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You and Your Webcams

14 March 2005 Comments

If I really wanted to see you, I’d come over to your house. We’d order pizza. We’d watch a movie. You could kick my ass at Scrabble, because nothing’s funnier than kicking the English major’s ass at Scrabble. But then I’d smoke you in Risk just to prove you don’t know everything about strategy.

And if I want to hear your voice, I’ll call you. I’ll kick back in my chair with a beer in hand and we can chat about the latest news. But don’t hold your breath. You know how often I call my mother? I’ve been in England for six months now and called her twice. On the same day. Because it was an emergency. Phones are evil. You can do everything online these days, including ordering pizza. The odds are, I really don’t want to talk to you on the phone.

So if I’m online chatting or emailing with you, we can assume it’s because I don’t want to see you or hear your voice. So the webcam you’re trying to shove down my broadband connection? Ain’t cool. Shut it off.

And those of you who insist on taking pictures with your webcam and emailing them to me? Buy a freaking digital camera! All these camera-perched-on-the-monitor shots from a weird angle in a badly lit room? What is wrong with you? Do you think you look good in these pictures? You look like a seventeen year old idiot or a sexual predator. And cheap! You look cheap!

Buy a real digital camera. Or find a friend with a camera you can borrow. Hell, you can even take pictures on regular cameras and develop them. The technology to do so still exists, you know. You don’t even have to have a scanner—they’ll save your photos to disk for you.

Nothing says “I think I understand digital culture, but I’m really just a poser” like webcam pictures. Or “I’m too cheap to buy a real camera, too embarrassed about what I’m doing to ask anyone to help me take a good picture, and too stupid to realize that this is completely transparent in this dumb webcam picture I’m using.”

Webcams. They were only cool when they were pointed at a coffee pot, and that was so long ago the coffee pot has moved and left no forwarding address. You are not a coffee pot and nobody cares what you look like while you’re typing on your computer.

Tagged: 2004-2005 Year in Cambridge, Computers & Gadgets, Living in the Digital Age, United Kingdom, United Kingdom - England, United Kingdom - England - Cambridge

RIP, Super Mo

28 February 2005 Comments

My spider died, and I’m a bit upset about that. This is the first spider I’ve ever been able to live in harmony with. Ever.

He’d spin his little web in the corner up above my desk, and because that’s a long way from my bed I let him stay there. He didn’t bite me, he did get to some of the bugs that like to fly in my window now and then, and we were both perfectly content.

I even named him Super Mo, because he was always zooming around making mo’ webs. And then, last night, he died. No more Mo. Now I’m going to have to talk to myself instead of talking to Mo. And he had a really good grasp on feminist poetry, too. He’d zig left for “I agree with you” and right for “what an idiot you’re being today” and stay still for “I need to give this more thought. Why don’t you go surf the web while I do that?” That was my favorite answer. I loved it when he did that.

He was a good spider, and we got along well. And yet… I no longer have to wake up every morning and glance over at him all suspicious-like to make sure he’s still in his corner of the room and isn’t making and advances on the bed. And given how allergic I can be to spider bites, that’s sort of a relief.

On the other hand, you’d think he could have cleaned up his super webs before he died. What am I, his maid?

Tagged: In Memoriam, Insects, Insects - Spiders

Why I can’t be vegetarian

24 February 2005 Comments

I understand why other people can be vegetarian. I have nothing against vegetarians. I’m not going to say “some of my best friends are vegetarians,” although that would be a true statement, because I hate people who say “some of my best friends are X,” as if that proves anything except that you know and like one or two people who are X. I know some good kids, and some of my friends have good kids, but that doesn’t mean I think kids are good in a general sense. They’re little rats. But I do understand why people might choose to be vegetarian and I respect that decision and so on.

On the other hand, I cooked chicken last night and I don’t think I’ve ever had chicken that perfect. I mean, talk about the juices being seared in and just the right amount of spices and it was perfect, I mean perfect. You’re never going to see me claiming to be the world’s greatest cook, but, wow. There are no words to describe that chicken. If I became vegetarian, I’d give up the chance of ever tasting that again. And I don’t think I could stand that thought because… yeah… wow. I cooked like never before! (I’m so proud of myself; can you tell? And a carnivore. I’m a total carnivore.)

Tagged: Cooking Eating & Food

Language, Brutality, Rape

21 December 2004 Comments

Lately I keep coming across quotations focused on brutal appropriation of language:

James D. Nicholls:

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

Terry Pratchett (Going Postal):

It was garbage, but it had been cooked by an expert. Oh, yes. You had to admire the way perfectly innocent words were mugged, ravished, stripped of all true meaning and decency and then sent to walk the gutter for Reacher Gilt, although ‘synergistically’ had probably been a whore from the start.

June Jordan:

Language is political. That’s why you and me, my Brother and Sister, that’s why we sposed to choke our natural self into the weird, lying, barbarous, unreal, white speech and writing habits that the schools lay down like holy law. Because, in other words, the powerful don’t play; they mean to keep that power, and those who are the powerless (you and me) better shape up—mimic/ape/suck—in the very image of the powerful, or the powerful will destroy you—you and our children.

Angela Carter:

He is, I think, already pondering a magisterial project: that of buggering the English language, the ultimate revenge of the colonialised.

I was struck (sorry, inadequate metaphorical language here) by the violence in all of the quotes—and more than that, the sexual violence. The suggestion seems to be more than “language can be used to oppress” or “people abuse language”; the potential to abuse through language is viewed as highly sexual, to the point of rape.

I wonder what it is that makes us see language in such a highly personal way. The French, for example, are keen on keeping their language “pure” from, if you like, the defilement of English. But inasmuch as we have to share ideas through language, our language is always going to be influenced by outsiders—whether we draw that line between two individuals or between two countries seems a bit irrelevant. If there were any such thing as a “pure” language, only the one person speaking it would understand it—and yet, as Derrida points out, we can “own” language once we create and claim meanings for ourselves. Maybe it’s that attachment—we spend so much effort defining words against our own experiences and ideas, with all our own past associations—that we cannot see it as something outside of ourselves. And when words are used against our will for purposes we don’t agree with, it is rape, because it’s abuse of something that is both private and personal, and, in a larger sense, it’s the abuse of whatever networks of trust we have set up with others, where we have established connections and shared connotations. All that gets broken by the appropriation of language, or by people seeking to control through language—hence the brutal metaphors being used, the references to rape.

Tagged: Angela Carter, Books & Reading, Going Postal by Pratchett, Jacques Derrida, James D Nicholls, June Jordan, Language, Terry Pratchett

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