November 06, 2004

Selected entry 6/11/2004

Writing about web page

Do you believe in essentialism?

It means there are some 'essence' that are fixed somewhat in our psyche or biology. For example, greed is a 'human nature' or Chinese are all cunny. Clearly, not a single sensible liberal can agree to that.

Yet we can still see same groups of people display, broadly speaking, similar characteristics which are less shared by other groups.

Working class gives us bluntness

Middle class gives us hypocrisy and rhetoric

Upper class gives us arrogance and ignorance (of 'real' life)

Feminity gives us hysteria and freaky presupposition

Masculinity gives us egoistic, ruthless and sexist mental wanker

Wait a minute, you say, aren't all these merely stereotypes?

Indeed, but there is a certain degree of common sensual value in them. It doesn't matter whether these differences are 'real', whether men are really more egoistic and female more neurotic in nature. What matters is that people accept them to be true, and more importantly, accept them as the norm and desirable values. Hypocrisy is, after all, just another word for politeness.

In such way the seemingly false stereotypes are made real, as different groups pick up their own label and work hard to fit into it. It is important to note that, however, they are not deterministic. I am not just talking about exceptional case, which of course they exists, but that there are no necessary relationship between one's objective existence with the values she/he aspires to. A man located in lower part of social hierarchy may aspire middle class values simply because he wants to be one, imaginary or in his later life course. A man may aspire some feminine value simply because they find them important.

[Note: it is sometime difficult to understand why people aspire to some values, even if such values are not favourable to them. For example, Hong Kong people accept racism casually despite it puts them into a subordinate position among the racial hierarchy. Sectional interests in promoting particular discourse or ideology may be the issue we need to look into.]

Of course, your self identity may not, and ususally don't correspond to what others identify you with. Someone may define himself as Islamic but other may simply say he is a terrorist; someone might identify himself as Black Amercian but people just say niggers. Race is simply not an identity to be pick up from supermarket's shelf. As the Woody Allen's joke goes, you just can't become a black by studying in black studies. [in his film Bananas, 1971] Such disparity are often the source of conflicts and prejudices.

A short Xanga entry turns out to become a reflection on SO330 (i.e. one of my module)...not too bad though.

Selected entry 03/11/2004

Writing about web page

A question in a job application form stimulates much thoughts – the question was asking 'what do you think will be the most significant development or innovation to affect the way we live during the rest of this century?'. Pretty interesting question, shall I say, for job application, huh? So here comes the possible answers that have come through my mind:

[Note: this entry requires a bit of background knowledge about Japanese S/F anime]

1. Space folding

method of joining one point of space/time with another. In other words we will be able to access any space/time point at our wish. Time traveling and space traveling will become as easy as open a door. Definitely a historic milestone for mankind but unlikely to be achieved within this century I guess.

2. Space Creation

I would say it's somewhat similar to the first one. Space creation is the creation of a 'virtual' fourth dimension space, unlimited in size. In that way all the spatial problem that we are currently facing will evaporate, and we will have unlimited farmland (if you can find a sun and some water in that dimension) that will able to feed everyone – although it is quite clear that we are already producing enough food to feed everyone – world hunger is a distributional problem rather than a production problem (Sen, 1981; Germov and Williams, 1999). And you can predict what impact it would make to the worldwide housing market – so even such technology is discovered it is more likely to be used in building 100+ holes golf course rather than houses for the poor. Hmm…

3. New Type (!)

So you all know what I am referring to, huh? Quite unlike the concept in Yoshiyuki Tomino's mind actually. It is a new type of human being whom have made important progress with regards to the use of their mental power. They will be able to communicate with each other and control objects using their mental power, brain wave or something-like-that. Clearly that doesn't make them necessarily good pilot (of MS/MA) and the idea is more close to the one Sir A.C. Clarke made in his various works, powerfully manifested in 'Childhood's End'. The ability to control object by mental power is, obviously quite a terrifying one – below is an illustration of a New Type controlling and shooting pencils at someone else…you can tell she must be pretty frustrated…

4. Cyborg

Defined as 'a human who has certain physiological processes aided or controlled by mechanical or electronic devices'. It may take the form of the transplantation of mechanical organs, as a response to injury or needs to work under particular condition. Further develop down this line we can have the existence of virtual society, where one's psyche is separate from the body – somewhat like the Matrix world, put in simply. Nothing new, really.

5. Robots!

How can I miss this? This latest version of slavery, more compatible with the enlighten notion of equality, committed to serve the noblest and the most undignified wants of human being, will bring a whole new level of potential to human society – they can be used as a threat to union movement, the perfect tools to repress those bloody activists who dare to challenge authority of what-so-ever, to be raped by the master (that's what slaves do, man), and miniaturized robots would be the ultimate marketing (and social control) apparatus – they can hide in your hair and record your purchasing pattern and thus allowing the company to send you all those useful information specifically cater to your needs. Brilliant. And most importantly, as we human being discover such a new 'otherness' to be exploited we may forget all the prejudice and discrimination we have towards our fellow human. Why oppress the blacks when we can do whatever we want with the robos?

6. Space Colony

Such name is clearly misplaced – a colony without something/someone to be colonized (and thereby civilized them through killing, raping and exploitation) doesn't justify the name of colony. But no matter what the name it is, it will be an important achievement to settle in space – it will be the gateway to the stars as well as a new outlet for all the discontented and adventurous youth.

7. Domestic Applicance

'Please be more realistic,' you say. 'Alright then.' I'll give you an extremely useful gadget : self-cleaning material that can be used on dishes, carpets, wallpaper…virtually everything. Using biotechnology a specifically engineered micro-organism will eats up all the stains and dirty stuff and release oxygen. The words cleaning and washing up will disappear forever. If you think it is too trivial to be a milestone and history, then you are neglecting the experiences of numerous domestic workers and housewives.

So after all these fascinating ideas you must be wondering what did I put down in the form. The answer: safe, miniaturized nuclear fusion reactor. The reason? I prefer not to entertain the HR people who design such question.

Selected entry 31/10/2004

Writing about web page

It seems the only thing(s) I can do with my computer are either watching anime/manga/TV or blogging. Can't possibly think of other stuffs – may be writing essays oh but they are matters thousands light-years away (in fact they are deal in two weeks so the conclusion is that in my parallel universe light must be moving damn slow)...

Galaxy –

Not the chocolate bars or ice-cream,

but the galaxy which surrounds us.

If the explorers of the 15th century stared at the ocean and wonders what lies on the other side, then we people of the 21st century should look up to the sky. The magnificent deep space out there is where our past and out future lies. When we look at the stars in the sky we tend to question if any form of intelligence exists there – I'm not prepared to go into any philosophical debates here but merely want to make one point: the like hood of intelligent life form living in the other side of the sky urges us to go into space and evolve. Someday when we evolve to the stage of space-traveller we might well encounter other intelligent life forms and face competition from them. Homo sapiens, or mankind is a relatively young species in universal terms, and there might had been great galactic civilizations rise and fall well before we mankind managed to stand on our feet. The absence of contact from other forms of intelligence may mean we are alone in the galaxy, or it may mean the more advance form of intelligence prefer to leave us alone. After all, we are not so bother about what the bees or ants are doing in their hives. Then, if we finally manage to explore the space, only to find signs of 'no entry' or 'forbidden' erected by other civilizations here or there, we're left with few choices – to become the eternal prisoners of our lovely mother Gaia or making futile effort to fight our way out, only to be crushed mercilessly. To avoid such situation to happen we can either depend on our luck that the galaxy belongs to us exclusively, or to make harder effort to make ourselves a citizen of the universe. Only by emancipating ourselves from our cradle can we lower our chances of falling into such tragic consequence.

Of course, such wild scenarios are based on the competitive and hierarchical nature of the biosystem which may exist only on earth. It is possible that a universal hierarchy of life forms may not exist and the galaxy can be shared freely with other life forms. It is also possible that the seemingly unproblematic desire to expand will do more harm than good and that remaining on Earth is the best choice. The necessity of expansion and gaining a footing in the universe is clearly a belief or an ideology arisen out of the dominant masculine discourse rather than a scientific argument. But whenever I look at the stars in night, I have the sense that the dark space out there, separated from us by the thousands kilometers thick atmosphere, should be our true destination.

It is all men's romance,

the patriarchal thinking of conquering the female's body,

projected onto the exotic virgin lands of the galaxy…...

Oh that's why I like reading science fiction,

because they are in some sense a sex adventure…

Selected entry – 29/10/2004

Writing about web page

I have not abandoned my Xanga – just as I havn't abandoned my will in job-seeking – in one moment or another I'll be interested in it.

But I have nevertheless lost the interest in writing a well structured, organised, well laid-out, properly referenced, etc, entry and opt for a style which celebrates creativity, imagination, fragmentation, differences, dialect, interaction, organic and, above all, incomprehension. In other words, I have moved to a post-modernist style of writing. Post modernism, if you have little idea what it is about, is essentially like this:

_'urrr….[cough]....this is an extremely complex matter, with loads of internal diversity which cannot be conceptualised as an uniform whole. We should perceive it in an organic and dialectical way, apperciate its differences, sit back and take a sip of wine and do nothing.' _

Let's jump to another matter then. Just read a extremely interesting analysis of the pattern of a particular type of human behaviour, which have much wisdom in it.

'As I understand it, the process is something like this:

1. Boy is nice
2. Boy doesn't want to hurt anyone
3. Boy gets scared of doing something wrong
4. Boy doesn't ask anyone out incase he does something wrong
5. Boy has a lack of relationships
6. Boy becomes painfully aware that he doesn't really know what to do in a relationship
7. Go to 3

There is also this cycle:

1. Boy is a romantic at heart
2. Boy wants first love to be special
3. Boy unwilling to commit himself if not absolutely sure
4. Boy delays longer
5. Boy feels that it is wasteful to lower standards after waiting so long
6. Boy feels additional pressure for first love to be special
7. Go to 3

Now, as someone who has a friend (yeah, right) with this kind of problem, I feel it's important that we find ways of breaking the cycle (Arthur, 28–10-2004, 18:44).

I personally find this analysis extremely true, but as post-modernism fills my heart, I am urged to offer a little critque of it. The author did not pay attention to the conceptual inconsistency embedded in the notion of 'nice', 'romantic', 'scared', 'something wrong', etc. In so doing, he fails to explain adequately the seemingly appearent linkages between 'nice' and 'don't want to hurt anyone' and 'romantic' and 'wants first love to be special'.

Forgive me about these crap. You have to understand the these are rational response to strain (see Merton's theory of anomie) rather then mindless expression of frustration or anger. You have to understand the sense of insecurity that a finalist is facing; the realisation of incompatibility between ambitions of achieving socially accepted acheivements and structure of legitmate means opened to us; coped with a racialised and exclusive (in oppose to inclusive) society that developed historially through nationalism, consolidation of welfare state and negoitation of citizenship; and perpetuates in the series of moral panics initiated by moral entrepreneurs. This strain poses the danger of turning me into a nihilist…...or a retreatist who fills his empty soul with the illusion of anime and manga.

Currently reading: 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' by Philip K. Dick – not the most interesting SF I've came across but we'll see.

October 05, 2004

Crime and Deviance

Gave a little though into what is mean by 'crime novel' today after the Crime and Deviance seminar. Can we broadly say that any novel/movie that describe a crime is a crime novel? Not quite, I suppose. There was a classic Italian film called 'The Bicycle Thief', and the story is something like this:

Antonio finds a job of posting bills after two years of unemployment, and he needs therefore a bicycle to travel around. Desperately, he exchanges his family's linen for a bicycle. Tragically, the bike is stolen on the first day of his work. He and his son find the theif but the police are unwilling to help as they don't have any witness or evidence. Hopelessly, he attempts to steal a bicycle but is caught in the act.

So this is definitely a story about crime, where there are at least two stealing happened; the motivation of Antonio's criminal act is clearly identifiable – but it just don't fit well with the normal conception of crime fiction – no killing, no violence, no gunfights and no detectives. This echoed what was said in the seminar that extreme/violent crimes are overly represented in crime fiction.

Even if there are plenty of gunfights, killings and straight forward criminal activities, I am still not very sure whether the typical gangster movies/ stories like the Godfather can be catagorised as crime story – perhaps the Corleone family was somehow romanticised there and they were not caught – in that case their criminal acts seems kinda 'normalise'. This happens in many films which romanticise criminal acts as well, like the Ocean Elevens – where the crime is portrayed so entertaining that you won't realise that is illegal (or morally wrong). The Scarface on the other hand feels more like a crime story because Al Pacino is shot dead in the end (so usually a typical crime fiction would reassure us that criminals have to pay for their crime).

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