What the Haribo?

When a gathering or activity which is stereotypically seen as “nerdy” is announced, why do they typically offer cookies as an incentive/bribe? Surely there is merit in their activity that does not warrant the offering of these baked goods? And also, which cookies are they? I would normally think of chocolate chip (the best kind of course), but if someone offered me raisin varieties or garibaldis, I’d rather go hungry! What if you’re allergic? You wouldn’t feel part of it when everyone’s scoffing the offending article in sight! Maybe the offering of an assortment is best – variety is the spice of life after all!

What I learnt from my driving test!

So, I finally took my driving test yesterday – through my haphazard days of testing the water but never quite immersing myself fully in it. I’ve always been a toe-dipper in many respects for things, but I finally decided to see it through and go for the test. I’m not going to lie – I was bricking it, and for many reasons that are unlike any other test I’ve taken before.

Obviously, there’s the reason that if I make a mistake in a written exam, I’m not going to cause any specific injury to the people around me unless I throw my pen in disgust or that my chair collapses and I catapult into my neighbour, but there’s something else about the nature of the test that I will now relay to you.

If you intend on taking the driving test, you will most likely have invested time, money and tension getting to grips with the contraption – and not for the test itself. It’s a way of getting yourself places, maybe in an emergency or just for a casual drive by yourself or with friends. People often say you will unlearn things from GCSE and A Level and these grades are just stepping stones that will sink after you step on them, but driving is a life skill. It’s about confidence, assurance that only you can influence yourself and because of this, it’s a lot about sharing your space with others, no matter how reckless they tend to be at times. With exams, it’s usually about yourself, but with driving, it’s about everyone.

I’m so glad that I did pass, but in a different way to what I would be if I received passing marks in academia. It’s a constant learning curve and I know now what to look out for when driving. It’s true what they say – it’s an indication that you are a confident, safe and alert crusader of the roads and that you do follow the laws of the road, avoiding to the best of your ability any inconvenience. You can see how helpful this can be when extrapolated and shared!

I want to thank all my family, friends and of course my instructor for all their support! It’s going to take a while before I can just set off without a moment’s hesitation – but maybe that’s the same with everyone? Every day is a different journey!

Placeholder #20

It’s kind of meaningless to say a post is a placeholder for something else, because it always is. A memory is a placeholder for something that’s happened, and more often than not, something that hasn’t. A worry is a placeholder for something that might happen. Too much weight bearing goes on in words that can’t be universally measured. That’s why I don’t participate in poetry slams – so I tell myself!

Behind the Laughter…

Ahh! Don’t worry, it’s nothing serious!

I’m going to write up a review of Writing Britain that I went to yesterday when I’m less achey, so for a little placeholder I was recently thinking about the nature of the dreaded “laughter track” or canned laughter. I’ve seen some shows without the laughter track and it can alter the tone instantly. Employed by Charles Douglass, this device was to replicate the sound and expectations of radio comedy audiences and when an odd laugh in the “wrong” place would throw the actors off rhythm. How bizarre! I have what some people may call an “odd” sense of humour so I’m often feeling shame for laughing at something when I’m not “cued” to – talk about it being one way, huh?

Cyborgs burning bras – Donna Harraway and assorted

So, after yet another delay, I have decided to write something not actually related to an event I went to (surprise, surprise!). This is in response to the rest of my family realising that I’m doing a PhD and what I would do it in. Ahah. Now, most of my family own a BSC/MSC so this may be a little difficult to explain – well, the Science Fiction part of it is ok, actually – but dramaturgy and staging technique may fall a little short (which I feel did, but it’s considered to most to be an unusual combination so not surprising!). When asked what it’s about, I’ve usually said something along the lines of “Oh, it’s about androids…”, not about prostitution services and what not. But yes, the androids do have centre stage in my play – which if you know me, is again no surprise. For those who know me reading this, yes, the androids are the prostitutes. Please don’t be scared of me when you see me again!

I recently read Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the late Twentieth Century… (New York; Routledge, 1991), and plenty of it rings true to our current “modern condition”. Some of it may read as preachy, but considering the time in which it was written, the strength of the ability to warp and extend these boundaries through hybridisation is understandable when you take the year in which it was published into account.

She starts by defining a cyborg – “a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality”, when explaining this to be a collective object of social relations, influenced of course by political, historical (to some extent) and cultural construction. This intercourse between science fiction and social reality (the boundary of which she describes as an optical illusion, which I do very much like) explains what she believes is a reshaping women’s experience, but with the impact it has on gender behaviours and of dominance created by self and other, I’d like to say human. But I get her sentiment.

This is then explained by the boundary breakdowns between human and animal, which makes this analysis feasible. Indeed, she describes this by saying “The last beachheads of uniqueness have been polluted if not turned into amusement parks – language tool use, social behaviour, mental events, nothing really convincingly settles the separation of human and animal.” Of course, this throws into the mix some religious controversy, but SF is seldom found without some reference to divinity or something outside of ourselves of some kind. Think Asimov’s Foundation or Simmons’ Hyperion as just a handful of examples. Also, the idea of little separation between human and animal also reminds me of the herd mentalities used for “psychohistory”, a branch of science coined by Seldon in Foundation, the ideas of different tiers of sentience  of the Xelee in Baxter’s series.

I digress though. What the main crux of her argument is that cyborgs are not just models of science fiction moulded to provide a new guest to the party – that with the rise of technology and our dependence of it has made us “chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs”. If this was the case then, it is painfully clear nowadays. Likewise in short, she lists the “informatics of domination”, laying out the comparisons between the old and what she labels as “informatics of domination”, the new hiarchies. For examples, she places science fiction and postmodernism against bourgeois novel and realism, organism against biotics, organic division of labour and cybernetics of labour, reproduction and replication, sex and genetic engineering, labour and robotics etc. which can show the development and metaphor that science fiction often employs to bring out present ideals. She actually calls them “scary new networks” as control strategies become rewritten as “communications technologies and biotechnologies are the crucial tools recrafting our bodies… [of which these tools] embody and enforce new social relations for women-worldwide.

It’s a great read, especially for the time, and these informatics of domination are something I feel will be constantly drafted and updated, much like these posts on WordPress if I don’t publish them more efficiently it seems. I may do a part 2, featuring her Marxist analysis, as there is so much that can be read from the text. Part of my play deals with these control measures in light of these developments, but further down the conveyor belt, where some of the old hiarchies become guilty pleasures and illegally sold (I’m not going to go in that much detail now). Thanks for reading!

For all those starting University…

So, I know some people who are waiting for results day (or is it today? I forget) and ready to make that transition into the first year of university. From what I hear, the consensus and atmosphere has changed along with the recession (it hit during my grad year, fun!) and the astronomical rise of tuition fees. Apparently the attitude has changed, from the “best years of your life” to “a waste of money”.

So here’s my two cents on the matter.

As you can tell, I personally loved university – enough to spend hopefully 8 years of it collectively. At the end of my high school years, I vowed to get into university to keep learning and to do the things I would never have thought to do, or things that I didn’t feel good enough to do. Can you believe that I hated drama in my teen years, and that I was too scared to learn dancing at that age?

With this in mind, I went into the dance club at Brunel in Jan (term started in Sep) and went to ballet classes. Little did I know that there was a show in a month’s time. I still went ahead and learnt the routine – even though I didn’t remember a thing from when I was 5 – and did the show. I even got lifted half way through the dance, which was aweessssooome!

Ballet turned to Jazz, then Street (which I still do at my gym) and Tap. I learnt so much and met some great people there. I do really want to take up all these dances again and hopefully will find something like that at Royal Holloway. I also did drama things at the Arts Centre and was Annie in the Norman Conquests, which I really enjoyed and want to do some more acting when I can!

Writing wise, I learnt one hell of a lot. It’s scary that people say you can’t learn how to write, but I’d say it’s just different from maths or science. In a class environment, you can learn how to share your innermost feelings in a piece of writing, to learn how to write from different perspectives, to see how others write outside of the shelf at Waterstones, so many techniques in and out of the classroom. It broadens your skill rather than just hand it to you on a plate. You just have to be receptive and put in the effort. Being a joint English major for my BA also meant that I learnt a lot of literary theory which helped me in my critical essays up to now (still a lot to remember though!)

I learnt how to edit and helped me invaluably with Enigma, as well as getting publishing experience by making a magazine in a team on campus about English students and the jobs available to them (it’s still there now! Check out Engzine in the Careers section for those who study there!). It’s clichéd, but it’s about what you put in, rather than what you expect handed to you, that makes the experience golden. I also learnt to sail, do archery and fencing, as well as circus skills, which I still do now – yay! Of course, I did have few timetabled hours compared to others, but I did read, honest!

So those who are awaiting your results, I wish you good luck and make the most of it!

Ready to Blast Off!

Before I start, I apologise for getting the completely the wrong order of events – I went to this way before my graduation but hey, I tend to write things in nibs and get back to them later. The blog is really helpful in terms of writing and saving drafts.

So I was hoping to get a slice of the SciFi theatre scene (as alien as it may seem – hur hur), and during my journey managed to get a ticket for the Soho Theatre’s Utopia. Unfortunately, I never got to see it but instead got a refund ticket for A Walk on Part, newly transferred to the Arts Centre Space in Covent Garden, which was extremely informative, very poignant and interspersed with sprinklings of the British humour that I’ve come to love. Apart from that, I also got a ticket to the Blast Off Night, which is described as the only Sci Fi theatre night in London. I think I do remember reading about an experimental evening at Battersea’s 503, but I can’t be sure!

This was in the Soho space downstairs – I booked it in the spur of the moment and hurried down to Tottenham to get a sneak peek. The first thing that struck me was how busy the place was. The downstairs space has a nice rectangular stage that doesn’t jut out too much so allows for tables and chairs and the like, but it was teeming to the rafters. It was hard to find space to move, which is of course a positive thing to see that such an event would attract that large an audience, but uncomfortable in the moment!

In summary, the night was a very mixed bag – from the sceptical speculation to the pantomime and the cabaret, including a sideshow on interspecies romance between humans and Martians, terraforming and the mix between utopia/dystopia to a snapshot of the rapture and post-apocalyptic breeding and its rather awkward mechanics behind it. It definitely held its weight in holding the audience’s attention and got across the ideas very effectively on the stage, no matter how tongue in cheek they were. You’d be surprised how you can visualise a space carrier and a planet with human bodies – HGI instead of CGI?

So there’s a little review for you. I will be doing some literature reviews – from the classic to the not so classic! Hmmm, maybe I’ll do one on Foundation as I’ve revisited it quite recently. Enjoy!