Friday, March 23, 2012

The Novum: Dead Space for the Unexpected

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

Close Reading: Nekropolis

“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

Reader-Respons: "Something to Hitch Meat To"

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.