Archive for October, 2007

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Now if Only I Could Convert Apathy to Cash…

October 29, 2007

I have discovered the reason why it is hard to care about 2/3rds of my classes. It is because 2/3rds of my classes do not involve improving myself. They involve ingesting information, and then regurgitating it on command.

For example, I am currently writing a paper comparing the opening passages of two of the works from two of the different genres (in this case epic poetry and 19th century realist novels) we have read in my global lit class. I am to analyze them for content, reflection of the following narrative, and thematic importance. I do not give a flying fuck about any of it. First of all, to pretend that in the space of 4 to 6 pages I can draw meaningful conclusions about the structural nature of not one but two entire genres by examining the opening passages of a single example from each is absurd. The sample size is too small by at least an order of magnitude, and even if that weren’t true, 2 -3 pages per genre would be far too short to go into any depth. And yet despite the farcical nature of this assignment, I am expected to actually put some thought and effort into it. Why? I’m not getting anything out of this, and neither is the teacher. It’s just an empty kabuki dance we have to go through so that the TA can justify filling out a form that tells a computer to mark a certain letter after my name on the grade rolls.

And it’s not just the assignments that are bullshit, the reading list is too. We read boring books that are considered good because they are old, and then little or no effort is made to link the material to our lives. Why is The Epic of Gilgamesh important? Just because it is old? Or did it have some lasting impact upon civilization’s subconscious that I may benefit from learning to recognize? I don’t think I’ll ever know, because this was never the point of the lecture.

My other class, Overview of the Universe, had the potential to be so much better, but it too failed. Mostly this is because even though it was advertised as being a science class for non-science majors (read: bad at math) there is a disgusting amount of equations I have to wrestle with. When the professor is talking about the basic concepts and ideas in astronomy (you know, giving an overview of the universe) I really like the class. I feel as if I’m actually learning and being improved by studying the broad concepts. But that’s maybe 20% of a given lecture if I’m lucky. The rest is just math, math, math. But wait, why do I need to be able to calculate the luminosity of a star that is half as hot as our sun? Is that going to be on next year’s tax return? The specifics don’t interest me because I’m not an astronomer, and I don’t intend to be one. So again I’m forced to wade through useless academic exercises that don’t have any bearing on my day-to-day life and do not do anything to help enlighten me more generally because it is inevitable that I will forget these things as soon as the final is over. All that I’m getting out of this is a little bit of general enlightenment buried under a whole lot of math anxiety, and for the price I’m paying to attend this school, that is just not enough for me to really value what happens in that class.

But what about the part of my classes that aren’t soul-crushing wastes of time? Well it’s pretty simple: I like my writing class because I can see the point of it. I want to be a better writer, so I write things and then have other people read them and make comments on them. And then I take those comments and I rewrite the piece, and not only is it a whole lot better the second time around, I have learned from my mistake. So I have improved myself.

Have I encountered anything like this before at UCSC? Why yes, yes I have! The example that springs to mind is Japanese class, where I came in having forgotten most of my Japanese, and left with the ability to make basic conversation. But Japanese isn’t the only class I’ve had like that; I’ve had lit classes and general eds that also had that wonderful feeling of noticeable gain. And now that I think about it, those were always the classes that I enjoyed the most. So from my experience, it is clear that an educational process that leaves the pupil better off than he was before he subjected himself to it seems more satisfying than than just running out the clock in a lecture hall. Imagine that.

If only this was how classes normally ran.

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Translations

October 23, 2007

The Book of Questions

Pablo Neruda

 

Por qué los inmensos aviones

no se pasean sus hijos?

Cuál es el pájaro Amarillo

que llena el nido de limones?

 

Por qué no ensenan a sacar

miel del sol a los helicópteros?

 

Dónde dejó la luna llena

su saco nocturno de harina?

 

***

Why don’t the immense airplanes

fly around with their children?

 

Which yellow bird

fills its nest with lemons?

 

Why don’t they train helicopters

to suck honey from the sunlight?

 

Where did the full moon leave

its sack of four tonight?

 

***

y dont bg planes

fly w/ noobs?

 

which mob

drops lemons?

 

y dont helis

lvl up hunnysuck?

 

where’d he drop

the flag?

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Wait, Didn’t They Already Hate Harry Potter?

October 23, 2007

Albus Dumbledore is gay! Oh shit! The apocalypse is surely upon us!

At least that’s what a lot of annoying Fundies would have us believe. It seems that having a sympathetic gay man as one of the series’ central characters is just too much, even for some of those Red Staters that managed to hold their insanity in check long enough to ignore all that tempting Satanic witchcraft while they enjoyed the books. Some are even going so far as to say that this is definitive proof that these books are anti-Christian. Apparently, everything that doesn’t agree with their narrow-minded religous views is by default a knife at Baby Jesus’ throat.

I get the feeling that many of these people are just happy to have more material to support their victim complex. Didn’t they already want to burn Harry at the stake for having the gall to engage in fictional escapades involving magic? How is it that they care so much about this new information if they have already written off the whole series?

Thankfully, most of the reaction to this announcement has been positive, with only a few instances of ugly bigotry to mar the event. Perhaps it is just because I live in Santa Cruz, but it really does seem like the world is becoming more accepting of gays. Maybe in ten years the world will have progressed to the point where if another popular author takes one of his or her characters out of the closet, the fans will just be happy to know more about the character, and the homosexuality thing won’t be a big deal one way or the other.

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More Giant Robots

October 17, 2007

So apparently there is a new Gundam series out. I am always a little sad when I hear of a new giant robot anime being released*, because it reminds me of those heady days of wonder when the idea of a giant bi-pedal tank seemed novel and inventive. I loved my giant robots, I loved them so hard. And then I actually got into anime, and they were fucking everywhere, and now they aren’t so interesting any more. Sometimes I wish I could go back to those early days, when a few brief glimpses of destruction could set my imagination running for a week or more. Sigh.

*except for Eva. I’m always happy about Eva.

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Starting to Get Back on My Feet

October 14, 2007

I think it’s pretty clear now that I may not be able to continue my prior posting tempo. My schedules has started to settle down considerably, but I still don’t have much time for posting. Also, with so much other writing work going on, I find myself less drawn to posting here, and I refuse to allow this to become a chore.

In other news, the Apocalypse hit us the other day.

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Fucked For Time

October 7, 2007

I’m trying to write a book. As part of this, I have to help 8 other people write their books.

I’ve now got a job, which will consume between 15 and 20 hours of my week.

I have 2 discussion sections and a mandatory reading seminar every week.

I have homework and reading from 2 classes that both think I should actually give a damn about them.

I have various life-maintenance  chores that pop up from time to time.

I also would like to join a regular D&D game and maintain my demanding video game schedule.

Holy fuck am I ready to not be doing college any more right now. I don’t mind having so much to do; I mind having so much to do in so many different areas at once. I fucking hate all these balls in the air.

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Hip-hip, hooray?

October 7, 2007

Anyone paying attention to the gaming world these days know the Xbox 360 had been doing really badly in Japan. Microsoft’s new console has gone over with the Japanese about as well as a mariachi band at the Hiroshima memorial service. Microsoft has been scrambling to fix this, as defeating the PS3, or at least fighting it down to a draw, on its home turf is the only sure way to win this battle of the console war. Recently it has become apparent that one of their main tactics for addressing this shortcoming has been to woo over a bunch of Japanese development studios to create Xbox 360-exclusive titles. Ace Combat 6, Beautiful Katamari, and Eternal Sonata are just three Japanese developed games that are being released exclusively for the 360. More importantly, 2 of the games I mentioned are sequels to popular PlayStation franchises that have essentially defected away from Sony.

Not only does the Xbox’s strategy of stealing away Japanese games seem likely to be a success, but even the most ionically American game out there, Halo 3, has managed to do brisk business in Japan.

So while the Xbox has sold poorly in Japan so far, it looks like Microsoft’s monolith has just been biding its time and resting up to deliver the ass kicking to end all ass kickings.
So…hooray? I mean, I hate the PlayStation on a visceral, unreasoning level. Those mother fuckers killed Sonic! So I want the PlayStation to fail horribly. But weirdly, I don’t have anything particularly against Sony in general. Meanwhile, I’m an Xbox fan who has the zeal of the converted, but at the same time I simply loathe Microsoft. Vista is disgusting and demeaning and horrible in every way. If the Revolution comes, I’m hoping Bill Gates catches a bullet.

In short, I really don’t know how to feel. I’m happy to see the Xbox gaining traction. I’m thrilled to see the PlayStation stumble. But I don’t want Sony to die, and I would happily dance on Microsoft’s grave.

I’m a man without a country.