Yesterday I listened to “The Annual Jay & Farhad Company Of The Year Show” and one of the businesses they discussed was Netflix. Blah blah blah cord-cutting, blah blah blah original content — the usual stuff, but funny because of the hosts’ banter. Incidentally, I don’t think cord-cutting will be that big of a deal. Millennials like me who never sign up for cable in the first place might cause a bigger shift. Perhaps “cord irrelevance” is a better term?
Anyway, I agree with them that Netflix is a phenomenal company, and I expect Reed Hastings to keep doing well. Some of their recent shows have hit it out of the park — Master of None and Making a Murderer both got a lot of attention. House of Cards is a brilliant piece of media. That said, it’s really all about binge-watching old shows, and old seasons of current shows. The long tail is crucial! What I want from Netflix is continued access to:
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Law & Order (various flavors)
Malcolm in the Middle
The X-Files (original series)
this is not a comprehensive list of TV shows that I like
Writing “Case Study Of A Magazine Purchase” made me consider the amount of money I spend on media every month. I suspect that I’m more extravagant than most people, but I’ve never added up the $$$. Here’s my list, in no particular order:
This is all for digital material. $36.17 per month; debatably actually $26.17 because The Marshall Project is a nonprofit and the donation comes off my taxes. Either way, it’s really not much. I could easily drop $36.17 on dinner or drinks.
I also periodically buy books and I benefit from my parents’ subscriptions to The New York Times, the New Yorker, The Sun (print), and Funny Times (print). I suppose you could include Netflix, but that erodes the focus on journalism.
Currently I’m considering a subscription to The Economist. Their one-year bundle would run me $13.33 per month, whereas the two-year option comes out to $11.63 per month. Either package includes Espresso, their “daily briefing” app, which I really want (Nieman Lab did a fascinating interview with Tom Standage re: digital strategy). I’ll pull the trigger if I get a raise.
I used to worry about seizing the zeitgeist. Okay, I still worry about it: I need to write relevant things that people want to read. But it’s not hard. A couple of quotes from Heaping Torso got a bunch of reblogs on Tumblr so I’m probably pretty good, right? I don’t need to check for trending hashtags or survey the tastemakers, those nebulous powerful nobodies, in order to make art. I just have to work on things that interest me, and hope I’m naturally cool enough for other people to be interested too. I’m anxious to push to the front of the pack but it’s better to be on the side investigating something that most people haven’t touched. God, I’m gonna have a fucking panic attack. I can’t do that. I can’t be original.
Sometimes I consider moving to some irrelevant small town in Central Valley and being the beginning of an art scene, paying cheap rent and living through the glory days that my heroes talk about. San Francisco before the AIDS crisis and the tech boom. (Hopefully the cultural shortcut conveys what I mean.) I want to create a ground floor for myself to get in on. My dream is that twenty years from now I’ll be mentoring new versions of myself in a town whose name we don’t know yet.
I mentioned this fantasy to my cousin and he warned me not to dismiss what’s already in these small towns. They’re not San Francisco or Oakland, places with exciting histories and mainstream recognition, but they’re not nothing. Fair criticism; he was right to contradict me. You can’t go into a place expecting to be better than everyone else and have them embrace you; pride goeth before a fall.
But I don’t think I’m entirely wrong. Have you been to these rural towns? There’s nothing there. Fucking nothing. No bookstores, no cafes, not even churches. It’s full of Americana to romanticize, grazing horses and old rusty cars in every yard, but there’s a reason why everyone moves to cities instead of the other way around.
Note: I shouldn’t be blogging because technically I’m on vacation, which is to say that I’m parked in Portland, OR, the fourth stop on a meandering road-trip through the Pacific Northwest. I pointedly left my laptop at home because I wanted to unplug for a month, but whatever. The house where I’m staying has a free-use computer. Plus, I haven’t been writing in my notebook much.
Today I can’t stop pondering my “career”, present and future. Well, mostly future. Such spells of self-reflection usually occur after I’ve glutted on essays from The Awl and its ilk (e.g. “The Plath Resolution”). Last night I found several issues of The Sun in the bathroom and squirreled them off to bed with me. Pompous-but-poignant lit mags are my jam!
The Sun always makes me melancholy, but it was nice to get some reading done. I’ve been attempting to dive into Tarot Revelations, by Joseph Campbell and some other guy, but honestly, who am I kidding? Since I said “honestly”, I must admit that I was kidding myself a week ago when I stacked this book on my “to read” pile, but actually reading it has dispelled my hopeful urge to “study”. Give me fun books or give me the mobile game that I’ve quickly become addicted to, Best Fiends. I can’t be relied on to slog through anything! Drudgery is for chumps.
Um, I was talking about careers, right? I just read Emily Gould’s essay from MFA vs NYC, retitled “How much my novel cost me”. It could be considered a primer in privilege. I have my own heaping privilege, so I didn’t look at Gould’s situation that way. My basic reaction was, “Thank goodness I live with my parents because otherwise I could never afford to stay in the Bay Area.”
The sensible choice would be to move somewhere cool-but-not-that-cool, a midsize city in one of the states that I always forget about, like Kentucky. I live in California’s equivalent of the unnamed city, but because I’m close to the internationally lauded metropolis of San Francisco, prices are still high. Plus, I’m only moderately employable.
The Bay Area is not a practical place for me to build my life, not when the only prospect that I can relish is self-publishing with my dad’s laser printer. The closer I get to my self-imposed “find a real job” deadline, the less appealing it seems. What I want to do is keep making and distributing zines. The tough part is acquiring currency.
Especially since I want to acquire currency without disregarding females! But actually, one of my Tumblr friends signed up to sponsor me on Patreon, which was the sweetest thing. This post will end on that cheery note!
I haven’t written at all during the past two days. I’ve been working on Christmas presents; I’ve been doing social things; I’ve been depressed. Whatever — there are always excuses. I don’t need to beat myself up about it, but I do feel disappointed. For the most part I’m not doing paid work right now, making my own projects even more of a priority. Still, it’s hard to maintain the go-go-go pace, you know?
Last night and this morning I comforted my crushed career hopes — being able to support myself as a writer — by reading a bunch of articles about unpaid internships. Basically, unpaid interns are free labor for the companies that “employ” them. Such programs are invariably exploitative. Usually, they are also illegal. And yet the Craigslist ads keep popping up. To see a couple of recent examples, click here and here.
Journalist Sarah Kendzior was interviewed on this topic in 2013. She said, “The American Dream dies hard, because it was not a dream. We saw it work for previous generations. And now we witness its erosion.” Yup. I feel like I’ve been duped! (Hat tip to Miri Mogilevsky, another eloquent critic of unpaid internships.)
First on Twitter and then on her blog, Kendzior outlined the steps of building a “prestige economy”, her term for the system that only rewards people who have the privilege to accrue credentials without being paid. Here are the first points:
“1) Make higher education worthless by redefining ‘skill’ as a specific corporate contribution. Tell young people they have no skills.
2) With ‘skill’ irrelevant, require experience. Make internship sole path to experience. Make internships unpaid, locking out all but rich.”
I’m one of the lucky few who can afford to work for free, because my parents support me. It’s still exasperating. I don’t want to be supported by my parents forever. Neither do I want to work a drudgerous full-time job. The world isn’t organized how I wish it was. Ugh. End rant.