To start off, I want to make it very clear: this will not be a newsletter about newsletters or writing a newsletter. But I do think there is some value in taking a second and looking at the motivations for gathering us around this digital fire before we begin our journey together. Why a newsletter? Why use Substack, especially with Buttondown being such a great service with indieweb ideals? I promise not to touch on this moving forward (unless…) or belabor the points below, but I wanted to use this week’s column portion of the newsletter to touch on these topics and more.
So why a newsletter?
Short story shorter, I’m just a big fan of them. I love what Warren Ellis, Robin Sloan, Ben Thompson, Ben Falk, Sameer Vasta, Khaled Abou Alfa, Dave Pell, (deep breathe) and so many others do with their newsletters. They all feel unique, yet personal. The email newsletter helps take you away from the hectic nature the new Internet of social media has wrought upon us and lets the Internet and news flow through the interwebs to you on your own terms. The best newsletters are the ones from people who were dabblers, if not masters, of the early Internet and I think it’s pretty evident based on the feel you get reading them.
But why Substack?
To be honest, I don’t have a great answer here. At the time I set-up The Weekly Variable there were some major layoffs happening at my place of work. So the mental math went something like this:
I don’t think I’m at risk of losing my job…
But what if something unexpected happens…
I’ve always wanted to write a newsletter…
Maybe if I get canned I can find five or ten people that will throw me a couple bucks to put towards my Internet bill…
Well Substack has that option…
And that was that. Big jump there, I know. I didn’t get canned (thankfully) and have no intentions of turning this into a paid newsletter or adding a paid tier (nor did I think anyone would actually pay to read a silly little newsletter from someone they don’t know with no history of writing besides a sparse blog). Althoughhhhhh I do have some cool ideas (at least I think so, and also, why doesn’t Substack have footnotes?) to make this into a weekly newsletter zine sorta thing with multiple contributors, but what do I know? (but also… if you do want to join me on this ride, and have some unique, interesting, weird, or even boring ideas let me know, I’d be thrilled.)
Who knows? I’m making this up as I go (obviously). I see this as a weekly column (sometimes every other week…), a place to share links, and things I’m looking forward to, a place to tell stories, and share artwork, and a place to put a spotlight on other people, even if they all (and they will) have a bigger audience than me already. I like to keep my toes in a lot of different pools (or however that metaphor goes) and share new and weird things. My biggest inspiration in the newsletter world is easily Warren Ellis. I’ve always been a big fan of his writing so it was an easy sign-up and I’ve loved how he’s brought in different people to share stuff within his newsletter, especially Lordess Foudre. In a perfect world, this newsletter becomes a mix of Warren Ellis (indie with contributors), Khaled Abou Alfa (stunning and informative), and Air Mail (broader topics [but obviously much smaller than Air Mail]), for the odd, indie person (terrible description, I know).
Anyways, I hope I haven’t scared you off already.
Back Page (a working section title…)
I’ve probably mentioned Warren Ellis too much already this week (last week was Om Malik 🤷♂️), but both he had Robin Sloan sang the praises of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. So back in February I pre-ordered it and it arrived on my Kindle yesterday (such a delightful experience, by the way). Anyways, it’s been love at first page. I’m only four chapters in, but am dying to dive in more.
At $4.99 a month or a year free with hardware purchase, it’s hard to pass up Apple TV+. Well, impossible if you, like me, are getting a new iPhone this month on the iPhone Upgrade Program. I get the fact they will have a very limited lineup at the beginning. So limited in fact, to a point where some don’t think it’s going to even be worth more than five bucks anyways, but if even two shows are good, it’s worth as much as Netflix to me.
I shared the first trailer of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal over on TIV back in May, but come on! There’s apparently no talking, and it looks crazy and perfect and wonderful and… now I’m gushing… Coming October 7th to Adult Swim. Five episodes released over five nights, 7th-11th, which is an interesting strategy for a cable network to compete with streaming services and the binge.
If you are a fan of The Ringer like me, you are probably already familiar with The Watch, or Andy Greenwald, or more specifically, The Watch’s Andy Greenwald’s forthcoming Television series Briarpatch (was I too repetitive there…? Oh well…). If not, I invite you to check out the trailer. I’m jazzed about it.
Hate, the people who spread it, and how we react to them is a big enough idea to fill a book with, if not three, and I may come back to this as a column topic, but this episode of What Next, When Is It Okay to Out Political Donors?, has really stuck with me. As the inclusive good guys, we are supposed to be both inclusive and good to everyone. But when people aim to tear others down, how do we react. Do we fight back? Do we go high? Outing political donors doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially since it is public information and what do you have to be ashamed of anyways, but does the act of outing them align with the ideals we claim to stand by?
And on that depressing note, I’ll see you next Wednesday.