Pivot to

For someone who makes their living from being a writer, it’s surprising how little I think about the written word as a concept. (For someone who reads as much as I do, it’s weird, as well; but that might be in part because my head makes a split between what I read and what other people read otherwise I get oddly self-conscious; I can’t explain it.) Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking about the written word, and the past, and about how they interrelate recently.

Specifically, I’ve been asking myself if people read more now. I was thinking about the fact that I can remember life before not just email and the internet — because I’m old — but I can also remember life before texting, because I’m very old. (Was it really called SMS messaging back in the day, or is that something that we just all agreed to collectively hallucinate after awhile because it sounds old-fashioned and awkward?)

I don’t mean this in the crotchety-old-man sense, but there was a period of time when the primary mode of communication amongst friends was verbal, not written, and then… writing just started to take over: texts, emails, DMs, and so on. We all started writing more, and we all started reading more. There have been all kinds of discussions about whether or not the actual writing itself has downgraded language — remember the weird but seemingly legitimate panic surrounding “text speak”? — but I’m not sure I’ve ever read any serious study about to what extent people just started actually reading more often as a result, even if it was just emails and texts, rather than newspapers, letters, or “literature,” as much of a moving target as that last thing truly is.

Of course, history will make the final decisions surrounding what counts and what doesn’t, as it always does; it’s an unreliable beast at best, but part of me is oddly excited at the prospect of, centuries from now, texts between friends and emails with abbreviations and in-jokes and references that no-one else could ever understand will be held up as “proof” of a literacy that has been lost to the ages, and a society that treasured the written word even as we, living in this moment, never ever consider the possibility.

Now It’s Easy To Define (Yeah)

As is my wont, I’ve been noodling around with Garageband recently, making loops out of old 1960s songs without any real purpose beyond just wanting to see if I can do it and make it sound pretty good. (So far, the answer is yes, but it helps that I’m playing with music that I know and love as closely and clearly as I do.) It’s a mental exercise as much as anything else: finding something and reshaping it to create something new, but in a method (and a format, let’s be real) that is somewhat alien and I’m uncertain about and uncomfortable in. It’s play, but play in such a way to keep me on my toes and allow for all kinds of mistakes that could end up being as thrilling as they might be frustrating.

I mention this, as much as anything, because I’ve been revisiting a bunch of music I loved from years and years and years ago — Primal Scream and Delakota and a bunch of the late 1990s “dance” music of the era — and realizing how much of it is, if not born from the same lack of skillset and incompetent bumbling around in software I barely understand, then the same approach of playing and building things block by block and seeing what happens.

I shouldn’t be too surprised, of course; there’s part of the wonderful Beastie Boys Story documentary where they talk about making Paul’s Boutique and that’s not a million miles away from their attitude with that album — of course, they had more patience and more skill behind their efforts than I did, as well as infinitely more taste and finer record collections — and it even feeds into a similar version of how the Beatles went around recording their albums, with a sense of, “I think I want to do this, but I don’t know how to get there, so let’s just see what happens and hope for the best.”

As I said above, the core of all of this is play: of doing something with no set goal in mind, and being ready to embrace and appreciate the journey as much as the destination, in large part because there is no destination when you set off. As I find myself approaching more and more defined goals professionally, such play outside of work becomes so much more important to me — a way to connect back to what animated me throughout so much of my life, and what makes me happy and curious and, well, what keeps me going even now.

I Remember You

While looking through old, quasi-recovered files from the distant past the other week, I came across something that was a real time capsule: a document that was, from what I could make out, a collection of everything I’d written on that particular computer in the year 1999; notes to myself, emails to friends, an entire report for something I was working on, and so on. (Thinking back, I’m not sure it was everything everything; I’m pretty sure I was editing the newsletter for an arts group for a time and wrote stuff for that which doesn’t appear anywhere in the document. I might be wrong, though.)

It’s very strange, revisiting that document and seeing where my head was at, at the time, and also just the way I thought, back then. I don’t mean that in the sense of, “what was I thinking” but literally, the method and sequence of my thoughts. I had an shorthand in much of what I was writing, and a language and cadence that I can vaguely remember but which also very much reads like the work of someone else. There are moments I don’t see myself in, and others where I wish I was still that person; there are sentences I couldn’t even imagine writing now, and others that I can see every keystroke being typed in my head with a worrying clarity.

I can’t remember why I saved all of these things in one document at the time; I’m not sure if I meant it as a message in a bottle, an important document of a particular time in my life — ironically, nothing was really happening at that time for me, although everything felt so filled with possibility — or simply that I was being particularly anal for reasons that didn’t exist beyond maybe this will be useful someday for some reason. Reading it all over 25 years later, when I’m literally twice as old as I was when I was writing it, feels like a message from the past that helps put everything in perspective, and reconnect with at least one of the whos I used to be, at the same time. It’s sobering and welcome at the same time.

Hello, whoever I used to be. Hope I don’t disappoint you too badly.

Oh Sorry, Haven’t You Heard?

Thinking about the General Election results in the UK — for those who weren’t paying as close attention as I was, it was a massive swing towards the Labour Party, which won in a landslide — leaves me with the memory of the last big swing from the Conservative Party to Labour, which also happened to be the first General Election I ever voted in, back in 1997. (I was… 22 at the time, thinking back? I might be misremembering.)

I remember, weirdly, the feeling of excitement felt on the night of the election itself, more than the actual details of where I voted. (I actually can’t remember anything about that at all.) What I remember, more than anything, was the curious feeling of “There’s something happening, everything has reached some kind of critical mass, something is going to change” that felt entirely inevitable, tempered only slightly with the fear that maybe we were all wrong and nothing would change — something that, had it happened, would have broken our spirits in ways I don’t think any of us could have fully comprehended at the time.

I also remember one of my friends telling me they’d voted Conservative, and the rest of us all just ripping the shit out of him, telling him how wrong he was, how he knew better, how upset we all were. To his credit, I think he’d be mortified himself, in retrospect.

I can remember the sense of excitement when the results came in, and the feeling that everything was different as a result. To some degree, that was true; the Labour win of ’97 meant that the Tories weren’t in power for the first time in my conscious memory — they’d been in power for 18 years by that point — and, given how cruel and callous the Thatcher era especially had been, that alone felt celebrating. Sure, none of us had really fallen for Tony Blair’s smarmy smile and promises, but some change was better than no change, we all thought at the time. It still meant that things were different, and that meant that anything could happen, maybe.

(Cut to us, years later, looking at what the Blair era gave to the world, shaking our heads.)

I wonder what it feels like in the UK today, waking up to a non-Tory government for the first time in 14 years. I wonder if there’s that same sense of a new world, and of possibility, or if everyone is just relieved to see the end of that particular era and too exhausted by it to imagine something better on its way.

The Movies of June 2024

June was a weird month for movies; I watched some of my favorite movies of the year this month — Godzilla Minus One! I mean, come on — but I also got distracted by the reality TV of it all and didn’t spend as much time with movies as I have done recently. (Five of the above movies are shorts, for context.) I do think that Lovelace and Boogie Nights prove to be an accidental but fitting pairing, as both simultaneously glamorize and sterilize both the porn industry and the 1970s/early ’80s in very similar ways. Given that July has two separate Love Island series running simultaneously and San Diego Comic-Con, don’t be surprised if next month’s list is so short as to barely exist; I apologize in advance.

The Comics of June 2024

There was a point, for the first… week or so, maybe two weeks…? of the month where I was notably reading very few comics after a couple months of reading so many, and it felt like a very welcome change. My brain was perhaps too full, and I needed a break. And then… I ruined it by falling back into the rhythm of binge reading full runs of things once again. Oops. (A confession: this time around is the first time I’ve ever read the entirely of “Knightfall” and its sequels in the Batman comics; it’s gone from being a nuisance at the time it was being published to being enjoyable nostalgia of a bygone age now.)

  1. Fall of the House of X #s 1-5
  2. Rise of the Powers of X #s 1-5
  3. X-Men Forever (2024) #s 1-4
  4. House of X #1
  5. Powers of X #1
  6. House of X #s 2-6
  7. Powers of X #s 2-6
  8. Inferno (2021) #s 1-4
  9. X-Men (2021) #32
  10. Invincible Iron Man (2022) #15
  11. X-Men (2021) #35
  12. Detective Comics (1937) #1000
  13. Avengers: Twilight #4
  14. Resurrection of Magneto #2
  15. X-Men From the Ashes Infinity Comic #1
  16. Batman (2016) #149
  17. Superman (2023) #15
  18. Absolute Power: Ground Zero #1
  19. Green Arrow (2023) #13
  20. The Flash (2023) #10
  21. Batman: The Brave and the Bold #14
  22. Destro #1
  23. The Immortal Thor #7
  24. Heroes in Crisis #s 1-2
  25. DC Pride: A Celebration of Rachel Pollack #1
  26. Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) #s 1-7
  27. Heroes in Crisis #3
  28. Profane #1
  29. Space Ghost (2024) #2
  30. Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) #s 8-9
  31. Heroes in Crisis #s 4-5
  32. Secret Origins Annual (1987) #1
  33. Secret Origins (1986) #s 10, 43
  34. Punisher (2023) #4
  35. Deep Cuts #s 1-3
  36. Crush & Lobo #s 1-8
  37. Heroes in Crisis #s 6-9
  38. The Flash Annual (2018) #1
  39. The Flash (2016) #s 47-51
  40. Batman (2016) #s 64-65
  41. The Flash (2016) #s 64-65
  42. Aquaman (2011) #s 26-29
  43. Secret Origins (2014) #s 1-6
  44. Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) #122
  45. The Immortal Thor #s 1-5
  46. Judge Dredd: Titan
  47. Aquaman: Rebirth #1
  48. Invincible Iron Man (2022) #16
  49. X-Men (2021) #33
  50. X-Force (2019) #50
  51. What If…? Aliens #1
  52. Doctor Strange (2023) #13
  53. Captain America (2023) #7
  54. Resurrection of Magneto #3
  55. Thanos (2023) #4
  56. Avengers (2023) #11
  57. American Flagg! (1983) #s 1-3
  58. Lobo (1993) #21 (Grant/Kevin O’Neill)
  59. Detective Comics (1937) #s 583-589 (First Wagner/Grant issues)
  60. The Spectacular Spider-Men #1
  61. The Punisher: Die Hard in the Big Easy
  62. Silver Surfer (1987) #39
  63. Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1
  64. Batman (1940) #s 484-491
  65. Detective Comics (1937) #s 654-658
  66. Batman (1940) #s 492-494
  67. Detective Comics (1937) #s 659-661
  68. Tales from the Dark Multiverse – Batman: Knightfall #1
  69. The Penguin #11
  70. The Joker (1975) #3
  71. Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) #123
  72. Legionnaires #s 79-80
  73. Legion of Super-Heroes Secret Files #2
  74. Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) #s 124-125
  75. Legionnaires #81
  76. Batman (1940) #s 495-500
  77. Detective Comics (1937) #s 662-666
  78. Showcase ‘93 #s 7-8
  79. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #s 16-18
  80. Detective Comics #s 607-608 
  81. Robin Annual (1992) #1
  82. The Batman Chronicles #1
  83. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #s 40-41
  84. Anarky (1997) #s 1-4
  85. Absolute Power #1
  86. Batman (2016) #150
  87. Detective Comics (1937) #s 667-670
  88. Robin (1993) #s 1-2
  89. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #s 19-20
  90. Batman (1940) #s 501-504
  91. Superman (2018) #s 1-3
  92. Uncanny X-Men (1963) #159
  93. Invaders (1975) #9
  94. Ultimate Avengers 3 #s 2-6
  95. Superman (2018) #4
  96. Man of Steel (2018) #s 1-6
  97. Supergirl (2016) #s 21-25
  98. Rom Spaceknight #13
  99. Superman (2018) #s 5-6
  100. Supergirl (2016) #s 26-33
  101. Batman/Superman (2019) #s 1-6
  102. The Infected: King Shazam #1
  103. The Infected: Scarab #1
  104. The Infected: The Commissioner #1
  105. The Infected: Deathbringer #1
  106. Supergirl (2016) #35
  107. Hawkman (2018) #18
  108. DC’s Year of the Villain Special #1
  109. Batman/Superman (2019) #s 7-8
  110. Event Leviathan #1
  111. Event Leviathan #s 2-6
  112. Leviathan Dawn #1
  113. Checkmate (2021) #s 1-6
  114. Superman (2018) #s 7-10
  115. Justice League Task Force #s 5-6
  116. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #s 21-23
  117. Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (1989) #s 59-61
  118. Robin (1993) #7
  119. Action Comics (1938) #1001
  120. Superman (2018) #s 11-16
  121. Outsiders (2023) #s 1-2
  122. Action Comics (1938) #s 1002-1004
  123. Detective Comics (1937) #s 671-675
  124. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #s 24-28
  125. Batman (1940) #s 505-508
  126. Showcase ‘94 #7
  127. Action Comics (1938) #967-972
  128. Rom Spaceknight #s 14-19
  129. Action Comics (1938) #s 1005-1011
  130. Superman: Leviathan Rising #1
  131. Batman (1940) #509
  132. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #29
  133. Detective Comics (1937) #676
  134. Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (1989) #62
  135. Robin (1993) #8
  136. Catwoman (1993) #12
  137. Action Comics (1938) #1012
  138. Resurrection of Magneto #4
  139. Invincible Iron Man (2022) #17
  140. Avengers: Twilight #4
  141. Batman (1940) #510
  142. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #30
  143. Detective Comics (1937) #677
  144. Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (1989) #63
  145. Robin (1993) #9
  146. Catwoman (1993) #13
  147. Showcase ‘94 #10
  148. Action Comics (1938) #s 1013-1015
  149. Batman (1940) #s 512-515
  150. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #32-35
  151. Detective Comics (1937) #679-682
  152. Robin (1993) #11-14
  153. Nightwing: Alfred’s Return #1
  154. Batman: Vengeance of Bane II #1
  155. Action Comics (1938) #s 1016-1021
  156. Superman (2018) #s 17-22
  157. Superman: Heroes #1
  158. Superman: Villains #1
  159. Action Comics (1938) #s 1022-1028
  160. Superman (2018) #s 23-28
  161. Rom Spaceknight #s 20-29
  162. Power Man & Iron Fist (1978) #73
  163. Action Comics (1938) #1067
  164. Green Lantern (2023) #13
  165. X-Men From the Ashes Infinity Comic #2
  166. The Immortal Thor #8
  167. Batman and Robin (2023) #10
  168. Rom Spaceknight #s 30-31
  169. 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 2024
  170. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 43
  171. Batman (1940) #516
  172. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 44
  173. Batman (1940) #517
  174. Rom Spaceknight #32
  175. Batman/Superman (2019) #s 9-15
  176. Nameless #s 1-6
  177. Miracleman: The Silver Age #s 1-7
  178. Justice League (2018) #s 59-63
  179. Plastic Man (2003) #9, 20
  180. Batman (1940) #s 414-425
  181. American Flagg! (1983) #s 4-6
  182. Rom Annual #1
  183. Rom Spaceknight #s 33-34
  184. Invincible Iron Man (2022) #18
  185. X-Men (2021) #34
  186. X-Men From the Ashes Infinity Comic #3
  187. Batman (1940) #s 426-434
  188. Blade (2023) #s 1-9
  189. Fantastic Four (2022) #18
  190. Batman (1940) #s 435-442
  191. The New Titans #s 60-61
  192. Justice League (2018) #s 64-68
  193. Suicide Squad: Dream Team #s 1-3
  194. Blood Hunt #4
  195. Vengeance of the Moon Knight #6
  196. Rom Spaceknight #s 35-37
  197. Black Widow and Hawkeye #4
  198. Giant-Size Little Marvels #1
  199. Midnight Sons: Blood Hunt #2
  200. Spectacular Spider-Men #4
  201. Superior Spider-Man (2023) #8
  202. Hellverine #2
  203. Jackpot & Black Cat #4
  204. Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #2
  205. Star Wars: Darth Maul – Black, White & Red #3
  206. Symbiote Spider-Man 2099 #4
  207. Ultimate Black Panther #5
  208. Union Jack: Blood Hunt #2
  209. Wolverine: Madripoor Knights #5
  210. X-Men ‘97 #4
  211. X-Men: Blood Hunt – Magik #1
  212. X-Men: Heir of Apocalypse #2
  213. Blood Hunt #3
  214. Black Panther: Blood Hunt #2
  215. Justice League (2018) #s 69-74
  216. Justice League 2022 Annual
  217. Absolute Power: Task Force VII #1
  218. Superman (2023) #16
  219. Wonder Woman (2023) #11
  220. Titans (2023) #13
  221. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #29
  222. Batwoman (2011) #0, 1-5
  223. Justice Society of America (2022) #10
  224. The Nice House by the Sea #1
  225. Web of Spider-Man (2024) #1
  226. Jean Grey (2023) #s 1-4
  227. Rom Spaceknight #s 38-39
  228. The Brave and the Bold (2007) #s 19-22
  229. Green Lantern (1990) #s 129-131
  230. All-New X-Men (2012) #s 1-11
  231. Rom Spaceknight #s 40-42
  232. All-New X-Men (2012) #s 12-14
  233. Uncanny X-Men (2013) #s 1-3
  234. Nightwing (2016) #116
  235. Uncanny X-Men (2013) #s 4-8
  236. Animal Pound #1
  237. Prez (1973) #1
  238. Rom Spaceknight #s 43-45
  239. Bootleg Spider-Man #1
  240. All-New X-Men (2012) #15
  241. Uncanny X-Men (2013) #s 9-11
  242. X-Men: Battle of the Atom #s 1-2
  243. All-New X-Men (2012) #s 16-17
  244. X-Men (2013) #s 5-6
  245. Uncanny X-Men (2013) #s 12-13
  246. Wolverine & The X-Men (2011) #s 36-37
  247. All-New X-Men (2012) #s 18-21
  248. Uncanny X-Men (2013) #14
  249. Prez (2016) #s 1-2
  250. Prez (1973) #2

It Looks Like We Made It

It feels oddly important to me that I can actually remember the first time that I saw the Monkees movie Head — not just in the sense of, “if I sit down and really think about it, I can work out where I would have been when it happened,” but as in, I can actually remember the feeling of where I was when I saw it for the first time like a sense memory.

It was the 1990s, and I was in Aberdeen, an art student who was both very much into POP as an idea and an aesthetic — of course I was, I was in my early 20s and it was the era of Britpop, who like me wasn’t into pop at that time? — and into the idea of a counter culture that commented on and hijacked the mainstream for its own ends. I had been reading Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles at the time, and following all the threads that came from that (situationists! Autocritiques! The joy of the spectacle!), and also seeing things that connected from that to other reading I was doing at the time (Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus, and other pop-culture writing that focused on punk and rebellion; again, I was in my early 20s), so it proved to be a very surreal experience watching Head for the first time knowing nothing about it other than it starred the Monkees, and finding it to be this weird, wonderful collection of a million things that had been living in my head for awhile, disconnected.

I watched it on television, late at night. I think it was either after a night out or a party at mine — the former, I think, although I did put a video of it on after a party months later, sharing the joy — and I wasn’t prepared. I’d grown up with The Monkees, the TV show, which seemed on re-runs pretty often when I was a kid, strangely enough, and that was reason enough not just to tune in, but to record it at the time. (I did the same thing with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which I seem to remember was shown immediately before or after it; that one, at least, was advertised as a messy counter-culture classic.) I can remember lying on the couch while everyone else was asleep and just being amazed by what I was seeing, thinking, “This is the movie I always wanted to exist and didn’t think could.”

Thirty years later — well, almost, at least 28 — and I still think that about it; it’s a movie that I think of worryingly often, and still with no small amount of hushed awe that it was ever made, or fit so clearly and so easily into what I was thinking at the time. To this day, Head still feels like a magic trick that I can’t work out how it was done.