And The Sky Is A

It sounds genuinely absurd, but I’ve become oddly obsessed with the idea of natural attrition lately — or, perhaps, natural degradation is a better way to put it, all focused on the backyard of the house we’ve been living in for the past three years, and how swiftly it changed entirely due to the entirely odd weather we’ve been having for the last few months.

Fall seemed to arrive late and suddenly, when what had felt like a lengthy summer slipped into a sudden windy and rainy snap that helped all the leaves off the trees in record time. What had been such a dry earth in the yard was suddenly sodden, muddy and filled with puddles that were caked with leaves as far as the eye could see. The entire environment changed in what felt like a day.

And now, everything is changing again out there: the rains of the last few weeks — really dramatic, torrential downpours — paired with the freezing temperatures have terraformed a new yard once again. The leaves are disappearing, slowly mulched into non-existence by the elements, and the mud has started shifting in ways that feel almost intentional, creating rivers and pools in the ground that look and feel as if they’ve been there for years.

Watching all of this happen has been a passive pleasure across the last few months, something I’ve noticed as I’ve taken the dogs outside to pee, or moved trash bins from the back of the house to the sidewalk on Sunday evenings. As ridiculous as it sounds, it’s been helpful in such a shitty year to look at something like this, entirely out of anyone’s control but constantly in motion, constantly evolving.

There’s something very comforting to me with watching the world do things that it does, outside of any human interaction, right there in my own backyard. Being constantly surprised by changes that I could never hope to predict, and waiting to see what’s next.

The End of The Road

I saw someone tweet something today along the lines of, “It’s at the point of the year when you have to sort everything into ‘December Problems’ or ‘January Problems,'” to which someone else responded, basically saying that at this point, everything is a January problem. Suffice to say, I understand that point of view particularly well right now.

Despite not having worked in education for more than two decades now — and not having been a student for even longer — I maintain a sincere belief in school holidays as a model for… well, time off from everything. Obviously, not everyone can enjoy two weeks of break around the holidays, and it’s not even something that everyone would want, more fool them, but still: I wholeheartedly think that having a significant holiday break would be a better thing for the majority of people at this time of year.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, in no small part because the nine-year-old is on holiday break right now, and I have found myself being actively jealous; listening to him talk about how he has the next two weeks off and thinking to myself, you’re not even going to appreciate it properly like some old curmudgeon.

(In my defense, he won’t; I certainly never did, when I was a kid. The last couple of days of the holiday would arrive and I’d somehow be surprised, feeling as if I’d wasted every moment of break to that point.)

(That doesn’t actually mean I’m not a curmudgeon, however.)

All of this is a preamble to admitting that I am, in an unofficial sense, declaring a holiday break for myself this year. This is assisted by the fact that work is supernaturally slow as the year draws to a close, but I’ve decided to attempt to carve myself some downtime over the next couple of weeks — outside of the actual holidays themselves — in order to try and get my brain a little less full and a little more prepared for what’s to come. Let’s try to get 2022 started as right as possible, even if everything might collapse just days later; hell, based on this year, maybe even just hours later.

Check, Please

I wrote a thing, earlier this year, to basically argue to get hired as a full-time comics reporter at an outlet. It was, to all intents and purposes, a manifesto arguing that comics as an industry worked at enough of a financial scale to be worth said outlet investing in a full time industry specialist — something that also paid attention to the ways in which comics are the source material for other media and thereby worthy of attention and reporting that might otherwise seem out of scale with how big comics actually is, as a business.

It was a document that I’d been asked for; in fact, it came out of a conversation that suggested that the position — while not something that existed at that point in time — was a very definite possibility, with me being the person most likely to fill the position. In other words, it was a document that I was eager to write, and something that ultimately ended up being part passion project and part research intensive, figure-filled argument to demonstrate that I was very much coming at the subject from a position of authority. Which, not unintentionally, would also demonstrate that I was the right person to fill the position I was arguing should exist.

As is clearly the case, considering what I’ve been writing about recently, all of this came to naught — the position never happened, and therefore I couldn’t fill it. When I got the final word on this subject, I thought to myself, I should just post the manifesto on the blog, and what had previously been in this very WYSIWYG window was, indeed, that manifesto. Common sense prevailed, in the end, as I realized that it was a document that I might want to revisit and recycle for other outlets at some point in the future. Hence, this post.

I write this not simply to fill in what would otherwise have been a void of something I didn’t say, but to point out the value of keeping some things back for the future, just in case. Who knows what 2022 has in store, after all…?

Don’t Get Too Carried Away

After a year of false starts and raised hopes that were ultimately dashed, and all manner of unpleasant and difficult opportunities that disappeared before too long, I’ve started quietly, behind-the-scenes, working on something new for January that I’m… cautiously excited about…? And that, my friends, is kind of the problem.

Not the excitement, I should quickly point out. It’s nice to get excited about things, especially after a year of being disappointed or having dreams dashed by the cruel glare of reality. There were times this year when I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get properly excited about new projects after seeing one after another “dream jobs” appear to disappear in front of my eyes, so it’s particularly rewarding and reassuring to feel this flush of eagerness regarding what lies ahead.

What’s got me nervous is the “cautious” bit. One of the problems with the multiple car crashes that defined by 2021 workload or lack thereof was that new things would appear as possibilities, and I’d go all out for them, only for them to disappear in one way or another, and each time, I thought to myself, if only you hadn’t counted your chickens before they’d hatched, you wouldn’t be quite so hurt and disappointed this time. Maybe not those exact words — really, who actually talks about chickens before they’ve hatched unless they’re in the hatching chickens business — but that general meaning, at least.

I know, rationally, that this new thing is not going to be the answer to any of my current woes in the short term, with the exception of giving me the opportunity to exercise some muscles I’ve not really had the opportunity to in awhile. I need to bear that in mind, though, as I work on this, and not get lost in the excitement only to crash and burn later when fame and fortune doesn’t arrive as a result. I mean, I know it won’t, but hope — for better or worse — continues to spring eternal.

Making Plans For The Holidays

I was reminded, via a random tweet recently, about a Christmas tradition from my childhood that I’d entirely forgotten about, and which feels as if it recasts the Christmases I’d experienced then, compared with how I remember them today.

Back in the day, my family would know that the holiday season was officially underway by the fact that the Christmas Radio Times and TV Times had been released; as the names almost suggest, both magazines were filled with television listings for the next week or so for different channels. (You can tell this is back in the day; all the BBC listings were in the Radio Times, which mixed BBC TV and radio listings, while the TV Times was filled with upcoming listings for ITV and Channel 4; other networks didn’t even exist at the time, so we didn’t have to worry about those.)

When those listings magazines were released, they were attacked by my family, or at least the three kids; we’d go through them, day-by-day, and mark down the shows we wanted to see. The three of us would use different colored highlighter pens to differentiate what was a me show, versus one of my sisters’, and vice versa. Anything that more than one of us wanted to watch, as far as I can remember, would be claimed by whoever went through the magazine first. (Almost certainly me, as the youngest.)

What’s surprising about this, for me, is how important the television was for the season. I’m not exaggerating this, even though I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t really remember this until someone tweeted a picture of this year’s Radio Times; the arrival of these listing magazines really did feel like a signifier that the holidays were now, properly, underway. Knowing what I was going to be watching, and when, somehow, meant that the Christmas period was in a shape that I understood and could plan for.

It’s not really the same, scrolling through Netflix and HBO Max these days. Maybe if someone made a listings magazine to help…

It’s That Time of Year

It’s the Holiday Season, which means I’m already knee-deep in watching Christmas movies, reading Christmas comics, and listening to Christmas music. (I’ve also eaten roughly my body weight in cookies, but that’s not really any different from the norm, let’s be entirely honest.) It’s become tradition for me at this time of the year, to utterly surrender to as much Christmas media as possible without losing my mind.

What’s particularly fun about this is that the media itself becomes a tradition in the process. Chloe and I make a point to watch Miracle on 34th Street on Thanksgiving, and Holiday Inn as soon as possible after that, because both movies have come to symbolize the start of the season for us; similarly, every year, we watch White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life as close to the actual holiday as possible. (The latter is a Christmas Eve staple for us, already.)

If movies as the object of tradition is a relatively recent phenomenon for me, music has long been something that I’ve placed a lot of holiday tradition faith in; one of my earliest Christmas memories is riding in a car with my dad, listening to Christmas music and delivering Christmas cards. (We did that every year together until I left home for art school; my sisters dropped out of it, but I never did — it always felt like a special way for the two of us to spend time together.)

I have lists of favorite Christmas songs that, thankfully, get updated almost every single year — I’m constantly discovering new music that feels immediately necessary to celebrate the season, thankfully. (Even if that music might be relatively old overall; Lord Executor is a thing of the past for most, after all, but “Christmas is a Joyful Day” is only something I discovered in the last few days. Same with Imperial Drag’s “Please Leave Me Home for Christmas,” uncovered decades after they split up.)

There are, of course, ways to feel Christmassy that have nothing to do with the songs or the shows — things to do with the joy and love of the season, the excitement of celebrating the generosity and affection that abounds. But every single year, I can’t hit play soon enough on all the festive treats that make it happen artificially.

Deep Sigh

I made the mistake of reaching out to a number of the “dangling, unresolved career opportunities” a few days back to, basically, try and resolve them before the end of the year. If nothing else, I thought, at least I’ll hopefully have an answer and not have to keep wondering about things. I was a fool, let me tell you.

It’s not just that getting multiple, “The answer is no, we just didn’t know how to tell you” messages in quick succession does something to your self-confidence, although that’s definitely the case — although, to be blunt, my self-confidence is pretty much in the toilet thanks to everything else in 2021 as-is, so it could be worse, I guess…? Actually, no; getting rejected repeatedly, even from opportunities that I had already pretty much figured were rejections by dint of simply refusing to engage, is really not any kind of fun, and ends up feeling like an encore of the big Broadway number where you’re told that no-one actually wants you. It’s really shitty.

Anyway, it’s not just that, honestly; it’s also the fact that, with every closed door, I get that little bit more melancholic about the future, which led to a recent morning where I’d been woken up by one of the pets and could not, for the life of me, get back to sleep. I just lay there, feeling as if a void of Something That Wasn’t Writing But Joke’s On You I Have No Other Employable Skills was lying in wait for me, just around the corner.

On the plus side, I feel as if a midlife crisis centered around the idea that you have no real job prospects is oddly fitting for someone in their late ’40s, even as I’m simultaneously appalled at being such a cliche that this could apply to me. Remember those halcyon days when I had consistent, well-paid work? Remember (checks notes) 18 months ago? [Writer rises from desk, stifles sob, says, “Excuse me, I have something in my eye,” and runs from room, dramatically.]

Accounting Inaction

It’s beginning to look a lot like the end of the year, which means that I have to take stock of the important things — like, for example, just how little money I actually made this year. To put things in perspective, the income I had this year didn’t even cover my share of rent over the past 12 months. (I will forever be particularly grateful for the good luck that saw me get money from the divorce when I did, otherwise this past year would have been very, very different indeed.)

I am nearing the point where I’ll have to make a decision about my future, insofar as work is concerned. I promised myself I could have 12 months to, basically, fuck around and find out if freelancing irregularly for outlets would work out financially, and the answer is a pretty definitive “no.” So, instead, the question becomes, “Well, what’s next?”

I have had no shortage of exciting opportunities come my way since the discovery that I wouldn’t be staying on with THR in the way I had been, way back in January; the kinds of things that would, at any other time, had been bucket list items instead of potential life rafts. Unfortunately, in almost every single case — there are a couple still out there, unresolved — every single opportunity vanished.

I was going to write, “vanished before I’d had the chance to accept it,” but that’s not even true; I had accepted more than one, only for it to disappear after the acceptance but before any of the benefits had kicked in. That experience, which has repeated pretty consistently across the year, has been genuinely dizzying, going from, well, that’s a strange and unfortunate coincidence to wait, am I cursed somehow to where I currently am, which is a vague cynical expectation that nothing positive is going to happen career-wise, because past experience has taught me that.

There are but weeks left before I have to decide if I’m going to continue to live off savings and try to make this thing work somehow, or if I have to go off and find something, anything, better to do. Despite everything, I still harbor a forlorn hope that something magical can happen, even if, really, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Wish You Were Here, No Wait

This time last weekend, I was feeling no shortage of jealousy over not being at San Diego Comic-Con Special Edition, the official name given to the mini SDCC running over Thanksgiving weekend. It wasn’t that I wasn’t enjoying time off and spending it with Chloe and the family here at home, just the opposite; but I would check social media or websites and see people who were there, talking about how it was a Comic-Con like SDCC used to be, more than a decade ago; where it felt more about the comics and less about the movies. Where it wasn’t a mass of humanity that felt like a crowd at every moment for a five day stretch. Where it might even have been — dare I say it? — fun.

(I saw a report that said that Hall H, the mammoth room where the big movie presentations normally happen, had been transformed into a COVID testing area, which felt like some kind of larger point was being made about the world we’re living in now, but, well, this is the world we’re living in, now.)

I’d check in and see people I know post photos of places I know, and I admit it; I’d feel as if I was missing out. If only I could just be there, it would be just like old times, I thought to myself wistfully, because I miss comic conventions and seeing friends the way things used to be.

And then, all the news about the Omnicron variant started breaking, and I thought, well, at least I didn’t have to travel and hang around in airports when that was happening. And then the news this week broke that the second person identified as having the Omnicron variant had attended an anime convention in New York in mid-November, and I thought to myself, really, what are the odds that someone from that convention was also at San Diego Comic-Con Special Edition? Probably really good odds.

That, dear reader, is how I learned to stop worrying and give up being jealous about not going to comic book conventions. At least, this time around.

But Still They Bring Me Back

I have, like seemingly half of my Twitter feed, been watching The Beatles: Get Back over the last few days, intermittently. It’s something I do passively, almost — the nine-hour runtime and exhaustive (and exhausting) approach to what to include make it near impossible for me to sit down and concentrate exclusively on it, so I put it on as background in the evening when my attention wanders — but it has, unexpectedly, been a revelation in ways that go far beyond the music for me.

Something that stuck out from the first episode was a reference to the band being 28 or so at the time it was being filmed; turns out, that was only true of half of the band — Paul McCartney was 26, and George Harrison just 25. That feels extraordinary to me, today. Imagine being that young, and having done so much, having lived through all of that — Beatlemania, writing and recording what was essentially the basis for modern pop music for the next half century at least, being celebrities of such status — and you weren’t even thirty yet. For that matter, imagine knowing, as I suspect at least McCartney did, that your career and creativity might have already peaked at such a young age…!

When I was 25, I was at a loss; I’d graduated a year earlier and was teaching, but I had no long term plans that seemed achievable, or at least, no idea how to achieve them. Nonetheless, I felt young and at the start of things, as if I had the whole of my life ahead of me to accomplish everything and anything. Imagine being at that age and having already created With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Revolver, et al.

Stranger still, for me, than re-contextualizing the Beatles as young men, was the realization that my father was a contemporary of the band, at least in age; he was born in 1941, a year after John Lennon and Ringo Starr, and a year before McCartney. At the time Get Back was being shot, he was 27. That feels almost impossible, in some way. (I always, always imagine/remember him as being in his late 40s, the period I’m in now.) I watch the footage and try to imagine him that age, in the late ‘60s fashions, young and vital as the band seem. It’s a dizzying, bracing experience, but an oddly affirming one.