A month into it, now, the lack of Wired in my life feels like a curious, contradictory thing. I certainly miss the paycheck — oh boy, do I miss the paycheck — and I miss the kind of work I was doing there when I was let go, the stuff that looked into the politics of everything and tried to take a deep breath and look at things at once in the moment and from a long view. But, other than that…?
Other than that, there have been all too many times this month where I’ve said to myself, I’m glad I’m not doing Wired anymore — or, worse and weirder, where others have said that to me, afraid of just what it could have meant to my brain on my behalf. During the start of the Black Lives Matter protests, every day I looked at the news with something approaching horror and I remember thinking daily, I’m so glad that I don’t have to try and summarize this, pull tweets and try to make it make sense and try to come up with some kind of quasi-entertaining framework in which to address this whole situation. Every single day. I remember the end of that first week, the sheer sense of relief I had on the Thursday morning not to sit down and have to write that column.
It strikes me, remembering this, that was around the same time I started humorlessly referring to the US as a hellscape; I wonder if that sense of grim resignation would have been different had I been trying to unpick the paths these stories had traveled to get to where they’d gone…?
There was a point, when the Wired column was going to be turned into a web series, where I got a note from editorial asking politely if I could ease up on the politics and add in some lighter, fun, entertainment stuff. I understood what I was being asked for, especially as it hadn’t been intended as a political column when it started — before Trump was even President, if you can think back that far. It had simply evolved into what it had become, as I’d evolved.
As much as I feel relieved that I don’t have to stare into the online abyss on a weekly basis now, I do wonder where that column would have gone if we’d been able to continue to evolve, however. If nothing else, even as everything becomes a hellscape, I do wish I could have finished out Trump’s presidency.
And so we return to the world of THR newsletter graphics, where much fun is had on a weekly basis despite the speedy turnarounds and almost guaranteed last-minute changes. It really is a highlight of my week, you know…
These next two weren’t corrections, but simply me not being able to choose a color scheme, so I offered two alternatives.
These next two are a last minute switch-up; as protests over police brutality were happening all over the country, we went back and forth about whether a story about merchandise for the comic Black should be called “Black Market,” or if that was too crass. Ultimately, we decided it was, so it got switched just before the newsletter went out.
How quickly things change, and how these strange coronavirus times make you think that they’ve never been anything other than they currently are…! It was just a six weeks or so ago that I wrote about sleeping late and remembering my dreams for the first time in ages, and now… well, let’s just say that I’ve finally climbed on board the “COVID is fucking up my sleep cycle” bandwagon, just a month or two too late, and when the rest of the world has moved on.
Story of my life, as a late adopter. I still haven’t seen all of Twin Peaks: The Return, can you believe that?
When it comes to the disruption of sleep, I’m somewhat lucky, I guess. Not for me a particularly nightmare-ridden existence; after a brief, welcome return, my dreams have returned to living permanently in my subconscious once again judging by recent experience. No, for me, it’s all about a very unexpected shift in my sleep cycle that I’ve started calling My Ongoing Fight Against Time It’s Very Own Fucking Self. Or, to put it more clearly, I’ve developed a seeming inability to sleep past 5:30 in the morning.
I’ve been an early riser for a long time — I’m tempted to say it’s always been the case, but in reality, I might have been sleeping in back when I was a kid and I just don’t remember it. Certainly, there were times when I was in art school where I’d struggle to wake up, but those were also the days when I’d regularly stay out past 2am like the callow youth I was. For the most part, though, I’ve woken up between 6 and 7am for the better part of three decades or more now, and it’s been something I’ve gotten used to, before this current spate of displacement started.
It doesn’t matter when I go to sleep, I’ve discovered. It doesn’t matter how tired I am. I can — and, frustratingly, do — wake up before 5:30, but it’s almost impossible for me to sleep past it, now. I manage it rarely, but it feels like an effort I make after initially waking at 4 and refusing to accept it. It feels like work. There are times when I wake up all too early and think to myself, maybe it’s not that everything is so stressful right now. Maybe I just need to sleep more. And then I remember that whole pandemic thing.
There are times when I wonder what the last few years have done to us, as a whole; if the constant stream of seemingly impossible, unthinkable things that have kept happening over and over have piled up on top of each other in our brains and created a crust where there didn’t use to be one.
Every week now, every single week, the news will report at least one story that, even just five years ago, would have produced enough outrage and bluster to echo for weeks, if not months. And each of these stories feels like a big thing for awhile — remember that time when the Attorney General announced the resignation of someone investigating Trump, only for them to say that they hadn’t resigned? Or, hey, what about the President retweeting racist propaganda over and over again? — and then, somehow, we move on. Even if we don’t really mean to.
To put this in some kind of context: I found myself thinking the other day, things seem to have calmed down a bit recently, and then I remembered that there are still countrywide protests against police brutality featuring thousands of people every single night, and there’s also still a fucking pandemic that the US doesn’t have under any appreciable level of control. In fact, just the opposite; cases are spiking in multiple states and lockdowns and quarantines are coming to an end anyway, because… we’re bored, maybe…? Someone wants to make more money…?
Maybe I’m alone in feeling nervous about the ways in which events have seemingly blurred lines about what’s important and what’s not in our heads. Perhaps it’s a survival technique to prevent us all from being overloaded and collectively losing our minds, because of all the bullshit and formerly unthinkable things that we’re living through and the need to operate on a day to day basis without being frozen by all of it. When was the last time you really thought about the US putting kids in cages, for example?
At some point, things will slow down again, and we’ll hopefully start to reckon with everything that’s happened on our watch. My worry isn’t that we won’t do that; my worry is that we’ll find ourselves missing the endless, numbing, non-stop everything pace of the last five years when we do.