Steven Christopher McKnight
Disillusioned twenty-something trying to meander his way through this abject mess of a world. Aspiring garden hermit. Future ghost of a drowned hobo.
I Spent Five Hours Straight On Duolingo
Je ne suis pas une pomme de terre. That is French. I know how to say that sentence in French. But, for the sake of the thought experiment, if I were to go to France or Canada or any other nation where French is widely spoken and say to the locals, “Je ne suis pas une pomme de terre,” they would likely think me another crazy American. Which I am. I can’t argue with that. Anyway, I spent five hours straight learning French on Duolingo. Here’s what I found out about myself.
If 3,000,000 People Read This Article, I Can Pay Off My Student Loans
Six months ago, I published one of my first articles on Vocal: “If 6,000,000 People Read This Article, I Can Pay Off My Student Loans.” In it, I laid out the math. Vocal was paying me a little over three tenths of a penny for every read I could get on an article. It stood to reason that if I could get 6,000,000 reads, I would make a little over $20k and be able to pay off my student loans in full, with a little bit on the side to donate elsewhere. In the meat of the article, I explained that attention is money in this economy, and that even if you don’t have money to spend, you have attention, and that’s worth something. I thought I could capitalize on that, and that I could make a shameless plea for attention seem like a purposeful and thoughtful commentary on the monetary worth of attention.
No Time For Zen, Only Joyous Despair
I’ve never been one for chillhop or smooth jazz, so when I saw that there was a Vocal+ challenge for a zen playlist, I thought, “Wow, there has never been something I’ve been more wildly underqualified to be a part of.” But I’ve chewed on it a bit, and I realize that I do have my music that I unwind to. It’s stressful, fast-paced, thoroughly despairing, but it’s how I relieve the stresses of the day, and I stand by it. It’s music that makes the world make sense, and it’s a lot of different work, but ultimately, it comprises a fuller picture of me. So why don’t I share a little bit of that?
A Response to the Whiny Brats (re: Doctor Seuss)
On the Vocal forums the other day, I saw an “article”: a “Seussian” examination of what reactionaries and guilty parties are calling “cancel culture.” The article in question essentially complained, in poorly-metered half-rhyme, that you cannot express your opinion without fear of being “cancelled” and shut down. The author then went on an anti-transgender rant, again in that same poorly-metered mess of a rhyme scheme. In the comments, I read messages from other Vocal authors thanking him for being willing to share his opinion in a timbre I could only describe as disappointing. And I’ve been wondering why I was so disappointed. (I mean, I know why I was disappointed. No one should be lauded for sharing toxic opinions. But I’ll get to that later.)
I Was Homeschooled and I Turned Out Fine!
I was homeschooled growing up, 2006-2016, pulled out because my parents didn't quite agree with the teaching philosophies and practices of the local school district. I’ll divulge this fact in conversation with new and old friends, and usually, the response I get to that is, “That reads.” They’re right. It absolutely does. There’s some profound subtlety about my character that makes people think, “It makes sense that he was homeschooled.” It’s unclear whether or not that’s a good thing. However, with the advent of distanced learning, a lot of parents are considering homeschooling their students, for a good reason. At the beginning of the pandemic, the infrastructure was not in place for effective remote learning all across the country, on every level of education. I know this. My last semester of college went online midway through, and that entire period of time, the goal changed from “learning” to “keeping my GPA intact,” and teachers were mostly just trying to hold themselves together. I learned effectively nothing, other than the fact that university administrations only seem to view students as liabilities, but that’s a rant for another day.
200 Reads per Day: Quantifying My February Goals
I decided to set a goal today: 200 reads on my Vocal articles every day throughout the month of February. If it goes well, I may shoot for 300 next month, 400 the following, and so on and so forth until I’m rolling in more reads than I know to do with. (I mean, I know what I’d do with those reads. I get money per read. I’m gonna pay off my student debt, then donate to some charities, and hopefully finally flee to Europe when I’ve got a vaccine in my body and money in the bank. But that’s neither here nor there. My point is, I have a goal. I presently hold about $18.3k in student debt, and that’s not pleasant, but my present goal is to have it all paid off, and I’m chipping away at it, as are millions of Americans everywhere. Heck, I’ve been making payments since my sophomore year. If I had a spare ten bucks, I’d toss it to my debt and watch it not make a dent. “Better ten dollars now,” said 20-year-old me, “than twenty-five dollars in a few years.” Even if those ten dollars were, at that point, 0.05% of my total loan balance, that was still a 0.05% I would not have to pay back. (Percentages are fun, by the way! If you can break your goal down into percentages, do that. It's great.) But, again, I digress.
How Jojo Rabbit Deconstructs the Absurdity of Fascism
Jojo Rabbit was my favorite film of 2019. There are many reasons: The existence of Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi’s take on Hitler, the arc of Sam Rockwell’s character, the complex and nuanced performance of Thomasin McKenzie. But above all, what I found most remarkable was the way in which Jojo Rabbit played with tone, layering and harmonizing different thematic modes in order to paint the world of 1940s Germany as something that we can connect to and learn from. As someone who specializes in tragicomedy, I found the film to be a unique blend of satiric farce and profound moments of tenderness and tragedy, all to paint a picture of the world inhabited by Germans during the Second World War, which was baptized in the personality cult of Adolf Hitler. We can see inside the mind of Jojo as he pictures a mythicized Hitler as his imaginary friend, a goofball who eats unicorns for dinner and charges through the woods alongside Jojo, into the arms of further humiliation. This personal, childish relationship our protagonist has with his fascist-god rings eerily familiar, doesn’t it? Maybe it sounds like your relative, or your coworker, or some guy you pass on the street. But Hitler is dead, and in his place sits Donald J. Trump, a soon-to-be former President of the United States.
Every day, the horizon feels a little bit closer. You learned one day, you don’t know when or how, of a theory on the flipside of the Big Bang, that just as the universe exploded from one point, to that same point must it snap back together. One great big crunch, and the universe in all its majesty is no more. For a while, you believed in entropy: all heat will expend itself into the cold expanse of the cosmos until it’s nothing but atoms spread as thin as possible, and as the universe keeps expanding, those atoms grow further and further apart. It’s like being drawn and quartered, you think, except instead of your limbs, it’s every microscopic piece of you.