hilobrow screenshot

A number of weeks ago, a blip on the feed reader caught our attention at tirado/thrown: blog posts authored by Josh Glenn and Matthew Battles, a couple of fellow Bostonians from the JP barrio whose acquaintance we made while shilling ads for Glenn’s amazing periodical Hermenaut in the late 90s-early 00s.  A little more digging outside the confines of the feed reader’s data stream revealed the existence of a new entity on the blogging landscape: HILOBROW. 

From the looks of a number of the posts, hilobrow promises to be an exciting exploration of modes of (dis)engagement with cultural phenomena which advance a particular disposition. Its editors argue against the snobbishness attitude of the highbrow, the well-intentioned dishonesty of the lowbrow, and the middlebrow’s toxic sarcasm. Instead, hilobrow seeks to approach matters through a camp sensibility, which the editors identify as

…a manifestation of engaged irony. (When the cast of John Waters’s 1998 movie Pecker toast the “death of irony,” they’re toasting the death of middlebrow sarcastic hipsterism.) The engaged ironist is a hilobrow.

This, of course, continues Glenn’s long-standing interest in cultivating philosophic attitudes towards the phantasmic saturation of late capitalist existence. In the late 90s, Glenn devoted a double-issue of Hermenaut (#11/12) to the theme of “Camp”, which lays out the terrain he’s treading. The introductory essay and excerpts from that issue still live at the Hermenaut website (under “Print”).  

We here at tirado/thrown couldn’t be more excited for hilobrow‘s debut!


Thomas Frank returns with The Wrecking Crew

I turned on the radio last night midway through “Fresh Air” to hear someone talking about the manner in which conservative governance that has typified government in America for the last 40 years by intentionally and industriously destroying government from within. Instantly I thought to myself, “Somebody read Tom Frank’s article in Harpers from 2003. Good catch.”

When Terry Gross’s fill-in host Dave Davies announced Tom as his guest, I immediately became sad that nobody else had caught on to what’s a pretty apparent point about recent American governance, really an extravagant form of contra-governance, if you will. Yet I was thrilled. I knew that Frank was working on the follow-up to his extremely well-received What’s the Matter with Kansas?, but I didn’t know what exactly he was working on.

I’m happy to announce that Mr. Frank stuck with that important point about conservative governance from his 2003 article and dug deeper to produce his fourth and latest authored work, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. If his interview and audiobook excerpts are any indicators, they bring the allusive and caustic style he cultivated with his journal The Baffler to bear on what is a systematic corrosion of governance in the United States. Frank suggests that this mode of governance is supported by a laissez-faire ideology linking an amorphous ‘market’ as the key operator of the public good and a favoritist modus operandi establishing a private industrial apparatus lingering alongside government to serve public functions. Such an arrangement builds a ‘revolving door’ between the public and private sectors, effectively blurring the lines between the two, and supplants a competent and committed civil service. Instead of delivering on a promise of a more efficient and cost-effective delivery of government service, Frank notes that this system of outsourced governance has made the work of acheiving the public interest increasingly expensive, arcane, feverishly corrupt, and largely devoid of public accountability. This isn’t to exclude the possibility that the justice and fairness of such arrangements are highly questionable in the first place.

(Full Disclosure: I have worked as The Baffler’s ad sales person from Issue 14 to present. It was a natural extension from my work selling ads for multilple publications, including Hermenaut, Loud Paper and n+1.)

Tom Frank will be visiting the Boston area on October 1at the end of a two-month book tour for an appearance at the Harvard Bookstore.