atolnon: (Default)
( Oct. 18th, 2017 10:31 am)
People with privilege - white people, men, cis people, straight people, wealthy people - don’t appreciate that others will pre-judge them based on their appearance or identity. One of the benefits of privilege is having the ability - and the responsibility - of being able to assume to the best about others.

This is an aspect of social power. It hurts many men, especially cis men, that women are skeptical of them, that they don’t trust them. Men will say, “but I trust her,” but being able to trust without verification or hesitation is an element of power. It is a privilege. The same is true for white people, wealthy people straight people, and so on.

The more of these privileged positions one inherits - because they’re (almost never) earned positions, and so not the ‘fault’ of anyone - the more one can defend goodwill, politeness, trust as inherant parts of the social contract. But trust is derived from a lack of concern for injury, either to one’s feelings or their material condition. History and the current state of affairs show, demonstrably, that trust is abused and power is taken advantage of, so the more marginalized someone is within society, the fewer privileges that are based around material power structures that operate automatically on behalf of someone, the less reason they have to trust, to be polite, to extend goodwill.

Among people who operate almost entirely within their own circles of privilege, extending trust and politeness, letting people ‘in,’ is a sign of magnanimity. It provides a kind of social lubricant that allows the society they operate within to function. However, it’s pretty easy to judge how far that goodwill truly extends when it isn’t automatically reciprocated by someone who lacks a position of power. The privileged party that responds with violence, rhetorically, systemically, was never really showing good will in the first place. They were actually attempting to get something, and they have found it denied, and their immediate recourse is often to violence which simply shows why the person who was in a position with less power was correct to withhold that trust in the first place.
atolnon: (Default)
( Oct. 16th, 2017 09:49 am)
I slept really badly last night, but got up pretty refreshed. I held off making coffee this morning, thinking I might go back to bed after I heard that my partner was making it into work okay, but although I'm bedraggled, I'm too awake to feel good about returning to bed - so I might nap later if I'm dragging badly.

The position I was hoping to interview for was closed was cancelled without being filled to save money. The government decided it didn't need the position anymore for whatever reason, so someone gets to mark on a sheet that they saved 65k yearly and I continue to, be unable to pay my bills on time. It was painted as a sure thing by the person leaving the position. She had held the position for a few years and was well respected - her manager - the regional coordinator - asked her to have me send in my resume straight away, which I did, and my previously having held security clearance was a huge plus, as was the previous work experience and advanced degree, as well as the fact I wasn't asking for any higher a salary. But the job doesn't exist anymore, and I'm disappointed, but I just can't feel surprise anymore. Any hope I exhibit is an act I put on as much for myself as for the people around me, but I just don't feel anything, anymore, to be honest.

I'm almost done playing through Metal Gear Solid. It's been okay. Clearly a PS1 game, exhibiting the beginnings of some new gameplay tendencies that will become legacy gameplay artifacts later (really interesting) while still carrying over older tropes onto the then-new platform (equally interesting). Since it appears I'll have plenty of time, albeit at odd hours, to play games, I guess I'll keep doing that.
I've been thinking for a while - and I'm not clear on this - but that the demographic of "gamer" is kind of a cipher.

I suppose there was a time when it sort of made sense, much like any other demographic largely characterized by a media obsession that was *also* obscure. Today, though, almost everyone is at least familiar with video games, and it's not unusual to play *some* video games. The younger you are, the more you're likely to play one or two games a year.

This isn't really a whole lot different from reading! There are 'bibliophiles' or people who characterize themselves as readers, and I think you'll notice that this doesn't really described what kind of books one would be reading. But although we can refer to audiophile, cinephiles, bibliophiles - lovers of media - we don't tend to group them as a semi-political demographic, and *if* we do, it's very likely subordinate to preferred genre which is circularly looped to their political preferences in the first place.

So, "gamer," unlike other media lover categories, singularly separates itself by gender with men as the default. (Sexism is still rampant in every category, but there are gamers and 'girl gamers' which feels different to me than 'woman readers,' which is never, by the way, as far as I have seen, 'girl readers.') "Gamers" are categorized by escapism as a way of being, as opposed to an occasional useful tendency, and politically, there is an assumption of marginalization even though categorically this isn't the case.

Where does the demographic come from, then? How is it they feel as though they can construct a coherent demographic group on the merits of a leisure activity that's inherently somewhat privileged? (In that there is some income and time required to devote to an activity/demographic rooted in conspicuous consumption.) Where does their sense of marginalization come from?

I suspect that it comes from a demographic (largely white, self-imposed male) that, due to the economic decline, has a difficult time (like everyone) in finding dignified work and becoming financially independent, and so spend a large amount of time online, connecting with others who self-identify in nearly identical ways. The collapse of the middle class, a class they felt they were promised and entitled to (whether or not this is fair or true is a different conversation), and that they felt they were inherently better disposed to than systemically marginalized groups (growing up on white supremacist propaganda, in many cases, from various channels) makes them resentful.

Their demographic isn't, then, oriented around their identity or media consumption IN TRUTH, but the way in which they communicate and form their social circle. Gaming platform voice chats, writing channels, fora, and conventions create environments where people in similar situations, coping in similar ways, communicate. They only identify as gamers because the media allows quick reference visual cues. That's why they're so resistant to minority groups and women "infringing" on their spaces - it's not about games, it's about keeping their communication channels demographically "pure."
atolnon: (Default)
( Oct. 5th, 2017 10:48 am)
This week's been strangely difficult, probably because Kay had come down with a bad cough on Saturday and stayed home on Monday. Yesterday, I developed the same thing, and I'm coming out of it today, so that seems to be how the week's going. It was minor enough that I was able to tackle minor grocery shopping but enough that I was kind of unhappy while doing it, so I got off a little lighter than Kay did.

Yesterday, one of the cats ended up peeing on some of my early 90's Analog magazines I had on a bottom shelf in the living room, which meant I had to throw them all out. There's really no way to get piss out of paper, you know? When I first got them, there had been a ton of 'em - one of my mom's friends was clearing out her shit and heard that I liked sci-fi and so she gave them all to her to give to me. Years later when I was cleaning house, I got rid of about two thirds of them and kept the ones that had the stories I liked best, since they were taking up a huge amount of space. I guess I'm just down to something like a single digest I had shelved improperly. Honestly, I hadn't read them in about a decade, and most of them were shorts that appeared elsewhere in magazines or as novels, so I didn't lose anything priceless, just kind of nostalgic. Like many things we have, they're not particularly important. They seem like something you want to have until they're gone, and then you don't miss them so much.

That's the way it is.

Kay gets back at 5 now. Overtime's been cancelled. The down side is obvious, and this'll really effect our ability to deal with financial burdens, so I hope the request for an interview comes in soon. The upside is something akin to a normal life for him - free time despite a long commute. It's felt strange but nice, and I'm looking forward to it being less strange. I've been trying to play Metal Gear Solid, but I'm bad at games and it's difficult even though it's not especially long. I'm stuck trying to get a sniper rifle without getting killed, and I've made it a point to try to avoid killing any other soldiers besides fighting bosses, or in scenes where it can't be avoided. I do have some thoughts about the first game, actually, but those will wait until later.
atolnon: (Default)
( Sep. 29th, 2017 10:21 am)
I've gotten to the point where I'm caught up around the house enough that I'm not scrambling to cover all of the stuff I've needed to do, and that's created a situation where I've got a pretty large amount of free time all of a sudden, and I've spent from about Tuesday until now spinning my wheels. I've been tired, so most of this time until now, I've mostly just been spacing out and wasting time. I was honestly just losing track of time altogether until I got a little more organized about it and started trying to keep track of what I was doing, and I think I can turn that around a little from here.

I'm waiting to hear back on this job, but that's expected. There's not actually all that much for me to do at the moment, and I'm just... incredibly bad at relaxing. Archon starts today and I'm not going to be in attendance because I like to think that I eventually learn from my experiences and as much as I want to like it, I haven't for the last several times I've gone. Others I've spoken with aren't especially nuts about it either - it's all about the nighttime hangouts, and as much as I love hanging out with my friends, there's so much overhead on it. Plus, frankly, we don't have a lot of scratch right now, so the whole thing just ends up being financially and emotionally taxing for me. Kay offered to take up, but he gets back late from work and I'm just not really that up for it. I'm gonna look forward to seeing everyone in the near future though, I'm sure.

Cash is a little tight because when we planned and saved for the Gorillaz trip, we hadn't taken into account that we were going to have to help someone move out of state out of pocket, and it really cost us most of our savings. A friend helped reimburse us for part, but the cost was substantial. For that reason, we really didn't do everything we hoped for in KC, but didn't want to abandon the trip or drop our reservations, so we just did the bare minimum. It was still good, but it was hectic instead of relaxing. We might not have gone if most of the money hadn't already been spent, so all of that was a sunk cost.

Honestly, though, I've avoided putting too much weight on getting this position, but I can't help but think that if I did, pretty much all of our financial anxieties boil away immediately. Our bills aren't enormous and our debts - while pretty difficult for us to deal with at the moment - are marginal for anyone with a borderline middle-class income. The person recommending me for the position had a Bachelor's in English and signed on to the tune of 65k annually. It seemed extravagant, but it honestly doesn't seem too off the mark for the salary you might expect as someone who's pushing 34, who has a Master's working in the private sector. What's incredible is not the salary I'd be paid, but that I've been making the kind of wage you'd expect of someone who just graduated undergrad for the last decade, without a wage increase.

So, if it's not my dream job in terms of what it is I'd be doing - that's fine. It's pretty much my dream job in every other way. I hear it has benefits.
atolnon: (Default)
( Sep. 25th, 2017 11:41 am)
So, we were fortunate enough to have been able to go to the Gorillaz concert in Kansas City on the 22nd, which was ridiculously good, but definitely exhausting, overall. KC seems a little greener than St Louis, with less of the red brick I'm so familiar with, but the vibe was similar. It definitely had the feeling of a midwest city. I'd driven through their only once on my way back from Seattle, and the difference was literally night and day (as well as late summer / winter), but I still recognized the road I'd taken on the way through the city. The turnaround didn't give me the same degree of whiplash I got on the Chicago trip - we were there marginally longer - but it was still really quick. We got up on the morning of the 22nd, drove out, had a heavy lunch, checked in at the hotel and had a beer, and went to the concert. Then we came back, had a drink, and went to bed. We got out in a reasonably comfortable time frame the next morning, waiting until we'd had breakfast at least, and we did get back a little later than we expected, but there was no real time for relaxation.

Our seats were actually even better than we had supposed; we were viewing from the side, but we were still able to see clearly. Also, Vince Staples and Danny Brown both opened for the main act, which was great and I hadn't realized both of them were opening until they did.

The Gorillaz concert was legitimately overwhelming, which I don't mean in a bad way, but there was almost literally so much going on that I couldn't take it in all at once. Vince Staples and Danny Brown both did pretty well in terms of getting an audience reaction from the crowd, and I don't know if KC is the same as St Louis in this regard, but I know in St Louis, it's tough to get participation. I've heard musicians express this sentiment before - it's tough. Not that the crowd is hostile or anything, but they're self-conscious, maybe? But Damon Albarn and the rest of the band came out and literally everyone in the stadium stood up at once and didn't sit back down at all - I've never seen anything like it. I figure that's because I get out less than a lot of people, so that's more of an expression about me than the crowd, but the crowd was hype and that hype just got bigger as the concert went on.

The Gorillaz are a band that always makes me think of this concept of the hyper-real - especially when interviews are conducted with reputable media outlets with characters themselves and, meanwhile, Damon Albarn is interviewed elsewhere, treated as a separate entity, maybe an affiliate, simultaneously "the band" and not the band. I couldn't avoid thinking about that even while I'm clapping, singing, whatever, because on the back wall, they're playing music videos that are intentionally glitching out, there are screens on the sides that are showing you the concert as it happens from a viewpoint you couldn't access otherwise, and meanwhile, you've got the choir singing, the band is playing, often dancing, definitely trying to draw your eye - you can't watch them all at once, so you pick, you alternate. There's often a singer who's not present physically - their presence replaces the animation for a time so you can see them - this is especially with the tracks from the Humanz album, where it seems especially important to have the vocalists be present in the song. At a time when the simple existence of black artists seems to be controversial to white people, it seemed important that their impact on the tracks was made explicit and literally larger than the flesh and blood Albarn himself - actually occasionally absent during these moments.

So, that was cool.

Before we checked in, we were looking for somewhere to eat lunch in town and had some time to kill. Both Jim Gaffigan and Anthony Bourdain recommended Joe's Kansas City BBQ - Bourdain calling it the best in the world - and while Bourdain is kind of an ass, I liked the idea of a place that had that kind of recommendation-overlap, so that's where we went. What I'll say is that it was good - I really enjoyed what I ate, and it was definitely worth going. What I'll also say is that I've had BBQ that was every bit as good, and I live practically down the street from the region's best BBQ place here, so what I'm actually hype about is how spoiled I am on amazing BBQ options on the daily. For the record, Joe's french fries are better, but Beast BBQ's potato salad is significantly better, if we're talking about sides.

We got to stay at The President near the arena, like a five minute walk away actually, and ate breakfast at the Walnut Room where I ordered the eggs benedict, which was pretty excellent, but I usually eat pretty light, so I kind of ended up feeling uncomfortable for a while after my two incredibly heavy meals - basically eating once per day for three days.

Anyhow, when you ask me how something was that I did, half of what I talk about is the thing and the other half is what I ate, and that is just how I live my life.
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!
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