Today we launch “The Alt Into” a weekly column where our writers share the muses and fascinations that have gotten them through the week. There aren’t any particular restrictions–if we’ve been obsessing about a Slinky, you’re going to hear about it. Hopefully though, we’ll give you a deeper sense of who we are and help you pick up a great book, introduce you to a new artist, or point you to a cool space.
Luke Stoddard Nathan
The work of author Andrew O’Hagan
I’ve become a compulsive reader of Scottish nonfiction writer Andrew O’Hagan, a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books. His most recent piece, a review of a book about infamous British tabloid the Daily Mail, is full of amusing and colorful passages like this: “Dacre’s paper is like the drunken lout at a party who can’t get anyone to like him. Suddenly all the girls are sluts and all the men are poofs and he’s swinging at the chandelier before being huckled outside to vomit on the lawn. The Mail desecrates the holy places where it likes to stake its claim, and would be a laughable rag, really, were it not for our degraded political culture taking it seriously.”
O’Hagan’s past (and highly entertaining) work includes a 35,000-word story on Satoshi Nakamoto, the sobriquet of the supposed creator or creators of Bitcoin; a 26,000-word story on his experience as ghostwriter for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s scotched autobiography; and a mercifully short 8,000-word story on creating a fake persona. Those three particular works will constitute a book, The Secret Life: Three True Stories of the Digital Age, scheduled for release in October.
The Birthmark of Damnation: Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Black Body
This week I’ve been really enjoying The Birthmark of Damnation: Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Black Body, an essay from Viewpoint Magazine, which is a self-described “militant research collective.” The essay was written by R.L. Stephens, who is a union organizer in Chicago, and a fellow at Jacobin.
The essay offers an important critique from the left of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Coates’ seminal memoir/letter to his son, in which he tries to explain a world in which racism is prevalent and violence is done onto black bodies with impunity. Stephens argues that Coates has an essentially fatalistic account of racism – that Coates sees racism as an original sin, something that society has been damned to experience, rather than something done by human beings. The distinction is significant, as that which is done by people can be undone.
Stephens offers a counterpoint to Coates’ pessimism, arguing that racism deserves to be fought politically — that it is a political conundrum, not a spiritual one. He argues that organizers and activists should instead follow in the visionary footsteps of Fannie Lou Hamer, who fought against racism, “every step of the way”.
It’s a difficult essay, and I had to read it several times to really understand it. However, I believe it’s well-worth your time.
David Howard King
Guitar Pedals by EarthQuaker Devices
Look I get it, The Alt writers read a lot, I read a lot, I swear I do–but I don’t want to talk about that right now. I want to talk about distortion–not the thing the President does every day with basic facts but the kind of distortion you layer over a sweet sludgy riff. Seriously, I’ve been obsessed with guitar effects pedals lately. I don’t claim to be an expert in tone creation, hell, I don’t claim to be an expert guitar player, but I know how I like a guitar to sound. Lately, I’ve been playing around with a series of distortion, overdrive and reverb pedals by EarthQuaker Devices. I was turned on to them by a few of my favorite modern guitarists for bands like Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Pallbearer, Elder, Chelsea Wolfe and Devin Townsend. The company’s pedals not only look beautiful but produce tones I’ve only dreamt of. Am I claiming they are superior to any others? No, not really. Like I said, I’m not an expert. If you feel like playing around with your guitar sounds I recommend heading over to Parkway Music to get your hands on one of these tone boxes.
International DIY infatuation: The Love Junkies
Years ago, I fell into that infamous YouTube black hole and came face to face with a fuzzy little music video, introducing me to an Australian band who soon became one of my all time favorites. Founded by Mitch McDonald, Lewis Walsh, and Robbie Rumble, The Love Junkies are a glorious DIY garage rock band from Perth that delivers a grunge-inspired sound with biting lyrics and some respectable experimentation. The trio has stretched out to a foursome recently, only making their sound bigger and badder–if they weren’t thousands of miles away, I’d be at every show. Today the band officially announced the release of their new EP Cough and Splutter for July 7, so now is the perfect time to peruse their Bandcamp and get addicted. Bust out your eardrums and scream along with McDonald. Go on, it feels great.