journal entry #1 | 12/7/21

Hi all! Figured I’d start off with a bang… my Mass Media project!

So, I’m a senior in high school, and like the dumbass I am, I forgot to get the recommendation from my English teacher that I need to take Film Studies. I went for what I figured was the next best thing: Mass Media. A lot of kids get stuck in there when their chosen classes are full as a “dump" elective (second only to Public Speaking), or take it as a blow-off. That would suck, but hey, my Health credit class was a semester and I needed something to fill in the first half of the year. Thus begins one of my favorite classes this year.

So, if you know me IRL, you know that I started hyperfixating on the album Tallahassee this September, around a month before No Children hit the TikTok mainstream. (Yes, this is part of the story. Hang tight.) I had listened straight through during my Animation class, and something in it just drove me BANANAS. The seeds had been planted a year ago, when I watched an animatic at 4 am, but that’s not important. What is important is that our third project in Mass Media, hitting in late October, was to write an essay discussing a song from NPR’s list of American Anthems. And what interview had I read, but two weeks earlier, from NPR’s list of American Anthems?

Y’all, when I walked into that class and saw “American Anthems Project" on the Christy Board, I was SHAKING. Seriously. I was surprised Mr. H didn’t notice there was something wrong with me. I immediately texted all my friends to tell them that I GET TO WRITE A NO CHILDREN ESSAY! FOR A GRADE!!! They were all happy to finally get some respite from hearing about that damn album all the time, and I was happy that I’d get to talk about it. Just one problem: How to do it without sounding absolutely insane.

You see, whenever I have a hyperfixation, I’m kinda Pavlov-dog’ed to be very, very, very guarded and anxious about the whole thing. WE CAN’T LET PEOPLE KNOW WE HAVE INTERESTS. IT’S CRINGE. No matter how hard something objectively fucks, nobody can know about it. The homies are (sometimes) an exception. Tallahassee’s a pretty dark album, and I didn’t want a repeat of Susie getting called down to the office in 7th grade because she googled “how to get blood out of carpet".

Anxiety and excitement was through the roof as I sat down to fill out the outline. The last section was about your personal connection with the song, and gamers… I will be honest I fudged the truth a lil. Just to look normal. So then I slam-dunked that mf Turn In button on Google Classroom and waited. 10 seconds away from throwing up.

The next day, Mr. H was like “Hey guys! Sooo I left comments on all your essay outlines, read em and get started :)" I cracked that bad boy open like a scientist opening a radioactive alien capsule. And guess what? Now, I’m going to sound like an early 2010s Tumblr teen when I say this. You know the post, with Homestuck and the cop and the shock blanket. But you’re gonna have to take my word for it when I say that Mr. H’s favorite album of all time was Tallahassee, and he very much approved of my choice in project.

We ended up talking about the Mountain Goats a little bit, and he persuaded me to check out the album that came before Tallahassee, All Hail West Texas. I feel like I made a lil bit of a clown of myself, because 1. I hadn’t actually met any other people IRL who liked the band, nobody at all who liked them and was sane, so I got so excited it overrode my normal brain functions and 2. I hadn’t really gone over Tallahassee with an analytical eye yet. Now, I’m working on a personal essay analyzing it and the website that’s at 25 pages right now, so obviously I found the time required. ANYWAYS.

Point is, I really got to like Mr. H and I want to put effort in with his class. Soooo I did! Our assignment was to explore a conspiracy theory through 4 logical lenses. I decided to go with the actually fun kind of conspiracy theories, cryptids! Not just because I didn’t have to say “well, okay so you know how folks REALLY hate Jewish people" like 12 times, but also because my Monster of the Week character is the Flake. She’s a conspiracy theorist, but the sexy and cute kind who’s into cryptozoology, so I figured this would be good practice.

As you can see here, I decided to cover The Billiwhack Monster. The whole thing is done with embroidery thread, printer paper, sticky notes, and pushpins on a cardboard box. The box allows it to be freestanding, and also prevents the pins from being pushed out or damaging the wall it’s hung up on. A brown cardboard box, titled The Billiwhack Monster, with papers pinned to it. There is colored string connecting them.

I explained the true version of events, as well as the conspiracy, in detail. Text titled The Truth in red, surrounded by quotation marks, with a short explanation of Billiwhack Dairy’s history. Text titled The TRUTH in red, with an explanation of the legend of the Billiwhack Monster.

To analyze the theory, I used the four lenses provided, and explained them at the bottom. They’re color coded… 4 pieces of paper explaining Occam’s Razor, Hanlon’s Razor, the Someone Always Talks Principle, and The Sagan Principle.

...To the strings and underlines on the pages! Photos courtesy of SCV History. A black and white photo of August Rubel, connected by colored string to text debunking rumors that he was a Nazi scientist.

I couldn’t find any satisfactory pictures of the creature itself, so I drew my own! Unfortunately, my pencil pouch with easily over 50 dollars worth of pens and markers and miscellaneous supplies disappeared when I left it at the Masonic lodge with my notebook, the one that I took with me to Hocking Hills, so I couldn’t use my Microns, but it’s fine. It’s fine. I’m fine. Point is, I borrowed my mom’s felt-tipped pens from PaperMate to ink, and it actually worked really well?? I hadn’t used my markers in forever, either, so that was nice. I think the whole thing turned out really good. The Billiwhack Monster, a white, furry creature with ram’s horns, red eyes, and claws.

I used all the real magazine clippings I could find without paying or having a New York Public Library card. I did have an account, though, which allowed me to read a kid’s book about California cryptids AND a cryptozoology zine from 2008! (The latter was my favorite.) One about the sale of Prince Aaggie, Rubel’s prize bull, didn’t make it on the poster. A section of a book describing a supposed attack by the Billiwhack Monster, accompanied by newspaper clippings.

Here’s the dairy at its height - again, photos courtesy of SCV History. Photos of the Billiwhack Dairy and its location on a map.

Unfortunately, the day I had to turn it in, it was due to be rainy and very windy. With no other option, I was forced to black bag my project for transport to school the secret CIA bunker where they teach the Touch Tone Telephone guy. A full black trash bag that is suspiciously square.

No pics here, but I sat in the hallway chillin’ with the gamers. Once Mars, Talor, and BT were all settled in (and Janeva came to pass out cookies), I carefully cut the bag open to reveal THE CREATION! I leaned it against the lockers between the five of us, and passerby would pause to take a look every time. When the bell rang, Mars and I walked it to Mr. H’s room together, just down the hall.

Overall, it was nice to work with my hands and just make something big and weird and dumb again. Even nicer when it turned out awesome! I haven’t gotten my grade back, buuuuut I think I have this one in the bag B)

In other news, hopefully I’ll have a new zine to upload today! Or just soon. It’s inspired by a goofy convo I had with my friend while I was working on the Tallahassee webbed site. I’ll definitely have one when I finish up this AP Lit project - we have to make something inspired by Frankenstein. I’m going to make a comic of some kind, but I’m not sure what yet… we’ll see ;)