Print Media V.S. The Zombies

Posted in Lettors from the Editors by 311zine on 08/08/2009

In 1997, when Time Magazine picked Johannes Guttenberg’s printing press as the most important invention of the second millenium AD, it wasn’t just a nod towards the magazine’s progenitor, but rather homage paid to a machine that made free thought truly free.  That being said, coming in a close second to the printing press is the internet.  If the printing press made the diffusion of information and ideas quick and inexpensive, the internet made such content omnipresent.  Up until the advent of the internet, seeking out specific information had been a process, while now one would have to make a conscious effort to remove oneself from the constant barrage of immediately available electronic media content.  Wherever we go we find ourselves pursued by games to play, videos to watch, friends to add, and apps to use.  In fact, it would not be so ostentatious to claim that the current mediums of electronic communication are very much like zombies.

Yes, zombies.  Wireless and other electronic sources of information are in a constant state of growth as consumers increasingly seek faster, easier, and cheaper ways to read news, communicate ideas, and entertain one another.  In many ways, these new mediums of communication are quite useful.  Craigslist and Ebay have both effectively created a central location for any need that would have previously been fragmented through a hodgepodge of local or national newspapers and magazines.  Websites for businesses, schools, and public services can answer a variety of questions efficiently and at a moment’s notice.  That is to say that electronic media can be a convenient suppliment, but it should not by any means stand alone.  Now, every major newspaper and magazine now has an online portal, and many of these publications are expanding their online content as more and more readers shy away from purchasing hardcopy and advertisers pull out from hardcopy sponsorships. Entire books are now downloaded onto Amazon’s “Kindle” e-book.  Everyday new websites appear offering services that previously necessitated the use of printed media.  Furthermore, the proliferation of the smart phone has given birth to the app, making it possible to access news, music, and other media anytime and from anywhere you can make a phone call from.  The spread of new communication technologies is in epidemic proportions.

Much the same are zombies.  Constantly expanding their population by biting humans, where people are balanced, rational, and coherent, zombies care nothing for the content of life, only about their growth in numbers.  Where a publication may have once provided a wealth of information in hard print, the bite of declining profits dictates a new way of life.  The nature of this new life is also part of the issue at hand.  The speed and abundace of electronic media render critical thought and rumination hard to come by.  There is always something new to consume which leaves little time for the gentle contemplation needed to really understand all aspects of a given matter.  In addition, the influx of demand for immediately consumable content has led to a major loss of intellectual sophistication of said content.  Hard-hitting journalism is much a thing of the past and is being replaced by a style rife with opinion and personal accounts.  Popular music and video entertainment continue to lose artistic complexity due to an apathetic consumer base and the increase in user generated content.  In essence, the forms of electronic media are becoming increasingly mindless.

Now, one can’t discuss the proverbial changing of the guard without the idea of the “soul” coming into the mix.  For example, classic blues or rock or jazz have soul.  Classic and single speed bikes have more soul than the multi-speed perfomance bikes of today.  Classic cars have more soul than the cheaply assembled models currently on the road.  These are very familiar statements, and are such only because there is a grain of truth in the argument, somewhere.  The idea of these things being more soulful by nature stems from them feeling more solid or organic or having more thought put into the creation process in some way, which in essence are all qualities related to an object’s sense of permanence.  That is precisely what gives an object its soul: permanence.  A thoughtful and laborious creation process using simple and solid materials (or ideas) ensures a long lasting and useful final product that will, over its lifetime, connect with many owners and mean something different to each one.  A book can be dog-eared, written in, traded, sold, or rest on a bookshelf for years.  A newspaper can block the rain or sun, be folded, have a crossword filled out, and eventually clean up your dog’s shit.  The soulless quality of the quickly produced good comes from the lack of its ability to connect with a person.  Its ephemeral nature prevents these bonds from forming because it wasn’t meant to be bonded with.  It is meant to be consumed and then discarded.  Though a piece of news or music or art in itself can have meaning, when presented through such media it cannot have the same resonance with a person as it would being presented through a more substantial means.

That leaves hordes of laptops, phones, and music players switched on day and night, blank screens waiting with supernatural patience for a face to appear in front of them.  There they are on the bus, sitting in a pocket or a purse, these soulless devices waiting to be pulled out and used as soon as the bus stops.  They are sitting on the counter in the middle of the night, so that when you walk down the street and pass by each window, you can see the faint static glow of a screen waiting, just waiting.  Before you know it your toilet paper will go digital.  Print media, however, can’t and won’t submit to the demands of the masses of mindless and soulless media zombies.  There must be a place, a haven if you will, for local and thoughtful media content to have it’s say in print.  A place for the soft fluttering sound of the pages turning.  A place for the thick black ink to sink in like blood and take root and make its home.  That’s what we’re here for.  We vow to hold out, to fortify ourselves against the mob of brain eating, uncoordinated parasites to give you quality content and still make it to bed sometime before dawn.

Chris Teare

Write Chris at christeare311@gmail.com


“The Fog” by Chris Teare

Posted in Short Fiction by 311zine on 08/08/2009

About four in the afternoon or so is when the fog started rolling over the hills of the peninsula, at first just sending out whispy fingers that crept down the east side of the slopes.  It was as ifit were hesitant to commit, feeling its way along slowly and nervously before gaining momentum and finally sprawling over the lower lands like rumpled flannel sheets.  Up along the few mile stretch of beach there were no hills to stand in its way and it began to crawl freely between the perfect square blocks of drab one and two story houses.  The fog came more often than not, yet was not always expected.  One might look up at the dwindling sunlight to see the thick cords of vapor tightening across the city’s skyline and feel surprise, if only for a second, before turning away and thinking “I guess it’s gonna be foggy today.”

That day the fog came in especially heavy so that instead of  resting at a distance above the city, it was within, oozing down from the rooftops and through the alleyways.  It was so thick it seemed to be holding all of the buildings up and in place.  It was so thick each person was like an island unto himself, occasionally brushing past one another, but able to walk freely in anonymity.

A young couple, fingers loosely clinging together, walked down past the Haight Street housing project.  They were both dressed simply yet stylishly in thick wool coats, black leather shoes, and scarves that burst from the collar.  They talked loudly and comfortably but there was a snap to their step that brought their heels down sharply against the sidewalk.  As they were crossing Webster they heard sirens suddenly, as if popping through the fog once close enough to hear.  As quickly as it had come it vanished, the ambulance becoming nothing more than faint red strobes in the milky cloud.

They kept going down Haight and didn’t see the figure standing there, halfway down the block, teetering a bit from foot to foot.  He had on a black knit beenie rolled up part of the way and dark ratty braids dangled down from under it.  His skin was as black as the beanie and where it was once smooth and tight along his strong cheekbones it now hung worn and wrinkled.  He wore an overcoat a few sizes too big, open all the way down, and a red Christmas sweater with a photo of an Asian child dressed in a Santa Claus outfit printed across the front.  He stood there in the fog, an island reaking of crack, and the couple didn’t notice until they almost ran into him.

“…I just don’t understand, this is the time when the third world is hit the hardest,” the young man was explaining, “with all the developed countries’ governments pulling back on aid and energy prices going up how can we expect them to build lasting stability…”

“HEY!  Wanna know three times a hundred and twenty seven?” the tattered man interrupted.


“Three eighty one!  How about a dollar?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t have any,” the young woman said as they both slapped their pockets and shuffled slowly past him.

“How about twenty three squared?  Five twenty nine!  I’m like a calculator.  How about a dollar a figure?”

“Uhh.”  They looked at each other quickly and then down at the sidewalk as they continued up the street.

“Okay, fine, two for one!  How ’bout it?”

But they were already past him, his words struggling after them through the fog until they were too far and they were alone again.  After a few blocks they stopped to look at the menu outside a small Indian restaurant.  Content to keep searching, they walked on down the block until they were lost in the milky haze.