atolnon: (Default)
( Sep. 20th, 2017 09:52 am)
I've been falling behind a bit on my textual work - writing, reading and notating, and that kind of stuff - because I've been either engaged with having the occasional bout of a social life or doing the season's last of the yard work. I've said it before - my yard's unruly. It takes an incredible amount of my time to deal with. Since it's drifted into September, though, even while the weather is still often pretty warm, it's a lot easier. There was a whole month where the weather was 100+ and that shit was totally unbearable. When I got work done out there (else suffer dire consequences), it was whatever I could do before 7 or 8 and the temperature started pushing 90.

In the last month, I spoke with my old thesis committee and all three agreed not just to serve as a reference for future academic postings, but also to write letters of recommendation should those be needed. It was genuinely a relief to see in writing that all of them were willing to attach their name to mine, and additionally so to see their enthusiasm for it. I know it's possible to fake that, but they're all pretty genuine people who've had few (if any) hesitations in letting their opinions known about work I've done - even though they've always been polite, they've been straightforward, so I believe them when they say they're behind me.

Very lately, though, there's been an unexpected and positive turn of events, where a position is extremely likely to open up and the person in the position now was asked (more or less) to put forth a recommendation on who they'd like to see interviewed and take up the job. Although I only know them through a mutual acquaintance, I was volunteered and I'm a very strong candidate for the position. I'm not putting any weight on it, but without getting into specifics, it seems very likely I could end up with the job - especially if there aren't any stronger candidates. The current holder of the job doesn't have an advanced degree and I do, as well as pertinent practical experience. It's not academic at all, which feels more disappointing than I thought it would, but it pays 3-4 times what I'd make as an adjunct and more than twice as much as the most I've ever made at my most lucrative former positions.

Although it felt unbelievable to consider at first, I'm forced to remember that I'm in my early 30's now, and I'm fast approaching my mid-30s. (See you in November, mid-30s.) I have a Master's degree and years of relevant job experience in a few different fields. It's not actually unreasonable to believe that a job I would find at this point in time would pay a comparable wage or salary.

I have to admit feeling some actual guilt about the possibility of accepting a non-academic job, if only because I've been in communication with professors I've really respected, lately, and it seems a little like a bait and switch, where I said I'd be teaching and that I'd be on site, probably, and then I'd take the first private sector job I found - but the state of academic jobs in the region is precarious AT BEST, and they pay poorly. The jobs I was able to find posted pay per contact hour (of which there simply aren't many direct contact hours per class) as opposed to being a staff position - that is, guest lecturer or adjunct. And like, the adjunct life is not a particularly easy one.
atolnon: (Default)
( Sep. 5th, 2017 02:43 pm)
It's obviously been busy because it's always busy, but this one involved the trip to the Chicago area and then an immediate 180 degree turn to head back in this direction. Friday was an early morning, and rapidly heading out of the house to pick up our friend, and pretty much everything went wrong. We had to get air and gas, and the pumps were out at several of the stations we tried, and then even though we were running late, our friend really didn't have his stuff together, and we functionally had to help him totally repack at the spur of the moment.

Difficulties snowballed, and instead of getting back to a hotel to rest at about 2-3 like we planned, it ended up being about 7:30, with us being totally exhausted. Instead of doing any reading and swimming, we just ate and went to bed. Saturday was easier, but it was still a 5 hour drive back with a slightly later start than on Friday, so we ended up with both of our days completely dissolved to this task. However, you know, the upside is that the bulk of our expenses were reimbursed and otherwise the poor sap would have ended up in some nowhere hole of a town - it's just a relief that it's done.
atolnon: (Default)
( Aug. 28th, 2017 09:39 am)
I think that the sheer anger that straight men feel (and express) when they realize a woman is a lesbian replicates, in some way, the false consciousness of the capitalist structure.

When he sees a woman, he imagines for some reason that he could, in theory, “have” her. Nevermind that she wants nothing to do with him. Nevermind that he is maybe already involved with someone else. Nevermind that there are literally millions of other women in the world that he might choose to associate and would happily associate with him. Nevermind that he did not even want to be involved with her until he knew he couldn’t not just because she’s not interested at the baseline, but because she is pretty much categorically unavailable.

Don’t we see this dynamic represented when spaces are denied to men? Places they had no interest in until they weren’t allowed to be there?

Patriarchy is older than capitalism, but capitalism replicates patriarchy, in that it is a hierarchy with limited space at the pinnacle, but many men imagine themselves (like the divine chain of being) as being at their own smaller peak. They are less concerned with their material condition than they are with a theoretical potential to possess (nevermind that you can’t or shouldn’t try to “possess” a person!).

So the man sees a lesbian. (Notice I don’t say straight or even bi, because I have seen even gay men replicate this behavior from time to time. This is because it has nothing to do with desire for the woman herself, but anger about not being able to have something - desire is fixed only on power of possession.) It is being enraged at a category existing that limits the privilege of position that isn’t assigned by him, but it selected by the woman, instead.

How does this replicate capitalism’s false consciousness? (Or maybe the other way around, how does capitalism adopt the demeanor of the patriarch?) The man will imagine that, potentially, given a certain lucky break where his worth is recognized, he could eventually have access to everything, regardless of whether he wants it - it is power he desires.

It may be that the old idea of the divine chain of being allows this false consciousness to exist, because it tiers absolute authority in within a rigid heirarchy where so long as you are socially ‘above’ and you are not rebuffed by your social ‘better’ your command is absolute. Capitalism just removes god from the top and replaces it with class, derived from wealth, though old ideas about families and god still linger in our society, making this idea messier than the simple model I’ve got here.
atolnon: (Default)
( Aug. 15th, 2017 10:22 am)
I’ve been bone tired since Friday and, to be honest, I’m not doing all that much better now, but I’ve at least had a chance to let my head settle on Saturday and I’m at my computer (which I wasn’t, before), so I can take some time to give the nazi riot some thought.

Pretty primary to my thoughts has been the ACLU’s degree of culpability for the riot taking place at all, and the traditional stance the ACLU tends to take. My thoughts on them are a lot more complicated than “burn them down,” or “liberals get a bullet, too.” (Which I've seen, and seems deeply worrying.)

The same attitude I tend to have towards riots which is that you wouldn’t expect a riot ever to be sanctioned by the state for almost any reason because the state, as a system, will have a hard time taking into account the reason for an action, and tends only to respond to the action itself. The riot might be justified, and one might be ethically and morally in the right to participate, but moral doesn’t equal legal. In the same way, legally, the nazis might have the right to assemble, but it’s not really moral to allow them to - they’ve exploited an edge case in the freedom to assemble. In this case, the law seems to act immorally, though it’s acting amorally. Or, actually actually, it’s not acting at all - people are.
Here we get to the crux of the matter. I think, for example, that the law being what it is, probably should have (as it did) allow the nazis to assemble, because that’s technically how the law works and, again, technically, as soon as they started chanting pretty much any of the stuff they chanted or doing pretty much anything that they did, they should have been immediately removed from the premises, because they were engaging in clear hate speech. At pretty much any point, the counter-protestors would have been morally and ethically in the clear to engage them directly, in order to remove them from public space, but their actions may not have necessarily been legal.

The ACLU is not the law, which I think is important. Their pretence is to hold up a certain ideal for free speech which I think they think is a neutral and apolitical stance - that is, to uphold the right of the nazis to assemble. But as a private organization who understands the right to assemble, they also get to determine where their money goes in the pursuit of advocacy.

As we know, the ACLU is not actually a neutral party. First, because even the pretence of neutrality does tend to take a side with whatever the status quo is - and directing funds removes the pretence. They can say that they will direct their funds to any case, but that’s not really correct - they’re forced to pick and choose all the time, if only because they can only advocate for cases they know about. Second, because there are periods of time within the history of the organization that they have explicitly come out against left-wing figures or refused advocacy to them. As an organization spanning many years, it’s understandable to see the way the organization itself acts as something that will change, but the history is nevertheless apart of the organization as long as it is, in itself, continuous. It cannot rely on the weight of its history as a validation of its integrity and also ignore its previous actions in support of white supremacy and against, say, communism. It must at least acknowledge these things as being a lapse in the character of the organization - and it doesn’t do that.

And so we see the ACLU take a position that tends to favor white supremacy, whether it intends to be that way or not. That is the character of its actions.

This is what I perceive as being one of the great liberal failings in the pursuit of free association and speech. I am strongly in support of these things, but I am also aware that one cannot allow principle to exist without a strict attention to individual situations, using one’s knowledge of how the system that one has built or exists withing against it. In this case, the fascist is deeply aware of the flaws in the liberal ideology of the debate or else, “the talking social cure” - the idea that every problem can be solved through discussion (as if the liberal society does not make heavy use of coercive police or military actions!). In this case, the ACLU, if its principles do indeed set it against the actions of white supremacy, fascism, and nationalism, should refuse its services on behalf of the nazis.

Consider, especially, that as soon as they would take power, the ACLU would be - at best! - disbanded. At worst, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

I think it might be fair to say that their ideology does bear out in some ways. Even if the nazis didn’t succeed in hurting anyone - and many were beaten, including Deandre Harris, while Heather Hayer was murdered and 19 others hospitalized - the event would have been a terrible failure for the nazis. However, the threat of death and injury at the hands of white supremacist nationalists is clearly real and the way the police acted in this situation compared to how they react to BLM (for example) demonstrates their institutional bias. When it comes to the ACLU, they should weigh the real, physical violence that occurs in regards to human lives against the principle of providing material support to groups we know are actually nazi fronts.
I strongly hope that this causes them to reconsider their position. I feel like they were in the wrong, here, and uncritical support for them is flawed. If you disagree with this position, I do understand. I'm not sure this is where I'm going to stand indefinitely, since my feelings change. I know that the principle of free speech is a very powerful one and my criticism of the ACLU isn't a full throated denunciation - I just think that it's problematic. Though, in the same way, so is my position.
atolnon: (Default)
( Aug. 9th, 2017 03:56 pm)
Six days after the last entry, I'm very tired. We've gotten almost everything straightened out and, actually, the situation is better than any of my predictions for once. Our friend's living situation is still kind of deplorable - his mother left him no plates, no dishes, no microwave, pots, or pans (in fact, she stole some that we had bought for him), no television (not a surprise, frankly), no toaster, no lamps or lighting of any kind, nor food, soap, or cleaning agents. His uncle, who's the executor of the estate (because his mother is literally useless) helped though, by giving him the family's LINK card and what was in his father's account - something it seems as though he was entitled to access. We went up there yesterday to buy him other things that would be taxing for him to get on his own, but it was a relief that it didn't all have to come out of our pretty scanty funds.

In other good news, Ruaner failed in preventing the Illinois senate from passing a budget as they overrode his veto, and Kay finally got last year's MAP grants, which are very welcome. I spent some time in Edwardsville yesterday, which is something of a drive, putting in a resume to a cafe there. One worker there has put in a good word for me and another long-time former worker is a reference. I'd prefer to work something more lucrative and closer, but get work where you can find it. I'm really only available part-time at the moment, so better work is likely to elude me for a little while.
atolnon: (Default)
( Aug. 3rd, 2017 07:00 am)
The anxiety comes and goes. Admittedly, it's been kind of a tough week, though. We had an acquaintance who had been pulled out of school at the tail end of high school by his parents and not allowed to graduate - which was a few years ago, now - who we were encouraging to get a GED and try to enroll for Fall Semester. He missed the deadline, his father unexpectedly died, and now his uncle is trying to strongarm both him and his mother into moving out of state, to the middle of nowhere, and finally cutting of any other support structures he's managed to develop.

He's financially dependant, but not a minor, though any attempt he's made at autonomy has been aggressively undermined. They're looking to move over the weekend, but he's been working with us to stay behind and move elsewhere. The plans are solidifying quickly, but there are things we don't know yet that we need to know, and that, unsurprisingly, introduces complications I'm not comfortable with.

This is a thing that happens from time to time. Someone needs to go somewhere else, which is perfectly normal, but because some of the people in the equation are... erratic, you have to keep it quiet within the existing social unit. That gets really stressful.

Kay's working long hours this week, and one of our cars is in the shop, so it's not really possible for me to run errands, and I had been trying to play Metal Gear: Solid with Kay around, but that's not really happening. Since I'm by myself, then, depending on what I feel like, I'm either treating Fallout 4 like an intense dollhouse building session or playing Persona 2: Innocent Sin. Fallout's been getting the most play, because it's pretty mindless, and I'm mostly playing when I don't have the energy to do much else. IS reminds me what an intentional grind the franchise, and anything else by Atlas, tends to be.

The early Persona's were very much a product of a certain design philosophy by Atlas - people complain about the grind, but it might be better to think of the series as a kind of Jungian Pokemon. The high encounter rate and fiddly nature of the earlier games are intentionally designed to facilitate collecting demons and leveling them up, and the game encourages talking to every single person by including unique dialogue for all of them, so most of the game is spent not advancing the plot but systematically moving from one place to the other and interacting with every person in the city, then grinding equipment and collecting persona.

Obviously, this is a play style that doesn't mesh with everyone - even most people, frankly. People signed up for the character development over time and trippy plots, and were unhappy at the mechanical repetitiveness of the series. I don't think, then, that the game designers went in the wrong direction starting with Persona 3. They retained an emphasis on talking to everyone, but they put the game on a timer and redesigned it with a dating sim feel in mind. I haven't played 5 yet, even though I have it. By all accounts, it's very good. It's not that I don't appreciate playing through the early games - it's sort of a legacy game that I'm doing to have played the whole series - by I think that it's the kind of thing that younger players would have less patience for, and I don't blame them.
atolnon: (Default)
( Aug. 1st, 2017 10:26 am)
It's tough to know if I'll get hired, but it's August, so if I'm picked up for a position at the local community college, I'll know in about a week. If I do, I'll have about a week to prepare, which seems normal. I've been of the mind that it's very difficult to be sure, but with funding as low as it's been, it's dicey, so I'm not emotionally tied to the prospect of hiring - I'll give it a week, and look for something else. That's not optimal, but it is what it is. I think Kay is (or was) a lot more certain that I'd get a position because there are a lot of positions that need to be filled and not really a tremendous number of applicants, but not all of those positions can expect to be filled. Budgeting in Illinois was so dire that prior to this semester and the budget being passed (after an initial veto from the governor), a lot of classes were removed from the roster.

Frankly, there are a lot of teachers not being hired this semester, even though demand is there. Although public academia is increasingly operating from the logic of capital, public institutions don't get the bulk of their income from enrollment, so just because a lot of people need a class doesn't mean it will end up being posted. That said, I don't actually know. I'm just kind of putting it out there because I told people I was sending my CV out and actively looking for positions, and then they took it as a given that I'd receive a position, and that's genuinely not how it works. That's not like... being negative, or anything, though I have been accused of negativity based on that. I don't know a more straightforward way to put it.

I spent spring and early summer reading a lot. There's a good possibility that I slept on my deadlines too long, and that comes a lot from focusing on what was directly in front of me to keep from dropping into a bad depression. I think, if that's the case, than I didn't necessarily make the wrong choice in terms of strict priorities, but it was very much all I could do to stay marginally functional. Winter and spring were very difficult for me, and I honestly have no idea why. I couldn't sleep, I had a hard time focusing, and they were still better seasons for me than the tail end of my thesis writing. The problem, I think, wasn't the thesis itself, but the deep financial insecurity we were facing coming out of that period.

I wanted to talk about some of the stuff I had read, and what I was up to, but I guess I feel pretty nervous about my immediate future, and I feel guilty for having spent time not actively trying to look for work during this time period I was having a hard time functioning. Instead, I have to tell myself that even if one thing doesn't work out right this moment, if I look for it, something else could very well come up, and that's what I'll do until I can find what I want or need.
I suppose I posted pretty regularly, last week, but mostly just notes and not personal stuff. I've taken on a few too many new projects and I'm having trouble juggling them - this'll probably get worse if/when I take on my teaching position - but I'm going to try to keep at all of them rather than drop them at this point because I technically ought to have the time to manage them and a few of them are likely to simply end up complete if I keep plugging away at them. I have my CV in at the local college, and I'm told that several instructors in the humanities/communications dept of which English is a part look forward to me starting there. It's not a special position - they need to fill slots for composition - so the odds are reasonably good, but nothing's sure. I have everything I need to post my application to other schools and universities, so from here on out, you'll know if I know, but there's nothing else to say.

Writing on vaporwave continues. I promised someone I'd write a short academic essay on the comic phenomenon of "Gramfel," which I'm actually pretty in to, but this shouldn't take a super-long time. Nobody actually expected that I'd do it - Kay and my plan is to have me write a real essay, Kay will take that essay and create a Buzzfeed style listicle on the essay complete with gifs, and then we'll print out the listicle with the gifs totally frozen and out of context, and delivery *that* as the final product. In order for the joke to be really funny, you have to really do the whole thing.

Do you want to hear some reasonably good news? My friend had gifted me with a second monitor that she was trying to get rid of because she didn't need or have space for a three monitor setup, and I ended up with it - plus a new speaker set - that I simply had no space to set up yet, even though I really wanted it. My desk was just too goddamn small. In fact, although my desk has reliably served me for, like, 7 years, which is a pretty good lifetime for a knockoff Sauder piece, it's not really designed for the kind of work I do. It's more appropriate as a casual computer desk or a teenager's writing desk. But yesterday, Kay casually checked IKEA's website to discover that there was something like a 20% off sale on desks and I could get one I was looking for at the price of about $200 - so saving about 50 bucks - so we drove out and picked it up pretty quickly. It took most of the evening to get it and then set it up, but it's between three and four times the size of my current desktop. Even with losing the shelf space, it's much better. So now we're checking to see if we can find someone to take the old desk, because it's still fine - just a bit small.

So, that's nice. It's not really the best time to spend the money, but it never really is, and it's been difficult trying to get work done in this house, on this platform.
Many of the problems we face, in terms of the environment, even if they're not explicitly caused by capitalism, are made worse by capitalism and can't be solved while capitalism is the dominant economic structure we employ globally.

For example: almost any economic structure allows for manufacturing at some level, and they certainly allow for agriculture. These are major problems we have to face - how do we produce the things we need to live without overtaxing our environment? However, it's capitalism that's driven to produce in excess of need, or even want, because capitalism's development cycle is shark-like - it must always grow and never stop production, or the entire system collapses. That's how we've ended up with planned obsolescence and the concept of infinite growth.

I actually do think, in theory, that population growth is a problem - but the problem isn't really with "developing nations" (which is a Western, capitalist projection, anyhow) but with industrialized nations attempting to maintain population growth. (Which tends to taper off naturally, anyhow. We should let it.) But the reason it's a problem isn't an issue of living space, or even food production, but mostly, as I see it, water. And it's not drinking water that's the problem (it's a problem for people, but not a growth problem), but it's a problem with first-world industrial manufacturing turning people into faceless sales numbers.

We literally cannot solve environmental crises under the capitalist mode of production, because the capitalist mode of production cannot allow itself to cease - we simply have to find different things to purchase. And, I suppose in theory, we could simply attempt to circulate cash via media consumption, but by that stage, it's pointless because the very thing that makes it possible to circulate currency via media renders currency moot - the fact that media can be created and circulated indefinitely without loss. The physical issues of storage space (servers, electricity, and so on) are miniscule.

Not only is our current economic model unsustainable, but it's completely unnecessary. We wouldn't even have to change our lives that much - knocking the pillars out of planned obsolescence, rehabbing homes, re-distributing food, and ensuring clean water solves a lot of our problems right away. Entertainment is almost free. New technologies make food cheaper and easier to produce. Solving the transportation and infrastructure problems are paramount, but absolutely possible. We can actually see capitalism disintegrate before our eyes - it's the attempt to prop it up by force that will cause the colossal loss of life that is to come.
One of the assertions I see people make when discussing the viability of vaporwave as a genre of music is that it’s comparatively very easy for people to produce tracks, and it’s often heavily based on sampling, so it’s “less music,” basically. The exact argument tends to differ right there, but that ends up being the gist of it.

The gist behind the gist is basically, “If anyone can do it pretty easily, than it’s not really good, is it?” and that’s often pointed at some fundamental degree of musical value or worth.

Like, this is actually a pretty common argument if we look at other fields. Digital art versus physical mediums, or say, photography, live music versus studio music, or craft art versus “high” art. You get into issues of complexity with the written word, too.

I wanna say that a lot of this is just about class, ultimately. That capitalism is what it is, and does what it does so well is more or less just a refinement of that in terms of method, you know? There’s a virtue in physical mediums and kinds of technical skill (of which there are different kinds - I know some very sophisticated musicians who can barely answer their email, so they’d be useless with a digital music studio - so what’s “easy” is clearly relative), but only insofar as you get the “product” you want out of the application of that skill.

So, with vaporwave, the critique that it’s easy and very accessible to people who might not have been able to make music before simply makes it very democratic along one axis.

But the argument that it’s worth less because lots of people can do it, in this environment, is made so much worse with capitalism. The reason why is pretty straightforward - we view something easy to get as comparatively cheap (in terms of access, if not money) because of skewed (or overly simplistic) notions of supply and demand. Normally you might suppose that lots of people being able to write or make music would be good, because now there’s more writing and music! Yay! But music in that mode becomes valueless (even less so because sampling issues make it almost impossible to sell, sometimes).

Thus, you know, the perverse as hell incentive to make music making harder, to keep it “valuable.” We see this in the field of education, too - you would expect that you’d want a very educated group of people and as a society, you do! But as an individual, you don’t, because that means what you can do is less valuable. It creates a sick situation where you want to be educated, and more people are getting educated, so the value of the education drops, but demand for education is very high so the price rises.

According to some crude theories of capitalism and market dynamics, this will level out when the value of education drops and people stop, say, enrolling in college because it’s not worth their time. But why do we want that? In the same way, why would we ask people to stop producing music, or make it more difficult - on the whole, doesn’t it make all of our lives better? The argument against the relative valuelessness of vaporwave is a little sick, isn’t it?
atolnon: (Default)
( Jul. 18th, 2017 08:15 am)
I’ve always been confused (and a little irritated) by the assumption that all theoretical writing is either 1: useless because it doesn’t have a visible direct application or 2: needs to be accessible to every level of readership, by itself, with little or no relation to any other work that precedes it. I know why these assumptions have come about, but they’ve really only gained traction because the critiques are usually directed by writers who are both concerned about overall accessibility and the applicability of the work in the first place.

Accessibility is important, but readership levels are going to vary, and the complexity and audience of the writing are going to vary, too. By default, not every piece of theory is going to be easily accessible to every reader.

It’s not as though an inability to read any given piece of technical theory is a moral or ethical failing. It’s not as though writing in a complex way (even an overly complex way) is a moral failing, either - unless it’s intentionally written to obscure it from non-academic readers in order to keep them out of the conversation. Typically, the worst you can say it’s that it’s a technical failing - assuming that there’s no more simple way to put it. Often it’s a space or time saving issue - it’s written for an audience that already understands a lot of this stuff, and it can be (and should be) broken down for other readerships, but this particular document really only wants to be, like, 15 pages instead of 50 and rehashing a lot of stuff assumed readers already know.

I guess I’m just thinking out loud here, but while a lot of the critique against theory complexity and applicability is meant well (and we need to keep that critique in mind!), I think there’s a certain amount that’s largely just directed at writers in order to put them in their place, and when I see them pop up on social media, there’s almost always phrased in moral terms. I even see the accusations directed at people hoping to break down complicated jargons into more accessible works, as if the act of reading the original work, in itself, is a moral failing. That seems so goddamn asinine. I almost never see people accusing STEM fields of making their top-level writing inaccessible, even though I have seen more than one instance of STEM educators and writers deliberately making their fields inaccessible as a way of washing out students they saw as undesirable.
It's been long enough, so I figured I ought to check in. I'm pushing on how many pushups and situps I can do in one session, and trying to improve flexibility and my form for dumbbell curls. I should do more cardio, and I've been thinking about enrolling at a gym or signing back up for taekwondo, but I've been out of martial arts for a really long time, now, and the old instructors are really likely to have passed the dojo on to their top student - I have no idea if he's running it or not, though, now. I'm just keeping up with daily exercises and trying to set aside time every day for it. I've missed some days, but not really all that much. I started with only a few pushups a day, and I'm up to 25 which isn't all that impressive, but it's a clear improvement.

We're into mid-July, and it's been a very slow season. I had hoped that my CV would be back a little sooner, but my friend has assured me that it should be in by this upcoming Monday. I'll send out some emails to people I've worked with in the past who can attest to my pedagogical method as references, and put my hat in the ring for a few part time adjunct positions nearby. I have it on reasonable authority that the local community college is in desperate need of an alternate instructor for Creative Writing, since they only have one instructor willing or able to teach it, and it's possible she won't be there indefinitely. And, of course, the perennial need for willing rhetoric and composition instructors.

I've managed, so far, fifteen pages of fiction which is twelve and a half thousand words, and probably as far as I've gotten into a piece of fiction since I was a child, writing by hand in a notebook or maybe in college, though the pieces I was expected to write usually clocked in shorter - especially when you factor in that I was double-spacing it before and this is single spaced copy.

This is only a draft, though, and I really expect that the for every page I write, probably more than half will eventually get cut. Everything hits the page, in whatever order it makes sense initially and I can already tell I want to re-order sections of the plot. Right now, it'd be disingenuous for me to say that it's not a story, but it's not a very good one yet. However, yeah, I do think that there's the DNA of what will eventually be a good read; it's fun to write, it's interesting to me, I do find myself invested in the characters, their faults, their virtues, and whatever. A lot of setting information hits the page that'll eventually get pulled, but what I'm feeling with that process at the moment is that I'm fleshing out the setting as I go along - I already know what it's like, but I haven't shaken out the details, so the document ends up being a combination of extrapolation, research, description, and plot. Once I have all of that, it's easier to know what you need to convey the scene, which information is important, which information the reader will want, and what's just over-explaining. The last, of course, being a classic science fiction/cyberpunk pitfall.
The 4th was intentionally uneventful - we had to be home early-ish to make sure the cats were fed and that they weren't frightened by people setting off fireworks in the neighborhood, so we went over to my dad's place at about 2:30, ate a good dinner and hung out, then watched Arrival before going home. That's become a thing I've liked - watching a movie with my dad when we come over gives us something to do other than just drink and reminisce, and he's got a bunch of movies over there that neither of us have seen because he waits for them to go on sale and snaps them up, but doesn't watch anything on his own. And I'm like... that's relatable, and I'm trying to fix that, but I imagine it's sort of like preparing a nice meal for yourself or going out to a place to eat by yourself; there's nothing wrong with it, and it can be good for you, but people view these things as group activities.

The movie itself was good. It didn't rely on cheap hooks or overused "twists," it was well-executed, and I feel like it trusted the viewership to be adults and handle the ideas it laid out on their own. It clearly derived inspiration from Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5," if you're into that kind of thing, but it felt much less cynical. I don't know how much re-watch value it has, really, but it was worth seeing at least once, I felt.

I've also just finished Nabokov's "Despair," which is short but still was tough to initially get into. I had tried twice, but the third time worked fine and it was worth getting to the end. There was something almost profound and, personally, frightening about the narrator's inability to perceive the world around him that made the book an especially powerful read at the end. I think it plays into my own very fears about my inability to determine the world around me in any objective sense - you finish the book, or you get close to the end, and you realize the depth of Nabokov's elaborate setup. The narrator himself is the criminal, intent on what he perceives to be the perfect undetectable crime, but it really is Nabokov himself that has strung you along. Like many Russian writers, I'm not sure that I can say the book was a pleasant read at all, but as psychological horror (for me) it was extremely engaging.

I'm getting through Marvel's Iron Fist, but pretty slowly. It's alright. I can't help feel like you're supposed to be mortified with Danny Rand's behavior, but that's not really entertaining to watch. His lack of discretion seems to make everything worse - like he's the poster child for entitled young white guys with a savior complex.
atolnon: (Default)
( Jul. 3rd, 2017 12:09 pm)
Writing my CV had been giving me fits for weeks. I had the relevant data, but my academic experience is pretty anemic. Being disconnected from the academic environment is bad for the career, and without any kind of mentor or guide, I was just kind of trying to hack it on my own. My work was good, yes, and I'm sure letters of recommendation and cover letters will work out well for me, but trying to figure out how to put a decent spin on a nearly non-existent academic footprint is tough. I was accepted into the grad assistant program, I taught comp rhet and tutored for grammar and rudimentary composition. I completed my thesis, which is available online, but I'm otherwise unpublished. No awards, no scholarships, no presentations - I did a lot of this on my own, and spent all my time either teaching or writing.

So, that's tough. An old friend had been offering to help with my resume/CV for a while, and I finally took him up on it. I know him well and trust his advice completely, and that's taken a huge weight off my shoulders - I'm much more confident about the results.

It's funny. My first syllabus struck fear into my heart, and now I'm not worried about it at all. I've done a dozen resumes for myself, but the nearly identical CV was paralyzing. Anxiety is not a rational actor.

Aw, hell, there was definitely something else I intended to write here, and I've totally forgot. Well, whatever - have a happy 4th, if you're in America!
atolnon: (Default)
( Jun. 27th, 2017 08:53 am)
I end up splitting my journal entries a fair amount, so I realized that my posting's been a little sparse here. Things just haven't been that exciting, to be honest, which is definitely how I prefer it for a little while. Kay's still putting long hours of work in at the office, and I'm doing sort of the very same thing here. That's not likely to change much in the near future. The hours suck, the overtime's good.

I've got a dentist's appointment in a few hours. One of the good things about getting up really early on weekdays is that if you've got somewhere to go, you've already been up all damn morning. I kind of hate driving anywhere since the accident, because my car looks like shit. It drives fine, you know? But there was some hail damage on the hood I was hoping to eventually get fixed, and then some knucklehead put something on my hood - it looks like caramel? I have no idea. You'd think it'd dissolve over time if it was, but this shit just sits there, and it seems to be impervious to water or efforts to wipe it away with a towel. Anything short of harsh chemicals seems unlikely to work, which makes me figure it was vandalism of some sort. Between that and the large dent in the ass-end of my car, it's demoralizing. Lots of people drive around with dinged up cars and I don't think anything less of them for it, but it sucks for the driver.

I've gotten the scheduling and ordering of housework down pretty well - when the laundry and dishes need to be run and when they can't, when it's a good time to sweep and mop based on cat activity, when food needs to be prepared and how long it'll take to clean up, etc. I would have preferred to do a kind of strict 9-5 schedule, but that's not really the clock a house runs on, so you find yourself taking your rec time in weird places. 9 AM, 3 PM, 8 PM, these are pretty common. Neither of us did 'housework' as our primary task, so we'd split it up and do it whenever, which mostly worked. If you do it all by yourself, you have to get into a schedule for it. I haven't actually clocked how long it takes to do, but it feels like a large part of my day is devoted to making sure it gets taken care of.

So, that's kind of what I mean. It's not exactly interesting even to me, but it takes up a lot of my time, and getting it done consistently and correctly, without exhausting me and requiring a lot of re-work has taken a pretty good amount of my energy. Like any other job you commit to doing in an organized way, it takes time to get good at it, even if you understand the constituent parts of it pretty well already. I'm still writing a page per day, which has been going well. My writing's bad - at least as an aggregate - but I think worrying about quality is common, and I haven't written fiction consistently in a long time, so I consider this practice as well as drafting.
There is a very straightforward conversation to be had in America right now. I believe that this conversation is taking place all over the world - I have no intention of putting America in the center of this global conversation - but I am speaking about America because that is where I live, that is what I know, and maybe more to the point, I feel like this is where the conversation has gone awry.

It is this: do people have a right to live?

I don’t believe in God, and so I cannot look to an external, objective source for my answer. In some ways, this inhibits me, because there is no ethical or moral tradition of moral absolutes I can draw on. If I am being extremely literal with my answer to the question, then the answer is that no, people do not have a right to live, because there is no such thing as a “right” in any objective, absolute capacity.

This is why we can ask the question at all.

That means we are forced to decide what our priorities are as a civilization. We get to make a choice. In fact, we are forced to, because even neglecting to take a position is a choice and this is the choice that allows us to turn a blind eye to the homeless, the hungry, the sick, and the refugee from violence and terror saying, in effect, that it’s not your place to make a decision.

Which is cowardice. There is no human being alive or dead who has more of a right to decide than you, right now, what your priorities are for the civilization you partake of and contribute to. There is no way out of this decision.

As a civilization and as a nation - since we are forced to make due with nations for the time - do you think that everyone should have a right to medical care, food, shelter, water, education, and from aggression?

Or do you believe we have more pressing priorities and that we should allow people we could save to die?

That’s what it comes to. That’s the first question you need to be able to answer.

I don’t really consider my writing to be polemic. I do consider it to be theory, with a practical bent, in a way. Let me put it this way - I have seen and understand the arguments people make against things like full employment, universal income, or simply making sure everyone, everywhere has food and water.

These arguments make sense. They come from a certain perspective. Some of them are oriented around the idea that poverty is the material sign of a lack of morality, or are rooted in a personal weakness. These arguments are either disingenuous - made by someone who knows that poverty originates systematically - or they’re founded in a misunderstanding of how Western society functions.

Providing you can explain that to someone who holds this opinion, what you will typically end up with is someone who retains their beliefs, but changes why it is they hold them. Exactly why this happens, I don’t know, but very often the holder of this opinion has something at stake in retaining it. Sometimes it’s material - they tangibly benefit from the system as it is. But other times, it’s the result of a deeply sick world view - this is the case when you see very poor rural whites vote against their disinterest. The morality of their suffering is, to them, rooted in the objective, absolute judgement of the divine.

These are very broad strokes, I know.

So when I write that the problem of poverty - which is a lack of good food, water, housing, transportation, power, etc - is systemic, and that system is made by humans, I’m stating that we have the power to change that system if we choose. So the question we have as a society is “what priority do we place on ending this material poverty” and not "can we eliminate this material poverty?”

Since that is our question as a society, we can essentially ask the question, “As a society, will we commit to prioritizing providing all of us the things we need for a happy and healthy life, or do we prioritize something else?”

And if you choose something else, we should admit that this is the choice that announces that we are fine with watching people die in order to make sure that other thing is upheld - and in our society, that other thing is almost always the continued profit of the very wealthiest in our society at the expense of the incredible suffering of the rest of us.
atolnon: (Default)
( Jun. 21st, 2017 07:59 am)
I've done some freewriting that I've ended up posting online - and it's usually pretty awful. I mean, you've seen most of it here, so don't worry about having missed it or anything. A lot of times, I think my gist is right, but my follow through is poor, and more often than not now, I've been trying to keep it because I wrote it and I'm trying to kind of build on that impulse in a positive way. I don't know if it's working. Life's funny like that.

In the same way that I've been trying to make a habit of not doing unhealthy things - kind of a negative habit - like eating fast food, drinking too often or too much, going to bed too late, neglecting to clean, and so on, I've started trying to build on healthy ones. So, that's like... I'm exercising daily now, which I add on to little by little, I've committed to writing one page of fiction a day. The house is staying clean. I'm trying to actively strike a balance of work and leisure, and I'm working hard to eat healthy and cut down on meat when I can. My life seems a little cluttered because adding stuff back in means I have to kind of work on rearranging my daily schedule which I have never managed to stick to. Or, I guess I do have one that I've fallen into and it's not quite what I want for myself.

My shit largely gets done, though, so... a little bit more of sticking to it, and maybe I'll get where I want to be. I know that good habits take time.

The thing about writing fiction is just that I'm not actually especially good at it. So I'll sit down to write a page, which is the minimum I've given myself so far, and I do that. But it's not very good. Maybe an individual scene is good, or maybe a paragraph is okay, or maybe a sentence is good but it doesn't lead into anything else, it doesn't connect, it's not cohesive. I really like describing things, I really like dialogue, and I'm really bad at caring about plots and I'm especially poor with transitions. These things are difficult to begin with, but I also think these issues are symptomatic of how I tend to experience the world itself, and I don't know if that's the kind of thing that seems obvious when you know me well or if there's just no way of knowing that just from observing me in the wild. But, it's whatever. I actually have a pretty bleak outlook of how much I'll accomplish with this, since very little typically comes of any of my projects, but you don't succeed at anything by not trying.
atolnon: (Default)
( Jun. 13th, 2017 11:53 am)
I've really come to appreciate digital journaling over the years. I do it in places that are typically public, and I guess I don't have to because the biggest thing I appreciate about them is the ability to quickly type something out in comparison to how long it takes to write something by hand, but I've generally felt pretty good about it regardless. Because there are, like, a minimum of three calls I'm waiting on today, and I'm going to have to almost immediately sally out to run errands after one of them, it feels better just to knock out what I'm feeling here than trying to write it out longform. It's nice to have that flexibility.

The insurance company we've been dealing with owes us about 800 dollars, and it's been like pulling teeth to get it in a timely way. In fact, I'd say that it's been months, now. We've been budgeting under the assumption that the money would come in only a little later than initially scheduled (in that we scheduled when it was supposed to come in and assumed that the bulk of it would be at least a month late) and it's later than that, even, so that's the kind of thing you'd learn from if you ever anticipated having to go through it again. Since I'm really hoping we go a truly extended period without having to simultaneously purchase a car while being the subject of a traffic accident or two, hopefully it's nothing I really have to take to heart. I think Rihanna did a song about how one tends to feel in this situation. Something about getting money one's owed.

A friend came in from way out of town and was around for the better part of a week and he managed to stop by yesterday, which was super rad. We're clearly in no shape to go out around town at the moment, so having him be willing to come by the house and have dinner here was really positive, and we were able to just sit around and shoot the shit for a few hours and have a beer before he had to go and Kay had to duck back out and go to class - since he's signed himself up for summer sessions again in order to get art feedback and design space.

Despite how low key everything was and how comparatively good things have been in general lately, last night was filled with stressful, only dimly remembered dreams and I woke up this morning feeling some pretty familiar pangs of really pointless self-loathing and depression. This stuff generally clears up in the late morning, and today was no different from usual, leaving me able to deal with the day just fine - and only be irritated at the usual need for me to sit on my hands and wait for calls from people who owe me a good bit of money so that we can pay our damn property taxes and bills in a timely goddamn way.

I have to tell you - in theory, all of the numbers line up. Providing, of course, that the numbers come in and leave at their designated times, and nobody decides to fuck up the math badly in the interim. It's not as though I do anything the should make things more difficult for us, but it hardly seems to matter sometimes. Quite honestly, the sooner we can get to the next stage of our plans where I'm earning money as well, instead of just tending to the house, the easier I'll sit.
I know some very nice Republicans.

I mean, they're nice. Being nice is important to them. They're polite. They view this as a personal issue of distinction which is, I think, generally speaking, what the problem is.

The same tends to be true of self-styled libertarians.

Now, this writing is devoted to shitting on them. In fact, I strongly disagree with them in some very fundamental ways to such a degree that I don't interact very much with people that skew much further to the right than people who understand themselves as being liberal-to-moderate. But I will generally acknowledge that, on a personal level, these people can be very... nice.

But I don't trust them very much, and I'm usually glad when they don't have the ability to make very many important decisions that impact others.

The reason why is that no matter how nice the individual is, the right-wing tends to skew ideologically towards the belief of the individual as the arbiter of their own moral authority in isolation, where the state has no call to, as they say, legislate morality. You'll often hear that in absolute terms - one can't legislate morality. This is to say, a law will not alter an internal moral state but still, I think that you'll find that this canard mostly pops up when we hope to pass some kind of law that legislates a positive change that used to be considered the province exclusively of the generous institution or individual. That is, the (a?) church or else what we would call 'charity.'

How strange that we don't consider a moratorium against murder to be some kind of moral legislation in circumstances like this.

That's the mainstream case. Of course, we must be aware at least academically that tax dollars certainly go towards paying for prevention and punishment of murder and murderers. Not to mention incarceration, at the moment. How does this not touch on the legislation of morality? Although an opposition to abortion is not universal among people who skew right in the United States, it's still a flagship issue, and the very fundamental of the argument against it is, first, an appeal to the murder of a baby and, subordinate to that, the moral question.

And so on, and so on.

For someone focused on the individual's niceness or kindness - not the same thing, but related - is to focus on the individual's distinction from the common person who, presumably, is less nice or less kind. And so the question for the hyper individualist who is often politically right wing is how they are better as a person than someone who we would assume is less kind. This is also a question of dependence in interpersonal relationships - if you find an individual who is seemingly kind, you must remain with them because you would not be able to expect society to be as kind as this particular individual. If you are weak or without resources, you become this person's dependant. And thus, as the right wing patron would explain to you, you remain dependant on their will until you are - ahem - "strong" enough to make it on your own. Thus, they set the rules.

But they're nice, you think, and they wouldn't abuse that. Except, in truth, the individual who is nice under this construction also reserves, at any point, to rescind this kindness. Kindness is not a universal state, it is a power action - a political action - and if they dislike you or otherwise feel like it, they can withdraw their niceness, because it is contingent on how they feel about you. This is the very nature of individualized charity - it is inherently based on an unequal power dynamic. It is intentionally undependable.

A guarantee of safety and well-being based on your community's guidelines is often opposed because it "forces" people to be kind - hence the resolution that one cannot legislate true morality. What's strange is that society might operate better by the numbers if it were and people who are supposedly kind and giving people already donate or provide certain kinds of charity - so why are they opposed? Isn't this simply a more efficient way of doing what they suppose ought to be done already? That they already very well may do? The concern we see raised here is the concern of freedom for others.

In this circumstance, we always see it phrased as a freedom from a domineering state that seeks to remove personal autonomy from good, law-abiding people who have the god-given right to be terrible, stingy, and not contribute to the larger society. I wonder about this from time to time - if we are good or kind, why are we more concerned about the right to be awful or horde when others go hungry than we are about the right to have a place to sleep and to have food? What about the freedom of the have-nots? Eh? What do kind right-wingers have invested in the right to a hording society? If they are truly nice - though now I recind the word "kind," than I would expect that the rationale is that it is important for them to actually commodify kindness as a type of social currency that they use to elevate themselves among the rest - but it is also political. It is a kindness that applies only when the recipient behaves in a certain way and belong to a certain tribe - it is a kindness that is designed to be rescinded and thus it implies the right to be cruel on demand.

You will understand this behavior when you see it, if you haven't already witnessed it yourself.

The right to be cruel is the right to exercise political will on others, and it exists systematically from maladjusted home life right up to the right to refuse admittance to the country for those fleeing violence and persecution outside our borders. It is not a kindness at all. Niceness is something of a sham - kindness exists from society to all peaceful people or it does not truly exist at all.
I just got my tire patched on Friday - fortunately the thing didn't need to be fuckin' replaced and it only cost me 24 bucks instead of 5 or 10 times that. I will tell you - for sure - that made my weekend better. Kay doesn't really rest at all, though. Last Thursday, he worked a 16 hours shift, leaving at 6:30 AM and leaving at 11:30 PM, getting back a little after midnight. There was a day off on the 29th, as you know, and overtime was still made. Like, genuinely, Kay has zero chill, because the weekend was just work at home, too.

Sunday was not nearly so exhausting, though. I was able to go on a grocery run since I was now safely assured my exhaust wouldn't fucking drop off into traffic on a slight bump and my front left tire wouldn't explode. I did fuck all in terms of yardwork, true, but that was because it rained all day - can't be blamed on that account. Instead, I've been doing the incredibly tedious job of backing up and organizing files from the beginning of grad school until right now, which is a huge relief. I'm taking a crack at reading through the tome that is the Exalted 3rd Ed. book, finishing up Narnia (which has been fun, but I'm eager to resume heavier texts for sure), and - painfully - trying to make it through Mr Robot at the pace of one episode per day on most workdays.

Mr Robot is good television - at least from my point of view - so 'painful' might be an odd choice of words, though I assure you it's accurate. The show causes me anguish. It excites my anxiety for an entire day after I watch an episode. I mean, the way it's designed, that feels completely intentional and I think that it's the kind of production that's designed to give the viewer critical insight into Eliot's mental state, but while it's doing its job as intended, for someone who also suffers from anxiety pretty badly, it occasionally feels like something of a force multiplier for the sensation. As someone who's incredibly interested in cyberpunk and the semi-genre of media that's clearly inspired by it, Mr Robot feels like a must-watch - mandatory viewing. As a piece of art, it's clearly doing what it's supposed to be doing - my clearest personal criteria for 'good,' though I guess we'll see how it sticks the landing of season 1.

Every week, lately, our household agenda has just been to clean, clear out as much bureaucratic underbrush as possible, and get our shit in order - nothing about that changes, and nothing about that is likely to change through the entire season of summer. However, positive changes are clearly visible on a week by week scale, and that feels really good.
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