Friday, 23 April 2010

A Second Post on Postmodernism

Part II

(If you have not read Part I, I suggest you do so now.)

I think it's about time we move from the foundations of postmodernism to some of its common but not essential traits, as well as some examples of postmodernist thought.

This radical destabilizing of belief and knowledge must necessarily apply to the postmodernist's own beliefs, and they are not naive enough to overlook this. A postmodern thinker will in general use a specific sort of irony in anything they say; they don't necessarily mean the opposite of what they say, but they are continually aware that whatever they say applies only right now, to this context, from this perspective. Many have given up hoping to find a universal solution, even to the problems posed about postmodernism, and as such give only preliminary answers. Other postmodernists hope to find some grand rhythm behind the confusion postmodernism has so far uncovered, though they think that pattern will be better expressed in terms of dynamics, relationships, and tendencies rather than systems, identities, and facts. Postmodernism doubts the efficacy of things like logic, especially logical language and scientific discourse, which makes postmodern express difficult. Irony as a result plays an important role in at least the expression of postmodern ideas, leading the movement into wordplay, bet-hedging, satire, and deliberate self-parody.

As you may be able to tell from what I've written so far, and from the emphasis on wordplay and bet-hedging, you can guess that another postmodern trait is obscure language. Postmodernism writing and speech tends to be full of neologisms, vague language that sounds hyper-specific, compound nonce words, words heavy with suffixes, and brackets or slashes in the middle of words (such as "in/deforming the text" or "uni(n)formed"). This is partly an attempt to create a new way of discussion that doesn't rely on modernist philosophy, but, as Stephen Katz discusses in his essay, it can also be an attempt to dismantle criticism against postmodernism or hide the fact that you have nothing of interest to say. For instance, you can intimidate opponents by confusing them; they are less likely to call you out if they don't understand what you're saying, because they don't want to sound like an idiot. Instead, they try to pick up the rules of your wordgames and play those games themselves, validating your position in the process. Further, if no one understand what you're saying, they can't tell if you're not saying anything at all. Lastly, it's difficult to come up with a cogent criticism against such an argument because there aren't the standard logical pieces to work with. Even if someone does come up with an argument against what you've said, you can just fire back that binary logic (ie. modernist logic) can't address postmodern ideas, which transcend such historically located ideas. (Cait, Jon, I think you'll recognize certain professors who do this kind of thing. Think the use of "problematize" or "the economics of _______.")

I think this is almost enough for one post, and I hope it gives you a good if basic idea of what postmodernism is. I think I should give you three basic areas in which postmodernism really makes a difference in how we operate.

Identity: postmodernism dismantles the concept of self, like it dismantles many other things. This deserves a post in and of itself, but I'll give you a very brief sketch here of two 'models' of the postmodern self. First there is the Protean self, which changes according to social situation. The idea is that there is no core 'self' with predictable traits that run through a person. Rather, each person's self-concept, behaviour patterns, thought patterns, and even beliefs change as they are in different social circumstances. (Which is why we feel uncomfortable when two of our social groups begin to mingle; this is a manifestation between conflict or competition between two of our self-concepts as we try to wear both at the same time.) We are culturally trained to try to be a consistent self throughout all of our interactions, but this runs counter to what we actually do. Thus we feel guilt about changing our masks when we ought not to feel guilty. Some thinkers suggest that only some people are truly Protean, a sort of vanguard of the new postmodern self, while others suggest that all people are Protean and may only appear otherwise due to social restraints.

The second postmodern position on identity is that there is no self. When Descartes encountered his own thoughts, he reasoned that there must be a thinker, famously stating, cogito ergo sum. Buddhists disagreed with this assessment since before the birth of Christ. Having conducted a similar experiment, they determined not cogito, which means "I think," but rather, "there are thoughts." They then searched for something other than those thoughts that could be having them, and came up with nothing. They concluded that there are thoughts, desires, urges, fears, neuroses, and more, but that there was no 'self' having them: rather, what we think of as the self is simply all of these things bundled together, coming into existence and then disappearing just as quickly. Some postmodernists agree. They say that what we think of as a 'self' is just a bundle of drives, emotions, fears, beliefs, cultural expectations, biases, beliefs, beliefs about beliefs, and so forth, some or many of which are contradictory, jockeying for relative prominence. There is no "core" self, but instead a bunch of different self-components arranging and re-arranging. The fact that many of us experience having a self is simply due to the fact that our culture has since childhood insisted that we have this experience; it, too, is a cultural construct. I should also point out that attributing these self-components to biological/neurological processes might be tempting, but postmodernism would likely shy away from that. Rather, these components are themselves culturally constructed, or if not that at least they can only be understood or experienced through cultural mediation. Which is to say, (almost) everyone experiences lust and sexual arousal--but we can only experience it if we have a cultural category for it, and so how we experience it depends on what culture we are in. Notice that this view is not inconsistent with, but also not dependent on, that of the Protean self.

Science: While one of the two major backlashes against postmodernism is scientism (also called rational-materialism or the cult of reason), there is such a thing as postmodern science. This is the sort of science which is non-dogmatic, recognizing that every discovery is tentative and only legitimate in so far as it works. It has little concern for truth and more concern with whether or not it works in the current situation. Postmodern science values other domains of knowledge and does not try to impose its own discoveries upon others. Further, it often violates what are considered in theory to be rules of the scientific method, while arguing that, in practice, most major advances in science are produced by breaks from the scientific method. There is actually great overlap between the scientism of Lee Smolin, who I wrote on before, and certain postmodern scientists, as they wrestle with what makes science tick. Most importantly, postmodern scientists see the scientific method as a social construct, no more objectively valid than competing constructs; there choice of it is arbitrary, personal, historical, and, since they are aware of this, ironic. My understanding of postmodern scientists is that they don't voice their postmodern opinions too loudly in the department, since that would kill their chances of advancement.

Religion: The second major backlash against postmodernism is traditionalism, with religious fundamentalism being among these (along with the sort of 50s-ideology of consumerism and normative society). However, there is postmodernist religion as well. Buddhism and Hinduism have had postmodern members before there was such a thing as postmodernism, but even some monotheists are getting on board. The idea that our current form of worship is just a way that man has constructed in order to reach God is a postmodernist one, and it should be noted that early postmodernist writers got their ideas from Vicco, who wrote on religion. Many people recognize that their own religious beliefs are a historical 'accident,' meaning that they are only Christian or Muslim or Taoist or Sikh due to where and when they were born, but at the same time they happily and usually without internal conflict participate piously in worship. While these people might not be postmodernists, that is a postmodern attitude. There are of course other more radically postmodernist theologians, but I know less about these and so won't try to discuss them.

Likely the greatest intellectual contribution that postmodernism has made, and likely the one thread underlying all postmodernist thought, is nicely put by Walter Truett Anderson the editor of The Truth About the Truth as, roughly, "Postmodernism has changed our beliefs about belief." Its ideas and mannerisms run through our culture and has taken a strong grip on at least the arts departments in academia, so much so that postmodernism itself has sort of become that culture that we cannot see because we live within it. You might find that a number of things I mentioned are beliefs you hold yourself and you never knew that those beliefs have postmodern origins. I know I found that. While I don't agree with all of postmoderism--I believe, for instance, in an accessible universal reality--I find myself sympathetic to much of it. I will save my criticisms for another time.

If you have any questions, please ask.

7 Quick Takes

1. Windsor. Went to movies, saw The Clash of the Titans. Went for walk through campus, took pictures. Went for walk through woods, chilly, no pictures. Watched TV and movies. Talked about Ronald Weinland.

2. At Windsor, saw documentary about anti-christs and nostradamus. Intrigued but utterly unconvinced.

3. Oakville. Brother's place. Played video games, hung out. Went for walks through woods, too. He shaved his face and head. Discussed what constitutes a 'big deal.'

4. Tuesday, brother's film screening. It was better than his group were worried about. Enjoyed all of the films, especially Sun Day. Celebratory dinner at some place, Olive and Something's. I will look it up and let you know. Excellent spinach salad, highly recommend.

5. Wednesday, had dinner at Mercatto (??) with friends from Queen's. Excellent pesto meal, highly recommend.

6. Thursday, head to Kingston. Meet friends. After, Jon and I stay up way too late discussing Fort McMurray, postmodernism, identity, relationships, and the trouble with emotions.

7. Today, hung out with Cait this morning at her place, heading to meet friends after I post this.

Go over to Conversion Diary, eh?

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A Post on Postmodernism

Part I

I will here, as promised after finishing Walter Truett Anderson's The Truth About the Truth, outline postmodernism in a similar manner as I did existentialism before. At this moment it is not my intention to critique po-mo, but I will warn you that I am writing from a critical stand-point; that is, I do not hold that the full tenants of postmodernism are true. So I may be biased.

I think one of the first things you'll notice about postmodernism is that you will already believe a number of postmodernist ideas and you don't even know it. I know that a lot of the academic work I've produced has been to some extent or another postmodern, and I hadn't known it until now. Postmodernism has both openly and covertly made inroads into our culture, and we can no longer easily identify which of our own personal beliefs has its origins in this new-ish philosophy. Further, something we must keep in mind about postmodernism is that it is less a coherent philosophical movement as a number of related sub-movements, trends, subcultures, and individuals who all have certain things in common. This statement is true of most philosophical schools, but it seems truer of postmodernism than of anything before it.

So, that out of the way, we can ask, What is postmodernism?

Most essentially put, postmodernism is a trend of philosophical belief that challenges not only what we know but how we claim to know it. Modernism before it held that there is an objective world in which we live; moreover, objective knowledge was attainable and that it was worthy of being attained. Perhaps it was the only kind of knowledge worth attaining. Some postmodernists challenge both of these ideas, though all postmodernists challenge the idea that objective knowledge is ever attainable. This is perhaps the crux of all postmodernism but, as with all philosophical movements, the different strains have other things in common, or at least in broad strokes. I will outline these.

I suspect that you will notice immediately how the relativisms (moral, cultural, epistemic, aesthetic) are postmodern ideas. Moral relativism says that everyone generates his or her own equally valid set of moral values; cultural relativism says that each cultures values, beliefs, and customs are equally legitimate or right; epistemic relativism says that everyone's beliefs about what is true are equally correct; aesthetic relativism says that everyone's judgements of art or beauty are equally accurate. These are the extreme forms of each relativism, and I must emphasize that most people hold more qualified and nuanced views than these. A common qualification is this: while there may be a best culture or truest set of moral standards, we cannot step outside our own culture or morals to determine which of two competing standards/cultures is best, and so any decision we make between the two is arbitrary. We simply cannot know. Therefore they may not be equally true, but they are equally justified.

Each postmodernist thinker chooses among these relativisms, of course, and adds his or her own qualifications. Even people who are predominately not postmodernist often choose some relativism or another. Many rational materialists, who are by definition not postmodernist, espouse aesthetic relativism, and some espouse cultural relativism. Similarly, some religious fundamentalists, who again are by definition not postmodernist, nonetheless believe that certain elements of culture are relative.

A key word in postmodernism is "constructed." According to postmodernism, our categories, ideas, and logical laws are culturally constructed. This is where deconstructionism comes in, breaking down and challenging our preconceptions. Gender roles are a common target. The sort of feminism which suggests that our ideas of "man" and "woman" are just made up by patriarchal society is a subset of postmodernism, or at least borrows this idea from it. Thus any transvestite is postmodernist in action if not in explicit philosophy. Biological sex is also sometimes a target, and those postmodernists who challenge this cite the number of people who do not phenotypically match one biological sex, or whose phenotypical (ie. anatomical) gender is distinct from their genetic gender (ie. their XX or XY chromosomes). Ideas of beauty, truth, ability, ethnicity and race, and identity are also subject to attempted deconstruction.

The idea of cultural construction does not mean that we are free to make anything up. It means that the discourses (another popular word) in our culture are responsible for creating the worldview (or world, as it's often called) in which we live. Throughout most of history, most people were not aware that they had a worldview. They were like fish in water, not noticing that there was water. When modernism came along, people noticed that there were such things as cultures, but Western people thought you could analyze these cultures objectively, as though you were outside of it. It would be as though a fish crawled out of the water to determine what salinity of water was best. Postmodernism insists that there is no "outside of the water" to swim to in order to make such a judgement... or, if there is, you actually cannot make a judgement from that perspective. Or, in the same way that Mephistopholes takes Hell with him wherever he goes, even if he leaves Hell, we take culture with us wherever we go, even if we leave human society entirely. We cannot escape it.

What postmodernism does, though, is make us aware of our own water by introducing us to other waters (to extend the fish metaphor). In becoming aware of our own culture, and how arbitrary it is, we can all contribute to the project of changing that culture to something we like better. As I said before, not all postmodernists are relativist through and through, but rather are only relativist about some things. Thus feminists believe that it is absolutely true (in the sense of moral absolutism, the belief that a one set of morals is better than all others) that women should be treated equally to men, and thus try to break down the restricting gender roles on both men and women. Either a small number of us try to recreate culture to our own standards, creating a subculture (such as nihilist-punk), or we try to engage all of society in this change (as feminism or anti-racism has).

I hope that you'll notice multiculturalism's importance in postmodernism; indeed, the blending of cultures is a key component in some postmodern lifestyles (which is a thing, as Tycho would say), and culture clashes and/or interactions created modernism, according to some of the authors in The Truth About the Truth, and postmodernism following it. It's only through having to seriously reckon with other cultures that we gained the perspective necessary to see "through" our own, as it were. Therefore the idea of culture being a construct, and taking part in its own construction, is a descendant of recognizing the multiplicity of cultures. By the same token, the conscious trading of traditions, ideas, rituals, and narratives between cultures is a result of postmodern though. (I must emphasize the importance of conscious in the previous sentence.) An equally important element is the supposed conflict between the powerful domains of knowledge in modern academia, especially the growing rift between science, religion, and certain modernist philosophies, like existentialism. Recognizing that there was no possible way to get 'out' of any mode of thought to make a decision regarding which of these approaches are most valid may have been another key component in the development of postmodernism. (Such a decision is called a metadecision, while the language it would be expressed in is called a metalanguage. Postmodernism of course denies the existence/validity of either.)

That all being said, the multicultural element is perhaps better attributed to postmodernity, which refers less to a philosophy and more to the culture which takes postmodern tenants to be true, or at least culturally viable. That is to say, whether or not we are individually postmodern, we are all living in postmodernity. Make sense? This is important to note because it has become popular to attribute postmodernism, or the label 'postmodern', to many historical speakers, so much so that Eco jokes that soon enough Homer will be postmodern. People are now retroactively attributing postmodernism to any artist who held some ideas that are now labeled postmodern. Buddha would be a great example. Scholars, both postmodern and not postmodern, are arguing over this approach's validity.

And I'll write the rest in a second post. See you then!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Ronald Weinland

My friend in Windsor has called my attention to Ronald Weinland, a man to who my friend has turned for spiritual gui--no, I'm kidding. Mr. Weinland is among that category of people who claim to be the final prophet of God, and my friend is under the impression that he's "an egotistical pr*ck" and "full of sh*t." Mr. Weinland believes that these are the end-times, and that human self-rule will end on Pentacost 2012. Before then, the United States and then every other "Israel" (ie. Christian?) government will collapse, with the sole exception of the British monarchy. Thus he writes books and travels the world "to warn and prepare people for what lies ahead in the traumatic events that will unfold over the few remaining years of this prophetic end-time."

Yeah. OK. In general I try to be pretty open-minded, but my skepticism just cannot tolerate end-time prophecies, especially those calculated to a particular date.

The topic came up while we were watching a Discovery channel show called The Nostradamus Effect, which was discussing the prophecies of the next--and last--anti-Christ. Somehow I wasn't compelled by the evidence they presented. That is to say, I don't think these are the end-times and, if they are, I'm not going to feel all that silly about being wrong.

My friend just asked how much money he's making off of this. "Where," he just asked, "does this money go, and what does he do with it?"

Friday, 16 April 2010

7 Quick Takes (XXXVII)

1. The weather the day of my flight wasn't as bad as the day before, but I was still worried. The snow was plentiful, as wet and sloppy as an unwanted kiss. When we got to the airport, the power was off. Air Canada of course cancelled all of their flights, but WestJet did everything manually, digging old boarding passes out of the back, filling everything by hand. My luggage was opened and searched, too. Fortunately, the power came back on before I got to the security gate. And I was thrilled to land in much warmer weather.

2. I spent Saturday night, Sunday, and most of Monday in London, visiting with friends at the University of Western Ontario. These are friends from high school, so most of my regular readership will never have heard of or met them. It was a good trip, and I was happy to see them again before leaving on my two-year "hiatus" from eastern Canada. One of those who I saw--coincidentally, as I only saw her because she also lived in my friend's apartment building--I hadn't seen since high school. I forgot how astoundingly nice she is.

We had dinner at Jack Astor's with a lot of old high school friends, and afterwards played glow-in-the-dark mini-golf.

I did meet up with someone from Queen's, specifically my small group, who later drove me to the train station.

For most of my time at London, in the back of my mind haunted the thought that I could be coming back to these people for a year, had I only accepted at Western. I knew this would happen, but it was harder than I had expected. It didn't help that Western has a very pretty campus.

3. On Monday night, I VIA'd it to Oakville, where I met up with my brother. He and his group were working on their third-year film, so I spent a lot of time in the studio, nosing around or doing menial labour for them. When I was nosing, I took photographs of them; when I was working, I was scanning their pictures into the computer and running automated programs to clean up the images and save them properly. It was fun-ish, if tiring and stiffening.

4. While at Oakville, I may also have spent copious hours playing video games. Or, which those who know me may find more probable, I played less than used the game editors to make my own maps and missions. This is where my perfectionism kicks in. I haven't played a game more complex than Minesweeper in months, so I'm not surprised that I binged a bit.

5. My brother's girlfriend, also in his group, lent me Castle Waiting while I scanned (I had been reading Paradise Lost, but at that precise moment I wasn't in the mood for Miltonic verse). I highly recommend Castle Waiting, especially but not exclusively to those interested in fairy tales, graphic novels, carnivals, or storytelling. It's the first in a series, though. While I suppose it could be read as stand-alone, it would have a bizarre sort of structure if it was a one-off thing. What at first appears to be the main plot is soon eclipsed by one character's marathon storytelling, in which she not only tells her tale, but also others', including a hagiography. It's generically quite interesting, but also just really fun.

6. After helping my brother for a few days and kicking around his place while he worked, I caught a train to Windsor to visit another friend (t)here. It is in Windsor that I write this. You may recall that I've visited Windsor before. Anyway, I am biding my time while he is at kennel duty and class. Windsor, too, is nice in the weather department, joining all of Ontario, it seems. Last night we watched Zombieland, which at least was funny.

7. You may have noticed that I am reading Paradise Lost. I forsook The Odyssey for the time being in favour of intending to finally finish Milton's epic. I think I am at last ready to do so: my grasp of the language is now much stronger, having completed Middle English and more obscure Renaissance texts, and I have no deadlines to make me fret. Did you know that Blake borrowed "human face divine" from PL? I hadn't until I came across it in the speaker's lamentation of his own blindness: "Thus with the year/ Seasons return, but not to me returns/ Day, or the sweet approach of ev'n or morn,/ Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,/ Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;/ But cloud instead, and ever-during dark/ Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men/ Cut off... (Book III, 40-47). Blake had read PL, or at least he references it in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and he attributed to it a more Satanic allegiance than Milton would have liked. Then again, these days it seems any anti-Christian type, even of a moderate cast, will attribute to Milton such an affiliation.

In time you can expect further discussions of both Castle Waiting and Paradise Lost.

Visit our dear host, Jennifer Fullwiler.

Friday, 9 April 2010

7 Quick Takes (XXXVI)

1. Easter Weekend came and went. It usually does. Church was good, but I wouldn't say it was as spectacularly meaningful as I would like it to be. That's to be expected. We did begin it outdoors, though. That was interesting.
I got some reading done, and watched a few more movies than what I've told you about already. Also, I went for many outdoors-y walks.

2. At works I've been helping with renovations: ripping up boards, smashing tile, ripping up subflooring, putting down subflooring. In case you didn't know, taking a mini-sledge to floor tiles is fun.

3. I am currently reading The Truth About the Truth, a collection of essays or essay fragments about postmodernism and postmodernity, said collection edited by Walter Truett Anderson. The book is 15 or so years old, so it's a bit outdated. Nonetheless, I might finally be getting the amorphous belief system known as PoMo under my metaphorical belt. Expect a post soon. It's funny how a lot of post-modern thought has slipped into cultural consciousness without anyone noticing.

4. I am also currently reading The Odyssey, by Homer, who may or may not have existed. There may not be a post about that one, but, if there is, I'm sure you'll see it.

5. I didn't post all week, I know, I'm sorry. I do have a number of excellent posts planned, however, some about philosophy and some about religion. They will come when I have written them.

6. I have instead been spending a lot of time on flickr, looking particularly at the work of bex finch, Eric Lafforgue, and BuckarooBob. I wish I was as good a photographer as they are. I'm thinking of getting an account, but I want to be sure I have enough good photos, first. Sample of finch, who does nature photography and self-portraiture; sample of Lafforgue, who takes photographs in culturally exotic (yeah, yeah, problematic word) locales; sample of Bob, who takes photoraphs of his dogs, the people who knows, and stuff he sees, usually of a rural nature.

7. The snowstorm of the year has hit Fort McMurray. As spring was well into springing, as the weather inched toward 20* C, we get more snow than we have all year. It's heavy and wet and not really that cold. I hope my flight's not canceled. (I'm headed out for two weeks vacation... which reminds me that I may not post as regularly during this time period.)
I suggest you go visit Jen, the host of this lovely blog event.

Friday, 2 April 2010

7 Quick Takes (XXXV)

1. This last weekend my Mom and I watched Up in the Air. We also watched Surrogates, which was unspectacular. It's Up in the Air that I want to talk about. I thought it was very good, but what else would you expect from the director of Juno? I didn't expect to see George Clooney in that sort of movie, but he did very well in it.

In case you don't know, the movie is about a man who travels the US firing people for a living, played by Clooney. He has no friends and is estranged from his famil, relying instead on fellow passengers and random hook-ups. His home is the airplane, and his mantra is "What's in Your Backpack?"--what things, what relationships, are weighing you down? This all changed when a new employee, a cute girl with strangely facially-invasive hair, tries to change his industry to on-line firing. He must escort her around, teaching her the art of face-to-face firing. Meanwhile, he meets Alex, an attractive older business woman who he has a more-than-one-night affair with... and all characters learn things about relationships etc. and so forth. It's a good movie. I think I will write a review of it later, but it will have spoilers in it. Sorry.

2. I finished both A Ring of Endless Light and The Educated Imagination. I would suggest reading the latter, by Northrop Frye, but not as much as I encourage you to read A Ring of Endless Light. Cait said that L'Engle's Ring is hands down her favourite. I don't know that I'm organized enough to have a favourite book, but, if I did, Ring would be a contender. Not only has it impressed upon me a term that I like and want to use--lightbearer--but it also has re-affirmed for me the ennobling possibilities of fiction and art in general. It has infused me with a purpose that I badly needed. Not hope, exactly, but determination nonetheless. In a previous post, Yolanda posted a link which discussed the idea of being post-hope. This might be something worth thinking about... regardless, you should read A Ring of Endless Light.
3. At work I have been working with the children yet again. I do enjoy working with them. It's pretty nice.

4. Today is Good Friday, and this morning my mother and I went to a Good Friday service at All Saint's Anglican Church in downtown Fort McMurray. For Ash Wednesday, Maudy Thursday, and Good Friday, three area churches--Christ the King Lutheran Church, All Saint's Anglican Church, and St. Thomas' Anglican Church--alternate holding joint services.

I was not expecting the service to be as similar to the Lutheran services I attended in the little swamp church of my childhood. It's so hard to sing well to those hymns! I've become used to "worship music" without noticing.
It of course was a solemn service, about suffering, and throughout service we held a nail. At the end of the service, we were asked to proceed in silence to the base of the cross, where we would put down our nail. The cross was taken down, as usual, leaning at a slight angle against the altar. When I came to the cross, I didn't quite know what I wanted to say to God: I had some plan to discuss my own sins and ask for forgiveness, but that idea withered at the cross. Instead, all I had was this: "God, this is too big for me. I don't understand."

In C. S. Lewis' The Last Battle there is a bear whose dying words are, "I don't understand." I always felt pity for him, and knew that, were I one of the children at that battle, his death would prompt me to new fury. Now I think on that bear differently--I, too, don't understand. I look about me at the suffering, at my own guilt, and I realize I am too small for this world... and yet, I am asked to take part in it. And I intend to. Yes, God, this is too big for me. No, God, I do not understand. But I will serve you nonetheless. Thank you.
5. I watched Terminator Salvation and Whip It. I know they say you shouldn't compare movies of different genres, but I think Whip It holds up far better than Terminator Salvation. The latter, see, is not as great of an action movie as was advertised, though it certainly is quite good. Perhaps I would recall it better had I not watched Whip It immediately afterwards.

First, I think Ellen Page is a joy to watch. She plays an adorable screw-up so well. Second, it was actually a decent story. I don't know what to say except that I thought it was great. Oh, and Drew Barrymore's character was pretty cool, too.

6. As you can likely tell from reading this post, I have regained a sense of possibility. Maybe not hope, and maybe not a definite purpose, but right now, despite the purpose of this day to be a reflection of suffering, I think I have found the strength/grace to persevere. First, the day itself is beautiful, and I went for a long walk.

While on the walk, I thought about the very real successes I have heard of happening and that I have taken part in in transforming the social landscape of high school. Have you heard about the pink t-shirt campaign in high schools? After some kid got the snot beat out of him for wearing a pink t-shirt, a bunch of his classmates got together with a campaign for wearing pink t-shirts as an anti-bullying symbol. This spread to other highschools. I had been part of an anti-bullying program in high school, but I saw little success. I hear that this one did, and I hope that this is true. I don't know why the possibility of real change in the high school setting buoys me so; perhaps it's because the social order feels so powerful in high school, and that triumph over it matters so much to those involved. On a cosmic level, it doesn't appear to matter much at all... but, on as L'Engle discusses in Ring, on a cosmic level, every little thing, even a single fallen sparrow, matters very much indeed.

I am also listening to these songs on GrooveShark, which is helping: O Verona, Dies Irae, O Fortuna, Requiem for a Dream, Unstoppable, and (best of all) Diem Ex Dei. I must remember to listen to that last one on Easter Sunday.

7. On Jon's most recent post, he links to a YouTube video of Tiffany Alvord singing Taylor Swift's "You Belong to Me." Alvord's music video neatly parallels the photography of Miss Aniela, which I have spent the last week exploring. That is, both engage in the use of "multiples" of themselves to some end or another. Miss Aniela worries that her use of cloning comes off as more of the common Flickr theme of screwing around with clones; she wants to bring out more meaning about her own internal divisions, but wonders whether this is lost. Much of Miss Aniela's discussion seems to surround whether her work is seen with the meaning she tries to invest in it, or whether her audience misses the point altogether.

Appropriately, I am of two minds about Miss Aniela's work, largely because I'm on the one hand a prude and therefore dislike the sexuality inherent in many of her images, but am on the other hand a young straight man, and therefore recognize my own hypocrisy in condemning her images. Her website, I discovered, include many nude images of herself(selves), which makes me uncomfortable. I was thinking about buying her book Multiplicity, but am again concerned about nudity in it. I don't particularly want it if it has nudity.

Of course, Miss Aniela herself would think this silly of me: her nude photos are not supposed to be erotic but rather are about being comfortable with one's own body. Be this as it may, I don't think we can, in our culture, de-eroticize nudity within one generation.

Which is why I delighted in the Alvord video Jon linked, and the other Alvord videos I discovered afterward: they contain multiplicity, but are not as objectionably erotic.

Note: many of the Catholic mommy-bloggers are spending Holy Week off-line, so Conversion Diary is not hosting 7 Quick Takes this week.
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