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.
Fare Thee Well, Basket Face
You see a guy at a coffee shop. He’s simple-looking. Nice hair. Good build. Impeccable forearms. His face is featureless, save for the fact that it’s made of interwoven wicker. No one seems to notice, but you do. What’s he doing in a coffee shop, you ask yourself. He’s got no mouth to drink coffee with. But you think little of it and dive back into the spreadsheets emblazoned across your laptop screen. Maybe that’s why no one else seems to notice him. They’re all preoccupied with their stresses and their relaxations, and the man with the wicker face is just another petty absurdity that cannot be dealt with today.
Tragedy in Bratislava (pt.1) - Letters From Slovakia
There is no tragedy in Bratislava—I read an article last week that said that, to get more reads, I need the title to be a good hook. Let’s be honest. Letters From Slovakia sounds a little too artsy to appeal to a reader casually scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. So, alas, you have been fooled! (Apologies to the crowd that wanted to see a tragedy. If you’re still hankering for one, check out my love life. Ayo.) Speaking of artsy, however, I would love to take a quick turn in the style of Letters From Slovakia. That is, instead of the bloggish style of the series so far, I would love to try to frame it in a more literary, achronological lens. So, consider this installment to be a test run of Steven being weird and artsy.
Oh Shit, I'm Here - Letters From Slovakia
At the time of my writing this, I am suspended over the Atlantic Ocean in a giant metal tube with flaps on the sides of it. That’s pretty neat. Technology is pretty neat. If I was a monkey, I would be terrified. Imagine living your whole life chillaxing in the trees with your sole thought being “heehoo banana” only to be put in a giant metal tube and launched thousands of feet into the air. Should I be more terrified than I am? Anyway, by the time I have finished writing this and have this particular piece uploaded, I will be safely on the ground, because there is no internet in the heavens for poor boys like me.
Things I'm Doing Instead Of Packing - Letters From Slovakia
At the time of me writing this, I have about 60 hours left until I am put on an airplane and sent zooming out of the United States. That’s 3600 minutes, or 216,000 seconds, and this is what I’m doing instead of—I don’t know—packing for eight months abroad. I’m surprised at how zen I feel, with the weight of everything pressing down on me and all. But whatever. We’re here. We’re calm. We won’t be here in two days. We won’t be calm in two days. We’ll be on a commercial aircraft barreling toward Vienna in two days. Geez. We are calm. How the hell are we calm?
Tinder Travesties - An Investigation of Chad
So, I don’t have much luck on Tinder for a number of reasons. I’m mostly on it just to hold onto the possibility that one day I will be loved (read: get laid). But that’s beside the point. What I will admit is, as a straight guy on Tinder, I don’t run into very many weirdos. Every so often, I find a Republican or an aspiring cop or a woman asking for men over six feet only, and that’s jarring, but that’s more of an IQ thing than a weirdo thing. Men on Tinder need to be bolder. It doesn’t take much for a woman to get a swipe-right on Tinder, but a man? It’s a tough crowd out there, and you gotta use every tool in your arsenal, which is why a lot of men rely heavily on the Tinder bio to set themselves apart from the crowd. Sure, a lot of them are normal, but a lot of them are also very not-normal. That’s where the magic begins, my friends. My friend Val came across the Tinder profile of a gentleman named Chad (not his real name), and I thought that it would be worth it to study his bio and peel apart its layers. What is Chad trying to accomplish? How is he accomplishing it? Is he effective? The answer may surprise you. At the bottom of this article, you can find his full bio, but I think it’s better if you experience Chad one or two sentences at a time, for the sake of dramatic effect. This is going to be an excellent study.
The Rolling Stones Were Not Cancelled
Recently, the Rolling Stones retired from their concert repertoire the song “Brown Sugar,” citing lyrics that called to mind some slave-based imagery. Cool. I don’t really care all that much. I only listen to two songs by the Rolling Stones with passive regularity, and neither of them are “Brown Sugar.” There was no mainstream public outcry against the Rolling Stones by people of color to get them to stop singing that song. That particular group of old men just decided, “Oh, we feel kind of icky singing this song,” and they decided against it. It’s growth. The Stones, even now, in their old age, are learning and maturing, which is more than you can say about most conservatives. But, this gesture reminds me of something that I can’t seem to outrun: The whole Doctor Seuss controversy last Spring.
Letters from Slovakia - Pre-Slovakia
So for those of you unfamiliar with my struggle, I am a former student of theater and writing, trying to find a job in either of those fields in a world and economy that is enduring Covid. Neither field in particular is hiring, and to tide me over until those businesses start to recover, I have decided to put my English degree to good use and start teaching English. I spent this past summer working for an English Second Language camp in the beautiful mountains Ukraine, and now I am about to embark on an eight-month contract as a full-time English teacher in a small city in Slovakia. Suffice to say, my brain is going through a lot of things right now.
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.)