Doing It Yourself to a Fault

The death of print hasn’t killed people’s interest in watching the outside world. It has just added another layer between the windows and the world worth watching. As a result we no longer judge what we see on its merits but on the qualities of the glass between. Does it entertain? Is it beautiful? Are we respected, for our time and observation, by professional glazing and temper? We have conversations, in real life, that sound like rapid fire checklists of articles we have skimmed and that evoked something in us (a feeling? a thought? no time to know as there are a thousand more headlines to read).

While scanning this flood of information there is little time to digest, review, or even position oneself in regards to the material. One is a leaf in the wave. The idea that this is “information surfing” pretends to an agency that no longer exists in this third decade of mass networked information. The better metaphor may be one of a blanket suffocating a fire. The passion to create, small things, pales in the face of a reality where a fourteen year old observing that Friday comes after Thursday can be propped in front of a camera and watched over 167 million times.

Where there was once a spirit of rebellion in the practice of scribbling a word on paper and sharing it with other people trapped in homes, now we barely have the energy to attempt to semaphore. The democratization of digital creation has led to the few creative outlets being the most horrific (e.g. 4chan). It is so easy to say things that we say very little at all and nothing of importance. Nothing to shake worlds.

The new professionalism of digital information means that spinning up a server has never been easier nor less necessary. New radical projects click three buttons, fill in 10 – 20 fields and have launched a new Facebook™ site, where all the information one would have put together after days of hacking code, securing services, and agonizing over browser compatibility can be shared in minutes. The ease of sharing information means that sharing itself is free, or to put it differently, is the product itself.

When we share our dreams in their perfect enclosure we validate it (the enclosure). This is beyond being a source, or creator, of advertising or marketing material, but enclosures are also prisons of a sort. Rational self-interest has motivated pirates, rebels, and free thinkers into gilded cages where life (defined in this case as sharing information–also known as communicating) couldn’t be easier. Where life itself is pablum of links, factoids, and near opinions barely worth watching from the safety of our own homes. We are becoming bored of watching ourselves perform a communication dance near each other. Always reaching, never touching.

The Anvil Review is about bringing a hammer to the glass. Bruises and flaws are far superior to the blue (#3B5998) bars the imprison us. Bring back the xerox machines, printing press, and flawed do it yourself spirit of our childhood! Fucked up cut-and-paste is superior to fixed pixel width and the tyranny of the desk chair. Every time I see a book shaped to the ass of an actual reader I want to run and hug the person holding it. They are the few who have escaped the manicured landscape of our beautiful ever present reality of the lonely crowds and self prescribed limitations.

As long as ours hands have not curled into a carpal tunneled claws we will contest their presentation of the world, transgress against the theme park of false oppositions or one great nation, and engage with the tragic, failed, glorious projects we bring to each other in this, the only moment we have together.

Welcome to the Anvil – Editorial #1

Print is dead. The paper you are holding in your hand does not exist. It is not economically feasible. The demographic of print readership is older and heading north. As a result, this paper does not hold the presumption of the possibility of a successful enterprise. It is not capable of anything beyond what has already happened on the site. The medium is the message and the message is clear. But… (and we are not alone in this) we love print: the texture and physicality of it. More importantly we believe that reading the exact same thing in print rather than on a screen is a qualitatively different experience. It is slower, it invites a full reading rather than just a skimming. It smells, of paper, ink and the human hands it has passed through before yours. It feels real.

What we are

The Anvil is created by authors who are, or who have been, involved in direct contestation –not professionals, detached from what they write about, but direct observers and participants of this world, engaged in the tensions of our time. The mission of The Anvil is to share our observations on (macro and micro) culture in such a way that the content of what we are reviewing, and the deeper issues it exposes, are not compromised by our individual affiliations with a particular tendency, association, or principle. Because most of The Anvil’s authors are also transgressors they often choose to write with pen names. We suffer labels ungratefully and would like to use The Anvil as the platform by which we make our arguments and have our discussions away from labels. Reviews and critical essays are the way that we are going to pound these conversations into shape.

What we review

This first issue is a good representation of the range of material we will be reviewing. This includes a critical review of The Coming Insurrection, a book broadly known because for the histrionics of Glenn Beck’s partial review of it* (which launched TCI to the top of the non-fiction charts for a few weeks) as well as a broad reading of the music of John Prine (and how it speaks to, and against, the American psyche, irony, and common sense). On the one hand, popular culture is reviewed, from Sons of Anarchy to World War Z. On the other, reviewers consider the oeuvres of Jacques Camatte and Isabelle Eberhardt.

These pieces are eclectic and political, topical and obscure, literate and superficial. Reviews range from considerations on material for its life changing characteristics to grocery lists relating popular culture to life changing choices, dissonant rebellions against simplistic unities and paeans to the text (or album) itself.

How we do it

The content in The Anvil paper begins with the site. Everything you are holding in your hand began as an article, and often a conversation, on the website. We believe that we can take advantage of the best of both mediums to both have the level of conversation we would like to have AND reach readers where they are at.

In our unreal world, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the invisible things that are easily confused with reality: fake controversies, confused priorities, hyperbolic rhetoric about inconsequential things. We become disengaged with the torrents that pass us by. Paper slows us down enough to engage in the ideas that we are talking about. With the site as a place to have these conversations we believe they will become something of consequence. It could be activity together, it could be a different eye on the same things we observed yesterday, or it could be your participation in future issues of The Anvil. We have a world to explore together.

Strike the iron of this world while it is hot!

Footnote: “The book was written after riots in the Paris suburbs in 2005 tore the country apart, and that was before the economy really got bad. This is the anti- “Common Sense,” where I call for peaceful protest.” –Glenn Beck