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While writing this newsletter I listened to:
Alastair Galbraith - 'Seconds Mk III'
Myriam Gendron - 'Not So Deep As a Well'
James Blood Ulmer - "Tales of Captain Black'
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Acedia
week of 19 September 2020
 

Hi.

I haven’t sent an issue of Acedia in ages, since January. Obviously, a lot has been happening in the world, and personally as well. 

I’m not sure what it is, but the more this pandemic has pushed people into a mostly-online existence, the less desire I have had to express myself that way. And I have had some variety of a personal website since 1994, having progressed from that early, hobbyist era (“This is John W. Fail’s personal home page”) to when it was just annoying and narcissistic, up to the current day, where having a non-Facebook, non-Instagram website is sort of quaint and retro, and (I think) cool again. And I have a fucking email newsletter, too.

(I was intending to pepper the preceding paragraphs with archive.org links to my teenage and undergrad-era websites, but I couldn't really find many. So I’ll give you this, from when I was 20. OK, and this, the RIP page for when I ran the Elephant 6 website. Did you know that I made an unofficial website for the Elephant 6 bands when I was in high school, which is how I got to know them all, because it kind of WAS the official one for awhile until they made a real, official site? Reading my RIP page makes me chuckle; it's such an adolescent emo dump.)

((Sorry, I got distracted there while scouring archive.org for my old teenage crap. When I was 17 or 18 I made this crazy page of really experimental writing, kind of like Ben Marcus’s more out there stuff, or a bit of a Robbe-Grillet vibe, except before I had encountered either of those guys. I decorated it with scanned illustrations my librarian friend had provided from old newspapers. It was totally teenage avant-garde goofiness, and I wish I could find it because while I’m sure it’s embarassing as hell, I also think I would probably be sort of proud of it today. Because while normal kids were out kissing girls and pounding purloined cans of Miller Lite, I was writing avant-garde prose on the Internet without even knowing what for or why.))

My point is that I increasingly feel like staying silent these days, which is probably hard for anyone who knows me to believe. Apart from the occasional bored night where I’ll explode on Twitter with a cavalcade of angry leftie tweets into the void, I don’t really feel the need to contribute to the online discourse about anything: COVID, politics, culture, sport… I just don’t feel like being part of anything. And a lot has happened in my personal sphere which I am not going to get into here because it's all just administrivia, not so interesting ... for example, I (mostly) live in a different country than I did when I sent the last Acedia –- but who cares about countries.... like Propagandhi, I think nation-states are a bad idea….

But I’m on my second cucumber gin and tonic tonight, and I know you loyal subscribers of Acedia have been waiting for my latest dispatch with bated breath, for nine months. I would never want to let anyone down.

What content, though? I keep a little notepad with ideas for what to write about in these newsletters, so I’ll just go through those as bullet points. Remember, the world has changed irrevocably since I last wrote -– an enormous number of people have died, the very foundations of reality have shifted, and Liverpool finally won the league. But this is what I’ve deemed to be worthy content for an email newsletter:
  • I bought a relatively expensive tub of ‘anti-aging face cream’ (11€). I thought it would be a worthwhile scientific and empirical endeavour to spend my 40s (oh yeah, I turned 40) applying said cream to only the left side of my face every night, divided by a line straight down the centre, for the next ten years. So by age 50, if we are so lucky as to survive on this planet until 2030, I can truly determine if this face cream is worth a damn because half of my face will be aged and half will be fresh and young. And if it works, I’ll spend my 50s applying the same cream to only the other side of my face, so by the time I am 60 (2040) I will be back to  facial-youth equilibrium.
     
  • i don’t remember why exactly, but I was going to chronicle two stories about encounters with right-wing assholes earlier in my life. One was on a flight from Dubai to Heathrow in 2004, where I (jovially) argued with a middle-aged-slash-elderly American man sitting next to me. The other was in a youth hostel on the Isle of Lewis that same summer, arguing (slightly less jovially) with another middle-aged-slash-elderly American. The man on the plane was justifying Bush’s illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for some idiotic reasons I can no longer remember, and he claimed to have more authority than I because he was very well-connected in the international community; I specifically remember that he bragged about being close personal friends with Hamid Karzai, the puppet leader installed in Afghanistan by the Bush-Cheney cabal. The guy in the hostel, meanwhile, had a vendetta against Bill Clinton and was screaming that history would vindicate George W. Bush as one of the great presidents of all time, while Clinton would be remembered as mediocre. I’m no defender of any Clinton but it struck me as sad partisan bullshit, and he similarly made an "argument" that he was a successful businessman who was a high roller back in Indiana or wherever he was from. Again, I don’t remember why I felt like writing about these encounters, but the point/punchline is: motherfucker(s), you are FLYING COACH and/or STAYING IN A £12/night YOUTH HOSTEL WHEN YOU ARE 60 while claiming to be rich and/or important. Probably a more astute pop psychologist can determine some syndrome of decaying masculine status in both of these men, which has now of course metastasised into full-on MAGA rage and boomer psychosis.
     
  • More about politics: I watched large parts of both the DNC and RNC and emerged from the experience 100% convinced that Trump is going to win this election comfortably, which is why I don’t even care about Ginsburg dying yesterday (because there’s no way she would hold on for five more years anyway). But I’m going to keep American politics to a minimum here in this public email blast; write me privately if you want to hear my justifications for this conviction, or save yourself the trouble by listening to any random hard-left podcasts because my opinions are hardly unique.
     
  • I had “Wikipedia copyright protection” jotted down in the list of things to write about here, but I have no idea what I meant by that.


MEDIA INTAKE

Oh geez, obviously I’ve read a few books and watched a few films since January. But this section is a mainstay of Acedia (and also the easiest thing to write about), so, off the top of my head:

I’m currently reading This Radical Land by Daegan Miller, a chronicle of American dissent specifically from a conservationist/environmentalist perspective, starting in the 19th century with Thoreau. It’s great, partially because the subjects are interesting, but mostly because Miller is an extremely evocative writer of prose.

So far I think 2020 has been a great year for film, even if it’s all being dumped online and through virtual film festivals in lieu of cinematic presentations, at least in many countries. I have particularly been impressed with The Assistant, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, The Vast of Night, and Charlie Kaufman’s latest mindfuck, I’m Thinking of Ending Things. All of which have been written about elsewhere by more talented writers than I.

I finally finished Ducks, Newburyport and thought about writing an Acedia entirely parodying the style of that novel, but then realised how obnoxious that would be, the fact that probably no one subscribed to this had read it, the fact that it’s just showoffy masturbation, the fact that this newsletter is already that… ok stop

And finally a shoutout to old friend and Acedia reader Chris Strunk, whose zine ‘An incomplete history of long-gone illegal punk venues in Boston from 2000 to 2015’ is a total delight. Even not knowing Boston very well, I loved every word of this, and apparently it’s been somewhat of a hit, at least in whatever passes for the print zine community in 2020.
Get one at: https://www.antiquatedfuture.com/zines/an-incomplete-history-of-long-gone-illegal-punk-venues-in-boston-from-2000-to-2015/


OTHER THINGS

I suppose it’s OK to remind you all that my three-volume book Seventeen Years of Media Consumption (2002-2018) is still available, from Copacetic Comics or direct from Scarlatti Tilt, where if you use the promo code ACEDIA2020 you’ll be able to get a special discount (at my cost).

NPR published a pretty good article about This Heat. If you haven’t experienced their music yet, then I am jealous because I wish I could once again feel what I felt when I heard Deceit for the first time, when I was 18. And beyond naming my label Cenotaph, the linked website of mine from the year 2000, above, is almost entirely made up of references to that record.

Thanks for being patient! It’s nice to do this again.

Love,

John
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