appeal. The actual thing, all the matches and the stories and the complicated mythology, that doesn’t actually interest me at all, but when I think of it as “Oh, it’s the thing I kind of invented for Wimbledon when I was a kid, but for everyone else!” it all makes sense.)
I’m not saying that Wimbledon was some amazing bonding experience between me and my dad, because I don’t think either of us really thought it was, any more than his love of playing with my Star Wars toys when he thought I wasn’t paying attention was, or his encouragement of my love of comics (and reading in general) was, or any of a number of other things. But when summer comes, and I read online that Wimbledon has started over in the U.K., I often think about those days when he’d come back for lunch, make himself, and often me, a bacon sandwich or a roll with sliced sausage, and we’d sit down and watch Wimbledon together, happy silence punctuated by his ooooooh come ons or yes yes yes look at that LOOK AT THATs.
Now I really, really wish I had some Robinson’s Orange Barley to drink. Does that still exist in the UK? (One quick Google later: yes.)
For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on — a need for sanity and to expand my horizons, perhaps? — I’ve been switching up the stuff I put in my head recently. I’m still reading a metric shit-ton of comics, because that really kind of is my job, but this past couple of weeks, I’ve been making an effort to balance that out with prose about… other stuff, again.The thing I forgot about summer — probably because it didn’t happen last summer, when everything was strange — is that I find time to read prose, in a way that I don’t manage during the winter, or even the in-between seasons. Right now, I’m juggling a handful of books on cultural theory and social changes driven by technology — The Ministry of Nostalgia, The Inevitable and The Industries of the Future, Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, from the Seventies to the Twenty-First Century, with Against Everything waiting in the wings — with some purposefully trashy reading (A trilogy of Star Trek novels, which have proven to be a lot of fun) and, of course, my preferred method of information gathering these days, podcasts.
The multi-use nature of podcasts — that I can learn things and be entertained while doing other things, on the move — is endlessly appealing to me, and so I remain fascinated by good use of the medium. Current podcast addictions are Says Who, Pod Save America and Lovett or Leave It for politics, The Daily for news (I listen every morning making breakfast) and Song Exploder for musical anal listening. I’m looking forward to the new season of Invisibilia and dip in and out of countless others, impatiently looking for some aural perfection that I can’t even explain if I wanted.
(No, really, I don’t know what I want from my ideal podcast; I wish I did. I’d just make it.)
Part of this is also a desire for new music, or at least, hearing new things in old music. My last couple of months has been all Humanz and Moondog and Jellyfish, and I’m not sure if there’s a connective tissue in there or not (The current Jellyfish obsession is particularly interesting, because I can hear all the influences I wasn’t aware of before; “He’s My Best Friend” is so clearly a Harry Nilsson song, but I never picked up on that before because I didn’t listen to Harry Nilsson). If there is one, I think it’s the quality of sounds, if that makes sense? What the three share is a value in the literal sound of their music, outside of genre or lyrics (or vocals at all, really): the interesting stuff to hear and unpick and embrace and enjoy. I feel like I need more of that, from new stuff or old: things to make me pause and unpick.
(Part of the impact of the Shock and Awe book has been to make me re-evaluate and draw lines between different music that I like, to try and find the connective tissue and see where the various pieces intersect; I’ve become fascinated recently with the previously unseen throughline between Big Audio Dynamite and Delakota, which means that the Clash and Gorillaz are connected beyond Plastic Beach, and makes me wonder where else that thread of… what, British cut-and-paste music culture has been, and gone? Time to revisit Coldcut, I suspect.)
Everything collided in the last year or so to keep me from updating this — work and personal stuff, house projects and an obsession with the U.S. election that turned into an obsession with everything that followed, and kind of flattened everything else out. One of the things I’ve been trying to do this year is regain the sense of perspective that just utterly disappeared last year. We’ll see how that goes.
What actually prompted me to return here this time was this article, as pointed out in Warren Ellis’ recent email newsletter, of necessary skills for the “postnormal era” that we’re now living in. It’s a fascinating list, filled with insights like “We can’t be defined just by what we know already, what we have already learned. We need a deep intellectual and emotional resilience if we are to survive in a time of unstable instability. And deep generalists can ferret out the connections that build the complexity into complex systems, and grasp their interplay.”
This speaks to something I’ve been wrestling with for awhile now — a way to escape the internet’s demand for complete and utter surety and confidence in everything. There’s something to be said for being lost, and thinking out loud, and being willing to be wrong in public.
Along those lines, I keep realizing the more I do it, how much I appreciate doing Wait, What? with Jeff — the very nature of it allows us (requires us?) to be wrong and uncertain and explore things in real time, and I think that’s necessary. The conversational — and safe — space inside the show feels more productive and helpful as a result, if that makes sense…? Uncertainty, ambiguity and a freedom to be wrong: I think this is what I’m looking for more of online, I think.
I think I need to explore more of Big Audio Dynamite’s stuff. It feels like a step towards Gorillaz that I hadn’t really considered before. I heard this in a store the other day and thought, “Man, I haven’t heard this in years. It’s awesome!”
(Changing the music I listen to is another thing to do more of this year; I’m not sure obsessively listening to Humanz counts.)
One of the kindnesses of the holidays is the space you get to think. My weeks aren’t normally known for this amount of time and space — and now I sound like Doctor Who, accidentally — but between the time off for Christmas and a reduced (slightly) workload this week because certain outlets are taking it easier for the week between Christmas and New Year, I’m finding myself with time to breathe again.
Admittedly, I made it worse for myself this year, committing to an Advent Calendar’s worth of content for the Wait, What? Patreon patrons, which seemed like a good idea at the time but ended up being far more work than I’d initially thought it’d be, to the point I felt like I’d somehow taken on an extra job by mistake ahead of Christmas. But I’ll get to that soon enough. This, instead of a regular entry, is something else: housecleaning.
I had two unfinished posts in draft in the blog here that I’m just going to throw up in their unfinished state, because why not? The first was unfinished because I literally couldn’t find the words, written after the Paris attacks back in November and the second because I couldn’t find the time, written two weeks ago. Here they are.
The Paris attacks were the kind of thing that are, literally, intended to dominate thoughts and derail everything else, and that certainly happened to me Friday through Saturday — I had deadlines that had were due after the news started breaking, and I found it almost impossible to write. I could hardly focus on what I was supposed to be writing about, never mind try to be entertaining, educational or any other aim I’m supposed to aspire to; I was too busy checking Twitter to find out what was going on, reading updates on The Guardian and feeling increasingly sick to my stomach about everything that was unfolding.
Unsurprisingly, I spent much of the weekend thinking about Paris and my own, limited, experiences there. I’ve only ever visited twice, and both trips were everything I could have wanted from them, and maybe a little more. Paris is a city that feels right to me, something that just kind of fitted where my head was both times I went. There was beauty and stillness and noise and an urban feel that I craved, both times.
Even before the events of Friday, I felt this odd urge to return for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. My reasoning, when I try to explain it, sounds ridiculous, but it’s this: I remember, astonishingly clearly, this moment from being in Paris when I was 21 and having breakfast in a cafe that was filled with the sounds of the radio. The music sounded so amazingly alien to me — this would’ve been 1995, so the heights of Britpop, which was in many ways the way I defined myself back then — and it was a sign that, as much as I loved Paris, I was an outsider. These days, of course, it feels like a good percentage of the music I listen to at home is French — Camille, especially, of course, but also a lot of yé-yé and other bands and singers — and part of me feels as if I want to revisit the city now that the sounds have become part of my inner landscape.
Like I said, it sounds ridiculous, and yet…!
Such events throw us off, and make us feel more afraid for ourselves and others than we had been hours before. That’s what they’re there for. I’ve been reading a lot of coverage about the reaction, both from politicians and — well, regular folk, for want of a better way of putting t.
Yes, that’s how the November one ends, with “t” instead of “it.” It feels appropriate, don’t you think? It was a strange time for me; the Paris attacks hurt in a way that felt new and unusual for reasons I still can’t explain, and I was afraid and angry and all these emotions that wanted to get out but didn’t have a direction. So, instead, I abandoned that post and never came back to it.
The next one, though, was simply left because I had other things that demanded my time.
It’s taken awhile — it’s already December 14! — but I have finally gotten into something resembling the Christmas Spirit. I’m a little worried that it’s taken this long, because I used to be someone who’d happily be thinking about mistletoe and holly before December had even arrived. I remember being a teenager — maybe 13? I want to say it was in 1989, for some reason — and writing a diary in November, eagerly announcing that it was just 32 days to Christmas.
At the time, that seemed extreme (Hell, looking back, it feels embarrassing), but it should be pointed out that, in the UK, the holidays don’t start until December 1 at the earliest. There’s no Thanksgiving, after all, and that means no Santa to arrive at the end of a parade in late November and give you permission to get in the mood. Instead, my parents would patiently always remind me, you have to wait until at least the same month before getting excited about Christmas.
I have this half-memory, one of those things that’s as much a feeling as anything more coherent — and something that just doesn’t make sense when I sit down and actually try to unpick it in my head — that, one year, my parents didn’t get a tree and decorate the house until a couple of days before Christmas Eve. What I remember more than anything about this is the sense of frustration that somehow we had wasted so much of Christmas by being behind the times. How could that have happened? I thought, incredulous at the very notion that somehow so much of December could creepy by without being celebrated in an appropriate manner.
Which, in many ways, makes my behavior this year particularly… shameful? Ironic? Somewhere between the two?
I have good reasons for it, I promise. Things have been stupidly busy with real life issues like work, basement moving and planning and renovationing, and the like.
So, in the words of Dame David Bowie, where are we now? I like to think things are better. Christmas has come and gone, all too quickly — I really am sad I didn’t get to enjoy it more, but there were basements to empty and friends visiting and parties to attend and and and just too much to do during all that time — and the New Year beckons with its inevitable specter of disappointment when all the hopeful realize that, oh yes, January 1st doesn’t mean you actually transform into a whole new, hyper-competent superbeing, but remain the same person you always were.
For me, I’ve been reading a bunch — currently, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, the new Elvis Costello memoir that’s uneven but not unenjoyable — and trying to get my head on straighter as we head into the coldest, darkest part of the year. As I get older, I become more susceptible to the dark, I worry; the thrill of wandering around in dim early evenings is gone and I’m just grumpy about the fact that it doesn’t get light until after 8 in the morning right now. Once the holidays are over, there aren’t fairy lights and tinsel to distract me from what’s going on out there anymore, so I’ll have to be strong and try to get through it nonetheless.
Which reminds me of this, of course.
Ah, my youth.
Before I get to the New Year — and another couple days off! — there’s a dental appointment on Wednesday, because my planning is the worst. But after that, the sky is the limit, if by sky being the limit you mean “I’m going to try and get back to doing these weekly like I wanted to in the first place. Which means, of course, that real life will kick in about three weeks in. But for those three weeks…!
I’m blocked, somehow; it’s Monday morning and I have a lot of shit to do, and my brain isn’t responding to any of the usual tricks. So I’m writing this early — and I suspect I’ll continue to come back to it throughout the day — as a way of tricking myself into writing something in case that teaches me my lesson. I hate mornings like this, where the deadlines are hanging over my head, and I’m just “Come on brain, work, dammit” and things don’t come into play. And yet.
Here’s a drawing I did this weekend, based on a misunderstanding. Seeing as it’ll never get used for the purpose I thought it was intended for, I’m sharing it here. Took about 15 minutes, all told, because that’s all I had.
(So much white space at the bottom! Ah well.)
That trick worked; I wrote the above eight hours ago, and then wrote all the other things I had to between now and then. (I also made and ate both breakfast and lunch, as well as visited a neighbor’s house to let their dog out the back while they were at work, visited another neighbor to lend them a vacuum, and other assorted business, but that’s neither here nor there.) Now it’s the end of the day, and my mood has shifted from exhaustion at the day ahead to some kind of mix of relief that I got through the work part okay, and uncertainty about what I’m going to be doing this evening.
This was a strange weekend, which is adding to my unsettled mindset. Thanks to other people’s schedules, we ended up having to clear our basement of everything in two days, which sounds easy until you start realizing quite how much stuff is actually in a basement. I spend all of Saturday and all of Sunday (with the exception of meals) moving furniture, packing up shelves of things (tools, pottery equipment, gardening equipment, painting equipment, and so on), and just generally lifting things, which had the dual effect of literally exhausting my body — I was so achy afterwards that, Sunday morning, I honestly woke up because my body ached so much that turning over in my sleep provoked a sharp enough pain to stir me — and ruining a pair of pants, because I literally tore a hole in the ass as I bent down to lift something up.
What it didn’t do, though, was give me the mindspace to recover from the previous week. And worse, the meals for the weekend, with the exception of Saturday’s breakfast, were all socializing events. (Well, I didn’t have lunch either day, but that’s no surprise for me.) I was, in effect, “on” the entire time, and the cumulative effect of that was to leave me, this morning, just entirely done and wanting a day to myself, to let my brain drain of everything I’d just gone through and then fill back up with energy and ideas to face the week ahead.
I didn’t get that, of course. But maybe next weekend.
As I’m typing, there’s a Donald Trump rally going on where he apparently talked about the need to “close up” the Internet because it’s turning people against “us.” Quite who the “us” is in that statement isn’t clear to me — Trump supporters? Americans? Trump, I’m sure, would see no difference between the two, and neither would his supporters, which is but one of the problems with that whole thing.
(I am, I realized when the Scottish Independence debate was happening last year, astonishingly suspicious of patriotism; I can’t look at it without seeing the stirrings of xenophobia in there, even to a tiny degree. Patriotism relies on the “Them and Us” concept as much as any bigotry, after all, and that kind of thinking is always difficult for me to come to terms with. Ever since the General Election in the UK where the SNP swept into power in Scotland, I’ve felt far more removed from the country and the national identity than ever before. I literally feel pushed out, somehow.)
The notion of “closing off” the Internet in general is fascinating, however; for all its (many) flaws, the one thing that people have held close to their/our hearts about the Internet as The Great Hope is that it can and does democratize media and conversation — all those online have a voice, as much as that can seem horrible, overwhelming or frustrating at different times. “Closing off” the Internet, then, feels like a specifically anti-Internet idea, something that betrays the thing that we all believed in to some degree.
The more Trump says ridiculous, unbelievable, nasty things — today, he also said that all Muslims should be barred from the US, for the love of God — the more I think to myself, surely, surely this is the thing that will make people realize that it’s all gone too far and his support will fall apart. But, no, just the opposite happens: people rally around him and somehow, he continues to… well, be Donald Trump. It’s surreal, depressing and something that makes you want to drop out of paying attention to this kind of thing, except that to do so surrenders the world to those who support Trump in the first place.
All I can say is that I want common sense to win in the end, but let’s be honest; it’s politics. What is the likelihood of that happening, realistically?
And so, I’m going to try and get back into the swing of doing these Monday evenings again, every week. Between Thanksgiving planning and workloads and trying to write ahead on the Wait, What? Advent Calendar (Patreon supporters know of which I speak, because it’s for them alone), I’ve felt too scattered in the last few weeks to get it done, but I’ll try harder in future.
I’ll try harder to be kinder to myself, as well, and find some mental space to recharge and renew. It’s the holiday season, after all. We’re all supposed to be kind, right now.
A brief note to say that I haven’t forgotten you all, nor was the “And then it’s over” title of the last update a sign; time has simply been against me recently, thanks to the onset of the holidays and various things related to that. I promise, I’ll be back here soon. In the meantime, this song seems appropriate for the day:
I think, judging by the last few days, that we’re officially out of the part of fall here in Portland where it’s lovely weather: cold, and crisp, and gloriously sunny for the entire day. Oh, we’ve still got parts of that, sure — it was sunny earlier today for awhile, and the cold thing is certainly going on; it was 40 degrees when I woke up this morning — but the combination has slipped away and we’re headed into the slide towards winter, when everything’s darker and more wet, and it somehow feels more difficult to want to go outside for any reason, especially in the evening. It’ll be cold out there! And probably raining!
I feel like I’m noticing the weather more, this year; I felt like that was true during the summer, and it’s true now. There were moments in the summer when I’d just stop and look up in the air and the sky would be entirely empty and blue all around me, and everything felt so still. It would feel magical, in some way, that stillness and peace and the feeling of being so entirely in one moment out of nowhere. Right now, it’s a different feeling; something less still, but no less peaceful. I can’t describe it, not really. A sense of feeling particularly present, for want of a better way of putting it. I blame it on getting older, although “blame” isn’t the right way of putting it.
I read The Guardian‘s Best Albums of 2015 So Far list with a lot of interest this morning, in large part because I hadn’t heard of the majority of things on it. I’m a living cliche, I thought to myself; I’m one of those people who lost touch with music as I got older. I’ve been thinking a lot about music over the last few days, particularly the music of my youth — the Britpop era, or really, the Britpop ends era, 1995 through 1997 or 1998 — thanks to conversations I’ve been having on social media. Music was very much part of my life then; specific memories have soundtracks with such clarity that just isn’t the case anymore.
Part of that is that I was running with a very music-focused crowd, and it was the mid-90s with Britpop making all of us far more interested in music than we would’ve been even a few years earlier. Blur and Oasis releasing singles on the same day was a news event, somehow, which seems absolutely insane in retrospect. I defined myself through music — these are the bands I like, these are the sounds I listen to; this is the fashion I aspire to, as delivered by the bands, and so on.
What’s so interesting for me looking back is what happened as that broke down and fell apart. When Blur made Blur and Supergrass’s In It For The Money was, let’s be honest, a disappointment with the exception of three or four tracks. The feeling of needing to move on, and what I ended up moving on into. Somehow, I found bands that purposefully pushed elsewhere with their influences, and more importantly, pushed their fans towards those influences, so I could go from rifling through the 1960s British Invasion of the Small Faces and the Zombies to Sun-Ra and Steely Dan and the more out-there sounds peddled by Super Furry Animals and Primal Scream, or Googie Rene Combo, sampled and stolen for David Holmes’ “My Mate Paul.”
Those later bands weren’t the kinds that demanded the tribal devotion of an Oasis or a Blur, but they were more important to me, in the end.
Current reading: Kim Zetter’s Countdown to Day Zero, which is about the origins of the Stuxnet virus and the discovery of those origins by a bunch of anti-virus analysts who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. It’s a very enjoyable book, and was in my head when I saw the trailer for Spotlight, the new dramatization of the Boston Globe’s investigation into catholic sex abuse scandal back in 2003; in both cases, it’s people just doing their everyday jobs who end up in the middle of these amazingly dramatic, important world-changing events. It’s the origin story of our times, now — something that’s kind of interesting to me, because it speaks at once to a democratization of these kinds of narratives (No longer are you destined for greatness! You’re just working for the weekend!) and a weird pandering towards the audience (Hey, this could be you).
Also been catching up with Doctor Who, which I’ve fallen entirely out of synch with. I’m in two minds about where the show’s at right now; on the one hand, it’s in this weirdly dark place that’s at odds with its stated “This is a kids’ show” purpose, but on the other, when semi-binged (I’m watching each two-parter as one continuous movie, albeit over a fragmented, extended period because I can’t carve out enough time to do otherwise), I’m really really digging the “Doctor has clearly seen Clara die and is trying to deal with his grief by running throughout time to have more adventures with her before she died” theme to the season, and Capaldi’s really working for me as the Doctor right now. So… mark me down as selfishly into it, but saddened that I’m probably contributing to the show’s decline, somehow.
I haven’t really written about Secret Convergence on Infinite Podcasts, which I really should have by now — it’s a podcast crossover featuring episodes of a bunch of favorite shows, and by now two of my three episodes have been released: the opening FanBros episode, and the super-fun Less Than Live with Kate or Die episode. Weirdly, the whole thing got written up in The Guardian the other day, which is… surreal? And wonderful? But mostly surreal? Comics podcasting will never be the same, apparently. Perhaps this will end up being the greatest legacy that I leave to the Internet, which I would actually be entirely okay with. I mean, before this, my legacy was pretty much being the source for a number of Wikipedia articles…
I didn’t actually take last week off from writing this non-newsletter, despite what it looked like to outside eyes; instead, I wrote it as usual, and just as I was about to post it, everything disappeared. I’m not entirely sure what happened — all of a sudden, I had to log in again out of nowhere, and then when I did, everything was gone. This being the one place where I don’t write outside of the WYSIWYG window (even now!), that meant I had the option of saying fuck it and moving on, or starting over. I think I made the right choice. Anyway, what you missed was lots of pondering about social media in general and Twitter in specific, brought on by thoughts of what constitutes a “safe space” on the Internet these days. I didn’t come to any conclusions, so we’re probably better off all ’round that that didn’t come to anything.
This was in last week’s edition of Warren Ellis’ Orbital Operations newsletter, which also tied in with where my head was at, at the time:
[I]n a more fractionated and less operable digital-social world, maybe newslettering is the fallback into a functional tribal living. People used to complain about “walled garden” technologies that weren’t on the open web, but, ultimately, people like walled gardens. Choosing to tend a small communal garden is preferable to being pissed on for daring to walk outside, or letting just anybody in and dealing with them pouring flat lager on your bushes and shitting in the cabbages.
In the aftermath of all this, Bleeding Coolran an exchange from a private email group for the purposes of… actually, I’m not entirely sure. Proving that there’s a smear campaign against the site, perhaps? But, of course, the exchange doesn’t prove any such thing, instead demonstrating that some people are concerned about the same thing and talking about it. Which… happens all the time, on a number of different topics.
The takeaway from the piece wasn’t the uncovering of a conspiracy, but that secret email spaces weren’t secret, if someone wanted to take that away from you. Which, I guess, we all knew already, because — and now I’m also thinking about the reported doxxing of Ku Klux Klan members’ personal information today, which turned out to be false info — there’s no such thing as a safe space online. And yet… and yet…
(The other takeaway from the Bleeding Cool story is that Bleeding Cool is petty and egotistical; the headline for the piece was even “Leaked, A Private Correspondence About Bleeding Cool,” underscoring the self-obsession of the whole thing. It’s not a good look for the site, especially as the subject that was being discussed was one of genuine concern — whether or not the former editor-in-chief of the site, who has now gone on to work as an editor at Dark Horse Comics, abused her position to downplay negative stories about Dark Horse in the waning days of her tenure. The combination of blanket dismissal and cries of paranoia really isn’t a good look for the site.)
On an entirely different note: there’s going to be a new Star Trek TV show, it was announced today — although “TV” is one of these terms that’s increasingly inaccurate: it’s a show that’ll premiere its pilot on television, then switch to web for the rest of the series. It’s news that’s at once a no-brainer (It’s Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary next year, after all; leverage that brand!) and surprising, mostly because it seemed like it would never happen, with the franchise having moved almost exclusively to the big screen. The response has been amusing, because I’ve seen countless people offer up suggestions on what happened after Star Trek: Voyager, the latest television series in terms of chronology from the mythology, and I’ve just been thinking oh my God, people, there are entire novel series that go beyond that, we’re past the Typhon Pact already. I am a nerd.
And yet, I love the Star Trek novels. Part of it is nostalgia — I read them as a teenager, before picking them up again relatively recently, thanks to the library — and part of it is simply that I love the expanded universe of it, the political nature of the books as they go on, watching the writers spin out entire franchises based on throwaway lines or unexplained plots, knowing they can get away with it because no-one but the hardcore fans are really paying attention.
Along those lines, I can share something that amused me greatly about Star Trek fandom and licensed tie-ins recently; I was reading The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, because I am a nerd, and it’s exactly what it says on the tin: a re-telling of Trek mythology from the point of view of the fictional Captain of the equally fictional U.S.S. Enterprise. The best part of the whole book, which is pretty lackluster overall, is the decision on behalf of someone in the production chain to declare that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier an apocryphal tale.
Actually, that’s not true; what’s great is the way in which the book spends a lot of time and energy not only telling you that Star Trek V didn’t “happen,” but also making fun of the movie. The conceit is that Star Trek V was a movie created within the fictional Star Trek universe, and as such is filled with inaccuracies and outright dumb moments that our real heroes would never have suffered through. It’s such a very strange, very fannish impulse that it was far funnier than it had any right to be, and for very different reasons than what was likely intended.
Thinking about it again, it’s petty and unnecessary in a similar way to the Bleeding Cool thing: an exertion of so much effort than saying “Oh, I’m not bothered at all” and playing it cool comes off as unconvincing and forced. Perhaps this isn’t just about the Internet and social media, email groups and whatever else we get from technology. Perhaps we’ve never really had the safe spaces I imagine.
I’m writing this while waiting for the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to drop, because that’s just how I roll. Well, that and writing things like “that’s just how I roll” while cringing inside, thinking no, I’m too old and too white and too non-bro to even say that as some kind of arch-joke, what have I become to myself. Suffice to say, my attention may be wandering at times during this one.
(I’m waiting for it for work-related reasons, I should add; otherwise, I’d go off and have a life and watch it later.)
As if my complaints last week that I was getting old wasn’t a sign that I’m getting old, the fact that I woke up on Wednesday morning having somehow pulled a muscle in my foot while asleep, making walking particularly painful and difficult definitely rammed that message home. To this day, I have no idea what actually happened to my foot. Tuesday, it was fine, Wednesday, putting my weight on it was as if someone was trying to crush it under a particularly heavy rock.
The strangest part of the whole experience, though, came on Saturday. By that point, the pain had essentially faded to “occasional twinge when you least expect it, but it’s more or less okay really” status, but I couldn’t stop limping as if it was as painful as ever. It was muscle memory, I guess, but the strangest example of it I’ve ever experienced — in the space of just three days, my right leg had apparently forgotten how to walk normally, and was instead doing this pre-emptively protective thing so that I wouldn’t put my entire weight on my heel entirely unconsciously. I spent the next day or so purposefully thinking and this is how we walk, step, step, step, step every time I had to go somewhere. Chalk this up to the ever-shrinking attention span of today’s generation, etc. etc.
Except, of course, I’m not “today’s generation”; I spent a bunch of time last week thinking about the whole Millennial thing, prompted by writing about the whole millennial pledge kerfuffle for Wired, and ended up in some kind of strange mindset thinking about how generations actually work, anyway. I was surprised to see so many millennials blame boomers for the state of the world on social media, and completely ignore “Generation X,” who — according to the Internet, at least — were born in the mid-60s through the late-80s. Aren’t they (we) the ones who’ve messed things up for the millennials most recently? Shouldn’t we be bearing the brunt of the anger and cynicism and suspicion and all the other bad things from today’s kids? I mean, it’s Generation X that’s in charge now, surely (Maybe Boomers are still owning a bunch of shit and all, but isn’t it more likely to be the 40-and 50-year-olds who’re actually making the bad decisions on a practical level, instead of the 60- and 70-year-olds? Or is the idea that things were already so screwed by the boomers that by the time the Gen X’ers got their hands on stuff, it was already ruined?
I could be wrong, and I’m sure that many would be happy to tell me why I am, given the chance — I love seeing on Twitter when people tell me that I’m stupid and wrong and how could I think that because they’ve thoughtfully tagged me with their disdain, he lied — but I feel like Generation X has (ironically, considering the self-obsession it displayed back in the day) become this oddly forgotten generation that’s being forgiven for all kinds of shit purely because people are too eager to blame even-older folks. Yay…?
Still no Star Wars trailer, for those keeping track at home. (I mean, by the time you’ll read this, you’ll have watched it seven times and gotten all the nostalgia out of your system. Or, considering how masterfully the teasers to date have traded entirely on the “It’s just like it was when you were a kid, honest” appeal, perhaps that should be getting nostalgia into your system. But still.)
Talking of Twitter, as I just was, I have that open right now to give me a head’s up on when the trailer is out, and it’s fascinating to watch the Canadian election results come in with landslide results like this. I’m reminded of the Scottish election results earlier this year when the SNP just decimated their opponents, winning all but three seats in the races they were running in, but without my inherent distrust of the SNP.
(Why do I have such a distrust of the SNP? I can’t really explain it, beyond believing that the line between “patriotism” and “xenophobia” is almost impossibly fine and being really freaked out by the zealotry with which SNP supporters talk about the party. I’m almost jealous of those who do believe in the cause that much, to be honest; I wish I had that much faith in any political party, but I don’t.)
This does feel like a year of “shock” election results, though; the Canadian results, the Scottish results, even Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide win as the leader of the UK Labour party. There’s something in the air, even if I’m not necessarily sure if it’s the kind of leftwing swing that’ll cross over elsewhere — mind you, Bernie Sanders is a lot more popular than anyone expected, so maybe so. It does make me wonder what next year’s US elections are going to be like, though. I expect emotional carnage, if nothing else.
Recent reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Recent listening: Moondog’s 1969 album Moondog, which remains really amazing. It makes me realize I need to find some more wonderful classical and jazz to listen to when I’m in the mood.
I mean, seriously, you guys.
Still no Star Wars — I honestly believed it was dropping at 5:30, but it’s now almost an hour later and no sign — but I’m going to wrap this up and post it, because I’m approaching 1,000 words and that’s more than enough of me going on, even with some Moondog to keep it light. If anyone is reading this, I hope you’re doing well, and if you’re not, then at least the end of the bad times are in sight.