Meet End User

It’s about time I start­ed talk­ing to myself about tech­nol­o­gy in my parked car again. My audio equip­ment is still in stor­age, but I’m fresh out of folks who want to lis­ten to my rants about The Open Web, so I guess I’ll be giv­ing you a call every once in a while. Until yes­ter­day, End User was a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty for a pod­cast title.

Do be sure to vis­it Anchor’s Tech­nol­o­gy fea­tured sec­tion to find (sortof) sim­i­lar pod­casts by hosts who have real diplo­mas, but you cer­tain­ly don’t need one to call in any­time.

 Log­ic Mag­a­zine is required read­ing — start with “Dis­rup­tion: A Man­i­festo.”

The Case for Chuck Klosterman

Thanks to an episode of Peter Kafka’s Recode Media, I’ve just now dis­cov­ered that for­mer New York Times Mag­a­zine Ethi­cist, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, and long­time men’s inter­est media-affil­i­at­ed sports and music colum­nist Chuck Kloster­man pro­nounces his sur­name kloa-ster-men instead of klaw-ster-men as I have been, shame­ful­ly – even with­in earshot of oth­er human beings on a hand­ful of occa­sions. I am will­ing to sub­mit myself for pun­ish­ment for these trans­gres­sions under the sin­gle con­di­tion that I be allowed to call him Cuck Klus­ter­fuck the next time he ends a spo­ken sen­tence with “or what­ev­er” in an inter­view – an unfor­tu­nate habit he’s main­tained for years. If my own byline had any pedi­gree in the world of lit­er­ary crit­i­cism, I would now col­lect his penance sim­ply by includ­ing those hate­ful, 90s ston­er-kid buzz­words in every quote, unedit­ed, but it most cer­tain­ly does not. I’ve searched mod­er­ate­ly hard for any rea­son to both­er con­tribut­ing any crit­i­cism of books or their authors and returned with very lit­tle. I’ve read The Broom of the Sys­tem and White Girls this year, yes, but I’d have to be a Fuck Boy to write any­thing about David Fos­ter Wal­lace, and Hilton Als’ ele­gant, genre-bust­ing mas­ter­piece is so far beyond both my soci­etal rights and per­cep­tive capac­i­ty that I wouldn’t dare utter a sin­gle edi­to­ri­al­ized peep about it – aside from a log line-length rec­om­men­da­tion – even under imme­di­ate threat of cer­tain death.

Giv­en my recent vol­un­tary relo­ca­tion to Port­land, Ore­gon and the word-y pur­suits on which I choose to spend all of my mon­ey and ener­gy, I should adore every­thing about Chuck Kloster­man and in turn he should be com­plete­ly invis­i­ble across the under-30 demo­graph­ic, yet I’ve found a spe­cial orig­i­nal­i­ty in his voice since first explor­ing it and I think it might be worth requal­i­fi­ca­tion. A good friend of mine once dug his first nov­el Down­town Owl out of a bulk box of bar­gain books she’d bought as a pre­teen, long ago and became an enthu­si­as­tic fan of his per­spec­tive and a harsh, but fond crit­ic of his per­sona. It was her copy of his sec­ond that I read first: The Vis­i­ble Man – ulti­mate­ly a sur­pris­ing­ly-orig­i­nal take on the psy­chol­o­gist of a gift­ed out­cast tale that clas­si­cal­ly exem­pli­fies the easy-to-digest yet thought­ful­ly-explorato­ry rep­u­ta­tion of his craft. Thanks to her library card, I was able to fol­low it up imme­di­ate­ly with Chuck’s lat­est, most top­i­cal work – an anthol­o­gy of past essays writ­ten for pub­li­ca­tions like The Guardian, Grant­land, and GQ enti­tled X: A High­ly Spe­cif­ic, Defi­ant­ly Incom­plete His­to­ry of the Ear­ly 21st Cen­tu­ry, which proved an impos­si­bly enter­tain­ing, even more pol­ished exe­cu­tion of The Quaint Chuck’s Expla­na­tions in non-fic­tion form, begin­ning at onset with refresh­ing brevi­ty in its intro­duc­tion.

I’m not ful­ly accred­it­ed by either side of the pro­fes­sion­al equa­tion (sports­writ­ers think I’m too pre­ten­tious and music writ­ers don’t think I’m pre­ten­tious enough,) but I’m able to write about what­ev­er I want, as long as it actu­al­ly hap­pened.”

Using “pre­ten­tious” even when just vague­ly and loose­ly express­ing oth­er read­ers’ thoughts about your work is the first of many minus­cule tech­ni­cal infrac­tions against con­ven­tion laid down in X’s arrange­ment which proves to act toward the ben­e­fit of its expe­ri­ence. If you sub­sti­tute car nerds for sports­writ­ers, I’d per­son­al­ly iden­ti­fy with this picoau­to­bi­og­ra­phy in a big way, but more impor­tant­ly as a read­er I had nev­er encoun­tered any­thing writ­ten about sports which I would describe as pre­ten­tious, per se, and that real­iza­tion could very well have birthed enough curios­i­ty to land the sale, had I been skim­ming in a book­shop, which I would’ve even­tu­al­ly been pleased with.

Now, dur­ing what we should hope to be the first dawn of a new microera of sin­cer­i­ty, we must rec­og­nize how valu­able it is for Kloster­man as an observ­er to be com­fort­ably engaged with his sub­jects, emo­tion­al­ly, and con­fi­dent in the val­ue of his com­men­tary in mid­dleage with­out the need to insist upon his eccen­tric­i­ty, as so many cringey, cul­tur­al­ly-daft Dads do, these days. He uses key­words in his writ­ing and spo­ken pub­lic­i­ty that should dis­miss him imme­di­ate­ly as one of these – a nos­tal­gic, out-of-time dork – but are instead some­how mag­i­cal­ly manip­u­lat­ed to serve him in artic­u­lat­ing rea­son­able, even pro­found­ly-inno­v­a­tive insight. As I have explored his bib­li­og­ra­phy and his pub­licly-expressed thoughts, I have been caught up and hinged on a sin­gle sup­po­si­tion: Chuck Kloster­man is the only white, 46-year-old beard­ed Port­land Dad you should be read­ing. Do mind that I am in no way exempt from this lens, but it’s still my job to deter­mine his via­bil­i­ty as an intel­lec­tu­al – a “thought leader,” even – for those of us who were con­ceived around the same time he was wrap­ping up his col­le­giate sen­tence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Dako­ta.

For a sol­id hunk of the Amer­i­can read­ing audi­ence, a quick, ele­men­tal vec­tor of qual­i­ty and mas­tery we look for in an essay­ist is the abil­i­ty to “tran­scend” their sub­ject mat­ter for even the most pre­sump­tu­ous and con­ceit­ed among us, usu­al­ly to deliv­er a more abstract sen­ti­ment to leave with. Here, Klosterman’s sig­nif­i­cant career expe­ri­ence is irrefutably evi­dent – in X, he achieves this tran­scen­dence organ­i­cal­ly with a flu­id­i­ty unlike any­thing I’ve read before. We can already check a sin­gle box: con­vinc­ing even a young pro­fes­sion­al twen­ty-some­thing to shell out for a phys­i­cal hard­back of con­tem­po­rary non-fic­tion requir­ing any sort of aca­d­e­m­ic effort to con­sume is going to be nigh-impos­si­ble, even though X actu­al­ly hap­pens to be the best-look­ing spec­i­men of print prod­uct design I have ever han­dled across cov­er, type, and lay­out. It’s been dif­fi­cult hav­ing to con­vince myself to give this copy back.

In the inter­est of full dis­clo­sure, I must take spe­cial care to empha­size just how high­ly I regard Peter Kaf­ka as edi­tor and inter­view­er extra­or­di­naire with­in the Media beat – well-proven to be capa­ble of hit­ting con­sis­tent­ly hard on both nov­el and old guard indus­try per­son­al­i­ties with refined, seem­ing­ly unim­peach­able stone-faced skep­ti­cism. How­ev­er, this Chuck Kloster­man inter­view for Recode Media is an unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly dis­armed dis­play of seri­ous admi­ra­tion: he intro­duces X with an out­right con­fes­sion: “It’s great. I bought it. I bought a signed copy,” which is an unex­pect­ed odd­i­ty (though not an unwel­come one – I’m glad Peter enjoys his life.) Their con­ver­sa­tion dips briefly in per­son­al his­to­ry (Chuck and his wife moved to Port­land from Brook­lyn for its prox­im­i­ty to fam­i­ly) before plop­ping down upon the sub­stance of his clear­ly superb and mat­ter-of-fact inter­view tech­nique. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a con­ver­sa­tion between Kaf­ka and any pre­vi­ous guests with whom he was quite so obvi­ous­ly alike in gen­er­al dis­po­si­tion.

The only rea­son I’m able to ask you these ques­tions is because I’m a reporter and I can ask you ques­tions now that I prob­a­bly wouldn’t feel com­fort­able ask­ing you if we were friends, so I’m not going to pre­tend that we are and I’m not going to cre­ate some fake thing where we’re going to have a rela­tion­ship beyond this con­ver­sa­tion. I’m just going to ask you the things I want to know about and I hope that you respect the fact that I’m just being straight with you. I find that that works much bet­ter.”

From the broad­est pos­si­ble pop cul­tur­al lens, Chuck’s most spec­tac­u­lar and wide­ly-cir­cu­lat­ed work, demo­graph­i­cal­ly (I assume) is his 2015 inter­view and cov­er sto­ry for GQ with Tay­lor Swift – then “the most pop­u­lar human alive.” Yes, it real­ly is worth dwelling on the image: this guy… this very Dorky Dad, just hang­ing out with the most high­ly-demand­ed teen idol who’s ever lived, sit­ting awk­ward­ly next to her in the back­seat of her car as she mani­a­cal­ly pan­ics to accept a call from Justin Tim­ber­lake. When one Chucks such a dis­tin­guished con­trast upon such a high-pro­file con­tem­po­rary medi­um, the weight of the poten­tial scruti­ny becomes pal­pa­ble, but Kloster­man antic­i­pates and braces for this (very risky) busi­ness in the only man­ner he can: acknowl­edg­ing it over and over and over again in the sec­ond para­graph of his every inter­view appear­ance.

It doesn’t mat­ter if it was com­pli­men­ta­ry or insult­ing nec­es­sar­i­ly. It would seem as though I wasn’t tak­ing her seri­ous­ly as a musi­cal artist, and the idea is that I do. That’s why I’m writ­ing about her is because I do think she’s a mean­ing­ful, sig­nif­i­cant artist. It’s not worth the risk of hav­ing the sto­ry then get shift­ed by oth­er peo­ple who per­haps just per­ceive them­selves as some­body who’s a watch­dog for cer­tain sig­ni­fiers or cer­tain ele­ments of the cul­ture and that their job is to be on the watch for this. If your sto­ry then gets moved into that silo, that’s all it’s going to be remem­bered for… It’s a touch­i­er thing now. It’s a more dan­ger­ous thing.”

In the print itself, the cov­er sto­ry is pref­aced by a very short but uncom­fort­ably-telling com­plaint about chang­ing expec­ta­tions for cul­ture writ­ers. One might rea­son­ably sug­gest that Kloster­man regards the prac­tice of call­ing out or remark­ing on “creepy misog­y­ny” as “dumb” – noth­ing but the byprod­uct of chang­ing “times.”

Some­thing you may notice in the fol­low­ing 2015 fea­ture on Tay­lor Swift is that I nev­er describe what she looks like or how she was dressed, even though I almost always do that with any celebri­ty I cov­er… If I did, it would be reframed as creepy misog­y­ny and proof that I didn’t take the woman seri­ous­ly as an artist. It would derail every­thing else about the sto­ry. It would become the sto­ry.”

But… is it? Note how des­per­ate­ly close his lan­guage comes to the com­mon white guy whin­ing about fem­i­nism clas­si­fi­ca­tion with­out actu­al­ly fit­ting the bill. Right…? It doesn’t? Sure­ly, it must be cer­ti­fied Awake through some com­bi­na­tion of key­words or for­mat I’m unfa­mil­iar with or unable to visu­al­ly reg­is­ter because Klosterman’s ass would have long been grass, oth­er­wise. These 224 words are X’s most con­tentious, which you could call impres­sive, all things con­sid­ered – he appears to care enough about his pub­lic image to curate it some­what dili­gent­ly. When a moth­er­hood blog­ger pub­lished an open let­ter in 2013 cit­ing three very ableist uses of the R-word in his work, it only took him two days to respond: “I was wrong. You are right.”

More than any oth­er writer of his demo­graph­ic, Chuck Kloster­man has a close, wary rela­tion­ship with the ever­chang­ing con­tex­tu­al bound­aries of pub­lic expres­sion. He knows when to be trans­par­ent with his feel­ings on pro­gres­sion, and he’s care­ful to avoid what could be “prob­lem­at­ic” for the sake of func­tion­ing bet­ter as a writer (I assume.) For Slate’s I Have to Ask pod­cast, he man­aged to speak exten­sive­ly about these mech­a­nisms for near­ly an hour with­out bel­low­ing any­thing defin­i­tive­ly cringey.

I can’t say it’s bet­ter or worse. It’s just dif­fer­ent, and because it’s dif­fer­ent, it makes me feel uncom­fort­able, but there’s actu­al­ly like an adver­sar­i­al rela­tion­ship with the his­to­ry of any­thing, and that some­how that his­to­ry is seen as oppres­sive. And you shouldn’t even know about it. It’s bet­ter to live in now.”

A quick jaunt from pret­ty hor­ren­dous to almost-ide­al, then. If we are to place our faith in Chuck as our last beard­ed cham­pi­on, we must hope that last sen­tence is sin­cere­ly intend­ed to be his lens to the chang­ing world. Grant­ed – even if it is the truth – it’s not as if per­sis­tent acknowl­edge­ment of one’s posi­tion can mirac­u­lous­ly wash away any sys­tem­at­ic patri­ar­chal dynam­ics involved in author­ing (or read­ing, for that mat­ter) a high-pro­file fea­ture of a young woman on cov­er of a mag­a­zine which explic­it­ly seeks most to speak to “all sides of the male equa­tion,” (are you sure about that, Condé Nast?) espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing how unlike­ly it would’ve been for me to read any­thing about Tay­lor Swift out­side of this very white man’s anthol­o­gy. Fun­da­men­tal themes of pow­er and con­trol are thread­ed through­out both his fic­tion and non-fic­tion, which is espe­cial­ly preva­lent in the Macho Big Boy cul­tures of the ath­let­ics and music indus­tries. In pro­fil­ing Tay­lor Swift – the undis­put­ed apex of the lat­ter in 2015 – Kloster­man pro­vid­ed a first­hand account of the gru­el­ing main­te­nance of a pub­lic and pri­vate per­son­al­i­ty under tremen­dous strain from said fac­tors as they were mag­ni­fied to the max by the most extreme celebri­ty.

Here we see Swift’s cir­cuitous dilem­ma: Any attempt to appear less cal­cu­lat­ing scans as even more cal­cu­lat­ed. Because Swift’s pro­fes­sion­al career has unspooled with such pre­ci­sion, it’s assumed that her social life is no less pre­med­i­tat­ed.”

I’m right there with Chuck: I’ve even found a fun­da­men­tal pil­lar in Pow­er and Con­trol rela­tion­ships sup­port­ing my own fic­tion exper­i­ments: how we attain them, how we lose them, and how best to make use of them – all of which had appar­ent­ly been quite prob­lem­at­ic for Tay­lor Swift for most of her adult life, though we wouldn’t be allowed to real­ly com­pre­hend how deep her inner tur­moil had drilled until it over­whelmed even her expert­ly-designed self-con­trol four years lat­er, boil­ing over entire­ly with such unex­pect­ed vio­lence that all of America’s pseudorur­al glam-pop-coun­try-glossy-chode-hip­sters let out a simul­ta­ne­ous, dan­ger­ous­ly-alarmed holler of OH FOR PETE’S SAKE that was actu­al­ly heard and record­ed from the over­fly­ing orbit of the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion.

It’s some­how dif­fer­ent when the hub of the wheel is Swift. Peo­ple get skep­ti­cal. Her famous friends are mar­gin­al­ized as acqui­si­tions, select­ed to occu­py spe­cif­ic roles, almost like mem­bers of the Jus­tice League (‘the ecto­morph mod­el,’ ‘the inven­tive indie artist,’ ‘the informed third-wave fem­i­nist,’ etc.). Such per­cep­tions per­plex Swift, who is gen­uine­ly obsessed with these attach­ments.”

No, it’s not only worth­while as an exer­cise in superbly ath­let­ic self-aware­ness – the Tay­lor pro­file is pro­found. I’d rec­om­mend read­ing and trea­sur­ing it with or with­out the rest of the anthol­o­gy because bizarre inter­sec­tions like these are rare to come by from any­body else. Short, sharp, and occa­sion­al­ly some­what pet­ty notions are what Chuck Kloster­man does best and most orig­i­nal­ly. Thanks to a digres­sion of Kafka’s begin­ning with “you and I are about the same age…,” he arrives (by way of REM, believe it or not) at a sig­nif­i­cant state­ment about youth and iden­ti­ty.

It seems strange to me to be into music for its cool­ness out­side of high school. That seems like that’s the only time when you’re a young per­son and you’re using art basi­cal­ly to cre­ate a per­son­al­i­ty because you don’t have a real per­son­al­i­ty yet.”

Kloster­man is debat­ably exempt from the tra­di­tion­al aca­d­e­m­ic abstract of “objec­tiv­i­ty” for the vast major­i­ty of his notable work because of its stat­ed pri­ma­ry sub­ject: his “inte­ri­or life.” Per­haps the suc­cess of his voice could be at least par­tial­ly attrib­uted to his devel­op­ment of an exis­ten­tial mus­cle – a per­spec­tive unique enough to enter­tain, yet no less rec­og­niz­ably Mid­west­ern with which he’s been able to reflect par­tic­u­lar­ly clear­ly on the pro­fes­sion in tan­dem with the expe­ri­ence he’s accu­mu­lat­ed over the course of his career.

You know, when you’re young, you’re a real emo­tion­al writer if you’re a writer… If I was a young per­son now, I would be incred­i­bly attract­ed to the idea that when you’re 22 you can be a nation­al writer, which was impos­si­ble when I was 22.”

In a way, Kloster­man does sur­mise that it was indeed its objec­tiv­i­ty that media lost, and that writ­ing is no longer a “one-way rela­tion­ship,” but a sort of ridicu­lous dance in which “many peo­ple feel the rea­son they’re con­sum­ing media is to respond to it… that it’s not for the con­tent.” I would remind old Chuck that there are very few func­tion­ing adults out­side of acad­e­mia or retire­ment in the Unit­ed States who spend much of their time read­ing any­thing sole­ly for the sake of absorp­tion, and the dis­par­i­ty between those who were and weren’t was expo­nen­tial­ly greater in the past. The sto­ry of Amer­i­can media is defined by its cycles of wan­ing and wax­ing democ­ra­ti­za­tion, but many of the more tra­di­tion­al avenues in the busi­ness have bet on the “two-way rela­tion­ship” to keep them rel­e­vant.

My own favorite chap­ter of the col­lec­tion is a 2500-word per­son­al essay con­struct­ed for Grant­land to answer a sin­gle incon­gruity: “Why is watch­ing a pre­re­cord­ed sport­ing event less plea­sur­able than watch­ing the same game live?” Some form of this ques­tion has at least mild­ly trou­bled every Amer­i­can since the 1960s, includ­ing myself, and Kloster­man man­ages to pro­vide an enter­tain­ing and con­cise analy­sis of this plight through his own wis­dom. In its short pref­ace in the vol­ume – which was writ­ten “in 2008, in Europe, when [Chuck] was pre­tend depressed” is the sto­ry of his encounter with a house-paint­ing stranger, to whom he explains the meter for suc­cess in his opin­ion-man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­fes­sion, as he sees it: “If a large num­ber of strangers seem to think one of my opin­ions is espe­cial­ly true or wild­ly wrong, there is some­how a per­cep­tion that I am suc­ceed­ing at this voca­tion.”

Last week­end I was in a hashish bar in Ams­ter­dam. It was post-dusk, pre-night. The music was ter­ri­ble (fake reg­gae, late-peri­od Eric Clap­ton, Sub­lime deep cuts.) I was sit­ting next to a British stranger with a shaved head and a speech imped­i­ment. Our con­ver­sa­tion required sub­ti­tles, so I imag­ined them in my mind. He told me he had lost three fam­i­ly mem­bers with­in the past year: his moth­er, who was six­ty-six; his uncle, who was fifty-six; and his sis­ter, who was forty-six. He said he’d just turned thir­ty-six. He asked if I saw a pat­tern devel­op­ing. “Yes,” I said. “But only numer­i­cal­ly.“

I asked what he did for a liv­ing. He said he was a house­painter. He asked me the same ques­tion about myself. “I man­u­fac­ture opin­ions,” I said.

“Real­ly?” he asked. “How do you know if you’re any good at that?”

“By the num­ber of peo­ple who agree or dis­agree,” I said in response. “If a large num­ber of strangers seem to think one of my opin­ions is espe­cial­ly true or wild­ly wrong, there is some­how a per­cep­tion that I am suc­ceed­ing at this voca­tion.”

“That’s inter­est­ing,” said the bald British man who could bare­ly speak. “I guess house paint­ing is a total­ly dif­fer­ent thing.”

Rarely are sit­u­a­tions or dis­cus­sions that begin with back in my day actu­al­ly con­struc­tive in any sense, but Chuck Kloster­man appears to be the excep­tion. If you’re will­ing to indulge him, you may find your­self reas­sured. He now writes from a remote cab­in (with WiFi,) was tor­tured – like all of us – in sift­ing through and com­pil­ing his old work for X, and finds its index to be his favorite part.

Explor­ing the index from a book you cre­at­ed is like hav­ing some­one split your head open with an axe so that you can peruse the con­tents of your brain.”

He is will­ful­ly and com­plete­ly igno­rant of the Har­ry Pot­ter fran­chise, yet able to sin­cere­ly wit­ness and con­vey the nuances of back-to-back Creed and Nick­el­back con­certs in a con­fi­dent, fas­ci­nat­ing tech­nique of which any oth­er music or cul­ture writer would deprive you. He is “almost embar­rassed” by his emo­tion­al attach­ment to the Char­lie Brown peanuts. (See: Chuck Kloster­man on Char­lie Brown.)

I haven’t watched A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas in at least twen­ty-five years, sole­ly because I can’t emo­tion­al­ly rec­on­cile the final scene.”

You’ll notice that his entire answer to the live tele­vi­sion deba­cle is – again – entire­ly about con­trol (or the lack there­of.) In fact, his rela­tion­ship with and desire for con­trol also con­tributed to his choice of pro­fes­sion.

Part of the rea­son I became a writer is because it was this com­plete­ly con­trolled real­i­ty where I could do this thing by myself where you’d go out and you’d do the inter­views and stuff, but then you’re back by your­self, tran­scrib­ing and then writ­ing. Then, when the sto­ry is done and you send it off, that’s the end. Now that’s the mid­dle. Now it’s like, when the sto­ry is pub­lished, it’s the mid­dle of the process very often because the con­sumer feels dif­fer­ent­ly now.”

While Klosterman’s voice is pleas­ant to some­one like me, nei­ther it nor him­self nec­es­sar­i­ly belong to The Peo­ple. In his X review for Paste Mag­a­zine, B. David Zar­ley pro­claims essays to be “a love let­ter to a moment,” con­clud­ing that Chuck is “’effec­tive­ly nar­cis­sis­tic,’ prov­ing that cul­ture essays can teach us some­thing about our­selves and the peo­ple around us.” For The Wash­ing­ton Post, Justin Wm. Moy­er notes “it’s hard to think of anoth­er writer who could make a 30-page, deeply report­ed essay about a North Dako­ta junior-col­lege bas­ket­ball game inter­est­ing,” sug­gest­ing that this new col­lec­tion marks Klosterman’s ascen­dance from crit­ic to philoso­pher. From what I’ve read to date, I would counter that he has always ful­filled the term to the extent of its use­ful­ness in the 21st cen­tu­ry and is even now begin­ning to rede­fine it. Last Jan­u­ary, he braved the “dystopic” Google Gates to speak crit­i­cal­ly for a crowd of Googlers, describ­ing them as “an umbrel­la over the entire cul­ture,” and urg­ing cau­tion and reflec­tion in the com­ing future to keep them from doing “some­thing bad.” His engage­ment with them – espe­cial­ly dur­ing the Q&A – is a fas­ci­nat­ing insight into the Greater Google Mind, and I would encour­age any invest­ed par­ties in Chuck Klosterman’s role as a philoso­pher to watch the talk in full. I was unfa­mil­iar with “the boat-sails-wind anal­o­gy” before I read James Murphy’s inter­view for LCD Soundsystem’s “last album.”

Your life is a boat, the sails are your emo­tions, and drugs are the wind. When you’re a kid, your boat is small and your sail is huge, and drugs are like a hur­ri­cane.”

Con­trol x Time = the Kloster­man beat. I sup­pose this must be what oth­er enter­tain­ment writ­ers are refer­ring to when they accuse Chuck of nos­tal­gia traf­fick­ing, but I can’t be so sure. Though I’d like to think my own snout for the stuff is espe­cial­ly well-tuned, I am unde­ni­ably from a dif­fer­ent plan­et – even audi­to­ri­ly. All but one or two of the musi­cians inter­viewed through­out X were entire­ly unknown to me by name, which Klosterman’s voice man­aged to make even more com­pelling – not to men­tion the includ­ed sto­ries of ath­letes and the sports indus­try, which include sto­ries of the human ego, para­noia, and com­plex dra­ma that always man­age to tran­scend their set­ting when artic­u­lat­ed with such dex­ter­i­ty.

I’ve nev­er before writ­ten a book review of any sort – nor am I defen­si­bly qual­i­fied to com­pare cul­ture writ­ers – but with good ole’ Chuck, I dove much fur­ther in order to tack­le one very impor­tant ques­tion: should Kloster­man be rec­om­mend­ed read­ing for any­one under 30 above or along­side best­sellers like George Saun­ders or ground­break­ing essay­ists of col­or like Hilton Als? In many a case, I must con­clude by say­ing, sim­ply, that some­thing of val­ue would be for­gone if we shunned Chuck, even if his insight is old news to all but the most rudi­men­ta­ry yokels. I have lit­tle to offer women or peo­ple of col­or, but I’d bet X would prove itself worth a library trip for any idiot white guys in their lives who may be falling far behind. I don’t know of any oth­er voic­es who are in a bet­ter posi­tion to intro­duce these issues, nor any who are quite so prac­ticed at han­dling them del­i­cate­ly. While Jen­na Wortham-lev­el read­ers will gain lit­tle to noth­ing from this exam­i­na­tion or the ecol­o­gy of its sub­ject (and will like­ly find them­selves paus­ing momen­tar­i­ly for a deserved jest before mov­ing on and return­ing to their high-lev­el plane of com­plex neolib­er­al com­men­tary,) but most of their less-aWok­en fathers should find in Chuck a man they can tru­ly trust, who man­ages to con­sis­tent­ly dis­till and artic­u­late the need-to-knows of the most com­plex pop cul­ture and pop sci­ence con­ver­sa­tions with­out using any of the aca­d­e­m­ic lan­guage found in most insti­tu­tion­al dis­course which dad­dy finds too con­de­scend­ing and super­flu­ous to bear. Those read­ers who’ve absolute­ly fuck­ing despised my voice so far in this essay should give Kloster­man a go – I take as much time as I can muster to fid­dle with and sea­son the words in con­text like this work because I basi­cal­ly enjoy the bull­shit, yet I’ve found both X and But What If We’re Wrong? remark­ably refresh­ing and impres­sive exer­cis­es.

[These are] the cul­tur­al con­di­tions in which I was raised under and which I pur­sued jour­nal­ism under. That was part of the thing that drew me to the idea of being a reporter was I was like, this is some­thing I can do, I think. My abil­i­ty to detach my per­son­al emo­tions from what I am inves­ti­gat­ing, while not per­fect, I can do this. And now it turns out that the oppo­site is what’s desir­able. I think it’s real­ly going to change the kind of per­son who goes into media going for­ward.”

Read­ing Chuck Kloster­man is going to be per­turb­ing, but true sin­cer­i­ty is almost always uncom­fort­able. Com­pre­hen­sive­ly, his non­fic­tion rep­re­sents per­haps the most impor­tant pos­si­ble behav­ior to encour­age from both the crit­ic and his read­er­ship because it incu­bates and exudes sin­cere curios­i­ty and a gen­uine inter­est in learn­ing to lis­ten. From the per­spec­tive of quan­ti­fied soci­etal con­tri­bu­tion, I’d argue that Klosterman’s craft is a sig­nif­i­cant­ly more hon­or­able and worth­while pur­suit than greater aca­d­e­m­ic lit­er­a­ture in its unique and enter­tain­ing treat­ment of sub­jects the estab­lish­ment tends to pul­ver­ize into minu­tia. Unless he’s broke and/or book­ish, buy X as a gift for your Dad and have a go when he’s done. If noth­ing else, at least read the Tay­lor Swift inter­view, okay? If he doesn’t enjoy the book, I’m always avail­able if one or both of you need to blow off some steam: give me a call at (573) 823‑4380. (Nor­mal text mes­sag­ing / talk­time rates will apply.)

Further Reading

The Good Guy, Han Solo

It’s open­ing night at the Bag­dad The­ater on Hawthorne in South­east Port­land and hard­ly anybody’s both­ered to show up. Less than 20% of the venue’s 500 seats are occu­pied by the time the host takes the stage to intro­duce Solo, but those who are here for the last Thurs­day show­ing have been shout­ing, whoop­ing, and gur­gling bad approx­i­ma­tions of wook­iee nois­es since the screen cut to black from its ad slideshow. If my mid­dle row can be assumed an accu­rate sam­ple, only a hand­ful of these are “fans” enough to feel com­pelled to wear a Star Wars t-shirt. As I grab my last cock­tail, the bar­tender tells me that only 300 folks showed up for the evening mati­nee, though he him­self was “excit­ed” to see the movie — one of a minor­i­ty among Port­landers, appar­ent­ly, who still give a shit about Star Wars.

By design, Solo: A Star Wars Sto­ry is a slight­ly more com­plex film than The Episodes in the same way Rogue One was, if a bit bet­ter exe­cut­ed, nar­ra­tive­ly. First, please rest assured that Alden Ehren­re­ich assumes the Han Solo per­sona as tru­ly as any­one could — he tri­umphed through a ridicu­lous­ly exten­sive cast­ing process, and is cer­tain­ly hand­some enough (if not more con­ven­tion­al­ly so than his pre­de­ces­sor) to con­sis­tent­ly look the part. He actu­al­ly bears an unset­tling resem­blance in fea­tures and man­ner­isms to one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and that through-and-through boy­ish­ness par­tic­u­lar­ly makes sense here, set in Han’s for­ma­tive, earnest youth — the stat­ed pur­pose of the film’s exis­tence. Fran­chise fanat­ics, then, should be con­tent. (It’s a good thing CGI-ing the main char­ac­ter in a live action film isn’t quite a low-risk option yet.) And yes, Don­ald Glover com­plete­ly steals the vain, infi­nite­ly styl­ish Lan­do Cal­riss­ian and inevitably makes one wish to see him cast again. Per­son­al­ly, I am very tired of see­ing Woody Har­rel­son, though all the com­po­nents of his pub­lic per­sona should all but ensure his lik­a­bil­i­ty. From what I saw in Three Bill­boards, I’d con­cede that he is as tal­ent­ed of an actor as I am capa­ble of appre­ci­at­ing, but his role as Tobias Beck­ett in Solo couldn’t pos­si­bly be sub­stan­tial enough to actu­al­ly make use of his craft.

Though I don’t believe in “spoil­ers,” or use of the term to bait read­ers, it’s worth stat­ing for the record what every­one should know by now: there sim­ply aren’t spoil­ers in a Star Wars movie — every human being on Earth knows too much about the for­mu­la to ever have any of these films’ com­par­a­tive­ly irrel­e­vant plots “ruined.” The most sur­pris­ing, his­tor­i­cal­ly-sig­nif­i­cant deci­sion of this whole pro­duc­tion was the omis­sion of the tra­di­tion­al yel­low type open­ing crawl over a back­drop of dis­tant stars, which I gen­uine­ly found myself miss­ing. (Appar­ent­ly it wasn’t present in Rogue One, either — I just failed to catch it.) I was very pleased to see my own num­ber one favorite device of the fran­chise used with­in this film’s first ten min­utes: crimelords and gang lead­ers as huge­ly mag­ni­fied vari­a­tions of the creep­ing and crawl­ing crea­tures our instincts are planned to abhor. Solo’s first vil­lain — the gigan­tic, worm­like boss Lady Prox­i­ma (Lin­da Hunt) — is com­plete­ly incon­se­quen­tial, and only appears in a sin­gle scene, but the prac­tice of gross­ly over­sized mon­strosi­ties leav­ing absolute­ly noth­ing of a baddie’s essence to be extrap­o­lat­ed by the audi­ence from nuance is one of very few ways these films are let loose, and it open­ly shits on the more pre­ten­tious viewer’s assump­tions about good writ­ing, which I think big mon­ey movies should feel more com­fort­able doing, gen­er­al­ly.

This first act begins on Han’s home plan­et Corel­lia — the bleak­er urban, indus­tri­al, work­ing-class coun­ter­part to the clean capi­tol city­world Cor­us­cant — with his rather pre­dictable mis­sion to escape Lady Proxima’s sphere of con­trol with his girl, Qi-ra (Emil­ia Clarke,) who could and should have been more cre­ative­ly named, giv­en her impor­tance not as her own char­ac­ter with depth to devel­op (a no-no for a female role, Gourd help us,) but as Han’s mir­ror image to grow dark­ly apart, prov­ing that he — The Good Guy - is unques­tion­ably more moral­ly for­ti­fied than any­one else in the whole god­damned uni­verse. After hav­ing been drug through so very many, I couldn’t tell you at this point how to make the intro­duc­to­ry escape action of this sort of pro­duc­tion more excit­ing and less for­mu­la­ic. Big sur­prise — their plan goes awry, and Qi-ra is pre­vent­ed from leav­ing the plan­et with Han, who’s imme­di­ate (and I mean imme­di­ate)solu­tion is his enlist­ment in the Impe­r­i­al Navy via the recruit­ing sta­tion right there in the damned space­port (dur­ing which the film takes the lib­er­ty of seiz­ing his surname’s expla­na­tion) to serve the Eng­lish in their grand con­quest of the uni­verse. Bizarrely, he man­ages to serve as a grunt for three whole years of com­plic­i­ty in unmen­tioned atroc­i­ties until he encoun­ters the dis­guised crim­i­nal Wise Old Woody in the mid­dle of pulling a job with his two-per­son crew. The team doesn’t agree to bring Solo along until he meets an asset in Chew­bac­ca for the first time as he briefly inhab­its anoth­er of the clas­sic Star Wars trap: the hun­gry mon­ster in a shad­ow-filled mud pit, but is spared the wrath because of his intro­duc­to­ry grasp on Chewie’s shriek­ing lan­guage (called Shyri­i­wook) in which he man­ages to suf­fi­cient­ly pitch the advan­tages of his sur­vival, and the two escape, chained togeth­er. Observ­ing the addi­tion of Wook­iee to the deal, the crew briefly debates the prospect’s new val­ue in pro­vid­ing “need­ed mus­cle,” which con­vinces Woody to return for them and kicks off a series of case stud­ies in this film’s bizarre atti­tude toward the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the oppressed.

How­ev­er, in a rare depic­tion of his voli­tion, Chew­bac­ca is briefly con­sult­ed before the two seek to be for­mal­ly includ­ed on the job, and is even asked around a camp­fire, lat­er, what he’s shoot­ing for in life at the moment, to which he responds“finding my family/tribe.” Despite hav­ing spent a whole three hell­ish years in the trench­es with the British, the roman­tic Han Solo declares his pri­ma­ry moti­va­tion for all of it still lies in his desire to return to Corel­lia and res­cue Qi’ra. In their stolen Impe­r­i­al ship, the lot descend on a snowy moun­tain-tra­vers­ing Maglev to steal the Ura­ni­um it’s trans­port­ing in a scene that’s straight up jacked from ani­mat­ed fam­i­ly clas­sic The Polar Express, but… oh no!… A gag­gle of “marauders”called the Cloud Rid­ers (yet anoth­er throw­away prop­er noun) roll up on those speed­er bikes from Endor (except these can fly,) and screw up every­thing so bad­ly that both of Woody’s crew end up dead and the booty scut­tled. After the fact, Woody reveals to Han that the job was con­tract­ed by yet anoth­er care­less­ly-named crime syn­di­cate — Crim­son Dawn, and that his only pos­si­ble course of action is now vig­or­ous brown nos­ing to its leader, Dry­den Vos (Paul Bettany)((aka Scarred Jarvis,)) in the wan­ing hope he’ll spare his life to make anoth­er attempt. Fol­low­ing this infor­ma­tion, he firm­ly sug­gests that Han and Chewie fuck off, lest their faces become known in the under­world, doom­ing them to serv­ing it for­ev­er, appar­ent­ly. Already, this vague pre­sump­tion of Han’s puri­ty which all of the pro­tag­o­nists must con­stant­ly ven­er­ate in mar­tyr­dom is get­ting tire­some, as is the dynam­ic of his insis­tence against them.

Nat­u­ral­ly, both Chewie and Han end up along for a vis­it to Scarred Jarvis’ tow­er yacht, where the lat­ter very con­ve­nient­ly stum­bles upon none oth­er than his long lost love, Qi-ra in the bar. Despite hav­ing spent the past three years at war in unspeak­able con­di­tions think­ing only of how to lib­er­ate and be reunit­ed with her, he isn’t both­ered to express more than the mod­er­ate­ly-excit­ed and sur­prised hug you’d expect of some­one who’s just run into the kid down the cul-de-sac from their child­hood home who used to ride her bike over for pop­si­cles on Sun­day after­noons. While he does rehearse for her the tale of their reuni­fi­ca­tion as his one moti­va­tion for every­thing since they were sep­a­rat­ed — includ­ing his pres­ence there, “right now,” he fol­lows the pro­fes­sion up quite abrupt­ly with the sly sug­ges­tion that they fuck as soon as pos­si­ble. True to trope, she is jad­ed and indef­i­nite as she dis­tant­ly implies her binds of servi­tude while flash­ing the tat­too of the extreme­ly-for­get­table and innocu­ous Crim­son Dawn logo on her right wrist. (The total lame­ness of the brands in this movie must be inten­tion­al. I can think of no oth­er expla­na­tion.)

The evil Scarred Jarvis is then intro­duced, quick­ly steal­ing the crown for Best Host of all Star Wars Antag­o­nists before polite­ly ask­ing Woody why he shouldn’t kill the lot of them. As per his infi­nite luck, Han pulls the idea of steal­ing unre­fined Ura­ni­um out of his ass, which has some­how nev­er occurred to any­one else in the room, despite their unan­i­mous top-of-the-head knowl­edge of the sin­gle loca­tion where it is mined. Short­ly, the mer­ry three plus Qi-ra con­ve­nient­ly in tow are off to a casi­no-esque estab­lish­ment to find Lan­do, who Qi-ra describes as “attrac­tive, styl­ish, charm­ing,” and like adjec­tives, to Han’s obvi­ous sex­u­al cha­grin, which is fur­thered by his sub­se­quent loss of a card game with Lando’s ship — the Mil­len­ni­um Fal­con, of course — in the stakes. Of course, the attrac­tive, beau­ti­ful­ly-dressed black man only bests Solo — the earnest, sim­ple­ton, Good Guy white dude who wears the same out­fit for decades — in front of Qi-ra, the female prize by way of sleight-of-hand, the film shame­less­ly play­ing on that strange inse­cu­ri­ty white guys have about their part­ners’ secret­ly ever­p­re­sent and very pow­er­ful temp­ta­tion to dump them with­out warn­ing for black cock. Fur­ther emas­cu­la­tion is inflict­ed on poor lit­tle Han when Lan­do turns his oh-so-crafty(actu­al­ly just very charis­mat­ic) charm upon Qi-ra, who reveals that she’s the boss of the gig. The final blow to Han’s dick­i­tude is cast when he tries to enter the nego­ti­a­tion between thEEEEEEe two and Lan­do chides “the adults are speak­ing,” but even­tu­al­ly agrees to pro­vide them a lift for a 25% cut, so the lot make prepa­ra­tions to leave.

Enter my new favorite char­ac­ter of the fran­chise, Lan­do Calrissian’s co-pilot, L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge,) or “L3,” the proud­ly sen­tient, vio­lent­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro-rights droid who is intro­duced as she is plead­ing with two fight­ing droids in a square cage sur­round­ed by scream­ing spec­ta­tors (easy does it on that the­mat­ic slav­ery) to cir­cum­vent their “fight­ing pro­grams” because they “don’t have to do this.” Though Lan­do and the crew behave like her duress is fool­ish and unim­por­tant — pulling her away to the Fal­con — she is allowed anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty to free droids very soon, but not before Solo’s sin­gle short pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion between two female char­ac­ters.

On the way to Kessel, Qi-ra stops by the cock­pit and con­vers­es with L3. Until recent­ly, I was unaware of what’s large­ly regard­ed as the worst habit of male writ­ers with female char­ac­ters: if and when they have a one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion between anoth­er female char­ac­ter, it’s only about oth­er male char­ac­ters. Sure enough, L3 begins by insist­ing to Qi-ra that Han is in love with her, insist­ing by the objec­tive find­ings of her sen­sors — which Qi-ra unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly denies like a bash­ful lit­tle girl before L3 con­tiues on about Lando’s long­time love for her, and why it must remain unre­quit­ed, which we are encour­aged to laugh at by the doubt Qi-ra voic­es with­out much hes­i­ta­tion regard­ing the hypo­thet­i­cal union’s sex­u­al mechan­ics because it’s so pre­pos­ter­ous.(I’ll get back to that in a moment.)

When the team arrives on Kessel and infil­trates the mine, L3 cre­ates a “dis­trac­tion” when she begins remov­ing the restrain­ing bolts from droids in the con­trol room, call­ing the prac­tice sav­age, or unciv­i­lized, or maybe bar­bar­ian — I don’t quite remem­ber. As she frees them with­out any notice­able detrac­tion from her duties as Seth Green of the heist — hack­ing con­trols, remote­ly open­ing doors, and all that — the droids begin to help free oth­ers in an expo­nen­tial­ly mul­ti­ply­ing cir­cle of lib­er­a­tion until they become a row­dy mob who’s cute acts of rebel­lion are spaced through­out a few min­utes of screen­time in short jump­cuts off the oth­er crew as they fight deep­er into the mine. With the most sig­nif­i­cant empha­sis ever placed upon Chew­bac­ca in Star Wars his­to­ry, he halts when he spies slave Wook­iees strug­gling to find off enforcers and informs Han that he’s going to break off and assist them. Since Chewie’s only allowed to speak to the audi­ence through Han’s retorts and nev­er direct­ly, it’s impos­si­ble to know how he phrased it, exact­ly, but from my per­spec­tive, his appeared to be the expres­sion of a wish to do what Han had to agree to release him to do, as would a mas­ter, not a “part­ner.” Of course, Solo does agree, albeit hes­i­tant­ly, because he’s The Good Guy, while quite incon­sid­er­ate­ly express­ing his desire to see Chewie again soon instead of wish­ing him suc­cess. How­ev­er, releas­ing him to free his peo­ple (as per his pri­ma­ry life goal, expressed before,) means that Han has to load twelve of the super heavy unre­fined Ura­ni­um tubes onto the cart all by him­self and push it ful­ly loaded at least 50 whole yards with­out the assis­tance of his big strong slave. Boy, what a pain in the ass! He’s spared his labor­ing, though, when Chew­bac­ca returns after no time at all with the enslaved Wook­iees he’s just hero­ical­ly res­cued, who he then imme­di­ate­ly asks to assist his mas­ter in push­ing the cart — per­form­ing the same labor they were forced to do under the enslave­ment they were sup­pos­ed­ly lib­er­at­ed from, sec­onds before.

The heist has inad­ver­tent­ly (nice, huge empha­sis on inad­ver­tent­ly) ignit­ed a slave rebel­lion through­out the mine, which serves the crew only as a dis­trac­tion for the guards. The chaos is inter­rupt­ed a half dozen times or so by those jump­cuts back to the con­trol room of adorable lit­tle droids enact­ing their piti­ful­ly amus­ing revenge on the equip­ment — slap­ping a key­board with a cook­ie sheet-like pan, stomp­ing on a con­trol pan­el, etc. — while L3 shouts par­o­d­i­cal qua­si-Marx­ist bat­tle­cries, which… yes… include refer­ring to the freed droids as “com­rades.” She even radios Lan­do at one point and tri­umphant­ly pro­claims that she’s “found her true call­ing.”

If and when a female char­ac­ter has a one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion with anoth­er female char­ac­ter, it’s only about oth­er male char­ac­ters.

By the time the Ura­ni­um cart is with­in its last few yards of the await­ing Fal­con, the riot has reached the land­ing bay and the guards around its perime­ter have read­just­ed their pri­or­i­ties to dis­abling the ship’s land­ing gear. This inter­rupts Lan­do in the cock­pit, who has cho­sen this time to work on dic­tat­ing his auto­bi­og­ra­phy because he’s a man who both­ers to dress­es him­self well and is there­fore oh so mani­a­cal­ly, com­i­cal­ly, and unrea­son­ably vain! How berserk! Still look­ing good as hell, he emerges and stands on the ramp to cov­er the rest of the crew’s return and load­ing of the dan­ger­ous Ura­ni­um with blaster fire, shout­ing the oblig­a­tory inter­mit­tent “come on, hur­ry up,” until L3appears, also fir­ing a blaster and shout­ing until she arrives in front of Lan­do, before notic­ing some com­mo­tion(?) with droids behind her and turn­ing around, again fer­vent­ly shout­ing more lib­er­a­tion cries. Lan­do doesn’t budge from the Fal­con’s side, but yells after her, until he watch­es as she is shot repeat­ed­ly and falls, prompt­ing him to run to her side. Filmed unnec­es­sar­i­ly grue­some­ly, her head and shoul­ders sep­a­rate from what’s left of her low­er body when he first tries to hoist her up. Of course, his reck­less­ness gets him shot in the arm, so Chewie returns to car­ry them both to the safe­ty of the ship, where the injured Lan­do holds her head lov­ing­ly in his arms for her last moments, repeat­ing “I can fix you, I can fix you.”

Now, I under­stand that Star Wars movies (or their reviews, for that mat­ter) are not the sort of enter­tain­ment one seeks out in order to exam­ine the dynam­ics of pow­er struc­tures or elab­o­rate cul­tur­al sym­bol­ism, but they all con­tain a sig­nif­i­cant amount of both. The ster­ile, cold, and bureau­crat­ic Galac­tic Empire is the British Empire, the Rebel­lion and the Repub­lic are the Unit­ed States or its colo­nial pre­cur­sors, the Jedi are vague­ly Native Amer­i­can, and the Death Star is the Boston Tea Par­ty. You’ve rec­og­nized this, I’m sure because it’s shoved in your ears most explic­it­ly by their accents, and less so in your face by aes­thet­ic influ­ences, tac­ti­cal philoso­phies, com­mand eti­quette, and pos­ture, even. Solo’s main char­ac­ter is soak­ing in Amer­i­can Old West­ness, which may or may not have led to its lib­er­al sat­u­ra­tion with the themes of indi­vid­ual rights, slav­ery, and lib­er­a­tion. Regard­less, they’re cer­tain­ly present, and most of them dis­turbing­ly for comedic effect.

As a silent char­ac­ter to the audi­ence, it’s under­stand­able that Chew­bac­ca had too many lim­i­ta­tions to occu­py a strong sec­ond to Han Solo’s lead in the narrative’s eye, and per­haps the rela­tion­ship between the two as por­trayed in the pre­vi­ous films reeked so strong­ly of servi­tude that it was an inevitable ele­ment when the time came to write them their very own movie. In direct con­trast to the firm place of all droids in the social hier­ar­chy of the last 9 movies — address­ing humans as “Mas­ter,” unapolo­get­i­cal­ly spo­ken of as prop­er­ty, and trad­ed and/or gift­ed as such by both pro­tag­o­nists and antag­o­nists, etc. — what we see of Lan­do and L3 togeth­er is a gen­uine­ly and com­plex­ly affec­tion­ate part­ner­ship between equals, which Solo makes an effort to empha­size, if only to laugh at.

In response to the forced vio­lence between two drones for spec­ta­tor sport, L3 is com­plete­ly enraged, and she cries (among oth­er things) “we are sen­tient!,” but her dis­tress is triv­i­al­ized as hys­ter­i­cal dis­trac­tion (see: Djan­go Unchained.) When she sug­gests to Qi-ra that Lan­do (who is already ille­git­imized as a cheat­ing nar­cis­sist, and there­fore effem­i­nate) is attract­ed to her, it’s a joke (which­many in my audi­ence laughed at) at the expense of her triv­i­al­ized sex­u­al­i­ty. After she tri­umphs and declares the lib­er­a­tion of her kind to be her true cause, she is imme­di­ate­ly destroyed fight­ing for its sake, yet her ide­ol­o­gy is not once acknowl­edged by her fleshy com­pan­ions, and her body is quick­ly gut­ted for the data on her “cen­tral pro­cess­ing unit” as it’s inter­faced with the Fal­con. Grant­ed, Lan­do does thought­ful­ly muse “she’s part of the ship now” short­ly after­ward, which would be nice, if you’d for­got­ten his last words were an out­right lie. Last­ly, it’s worth not­ing how apa­thet­ic the main char­ac­ters them­selves are toward the Kessel min­ers, espe­cial­ly as they are pack­ing up to leave, when the cam­era pans over the chaot­ic strug­gle between the lib­er­at­ed and their guards in very close prox­im­i­ty to the await­ing Fal­con, yet there was not a sug­ges­tion that they would even con­sid­erlet­ting them take refuge from the vio­lence in their very spa­cious freighter. Aside from Han’s or Qi-ra’s, Solo treats lib­er­a­tion as charm­ing or amus­ing, noth­ing more.

Any­way, the crown jew­el of Solo for many fans will prob­a­bly be the scene of the infa­mous Kessel Run, when Han Solo and Chew­bac­ca first take the helm(?) of the Mil­len­ni­um Fal­con with Lan­do injured and L3 dis­sect­ed, using her “nav­i­ga­tion­al data­base” to plot a very risky short­cut around the scary space cloud by the scary space squid and the scary space hole in order to make it to the site of the refin­ery before the volatile Ura­ni­um explodes. Once there, darn old flakey Lan­do fucks the hell of in the Fal­con right as the Cloud Rid­ers roll up, but whoa! their leader is actu­al­ly a very young woman with freck­les! She describes the atroc­i­ties of Crim­son Dawn and sug­gests that Han (who’snow the estab­lished deci­sion­mak­er for what­ev­er rea­son) give them the Ura­ni­um in order to estab­lish “the begin­ning of a rebel­lion,” which we can safe­ly assume is The Rebel­lion, which does beg one to won­der why Solo nev­er once bragged among the lat­er rebel­lion about hav­ing start­ed the whole thing in the oth­er films, con­sid­er­ing that — whad­dya know — he says yes!

Woody, how­ev­er, says he’s going to retire upon the news of this deci­sion before imme­di­ate­ly reap­pear­ing again on Scarred Jarvis’ yacht after he’s revealed to have betrayed the Ura­ni­um ruse to him. Qi-ra ends up killing Scarred Jarvis, sav­ing Han, but after promis­ing to fol­low him and escape, she rings up the late Scarred Jarvis’ boss — a Sith Zabrak who, I would argue, is not nec­es­sar­i­ly Darth Maul, though he prob­a­bly is — and informs him that her boss is dead and she’s assumed his post. As Han and Woody meet again in an Old West stand­off (com­plete with sand,) the lat­ter insists one more time that Qi-ra is not who Han thinks she is (as Jarvis and Qi-ra her­self have also said repeat­ed­ly,) describ­ing her as “a sur­vivor,” before Han kills him in self-defense.

Final­ly, after see­ing the Cloud Rid­ers off with the Ura­ni­um, Han finds Lan­do once again in a card game — this time tak­ing care to dis­able his sleight-of-hand device before­hand so that he wins the Mil­len­ni­um Fal­con, “fair and square,” and we cut to Solo (who seems remark­ably upbeat con­sid­er­ing the recent betray­al of the lover he’d longed years to reunite with) and Chewie in her cock­pit as they tie in that one last knot by declar­ing their des­ti­na­tion, Tatooine, before roar­ing off into hyper­space, leav­ing the cred­it roll in their wake.

Solo treats lib­er­a­tion as charm­ing or amus­ing, noth­ing more.

Over two years ago, I con­clud­ed my first work for Extra­tone about The Force Awak­ens by argu­ing that Star Wars on the big screen should be allowed to die in favor of invest­ing the time, ener­gy, and fund­ing they require in the pur­suit of some­thing new, but the indus­try still appears to believe that nos­tal­gia is a sur­er bet where prof­its are con­cerned, at least, even after two whole decades of mind-numb­ing rean­i­mat­ed prop­er­ties. I didn’t catch The Last Jedi until recent­ly, which was remark­ably well-done mea­sured against the oth­ers as a Star Wars movie, but cer­tain­ly didn’t aim to achieve much more. Clear­ly, there must be some truth in Hollywood’s cow­ardice about orig­i­nal prop­er­ties- espe­cial­ly when it comes to the sort of fan­ta­sy armed with potent but unguid­ed emo­tion­al bombs that define the Star Wars uni­verse, so it wouldn’t make much sense to revive my old dia­tribe, here. (Though I can assure you that I will be relent­less if this horse­shit con­tin­ues for much longer.) The Force Awak­ens and The Last Jedi, though, were episod­ic titles for the fam­i­ly, and these spin­offs that began with Rogue One are sup­posed to be for… well, I’m not entire­ly sure. In real­i­ty, they’ve only moved the prover­bial bar up a very wee bit to the fam­i­ly who occa­sion­al­ly says “shit,” because they’re not intel­lec­tu­al­ly stim­u­lat­ing enough to jus­ti­fy them­selves as Big Boy-only pro­duc­tions. Or, they wouldn’t be, were they not part of this fran­chise.

The truth is, the fans have grown up, and they… I… will still buy a tick­et for the small­est crumb of hope that a prod­uct of this huge machine will be capa­ble of mak­ing us feel even a frac­tion of what we felt as chil­dren watch­ing the orig­i­nal films. For me, The Force Awak­ens actu­al­ly did, once, in that blast of horns before the open­ing crawl, but it hasn’t hap­pened since, and I should cer­tain­ly stop expect­ing or want­i­ng to expect that it will. For oth­ers, it’s still work­ing. Though there was a frac­tion of who I expect­ed to be in atten­dance with me, they did laugh at a hand­ful of (most­ly fas­cist) moments, and whooped, hollered, and even clapped for a few sec­onds at the end. I’m sur­prised open­ing night wasn’t packed because Port­land is the sin­gle most nos­tal­gia-addict­ed cul­ture I’ve ever seen any­where in the Unit­ed States. Then again, there are a bil­lion the­aters here, so per­haps the sam­ple is just lousy. We’ll see how tomor­row and Sun­day go, but I’d be sur­prised if any box­of­fice records were bro­ken.

In the past, when film enthu­si­asts and­fans have described Han Solo as “the best char­ac­ter in Star Wars,” they’ve actu­al­ly been prais­ing his poten­tial as a char­ac­ter, not his mate­r­i­al itself, and Solo’s most effec­tive func­tion as a fran­chise film was to shut that praise down. Han was not at all denied his movie — this is his movie — and it pro­vid­ed him the screen­time to show us who he tru­ly is and why we real­ly like him so much: he doesn’t fuck­ing change. The secret to Han Solo’s moral and emo­tion­al resilien­cy is noth­ing more than halt­ed devel­op­ment. The same old inner con­flict between the tough, ruth­less­ly self-inter­est­ed per­sona he does his best to project for every­one around him and the con­sis­tent real­i­ty of his soft insides was pre­sent­ed in his first scene way back in 1977, and we’re now sure that he was unable to make any progress toward its res­o­lu­tion despite open­ly and obvi­ous­ly brood­ing over it for an entire life­time: from at least as ear­ly as his young adult­hood in this film until his death at the hands of his lit­tle Sith son. There is 0 vari­a­tion. He always comes back for the cause at the cru­cial moment after declar­ing him­self through with it. With­out fail, he’ll sac­ri­fice the entire­ty of any self-mak­ing enter­prise for just about any under­dog with a prob­lem who cross­es his path. (Which prob­a­bly explains his con­stant­ly-fleet­ing suc­cess as a smug­gler well into gray hair and jowls.) Solo is abun­dant­ly clear about Han’s true nature and very will­ing to expose how unin­ter­est­ing it is. When he first pro­claims to Qi-ra that he’s become “an out­law,” she shuts him down with the film’s ulti­mate quote, insist­ing that she “knows who [he] real­ly is: the good guy.

If the video game-despis­ing fans will bear with me for a moment, it’s worth not­ing that Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Repub­lic MMORPG is the most inter­est­ing and exten­sive source of nuanced nar­ra­tive in the IP (it holds the world record for the largest voiceover project ever pro­duced,) and most of it can now be expe­ri­enced with­out actu­al­ly play­ing the game. Like Solo, it’s set pre-saga, but con­sid­er­ably before — a few cen­turies, if I remem­ber cor­rect­ly, which gave the writ­ers a gigan­tic oppor­tu­ni­ty to both expand and pre­des­tine the uni­verse. There are eight dif­fer­ent class sto­ries with around 50 cumu­la­tive hours of dia­log, each. A few are rel­a­tive­ly unimag­i­na­tive, but the major­i­ty are com­plex, excit­ing, emo­tion­al­ly-involved tales that cre­ate very rich char­ac­ters, and all of them can be streamed in their entire­ty on YouTube. If you are will­ing to see the poten­tial of a Han Solo-like char­ac­ter ful­filled in a dif­fer­ent medi­um, the Smug­gler class sto­ry is a pret­ty damned engag­ing explo­ration of the kind out­law with con­flict­ed iden­ti­ty issues angle.

From my per­spec­tive, Solo’s fre­quent less-than-sub­tle mal­treat­ment of some very bru­tal and sen­si­tive pow­er rela­tion­ships makes it the most tox­ic of the Star Wars films yet, and I assume it end­ed up that way, unnec­es­sar­i­ly because Ron Howard is an all-Amer­i­can son of a bitch. If these titles are going to con­tin­ue to be passed around between big­whig direc­tors, future unpleas­antries are inevitable. Notably, I’ve yet to see any men­tion of these dis­turb­ing themes from the respectable author­i­ties of the film crit­i­cism estab­lish­ment, who’ve been over­whelm­ing­ly charmed by Solo’s nos­tal­gia. Take from that what­ev­er you will.

If we con­tin­ue to love the char­ac­ter Han Solo, it’ll be in the same way we love our earnest, fool­ish, emo­tion­al­ly-stunt­ed man­child fathers who’s devel­op­men­tal inad­e­qua­cies are often embar­rass­ing, some­times abu­sive, and thor­ough­ly piti­ful. Solo leaves no more room for an ide­al­ized, ele­gant per­cep­tion of this char­ac­ter — he’s no more than a pret­ty good guy with a life­long addic­tion to thrill-seek­ing and a shit­load of luck.

To declare unequiv­o­cal­ly whether or not Solo: A Star Wars Sto­ry is worth a trip the cin­e­ma with your date, your chil­dren, or just your own damned con­science would require me to dis­re­gard a whole host of com­pli­cat­ing fac­tors, but if you’ve stuck it this far with me, you’d have a lot to dis­re­gard your­self to jump in. I’d advise that par­ents watch it them­selves before decid­ing whether or not it’s some­thing worth adding to your child’s life. Of those of you like me who’ll tow the line despite what you know and watch a Star Wars film alone on open­ing night in delir­i­um hop­ing for just a drop from the Foun­tain of Youth, I would ask: how long are we real­ly going to keep kid­ding our­selves?

Mark Fuck and the Goof God

Today, after posit­ing on whether or not a pas­try was in fact the name­sake of the bat­tle­ship Bis­mar­ck, I was told by its own­er — a local woman of a far-from-excus­able age — that “[I] should be on that big bang show.” Upon such fuck­ery, I looked her in her eyes and informed her that she’d just changed my plans for the night: I was now going to go home, wrap my lips around the bar­rel of my Beretta, and blow my brains out. I should’ve known bet­ter than to so jest with a boomer imme­di­ate­ly after receiv­ing such glar­ing indi­ca­tors of min­i­mal intel­lec­tu­al func­tion, but I fell for the hope — as I often do, to no avail — that such a jar­ring reac­tion would encour­age reflec­tion on her foul, trag­i­cal­ly mis­led sen­ti­ments regard­ing the gen­er­al state of youth, and per­haps even spare a peer or two from future tribu­la­tion.

Instead, she called the police.

Three round cops found me, an hour lat­er, approach­ing hes­i­tant­ly. Strange­ly enough, they were chuck­ling — maybe to a lit­tle joke about all the recent hub­bub on the radio cov­er­ing a recent wave of bla­tant­ly neg­li­gent med­ical care in Amer­i­can pris­ons, though I hope ner­vous laugh­ter is just SOP when respond­ing to a sui­cide threat. As all Colum­bia cops always are toward me, they were aggra­vat­ing­ly gen­uine and hilar­i­ous­ly under­stand­ing. I began by sim­ply recre­at­ing my inter­ac­tion with their sum­mon­er, quot­ing her word-for-word, and — I swear to my new Lord — all three imme­di­ate­ly released a choral “ohh­h­hh” in uni­son. I’ll nev­er know for sure if they actu­al­ly assim­i­lat­ed the real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion so quick­ly, but it’d cer­tain­ly seem that way.

Clear­ly, I should’ve threat­ened her life.

Despite the day-to-day expres­sion of our recur­ring wis­doms, habits, instincts, pat­terns and cycles of cul­tur­al meta­mor­pho­sis in the dis­course, the stream of “well, you know they were sayin’ the world was going to end when I was in ele­men­tary school” to my ear has fall­en abrupt­ly silent since the inau­gu­ra­tion. Our par­ents and grand­par­ents are both impos­si­bly for­tu­nate and unfor­tu­nate, hav­ing to duck out as the most mul­ti­plica­tive (read: sick­est) cere­bral orgy in the his­to­ry of mankind will just’ve begun nib­bling on the slope to its cli­max. We’ll be lucky if we’ll still be able to artic­u­late our good­byes by the time they reach the door. Non­sense does a fuckin num­ber on per­ceived wis­dom, but the gaps are widen­ing at a dan­ger­ous pace. Tec­ton­ic or domes­tic, we are all strad­dling expand­ing space, and the chill of its draft is now steal­ing too much of our heat to ignore.

Though it is enter­tain­ing in the moment (and oth­er­wise redun­dant,) it would not be well-to-do of me now — nor was it, then — to leave the con­ver­sa­tion in edgy absur­di­ty. Though a part of me would like to cam­paign for Shel­don to be reclas­si­fied as an exple­tive, in dis­gust, I must — as an adult in all-out sprint to make up for stalled emo­tion­al devel­op­ment — note that such a dis­play of con­cern should’ve been at least rec­i­p­ro­cat­ed with a bit of expla­na­tion, if not appre­ci­a­tion, though I won’t con­done wast­ing pub­lic employ­ee time for a mis­un­der­stood retort from a com­plete stranger.

It’s not news — the The­o­ry is pro­vid­ing some ghoul­ish­ly skewed por­tray­al of less-than-forty pseudoin­tel­lec­tu­als. Though my savior’s time is obvi­ous­ly worth very lit­tle to her, the fact that she spent any quan­ti­ty of any­thing at all engag­ing with even a decid­ed­ly main­stream gen­er­a­tional­ly ambas­sado­r­i­al bridge could be regard­ed — if stretched — as the result of a curi­ous seed, which has sky­rock­et­ed in human val­ue, as of late. It is undis­cour­agable. Read the trail a bit, and you’ll find that your frus­tra­tion is sim­ply an expres­sion of the ter­ror that’s ignit­ed by the stag­nan­cy of their pace.

It’s great that you’ve man­aged to inch over to mod­ern-ish sit­coms from Judge Judy and Inde­pen­dence Day, mom, but you’re gonna have to real­ly pick up the pace and work on fol­low­ing a few body mod­i­fi­ca­tion com­mu­ni­ties on the dark­net.

If an absence of solu­tions are the crux of the blog, here I’m now gloat­ing.

To whom does the com­mon­er look to for such solu­tions when they’d pre­fer not to ter­ror­ize their kooky mid­dle age par­ents into a half cen­tu­ry of bru­tal fast­ing under vows of silence?

The Big Thinkers! The Men of the Hour.

Yes, men. All Big Bum­bling Bil­lion­aire Imbe­ciles.

Elon Musk can­not be the Nico­la Tes­la of the 21st cen­tu­ry, or even the 20th, for that mat­ter, because lit­er­al­ly every mechan­i­cal­ly-mind­ed pro­fes­sion­al I’ve ever heard talk about bat­tery tech­nol­o­gy has con­demned it in some man­ner as an inescapable dead end, devel­op­men­tal­ly. Per­haps, then, the cham­pi­on of elec­tro­chem­i­cal stor­age is the* False Prophet.

No, I’m not capa­ble of cit­ing research or con­jur­ing Mars-capa­ble space­craft, but I’ve been a bit too pre­oc­cu­pied with my country’s class war and its 10% adult illit­er­a­cy rate. It’s all well and good to be privy to roman­ti­cism, but it’s not the 1960s any­more. Even Howard Hugh­es would be more con­cerned for the well­ness of the species than our con­tin­ued reach for the stars, were he still alive.

Well. Maybe not… Charles Lind­bergh would be, though.

We spent the 1990s prepar­ing to rid our­selves of his­to­ry because the smartest among us fore­saw some fac­sim­i­le of the renais­sance we are cur­rent­ly expe­ri­enc­ing. If they’dT been shown a glimpse of some sta­tis­tics on the vol­ume of media we con­sume, they’d exclaim of their pride — no doubt — in their species’ capa­bil­i­ty to progress, and per­haps even their own con­tri­bu­tion to it. How­ev­er, extend­ed obser­va­tion of an aver­age American’s day-to-day life would be lament­ed, in dis­gust, and a huge por­tion of the blame can be placed on one t-shirt-tout­ing cyberyokel: Mark Zucker­berg. His name is stu­pid, his spawn is ruin­ing my life, and he con­tin­ues to insist upon say­ing shit that fright­ens the beje­sus out of me. Zuck­brain is fuck­ing scary. “Wiring the globe” is fuck­ing scary. Jarvis is fuck­ing scary. But Fuck, him­self wouldn’t be at all intim­i­dat­ing with­out his mon­ey. The scari­est bit is the lack of class in the crit­i­cisms of his intel­lec­tu­al influ­ence. Farhad Manjoo’s atten­tion has been dili­gent and pre­mi­um as a Timeser’s should be, but the same occu­pa­tion bars him from author­ing with the col­or of unsub­stan­ti­at­ed claims. Mine does not.

Elon Musk is not an apolo­getic genius. He’s will­ing to joke about his intel­lec­tu­al dis­tance from the plan­et and its pop­u­lace on Twit­ter. Appar­ent­ly, his mind’s even sur­passed the need to punc­tu­ate. Crazy.

Google is well on it’s way to becom­ing the neo-Vat­i­­can… yada yada yada, but they’re too far gone — I do not have the exper­tise to address them. Fuck, though, is a sin­gu­lar short-sleeved, Even Stevens-haired young man with­out so much as pri­vate office space (even though his sen­ti­ments on breath­ing room at home are obvi­ous­ly inverse.)

Clear­ly, it’s all just to pro­tect him from the truth:

The Apos­tle John’s Book of Rev­e­la­tion is about Face­book.

Fuck’s cyber­child is the horse­man, the beasts, and the plagues, stuffed into one tyran­ni­cal web­site.

And the smoke of their tor­ment ascen­deth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who wor­ship the beast and his image, and whoso­ev­er receiveth the mark of his name.

If I can repeat­ed­ly trig­ger acci­den­tal voice calls on Fuck­book Mes­sen­ger, don’t tell me it’s not pos­si­ble to inad­ver­tent­ly live stream myself on the pot.

The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bot­tom­less pit, and go into perdi­tion: and they that dwell on the earth shall won­der, whose names were not writ­ten in the book of life from the foun­da­tion of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

Of course, it’s unlike­ly that Mark’s essence was bred entire­ly of evil, but — like Tump, in many ways — he is an excru­ci­at­ing­ly wealthy idiot. Though he is spend­ing 2017 tour­ing the Unit­ed States, he doesn’t seem to be all that inter­est­ed in actu­al­ly clos­ing the gap between him­self and the rest of us, which sug­gests that he only wants us to throw us off his extra-ter­res­tri­al, xeno­pho­bic scent. I can’t imag­ine what The Moth­er­ship would real­ly want with my Ama­zon brows­ing his­to­ry, though.

And anoth­er angel came out of the tem­ple, cry­ing with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sick­le, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the har­vest of the earth is ripe.

Just to be clear, he is not The Antikhris­tos. He’d bet­ter not be, any­way. I’d be absolute­ly Livid with Lucifer if his choice of a fig­ure­head for his Big Plan was such a Fuck­ing dork .

Remem­ber there­fore from whence thou art fall­en, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quick­ly, and will remove thy can­dle­stick out of his place, except thou repent.

I mean… if Fuck want­ed to spend his time craft­ing 6000-word essays, why the Fuck didn’t he just build a Fuck­ing CMS back in his Jesse Eisen­berg era instead of the actu­al week­­ly-updat­ed tow­er of dig­i­tal Baby­lon? Sure­ly, Satan would know bet­ter than to waste resources and pul­ver­ize cre­ativ­i­ty by order­ing his Demon­ic Dev team to release reg­u­lar builds for build’s sake rather than on a per-need basis, but that’d be because The Tempter is an author­i­ty on incen­tives as thor­ough­ly as Fuck isn’t.

If you’re equipped with the priv­i­lege of lit­er­a­cy, you’ve been read­ing a lot about Fuckbook’s polit­i­cal con­se­quences, recent­ly. Frankly, it’s about Fuck­ing time, but I’m com­pelled to empha­size that the most sig­nif­i­cant motor dri­ving the poli­tik is fueled by the eldest, fos­silized por­tions of our thought meat. Accord­ing to Man­joo, “the News Feed team’s ulti­mate mis­sion is to fig­ure out what users want,” dip­ping in Fuckbook’s ocean of action data, search­ing for a soul.

Yet anoth­er Fuck­ism that sug­gests he’s an alien: every­body knows that nobody knows what they want.

There’s a cen­tral mechan­ic of our brains that by nature wreaks a whole hel­lu­va lot of con­tra­dic­tion. If you’ve ever men­tioned ADHD with your doc­tor, or know a hypochondriac/adderall fiend who has, you may have heard it described as “the lizard brain.” Sim­ply put, it’s the brain stem, and it’s respon­si­ble for the most basal and prim­i­tive­ly emo­tion­al instincts and habits; an anti-intel­lec­­tu­al agi­tant, argu­ing at all times for the course of action with the most imme­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion. The Great Click­bait War of 2013 was a star­tling demon­stra­tion that revealed the strength of the hold Fuck­book had (and still has) on these rep­til­ian bits — the true loca­tion of its pow­er.

In sur­veys, peo­ple kept telling Face­book that they hat­ed teas­ing head­lines. But if that was true, why were they click­ing on them?”

Voli­tion is the Word of the Day.

Here, we must once again invoke an ancient para­ble from the wise fore­tellings of the Dis­ney film, Smart House: when deal­ing with human beings, bound­less com­pli­ance quick­ly leads to abject mis­ery for all par­ties involved.

Mind­less­ly, habit­u­al­ly , end­less­ly click­ing … this is how we die.

Some­thing about Fuck’s direc­tion is fun­da­men­tal­ly poi­so­nous to the human mind. Yes, he is assured­ly too Fuck­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic, but mis­in­for­ma­tion is far from the only form of evil his cre­ation has assumed. If you can jog your mem­o­ry back a bit, you’ll remem­ber a much wider vari­ety of brain-rot­t­ing filth.

In laps­es of their exis­tences’ fini­tude, the 40-some­thing sec­ond cousins of the world may still send you the occa­sion­al Can Crunch Saga invite, jar­ring you back to Jr. High in 2009, and for­ev­er asso­ci­at­ing them­selves in your mind with the hor­rors of mor­tal­i­ty and

f u c k b o o k g a m e s .

More than one sixth of all liv­ing eyes see Fuck­book every sin­gle day, plac­ing its con­sump­tion behind only eat­ing and drink­ing as the most uni­ver­sal­ly human activ­i­ty. Mr. Fuck achieved his vision and became per­haps the great­est pur­vey­or of words who’s ever lived. He’s taught (or… is teach­ing) us a few very pro­found things about our­selves.

Capa­bil­i­ty is not the whole of the equa­tion.
Abil­i­ty on its own can­not guar­an­tee growth, but it can often result in decay.
Dis­cus­sion does not inher­ent­ly lead to con­nec­tion.
Pop­u­la­tion is not a cure for iso­la­tion.

That said, I must begrudg­ing­ly admit to you that I, myself am one of the 100 mil­lion users who’ve depend­ed upon a “very mean­ing­ful” Face­book group for a “phys­i­cal sup­port struc­ture” for which I have Fuck to thank.

I’ve spent half of my exis­tence watch­ing cheesy barn­storm­ing movies, whirling around die-cast biplanes, seek­ing out sto­ries from old pilots — mil­i­tary and com­mer­cial, and even­tu­al­ly trained to become one myself. As reg­u­lar activ­i­ties at young ages do, avi­a­tion became deeply ingrained into my iden­ti­ty, but my local com­mu­ni­ty is very sparse — it’s not exact­ly cool, these days. On Fuck­book, an unof­fi­cial group for mem­bers of the Air­craft Own­ers and Pilots Asso­ci­a­tion has allowed me to stay con­nect­ed to the rest of the world’s Soar­ing Nerds, which is no small deal. It’s the only forum which I am com­pelled to par­tic­i­pate in with 100% sin­cer­i­ty and emo­tion­al effect.

Pho­tos of mem­bers stand­ing proud­ly next to their first air­plane, or of ado­les­cent stu­dents in a sim­i­lar pose after their first solo, or of three old white rubes on a hangar pic­nic, laugh­ing around a fold-up table full of rudi­men­ta­ry ham sand­wich­es in front of two gleam­ing Stear­mans…

They tug around on my heart like noth­ing else in life can.

I stopped fly­ing lessons at 16 because I began to see behind the naivety of my child­hood per­cep­tion of what it meant to fly com­mer­cial­ly and real­ized that I was unequipped for- and unin­ter­est­ed in the sort of chal­lenges it pre­sent­ed. I haven’t flown in sev­en years, but the com­mu­ni­ty will always have a tremen­dous div­i­dend of my core being.

These days, not a sin­gle per­son in my day-to-day life knows or cares about avi­a­tion, which wouldn’t be laud­able what­so­ev­er were it not so emo­tion­al­ly nec­es­sary for me.

A few days ago, a mem­ber shared a pho­to with the group of Charles Lindbergh’s mod­i­fied Ryan cock­pit, cap­tioned “what air­plane am I?”

In my youth, Lind­bergh ful­filled my clos­est equiv­a­lent to the ‘child­hood hero’ role. My grand­moth­er bought me a first-edi­­tion copy of The Spir­it of St.Louis from a small town book­shop when I was six or sev­en, and I car­ried it lit­er­al­ly every­where with me until mid­dle school. I watched the Jim­my Stew­art film tens and tens of times, and I cried when I saw the Spir­it in the flesh at the Smith­son­ian, yet I’ve nev­er had an informed con­ver­sa­tion about any of it with anoth­er human being. It real­ly warmed me to see how many of the com­ments were cor­rect answers.

Break­ing news: it’s nice to know that there are oth­er peo­ple on Earth who give a shit about the same things you do.

Again — aspi­ra­tion should always be encour­aged. This is Fuck’s vision for his cre­ation, and it is fea­si­ble, even for myself. At least his pub­lic per­sona — how­ev­er valid or invalid it may be — is mak­ing a huge effort to have pos­i­tive con­se­quence, even if his idio­cy is imbu­ing itself in all of human­i­ty. Fuck is too pow­er­ful to be exempt­ed from respon­si­bil­i­ty for what Fuckbook’s done to the West­ern psy­che over the past decade, but — like the Chris­t­ian god — per­haps all we need require is his repen­tance.

He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is right­eous, let him be right­eous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.