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Category: Culture

I Could Pick Out a Quotation at Random From Hodgman, but This is a Typically Great One

I Could Pick Out a Quotation at Random From Hodgman, but This is a Typically Great One

When you live in New York or any big city, it is easy to fail at growing up. The city is designed to keep you in a state of perpetual adolescence. You never need to learn to drive if you don’t want to. And even if you do drive you can go back to that bar you went to when you were twenty-one, and it will still be there, and it will still be called Molly’s, and the older waitress there will still remember you and let you sit where you want. And feel be years later, when she is no longer there, when there is just a picture of her above the bar on a place of sad honor, and you know what that means and you don’t want to think about it, guess what: you do not have to. Because no one is driving home, and you’re back again, listening to “Fairytale of New York,” which is still on every jukebox, falling into the same conversations you had with the same friends in the ’90s: about how the internet is going to change culture, and what you are going to do when you grow up.

— John Hodgman, Vacationland

Returning, Briefly, to Digital Hygiene, and a Reason So Many of Us Are So Frustrated, Angry, and Short on Time

Returning, Briefly, to Digital Hygiene, and a Reason So Many of Us Are So Frustrated, Angry, and Short on Time

A recent episode of Note to Self (I highly recommend subscribing) was a repeat, but also a really, really good one. It’s an overview of the ways social media companies are driven to manipulate us, honing algorithms that ever more selectively push our buttons.

Our psyches are exploitable, and even with no malice intended, we’re taken advantage of without even knowing it. It’s more important to take time out for perspective, for reflection, for people face-to-face and hand-to-hand.

You Need Distractions Today, I Can Tell, and Here Are Three Short but Amazing Things

You Need Distractions Today, I Can Tell, and Here Are Three Short but Amazing Things

J. Mascis, the (usual) singer & guitarist for Dinosaur Jr., knocked out a karaoke version of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That” in Provincetown.

Here’s a gallery of some physical versions of art for Magic the Gathering cards.

And, since those are relatively brief, dig this wonderful archive of present-day objects repurposed as Star Trek props in various iterations of the franchise.

Little Unpleasant Tasks Can Contribute to a Bigger Creative Picture If You Own Them

Little Unpleasant Tasks Can Contribute to a Bigger Creative Picture If You Own Them

It’s a part of most retail jobs that employees have to do certain chores that may be gross or filthy. Cleaning bathrooms and floors, dealing with trash, wiping down fixtures and windows. These can seem demeaning, and I’ve thought so on more than one occasion.

They aren’t, though.

I was thinking about their place in work of all kinds, and it’s not just that you have to do them, I think they contribute, weirdly, to a bigger picture.

They’re small cogs in a larger machine, just like you, if you’re one of those workers. But you have to do the same kind of maintenance at your own house, and there’s no shortage of cleanup in art, either. These tasks relate.

They also interrelate. An attitude of reverence toward your tools and tasks carries over to the important work, the art itself. Working a job is valuable training in maintaining the harmony of everything unseen in the art you make. It supports and frames it. It makes it possible to forget about everything but the art itself.

Sir Paul Still Charms the Pants Off Everyone

Sir Paul Still Charms the Pants Off Everyone

I finally got around to seeing the Carpool Karaoke featuring Paul McCartney, and it was typically wonderful. I really can’t get enough of Paul just being his alternately down-to-earth and godlike-famous selves—the latter of which he dubs “Him”—but this was a cut above. It must be terribly hard, sometimes, to reconcile being a person who just wants to walk around in the world as a normal human with a concept people want to worship and get a piece of, everywhere you go. I’m continually amazed by the grace he displays of such relentless recognition. I’m sure it’s hard.

So many of us think we want to be famous, and should think harder and longer about what it might mean. There’s little controlling it if it happens.

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day

Canada, I love you and your many artistic wonders. I always have.

Growing up, I came to rock music late, but it was Gordon Lightfoot (Mom was a big fan), then Joni Mitchell and The Guess Who. I discovered Rush, a permanent fixture on my musical psyche just as I started high school, then Triumph and Saga. SCTV overshadowed every other television show. In rapid succession, I realized most of my favorite media was of Great White North origin.

There were painters like Philip Guston, Agnes Martin, comics like Cerebus, more comedy from Kids in the Hall, and too many bands to name them all here, like Big Wreck, Our Lady Peace, Sam Roberts, Joel Plaskett, The New Pornographers, Tegan and Sara.

Never mind hockey, the only pro sport I follow.

You have my admiration and my heart, neighbors. May it always be so.

Harlan, and Good and Bad Things

Harlan, and Good and Bad Things

He finally went and did it. Died. Deshuffled the most mortal of coils. A fiery, arseaholic ball of emotion and invective with an Edisonian ability to invent new tales burned out and went forever silent. He wrote amazing things, and I considered him a hero for a long, long time.

Then I started hearing about his sexist behavior. Odd, I thought, since he was such a fierce advocate of the ERA and feminist ideals. But sometimes the people we admire do awful, hurtful, damaging things. We can’t shy away from talking about that part of our erstwhile heroes, if we talk about them at all, and sometimes if we don’t want to. Harlan shamefully groped Connie Willis on stage, and was reportedly grabby with a lot of women through the years. This is unacceptable sexual assault, and he should have been called out on it a lot more than he was. He apologized to Willis, who accepted. That’s to the good.

He inspired millions of us to write and to create new worlds and to never give in to the powerful who wanted to crush or steal our dreams. But he hurt people and sparked fear in some innocents he denigrated, and womenthe woman he touched inappropriately, and that will shadow his brilliant work forever, as it should.

Here’s my Ellison story:

I was attending Comic-Con in 1995 or ’96 as an exhibitor for my comics series Greymatter. I saw that Harlan was going to be meeting and greeting at a booth in the middle, somewhere, and even though I was terrified at the thought of confronting such a fierce and forward man, and the real possibility that he’d excoriate me and my work, I had to go get in line.

I waited, I walked up, I handed him a pile of books. He was delighted, and gracious, and welcoming. He said, “Ack! You waited in line to give me comic books?!” with a giant grin and slight head shake. He accepted my fanboying with tolerant good humor and thanked me. And I left, exhilarated I’d met yet another of my favorite creators.


Cory Doctorow wrote a better obit than this one, about HE, and how to think about someone we admire who does bad and good things and it’s here, and it’s worth reading.