Twitten: How the New Science of Social Media Rewires our Cognitive Love Centers and Why it Matters Now More than Ever — to name one book I’d never talk about on The Marketplace of Ideas. I made that particular title up, but only trivial differences separate it from real ones. My mailbox endure a steady stream of unsolicited books like these, sent in hopes that I’ll interview their authors. I sell them, but not without regret: regret over the waste of postage, regret over disappointing a publicist, regret over encountering yet another unwanted reminder of human triviality.
This gets me thinking: why don’t I feature certain books on The Marketplace of Ideas? (You’d think I could sooner answer the question of why I do feature certain books on the show, but I hit the wall much quicker and harder on that one.) I’ve noticed patterns, in the form of words or phrases that move me to list the book on Half.com immediately. Besides the one-made-up-word title and the lengthy subtitle — flapping red flags both — the fictitious example above contains these strongly disrecommending words/phrases:
- “the New Science”
- “Social Media”
- “Why it Matters”
While I obviously have nothing against science, “New Science” runs the risk of turning out not to be anything at all. The term “Social Media” gained currency in, like, 2005, so I fear a conversation about it will sound as ridiculous to listeners of 2045 as a conversation about lawn darts would sound to us. “Cognitive” doesn’t bother me in itself, but I think someone in publishing just found out that you shift more units with “Cognitive” or “Neuro” in the title, momentarily rendering the words little more than cheap polish. This rule has exceptions, but if you must announce that something “Matters”, then it probably doesn’t. As for “Now”... well, I don’t care about now.
This sounds like an extension of the rule about clothes inspired in part by William Gibson’s Cayce Pollard: the further into the past you could have worn an it, the further into the future you can wear it. (“She can only tolerate things that could have been worn, to a general lack of comment, during any year between 1945 and 2000.”) I can point to only one unifying principle of my aesthetics: timelessness. Or maybe non-timeliness. Or even less grandly, “chronological unclarity.” “Achronologicality,” maybe. Put even more simply, I like stuff where you can’t readily identify what time it comes from — clothes, sure, but also visual art, film, music, “design” — and I especially like it when you mix a bunch of that stuff together. Like anything in aesthetics, this attraction extends far, far beyond aesthetics — as far as, say, books and radio shows.
You know who else likes aesthetic achronologicality? Chaz Bundick, the founder of Toro y Moi, far and away my favorite musical project of the 21st century. We talked directly about this when I interviewed him on The Marketplace of Ideas. He, too, seems driven in music and elsewhere by a desire for achronologicality. Seems to have worked for him. I mean, just look at this shot-in-Super 8 music video!
Some people — radio people, specifically — might scoff at my ideal of recording interviews meant to stay good the day after they are, let alone to remain valuable decades and decades on. But in moments of doubt, I need only remember the league this potentially puts me in: Bookworm, Entitled Opinions, The Treatment, with some titular irony In Our Time — and, in another arena, Toro y Moi.