I got my first email address in 1995.
It was one assigned to every student at my college. We were told about these newfangled “emails” during orientation, and encouraged to use them because “the internet” was “the wayof the future”.
I don’t recall ever using my college email. I’m sure few of us college age kids nearing graduation gave email or the internet much thought. We were children of the 70s and 80s and in some cases the 60s. We’d grown up without an internet and that analog life was our life. We lined up at Ticketmaster for concert tickets, we drove, walked, or subwayed to the record store on new release day of our favorite band’s new album. We listened to the radio. We stood in line at the movies. TV was whatever was on the dial. TVs had dials, before graduating to huge bulky converter boxes, and from there to sleek handheld remotes.
We had VCRs to record the shows we didn’t want to miss, and loaned out tapes to friends. We had tapes dedicated to full series runs of The Simpsons, The Kids In The Hall, Saturday Night Live, Twin Peaks. Commercials and all.
Whenever a favorite band was dropping a new music video, we had to watch MTV or Much Music at the appointed time for the premiere.
We made mixtapes to compile our favorite songs, for road-trips, for cruising, for our walkmans. For friends.
We learned the value of being bored. Of not having the world at our fingertips. That boredom forced us to go out and seek adventure rather than expecting it to be delivered to us.
When we graduated from high school, from college, we truly lost touch with old friends, old enemies. Our lives intersected then moved quickly away from one another.
And all the while The Internet was lurking. Waiting to change our lives.
Much has been written about the negative effects of the internet as it has entwined its coils around our daily lives. And entwine it has. When was the last time you went completely internet-free? For how long? Every hotel, restaurant, museum has free public wi-fi. You’re never really internet-free or free of the internet.
Walk through any museum, gallery, aquarium and more often than not you’ll find people hyper-focused on their phones while Degas, the Mysteries of Egypt, and giant sea turtles linger in the background of our digital lives. I gave up my cell-phone when the pandemic began. I didn’t need to be in constant contact for one, but also because I wanted to be more available, more present in my life and my family’s life. I still feel like I’m the only parent at the playground not scrolling through their phone while their child plays.
The internet is here and it’s not going away. From QR codes to text messaging, it’s a part of our lives, good and bad.
But the internet hasn’t all been bad, and this is NOT a “boo internet bad Hulk smash” post.
No, this is:
FIVE THINGS THE INTERNET HAS BEEN GOOD FOR (PLUS ONE BONUS THING)
Spotify has been a good thing. No, a great thing. Possibly my favorite thing. Music journalist/friend of Mixtape Alan Cross had long pontificated on the concept of “The Celestial Jukebox”; a wondrous device that contains every song ever recorded, there at your fingertips. Basically, Spotify which, while falling short of every song ever recorded, has been a godsend to music fans such as myself. Especially duringthe writing of Mixtape, Spotify has allowed me to plunge down the rabbit hole of music, deep diving myself into the back catalogues of David Bowie, Alice Cooper, the Everly Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Disco, Punk, Pop, Rockabilly … on and on and on. Thanks to Spotify I’ve discovered newer artists and songs I never even knew existed.
Oh, and thanks to Spotify I actually have been spending more money on music, putting to bed the lie – to me anyway – that Spotify is killing music sales. I would never have delved into the extraordinary back catalogue of current favorite classic rock band The Kinks had Spotify not been there. I would have killed for something like Spotify when I was a teenager, back when it was easier to hear about a band or a song then to actually hear it.
Yes, YouTube. I know the horror stories; the out-of-control algorithms, the fascist reich-wing content pushed on unsuspecting child viewers, the horrible, horrible comment sections*.
[*ProTip: all comment sections, be they on Youtube, your local newspaper’s website, or social media are all terrible in their own ways. The concept of comment sections are terrible too, because who really wants to be subjected to the brain-farts of random blowhards on the world wide web? Internet comenting and social media have killed boredom; they’ve required our cups to constantly be filled. Comments are why I have comment blockers installed on my web browsers – I recommend the “Shut Up” browser extension.]
With YouTube the experience is what you make of it. Keep clicking on political content, on controversy and outrage, don’t be surprised when political content you disagree with gets shoved into your timeline (and certainly don’t complain about it either because you did this to yourself). My YouTube experience is dominated largely by film criticism; long-form videos analyzing a film a TV show, a movie trailer. there’s a lot of excellent film criticism on YouTube; much more so than in mainstream media, where the emphasis is on money and how much of it a movie is making or losing. But there’s a lot more on YouTube I gravitate towards. Old Rankin-Bass cartoons, old toy commercials, original broadcasts of Top of the Pops. All the weird pop-cultural ephemera from the 70s and 80s. The obscure TV and movies and more that seem to fallen through the mainstream cracks have found a safe home on YouTube. Even watching a video of 80s mall culture has been extremely beneficial for a book I’m working on. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of them but to go down my YouTube rabbit hole, give Lindsay Ellis, Patrick Willems, Layton Eversaul, Matt Draper, Like Stories of Old, Lady Knight The Brave and Oliver Harper a whirl.
One of the great challenges of 21st century publishing is the dominance of a company whose name begins with A and ends with N. Amazon has dominated shopping and retail for the last decade plus, more so since the pandemic started. Amazon has torn a swatch through the retail experience, and the publishing world. Your success or failure as an author depends on the first week’s numbers on Amazon. You’re encouraged to bludgeon readers to pre-order your book on Amazon, to leave reviews on Amazon, to create an Amazon Author Page, to surrender, Dorothy, to AZ the Great and Powerful. Short version: Amazon has become too big, too powerful, and the publishers have basically climbed into bed with an entity determined to destroy them. Amazon is the toxic boyfriend/girlfriend you know is bad for you but can’t quite escape. They own everything and are trying to own everything else. Publishers affixing themselves to the Amazon train will ride it for a while, but over time will discover the landscape they travel through has become more barren, more lifeless as Amazon consumes everything, even those same publishers I’m sure.
Why am I ranting against Amazon? Because for books, there’s a much better option if you must shop online but don’t want to contribute to the fall of culture and civilization by shopping at Amazon.
Bookshop.org is an online book-seller, competitive enough with Amazon, that you’re paying close to the same price for books, by a website that kicks up to 30% of its sales to a local bookstore of your choice. During the pandemic I ordered a lot of books through Bookshop.org because my local bookseller had been forced to shutter temporarily while still needing to pay rent and suppliers and electricity and so on. Even now, I still order my books through Bookshop because I know every dollar they send to my local bookshop is a dollar Amazon doesn’t get their mitts on. Choosing Bookshop over Amazon might not win the war, but it will show you’re not ready to capitulate to the big guys just yet. And maybe you’ll do some good for your local bookshop and local community. After all, if you’re an author you need to hold those events and signings somewhere, right?
Streaming Video (in general). Kind of connected to YouTube, but I feel like 2020-2021 became the year when streaming video finally became what it was meant to be. Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Disney +, yes … but also Kanopy, Shudder, Mubi, Criterion. Like Alan Cross’s Celestial Jukebox, we have a Celestial Idiot Box. We have more TV and movies and documentaries and docuseries than we can shake a remote at. We also have PBS.org, PBS Kids (my son’s favorite) and a slew of other options. With a click of a button I can watch The Mandalorian, Wild Strawberries, The Haunting of Hill House, What We Do In The Shadows (movie and series), Seven Samurai, Piranha, the complete runs of The Kids In The Hall, Twin Peaks, Cheers, Battlestar Galactica, The Greatest American Hero … endless and onward.
I still buy physical media – I’ve invested too much money in my DVD and Blu-Ray collection to stop – but I do rely on streaming more than I used to. Streaming isn’t perfect – selections vary, titles disappear without notice, picture and sound quality are terrible compared to a high-def video disc, but the sheer volume of content out there is legion. And perhaps the best thing about streaming video is you’re not fixed to a set day and time to watch. Any show at any time? The future has arrived.
This Website. Yes you read that right; www.bradabraham.com is a reason the internet isn’t all bad. For one, the fact you’re reading this proves that there’s something compelling enough about my website and me to keep you coming back. There are millions of web pages like mine out there. Whatever your interest, whatever your want, it’s waiting to be discovered and bookmarked and re-visited. For me, my website fulfils what social media never has; furnished me a small corner of the world wide interwebz that’s mine and mine alone.
It’s not ruled by an algorithm, it’s not dependent on Search Engine Optimization – though to be honest when you Google my name, this website is the first thing to pop up in the search results, take THAT Facebook! It’s not a top site, and it reaches a limited number of visitors, but it’s a consistent number, not the fluctuating one you get when using Twitter or Instagram or Facebook to get word out about yourself. In those cases you’re always going to be a Minnow in the Pacific unless you’re prepared to devote huge swaths of your day-to-day being Very Online and Feeding The Machine.
When I started this website eleven years ago I had no real idea what I was going to use it for. Back then I was just a semi-successful still-struggling screenwriter. Since then I’ve become an acclaimed comic book writer and novelist, I’ve had two movies and one webseries produced, and I’ve worked on multiple TV series. I’ve moved, grown, changed, aged. Looking back through the archive of posts here (a decade’s worth) I’m amazed not only by the volume of content but by the fact I kept at it, even at times when I really didn’t want to. I still have times when I feel like giving it up, or at least putting it on the backburner. I’m too bored, tired, distracted by real-life stuff that some months I just don’t feel like blogging anything anymore.
And yet, here I am, still doing it. While it does seem like the world and the people in it – friends current and former – are off in FB and Twitter land, I’m here and much happier for it.
For me writing and creating has never been about getting big views, big sales numbers. It’s never been about being a Bestseller, an Award-Winner. I’ve never wanted to be “a writer of note” – I just want to write. After 22 years “writing” remains the best part of being a writer and probably the only part of being a writer that I still enjoy. And this website is a part of it.
Back in the Long Ago and Far Away (i.e. “High School”), a 1500-2000 word essay was a major part of your History or English grade. It was a major achievement, all those words and thoughts organized and footnoted and sourced. This post, which I banged out over a couple hours one morning in early November is over 2000 words. What used to be a challenge and a major undertaking, I can now do before my coffee turns cold. And while a lot of that is on me, a lot of it is thanks to the internet and this web-page that, like a garden, requires fresh water, attention, and care.
So as I say goodbye to 2021, I leave you with this:
Thanks to the internet, everything is eternal. Even Emu’s Pink Windmill Kids.
(You thought I forgot the BONUS THING didn’t you? Well I didn’t.)
Bonus Thing: Online Banking
Specifically Online Check Deposits. Seems mundane, right? Well, as a writer your sporadic pay generally comes more likely than not through a good old-fashioned paper check. Royalties from books, royalties from movies and TV, checks from your agency with their 10-15% fee deducted. So when a check arrives I have two choices;
- Go to my bank to deposit direct through the ATM or front counter, which involves me hopping in my car and driving 15 minutes there, and 15 minutes back, or;
- Open the banking app on my tablet, take a photo of the front and back of the check, and deposit it digitally. Total time; less than it takes me to put on shoes, grab the keys, grab my coat.
Not terribly exciting, huh? Well, that depends on who the check is made out to 😉
- This post was going to run last month but I decided to do the Christmas story instead. Did you read it? If not you should; I really like this one. You’ll find it here.