Scoreless Affair


I don’t see London
Don’t see France
Just trousers
With no access
To her underpants

If there’s a ring
Around her rosy
Pocket full of posies
She intends
To never show me

c b snoad


Device Manager

My phone asked me this morning to update Google Maps. The app demanded my location and other sensitive information. I surrendered my papers without incident.

Baudrillard enjoyed relating a Borges fable in which a king commissions a surveyor to create a map of his entire kingdom. The map captures every detail of the terrain, with new lands depicted upon possession. Eventually the model consumes the actual kingdom. In a massive reversal, the map precedes the territory, such that no memory of the “actual” remains.

Today Google Maps precedes the map that precedes the territory.

You can’t blink without turning up on someone’s radar. How’s a husband to cheat these days? Wherever you go, to play upon the title of a popular book on mindfulness, the government’s already there.

Global Positioning System? More like Global Police Surveillance. We can’t get lost if we tried. Moving through a crowd, I see myself on my phone, moving through a crowd, staring at my phone. Who’s following my shadow? Who’s plotting my moves?

If bereft of my own devices, how will I know I’ve arrived?

Grad(e) School

001From: Kasson, John F. Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man: The White Male Body and the Challenge of Modernity in America. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

“How big a man are you? Your weekly pay envelope will answer this question. The dollars per week you earn prove your bigness or littleness–your importance or unimportance–whether trained or untrained.” –From an advertisement for a correspondence school in System, November 1911. Courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Kasson 176)

“Tarzan of the Apes: A Romance of the Jungle” from the October 1912 issue of The All-Story. Illustration by Clinton Pettee. Courtesy of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection, University of Louisville. (Kasson 206)

Left side (my writing): “In the past, the man has been first; in the future, the system must be first.” –Frederick Winslow Taylor (1911)

Right side (my writing): “I am Tarzan. I am a great killer. There be none among you as mighty as Tarzan. Let his enemies beware.” –Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912)


This is the handout accompanying my senior thesis at Elmhurst College presented in December 2001. My thesis: Tarzan of the Apes provided a hyper-masculine alternative to what many people thought were the emasculating effects of modern American culture in the early twentieth century.

I used this paper as a writing sample in my applications to various graduate schools in 2003 and 2004. Apparently my Tarzan research didn’t move administrators enough to accept me.

Mourning Sickness

In 1917 Freud wrote his influential “Mourning and Melancholia” essay in which he compares the process of mourning a loved one versus the persistent sadness involved in depression. When a loved one dies the mourner feels an incredible sense of loss, but after a reasonable amount of time he realizes the person is gone and can’t be reclaimed. As the energy attached to the deceased withdraws the mourner moves on to other libido investments.

The depressed patient differs from the mourner in two important ways. First, he is unable to let go of the loved one or desired object. His connection to the person/object was so strong, and his willingness to release the energy surrounding it so weak, that he mistakes the object for part of his ego. Second, he develops what Freud calls “a delusional expectation of punishment.” Guilt weighs heavily upon him, even when he’s not in error or deserving of blame.

Freud concludes that depression is a result of “narcissistic identification with the object.” The depressed patient takes pleasure in punishing himself, often by announcing publicly (today perhaps on a blog) how awful he is. Actually he finds someone else “awful” (usually a loved one living in close proximity) but renders judgment on himself. In the midst of depression his behavior “proceeds from a mental constellation of revolt.” Hence the idea that depression is anger turned inward.

Of course psychiatry has advanced light years beyond Freudian theories. With little data in hand Freud assumes that depressed people have a “pathological disposition” that leaves them vulnerable to melancholia. What if the patient’s excessive guilt is a symptom of his illness rather than existing prior to it? I get the sense that Freud sees depressed people as self-obsessed attention hounds looking to blame others for their misery. This approach sends the wrong message to folks already in a lot of pain.

But I appreciate Freud’s attempts to understand this devastating disease. It makes me wonder: What have I been mourning all these years? What part of me is missing? Against whom am I revolting and how many of my wounds are self-inflicted?

If Sartre Married A Kardashian

Way back in the twentieth century Sartre famously declared: “Existence precedes essence.” You exist first, Sartre said, then you build a life. You are nothing more—or less—than the choices you make. As a condemned-to-be-free consumer in the Digital Age, I’ve discovered new ways of applying Sartre’s catchphrase.

Facebook precedes friendship

I’m not friends with someone unless we’re on the same page: Facebook. Before Mark Zuckerberg stole from those dopey twins and set the social media world on fire, people connected on a personal level. Facebook eliminates the need for genuine communication. And yet we’re socializing more than ever. Without accepting my friend request you’re just another stranger. Even if we’re twins.

Google precedes memory

Don’t know what I mean? Here let me Google that for you. Eons ago when elders passed down stories via word of mouth, memory played a vital role. Today our myths assume database form, milliseconds from our fingertips. It’s a far cry from oral history. But if you’re at work don’t Google anything with “oral” in it.

Twitter precedes mourning

People used to die in peace, away from cameras and smartphones—and smartphone cameras. Die today as a celebrity and the world will tweet its condolences. There are no private ceremonies anymore. Everyone’s an eloquent eulogist exalting your character in one-hundred-and-forty characters or less.

Instagram precedes eating

Enjoy your chicken enchiladas after capturing the essence of the dish in a shot creatively captioned: “Best lunch ever!”