Monday, June 15, 2009

Even More Photos: Dog Edition

Taken on Saturday at Woofstock:

Panting Dog

Woofstock #4

Lounging Dog

(Hex, this is for you and your weird obsession with heterochromia)

Woofstock #3


Woofstock #2

Woofstock #1


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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Be "That Guy"

On this part of the blogosphere there's been a lot of discussion about rape*, but similar conversations are also happening elsewhere. Pyth linked me to an LJ post On Rape and Men**, which calls decent guys out for not talking to other guys about being decent. You really ought to read the comments where women and some men talk about their experiences with/being That Guy. You know, the guy that doesn't take advantage of a drunk or vulnerable woman or the guy who prevents his frat buddies from raping a women. These are the types of stories men need to tell other men rather than ignoring or making excuses for your friends'/coworkers'/etc. dangerous atittudes toward rape.

But don't expect cookies or admiration from us because this isn't about being a great guy, it's about doing the decent thing.


*While we're at it go click through the blogs donating as part of the Silence is the Enemy

**There's an crossposted version here

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

All Too Human

...Or may be not.

I was going to write something completely different this week, but reading comments on We Remember Love got me thinking about the topic of AI stories and Sharon Apple in particular.

Ghostlightning writes,
I actually don’t favor ‘cautionary tales’ as the cases of Macross Plus and Macross Frontier
suggest. When the AI of Sharon Apple becomes too human, or when Grace O’Connor becomes too powerful via her ‘on-line’ existence and her robotic bodies — bad things happen. But these are cases where these characters are more plot devices rather than explorations so I’m not that bothered.

The "cautionary tale" plot about an robot/computer/etc. becoming too human or too intelligent or too powerful leading to "bad things" is modern-day mythology. It's the type of story we tell over and over again. From the Terminator movies to half the sci-fi books ever published we see it used. This is such a prevalent yet simple myth that it can be used for various purposes. Sometimes you get explorations of what it means to be human when intelligence can come in non-biological forms (as is the case with the Puppetmaster in Ghost in the Shell) and sometimes it serves as a plot device for a compltely unrelated message (Grace O'Connor's wacky plans in Macross Frontier). The former are interesting because of what AI brings to the table; the latter could work with almost anything replacing AI. It's a fine plot, but too often it's used as lazy writing by simply using the formula of "sentient robots = bad things" without explaining why that's the case.

So what about Sharon Apple? Well -- I have to say, I disagree with ghostlightining's interpretation. I don't see her as as simply a plot device. It's just not as simple as that, especially not in the context of the Macross universe.

Music and love are the leitmotifs of the Macross universe. You can't have a Macross series without singing. You can't have a Macross series where love and romantic triangles aren't a major plot point. And in almost all cases the singing reminds the us, and the various warring factions, of love and through that understanding. We've given culture back to the Zentradi through Minmay's songs, we've made entire islands bloom with life through song, we've even made space whales listen to our song.

Seriously, he is singing to fucking space whale. How fucking awesome is that?

Sharon Apple takes on these characteristics and twists them into something ugly. There's really very little to her aside from her being a singer and feeling love. She was made to do that, just that. And normally in Macross, love plus singing would be enough to save the world. However, Sharon is different because she's not human. She might feel emotion, but she doesn't act like any normal human being (If you think she does, I believe you might want to get your sociopathic ass checked). Despite her feeling love and pain and sadness, she's missing something essentially human, something that prevents her from going through the usual "song + love = understanding".

What I believe Sharon's missing is the ability to understand others--a theory of mind and empathy. Sure she can understand other people's simple desires, like Isamu's desire for a thrill, but she's not very good at the complex stuff. She simplifies Myung's complex feelings toward Isamu and Guld into "I love Isamu a bit more, so who cares about Guld". To Sharon this is a simple matter because she doesn't seem to take anyone's feelings into account; to the human Myung this decision is nearly impossible because she knows that whichever way she chooses someone will get hurt (including her). And her fulfillment of Isamu's "desires" hardly taking his actual feelings into account. He clearly doesn't want his thrill in the way she presents it, but she doesn't care.

In the Macross world, where we've always been told that singing about love will bring about understanding between groups, a singer with the kind of power Sharon has (her song is drugs) not having the ability to understand others is more meaningful than a simple plot point. In a world where love songs are an effective weapon, we need to remember that empathy and understanding are also important. Sharon Apple, the AI that knows only personal emotions, is here to remind us of that.

I'll leave you with my favourite scene from Macross Plus, while I go into a Sudafed and flu induced coma:

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New layout + photos

How do you like the new layout?

Lilac 02

Lilac 01

Red Maple

Tulip - Pink Bed

Tulip - Yellow to Red

In the Branches

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Two Awkward Things

1) Being the only science student in a drunken discussion (*sigh* Philosophy discussions)
2) Being the only female in a group of 5 people going out for drinks.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Silence Is the Enemy.

I've never experienced sexual assault. That makes me lucky. Many woman aren't as lucky. In particular, women in many war torn areas live with the reality that rape is used to as a weapon in war and even when the fighting is done the rape culture still persists.

Ignoring this is not an option, which is why Sheril Kirshenbaum writes the following:

Today begins a very important initiative called Silence Is The Enemy to help a generation of young women half a world away.Why? Because they are our sisters and children–the victims of sexual abuse who don’t have the means to ask for help. We have power in our words and influence. Along with our audience, we’re able to speak for them. I’m asking all of you–bloggers, writers, teachers, and concerned citizens–to use whatever platform you have to call for an end to the rape and abuse of women and girls in Liberia and around the world.

In regions where fighting has formally ended, rape continues to be used as a weapon. As Nicholas Kristof recently wrote from West Africa, ‘it has been easier to get men to relinquish their guns than their sense of sexual entitlement.’ The war has shattered norms, training some men to think that ‘when they want sex, they need simply to overpower a girl.’ An International Rescue Committee survey suggests 12 percent of girls aged 17 and under acknowledged having been sexually abused in some way over the previous 18 months. Further, of the 275 new sexual violence cases treated Jan-April by Doctors Without Borders, 28 percent involve children aged 4 or younger, and 33 percent involve children aged 5 through 12. That’s 61% age 12 or under. We read about their plight and see the figures, but it’s so easy to feel helpless to act in isolation. But these are not statistics, they are girls. Together we can do more. Mass rape persists because of inertia so let’s create momentum.

The movement began a couple weeks ago after I was feeling particularly outraged after reading Kristof’s terrific NYTimes piece. I wondered aloud to Isis how we might draw attention to the mass rape taking place across the globe. Very soon we began coordinating a blogospheric awareness campaign to say 1) this is happening 2) it’s completely monstrous, and 3) we want change. But acknowledgment isn’t enough–people have to be motivated to care and act. We want folks thinking about these girls beyond a single morning they read a few coordinated posts.

If you haven't already read her post go do so NOW. And while you're at it browse through the following blogs who are donating their June profits (based on site hits) to Doctors Without Borders:

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