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.

Everyone Feels They Are The Losers

It quickly becomes apparent why there is even more friction than normal between the rival groups of protesters. A few yards away, a woman with a tricycle that has a union jack strapped to its handlebars is wearing a shirt which says “WTO Rules”. She is strikingly calm, given what she says happened to her two days before. “A man came up to me and called me a Nazi scumbag,” she says. “He grabbed me from behind and then dragged me down to the ground. Then he started to beat me with my own flag and tried to break my windpipe.” The police, she says, have told her it was caught on CCTV and that they are investigating.

She decided to come back two days later, bearing scars and having seen her doctor, because she feels strongly that Brexit is being betrayed. Behind her are banners held by other Leavers. “Leave Now. I’m thinking what Guy Fawkes thought,” one sign says.

No one outside the Palace of Westminster believes their side is winning the Brexit battle. Everyone feels they are the losers. But one matter they do agree on is that the politicians have let them down.

Last week’s events in the Commons illustrated the depth of the crisis. Three days of hugely important votes did not chart a clearer way forward. They merely confirmed what MPs did not want – and that in all probability Brexit will have to be delayed. Labour seemed indecisive at times, and to be offering just more of the same. Chaos inside the Westminster bubble fed the public’s anger and despair outside.

From here.

My Back Pages

I’ve been thinking about the past a lot lately, for obvious reasons. But, specifically, I’ve been thinking about everything I’ve written in the past 20 years or so. In the version of my history that I tell myself, I “became” a writer in art school, first through the humor work I did for school newspaper and then, in the final year of my Bachelors degree and especially throughout my Masters, in a more dedicated, intentional manner; my MA show was a book release, after all. (Albeit it was an illustrated book as much about the visuals if not more so than the writing.) From then onwards, I wrote: Notebook journals, then online journals, then comics blogging, now entertainment and culture writing.

Two decades’ worth, give or take a few years. (Actually, thinking about it, it might be the 25th anniversary of that school newspaper writing this year. Good Lord.)

I was re-reading Wim Wenders’ The Logic of Images recently; it was one of the books that actually inspired me to write more, way back in the mid-90s. I was captivated and bewitched by the lack of conclusion to it, the idea that you could just have anthologies of notes and unfinished thoughts and interview fragments and things you’d written for other places that became something else, something new, when placed in this new context. It changed the way I thought about books, and about writing itself.

And, when I read it this time, I kept thinking, Can I do that now? I don’t have Faber & Faber beating down my door — nor any publisher, for that matter — but I do have the internet and a promise I made myself at the start of the year to try and stick things up on Gumroad and elsewhere as digital releases. And, anyway; this isn’t about money or even actually selling things; it’s about the idea of going back through these decades of the past and pulling things out, finding new meaning and new stories, and retelling the story of me to myself. Everyone else is, if you’ll pardon the cliche, just a bonus.

Will I do it? It’s unclear, not just for the reasons of embarrassing myself by sharing the passionate sincerity of my 20-something self; there’s also the practicalities of actually re-reading all that material to see if any of it is worth salvaging, and then curating a collection or collections. It’s a lot of work, with time I’m not sure I have to hand easily. But the idea lingers in my head, refusing to leave.

Say Goodbye To Expectations

More graphics created for the Heat Vision newsletter, because it’s good to share with the class. Something that’s an interesting learning experience for me doing this each week: Seeing the self-imposed rules I had at the start of this project just fall away in the face of editorial request, aesthetic snobbery on my part or simple necessity. There’s a moral to be found here.

It Radiates In You

At the start of the year, I saw something in one of my regular news haunts — the Guardian, perhaps? — that was, essentially, “Hey, the hot new thing is psychogeography, I bet you’ve never heard of it!” and I rolled my eyes so hard they almost fell out; I’ve been going on derives for more than two decades, thanks to my history as a pretentious art student, thank you very much.

The whole thing got me thinking about psychogeography and personalized maps, however, which got me thinking about the fact that the world changes around us in ways that we don’t necessarily think about until confronted with. The last time I was back in my hometown, I was struck by how physically different it had become from my last visit. Admittedly, there had been years — 5 or 6, likely, if not more — since I’d been there before, and even then some of the changes were underway or had already taken place. But, literally, there were streets that no longer existed that I remembered clearly, and buildings that were the landmarks I knew to identify my location that were no longer there, or changed beyond recognition.

Most obviously, the house I grew up in is gone, to all intents and purposes. It’s been sold at least twice since I left, and split into a duplex, with new doors installed on an entirely different wall, creating a disorienting effect when I pass by — my brain reads the entryways as they are now as wrong, as if people are now walking directly into the bathroom and why would you do that…? It’s more than that, of course; the walk I would make from that house to the local train station doesn’t exist as it was, either; there are roads that are now dead-ends, shops I used as signposts to take a left that simply aren’t there anymore. The same with the walk I did every Saturday to go downtown, a necessary pilgrimage to feel alive and not alone; entire streets that I walked down are just memories now.

I was struck by this the way that only someone who hadn’t been there in years could be. I mentioned the many differences to my family who remained local, and in every instance, it was as if I was mentioning a long-forgotten event from decades earlier. “Oh, yeah, I forgot that happened…”

We create our own maps, our own cities and towns and spaces, in our heads as we move about each environment on a daily basis. And sometimes, those spaces change when we’re not looking, and all that is left are these ghosts overlaid on the world that’s coming.

Domestic, Yes

I made a prediction on Twitter on February 6th: If Millennials (b. 1980 – 2000) were the premium mediocre generation, Gen Z (b. 2000 – 2020) is going to be the domestic cozy generation… Domestic cozy is in an attitude, emerging socioeconomic posture, and aesthetic, that is in many ways the antithesis of premium mediocrity. Unsurprisingly, it takes its cues from the marginal shadow behaviors of premium mediocrity.

It finds its best expression in privacy, among friends, rather than in public, among strangers. It prioritizes the needs of the actor rather than the expectations of the spectator. It seeks to predictably control a small, closed environment rather than gamble in a large, open one. It presents a WYSIWYG facade to those granted access rather than performing in a theater of optics.

Premium mediocre seeks to control its narrative. Domestic cozy is indifferent both to being misunderstood and being ignored.

Instagram, Tinder, kale salads, and Urban Outfitters are premium mediocre. Minecraft, YouTube, cooking at home, and knitting are domestic cozy.

From here. Am I somehow an early Domestic Cozy?

What Is Your Problem?

Nobody bought more Michael Jackson vinyl LPs than we did of “Thriller.” The euphoria for anything associated with that album was cross-racial and intergenerational. Upon visiting anybody’s house, I’d ask if they had a copy. If the answer was “no,” I’d turn into a 1980s sitcom kid and say something like, “What is your problem?” (I would have been 7, 8 or 9.) If the answer was “yes,” I’d ask to play it, and while it was on, I’d lie on the floor and take long drags on the album’s inside photo: Jackson, in a white suit, lying on his side, one leg bent, looking at us. On the knee of his bent leg is a tiger — a tiger cub. I stared with deep longing. He was so pretty, with his absurd curls and isosceles triangle of a nose and creamy brown face. I’m calling it a photo when, really, it was a centerfold. But what did I want from that picture? What did I want from Jackson? Friendship? A handshake? A souvenir? A hug?

From here.