Sunday, November 1, 2009


The cold metal edge of a calligraphy pen
slides smoothly across my skin,
down my spine,
and each line slices deep in my mind.
Weather drawings by lovers lost deserted in desk drawers.
My figure is faded on the yellowed pages
but in the flesh the lines are fresh and young.
I bite my tongue-
the cool pen both tickles and burns.
Pen in ink, ink onto skin-
a new pattern emerges
and it all sinks right in,
into blood, veins to heart...
I'm no longer the muse, I'm no longer the art.
Just something to use.
Simply canvas.

On Sonnets

On Sonnets

It is a wonder that we all can speak
in pure iambs without much force or thought,
yet with the quill and ink we must be taught
to pen a poem with no trochaic leak.
And so again I tried for some technique;
with noble Petrarch’s form and rhyme I fought
to pen a poem: the only goal I sought.
yet unlike Petrarch’s mine is not unique,
the language rules asphyxiate my voice.
no star-crossed lovers here tonight will meet
no Paramus and Thisbe here to die.
this content was my own reluctant choice
compared to love, to write of words is neat.
and so, if nothing else, at least I try

Monday, April 13, 2009

Winter Undone

It's spring. It's so obviously spring because I can feel myself warming back up, maybe even melting a little. Syracuse can some some really strange psychological effects. I'm not even talking about the sociological misgivings I get from this place (literally living in privilege up on the hill surrounded by highways, factories, and poverty) but rather the intense seasonal depression. It snowed last week...hopefully for the last time. But today was sunny, and I wore only a sweatshirt to class. My boots are tucked out of sight and an array of sandals are by the foot of my bed, ready.

It's spring and I'm happy. I'm going to Italy in about 6 weeks. 6 weeks! And the best part is, I'm not even thinking of it as an escape anymore. Syracuse really isn't that bad once it warms up. I think I'm just finally starting to see the potential in the new, as opposed to the comfort of the familiar. They're such different feelings, and I think I used to disproportionately value the familiar, it's all I knew. It really does make sense, living in the same town my whole life, in the same house, in the same room, with the same family, and the same cat, that I would end up clinging to anything that felt comfortable. Anything that seemed to fit.

I feel really different now though. There's something really exhilarating about not knowing where I will end up after college. I was just in Putney, Vermont this weekend, and I'd really like to live in that area at some point in my life. All i could think about was getting an apartment in Brattleborro, maybe over a store where I could sit on a fire escape and people-watch. But I might not end up in Vermont, and that's okay too.

It's really challenging trying to get used to feelings, places, and situations I've never known before, but it's so satisfying when you finally find a new place that feels even a little bit like home. Or when you catch a glimpse of comfort in a place you really wouldn't expect it. Italy will be a challenge. I speak zero Italian, and I'm going to live with a family in the heart of Florence for six weeks. It will be wonderful, I can't wait to go for walks in the Tuscan summer twilight and explore my new, albeit temporary, home. I want to find as many homes in the world as I can, as much family as I can accumulate too.

I will turn 19 in a week. I'm still only 18, 18 year olds are often still in high school. Here I am more than halfway through college, and I still haven't even lived two decades. I have all the time in the world. This is the exact feeling that I had hoped for four years ago when I decided to graduate high school a year early. I wanted a head start, so instead of an extra year of stuck-at-home-adolescent-angst I'd have to grow up a tad faster a tad sooner, but just enough to appreciate being young when I have no ties, no commitments, and the world as my playground.

It's spring is my point. It's a wonderfully homework heavy sunshine tempting upcoming birthday kind of week and I feel really content.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Survival of the Fittest

Today on of my education classes, "The American School," we talked about the controversies of evolution in the classroom. It really scared me how many people in a class full of future educators think that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution. I don't understand how people can't embrace their religious veiws and embrace scientific theories each within thier own realm. I guess it always comes down to how literally people can take religious documents; one girl in the back of the classroom believes that the eart is probably about 10,000 years old. I feel like if I took the bible literally my head would explode trying to accomodate all of the contradictions.

I guess it comes down to my own recent disillusionment with Christianity. I used to think I was really Chirstian, and it's not that I don't still believe that all of the peace and forgiveness that Jesus taught is wrong, but I deffinitely don't believe in one truth. I never have, but I'm begining to see that this belief is really imcompatible with Christianity. I also think we're living in a world where a lot of scary things are done in the name of religion. I think science can be just as comforting a belief system, and I feel like science unites a lot of the world rather than tearing it apart. I dunno...I never want religious beleifs of some devine world to resrict my experience and understanding of the world under my feet.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Wonderful Day

Two days ago I went to a quarry on the very outskirts of my residential area of campus. Who knew that south of the frats and castles and the dome and grocery store and the liquor store and the student center and the tennis courts there was a place where you could play in the dirt and climb up rocks and explore rusty treasures?

Gaurds of Transcendance

What Is Cyber Society And How Do We Fit Into It?

“Cyber organisms” sounds like almost as much of an oxymoron as “same difference” or, better still, “a team of mavericks.” The juxtaposition of the term “organism,” as a living, breathing, earthy and natural being, and “cyber,” as a cold, shiny, artificial, scientifically assembled mechanism, pose a duality that sounds unlikely to break down. Yet today we live in a world of Cyborgs, part mechanism, part organism, and vastly embraced by society. From everyday technologies to the imagined matrix of William Gibson in the novel Neuromancer, we are blasting off and becoming something more than mere flesh.

We, as a society, are becoming less and less human by means of technological innovation. If you’re depressed, swallow a capsule of chemicals that will change the natural functioning of your mind. If you need an answer plug yourself into your computer and Google to your heart’s content. If you lose a limb, have a mechanical limb attached in its place. If you get old, fight it with all the developments those scientists and plastic surgeons have to offer. Chris Hables Grey writes about this cyborg phenomenon: “The probability of posthuman cyborgs horrifies some people and thrills others,” and this is because all of these scientific creations can be seen as progressive to some, and eerily unnatural to others (Gray 2002: 11). Gray argues that we are becoming a cyborg society, and he feels that we must readjust our ideas of citizenship to mesh with this forth and coming cybersociety. Despite the discomfort of part of the population, we are heading straight into a posthuman era, and our role in this emerging society, our responsibly to it, and our essential foresight of the dangers that may be a result of it, all must be realized in order to remain sane in cybersociety.

At a time when only primates had been in space, Kline and Clynes were optimistically probing the potentials of cyborginization in their essay “Cyborgs and Space.” These research scientists of a large mental institution write that “Various biological solutions have also been developed for another problem – respiration,” (Clynes & Kline 1995: 29). The description of respiration as a “problem” indicates the view that in becoming cyborgs we are transcending our natural, and restrictive, life processes. Indeed, this point is further emphasized when they write, “Space travel challenges mankind not only technologically but also spiritually, in that it invites man to take an active part in his own biological evolution,” (Clynes & Kline 1995: 29). Many scientists look at the increasingly cyborg society as the next logical step in our evolutionary progression, and yet the whole nature of human evolution has never before been so within our grasp.

In realizing our departure from the constraints of our organic bodies, we must turn to Romanyshyn and consider that “The body is a situation and as such changes,” (Romanyshyn 1989: 110). The body is only inhabited in life, but life may somehow be improved or even prolong if we are not as dependent on the body as we are when born into it. In technologically altering our bodies, the definition of body changes along with its situation. As we evolve our situations are hugely redefined as our physical shell transforms. With the power to heighten our physical capabilities by means of technology, we completely redefine the contemporary self.

Chris Hables Gray is very interested in these new cyber-selves. In one of his works, Cyborg Citizen: Politics in the Posthuman Age, Gray explores the new implications of these changes. The new situation of the body, once turned cyborg can become a sort of “vital machine,” (Gray 2002: 10). The vital machine today could be an artificial respirator in a hospital, functioning on behalf of the lungs. Someday perhaps more of our bodily functions will be replaced by machines, and thus we will realize our potential to create vital machines that work on our behalves.

Although these life saving and progressive perspectives paint an invigoratingly optimistic portrait of cybersociety, it can also be dangerously flawed. For all the excitement the notion brings to some, anxiety is instilled in others. This is because wherever there is newfound power, such as cyborginization, our capitalist society immediately rearranges its power dynamics to seize control of it and profit from it. From the industrial revolution to the cyborg revolution, capitalist and corporate greed have used technology to capitalize off of others. Economy and technology go hand in hand, whether it’s due to the flourishing military-industrial complex in a time of war, or ephemeral consumerism in a time of economic prosperity. These dangers and power dynamics are interrogated in William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer.

The exposition of Neuromancer exemplifies a lot of the fears our contemporary society, and the fears of Americans when the cyberpunk novel was written in 1984, have to cope with on a daily basis. The fears that too many aspects of daily life are becoming privatized, and that the government is willing to let corporations run rampant, are realized in Gibson’s world where virtually everything is owned by corporations. From every building to every aspect of the environment, corporations are in control and nothing is public.

The bonding ties between cybersociety and corporate society grow even stronger when we examine the nature of Case’s, the protagonist of Neuromancer, employment. To repair his central nervous system cyborg technologies are installed in him by his employer, Armitage, to regulate both his work and his general lifestyle. Sacs of devastatingly potent poison are placed in Case’s blood stream, only to be removed when Case promptly completes his mission. Furthermore, Case’s liver and pancreas are also altered by Armitage so that Case’s body can no longer process the drugs that he has been addicted to. This is an even scarier dystopia than George Orwell’s 1984, because the external and ever-present surveillance of “Big Brother” is not nearly as omnipotent as the self regulating bodily installations in Gibson’s vision of the future. Corporations in contemporary society have the power to test for drugs, could the future be employers physically halting what they deem inappropriate habits in employees? This is a danger we must be on guard against, because it seems as though cybersociety allows for the exercise of more and more freedoms to be compromised in the name of, and as a result of, progressing technologies.

The corporate control of the body is not only examined by William Gibson, but also by Victoria Pitts-Taylor in her book, Surgery Junkies: Wellness and Pathology in Cosmetic Culture. Pitts-Taylor writes about how many adults, mostly women, undergo cosmetic surgery in a deluded attempt to allow “the real, true, or more proper self to be restored or revealed,” (Pitts-Taylor 2007: 44). The TV show “Extreme Makeover” is sponsored by a group of plastic surgeons who want nothing more than for withering women across the globe to throw themselves under the knife for a plethora of self-enhancements. The cultural politics are undeniable; a group of self promoting surgeons are financially sporting a show that misrepresents the true pain and complications of one particular cyborginization process.

This is not a denial of reality; it is a reconstruction of it. In blasting off from the world around us we become separated from the earth and our bodies as we know them. In discussing the effects of departure Romanyshyn writes, “An invented body! A created body! Manufactured body! And perhaps above all else a body without context, isolated from its surrounding atmosphere, a visible body, a spectacle,” (Romanyshyn 1989: 17). In this departure we completely reposition the place from which we see the world. If our body has changed, our situation is new, and thus the world around us is transformed. In the case of those who seek plastic surgery, cyborginization is necessary to improve how they imagine, when removed from themselves, they are perceived. The power of humans to reconstruct a body, a situation, is very real, but can also become a sort of isolation, or an attempt at escape.

Romanyshyn describes this separation as a result of new technologies of perception, specifically the method linear perspective in renaissance artwork. This, along with any new technology of perception like TV, or the internet, can remove us from the world. “It sets the stage, as it were, for the retreat or withdrawal of the self from the world which characterizes the dawn of the modern age,” (Romanyshyn 1989: 42). Scientists are trying cyborg the human body to create a different situation, because instead of viewing the body as a situation in and of itself “we have become accustomed to defining the body apart from its situation,” (Romanyshyn 1989: 111). The body is the situation, and through technology we create a new perception, the illusion of escape.
This is a very real part of life for Neuromancer’s Case, who plugs in to the matrix in the hopes of removing himself from the cold, dingy, uncaring, “real” world. This, unfortunately, is not true escape. Just because Case’s mind is virtually removed from his body, does not make it a new world. The cyberworld is engulfing the world we once knew, and the situation is changing for better or for worse. While escape has a negative, passive, retreating connotation to it, becoming a cyborg provides and new thrill for some.

Contrary to those pretending themselves into a psychologically new place with the aid of cyborg technology, In Cyborg Citizen we learn of students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are using new cyborg innovations to enhance their human experience, and taste the promises of a posthuman era. Gray writes, “Research into improved interfaces and power technologies…is ongoing. For many young people, being ‘borged is empowering,” (Gray 2002: 10). Is the empowerment healthy? Scientists, no doubt, have helped society in countless ways and countless times, and cyborg progress is incredible, yet society must be the ward of its creations.
Technology as a means of improving life is cyber society at its best, but as Romanyshyn writes, “Death denied, however, is a foolish mockery of life,” (Romanyshyn 1989: 152). In trying to improve life, we cannot deny death. The danger of a post human era lies in our potential to forget the humanity from which cyborgs rise. If we attempt to permanently outwit death, by means of any number of other imaginative cyborg possibilities, we may then abandon the history that got us to this point of self-evolution. “The light of consciousness does cast a shadow,” (Romanyshyn 1989: 150). The farther we become removed from our past, the more we cast our existence into the shadows, as an ugly denial of what we once were. We are then doomed to repeat the blunders, the exploitations, the rapes of land, and the pollutions of the corporate powers that have all helped, in part, to get us where we arrive today: cold, controlled, and cyborged. The depths to which we can examine cybersociety are boundless. The positive results of technology surround us every day, as do the negatives, and it truly is not a matter of black and white. Robert D. Romanyshyn is neither condemning nor condoning of this posthuman progression in his book Technology as a Symptom & Dream. He is, however, skeptical. A great philosopher once said, “Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect.” The more the intelligent the human race becomes, the more discerning we must be when evaluation the repercussions of our actions. “Unless we are responsible to and for our creations the death that we would escape becomes our own destruction,” (Romanyshyn 1989: 162). As cybercitizens we must have constant vigilance over our evolving world as we depart farther…and farther…and farther away from it.

My take on "A Little Cloud"

"A Little Cloud" was my favorite story in James Joyce's Dubliners. I think that Little Chandler is one of the most moving characters I've ever encountered.

In James Joyce’s own words, Dubliners is a collection of stories about paralysis, and the story of Little Chandler is no exception. In A Little Cloud, Joyce criticizes poor Chandler’s inability to pursue his self-proclaimed fate as a poet. The passage in which Chandler “tries to weight his soul to see if it was a poet’s soul,” is an example of the contradiction and indecision that paralyzes Chandler and keeps him deeply rooted in Dublin. The juxtaposition of Gallaher with Little Chandler later in the story only exemplifies how immobilized in his familiar lifestyle Little Chandler really is. From his idolization of Gallaher, to his thinking him a show off, Little Chandler is another character of Dublin stuck in a life they wish to escape.

One of the first implications of Dublin as an old, dusty, inescapable island where dreams perish is when Little Chandler thinks to himself, “There was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go away. You could do nothing in Dublin.” It is very contradictory for Little Chandler to think such a thing, as he thinks himself a great potential poet yet as we are reminded later he has never left Ireland. As Little Chandler continues to fantasize about his melancholy poet’s soul, he even makes up the raving reviews he will someday receive from his critics: “Mr. Chandler has the gift of ease and graceful verse…A wistful sadness pervades these poems…The Celtic note.” Joyce has Chandler clearly outline for us exactly what he considers a poet, and yet his actions completely counteract his standard. As his supposed critic, Little Chandler has made reference to the “ease” of writing, the value of “sadness,” and an overall “grace.” Unfortunately, in weighting his soul, Little Chandler robotically lists off the attributes he believes Mr. Chandler the poet would have. “Melancholy was the dominant note of his temperament…He would never be popular, he saw that…The English critics perhaps would recognize him as one of the Celtic school by reason of his melancholy tone…besides that he would put in allusions.” This is a very empirical, and hypocritical, path of logic for a poet’s soul to pursue.

As soon as Joyce pulls Little Chandler out of his day dream, the conclusion of his poetic ponderings is that, “He would speak to Gallaher about it.” This consideration is a mere hint of the idolization Chandler has for Gallaher, which is presented more prominently later. Little Chandler greets his friend as “old hero,” perhaps because Gallaher embodies all that Little Chandler admires in an artist’s soul. This story is told through free indirect discourse, so as Joyce’s narrative progresses, the reader is taken along with every sway of Little Chandler’s temperament. This form enhances the fluctuating forces that are working within Little Chandler, paralyzing him. Prior to meeting Gallaher, Chandler had revered him as sort of idol and mentor, yet upon meeting the old friend in a bar Little Chandler seems to react to the rendezvous with defensiveness and a feeling of being looked down upon. At the bar Gallaher says, “I’m deuced glad, I can tell you, to be back in the old country,” and goes on to describe his trip as a “holiday” to “dear dirty Dublin.” This, coupled with a nonchalant reprimand to Chandler for watering down his alcohol, leads us to feel the blows that these actions are to Chandler’s pride.

As the two gentlemen reminisce about old times and the old crew a man called O’Hara comes up. When Gallaher asks what their old friend was up to, Little Chandler replies, with an air of superiority, “Nothing…He’s gone to the dogs.” This, once again, is a demonstration of Chandler’s hypocrisy, as he is a law clerk who has never once bothered picking up a book or writing a poem to achieve his dream, he feels it is acceptable to speak of others’ wasted lives. As Gallaher mentions Chandler’s never having left Ireland, he goes on to explain the excitement of different cities, like London and Paris. As Gallaher brags of his exotic encounters and bohemian lifestyle, “Little Chandler was astonished.”This astonishment could quite stem from his utter lack of worldly experience, and he defends his inexperience to Gallaher with accusations of immorality and sin in most foreign countries. Not only is Chandler trapped in “dear dirty Dublin,” by his inability to pursue his fantasies, but also by his moral qualms with all other, unknown lands. This is Joyce’s subtle reference to the paralyzing effects of the Catholic Church. Gallaher, a man who does not fear retribution for immortality, is also the man who is free to live his life, and explore his world, while Little Chandler amounts to nothing in Dublin.

Throughout their conversation, Chandler and Gallaher seem to be going back and forth with subtle evaluations of the other’s life situation. Gallaher dismisses the possibility that he, like Little Chandler, will one day settle down with a wife. Gallaher claims that being with one woman “must get a bit stale,” after just congratulating Chandler on his recent marriage. Upon his departure, Gallaher mentions that he might “take a little skip over here,” referring to a future visit to Dublin. Little Chandler replies with language of certainty: “the next time you come.” The language Joyce chose for Chandler to say expressed his assumption that Gallaher would in fact return, and not be free of Dublin. Gallaher’s next remark, “yes…next year if I come,” is made to reinforce his true freedom of Dublin. The “if” represents a possibility of escape that is not present in Little Chandler’s life. Little Chandler has never left Ireland, so there is absolutely no uncertainty in the reader’s mind that he will remain paralyzed in Dublin. Chandler, once more, says to Gallaher, “When you come back next year,” for the only world Gallaher can exist in to Chandler is the one world he has ever know, Dublin.

Little Chandler goes right back to reality when he leaves the bar. Joyce jumps completely in his narrative from the old friends’ last exchange in the bar right to Chandler in his home with his sleeping child in his arms. This precise form evokes in the reader the huge gap that exists for Little Chandler between the natures of these two antithetical situations. From the “adventure of meeting Gallaher after eight years,” Little Chandler’s home life is anything but adventure. He stares into his wife’s eyes in a photograph, and interprets her look, coldly, as “having something mean in it.” He turns to a volume of Lord Byron’s poems for comfort, and in straining to turn the page he awakes the child in his arms. Thus, the telling summation of the entire underlying issue in Little Chandler’s life crosses his mind: “He was a prisoner of life.” His uncontrollable shout of “Stop!” and then the numbness he seems to be feeling when his wife takes a hysterical baby from his arms seem to make Little Chandler one on Joyce’s most pitiful characters ever. “Little Chandler felt his cheeks suffused with shame…and tears of remorse started to his eyes.” Little Chandler was, indeed, a prisoner of his own life, and would remain trapped forever by the paralyzing forces of Dublin.