Mom and Dad

The Earth will reach its max­i­mum occu­pan­cy load (12 bil­lion) when I am in my mid-fifi­ties, mean­ing there’ll be more than twice as many gorg­ing, shit­ting, shoot­ing, com­plain­ing, and lying human beings than there were when I start­ed, and per­haps Bri­an Taylor’s Mom and Dad is in fact a rea­soned argu­ment for a par­tic­u­lar solu­tion to our inevitable plight. I’m still not sure what a “cult” movie is, pre­cise­ly, but I can’t imag­ine what sort of cult could pos­si­bly sus­tain itself around the ethos of this film alone, despite its con­cise, agi­tat­ing, at once light­heart­ed, yet gen­uine­ly-dis­turb­ing trip. No, it is prob­a­bly not pro­pa­gan­da. From the experts, you’ll get pre­cise­ly the same review, vary­ing only in length. The New York Times’ Glenn Ken­ny couldn’t be both­ered with more than 250 words, but RogerE­bert dot com’s Simon Abrams shelled out a whole 1000. They are sus­pi­cious­ly close to these big round num­bers — per­haps each was writ­ten to respec­tive quo­tas, and per­haps you could say all that could rea­son­ably be said in 10, but I don’t care.

The tropes here are pol­ished to a mirac­u­lous sheen — two emo­tion­al­ly-stunt­ed, mid­dleaged, over­ly pre­oc­cu­pied-with-their-lost-youth sub­ur­ban par­ents (Nico­las Cage and Sel­ma Blair) who’s exist­ing envies & irri­ta­tions regard­ing their own clas­si­cal­ly brat­ty teenage girl (Anne Win­ters) and her mis­chie­vous lit­tle broth­er (Zackary Arthur) is mere­ly agi­tat­ed by a sud­den TV sta­t­ic-bound killer instinct into blood­lust, not orig­i­nat­ed. I’m not sure any pill deal­er would actu­al­ly flip off their cus­tomers after a fair buy — even in high school, but drugs, a black boyfriend, and a stinkbomb? in the old Trans Am!? I’m going to kill you!

Some­body, some­where knew all the best sources on sub­ur­bia and how to put them to good use. The Cam­ry, the golf bag, ping pong smash­ing, sweat-stained Big Sur tee, and Dr. Oz, for Christ’s sake! Grant­ed, talk­ing to your girlfriend/boyfriend on the phone at all is a bit dat­ed — espe­cial­ly while rid­ing a BMX — and I don’t think Froot Loops are gen­er­al­ly accept­ed mid­dle-class chow any­more. These are sta­ples from my youth, and I am very old. Tech­ni­cal­ly, the iMes­sage bub­ble graph­ics are more chrono­graph­i­cal­ly appro­pri­ate, but with great con­se­quence, I fear — if we’re going to accept them once and for all as authen­tic mech­a­nisms for telling sto­ries set in the present, they are going to age faster than Nick’s new jowls (unless we’re all soon killed by our par­ents.) It’s been two years since I knew any­thing about music, but I seri­ous­ly doubt even the gothest fifteen?-year-old girls are lis­ten­ing to Father-esque post-Mem­phis hor­ror­core in class — there’s some­thing about Sound­Cloud that real­ly clash­es with chok­ers.

If there was ever a film in which to use grimy dub­step-influ­enced elec­tron­ic slaps, buzzes, chirps, and great grat­ing clank­ing, it’s this one. It’s a ter­rif­ic dis­ap­point­ment that Hol­ly­wood feels so timid­ly about their use of the most inti­mate medi­um. One for­gets its poten­tial to con­trol the nuances of an audience’s fear, anger, dis­com­fort, and pan­ic beyond cheap jump scares until they expe­ri­ence an irri­tat­ing, dis­tress­ing, ghast­ly gross, all-pos­sess­ing feat of accen­tu­at­ing audio pro­duc­tion such as that of Mom and Dad. If you want to judge Aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly the effec­tive­ness of a nominee’s work for an award with a title like Best Sound Edit­ing (as opposed to what­ev­er the hell cri­te­ria was met most ful­ly by Sky­fall,) you must give the lit­tle gold­en man to these folks, who­ev­er they are.

When’s the last time you saw a tru­ly, believ­ably shit­ty mod­ern parental pair on a big screen? I real­ly can’t remem­ber, myself. Brent and Kendall Ryan are mas­ter­pieces of char­ac­ter craft — both a per­fect pré­cis and thor­ough­ly-defined explo­ration of mis­er­able white sub­ur­ban­ites. They’re even namedunim­prov­ably, which reflects a qual­i­ty in care and atten­tion to detail that I very much appre­ci­ate. They are vain, vul­gar, impa­tient, self­ish­ly afraid, and care­less, freely feel­ing and say­ing it all direct­ly in front of their chil­dren. I love being told explic­it­ly which char­ac­ters to hate (no joke,) and in this case it’s the whole damned lot. Bri­an Tay­lor and Nico­las Cage scream it over and over (as I’d like to imag­ine) a sin­gle after­noon of one-take film­ing, con­sid­er­ing that the lat­ter took it upon him­self to first mem­o­rize the entire screen­play and its prose, vanil­la to per­fec­tion, before pho­tog­ra­phy began, and I hope it all stays with him for­ev­er, espe­cial­ly “my mom is such a penis.”

Mom and Dad could con­ceiv­ably be Nico­las Cage’s I Am Leg­end if for no oth­er rea­son than the total lack of pos­si­ble stand-ins for Brent Ryan — even the stan­dard by which all white sub­ur­ban Dad per­for­mances have been mea­sured in the 21st cen­tu­ry, Jason Bate­man. Nick him­self described it as “punk rock, rebel­lious, irrev­er­ent, orig­i­nal, badass,” and the “num­ber one” movie he’s made in the past ten years (dis­qual­i­fy­ing Nation­al Trea­sure, in case you were wor­ried.) No sur­prise, I must agree — this one is a won­der­ful­ly rau­cous and fer­al thing, but the scene involv­ing the attempt­ed mur­der of a new­born by her moth­er (Kendall’s sis­ter) came very close to cross­ing the line. How­ev­er, I am old and the inten­si­ty of my pater­nal instincts has prob­a­bly out­paced my under­stand­ing of them. You could also argue, of course, that push­ing such bound­aries is a core func­tion of a film like Mom and Dad. Nobody end­ed up vom­it­ing or any­thing.

This fun thing shouldn’t feel as for­eign as it does in cin­e­ma, but you already knew that. With all its implic­it grap­ples with over­pop­u­la­tion, kids and gun vio­lence, class, and racism — tru­ly, this is a film charged elec­tri­cal­ly with cur­rent issues. Or maybe not. Ulti­mate­ly, I can at least tell you for cer­tain that Bri­an Tay­lor made expo­nen­tial­ly bet­ter use of his resources (I couldn’t find a sol­id num­ber for its pro­duc­tion bud­get) than the Fuck­ing Spierig Broth­ers did with Win­ches­ter (just so you know what a dis­as­ter looks like,) and man­aged to be refresh­ing­ly orig­i­nal (aston­ish­ing that nobody’s had this spe­cif­ic idea before.) A spec­tac­u­lar riot, Mom and Dad does all you could pos­si­bly want it to do. With just eighty-three min­utes to lose, it’s worth the com­mit­ment just to hear Nico­las Cage whim­per and say “anal beads.”

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.

O’er the Ice for Stupefied Usury

I man­aged to be reck­less, tedious, and zeal­ous in the usu­al­ly-dry process of pur­chas­ing a new lap­top, and found the sto­ry worth shar­ing.

The mete­o­ro­log­i­cal com­plaints you’ve been hear­ing from mid-Mis­souri since Fri­day aren’t inap­pro­pri­ate this time — the mid­dle­folk faced one of their most fatal ene­mies — a well-laid mine­field of black ice. It slowed our timid, ABS-obliv­i­ous soci­ety to ten per­cent or less of its already near-post­mortem pace. (For God’s sake, at least learn why you needn’t pump your brakes before you opt for info­tain­ment extras or… get your driver’s license.)I woke up with the same debt and immi­nent expens­es as I did the day before and with­out any more inten­tion of buy­ing a pre­mi­um lap­top than I’ve had for the two years I’ve gone with­out one.

With­out the con­cept of mobile com­put­ing in its entire­ty, actu­al­ly. I knew I’d lost my desire to car­ry a loose blue­tooth key­board around every­where in case some insight were to fall upon me heavy enough to jus­ti­fy reach­ing for it over my 6S Plus in a pub­lic venue, hunched and squint­ing. There’s still noth­ing bet­ter at crank­ing out copy than the Lap Top Com­put­er, I sup­pose. I was hold­ing out for a tru­ly-sub­stan­tial alter­na­tive to Win­dows 10 and macOS, want­i­ng to be enchant­ed by lite delights like Acer’s cheeky Chrome­book R11, but had decid­ed in self-pity that I’d prob­a­bly nev­er be able to stand a new oper­at­ing sys­tem ever again.

My mom gra­cious­ly decid­ed to take me mall shop­ping for Christ­mas, which is com­fort­ing in its tra­di­tion of vapid rou­tine. The state of a giv­en mid­west­ern metropolis’s mall is a keen indi­ca­tor of the culture’s soul, I’ve found, and ours is most­ly crewed by des­ti­tute alco­holics, who are my clos­est kin, and there­fore my most appro­pri­ate com­pa­ny for the hol­i­days.

Dillard’s is the sec­ond-best-place to lose your mind in Amer­i­ca.

Even now, when the somber cor­ners are not quite so des­o­late. The acoustic sen­sa­tion can­not be expe­ri­enced any­where else — the bat­tle­cries of the Me Generation’s pop repro­duced by hate­ful diaphragms behind their white plas­tic ceil­ing facades and absorbed again by pal­let­loads of mass-man­u­fac­tured stonewashed den­im, seem­ing­ly com­ing from a far-off whole­sale nether no mat­ter where in the store you’ve been buried. Ours is a few decades old, now — weath­ered and alone, which accen­tu­ates the whole dystopia with a res­olute air of infin­i­ty, as if it’s cer­tain it will out­last me. It prob­a­bly will.

The last time I was in the mar­ket for a lap­top, there was lit­tle room for aes­thet­ics in the equa­tion. We have been taught this past decade that beau­ti­ful devices come in fruit form, only. Some­how, I allowed myself to inte­grate the ridicu­lous sen­ti­ment that Mac­Books were the only option for any­one with any rev­er­ence for tac­tile expe­ri­ence. As I expect you’re aware of to at least some degree by now, Apple’s dili­gent study of desir­abil­i­ty over the years is the sin­gu­lar force behind their lord­ship, and it’s the token MO of tech opin­ion to con­fuse it with sex appeal, result­ing in expres­sions like “[apple hard­ware device] is sexy,” which is a pity­ing­ly des­per­ate delu­sion. Do you actu­al­ly find brushed alu­minum appeal­ing in any bod­i­ly sense?

We did once, of course. Your infat­u­a­tion with the stuff prob­a­bly peaked the moment you first grazed it, and — if you’re any­thing like me — you could be har­bor­ing more aes­thet­ic frus­tra­tion with their long­stand­ing occu­pa­tion than you think. Infat­u­a­tion must be starved to sur­vive, and we’ve been eat­ing up Apples by the bushel for a decade.

Haha.

But real­ly, though — by the bil­lion.

I saw images in that Spec­tre review which I was com­plete­ly sat­is­fied with. I watched that new HP logo as it trav­eled through the frames, stu­pe­fied. Out of pre­cious igno­rance, I expe­ri­enced real desire in that unde­sir­able place. (Which could actu­al­ly rep­re­sent some sort of defeat on my part, but I’m not too both­ered.)

And in the midst of those des­o­late peo­ple in their fortress of medi­oc­rity, my mom and I hatched a plan to indulge upon the best part of des­o­la­tion — impul­sive, sub­si­dized glut­tony. We’d stop by the phar­ma­cy to fill my anti-depres­sant script before renav­i­gat­ing Bour­geois Bumper Cars to get to Best Buy, where she’d let me use her cred­it line to pur­chase my final choice in the seg­ment.

Best Buy is the best place to lose your mind in Amer­i­ca.

I could’ve sworn it made good sense to me, once — in Mid­dle School, when my friend and I were spend­ing most of our free time emu­lat­ing the first gen­er­a­tion of tech-review­ing YouTu­bers — but now, it reminds me of a dark­wood restau­rant with its clos­ing flu­o­res­cents on, shin­ing in the inverse fre­quen­cy of a bug zap­per — cast­ing a more effec­tive­ly-repelling ambiance for the human psy­che than any­thing else I’m capa­ble of dream­ing up, at least.

I used to fuck­ing vis­it that store for no pur­pose but to see and expe­ri­ence the dilut­ed bit of the hand­set renais­sance with enough momen­tum to coast its way here. I prob­a­bly spent a full six­ty min­utes wan­der­ing around by my own voli­tion on a hand­ful of occa­sions. But these days, I am per­turbed from the onset in a big way. There are too many blue vape enthu­si­asts on the sales floor at any giv­en time, and they all want me to leave. They loaf around the car­cass of con­sumer technology’s pas­sion, not real­iz­ing, I guess, that I already know it ’twas they who killed it. (The stench is strongest by the wear­ables.) It’s eerie how lit­tle the Big Box itself has changed, con­sid­er­ing the decade their goods have trav­eled.

Under a fit­ting­ly-gray sky, I wash my pill down with La Croix and a Kind bar to pre­empt the appro­pri­ate rumi­na­tion in my mouth as we inch toward my Final Finan­cial Doom with the spooked slid­ers. Though we nev­er exceed 5mph, there are aban­doned vehi­cles lit­ter­ing the shoul­ders and medi­ans in vary­ing­ly absurd ori­en­ta­tions. But I do not jest — today, I am silent, for I am one of them.

By the time we reach the store, my med­i­cine has once again placed my soul in Safe Mode, so we shuf­fle into the grotesque thing. There are four employ­ees in sight — no one else — and they all send their beady eyes my way. I have too much pur­pose in my con­sumerist jowls to pause, though, so I rush to the lap­tops near the oppo­site wall in an attempt to get an ear­ly esti­mate on my cur­rent lev­el of per­son­al com­put­ing idio­cy. Nat­u­ral­ly, my Mom snags one of anoth­er four asso­ciates imme­di­ate­ly. In this work, I shall refer to him as Zoroast­er.

Despite hav­ing nev­er seen 80% of the dis­played devices in per­son before, I am able to spot the Spec­tres quick­ly, which is a good sign. I am imme­di­ate­ly elat­ed by the con­trast to the depress­ing mush­books I remem­ber HP mak­ing in the oughts. The bezel… the bril­liance of the dis­play… the details of the vis­i­ble body. I open Extra­tone. I open The Verge. I am hop­ing that Win­dows 10 will not be as much of a kick­er as I’ve expect­ed.

I’m not a minute before Mom and Zoroast­er have found the new Mac­Book Pros. Nobody remem­bers the pass­word to the 13-inch, but the 15 is show­ing off its “deep blacks” and “Space Gray” mood. The Verge looks phe­nom­e­nal, and its icon in the touch­bar catch­es my eye. I man­age to use it to switch tabs, the less-attuned degen­er­ate in me not­ing the extra span­ning required over CMD-TAB.

Have you tried the new key­board?” asks Zoroast­er.

I hadn’t. It’s as inde­scrib­able as you’ve heard, but sug­gests legit­i­ma­cy is Apple’s effort to bridge the tran­si­tion from phys­i­cal key­boards to their touch replace­ment. Ter­ri­fy­ing legit­i­ma­cy.

You get used to it,” he says.

I open Pages and click out some­thing ridicu­lous. Yeah… click. I’m sure there’s a bet­ter ono­matopoeia avail­able by way of just about any tech­nol­o­gy web­site, but I didn’t both­er to study the sen­sa­tion after real­iz­ing that it’s a con for my num­ber one use of a Portable Com­put­er: clack­ing.

It’s not as if the thing isn’t gor­geous, though, in its way. After years of user­ship, I can tell you that it is undoubt­ed­ly a superb exe­cu­tion of the Mac­Book mar­que. It’s pol­ished. It’s The New One. But it is also bleak and slateish. Some might even say dystopi­an.

Do I want to car­ry such a thing around with me every­where? Do I even want to car­ry it out of the store? What will I tell my friends?

What will I tell my staff?

$2,000 of my future spent on what is now a piece of dis­tinct­ly estab­lish­ment design… I return to the x360 to see what can be done about Win­dows’ appear­ance these days.

Pur­ple-gray taskbars… Hm.

It’s a sale.

Let me be hon­est with you — I spent some nine­ty min­utes going between the two. Even if I’d endured the shame and self-dis­ap­point­ment of choos­ing the Mac­Book Pro, the sim­ple grunt of the chal­lenge the Spec­tre presents to it is no small mile­stone. As Zoroast­er scram­bles to remove my new machine from The Hang­ing Jail, I am drained from the deci­sion, but aware that my per­spec­tive on the world has changed. I’ve been work­ing on an edi­to­r­i­al for the past few weeks that’s most­ly alarmed howl­ing about the industry’s utter lack of pas­sion, as of late, but see­ing the Win­dows-run­ning department’s devices and their matured design — final­ly beau­ti­ful with­out obvi­ous Apple influ­ence — had tru­ly revived some lit­tle flame of hope with­in me.

Lithe Zoroast­er was con­fused by UPCs a bit, as is under­stand­able, and began jug­gling three Spec­tre box­es atop the prison lift, scream­ing the num­bers — one at a time from each device — to his bewil­dered dis­ci­ple, below.Throughout the lat­er half of the whole ordeal, I’d had com­pa­ny — some sort of blonde work­ing man who’d also braved the fric­tion­less waste to calm him­self with debt. I’d been elat­ed at the oppor­tu­ni­ty for com­pan­ion­ship, at first, but he’d found him­self unable to escape the store’s bespoke Apple Hole. I did my best to help him, but failed hoist his girth from the 15’s bench­mark suc­tion. I’d left him there, bound. May my dreams n’er be haunt­ed by the fad­ing por­trait of his tor­tured, mid­dle class face.

As the Best Boys did their dance, he somber­ly came to my side. The gri­mace he’d worn in the strug­gle had fall­en away. I knew what was com­ing before he formed the defeat­ed words: “go ahead and grab me the 500 while you’re up there.” As one should when they stum­ble upon a stranger’s funer­al, I bowed my head.

Here begins the part that sor­ta makes me look like an idiot… After sign­ing my mother’s lengthy loan agree­ment, Zoroast­er — the lit­tle dev­il — asked if I want­ed the Spe­cial Edi­tion, just behind me. I’d stopped by last year’s Big Boy Spec­tre — the ball­sy-ass cop­per-toned mas­ter­piece — and had wished for a moment that the look could’ve car­ried to the fresh­er x360. The mono­space Hewlett-Packard logo blind­ed me, and the unlit dis­play (it hadn’t been set up yet) con­cealed the wider bezel of… The old­er Spec­tre 13t, with which I write, now. I didn’t notice my blun­der until after our treach­er­ous return, and could not care less.

Pfaall for President

My favorite short sto­ry of all time was pub­lished by the South­ern Lit­er­ary Mes­sen­ger in the sum­mer of 1835. It com­piles all of my favorite sto­ry ele­ments into one painful­ly tedious body: absurd prop­er nouns, com­plete­ly unbe­liev­able premis­es, lighter-than-air craft, explorato­ry con­text, and an utter­ly unsat­is­fac­to­ry after­taste. Tech­ni­cal­ly, it’s a hoax, and could only have been spawned by the most frus­trat­ing com­ic of them all — Edgar Allan Poe. If you find your­self one day read­ing his col­lect­ed works cov­er-to-cov­er, The Unpar­al­leled Adven­tures of One Hans Pfaall is how you’ll be intro­duced. I’m sure the ‘ole sadist would be pleased at the thought of you crawl­ing your way through his exhaust­ing thir­ty-page-long descrip­tion of the bellow-mender’s space bal­loon and its bizarre jour­ney.

Orig­i­nal­ly, I’d remem­bered incor­rect­ly — a bit of light research says Pfall was a bit too absurd to be over­whelm­ing­ly believed, but it was believed — that an indebt­ed labor­er obses­sive­ly con­struct­ed a DIY diri­gi­ble which he flew to the moon before man­ag­ing to con­vince a lunar­i­an to use it to deliv­er his sur­gi­cal­ly-detailed chron­i­cle of the jour­ney to be read pub­licly in front of his township’s civic lead­ers, only to have the scoop exclu­sive­ly bro­ken by a small arts peri­od­i­cal. In fact, it caused enough hub­bub to inspire an entire subera of sim­i­lar­ly-styled hoax­es, many from the orig­i­na­tor, him­self.

It’s no secret that Poe was as bit­ter as he was bril­liant, so I’ve found myself again and again won­der­ing, late­ly, what/if he would have spo­ken amidst his country’s 2016 elec­tion for Pres­i­dent. As I’ve known him — much more inti­mate­ly than most; much less than a few — I would posit that his bril­liant, suf­fer­ing mind would’ve been locked in the most pro­duc­tive year-long mania of his career. He was the sort of extra­or­di­nary man who was dis­gust­ed by the exis­tence of any­thing less. I think he would’ve played the tricks of Search Engine Opti­miza­tion, engage­ment, and news aggre­ga­tion with a verac­i­ty that could’ve swung an elec­tion, if we accept the recent ver­dict against some good-humored Mace­don­ian ado­les­cents.

His laugh­ter would be abrupt­ly stayed, though, if you told him that ten per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion is illit­er­ate, two cen­turies lat­er and twen­ty years into the sin­gle most pro­found renais­sance in the his­to­ry of human com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Though a near­ly-equiv­a­lent upset could prob­a­bly be had by inform­ing him that his best-known work by a vast mar­gin has since been The Raven, but I’ll spare you that sub­ject for a less-top­i­cal dis­ser­ta­tion.

How do I begin an argu­ment about intel­lec­tu­al dis­par­i­ty in Amer­i­ca? You got the Pres­i­dent you deserve…

Deserve” is no less igno­rant of a con­cept as “truth,” so that’d be awful­ly hyp­o­crit­i­cal. Not that hypocrisy gives me any sort of pause, what­so­ev­er, as a pur­vey­or of fake news. Per­haps I should begin with an overview of Extra­tone’s bias on adver­tis­ing.

Total advertising revenue we have received to date: $0.
Total number of advertisements that have appeared on extratone dot com to date: 3.
Total number of advertisements for non-defunct companies that have appeared on extratone dot com to date: 0.

As of this moment, adver­tis­ing is Google, more or less, which means they are one of the few com­pa­nies on Earth with the sort of cash flow to even con­sid­er attempt­ing to craft a stan­dard of mali­cious­ness (the only use­ful spec­trum I could come up with that could accom­plish the goal of “elim­i­nat­ing finan­cial incen­tives that appear to have dri­ven the pro­duc­tion of much fake news.”) I sup­pose the first author­i­ty on intent would be the Church, but I — a fake news writer — have been unable to arrive upon the method Jesus Christ would choose to go about elim­i­nat­ing com­mu­nion.

But The Lord has for­sak­en this place — we have only Google, now, and — as the res­i­dent omnipo­tence, it is They alone who can stay what They have made. So per­haps that smelly gen­tle­men won­der­ing aloud about the “sec­ond com­ing” on the bus stop bench is actu­al­ly smarter than you, but unable to fore­see the dig­i­tal set­ting of his apoc­a­lypse. If Google is our neo-God, sure­ly Walt Moss­berg is now the pope. Yes­ter­day morn­ing, he addressed Face­book (neo-Hell,) com­mand­ing them to behave like the “media com­pa­ny” he believes they are. I would like to imag­ine that Mark Zucker­berg is hiss­ing, cur­rent­ly.

He cites a Pew Research Cen­ter study that was con­duct­ed this past Spring, which found that “44 per­cent of the U.S. adult pop­u­la­tion got at least some of its news from Face­book.” I’d like to point all 2000 of my greasy, thump­ing, slan­der­ous fin­gers at the begin­ning sen­tence of the next para­graph, though: “but that puts a heavy respon­si­bil­i­ty on Face­book…”

Why?

Who exact­ly is plac­ing this bur­den on Face­book? Have we actu­al­ly reached the point of social media as a pub­lic ser­vice? Per­haps their influ­ence on the country’s psy­chol­o­gy is enor­mous enough to exempt from all of the cheques that guar­an­tee free­dom of infor­ma­tion exchange.

Thank God… per­haps Far­mVille shall final­ly face its Day of Judge­ment. All the requests from one acquain­tance of mine are stress­ing me out, and fed­er­al employ­ees have not forcibly changed their foul-ass col­or scheme yet, so I can­not nav­i­gate deep enough to block her with­out becom­ing phys­i­cal­ly ill. Don’t get me wrong — hang­ing Mark Zucker­berg by the Neck Until Dead for trea­son would make for quite a spec­ta­cle, but I can­not help but won­der if you have for­got­ten one of your most irri­tat­ing expres­sions: don’t blame the mes­sen­ger. I hate to be rude, but POTUS Tumper is the def­i­nite sign: you are respon­si­ble for your choic­es and your igno­rance. Voli­tion in informed media con­sump­tion is the only effec­tive weapon with which one should com­bat decep­tion.

For some per­spec­tive, know that I came shame­ful­ly close to falling for a fuck­ing phone scam a few days ago. I didn’t end up cost­ing my com­pa­ny, but I came with­in inch­es of doing so. I hadn’t expe­ri­enced such all-con­sum­ing embar­rass­ment in a decade. But — as life expe­ri­ences tend to be — it was hum­bling, and prepara­to­ry — I’m sure — for the next time I must iden­ti­fy dis­hon­esty.

I appre­ci­ate the sen­ti­ment of per­son­al­i­ties like Moss­berg and the effort they expend in the name of my pro­tec­tion as a user, but I must be allowed to dis­cern the nature of con­tent for myself, espe­cial­ly when using a ser­vice who’s CEO is pub­licly cry­ing “we do not want to be arbiters of truth our­selves.” Whether or not Face­book has the cash to delib­er­ate on, design, or redesign algo­rithms and/or oth­er soft­ware to com­bat inau­then­tic con­tent sources is irrel­e­vant. Max Read’s account of the process as it relates to the elec­tion is the sharpest one-take I’ve seen thus far. In it, he sug­gests that the sheer size of Facebook’s audi­ence “would seem to demand some kind of civic respon­si­bil­i­ty.” And — while it is now unde­ni­able that it is “the most effi­cient dis­trib­u­tor of mis­in­for­ma­tion in human his­to­ry,” I must speak for the gen­er­al read­er­ship and note that when we are “mis­led,” it is out of our own fail­ing dili­gence, intel­lect, and/or edu­ca­tion as bal­lot-eli­gi­ble adults.

As far as myself and my edi­to­r­i­al course are con­cerned, it is tremen­dous­ly dis­re­spect­ful to remove a reader’s voli­tion in their con­sump­tion. If there is “blame” for the votes in this elec­tion, the sin­gle polite course of action is to leave it on the vot­ers, indef­i­nite­ly. Any alter­na­tive is what we’d brand an acute theft of will. Voli­tion in informed media con­sump­tion is the only effec­tive weapon with which one should com­bat decep­tion. It’s not a con­tentious sen­ti­ment — assum­ing com­pe­tence from all par­tic­i­pants when leg­is­la­tion or demand are con­cerned. If it were, the safteynet wouldn’t be focused on such a small por­tion of dig­i­tal dis­in­for­ma­tion as mis­ag­gre­gat­ed news rep­re­sents, but instead on the high­ly-potent cul­ture of Google AdWords cons, or the long­stand­ing insti­tu­tion of email phish­ing. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not the biggest fan of Zuckerberg’s Cul­ture­suck. I found­ed our flag­ship pod­cast around rep­re­hend­ing it, and see plen­ty of evi­dence that it’s pro­found­ly effect­ed West­ern psy­chol­o­gy in a star­tling way, but attack­ing the issue in an eth­i­cal con­text is tremen­dous­ly inef­fi­cient, if noth­ing else.

Yes, it would make for an enter­tain­ing sto­ry, watch­ing Google and Face­book hurl their mass­es of cash at the 9th com­mand­ment, but it’d be much bet­ter spent remak­ing the crit­i­cal read­er­ship in Amer­i­can soci­ety. A fed­er­al pro­gram to con­front the ~10% adult illit­er­a­cy rate might be a bet­ter place to start.