Dec 4, 2010

Geography

I often find myself at the top of some egotistical intellectual bluff, looking out upon the masses of humanity that (I imagine) inhabit the world. I often flatter myself that the position I have assumed is new, that I am a frontierswoman, as you could call it, enjoying for herself a new view, never seen before by the eyes of others. I want to call out what I see, describe it at length to the nearest passerby, a frenzy of exalted revelation.

It is in moments such as this that I find it helpful to think of it rather as a view that all have always known the existence of, that they were born with the view from this particular bluff in their eyes. They have then, no need to acknowledge, to triumph over, to exalt the existence of this view, of this bluff, because they have built their lives upon the expectation of its existence.

I'm just the fool who was born with shut eyes.

Nov 29, 2010

Destiny

It was seven AM. Early by some standards, but late by others. Her alarm clock was going off - same as it had been in regular five minute intervals for the past hour and a half.

It was the first cold day of the fall season, late in September, early in the year for Texas. Destiny awoke with a gasp - the fresh air filling her lungs as her brain slowly latched onto consciousness. Papers spilled off her lap, Swedish fish wrappers, acquired freely from a walk to campus, twirled to the ground.

She reached over, smothering the squawks from her phone. Another five minutes of silence.

Something was different today. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, not yet. But certainly five more minutes of slumber would solve her unease.

...

Deep in slumber, Destiny suddenly, knew what was different. Destiny had thought, for as long as she could remember, that life was composed of all that you could hold onto. Like grasping at threads in a forest of ragged edged hems. Like attempting to hold onto all the water, at once, in the fountain at Littlefield. It was larger than your efforts, there was always more than could fit within her ten fingers (two thumbs, eight fingers, plus several square inchage of palm to be more precise). But if you wanted something, all Destiny would have to do is reach out and grasp it. Hold on for dear life, perhaps, but she had only to put her hands around it and it - life! - would be hers.

So many options can be daunting. Even so to someone with the name of Destiny - you would think that she would be more prepared for the eventual coming of life. Or at least have bigger, stronger hands.

But Destiny realized that life was not, in fact, all that you could grasp in your hands. It was, in fact, just (no more no less) that that would fit within her hands. In other words, life is not all the rocks that fall within your grasp, but only those that fit, snugly, in your palm.

...

Destiny awoke to the sound of alarms. Groggily, she came to slowly. Students were fleeing to the elevators, chaos reigned near the stairs. It was all happening slowly, behind her, above her, some different plane entirely. Her plane was separate - the corner of the library, where she usually sat so she could watch the sun come up over the capital. Austin was never as beautiful as when orange sunlight broke over the golden dome. As it did every fall morning. Do we call them miracles if they happen on a schedule?

By the time Destiny had come out of her sleepy reprieve, the sixth floor of the PCL was empty. Deserted, but noisy. There were sirens blaring out non-sense. Something about armed gunmen and lock downs. Just another piece of life to be grasped onto - it slipped away.

A man appeared in front of her. Or rather, a boy dressed as a man appeared in front of her. Ski mask in one hand, AK-47 in the other.

His eyes were fearsome, angry, loathing, scared. At first glance. At second glance, he locked eyes with her. With Destiny. And something in his face changed. It went from scared and angry, to calm, peaceful. It was like watching a hand grasping at a ledge, suddenly lose its grip and grasp nothing but air.

He knew, in that moment, what his destiny was.

...

Destiny tried to close her eyes, but the image of blood splattering against the books, catching the first rays of the fall sun, would stay with her forever. As she turned, lifting her hand to protect her face from the splash, a few flecks of blood landed, calmly, without fanfare, in her palm.

Sep 6, 2010

fraudulent

we spend, you and i, so much time trying to define who we could be if we were x, y, z. what if we spoke with that accent, you know, the real southern belle one that you wear when you're really trying to say that you're ready for anything. or that accent you picked up during those few months that you were in boston, the one that you use when you want to get away with being a real jerk without anyone questioning your authority on the subject of assholery. and let's not forget your falsetto british play-mate deep throaty ACT-scent that you put on when you're really just trying to say that you're angry that i haven't paid attention to a word that you said.

you know, the american education system really is in need of reform. i heard you start the subject, but goodness gracious have you seen my schedule for tuesday? sheer idiocy.

you know that i'm just as transparent as you. you wear your accents (the brits really know how to breathe words, that's for certain) the same way that i try on costumes down on south congress. sometimes i wear skinny jeans and baggy plaid and wander in and out of record stores just to see how long i can keep up the façade.

the world's got a secret, you know. no, i can't tell you about it. it'd ruin you. you put so much stock into those tirades of yours, so much importance in your ability to drop your vocal register into your chest at will, to become 'charming' in an exhale.

well alright. it's just that, in all the record stores i've been in, no one's once questioned my presence. nope, not once. sometimes i even let the costume slip a bit, try and give them a hint as to what's really going on underneath. i wear the wrong kind of shoes, you know those big fugly skater shoes whose tongues are actually quite useful for staying on your board (or so i've been reassured). use the glasses i normally save for the bookstore routine.

you put too much faith in other people's curiosity. there. now you know. alright so perhaps my costumes aren't as obvious as your "accents". or perhaps you're just better at feigning interesting. still, admit it, the reaction you get never meets your expectations. excessive expectations - we're both guilty, as expected.

no, i don't think you're a fool. no, really, your accents are quite good when you're not self conscious about them. when you're not aware of the role that you're playing, when you just are. when it's not really just a façade, but when you too believe that you're a latin american salsa dancer who's come to the states in search of her long lost brother in law that shot your sister and ran away with the maid.

(i hate you too)

frauds? who said anything about defrauding someone else? an act of fraud requires injury of another, you have to gain an advantage through your deception for it to qualify. classification, actual dictionary definition, is important. i'm surprised i have to tell you this.

how else would we know what anyone is for certain?

Sep 5, 2010

myths, circa 2010

A lot of scientific epistemology or historiography focus on the methodology of discovery, the paradigm shifts of humans and the viability and/or rationality for accepting such shifts - and the varying conclusions as the whether or not we were correct to accept these (and what proof we should demand in the future for the acceptance of scientific 'theories').

All of this can be reduced back to the impact of "myth" on our understanding of the world - the majority of the populace believes what they're told.

If we're told that apples fall because God commanded it; if we're told that it's because of some 'force'(gravitational) - none of this materially changes what we've experienced or what our experiences have conditioned us to expect - apples fall to the ground. All that scientific discourse has done, at least in the mundane sense, is rob us of our ability to appreciate experiences as unique and 'mystical'and given them, instead, the cold skepticism of Rationality.

Thus we are all skeptics. But to what end?

clarice

Clarice Lispector, I am certain, did not write for an audience. Although she aimed at clarity, at expressing thoughts coherently (at times) the process of writing was for her a meditation, a journey to discovery of meaning, of language, of emotion. She wrote to dispel thoughts, cast them out like ugly demons so that the world could too understand them; or rather that through the world's lens she could see them more clearly. Her audience was the mystery of herself - that hidden piece that she did not understand, that came to her through the written word. Her stories, her characters - they're nothing more than second skins, other lives she might have led, her trying on different identities, different hats or Gods or constructions of herself - it's hard to live in the real world when you're constantly desiring some other life - more sordid, more lucid, more real than that which you already inhibit. She longed for the mystery that life and existence held out as possible - the animalistic, the unconscious - but that which a mundane life forced her to wear. So she wrote, she escaped, she hid on self-journeys in her loneliness and solitude and safety of the journey that was all her own.

why i suck at writing papers

my govt 312L professor and i have been at odds over my ability to write a thesis statement. admittedly, i'm not the best writer to ever poise pen over paper, but i feel as though my alleged 'inability' to sum up what all i'm going to be saying in one sentence should not be a determining factor in my success or failure to convey a point or answer a question.

who started this thesis statement bs anyways? sure, writing a thesis statement gives a defined structure to your paper, illustrates that you've carefully thought out where you're going and assures, to an extent, that the professor can tell whether or not you've reread your essay. but is a thesis statement necessary to ensure the conveyance of your thoughts?

i like to think of my style as more editorial. i'm a story teller, and what good bard gives away the outline of his story at the beginning. they do call the first paragraph the 'introduction' after all - shouldn't this section be saved for the 'once upon a time' - setting, characters, and background? or maybe it's a flashback paper, where you start in the middle of the action and then flashback midway to some discussion that predates your own, only to continue onward in a swashbuckling fashion to the riotous conclusion where AIDS can be cured! and cancer stopped in its tracks! and peace for the world is around the corner!

let's be honest, a conclusion that is little more than a rehashed version of your thesis is hardly worthy of the title. 'conclusion'- you've got to save your good, solid points for that baby. it's the bang at the end of the long courtship, the holy revelation at the end of the pilgrimage. you, the reader, have wound through the twists of logic and the side discussions, to reach it, the grand finale - the final so WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN at the END of the paper. not the beginning.

so, dear GOV 312L professor, please understand that my style of writing is different. what i'm asking you to sacrifice in immediate clarity and understanding i promise to make up to you in excitement and suspense. that feeling of confusion and uncertainty - that's all just a part of the effect. it's the mark of a successful paper - not, in fact, a lack of scholarship or clarity. you've got to work for my meaning - but that just makes it all the more exciting, if you, get what i mean.

Aug 31, 2010

why i love jsm

- he's got a thing for the ladies' rights
- true, justified belief in the good of mankind
- he suffered for suffrage
- he's an expert with utility
- he was a truly enlightened enlightentist - esp after his depressive rut

oh jsm, you are the greater good....- Harriet Taylor

Aug 10, 2010

Humans repeat themselves

It's true. We're not as original as we like to think that we are. This fact pursues me constantly, often with debilitating effects.

Understanding that it is something that I am constantly trying to get away from, it should come as no surprise that I saw the theme of repetition in Snow Crash. (Yes, I finally got around to reading it. What one 5 hour search of every bookstore in the Atlanta Airport was unable to satisfy was finally encountered hundreds of miles away in an Arkansas library.)

The 'discovery', however, that I have made about human beings is that we are utterly and inescapably captivated by new technologies. The creation of a new form of expressing or transmitting information is particularly susceptible to inspire new forms of ridiculousness and quasi-religious devotion.

We, humans, believe that knowledge is power. We, as humans, are seduced by anything powerful (or apparently powerful). Therefore, it makes sense that we would be seduced by the means of transmitting information.

What I'm (slowly and grandiosely) getting to, is that the creation of the written language and the religious devotion and veneration that the written alphabet created in humans (in the alphabet's early creation, that is) can be paralleled with our current fascination with the internet and the "collective consciousness" that search engines produce.

What's Snow Crash have to do with any of this? Snow Crash centers on the Sumerians, a culture (tribe, clan?) of people from the BCs that created one of the first alphabets. It wasn't the alphabest, but they managed to communicate any sort of information via clay tablets.

But they didn't just write things down: they wrote on the bricks they used to build, they wrote down incantations that they believed had mystical powers - they believed that words, especially the written word, had some magical power. That words were able to communicate certain things to the brain and to reach some place that other means of conversation (I'm guessing the visual or auditory sort?) were not able.

Couple this Sumerian alphabet-worship with our current fascination with Google or anything "computer intelligent", and my point begins to become clear. (Goodness, i"m bad at laying things out. They should all just be self evident!)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/09/opinion/09lanier.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

What does Sumerian obsession with alphabest and our current day obsession with social media and the hivemind have to do with each other? Nothing, other than the fact that they're merely humans doing what we always do - finding awe in the power of knowledge and our tendency to edify and deify that knowledge just for knowledge's sake.

Weird. Slightly obvious. Still cool.

Jul 21, 2010

nuts!

deciding what to do post graduation suddenly has become very passé. everyone else has already done it, already dealt with it, is onto IT already. it makes my own passing and passage feel much less watched. i like it. it's nice to feel as though my world belongs to me. and yet, the responsibility is almost crushing!

nuts. are hard as rocks. especially the one i'm stuck up against - stuck between a brazil nut and a hard place. the hard place would be that place that i end up after graduation because i didn't think that going to brazil again would be good for my health. (mental or physical or whatever other sort of health you can possibly list (why is it that lists always need three?)) the brazil nut would stand for argentina.

it would stand for argentina, if argentina were the name of brasil. but it's not, so it doesn't. instead it stands for brasil.

i've made a promise to return in 2011. doing anything else will be nothing more than the result of a particularly nasty function. inverse arcsins and tangentiables included, free of charge. the decision is not 'go to brasil or do not go to brasil' - the question is do i break a promise or do i keep one? do i do what i want to do because i want to do it, or do i not do it because i want to do it?

it's an equation without an equals sign - no hope of it balancing out. appositive or the anegative - it's all a-revolution around the same nutty yellow-green sun. and so i hate it unequivocally for feeling so pressured by the gravity of the situation.

do you not understand the gravity of the situation! i'm a function of my past, i'm stuck in a dream, i'm stuck in a memory -- i'm stuck in self-denial.




nuts! yourself is the hardest thing to accept.

Jul 12, 2010

populism

marilyn was what she called herself. others called her monroe. she didn't look a thing in the world like her namesake: dark black hair, with even darker skin. she cut her hair into a bob when she was sixteen. it was a cheap cut, blunt on the edges. blunt, too, were the remarks it received. they were well deserved. with the triangle top, she looked a lot like an alien creature, trying to phone home using a portable head antennae.

what's interesting about marilyn? why is she remarkable? what constituted herself special enough to have someone stop and remark upon her life?

nothing. there was nothing remarkable about marilyn. she worked from seven thirty to five at the corner store. she sold apples and tampons and beef jerky and Vault(C) energy drinks! to the customers that came in after noon. when there was no traffic, she just sat in the corner and did nothing. she'd stare out the window and watch the cars drive by, imagining the lives of the people inside them.

she felt watched. always. the same way that she watched the cars and the lives outside her window, she was eternally conscious of being the potential object of attention to someone else. monroe had decided, at the age of thirteen, that her life did not belong to her. it belonged to all of those with whom she would come in contact in her life. her life was of and for the people.

Jun 28, 2010

amor criminoso

we tell our children lies to protect their innocence.
we lost our own innocence in discovering the nature of a lie.
the crime of love, then, is our own mortality.

Jun 9, 2010

Ela e Ela

As vezes ela se esqueceu em frente do televisão e andou na direcção da piscina. Quando ela não estava, se sentiu o sabor de pepinos, sem sal. Quando ela ficou em frente do televisão, assistindo os jogos de produtores de televisão, comeu pepinos com limão.

Ela queria nadar numa piscina cheia de pepinos e pimentos. Ela gostava de coisas picante. Tinha quemado sua lingua tantas vezes na cafézinho da manhã que não sentiu nada mais que um cherio de picante agora. Ela gostava de cheiros.

Ela adorava o cheiro de plástico velho. Sua sofá era de plástico velho. Sentada em frente da televisão, cheriou o plástico e se sentiu completa.

Ela odeia estar molhada. Gostava de nadar na piscina. Não gostava do momento de mudança entre seca e molhada. O anterior e o posterior colocado tão vividos na memória do pele lhe deixava com nojo. Era, sempre, um nojo de ser viva, de ser um sere que tem memórias.

A memória de um peixe-dourado só dura três segundos. (Os cientistas lembram tudo.)

Ela nadava como um peixe sem aletas. Quando ela nadava, usava um maiô velho. Era azul como azuleiros. Frágil como um azuleiro também. Não o usava em frente do televisão; tinha medo que os diretores de shows de realidade lhe espiariam e ficariam ahorrizados. Ela não entendia que os lentes das máquinas só tem um lado.

Peixes-dourados tem duas lentes, um para cada olho.

May 14, 2010

Rosa

Rosa liked to write. Particularly articles for her neighborhood newsletter. Rosa had a secret though. She also liked to forget. Writing was her escape, her way to hide that she forgot. In order to write, you must pretend to know. Rosa liked to forget that she wrote. She also liked to forget that her name was Rosa. When she forgot that her name was Rosa, her name was Sam. When Rosa's name was Sam, she wore trousers. There was nothing wrong with Rosa, nothing to write home about either. When she remembered that she was Rose, she wore floral. Dresses, skirts, bermuda shorts. Big prints and small. She really liked the large prints, especially the ones by Georgia O'Keefe. Rosa didn't forget about floral prints. Not if she could help it.

And she could help it. As far as she could remember, that is. Rosa knew that she liked to forget, but merely liking a thing doesn't make it actually happen. Not always, that is. Rosa just really rather appreciated it when thoughts would disappear. She called them her shrinking violets - they'd turn purple and then grow unnoticeable.

Perhaps the reason Rosa liked forgetting so much was because she herself was rather unforgettable. She was six foot two, size twelve feet. She usually wore size elevens - it helped her remember what big feet felt like. When she wrote her articles for the city newspaper, she often wrote by hand. The size of her hand surprised her sometimes, most of all when she remembered it was hers. Forgetting, she would remember everytime she realized that the blue pen in the tawny hand was writing at her whim, has its distinct disadvantages. She had learned to avoid such shocks of unexpected recognition - she used large pens. When she remembered to.

Ros'as secret hobby had its downsides. Other people didn't share her secret. If Rosa had been more forgettable, she might not have had her secret hobby either.

Rose liked plaid. Tartan, Burberry. Especially the McEar family clan plaid. She wore it on her socks, almost everyday. It looked swell under her trousers. Rosa took pictures, for the school yearbook. She had a real sweet camera, an SRL. A Canon, last year's model. I think. She liked to wear brown Oxfords under her Tartan plaid socks. When she wore Oxfords her name was Ben.

Or was it Beatrice?

May 10, 2010

Book Review: Predictably Irrational

Definitely a must read for anyone interested in buying a house, starting a bank, creating a pricing scheme for a product set, or just understanding the idiocy of our current economic dogma. Dan Ariely explains in everyday (if not too everyday sometimes) language how and why we as consumers are NOT in fact rational consumers that obey Adam Smith's invisible hand, but rather irrational beings that merely like to think that we are logical. The rational model of economics is, really, nothing more than an optimists view of reality: the actual rules of reality, Ariely shows, are a far cry from what we would have ourselves believe them to be.

Taking the steps to become a savvy consumer begins with reading this book, not to mention taking a few extra steps towards learning how to understand yourself. Most of his points will have you nodding along in agreement, and you'll wonder why this wasn't something you could have written yourself. In fact, as with most social science, it sometimes takes someone with a PhD to prove that which we already know through our own intuition.

Although this book definitely fits into my definition of pop psychology, there are several very important gems for understanding ourselves and our complex relationship to money and expectations that is important for becoming a more savvy consumer. Though, the majority of the book's points could have been condensed into a 30 to 50 page pamphlet; the $30 300+ page monstrosity that it is in current form is merely a testament to the current tendency in the publishing industry to print large and overcharge.

Recommendation: Borrow or Kindle it. My copy is definitely up for grabs.

-SPOILER-
The only example of Ariely's that I would disagree with is his close examination of pricing and valuing mechanisms with an experiment on Duke basketball tickets. While I do agree with his conclusion that owners tend to over-price their belongings, his experiment was inherently flawed. By using a group of students that had both "worked" to earn tickets, some randomly who received them, some who didn't. Those who received tickets valued them 20 times over those who did not. Ariely uses this as an example for how those who possess objects tend to overvalue them without taking into account the following: students who received tickets and were putting them up for sale wanted to be compensated for their entire involvement in getting the ticket: the ticket wasn't just for the game, but for the entire ordeal that they went through to get the ticket. On the other hand, the students that went through the same ordeal but that didn't receive the tickets and were asked how much they would pay for them; they were being asked to pay for the tickets in addition to the work they already invested in waiting for the ticket. In essence, they were being asked what more they would invest for a ticket, whereas the group that received the tickets were being asked how much they valued all of the investment that they already put in. An unfair question and an interesting look at how people value luck and work, but not a very clear cut comparison for owners versus non-owners.

May 4, 2010

If Ifs Were Skiffs, We'd All Be Afloat

If i had a flavor, I would be dulce-amarga. With a hint of earl grey. And a dash of irresistible. If I had my headphones, I would be listening to DJ Shadow - Organ Donor. If I was an animal, I'd be an albatross. Or a grackle. If I could be anyone, I'd be Davy. If I could be a day, i'd be mid-October cloudy skies. No rain, just wind. Or a mid-July Gulf Coast thunderstorm. Rolling in, roiling sky, soaking earth, shattering eardrums. They smell good. I hope Arkansas smells that good.

Float on.

Apr 28, 2010

Found on Facebook

Found this as a comment on a photo in the album Wall Photos from Facebook's official Facebook page.

Arte Solino HOLA, SOY GABRIEL SOLINO, Y QUISIERA SABER POR QUÉ ME CERRARON MI CUENTA SI YO NO LA UTILICÉ DE MANERA INDEBIDA.
AL CONTRARIO, LA UTILICÉ SOLO PARA TENER CONTACTOS CON AMIGOS Y CONOCIDOS Y MANTUVE SIEMPRE LOS TERMINOS QUE
LA EMPRESA REQUIERE. DESEARÍA QUE ME RESPONDAN Y TAMBIÉN SABER SI ESPOSIBLE RECUPERAR MI CUENTA, DADO QUE REITERO
NO VEO QUE YO LA HAYA UTILIZADO INDEBIDAMENTE. Y SI ES UN PROBLEMA DE SUPLANTACIÓN DE IDENTIDAD, VIRUS O ALGO SIMILAR,
VER SI SE PUEDE SOLUCIONAR. MUCHAS GRACIAS... GABRIEL SOLINO

HELLO, I AM GABRIEL SOLINO, AND IT(HE,SHE) WANTED TO KNOW WHY THEY CLOSED MY ACCOUNT(BILL) IF I DID NOT USE IT IN AN UNDUE WAY.
ON THE CONTRARY, I USED IT ONLY TO HAVE CONTACTS WITH FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES AND SUPPORTED ALWAYS THE TERMS(ENDS) THAT
THE COMPANY NEEDS. HE(SHE) WOULD WISH TO ANSWER ME AND ALSO TO KNOW IF ESPOSIBLE TO RECOVER MY ACCOUNT(BILL), PROVIDED THAT I REPEAT
I DO NOT SEE THAT I HAVE USED UNDULY. And IF IT IS A PROBLEM OF SUPPLANTING IDENTITY, VIRUS OR SOMETHING SIMILAR,
TO SEE IF IT IS POSSIBLE TO SOLVE. THANK YOU VERY MUCH... GABRIEL SOLINO


Hmm. What are your digital rights? (I'm not just for your right handed digits.) Who are the Facebook police? The MySpace Police? The Google Police? Where are their courts? Who is the judge?

Apr 27, 2010

While Researching Violence for Portuguese Class...

Article here: http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/stable/pdfplus/3791797.pdf?cookieSet=1 (might require UTEID).

While understanding the violence-sex/gender-power construct is important, I would say that most readers would find the explanation self evident (although it is nice to have it spelled out so clearly. And with empirical evidence to boot!). For me, the most novel information is the call for a multi-disciplinary investigation of these power dynamics:

"Along with breadth of experience, we need breadth of method. ... content analysis of archival documents, personality research surveys, theoretical models of international relations, laboratory studies, and literary scholarship."

To paraphrase: Knowledge silos and useless hypothesizing, begone! Let's be proactive and find some real interesting solutions to these power constructs!

Also interesting: Maturity and Wisdom as the solution to the Power Complex. Yet again, Siddhartha's lessons surface at another juncture. All we need to know we is already contained within our cultural lore - why did we ever stop believing fairy tales?

Apr 25, 2010

Cars Don't Sleep

Strange but true. Cars don't sleep. Cars don't have beds. There is no place that a car can go at night. They sit wherever we leave them, waiting until we have slept, we have rested, we have need of them again.

Obviously self evident, I merely find it remarkable in that cars are our representation of our selves in the world. Twenty-four seven. HOWEVER, I am usually only consciously aware of my car when I am in it, when I am using it. Even then, I cannot see myself in my car, I rarely to never ride in my car as a passenger: my car is my representative to the world of travel, to all the anonymous others that I come in contact with during my commutes, my car is what I AM on the road, how I am judged, how I interact with others.

Thus I find it strange that this BEING, this OTHER SELF exists, and continues to exist even when I am not consciously aware of its existence.

In contrast to the un-conscious existence of the self-representation of a car, consider the conscious self-representation of a Facebook profile: you are aware of other beings coming into contact with your Facebook representation at any moment of the day. You are aware that your digital self can be seen and accessed by a (depending on privacy settings (or where you parked!)) varying groups of anonymous others. This is not disconcerting.

We know that Facebook is sleepless. We are concerned with it on a more perpetual basis. Cars, cars however are usually within our consciousness when we are using them.

But they don't sleep. They always exist. Now admittedly, they aren't as linkable to ourselves when we're not in them as digital selves are. But it's still weird to think that I've got a piece of myself that is so physically available and tangible on such a constant basis.

I think that this blog post is tangible proof of my need to stop reading critical feminist & literary theory and head to sleep myself. Night Self. Night Car. Night Digital Self-Representations. Until waking. :)

Apr 20, 2010

Response to Habermas (via Fish)

Sadly, I could not comment on this article via the NYT website because I read it too late. Thank goodness for blogs though!

Reading through reader's responses to Habermas' arguments, it appears that a wide variety of readers would argue against Habermas' proposition that reason alone does not give adequate substance for motivations and goals.

I would merely like to remark that I believe Habermas is speaking from a larger, societal based ideal of goals and motivations, and that on a whole the readership's response has been from a merely personal perspective.

There is no greater uniter of human drive than religion and faith. Reason alone can rarely drive us to unite to a single cause. The idea that each of us having individual motivation and goals derived from reason is not invalid, however it has been demonstrated that the leap from the individual to the collective is very vast and difficult. Especially in an environment (aka the US current sociopolitical discourse) where tolerance and political correctness and apparent equity remain as the reigning modus operandi. In such an 'environment' (or culture, I suppose) to accept a single goal or motivation for an entire population would require the acknowledgement of possible negation of others' goals: something that would not be acceptable. Even if every single member in the 'room', so to speak, were to privately be motivated by, for example, the desire to fully understand other people, the reluctance of individuals to impose a personal thought or belief onto the common 'tolerant' understanding would keep these individuals from revealing or attempting to persuade the collective of the rationality or validity of their position. Even if admitted and agreed upon in corners of the room, the prevailing mindset would prevent anyone from putting forth such a 'radical' idea. Minorities have a way of silencing themselves.

I'm not explaining this as well as my communication text book does. The point is that Habermas' conclusion that reason lacks the ability to unite nations of people under collective goals and motivations is valid. Reader comments to the contrary merely demonstrate that you cannot necessarily refute generalized generalizations from personal experience alone.

Rationalists - 1; Empiricists - 0

Apr 18, 2010

Ruby Slippers

I can't stop thinking about the shoes I wore on my tour of a Brazilian meat packing plant. Black flats, woven black leather that was slowly giving up, releasing its weave. You could make an argument that, perhaps, the blue plastic booties, showercaps for your feet, were more important in this instance than shoes, in the sense that they kept the actual blood and slime of death from soiling my shoes. But it was the shoes themselves and their cardboard-thin soles that I remember, fondly. Hiding my feet from the horrors through which they trod, not quite thick enough to quite block out sensation entirely. The tiles were uneven. And freezing, like the walls where blood and bone particulates crystallized, the same gruesome texture beneath my feet.

A few weeks later the weaving gave out entirely. They refused the bronzed-staples half-measure and the last ditch superglue attempt. Enough, they said.

I imagine them in a Brazilian trash-heap, waiting patiently in their ignorance (volto? sei lá), casting off a reddish-gold hue in the summer heat. There is no place like home.

Apr 10, 2010

Solitário de Amor: Reflexiones sobre la critica de Gossy

Escrito en respuesta de una discussión de classe sobre el libro de Cristina Peri Rossi, Solitario de Amor:

Tenía un pensamiento después de la classe de jueves. Tengo una otra respuesta a la sugestión de Sra. Gossy, specificamente a la idéa que el narrador es un "butch-femme".

Las pruebas de Sra. Gossy son la falta de una erección, de un orgasmo (del narrador), de un eyeculación, y de un bigote, rasgos de un sere masculino. Admito que Sra. Gossy tiene razón: el cuento le falta estas pruebas de masculinidad. Pero ella está equivocada con su conclusión.

La falta de rasgos de masculinidad, en mi opinión, son un aspecto de ser una obra erótica escrita por un mujer. Como mujer, ella no tenía experiencia con estes aspectos de ser hombre, entonces los dejó fuera del cuento. Ella, como lésbica, entendería el aspecto de eroticismo por la mujer, y entonce lo representó con una claridad que resuena con sus lectores masculinos.

Además, en la escena donde el narrador se presentó al ex-marido de Aída, el narrador provoca a Hugo responder para defender su identidad masculina: "Me gusta de mujeres". Es decir, Hugo, tener no entendido bien el propósito del narrador en presentarse a él, quería que el narrador supiera que Hugo no es gay, ni interessado por hombres. Esta reacción de Hugo nos mostra que el narrador, en la mente de la autora, era un hombre.

Observación: La crítica de una obra literária ha passado de las formas y símbolos de la obra al análisis psicológico del autor (ou autora). Es decir, para mejor entender la obra, tenemos que entender también la vida y las experiencias del escritor. En este sentido, la obra de Rossi - una mujer escribiendo de la perspectiva de un hombre - es una mirada interesante al eroticismo desde la perspectiva, a pesar de que seja lésbica, feminina.

Mar 26, 2010

Innovation in Language and the Implication of Data Structures in Digital Communications

Deconstruction and creation of language is important to our ability to create new forms and ideas of thought. the rise of a codified, regulated standard for language, while increasingly facilitating the transmission of pre-codified (ie agreed upon) messages, does nothing but stifle the innovation of new forms of thought and expressions of meaning.

Language was, first and foremost, a verbal mechanism designed to transmit thought. Codification and standardization are necessary (and inherent) to the creation of a language, in that it must be understood across a normative common to all speakers. However, in order for new ideas to be expressed (outside of the normative common, as a manner of expanding this so called 'norm') a language must be flexible enough to encompass the creation of new words and turns of phrase.

It should be possible, therefore, to trace innovation through language and the emergence of terms associated with a new concept. One such example of this would be the rise of the term Passive - Aggressive as an aspect of self-consciousness and self-identification (or identification in general of others) via the use of the term. Previous to the coinage of such a phrase, a person would not be able to express the concept or idea of being "passive-aggressive" because such a concept did not exist, neither in our vocabulary nor in our social collective of "norms" (accepting the definition of a language being a verbal and written codification of normatized collective thought). Passive-aggression as an interpretation of human behavior is thus the innovation of psychology, adapted and transmitted through language, and finally used contextually to shape our personal and collective understanding of ourselves and each other.

I should probably note that my use of the words "passive-aggressive", is in and of itself an interpretation of the idea. In this discussion, I am more referring to the colloquial use of the word to describe a person or the actions of a person, usually in reference to something that this person has done or what how they are thinking towards another. In all actuality, I have little to no idea how the term originated (Wikipedia tells me that it was coined in or around the 1950s), but am merely reporting back from my experiences with the word, both personally as I have applied to to myself and through relations of others to convey the idea or thought of how another person defines their own actions. To stretch to the realms of ethonography, I would relate the story of sometime during my freshman or sophomore year in college (by years, not hours), when I first came across the term. A friend used it to describe the way that she interacted with others, in that she was not very good at being able to be openly aggressive towards others, but instead allowed a sort of repressed anger to be expressed not through physical or verbal means, but instead via subversive actions meant to humiliate or in some other manner humiliate the object of this "passive" aggression. Since this explanation, I did no personal research on the term, but have since been personally responsible for propagating this concept using the term as I have such understood it.

Without the adoption of a term to illustrate this phenomenon (the act of being or feeling passive aggressive), we (a collective here meaning the English speaking population) would not have the tools necessary to define or describe this particular aspect of action or thought.

Examples of how language innovation can lead to a new understanding or identification aside, an interesting application of this understanding of the flexibility of language can be drawn to the transmission and use of data structures in the digital realm. Specifically, early data structures (specifically HTML), had problems with their flexibility because of the vast amount of codification (or specifications... I think technically these are called RFC or Requests For Comments and are nothing more than a "grammar book" of an internet 'language' or standard for a particular method of expression. In the case of HTML, this is an 'expression' of web pages) required in order to express or pass new information.

I feel that a brief explanation of the entire ML or "markup language" is in order. In a ML, concepts are digitally understood (digitally here meaning by a machine and not human recipient) via the use of "tags", a demarcation surrounding a body of text. The language is entirely text based, with these tags marking how each piece or body of text should be interpreted. For example, BOLD would create a bolded piece of text. In fact, just in the attempt to create an example, my word has been bolded thanks to the machine reader. Here's a spaced out attempt (hark! digital subterfuge!) < b >BOLD< / b >.

HTML was wildly and widely accepted and is still the defacto language for creating and sharing content via the 'webpage' format. However, the use of HTML for the transmission of other types and forms of language was and is impeded by the strict codification required to express changes. If I created a new way of highlighting text, for example, one that was more impactful and better conveyed my message than a simple bolding, I would need to also create a new set of tags that could then be used to surround the text that I wanted to appear with this new "highlight" method. Of course, as in other languages in both the digital and spoken world, it's possible to patch together various means to highlight words, however, there is no simple and straightforward tag that could be used to do so. The language is not flexible enough to allow this.

Enter XML, or eXtensible Markup Language. Now, admittedly, I would not profess to being proficient at the use and exact 'data structures' that XML schema and the like employ, however, my understanding of them is that XML has a flexible schema that allows you to create and publish a new language "norm" any time that you want. Instead of having to change the well codified and vetted "norm" that governs HTML, you only have to change your own personal standard. New tags can be created at whim, innovation is allowed to flourish throughout the internets!

I'm leaving this discussion for now, but not without giving mention to the fact that XML has, of course, given rise to new "languages" that used by various industries and organizations on the internet in order to share data by a common standard, where tags are standardized for a given set of information, for example airline flight information. Thus a airline can publish information digitally that can be read and retrieved by various online ticket search engines, travel agents, competing flights, their own internal systems, etc. But the sheer flexibility (by variable tagging and nesting, which was not mentioned in this post) of XML has allowed for it to become the "lingua franca" of machine to machine communication.

Mar 23, 2010

Advice from a friend

biggest advice: give and expect nothing in return, reciprocate joy at meeting people, share anecdotes and experiences not generalities, go nuts pull up your sleeves and learn something.

Mar 6, 2010

sexual parity, Tucker Max and the deconstruction of the social myth

i have recently become mildly obsessed with gender roles and sexuality. my favorite book to date on the issue: tucker max's i hope they serve beer in hell. definitely a great first-hand account of the male perspective of sexual relationships in the twenty first century.

some explanation of the tucker max character is in order. tucker max bangs chicks. tucker max does not bang the most beautiful chicks (or usually not, from what i can tell). tucker max tries, at all costs, to avoid 'ugly' chicks. tucker max gets drunk a lot. tucker max is known by his friends for his comedic aptitude, typically which is created by being the loudest, most aggressive person involved in a conversation. or yelling match, take your pick. tucker max considers himself to pertain to the top 5% of intellectuals. in the book, no exact numbers are given, but tucker max thinks that tucker max is one smart cookie. (note: this commentary on tucker max's intellectual prowess is not intended to make a judgement or assessment of the actual intellect of tucker max, in fact i would argue that actual intellect is of far less import than the perception of our own intelligence that we hold. merely, i hope only to illustrate the 'mental model', so to speak, of the Mr. Max persona, specifically as he views himself.) from what i can gather, tucker max has a retinue of girls who consider him to be available for 'sexual' adventures whenever.

tucker max would call himself a macho. mysogynist, i don't know. nor do i really care. point is, tucker max is a male who enjoys sex with women.

so it's funny, when he comes to the realization at one point that one of the girls from his regular 'retinue' (my word, not his), could in fact be doing the same thing he does with girls. what does he do when discovers the potential for double dealing with women? what tucker max does: gets drunk. but the drunk mess that tucker max describes in this passage is not the tucker max of reckless abandon, but a man who is struggling to deal with the implications of gender equity. women may use men as much as they use us. it's a fair trade. and this realization, for tucker max, renders him incapable of enjoying it. to quote the man himself: "My worldview was immediately and permanently altered. It was like the first time you turn on a black light in a hotel room and see cum stains covering every surface: for better or for worse, your world is never the same."

this experience officially, from my analysis, marks the creation a jaded being. meaning, specifically, that the pleasure and excitement tucker found in conquering the unknown women he met in bars became less of a pleasure and more of a self-serving habit. not that his previous actions were not in the least self-serving, but they weren't a habit. they were an adventure, a tryst. "[W]omen were doing the same thing to me that I was doing to them, except I didn't even know they were doing it. For the entirety of my life up to that point I thought I had the upper hand, that I was the player and not the playee when in fact, I was possibly just another chump. The illusion of control was shattered." Knowing that he was just in actor in a game, being acted upon as well as acting upon others, took away the mystery of the hunt.

feminine equality destroys the myth of the chase. and as tucker max can attest to, the loss of that "illusion of control" is devastating to the male psyche, at least in matters of sexual games.

is there a road out of this world of equity that is equitable? can we reinstate mystery without reinstating gender roles? were gender roles ever such a thing to be banished in the first place, or was it necessary to deconstruct them before we could have mutual respect at a societal level? or is what tucker max experienced something that every man and woman will eventually have to come to accept?

tucker doesn't seem to think that it should. in the post script to his realization, he urges his fellow male readers not to dwell on this. "Don't think about this for too long fellas. ... Just move on." Not that Tucker can return to his innocence, but he wishes that he can bury it under the rug. [One could argue with Tucker as to the wisdom of sharing this revelation with his readers (why destroy the illusion of others?), but concealing this story would stray from tucker max's tell all philosophy of revealing the gritty details of his life to his audience.] To hear him tell it, it seems that he is recommending we all return to the state of ignorant bliss. But can we ever really return back to a point of unknowing?

the conclusion that i draw from tucker max's experience is that the sexual freedom of women has, via the destruction of the masculine myth of control, increased the occurrence of jadedness in our culture.

we know what pleasure is. we are aware of pain. we are aware that we are only one out of millions, that the women that we pursue (or men) are using us as much as we are using them. thanks to the internet, advances in microbiology, neuroscience, and physics, and the increasing permissiveness of our society, we are slowly destroying the mystery that remains for us to uncover. our destruction of myths, not only in the realms of gender, but in all aspects of our construction of reality.

i keep flashing back to a book i read while in 7th grade about a young brain damaged girl that is transferred into the body of a monkey. (i can't find it on google). rendered a spectator to the fate of her species, she watches as human civilization breaks down and destroys itself. in final acts of desperation, droves of humans would link hands and walk into the sea. eventually, the protagonist's mother joins one of these sea-faring expeditions.

is jaded merely the first stop on our train to societal despair? what kind of extremism becomes permissible when the mystery is gone? what is our quest to destroy mystery and myths doing to our psyche? how does this affect our ability to find satisfaction in our daily lives?

blank canvas

this canvas is blank. does that mean it's time for me to start afresh? that's one of the side effects of blank canvas -- it brings...