Archive for March, 2012

Journal 6: “Separation Anxiety,” Liberal Prejudice, and Cultural Stagnation

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Evie Shockley’s story “Separation Anxiety” makes a social commentary on racism  by portraying a dystopian society where whites and African-Americans are almost completely separated from one another. The story takes place at the beginning of the 22nd century, about a hundred years in the future, to show what might happen if liberal prejudice continues to run unchecked.

In “Separation Anxiety” most African-Americans/blacks live in heavily guarded and restricted neighborhoods, or “ghettos.” White people are only allowed in by permission. The reason for separating blacks into ghettos was to prevent white racist hegemony and preserve black culture. This reasoning is an extreme example of liberal prejudice that Samuel Delaney mentions in his essay “Racism and Science Fiction.” The reasoning  in “Separation Anxiety” is prejudiced because it implies that African-American and white culture are inherently different and irreconcilable. Delaney faced a similar issue when the editor of Analog magazine, John W. Campbell, refused to publish one of his novels in a serial (or was it a story?) because he thought that Analog‘s mostly white audience would not be able to relate to a black main character even though he personally enjoyed Delaney’s work.

“Separation Anxiety” focuses on a group of dancers living in one of the ghettos. Various aspects of their lives, including “reproductive patterns,” dietary habits, and entertainment choices, are monitored by the “department of ethnic and cultural conservation.” Every week everyone who lives in the ghetto must put all of their waste in different color coded bins, so the government can closely observe their culture. This is another example of prejudice because it implies that black people cannot be trusted with their own culture.

One of the most interesting parts of the story is when main character, peaches, complains about how traditional dances they perform cannot be changed even by one step according to decc mandate. This shows that separation of African-American culture from white culture and emphasis on “preserving” African-American culture leads to cultural stagnation. For cultures to thrive and progress they must interact and trade cultural elements with other cultures. If African-Americans had been completely separated from whites in United States history we would not have the blues, jazz, or their many derivative forms today.

-Paul

Review of The Hunger Games movie

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I went to see the Hunger Games movie on the 22nd at midnight. I bought my tickets almost a month in advance. Needless to say, I was incredibly excited. I had read all the books in the trilogy a year ago.

Here are my thoughts on the movie: I thought it was excellent. I liked the camera style, making it like a documentary although it did get incredibly bumpy at some points. They did make some changes, such as leaving out the avox, Madge, and Katniss wounding her ear. I don’t know if they will touch on the ear thing or the avox in the next movie.

One thing that I think they did better in the movie then they did in the book is foreshadowing the conflicts that come up in the later books. The way they presented the Capitol, especially President Snow, was spot on. I really liked that they included the game makers manipulating the game. It showed that to them, the main goal of the game was to put on a good show and kill the tributes. The movie also put more emphasis on President Snow’s dislike of District 12 and Katniss. Seneca Crane being killed in the end was a nice touch, as we know it happens in the book but I liked how Snow did it with the berries.

The scene with District 11 rioting after Rue’s death was also a good addition, in my opinion. Once again it foreshadowed some of the things in the following books. It also helped to show how the Districts dislike the game. I feel that a lot of the things that they changed made it simpler to understand without the explanations the book was able to give, which it makes sense that they would want to keep it simple in the movies.

The biggest change that I’m not sure I like was Cato’s speech at the end, right before he died. Personally, I thought that the way he died in the books was very powerful, slowly being torn apart by the Mutts (who were scary but didn’t have the eyes). I do think Cato’s speech was good, about how he realized it was really all about death but at the same time I liked in the book that Cato had been so manipulated by the Capitol that he didn’t seem to realize the truth.

As a last note, I think all of the cast was spot on, even Lenny Kravitz who I was weary of at first did a great job. I’ll definitely be at the midnight premier of Catching Fire.

Oh Sweet Alternate Dimensions

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

When sitting down and deliberating the facts and options between being able to live on either the Neanderthal Earth or Anarres, the decision must be made from a purely alien point of view, as obviously having been born within the respective societies would leave you conditioned to believe that one were possibly better than the other.

While the ways of the Anarresti have their obvious appeals when contrasted against those of the Urasti or of our own “terran” societies, in particular the American one, I believe that I would prefer to live in the Neanderthal dimension, rather than our own, of course keeping in mind that I would be born of their genetic code rather than of “gliksin.”

At the risk of sounding a little too National Socialistic, I believe that if there is any hope for us as a species and hope for the earth to continue its amazing ability to sustain life (and possibly the only planet which could do so), there needs to be some extreme genetic control exerted upon our population. I only speak of this because as we have evolved, we have broken the boundaries that the natural course of evolution has set for us. Natural selection is meant to leave only those who will pass on genes highly beneficial to us as a species, while the undesirable traits are not passed on and are easily forgotten.

With how we have evolved, through larger and larger societies and civilizations, agriculture and medicine, we are able to sustain a much larger quantity of our species than the earth had ever intended through natural means, not to mention our lengthened life spans that can leave a single human on the earth for up to 100 years, while droves of new ones are born every single day. The Neanderthals have a way of getting around such issues, maybe not the best means of doing so but at least a valiant effort at populace and genetic control. Through the use of defined mating years, new generations are only added every 10 years.  This keeps the population at bay, but perhaps also does not allow for enough genetic drift to allow for new genetically manifested possibilities within their populations. Also through the use of their castration, they prevent those who commit heinous crimes from continuing their genetic lines and traits. While this seems like a novel punishment for criminals that commit acts such as rape, murder, assault etc., to allow for it to extend to other crimes such as stealing may possibly be taking it too far. The genetic propensity for one to steal may be grounded in a need to take care of one’s family, if let’s say the crime was committed to steal food or money for familial support.  And on top of that, the extension of the castration to those who share 50% of your DNA seems a little extreme as well. I believe people should be judged only by the crimes that they commit, and not those of any others.

Neanderthal Utopia

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

The neanderthal world in Hominids is portrayed in an almost unequivocably positive manner, and it is difficult to see why one would choose to live in any other place, with a few notable exceptions.  There are almost no downsides to the neanderthal world–food is abundant, culture is developed, technology is much more advanced and civilization is highly developed, and oppression is almost non-existent.  Growing up in such a world, one would not gain a sense of privacy, much like the peoples of earlier centuries than ours–before the concept of privacy invaded the consciousness of modern humanity, so such a lack would not be perceived by a dweller of the Neanderthal world–and the gain of having no crime far outweighs the lack of privacy–if the neanderthal world can be said to have no privacy.  With the alibi archives not readily accessible for no reason to anyone other than its owner or his/her proxies, there is no way to say that truly privacy has been breached in a significant way–the government itself lacks malice in the neanderthal world.

Anarres, however, is portrayed as having many flaws, and arguably in its own decline for the majority of The Dispossessed.  The desert world of Anarres is highly inhospitable, and most people spend most of their time working the barren earth to try to eke out a minimal, spartan living.  Freedom is given, then taken away, through the lack of time spent on anything but attempting to contribute to society–all one does is work, and often not at the things one wants to do.  Anarres is also a corrupted utopia, a world where the oppression of the government still exists, but is hidden, and almost unchangable, for there are no laws or sanctions in place to oust the government–and the world is vulnerable too, to outside forces.

Given all these factors, it is pretty simple to imagine why one would choose to live in the Neanderthal world over Anarres, after all, that’s what the authors wanted, no?

–Clemon Yueh

Neanderannares

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Anarres and Neanderthal Earth are similar is the sense that they both don’t have war: are peaceful.  But Anarres has a great deal of gender equality: women and men are given the same opportunities and have the same expectations.  Neanderthal Earth implements gender segregation, except for the times when women and men come together to mate.  Men are considered superior to the women in that sense… Women are left with the children in their segregated community where they get to share the same menstrual cycle and deal with one another’s “PMS” while the men maintain their separate lives working whichever job they choose.

I think I would choose Anarres over Neanderthal Earth because of the gender equality.  I don’t much get along with other women for a number of reasons and would most likely kill them all if encouraged to only associate with them for the most part.  I like that in both books the characters can pursue hetero or homosexual relationships.  However, on Neanderthal Earth a person is almost encouraged to have a hetero relationship for mating purposes as well as a same-sex mate for company purposes.  The segregation is just a curious phenomenon to me.

Also, I like the fact that the parents on Anarres can choose whether or not to maintain relationships with their children… I think any parent has moments when they want to drop their kids off at some facility.

However, the lack of privacy on Neanderthal Earth is intriguing because I think it does eliminate some of the threats exhibited on our dimension Earth.  And punishing the few criminals there are by rendering them, and those genetically close to them, sterile = mindblowing.  While on Anarres a lack of privacy isn’t necessary because the sense of community also omits crimes.

Ultimately, I think Anarres is the better choice but Neanderthal Earth does propose a number of interesting possible aspects of society.

So I really enjoy my privacy.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I’m a very extroverted person as I’m sure all of you know. I speak up even when I have something to contribute and even when I have no idea what on earth I’m talking about. I guess I’m just a sociable person like that. However, I also take to being alone quite well! I love a good book, I can spend hours engrossed in a game, and for the love of god I adore sleeping. So despite my comfort being noticed and heard much of the time, I deeply value my privacy. Ergo, I really wouldn’t want to live in the Neanderthal world. 24/7 surveillance isn’t really my cup of tea (hah, “cup of tea,” British stuff, they have intense security regulations now- I’m done.)

I can’t imagine living in a world where every single thing that I ever do is monitored, recorded and examined in the case of something that could be misconstrued as somehow criminal. Now, I don’t have very much to hide. I don’t do drugs, I don’t have any secret plots to take over the world or anything, and for the most part I’m very open about what I have to say. My parents realized this and so they let me have my door locked at a younger age than most. Even today I lock the door when I close it, mostly out of habit at this point. It’s just that, simply put, when I want to be alone, I want to be alone. If I want to go and read some intense fantasy novel in my room, I want to do it. And I don’t want someone monitoring me. Incidentally, looking over my shoulder while I type is somewhat of a pet peeve of mine.

Concerning the lack of/impossibility of a crime on the Neanderthal world: the way I see it, things that are bad here would still be viewed as bad there. Howard raised the point in class that if everyone knew about -insert taboo behavior here-, it would be accepted. Well, I beg to differ, and so does Sawyer. If this wasn’t the case, then the plot point of murder would have been rather irrelevant. And concerning the different setting of Annares and crime, if someone commits a crime, then I would act out against them. It’s pretty simple really.

Although, I admit, I would REALLY dislike living in a barren wasteland.

Leaving on a space plane.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I really struggled with the choice between Anarres and the Neandertal utopia. Neither of them seems like a good choice considering my personality and the fact that I value my freedom to go where and study what I please. On the Neandertal world, the major issue for me is sterilization of whole families due to crimes commited by some. I’m not actually bothered by the lack of privacy; if everyone knows everything, what is there to be ashamed of? There’s less of an idea of the taboo and the closeted; as long as people aren’t doing anything unethical (like committing a crime against a minor, for example) they have nothing to be ashamed of. Anarres isn’t quite as bad as Urres in terms of rigidity of gender roles, but it does put a huge emphasis on group-learning and community rather than individuality. I would love to be able to pursue my own goals, which I feel would be looked down upon and stigmatized on Anarres. The barren terrain is also a point against Anarres’s favour. At least the Neandertal homeworld has a lush, unhampered ecology. I would love to see what mammoths and passenger pigeons are like, for example. It would be a visually interesting environment. I wonder if I would be accepted amongst the Neandertal women, assuming that I were to move to the homeworld as I am now and not as a Neandertal. I wonder what their opinion of human beings is; they possibly would consider me an outsider completely unsuited for life on their planet. Hopefully they would allow me to integrate into their society, or life could be very lonely. I think I’d have an easier time fitting in on Anarres; though it’s an alien planet and not a parallel earth, the society is set up in a way that is more familiar to me, what with the genders being allowed to mingle. The Neandertal world would be a huge shock to my system and possibly to theirs. I think that Anarres would provide a more comfortable home, though I’d probably get into quite a few arguments over my ‘egoizing’ nature.

Look, I really like megafauna, okay?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I was mesmerized by the Earth in Hominids, much more so than by Anarres in The Dispossessed. The landscape, the people, even the judicial system was fascinating to me. Yes, a man was almost wrongfully accused of murder, but I think that had more to do with a woman’s personal vendetta than the system itself. I admired the logic with which most members of the Neanderthals made their decisions – I think our world could use a heavy dose of logic, along with the Neanderthal’s high value placed on life.
Mary’s musings on a world where there is practically no violence, and assured justice if a crime is committed are similar to thoughts running through my head. Being afraid is not something I cherish or wish to be, but I feel like I must be at least a little afraid in order to protect myself as a woman. Playful wrestling with male friends of mine have proved that no matter how strong I am “for a girl,” I am still easily defeated in a tickle war by a man, and that would turn out much worse for me if it was in an alley late at night. I’m not saying all women should or do feel this way; it’s just true for me.
On a lighter note, the Earth in Hominids has megafauna! I think it would be amazing to see huge mastodons running around. Anarresti wildlife (ie nothing) pales in comparison.
The idea of privacy, or rather the lack of it, came up in class. I actually thought the Alibi Archive was pretty cool – but maybe that’s because I’m not a murderer or a pedophile. Before I read the book, the Companion sounded like something that was monitored constantly, like people watching you all the time. But in the book, it’s just a personal log that no one sees unless it is absolutely necessary. They do value privacy, just not to the extreme that we do. Besides, I don’t think murderers and pedophiles deserve any privacy at all, so bring on the Companions.

Anarres Sucks, But Neanderthal Earth Sucks More

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

If I had to choose between the two, I would prefer Anarres. Of course, I would prefer not to live on either one, as they both sound pretty annoying as far as societies go, but for the sake of this journal, I’ll go with Anarres.

Unlike the Neanderthal society, the communists on Anarres don’t have the invasive tracking devices implanted in their arms. They also have a lot more freedom of choice in what they do each day; the Neanderthals stay in the same jobs.

The women on Anarres are also treated the same as men; they are not isolated for most of the month like in the Neanderthal Earth. It seems as though more could get done under the former, whereas the latter would have too many communication issues. Research might get done faster if men and women could work on the same project together, instead of separately.

Sexuality is another factor to consider: I am not the marrying type. From what I read of Neanderthal Earth, the men and women are paired up in their (relative) mid-twenties, and they stick with that mate for life. Then, once a month, they get to integrate with the opposite gender for a few days to their life-mate on that side. To me, it seems confusing and too rigid a lifestyle. I would prefer the Anarres method of having sex with whom and when you like, rather than being regulated to certain people and times.

Finally, I would prefer Anarres because they are less harsh in their punishments. A punch on Anarres holds less significance than a punch to the Neanderthals; one lapse of temper with a Neanderthal and you could be killed. All in all, Anarres seems more suited to my personal preferences.

However, I would still not like to live on Anarres, given the choice of neither. Anarres has no personal property, so if I liked something I still could not keep it. The “propertarian” idea of beauty is also discouraged on Anarres, and I would rather see a beautiful tree than a utilitarian one. Also, I am a writer, and feel as though I would end up like poor Tirin if I tried to publish one of my books there. Anarres citizens do not seem like they would read for pleasure, and I write only fiction. While a better choice than the Neanderthal society, I do not believe that either would be conducive to my sanity.

Journal 5 – I just don’t want to live in Neanderthal Earth.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Listen. Anarres seems okay. I appreciate that they don’t discriminate based on gender over there. That seems cool to me. Other than that, though, I probably wouldn’t want to live there. But I’d still rather live there than Neanderthal Earth. Or regular Earth in Hominids, for that matter.

Neanderthal Earth is a pretty misogynistic place, as far as I’m concerned. They’ve got that charming little concept of “Last Five,” the days when the women (who live separately from the men) are all menstruating. All the men run for the hills on those days and don’t go into the city unless they have to. When Adikor needs to go visit Ponter’s daughter in the city, the cab driver acts like he’s asking him to drive into a war zone. On the way there, Adikor smells the air and determines that he should probably be fine, given that it doesn’t smell like period blood.

Yeah.

And when he’s thinking about his trial, Adikor hopes to himself that all the women being on their period won’t affect his trial, since, ya know, women are so irrational during Last Five.

Regular Earth is worse, though. All the men there only seem to be interested in objectifying Louise or raping Marie. Any time Louise is brought up, it’s in the context of, “Thank God I wore a bra today…I wish I hadn’t worn such lacy panties though,” or how “incredibly sexy” her accent is, or how gorgeous she is, with fair skin and flowing brown hair. I wonder how she has the time to get any science done with all the supermodel work she’s doing.

And introducing Marie by pausing the plot with an entire chapter devoted to her rape (in excruciating detail) before we know anything about her is just poor writing. Now all her character is to readers is “the one who got raped.” There’s not even a justification of why she’s in the plot at all until about five later, so it’s puzzling for that time of why she’s even in the book at all. We talked in class about whether or not her rape was gratuitous; it’s nothing but gratuitous.

I’ve never seen a “feminist work” simultaneously demonize men and be misogynistic toward women before, but hey, first time for everything.

So I’d choose Anarres, mostly because it’s not either Earth from Hominids.