Pop Optics: No Requiem for 2020

I have no plan here. No outline. No deep thoughts. This past year doesn’t deserve it. The end of 2020 doesn’t mean an end to all the injustices and bullshit that happened to occur in the last 366 days, but it is a ceremonial end to a year that felt like it was never going to end. No one expected that when the ball dropped on December 31st, 2019 that it would tilt slightly to the right, roll a few feet to a full stop, hiss a couple of seconds and then burst into flames, that it was an omen.

With the power of hindsight and to quote The Big Lebowski, looking back on 2020 I can safely say that the goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain. Then the mountain collapsed, igniting a rockslide that crushed all hopes and promise for a good year. Hey, we were all a little drunkenly optimistic in the beginning. For those of us in the US, we just had to huddle close and keep muttering “One more year of Trump,” and maybe that’s the worse it would be.

Then a little traveler came for an extended visit and shit hit the fan so hard, it didn’t just spray it, it got stuck in the gears, causing the fan to jam. So you’ve a fan jammed with shit and you don’t want to clean it because then you risk getting further covered in shit, or you leave it be but now you’re enduring the sweltering heat and you’re covered in shit. 2020 in a nutshell.

I remember where I was on the eve of haphazard quarantines. Thursday, the 12th of March, I was at work and informed by my manager that we would begin working remote as of that Friday and it would be for two weeks at first. Two weeks. So young. So naïve. That Friday I attended a party with friends where I got all dolled up and then drank too much tea-infused vodka and got sleepy after a couple of hours.

Look at this sexy spooky beast!

Luckily, I didn’t die so that was good, but the hangover the next morning was so brutal it felt like a huge cheat. Anyway, within the first week of remote work, we got word that work-from-home would be extended through the next two months to coincide with the announcement from Illinois Governor Oliver Platt regarding the state’s stay-at-home order.

You tell me which one is the Governor of Illinois and which one played Porthos.

Illinois was among the few states at the onset of this bullshit to try to enact some sort of policy while our neighbors in Wisconsin and Indiana scoffed and kept on pretending this wasn’t such a huge deal. Then again, I don’t really blame them for all of this, not when you have utter failure at the top. When the misshapen embodiment of white privilege and ineptitude is leading the nation on a policy of spite and hubris, you shouldn’t be surprised when everything catches fire after giving the monkey a gun. I believe that’s how the idiom goes. I don’t know, I’ve lost a lot of brain brain this past brain.

We were shut into our homes but everyone didn’t really know what to do, as though we couldn’t take anything seriously. Then again, when I think back to all the fire drills I endured in school, it’s no surprise given how a lot of us reacted as though we had just won all the tickets at Chuck E Cheese and therefore could buy the most valuable items. It makes sense that kids would want to see the school burn, either by accident or intentionally. In high school, someone kept setting fire to garbage cans in the bathrooms and it got to the point that all but two bathrooms on each floor were closed off with deans guarding the open ones and you could only use them during passing periods. This went on for a couple of weeks before the culprits (yes, more than one) were caught and expelled. My point here is that perhaps people get used to catastrophe when it’s the norm. I was in 6th grade when Columbine happened and I’m sure there’s been on average at least one school shooting per year since. That school shootings are still common says to me that there’s a failure somewhere to correct something that allows them to keep happening, so maybe the prospect of a deadly virus quickly working it’s way across the globe like something out of a Stephen King novel isn’t all that shocking to people.

Oh, this is getting heavy. Quick! Some levity!

For the longest time, I originally had a version of this gif saved on my phone as “ButtStuff.”

March finally ended, though, didn’t it? Hehehe… you know, they say that April is the cruelest month, but that’s only if March allows it in the first place.

A joke for only those who would ever get such a reference. /s

I don’t want this to be a retrospective because what the fuck is there for me to look back on? This year was terrible. The only bright spot for myself was that I actually did a pretty good job managing my depression. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve felt all that depressed or experienced any prolonged episodes. Sure, a couple of days here or there, but nothing that took me out of commision.

My anxiety on the other hand… wow, what a turd. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more frantic than I have this year. There’s too much time in my days where I can just sit around and consume media. Without a commute to and from work or the ability to go to the gym for extensive exercise, I have little time to decompress and relieve myself of the day’s stress. When my anxiety ramps up, it makes it harder for me to concentrate and as a result, I don’t feel like reading anything. It sucks, it really does. However, I haven’t let this hurt my creative output.

My need to consume popular media that comforts me has made me think more critically about said media, and thus, I want to write about it and force it upon you share my thoughts with you. I’ve got a few more articles for this feature in the pipeline, as well as some thoughts for possible spin-offs (I’m considering revamping ReMake Me Over as an infrequent podcast, perhaps).

I’ve also started writing a book with my dear friend and Avocado supreme, Mrs. Langdon Alger. Right now we’re on the first draft of chapter two and I am really excited about where it’s going.

Been keeping on with my music, too. Though, I’ve been stagnant as of late, cycling through the same chords on my guitar, trying to make the right combination. The main problem I’ve been encountering is tension on the strings from the bridge, so I need to make some adjustments on that. Might also need to just restring it with a lighter gauge. Honestly, that might be it. I don’t know. I also want to get back into recording music, so I might look to invest in some good equipment (I’ve been doing DIY lofi recording since mid-2000s, so I am perfectly good with doing shit on the cheap).

I’ve made tons of donations this year, even when I technically shouldn’t have been able to afford to do so (four about three months from April through July, my hours at work were reduced and I ended up having to pause on my student loan payments, too). When I could, I donated to causes that were fighting the good fight I could not participate in actively due to the pandemic, but also my heightened anxiety. I’m no good when anxious, but if I can give so that these groups are good and funded, then I feel better knowing that I’ve contributed in some way to numerous radical leftist anarchist antifa causes to stick it to the establishment that doesn’t care about anyone but themselves.

I heard this guy is a BIG radical leftist anarchist socialist commie liberal. I bet he listens to Crass.

When I first got that stimulus check (remember that? It felt like Christmas Day!), I didn’t spend it on a whole lot. I figured I’d buy a bunch of stuff from independent artists and merch companies who I knew were going to be struggling due to the pandemic.

I miss going to concerts, too. Back at the end of February, I attended C2E2 (a big pop culture convention in Chicago) and the same day I was planning on attending a show for pop-punk band Direct Hit that evening. However, I felt kind of wiped out from the convention by mid-afternoon and decided instead to head back to the suburbs because that same night was the opening bout for the local roller derby team, wherein my cousin would make her official debut in the first bout. I showed up to the shock of my parents who thought I was supposed to be in the city attending a concert. As I put it, it wasn’t me but an apparition. Also, I had already seen Direct Hit three times in the last year or so, so I could skip one show so I could support my cousin beat up on some people. In retrospect, that was probably the best decision to make given how everything shook out.

Milwaukee’s own Direct Hit. I highly recommend and they’re very chill. I’ve got to chat up Nick and Devon at a show once – they are awesome.

Well, I feel like I’ve said plenty here. I know I could have done more to comment on the collective anxiety we have all been feeling, or even document the pop media I did consume. I’ll be brief in that I watched a ton of the Aquabats Super Show as well as YouTube content including not limited to Dead Meat, Ask a Mortician, Weird History, Buzzfeed Unsolved, Watcher, The Punk Rock MBA, and Wrestling with Wregret; I’ve also been trying to justify my subscription to Shudder so I finally watched some stuff I had been meaning to get around to like Demons, Demons 2, Deep Red, Don’t Torture a Duckling, and What Have You Done to Solange to name a few. I also watched a lot of The Exorcist III, which you can read about right here.

On the 1,000th rewatch I hear that George C Scott gets hit in the groin with a possessed football.

I think I just wanted to write some sort of recap, even if brief, of my jangled thoughts for the year. If I accomplished it, fuck if I know anymore. All I do know is I’m ready to close the book on 2020 and maybe 2021 won’t suck so much.

I mean, it’ll probably still suck because suck is a constant, but maybe it’ll not feel so enduring and painful.

To bring an end to 2020, I leave you with this. Enjoy!