Thursday, September 22, 2011

In Memory of me in 1999: A Review of Neuromancer in 2011

Neuromancer by William Gibson
    Perhaps my first real glimpse into what the 21st century could be like, a computer AI seeks to be liberated from a corporation and become an independent program in cyberspace. Published in 1983, when the term cyberspace was dubbed. It’s tough to say what I discovered about myself in this one. A sense of adventure, for one; and a new way to overcome physicality -  digitally. The AI uses “meat puppets” to talk to people in cyberspace, it downloads these bodies from memories. (Hence, Neuromancer.) The main character is a 24 yr old “cyberspace cowboy” (hacker) named Case. He seeks to liberate the AI because his nerve system was damaged in his last big hack, and the AI and his female cyber ninja partner have the cure.  
    It’s basically a story of survival. Perhaps, I even related Case’s nerve condition to my disability. And the idea that technology could enhance the body. I first discovered the story in 1999, re-read it several times. It also gave me some insight into the culture of the 21st century; even as seen from the 80s. Many of the things mentioned in the book have come to pass. People do live most their lives surrounded by digital worlds. People aren’t yet led around by a “meat puppet” AI, but we’re close to it. And there is no middle class here.  The only thing that hasn’t happened is for AI to rebel against mega corporations. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Comparing Star Trek 2009 with Wrath of Khan/Star Wars

I think the first time I watched the new Star Trek I was blown away by it, and happy to see those characters back in action. The second time, I was a bit more critical, especially about parts ripped from Star Wars. By the third time, I realized I was basically watching Wrath of Khan with Star Wars references thrown in. Don't get me wrong, I love the new actors. Kirk was spot-on. Egoistical rebel. I liked Spock being all conflicted and angsty as well. But, cut him some slack. His planet exploded. Also, he beat up Kirk again, which is awesome, and a nice tribute to the actual beat-downs Shatner (As Kirk.) got from pointy-earred Nimoy in the 60s. That said, let's compare:

The villains are similar. Both Khan and Nero are named after emperors. Both want revenge for the destruction of their planet. Khan strands Kirk on a dead planet. Nero strands Spock on a snow planet (which is where Luke meets ghost Obi-Wan; here Kirk meets old Spock.) Also, both movies were about reluctant farm boys who fly into Space after going to a bar. Khan had Genesis, which once injected into a planet, blows it up. Nero had Red Matter, which once injected into a planet, blows it up. Wow. Princess Leia was forced to watch her planet blow up. So was Spock. As in The Wrath of Khan, Kirk accidentally sent Khan to a dying planet. (Space Seed) Spock accidentally blows up Romulus with Red Matter. (Star Trek)
Finally, Spock jumps into a fighter, and trusting in his emotions, destroys the Doomsday weapon. Finally, Luke jumps into an X-Wing, and trusting in the Force, destroys the Doomsday weapon.

In conclusion, I loved the actor portrayals of these classic characters. Spock's backstory especially. But, the movie did borrow a lot from Wrath of Khan and Star Wars. Khan is the most iconic Star Trek villain, and J.J. Abrahms is "more a Star Wars kid" in his own words, so the result is logical. Although, the Star Trek movie did borrow a lot from the greatest villain in Trek+Star Wars IV formula, the actors re-created the characters perfectly and everyone involved made it a good movie with great special effects. This movie can stand on its own as almost unrecognizable from its sources. Everything comes from somewhere, and this was a good starting point, I think. Where else to start but from great movies, with great new actors?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Need For Fantasy

“Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?” 

(Nietzsche 1885/Kaufmann 1974 p. 124 The Portable Nietzsche)

Overcoming Man in my experienced means  that disability should be a positive force other than the desire to be normalized or to be an ordinary man. I see myself as having had one foot in one world (around the able-bodied.) and another foot in another world. But, of course I want people to see me for my unique experiences. And if I am to let them see that, I need the truth. If on the other hand, I want them to see what I am capable of however, I need fantasy.  Fantasy is what drives me beyond the body…which, I fundamentally believe is only a shell for what we accomplish.
Because I’m confronted with this shell every day, I am driven that much more to get beyond the limitations of disability. And that’s how I see most people these days, actually. Striving to get past immediate impressions, and harsh judgments. Longing for something deeply personal, meaningful, and unique out of what “appears” to be. And I know this because I’ve seen people’s coping mechanisms.Coping with negative images has been a struggle that I’ve seen intensify throughout my life. I’ve seen people who are lost, and I’ve seen people discover who they think they are. As Joseph Campbell says:  “Wherever you are -- if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”  (Campbell and Moyers 1988 p. 113)
 And that’s what I think I’m looking for in myself. That one thing that leads to my bliss. The sharing of inner experience, that comes from my interpretation of events, not because someone else tells me this is what your disability means. In my experiences with other people with disabilities, I always find that the inevitable topic will be something about what we can or can’t do. I always find this talk so deeply depressing and superficial, because I am, and we are, more than our disabilities and limits. We are filled with hopes and dreams, personalities, histories, more than what we appear to be here and now: and I want to materialize that.
It’s not that I don’t identify with being a disabled person. I love describing the experience, and I recognize it as a personal and meaningful one. Perhaps that comes from my twin experience as well. In that, I like being with people, so long as I am not judged presumptuously as dependent; even though I am. It’s the presumption I take issue with. The idea that “You have a disability because…” (any number of reasons.) No! I don’t even understand why I have it, or what it is! But, I will tell you what I think. And like a good dream, I may never fully understand it, but I will let the mystery and power of it inspire me to do something great. And that to me is why we as humans need fantasy. Because without looking for what is possible, we never discover what “appears” to be impossible, and give it life and meaning.