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Monthly Archives: November 2009

I guess it’s maybe time to explain the title of this blog, to the extent that there is something to explain. Internet Conundrum refers to the conundrum I have with the internet, which is: I hate it, but I can’t seem to keep myself away from it.

This goes double for the anonymity/identity duality that the internet affords. Technically, this blog is anonymous; practically, that’s not really the case. If you know anything about the city that I live in, you can guess where I live. My posting name is Kat – that could be my name. It could also be a pseudonym; I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a common one, given its alternative/animal/hip/hot topic kind of name.

This blog is also linked from my facebook page. Hi, friends! You all know me. Many of you know the people I talk about. And that’s not really that weird, because I’m writing this from the standpoint that people who know who I am are one day going to read it. I don’t believe in true anonymity on the internet. I’ve spent enough time on various “anonymous” website, and there’s always a way to find out who you are, where you are, etc. The details that you give out on one website might be corroborated (or enhanced) by your details on another website, since many people reuse their login names for different websites. One of my high school usernames was my AIM name, at the time; two art portfolio names; several messageboard profiles; my blog. Between all the different websites, the information given was enough to figure out exactly who I was, even if you didn’t know me to begin with.

This is a weird thing about the internet.

The latest issue of Adbusters has several amazing articles about the digital world, many of which concur with my own opinions about the matter.

Because I don’t like the internet. I really don’t. It’s not just about anonymity/the lack thereof; it’s about the way that the internet tears apart the traditional structure of communication. Right now, as I write this in our living room, Paul is laying on the couch surfing the internet on his Mac. Meredith was (as of three minutes ago) laying on the couch surfing the internet on her Mac. I am sitting on the easy chair writing this blog entry in OpenOffice and flipping between tabs in Firefox. None of us are speaking, but slack-faced and concentrating we ignore each other’s presence while feeling okay about not being “alone”.

This is a bad thing about the internet.

The issue of Adbusters talks about the hikkikomori, who are probably the most startling example of what the isolation of the internet can do to a person. They are young Japanese who decide that the real world is not up to their standards and who, living at home, recede into their rooms and their electronic devices until they no longer rely on any community except the ones they find on the internet, which frequently – due to the sociopathic tendencies that anonymity often provides – will not back them in a way that analog communities will do.

(See: Tomohiro Kato, the man given as an example in the article about Japan’s virtual youth.)

All of which is to say two things: One, I am taking a break from all internet-related activities save this blog (which I write in OpenOffice anyway), and looking for jobs. I am going to start reading books again – and real books, not just dopey YA fantasy novels.

Two, I am going to start writing my neo-Luddite manifesto, and it’s going to be the Player Piano of our generation. Or it will never leave the steamer trunk where I keep all of my sub-par creative output. (Read: all of my creative output.) Either way, I’m going to be busy. If you need me, call. I’m not going to be on the internet, and I probably won’t answer my email unless it’s super important.

Praxis and solipsism are two of the words whose definitions I forget the moment after I look them up. I only really encounter the former in academic writing, and the latter in philosophy texts/Meredith’s vocabulary. (Not always mutually exclusive.) So here are their definitions, according to Merriam Webster:

Praxis: action or practice: as an exercise or practice of an art, science, or skill/customary practice or conduct.

Solipsism: a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing.

Thanks, internet dictionaries!

I was supposed to go see Fuck Buttons in Allston last night, but for a variety of reasons it fell through. Meredith and Andy weren’t really into the band and it was a twelve-dollar cover; those two things wouldn’t have been enough to skip the show, but Fuck Buttons went on a nine and Paul’s sweet potato pie only came out of the oven at five of. I had planned on writing a review of the concert, but instead I will simply recommend the band: noise/drone/electronica, and heavy on the noise for their first album, Street Horrrsing. (The other day while I was doing dishes, I turned on “Colours Move,” my favorite song. Starts out with a noise drone  for an entire minute before it introduces a staticky drumbeat. Immediately from the other room, Meredith said, “What’s that noise?” “Music,” I said. “Oh,” she said. “I thought it was one of the appliances.”) The band lightened up, tightened up, and smoothed out their sound for Tarot Sport, the album that just came out in October; however (unlike Pitchfork) I liked the first one better. But lo-fi is frequently more my thing.

Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers is marginally tolerable, for Tom Wolfe, but not good. I think just about the best thing I could say about it was that I finished it, and that only because it was 130 pages long. Wikipedia says that “both essays looked at the conflict between black rage and white guilt.” And yeah, they did, but not in a way that was constructive, or interesting, or really anything other than Tom Wolfe trying to hard too hard to be a dick. “These Radical Chic Evenings” was just stupid. I like knowing things about the Black Panthers – I wrote over a hundred pages about them last year – but I really, really don’t care about their interactions with rich New York socialites. And it’s not even that. An analysis of “radical chic” when it came to a bunch of rich Jewish socialites and their white guilt vis-a-vis the Black Panther Party would be exactly the sort of thing I would like to read — it’s Tom Wolfe writing about something that I would like to know more about, but instead of being educational he just turns me off the subject entirely. Just like The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

And as for “Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers”… I don’t know. Interesting, in the sense that learning about the black lumpenproletariat is interesting — which is to say, I learned things that I didn’t know before — but not actually that interesting, since I finished the book yesterday and am now straining to think of anything to say about it. Which is, of course, the worst kind of insult. It’s not memorable, it’s not funny, and Tom Wolfe should maybe have stuck to writing novels. (I started Bonfire of the Vanities over the summer, and I though it was okay. I’m better at tolerating irritating authors/narrators in fiction.)

Thanksgiving was today. Food was gobbled, Great Lakes Christmas Ale was so guzzled, and good times were had by all. I’ve got myself a nice food baby pot-belly. Everyone else is passed out. For a while I was futilely hoping that their “naps” were actually going to be naps and then they would wake up and we would all hang out, but after about four episodes of Arrested Development I pulled myself up off the couch, put the turkey in the refrigerator, and went to bed.

So here I am.

There is nothing quite like friend-family holidays, where being drunk and vulgar is a measure of pride, not of censure.

“Why? Because it’s Ellen Ripley Time.”

Speaking of young children coping with things! (As I was, in my last post.) Does anyone else think Newt from Aliens is just a little too mentally stable for having gone through the pants-wetting terror of watching fetal extraterrestrials violently emerge from the stomachs of everyone she knew and loved? She snaps out of her thousand-yard-stare and immediately turns into the “cute, tough, and sarcastic” plot device that attempts to cover up a distinct lack of character development or reasonably written dialog.

I know, I know. The movie is a video game. I’m not hating, I’m just saying.

I finished The Graveyard Book earlier this evening (so be warned this review contains HEAVY SPOILERS because I am an asshole and I really don’t care. It’s been out for a year; if you’re really worried, read the stupid book already, it’s three hundred large-print pages long). All literary douchebaggery aside, I think it is a very enjoyable, moderately wholesome YA novel that doesn’t condescend to its audience. The bad guys lose in the end, but Bod doesn’t kill them. He doesn’t get the girl in the end, because sometimes that’s not the way these things work. The good guys are all dangerous but On The Right Side.

There is an over-arching moral binary in the good v. evil  of Bod and Silas et al against the Jacks, but the actual day-to-day morality of Bod and Silas and the ghosts is a little more complex than that. We are never told what, exactly, the Jacks do and why they want to keep their organization from obsolescence, but it’s clear that they work for a bunch of power-hungry bureaucrats — and are fairly power-hungry themselves. They are ruthless killers who will murder babies in their cribs to further their own ends, and enjoy themselves while they do it. However! Bod uses the human girl as bait for the most ruthless of the Jacks — the one she trusted, which I’m sure was a weird and awful experience for her — and traps two of the Jacks in the ghoul world where they’re pretty much going to be eaten by ghouls in about twelve hours, maximum. Silas and the other Good Guys kill every single one of the other Jacks in Melbourne, Krakow, and… Toronto? I think it was somewhere in Canada. Vancouver, maybe. Granted, all of these things happen offscreen, but there the body count racked up by these so-called Good Guys is pretty impressive.

Bod experiences a reversal of Gaiman’s Normal Man Gets Plunged Into Strange World, Must Cope every time he tries to enter the world of living people, and each time, ends up fucking things up for himself and Silas. However, this is only the case because the man Jack is after him. Eventually he’s going to have to return to the living world because he’s alive and changing. Although this only becomes obvious at the end, there’s an overtone of it the whole time. And speaking of inevitability, Gaiman pushes the idea that prophecy will always come true if you try to make it not come true, which I love.

At the end he reclaims his name as ‘Nobody Owens’, which has to mean something but I can’t quite come up with it, having majored in History and (marginally more) practical pursuits rather than English Literature and metaphors.

Sorry, I’m being a douchebag about this, and I said I wouldn’t.

I really did like the book. I would much rather any eleven-year-olds of my acquaintance read this than Twilight or Eragon or whatever it is that kids these days are reading. (I am approximately 60% joking with the kids-these-days comment, now that my brother is solidly in his teenage years.)

In other news, I am happy to report that my dream that centipedes had taken up residence in our cantaloupe did not come true, because it is delicious and entirely insect-free.

Trying to write something — anything! — and failing miserably. I wrote an incoherent review of Infinite Jest last night for goodreads while drunk on four-dollar “red wine” (yes, actually what it was called; tasted horrible room temperature but actually not bad chilled) and that’s been it for weeks. Drunken incoherence or nothing. Woo woo woo.

Reading The Graveyard Book right now, and it’s just about as good as I had expected, which is Very. It’s true that I might only be saying that because of my gigantic girl boner for Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, but I do think there’s a legitimate amount of really awesome in this book.

The Graveyard Book moves away from Gaiman’s usual theme, too, which I like. His other works, especially his novels, generally follow Normal Man Gets Plunged Into Strange World, Must Cope plot structure. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it makes for a very satisfying story. This one, however, seems to be more like Boy Grows Up In Strange World, Explores. It plunges the reader into the strange world instead of the main character, for whom these strange events and creatures are, if not commonplace, nothing to be particularly frightened of. Part of this is Gaiman’s faith in the ability of young children to cope with weird things (see: Coraline) but I think another part of this is that Nobody isn’t the stranger in the graveyard he’s growing up in, we are.

More coherency, less postmodernism once I actually finish the book. And maybe by then, my Eggers/Wallace/Chabon pomo-hat will have fallen off, and I will be less douchey about literature. Unlikely, though, since I have to read How We Are Hungry by Sunday or else I will accrue fines, and there is no one who promotes literary douchitude like Dave Eggers.