Back On My Bullshit

As usual, the fruits of Thursday evening labors, putting graphics together for the Heat Vision newsletter for THR.

Oh, and then there’s this, which was reworked — after the headline changed — into something that basically got my idea over properly unlike what I was able to do that first time. First attempt:

Second and final attempt:

Close Your Eyes

This past weekend finally broke me of my news obsession; it’s taken years — literally, I’ve been like this since the one-two punch of the 2016 US election and the Brexit referendum — but it was another one-two punch that finally put paid to the fire in my eyes for “keeping up to date.”

As soon as news broke that the Mueller Report had been handed into the Department of Justice, I was done. I won’t be cynical and claim that I knew nothing would come of it, because I didn’t; I fully expected obstruction to be identified and a decision to be that a sitting President couldn’t be indicted, I admit. But the breathless rush to “explain” what was utterly unknown for two days, and now only partly unknown, finished me.

(Yes, I think something is hinky about Barr’s summary, too, but I also think something is hinky about a two year investigation ending with, “Eh, I dunno,” and a shrug, essentially. But what does that matter?)

This came after my growing sadness over everything Brexit, which breaks my heart with each new maddening story of a political process riddled with ineptitude, driving an entire country ever closer to utter disaster, so, so slowly. I can’t verbalize what it actually feels like, to be honest; it’s upsetting in a way that feels at once intensely personal and also at a remove, because I’ve not lived in the UK for close to two decades at this point. I just find myself hoping for the best and wanting to look away.

This impulse, this Okay, I’m done for awhile, feels like it’s probably healthy — disconnecting as self-care, just for a short time. I’ll come back, I know I will, but for now, it only seems sensible to look away from a feed that only offers Bad News day after day after day.

”A Different Type of Race to the Bottom”

And publisher sources say there is a lot to dislike about the metric that Apple will use to calculate revenue payouts. Dwell time, Apple’s version of time spent, doesn’t account for the effort or cost that goes into making content; and the metric puts visual publishers at a disadvantage compared with those that publish long reads or essays. Some see the possibility that dwell time, as a metric, could create perverse incentives that change the kinds of content publishers include in the service.

“We’re going back to a scale play where publishers will chase eyeballs and traffic to be No. 1,” one publisher source said. “We’re welcoming an era of metrics that are a bit murky. It’s awful for publishers. It’s a different type of a race to the bottom.”

From here.

You Never Knew The Way To Say No

The freelancer’s dilemma is the one where you say find yourself wondering whether to yes to work that you know you don’t have time for, because you either are afraid of not having enough work in the future or, simply, you need the money too much to say no.  (There’s a variation in which someone offers you something so exciting that you can’t resist, but trust me; that’s far more rare.)

In short, this has been my past couple of weeks. Or, rather, the consequences of my having said yes have been.

I have my excuses, of course; in my head, I argue that I actually said yes to the big job that dominated my brain and schedule because it was an outlet I haven’t been doing a lot of work with recently and wanted a better relationship with, but I also can’t deny that the outrageous money being offered helped a lot, too. The end of February brought about a significant financial crunch that I wasn’t expecting, and that left deep scars; if I said yes to this project that sounded unexciting but not entirely uninteresting, I thought to myself, then perhaps I wouldn’t be in that shape again this month.

(I wouldn’t be in that shape again anyway; February was a collection of other people’s mistakes, moneywise, all of which impacted me. The odds of that happening again were, to be polite, absolutely fucking astronomical. But, as I said, it left scars.)

The thing is, even as I said yes, I knew it was not smart. My schedule was already full, and I had already been telling people that I was feeling overworked. Adding more was in every respect except for money and my relationship with this outlet, a bad idea. And yet.

The fates decided to teach me a lesson; research and interviews for the piece took longer than expected, got rescheduled at the last minute. (Literally the last two minutes: I got an email at 1:58 asking to postpone a 2pm call at one point.) Other pieces of work I already owed popped up that needed attention unexpectedly. The whole process was just harder than it should have been, to an almost comic degree.

i finished it, anyway, and handed it in yesterday afternoon as I write this. My brain was doing the thing where it feels like it’s running too fast and off the rails, and I felt both exhausted and slightly crazy. And, as soon as I sent it off, I wondered, “Can I do one of these every month? The money was crazily good…”

A Luxury Good

Life for anyone but the very rich — the physical experience of learning, living and dying — is increasingly mediated by screens.

Not only are screens themselves cheap to make, but they also make things cheaper. Any place that can fit a screen in (classrooms, hospitals, airports, restaurants) can cut costs. And any activity that can happen on a screen becomes cheaper. The texture of life, the tactile experience, is becoming smooth glass.

The rich do not live like this. The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.

All of this has led to a curious new reality: Human contact is becoming a luxury good.

From here.

Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right

I don’t really get angry. Not historically, at least; bad things would happen to me, and I would simply suck it up, accept it as my lot and continue onwards a little bit more hurt, a little bit more grudgeful.

I’m not sure how that attitude got started, and I’ve spent countless therapy sessions trying, believe me. Was I trying not to be a bother to anyone as a kid? Maybe; I don’t remember being a particularly angry child, though, just one eager to be noticed and adored for being helpful and funny. (Not joking about the helpful thing, though — my childhood love of Power Man And Iron Fist comics inspired me to declare that I had started a business called “Helpers For Hire,” based on that series’ Heroes For Hire conceit.)

I wasn’t an especially angry teen, either. Teenage angst reared its head, of course, because I was a teenager and, worse, one beset with acne bad enough to place me on a drug trial for something that never made it to market. But that didn’t make me angry, just sad and lonely and withdrawn, retreating to comics and a small group of close friends despite whatever crushes and curiosities made me want to reach out further to the world at large.

As an adult, anger remained absent. Again, I’d get frustrated and sad and all these alternate emotions, but everything would turn inwards and become self-blame and self-shame. Why get mad at other people (things, events) when I could just get upset at myself and think that I probably deserved it, after all? Not that that was healthy or helpful, because it wasn’t, but such things were never in my head; I just assumed things were my fault on some cosmic level for mysterious reasons that might be the same as those that kept me from feeling anger. Like I said, there’s been a lot of therapy time spent investigating the roots of all of this, with no real conclusions yet.

(That I was sharing my life with someone who was equally happy to blame me when things went wrong or undermine my self-worth didn’t help, of course. But I didn’t realize that for a long time, either.)

I mention all of this because, as I write, I’ve had a particularly stressful week, and very little of it — if any — was my fault. In dealing with it, I’ve found myself getting angry for once and, even more shockingly, expressing that anger to both those responsible and loved ones (not directed towards the latter, thankfully). It’s been a freeing experience in some ways, an educational one in others. But, more than anything, it’s been exhausting. Anger may be, as John Lydon once swore, an en-err-gee, but it’s also something that saps energy, too.

Anger, perhaps, is a young person’s game. No wonder the children are the future.

A Form of Pamphleteering

I have taken down my old posts, as it seemed a good moment to start afresh with my online presence.

(Though over time I may re-post some of the old posts which seem worth re-publishing.)

One nice thing about blogging independently is that you can take things down as easily as you can put things up.

Independent blogging (as opposed to blogs on commercial or news sites) is, in essence, a form of pamphleteering. It is a flexible and often ephemeral medium.

From here. (Via the always interesting Warren Ellis newsletter.)

Radio (Or The Contemporary Equivalent) Lab

A thought that I’ve been having on an irregular, but recurring, basis for sometime now:

Curating a weekly podcast in which a writer, chosen by me, contributes an essay (read either by them, or someone of their choosing within reason) of around 10 minutes in length. Each calendar month’s essays are all based around a shared theme also of my choosing, but the writers are free to approach said theme as they see fit. (In an ideal world, I am able to pay each writer for their efforts, of course; I’ve already done the mental math in my head for this bit, worryingly.)

Themes and authors are chosen with no logic other than my intuition and curiosity. The overall idea is to create a themed magazine of 40-60 minutes every month with different voices (metaphorical and literal) discussing the same topic from different angles, celebrating the diversity of thought and opinion, while also sharing fun stories and bringing writers of different backgrounds together in a virtual sense.

In my head, it’s called The Anthology.

Maybe one day.

Art School Feelings

My heart raced a bit. I instantly knew what had happened. A few weeks before I had told a friend that he could donate some books of mine that had been sitting in his Los Angeles garage for eight years. The sketchbooks were among them, appropriately placed in a box marked “Art School Feelings.”

When I realized some guy named Will now had them, along with every intimate and potentially embarrassing thing I had put into them — my musings, fears, emotions, assorted drawings and stories that would now seem ancient — I cringed. My early 20s had been dark and depressed (an emotional state fueled by 9/11, George W. Bush and America’s wars for oil, oil and more oil) but entering art school at the age of 27 gave me new energy, and allowed me to channel that energy into something positive.

A few more text messages and 10 days later the box showed up in my brownstone’s hallway. When I opened it, I found seven of my notebooks. Since I had started art school relatively late in life, I was self-conscious about my skill set, convinced I was the worst student in my life drawing class. I obsessively drew in these sketchbooks in order to catch up and improve. And I loved it.

From here.

We Have To Go Back

I’m still thinking about the whole elder blogging thing, and the What Am I Doing With This Site? of it all; it’s an ongoing process, a problem that — unlike so many other problems — is neither serious nor pressing, and therefore fun to play with and return to when possible. Reading the Wim Wenders book fueled my desire to explore this site as a place for, as Warren Ellis recently put it, “not fully baked notions.”

There’s a quote that I utterly misremembered from roughly the same era as when I discovered the Wenders book that applies here, from designer April Greiman: “To feel lost is so great.” It’s the idea that the act of discovery and re-evaluation and the improvisation that comes from being forced to abandon routine, even good routine. When I first read that line, I loved it and was afraid of it — being lost wasn’t great, it’s scary, but at least someone finds this value in this horrible situation.

As I’ve gotten older (and lived more, failed more and come to accept and perhaps even appreciate the limits of my own experience), my read on that line has changed, and I’ve come to embrace the potential and possibility that comes with being out of my depth. Yes, there’s a lot I have to learn, still, but there’s something exciting and exhilarating in that process just as there’s something exhausting and terrifying. There’s something to be said for not having answers and showing your working and learning in public. (In some areas, at least.)

Perhaps the point of having a space like this is to be lost, and to share the thoughts we have as we try to find ourselves.