The Psalms

media

Chuck Klosterman

The genius of one Chuck continues to perform to the refreshing benefit of scholars in American culture.

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 miniscule 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 at least give it a try 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.)

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#media

Tump

Ten percent of the United States' adult population cannot functionally read or write (conservatively) despite the exponential increase of required reading in the average American's day-to-day life thus far in the 21stcentury. For written American media, especially, one would assume that a financial and social incentive for maximum literacy in the populace should present a straightforward justification for intense widespread coverage of this particular disparity, yet most related coverage in mainstream national magazines and newspapers is alarmingly sparse and often requires a less-than-socially-conscious context (e.g. a for-profit startup) to actually appear in news feeds. From the most wholesome assumption of the industry's general values — that it holds “newsworthiness” above all — we must assume that it does not generally consider American illiteracy “interesting enough to the general public to warrant reporting” as we examine the intermittent discourse surrounding the issue that does achieve publication.

In late October, the American business and technology magazine Fast Company covered the recent successes of the “for-profit social enterprise” Cell-Ed, noting that “a huge portion of the American labor force is illiterate,” which it described as “a hidden epidemic.” The article's author, Rick Wartzman, mentions foremost that Cell-Ed's userbase is largely “foreign-born” and expected to eclipse one million in number by the end of 2019. Demographically, the magazine's readership is predominantly middle to upper-class, who are the least affected social groups by a significant margin as per illiteracy's strong correlative relationship with poverty. These factors combine to limit any real social consequences from such an article.

In direct contrast with the professional, market-minded perspective of modern business magazine, even niche independent publications from the opposite end of the media spectrum often trivialize, belittle, or generally mishandle the issue. In a 500-word “Editorial” written by The Editor Eric Black of the Baptist Standard — a small evangelical news website describing itself as “Baptist voices speaking to the challenges of today's world” — he points to a global increase in “illiterate people,” as he so comfortably brands them. Such language is inevitably counter-productive and potentially insensitive: to the eyes and ears of activists, educators, and the general public, such a term unnecessarily lends toward a restricted perspective of those people who have been left behind by the institution of read and written language in one manner or another and portrays them as a great vague collection of lingual lepers bearing their own distinct, inexorable, wordless ethnicity which inevitably bars them from the freedoms allowed by the Editor's learned capacity, including the ability to actually read his words of affliction. Simply put, he has dangerously oversimplified the issue.

To once again assume the best and infer that Black had a specific purpose in publishing his ill-supported opinion beyond continuity's sake of his weekly Editorials, it appears to be the promotion of a local Texan literacy “ministry” called Literacy Connexus, though no further specifics about the project are provided beyond “helping churches develop literacy programs for their communities, provide training and resources to overcome illiteracy,” which is virtually identical to the introductory copy on the organization's homepage.

So far, we've examined coverage only in special interest media, but what about legacy news organizations with the largest readerships in the United States? Despite oblivious use of the same ledes, a newspaper like The Washington Post can wield vast influence over the broadest possible readership and the public editorial trust. In November 2016, veteran reporter Valerie Strauss published “Hiding in plain sight: The adult literacy crisis” for Answer Sheet — her weekly newsletter designed to function as “a school survival guide for parents (and everyone else), from education policy to psychology” — which represents the most substantial discussion of American illiteracy in topical, widely-visible media (i.e. presence in a succinct search engine query.) She briefly introduces the issue with a bulleted list of illiteracy's consequences on modern society and the individual cited from a Canadian literacy foundation before turning the stage over to Lecester Johnson, CEO of the Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School in Washington D.C.

Johnson presents a passionate and well-informed exploration of the state of the literacy battle from the perspective of a full-time, locally on-the-ground advocate. Her op-ed's introduction includes the most essential observations and statistics throughout, noting “the children of parents with low literacy skills are more likely to live in poverty as adults and are five times more likely to drop out of school,” before setting upon a detailed examination of current and relevant organizations working toward solutions. Of course, it's largely centered upon her own organization, which she claims has “helped more than 6000 adults rebuild their education and job opportunities since 1985.”

It's significant that an institution as deeply embedded across the American political spectrum as The Washington Post address the issue of American illiteracy, and both Johnson and Strauss are certainly qualified voices for the undertaking, but when we examine this particular article, it's important we consider the context of the Answer Sheet newsletter and its intended audience. Though it's no challenge to pitch the importance of reading and writing to parents and professional educators, the most alarming and destructive issue at hand is the educational disparity between their adult peers. “There's a literacy problem in the capitol, but I'm not talking about young people who can't read. Many adults — perhaps even parents sitting next to you at back to school night — don't possess academic skills,” notes Johnson with her very first paragraph. However, considering the nature of parenthood, the audience primarily consuming these words are undoubtedly preoccupied with juvenile issues, specifically, and we can assume their capacity to empathize with their fellow working adults who could benefit from literacy education is actually lessened from that of childless readers of the same age as a result. “Despite the magnitude of the adult literacy crisis, most of those needing to make up lost ground are pushed toward traditional classroom settings—even though many of these people can't possibly follow through because of cost or work schedules or other obstacles,” she attests.

Perhaps more than any other American city, Detroit has been struggling with a serious illiteracy problem. According to a profile of the Beyond Basics program (which was adapted from an embedded video broadcast) on their local ABC affiliate's website, forty-seven percent of adult Detroiters cannot read, but even companies like General Motors — who donated \$250,000 to the Beyond Basics program earlier in mid-October — are getting involved. The article quotes Elijah Craft, a young man who was “reading at a first-grade level as a senior at Detroit's Central High School.” “Craft would rare venture from home for fear he would get lost because he could not read street signs,” reports WXYZ anchor Carolyn Clifford. She frames the narrative around a reference to the 2009 film The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock: “here, you might call this story 'The Detroit Side.'” For local television news, this reference to popular culture likely strengthened the story's power ensnare viewers' emotional attention when it was aired, and even in this written accompaniment, it proves an effective — if a bit crude — analogy. The broadcast of Mr. Craft's interview also depicts his own deep emotional investment in reading when he begins to shed tears, which is not entirely communicated in the written article.

When the American news media discusses American illiteracy, it's almost always in secondary or tertiary form: either by way of a short post for a weekly education newsletter, an ultra-low-distribution niche editorial column, or a personality profile of a local activist. Perhaps the fundamental obstacle in the face of increasing the discourse surrounding this issue is that its resolutions will require — perhaps more than any other social issue in this country — advocacy by those who can read on behalf of those who cannot because of how sensitive and isolated many of them feel. When voices of advocates like Lecester Johnson are uplifted by major organizations like The Washington Post, the sociological weight of the illiteracy issue can be very powerful. In quoting former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, she sums up for its extensive audience what the facts should ultimately mean to them: 32 million of Eric Black's so-called “illiterate people” in the United States of America have been and continue to be deprived of their “human right” to functional literacy.

#media

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All of this may one day be worth significantly more revision and/or visibility in the future, but for now, just know that I rambled out all of this because it’s by far my most effective way to think, and this darned lowkey blog post has just provided a very long-overdue opportunity for it. Please feel free to read or even respond to it, if you’d like, but I’d like to ask that you don’t panic or circulate it. Thanks.

So far… the only intercorrespondence between staff at Inmunis is people having a problem with one another.
Before Extratone, there was Inmunis – my first, relatively short-lived attempt to launch an online magazine which wasn’t particularly important, but the experience surely did contribute to and inform my progression in understanding media that led to my (utter bewildered) current state. Anyhow, it’s fun to look back. Here’s the web archive’s last snapshot.

Inmunis Version 1 Web Capture

This, a derelict Twitter account, and two film reviews by James Wilson are all that’s left of inmunis.co.uk for good reasons – many of which I did not entirely shed when I tried again. Until I started Extratone and made doing “this” – incessantly reading/exploring the web, obsessively tinkering and experimenting with The Extranet – I actually had very little knowledge on or exposure to the state of digital publishing or the real depth of variety to be found with any significant effort to comprehend the current offering real, surviving magazines, online or not, yet was dumb and arrogant enough to assume that I’d seen it all and none of it was even close to good enough for me to read or seek to write for. I was actually delusional enough to regard myself as too smart and one-of-a-kind to lower myself by going back to journalism school – that I was so special, anything I put effort in creating was destined to turn out superb. Granted, I’d had the actual idea for less than two weeks before I experienced by far the most traumatic, soul-destroying, world-upturning, and life-altering event of my entire existence, which I think accounts for the insanity, and all of my decisions were inevitably preempted by the fact that I was a 21-year-old straight white male community college dropout, which accounts for (but does not excuse) their absurdity.

I’ve publicly implied before that it was probably only thanks to Drycast – which was also in its infancy during the time of The Big Event (episode 7 was published just two days before) – and its weekly obligation to sit down and talk with my favorite people about interesting stuff that I did not end up dead or institutionalized in 2015 (I wish I was exaggerating.) If there is a Gourd, let it be known that he is fully up-to-date and brand-activated – he sent me a fucking podcast to save my life.

Reading and compiling stories for the show notes throughout the week provided an early avenue for exploring and embedding myself into media. Beyond the actual content, even, it’s been the rationality in the tone which journalists generally adhere to that has drawn me in and provided a brighter and brighter guiding light to help keep my sanity in check after my world ended because New Media values empathy in tandem with critical thought. All my life, it’s been very important to me that I continue to learn the best way to both appear and feel smart and functional. I’ve long since accepted that I am very fucking weird – and not in the wow, I dye my hair bright red sort of way which helps people feel unique, but in the holy shit, I’m terrified of what would actually result in losing control of my facade sort, which is actually much less sinister than it sounds for you, and infinitely moreso for me.

This is why I still have a very infantile habit of becoming overwhelmingly frustrated with those who socially emphasize and celebrate their “weirdness” as an important part of their identity because my self-perception has long since transitioned from regarding my deviations as something that made me “unique,” to gigantic obstacles in the way of every possible aspiration which I’ll probably never overcome, but am doomed to kill myself trying. I’m now working on learning to appreciate those very fucking common people who are determined to prove how strange they are because ultimately, my own self-perception is just as ignorant, loneliness is not a virtue, and I’ve only maintained the whole charade because I’d rather have delusions of grandeur than acknowledge that I am also mostly unoriginal, and most of my truly more “original” behaviors could easily be described as simply unhealthy.

This is an important confession for this explanation because its “solution” is another crucial motivation behind my creation of Extratone – as both a symbolic and literal means of understanding and minimizing my own biases and bitterness by 1) surrounding myself with the huge amount young, talented people I knew with great ideas and 2) editorially committing to curiosity as the most precious ideal in writing (and in life.)

I do know that – for whatever reason – I really do have a special knack for identifying the culture and creators that are truly fresh, innovative, even cool among those who can’t comprehend or stand it and the heartbreaking number of those who actualize themselves by trying to act aggressively apathetic toward the status quo. This sense is far from 100% reliable and is certainly not of a greater quality than everyone on Earth, but I would still confidently suggest it’s at least better than most, and – as most of us know – it especially jives with and defines the world of magazines.

As I did in Spring 2016, I still believe that Extratone is the best way for me to hone my greatest talents and shed my biggest problems – that it is the name I can place on my endless journey to improve myself, which – most importantly of all – will all the while achieve the tightest possible adhesion to the only meaning of “original” with any significance or real world value at all, which serves human curiosity without punishing it in any sense. I could actually just be crazy or completely, irrationally inverted – and I know it sounds abstract and preposterous – but I promise it’s my best shot at one day performing my optimal function for the world.

The very first thing I did after I’d arrived upon these hypotheses and been abruptly forced to cling to them as my last hope in life was to obsessively search for a single mantra/battlecry I could drill into my memory and could shout under duress – including the temptation to escape the whole lot of it – to succinctly remind myself that I had at least one logical chance at a fulfilling life (and yes, it’s still funny that the chance is, in fact, a Web Site.)

Scribam quid non legerim is possibly grammatically incorrect to a scholar, but it’s the best possible translation I came up with in my Latin research of “I will write what I have not read.” It’s cheesy, yes, and a bit cringey in the middle of just any old day when it happens to catch my eye where it’s proudly displayed, all-caps, in the footer of our CMS, and – I’ll be honest – I don’t know if I could explain it over coffee to a stranger without turning red and covering my face, as I once could, but it’s (sincerely, in this one case) real gravestone material. (As in, if someone were to read this after my death, they would be encouraged to receive it as a bonafide last wish.)

#media

Mark Fuck

The monumental amount of unsubstantiated gossip and conjecture enabled every day by Facebook is lethal to the human intellect. Can fire be fought with fire?

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. Yes, a part of me would like to campaign for Sheldon to be reclassified as an expletive, in disgust, but – as an adult in all-out sprint to make up for stalled emotional development – I must note that such a display of concern should've been at least reciprocated with a bit of explanation, if not appreciation. Still, there are much more appropriate reasons and situations in which to waste public servants' time.

It's not news – the Theory is providing some ghoulishly skewed portrayal of less-than-forty pseudointellectuals. Obviously, my savior's time was worth very little to her, but 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'd 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 Times er'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.

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 incentive s 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 Facebook'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.

Elon is a more likely candidate, but I'll leave those differentiations to the not-idle cult masses.

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 something very profound 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” Fuckbook 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 – it's not exactly the most relevant goingson at the moment – 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 filled 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 within 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.

I Refuse to Die Clicking

#media

In the midst of arranging Feebles for print, I stumbled upon an author and “book designer” engaged in launching a community for self-published, independent writers. I'm not going to specify names because I have no interest in shitting on his company, nor “what it stands for.” I don't want to shit for you at all, actually, just note a few still-underrealized realities about the sheer ludicrousness of the word business as it stands. Let's say you've got some manuscripts you've been sitting on for a few years, and you're introduced to the concept of self-publishing by an evermore earnestly-curious man on the radio named Audie one day. He and his interviewee (the owner of a self-publishing service) seem to say, curiously, that because an author's profit-per-unit can potentially be “four to five times more” than if he/she is published traditionally, self-publishing has now shed completely its aura of desperate amateurism.

But – whoa, Nelly – writing to sell books, and writing books have perhaps never been further apart. And gee – you certainly didn't write to sell; selling hadn't occurred to you at all for a very long time, but from just one search, you find Our Friend, back from his own experiences as an author and editor, qualified and insistent that you can make money selling creative works of fiction.

And Jesus Christ… All that said, I must admit to you that I've just finished Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, and was unable to commence this “review” without wondering aloud for you how Kilgore Trout – perhaps Kurt's favorite creation – would feel about this Friend's business.

It was actually my Aunt Ayn who taught me to write, so Vonegutt was a mediocre Ray William Johnson-associated YouTube band until after high school, when “lots of people” started telling me to “read Vonnegut, man,” even though I cannot recall any specific events or recommenders. For whatever reason, though, I'd bought a copy immediately after a friend mentioned it, recently, and found him (in this particular work, at least) to be awfully sane for my taste, yet particularly resonant. Though written to make me think it was all a big one-draft ramble, Kurt's a bit too curt for it to be believed, I think. Auntie Rand would've double-taken his beratement of “in nonsense is strength” if she'd made it that far. I hope she did, because I found the image of her taking in his occasional hand doodles to be very amusing.

Dwayne Hoover is awfully absent – and therefore, a very versatile storytelling device, though not in a lazy sense. We're repeatedly notified about an imminent convergence. Eventually, it's explained that the endgame involves Dwayne exploding into a violent revengeful tantrum against all the lifelong enemies of his subconscious. Including “people with brown skin.” Can I just bring up Ayn Rand again? I hope it's okay.

Kilgore Trout is the most dangerous villain I've ever experienced. He has little to lose, and – like Vonnegut, it would seem – finds his observatory position in the world to be immensely amusing. His last amusement, even. Remember Ellsworth M. Toohey, the corrupter? I think they would've gotten along, funny enough.

Yes, and Hoover would be Peter Keating, the corrupted. I'm reaching, yeah, but when do I not? Their immediate difference is the lack of malicious intent in Trout, of course. He is an aimless science fiction writer, who gives Dwayne a volume simply to shut him up. Neither villain is believable, per se, but both were written to be personifications of ideals; vehicles of metaphor.

I think Rand could've quite easily become Vonnegut, were she to stick around much longer, but perhaps I believe so only because I've experienced a quantifiable transition from her sort of thinking (vaguely) to his (perhaps less vaguely.) An incorruptible commitment to absolute was Ayn's most potent conviction. Growing up as a white cis male, I was aching for a method of simplifying the world which I knew more and more to be infinitely complex. Inevitably, with age, I think a limitless appetite for the complexity must form, lest one spend the rest of his/her life fighting the singular truth in a miserable fortress of seclusion and amphetamine abuse.

The key to Breakfast of Champions' genius is its utter lack of angst. Aside from his brief definition of a being – “an unwavering band of light” – Kurt had little interest in writing a manifesto, yet his perspective in his curious commentary manifests a much more profound critique of American society than Rand ever could've from her hole.

As such, I think it's wisest to leave a rudimentary whole measurement of a writer to Aunt Ayn, but perhaps a particularly relevant spectrum in this case is clarity of sight. Rigid idealism has its place in literature, no doubt, but it's an awfully boring one without a writer's feet on the ground.

How does this all relate to self-publication? Well, Our Friend, it turns out, offers preset novel “templates” to members of his writing community, into which one can “plug in” characters, setting, and basic plot elements to a degree of his/her choosing. And his YouTube channel is stuffed with all sorts of tutorials on formatting and – more disturbingly – how to create sellable cover art with Photoshop. Naturally, it includes instruction on stock and rights-free images.

Though I've yet to read one, it doesn't take much imagination to comprehend the inevitable product. From Our Friend's vlogs, I can suppose a heavy focus on the adolescent market. What makes the whole concept noteworthy in my mind is the why? I'd like to think that I have a fairly-realistic grasp on the potentialities of writing for profit, and am obligated to wonder why one would “compromise” his/her “creative integrity” by publishing literature to sell, of all things.

As I understand it, the methodical approach to authorship being encouraged is applicable to literally any other field, creative or not. It's curious and impressive, frankly, as their sales potential seems to be vastly superior to anything I'll ever bother to publish, but I must weigh in because of one quantifiable detriment: saturation.

Someone is spending their money on these works – probably for their kids. I'm not a parent, but I'd be tremendously ashamed to discover that a book I'd given as a gift to anyone had been manufactured in this manner. Not just in the sense that most light literature is manufactured – written in hearty observance of academic rules of storytelling – but literally mass-produced with a goddamned intellectual stencil.

Without sounding like I'm complaining... My singular self-published poetry collection is probably of significantly less whole-value to the majority of readers, but I can't help but think the effort put into its hand-drawn cover art and meticulously-arranged typography would make it a more comfortable investment, if anything else.

This brings us to a distinctly-academic mainstay which I have always taken issue with: “consider your audience.” I first encountered this proverb in the context of a composition studies course, mind you, where its consideration in the essay medium makes unequivocally good sense. If we agree that an essay is defined by an uncompromising commitment to its effectiveness in making an argument, audience awareness is essential. If you were asked to decide on one primary purpose of writing in general, though, would it not be identical?

Why didn't Kurt Vonnegut or Ayn Rand simply write essays? Well, the latter wrote many, but their sales have always been all but invisible compared to The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. (Both of which resemble essays more than fiction, at times, but I'll spare you that conversation.) Did they consider their audience? Certainly not in the way my first Google result articulates it:

Ensure that your documents meet the needs and expectations of your readers.”

Ooo boy. To me, that translates a little too easily into “write what your readers want to read.” And maaaan... If there's anything that experience and Donald Draper have taught me, it's that people have no idea what they want, especially from art. And that's a reasonable mentality, isn't it? Perhaps even an exhaltable one. I know that predictable stories are my number one turnoff, personally. If I expected to exist for an eternity, I'd absolutely indulge every single creative work I could find, but I do not, and that realization (as I stated in my last Freq Check,) has propelled an underlying preference in all of my consumption decisions: what I have not (before) seen.

Obviously, then – if you take my word for it – Our Friend's endeavors are in direct ideological opposition to my own, which would make him my arch nemesis, if 21st-century industry were a bit more theatrical. But – like most heroic protagonists – I'd be much more interested in “turning” him than censoring him, were we ever to engage. In fact, I'd probably end up defending his and/or his constituents' right to sell their trash if CreateSpace or other self-publishing services called it into question.

Overwhelming content volume can be entertaining; Drywall was my own foray into that uniquely contemporary experiment. It's the sheer ease of publication, though, that makes “good” literature more precious than ever. Admittedly, a glance at Amazon's current top ten bestsellers list indicates that I am undoubtedly out of touch as far as the market is concerned. I know that my mother and sisters have mysteriously reverted back to print from the Kindles which they used for a few years, and that audiobooks make me supremely uncomfortable. I also know that reading a book – whenever I bring myself to shut out everything else – is an unrivaled vehicle of cognitive serenity.

A significant mission for Extratone lies in an upcoming reactionary movement to culture's “circus stage” (by way of the Internet.) We determined the event's inevitability on Drycast, a year ago, and have made occasional efforts to posit more thoroughly on The New. It must involve a reduction in content consumption, fundamentally, which will constrict because of an increasing demand for more explicit purpose in all media. We are not to be the alternative, necessarily, but the intermediary arbiter of the enabling discussion, hopefully with the outcome of increased awareness. What is and is not relevant? Why am I consuming this?

As the end of Breakfast of Champions draws abruptly closer, Vonnegut mentions his schizophrenia, which is – as you probably know – fundamentally characterized by loss of the ability to determine what is and is not real, and primarily treated with antipsychotics. Interestingly enough, extremely high doses of amphetamines (which Ayn Rand did use heavily, by the way. I wasn't making that up) can actually induce psychosis, which could crudely be described as cognitive noise. I could've missed the intended function of their works, but for me, they illuminate a distinct relationship between the abstracts of truth and relevance which, for the moment, seems particularly necessary.

Two opposing reflections of Americana; both helpful in preparation for its future.

May we never lose ourselves in the noise.

#media