Archive for the ‘UC Santa Cruz’ Category

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Paper #3 for my Theory of Authorship class

February 26, 2008

In Foucault’s “What is an Author?”, he summarizes his theory of what he calls the authorship function as having four distinct characteristics. The very first of these is that “the author function is linked to the juridical and institutional system that encompasses, determines, and articulates the universe of discourses.” He more fully explains this passage as the “penal appropriation,” and argues that authorial ownership is first appropriated on behalf of the writer by the relevant local judicial authorities- whether the writer wants it or not. The story that is related in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Something Borrowed” is a good case study for the practical implications of Foucault’s penal appropriation.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Great Moments in Procrastination

February 23, 2008

I woke up at the crack of 1 pm today, and realized that I had 9 pages worth of essay to write for two different classes. One will require that I read another essay I have yet to go over and then apply its ideas to a book that I hate, and the other will require that I find 5 sources to back up a stupid medieval travelogue I’m supposed to compose. It was off to the salt mines for me.

Then I realized- wait, it’s Saturday, not Sunday.

Fuck yeah! Team Fortress, here I come!

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Oh, The Angst!

November 18, 2007

One of the problems that I’ve found with writing a fantasy is that I don’t know how much to tell people about it when it comes up in conversation. I’m not really concerned that somebody is going to “steal my ideas” or any such nonsense, because honestly ideas are cheap; it’s the execution that’ll bring in the money, and I’m the only person in the world who can execute an idea the way I would. (I mean this in the most arrogant way possible)

No, what I’m really concerned of is giving too much away. Surprises are good. Surprises make me respect the author. So I want to put surprises in my books. But the best surprises are always the ones that have just enough foreshadowing that you know that something is up, you just don’t know what.

For example, the opening scenes of the Matrix make it pretty damn clear that something which is both unbelievably cool and sinister is happening. When we find out that the whole world is an elaborate game of Pong, we are surprised.

In Evangelion, we know in short order that Dr. Ikari is planning something. When, no, if the viewer manages to figure out what Ikari is really after, he or she is surprised.

Well I don’t have any cosmic mindfucks in store for my heroes (at least not in the first book), but I do have some surprises. And I’m not sure how to talk about the plot with the people in my workshop group without giving up the game. I can’t afford to do that, because if I do, then how am I to guage the surprise’s effectiveness?

Another problem I’ve found is coming up with all the gritty little details that make a world breathe. But most of my workshop group (or at least the new one) doesn’t seem interested in helping me worldbuild. I don’t think it is Literary Enough for many of them. (If, by any chance any of you are reading this and know who I am, then you know who you are. You heard me.)

That second problem, I suppose, could be solved by just, you know, asking for help, but for some reason I haven’t thought to do that yet.

Oh the troubles and toils of the aspiring fantasy writer!

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I Am The Buddha of Disinterest

November 13, 2007

I have reached such a plateau of indifference towards my schooling that I have become almost transcendent in my apathy. I walk out of lectures when they’re only half-way finished. What do I care? It’ll all be on the hand-outs, or in the books. I barely studied for my astronomy midterm, and I got an A. I didn’t study at all for my Global Lit midterm, and I got a C.

I write papers the day before they are finished, and that feels like I’m striving to be an overachiever.

Even putting in the minimum effort for my classes seems like a waste of energy. The only exception is, as usual, my writing class, which continues to be a grubby beacon of occasional joy and sporadic fulfillment, far and away the most enjoyable class I have this quarter. When the stories I’m critiquing are good, the class is great. When my work is up for critique, the class is even better. When the stories I’m critiquing are bad, then the class is painful. But still, it’s at least significant to me.

So 2/3rds of my classes are a waste. I want good grades, but my desire not to do any of this pointless busywork is just as strong. They balance into a beautiful equilibrium of ennui.

I am the Buddha of disinterest.

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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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A School of Distinction

September 11, 2007

David Horowitz was on Hannity & Colmes to plug the paperback release of his book about those evil liberal professors who can’t get to sleep at night without saying a prayer to Marx, and while there he took the opportunity to call my school the very worst university in the United States. Well, not the science parts, just the icky, completely voluntary politically aware parts that teach students how to apply their knowledge to their communities in hope of improving society. Amazingly, Colmes remembered to put on his fightin’ underpants and got in Horowitz’s face about the whole thing. He didn’t make much of a substantive argument past pointing out that the classes are voluntary but the fact that he actually stuck to it was surprising. Maybe someday, if he works real hard and eats all his vegetables, he can manage to ask two pointed questions during an interview.

Until that happy day, it’s up to the rest of us to take up the slack. Did Horowitz actually speak to any UC Santa Cruz professors? Did he sit in on any of these classes as they were being taught? Does he think that it is wrong for Universities to teach their students how to apply their knowledge to the world around them? Does he understand the difference between learning about liberal philosophy and being indoctrinated? Does he have any evidence that students who write essays critical of their reading material are marked down for doing so? Does he think that there is anything wrong with students who are studying community activism to get hands on experience with the subject? If not, would he also agree that physics majors should stay out of the lab? Is there something particularly radical about being concerned that large and powerful economic interests may use their influence in a manner that is not healthy for the community? Is there anything wrong with students being exposed to ideas that are outside the American political mainstream?

Now I will be the first to repeat just how much I hated my Commie Lit class. It was at 8 AM, we had a pair of fucking phone books we had to read, my TA was an asshole who didn’t understand the material, and the essay topics were boring. But it wasn’t indoctrination. The prof said up front he didn’t expect to convert us, and that he wasn’t trying. He was just going to explain Communist doctrine to us and do some deep reading. We didn’t have to believe the stuff, we just had to understand it. That class was about the most radical thing I’ve taken so far at UCSC, and I haven’t heard any other students speak of anything worse.

But that doesn’t matter; the witch hunt has been started. If we’re lucky it will peter out before anyone gets burned at the stake.