Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My New Favorite Thing

I'm so excited about independently made web-based radio and TV shows. What's the proper name for these things? podcasts? v-blogs?

What's playing tonight? My new favorite...Galacticast spoofs The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

One of my favorite halloweens ever was the year I was living in Boston. It must have been 1994. My then boyfriend (who later turned out to be insane, literally) and I went to Rocky Horror in Cambridge. They had a killer floor show. I have seen Rocky Horror in at least three states and numerous theaters over the years, but I have never seen a floor show like that. It was like a full blown theater production.


post cyberpunk?

For a long time I haven't done a much reading of fiction. Often I'm not sure what I want to read or I'm stressed and I don't want to read anything too serious. I haven't even read much sci-fi/fantasy in the last few years. Although I'm familiar with the genera through movies, I don't think I have read any of the famous cyberpunk novels.

So John Twelve Hawks' novel "The Traveler" was a pleasant surprise. (Thank you Mom!) Certainly The Traveler isn't high fiction, but it explores interesting themes, primarily the increasing levels of electronic monitoring we are all facing. To summarize: An epic battle between the forces of evil who want to maintain the status quo vs. the forces of good who want to spread peace, love and understanding across the world.

The Good Guys:
travelers-Spiritual leaders who are able to astral project, exploring other worlds and bring back the wisdom they find there.
harlequins- A sort of order of knights templar, sworn to protect the travelers, avoiding being detected by electronic surveillance of "the grid" through use of all sorts of disguises and random (literally random) behaviors.

The Bad Guys:
the tabula-Monitor our every move, killing or disappearing anyone who expresses any dangerous thoughts .

Overall a very entertaining book, very fast paced. I especially like that the traveler is a man and the harlequin who protects him is a woman. She has no problem destroying her enemies and isn't karmically punished at the end of the book for doing so. There are a number of other strong female characters in the book, but the main point is that people's roles in the novel aren't determined by their gender.

Unfortunately although the themes and characters are fascinating, the plot is fairly transparent. The details of the final showdown are revealed slowly and but the central confrontation is obvious within the first 75 pages, so it's not much of a thriller. Also, there's quite a bit of hype surrounding this book, especially rumors that the author actually lives off the grid and his true identity is unknown to even his publishers. (Pretty transparent stunt.)

I recently read something comparing the purpose of science fiction literature to classical "high" literature. In contrast to classical literature, in which the plot and characters are central, in science fiction the plot and characters are simply vehicles for exploring cultural trends and moral dilemmas. Maybe that's why I like it.


Dissertation Fears...It has just begun

Take a look at this post from Acephalous: "Dissertation Fears: Please, Continue". Hilarious stuff!

My personal dissertation fears?

1. My ideas are so interdiciplinary that I'll never be able to explain them in a short proposal.

2. My ideas are so interdiciplinary that I'll never find an advisor that will take an interest.

3. My ideas are so interdiciplinary that even if I get the thing written I'll never get tenure.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

working out my theoretical position via blog posts...Part 1

At the moment I'm in a really interdisciplinary place, which leaves me confused much of the time. So I'm going to try to work out my issues via blog post.

Returning to grad school my personal interest was to lift myself out of the poverty that was entregal to my career in environmental and science education. But beyond my personal issues, I was concerned that the environmental and science education wasn't really reaching many students. When I say that this education wasn't reaching many students I'm not referring simply to the horrible dearth of this type of education in American schools, but instead to the fact that when I taught lessons related to the environment or science, the lessons simply didn't seem to touch students in a deep way. Often we found ways to make science fun and exciting but rarely did the topics covered relate deeply and directly to students' lives. Students simply considered this education another form of entertainment and tolerated it as long as it was easy and fun, but had little investment in it. In particular I was concerned with urban children who often seemed to lack experiences with simple things like pill bugs or sitting on the ground.

Luckily for me I'm not the only person to have noticed this phenomenon, it's commonly referred to as "the extinction of experience." This theory is the basis of Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, which created a small splash in the media when it was published earlier this year. In Louv's writings, children's lives are becoming more and more impoverished because of too much time spent on programmed activities and video games and not enough time spent goofing around outside playing with lizards and swinging on a rope. The picture of childhood shown in this book harkens back to New Urbanism's romantic images of a time when American towns where filled with good things: women had time to pack their kids' lunches and it was safe for kids to play outside in the neighborhood (ala Mayberry.)

Unfortunately, this is not the childhood that has been experienced by the vast majority of human children throughout history. Even if that childhood could be provided to all young children would it really be better for them? Would they really be more environmentally sensitive? Would more of them be interested in science? Would they be healthier or happier?

I'm not so convinced. Peter Kahn, an environmental psychologist at U. of Washington, as done some interesting work examining the development of environmental attitudes cross culturally. In studying environmental attitudes across five countries Kahn found very similar issues. Children everywhere understood something about environmental problems, but no matter how degraded and polluted their own environments were children didn't recognize how environmental problems were affecting their own neighborhoods. Kahn's 'environmental generational amnesia' means that every generation of children considers the conditions of their own childhood a baseline, undisturbed condition and any changes seen later are viewed as degradation. So change that happens slowly over the period of several generations is never fully perceived or comprehended.

This leaves us with quite a problem. Each generation sees the environment degrading, but has trouble understanding how they are both victims of and perpetrators of this injustice. At some basic level all environmental problems are actually a sort of temporal environmental justice issue in which earlier generations are stealing resources from later ones. In itself, this is not that surprising considering the whole definition of sustainablity and folkloric sayings about considering seven generations and so on. What is surprising is that we don't realize that it's happening to us and instead romantize our childhoods as belonging to some sort of prelapsarian past.

Coming soon...Part 2, Romantic Views of Nature and Environmental Education


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tortured Artists?

Random cultural history question. Many years ago, in the early 90's, I was a college student. One of my dorm mates was a tortured writer. She wore a lot of black and was obsessed with her own suffering as a sign of genius. There seems to be a long tradition of this type depressed writer/ artist/ creative type. Why do many young people think that suffering and depression will make for better art? When did this start? Do other cultural traditions have similar archetypes? Is this some sort of catholic guilt or protestant work ethic thing? There is probably a simple explanation for the origin of this phenomenon, but I have no idea. Any cultural or art historians out there with suggestions?


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tauren Doll

Hilarious! WOW doll based on a specific character. I bet someone could make a lot of money making personalized WOW dolls.
Wonderland: Look what my guildie made:


What Is Machinima?

So I have seen a few movies made in virtual reality, but I didn't realize there was a name for it. For some reason I'm fascinated with the trend towards de-professionalizing culture making. As far as I know these movies are mostly made by amateurs.
Machinima.com: What Is Machinima?


Friday, October 13, 2006

Pokemon Science

Take a look at "trying to understand pokemon" at Adventures in Ethics and Science. Funny stuff!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Follow-up on X-Men 3

So Robo-Pirate's comments on my mention of X-Men 3 pointed to the fact that I didn't full explain why I was displeased with the movie. There are a number of people who wrote insightful reviews so here are a few views on the topic...

"Ticked off times 3" from Feminist SF-The Blog!

X-Men 3, Post 1 from Written World

X-men 3 thoughts from Free Candy for Everyone

Immediate Reaction to X3, sans spoilers from Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

My main problem with the movie was the fact that Jean and Rogue both question their powers and their ability to control their powers while the most powerful male mutants seem to have no confidence problems. Then when Jean uses her powers she kills the people she loves. Rogue is so convinced that she has to have a man that she's willing to give up her powers to get that chance. Underlying message? Women and girls, if you are too powerful you will hurt people and be out of control. Neither Magneto nor Professor Xavier seem to have any fear or doubt about exercising their powers, even when people get hurt. When Jean is supposedly out of control and power mad she is actually following Magneto's orders. So if a woman gets too powerful she will become the pawn of evil? What kind of message is that? I want to see a woman get pissed off and just kill her enemies without going insane or getting so out of control that her friends die as well.

Having never read the Dark Phoenix Saga in the original comics I have no idea what I would think of it. I'm hoping that it's a much more interesting storyline.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Asylum Street Spankers Video

Hilarious commentary on Iraq for your friday viewing pleasure. Not work appropriate.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Different Type of Comics

It's funny because I read the feeds from several blogs that focus on comics from a woman's /feminist's perspective (i.e. Written World, When Fangirls ATTACK!, and Pretty, Fizzy Paradise) but since I rarely read the major label comics I usually don't know what they are talking about. I'm interested in hearing about them because comics are related to other sci-fi/fantasy media forms and because I do read comics, just not the usual ones.

To illustrate my lack of knowledge...Although I do know a little background on the X-men, it's not from having read the original comics. As a teen I watched some X-men on Saturday morning cartoons and enjoyed the first two movies in the trilogy. When I need to know more about the backstory and how the movies fit into the original stories I ask Beorn. After an interesting post on Writing as Jo(e) about what super power you would like to have, I decided I better watch the third movie. After reading some discouraging reviews from friendly feminist bloggers I never bothered to watch X-men 3 but after Jo(e)'s teenager suggested that she resembled phoenix it was time to take a look. After sitting through it, I was disgusted not only because of the phoenix storyline, but also the overall gender dynamics of the movie. So of course I had to question Beorn about the original Dark Phoenix storyline to see if the misogyny originated with the movie makers or with the original author. (If I can find a copy I plan to take a look at the comics someday.)

Back to my strange comics reading...

My favorite comic ever: Strangers in Paradise
Other paper comics I've read: (Comics about gaming, it can't get dorkier than that.)
Knights of the Dinner Table
Dork Tower

Online comics I've been reading lately: (Watch out, some have adult content.)
Dykes to Watch Out For
The Devil's Panties
PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper)
and my new fav...
Liliane Bi-Dyke

Anyone else read comics? What are some great underground, woman friendly comics?