Saturday, June 1, 2013's "Alt Lit - Episode Two"

Remember on America's Next Top Model when Miss Jay would tell one of the contestants: "walk like it's for sale  and the rent is due tonight"?

My favourite web series is Issa Rae's "Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl". If you haven't watched it, do so. You won't regret it. Each individual episode is a standalone showcase of Issa and co-stars' talent, making the very best of the resources and time given to snag the viewer and reel you in. There's a story line - development - things happen, things change. In the never-ending audition that is the internet, ABG is the contestant that comes out swinging, entertaining like it's for sale* and making the very most of the single shot they have to make a lasting impression.

*Guess what - it IS for sale. 

Enter's new web series "Alt Lit". I wrote about the first episode when it debuted, which you can  read here. It's presented as a series about the sex lives of the internet famous, but both are bizarrely absent - the actual world of 'internet fame' and 'online literary production' are ignored and the 'sex lives' part (the big sell, right?) is implied with cringey use of expletives and awkward comings and goings. There's mumbling and moaning and not much else. Two episodes in and I still don't know the name or story of any of the characters. Who are they, what are they doing? Nothing is shown, and nothing is told.

Nerve say: "We like sharp writing, honest interviews, and clever takes on smart culture. We're always looking for new ways to start conversations and produce features that you wouldn't find anywhere else." That's hilarious to me because that is exactly what this ought to be and exactly what it isn't. As a genre or subculture or community or [insert definition here] Alt lit has already drawn all kinds of internal and external criticism - often summed up by "Ha-ha dumb hipsters on the internet". There are many worthwhile conversations to be had regarding Alt lit, internet fame, the production of literature on and for the internet. This series boldly uses the name but then shies away from anything that would readily associate it with its subject matter: holding back unnecessarily as it does in every aspect (sex, dialogue, jokes, story, &c.) other than wardrobe and casting.

Shows like 'Real Housewives' are popular because people like to peer into (and judge!) a different world, with its own rules and values, shared history and language which can be parodied, mocked, ridiculed with reassuring ease. There is no lack of subject matter to play with when it comes to Alt lit and since everything is held together by the internet, nothing more than a Google search is necessary to bring up, say, Tao Lin's or Marie Calloway's dating histories or Roggenbuck's charismatic indoctrination videos or a variety of events, spree casts and Alt lit-connected memes/discussions.

I like the idea of this series, but the reality is painfully tedious. I understand that the struggle of limited money and time and so on is a real one, but everything director Sebastian Sommer needs is right here - a decent cast, a platform, a ready-made audience. It's all there man, all you have to do is put the parts together and make it work.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Interview with Daniel Alexander (SNCKPCK)

Texan wunderkind Daniel Alexander, better known as SNCKPCK, is one of those amazing people who are rare to come by. He's not a Canadian or a Mormon but he might as well be. His kindness and positivity are so infectious they've generated a loyal and growing fan-base, quick to support his endeavors across a variety of formats. His success and brand have generated both positive and negative discussions, perhaps stepping on the those of those who value sadness in art or something.

Through him I discovered Alt lit and the seedy underworld of online literature, for which I am most grateful. 

Check out his answers to my questions after the jump.

1. Hello! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Can you give a brief outline of how SNCKPCK was born and what it is you do exactly? 

I started doing everything I do in 2006. Started making silly videos in my bedroom and uploaded them to YouTube. Now I'm making music, videos, writing books, having fun, and motivating people!!!!!!!!!!!

2. Do you actively think about and build your "personal brand" or is the "personal brand" just a consequence of what you do? 

Not really no, I'm just doing my thing and people are responding well to it so I keep going. and going, and going.

3. How do you balance the internet and real life? Do you worry that being away from the internet for any extended period of time would negatively impact SNCKPCK? 

This is my 4th semester in college. This semester I started taking all my classes online so I can focus more on my internet work. Wow can't believe I didn't think of this before. It's so nice getting all my work done on Tuesday and not having to worry about it until the next Monday. I'm currently online 24/7 having fun, even when I am out I document everything. Taking pictures / video. but in the company of others while I am out I usually never check my phone or anything. I do think that if I spend an extended period of time away from the internet could hurt SNCKPCK yes.

4. Your work has resonated with many other people very different to yourself (older, in different countries, etc). Why do you think that is?

There's so many fans of SNCKPCK out there in the world. I even have a small group from Ethiopia Africa!!!! how the hem did that happen I don't know. I think people connect / like the work I'm doing because it keeps them going and its very positive content. and I love that people are so positive back. spreading the love!!

5. I discovered Alt Lit through you and your Facebook. How did you first discover Alt Lit and what is your connection to it now? More generally, what is your vision of Alt Lit as a whole? 

I discovered alt lit through twitter. I rised really fast in the alt lit community from June-October and wrote my first book. Alt lit is very nice to start out. I love the friends I have made and am thankful for that. 

 6. You've previously mentioned wanting to do documentaries. These last few days you announced you would be focusing more on your YouTube channel. What does the future hold for SNCKPCK? 

2013 I plan to make something everyday and am sticking to that goal!!! I love making things and making people happy. I have 2 live performances in this upcoming week. one in austin @ sxsw and one in denton. i am very excited for that. I'm not sure what's in the future and to be honest I don't look that far into the future or have an end goal in sight. I'm just living day by day and doing the things I want to do. I'm having fun and so are others and that makes me happy

7. Finally, can you share your all-time favorite author, book, and quote? 

Even though I wrote my own book I rarely read anything at all. like zero. but I do like to buy writing friends' books to support them. I've listened to an audio book of one of Gary Vaynerchuks' books recently. It motivated me. I'm going. I'm going I'm ogign gingingidfohnsgdfg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

 S N C K P C K

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Caspar Lee Wants Attention

You know on 'GIRLS' when Marnie's like, 'I'm not with you for the money' and you're immediately like 'She's with him for the money'? That's pretty much my exact reaction whenever I see a YouTuber saying 'I'm not doing this for attention'. Like dude, bro, hunty,'re in the whole business of converting attention to clicks/merchandise sales to food on your table and Apple products in your hand. Don't lie to me.

Attention isn't a bad thing. It gives you options. Anything that gives you options is a good thing. Making money is one of them, but not the only one. Raising awareness requires attention, as does the natural segue of generating or forcing a dialogue. Dialogue is important because it makes [reasonable] people stop, listen and reflect on important issues. 

There is no cure for Caspar's secret, Tourette's syndrome. It is also hereditary. It is no longer considered a rare condition. It can, however, be managed with therapies and medications and fade away as the sufferer ages. Sometimes it gets worse as the person ages. It is often accompanied by obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), in maybe up to 60% of cases, as well as depression, social anxiety and learning difficulties.

Be smart, be kind. Next time you see some kid with a tic - don't be a dick.

Caspar Lee is a social media phenomenon, reaching millions across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr. Be sure to check out his other videos and web content.

By Robynn Farrell (click for more pics)

Friday, May 17, 2013

NerveTV's "Alt Lit (Episode One)"

Alt Lit is this vapid, absurd absurd absurd thing on the internet. It's not even "alternative literature", it's just...Alt Lit y'know? It's ridiculous and necessary and tragic all in one. It's just one of those things, I guess. It had to happen, it's the logical next step. The culmination of [previous things], the stepping stone to [future things]. It was once  notoriously defined as 'the harnessing of the possibilities offered by the internet for the creation and publication of literature, and by extension, the associated community and culture'. It's a definition I quite like because the author is the stunningly handsome ethnically ambiguous author of this here piece of art.

(I don't really think this is art).

It's the internet and things move quickly. A dull day can seem like a lull in the whole [movement? thing? what is this?]. Today some guy posted a series of macro images of baby animals. You can take them as standalone funnies or (as I did) a rather depressing short story. I love that shit. In a simple and highly effective way he took the same tools used by everyone else and rearranged them innovatively. Maybe (likely) someone else has already done it before; certainly I hope to see this idea played with and expanded in future. There are things to be excited about in Alt Lit, and they generally pop up right after you give up all hope.

It's the internet and like all things online it's dominated in a big way by North Americans. Discussions tend to be discussions of interest to North Americans and generally settled in keeping with North American trends. Blah blah blah, xanax, gender identity, reverse racism, appropriation, promiscuous sex, patriarchy. People of color are poorly represented. Elitism and hierarchies sully [the imagined?] original purpose perhaps. There are problems in Alt Lit, not least it's lack of diversity, the disparity in age of participants, the haphazardness and half-heartedness and whiteness of things, though in many ways these can also be strengths.'s "Alt Lit" came crashing in today. It's fitting in many respects. There are no people of color. There is minimal distinction between these Alt Lit types and regular hipsters. They are billed as internet famous, despite the fact that internet famous Alt Litters (what? haha) can be counted on one hand. The lead character was perfectly cast - a Spencer Madsen lookalike mimicking Tao Lin's style. Fangirl's reactions was realistic. It was nice, there were problems. It held back, it could be more, more aggressive, more blatant, better researched, but a good starter. It is a mark in Alt Lit's development. It has caused a furor in the community. I use the word "furor" lightly. I look forward to this becoming a series akin to Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, there is no lack of content and gimmicks to explore and parody. There are strong personalities and/or brands which would make for great fodder for this, exposing Alt Lit's hypocrisies without needlessly bashing it for a quick 'lol'.

I laughed and am glad that this happen. Here's to many more.

Monday, February 25, 2013

On How Megan Boyle Exposed VICE as the Pinnacle of Alt Lit

Not long ago ran an article by the now infamous Josh Baines, titled “Alt-Lit Is For Boring, Infantile Narcissists“. The post’s URL, “Alt Lit is the worst thing to happen to Literature“, most likely reveals Baines’ original title, altered by VICE for maximum effect perhaps. It was a shitty and nonsensical article with reasoning along the lines of ‘Tao Lin can do it because he is Tao Lin‘ and not everyone in this genre is as good as [?Tao Lin?/?whatever Baines' standard of 'good' is?] therefore eff this‘. It was bullshit but I’ll give Baines the benefit of the doubt and say it was conscious bullshit. With over 2000 Facebook ‘likes’ and a flurry of response posts elsewhere, Baines and VICE got what they wanted. 

At the time others pointed out that VICE was hardly highbrow journalism itself and had moreover recruited “Alt Lit” types to supply them with content more than once – notably cashing in on Marie Calloway‘s post-Adrien Brody hype by running “Jeremy Lin“, Calloway’s account of her first encounter with Tao Lin. An internal monologue of ‘meh’ was followed by an eye-roll, a lip smack and voracious clicking away into the e-wasteland.

Fast forward a month and VICE has published “Tao Lin’s Apartment: A Review“, Megan Boyle‘s review of ex-husband Tao Lin’s apartment. The post itself is well written and entertaining, though I imagine the latter is only true where one has some prior knowledge of the people in question. Alt Lit game Florence Welch Ms Boyle is captivating in many ways. For one, she was harlem shaking to her quirky heart’s content before non-funny white people everywhere decided to re-purpose that most sacred dance craze of yesteryear. For another, her VICE column is pleasingly (if at times stomach-turning-ly) bold in its honesty and forthrightness. 

It is not with Boyle that my objection lies. 

I’m reminded of a quote from Baines’ scathing conclusion: “if it being alt-lit wasn’t the only reason anyone read it“. Would anyone read a random’s review of another random’s apartment? Perhaps. Would VICE run it? Most certainly not. As someone wryly put it, “someone you don’t know’s review about someone you don’t knows apartment.“


Baines’ anti-Alt Lit rant ended with the awfully endearing: “All of this…could be overlooked if the writing was any good. If…the dialogue went further than trying to replicate the stuttering and haltering of inchoate early-twenties relationships…if it wasn’t so content with thinking about drugs and itself and itself on drugs. If it wasn’t f-g alt-lit, basically“. Alt Lit is thus defined, and it is shit because it is these things which are all shit, for so saith the Baine. All knowing Baines and VICE come forth prophet-like to denounce and exhort the literary unlearned and expose just how shallow and narcissistic Alt Lit is.

And yet…

VICE doesn’t just recruit “Alt Lit types” and their writing on occasion. VICE is the epitome of Alt Lit. It’s the Alt Littiest thing on the internet. Yes, even more so than Thought Catalog. Hell, even more than Muumuu House. It’s Alt Lit brought to the mainstream. It’s next level Alt Lit. At times diluted for palatability, the self-styled “Definitive Guide to Englightening Information” is immersed in hedonistic narcissism and “a spontaneous expressivity evocative of erratic pubescent passions“. And all those other things Baines so vehemently derided. Maybe, like Tao Lin, VICE can do it because it is VICE? I don’t know. Maybe because Baines is writing his MA on Tao Lin, and is writing his articles for VICE, they escape his/their own censure. Maybe it really is wrong for 20-somethings to write about drugs and their writing and their writing on drugs, unless they get published on MuuMuu House and nab a VICE column? I can see some problems arising there. 

Maybe Where’s the weirdest place you’ve whacked it? and What’s the best thing you’ve ever stolen? and I’m a Homo But I Loved Having Sex With This Robotic Pussy and my favourite, All The Stories I Tell Someone New, a post which meanders through the author’s favorite anecdotes (a vegetarian chauffeur! a promiscuous gay ex-boyfriend! a friend’s parents went mad!)…maybe these posts, “apparently lacking any kind of self-awareness at how banal they sound“, maybe these posts go beyond fulfilling “an insatiable, undying hunger for self-reflective prose about nothingness“, maybe these posts go beyond “writing that is written to be ‘liked’ on Facebook and reblogged“. 


Sunday, February 10, 2013

#CRLS: The Identity of Hipster Runoff’s Carles™

I discovered HipsterRunoff slightly over a year ago, shortly before Lana Del Rey “effing tanked” on SNL. Like everyone else and their mother I wanted to know more – who is this guy, what does he do, why does he do what he do, etc. Thought it was shitty and yet exciting that he had remained anonymous, no one knew who he was, who is this dude, is he Tao Lin, is he really just a “friend”, is “he” several people, etc etc. 

About a week ago on Facebook chat I mentioned that I sometimes thought Carles™ was, at least on occasion, a woman. Homeboy mentioned a Facebook friend of his (henceforth Pretty Girl) who claimed she chatted with CRLS on the regular. 

Oh dang, for real bb? 

I share my personal suspicion that Primordial Carles might be some boring, privileged, middle aged white dude with a thing for fresh young..’talent’..and dressing like a 9 year old on way to Sunday school. Friend concurs on some points but mentions Pretty Girl has been added by Carles on his personal account and that he is non-white.

Say wha-?

I then scrambled over to the aforementioned aforementioned lady’s account, certain that her friend’s list would be blocked or some shit. Turns out it’s not but tablet won’t load and I can’t search. Following the passage of a few hours I finally sit down at a PC, search said friends’ list and find one single eligible candidate.

Say wha-?

I then scrambled over to the aforementioned aforementioned lady’s account, certain that her friend’s list would be blocked or some shit. Turns out it’s not but tablet won’t load and I can’t search. Following the passage of a few hours I finally sit down at a PC, search said friends’ list and find one single eligible candidate.

Clear as day, shining bright like a diamond.

I message profile to Homeboy, who seems equally astonished and wondrous that I had “found” him in half a day, do you know how many hours people have spent trying to find his identity?, how many threads have discussed this? etc. Homeboy is not surprised at youthful appearance having heard his voice previously. Am ‘wowed’ and peer at profile in amazement, perhaps in unison with friend continents away.

And so I remain, confronted by three possibilities:

1. This is Carles. A profile in plain sight, pictures, friends and at least some comments made public. Few friends in common but exactly who you might expect – Jordan Castro, Megan Boyle, Brandon Scott Gorrell. Blatant mentions of and/or nods to CRLS (!!!), Tao Lin, and ‘likes’ by Marie Calloway on most of his (awfully inane) statuses. Say what you want about Miss Calloway (don’t, actually) but frivolous she is not. An URL immediately visible on the profile which a ten year old could probably guess. Like, it’s literally RIGHT THERE, in plain frickin’ sight, for all and any to see. Interesting to note his friends’ list is blocked (except mutual friends) and he does not come up on search, so I guess at least those are blocked. Shit man.

2. This isn’t Carles… rather, it’s an elaborate hoax. An incredibly elaborate and seemingly meaningless hoax. I mean, like, it’s literally RIGHT THERE. This dude is highly intelligent, no way this is a mistake. Real or not it’s meant to be found. Like, for real for real. New cover photo shows a glimpse of a different profile with the same name but different profile and cover pictures, as well as a post on Psy’s former anti-US rap and the numbers to his Wi-Fi IP and Data IP numbers. I don’t know what any of that shit means but probably clues or something.

3. This is just some random dude. A random dude who is seemingly ungoogleable, doesn’t seem to have written anything, but is somehow friends with Muumuu House et al and gets off on using CRLS in his URL – a fan boy eager to mistake as the real? If so it seems odd that he has no one else from the “net lit “”scene”"” added except the aforementioned + Pretty Girl.

Pictures and profile info show a good looking hipster-ish dude, a year older than me (23), good looking and likely (probably) not as desperate for fresh e-vadge as Bebe Zeva et al might make it appear to an outsider. 

Evidence in favor of this being a hoax: Back in 2009 he mentioned in interviews working a fairly regular, salaried job after graduating from business school. If this is a real profile, he would have been 19 years old at graduation. I’m unfamiliar with the US system but it seems unrealistically young.

Evidence in favor of this being 4real 4real: This interesting excerpt from a three year old interview with FlavorWire (emphasis all mine):

FP: You posted pictures of Tao [Lin] and Bebe [Zeva] wearing the I Am Carles shirt a while ago, foreshadowing As random/spontaneous HRO appears, do you carefully plan everything out?
CRLS: I think it is important to ‘seed’ memes*. From what I understand, many Fortune 500 companies are trying to ‘seed’ products and get tons of ‘viral buzz’ on the twitter website livefeed.
FP: When you hint/joke about HRO’s death/the day you stop blogging, it sounds like you seeding for something else… Is HRO only a very small part of huge Keyser Soze-like plan? 
CRLS: I think it is unrealistic to expect HRO to be around ‘forever.’ I am enjoying my time on the internet, but it seems ‘unrealistic’ to want to ‘be a blog’ forever. It seems like after another year or two of memeing, I will no longer feel ‘positively reinforced’ when a successful meme is created.
*So basically, yes, he does like to plan everything out.

And so this post. If dude made a genuine mistake and wants to keep his privacy, a heads up. If this is some meme he’s seeding, then OK. And if it’s not him and just some other random dude, then, well, this is probably what you wanted to happen.

Pretty Girl is saying it’s not him, but then again, that seems like something she would say (via Beba Zevaesque aspirations).

Am I just the vehicle for the corrupt CRLS machine? Is revelation the ‘death’ of CRLS?

Is HRO already ‘effing over’?
Is the gap between his eyebrows as #real as Childish Gambino?
Has santeria made CRLS ‘effing untouchable’?
Is CRLS just a magician of words and memes, a #memordician?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tao Lin’s Taipei And The Upcoming Taipocalypse

Tao Lin‘s third novel “Taipei” is out on Vintage Books on June 4th, 2013. The date is fast approaching. This is it. It is now. This is now. (Well, almost). Tao Lin is engaging and entertaining in a number of ways, all of which have been articulated by others elsewhere far better than I could at this present time. I think it suffices to say that the hype is well justified. My favorite thing by him ever was a blog comment about some house party where his friend was picked on for having a nose-ring (something to that effect). Personally I find his writing jarring and unsettling, surprisingly simple and hard to digest, often spurring emotions of “I would have never thought of that/doing things that way” and “Damn/wow why didn’t I think of that?“. Others perceive various different qualities, but what matters is that a significant number perceive something, whatever it might be, of general interest and power.

Back in April 2011 Lady Gaga proudly proclaimed the start of a cultural baptism with a new release of hers. Pop star megalomania aside, the idea made a strong impression on me. I like it very much. The idea of a single release or moment (“moment”) baptizing – immersing or cleansing – a given culture which then emerges anew and reinvigorated. Google tells me the verb ‘baptize’ can also have the meaning of “to dye” or “to color”, as if the object in question might emerge in a completely new guise, perishing to its former self and resurrecting with new identity and purpose. The same and yet barely recognizable as the same.

I believe the internet literary subculture/movement/community, best known as Alt Lit, will experience a cultural baptism of its very own. I believe at its core Alt Lit is cultural baptism. Or a baptism of a culture, to paraphrase Ms Dunham. I believe everything remotely exciting or innovative happening right now fits most accurately under the Alt Lit umbrella. I believe there will come a point where media – beyond the likes of Gawker and Vice – will be impelled to cover in greater depth and seriousness the manifold possibilities technology offers.

Finally, I believe the divide between “kids having fun” and those harnessing the power of new media to more seriously pursue literary careers/success will widen – killing Alt Lit as it currently exists (a relatively tightly-knit, highly interconnected, collaborative and dynamic community) and resurrecting it, altogether new, robust and exciting, greater in number and exposure but more firmly distinguished as diverging strains, niches and hubs. Alt Lit 2.0. 

So far so good. So far so obvious. One might well say death and rebirth happen almost continually with each new meme/trend. And yet, for all that…Alt Lit as a whole has plateau’d. A decisive point of rupture, a clearly defined moment of rebirth, is desperately called for. Everything else is just gestation and birthing pains. 

No other generation has ever done this, no generation after will ever be the first. Certainly one could argue this (“we”) are something like the third or fourth generation of something vaguely recognizable as ‘alt-lit’, but what is also certain is that We are the first generation to grow up with the internet and to use it with such aggressive creativity. That shit is special son.

A literary future where the internet, even if supplanted and superseded, does not play a primordial role is unimaginable. In contrast with the overwhelming majority of human history, where the production of literary content was almost always the privilege of few, a world where every single individual is able to create, recycle and share literature, macros, memes, etc etc, almost immediately and on a daily basis. 

Whatever comes next will obligatorily branch off from what we’re doing now. And Tao Lin plays a decisive role in all of this. I wonder how kind hindsight will be to him. A voice in the desert, foisting change upon a reluctant world and preparing the way for many others to come after him. A cultural baptist? I’m excited for the release of “Taipei“, which I’m sure will be great/good/nice, but most importantly, for the “moment” and momentum of release and all that it will entail, all of which I foresee as overshadowing the work itself. The Taipocalypse. The June release ties in nicely with American summer recess (cue bored youth online all day long). The Taipocalypse approaches; a firey star from the east flashes across a brazen sky in a macro somewhere. Tao has described it as his magnum opus and will release it through Vintage Books (Bret Easton Ellis, etc etc) – if he was a pop star, this would be his major label release, with all the hoo-hah that that entails.

It’s impossible to predict exactly how things will play out, but this is it. It’s happening, it’s here. Strap yourself in, it’s gonna be one hell of a ride.