Esther’s Space- journey through my life

April 22, 2007

I’m sorry Donna, but we just can’t be friends…

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 10:08 pm

I tried to be open-minded. Really, even after I read the title, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism the 1980s” I decided that, since we’ve been having such a great streak with these readings, perhaps I now have the skills to take on these ridiculous pieces and ‘own’ the concepts for myself. I was wrong. Now, I’m back to that Barry tool of taking maybe just a little piece and masticating upon it for a while.

Okay, you can try to make her look cool by saying that she has blurred the distinctions between science and fiction, making it ‘new’ and ‘innovative’ when she says, “the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion” (2269). Certainly, some individuals have made this argument, because it is one of her most often quoted lines, such as in this article. However, I would argue that is not separately science and fiction that she is dealing with, but purely bona-fide, L. Ron Hubbard quality, science fiction here. It doesn’t make sense because it’s crazy talk.

It was rather difficult for me to fully understand what Haraway was arguing for in this article. (I do like to think that I’m not the only one, since this site, a self-announced “Ode to Donna” doesn’t even really talk about her writings, ideas, and accomplishments, instead a book about dogs and how cool she is as a person, yet has been maintained since 1996) Anyhow, back to the crazy talk. Haraway writes, “The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women’s experience in the late twentieth century” (2269). A cyborg being, “a hybrid of machine and organism,” (2269) I am led to wonder what’s the cyborg; feminism, the new gender, females, non-heterosexual beings or its, society? Where is this manifested, or ‘where da cyborgs at’? But, at the same time, Haraway seems to recognize her cyborgs as impossible, referring to her ideas as the “cyborg myth” (2274). So, we won’t have cyborgs taking over the earth (at least not in the near future), even if it may have looked like “late-twentieth-century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial….Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert” (2272) in 1985, it is harder to swallow now, since we know that a machine is only as capable as the individual who has programmed it.

I’m not a fan of sci-fi. I’m not a fan of Haraway. It doesn’t make me think critically, it only makes me judgemental and grumpy. What do I do with this, where do I go with it, and how can it enrich me? And where did the cyborgs go after the first chapter? Why, Donna, why?

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April 15, 2007

Baudrillard’s postmodern bend

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 9:07 pm

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I need to begin by thanking Al Gore for inventing the Internet. I began Baudrillard, and immediately had the problem that I had no idea what simulacra was. Lucky for me, I had the internet available. (we will disregard the existence of dictionaries for this example) Now it all can make sense, because simulacrum is: slight, unreal, or superficial likeness or semblance.

So, continuing on…

Though I enjoy reading and mentally sparring with Baudrillard’s stuff, we have a problem. I am Russian Orthodox, which is a very, very close sibling (sister, brother, you tell me) with Greek Orthodoxy, and we have those icons that he puts forth as an example of simulacra.

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So, here we are, with representations of Jean and Jesus. “Thus perhaps at stake has always been the murderous capacity of images, murderers of the real, murderers of their own model as the Byzantine icons could murder the divine identity.” (1735) My toes are bruised. As I understand it, Baudrillard argues that in the creation of images, we have replaced the genuine meaning of the individual with this representative, metonymically reproduced symbol or sign of the original, except that this is postmodernism, so there really is no original. Damn, that made perfect sense in my head.

So, we are then given the “successive phases of the image”n(1736)

  • reflection of a basic reality
  • masks and perverts a basic reality
  • masks the absence of a basic reality
  • bears no relation to any reality whatever; it is its own pure simulacrum

I understand the argument, and it is well constructed. However, I disagree. Both of the renderings above are reflections of some reality. At what point do they become these masks? How can this transition be recognized? Baudrillard writes, “the transition from signs which dissimulate something to signs which dissimulate that there is nothing, marks the decisive turning point.” (1736) I want the proof, Jean, not the rhetoric. These icons, similar to if we made copies of your picture on a machine, are reproduced using the original, and with no intent of altering or skewing the image. Is it then that the ‘meaning’ of the image changes? What represents that shifted meaning, then, because I see a representation of Christ when I look at the icon, hence the name, ‘icon’. The way Baudrillard describes the ‘successive phases of the image,’ I imagine some evolution, but I don’t see it. Perhaps I’m not looking….I’m going to go do a little magic schoolbus of the internet, I’ll brb.

Presenting: St. John Will-I-Am Coltrane & the African Orthodox Church:

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he musical ministry is delivered through the “Ministers of Sound” also known as the church ensemble: Ohnedaruth. Many of the members of this ministry are ordained clergy who are dedicated to spreading Coltrane Consciousness.[…] With all music dedicated to God, to whom all praise is due, Ohnedaruth has played virtually every night club and Jazz venue in the bay area, including Kimball’s East, Yoshi’s, Bimbo’s, and the San Jose Jazz Festival.” (from the official St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church Website www.coltranechurch.org) Okay, I take some of it back. This is enough to give the ‘real’ Orthodox churches an apoplexy twenty-seven times over.

I must revise my argument, though Baudrillard is against the idea of any original from which messed-up reproductions are made, isn’t it necessary in order to have some model for the new, and to compare it to? I can only compare St. John Coltrane’s icon to older icons because it was styled after it and in the same tradition. So, my weak and pathetic argument as I take my foot out of my mouth: while images and representations tend to reproduce simulacrarily and metonymically, not all necessarily at the same rate, and while the reproductions may be increasingly lacking with greater reproductions (copy of a copy), the original remains fresh and unadulterated, or at least more so than the 40th copy. And, no matter how many distortions are made to an image, it does retain it’s basic reality for a very long time. Jesus is still Christ in the pictures, even if he looks slightly different, and Jean is still Baudrillard. The ‘basic reality’ is the hardest to shake.

April 11, 2007

Horkheimer, Adorno, I’m no inchoate, I’m fully inculcated

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 7:10 am

The constant pressure to produce new effects (which must conform to the old pattern) serves merely as another rule to increase the power of the conventions when any single effect threatens to slip through the net.  Every detail is so firmly stamped with sameness that nothing can appear which is not marked at birth, or does not meet with approval at first sight.  (1227)

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While Horkheimer and Adorno focus primarily on the entertainment industry, they do discuss the fact of art being destroyed by the same process as culture.  So, since my dinner date interrupted my perusal of this fascinating article, it gave me opportunity to ruminate upon some of the arguments they have made, including the requirement of sameness in the reproduction of culture.  So, we went to dinner.  The staging of the meal was exactly as it has always been, from drink order to dessert.  And, when the entree was presented, it looked like every plating of North American/European food that you’ve ever seen in a magazine; mixed vegetables nestled against a mound of mashed potatoes, with the protein (chicken in this case) leaning upon the potatoes at an angle.  The only new affect that was offered for the evening was a new entree option as the special, and the illusion of choice that Horkheimer and Adorno are concerned about.  However, despite this sameness of presentation and content, the restaurant is highly acclaimed, and furthermore, I was happy with what I was provided with.  I suppose I have been fully inculcated, because I was content with the illusion of choice and would likely demand the sameness again in the future.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about this to satisfy Horkheimer and Adorno, but perhaps my awareness will be enough for the present.

April 3, 2007

Cho’ momma is so funny

Filed under: Uncategorized — estherspace @ 9:12 pm

“The Chippendale’s dancers are gay. They’re gay. Because there is no such thing as a straight man with visible abdominal muscles. You have to SUCK COCK to get that kind of muscle definition.”

“Because I wasn’t Asian enough – they decided to hire an Asian Consultant. Because I was fuckin it up as an Asian. She would follow me around: “Margaret! Use chopsticks! And when you are done eating, you can put them in your hair. Now you’re wearing shoes which is something we don’t do in the house. Now I’m just going to leave this abacus right here…”

“I am not gonna die because I failed as someone else. I am gonna succeed as myself. And I’m gonna stay here and rock the mike until the next Korean-American, fag hag, shit starter, girl comic, trash talker, comes up and takes my place!”

I can’t even imagine where to begin.  While the other people I forced to watch the DVD with me didn’t totally get it, I spent the entire hour-and-a-half with my pen and paper…”oh, that is sooo performance, why does she do her female voice like that?” etc.   While some of the references were above my head (sorry!), such as Karl Lagerfeld or “Facts of Life,” once I got into her performance it did help me to better understand the performativity of individual categories of identification.  However, I was looking for it.  The others I watched the DVD with were less than impressed.

The gay man.  Please draw your attention to quote #1.  Every gay man was rather ‘effeminate’ and spoke in a particular manner, and apparently all moved in the same way.  The ‘gay man driving’ thing was soooo nasty.  Oh, and my efforts to appreciate the ‘balls in pantyhose’ scent, bad idea on my part!

“Because I wasn’t Asian enough….”  This is a problem facing individuals of all ethnicities who have been displaced (if that is what it can be called) .  Today at work I had a conversation with one of the security guards about the flack that he has been getting due to the fact that after high school he let go of his ‘thug’ identity in favor of a different image.  Now, he is being criticized for not being ‘black enough.’  My roommate’s mother is German and her father is Greek, with both of them actually coming from their respective countries.  However, my roommate is not ‘Greek enough’ for her dad’s family or ‘German enough’ for her mom’s.  We went to the Russian deli and bought farmer’s cheese.  People only go to the Russian deli to buy farmer’s cheese in order to make Pascha (traditional Easter cheese thing).  But, we are sooooo American.  And we spoke English the entire time.  We received a serious ‘evil eye’ from the owner, maybe it’s related to the fact that last time my roommate was there, she was asked “Vhere are you fram?”  and she responded with, “Michigan.”  I’m Russian Orthodox but know less than 50 words in Russian, and my accent is enough to make any Real Russian flip shit.

How can we win?  Is is about winning?  Wouldn’t the best choice be to allow everyone to behave in whatever manner they feel most comfortable and refrain from categorizing them?  I would argue that such is not possible, for we, as a basic human need, want to categorize ourselves, because in identifying with others we are able to feel like we belong somewhere and are not floating about existence entirely on our own.  We are not made to be completely individual; there have to be at least connections with others that can be drawn.

Even Margaret Cho (Mo Ran Cho) isn’t completely free from the identification process.  She does her best to convince her mother and herself that she is just who she is.  But, as she admits, who she is is simply a, “Korean-American, fag hag, shit starter, girl comic, trash talker.”  Hey, it might not be mainstream, but she is identifying with these various groups as a means of defining herself.  And, even if she doesn’t wholly recognize it, she is performing her ‘self’ in a manner that allows her to define herself as such.

April 2, 2007

Butler: man, woman, or just “radically incredible”?

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 8:21 am

::hysterical crying:: I was so very close to done, then it all disappeared. So, now you will receive the less-entertaining version. I apologize for the inconvenience. And sorry Doug, now you won’t see me today.

What happens to the subject and to the stability of gender categories when the epistemic regime of presumptive heterosexuality is unmasked as that which produces and reifies these ostensible categories of ontology? (2489)

Why, what a great question, Judith, why don’t you tell me? While I’m sure it is Butler’s way of engaging the readers and encouraging us to think critically about what she is presenting, I, too, am an older sibling and know this trick. I’m not going to do her work, it’s not my job. And just for fun, epistemic= of or relating to knowledge and the means of achieving it, and reify= to treat an abstraction as if it had concrete or material existence.

Chapter 3, Subversive Bodily Acts, Including Flatulence, Halitosis, and Sexedness

I just wanna take a minute to holla at my dawgs, Foo-K’o, and to DJ Semiotic Saussure, and tonight we even have Neitzsche in da house!

That gender reality is created through sustained social performances means that the very notions of an essential sex and true or abiding masculinity or femininity are also constituted as part of the strategy that conceals gender’s performative character and the performative possibilities for proliferating gender configurations outside the restricting frames of masculinist domination and compulsory heterosexuality. Genders can be neither true nor false, neither real nor apparent, neither original nor derived. (2501)

Judith, darling, sex and gender are not separated by =. I agree with much of what you are saying, gender is often a performance. But, sex is not necessarily gender. There is essential sex because, most of the population, is in possession of either male or female genitalia. It is a fact, even if a biologically male individual feels like a woman, he is he. He can perform some aspects as a ‘she,’ but there are essentially some that he cannot. Furthermore, I would argue that the performance of a gender is highly influenced by social stereotypes, how else would one come up with a list of ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ traits?

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And, who can discuss gender performance without talking about Norah Vincent’s book, Self-made Man. For this book, Vincent spent one year living, working, and acting as a male member of American society, joining a bowling league, going on dates with women, and working in a high-testosterone sales environment. For the entire time, she was never found out for who she ‘really’ was, she had successfully performed her goal gender. As she is quoted in the New York Times article, “I passed in a man’s world not because my mask was so real, but because the world of men was a masked ball.” Vincent and Butler should get together and chat, because they are totally on the same page.

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