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Why Greg Universe is the greatest hero on the cartoon Steven Universe

1 Mar

Steven Universe is a show on Cartoon Network in which three space alien superheroines defend the Earth from the troublesome remnants of an ancient invasion and the impending peril of a new invasion. If you’ve seen the show you might be thinking, “Is this one of those articles that over-examines some perfectly innocent and gleeful children’s cartoon?” To which the answer is, yes, probably, but I hope it’s at least interesting.

I say I might be over-thinking it because at first glance, this is a pretty standard, perhaps even too perfect children’s cartoon. It’s full of fun and jokes and innocence and young love and, “You can help more when you’re grown” followed almost immediately by, “I’m already more grown than they give me credit for.” Ordinary childhood wish fulfillment sort of stuff. If the goal of the cast a crew was to create a cartoon that kids would watch and love, then they succeeded. All the boxes are ticked off.

One small personal note: Steven Universe actually reminds me of my own childhood because of a bizarre instance of synchronicity. When I was a kid, playing the Palladium Books role-playing game, Heroes Unlimited, one of the things I liked to do was actually use all the random character creation tables, that everyone else just skipped or picked from, even if it created some really strange heroes, like one time, a teenage mutant ninja hippopotamus, who despite being built like a hippo, was still as stealthy as a ninja. One month (campaigns rarely lasted more than a few months) I ended up with a crystalline alien heroine who had escaped her rigidly hierarchical interstellar civilization in which caste was determined by what sort of precious stone you seemed to be composed of. Every time the characters in Steven Universe interact with “Homeworld Gems” I get a flash of a reminder, a sort of involuntary memory, like a character in a Proust novel, about what it was like to be that boy with no responsibilities more pressing than making up stories of super heroics with my friends.

But I might not be over-thinking it, because there are elements in the cartoon that seem as is they were lifted from horror stories. I’m thinking of the character called Lapis Lazuli. Lapis was broken, literally, her gem, her most basic expression of who she is, was cracked and turned into a tool, a mirror that can record and replay sights and sounds. And she was stuck like this for thousands of years! It is unclear how much hope she had that she could ever be restored, but I’m thinking not much.

Think about what that would be like. Did you ever read Tribe 8? I suppose it would be like sundering. Tribe 8 is a role-playing game published by Dream Pod 9. It’s basically a zombie apocalypse on PCP. Hyper-mega-zombies protect humans from normal zombies so they can use the humans as raw materials, mostly to renew themselves, but also to make weapons, or architecture out of living humans. They make buildings out of humans that are still alive, that still respond and provide pleasure to the inhabitants of the buildings. A person can be turned into a wall, and left with no hope of ever being restored, forced to respond in the way that the hyper-mega-zombie desires, constantly praying for death. It still haunts me.

Also, what does Lapis Lazuli imply for the other gems that the Crystal Gems fight, capture and recover? The Heaven Beetle obviously seems sentient. It has a little bed, and a little book. It plays the bongos! For an old hippy like me, playing bongos is a huge step towards passing a Turing test! I own and play bongos regularly. And what about the bird that protected the Heaven Beetle? It seemed to be composed of dozens of crystal shards. Were they people once? Were they sentient? This is a serious question because gems (meaning these space aliens) are made in a process that ruins the planet that they are harvested from, so they don’t just happen casually. They are intentionally created at great cost.

When the other gems found the mirror that Lapis was imprisoned in, they had no concept that the gem that powered it was a person. Is this normal in their culture, to be stripped of your personhood and reduced to a device? When Steven expressed a desire to help the gem trapped and forced to power the mirror, they acted like it would probably be a monster, a horrible criminal, or dangerously insane from it’s millennia of debasing servitude. What kind of a monstrous society do the gems come from?

The answer is, their society is prejudiced, oppressively hierarchical, totalitarian, and unsustainable without interstellar exploration. The Crystal Gems, as the heroes of the show call themselves are the remnants of a rebellion that happened on Earth, wherein one particular Crystal Gem made the conscious decision to not be an invading alien parasitic monster. This person was Rose Quartz. She convinced others to choose not to be monsters, even though they knew it would make them criminals in the eyes of their fellows. Even though they knew they would have to fight, and most of them died.

Really, the society of the Homeworld Gems is terrible. When Jasper arrives she calls Garnet a “shameless display”. She disregards the virtue of intimacy. The cartoon is pretty clear on this. For the gems, there is no greater physical intimacy than to experience fusion. When two or more gems fuse their physical forms, when they join their magical energies to become one greater being, mitigating their weaknesses, enhancing their strengths, this is just as sexual, just as dangerously vulnerable, just as important as the most intimate acts humans can perform for each other, and she called it “a trick”. What a horrible culture they must have that to them intimacy is only ever a means to some other end.

They chose to rebel, because they were inspired by us, humans. Sure we are predatory, pack-hunting apes. We can be pretty horrible. But we are not parasite monsters that leach the life out of everywhere we choose to reproduce. We can be intimate with each other. We can be in harmony with our surroundings. We can find sustainable ways of being. We can nurture those things we find necessary to survive. A lot of what we thrive on is just grass and weeds anyways, if the mint in my window-box is any indication. Seriously mint, whats going on with you? This runner that I am pruning right now: I am not pruning it because I need mint for tabuli. I am pruning it because there is no way you are ever going to find sun, soil, and water on my carpet. Stay in the window box. Where are you trying to reach?

So after thousands of years protecting us humans despite all our weird horribleness, Rose Quartz met Greg Universe. And she had almost given up hope. She was just going through the motions, just protecting the Earth from the remnants of the mess that was made when her civilization invaded the Earth. But how could she do anything else? If she went elsewhere, the parasite monsters would come back. Could she rebuild her army? She didn’t know any other way to make new gems. She only knew that gems were made in the ground and that it sapped something from the Earth or polluted it in some way, I’m not sure. I haven’t watched much past the first season and not in order. The point is, she was painted into a corner. Eventually she would die, either in accident or battle, eventually all the remaining Crystal Gems would die, and their aspirations would die with them. No new gems would take up their cause.

But when she met Greg, he offered her a way out of the corner she’d painted herself into. Humans, half of us at any rate, have little human making factories built into us. The right sort of human, the female sort, can make another human inside her, and it doesn’t leach any kind of life energy from her at all, except maybe calcium, but that’s what almonds are for, or canned salmon burgers, you get it. Seriously moms, get your calcium. Osteoporosis is weird and scary.

If Rose Quartz could make a person inside her, she could make decedents, inheritors. Being a shape-changing magical alien, this should be easy for her. But even if she could do it, make a new human, that wouldn’t get her out of her trap. Human decedents would still consign her people, gems, to extinction or monstrosity. In order for Rose to have a decedent that could inherit her culture and civilization, she would need to create something new in the universe, some sort of human with a gem built into it.

In order for Rose to offer the possibility of a sustainable future for her people, she would need to create Steven, even if it meant that she had to put the only gem she had to work with, her own, into this new being.

Steven Universe is the hope of two entire species. Steven Universe is the hope for all humanity, that we can become something more magnificent, not frail creatures of meat and bone, but creatures of magic and power, stepping out among the stars. Steven Universe is the hope for all gem-kind that they could become something more magnificent, not rigid creatures of stone and oppression, but creatures of warmth and sisterhood.

Maybe Rose’s experiment will fail. Maybe Steven will never grow up and make more beings like himself, or new gems without the drawbacks of kindergardens. Maybe he will never be able to teach humans without gems to fuse or perform other magical gem abilities. Maybe it’s all just a pipe dream. Maybe the gem civilization will spread until they can no longer find worlds to despoil at which time they will become extinct with nobody to inherit their great achievements. Maybe the hand that Greg extended to Rose, maybe the love that he shared with her, maybe the hope that he offered her was all for naught. But right now, nobody knows what Steven is capable of. For right now, Steven is the hope of the universe.

And I believe in Steven.

Hey I wrote a haiku in Toki Pona

19 Mar

You wanna hear it? Here it go.  <- Ha ha, obscure David Alan Grier referrence

kasi weka len
alasa ale pini
tenpo insa ni

It means something along the lines of:

Naked trees
Gathering all done
Inside time

It was really difficult to write a haiku in a language with only 123 words in it, but there it is. I did it. I should try some calligraphy to show it off nicely.

How about Hiragana.

hiragana

That’s pretty good. But maybe we could try something else. Jonathan Gabel developed a unique script for Toki Pona.

syllables

Man oh man, calligraphy is fun. That is a cool looking poem. But Sitelen Sitelen isn’t just a phonetic syllabary. There are also glyphs for each word. Let’s write the poem with those.

sitelen

Awesome! Because each line of the poem contains the same number of words, even though a different number of syllables, the glyphs representing individual words can still form this cool square.

Oh hey, on this site, each Toki Pona word is assigned a Kanji. I could have written it in a little square of Kanji characters.

kanji

Gorgeous! Well that was fun. I’ll try to do another calligraphy project soon.

Gender in Tron

4 Nov

Let me begin by admitting that I just binge watched Tron Uprising, and I enjoyed it immensely. Not only have I enjoyed how the setting of Tron has developed since Kitsis and Horowitz brought Tron back for Tron Legacy, but I enjoyed Tron Uprising as it’s own thing. Let’s be honest with ourselves, the original Tron (1982) was not a science fiction classic. Tron was pretty much The Wizard of Oz, with a glowy computer theme laid over it. But Tron Legacy was a thoughtful film about emergent artificial intelligence, in which the villain was in the right, and he was ultimately defeated with a big hug. I’m really not sure how we, audiences lucked out, since The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) was a science fiction classic, and in 2008 it was a moronic snorefest in which aliens were upset that humans were destroying the habitability of the Earth, so they threatened to Destroy The Earth! (I blame David Scarpa.)

I even loved the art, the character design, and the cultural references in Tron Uprising. The characters have roughly the same proportions as characters from a CLAMP cartoon.

watanuki

Watanuki takes a mean fall.

Beck takes a mean fall.

Beck takes a mean fall.

This frame, aside from being beautiful and meaningful all on its own, deprived of any context, also seems to be an allusion to another great work of science fiction, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Classic Sci-Fi

Classic Sci-Fi

Maybe they made this reference because Elijah Wood was also in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Later on in the series, Beck (Elijah Wood’s character) does come into possession of a mighty weapon, shaped like a ring, that corrupts whoever uses it, and he has to take it somewhere to destroy it. At least this time he doesn’t have to walk the whole way.

Tron Uprising wasn’t as thoughtful as Tron Legacy. Much the same way Tron (1982) was Wizard of Oz in computers, Tron Uprising is Zorro in computers. I thought this was awesome because I love Zorro. And I cannot stress enough how well suited the Tron universe is to Zorro style storytelling. In a Zorro TV show, you might have to occasionally have an establishing shot before a fight or a chase scene. In Tron, no such shots are necessary. If you need a fight, the characters pull their disks off their backs and engage in some Anis Cheurfa style martial arts action. (Thank you Anis Cheurfa; your gymnastics changed what Tron was about in an awesome way.) If you need a chase scene, the characters pull batons off their legs, materialize bikes or jets or something and go to it. Tron is an excuse for instant fight and chase scenes with as little fuss as possible.

However, Clu is disappointingly a much simpler character in Tron Uprising. In Tron Legacy, there was really no way for Clu to understand the significance of emergent artificial intelligence. His only point of view was as a program, so to him ISOs (emergent artificial intelligences) could only be perceived as malfunctions. He was tragic in several ways. In Tron Uprising, Clu is just a tyrant, and ISOs are usually nothing more than a convenient target for the racism and xenophobia of the programs (as the other inhabitants of the grid call themselves). I thought Uprising was simpler than Legacy because Uprising was a Disney cartoon for kids, but they waste absolutely no time and jump immediately to brutally murdering characters that we were just starting to like, and getting the surviving characters in complicated sexual relationships.

Yes, they brutally murder each other in this show. In the most grizzly samurai story, you might hear about a samurai testing a new weapon on some hapless peasant, but this happens in Tron Uprising, almost as if we should have expected it. There is a character named Pavel, played by Paul Reubens (and his performance is amazing). Because I always forget Paul’s name, I had trouble remembering Pavel’s name, and periodically just called him Evil Pee Wee.

So help me, Jambi, if you mess up one more wish I will reach into your box and CHOKE THE LIFE OUT OF YOU!

So help me, Jambi, if you mess up one more wish I will reach into your box and CHOKE THE LIFE OUT OF YOU!

Well, in one episode, Evil Pee Wee walks down a line of cells, picks one with three tough guys in it, unlocks the cell, unlocks their weapons, tells them to not escape in the most sarcastic voice you have ever heard, and then brutally cuts them into little cubes, all to test his weapon.

But the violence wasn’t the only thing that startled me about this cartoon. It is dripping in complex sexual relationships.

If we count the pilot as the first episode, then this scene takes place six and a half minutes into episode two.

If we count the pilot as the first episode, then this scene takes place six and a half minutes into episode two.

This isn’t just some boy who has a crush on a girl he works with. This guy is pining for that girl, and when they go out to a club together and he feels like she has firmly friend-zoned him, he runs off with another girl who tries to seduce him.

Either she always arches her back uncomfortably for no reason or she is giving him "come hither hiney".

Either she always arches her back uncomfortably for no reason or she is giving him “come hither hiney”.

I swear to you, she just said, “Well, it's getting late.” When a sexy human female leans back and says, “It's getting late.” she means, “Take off your clothes or take me home because I can't wait any longer for you to make your move.”

I swear to you, she just said, “Well, it’s getting late.” When a sexy human female leans back and says, “It’s getting late.” she means, “Take off your clothes or take me home because I can’t wait any longer for you to make your move.”

And this really got me thinking. Why? Why is there sex in Tron at all? Why are any of the programs female? Don’t leave a comment that some of the programs are female because it’s a movie and we have to cast it, because other sci-fi franchises are so short on ladies you’d think they were made by people who hate ladies. In Star Wars, as a child I thought The Clone Wars were some conflict in which women were made largely obsolete by cloning technology and that’s why there were no women other than Princess Leia and Aunt Beru.

But the presence of females in Tron is puzzling because that is not where new programs come from.

Clu cannot create new programs.

Clu cannot create new programs.

This means that there is no amount of wealth or social power that Clu could amass that would give him access to something that makes new programs. This is in sharp contrast to humans in which massive amounts of wealth or power often gives one very easy access to baby makers.

They (the ISOs) were never written. They serve no purpose.

They (the ISOs) were never written. They serve no purpose.

Incidentally, no one knows where new ISOs come from either, not even the ISOs.

So, programs must, in some way, be written. This adds another tragic level to Clu’s struggle. Clu must strive to create the perfect system. If he doesn’t then why does he exist at all? The perfect system should be complex, efficient, and predictable. ISOs are not predictable. Therefore Clu must overthrow Flynn and destroy the ISOs. But doing so removes his access to the process by which new programs are created. If Clu cannot gain access to Flynn’s disk and get into the larger physical world, he knows that one day all the programs will die and be derezzed. Even if programs never age, they do “die” through accident or combat. Clu’s war for “perfection” will make the grid desolate and empty, if he cannot win it and beat Flynn.

So why do programs have genders? I remember the first Tron (1982).

Our spirit remains in every program we design for this computer.

Our spirit remains in every program we design for this computer.

OK, so Tron looks like Alan (Bruce Boxlietner) because Alan’s spirit remains in Tron. Yori looks like Lora (Cindy Morgan) because Lora’s spirit remains in the program she developed to handle laser simulations. Tron and Yori are in love because Alan and Lora are in love. But then this raises the question:

sluts

Which sluts imbued their spirits into these programs?

And the Wizard of Oz theme seems to have been abandoned in Tron Legacy. There is no program named Duze played by Cillian Murphy because Cillian Murphy played Edward Dillinger who wrote OS12. Although that would be awesome, right? Duze invented the means to repurpose programs because OS12 turns your computer into a police state where you can’t do what you want with your own files, if those files contain copyrighted content. Plus:

This year, we put a 12 on the box.

This year, we put a 12 on the box.

I don’t know. I doubt Disney would let a critique of DRM sneak into one of their films, no matter how fancifully presented.

Back on topic. In Tron Uprising, programs do not seem to have gender because of some human designer somewhere who imbued the program with his or her spirit. So what is the purpose of their genders? Is there some thing that programs accomplish in their mating that aids the system overall? Is that why they were programed to desire mating? Maybe they just like to mate because it feels good. Programs have program sex to experience program orgasms?

But then why are their gender values like ours?

Human females feel like, “If we have sex with you we might get pregnant and even if we take every precaution against pregnancy, sex’s reproductive function is still written on every molecule of our being so we’re going to be less eager to have sex than you males.” Program females have never reproduced through sex so there is no reason any female program would ever need more convincing to have sex than a male program. Male programs should not be pursuing female programs. If anything female programs should be trying to convince the male programs to go through the exertion of having sex for his measly single orgasm while she has half a dozen. She gets more out of the relationship than he does. Why do programs of different genders have substantially different attitudes towards sex?

Also, are there sexually transmitted computer viruses?

If sex is divorced from reproduction in Tron, can we even call these genders, since they seem to play no generative purpose, they lead to no new generations? And am I looking at this from a limited human perspective? Because I am cis-sexual (in difference to trans-sexual, ie. I am a man who alternates between actively liking my gender identity or totally ignoring it as irrelevant.) am I missing some aspect of Tron gender?

Full disclosure: I have what might seem like a weird take on gender-revolutionary trans-sexuality. If you (cis-sexual person) so desperately need to fit people into the gender categories of male or female that you have to ask ambiguous people about their genitals then your rudeness borders on a personality disorder. However if you don’t obviously fit into male or female genders then just deal with whatever pronouns occur to me. I got it “wrong” because I seriously don’t care. My perception of your gender shouldn’t matter to you unless you are sexually interested in me. Gender is a social construct. I am part of society. Don’t tell me I’m not part of society or shove whatever gender you feel you are in my face. That is also a level of rude that borders on personality disorder.

Perhaps, in Tron, they have more than two genders. Are sirens female? CmdR Paige is a female program. She used to be a medic, considered becoming a musician, and then she became a military cmdR. Could she hypothetically quit her job as cmdR and become a siren? Sirens are a different color. They look vastly different than females who aren’t sirens.

Also, why are the sirens so much more sexed up in the cartoon?

Sexy live-action siren buttocks – note how the glowy parts of her outfit accentuate her waist. Very nice.

Sexy live-action siren buttocks – note how the glowy parts of her outfit accentuate her waist. Very nice.

Cartoon siren buttocks – note the buttock cleavage. They drew her without pants. Her buttocks are simply colored white.

Cartoon siren buttocks – note the buttock cleavage. They drew her without pants. Her buttocks are simply colored white.

Are these guys male? Or do they represent a different gender with fundamentally different interests in whatever kind of sex programs have?

Are these guys male? Or do they represent a different gender with fundamentally different interests in whatever kind of sex programs have?

Is “shoulder pad guard” a job, a social position, a gender, or what? What is “siren”? I am aware that the lines between job, social position and gender have not always been easy or clear. Here is an interesting article on the definition of the term “Eunuch”.

Also I’m not wondering how many genders programs have in Tron because I read Joe Mcdaldno’s Rookvale and now I can’t stop thinking of Rookvale society with its six genders. This has nothing to do with Rookvale. If I read Joe’s game properly, then you put the gender cards on the table and every player picks one, meaning a group cannot have two characters of the same gender. This would seem to be more of a meditation on how we express gender roles and gender values, even in all male or all female groups. We’ve all noticed that the “mom” of a group of friends is not necessarily the oldest woman in the group but could be a young heterosexual dude, just whoever is most mom-like to this group, usually whoever is most concerned that this particular group of friends doesn’t get involved in antics that are too stupid or dangerous.

Rather, I’m wondering how many genders programs have in Tron because I sincerely want to know if “siren” is such a fundamental part of identity that a siren is always a siren no matter what job the siren might have, and which jobs and types of relationships are only for sirens, and which jobs and types of relationships are sirens generally thought to be excluded from. And can sirens go against these standards? Can a siren do a job or get in a relationship that is thought to be for female programs, or male programs?

There is an episode towards the end of the first season called Rendezvous in which I thought some of my perplexity was going to be alleviated. In this episode Beck goes out on a date with Paige. Elijah Wood is really good in this episode. Beck often sounds insincere and borderline rude to Paige without it sounding like Elijah Wood is just acting poorly. He sounds like Beck is on this date with ulterior motives that he can’t adequately hide (at least from the audience), and that he’s baiting Paige.

Paige frequently contorts her body into sexy poses when she's around Beck.

Paige frequently contorts her body into sexy poses when she’s around Beck.

At this point we are two increments from watching these two programs make out.

At this point we are two increments from watching these two programs make out.

But then Pavel interrupts them and I never got to find out what they hoped to accomplish on their date, what kind of digital sex acts that programs might find rewarding and why they might feel that way. I swear that I screamed at the screen. “No, Evil Pee Wee! Stop! They were about to show me how and why programs get busy. Why are you such a terrifyingly horrible and insane villain?” Later in that episode Evil Pee Wee hires someone to torture Paige, alters her memories, and then he uses a super-weapon on her that nearly kills her, pretty much just because Paul Reubens plays a brilliant psychopath.

I don’t think they will be making this cartoon anymore, which disappoints me, but as far as I know there will be another Tron movie. I doubt that Kitsis and Horowitz or anyone at Disney has any interest in explaining to me why programs have gender dimorphism, or gender polymorphism or whatever we want to call it. But I thought Tron was cool when I was a little kid in the 80s racing my lightcycle through stunts on my parent’s driveway. (You pulled a ripcord, placed it on the ground and it zoomed off. It was a great toy.) Now that Tron is much more mature and interesting, I want to think about it more, but now that it’s more mature and interesting there is this weird thing (gender that seems to have no bearing on reproduction) that I am finding very distracting, but not distracting in a bad way, because I seem to enjoy thinking about it.

Somehow I seem to enjoy the distracting thought that Lux might not be wearing pants. Weird, huh? Incidentally, Lux's relationship to Cobalt (the character she's touching in this image) is so horrible and complex that it gave me the ick.

Somehow I seem to enjoy the distracting thought that Lux might not be wearing pants. Weird, huh? Incidentally, Lux’s relationship to Cobalt (the character she’s touching in this image) is so horrible and complex that it gave me the ick.

I discover Whiteness Studies

14 Dec

This is a transcript of me discussing Whiteness Studies with my wife on Skype. In it I report on my sensations after consuming toxic levels of caffeine.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Have you ever heard of Whiteness Studies?

Mrs. Jahbooty: no, what is that

Sheikh Jahbooty: Me neither.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Rockford and Anais were trying to teach me about it.

Sheikh Jahbooty: It is the idea that “white” as an ethnicity is something that has it’s own identity, just as much as “black”, for example.

Mrs. Jahbooty: really? i would think then that the identity would be mostly about how others perceive you or how you perceive yourself compared to black people…because it’s not a real ethnicity with a cultural basis, etc

Sheikh Jahbooty: That makes sense. We can’t really be free of cultural bias because humans need language for some basic developmental processes.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i guess i’m saying it’s more a relative identity, because there are lots of different ethnicities within whiteness, right?

Mrs. Jahbooty: kinda like without a “gay” identity, would there be a “straight” identity

Mrs. Jahbooty: it’s relative

Sheikh Jahbooty: Yes, all ethnic identity is relative, that’s cool.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Or all identity!

Mrs. Jahbooty: that’s very human

Mrs. Jahbooty: did you see the RSA animation on that….I forget which one

Sheikh Jahbooty: Or is all language relative?

Mrs. Jahbooty: i don’t think so

Sheikh Jahbooty: I do not think I did, but the one of cultural progress and revolution did touch upon it when he talked about increasing human empathy.

Mrs. Jahbooty: people like to categorize, it makes understanding easier

Sheikh Jahbooty: Whoa! I think categorization and understanding might be the same thing.

Mrs. Jahbooty: hmmmm

Mrs. Jahbooty: i’m inclined to think they aren’t the exact same thing, but maybe really related

Sheikh Jahbooty: So anyway, Rockford told me last night, “Whiteness is a cultural standard that we all have to conform to.”

Sheikh Jahbooty: “It’s almost as much of a hassle for you to conform to whiteness is it is for me.”

Mrs. Jahbooty: breakthrough…black and gay are an identity in reaction to society at large…maybe in that way black creates a white identity and gay creates a straight identity. and black and gay identity are also born out of not having a history

Mrs. Jahbooty: in that case it’s almost like the standard english accent

Mrs. Jahbooty: we have to conform to it, but in reality it doesn’t exist

Sheikh Jahbooty: That was part of his point.

Mrs. Jahbooty: no one has the perfect english accent except people on tv

Mrs. Jahbooty: i wonder how that happens…how perception and ideals become writ large and no one really lives them, but we feel we have to aspire to them

Sheikh Jahbooty: I guess through art.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i get what he’s saying

Sheikh Jahbooty: You establish consensus on aspirations through communicating them compellingly.

Mrs. Jahbooty: but whiteness isn’t considered cool…so maybe it’s a standard for economic success, but not a full aspiration

Sheikh Jahbooty: Hmmmmmm

Sheikh Jahbooty: Hmmmm Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

Sheikh Jahbooty: Can you ritualize an aspiration so much that people look for it in you, for performance of a certain duty, even though everyone detests it?

Mrs. Jahbooty: i don’t understand the question?

Sheikh Jahbooty: Like can you imagine that someone needs to be a cockbiter to be a good manager, for example.

Mrs. Jahbooty: people often feel that way

Mrs. Jahbooty: i’m thinking about marginalization and compartmentalization of aspiration…we do that

Mrs. Jahbooty: so you need to be a certain type of person to succeed as a banker, a different type to be an entertainer or a different type to be in the creative field

Mrs. Jahbooty: so maybe there is this whiteness aspiration, but it’s not for everything but it can help you in other fields the closer you get to it.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Wow, that’s pretty amazing. It’s all so finely detailed.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Maybe whiteness is a baseline of aspirations and you need other aspirations on top of that to fit into like, banker or baker, or electrician.

Mrs. Jahbooty: hmmmm

Sheikh Jahbooty: Like suppose we could define a person by his aspirations. Then those aspirations could fall into categories. And he would be acting “white” based on how many of his aspirations matched the category of “white”.

Mrs. Jahbooty: well then you’d have to define white

Mrs. Jahbooty: and that’s a whole other kettle of fish

Sheikh Jahbooty: Aren’t we all doing that, every day. 😛

Mrs. Jahbooty: ok then define it…it’s not easy

Mrs. Jahbooty: and i would venture to say that white in this case America is really just majority

Mrs. Jahbooty: like straight is to gay

Sheikh Jahbooty: Holy fuck, I need to slow down. I rolled over on my side on Rockford’s floor, reached into a bag of coffee, threw a handful of whole beans in my mouth, and chewed them up. That’s how I woke up this morning.

Mrs. Jahbooty: ugh so you ended up with the coffee beans!

Mrs. Jahbooty: did you eat

Mrs. Jahbooty: it’s almost 11am

Sheikh Jahbooty: Whole coffee beans.

Sheikh Jahbooty: That’s what I ate.

Mrs. Jahbooty: that’s not food

Mrs. Jahbooty: that’s something that’s not quite coffee

Sheikh Jahbooty: It’s just I was sitting here, excitedly typing to you, thrilled about all this and I realized I was flying, while Rockford and Logia and Anais and them are tired.

Mrs. Jahbooty: you need food, you’re on a coffee high

Sheikh Jahbooty: I feel like I am two increments away from being that guy who wakes up under a piece of furniture, looking up at a sign that says, “If you can read this, you have partied too hard.”

Mrs. Jahbooty: ok, then stop with the beans and get some food

Sheikh Jahbooty: Oh wait. I think there was some apple pie.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i love apple pie

Sheikh Jahbooty: Yes, there is a large mysterious apple pie here.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Rockford was getting ready for work, and neither of us had pants on, and he said, “I need to put on pants.” and I said, “I don’t like this job business, if you have to do it with pants on and sober.”

Sheikh Jahbooty: I think that’s part of the white identity, “aspires to wear pants”.

Mrs. Jahbooty: no one aspires to wear pants

Sheikh Jahbooty: And that is how conforming to whiteness hurts us all, regardless of color.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i think casual friday is an attempt to be more comfortable…but you just have to wear pants if you are outside and around people who aren’t your family or very closest friends

Sheikh Jahbooty: You and me, and all real people, really aspire to be pantsless.

Mrs. Jahbooty: right now i aspire to have a day without proofing or custom color on samples

Mrs. Jahbooty: but i also happen to be pantsless

Mrs. Jahbooty: and would love not to be sober

Sheikh Jahbooty: You are a high achiever.

Mrs. Jahbooty: 😀

Mrs. Jahbooty: it’s not very white of me…which is why we’re not rich

Sheikh Jahbooty: 😀 OMG completely.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i really aspire to be rich despite being pantsless and when i get there, then you can say i’m a high achiever

Sheikh Jahbooty: Well, you already have the pantsless down, so you’re already halfway to being Rich and Pantsless.

Mrs. Jahbooty: oh, dibs on the autobiography title

Mrs. Jahbooty: it’ll be my opus on running a successful creative business

Mrs. Jahbooty: and i think pantsless is the easy part, so maybe less than halfway there

Sheikh Jahbooty: But you are also not destitute, so you have some in the Rich column too.

Mrs. Jahbooty: not destitute doesn’t equal almost rich, hippy

Mrs. Jahbooty: 😀

Sheikh Jahbooty: ROFL

Sheikh Jahbooty: Hold on, more coffee.

Mrs. Jahbooty: nooooooo

Mrs. Jahbooty: have more pie

Mrs. Jahbooty: you’re gonna think you can fly soon

Sheikh Jahbooty: Holy shit, why does he own so much pie and ice cream and cider?

Mrs. Jahbooty: because he is awesome!

and then later

Sheikh Jahbooty: Back

Mrs. Jahbooty: i’ve been having an amazing day! i’m about to watch the last being erica. how are you?

Sheikh Jahbooty: I went out shopping with Anais and we drank several double espressos.

Sheikh Jahbooty: There was this moment when I was drinking that last double espresso when my jaw clenched up and I winced from drinking coffee.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Then I looked into the cup and said to myself, “Do not put that into your body. That will mess you up.”

Sheikh Jahbooty: And then I drank the rest.

Mrs. Jahbooty: why?????

Mrs. Jahbooty: are you o.k.

Sheikh Jahbooty: I feel awesome.

Mrs. Jahbooty: well that’s good

Sheikh Jahbooty: I spent the past two hours rubbing my face on Anais while she read her doctoral thesis and I told her when sentences made no sense and then she fixed them until they did.

Mrs. Jahbooty: o.k., allen ginsberg.

Meme-spaces

28 Oct

Part 1: I am a weirdo.

There are many good things about working alone in a hidden subterranean workshop. It is cold, dark, dank, and lonely.

But there are bad things as well. At some point you realize it’s been so long since you’ve physically spoken to someone you don’t like, that you would not be able converse with normal office drones even if you had the opportunity. You might not even be able to speak American with an HR director to get a position in which you ever talk to an office drone.

And it’s not just that I watch so much foreign films and television that I’m starting to talk like James Edward Almos in Blade Runner. I forget how much Japanese, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, Farsi, Chinese, Polish, Urdu, and Swahili the average person knows. And before you say, “We’re all ignorant Americans. We know none of those languages.” let me remind you that you all know what tofu is, or pierogies. You all know that one sleeps on futons. You all know that cowboys say, “Via con dios” when they part. You all know what RSVP means. You all know what algebra is. You’ve all said “Hakuna Matata” at some point. This is the USA, the melting pot. I’m used to you all using words from foreign languages. I just forget which ones to use. I forget that it’s not currently hip to ask the time in Arabic. I forget that “cuanto” is not yet a common way to ask how many of something. I forget that “khopsurat gond” is not a slick way to tell a bro that you think a woman has a beautiful butt. I say “Oh God” in Arabic, not because I’m a Muslim, and thus refer to God as Allah, but because “Yallah” ends on a vowel sound, so when you say it you can express more exasperation than you do in English. I forget that people don’t know this or are upset by it.

But let’s ignore that for a moment, because these are relatively simple memes. The really complicated memes, the ones that really trip you up aren’t as easy to catch as a word of foreign origin.

To illustrate: Let’s suppose you are at a party. And let’s suppose I am hovering near the drinks because I am a super villain unaccustomed to interacting with hideous inferior human pig-smellies. (Meme Alert) In this hypothetical situation, you approach a beautiful woman getting a drink and attempt to engage her in conversation. And she shoots you down. Then I say “She doesn’t like you. I don’t like you either, and I’m wanted on 12 systems.” What did I just attempt to communicate to you? I attempted to be a good bro. If you also watched Star Wars too much as a child then you know the next line, “I’ll be careful.” And if you deliver that line, it means we are bros. We like the same things. We’ve had the same experiences. If I say, “You’ll be dead.”, and a third dude peeked over your shoulder and said something like, “This little one isn’t worth your trouble. Come, let me get you a drink.” then we would almost be legally required to be best friends for life.

Star Wars fandom is a meme. It is a meme that can get so complicated that people deep in it can deliver dialog in Bachese. When we think of memes, we tend to think of things transmitted through the internet, Boxy, Lolcats, Tay Zonday, Electric Six, Xhibit putting cars in cars, or All-your-base. But a meme can be any idea that people like to transmit to each other. Everything from religious sentiments to interest in specific celebrities can be viewed as memes.

And I often find that hidden here in my subterranean lair, people forget to transmit their memes to me. And the memes that do find their way into my dome are not the ones that the rest of you have been bouncing back and forth. When I go out and spend time in the physical presence of other people, I feel like “the guy at the office who did not watch the game last night”. Whatever you have to say to me, I will not understand.

And I have no idea what you will understand. Working in a subterranean workshop means that most of the people you interact with are on the other side of a chat window. And someone on the other side of a chat window, even a video chat window is someone who has Google Translate, Wikipedia, and Know Your Meme at their fingertips. The amount of things that one can be informed about, or feign being informed about is staggering. When I post on a forum that I put spooky beans in Spooky Beans so you can play Spooky Beans with spooky beans, everyone gets it. When I go to the store on my bike and the cashier offers me a bag, I might say, “No, I don’t like bags enough to take a bag and put the bag in my bag so I can bag while I bag.” and it is an extraordinary person who understands the origins of that statement.

Part 2: Maybe we are all weirdos.

But I have to wonder how much of my disconnectedness is the result of my work conditions, and how much of it is just a sign of the times. True, I have no idea what is popular music today, but you might not know it either. You ride the subway listening to your MP3 players, walking past posters that you totally ignore, because you are reading a book. Or you drive to work listening to your CDs or your MP3s. Maybe you have satellite radio in your car, and if that’s the case you probably listen to it. After all they have so many stations of satellite radio that you could spend your whole life listening to your favorite radio stations without even knowing who Lady GaGa is.

(I chose Lady GaGa because I honestly don’t know who she is either. I mean I know this is the stage name of a pop star, but between Pandora, Soma FM and my own extensive music collection, I don’t recall ever hearing her music and wouldn’t recognize her if she were sitting on my lap.)

Do you even own a TV anymore? You probably still watch television shows. Even I still do that, but watching a TV show on Hulu or from a torrent is different from watching television where even the advertisements and scheduling of shows is structured around building up ideas and associations in us to make us easier to manipulate consumers.

This is actually a big concern among marketers and advertisers (my previous career, before I became a Stationer and CHUD, provided we can change the C to mean Creative or Crafty). In fact, as a stationer, I kind of face the same problem. I may not be convincing you to donate to a cause or purchase a product anymore, but my job is still partially to convince you to go to someone’s wedding, corporate event, baby shower, non-profit fund-raiser, etc. And try convincing anybody to do anything when you don’t know anything about how they spend their time or make their decisions. It’s a big challenge. It’s the death of mass market, the death of mass media. Everything is niche market. Everything is niche media. If you are advertising on Buttersafe, you could conceivably be reaching a significant portion of your market or intended audience.

A few years ago, a friend of mine tried to talk to me about a meme she was infected with, a product that she was interested in. Coach Bags. In case you don’t know this, and I’m willing to bet that most men and some women do not, a Coach Bag is not a bag that is appropriate for a sports coach. Coach is actually a brand of ladies’ purses. They are apparently a big deal if you’re into that sort of thing, so much so that someone who likes Coach Bags can entirely forget that they are talking to a dude and will likely need to explain that a Coach Bag is not a bag for a coach.

My point is that while I know I am finding it more and more difficult to communicate with people who do not share many of my memes, I am willing to bet that many of you are in the same boat as myself, not that you are super villains with subterranean lairs, but that you are normal working stiffs who just can’t keep up with all the crazy things that everyone is on about. I mean seriously, when there were five TV networks, you might be able to go to work and hear someone say, “Did you see the show on last night?” But now that there are hundreds of networks on television, and thousands of websites where one could conceivably kill an evening, nobody has that conversation anymore. Finding someone who likes the same shows as you is kind of a special thing nowadays. It is finding someone who will get your references and jokes, someone who you can communicate with freely.

Part 3: Isn’t it awesome?

Now, if you have enough money to not work anymore or you are in the business of keeping money concentrated on those people, meaning, if you are anything like I was when I worked in marketing and advertising, then you are thinking that this is a bad thing. How can we keep people obediently consuming when they are so different that they can speak the same language but still have trouble communicating? This isn’t just a problem for consumerism, you may be thinking, but a problem for society. We are so fragmented as a culture that we find it difficult and unpleasant to talk to people who are this different from us.

This is the end times. The country, heck every country is too split up. Your hippy niece is delusional for supporting the Occupy Wall Street protestors. She isn’t only ignorant of the issues, she is ignorant of the Fox News programs that inform patriotic Americans about the issues. She hasn’t even heard of them. She thinks that the government should provide health care to the citizens. She thinks that the government protects the lives and property of it’s citizens, and since we have an army and navy and whatnot, we should also be protected biologically. Sure, we may have an army and navy and whatnot, but doesn’t she know that Americans will never become the victims of biological weapons? (Giving disease ridden blankets to the Sioux doesn’t count since they weren’t really Americans.) We can’t agree on anything anymore. We’re operating from totally different sets of “facts.”

(Do I need sarcasm markers on the above paragraph? Is it obvious enough that my own point of view is that those fighting against paying taxes, those fighting against government health care or government services like Social Security are fighting against America? They might as well call up Al Qaeda for paychecks. They certainly couldn’t be hurting Americans more or providing better service to the terrorists.)

But since I am out of the business of controlling your ductile minds, I find that this (our inability to agree on basic facts necessary for the security of our country) no longer upsets me. Instead, I find myself cherishing the instances in which I am able to find those who agree with me. It’s like we’ve all become super spies. When I go to a party at an apartment where one of the walls has been painted red, I know that I have arrived at the contact location. The code phrase is, “I need to keep the wall moist, so things don’t come through it.” My contact in the agency will then laugh and say, “Dude, I thought I was the only one who was thinking of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.” If the person I’m talking to responds with anything that does not refer to the Jhonen Vasquez comic, then I know they are not the person I am supposed to contact for the next part of my mission.

People may complain that communicating in movie quotes and song lyrics and scraps of poetry is not communicating but spouting up someone else’s thoughts. But they only complain because they don’t have the cultural background to understand the depths of ideas we communicate using these simple rote phrases. If I was listening to music with someone and I asked how they got the music, and they answered, “I paid for it with my eyes.” that means like 5 different things. It means, “I acquired it through piracy.”, “I am a huge fan of Cathy Acker.”, “Something about you makes me think you have also read Pussy King of the Pirates.”, “If you haven’t read Pussy King of the Pirates, I am uninterested in telling you how I got this music.”, and “Please respond with something along the lines of, ‘Well, that’s what dead pirates use for money.’ to indicate that we are allies.”

There was a time when the only memes complex enough for these sorts of secret agent interaction were religions. You might say to someone, Shalom or Salam or Namaste or Jai Jinendra, in order to indicate your allegiance. In ancient Rome you might draw a crescent in the dirt to surreptitiously indicate you are a Christian. (A fellow Christian would draw another crescent to form a fish, to indicate that he or she is also a “fisher of men”, and a non Christian would likely ignore it as a doodle on the ground.) But today our pop culture memes are of such richness and complexity that they are often more important in our lives. To some Star Trek fans, being able to speak Klingon is respect-worthy. If someone addresses you in Klingon they are either saying, “I expect you will be someone as worthy of respect as I, and you will be able to understand this and respond.” or “I am showing off that I am more worthy of respect than you, since I expect that you will be unable to understand this.” Also, they are saying whatever they said in Klingon.

It’s like communicating in hyper-speach. In hypertext you can add links to a body of text. You can make the phrase “You’re the man now, dog.” point to another hypertext document that explains the significance of that phrase. In hyper-speach you cannot add such links, but you can imply them, and people who are familiar with the topics can understand the implication anyway.

We’ve known for a long time that the actual content of verbal communication is actually only a small part of what gets communicated in any conversation, but people tend to think that all the rest of what’s communicated is through body language or dress or some other aspect of physical appearance. But I think that communicating through cultural references is actually a huge aspect of communication, often communicating more than the actual words spoken or body language or style or appearance.

I got a job once that I showed up tired and disheveled to the interview. I apologized and explained that I had been up late the night before making Scottish Potato Leek soup. The interviewer looked at my Polish name, decided that I probably wasn’t Scottish at all, and gave me the job. It was a job doing market research, and being able to communicate with people from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities was important to the work, and if I was interested in trying food that had nothing to do with my background, I was probably a good fit for the job. The cultural implications of what I said were more important than the content, or my body language, or my appearance.

And as we get more and more information in our collective access, this type of communicating through cultural references will only become a more and more obvious part of our everyday lives. It’s gotten so that my wife claps her hands in a way that identifies her as a fan of Ouran High Host Club. It’s the dawning of a new age of human communication, and I couldn’t be more excited by it.

Bronies

22 Oct

Remember back in January, on January 12th in fact, I asked you, internet, to download public domain silent films and help me dub funny things onto them. And there is no reason this should not have happened. I hang out with artists, musicians, anarchist revolutionaries, internationally renouned photographers, filmmakers, sordid New York City playwrites, and notorious jazz men. I count among my internet friends publishers, novelists, and infamous weirdos.

And none of you had time to do this!

I even downloaded What Shall We Do With Our Old, because it is exaclty 100 years old and I felt it was very timely considering the danger Social Security is in. Plus that scene where the foreman checks out all the carpenters at their work and disapproves of the old guy, it seriously needs someone to say, “I’d hate to shoot a butt like that.” But no! Nobody said it with me!

What were you doing instead?

This!

We could have been like Woody Allen making What’s Up Tiger Lily, but instead you were watching My Little Pony.

Listen, I like cartoons. Since January I have watched a metric swear* ton of cartoons. I have watched Fritz the Cat, all the René Laloux films, Kino’s Journey, Darker than Black, Sacred Blacksmith, Ergo Proxy, Wakfu, Samurai Champloo, and… whatever else I watched.

And despite the danger that bronies implied lay in watching My Little Pony, I tried watching that too.

And I was unimpressed.

OK, that was pretty cool.

That was awesome! You are forgiven.

Is it just me, or is Pinky Pie Equestria’s Tom Cruise. Cute as swear* and completely nuts.

*I forgot which swear words go there.

The one topic of this post is the numerous things about which I want to blog

20 Oct

I know I haven’t blogged in a few months. It’s just that now that I am a professional stationer, one of the unexpected side effects is that I work all summer on stuff because everyone wants to have their parties, their weddings, their events, etc. in the summer.

Now that it’s calmed down, I have some time to myself and I can think about some of the things that I’ve wanted to blog to you all about, and it’s a bit of a list.

First, Bronies. You need to be ashamed of yourselves, internet.

Second, I am finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with people who do not share my meme-space. I find that even simple sentences go awry. For example my wife might say to me, “Eekyo”, meaning “let’s go”, and I might respond with “D’accord” meaning “agreed” or “OK”. Or I might use a crack like, “I’ll call up Bob Avakian for him.” whenever I hear someone complain about one of the fundamental properties of capitalism (and it’s often someone who claims to be a strident supporter of capitalism who is doing it). And I don’t think anyone would get that except maybe my wife (because she’s heard me make that crack before) or my best friend’s girlfriend (just because she’s also a hippy revolutionary). When my best friends end a statement with the phrase, “That is the conclusion I have come to.” this sites William Burroughs, David Cronenberg, and says something about the trustworthiness of that particular point of view, but it is also irrelevant noise to someone unexposed to the film, Naked Lunch.

Third, I apparently have strange age-related prejudices. Or is it Strange-age related prejudices?

Fourth, do normal people who are incidentally in a minority have a duty to make noise, to remind everyone that the minorities you belong to need not be strange? Or is being normal a condition that is by definition un-news-worthy? Once you choose to be conspicuous you are no longer normal? As an example: if you are inconspicuous in your Judaism, and you happen to live near a town with a large Chabadnick community, would you also take effort to remind people you are Jewish, to try to kind of cut off anti-semitism, like, “Hey, anti-semitism also applies to me, so don’t even start.” For another example, “Should ordinary Muslims speak out against terrorism carried out in the name of Islam? Or does the act of drawing attention to yourself make you unordinary, by definition?”

Fifth, Epistolary Games. A friend just turned me onto De Profundis and for a number of my own personal circumstances, my wife’s multiple sclerosis, the demands of my chosen profession, my distaste for city living since my mugging, etc. I find this to be very interesting. In my opinion, De Profundis is not just another role-playing game, but possibly the first in a new type of game altogether, which I would like to call Epistolary Games.

Sixth, is the act of branding an ethnic group to which you belong also an act of racism? For example if I create art and media commentary that communicates the idea that Polish Americans are kind, generous, tolerant, and easy going (or at least drunk), am I creating a positive identity for Polish Americans such that when a Polish American acts in a way that is cruel, stingy, intolerant, or stressed out (or at least sober), then we can call that person out as not acting Polish enough, or am I characterizing all other ethnicities as less kind, generous, tolerant, and easy going (or at least drunk)?

Seventh, I find that I live an almost Walter Mitty-ish existence from my underground lair at an undisclosed location in New Jersey. My question is, how do other super villains ever manage to get out and commit villainy? An underground lair is actually kind of a sweet deal. All I need is a sidekick to run out for groceries for me and I will be set. “Harley, pick up some curry rotis on your way into the subterranean lair, today.” Considering that this underground lair also contains my stationery workshop I could realistically get an intern or two.

And how relevant is my active fantasy life? Think about how much of our actual reality goes absolutely unnoticed because we go through our lives with filters on. I mean, if you know some old person who hates homosexuals and angrily opposes the rights of gays to marry each other, it is likely that person goes through their whole life unaware of all the gay people they depend upon in their own community. C’mon there is almost nowhere in the United States where you are out of walking distance of a church that wants to offer the sacrament of marriage for even their same sex paired parishioners. Something about your mind has to keep you unaware of that fact. Otherwise you see immediately that opposing gay marriage is religious persecution and a violation of the first amendment. Their ideas have to somehow edit the gayness out of their awareness.

If these people can be said to have a decent grasp of reality, then I should be able to be considered completely sane even if I convince myself that every one in five people I meet is an alien and I need to be careful before Roddy Piper comes around the corner and beats me up for an absurdly long time in order to get me to wear his crazy sunglasses. I am not complaining about my government and media seriously considering the ideas of crazy people when deciding what laws to pass or stories to cover. I am excited by what delusions of awesomeness I can pass off as reasonable ways to look at reality.

Eighth, the philosopher Daniel Quinn laments many of the characteristics of modern society and attributes our unquestioning acceptance of these characteristics to what he calls, “The Great Forgetting” which he dates to 10,000 years ago, about the time of our agricultural revolution. But I wonder if part of the great forgetting is misleading us about how long ago it happened. Perhaps the first seeds of The Great Forgetting were planted 10,000 years ago, but I can’t say for certain what they were other than to grow crops. For example, the idea that every inch of the globe should be owned by someone and governed by some state probably doesn’t go back that far. I’m willing to bet that in Prussia, before Otto von Bismarck, there were large areas of Prussia that were kind of lawless, not under the authority of any of the Prussian principalities. The same could probably be said of Italy prior to Garibaldi, and this is not ancient history by any means. The idea of living tribally isn’t restricted to cults, pirate ships, or traveling circuses. People have lived lives that were more tribal, like on a ranch or hacienda, to lives that were less tribal or even almost completely isolated and materialistic, like a pope, king, or industrialist. I’m even willing to bet that in pre-agricultural times there were those who lived isolated and materialistic lives, hermits, oracles, sages, scholars, artists, shamen, etc.

In fact the only thing I can place at the beginning of our agricultural revolution with any confidence at all might be the idea that there is a positive social value to be gained from suffering, like you will be blessed or rewarded in heaven for working hard at something you do not enjoy, or that it builds character or something, or that arduous tapasya, prolonged meditation, or painful martial arts training will gain you spiritual super powers. Fasting and denial are awesome and praiseworthy (unless you’re rich). You hear it in normal conversation, “He works in the sewers? God bless him. Someone has to.” when it would seem to me that a more reasonable statement would be, “He works in the sewers? How horrible. We need to find other ways of removing waste from our homes that do not involve someone having to do such an unpleasant job.” People started having unpleasant jobs 10,000 years ago, but I’m not sure that any of the other aspects of The Great Forgetting go back that far.

Ninth, are they making Care Bear cartoons again? And is it just me or does Grumpy Bear get more attention from the lady care bears than any of the other boy care bears? Alright, maybe you don’t need to be too embarrassed about the bronie thing.

Oh I’ve been tinkering with a new Mandombe font, and designing cool Mandombe calligraphy with which to write the names of Congolese celebrities. For example:

This could be used as a sash that Papa Wemba could wear over one of his fabulous suits. Or it could just go across the chest of a T-shirt if you could ever get Papa Wemba to wear a T-shirt.

I have also been watching and re-watching René LaLoux cartoons, unless that is a metaphor for taking some sort of drugs. (It seems like it would be.) Because I have actually been watching René LaLoux cartoons.

I just want you all to know that I think about you and I have interesting things to say to you, I just haven’t had the time. I’ll try to give each of these a proper blog entry, although the Mandombe one will probably be in French.