kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Cloned Sams)

Me: "@ManMadeMoon Having discussion about gendering robots. Would a sentient man-made bot like GERTY have a gender identity at all?"

Duncan Jones: "@Kleenexwoman I think so, but only to make social interaction easier. Ambiguity on that front could be disconcerting."

[eta: his response got retweeted by @idailyreel. I think this is an automated process, but it's still really cool.]

(I was asking him because I wanted to write Moon fanfic and was trying to figure out whether GERTY would give itself a gender identity or not, because it's pretty obvious that GERTY loves Sam. Yes, I'm writing slashlike fanfic involving Sam Rockwells and a robot with a smiley face, why do you ask? Are you surprised? Really?)

He didn't say where along the gender spectrum GERTY would lie. I'm inclined to assume female/feminine, partially because of the name and partially because I think GERTY got a lot of its "personality" from hanging around and reacting to Sam, and Sam moons over his wife all the time, so...yeah. I'm going to try to write and see where I'm going with this.

Another question I won't pose to him, but I will pose to interested readers: Would the robots be programmed with a gender identity, or would an AI adapt one in response to what it saw and learned about humans? How do you program something with a gender identity? Sex is a matter of biology and gender roles and traits are an intersection of society and personality, but gender itself is a matter of personal identity that seems to be where both of those things intersect and yet doesn't always necessarily have to do with them. How would a robot create a gender identity on its own? Would robots even have genders that correspond to human ideas of gender?
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Smoking cobalt cigarettes)
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I smoke. Not very much or every day, and I'm planning on stopping altogether after graduation, but I do smoke. I have a good lighter with a whimsical fairy on it, and I have a preferred brand (Camel Crush, which are great if you are an advanced twitchy person), and I carry my pack and lighter around just in case.

Smoking is one of the last truly communal activities. The brotherhood of smokers is ubiquitous and anonymous. Smokers will lend you cigarettes without knowing your name, because they know that someone, somewhere, will do the same for them. They will exchange lighters. They will huddle in groups outside doors and near ashtrays and talk of great matters for the three minutes it takes to smoke a coffin nail to the filter. They acknowledge inevitable death cheerfully. They will brave the elements for their fix.

Banning smoking inside is a boon to nonsmokers and light smokers, whose bodies and sensibilities may be irritated immensely by the pall of smoke that will hang in the air; there's no doubt about that. It's an inconvenience to addicts. But the exclusion has fostered this sub-subculture, as exclusions will. There are places on campus that I know will always be full of smokers: the alcove outside the library, the courtyard outside the U.C., the doors of Anspach. Chilly havens where the wind whips away the smoke as soon as it leaves the lips, where a lighter will always be welcome.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Postmodernists get all the chicks)
I haven't been posting my essays for school lately because I don't think they've been all that great. Acceptable, sure (I'm getting good grades), but I have to admit I've been sleepwalking through some of them. This one is different, and I'm actually impressed with myself again.

The story this analyzes is here. The essay explaining the theory I used to analyze it is here.

We know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author. )
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Censorship!)
I was cleaning out my Facebook apps today (procrastination) and re-took the World's Smallest Political Quiz.

Last time I took it, I got Liberal Statist. That was, oh, six months ago. Today, I got Liberal Libertarian.

Q: Is the result of a very basic political quiz to be trusted? Do your opinions on issues determine where you stand politically, or do the reasons behind your opinions determine it? Or something else?

Q: Do you change your mind about some political or ideological issues on a regular basis? According to your mood? Your surroundings? The latest news article you've read? What do you think of people who do?

(ETA: I don't consider myself Libertarian because I disagree with the basic "there is only the individual" idea that Libertarianism usually seems to be based on--humans aren't totally rational actors, society determines our perspectives to a huge extent, and it's just stupid to pretend otherwise.)
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Guild of Calamitous Intent)
Clones, Dream Machines, and Butterflies: An Examination of Simulacra and Simulation in the Venture Brothers

We're trapped in a cliché. Use your fake impossible magic to get us out of here. )

I'm actually surprised at how well this paper turned out. I worked on it all weekend (which was a fairly grueling task) and had to watch several episodes of the Venture Brothers over and over (which was not nearly as grueling).

The Venture Brothers is one of my favorite shows; silly as it may seem, it's one of the few things that makes me feel like I'm actually part of a generation instead of being a drifting pop-culture vulture. I know I have had no hand in its actual creation, and I'm only peripherally part of the active fandom, but it somehow feels like my show in a way that most movies and TV shows I like don't. I tend to reinterpret media, to ferret out themes and images and try to subvert them or question them; this isn't so much a conscious philosophical stance as it is an instinctive response to being presented with assumptions and points of view I don't identify with or agree with on the level on which I think they're being presented to me. Maybe it's because that's what the Venture Brothers does in the first place, but it's one of the few media artifacts where I can analyze it and feel like yes, that's what the creators intended all along, and it's just that I've just managed to find it.

The more I watched the episodes, the more examples of simulacra I found--I don't know if it's just my new Baudrillard goggles, or whether so many of the episodes really sync up that way, but it was fascinating. I kind of wish I'd had the time and space to mention more, but I think I got the most important and interesting ones.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (William S. Burroughs sez:)
I really wish my teachers would let me write stories instead of doing papers. It's not that I'm lazy, it's just that I generally feel like it's easier to express what I think about a given idea or book in narrative form instead of analytical form. (This is why I am a Creative Writing major instead of a Literature major.) I still have immense trouble streamlining everything into a nice linear outline when there are different angles that need to be dealt with from several different directions at the same time. My most successful papers have essentially followed characters through a whole, single narrative, and I can't always do that. I can't with this one--we're supposed to structure it around ideas instead of the narrative, which makes me have to leap back and forth from Part Two of the book to Part Three of the book, and it's making everything that I write a little disjointed.

Which is probably also why I write fanfiction, except that's always more personal--the best stuff I do is a way of working out my own personal issues by transplanting them onto convenient characters. In my defense, this tends to work mainly because I can match these things up--I can explore my own ideas about parenthood or feeling like an outcast through a character who is a parent and who was an outcast when they were younger, and I can explore my conflicts about being consciously social through characters who have different ways of dealing with people...it's recognition more than transplantation, really. Sometimes, I'll start writing something and it just won't come together until I actually realize that I'm writing about my own ideas or experiences. Then everything comes into focus and I can finish it.

My original stuff is less personal and tends to explore ideas that I just happen to be fascinated with. If I do write something personal, it's usually to annoy or communicate with one specific person, and I lie to everyone else and tell them that it was "just this cool idea I had, you know?"

I don't even know about my poetry. That shit is all over the place.


For those of you who write fanfiction--is working out your own issues via fanfic really that bad? Do you like being able to see into the author's mind when reading a fanfic, or does it take you out of the "universe" the fanfic is being written in?

I actually like being able to spot someone's real-life issues or opinions in a fanfic, even when I think those issues or opinions are annoying or bullshit. It's partially a voyeuristic frisson and partially just fascination at all the ways a generally monolithic source material can be interpreted and played with.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Filin' my nails)
...a Man, my Son. Ask yourself first, this quick question. "Would I enjoy having him take my body and fuck me in bed as a woman?" If your answer is, yes. Then kill him. To kill life is the consummate of all fucking. This is the nearest any killer will come to know the consummation of a God Act. Herein also lay one of the secrets of Divinity. The choice of taking human life or sparing it.


I found this quote in a book I bought last year at a sale. I'm not telling you which book or which year it was published or who it was by. I just thought it was...striking.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Filin' my nails)
I watched Kill Bill Vol. 1 last night because it was on TV, because I only have Vol. 2 because I lost the first DVD. So I had this dream where I found out by messing around with Wikipedia that it was actually based on an old Japanese legend about a demon who owned a bunch of snakes that he sent out to do his evil bidding, and one of them fell in love with a sleeping man and asked some god of mercy or other to turn her into a woman, and then the demon found out and sent all his snakes to kill her at the wedding...yeah. It was a pretty awesome dream.

Which is amusing, because I decided last night that the reason it's partially animated and partially B&W and cut very weirdly in some places is that it's actually kind of a visual representation of an ongoing dream, or of a continuing daydream. Most of Tarantino's movies that I've seen have this surreal quality about them anyway, like they're taking place in a universe that's removed from reality by a layer of other movies, as opposed to movies which try to be more realistic, or at least suggest that they are based on basic reality. I don't even think it's one of those simulacra which try to hide the illusory nature of what it's trying to simulate in the first place, it's more highlighting the surreal and non-realistic nature of movies, or at least of that kind of over-the-top grindhouse movie, in the first place.

Not that I think this is necessarily on purpose. Things can be very clever and postmodern just through being very cleverly done and fun to watch. Stuff like Wayne’s World is very wink-wink-nudge-nudge postmodern, and I’m fairly sure Mike Myers was thinking more about how many jokes he could squeeze into a movie than about illustrating the artificially constructed nature of a narrative. Theory describes culture first, anyway, culture just starts to follow as theory trickles down.


We had a little class discussion in my Po-Mo seminar today about how what we learned had affected us. A lot of kids talked about how they kept thinking about The Matrix and wished they could just take the blue pill and pretend they'd never read Baudrillard. A lot of kids talked about how they totally looked at everything in a different light now and they were so glad they had taken the class! I told the prof that the class had given me the proper terms and a structured way to think about things I'd thought about but hadn't had the words for before the class. He changed the subject really quickly. I sometimes think I am not on the same page as everybody else, or perhaps we are using different translations.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Robots are love.)
Baudrillard once wore a gold lamé suit with mirrored lapels while reading his poetry in a Las Vegas bar.
How cool is that? How cool is that? I'm so fucking shallow. Simulations is blowing my fucking mind. Jean Baudrillard is so crazy and so classy and so totally right about shit. I don't have my copy with me right now or I'd bombard you with quotes. I need to get more books by this person. I need the Futurist's Manifesto too. I need to get this stuff from Amazon for cheap because I have a really bad habit of not returning books to the library ever.
My copy of Simulations is from a publishing company called Semiotext(e) and it is from the "Foreign Agents" series. FOREIGN AGENTS. There's a repeating clip of an Interpol document about naturalized citizens on the front cover. It makes me think of Naked Lunch. All agents defect sooner or later. Agents becoming their cover stories, and their "true" natures are...not true. Or were never true. Or are just as true as the "false" ones. Or the "false" ones are just as true as the true ones. ILLUSION.

ANYWAY SO THE POINT IS Baudrillard talks about three levels of simulacra, which I want to talk about now because I just figured out what he means by "precession."

LEVEL ONE: Counterfeits. This is basically simulacra for beginners, where you just need to start getting your head around the idea of "copying." A counterfeit depends upon the existence of the original for its existence. Counterfeit $20s only work because everyone knows what a real $20 looks like; realism in art only works because everyone knows what a real apple looks like, and a still life looks like an apple (with a banana and some flowers and maybe a dead bird or something). This is where you need to figure out that there are things that don't want to be things in themselves, that are deliberately trying to be like other things. It's so sad. Poor copy-things. If they were people, they would have low self-esteem.

Here is an example of a counterfeit:

LEVEL TWO: Industrial simulacra. Once you've gotten your head around the concept of a copy, it's time to make things that are copies of each other. These were invented by Henry Ford and made cool by Andy Warhol. Industrial simulacra are not copies of anything that already exists. They are only real because they are exact copies of each other--anything that deviates from the mold may be an object, but it's not a real copy, it's a deviation, a typo, an irregular. Like a Coke can that is blue and green instead of red and white. (Which may have gotten Warhol serious bank, but is less okay if it's being rejected from the factory for being overly colorized. Or if you're paying $1.25 for the privilege of drinking it and it turns out to taste like toothpaste because it doesn't follow the Coke recipe.) This is why off-brand things are sort of weird and why people get seriously upset if their Burger King burger is square and little kids throw fits if their Halloween costumes are not officially licensed--they want real copies.

Here is an example of an industrial simulacra:

LEVEL THREE: Simulation. First, you need to have recognized that Level 2 simulacra are real because they can be replicated. Good? Good. Now, check this: Reality itself can be replicated. This is where people get tripped up and start making references to the types of movies which think they are clever because they put their protagonists in a world which is actually just virtual reality. Yes, we know we're living in a world which is completely created by computers. That is not the point. The point is that we believe that that world, being a level 3 simulacra, is no more real or no less real than the "real" world. That an exact replica of, say, Stonehenge or the Grand Canyon or even a person is exactly equivalent to the "real thing." Is it? Maybe. I don't know. How can you even tell? Does it really matter? Who's keeping track? What feels more real? Which one has the brighter colors, the tastier food, the bouncier music?

Here is an example of a simulation:

Simulations, being less "real", have to try harder; to this end, they overcompensate and create hyperreality, in which they become more "real" than what is actually real. (My teacher liked to use the example of watermelon-flavored bubble gum for this: It's an imitation of watermelon flavor, and it tastes nothing like real watermelon, but the fake flavor when you finally bite into a piece of real watermelon after eating nothing but watermelon-flavored bubble gum, the real thing is kind of disappointing.) And that is where we are today.

Baudrillard points out that we are essentially living in a huge simulation--this is not because we are literally living inside of a computer program, but that society alters so much and bombards us with so many signs and signifiers and copies of things that we are incapable of confronting reality as reality, of being able to discern the difference between what is real and what is a simulacra. Things like movies and video games and Disneyland, which are deliberately presented to us as unreal copies of reality, are there mainly to help us pretend that there is anything left that is real, just as scandals like Watergate or the Lewinsky thing are presented to us as deviations from the norm so that we can pretend that there is a norm to deviate from. Which is why, as he put it, "The Matrix is surely the kind of film about the Matrix that the Matrix would have been able to produce."
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Turkey vultures are awesome.)
Yesterday, we watched this movie in Anthro class about the behavioral similarities between primates and humans. I was particularly interested in a segment involving an aye-aye, in which the aye-aye used its long middle finger for just about everything, including as a radio transmitter. Wouldn't it be great if we had evolved from aye-ayes? But we didn't. We didn't really even evolve from chimps, we just have a very close common ancestor. We're like nth cousins, evolutionarily speaking. The point of showing the aye-aye was that aye-ayes have long middle fingers and have no need for tools, like chimps do, which is why chimps are so cool. Which is not to say that aye-ayes aren't cool, because they are very cool, but when was the last time you saw an aye-aye paint something that a very rich monkey enthusiast would pay $114,000 for? I ask you.

There was also a segment on macaques, and a troop of macaques in a Japanese tourist exhibit whose troop had gone from the usual number of about 40 to over 1,000 macaques because of overfeeding. It was sad. Normally, macaques in a troop all know each other, but that's impossible with 1,000 macaques, so the macaques had to learn to not make eye contact with any other macaques, only trust their family and a few close friends, gobble their food in a big muddy field and not share it, and be careful in case they got mugged and none of the other macaques would step up to help (and they don't). It's so sad. It's like the advice you get from people in small towns when you go to big cities, except that the lighter macaques aren't told to be especially wary of darker macaques. Maybe in a few thousand years.

Stuff chimps do: The chimp with the most friends, not the strongest chimp, will almost invariably be the troop leader. Chimps will spend years sharing the meat of lesser monkeys with their friends so that one day, when the troop leader dies, the other chimps will all go into a smoke-filled back room (crudely made out of leaves and dirt) and emerge with a little crown (also crudely made out of leaves and dirt) and put it on their friend's head. And then the younger, stronger chimp, who's fucking pissed that he didn't get that little monkey crown, will screech and jump up and down and rustle trees around so that he looks bigger, and will beat the shit out of everyone that crosses his path to parade his dominance.

Also, chimps that are not alpha chimps will learn this early in life, and will cultivate very close friendships with young female chimps, grooming them, sharing their food, playing with them, and then when the female chimps go into estrus, the friend-chimps will be around to mate with them before the alpha male catches wind of this. The teacher helpfully pointed out that human females don't go into estrus, and because they are vaguely sexually available all the time, they can damn well make up their own minds about whether they want to mate with the alpha chimp or the friend-chimp or the alpha female bonobo down the next ridge. The twenty girls in the class giggled. The three boys did not.

The teacher also laid upon us some fairly juicy gossip about Louis Leakey and Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. (Not telling.) But I love sordid gossip about famous academics and historical figures, it is so weird. I could give a shit about the sex lives of anyone in "People" magazine, but if you've contributed important ideas to the intellectual life of mankind and also had a threesome with a Nobel prize winner and a Modern poet? I am so there.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Cinnamon sees all)
Jean Baudrillard, on The Matrix: "The Matrix is surely the kind of film about the Matrix that the Matrix would have been able to produce."

Joseph Kane, on postmodernism: "The great thing about postmodernism is that it doesn't actually try to contradict any other theories, it just kicks them in the balls every once in a while."
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Salvation in a spray can)
Moar Baudrillard in class. Did you know that modern society is a complete illusion and that things that are marked as simulations (i.e., Disneyworld) are just there to complete the illusion that everything else is not an illusion?

I feel like a jerk for not speaking up more in class, because it's a seminar and because I want to show that I understand these things, but people keep bringing up "The Matrix" and I keep wanting to go, "Yeah, I used to know this guy, and um." I don't think my experiences in the first ever postmodernist cult would be appropriate seminar material. (Postmodernist messianistic, anyway, which is strangely logical when you look at it in terms of human movements.)

At least now I know why obviously imperfect copies often unnerve me.

All of this mainly makes me want to watch "Wonder Showzen."
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Salvation in a spray can)
So we're doing Baudrillard's Simulations in po-mo class, and it's all about the stages of simulacra and reality not being real and all that. And the class is going "OMG! CRAZY!" and I'm thinking, "This stuff is oddly familiar." Because everyone in class has seen The Matrix and knows the "desert of the real" saying, but then there's Smiths flying about (who are Level 2 industrial simulacra, by the way), and the movie doesn't quite bother to go into the allegorial details the way Philip K. Dick has lots of paragraphs to.

My teacher says he's read some Philip K. Dick, and he can't see the thematic connection between Dick's work and Baudrillard's work. WTF? This is not like it's terribly arcane, either. I mean, Dick's entire oeuvre is made of cosmic Scooby-Doo stories, except that at the end the twist isn't "The pirate ghost was really Old Man Feeny!", it's "And the guy was a robot all along!" or "And the alien was really God all along!" or "And REALITY WAS AN ILLUSION ALL ALONG!!!"
I think he may have thought that I was implying that Baudrillard stole Dick's ideas, since Dick died in '82, one year before the book was printed, and I pointed that out when someone else said, "Well, maybe Dick read a lot of Baudrillard..."

More later because I have a Creative Writing class to go to.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Wereweasel!)
Is everyone ready for the First Interspecies War? I say First because it's the first time it will have been mutual--after years of having humans destroy their habitat and kill their friends for thousands of years, the animals are ready to strike back. Animal attacks on humans around the globe have shot up in the last ten years. Dolphins (possibly led by the 40 or so CIA-trained dolphins that were released into international waters after the program was shut down) have extended their rape parties to human divers, chimpanzees have been inventing spears, and Indonesia has seen huge troops of monkeys swarming the freeways. Bees are going on strike. Squirrels have been eyeing me. I keep finding wasps in my gas tank. Not that I imagine they're targeting me personally (although everyone should be suspicious of wasps, human or insect), but there's something going on here.

Obviously, the monkeys are starting to mobilize. The dolphins are in a good position to, and the lack of clearly organized effort only means that they're probably biding their time, setting up something big. They aren't going to be content with beaming up into space and thanking us for the (frozen, hunted-to-extinction) fish (that we canned them with--oops!); they're going to fight for their oceans. "So long, and thanks for all the fish!" will become an ironic battle cry, kind of like what Bruce Willis says when he's got a terrorist at one end of his gun. And did I mention the CIA-trained dolphins? We may not even realize the extent to which the dolphins have become aggressive because they're so good at disguising their attacks.

We know whose side the wild animals whose habitats have been destroyed are going to be on. Bears, wildcats, wolves and coyotes...they're few and far between, but as soon as they come together and work out a strategy, they're going to come for us. I don't know about the animals who have become habituated to us, like seagulls or ducks or rats--they like human food and have adapted to feed on our leavings, but they don't need us, strictly speaking. They may be divided between the human-lovers and human-haters at first, but I'm pretty sure they'll mostly remain with the animals once a few charismatic leaders arise.

And what about the domesticated animals? I don't trust them, especially the pigs. Come on, you've all read Animal Farm. I also don't trust horses. (I had a traumatic experience.) Or chickens. Sheep and cows are probably going to be led by the pigs anyway, and considering how many of them live on soulless factory farms instead of nice little family-owned farms where every animal has a name and a towheaded farm child to sing to it, I imagine they'll be pretty happy to follow the pigs.

The only pet animals that are domesticated enough as species to be wild cards are cats and dogs. The dogs are going to be divided--there are a lot of dogs who have been mistreated, and they're going to throw their lot in with the wolves. The pampered ones and the fiercely loyal ones are going to stand with their masters, but they're going to be up against bears and wolves and crazed squirrels, so I don't think they stand much of a chance.

Cats, on the other hand...well, there's the intrigue. Cats are our masters--every cat person knows this. Not only have they domesticated us instead of the other way around, but they've actually managed to use sophisticated biological weapons to alter human culture and make us even more receptive to their mastership. Cats, on the whole, have a pretty sweet deal. I think they're going to be double agents somehow. They're going to be our ambassadors and peacemakers, but only on the condition that we serve them forever. We'll be so grateful to them for saving our species that we'll agree without a second thought. Even the mean, mistreated strays will have cushy homes and humans waiting on them hand and foot.

And I, for one, welcome our new feline overlords. Call me a human traitor if you like, but I can't help but sympathize with the animals. I mean, come on, did we really need to invent agriculture in the first place? Studies show that hunter-gatherers have more leisure time and are more than able to sustain themselves as long as they keep the population stable. But except for a few hard-core vegans and Tyler Durden-esque anarcho-primitives, nobody that lives in an industralized culture is going to give up its luxuries and innovations for a roaming, ecologically sustainable lifestyle, not of their own volition. I'm not. You're probably not. Sure, we may make lifestyle adjustments, give up meat and start a compost heap and use different lightbulbs, but the animals can't tell and don't care. Even the crust-punks still subsist on the leftovers of the capitalist-industrial system, or whatever the hell it is the kids are calling it these days.

So, I mean...don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that everyone should give up what they're doing to piss off the animals. It's too late for that anyway. I'm just saying that when you're overtaken by a troop of angry lemurs or psychotic chipmunks, intent upon ripping your face from your skull, you should know why they're doing it. (It's because Fluffy sold you out.)
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Vintage me)
I thought about it for a bit today and decided that the robot-guy story isn't one I hate that much. I have some new ideas. I'm going to spend a large part of today writing it down, and then on Saturday I'm going to try to understand Lyotard, and then on Sunday I'll work on the lesbian angel story. Or something. The robot-guy story is due Friday night so Casey can send it out to the Fiction Collective by Saturday. Anyway, if it sucks, it'll be one story I can send out and forget about, and maybe I can make the lesbian angel one into a screenplay or something.

I should be able to understand Lyotard--his ideas are fairly standard proto-pomo stuff, and I've had a whole postmodern education. The problem is that he and other theorists use words in ways that are incredibly unfamiliar to me--their terms have slightly different meanings, so the syntax of their sentences doesn't parse in my brain, and I come out of it feeling like I've been whacked on the head with a dictionary. This is the one thing the Scientologists got right--if you don't understand a word, it will fuck up your meaning. (The Scientologists also used words in incredibly weird ways just to trip people up, whereas theorists use words in incredibly weird ways because they need to express themselves in ways that don't have words yet, but it's the same principle and there's no fucking glossary.) I JUST NEED TA APPLY MESELF.

Post-postmodernism will come in two forms from where I am standing (which is to say a computer lab on the 2nd floor):
A) The realms of science, philosophy, and art--that is, the true, the good, and the beautiful--will converge independently as theorists, scientists, artists, and the like realize that each magisteria is incomplete and uninformed without the other two. Humans will learn to deal with reality without having to take meta-narratives as literal fact.
B) People will throw rocks and fling shit at progressive thought until we're back in the Dark Ages again.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (On that train of graphite and glitter)
What is the Now? We talked about this today in Postmodernity class. Modernism is largely centered around the Now--thinking and acting for the Now, and consciously trying to construct the Now. What the fuck is the Now?

A) It's literally now. It's always now. One minute ago was "now" one minute ago. One minute in the future will be the "now" in one minute. This is a very literal interpretation of the word, but it cannot be denied that it's pretty true, as literal things often are.

B) It's whatever we think is normal. (I get why this would be a possible interpretation, but it totally ignores the temporal implications of the term "Now.")

C) It's the epoch we live in, in which we understand that some things belong to the past and those things are not involved in the Now. This is problematic because the idea of discrete epochs and discrete units of history is an approximation, a construct to make things easier to handle for historians and schoolchildren. Ideas and artifacts from the past do not pass away, they only mutate and hang on beneath the cultural radar. There are still people who lead their intellectual lives in an environment better suited to the 12th century.

D) It's the balancing point between the set of aesthetics, ideas, and technology that is considered to belong to the Past, and that which belongs to the Future. These are nearly-arbitrary ideas, given point #3 (but not entirely arbitrary, as my teacher pointed out, because we did really have things like corsets and castles in the Past, and we still don't have flying cars. Except that we still have things like corsets and castles--those are part of the literal Now, but not the ideal one--and we may never have things like flying cars), and so the Now is a nearly-arbitrary idea that is defined by being the neutral point between these two sets.
In that case, I actually think we passed the Now sometime in the 1950s, and we're all living in the Future. A future, anyway, not necessarily the future.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (My sins my own)
Sometimes I like to describe myself as "a failed child prodigy." I can't remember where I first heard that phrase, but I liked it. It had the same paradoxical ring as "gentleman loser," implying a slow, subtle decline into irrelevance, with the satisfying suggestion that you could do better if you really wanted to. Not that it's quite accurate. I was a bit of a prodigy, true, but I don't think I've failed quite yet--I'm not even out of college, and I certainly haven't given up on being Talent, of a sort. (Ask me about my ideas for screenplays. Go on, ask. I dare you.)

But even as a little prodigy-let, I was constantly reminded that I was not living up to my full potential--that I could be writing my own stories instead of sitting around reading all the time, and then that I could be writing my own stories instead of writing fanfiction, and then that I could be writing meaningful stories about life and family instead of trying to write about rocketships and zombies. I got it from my mom, who wanted me to write her ideas; I got it from my dad and his family, who wanted me to go to law school; I got it from my teachers and counselors, who were adamant that my talent should be used for the betterment of mankind somehow. "Rachel," they'd say, "you're smart. You have such important things to say. You should--young lady, are you listening to me?" And I would drag my attention back to my test scores or latest essay and go, "Uh, what?" I was lazy, and a little resentful that people wanted me to have a type of ambition that I didn't really have.

What I really wanted to do when I grew up was start my own religion. I don't know exactly where this aspiration came from (unless it's some sort of New Agey Indigo child thing, a "phenomenon" I find culturally fascinating but ontologically unlikely)--my parents didn't overtly encourage messianic tendencies in me, dabble in fringe religious groups, or name me "Jesus Christ" like G.G. Allin's dad did. It was just something I thought would be cool, and I thought it from the time I started learning about religion. I remember, during the third or fourth grade, being asked to write a paper on our personal hero--I picked Jesus, not because I believed in the doctrine of the Redemption or because I thought his moral philosophy was workable, but because I liked the fact that he got his own religion. I figured I could do that too someday.

Maybe it was about power. I felt pretty powerless for a long time, as most children do, and I didn't like it. But I am aware that I should not have power until I am mature enough to handle it. When I do get a little bit of influence, I get all "MOOHAHAHA" and (read this in a creepy hissy voice, please) "Dance, my puppets, dance!!!" and am generally like a child playing with a really fun toy, but I never think of anything constructive to do with it--I get bored or nervous quickly after that and have to hand it over to someone else. Seth and I even discussed this problem a while ago--once you've got disciples, what do you do? Send them out to preach? Make them give you all their money? Get them to harass people you don't like? (Apparently!) Unless you're a needy attention whore, having disciples could get tiring, especially if you set yourself up as an infallible guru. They'd always be pestering you for answers, and you'd be all like, "Shut up and go soak your head, I want to watch cartoons alone." Which is why I never gave much thought to actually having any. My religions, in my daydreams, would always be without followers.

So it wasn't about power, or at least not power over other people. It was about having power over myself, about having the people who thought they knew better than me recognize that I had my own ambitions and my own wants. Not that their prodding was necessarily ineffective--I finally do have things to say to the world that I think are worth saying, and I'm developing ways to say them. But at the time, it was immensely frustrating to be poked and prodded and watched and nagged and have people telling me what I should want and what I should aspire to all the time. I still don't like it, and I'm just glad that I decided on my own that I wanted to go to grad school before my profs started suggesting it to me.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Marvelous Rocket Wizard)
I'm completely phoning my last assignment for Advanced Poetry in. It's terrible, but it was due today, and I basically skipped all my classes because I was up all night avoiding work. I am so lazy and I feel sort of dirty about it.
Tried Ouija board stuff (this was for the assignment, actually) and managed to prove that I have the psychic sensibilities of a turnip. I wish I could just throw stuff with meter and rhythm onto the page, but for some reason I just can't today. I wish I could channel it via Ouija the way James Merrill apparently did. (I don't believe that all of his spirits spoke in pentameter couplets. No way.)

Tried to get my Astronomy teacher to re-explain quantum mechanics to me yesterday. Apparently I take a postmodernist view of QM. Who knew? Is there a really good reason non-Newtonian physics took off at about the same time as relativistic viewpoints in art and philosophy started to gain popularity? Coincidence? Confluence of thought? Or are we altering the universe in larger ways than determining the spins of electrons by observing and interpreting it?
I am infuriated by quantum mechanics now. I thought most of it was either gedanken or stuff that didn't apply to the macroscopic level, but NO, the kitty in the box is really in an indeterminate state of vivacity, and it doesn't matter what the kitty experiences until someone else sees it, because then one waveform collapses or creates another quantum universe. I feel that this puts a ridiculous premium on human sentience. Why doesn't the kitty's experience matter? And who's measuring the humans to see what we do?
That's right, I am too postmodernist for quantum mechanics. Represent.
Uh, anyway, it works because the equations work. That's all. The prof says that most quantum physicists don't even think about the philosophy, because it is so nonintuitive. They just calculate. I don't know, though--I love messing around with quantum weirdness in fiction, but it just pisses me off in reality. It reeks of anthrocentrism and magical thinking, but the fucking equations support it.
Newtonian physics is, in a lot of ways, far more comforting. It's just rocks smashing around. :)

Related: Have some T.S. Eliot.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Wizardess)
Aw, shit, it's almost the High Holy Days and I'm missing them for the fourth year in a row. Grandma Debbie wants me to at least come home for Yom Kippur, since that's on a weekend. Rosh Hashanah is on Wednesday and Thursday (I think), but I'd really rather not miss classes. Learning is important, you see, and if I miss a few days I'll be so behind. Same reason I'm not going to actually fast on Yom Kippur; the medication I'm taking right now makes it impossible to. Jewish law is OK with this sort of thing, as I recall.
I wouldn't have even remembered except that there's anti-Semitism wank on [livejournal.com profile] metafandom, which is making me feel very guilty about not being a good enough Jew (do good Jews tell Holocaust jokes? Does this just mean that I'm not the Stephen Spielberg kind of Jew, but the infinitely superior Lenny Bruce type of Jew? I can dig that), while still being sort of smug that I'm not bound by archaic superstitions, which I suppose is largely the essence of being a modern assimilated ethnically-Jewish kid anyway, so I'm all set with my contradictions.

Writin' poems. Planning to take another look at Anne Bradstreet; it occurs to me that the prof. might have assigned her lesser poems to start off with. Have received assurances that she's actually quite good.
Meeting Koper after class at University Cup on Weds. to discuss my Everything Essay. ([livejournal.com profile] benprime, this is the one I'd been talking about with you.) I'm sort of worried that he'll dismiss it all and say, "Hogwash, craziness, you've done no research," but I'm trying to go into it with the expectation that I need to have some of my ideas adjusted a wee bit.
I'm actually glad I'm re-taking this class; a few semesters have given me a different and interesting perspective on some things that I didn't totally grok last time.
Example time!
Ari Berk's definition of myth: Stories that are not literally true, but that contain "larger truths"; mythos as opposed to logos. Granted, the class was a primer on how stories change and stay the same, and what our interpretations and iterations of archetypes say about ourselves.
Peter Koper's definition of myth: Story originating in a non-literature culture which account for the origin of some phenomena in the world. It's more rational, a little dismissive, definitely puts emphasis on experiencing history as a progression of ideas rather than a sort of cyclical study of human nature--which is what the class is about.
I wonder if they've ever gotten together and discussed these things. Berk was always very interested in the validity of even the craziest superstitions, and really only got a little dismissive when I said ignorant things about savages and magical thinking. Koper explains polytheistic thinking well enough, but it's very much at arm's length--"these people thought this, but smarter people came along and pointed out how silly that was", and so on, and he's made it clear that the class is supposed to progress from a barbarous ethic to a civilized ethic...and there's even a shout-out in the syllabus to Christianity's ethics.
Part of this big essay I keep talking about is the difference between polytheistic thought and monotheistic thought, and how monotheistic thought (specifically the Jews and their religious descendants, in this case) leads to seeing history as a progression rather than as a cycle. And, well, humans have that lovely ability to shape their environments according to what they believe, even while their environment is shaping what exactly it is they believe...
...as a sidenote, during the 1600s it was commonly believed by the English that the English climate was mild and tame because the English had tamed the land by being civilized, while the American continent had extreme weather because the natives who lived there had never bothered to get civilized and tell the weather what to do. (In light of current climate change, this almost seems like a plausible theory rather than magical thinking, considering that the English had by then cut down most of their trees and started to invent serious machine action...granted, the current climate change isn't doing anything to tame the weather, just make it crazier.)

ETA: Found this in my notes:
Documentary fallacy: Treating a fictional text as though the events in it actually happened. Koper pulled this out to warn students off from saying things like "But if Zeus and Hera were siblings, wouldn't their kids have birth defects?" and "Well, Oedipus shouldn't have killed anyone in the first place, he's a jerk and deserves it." I am going to use this a lot while arguing with people.
kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Wizardess)
I was going to read Guns, Germs and Steel and The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind over the summer. Two weeks left and I still haven't. And I need to get my own copy of The Golden Bough, the big honking 12-volume unabridged copy, if I can find it.
I did have a profound and thoughtful entry about why I need to find a copy of this, but I have to go to work in a few minutes. Isn't that a fucking shame? I spend so much time doing repetitive shit at work and I come up with great ideas because I have nothing else to occupy myself, but because I spend all my time at work, I can't write them down before I leave, and when I come home I'm too tired to spend seven pages nattering on about things.

It occurs to me that there's probably not very many people on my f-list who really wouldn't want to read various ramblings about conspiracy theories, the scarier New Age people in the world, and my mangled misinterpretations of ancient archetypes. The problem is that when you write about these sorts of things, sometimes the more rational people think you're going crazy and the crazier people think you're serious.
Because I'm not, mostly--not crazy and not serious--and if I say something like "Okay, what if Bill and Hillary Clinton are actually the reincarnation of Zeus and Hera, and that cattle futures thing that Hillary she got into hot water with in the 1970s actually involved a bunch of Bill's former lovers that she turned into cows like she did with Europa?", then that's definitely not serious, and therefore not crazy. (I came up with this idea a long time ago, BTW. Looooong time ago. Back when Bill was still president and I still played with Barbie dolls. (I played with Barbie dolls for a very long time. Shut up. They were fun and I'm still 12, somewhere.)
But what if, in some parallel universe, the government was actually staffed by people who were actually incarnations of the Greek gods? Like, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture would be Demeter, and the Secretary of the Treasury would be Hades, and actually I'm running out of deities now. Athena would be all over the place in the legal department, that is for sure.
Granted, the fact that the Bill-Zeus, Hillary-Hera idea fit so nicely and still amuses me points more to the fact that people make their gods out of what they see, and sentiments such as "Oh ho, my wife is such a shrew, she's mad because I got some nooky on the side!" or "My husband's a philandering jerk and that Other Woman is a hussy and a cow!" crop up in any culture that has the concept of "marriage."

The point is...
...well, shit, I can't think of a lead-in right now. But I've been thinking about religious archetypes a lot, and what I think they say about a society, and how they pop up in the same places and get syncretized into each other, and how the more patterns we're aware of, the more things we see as corresponding to those patterns, and the more things we see the more patterns we make up. And I desperately want to read more about this. I actually can't wait until I get up to school, because they're bound to have a decent collection of mythology books besides the Yellow Pages of the Gods and kids' books about secret cults. And I think I'll elaborate on this a little later.

[ETA: There was a poll here a few minutes ago, but I think I'll leave it for later. It requires further tweaking and I need to get to work.]


kleenexwoman: A caricature of me looking future-y.  (Default)

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