How to get by in a relationship – pretentious style

If you are ever asked why you never talk about your feelings (which has been asked of me weirdly enough!) or if you are accused of writing “Dear someone… errr… I love you” in their Valentine’s card (which, touchwood, I have never done) hit ’em with a bit of Derrida:

“Speaking frightens me because, by never saying enough, I also say too much. And if the necessity of becoming breath or speech restricts meaning – and our responsbility for it – writing restricts and constrains speech further still.” (Derrida, 1967)

Or, if in that tricky situation where you are both left in an awkward silence and he/she (oh no!) asks you what you’re thinking, hit them with an old favourite of mine – that sweet charmer Catullus:

” Odi et amo. Quare id faciam fortasse requiris. Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior.” Catullus Carmen 85.

“I hate and I love. Why do I do this, perhaps you ask? I don’t know, but I feel it happen and it torments me” (my bad translation, putting my A level Latin to some use, yay!)

In fact, you can stick that in a Valentine’s card. Providing he/she does not know Latin or know how to use Google.

I will add some more scenarios later. No, you’re welcome.


Of Wordsworth and the Inbetweeners (and other stories)

Yes, I did go there!

I’m re-reading the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads (because I can, and I’m doing research for a “maybe” paper which will link to my topics kinda) and I have always loved the way in which Wordsworth always capitalises the word “Friend” (hence the Inbetweeners reference – “Ooooh, Friend!”) – he mentions Coleridge pretty early under such a guise as giving him assistance “for the sake of variety, and from a conscious of my own weakness”. Poor bub, I do prefer Coleridge more than you I admit, but I still love you! Don’t fret, pet.

Anyway, the whole point of this post was actually another random connections of the day – with Huxley still remains fresh in my mind (and I have my name tag on my table next to me… maybe I can add a picture so this blog isn’t entirely text heavy), I went about reading some of STC (not Sonic the Comic)’s offerings. One of them, the Foster-Mother’s Tale, reminds me a lot of the plight of the Savage in BNW – obviously with some subversions/tweaky things.

BTW, here’s the tag!

If you change the religious theme to Fordism, you can see the ties – the little tyke preferring instead to “get down” in nature’s garden and not to indulge in prayer or rosary beads:

“And so the babe grew up a pretty boy,
A pretty boy, but most unteachable–
And never learn’d a prayer, nor told a bead,
But knew the names of birds, and mocked their notes,
And whistled, as he were a bird himself.
And all the autumn ’twas his only play
To gather seeds of wild flowers, and to plant them
With earth and water on the stumps of trees.”

The Savage in BNW isn’t too hot on the idea of the rituals in the disturbing saccharine sweet Utopia in much the same way. The escapisms of literature also prove the same point (the Savage being a real Shakespeare-phile of course):

“when the Friar taught him,
He soon could write with the pen; and from that time
Lived chiefly at the convent or the castle.
So he became a rare and learned youth:
But O! poor wretch! he read, and read, and read,
Till his brain turned; and ere his twentieth year
He had unlawful thoughts of many things:
And though he prayed, he never loved to pray
With holy men, nor in a holy place.
But yet his speech, it was so soft and sweet/The late Lord Valdez ne’er was wearied with him.”

The Savage does charm Lenina (who saw that coming?) and with this, with much encouragement from her, manages to attempt a visit to the “Feelies” and to observe the “world’s happenings” – as well as the plight of his poor mother. Of course, this addition to the world is where it all goes tits up – starting off a whole new trend of mania on his own, escapes in his own way having felt that he had betrayed his former life, if you get me.

“the youth was seized
And cast into that hole. My husband’s father
Sobbed like a child — it almost broke his heart:
And once as he was working near this dungeon,
He heard a voice distinctly; ’twas the youth’s,
Who sung a doleful song about green fields,
How sweet it were on lake or wide savanna
To hunt for food, and be a naked man,
And wander up and down at liberty.
He always doted on the youth, and now
His love grew desperate; and defying death,
He made that cunning entrance I described,
And the young man escaped.”

So in fact, I guess you could say even the last line has the same sort of resonance (depending where you look at it, of course):

“And ne’er was heard of more: but ’tis supposed,
He lived and died among the savage men.”

Also, remember that it is only alleged that he’s taken his life (OK, maybe I’m grasping at straws here).

I just realised that I haven’t proven my point well but going off on a Coleridge tangent, but you insisted. It’s only fair. I will get back to reading you… after lunch.

80 years on and it’s still a Brave New World

Baby, it’s [still] cold outside!

On Friday, I made my virginal trip to the Senate House in Gower Street for the BNW conference, dealing with its legacy 80 or so years after its publication. I was very fortunate to come across this nugget of information, and as usual, it was an impulsive trip that ended out very well!

The rooms, although grand and ornate and downright gorgeous, however, is not always conducive to the talks as the temperature can fluctuate and the chairs are just a little *too* comfortable, but superficialities aside the talks were all great. Angles from speculative fiction to technocracy and high art to the  autobiographical stories behind Huxley and son (an amazing opportunity to hear such personal accounts) as well as the tropes of mass manufacture, eliminating justification for pleasure and shortening the route between want and reward, to seeing how writing novels in the future can be seen as old fashioned – the “anachronisms” show us just as much about the present as it does for the future, if not more so. Of course, the hedonistic, mass manufactured society with its “Imax/3D” esque “Feelies”, the parallels between Apple and Ford, the visible increase in promiscuity and so on are very much a part of our society now – threads of the real woven in with these little knots that tie the novel back to its actual time. There was something that I pointed out at the seminar having re-read the book after 7 years, that surprised me. Remember the scene where Lenina Crowne decides whether or not she wants to erm, dip her toes in the water in terms of her sexual availability to others?

‘”I’d simply love to come with you for a week in July,” she went on. (Anyhow, she was publicly proving her unfaithfulness to Henry. Fanny ought to be pleased, even though it was Bernard.) “That is,” Lenina gave him her most deliciously significant smile, “if you still want to have me.”‘ (Chapter 4, Brave New World)

What struck me as a misnomer was the word “unfaithful”. In this world, there doesn’t seem to be a context or meta text of faith in that sense. People are encouraged to be promiscuous – monogamy is obsolete and pretty much vaporised from the vocabulary. Bizarre!

It was lovely to see researchers from different universities and get a handle on what everyone is working on. I also happened to have a nice sushi dinner with them in Bloomsbury (because there’s only so much sandwiches can do, although they were lovely) and overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience! Here’s to more!

Transhumanism – where no man has gone before?

The simple answer is no.

But, since I don’t want to leave it at that, because I announced that I would be writing this post a long time ago and got round to it now, it would be a dreadful anticlimax. The concept of Transhumanism has been around for some time now, otherwise known as H+,which allows for human enhancement of their own capabilities through technology. It could be for strength, health, communicative purposes amongst I imagine, quite a few others and subsections of these. What has brought it into the spotlight however, is not only how far these technological enhancements have come, but also its use in politics. In August this year, Italy saw its first Transhumanist MP Giuseppe Vattino. You can read his interview here about how he towards the mixed public reaction, his political stance and how he became interested in transhumanism.

But transhumanism is not all about bionic eyes and microchipped limbs. Aspects of hybridisation between man and “machine” or “tool”  is a rather old concept, and can even be seen to be traced back in documentation even to Adam and Eve’s desire to cover their modesty ( the use of clothing as a human enhancement). To say that transhumanism is merely a feature of an extrapolated, melodramatic future is somewhat myopic (without the use of corrective lenses – which is of course, another human enhancement!). Since the dawn of time, we have devised and used tools to enhance our modes of living of course; these tend to become more specialised as time goes on as environment and society perpetually evolve. These new modes – or as Donna Harraway puts them – informatics of domination, we start seeing a increasing shift towards technology and the use it has in our lives. It’s not just limited to the individual enhancement and trying to simply better yourself – Giuseppe mentions the use of nanotechnology to solve energy and environmental problems.

After the Olympics and Paralympics this year, we were given an amazing display of what humans are capable of, focusing on the can rather than can’t – which I also saw in the Superhuman collection at the Welcome Trust Collection (which I think ends next week? Don’t quote me on that). With displays from monocles and eye glasses to prosthetic limbs to contraception and even err… phallic replacements, the collection housed a timeline of contraptions/technology and how they have enhanced (or to take from Heidegger) or enframed our lives.

I was also fortunate to see the performance art – We are all a cyborg – featuring spoken word Richard Tyrone Jones on his operation to recover from heart failure with an implanted defibrillator to Sarah Ruff on the contraceptive implant. We also dressed up a manikin (I think its name was Gene at the end) with different tags to show where our enhancements are and/or enhancements in people we know.

I’m not that clued up on the whole of transhumanism but there are a lot of ideas that are coming more into play today than ever, and it’s something I’m interested in exploring. I will come back to it and write a follow up post as already I have a lot more to say but don’t want to ramble on this one post. Even from the issue with adding fluoride to the water in order for people to become less susceptible to tooth decay – who gets a say in who wants these enhancements, even if they are for the greater good, for example?