Mar. 14th, 2013

crossesandguns: cain with a syringe full of poison (Default)
Bit of a life update or something:

My housemates are really pissing me off. They’re relatively new, compared to three of us who’ve been living here for about 3-4 years and know each other’s piss-off buttons and the like. But I don’t think that’s any excuse because they’ve been here more than six months already.

We hardly talk to each other, but we share a bathroom, and if there’s one thing I’m really obsessive about, it’s bathroom cleanliness. Seriously, if and when I get my own place, everywhere is gonna be a mess of paper and take-out, except the bathroom and the sink. I keep the bathroom clean. I don’t even wait for the landlady to come and clean, I clean the floor, the walls, the bowl, everything, because I can’t stand a dirty bathroom.

probably TMI )

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Books I’ve read, recently (there are SPOILERS):

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter. He hunts androids, or “andys”, who escape to Earth from the Martian colony, and retires them. Stuff happens and he has to hunt down 6 of the new Nexus-type brains, armed only with the Voigt-Kampff empathy scale to differentiate the android from the human. The story inspired films such as Blade Runner and Total Recall.

There’s a lot of interesting material in this story. First is the silence. Most of the people on Earth have gone on to live on Mars to escape the dust, which apparently causes brain damage and even death in the long run. One character lives alone in an apartment building outside the city, and when he turns off the TV, the surrounding silence threatens to engulf him, like something alive. I think I read an experiment somewhere, of a room that does not absorb sound, and that people can’t stay there for long for fear of going mad. We don’t usually give thought to the background sounds of everyday life, but imagine if there wasn’t anything left. What would happen?

Another was the lack of empathy in androids. Basically, these androids look just the same as human beings, and you wouldn’t know if he/she was an android at all unless you test them. The androids in Do Androids Dream can feel, emotions like panic and fear and even happiness. But they fail to empathize with other living things and that’s their defect. There’s a really chilling scene where they find a spider (animals/insects of all kinds are endangered) and proceed to cut off its legs, because they were curious what it needs eight legs for.

The thing is, you want to root for the andys, because they’re fleeing from slavery in another planet. But then, Dick shows you how different they are from real human beings, how screwed up they are, and how they can never be like us. The problem is, as said in the book, there is a percentage of people, real people, who cannot feel empathy, and the test can’t distinguish from that. You’ll only find out after you’ve shot them.

I personally prefer my androids developing personalities and feelings in the long run. Like David in AI. The andys here, however having personalities and rudimentary feelings, are treated as the other because they don’t have that human trait, empathy. And this lack of empathy makes it okay to hunt you down. David from Prometheus is a good example of this cerebral, sentient being. And HAL9000 too, of course.

Rating: 7/10, would recommend to anyone who likes androids and those wanting to watch Blade Runner. I understood that movie so much more afterwards.

The War of the Worlds, HG Wells. Cylinders fall from Mars and in it are Martians set to conquer the world. The events are seen through the eyes of an ordinary 19th century philosopher/professor and involves a lot of hiding and running from the Martians using dog carts and horses.

One thing I realized after reading it through, was that it can be read as a colonial/imperialist metaphor. I’m not sure about Wells’ stand on this but considering England, 1890s, British Empire, I think it’s safe to say that he was well aware of it. If so, the Martians are the imperialists, and the human race is the colonized country.

For example, the artilleryman, friend of the narrator, imagines a possible future with the Martians in charge. They won’t kill everybody, just enough to make a point. And the remaining peoples will flourish with the Martians, who would fatten them up (for food, the Martians drink men’s blood), and use them for entertainment, like pets. And soon enough, these people would forget everything before the coming of the Martians and be satisfied with the way things were. Sounds very colonialist, doesn’t it?

But, the major difference with this and real life is, the Martians are defeated. By bacteria and pathogens native to our soil. Because apparently they don’t have that in Mars. I would argue that it’s different from the way it worked IRL, because the coming of the conquistadors brought and spread diseases from which the native populations had no immunity against. Like the case with the Maya, and the Aztecs, and other peoples around the globe. I haven’t heard of any case where the conquerors fall prey to the diseases of the native land, although there may be a few. Here's a lecture on it if you're interested, I'm still downloading it though, I'll listen later.

EDIT: There are cases of the opposite! Like apparently, syphilis, for example. Still, that did not decimate the colonialist populations like smallpox and measles, though.

They don’t have that in Mars, bollocks. Of course they have bacteria. And the more probable ending would be a worldwide Martian plague bringing the planet to its knees. But yeah, it’s a scifi story, I concede anything could happen.

Rating: 6/10, if only for the hilariousness of the 1890s people and general mass hysteria. +1 because it made me cry a bit on the THUNDER CHILD chapter. Yeah, go read.

I am halfway through The Great Gatsby and it’s really great. It’s my first time reading this bc I’m not American, though.

PS: Habemus Papam Franciscum! Yeah.

May 2014

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