Archive for the 'identity' Category

Sep 04 2015

I See Dead People

Over the past day or two, I’ve had the (mis)fortune of having Aylan Kurdi’s photo assault my senses without warning in my Facebook feed.  I suspect this photo will go down in history alongside that of Phan Thi Kim Phuc and countless other photos documenting the extremely tragic consequences of being caught in the crossfire of war and unnecessary violence.

I also had the (mis)fortune (several days ago) of seeing Alison Parker and Adam Ward gunned down by Bryce Williams/Vester Flanagan, both from Ward’s perspective, and Flanagan’s perspective.

And, then, of course, there are people shooting up churches, movie theaters, schools, etc.

And, as usual, there is outrage.  There is anger. There is righteous indignation.

After that, there is outrage that there isn’t enough outrage.  There is anger that there isn’t enough anger. There is righteous indignation that there isn’t enough righteous indignation.

As usual.

Then there is the inevitable “While you were distracted by this Thing, This Other Thing was happening!” type hectoring, about how we’re all “sheeple” and puppets of the media/government/etc. and we should be ashamed, but oh wait, here’s the Next Thing to be outraged, angered and indignant about.

As usual.

There are also occasional forays into “You’re outraged for the wrong reasons and I’m outraged at you!”

(to note: Kim Davis denying marriage licenses in Kentucky for “religious” reasons, but pointing out her hypocrisy based on multiple divorces and children born out of wedlock, is now being called “slut shaming” and nobody’s allowed to point out the very obvious fact that she looks kinda like Annie Wilkes in Misery).

"Dirty Birdies! No Cockadoodie Marriage License for YOU!"

“Dirty Birdies! No Cockadoodie Marriage License for YOU!”

Aren’t we all pissed off about someone shooting a lion, too?  Or are we done with that now?

Anyway.

Let’s talk about dead people.

While not directed at me in particular (thankfully, or I would be forced to cut a bitch), it seems that I’m now seeing the outrage-that-there-isn’t-enough-outrage phase of the reactions to the photo of Aylan Kurdi’s body on the beach. People are getting cranky that others aren’t publicly displaying their outrage in sufficient quantities.

So, let me offer my reasons for NOT going on about this particular tragedy in great length on social media (and by “great length” I mean “at all”).  Because, you know, my silence on the subject obviously means I’m either apathetic or a monster of some sort.

  1. Aylan Kurdi is the same age as my son.
  2. Aylan Kurdi’s position on the beach is in many ways similar to a position in which my son likes to sleep.
  3. My son was born prematurely, 6 weeks after we found out about him even existing.
  4. My wife and my son almost died a few days before he was born.
  5. My wife’s blood pressure reached Scanners – type levels, that everyone we’ve told the numbers to, is in awe that she didn’t stroke out.
  6. As a result, my son was born via emergency C-Section, after an entire night of all of us staying awake, trying to keep my wife and son alive.
  7. My son was not breathing when he was taken out. They had to intubate him immediately.
  8. My wife almost died again in the recovery room, and had to be taken to the ICU.
  9. My son then spent the next 11 weeks in the NICU.  During this time:
    • He developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis.
    • One of the other infants in the NICU died from this.
    • My son was also diagnosed with Tracheomalacia.
    • My son had frequent Apnea Bradycardia episodes.
    • Because of these things, he coded a number of times, including once while sleeping on me, and once while feeding from his mother.
    • My infant son had more wires and tubes sticking out of him than the humans in The Matrix.
    • My wife (bless her) spent every single day, all day, in the NICU with our son.
    • I could only spend the weekends, due to being 120 miles south  and starting a new job. This tore me apart inside, and still does.
  10. As if all this wasn’t enough, the time you spend in the NICU is not private.  You’re surrounded by other premature infants with their own host of medical issues, their parents, their doctors, and the assorted alarms going off around you. Constantly.
  11. We all survived this (yay!), but then shortly after we got home, the three of us got the flu, and this happened:
    • My 3 month son coughed up some phlegm and aspirated on it.
    • I picked him up, and he was cold, and his body had as much rigidity as a dead salmon you’d pick up at the fish market.
    • We called 911, and during the longest 10 minutes of my life, I was able to half-resucitate him, and keep him alive long enough for the paramedics to show up.
    • I got to ride in an ambulance with my 3 month old son fighting for his life in the back for the second longest 10 minutes of my life.
    • We spent all night at the local hospital that told us they didn’t want him there because they weren’t comfortable with the idea.
    • Our ER nurse kept disappearing, and I had to keep my son breathing for hours, by manually stimulating him.
    • When they finally moved him to a different room in the ER, he started to code again. This brought about a flood of doctors attempting to perform CPR, injecting him with Ketamine (for reasons I still don’t understand), and unsuccessfully trying to intubate him for far longer than necessary.
    • All of this while waiting for us to get transferred back to the NICU where we’d started (120 miles north). And then finding out that the helicopter had to turn back because of bad weather.
    • I then got to ride in an ambulance for 120 miles in back, with my son, stabilized, but in a metal canister, and beyond my ability to touch.  All I could do was watch him through a small window.
    • Then 10 more days of the NICU.

So, then.  We all survived, because, you know, #WhitePrivilege or something. And this now brings us to Aylan Kurdi, washed up on the beach.

If you re-read #3-11 above, I think -I hope- you would understand that I have PTSD from all of this.  Now, if you tie that back to #1 and #2, above, you’ll understand why I don’t have a whole lot to say about Aylan Kurdi.  But in case you don’t, let me elaborate:

It isn’t that I don’t feel Abdullah Kurdi’s loss.  The problem is, I do.  Seeing Aylan. Seeing Aylan on the beach.  Seeing how big (little) he is, and the position he’s in, brings #3-11 screaming back to me.  In my mind, in my body, in my veins.  I want to throw up. I want to scream.  Abullah has said “I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.”

And the problem is, I get that.  I know that.  I know because I came close to that too many times.

So, why am I not joining in the outrage on social media?

Because, ultimately, it doesn’t do anything.

It doesn’t save lives. It doesn’t change the world (unless you count some of the lynch mobs launched from Twitter), and, frankly, to me, it often straddles the line into masturbatory exercises about tragedy porn.

“But it raises awareness!”

Great! I’m aware!

Now what?  Do we all pat ourselves on the back for being “aware” now?  I’m aware. You’re aware. Now we don’t have to do anything else.  We’re aware.  All we need to do now is make sure everyone else is aware, too.  And if they’re not contributing to the Chorus of Being Aware (via “liking and sharing”) then THEY ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

I am aware that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are killed and/or imprisoned by the police.  I’m aware of this. For the record, I think this sucks.

I am aware that some white kid shot up an African-American church.  I’m aware of this. For the record, I think this sucks.

I am aware that the frankly ludicrous solution to this was for everyone to run around demanding Confederate flags be taken down, because this would instantly solve racism, or something.  More likely, it’s just going to piss people off.  Also, I find the logic of “you lost the war, why are you flying it?!” to be a dangerous road to take.  I look forward to the eradication of the Palestinan flag by the Left based on the same grounds. Yeah, I didn’t think so (and, for the record, I fully support Palestinan statehood).

I am aware that #BlackLivesMatter.  I believe they do.

I am also aware that #AllLivesMatter.  I also believe they do.  That includes your life. My life. My wife’s life. My son’s life. Aylan Kurdi’s life. The lives of those killed in the Charleston church shooting. The people killed by Anders Breivik. Everyone’s life.  Yet this is frowned upon as being somehow “racist.” (Personally, I think that by believing that #AllLivesMatter, it means I’ve got your back, regardless, and you don’t have to worry about whether I think you’re in the cool kids club or not.  But that’s me, and I refuse to be an “ally”.)

Alison Parker and Adam Ward were shot in cold blood by someone who took the time to post the fucking video online. That someone, Vester Flanagan, was a gay black man.

#WhoseLivesMattered?

The cold harsh reality of life is that it is complex (beautifully, painfully complex), and cannot be summed up in simple categorizations based on hashtags, or whatever groups one identifies with. To simply categorize anyone is to dehumanize them.

And that’s not something I’m okay with.

I am aware that H.P. Lovecraft was a racist.  For the record, I simply don’t give a shit.

Personally, I don’t think “awareness” is enough when it comes to problems such as these. Awareness is a cop-out. Go fucking do something, if you’re up in arms about an issue, or, alternatively, recognize the limitations of what you can do. I can be upset about Aylan Kurdi (and I am).  I can be upset about all of these issues.  But what I can’t do, realistically speaking, is anything to directly help the refugee situation, the victims of the latest shooting, or the outrage du jour.  While posting about these things on social media might make some people feel better (by bringing “awareness”) to me, it’s (too often) an empty gesture.

 

If you want to find a helpful organization to give to, then please do. I respect that.

If I had money to spare, I’d probably do the same.

Life doesn’t check your hashtags to make sure you’re one of the Good Guys (please forgive my use of cis-gendered heteronormative binary privileged nomenclature here).

And while I concede and agree that we all deal with shit differently, I am also a firm believer in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew when it comes to these things:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them (verse 1)

When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others (verse 2)

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others (verse 5)

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting (verse 16).

So don’t assume my “silence” on an issue is apathy (even though it’s entirely possible it may sometimes be). For me, Facebook is not “life.”  I owe you no explanations or reasons for my perceived silence on any issue. You don’t know what’s going on in my head, or my heart, or even my life.

Though now, close to 2,000 words later, you have a glimpse.

 

 

One response so far

Feb 25 2014

Art and Artist

Back in September, I had the good fortune to attend a Death In June concert with my wife, in San Francisco. The show was visited by a few misguided AntiFa protesters – I’ve written about it here.

Don't make me get all batrachian on you...

Don’t make me get all batrachian on you…

Twice now, within the last few months, I’ve again had to deal with more self-appointed culture police. This time, the target is H.P. Lovecraft.

The argument usually goes like this: “How do you reconcile your love of Lovecraft with the fact that he was a horrible racist/sexist and the ‘he was a product of his times’ argument doesn’t count – GO!”

This is what’s known as a shit test. It is designed to provoke, and it is also designed to prevent any “correct” answers, because to defend Lovecraft makes you an equally reprehensible person. You should be ashamed for liking such things, because these are “enlightened” times!

Or something.

First and foremost, you should never have to defend art, music, or literature that appeals to you. I may not like what you like, and you may not like what I like. However, I find art that is forced to sanitize itself into some sort of all-inclusive tokenism just to make sure someone somewhere isn’t inadvertantly having their delicate sensibilities shattered by the Big Bad Insensitive Artist to be incredibly dull and boring. Did anyone really actually enjoy “We Are The World”?

Really?

Second, I’m sorry, but nobody has a monopoly on “transgressive” art (whatever that is). So, Douglas P., and H.P.L. are both entitled to use provocative symbols, and have beliefs that don’t sit well with today’s hand-wringers. I will also support your right to create films with topless women making out in university libraries, cracking eggs on each other’s heads, and dancing around chicken carcasses.

will laugh at that, however.

I also find Herrmann Nitsch to be rather fascinating. You should check him out.

I think these days we seem to be running into a convergence of conveniences.

  1. It is convenient to categorize thoughts, feelings, beliefs into two categories: “correct” and “incorrect”
  2. This enables us to instantly decide that anything, or anyone, that does not fall into one of our two convenient categories, must therefore belong to the other category.
  3. It is more convenient to hold people forever accountable for their brief forays into “incorrect” than it is to acknowledge that they are human, may have different beliefs from you, may grow, may change their minds, and may renounce their former beliefs.  Thus it is easier, to forever hold, say, Tony Wakeford, accountable for his brief participation in ultra-right wing political groups and therefore believe he is secretly leading an entire musical genre in promoting crypto-fascism (sometimes so crypto as to be unidentifiable even with a microscope), than it is to acknowledge his own repeated mea culpas. It is more convenient to simply label him and anyone ever seen in the same room with him as fascists. That way, you don’t have to worry about any of them, learn anything about any of them, or worry about tainting your precious little mind with the “dangerous” ideas that you read somewhere they are promoting. Effort is hard.
  4. It is convenient to just have all of the answers handed to you. When reality doesn’t fit your worldview, obviously reality is wrong. The rest of us just need to “do the research!” and we’ll be instantly enlightened as well.

I think some of this is pure laziness.  I think a good chunk of it (at least in the States) is the fault of the educational system. Kids are no longer being taught how to think, but rather provided with lists of things to memorize for The Test.

Before our son was born, my wife decided to take a philosophy of religion course at the local junior college. From what she told me, it sounded more like remedial high school English. The professor spent more time trying to teach the students how to write 5 paragraph themes than being able to effectively discuss philosophy or religion; the students kept demanding to know where the answers were in the book for their discussion topics.

Discussion Topics. Discuss. Philosophy. As in, “What do you think?”

As a former compiler of course and faculty evaluations at a different university, I was saddened by how many professors were getting low marks for “lecturing too much – wouldn’t tell us what was on the exam.”

With convenient categories, of course, comes the lack of a need to recognize complexity and nuance. Instead, you skim for a few indicators and red flags, and you instantly know all you need to know about an artist/author/person and there’s no need to investigate further once you’ve put them in their appropriate box: “Correct” or “Incorrect”

For the record, there’s a third category: “Problematic,” which is usually reserved for people who you want to like, but simply can’t, because they’re in the “Incorrect” box.  “Problematic” puts the categorizer in a bind, because on a level they acknowledge human complexity.  But, since everything has to be a zero-sum game, “Correct”/”Incorrect”, most people prefer to err on the side of caution, and go with “Incorrect”, lest they be tarnished by association, and also labelled “Incorrect.”

This dance is tiresome.

Russell Berman, in his preface to Ernst Jünger’s book On Pain (2008. Telos Press), agrees:

Although conventional political thinking still tries to police a neat separation between left and right, we should not be afraid to explore the gray zone in between without leaping prematurely or unnecessarily to an unwarranted assertion of identity (p. viii).

So, can you separate art and artist? Is it okay to like someone’s creative output, even though you think they may be a bit of an asshole?

There’s a simple solution.

The quick version: Don’t hate the Player, hate the Game.

The not-so-quick version: like what you like. Who, ultimately, gives a fuck?

If you are so caught up in worrying about what other people think of your tastes, then you have bigger issues than “is Dave Sim a misogynist, or might he have a few points?” Nobody has all the answers – especially in these “enlightened” times. If you feel that you suddenly aren’t “allowed” to like something, because the creator has unpopular opinions, or may have put their foot in their mouth in an interview somewhere and is currently being eaten alive by the Internet Outrage Machine, then I have to question the strength of your sense of self-identity.

As Robert Anton Wilson said to me, and I’m fond of repeating: “Read things you disagree with. Otherwise you aren’t exercising your mind.”

Embrace that which scares you and makes you uncomfortable.  That is what art is supposed to do.

This is also good practice for embracing other uncomfortable moments in life.

To quote Aleister Crowley:

There are only two courses open to logic; one can either accept the universe as it is, face every fact frankly and fearlessly, and make one’s soul immune to the influence of any invasion; or abolish the whole thing by administering soporifics to the spirit…The pious pretence that evil does not exist only makes it vague, enormous and menacing. Its overshadowing formlessness obsesses the mind. The way to beat an enemy is to define him clearly, to analyse and measure him. Once an idea is intelligently grasped, it ceases to threaten the mind with the terrors of the unknown.

Quit whining.

Own up to your tastes.

Tell me why you like the things you do, rather than apologize for them.

And enjoy (sidenote:  if you’re worried about your etheric body, wear a condom).

There are no brownie points.

Really.

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Nov 12 2013

Witch Way

A piece at The Blyssful Witch crossed my path this morning: The Whitewashing of Witchery in American Neo Paganism – The Taming of the Witch.

The author writes:

To understand witchcraft we must descent into the darkness of the deepest oceans of the mind. In our efforts to avoid facing the realities of human evil, we have tamed the witch and made her comic, dressing her in a  peaked cap and setting her on a broom for the amusement of children at Halloween.

Thus made silly, she can easily be exorcised from our mind, and we can convince our children-and ourselves-that ‘there is no such thing as a witch.’

But there is, or at least there was.

I am weary of the weak witch; that watery individual who lurks on the fringes of occult studies and Crafting, proclaiming to take the ‘higher’, moralistic road and for the sake of acceptability and temperance, decides to ignore the history and origin of Witchery in its true form.

The ‘menace’ in the Craft has been taken out and replaced by bland mediocrity; a mouth with no teeth, a religion and practice with no bite, no fervor, no sting and no power.

We are pale, insipid reproductions of the Wise Women and Cunning Men of our past.

How far we have fallen.

This arrived at precisely  the right time for me.  I’ve been undergoing a prolonged case of reluctance.

This reluctance was born out of a sense of betrayal that took over my life in 2008-2009.  This reluctance made me over-reliant on approval of others who either don’t understand, will never approve, or are apathetic. What I somehow forgot in the process is that this is fine.  I don’t need their understanding, I don’t need their approval, nor do I need them to even care. My avoidance of speaking and living my truth has become detrimental to myself, and is decidedly not the example I wish to set for my son. I can no longer afford to let “what will THEY say?” be a concern.

The Blyssful Witch continues:

The white washers have replaced the fear of hell with the fear of ‘karma’ or the three-fold law coming back to bite you in the ass.

They have replaced Christ and the Virgin Mary with the Lord and Lady.

They have replaced ‘love thy neighbor’ with ‘harm ye none.’

Not much difference really. What a fucking sad state.

To quote Peter Grey, “Modern dazed paganism often makes this mistake, choosing to take the palatable aspects of an imagined past and from the fashion an escape into an unrealized fantasy…In order to protect cherished beliefs that have been proved false, we often cling to fantasies…Modern pagan witchcraft… is beginning its arc of entropic decay of locked empty postures and meaningless gestures.”

(The Peter Grey quote is from his 2013 book Apocalyptic Witchcraft published by Scarlet Imprint – note to self: track down a copy).

This has been my biggest beef with just about every “spiritual” system I have come into contact with during my time in California – or at least most of the practitioners of them.  There are four powers attributed to the Sphinx: To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Be Silent.

I will simply say that there is a lot of noise.  A LOT.

As Lao Tzu once said: “Those who know, don’t tell. Those who tell, don’t know.”

There is a line between “shaman” and “showman.”

When your weekend “shamanic” workshop includes a session on how to read animal entrails, then I’ll consider attending.

I am no longer interested in determining who is a huckster and who believes their own bullshit.  Both are equally frivolous pursuits.

It is time to move forward.

Am I giving up on Consciousness Studies and Dream Studies?  Hell no. But I am reclaiming and redefining them on my own terms.

I have a few ideas for projects, including one that doesn’t really have a name or a clear set of parameters to it – I only know it by what I am being called to read (mostly things that Those-Who-Would-Make-Me-Reluctant would hate if I thought for a moment they even knew what some of it was) as background material. 

The Blyssful Witch writes:

I will not be lumped together in the stew of acceptability and mediocrity that has been simmering on the back burners of modern paganism for the last few decades.

Nor will I, though I’m not talking about just paganism here.

I will not bow to gods that have no power and a practice that has no teeth.

Nor will I.

It’s time to push back.

It’s what I do.

“Serenity is a problem / When you get this close to Heaven / But you really want to see / The wonders of the underworld”Jhonn Balance

 

No responses yet

Sep 21 2013

Reflections on Death In June – Friday the 13th, San Francisco

(submitted to and published by The Listserve – this is the annotated version with one correction)

At what point do you become that which you are trying to eradicate?

stageThis past weekend (9/13), I attended a show by the controversial band Death In June. Douglas Pearce (the sole continuous member) has been accused of being a racist, a Nazi, a fascist, and worse. The fact that he is openly gay, has collaborated with a number of Jewish musicians, and has played sold out shows in Israel is beside the point. I have listened to his music for years. I consider myself on the left end of the political spectrum.  I’ve read any number of interviews and clarifications that Pearce has made about his views. I have a graduate degree in philosophy. I have participated in a number of civil rights demonstrations across the country. I can safely say that I find nothing fascist or hateful about him or his music. This is my conclusion. I stand by it.

Others only look at surface images of the band, and project their worst fears onto it. Those are their conclusions.  I have listened to their arguments, and read their cases. I remain unconvinced.

The show I attended was protested by a group identifying themselves as anti-fascists. They have a right to do this.  I respect this.

Rather than engaging us in dialogue, however, they became violent – openly harassing (an ethnically diverse!) group of people waiting politely in line for the show.  There were fists involved. They tried to storm the venue. It was their assumption that we were all waiting to attend the next Nuremberg rally, and that we were Nazis who needed to be stopped.

The anti-fascists wound up physically harming a number of minority members of the audience.  Additionally, they had vandalized the club where DIJ played the night before, and succeeded in threatening another venue to the point of cancelling a sold out show (which has since been relocated).

irony

In 1920s-1930s Germany, the Nazi Party deployed a group known as the Sturmabteilung, or “brown shirts” to disrupt, threaten, intimidate, and physically harm political opponents.  How, qualitatively, were the actions of the anti-fascists different from the tactics of the Sturmabteilung? Tactics aside, how is it anti-fascist to declare yourselves the gatekeepers of what people can, cannot, should, and should not listen to?

In their quest for a villain, they became the villains. Rather than seeking common ground (of which, I suspect, there may have actually been much between them and the audience), they demonized us.

Additionally, they denied our humanity in an even more fundamentally important way –they denied us the choice, the chance to make up our own minds about what we were seeing and hearing. They failed to recognize our own abilities – our own rights – to recognize good and evil.

Walt Kelly, the creator of the comic-strip POGO, wrote in 1953, regarding the McCarthy hearings:

Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly…There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.

In Jungian psychology, there is a term for this – “owning one’s shadow.” I hope that someday, the 8 protesters (not 20, as they claim) look into this, and find resolution.

Then, perhaps, we can all move forward and fight real evil – together.

Oh yeah.  The show?  Simply amazing.

drums

mask

doug

One response so far

Oct 18 2012

I get SPAM…

Published by under Consciousness,identity,spam

In a former life, I worked in the Abuse Department of a large regional ISP. Part of the job was to field SPAM complaints, either from our users who were receiving SPAM, or by users of other ISPs who were receiving SPAM from our users.

Originally, I used to keep a running text file of some of the more outlandish ones. “Hi! My name is Amber! I’m a student at the nearby college. My friends and I posted some OUTRAGEOUS pix! Come look at them!”

Sure. Yeah. Right. The good old University of Nearby.

I wish I still had this text file.  I still remember some of it, but I’ll spare you the details.

After a while, I noticed SPAM was getting strangely surreal, and almost poetic.  I’ve posted a few that I’d received here, here, and here.

Now, however, most of the SPAM I get is in the form of WordPress comments.

What’s fascinating about these comments is that they almost sound as if they’re written by humans – perhaps someone with a 90% grasp of the English language. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, read this post by Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing, and check the link he includes to the text file. This is the level of stuff I’m getting.

Some of it is rather comical – suggestions for SEO solutions stating that the “responder” had “only found my site after much difficulty”.  One of these comments might be enough to acknowledge that I’ve, so far, done very little to really do anything, SEO-wise.  It’s on the list, I’ll get to it.

However, 35 such comments (in the course of a week, from different “responders”) becomes laughable.  If I’ve done a piss-poor job of SEO, how on Earth are all of these spammers finding me??

I’ve also had a SPAM comment that, was, frankly, amusingly bitchy:

How is it that just anyone can write a weblog and get as popular as this? Its not like youve said anything incredibly impressive more like youve painted a quite picture above an issue that you know nothing about! I dont want to sound mean, here. But do you actually think that you can get away with adding some quite pictures and not seriously say something?

Tuesday’s post about Prometheus was the first post I’d included pictures in. This comment came in about 4 days ago.

On a level, one can look at this as merely some sort of automated process. I post, spambots (posing as humans) respond. Yet these spambots have ulterior motives.  They want me to approve of their comments, to justify their existences, to allow for their messages about SEO and lingerie and sunglasses to get through. These are servitors, if you will, of unknown technomages, desperately trying to make contact, to engage, with me, or any other human that crosses its path, by mimicking human interaction.

Yet, somehow, they get stuck in the Uncanny Valley; residing in a state of “almost.”  Who do they think they’re fooling?

(At this point, I’m almost feeling sorry for them).

A post at the now defunct site Geektronica discusses the phenomenon of spamlogs; sites created specifically to boost SEO of other sites, while imitating the appearance of actual blogs with actual content. Sometimes, these can be rather convincing.

Naturally, I’m curious as to what would happen if the commenting spambots were to find the spamlogs, and start a discussion. Sometimes I secretly wonder what the cockroach archaeologists of the future will make of these interactions, should they decrypt the various hard drives left on the planet.

As technology continues to improve, we may reach a point where we are unable to tell signal from noise in some instances. It will become more difficult (though I hope not impossible) to discern human attempts at communication from automated responses.

On the other hand, maybe we can use these musings to consider our own online existences. When I am away from my computer, or without access, people are still interacting with a form of me. I do not have to be connected to the Internet to receive e-mail, or comments to this posting. We do not always know if a person is online, but we will respond to them as if they were in the room with us. We are forced to interact with a perception, or “virtual” version of one another. I may be interacting with what I perceive to be my friend online, and she, in turn, will respond to what she perceives to be me – even if we are not online at the same time.

Another way of asking this is, if I connect to the Internet, set my e-mail client to check my e-mail every 10 minutes (and maybe even send out an auto-response), set another program to retrieve news stories, and another to alert me for low airfare deals to London, and I walk away from my computer and go to the coffee shop, who or what is “connected” Is it part of me? Is it a sub-me? Is it a “virtual” me?

In his book TechGnosis: Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information (1998), Erik Davis points out that many of these same questions could be asked about telephones.

A spectral ambiguity continues to linger about the device. Does it talk, or do we talk through it, or are these vibrations only the ghosts of ourselves?…Think of the outgoing messages we leave on our answering machines. “I am not here right now,” we say, which of course begs the inevitable question: If we are not there, then who is speaking? Such an apparently trivial question becomes palpably eerie to anyone who has reached an answering machine of the recently deceased and heard the chipper messages of the dead (pp. 66-67).

I could go on at great length about the notion of us being the “higher selves” of our “virtual selves,” (I’ve written a 33 page paper on the subject), but now I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matters.  Or, perhaps, you will simply send out your spambot servitors to continue serenading me with your siren song of SEO rankings and Ray-Bans. Or, perhaps, they are finding me on their own.

That’s okay, though. Because I actually wrote this post yesterday.

 

 


 

Sources:

  • Davis, Erik. (1998). TechGnosis: Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information. New York: Three Rivers Press.

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