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 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.
Pinky Penguin and the Constant Tragedy of Being
Obsolescence is perhaps the most impeccably-crafted thematic through-line in Netflix Original Series BoJack Horseman. As the characters continue to exist in an ever-changing world, their purposes shift, shrink, and develop in meaningful ways, and they must with the existential terror that comes with that. As BoJack himself once says, “Life’s a series of closing doors.” Opportunities and options for the characters are constantly being lost, and every time a door slams, a new conflict arises. Princess Caroline learns to let go of some of her responsibility as a manager to flourish as a mother. Mister Peanutbutter becomes comfortable being by himself. Even Diane learns to be happy. As the audience, we watch these new characters adapt to new situations and fail spectacularly, learning slowly along the way. But this essay isn’t about them. This essay is about the very first particle of obsolescence we get in the series: Pinky Penguin.
I Listened to "Temporary Secretary" by Paul McCartney for Five Hours and Had a Brilliantly Miserable Time
I’ve begun to believe of late that Paul McCartney is immortal, if not by natural means, then by supernatural means in the very least. In some form or another, Paul McCartney petitioned some eldritch being to grant him eternal life. It’s in the science, and I can prove it. Take a moment to listen to Temporary Secretary by the aforementioned Beatle. Go on. I’ll wait. Now tell me, after listening to that song just once, that the only reason that it exists isn’t to come in contact with some creature from the deepest, darkest recesses of the human psyche, in a plane of existence beyond our very observation. Somehow, Paul McCartney tapped into there, and-
How To Not Be Afraid of Submitting Your Writing
Listen. Submitting is tough. As a writer, there is nothing more frightening than the prospect that someone might actually read that shit that I’ve written. I’m not a parent by a long shot (thank God), but I imagine sending a submission off to be read by a reading board is a lot like sending my spawn off to college. Somehow or another, it’s going to run a gauntlet of ungodly criticism (read: any criticism), and we can only hope it’ll pop out on the other side in one piece. That’s how college works, right? It’s been a hot minute.
Tips for Staying Safe This Lick-A-Doorknob Day
As we all know, International Lick-A-Doorknob Day is right around the corner, and while I’m certain our fellow revelers abroad will take as many precautions as possible, here in the United States, I am not so certain of our ability to control ourselves. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, our fellow Americans still traveled in record numbers to go be with loved ones for Thanksgiving and Halloween, and I fear more still will be traveling to go lick doorknobs with their friends and family across the country this December 11 when we all converge upon doorknobs and lick them. I would like to share a few tips and tricks for staying safe this Lick-A-Doorknob season, so we can all stay healthy in time for a Covid-19 vaccine early next year.
The Worst Exercise Playlist
Anyone who looks at my body knows that I don’t exercise nearly as much as I ought to. I’ve gained forty pounds since the start of this pandemic, in part because I’ve transitioned from an active university lifestyle of walking frantically everywhere while jamming out to sick tunes, into a sedentary lifestyle of sitting in my old satellite chair, munching on whatever food I’ve brought upstairs with me and rewatching old episodes of sitcoms that premiered when I was too young to stay awake through the whole show. But that’s beside the point. Truth be told, I do not live an active lifestyle. Frankly, I never have. For the most part, it’s been due to circumstance that I’ve gotten even a modicum of exercise in. But, Vocal has been pestering me to drop an exercise playlist for a few days now, so here we are.
All Hail Gritty, Chaos-God of America
I spoke a little bit about the American Mythos in my article about the Star-Spangled Banner and why the song sucks. Long story short, the United States functions by its own strange cultish mythology; praise be to Uncle Sam, the Statue of Liberty, the primordial boy band that resides inside of Mount Rushmore, and the sweet stars and stripes of the ol’ American Flag. And sometimes I think the symbol-worship goes a bit too far; for instance, some people get all worked up when a sportsperson doesn’t stand up to sing the overrated song at the piece of cloth. And sometimes, I appreciate these figures. I, for one, very much enjoyed when the Statue of Liberty came to life in Ghostbusters II and beat up the ghosts or whatever. (I haven’t seen the movie in quite some time.)
Memes: The Ultimate Language
It’s midnight. I see the green dot flash beside her profile picture on Messenger. I stare at it longingly, like Gatsby staring at the green lantern across the lake. With great care, I select a meme from my arsenal, something about Mary Shelley’s Graveyard Smash, since we talked about that once in passing, or frogs, because people generally like frogs. She heart-reacts the meme, sends one back in return. The ritual is complete. The courtship may commence.
If 6,000,000 People Read This Article, I Can Pay Off My Student Loans
Okay, so I’m going to be a bit meta here. I’ve been a freelance content writer on Vocal for maybe a week at this point. In the past week, I’ve racked up about 170 views on my articles. Not bad. For those 170 views, I have cashed in at about sixty-nine cents (nice). You know, the big bucks (or, cents?). Legitimately the most income I’ve made since graduating from college in May. That being said, I’ve crunched the numbers, ran the theorems, did math-things, and I have determined a goal that is far beyond the realm of possibilities. If six-million people read my articles, I will be able to pay off my student loans in full.