What I Learned: 03

I really like blogging.

I’m not sure what that says about me, or why it’s become such a laughable pasttime, but it suits me well.

Blogging helps me scratch that zine itch. Zines are typically small scale and personal, as is this blog. I loved making (and reading) zines in the 1990s, and blogging allows me the freedom to do all the stuff I enjoyed when making zines. I can opine, and joke, and fantasize to my heart’s content. And I can point to the stuff I think is cool.

One of the things I love most is that people choose to see it. I’m not randomly popping up in some social media feed. If you are reading this post it’s because you choose to read this post, not because I’m a friend of a friend, or an acquaintance of a relative.

For me, one of the early tipping points that moved FB from fun to no fun was when people I didn’t know started chiming in on some jokey or snarky FB post of mine. I have great friends, but some of their friends are… well, they see the world differently. And if I make some off-hand comment about the horribleness of Tim Burton, I don’t need some FoaF explaining to me how many ways I’m wrong.

I started weaning myself off FB four or five years ago, and I started radically reducing my Twitter consumption in 2021. At this point I think I’m ready to let them both go. Though, I suspect I won’t completely shut down my accounts because there are people on each platform where that is the easiest way to get in touch. I’ll probably continue using them as I do now. When some link sends me there I take a minute or two to look around, and then I click away to some other page/site.

So, what I’ve learned is that I like blogging more than social media platforms. It suits my temperament better. These 100 days of blogging have allowed a new blogging habit to start taking root, and I think I’ll probably keep this up, albeit not every day. My guess is that it will end up being 3 or 4 times a week. I will think of it as my virtual, sequential online zine. Frankly, I wish more people embraced wordpress/rss. Or, maybe they’re out there and I just haven’t done a good job of keeping track. Remember blogrolls? I should probably add a blogroll.

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 092 of 100)

Syndicated Sunday for 01May2022

Happy International Worker’s Day!

Books and Reading

Comics Journal posts a long list of comics-related links every week. Including a link to LA Times book prizes. R. Kikuo Johnson won graphic novel category for No One Else.

Speculative Fiction Showcase Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for April 29, 2022.

Nicola Griffith’s new book Spear is out. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Cartoons, Comics, and Humor

Bizarro – Wayno’s weekly post of the week’s Bizarro cartoons.

Sarah Andersen – Sarah’s Scribbles is on Tumblr and so has a built-in RSS feed. https://sarahcandersen.com/rss

Questionable Content – Terrific series that comes through my RSS. https://www.questionablecontent.net/QCRSS.xml

Therapy Comics by Mardou – Mardou’s therapy comics help me feel less alone. I don’t think the RSS is updated anymore, but I read new comics on Instagram.

This Modern World – “Masks On”

Tom Gauld – Doesn’t seem to be a single home for Gauld. Appears in New Scientist and Guardian (and probably elsewhere).

Columns and Essays

Harriet Tubman was a total badass.

Horoscope

Free Will Astrology – All signs; April 28, 2022.

“They say a thing is holy if it makes you hold your tongue,” muses a character in John Crowley’s fantasy novel Engine Summer, speaking of the difference between his culture and another. “But we say a thing is holy if it makes you laugh.”

Music

Bandcamp Daily

Secondhand Songs – Search engine for cover songs.

News

I assume you already have your preferred news source(s). Here are news sources I use to supplement my news diet.

Wonkette – I love the cursing and share their love of Molly Ivins.

Popular Information – independent investigative journalism.

WikiNews – Wikipedia has a news page. It can be kind of hit or miss, but I always use it when I’m following a big breaking news story.

Wikipedia Post of the Week

The May Pamphlet

“The May Pamphlet is a collection of six anarchist essays written and published by Paul Goodman in 1945. Goodman discusses the problems of living in a society that represses individual instinct through coercion. He suggests that individuals resist such conditions by reclaiming their natural instincts and initiative, and by “drawing the line”, an ideological delineation beyond which an individual should refuse to conform or cooperate with social convention. While themes from The May Pamphlet—decentralization, peace, social psychology, youth liberation—would recur throughout his works, Goodman’s later social criticism focused on practical applications rather than theoretical concerns.”

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 091 of 100)

Idle Thoughts and Random Links for 29April2022

I have never seen any of the Quartermass movies or tv shows. This BBC article makes me want to hunt some down asap.

“In spite of the television serials’ popularity, the Quatermass Hammer films had an even more impactful influence on culture, especially abroad and in the US. ‘The likes of Stephen King, Joe Dante, John Landis and Dan O’Bannon grew up watching them and adored them,’ Murray suggests.”

##

Cory Doctorow has a nice rant about fixing advertising on the internet. I’m wholly on board.

“Back to online surveillance. The ad-tech industry (and, ironically, many of its critics) say that spying on you all the time and in every way makes ads vastly more effective. We shouldn’t take their word for it. Ad-tech is a giant scam, a vast accounting fraud of fake ads shown to fake users with fake billings producing trillions in real profits.”

##

I really only know one Mountain Goats song, but reading this interview with John Darnielle in The New Yorker makes me think I should listen to more.

“Of course, you want to read the great writers, and you want to understand why they’re great, but I always wanted to know about the ones who are left off the list, the secondary and tertiary names.”

##

Some good advice for me: How to take things less personally

“If you tend to take things too personally, it’s important to recognise your patterns of personalisation or mind reading before deciding what to do with them. This can be challenging, however, because the line between feelings and thoughts is often blurred. A good way to distinguish feelings from thoughts is to remember that feelings can often be summarised in one word – nervous, happy, surprised, scared – and thoughts are the ideas that drive or follow the feelings.”

##

Here’s some spectacular art by a Ukrainian father/son team.

Happy Friday everybody! Hope the weekend is a great one.

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 089 of 100)

What I Learned: 02

While I think I’m making peace with my relationship to writing and the ways I can make space for a creative life, I’m about to enter a challenging summer when it comes to work/autonomy. In two weeks we’ll move to 4-day work weeks. Which means three-day weekends, yippee! It also means really long work days. Nine hours, plus lunch, plus commute, plus prep = at least eleven hour days, four days a week. Those are long days.

So, one thing I learned from these 100 Days of Blogging, is that I like projects with clear, bright deadlines. I think it will help me to have a 12-week project to guide me through the long work days of summer.

So much to choose from! But I think I’ll stick with something that helps with my well-being. Maybe 80 days of meditation? Or maybe I’ll start a push-ups routine! Or, maybe office yoga. Whatever it is, I have about 2 weeks to decide.

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 088 of 100)

What I Learned: 01

In post #2 of 100 Days of Blogging I wrote —

“Am I really going to spend half the time I have left grousing about my day-to-day existence [i.e. my job]? That sounds miserable.

“So, what am I going to do? Well, I’m not sure. I’m in the process of figuring that out.

“And that’s one reason to do 100 Days of Blogging.”

In the course of these 100 Days of Blogging I feel I’ve learned some things about myself.

First, I’m starting to disentangle the joy I get from writing from my deep-seated desire for autonomy. I have, since at least the age of nine, carried a deep resentment of institutions that want to control my time. I started faking sickness to get out of school in third grade. (Yes. I was a malingerer.) By the time I got to high school I was a straight-up truant. So much so that I failed to meet the minimum required days for my junior year. Instead of taking junior year of high school again I dropped out and got my GED.

What I did instead of going to class was read. I read widely and obsessively. And, starting at the age of 12, I wrote. The teenage me believed this was a way out. This was a way to regain control of my time. And so, at the age of really-poor-reasoning-ability I entered the bohemian phase of my life.

That bohemia phase never translated into control over my own time the way I imagined it might. It was tremendous fun, but came with a stressful amount of economic precarity. Eventually I drifted away from that life and into the life of a middle-class, middle-aged professional, and somewhat more economic stability.

The resentment about losing my autonomy waned in that transition phase between bohemia and profession because being a student felt very much like the autonomy I desired. (I went to university as an adult and got multiple degrees. It turns out I had a much higher tolerance for being a university student than I did for being a student in the Texas public school system.)

But in the last few years that resentment about lost autonomy crept back.

Only recently have I realized that my desire to write and my desire for autonomy are separate, and only tangled up because I am still holding onto that teenage belief that writing is path to autonomy.

I think I’ve been able to start disentangling those two desires over the last few months. The equation I held in my head (writing=money=autonomy) is wrong, and caused great anxiety about writing. If I wasn’t writing to escape the timecard life, I believed, I was frivolous and unserious.

Caitlin Scarano really captures this struggle in the following comment:

Scarano: I go back and forth on this in my writing and my relationship to my writing. I think the main burden on my writing is capitalism; it’s the main thing that keeps me from writing as much as I’d like or being a more prolific writer. I struggle w/ depression and anxiety—as many people do in our current climate—and I feel like a large percentage of it would not exist if I didn’t have to deal with capitalism, if we weren’t in that system. So much of what we need is just time to do what is important to us, and time is what is taken from us because we have no choice but to work to continue to survive. 40 hours a week plus something else sucks mentally, like it literally sucks energy from you. The challenge of sitting down and thinking, “I’m going to sit down on and do an hour or two of writing this morning,” when I just want to lie on the couch and eat a cupcake.

“So where does that leave me? Do I just beat up or criticize myself for not waking up at 4/5 am and working on my poems?  Or do I have some patience and grace for myself within this very inhumane system? There are so many reasons I already feel shame and blame that I don’t want to add to it because I’m not writing as much as I think I should. The main reason I would want to make money as a writer would be so that I could quit my job and have more time to write. I’ve never been very interested in being rich or famous. Money is an access to time, which is the actual, valuable thing.”

What I’m referring to as autonomy is what she refers to as time. I want wealth only in that it provides an opportunity for time. I want time. And, yes, I want time to write, but I also want time to read and study, to work in the garden, to hang with friends, to take road trips, to watch movies, to wash dishes, and to nap in hammocks.

Because of the faulty equation in my head I felt stress when I had free time and didn’t write. I must practice my craft, because that’s the way to greater control of my own time. And when I didn’t write I felt shame and blame.

And this made me suffer. It made my writing suffer and it made my ‘free’ time suffer.

I’m going to stop doing that to myself. I’m going to disentangle my desire for autonomy from my desire to do creative work.

I’ll unpack this a little more as I wind down 100 Days of Blogging.

Well I’m working on it
Holy shit I ignore so many problems
Holy shit this isn’t it
No one told me I was just an onion
I’m just a kid, oh so I thought
Please doc, make it stop, let me go home
I’ll keep working on it
But I’ll be gone before I peel this old onion

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 087 of 100)

It’s Not About Work, It’s About Autonomy

This Vox explainer gave me whiplash when after six paragraphs of examples of people rejecting the concept of work, the seventh paragraph begins “Activists are hopeful that the current pro-worker momentum can be harnessed into legislative or union-based gains.”

Anti-work does not equal pro-worker.

And Gen Z is not the first to reject work and crave autonomy.

From Samuel Johnson’s essay series “The Idler,” to R. L. Stevenson’s “Apology For Idlers,” Walter Benjamin’s flâneur, to Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness,” to Bob Black’s “The Abolition of Work,” to Joshua Glenn’s “Glossary for Idlers,” there has been an anti-work advocacy.

And, it’s not about work. It’s about autonomy.

This quote could have just as easily appeared in 1980 at the height of stagflation and punk’s “no future” mantra –

“Many zoomers entered the workforce during the pandemic-affected economy, amid years of stagnant wages and, more recently, rising inflation. ‘My dad got a job straight out of high school, saved up, and bought a house in his 20s,’ said Anne Dakota, a 21-year-old receptionist from Asheville, North Carolina, who earns minimum wage. ‘I don’t even think that’s possible for me, at least with the current money I make.'”

In 1980 I sure as hell didn’t believe I would have a life-time job, a pension, or even social security. Since then I’ve seen the economy crater a few times, pensions are (mostly) a thing of the past, unions have been gutted, and every year there are those in power attempting to remove what little social safety net we have left in the US.

And for this quote, I call bullshit —

“For decades, if not centuries, this was not the case. Work has been — and continues to be — a major aspect of the American identity. ‘Most people identify themselves as workers,’ said Damaske. ‘It’s an identity that adults willingly take on.'”

Do they, though? Do they willingly take on their identity of worker? What is the alternative they might choose? Inheriter? Houseless? Mmmmm, I’m running out of ideas here. What other identity can you choose besides a worker? Stay-at-home parent (supported by a worker)?

In his introduction to Idler’s Glossary, Mark Kingwell writes —

 “A slacker is not a true idler because he is engaged in the project of avoiding work, and as long as that remains the case, work’s dominion remains unchallenged …

The “genius of idling is not its avoidance of work but rather its construction of a value system entirely independent of work.” [emphasis added]

Until we start discussing the desire people have for autonomy, instead of the desire they have for not working crummy jobs, we remain locked in the same fruitless discussion.

The Vox article goes on to explain that actually people just want fulfilling work, and are not actually, you know, anti-work.

I say that autonomy to do what you want often looks a lot like work, but the motivating purpose is different. As a first step let’s cap inheritance at say… $10 million. Ok. $20 million. That should give you a cushion to live on comfortably for your entire life if you desire. Anything more than that cannot be inherited, but goes into a giant pool to pay for education, health care, child care, whatever we need to expand the opportunities for autonomy. Who knows? That might produce a boom of entrepreneurship and artistic creation, as well as a renaissance in leisure.

“We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 085 of 100)

Blue Cars

I’ve never been a car person. I didn’t own a car from about 20 to 31. And the cars since have been practical, pragmatic, and cheap.

In December I was thinking it might be time to get a hybrid, or maybe even an electric if I could find something affordable, so I started thinking about cars and researching cars.

One in particular caught my attention, but I didn’t take it seriously because I mostly liked it for its color. And it wasn’t hybrid.

As I dug deeper I learned that it scored relatively well on different car evaluation sites, and there was a hybrid version.

I procrastinated. There weren’t many of the hybrids of that model in the US, and people kept saying car prices were inflated due to supply chain issues. A few times a week I’d look at different car possibilities in the area, different models, different rankings.

But I kept coming back to that blue car. Something about it struck a spark of joy. I was now noticing the model on the streets, and sometimes I’d see one that particular shade of blue, and I’d smile a little.

This week I decided I’d take the next step and test drive the car. I told Jennifer my plans for Saturday, and as we talked I realized I had been looking at the wrong car lot online. The car lot I liked, the one where we bought our last two cars, was not the one I’d set as “my” location on the website. When I switched locations there it was. The car I’d been thinking about. Hmmm, maybe it was time to buy a car.

Saturday morning, as I was in that state between dream and wakefulness (hypnopompia), I recalled a childhood memory.

From my earliest memories until I was about five or six, my father owned a Datsun convertible. A blue Datsun convertible.

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/1967-datsun-srl-311-sport-2000-convertible-5d23411-wingsdomain-art-and-photography.html

I did some internet sleuthing, and I’m pretty sure he owned the same model pictured here. This is a 1967 Datsun SRL 311 Sport 2000 Convertible.

Is that why the bright blue car I was shopping for brought me a spark of joy?

I loved riding in that Datsun convertible. There wasn’t really a back seat, but the child version of me could easily squeeze in the narrow space between the tucked away fabric of the convertible top, and the backs of the front seats. What I remember most is putting the top down on a summer day and driving out to Lake Meredith (just north of Amarillo, Texas) with a picnic lunch.

So, almost certainly influenced by gleaming childhood memories, I bought a car yesterday.

Not a sexy convertible, and not quite the powder blue of my childhood memory, but a bright blue. It’s also much more SUV-y than I imagined I’d ever own. I wanted something I could load up for the beach, something that’d carry plants and soil from the nursery, and something I could pack up for weekend trips around Florida. It’s a 2018 Hyundai Kona. Not a hybrid, and not electric, but for me it’s the right car for right now.

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 084 of 100)