Setting is inherent in every story regardless of how detailed it is. In the case of “Bears Discover Fire,” by Terry Bisson, it serves a number of significant functions to accomplish the work of the text. The first important aspect of setting in this story is the physical location. The main physical location of “Bears Discover Fire” is in western Kentucky. The second important aspect of setting is the time, which is in October in the early 1990’s. The third most important aspect of setting in this story is the psychological state of the characters. The narrator describes himself as “old-fashioned, while his brother, Wallace, is “new-fashioned.” All of these aspects contribute to the story as a whole. First of all, western-Kentucky is more rural than other states. Generally speaking, rural areas tend to be more conservative, or “old-fashioned” in the way they do things, live their lives, etc. than their urban counterparts. The time being in October is significant because that is about the time when bears go into hibernation. The narrator and Wallace’s psychological states are important because each of them represent the “old” and “new” ways of life in America. In other words, the narrator represents a time in the past when people had to build and fix their every day items, products, and goods, while Wallace represents the modern way of doing things: buying corporate made-products. The bears represent this conundrum in that, like people thousands of years ago, they discovered something to make their life easier, a convenience. However, bears are still at a point when they are still able to appreciate the little things in life like the burning of a fire, each other’s company etc. Humans, on the other hand, have gotten to the point where they are so individualized that they have little consideration for each other, let alone the environment and the organisms (such as bears) living in it. In other words, the corporatizing of everything is only increasing our sense of individualism, which will lead to greater selfishness. Thus, we are taking a dangerous route that requires a greater amount of responsibility and consideration on our part then ever before.
Monday, April 9, 2012
The Axe Effect - Women - Billions
This Axe commercial relates to our discussion on both “environment” and “nature.” In class we decided that an “environment” can be any type of surrounding in general, whether natural or man-made, while “nature” encompasses anything that isn’t man-made. In the case of this commercial, Axe attempts to establish a link between “nature” and their body spray product by advertising it as this sort of sex pheromone that will attract women. This notion is summed up in the tag line at the end of the commercial: “Spray More, Get More: The Axe Effect.” In other words, by having women in lingerie travel hundreds of miles through various natural environments (such as forests, mountains, beaches and oceans), and fighting each other along the way for the man who’s happily spraying himself with two cans of Axe, Axe is essentially saying that women’s affinity for perfume-like products is as “natural” as sex. Therefore, if men use products that help them smell good, such as Axe body spray, then women will “naturally” want to have sex with them.
Friday, March 23, 2012
The main character of “Dead Space for the Unexpected” is a man named Jonathan who works as a business manager. The novum in this story is a computer that is able to calculate how well individual business team members execute their jobs. More specifically, the device is able to calculate things such as appropriate eye contact, posture, tone, facial expressions, and even the amount of sweat released. This information is then compared to what is deemed appropriate for a given business situation (such as when Jonathan is forced to fire Simon). This comparison, in turn, yields a numeric score between 1-10, which determines how well the individual handled the situation. Each person’s score is available for every other team member to see. Through Jonathan, the reader witness how this ‘system’ results in a huge amount of stress on a person who only perceives his value by the numbers he produces. In today’s corporate world, if one doesn’t produce the numbers a company expects, then that person is fired. It’s as simple as that. Such a method compels people to work, thereby stimulating competition, resulting in progress. This is the capitalistic way. It is why countries like the United States are light years ahead of other nations in terms of standards of living. For me personally, my concern with this system isn’t the general ‘unhappiness’ it causes amongst some individuals in these developed nations. My primary concern is rooted in people overseas getting paid a few dollars a week to make products that result in billions of dollars in profit, of which company CEO’s pocket millions, sometimes billions. The people making these products are starving, while a few other people are getting million dollar bonuses in addition to their million dollar salaries? No.
Friday, March 16, 2012
“It looks human male... Can something not human blaspheme” (McHugh 387-88)? On a personal level these passages reveal that sex is the main reason why men have subjugated women throughout history. Instead of using an actual human man in this scene, the author uses a robot named AI, thus relating the notion that men’s quest to sustain their sexual appetites is biologically ingrained much like that of a robot’s programming. Therefore, it can be interpreted that men’s domineering behavior towards women is primitive behavior at best. This notion of primitiveness can be seen in the line, “It flirts, looking at me sideways out of black, vulnerable gazelle eyes” (McHugh 387). By using a gazelle as a reference, it can be interpreted that McHugh is associating men’s behavior towards women with that of simple animal behavior. However, as human beings, men are able to drive towards their primitive urges in a manipulative manner: “Smiling at me with a smile which is not in the slightest bit vulnerable” (McHugh 388).
The dialogue by AI that immediately followers this line is interesting because it forces me to envision how the first dialogues between men and women may have played out: “’Come on, Diyet,’ it says, ‘we work together. We should be friends. We’re both young, we can help each other in our work’” (McHugh 388). In other words, when the first human males and females came together it wasn’t just to help each other with the workload; it was to reproduce. It is apparent in the next paragraph, however, that this second goal seems to be the primary one for men: “It smiles wickedly… ‘I think you are too pure. A Holy Sister” (McHugh 388). It is in this paragraph that the author introduces to her readers the basis of what she appears to believe to be the primary conflict between men and women in general, and therefore in her story as well: sex. For men, she refers to their stronger drive for it as a “biological construct” (McHugh 388). I believe the reason for this is because men do not have to worry about the responsibility of carrying and giving birth to children. Thus, in response to AI telling her she is too pure, Diyet responds, “Don’t sound foolish” (McHugh 388). McHugh essentially appears to be saying that it is foolish for men to push their primitive sexual appetites on women when they are not the ones who have to deal with the most problematic (and painful) aspect/s of producing a child.“The Mashahana says that just as a jessed hawk is tamed, not tied, so shall the servant be bound by affection and duty, not chains” (McHugh 388) Diyet says this in response to AI’s inquiring about why she appears to look so solemn. By having her say this, McHugh is relating women’s relationship to men with that of servitude. Despite the results of this servitude, which have come in a variety of forms in different cultures throughout history, women have always put up with it out of a sense of “duty” to their families, communities, and therefore themselves. Their “affection” for their male spouses, which stems from the fact that emotional attachment, not the primitiveness behind a blind desire for sex, is also a cause for their subjugation throughout history.
Monday, March 5, 2012
I think this story has to do with dealing with and accepting peoples’ differences. The first part of the story that caught my attention was the part when one of the little children at the beginning said, “the purpose of the skeleton is something to hitch meat to” (Hopkinson 839). Since this line essentially contains the title, I kept it in mind as I read the story. Immediately after this part, one of the nannies leading the aforementioned children remarks to her coworker, “God Latino me are jus so hot, don’t you think” (Hopkinson 839). After saying this, both women giggled. I don’t know if this comment was supposed to be sarcastic or not, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure of what to make of it. I then took note of when Artho was observing the woman on the bus, how he temporarily “made her into something it wasn’t” in his mind (Hopkinson 840). Hopkinson’s intentions for this line seemed clearer to me while Artho was in the store near his apartment to buy avocados. Though he was a regular customer, the clerk assumed that Artho’s $50 bill was a counterfeit, despite making change for bills that large for elderly women and business men. I think the clerk was thinking, “What the hell is a black man doing with this much money? There’s no way; no way this bill can be real. Either that or he stole it. Black men do that shit all the time.” After Hopkinson presented this stereotypical relationship between ‘black men’ and ‘stealing’ I found it interesting that she then moved to the other stereotypical relationship of ‘black men’ and drugs with Aziman’s story of his encounter with the white guy. What caught my attention were Aziman’s own stereotypes (the ones made by the white guy were obvious). During the story, Aziman referred to the white guy as a “cornfed kid” with a “polo shit on” and then says he’s “probably an MBA” (Hopkinson 841) I thought to myself, “I didn’t know all white guy’s in polo shirts had MBA’s?” I like this part because Hopkinson illustrates how our societies stereotypes and assumptions are cyclical. One side will say or assume something about the other side that pisses that other side offer, causing them to return the favor. At this point, I completely understood what the title of the story meant. We’re all the same. We all have skeleton’s that essentially look the same, but our appearances are nothing more than superficial differences that are as insignificant was a lump of meat.
Friday, February 17, 2012
In “Bloodchild,” Octavia Butler explores societal gender roles in a number of ways by placing ‘man’ in ‘woman’s’ position. Gan is a young male terran (human) who is destined to carry the children of T’Gatoi, a female centipede-like alien whose species is known as the Tlic. As such, Gan assumes the role of ‘woman’ in society, while T’Gatoi does so for ‘man.’ By doing this, Butler is able to force men and women to see though the eyes of the opposite sex in regards to the gender roles they assume. Just like women are biologically destined to bear children for the survival of the human race, Terrans, who are physically and politically weaker than the Tlics, are destined to carry the latter’s eggs. Tlics need hosts in order to survive. From here, Butler explores the intangibles associated with this relationship; specifically ones that outline the unequal status women have in our society, a status that in this case reflects them as ‘hosts.’ Until recently, women were literally viewed as men’s property. As ‘property’ their primary roles in society were to cook, clean, bear and raise children. Laws even allowed men to legally beat and rape their wives. Today, at least in our culture, things have obviously changed. However, as Bulter reveals, there are still remnants/similarities between the way women were treated then and the way they are now. For example, childbirth is very dangerous. Until recently in human history (and still today in certain underdeveloped parts of the world), it was very ommon for both a woman and her child to die during childbirth. Despite modern medical advances, such a procedure is still dangerous. Furthermore, even if everything goes well, a woman still has to deal with severe mental and emotional changes, not to mention the pain associated with carrying and delivering a child. Society however doesn’t focus on those things. Instead, it focuses on the ‘beauty’ of childbirth; the joy of buying baby clothes, furniture, and other accessories; the happiness tied with adding another member to the family; etc. Though society acknowledges the risks associated with childbirth, it does not focus on them nearly to the same extent as the benefits. Considering our society is still predominately paternalistic, I do not think this a coincidence. The result is that most women grow up believing it is their duty to society (to some extent, again depending on where you live), their families, and themselves to bear children, as opposed to being provided with ‘other’ information that could help them make more of an informed decision. I guess the question is then, “If the risks of childbirth are presented just as the benefits, would less women in our society choose to bear children?”
Friday, February 10, 2012
The first images that came to mind when I used to think of Sci-Fi were those from Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate SG1 and Battlestar Gallactica. Until this class I always associated Sci-Fi with that type outer space unrealism that characterizes the settings, plots, and conflicts of those shows. However, “Liar,” “Frankenstein,” “The Algorithms for Love,” “Second Variety,” Take Your Choice,” “Flowers of Algernon,” and “Burning Chrome” changed my perspective. With that said, my former perspective certainly wasn’t limited to the “Star Wars/Star Trek” notion, but it also wasn’t as expansive as it is now. By “expansive” I mean the realism of the stories we’ve read so far. For example, all of the stories we’ve read, except for one, (“Second Variety”) didn’t contain any violent battles for survival like the shows and films of above. On the contrary, they dealt with realistic emotional issues in realistic sort of ways. In “Liar” readers are introduced to four primary characters, one of them being a robot. The story focuses on the emotional/mental conflicts of the three human characters. The robot, though important, is secondary to these conflicts. Furthermore, the conflicts themselves are realistic in that they involve love, jealousy, and fear.
“Frankenstein” was probably the last story (of the ones we’ve read) that I would associate with Sci-Fi. I think I would attribute this to the time period it was written in. My thoughts, notions, and preconceptions of the 18th century are anything but “scientific.” In other words, they are the complete opposite of the preconceived notions of Sci-Fi I had before this class. However, I now see “Frankenstein” as incredibly scientific for its time, so I guess I now see it as a “Sci-Fi/Horror” genre, as opposed to just horror.
Friday, January 27, 2012
“Second Variety” was a very good story. In my opinion, the moral of it is that the creation of atomic weapons that can bring about the apocalypse will one day surely bring about the apocalypse. All it takes is one action, just one press of a button to initiate it. Sometimes, however, I must admit that I disagree with this. I definitely do not believe the U.S. will fire one off first again (even though we HAD to do so during WWII, despite what some people may say). I don’t even think the governments of countries like Iran and North Korea would. Why? Because even though the dictators who control those countries may be complete assholes to their own people, they’re definitely not stupid. If anything, they’re greedy as hell. Most people in power, including those in our own country, care only about two things: power and wealth. If they were to fire off a nuke today (as opposed to the weak ones dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and start a chain reaction of countries firing off nukes at one another in the process, then they wouldn’t have the means to continue acquiring more power and wealth because the majority of the people on the planet would be dead. Sure they (the world’s rulers) could travel to the moon, or move underground, but with everyone gone, is their money really worth anything? Do they really possess the kind of power they had when 7 billion people roamed the planet? Obviously not. In the advent of nuclear technology, people used to say that these bombs would be able to deter war. That too obviously hasn’t turned out to be the case. If anything, the destructive power of nuclear bombs simply deter people from using them. With that said, I think “Second Variety” is a great story. Sure it’s entertaining, but its message is also one that should definitely be heeded. The reason I say this is because if a nuclear weapon (or codes) was to get in the hands of the wrong person, say, a religious fanatic who doesn’t care about power or wealth or anything this world as to offer, then we’re all definitely screwed. From that standpoint, I couldn’t be in more agreement with the moral of this story.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
I really enjoyed “Liar” because of how it illustrated the complexity of human emotional cognition. At the heart of this complexity is ‘conflict.’ In class, we discussed how conflict is necessary to every story. This makes perfect sense considering how important of role it plays in our existence. Without conflict, would imperfection exist in our reality? Would we have any concept of emotion? Maybe happiness, if when you stop to think about it, most, if not all happiness results from some sort of resolved conflict. Whether as big as an international crises, dispute, etc., or as minuscule as the frustration accompanied with learning how to tie a fishing knot for the first time, conflict is what stimulates our emotions, and thus, is what makes us human.
Again, as we discussed in class there are two types of conflicts: external (man vs. man or man vs. nature) and internal (man vs. himself). “Liar” does an exceptional job exposing the symbiotic relationship between the two, specifically through the characters, Peter Bogert and Susan Calvin. Bogert’s internal conflict is his nagging desire to succeed Alfred Lanning as the head of U.S. Robot & Mechanical Men, Inc, while Calvin’s is her love for a fellow employee, Milton Ashe. Their external conflicts are revealed as a result of their confiding in a mind-reading robot named Herbie. With respect to Bogert, Herbie informs him that he will soon become head of U.S. Robot & Mechanical Men; for Calvin, that Ashe feels the same way about her as she does for him. What both characters (Bogert and Calvin) foolishly forget is that Herbie is bound to the Three Laws of Robotics: “(1) a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; (2) a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except whre such orders would conflict with the First Law; and (3) a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws” (282). As it turns out, Herbie was forced to lie to them in order to obey these three laws, resulting in possible disastrous consequences for Bogert’s career, as well as Calvin’s anger for having fooled herself into believing that human beings had finally created something that could solve a mystery as great as that of their own emotional cognition. In essence, she lied to herself.
To me, this all illustrates how conflict is a central aspect of our existence as human beings. Without conflict, emotion cannot exist, and without emotion, we would not be human, but something completely different, like Herbie. The point is that human beings may be able to create things such as fire, the wheel, printing press, washing machine, car, computer, etc. to make our lives easier and more convenient, but we will never be able to create anything that will completely correct an imperfect reality. Conflict is the root of that perfection, and so it will always remain.
This movie (Equilibrium) relates well to the story and everything I’ve just written; it’s also one of my favorites. The song (Archetype by Fear Factory) is also a personal favorite of mine. Chances are some, if not most of you get will get a headache (either real or imagined) from listening to a heavy metal so here’s a link to the lyrics in case you want to watch the movie, but mute the sound (there’s no dialogue anyway).
Friday, January 20, 2012
The character that interested me the most this week was Elena. In class we talked about how the plot of a story is driven by a character’s need, desire, or goal to satisfy a personal or external conflict. Elena’s conflict is a person one in that she doesn’t feel there’s anything special or significant about her life or life in general. She’s troubled by her perception that everyone around her views the human existence as something significant; something more than a set of predetermined algorithms. These algorithms that Elena perceives are specifically in reference to the particular, ‘proper/expected’ ways people communicate with each other. For example, when someone asks how you’re doing, it’s normal to give a response along the lines of “I’m doing well,” even if it isn’t true. In other words, the question doesn’t inquire about a person’s condition, so much as it is an acknowledgement of their presence. Communication like this, which is socially and culturally ingrained, creates a conflict for Elena because she doesn’t see it as real/sincere. When combined with depression (referencing the passing of her infant daughter, Aimee) Elena takes this notion of insincerity a step farther by viewing all communication as artificial just like her dolls; resulting to point where she believes she can predict what people are going to say before they even say it. What she doesn’t realize is that her depressing mental state (and it’s affect on herself and others) is the reason why she can predict people’s responses. Nonetheless, he attempts to fill her void by making a doll exactly like her daughter. Unfortunately, she doesn’t see that a machine will never be able to replace her daughter because a machine isn’t as complex as a human. Elena has fallen so far into this state of depression-rooted insanity that she isn’t able to acknowledge this difference; she can’t see past her perception of human beings as biological ‘machines’ whose existences are constructed by a set of predetermined algorithms. As a result, the resolution is left unknown to the reader, though suicide is possible and fair speculation.