An Empire on the Brink of Collapse
The purgatory of the US embassy made me think about Bono, limbo, and my own sanity.
I woke up at 7am feeling nervous.
I usually wake up feeling nervous, or some adjacent emotion like fear, dread or worry. It burns off pretty quickly as I thrust (disgusting word, sorry) into the day trying to desperately forget what many of us are trying to desperately forget: our eventual death and return to the soil.
But this morning I felt extra nervous because I had my visa appointment scheduled at the US Embassy in Auckland, New Zealand. I was nervous because essentially this 90 second interview seals the deal on what’s been months of emails, forms, writing, lawyers fees, and logistical stress. Miss it, or mess it up, and it’s another month of waiting in a kind of limbo.
That feeling of limbo has been present a lot over the last month; I packed up a lot of my things in New Zealand and put them into storage, and that made me feel strange because storage is the ultimate limbo. What is all this stuff and why am I keeping it and where do I really live and all this junk just ends up in the dirt anyway why do we insist on hanging onto things.
(Things are easier than people for some of us and so of course we don’t let go.)
My visa appointment was at 10.15am, so at 8.30am I set off to the embassy. This is New Zealand, and it’s very small, so it was a 30 minute walk from where I’m staying. Arriving slightly sweaty at 9am, I entered the embassy which is basically the worst airport you’ve ever been to. There’s a tiny muggy lobby and a winding line of victims heading towards a security scanner. Belts off, phones off. You’re preparing to enter America.
Half an hour later and you’re past security and you’re in mini-America — which is just another line waiting to be grilled about your want, your need to be in big-America. Above each depressing interview window is either a badly pixelated photo of the US flag, or the statue of liberty. Another poster offers advice to Americans in New Zealand caught up in domestic abuse, and there’s another poster saying how female genital mutilation is illegal.
It’s a strange atmosphere that’s more bad set decoration than real life.
But then real life left us behind a while ago, right? Walking here, I’d listened to an episode of The Daily about Trump’s desperate argument for total immunity from criminal prosecution, and mused about the possibility of Trump carrying out his next presidency from inside a barred cell.
Yes, that could be a thing.
“The Constitution has very few requirements to serve as President, such as being at least 35 years of age. It does not bar anyone indicted, or convicted, or even serving jail time, from running as president and winning the presidency.”
As I waited in this purgatory I thought what many people probably think in this line: Why? Why America? Because while America was once, perhaps, aspirational — it’s also falling into a kind of disrepair that’s hard to turn away from. The disparity in wealth, the rollback of abortion, the racism everywhere, my friend’s partner murdered walking the dog.
Looking at a technical marvel like the Sphere you can’t help but think of all those big impressive things the Romans built before that kingdom crumbled and turned to shit. Bono screaming songs of revolution from inside a $2.3 billion dollar ball is a much more poetic sign of the end as anything Trump’s done.
I don’t have a fully formed reason about why I am living in America right now, besides some kind of deep-seated need to be close to places and things that feel slightly uneasy. I find it hard to sit still, and America doesn’t let me sit still. There is chaos there, and that chaos somehow calms my brain and makes me feel slightly content.
Of course I also have some of my closest friends in the US, and I miss them dearly. I love that I am able to work there — and I feel incredibly privileged to be able to make things like Flightless Bird, and my mind is starting to delve down some documentary wormholes again.
I can’t wait to share the craziness here on Webworm with you. Stories from the US, stories from NZ, and stories from places in between. After a few weeks off (spent with a lot of ocean and dogs), and my Visa now issued, things will start to get back into a bit of a flow again.
If you have any tips or want to get in touch with a story — I am always here in confidence: email@example.com. I get a lot of emails so I can’t reply to them all, but I read each one, and file them away where they need to go. Please don’t be offended if I don’t get back — even a good tip may just take me awhile to get to.
In the meantime, see you in the comments. Thanks for your ongoing support of my journalism, and what we do here at Webworm. Let’s go take down some more bullies this year.
PS: Mister Organ is out on Netflix in New Zealand, Australia and America next week. Not in those countries? Might be time for a free trial of ExpressVPN… or I think it’s 99 cents to rent on Apple and Amazon at the moment?
PPS: A lot of feedback to the Webworm about Pearl Jam’s posters. In short, it seems the practice is pretty common when it comes to bands creating posters — although many bands also offer a flat fee on top of the poster stock. I still think it’s pretty weird that artists are expected to sell the posters to make any money — that they have to do this weird circus act of jumping through hoops to get any cash.
A few comments I thought I’d share before I leave you to your day:
“I’m an artist/illustrator with some experience in gig posters. I was happy to read your article about the Pearl Jam posters and I’m glad you and Jess are bringing attention to the practices of these third party merch/poster companies. Seeing honest, appalled reactions from people outside of the gig poster creation engine is refreshing.”
“I found her [Jess Johnson’s] work online and purchased a few packets of stickers. It’s the least I could do after the offer to create a poster was rescinded. She’s very talented…check her out.”
“There’s another unfair practice at play here, which is the type of contract they offer artists. I haven’t worked with TSURT, but from my experience with these types of third party companies, if Jess had accepted the job they probably would have slipped her a work for hire contract. In the US work for hire is used to deny the artist ownership and copyright of their work. So that means they can pay her nothing for her work and also have complete ownership of it, robbing her of any potential future income.”
PPSS: I shared a video over on Instagram of me giving my friend (and Webworm collaborator) Hayden Donnell a nice massage at the beach. He responded negatively to my gentle touch, which was quite amusing to me — but more amusing is that people have watched it for a total of 162 hours. It’s not quite the 812 million hours Netflix viewers spent watching The Night Agent… but give it a few more days.
Want to spread Webworm around in 2024? Here are two ways to help if you’re absolutely dripping in cash (only do this if you’re loaded, OK?)