Updates, Some Good News.

Jul. 24th, 2017 07:24 am
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[personal profile] atolnon
I suppose I posted pretty regularly, last week, but mostly just notes and not personal stuff. I've taken on a few too many new projects and I'm having trouble juggling them - this'll probably get worse if/when I take on my teaching position - but I'm going to try to keep at all of them rather than drop them at this point because I technically ought to have the time to manage them and a few of them are likely to simply end up complete if I keep plugging away at them. I have my CV in at the local college, and I'm told that several instructors in the humanities/communications dept of which English is a part look forward to me starting there. It's not a special position - they need to fill slots for composition - so the odds are reasonably good, but nothing's sure. I have everything I need to post my application to other schools and universities, so from here on out, you'll know if I know, but there's nothing else to say.

Writing on vaporwave continues. I promised someone I'd write a short academic essay on the comic phenomenon of "Gramfel," which I'm actually pretty in to, but this shouldn't take a super-long time. Nobody actually expected that I'd do it - Kay and my plan is to have me write a real essay, Kay will take that essay and create a Buzzfeed style listicle on the essay complete with gifs, and then we'll print out the listicle with the gifs totally frozen and out of context, and delivery *that* as the final product. In order for the joke to be really funny, you have to really do the whole thing.

Do you want to hear some reasonably good news? My friend had gifted me with a second monitor that she was trying to get rid of because she didn't need or have space for a three monitor setup, and I ended up with it - plus a new speaker set - that I simply had no space to set up yet, even though I really wanted it. My desk was just too goddamn small. In fact, although my desk has reliably served me for, like, 7 years, which is a pretty good lifetime for a knockoff Sauder piece, it's not really designed for the kind of work I do. It's more appropriate as a casual computer desk or a teenager's writing desk. But yesterday, Kay casually checked IKEA's website to discover that there was something like a 20% off sale on desks and I could get one I was looking for at the price of about $200 - so saving about 50 bucks - so we drove out and picked it up pretty quickly. It took most of the evening to get it and then set it up, but it's between three and four times the size of my current desktop. Even with losing the shelf space, it's much better. So now we're checking to see if we can find someone to take the old desk, because it's still fine - just a bit small.

So, that's nice. It's not really the best time to spend the money, but it never really is, and it's been difficult trying to get work done in this house, on this platform.


Jul. 24th, 2017 02:15 am
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[personal profile] wohali
sorry for the absence. been kinda busy. trying to get CouchDB 2.1 out the door. And some bouts of illness.

But this tab is back open again so I'll try and stream-of-consciousness this week.


Environmentalism Under Capital

Jul. 20th, 2017 07:50 am
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[personal profile] atolnon
Many of the problems we face, in terms of the environment, even if they're not explicitly caused by capitalism, are made worse by capitalism and can't be solved while capitalism is the dominant economic structure we employ globally.

For example: almost any economic structure allows for manufacturing at some level, and they certainly allow for agriculture. These are major problems we have to face - how do we produce the things we need to live without overtaxing our environment? However, it's capitalism that's driven to produce in excess of need, or even want, because capitalism's development cycle is shark-like - it must always grow and never stop production, or the entire system collapses. That's how we've ended up with planned obsolescence and the concept of infinite growth.

I actually do think, in theory, that population growth is a problem - but the problem isn't really with "developing nations" (which is a Western, capitalist projection, anyhow) but with industrialized nations attempting to maintain population growth. (Which tends to taper off naturally, anyhow. We should let it.) But the reason it's a problem isn't an issue of living space, or even food production, but mostly, as I see it, water. And it's not drinking water that's the problem (it's a problem for people, but not a growth problem), but it's a problem with first-world industrial manufacturing turning people into faceless sales numbers.

We literally cannot solve environmental crises under the capitalist mode of production, because the capitalist mode of production cannot allow itself to cease - we simply have to find different things to purchase. And, I suppose in theory, we could simply attempt to circulate cash via media consumption, but by that stage, it's pointless because the very thing that makes it possible to circulate currency via media renders currency moot - the fact that media can be created and circulated indefinitely without loss. The physical issues of storage space (servers, electricity, and so on) are miniscule.

Not only is our current economic model unsustainable, but it's completely unnecessary. We wouldn't even have to change our lives that much - knocking the pillars out of planned obsolescence, rehabbing homes, re-distributing food, and ensuring clean water solves a lot of our problems right away. Entertainment is almost free. New technologies make food cheaper and easier to produce. Solving the transportation and infrastructure problems are paramount, but absolutely possible. We can actually see capitalism disintegrate before our eyes - it's the attempt to prop it up by force that will cause the colossal loss of life that is to come.
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[personal profile] atolnon
One of the assertions I see people make when discussing the viability of vaporwave as a genre of music is that it’s comparatively very easy for people to produce tracks, and it’s often heavily based on sampling, so it’s “less music,” basically. The exact argument tends to differ right there, but that ends up being the gist of it.

The gist behind the gist is basically, “If anyone can do it pretty easily, than it’s not really good, is it?” and that’s often pointed at some fundamental degree of musical value or worth.

Like, this is actually a pretty common argument if we look at other fields. Digital art versus physical mediums, or say, photography, live music versus studio music, or craft art versus “high” art. You get into issues of complexity with the written word, too.

I wanna say that a lot of this is just about class, ultimately. That capitalism is what it is, and does what it does so well is more or less just a refinement of that in terms of method, you know? There’s a virtue in physical mediums and kinds of technical skill (of which there are different kinds - I know some very sophisticated musicians who can barely answer their email, so they’d be useless with a digital music studio - so what’s “easy” is clearly relative), but only insofar as you get the “product” you want out of the application of that skill.

So, with vaporwave, the critique that it’s easy and very accessible to people who might not have been able to make music before simply makes it very democratic along one axis.

But the argument that it’s worth less because lots of people can do it, in this environment, is made so much worse with capitalism. The reason why is pretty straightforward - we view something easy to get as comparatively cheap (in terms of access, if not money) because of skewed (or overly simplistic) notions of supply and demand. Normally you might suppose that lots of people being able to write or make music would be good, because now there’s more writing and music! Yay! But music in that mode becomes valueless (even less so because sampling issues make it almost impossible to sell, sometimes).

Thus, you know, the perverse as hell incentive to make music making harder, to keep it “valuable.” We see this in the field of education, too - you would expect that you’d want a very educated group of people and as a society, you do! But as an individual, you don’t, because that means what you can do is less valuable. It creates a sick situation where you want to be educated, and more people are getting educated, so the value of the education drops, but demand for education is very high so the price rises.

According to some crude theories of capitalism and market dynamics, this will level out when the value of education drops and people stop, say, enrolling in college because it’s not worth their time. But why do we want that? In the same way, why would we ask people to stop producing music, or make it more difficult - on the whole, doesn’t it make all of our lives better? The argument against the relative valuelessness of vaporwave is a little sick, isn’t it?


Jul. 18th, 2017 08:15 am
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[personal profile] atolnon
I’ve always been confused (and a little irritated) by the assumption that all theoretical writing is either 1: useless because it doesn’t have a visible direct application or 2: needs to be accessible to every level of readership, by itself, with little or no relation to any other work that precedes it. I know why these assumptions have come about, but they’ve really only gained traction because the critiques are usually directed by writers who are both concerned about overall accessibility and the applicability of the work in the first place.

Accessibility is important, but readership levels are going to vary, and the complexity and audience of the writing are going to vary, too. By default, not every piece of theory is going to be easily accessible to every reader.

It’s not as though an inability to read any given piece of technical theory is a moral or ethical failing. It’s not as though writing in a complex way (even an overly complex way) is a moral failing, either - unless it’s intentionally written to obscure it from non-academic readers in order to keep them out of the conversation. Typically, the worst you can say it’s that it’s a technical failing - assuming that there’s no more simple way to put it. Often it’s a space or time saving issue - it’s written for an audience that already understands a lot of this stuff, and it can be (and should be) broken down for other readerships, but this particular document really only wants to be, like, 15 pages instead of 50 and rehashing a lot of stuff assumed readers already know.

I guess I’m just thinking out loud here, but while a lot of the critique against theory complexity and applicability is meant well (and we need to keep that critique in mind!), I think there’s a certain amount that’s largely just directed at writers in order to put them in their place, and when I see them pop up on social media, there’s almost always phrased in moral terms. I even see the accusations directed at people hoping to break down complicated jargons into more accessible works, as if the act of reading the original work, in itself, is a moral failing. That seems so goddamn asinine. I almost never see people accusing STEM fields of making their top-level writing inaccessible, even though I have seen more than one instance of STEM educators and writers deliberately making their fields inaccessible as a way of washing out students they saw as undesirable.

Just Your Standard Update

Jul. 14th, 2017 10:05 am
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[personal profile] atolnon
It's been long enough, so I figured I ought to check in. I'm pushing on how many pushups and situps I can do in one session, and trying to improve flexibility and my form for dumbbell curls. I should do more cardio, and I've been thinking about enrolling at a gym or signing back up for taekwondo, but I've been out of martial arts for a really long time, now, and the old instructors are really likely to have passed the dojo on to their top student - I have no idea if he's running it or not, though, now. I'm just keeping up with daily exercises and trying to set aside time every day for it. I've missed some days, but not really all that much. I started with only a few pushups a day, and I'm up to 25 which isn't all that impressive, but it's a clear improvement.

We're into mid-July, and it's been a very slow season. I had hoped that my CV would be back a little sooner, but my friend has assured me that it should be in by this upcoming Monday. I'll send out some emails to people I've worked with in the past who can attest to my pedagogical method as references, and put my hat in the ring for a few part time adjunct positions nearby. I have it on reasonable authority that the local community college is in desperate need of an alternate instructor for Creative Writing, since they only have one instructor willing or able to teach it, and it's possible she won't be there indefinitely. And, of course, the perennial need for willing rhetoric and composition instructors.

I've managed, so far, fifteen pages of fiction which is twelve and a half thousand words, and probably as far as I've gotten into a piece of fiction since I was a child, writing by hand in a notebook or maybe in college, though the pieces I was expected to write usually clocked in shorter - especially when you factor in that I was double-spacing it before and this is single spaced copy.

This is only a draft, though, and I really expect that the for every page I write, probably more than half will eventually get cut. Everything hits the page, in whatever order it makes sense initially and I can already tell I want to re-order sections of the plot. Right now, it'd be disingenuous for me to say that it's not a story, but it's not a very good one yet. However, yeah, I do think that there's the DNA of what will eventually be a good read; it's fun to write, it's interesting to me, I do find myself invested in the characters, their faults, their virtues, and whatever. A lot of setting information hits the page that'll eventually get pulled, but what I'm feeling with that process at the moment is that I'm fleshing out the setting as I go along - I already know what it's like, but I haven't shaken out the details, so the document ends up being a combination of extrapolation, research, description, and plot. Once I have all of that, it's easier to know what you need to convey the scene, which information is important, which information the reader will want, and what's just over-explaining. The last, of course, being a classic science fiction/cyberpunk pitfall.


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