Dating While Melanated and Educated

In the age of social media and academic decadence, dating or hooking up has become an intricate Argentinian tango. Whether you’re battling the probability of having a rewarding career, a partner and children or just looking for Mr. or Ms. Right Now, the prospects for finding a decent person is best described as a trial by fire (optimistically you don’t develop permanent scar tissue). As a person who vacillates between academic and non-academic spaces dating becomes the topic of discussion. The infamous question begins with:

“Are you seeing someone?”

If I answer “no…”

the response is: “But why? You’re such a catch!”

If I say “yes…”

then I am subjected to the lightening quick response of “who is the lucky contender?”

They’re not asking simply because they wish me well or that I am no longer continuing the “my intellectual and spiritual endeavors are all I have time for” narrative. They want to know whether my potential mate is black or at the very least a non-white person. Just because someone is educated, queer identified or an ally, and politically (very liberal) doesn’t negate race-thought. Largely due to population of white vs. non-white, level of education, socio-economic status, and sexuality men and women of color are confronted with the possibility of engaging in an interracial or inter-ethnic relationship.

For example, the focus (or at least the top two) of this season’s The Bachelorette, is Rachel Lindsay’s racial consideration: whether she will choose the only black guy who’s left in the competition because he’s black. Yet, is there an intrinsically known safety in choosing to partner with someone of your own race? Simply stated, yes.

Rachel Lindsay of The Bachelorette

However, it doesn’t negate the issues of class and socialization. For example, if someone who is LatinX dates another LatinX person there is the probability of being from the same country and the ability to speak the same language with your partner. However, there is the issue of class and colonial ideology. If you’re Black there are various types of Black. Black people from the Midwest are different than East or West Coast Black folk (or what I call Coastal Blacks). Dialectically speaking, they are more aligned with Southern Blacks because their parents or grandparents are usually from the south and the cuisine and socialization are similar. There are other things such as inter and intra-racism that is known that one may not be aware of when it comes to coastal blacks. If racism within and between is experienced there is the issue of provincialism that Blacks from the Midwest and southern states experience from Coastal Blacks. It is best said from a quote from the film Amistad.

 “People from the north view southerners [and I will add, Midwesterners] as not only being geographically below but also intellectually inferior.”

That statement, which is ironically stated by a white slave owner and United States Senator, is simply based on the assumption of based on someone’s geographical origin within the United States.

To add to the topic of geographical difference, there are the issues of colorism within Black American communities and communities of color. There are also the interactions Black people encounter among Caribbean, LatinX, and immigrants and/or the children of immigrants from African countries. This is not to exclude Asian communities if anything this is to include them in the conversation. These issues are not foreign to them either. For example, Asians face the issues of colorism, assimilation and being deemed the model minority within their community as well as, from potential white partners.

To add to the complexity of dating within one’s community, people of color also deal with the issues of class which are both intellectual and economic markers of difference. This is not to cast the bulk of the blame on communities of color because racism by whites is real. The biggest overt example, is dating/hook up applications. These places make it all too painful as to what potential white partners don’t want. And yes, LGBTQ apps are often the most racist. In addition to Dating/Hooking up, online pornography re-enforces these racist sexually exploitative fantasies. I will not bother with listing titles or search topics because a simple Google search will list all that you need to know. This is not a new frontier of discourse; writers like Zora N. Hurston, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, David H. Hwang, and James Earl Hardy have explored the ways in which men and women of color are subjected to racist sexual objectification. This is an opposition to Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Karl Van Vechten’s Nigger Heaven, or the novels of Kyle Onstott. Lance Horner and Henry Whittington aka Ashley Carter.  Onstott’s novel Mandingo was adapted into a play in 1961, and performed in New York City at the Lyceum Theater, and later made into a film in 1975. Sequels to Mandigo were written by Lance Horner and Henry Whittington (aka Ashley Carter). One of those sequels Drum was made into a film in 1976.

The novel Mandingo takes place in an 1830s Alabama plantation named Falconhurst and trials and tribulations of a slave named Ganymede or Mede.

Promotional poster for Mandingo (1975)

The later novel Drum is based on an entertainment fighter who was conceived through a sexual relationship with a white prostitute). Not only was Drum conceived through an illegal relationship but he came out looking far too black. So, the white prostitute lies and said that Drum’s mother was her female slave’s and not her own. Like his Ganymede/Mede, Drum was not only enslaved but forced to fight other slaves for the entertainment and profit of their master. The novels of Onstott, Whittington and Horner doesn’t just focus on the material capital of the black body but also on sexual/fetishistic taboo. Their works focus on rape by slave masters, their daughters and their wives, inter-racial desire/fetishization, incest, slave breeding, and same sex rape. For example, not only does Drum’s mother have an illegal relationship with his father but she also rapes her female slaves. Both Ganymede/Mede and Drum are forced to have sex with other female slaves and they were subjected to being raped by their master or various slave owners too. Whether the novels were part of their own fetishistic fantasies or the tales were told to him in various parlor rooms. Onstott’s novels and films are the fuel that feeds the very real fear of people of color.

Drum, novel reissue (1981)

Recently, an article written by Donovan Trott, called “Race-Play 101: My Introduction into the World of Racist Sex Fantasies,” is about the ways in which the author experienced being exposed to the racialized-sex fantasies of potential partners.

It is an unfortunate and sobering reminder of the far too often reality of what people of color experience despite their gender, sexuality and body composition.  It is one of many written articles that serve as a reminder to those who are of color and informs those that are white as to the anxieties that people of color face when dating while melanated and educated. This is not to promote a West Side Story mentality of “stick to your own kind,”  nor deny someone the freedom of dating someone outside of their own culture or race. However, it is to bring attention as to what it means when a person of color chooses to date within their culture or race and the issues one may encounter if they choose to date someone outside of their race or culture.

Bibliography

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. 

Franzoni, David. Amistad. 1997.

Haywood, Corey Alexander. “(The Black Hat) 10 Ways That Dating A White Girl Will Open A Black Man’s Eyes to Racism.”

Hurston, Zora N. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937.

Hwang, H. David. M. Butterfly. 1987.

Jones, Gayl. Corregidora. 1975.

Jones, Owen. No Asians No black people. Why do Gay People Tolerate blatant racism?

Kirkland, Jack. Mandingo (Play), 1961.

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. 1970

—. Beloved. 1987.

—. Playing in The Dark. 1992.

Onstott, Kyle. Mandingo (Novel), 1957.

Puccini and Giacosa. Madama Butterfly, 1903.

Trott, Donovan. “Raceplay 101: My Introduction to the world of Racist Sex Fantasies.”

Van Vechten, Carl. Nigger Heaven 1926.

Wexler, Norman. Mandingo. (Film)1975.

—. Drum (Film) 1976.

—.”Racial Dating: Why you swipe right for some and not others.”

 

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In Defense of Laggardism

 

 

 

I KNOW WHEN I’M BEING CATERED TO,
I KNOW WHEN I’M BEING CATERED TO,
I WILL NOT SETTLE FOR THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR.”
Car Seat Headrest, “Not What I Needed.”

Marshall McLuhan’s “Challenge and Collapse: The Nemesis of Creativity” appeared frequently on my graduate school seminar syllabi. My professors believed that it was a text that deserved to be read, revisited, and remembered. Occasionally, a passage from the text comes to me as I am thinking or writing. Finding the right quotation is like coming home to discover that someone else has cleaned your apartment, that someone else has already done the dirty work and put everything in the right place. Ironically, the following quotation is a quotation of a quotation of a quotation from the tale of an old Chinese Sage to Werner Heisenberg’s The Physicist’s Conception of Nature to McLuhan’s text itself:

“As Tzu-Gung was travelling through the regions north of the river Han, he saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would descend into a well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the results appeared to be very meagre.
Tzu-Gung said, “There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred ditches in one day, and whereby you can do much with little effort. Would you not like to hear of it?” 
Then the gardener stood up, looked at him and said, “And what would that be?” Tzu-Gung replied, “You take a wooden lever, weighted at the back and light in front. In this way you can bring up water so quickly that it just gushes out. This is called a draw-well.”
Then anger rose up in the old man’s face, and he said, “I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul. Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something which does not agree with honest sense. It is not that I do not know of such things; I am ashamed to use them.”

330px-Diffusionofideas

In 1962, Everett Rogers proposed a theory of the diffusion of innovation to explain the spread of an idea or invention through a society. The circulation of new thoughts or technologies involves five different types of people: the innovators, the early-adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and the laggards. Diffusion starts with the innovator who introduces an invention that appeals to the early-adopters, and then gradually becomes popular with the majorities. In terms of the market, the innovator is the entrepreneur; the adopters and majorities are the consumers.

So, where does that put the laggard? The laggard is usually classed as a traditionalist who refuses to abandon their old, less efficient ways in favor of the latest technology. Marketers do not bother to appeal to laggards, because it is not profitable to advertise to a demographic who are unlikely to buy the latest products. They are immune to hype. They will not settle for the lowest common denominator. The elderly gardener in Tzu-Gung’s tale personifies this laggard. Despite the obvious advantages of the draw-well, he prefers his outmoded methods and simple way of life.

So, what the hell is this gardener’s problem? What’s the harm in adopting a draw-well? Although the gardener accepts that he could irrigate ditches more quickly with a draw-well, he understands that using this invention would integrate him into a market that prioritizes efficiency over simplicity. As soon as he adopts this invention, the humble gardener becomes the industrial farmer. Forty-Six Indian farmers commit suicide every day; their hearts cannot endure their transformation into machines.

The laggard, much like the luddite, is often painted as a reactionary figure who reviles and resists progress: the old granny in the retirement home, the cantankerous codger in his vegetable garden, the rural recluse in an empty farmhouse… What possibilities are thought-leaders and marketers hiding behind these caricatures? Should we trust their definitions or propose an alternative?

Any alternative description of the laggard lies in defining freedom as the rejection of optimism. Rejecting optimism means knowing that the promise of the latest technologies will probably be broken, and contesting the platitude that better machines create a better world automatically. We live in a technocracy, where we are ruled by technology. Fun is no longer any fun. Innovation is no longer innovative. Customization obscures standardization. Everyone searches for different products on the same websites; everyone scrolls through different Facebook newsfeeds on the same screen. This is why people slobber over typewriters from the 1940s, dig their Gameboy cartridges out of boxes in the basement, and scribble handwritten letters to their new pen-pal. We are living in the future of technology, but it is so boring that we are desperate to return to the past. Laggardism compels us to find a way to approach technology without believing the hype of futurists and advertisers. Laggardism is a pessimistic futurism.

Admittedly, the alternative Laggard could be misconstrued as a bit of a spoilt brat. Complaining about one’s ability to afford and access new and efficient technology can seem trivial compared to the fact that many people in the U.S. do not have a reliable supply of clean water. Although it appears that these two problems differ in type and scale, they represent the same predicament. An anecdote from Henri Lefebvre’s masterpiece Critique of Everyday Life might help to prove this claim:

“Several years ago a world-wide firm which was trying to extend the market and put a rival firm out of business decided to distribute paraffin lamps to Chinese peasants free of charge, while its rivals, less ‘generous’ or less shrewd, went on selling them. And now in several million poverty-stricken Chinese households artificial light (an immense progress) shines down on muddy floors and rotten matting—because even peasants who cannot afford to buy a lamp can afford to buy paraffin…The ‘progress’ capitalism brings, like its ‘generosity,’ is just a means to an end: profit.”

The people of Flint, Michigan took pictures with their smartphones of the dirty water flowing out of their faucets. Immense progress can coexist with the most scandalous regression. Laggards are aware of this hypocrisy of progress. In fact, they would prefer a kind of progress that enables people to access clean water over one that attempts to relocate the global elite to a colony on Mars. Laggards do not feel much affection for these advancements that transport only the few to their destination of profit.

Silicon Valley, a contemporary synonym for “progress,” is entering a dangerous period in which it must introduce solutions to problems that it created (solving progress with more progress). Mark Zuckerberg puts “disputed” tags on Fake News stories which could not have gone viral without Facebook’s ‘Share’ feature; Elon Musk launches Neurolink to combat Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity. Eventually and inevitably, these solutions will become problems that will require new solutions. Every new solution must be greeted with a critical glare rather than open arms. We lose our freedom if we succumb to the optimism of innovation and early-adoption.

So, how does someone become a laggard? Let’s be realistic (et demandez l’impossible). Whether one subscribes to the philosophical tenets of Hobbes or Rousseau, no one possesses a return-ticket to the state of nature. Golden Ages are no more than the apparitions of forgetful nostalgia. Moreover, Golden Ages were not golden for everyone. If you wish for a world free of technology, sign up for the nearest Amish community. We must acknowledge that most of us live (comfortably or otherwise) in a capitalist society. Furthermore, our participation in this society requires a minimum level of prosperity. Ironically, I cannot write or publish these words without the products made by those people in Silicon Valley that I seem to hold in contempt. The whole affair reminds me of Louise Mensch’s comments about Occupy London in an old episode of Have I Got News For You?

One is not ethically obligated to return to a pre-technological state of nature to critique the role of technology in our lives. One can protest capitalism while drinking Café Lattes and using your smartphone. The Laggard is the opposite of the person who believes that we cannot have innovation without capitalism. Under capitalism, we are permitted only one regime of innovation: FREE WIFI AND DIRTY WATER FOR ALL! The Laggard wants to try out other regimes of innovation. Some of them even hold the radically subversive view that everyone has a right to access clean water (in Flint, Michigan, Sebring, Ohio, and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation…): FREE WIFI AND CLEAN WATER FOR ALL!

So, I start and end with water and machines. Why did McLuhan deem it appropriate to insert an ancient tale into his book about the then-emergent phenomenon of mass media? Every new technology disrupts the physical body and the body politic in electrifyingly dramatic ways, but very few people notice. Two decades ago, no one could have imagined or anticipated the seismic impact of Facebook. Nowadays, the extraordinary become mundane instantly. The abnormal becomes hypernormalized. That’s why we need people who pay attention more than ever. Admittedly, Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris’ famous awareness tests prove that we see only what we are told to watch:

We are too busy watching the basketball game to notice the gorilla. Some people do not realize that there is a heart of a machine growing in their chest, wired up to the market with transcontinental fiber-optic cables. Everyone has a heart of metal these days, but they also have a choice to sever the wires. Water is too precious and necessary to become a commodity. Water is life. Ironically, the humble gardener refused the offer of more clean water, whereas the new Laggards demand it. Sites of struggle change. As soon as we cut the wires, our machine hearts can roam wherever they wish and fight whenever they want. They will beat and beat. To fight for one’s life and the lives of others is the only progress worth chasing.

 

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Cyber Pamphleteer: Imagined Stations, A Poem


 

They insert their hands in my mouth,

these passerby pedestrians in the in-between

electric places that simultaneously

exist but do not exist,

(much like a deceased living cat in a physics experiment),

and with errant fingers feel my tongue

reading my words like braille

chiseled on electric, hovering

boards of keys.

These strangers, bathed in

blue white light,

wade next to me

in pools of infinite connectivity.

 

And they like me,

and they share me,

and they give me plenitudes of hearts, thumbs, and

winking yellow faces,

never before seen in other realms

but the face of us now.

These are the coins

they flip casually into my digitally open

case, begging for money,

so as to receive art and wisdom.

 

Another cyber pamphleteer asks

if I think this is the end?

What, with our digital apocalypse

reigning down?

What about HUMAN CONNECTION!

He asks me, as we stand in those imagined stations,

What about THE COFFEE HOUSES!

What about THE PUBLIC SPHERE!

Where people used to,

supposedly it was supposed,

sit and

talk?

I reply that such a place had never existed,

or at least

did not exist in the existentialist crises

he now describes in

derision to the denizens of this digital

imaginative landscape.

 

 

No. We were still connected.

Children still laughed

Lovers still loved

Enemies…

 

Oh, you get the idea.

I turn back to my audience, the

busy people in busy businesses bustling by at

speeds that are achieved only via

advanced telephone technology stuff.

I’m not really sure how it works.

Like the newspaper

boys or pamphleteer

rabble rousers

of other centuries previous

who could not tell you the

first thing about Gutenberg

yet nonetheless screamed and yelled

at a world on fire with activity.

I am no different.

A direct descendant of writers who wrote

in a way that was never quite right

yelling, hollering, raising a ruckus

in places in-between there

and here

hoping to attract a small enough audience

to gain some noble notoriety.

An ideas salesman,

tacky clothed, going door to door,

into the minds of some stranger

knocking on their skull, and asking

if I could sit in their brains, beside

memories of loved ones,

and fears of untold horrible deeds.

 

Could, I? Trouble, them? Please?

 

And some did, momentarily,

allow my words to assimilate to their thoughts

changing them in chain link emails

with “!” points to get my “!” across.

 

A regular customer of my pamphlets

walks by in this digital place in-between

and I say hello,

and I see me

walking around in their heads

and quickly I begin to work.

I snip a part of my soul and graft

it onto a digital set

of information that begins

to bounce about in

electric excitement. HELLO!

My severed piece of soul says to me.

HELLO, I respond.

I stare at me and it stares back,

this marvelous technology of

writing inhabiting nothing

more than

free floating electricity.

WHAT NOW? My soul shard asks.

I explain. It is no longer me,

but a reflection of me.

Assuming it is not erased or

destroyed, as pamphlets often sometimes are, it will live on after I am dead.

WHOA… my soul shard says.

WHAT IF I AM ASKED QUESTIONS?

I tell it that I have tried to anticipate that,

but unfortunately it

will eventually be asked something

it cannot answer.

At which point it is to say,

politely of course,

WE DO NOT HAVE THE INFORMATION TO THAT.

They are a just a soul shard,

after all,

really only a verbally written hologram

of an organic being that will soon be dead.

They are a technology I have infused myself into.

DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? I ask.

YES, the soul shard responds, BUT ONLY BECAUSE YOU WROTE IT.

I reason their reason is reasonable,

and before the soul shard can share

another thought I hit “SEND”

and off it goes.

Living but dead,

a zombie cyborg.

And it burrows into the heads

of those passerby pedestrians

and I see it light up certain skulls,

like XMAS lights or NEON sale signs.

Some readers quickly throw the pamphlet away.

Others mull it over

for a moment and play with my soul.

A few tuck it away into the archives of their being.

Me, a member of their ontology,

adding a layer of new to their growing

archaeological phenomena

in our shared carbon conscious silicon existence.

 

 

 

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Deamon Love: Dennis Cooper

On a whim I went to the blog I had not checked in on in a long while, only to find there was no blog. Everything had been replaced with a page stating that the blog had been closed down for violating terms of use. This was not in and of itself surprising: transgressive artists should expect to face censorship challenges. It would not be anything remarkable if not for what happened after. Things disappear off of the internet all the time. The real puzzle was the reason behind the disappearance, as well as the complete absence of a warning that this would happen.

Dennis Cooper’s blog, The Weaklings, has been a wonderful place for those who wanted to find alternative representations of reality–a few degrees removed, darker than midnight. It is an alley many could walk down, and then quickly walk away from if (when?) it became too much. Eros and Thanatos are not just connected in the Universe of Dennis Cooper–they are permanently in each other’s arms, in the darkness of a corner room, open to each other and engaged in a perpetual state of procreation. The romance of Cooper’s most delicate and meaningful love affairs (the most tender one I have encountered yet would be in his graphic novel, Horror Hospital Unplugged, 1993) is always tainted by the reality that in a heteronormative world, in a world which promotes its dominance, its “rightness” by making these desires criminal, the ostracized queer will go on to become a criminal, to attract the darkness to them. To criminalize the queer is to make them a self-fulfilling prophesy. This is not some new dimension of fetish reduced through pornography, this is where desires hold both liberation of the self and the traps of social consequence. This is the territory of Jean Genet’s sailors on a phallic ship, where the structure of society is reworked.

Through high school, Dennis Cooper was the reason I cleared my browsing history before my parents could look something up on the computer.

Cooper’s blog is the only place where you can find detailed prose-poems about male escorts and the world of rent boys hooked on drugs and masochism, and esoteric and obscure reflections on the history of art, sensational crimes, transgressive and punk writers from the tradition Cooper helped initiate, and long lists of elaborate decorations or images, often without commentary, centralized around a theme. My personal favorite was a series of Halloween decorations that ranged from the mildly gross and humorously creepy to the outright traumatic, represented through a series of demonstration videos and .gif sets. Cooper’s interest is the only thing connecting it all. In many ways, The Weaklings was a darker corner of Tumblr before Tumblr existed. In my first year of college, I found a magazine called PYWSM?!? And in that exchange met a beautiful man who gave me hope for queer people hoping to create art outside of the rainbow paradigm. I discovered the films of Pasolini and the plays of the mad spiritual Artaud. The blog offered Cooper fans a place to interact with the author, in the form of a “PS” at the end of each post. Cooper responded to almost every person who left comments, and used the section as an opportunity to promote young artists he admired.

[Cooper, in an interview with Hilda Magazine, talks about his publishing history, including a large section about the composition of a blog post, including a discussion of the “PS”]

And one day it all disappeared. Cooper went public with his story about the removal of his blog and the deletion of his account, which cost him years of work, including a novel in progress. It was a moment that could have easily shattered another artist and forced them to close up shop. To lose a work in progress is one thing, to lose an archive at the same time is to feel as though your work never existed in the real world. I was reminded of the incident early in Hemingway’s career, in which he famously lost a trunk full of manuscripts, or the drunken remarks that Capote had finished Answered Prayers and put the book in a locker, where it has yet to be found. The lost work always holds out hope and dread. These are the moments in which the artist has to choose whether to continue working or to abandon their efforts. Following international outcry, the account, along with the blog, was returned to Cooper, with almost as little explanation as its disappearance. All that is left is speculation.

The Weaklings, or DC’s [NSFW] as it is now called, can be described in its new incarnation as an art project moving in two directions: a restoration of the lost material of the blog that Cooper originally wrote and published for over a decade, in addition to new posts, creating a space where the past and the future are unfolding at the same time. This archiving/creating project moves in conjunction with Cooper’s turn towards the digital form, exploring what writing means in a digital landscape. From his early career in the zine scene of the 1980s to his most recent print novel, The Marbled Swarm (2011), Cooper has focused on the breakdown and manipulation of language. The digital landscape has given him a new avenue to explore.

screenshot-1
A screenshot of the Title Page for “Zac’s Haunted House” a “GIF-Novel” by Dennis Cooper

Zac’s Freight Elevator, published online by Kiddiepunk.com right after the blog controversy, is the third in a series of highly experimental works composed entirely in .gif images. These works are freely available on the Internet, either as downloadable packages or as things you can scroll through on your web browser of choice. To call these works novels is to present them within a particular context that the genre hounds among us might find uncomfortable or unsatisfactory. They are, after all, wordless, and who created a wordless novel? (Lynn Ward and his woodcuts, perhaps, but no matter.) These works are exactly what you would expect from Dennis Cooper: dark, occasionally funny, twisted, disturbing, filled with images that will stick with you long after reading. The only difference is these are actual images, not  representations of visual events in words. Each text is made up of film clips, music videos, spinning rock lyrics, advertisements, and oddities found throughout the web. The images short-circuit what we have come to expect from literature.  It is, of course, the case that many of these images are tapping deep into your unconsciousness, sending signals not unlike the signals from the telegraph device featured in the preface to Zac’s Haunted House [NSFW], the first of his “GIF-Novels.” Imagine a silent film without title cards or music to accompany the action.

I read Zac’s Haunted House, in about 15 minutes. Reading is, I realize, a somewhat dishonest term–not because the book is wordless but because I scrolled through, not wanting to look, even as I kept going. It is traumatizing, a horror film you watch through parted fingers. Even still, there are moments of tenderness hidden in the work. Comfort is to be found in the arms of another man, even if this other man could also betray you and send you spiraling, as men so often do in Cooper’s work. There is love, but it is fleeting, snatched away before it can be turned into something sentimental.

These works dependent on the archival and collaborative nature of the internet. Each consists of found image sets, rearranged to create movement and contrasting scenarios. This is a new kind of storytelling that grew out of the blog space, one that lets readers create the context between images and situations. There is no specific plot. It takes the gaps of experience (the life we live between Facebook posts) and makes that the narrative structure. With each new work in this form, the form itself develops, resulting in a smoother, more finessed experience of Cooper’s juxtapositions. In a time when many of us scroll on by, Cooper has adapted to the scroll and made it part of his work.

It is in these narratives that Cooper is finding ways to present the world to readers anew. Like his prose fiction, it is dark and frightening, but it is also able to contain moments of great tenderness. It is the radical honesty Cooper demonstrates by placing his work in the world, that makes his blog and his novels in a new media form into avenues worth exploring in our digital wonderland before they are blocked off.

 

 

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Horror Paradise

Collective intelligence currently exists in the form of mobile devices, search engines, democratized content, and social media. A move from this current state to one where we are connected via implant would represent a dramatic shift in human condition, a grand unification into one unimaginably powerful cybernetic creature.

This affects aesthetics in the medical sense. Would an implant network act like a sixth sense or utilize the usual five? Would these implants create a new connection between our mind and the outside world, or simply augment what we are seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling?

I’ll pause here to acknowledge that there is reason to be skeptical. After all, who really wants an implant connected to their brain?

However, necessity is the mother of invention. Someone with a neurological disorder would likely be willing to try anything, including attaching an electronic device to their mind, if it means survival. After that, what’s next? Weight loss implant? Viagra implant? How long until implants become normalized?

I understand this is rather wacky, but there doesn’t seem to be any scientific reason we couldn’t become effectively psychic. If we are able to send and receive messages using only our thoughts, are we not telepathic?

Regardless of whether or not fantastical powers become a reality, I want to introduce a concept I call the “horror paradise” to describe the challenge of being tapped into the full spectrum of human experience at all times via technology. As devices make the population more connected, each individual faces the practical and ethical question of what to tune into.

What is a responsible amount of time to spend informing oneself of the horrors of Syria? The gruesome information is available for anyone who is interested, and it is important for the world’s population to know what is going on there: hell on earth. So how often, and for how long, is a responsible amount of time for an American to pay attention to that?

Most people spend some time not thinking about horror, whether it be Syria or the macabre meat industry or mass shootings or people being crushed daily using our transit system. But suppressing thoughts and focusing on the more hopeful and prosperous aspects of civilization gives rise to an intense cognitive dissonance. The result is more pain.

To tune out means to risk these problems spreading or not being fixed. But how does one compartmentalize all of these extremes? Can a contemporarily educated informed citizen feel joy? Will we in our lifetimes be liberated of horror? Probably not. So adults worldwide need to find ways to address it and deal with their cognitive dissonance in productive ways. The alternatives: ignorance or madness.

 

 

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