The Destination is the Destination

Reading smart commentary about social media the other day left me thinking about the different ways in which I interact with the internet now, compared with when I first started using it way back when; specifically, the fact that — for all intents and purposes — I essentially live online now, and the way I interacted with it back then.

I mean, I actually try to draw lines that prevent me spending too much time actively online, a lesson learned the hard way; after work each day, I try to leave my phone/laptop/iPad alone until just before bed, and even then, that’s just me using whatever app to do some reading before I sleep. (And, if I’m brave, checking email to see that there’s nothing disastrous waiting for me in the morning.) But still; I work online, I interact with friends and family online, so much of my life is spent on the internet. It’s there for… everything. When you factor in the fact that my TV is powered by online streaming services instead of, you know, “traditional” television — something I’ve started to think of as being “passively” online — then it starts to feel omnipresent in a somewhat unsettling manner.

I still have the very strong sense memory of the internet being a limited resource, way back in the dial-up days: that you would “log on” for whatever purpose, and then get off the computer once that purpose was over — even if that purpose was (as was the case for me) looking up long screeds written by old fanboys about the history of the Legion of Super-Heroes, or Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, or whatever. The sound of the dial-up, the feeling of needing to get on and off the internet in as little time as possible because, hell, someone might need to use the phone.

There’s something about that that I miss, now; the idea of the internet as a destination, perhaps, something you actively choose to do, a place to visit but not somewhere that is ever-present all around us. We used to call the internet things like “the world wide web” and “the information superhighway,” both of which suggested these tangible, physical locations or entities, and there was something about that that made it seem like these were places you could “go,” as opposed to some state that we permanently exist in and have to report in to regularly.

Remember an internet we didn’t live in? I miss that.

Happy To See You Again

I read something over the holidays that said, basically, “what have we done wrong that we push all of this joy and time off into a week-long period in late December, leaving us at the mercy of the subsequent darkest, coldest month of the year without any kind of break or relief?” It was something that, immediately upon reading it, I thought, oh, someone else gets it.

January is a struggle every year. That’s always been the case for me, even stretching back to when I was a kid. It’s not that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder — or, if I do, not to any great degree, at least — because it’s not as if the dark days and early evenings feel like a burden as such either in the past or right now. (My heart goes out to those who can’t say the same, though.)

Instead, it’s the fact that January every single year just stretches on, never-ending and with only the repetition of the weekday to offer. It’s a month when you have the holiday highs to come down from, whether it’s the color and the lights, the music and jollity, the time off and social aspects, or whatever, and there’s literally nothing to replace it other than everyday life, a return to the work week, and… I don’t know, shitty weather, I guess?

It feels especially notable for me this year, because I had to use all the time-off I’d accrued from work in December, meaning that I had a glorious month of three-day work weeks. Now, that’s almost doubled thanks to normality reasserting itself. I find myself tired and out of practice at… well, doing the base level, ashamedly.

We should all agree that January needs a break around this point in the month: a new holiday just to catch our breath and take a minute. Might I suggest the establishment of Phew You Made It Day?

Get Up Get Up Get Up

I am curiously protective of my sleep cycle, I think to myself occasionally, although it strikes me that perhaps two different ends of that sentence are wrong.

What I actually mean is that I find myself particularly thrown off when I don’t keep to the traditional rhythms of sleep that I’ve built across the past few years: in bed somewhere between 10 and 11, asleep somewhere around 11, and waking up somewhere between 5 and 6. Sure, there are occasional mild variations to that — sometimes I’ll be tired and asleep earlier, there are times I wake up closer to 4:30 or 6:30, depending — but, for the most part, that’s how I sleep. It’s what works for me.

Somehow, this past month has broken that a little. I’m not entirely sure how, or why. I’ve been sleeping later multiple times, sleeping late, even, on a couple of occasions. (By which I mean, I have to get up around 7 in order to eat and take care of the animals before work; a couple times, I’ve woken up closer to 7:30, panicked.) And then, there was the odd night of insomnia.

I use the term insomnia too easily; it’s my go-to if I just have a bad night of sleep, as in, “I woke up at 1 and couldn’t sleep for 30 minutes, it was just insomnia.” I know it’s not really the case, but I love a bit of shorthand. What happened at the start of the month, though, felt like actual insomnia, summoned Beetlejuice-style by accident: a night where I just… couldn’t fall asleep.

My mind wasn’t racing, or filled with intrusive or looping thoughts; I was, if anything, very calm and clear-headed. My body was heavy with actual exhaustion, and I felt “sleepy,” as it usually goes… but I just laid there, unable to actually sleep, until almost 5am. I have no idea what happened, but I’m in no rush to go through anything like that again.

The experience has stuck with me ever since, unnerving me. It’s as if it was foreshadowing something that I can’t see waiting just around the corner: What if I’m just going to have a year of not sleeping? What if 2024 is going to be a year of it feeling like 3:15 in the morning, all the time? What then?

The Old Gods Died

I am the audience for superhero comics; I am not a frustrated creator of them. Oh, maybe I was at some point decades earlier; I think it’s a generally recognized fact that a significant portion of the fan base of superhero comics are wannabe creators of them, and I was almost certainly someone who dreamed about that possibility when I was in high school, because of course I was. As I got older, though, that ambition faded and fell apart through a combination of knowing I wasn’t good enough and wanting to do other things anyway. I was happy enough to just enjoy reading them.

With the exception of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.

I don’t mean that I don’t enjoy reading those characters; I do, very much — they’re likely my favorite collective of concepts and characters in mainstream superhero comics. Instead, it’s that when I do revisit those original Kirby books, as I tend to annually, I always end up thinking, Well, if you were going to do it today, you should do this… for whatever reason.

It’s never in the form of a plot idea, or anything I could ever pitch (not that I would), but odd background ideas and restaging things. It’s Kirby’s own fault: his Fourth World books were not only timeless, they were timely, with hippies and draft dodgers and commentary on media and society and the nature of war, and the nature of aging, even, and my head just… goes places. I can’t help it.

(Serifan is trans-masc; Darkseid’s primary weapon is Glorious Godfrey, who uses Kalibak as an example of masculinity that isn’t “allowed” by the left in an attempt to sow discord; the Forever People has a fandom of “stans” and “simps” that they don’t know what to do with because of their own attitudes towards equality; there needs to be more done with Apokolips conquering death and using technology as a cure to everything, and how that affects the Hunger Dogs, and so on.)

I’ll never do anything with any of these ideas, aside from forget them. Nonetheless, it’s fun to have them, and feels like a tribute to Kirby’s impossibly huge creativity — that he was so plugged into things that even I can be affected by it in such a way, almost 60 years later.

What’s The Plan, Baby? Obliteration

I should have done this earlier in the month, but… I didn’t. Such is life. Anyway: here’s the tail end of my 2023 playlist, which I’ve earlier shared in a couple of posts last year in 50-song increments. The final 32 songs are here, added towards the end of the year. (The screenshots were taken in the closing days of the year, so the “1 week ago” added date for the last couple songs is really the end of December.)

The rule for the playlist was basically either that it was a new song that I’d just discovered, or one I already knew that I’d recently become obsessed with for some reason. The other rule was simple enough: one song per act. (I fudged that at least once, but shhh we won’t talk about that.) Two songs ended up being deleted off earlier posts: one of them because I got bored of it, another because I added an entirely different song by the same musician. Spot the difference!

You can find the actual playlist on Spotify here if the link works. And, yes, I’m already doing the same thing for 2024, because of course I am.

Cold, Dead Fingers

As I type this, I have just realized that the tingling I’ve had in my fingers since this morning, when I ventured out into a blizzard to get weekend snacks — don’t ask, it wasn’t my idea — is, in fact, more than likely frostbite.

It’s an odd realization, not least of all because there’s a significant portion of my brain that’s arguing against the idea for all manner of reasons: I wasn’t outside for that long and It wasn’t really that cold, surely and As soon as I got home, even though I’d lost the feeling in my fingers, I ran them under hot water, so why shouldn’t they be okay, or even But my right hand is fine, why is my left hand still feeling a little numb and tingly, that’s ridiculous that it’s only one hand?

The real reason I think part of my brain refuses to accept it is far less logical than even those (admittedly, very illogical) thoughts: simply, part of my brain refuses to believe that frostbite is real, in some very basic way. It’s like scurvy, something else that I know objectively is real, but somehow still feel as if it’s an entirely fictional thing, made up by people who wanted to make both history and pirates seem more interesting by implication.

As a result, me having frostbite just feels… almost impossible? Or, at least, severely unlikely; it’s as if I’d have caught the Black Plague or some science-fiction ailment that the real world has yet to encounter. Never mind the tingling in the fingers, or the idea that I should probably put my hand in warm water for 15 minutes every now and then to try and raise the temperature periodically for the next day or so. Simply the very idea that I could have frostbite at all feels so ridiculous as to be unworthy of further consideration.

If and when I lose my fingers to this, I’ll keep you posted on how extensive my disbelief continues to be.


I was thinking, recently, about how voracious my sketchbook-keeping was when I was younger. There were multiple reasons why that would have been the case — the primary being that I was in art school and, you know, sketchbooks are kind of important for that whole kind of thing — but nonetheless, I would eagerly, happily, endlessly work in my sketchbooks, keeping multiple at any one time and having different purposes for each of them: one was a mark-making sketchbook, one was a diary of sorts (one that turned into a diary comic, once the influence of Eddie Campbell had settled in fully), and so on. This was my primary way of passing the time, for a number of years: just… recording the world in some inexplicable, unconscious manner.

(It helped that, very early in my art school career, I came across books in the library that explored in detail the sketchbooks of Paul Klee, Egon Schiele, and Gustav Klimt, who in a very real way were as influential to me because of their sketchbook approach than for the “finished art” they produced that is more familiar and celebrated.)

When I was having this train of thought, I marveled at my productivity of the era with no small amount of jealousy: where did this energy come from, I asked myself, and where did it go? Is it really just that I’m three decades older? And then I realized: all of this was in the pre-Internet era, a thought that made me impossibly glad that I’d gone to school when I had. I know myself too well to pretend that I wouldn’t have found excuses to spend far too much time fucking around online if I’d had the chance back in the day. If I’d had the internet available to me when I was a student — with all its rabbit holes and dark alleys and all of its everything right there at the touch of a button — I can’t imagine I would have gotten anything of any note done at all.

It’s a strange thought to think of so much of my life being, essentially, “pre-internet,” given how ubiquitous it is today, but… half of my life was spent that way, and it might have been so much better because of that. What a weird, sobering thought to start the year I turn 50 with.

Return to Sender

Like, I suspect, many people of my generation, I’ve had many email addresses in my time; I’ve gone from Hotmail to Yahoo to Gmail, with stops at other destinations in between for any number of reasons. (Not least of which being different jobs asking me to use their domain-centric addresses; I’m pretty sure all but my current one is defunct by now, which is something that I think about from time to time: addresses that just cease to exist, routes to communicate that are just destroyed entirely.)

I was thinking about these past email addresses the other day, and specifically the fact that I purposefully didn’t use my actual name in any of the addresses for a number of years; I used nicknames, or arcane alternate identifiers that seemed witty in the short term. “LegionOfGrim” went one, which sounds all so goth when looking back but was, originally, intended as a reference to the Legion of Super-Heroes and the fact that I had the nickname “Grim,” because of a friend’s girlfriend and her inability to pronounce my name any other way. “FanboyRampage” went another, named after my blog of the period.

Is this an artifact of a bygone age, when we were all exploring the internet for the first time and trying to figure out what the rules were? It feels like that, but maybe I’m misremembering, or being too kind to myself to spare the blushes of a pretentious former art student who knew no better. Was there really an era when we didn’t want to put our true selves out there so nakedly, in case we revealed too much by accident?

Almost all of those early email accounts are, I suspect, all lost to the ages now; I haven’t checked them in years (decades!) and I’m not sure I could even access them if I wanted to. I like the idea that some still exist, though; time capsules of the me that I was at that point, and all the friends and relationships I had at the time.