[I]f we stop thinking of robots as potential human surrogates and start thinking of them as something more akin to an engrossing novel or TV show — a medium — then it’s easy to imagine people dating robots. People read alone, they watch TV alone, they play games alone — why wouldn’t they enjoy the immersive experience a robot could be programmed to provide alone? Especially if the experience prompts us to forget our aloneness.
* * *
Guns are a fetish object, a social relation crystallized into an object you can hold in your hand. Holding a gun makes me a man. Holding a gun makes me Clint Eastwood. Holding a gun makes me a hunter. Holding a gun makes me an American, a patriot. Holding a gun makes me a white man who can kill black people. And my desire for all of those things gives the gun that kind of power. My fear makes me need a gun, my desire makes me want it.
“Gun control” is also a fetish object. That’s why so many of us reached for it as soon as we heard about what had happened. We were scared, and it’s reassuring to hold it in our mouths. Doesn’t make it right or wrong; it has nothing to do with that. And if I could wave my wand and make them all disappear, I would; when there’s a candidate that wants to ban them, or tax them out of existence, I’ll vote for her. But if you’re with me on that, you probably already were too. And as Matthew Cheney pointed out—the last time this happened—gun control is a kind of utopianism, the idea that if we got rid of the objects themselves, the desire for them, the need for them, and the culture that is built around them and makes them necessary, that all of that would go away.
"Its vagueness is its strength--anything more detailed would get in the way of the pastel and neon textures that animate the identity."
The new logo that the University of California unveiled yesterday can’t be taken seriously, but we laugh so we don’t vomit. That quote, above? That’s an actual quote, by someone who apparently did not think they were saying something so humiliatingly vacuous that the only possible reaction would be to take a vow of silence and change professions. That thing is ugly. But it’s not only ugly because it looks like a Swedish flag being flushed down the toilet; it’s ugly because it so perfectly crystallizes everything that’s been going wrong with the University of California for years, the same mindset that’s been dragging the UC down in its nose-dive with destiny.
* * *
Why or for whom does the myth of a ‘muse’ endure?
I’m not sure the myth of the muse does endure. I’ve never been much for courting muses, but if I were in the market for one, I’d want to go old school and have a genuine deity. The problem is for that to work, you need the necessary faith. The Greeks had it. They had intense personal relationships with their gods, so that they didn’t just ask for favors, they actually seemed to channel them. When Sappho calls on Aphrodite, the goddess is quick to respond: “Sappho, who does you wrong?”
Last month, Mr. Kristof wrote, ‘A wealthy friend of mine notes that we all pay for poverty in the end. The upfront way is to finance early childhood education for at-risk kids. The back-end way is to pay for prisons and private security guards.’ In his column about SSI benefits this month Mr. Kristof writes: ‘We end up paying for poverty one way or another, and early childhood education is far cheaper than adult incarceration.’ For Mr. Kristof, Homo sapiens without financial means (or his and his friends’ wealth) must choose between school or prison. He is begrudging and emphatic about this point. After all, he has written it twice.
Larry Donnell Andrews was in prison serving a murder sentence (for which he turned himself in) when The Wire, featuring the character Omar Little based on his life, first aired. Donnie died after an aortic dissection last week. Few who only knew about his life from its fictional depiction would have guessed that the ‘real’ Omar Little would live twice as long as the fictional one.
* * *
TNI is different. It’s a more fertile soil than I’ve experienced before. It’s very female in here. It’s very young. It’s very smart. And unlike most of the other super smart platforms for radical thought out there, TNI doesn’t end up choking on its own political correctness. People here espouse ideas from all ends of the political spectrum and opposing sides of the intellectual discourse – sometimes at the very same time – rendering such primitive distinctions obsolete. This mixing and matching is not adultery but adulthood.
There is something happening here. This is a scene without the scene-sters, an e without the -lite. Imagine liking something without the nagging obligation to click a “like” button, or to tweet it out. The fact that we’re here, and reading, and writing, is enough.
* * *
* * *
The honey hunter’s freeborn ways weren’t without consequence. His trade often caused him to ravage its source, unprotected wilderness. In 1837 a journalist voiced concern about “the damage done to forests by bee hunters.” Good Christians, he observed, become half-crazed when searching for honey, hacking apart stumps, toppling any tree that betrayed signs of bees. A party of bee hunters could devastate an entire copse. In 1839 a group settling in Clarks County, Missouri uprooted in a few hours’ time sixteen white oaks. Devastation of this degree was typical of the industry. Filling one barrel often required uprooting dozens of trees. And waste ran rampant. Whatever honey the hunters couldn’t haul from the spot they left for ants and bears.
* * *