# 06 Mar 2001, 11:48AM: I cried this morning:
I couldn't help it. I always felt a bit of contempt for the people who claimed some personal grief at the death of Princess Diana. But I lay in bed and I cried after I heard the NPR story about the school shooting in Santee, near San Diego, California, USA. God, why?
It's been more than a year since the Columbine massacre. More than a year since Voices From the Hellmouth. And it could happen again. It has happened again.
Where will it happen next time? It kills a bit of my soul to know that it will happen again. Where? It will probably be another white boy in some suburban public school, who feels alone and constantly mocked. He sees that he can get guns, and he reads about Littleton and Paducah and Santee and thinks, I could do that.
Oh god, I remember the yearbook photos from Columbine, the girl who was going to college in the fall. I remember the scene in "Heathers" where Christian Slater defends the bomb he's planted under the school and says -- I'm getting the exact quote from IMDB -- "People will look at the ashes of Westerburg [High School], and say, 'Now there was a school that self-destructed, not because society didn't care, but because the school was society!' "
What can I do?
I have Russian to do. And I have a meeting today about which I'm nervous, and I haven't eaten yet, and I re-watched "The Blair Witch Project" yesterday -- just the end! -- and it scared the bejeezus out of me.
Anyway, I know that I will, with much self-loathing, glean through the shrapnel of the latest rage-writ-large, trying to use my writerly sense to find meaning in the small things. Salon.com writers have made many good points, e.g., this never happens at private schools, this happens every day on a smaller scale in inner cities to poor nonwhites.
I read the kukluxklan.org FAQ via Google cache yesterday. They sound so reasonable, if you replace "racial mixing" with, say, "corporate control" or "police brutality." (It does crack me up that a nonwhite can be an "Official Supporter" of the Klan, and that the Klan feels irritated that other nouveau wannabe Klans use their name and logo.)
And all the while I feel as though someone is watching over my shoulder,
not as an angel, but as a demon.
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/6/114852/8480
# 12 Mar 2001, 05:22AM: I was wrong. She's a girl, in a private school.:
So sue me. I said that shootings only happen in public schools, and that the shooters are always boys.
Elizabeth Bush, of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, USA, fired shots in her private school (Bishop Neumann High School).
It's pretty frightening.
The only one shot was the head cheerleader, who allegedly was one of a
clique that mocked the outcasts whom Elizabeth defended. I feel a lot
more disturbingly visceral empathy with Elizabeth than I did with Dylan,
Eric, et al.
Poll: With whom do you empathize more?
- Elizabeth, the shooter
- Kimberly, the shot
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/12/172258/267
# 14 Mar 2001, 03:32AM: Crummy Snow Cadence Confederacy Whom Violence and SciFi:
A San Francisco columnist's article says much of what I wanted to say the other day, regarding school shootings by females. Well, maybe that's not what I would have said, but at least he brings a new light and new info to the subject.
More in this entry about the unholy death of "whom," the class I teach, Leonard Richardson, protests at Cal, and humor.
My class: It's going well. My students are doing the reading and participating, for the most part. Today we discuss Snow Crash, and Friday we'll move on to The Diamond Age. Note: my Meyer-Briggs Personality Indicator told me that I prefer planning over spontanaeity. Sure enough, I do MUCH better in teaching when I have a well-thought-out lesson plan. I can deviate from it if circumstances arise, but at least I know what my goals are for each session. And since I have a tendency to go off on tangents (e.g., evangelizing open source, mocking Ayn Rand, etc.), the structure keeps my quirks from taking over the show.
Culture v. tech: Salon.com just ran an interview with Norton Juster, writer of The Phantom Tollbooth. (Comment below if you want me to publish here my personal anecdote re: TPT.) I thought the incredibly cool thing was that Juster consciously connected the Digitopolis/Dictionopolis divide to C.P. Snow's famous "two cultures" observation, of the separation between math/science and humanities.
There were themes in there that I threw in because they amused me at the time. The whole conflict between words and numbers, that old thing that C.P. Snow wrote about many years ago. I didn't lay it out as a thesis or anything, but it was fun having it in there. And it doesn't get in the way of the story.
When I told a physicst friend of this, it went something like:
Sumana: So it was really about C.P. Snow and what he said about the two cultures.
Hacker Physicist: Who's that?
Sumana: Primary and subsidiary point. Primary point: C.P. Snow said that the sciences and the humanities are two different cultures, and there's a huge division between them. Subsidiary point: the fact that you didn't know that indicates that he was right.
Of course, my friend also has a k5 weblog. When comparing our journals and their emphases, I see that while k5 may aim to unite "technology and culture from the trenches," my culture and his technology seem pretty separate.
Crummy: Now that the esteemed readership of Leonard Richardson's crummy.com sees this journal as one of the blogs in the top navbar, I feel more pressure to be as prolific as LR himself. I don't have the cojones, stamina, or tolerance for information asymmetry to make this diary as comprehensive and frequently updated as Mr. Richardson's News You Can Bruise. Still, I'll try to give you a run for your eyeballs.
The Demise of "Whom": To paraphrase Mystery Men, "Whom is not dead! Whom is LIFE!"
That one page was right; Russian does help one understand when to use "whom" and when "who." (The Google search I used to try to find that page again also pulled up a site on Russian women's secrets--scary.) So as anyone would, I felt crushed when a friend told me that my new skill was USELESS! "Whom is dead," she said. Some piddly grammarian's piddly new book backed her up, she said.
Bollocks! I will continue to hold the WHOM banner high, to fortify my little bastion of semantic elitism. Without "whom," how do I know whether you're speaking of someone as the direct object or the indirect object, or even in the nominative or prepositional? God knows the vocative case is already rare, but what if? Goodness, man! In my precarious world, I cherish the few certainties I can find. "Whom" is one, and I shan't let go.
Israeli/Palestinian harmony: (Note: this is NOT a reference to Brian's very funny open-mic bit at a Heuristic Squelch Comedy Night about the solution for the Middle East conflict: Arab/Jew buddy cop movies.) A little over a week ago, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students protested at each other near Sather Gate on campus, north of Sproul Plaza. The pro-Palestinians had set up a mock refugee camp, from within which they chanted, "Hey ho/Hey ho/Let the refugees go home." The pro-Israelis sang in Hebrew, possibly Jewish folk songs, possibly the Israeli national anthem. Crowds looked on, argued; mass media members recorded.
Did anyone notice the moments when they seemed to be singing together? I've been listening to a lot of a cappella recently, so maybe my ears were a little more tuned to such things. But I definitely heard the opponents, for a few moments, making beautiful music together, singing in cadence together. Maybe they felt the primal pull of the shared beat, of a uniting tempo that cools tempers. It comforted me as I walked away. No matter how much we try to hate and separate, the urge to join with other humans remains.
Confederate bumper stickers: I thought up a silly bit to try to submit to the Squelch: Bumper stickers from through the ages. I mean, today we conduct 80% of our intellectual discourse through bumper stickers, especially in Berkeley. Imagine bumper stickers from 1640, or 1775, or 1863! I thought up a number of bumper stickers from the Confederacy (that is, the one that seceded from the United States of America in 1861, and which fought the USA in the Civil War). Here are some; vote for your pick of my favorites in the poll.
- Get Your Laws Off My Bodies
- States' Rights, Not Civil Rights
- Putting the 'Racy' Back in Confederacy
- Slaveholders Are People Too
- Practice Random Acts of Cruelty, Racism, and Oppression
- If You Don't Like The Idea of Slaves, Then Don't Buy One
- Vote YES on Proposition 1: Secede for Success!
- I Have Slaves, You Have Wage Slaves, Deal With It
- US Out Of Maryland
- My Other Car Is The Whip-scarred Back of a Negro
- I Listen to WILD 97.7 FM
- States' Rights, Slavery, What's the Difference? We're Still Gonna
Kick Your Pale Yankee Ass
Poll: Best Confederate Bumper Sticker
- My Other Car Is The Whip-scarred Back of a Negro
- US Out Of Maryland
- Get Your Laws Off My Bodies
- If You Don't Like The Idea of Slaves, Then Don't Buy One
- I Have Slaves, You Have Wage Slaves, Deal With It
- Practice Random Acts of Cruelty, Racism, and Oppression
- States' Rights, Slavery, What's the Difference? We're Still Gonna Kick
Your Pale Yankee Ass
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/14/153250/386
# 15 Mar 2001, 06:09AM: Birdie, birdie, birdie! & beware:
I saw a bird
Why didn't they sign?
TV show idea
Yo, Seth; Yo, Michael
A legal idea
Salad from tragedy
I saw a hummingbird near my apartment today. Wow! I guess they really go fast. And I thought I was sprightly. I love how they seem to hang in the air, as though the whole world is a toy to them.
I recently read in Smithsonian magazine about one of three men that I like to call The Three Abstainers. George Mason and two other fellows at the Constitutional Convention refused to sign the Constitution. Why? Oh, the article about Mason gave all sorts of speculations, but if you ask me? Aliens. Or possibly travelers from the future. (See Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World from this week for further speculation.)
I have seen part of one episode of "Making the Band." My alternative? "Making the Cabinet." Come on, you could try out for Secretary of Labor! If you're head of Transportation, you can pretty much kick back and just be good as a background singer. As long as you go along with the choreography well, you'll be fine.
Congrats, Seth, for poising yourself on the springboard to stardom. Or possibly not. (Seth would be one of two people I know who will have been in TV commercials, Mike Parsons being the other.)
If corporations are legal persons, then why can't they vote, and why aren't they counted in the census? (I'm assuming they aren't, and that my question is rhetorical. I hope I'm right.)
Political science, as a field, sadly lacks research in the field of possible world orders under alien domination. I'm thinking dissertation here.
This morning, while reading the Almanac entry, the KALW 91.7FM DJ said, "And today is the
Ides of March, so ... beware ... beware." I cracked up. I love
public radio and the humor it engenders.
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/15/18915/2020
# 16 Mar 2001, 02:50AM: Puns, nuns, and MUN:
Happy birthday, In Passing!
In other news: thoughts scrawled in my notebook, also in passing, mostly wordplay.
I think that I shall never see
An Indian character on TV.
I saw a few ads on TV for "Paramount's Great America" (a theme park/carnival sort of thing near San Jose, northern California) yesterday. Oh my goodness, Asians! What the dilly, as Breakup Girl would say? My goodness. Just give me one non-Apu, non-Asok, non-accented Indian character on a mainstream television show. Preferably "The West Wing" or "Law and Order." I'm thinking a judge, like Judge Marilyn Patel (on the Napster case, here in California).
If the Popemobile was like the Batmobile, bout Robin be a Cardinal?
Words that can be funny when you confuse them:
- exact/extract (as in "revenge." "I'll extract my revenge." "What, from shale?")
You can't spell "vaudeville" without "evil."
I once thought of joining the Model UN. But the UN is already so weak that if I want to playact, I'll join the real thing.
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/16/145037/243
# 18 Mar 2001, 12:06PM GMT+5:30: Questions (unanswerable?), and answers to non-questions:
The Phantom Tollbooth
My mom (not *your mom!*)
Books I got for free
What to do with an old monitor and keyboard I can't use?
The Phantom Tollbooth anecdote: When I was in my junior year of high school, I walked in to my first-period honors U.S. History class [with Steve von Berg, the bomb (a good thing) of a history teacher] carrying Tollbooth, which I was rereading.
Amber Hoover asked if that wasn't a kids' book.
I replied that it was.
She asked if I hadn't read it, then, when I was a kid.
I replied that I had, and that I was rereading it.
She asked, "Why would you read a book twice?"
I don't think she was joking.
My mom: She's visiting me this weekend. She's cleaning as I speak. Yes, in my home. (sigh) She's a force of nature. You don't reason with the tides. Or a hurricane. You just name them. Hurricane Mom.
I showed her around Berkeley, which was fun. A very nice day! And we only got scared by one loony.
Correction/update: In a previous entry, I referred to "Brian's" funny bit about Arab/Jew buddy cop movies as the solution to Middle East tensions. His name is Brian Sinclair, and he's a Squelch writer/contributor at U.C. Berkeley. I figured you all should know his last name.
Soon I'll update y'all with info I received from Seth Schoen about corporations-as-persons, Judge Marilyn Patel, and political systems under alien domination. Stay tuned!
Books I got for free: There was a big ol' sale on Thursday and Friday by the Slavic, Celtic, Italian, and Scandinavian departments (I may have missed one) at Cal. But I arrived after the sale, and thus I got stuff for free! Lesson: Ask for exceptions to the rules, and you'll be rewarded. (If you'd like to read the "fractally weird" (thanks, Neal Stephenson) conditions of my free-book-gettin', comment below.)
- Sakharov Speaks by Andrei Sakharov (Soviet physicist and dissident). Neat combo. "Between LeConte and Barrows..."
The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Why did they have this? I don't know. I swore I saw bodice-rippers, too.
- Yevgeny Yevtuschenko: A Precocious Autobiography. One of my favorite poets. His poem "When Your Face Came Rising" changed my life in tenth grade.
- The Image of Chekhov:
Forty Stories by Anton Chekhov
In The Order In Which They Were Written
Translated, With an Introduction by Robert Payne
Was all this so important that it all had to be in large type on the front cover?
- Some book by Boris Pil'nyak. The whole book is in Russian, and the title is something like "Conversations." My Russian teacher told me he's great. Maybe in ten years I'll be able to appreciate that.
- Six Soviet One-Act Plays. Edited/selected by Ludmila A. Patrick. Actually an intermediate Russian textbook, with a glossary and everything. Think this would freak out an audition audience? "Come in with a three-minute monologue." "Does it have to be in English?" What's a good answer to that?
What to do with an old monitor and keyboard I can't use? The Used
Computer Store at Shattuck and Haste doesn't want either. "Too obsolete"
and "glut" were the reasons, respectively. Donation bins anywhere? I hate
to throw stuff away. Blame my Puritan ancestors.
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/18/0634/40271
# 19 Mar 2001, 11:20AM: Seeking readers of old Indian comic books:
Did you read Amar Chitra Katha?
Consistency as hobgoblin...or not!
Seth sent me info that I now share with you.
I'm harried today, writing this application and filling out that financial aid paperwork so as I can go to Russia and keep getting money from the government that I perhaps deserve less than the kids down the street who go to Berkeley High School. The type of thought that makes me think Seth has a point, about government and all.
I spent the massive majority (definitely not a silent one!) of my weekend with my family. No one makes chai like my mom. Er, no one makes chai as my mom does.
As we passed through the Valley of the Windmills (near Livermore, CA) yesterday, my sister and I discussed how ominous they looked. We settled on "sinister," though "pernicious" was also discussed. "No, pernicious is evil that's hard to get rid of," I said. "Like corruption in India." The (until last week) defense minister of India, George Fernandes, has been implicated in a bribery scandal -- he didn't take any bribes, but his underlings did.
George Fernandes? I didn't know there were high-up Hispanics in India. Note also that the leader of the oposition party in India was born and raised in Italy, and is really only powerful because she married into the long-ruling family of the country. Indians still kill outcastes who try to get educations, yet ethnic non-Indians are okey-dokey in the highest offices in the land. Sigh. I hate inconsistency. And this isn't just a breaking of a "foolish consistency," so don't quote Emerson at me.
When I was younger, I read part of "Self-Reliance" and thought that Emerson had written: "A foolish consistency is the *hemoglobin* of little minds." I thought it performed a useful function for those small-minded people! Oxygen, iron circulation, that sort of thing! And maybe I was right, figuratively.
Consistency. Which reminds me: Seth's updates! He told me that:
- A story exists that Kurt Godel called the U.S. Constitution internally inconsistent, and thus refused to become a citizen.
- Few or no science fiction stories of which Seth is aware) contain descriptions of political systems on Earth dominated by extraterrestrials. However, the short story "The Limits of Trooghaft" is an allegory of domination; Troogs master Earth and eat humans until protests arise, beginning with a Troog student.
- "Corporations can't vote because they aren't citizens; not all persons are citizens." As well, the census counts only "natural persons" (humans).
Thank you, Seth. You get a cookie.
A shout-out: Anyone out there ever read "Amar Chitra Katha" comic books?
They are and were comics that presented Hindu mythology and Indian
culture/history in a children-friendly format. I have at least a hundred,
probably, including the Mahabharata -- all 42 issues! AND the
Poll: My favorite Indian mythological artifact
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/19/112033/302
# 20 Mar 2001, 05:49AM: Three, two, one, impress me!:
Happy birthday, Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mr. Rogers.
Alien domination yet again, and a request for info re: speed dating.
I'm not very happy with my life right at the moment, but seeing as my apartment is unnaturally clean and today is the first day of spring and possibly the nicest day (weatherwise) I've had for a year, I feel ungrateful.
Alexei Othenin-Girard and I had a very nice conversation yesterday, in which we discussed Harry Potter, the fractal indices of go and chess, and his upcoming trip to Japan. Alexei informed me that there are at least two science-fiction/fantasy universes in which aliens dominate Earth and we have a clue of the resultant political system.
- The Xenogenesis series (beginning with Dawn) by Octavia Butler. I've heard of her, as possibly the most prominent African-American sci-fi/fantasy writer.
- Some intricately involved cosmology devised by some military man who burned most of his work at his death, and whose name/pseudonym Alexei could only recall as "Cordwainer" something.
Thank you, Alexei. You also get a cookie.
Incidentally, Alexei was also the one to tell me that I was calling a judo
move "the 'friend' throw." More details if requested.
Who out there thinks speed-dating is a good idea? Anyone tried it? Is it
more effective/enjoyable in ethnic subgroups, such as
Jews/Italians/Indians, than in multiethnic populations? How tough would a
speed-dating event be to set up? I assume all you need is a large room and
chairs-and-such and publicity. (A few months ago, I heard on NPR about the
speed-dating fad among Jews in New York.)
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/20/174917/398
# 21 Mar 2001, 01:56AM: A phone-thrower!:
I didn't know that Governor Gray Davis has a legendary temper. I heard today that he (at least once) threw a phone at an intern when he was mad. (The make and model of the phone were not available at press time. And that seems to make a difference to me -- not that I sanction phone-throwing, but come on, a little Nokia cell makes no dents, as opposed to heaving the conference-calling equipment across the room.)
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/21/135647/387
# 22 Mar 2001, 03:16AM: Too...many...choices!:
Vagina Monologues v. DeCadence concert v. Homework
Could I help the electricity crunch?
Tonight, I could go to the Vagina Monologues at 8 pm (free), or I could go to the DeCadence spring concert at 7:30 pm ($5), or I could stay home and do homework (free).
I've been wanting to see TVM, but I love a number of songs that DeCadence does (e.g., "Pop Nightmare" and "Mario Brothers Theme"), yet I really should get some Russian done.
I'll probably go see The Vagina Monologues. 8 pm in either 145 or 155 Dwinelle Hall at UC Berkeley.
Tomorrow will be my last day of classes before Spring Break. My DE-Cal
class will finish up talking about Stephenson's The Diamond Age, and
soon move on to some Asimov and James Morrow ("City of Truth").
Yesterday we talked about comparing international relations and
interpersonal relations, as well as what organizing principle might make a
sucessful "phyle." Example: a weird dream I had Tuesday night.
I wish I could set up some sort of equipment in my apartment to power,
say, my computer or something via, say, a stationary bicycle.
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/22/151642/366
# 23 Mar 2001, 04:34AM: So I didn't do the socially conscious thing.:
No "Vagina Monologues" for me: I went to the DeCadence concert last night, and boy was it fun! I got to hear "Pop Nightmare" and "Super Mario Brothers," but what's more, I got to hear their rendition of the "All Your Base" song.
My musings on the implications, below.
In-jokes: I only learned about the All Your Base fad a few weeks ago, through a Techspolitation column by Annalee Newitz (somewhat affiliated with UC Berkeley) in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. But it strikes me as funny, and I felt no qualms about laughing at the skit and song last night.
But I have that same old hypocritical attitude about exclusivity, and in-jokes: I love it when I get it, and I hate it when I feel like an outsider. Just as others do.
But last night, there were lots of laughs -- not many people DIDN'T get the joke, I think. Just today I opened the latest SmartAss, the newspaper of the Cal Berkeley Democrats [sic]. (Do they have a Redundancy Minister of Redundancy?) Back page ad: Black background. CATS figure on top, Nader pic on the bottom. In the middle: "All Your Voter Base Are Belong To Us."
How exclusive is this? It's mainstream, I think. Never going to be on "Friends," but maybe Conan O'Brien will mention it, or has. Heck, Jay Leno has probably already used it in a monologue, it's so mainstream. Time magazine did an article on it.
And the in-crowd disappears. The in-crowd can't survive without an out-crowd, can't survive if everyone gets the knowing wink.
Today is Cal's Charter Day, an anniversary of the founding of UC. The UC Men's Octet and such musical institutions sang and played patriotic Cal songs. The fight songs usually mention Stanford. We define our Self by opposing it to the Other. And that means that we deny the things about us that we hate, saying they're characteristics of that Other. Oh, we're not snobby, that's Stanford. We're diverse, not like Stanford. We have rigorous classes and hard-working students, not like Stanford.
Someone set up me the bomb....and it was myself.
Class today: the Primer in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, why it's effective, and how we can use technology to improve education.
Things to do over Spring Break: worry about the Russia trip, catch
up on Russian, work on two different research projects, start an essay on
a film from 1939 and some associated text(s) from the same year, and catch
up with a few high-school friends, if possible.
Or... I could read a whole lot of sci-fi and watch game shows,
sitcoms, "The West Wing," "The Practice," and "Bill Nye the Science Guy."
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/23/16341/7136
# 25 Mar 2001, 02:34AM GMT+5:30: Books for Spring Break:
I have now finished Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I finished The Amber Spyglass less than 24 hours after I received it.
More: Nancy Kress and irritating MS errors.
Last night I went to Black Oak Books in north Berkeley, and bought all three books comprising Nancy Kress's Beggars series. I read the novella Beggars in Spain about two months ago, and was gladdened & surprised to learn that she had expanded it into a book, and that the book was the first of a trilogy. Three Kresses and The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West (for my "Political Theory: American Movies and American Society, 1939" class with intellectual badass Prof. Rogin), all for $11.34.
I really ought to go to the northern outskirts of Berkeley more often. Black Oak is there, as is the Cheese Board Collective (which sells good pizza, I've heard), and other neat eateries.
Gosh, this sounds like an entry Seth would write.
Servers that use IIS (I think) give, it seems, more aggravating error messages to visitors than other servers. For example, if I try to get to a main page by chopping off the end of a URL (example), then I get "The Virtual Directory does not allow contents to be listed," which oddly reminds me of the quote from "The Simpsons": "Disco Stu does not advertise."
On the way to Black Oak, on the 43 AC Transit bus, I saw the flowers. There's a little shrine now, marking the spot where a pedestrian got killed at Hearst and Shattuck.
Be careful, everyone.
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/25/143448/131
# 27 Mar 2001, 11:55AM GMT+5:30: Kress & speciation:
Argh. Here I am, trying to soak up enough DMV information to please them, and sneaking away to read Nancy Kress's Beggars Trilogy ten or twenty pages at a time, and now I've been trying to make a Wintel box perform like something better than the dadblamed spit-and-baling-wire contraption that it is. So, for those I haven't emailed in a few days, apologies; I'll get to you soon. *kicks CPU*
I'm on the third book, Beggars Ride. I read too fast; I always have. I used to think it was a good thing, a secret pride, that I read faster than others. Now I see that it keeps me from really nailing the things about a text that make me uncomfortable, until I've given in to the author's assumptions and uncritically accepted her logic.
Examples: Jennifer Sharifi is a fanatic, and she's a Muslim. Kress engages in discourse with the work of Ayn Rand, especially in the first and second books, and yet she's dropped only one tantalizing reference to any of Rand's work, and even that obscure. And a few weak spots -- in the second book, especially -- remind me of the worst aspects of Atlas Shrugged: the deterministic plotting based on characteristics, not characters; implausible philosophical soliloquies and dialogues; complete moral condemnation of a class.
That said, Kress plausibly explores the speciation, through genetic modification, of humans.
Long ago, I was at Black Oak Books with Anirvan and...Greg? Mike? What was the name of that guy from the other side of my cubicle, back when I was at Innomedia? Anyway, we ate at Cha-Am afterwards, I remember, and Anirvan and I talked ancient Hindu mythology, courtesy of Amar Chitra Katha, as Mike (?) ate on, silently bewildered and bemused.
But more importantly, we all went to Black Oak to hear Paulina Borsook, author of the then-recently-published Cyberselfish. The question-and-answer period included discussion of the Bionomics (think Biology+Economics) Institute, which predicted (I think I heard) speciation of humans within 200 years.
I thought I sensed the room go quiet for a moment.
Now, I imagine the Bionomics people were speaking of the scientific definition of speciation. As I remember from ninth-grade biology
(Mr. Porter's class, his windbreaker with his collar up, last I heard he was coaching the water polo team at UOP, the squish and strange hard shiny flexibility of frog parts, winning the Bone Challenge for my team, a t-shirt color-coding my anatomy,
his surprising gentle knowing that I needed to cry after I didn't win any points for my classmates in the biweekly classwide Challenge of the chapter tests, his dropping the femur that comprised a hall pass onto my desk so that I could run across Senior Circle to the Business building restroom to sob, his telling me that I didn't have to be Clarence Darrow)
, speciation is the divergence of two species so far apart that a member from each cannot mate to produce an offspring who can also have viable offspring. (So K'Eylar, Worf's mate, should have been sterile!)
But Kress is more concerned, I think, with cultural speciation. As is Asimov in the Foundation and Robots serieses. Earthers and Spacers, donkeys and Livers and Sleepless and SuperSleepless. The gated communities and the COPS trailer parks, core and periphery. Is the speciation already here?
As long as there is social mobility, up and down and sideways and
east and west and full-circle, then we are one people, we humans. To the
extent that someone is not part of my "we," my tribe, to that extent she
may as well be a different species.
And --thank you Borsook, Kress, Card, Asimov, teachers -- genetic
speciation will only heighten cultural speciation, not start it.
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/27/235555/369
# 28 Mar 2001, 05:07AM: Live, from Spring Break, Brain wanes:
In which the writer contemplates with horror her popular cultural literacy, resolves to rejoin the elite, and spews her first thoughts upon finishing the Beggars trilogy by Nancy Kress.
I've been having rather disturbing dreams about an emotional situation that I thought I'd resolved.
My sister and I always did like the character of Richard (the cynical artist) on "Caroline and the City" best. I caught a rerun today. It sort of seemed as though he had a British accent, but only for a second.
I should eat more asparagus.
I saw a description of a "Friends" episode recently. Monica and Chandler are getting married? What?! And the second-level response: what am I doing caring about the characters on a sitcom?!
Yes, I watched the Oscars, and cursed myself the morning after for giving in to a Daniel Boorstin-type pseudoculture media event. It's scary thatI used to consider myself less mass-media-influenced than the average American bear -- then I caught myself watching the Academy Awards, and caring who won, and realizing that the names and faces of movie stars were more recognizable to me than the names and faces of high school friends and acquaintances. How conditioned am I that I relax, reassured, when I see Julia Roberts's face? I'm creeped out.
I should read The Economist more often.
I finished Beggars Ride. Give me a few days to think about it. But, a preliminary note: the one who has no stake in The System does not, consequently, necessarily have power. The beggar is only unfettered, not enhanced by isolation.
Note to self: Check when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is
playing at the local cineplex, so that my mom, my neighbor and I can go
see it today.
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/28/17742/2342
# 29 Mar 2001, 02:32AM: President Barlet, and April Fool's Day:
Today, my mother and I spoke about "The West Wing" and nuclear power. Ergo, today's poll.
Today, I think I'm seeing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon again.
Do people actually pull elaborate April Fool's pranks anymore? Please
comment below. I'd especially like to know about your personal
Poll: "The West Wing": Why is it so popular?
- Great acting
- Good plots
- It makes us feel 133t
- It's the liberal's X-Files (I Want to Believe)
- My TiVo is broken
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/29/143230/286
# 30 Mar 2001, 11:27AM: Where does the track end? Can I stumble without falling?:
Saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Comb today, as my sister and my cousin call it. It was pretty disorienting to come out from that movie into a bright, bustling cineplex lobby. There should really be a little darkish room to enter after movies like that, a transition point between the film's world and the physical world, to ponder the deeper questions. But then again, there aren't many action blockbusters that actually create wonder. Most philosophical films are rentable. You're not missing much when you see Clerks on a small screen.
Today, a long ramble about myself and feelings of inadequacy.
I feel as though I have only begun the world of learning skills, rather than subjects. And I feel completely unprepared. It takes a different method and a different attitude, a more forgiving frame of mind, to learn judo or Russian or driving, than it does to learn history. I hate making mistakes, and it's difficult for me to conceive of some sort of learning that includes mistakes. I think I especially dislike making mistakes in front of others, more so than all the seemingly relaxed people I see who almost never make mistakes, but when they do, can laugh it off. I really don't like people seeing me do something at which I feel I am no good. And I feel alone in feeling this way, the deep embarrassment and shame that makes a lump rise in my throat just remembering it. (I took one semester of judo. I cried too many times.)
It's unusual that I should feel this, I think, since I'm pretty outgoing and enjoy public speaking. Heck, I teach twice a week! I enjoy the stage! I'm practically an exhibitionist!
But I guess this is all of a piece. Just as people who can laugh off their public mistakes learn from them better, and thus make fewer of them, I clamp up and panic every time I slip up, so I can't learn from them. And I just stick to what I know, and what I do well.
And I never get anywhere.
Or do I? Is it a crime to enjoy the familiar, to not be a pioneer? Is it not noble to be the anchor and the infrastructure that allows someone else to venture forth into danger and innovation?
Oh, well. I feel dissatisfied wherever I am. I see flaws, and feel trapped, and remember (in the shower) those lines from the end of Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis: I've never done one thing I've wanted to my whole life.
I can't hear myself for all the voices in my head. How can it be that everyone else is so fine and dandy and independent and I'm the only one drowning in other people's expectations?
I wrote a poem back in high school -- where is it? -- And The Track Goes On Forever. (Morose, no?) Ah, yes. Tiger Pause, 1997 edition. Also featuring my Just Another Stereotypical Love Poem, and Bookmarks by Mike Parsons (as with all his work, I find more in it each time I read it). Anyway, as I was saying. Page 49.
Fun - playfulness - light joy - relief from consequences
I used to remember what that was.
They say life is a marathon, not a dash.
But I take fifth place in both.
To try to prep for the Olympics, I pace the oval of the track.
Others zoom ahead - are they cheating?
Or am I just not good enough?
And I want to fall down and sob
Because the track goes on forever
And I am no one, never have been, never will be
And the track swallows me as it swallows us all
And I've been sleep-deprived for three years
Because they are always ahead, always ahead
And it sort of ends like that too.
But now I've looked through my old high school literary magazine, and laughed. How unendingly bummed-out we seem! When, in fact, I can recall laughing at least once each day. I remember organizing that poetry festival, "Fire and Water," my senior year, and trying to arrange it so that there were non-downer poems separating the angsty ones, so that we would have no long stretches containing only literary-pretention suburban teen whines. Sure, I wrote bad teen poetry, and so did all these people. The important thing is getting better, and knowing I'm getting better, and allowing myself to feel good about that.
I think I'll submit this and go watch "Popular."
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/30/232713/418
# 31 Mar 2001, 03:56AM: More morosity, & some hope:
I've no anchor, and no mainsail.
Women's work is never done.
Maybe if I weren't so fearful--
maybe I could have more fun.
"Time is out of joint"? -- no, the place. Sometimes I feel as though I
have no sense of place, of permanent home. So perhaps it's more that the
space-time is out of joint.
Tasks v. chores. It has long been observed that men (traditionally)
perform tasks, while women do chores. Women are the maintenance crew, the
infrastructure that allows all the other stuff to happen. And I'm pretty
sure I'd like to be a guy here. Laundry and dishes and such sort of soothe
me, since I know how to do them. I can master the art of dishwashing. But
I'd really like to do something that stays done. And that is the
promise of art. Remember the end of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita?
Art is the only way that you and I can live forever, my Lolita. (I
wish I had Lolita with me. What a great book.)
Senate confirmation hearings. Perhaps it is not such a good philosophy
to life a life continually in fear of the future. Perhaps it does not make
for a worthwhile life if I ask myself before every risk, "What if this
comes up in my Senate confirmation hearings?"
Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/3/31/155628/565
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