PsychoBarn Is Home In NYC

Psycho House

PsychoBarn on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

Cornelia Parker’s site-specific sculpture, “Transitional Object (PsychoBarn),” is strangely at home on the Met’s rooftop garden, high above Central Park. I recently watched the sunset while leaning against the PscyhoBarn’s roped-off porch. Sipping beer and chewing expensive chips, I noted — once again — that New York is one weird city, especially at dawn or dusk when subterranean worlds collide with the respectable daytime veneer. Parker expertly caught the shadowy mood with her installation inspired by the Bates’ family home, the classic American red barn, and by the lonely paintings of Edward Hopper.

I just happen to be reading The Stand these days, a perfect summer epic about a world-wide pandemic. As a red sun flared through the trees and pleasant buildings of the Upper West Side, I thought of Rita Blakemoor and Larry Underwood stepping over dead bodies in the Lincoln Tunnel during a hail storm.

Like Parker, Stephen King knows a thing or two about fear.


Art illustration from Stephen King’s The Stand



Facebook Is A Pandemic

A smartphone user shows the Facebook application on his phone in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, in this photo illustration, May 2, 2013. Facebook Inc's mobile advertising revenue growth gained momentum in the first three months of the year as the social network sold more ads to users on smartphones and tablets, partially offsetting higher spending which weighed on profits. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - Tags: SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS)

A smartphone user shows the Facebook application on his phone in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, in this photo illustration, May 2, 2013.

I deactivated my Facebook accounts a month ago. It’s been great to rid myself of one less smartphone addiction. But that little “f” logo is still in my head.

During my birthday week, a few friends (who still maintain non-FB calendars) freaked out when they discovered “I’m off the grid.” Me being off Facebook meant they had to remove a few archaeological layers and send me email, which I got immediately on my cell. “I hope you’re okay,” they said. I assured them I was. In fact, I had just returned from camping where I made my own fire and slept on the ground in a little tent. My scene in the woods was so sweet I wanted to post pictures to let others know about my experience. That was when I witnessed my thumbs making phone swiping gestures in the air. I’m a slave to Mark Zuckerberg’s invention, I thought. I hate this.

As the full moon emerged over my campsite, I read The Stand in the glow of my battery-operated flash light. This 1978 Stephen King epic, updated in 1994, chronicles a weaponized flu that kills 99.4% of the earth’s human population.

Stephen King’s fictionalized pandemic reminded me of Facebook (and its less popular but just as potent strains of Twitter and Instagram). According to The Social Times, 1.59 billion people were using FB as of December 2015. For perspective, the U.S. has 318.9 million people. China has 1.357 billion people. If Zuckerberg’s kingdom were a country, it might be one of the most populous — and unruly — in the world.

As much as I think I need FB to promote my writing and to stay current with friends and the news, it is also ruining my ability to be present, to form my own unfiltered memories, or to have an original thought without gauging potential “likes.” Unsubstantial content — that many don’t actually read — only seems to fuel arguments rather than encourage meaningful dialog. When tempers flare into hate speech, FB’s flimsy abuse reports aren’t there to protect anyone.

Here’s a horrible thought. What happens when all the followers — I don’t have that many — suddenly turn against me or you? Or worse. What if Kardashian fans revolt against their curvy and vacuous figure-heads? We could have a full-scale pandemic, the start of our final World War.