The title of this book references a draft title of “The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock” which had been “Prufrock Among the Women.”

Book References

  • Thus Spake Zarathrustra, Friederich Nietzsche
  • The Undiscovered Self, Dr. Carl Jung
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
  • The Rebel, Albert Camus
  • Faust (Part I & II), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges
  • Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So, Dr. Mark Vonnegut
  • Dune, Frank Herbert
  • A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • T. S. Eliot, Craig Raine
  • How To Be Black, Baratunde Thurston
  • Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy
  • On the Wealth of Nations, P.J. O’Rourke
  • Reality Bites Back, Jennifer Pozner
  • Iron John, John Bly
  • Art of Possibility, Zanders
  • Escape From Freedom, Erich Fromm
  • The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley
  • Albert Camus: Elements of a Life, Robert Zaretsky
  • The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus
  • The Responsible Self, H. Richard Niebuhr
  • From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play, Victor Turner
  • The Odyssey, Homer
  • Jung and the Jungians on Myth, Steven Walker
  • “Shooting an Elephant,” George Orwell

Films etc

  • Hamlet, Kenneth Branaugh (1996)
  • Young Adult
  • Film Kimjongilia is the source for information on North Korea.
  • Film V For Vendetta is far preferable to 1984 as it creates a more functional dictatorship working within history.
  • Film The Matrix is an landmark film for subjective realities, its sequels less so.
  • Film Gattaca presents another plausible vision of the future with many issues to think about.
  • TV Series Babylon 5, especially seasons 2-4, also gives a lot to think about — especially the secretive and elitist psicorps.
  • Film Wag the Dog is horribly cynical but dangerously believable.
  • FLCL
  • Dark City, Alex Proyas (1998)
  • Fight Club
  • The Prisoner


Easter Eggs

  • The last thing Mr. Dame says in the book is “Well, we’ll know better next time.” The first thing he says is “No ma’am, I’m sure we won’t.”
  • Mr. Dame’s name is “Useless” in Japanese. His full name, however — Ed Dame — is meant to evoke edamame, immature soybeans in a pod.
  • Diane is an allusion to Trainspotting, Sandy is an allusion to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Both are Scottish.
  • Ben and Mrs. Robinson are an allusion to The Graduate.
  • Jack fastens 42 bricks onto the bridge.
  • Alfred drinks 10 cups of coffee, alluding to Green Day’s “Homecoming.”
  • Nick gives 5 hints that he’s a devil in accordance with the Law of Fives.
  • The goddess is Eris, as foreshadowed by the apples in chapter 1. There’s a lot of complexity that went into her attire and behavior. Her greeting is a line from T.S. Eliot.
  • The cat at the beginning of Chapter 16 is a temple guardian (read more Campbell).
  • The stylistic oddities of Chapter 16’s conversation between Eris and Ed is mimicking The Odyssey.


  • Altering history by manipulating popular memory is vitally important in 1984, of course, but is accentuated by how Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead actively corrupts the playing of The Murder of Gonzago, in reflection of how Hamlet himself corrupts the playing of The Murder of Gonzago, but blithely ignoring how Horatio could then corrupt the telling of the tragedy of Hamlet. If you watch how horribly re-edited Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet script is, this point becomes unavoidable.
  • One of the core conflicts in Hamlet is whether form leads or follows function. “Form follows function” is generally Hamlet’s claim — the person who gives orders like the king is the king. Hamlet is opposed to “Function follows form” — that is, if somebody looks like the king, then people will obey that person, which really does make them king for all intents and purposes. Hamlet does not hold hard-and-fast lines on this issue, and neither does reality.
  • It is somewhere between possible and likely (given parallels and references) that Hamlet was written because Shakespeare was depressed about Julius Caesar — where nobody’s perfect, but the worst people win — and needed to write something he was in control of. Extending on this, it then becomes important that Fortinbras never actually does anything bad on stage, and actually claims legal justification to his actions when he annexes Denmark. Extending from Fortinbras, we can look for other instances of nation-annexing in mythology and then suggest parallels between Hamlet and the Minotaur.

The Great Gatsby

  • Regardless, Tom inherited privilege without having any particular merit of his own. He then spends his life defending that privilege and picking up women who will fawn over him because of that inherited privilege. He becomes insufferable when his privilege is threatened by somebody who has earned — or at least taken actual actions — their socioeconomic place: Gatsby. But the point of conflict between Tom and Gatsby (Daisy) is actually in the past; Tom only insists on keeping her to ensure that he’s not losing his unwarranted privilege, while Gatsby insists on getting her as she was the motivation behind his actions and the relevant measure of his success.
  • Ultimately the point of the book appears to be that the rich are more likely to leave a mess than a reward for the people who serve them best.

The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock

  • Multiple teaching guides for Prufock make comparisons to Radiohead’s “Creep” which is why I called it out. Better comparisons could be made to Green Day’s “Basketcase” (which Jacob and Brett start in on), The Offspring’s “Self Esteem,” or New Order’s “Blue Monday” — all mentioned. Not mentioned is Ego Likeness’s “Sirens and Satellites,” which reminds the listener that sea-girls were usually the tempters and destroyers of immorality-prone sailors; very few of them became Disney Princesses.

Chapter 9

  • The Gayest City bit is reported at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/11/salt-lake-city-as-gayest-_n_1199918.html. I believe I saw a Daily Show report on it.
  • Christie’s road trip through Idaho is based on a true story. I was at a conference in Cour d’Alene while in college — senior year, I believe — with a bunch of other college students, inclusive of a black guy who was a couple of years older (and thus cooler, more mature and responsible) than the rest of us students and he did the “Power to the people!” line exactly as described. I think his name was James, but I’m terrible with names. It always struck me as an awesomely absurdist way to deal with such wretched racism, but it wasn’t until I was writing this chapter that I was able to nail down why it cognitively works.
  • “Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability” (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html) was the source on Heidi’s bit on vulnerability. I find “Brené Brown: Listening to shame” (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html) to be more compelling — and Christie alludes to it in the reparations diatribe. Both talks really get to the grist at about 9 minutes in because she really is a storyteller and takes her time — but they’re still good and engaging through and through.
  • Regarding wealth creation and inheritance, I vaguely recall something that candidate Obama said in 2008 (or it was on the news in 2008) about part of black poverty being caused by earlier prohibitions on wealth inheritance, and it takes a while to get caught up from such a setback. I can’t guarantee that this is accurate, it’s just what I remember. But I did also find Monopoli’s review of Strand’s paper which Christie alludes to; Monopoli: http://trustest.jotwell.com/the-impact-of-race-and-inherited-wealth-on-social-mobility/ and Strand: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1664564. Frankly, I see nothing particularly wrong with taxing inherited cash or investment-equity assets as windfall — a person’s plans for the future shouldn’t require the timely death of a successful ancestor, especially since ancestors are dying in less and less timely of fashions.
  • Rep. Conyers and reparations: http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/slavery-reparations/
  • The unemployment rate was reported by CNN via The Daily Show June 5, 2010. It wasn’t quite double Black vs. White — the numbers were 7.4% White, 13.6% African American, and also 11% Hispanic. (No, I don’t think they’ve got an actual working system for describing ethnicities.) The announcer read that as 7 and 14%, respectively.

Chapter 10


  • I’m sadly not joking about just re-labeling the map. Fox News gets this sort of thing wrong (http://mediamatters.org/blog/201112130027) and Time reported in 2011 that only a quarter of US students were geography-proficient (http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/07/21/where-is-america-only-one-quarter-of-u-s-students-are-proficient-in-geography/)
  • Christie has seen (or read) 2001, and is snowcloning Hal 9000, which might be the original instance of an AI mechanism evolving to on its creators. Can anybody disprove that, perhaps with Asimov?
  • Heidi picks off a GLaDOS biy, showing that she’s a gamer too. The full line from Portal 2 is “Okay. Look. We both said a lot of things that you’re going to regret. But I think we can put our differences behind us. For science. You monster.” It probably says bad things about me that I love GLaDOS.
  • Joey has seen The Matrix: Reloaded. Most of the rest of the world have intentionally forgotten that there were sequels to The Matrix.
  • While Sandy suggests that the government could censor messages in its role as a service provider, China is actively censoring — as measured — 16% of content posted on social media. http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3943/3169
  • Where Sandy (and the class) are going is essentially turning a technological artifact — the mobile phone — into a beloved companion species (as described at http://berglondon.com/blog/2012/04/02/companion-species-in-icons-special-edition-on-mobile-phones/) with a corrupted pro-totalitarian brain.
  • While the original face-finding capabilities of Google Goggles were scrubbed, it’s still incredibly easy for people to share too much observable information, as was recently demonstrated with the “Girls Around Me” app that simply used available APIs to amuse the creepers. http://www.pcworld.com/article/252996/girls_around_me_app_voluntarily_pulled_after_privacy_backlash.html
  • Brett is talking about making the machine behave how the government wants the machine to behave without human intervention: collect and filter a lot of automatically co-opted photographs. Back in reality, the government is simply trying social engineering to achieve similar ends: http://mashable.com/2012/02/09/social-media-tracks-terrorists

The Stranger

  • Brett’s reference to liking a Facebook status not being an action per se is best memed as “One does not simply take down a Ugandan warlord by liking a Facebook status.” (http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3phqux/)
  • If you don’t know about anglerfish, here’s an infographic on them: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/angler
  • “absurdism from a great height” is a forward-looking allusion to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
  • “soap bubbles don’t make any kind of impact” makes perfect sense if you think that Orwell’s IngSoc party was living in a Hegelian post-history where all consequences had already happened. I didn’t even know this yet when I wrote it.
  • My high school class song was 10000 Maniacs’ “These Are The Days,” which always made me a bit sick with irony. To double-down, there’s an ongoing refrain of “These are days you抣l remember” — and I remember very little of high school.
  • Joey quotes Macbeth, so the bonus point here is that Macbeth is claiming that he is taking adequate risks and showing enough ambition to qualify as a “man,” and anybody who takes more risks than he does is being woefully reckless and has a future running a hedge fund.
  • The bit about alpha dogs comes from a friend who has studied animal behaviors and hates it when people “alpha roll” their dogs. It is supported by Terry Pratchett in Men At Arms.

Chapter 16

  • The cat on Mr. Dame’s doorstep is a live version of a Maneki-neko, a welcoming cat. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maneki-neko) It is serving as a sort of temple guardian to force a final pause before Mr. Dame confronts his subconsciousness. Campbell writes about temple guardians in The Hero with a Thousand Faces: “[This] is why the approaches of and entrances to temples are flanked and defended by gargoyles… these are the threshold guardians to ward away all incapable of encountering the higher silence within… The mere fact that anyone can physically walk past the temple guardians does not invalidate their significance; for if the intruder is incapable of encompassing the sanctuary, he has effectively remained without. Anyone unable to understand a god sees it as a devil and is thus defended from the approach. (77)” Also of note is that the cat is associated with the Egyptian goddess Bast, but it wears the first bell of the chapter. Also, it is not smiling.
  • Yoda, of course, is from The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, George Lucas’s filmography suggests that Yoda was wrong. Go figure.
  • “Time, like an ever rolling stream, Bears all its sons away” is from the hymn “O God Our Help In Ages Past”
  • hamaratia is generally “a fatal flaw,” but I think it’s the specific kind of fatal flaw which is also entrenched in the greatest quality a person posesses. For example, a person may have ambition which gets them places, but then the ambition gets them in trouble for over-reaching. Or a human civilization may have technological prowess, which is great until they put AI in everything and get wiped out by angry toasters.
  • The Pratchett reference is to Hogfather: “You have to start out learning to believe the little lies.” “So we can believe the big ones?” “Yes. Justice. Mercy. Duty. That sort of thing.”