Tagged: Science-Fiction Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • mono 11:39 am on March 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , dystopia, , fahrentheit 451, international school, , ray bradbury, Science-Fiction, , think piece   

    Think Piece: Fahrenheit 451 

    Fire

    I have begun teaching Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” to my ninth grade high school students. It is interesting teaching this book realizing that all of the students in the room (from varying international backgrounds) have been raised with more advanced and “faster” communication technologies than I could have dreamed of when I was their age. Granted I am not that “old,” but do remember the day when a large satellite television dish was planted in what used to be a garden in our yard. The black monolith, which connected me with other virtual worlds, which greatly shaped my imaginative development.

    It is difficult for some of them to relate to the overarching themes of a society obsessed with amusement and speed. Could this be due to the ways in which technology and amusements have already infiltrated their minds? And, am I, as their “teacher,” immune from the consequences of an over reliance on the various gadgets that make my life easier? Should the role of the teacher of a book like “Fahrenheit 451” be one who has become like the character Clarisse, “insane” to the eyes of an out-of-control society as described in the book? If so, wouldn’t, in the teaching of this book, it make more sense to conduct the class while sitting on grass, away from the technological pull of the city? More importantly, does this book resonate with the students in the ways in which Bradbury intended? What kind of student would it take to “take arms against a sea of amusements (Postman)”? What kind of research would be most applicable? What kinds of secondary texts would fill in the gaps?

    In order for this book to achieve its own purposes as a so-called “novel of ideas,” it would seem necessary to me to foster an inquisitive classroom environment from which students could gain the capacity to critically and curiously question the technological devices and media influences in their lives that they are exposed to and that they expose themselves to on an hourly basis. The development of these capacities would be for the purpose of having them re-experience those devices and interfaces that shape the virtual landscapes of planet “my life.” What questions would one need to ask to enable students to ask the right questions to themselves about their connections to technology and what that technology could mean? Would this way of teaching (inquistive) make for the proper atmosphere of presenting the novel’s ideas?

    At the end of a few lessons, I began thinking about how this book will influence and hopefully develop their ability to examine contemporary culture. For example, the character Clarisse says, “I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly.” This observation, which I felt captured a potent insight into culture didn’t seem to resonate with students, even though our location (Beijing) is a city of vehicles, an overpopulation of vehicles. None of the students walk to and from school and judging from their reactions to the idea of “walking for pleasure,” none of them see walking for the sake of walking as a choice by which one’s experience of the world and how one perceives it is enhanced as having any relevance to them whatsoever.

    Other than actually taking them on a walk, how does one open up this idea and make it relevant? How can we teach students to regain the simplicity of life if they don’t want to learn it?

    Thank you for reading. I hope that this edited yet stream-of-consciousness “think piece” is of use to you.

    Advertisements
     
  • mono 10:31 am on September 20, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cyber, Deadstock, Doll, Elm Street, Excerpt, , , , , , , , Lovecraft, Necropolitan, Noir, , , Sci-Fi, Science-Fiction, , Solaris   

    Jeffrey Thomas: Deadstock (Excerpt) 

    In the midst of a typhoon, I have been working on an article for Mish Mash Magazine about the prolific author, Jeffrey Thomas. The piece for Mish Mash features a three-question interview with Jeffrey Thomas and thoughts on his work and its effect on me, the reader – a kind of phenomenological indulgence piece. In the meantime, as I spend this day editing, consuming gallons of coffee and enjoying the cloudy pre-autumnal weather in Japan, I present you with an excerpt (used with permission from the author) from Thomas’s book “Deadstock,” published in 2007 by Solaris.

    Deadstock (Excerpt) by Jeffrey Thomas:

    “It’s about my doll, isn’t it?” Yuki said. “My father is asking you to find it for me.”

    The girls sat on a marble bench within the garden-like courtyard of the company that Yuki’s father owned. It was a cylindrical building hollowed by this open core, the bright blue sky of the planet Oasis showing far above them like a telescope’s view of heaven, but it was a deceptive view. Beyond the walls of this structure, Punktown was anything but heavenly. At least this courtyard seemed like a microcosmic paradise. A double-helix sculpture twined up from the fountain at the center of the garden, reaching almost to the top of the building like a ladder. Brightly blossoming vines had entangled the bronze chain’s loops. Encircling windows looked out upon this rising symbol, so significant to the work being done within the building’s offices and labs. Stake had passed through a lobby area, and been directed to wait here for Mr. Fukuda to join him.

    “I really shouldn’t discuss my business with your father, dear,” he said to the girl politely.

    “Well, I’m sure my father will want you to question me about Dai-oo-ika’s disappearance.” Yuki smiled again, but her lips quivered and her eyes suddenly took on a moist sheen. The reddish-haired girl reached over to clasp her hand on one of Yuki’s legs consolingly. Stake tried not to look at the small hand upon the plastic-smooth thigh.

    “I’m sorry about… your doll,” he said awkwardly. “So it’s name is what?”

    “Dai-oo-ika,” said the short-haired girl. “It means ‘great king of squid.’”

    “I see.” Stake nodded, and now took in the three kawaii-dolls of Yuki’s pals. “Kawaii” was a Japanese word for “cute,” and kawaii-dolls of all types had been the rage with children in the Earth colonies for the past few years. Of course, the more expensive and elaborate dolls held more value for collectors, and hence more appeal—more esteem. Stake had done a little reading about these toys on the net this morning and could tell that these three dolls were of the highest order.

    The short-haired girl watched Stake staring at the dolls, so took it upon herself to introduce them. She hugged her own and said, “This is Mr. Gau.” It seemed like a very realistic bear cub in some ways, but its eyes were too large and it had no nose or mouth and only stubby vestigial limbs. The lack of a mouth and ineffectual arms and legs were a common theme with kawaii-dolls, to make them look helpless, vulnerable, submissive. Stake had read that critics of the dolls viewed this as a conspiracy, sending signals to young girls that these passive qualities were what would appeal to men when they became adult women.

    There was a little metal straw extending from between Mr. Gau’s legs. Yuki’s friend uncapped it, held the teddy bear up and sucked at the straw, keeping her eyes on Stake’s. At this, the bear lifted its head higher, blinking, and made a rumbling sound like a purr or muffled growl in spite of its missing mouth. Its tiny half-limbs swam in the air. Finished, the girl recapped the straw and the bear went immobile again. She smiled, licking her lips. “Ruou gau is a rice wine the Vietnamese like, made with bile from a bear’s gall bladder. The Chinese used to have bear farms where they put catheters in live bears to drain it. But Mr. Gau is filled with pineapple CandyPop.” She giggled.

    “Mm,” Stake said. He hadn’t realized the dolls could be so educational. But however slight his knowledge of animal anatomy, he knew a bear’s gall bladder was not between its hind legs.

    “There were only a hundred-fifty copies of the Deluxe Mr. Gau made,” the girl announced proudly. She gestured to the reddish-haired girl’s pet. “Suzu’s doll is number four in a series of only a hundred!” She pouted as if in sad envy. Suzu giggled, less sulky all of a sudden, and held her doll higher for him to see. It was a thing like a clockwork robot from some long-antiquated future vision, made from a goldish tarnished metal (or plastic resembling metal), somewhat turtle-like in form. The whole time they had been talking, this thing had been watching Stake avidly, turning its head ever so slightly to track his smallest shift in position. He found it unsettling.

    Not to be outdone, the Hispanic girl spoke up loudly with a kind of arrogant pride to say, “Mine is only one of four hundred. That’s still pretty rare!”

    Yuki was able to speak again. “Maria got hers for her Sweet Sixteen party two weeks ago, like I got Dai-oo-ika for my Sweet Sixteen party last month.” At the memory of this event, she looked like a woman who had watched her child murdered before her eyes. Stake saw Suzu’s hand give Yuki’s thigh a squeeze.

    Stake recognized that Maria’s kawaii-doll was not an animated toy like the other two, but a bio-engineered organism. Its functions were simple; despite its seemingly higher evolution, it was as primitive a thing as a starfish. It was little more than an anthropomorphic starfish in shape, too: four pointed pink limbs and a pointed pink head with eyes like black marbles pressed in dough, and no other features but for its outie navel. The near-mindless organism squirmed with the uncertain slow-motion movements of a newborn infant.

    “Yuki’s Dad’s company makes Stellar,” Maria said. “And he made Dai-oo-ika, too. But there’s only one Dai-oo-ika.”

    Sniffing, Yuki nodded. “Dai-oo-ika is the rarest kawaii-doll in Punktown, Daddy says.” Her voice came close to breaking as she squeaked, “And I love him, too!”

    For more information on Jeffrey Thomas, see the following links:

    Jeffrey Thomas’s Official Site
    Jeffrey Thomas’s Blog
    Jeffrey Thomas on Amazon
    Jeffrey Thomas on Myspace
    Jeffrey Thomas’s Deadstock Review – Guardian UK
    Bookgasm Review of Jeffrey Thomas’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Dealers
    Punktown review
    Another Deadstock Review
    Jeffrey Thomas interview -Infinity Plus
    Jeffrey Thomas interview – Post Weird Thoughts

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
     
  • mono 5:22 am on August 17, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , gothic, , , , , Science-Fiction, sf, ,   

    The Open Wound (2 Tankas) 

    Here are two more original poems in the style of the Japanese “tanka.”
    I dedicate these particular two works to the brilliance of poet/author Denis Johnson whose work I am devouring as carefully as I can.

    The Open Wound (in 2 parts)

    the gruesome portal
    hints of eyes and torn hair-strands
    stare black from the void
    of a time of a wasteland
    awake under fire-mist trees

    his eyes blown back in
    recovering slints and cracks
    confuse the landscape
    while forests provide entry
    from lost birds torn from their kin

     
  • mono 10:53 am on April 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adult Swim, Alex Winter, Cartoon Network, Dr. Who, Josh Gardner, Saul of the Molemen, Science-Fiction, , Tim Burns, Tom Stern   

    Saul of the Molemen 

    Saul of the Molemen

    What seemed to me to be an intelligently innovative psycho-surreal science-fiction comedy, Adult Swim‘s “Saul of the Molemen,” is losing its Web presence (and TV presence as well?). I came across several episodes a while back which had been uploaded to Youtube, only to be quickly taken down due to a copyright claim. Heading over to the Adult Swim website did no good (and still doesn’t) as the only taste of “Saul of the Molemen” that we get is the “Original Pilot.”

    “Saul of the Molemen” features the creative visions of Tom Stern, Alex Winter and Tim Burns, while starring the “Gerhard Reinke” actor/writer Josh Gardner as Saul Malone. The first thing that captured my attention, other than the brilliant character of Saul was the set designs, which seem to be all created via green screen and, not to forget, the costume design of the “molemen” is brilliantly fake and provides for great comedic effect (the voices of the molemen apparently done by Alex Winter). Visually, everything about this show is brilliant and inventive bringing back the kind of world created in the old Dr. Who episodes. The few shows that I was able to track down on the Web were funny, bizarre and gorgeously designed. I think that Josh Gardner does a wonderful job in portraying the bumbling yet lovable hero, Saul Malone. Not to mention, for those of us who occasionally sport mustaches, he provides a great inspiration.

    Poking my head around the Adult Swim message boards finds talk of a canceled Season 2. The iTunes Music Store carries only a handful of Adult Swim shows and my search for Saul of the Molemen episodes online is proving futile, save the occasional Bittorrent download, which I do not partake in. If you read this and are aware of purchasable episodes of “Saul of the Molemen,” or come across news regarding the release of this series (purchasable online or DVD), please post a comment below or contact me directly (my email is in the sidebar).

    I would also like to note that Alex Winter and Tom Stern’s film “Freaked,” recently released a few years back on DVD, is also beautifully designed and features Winters as a mutated actor who gets caught in the wrong situation. The villain, Elijah C. Skuggs is memorable and very well acted (performance by Randy Quaid). Tom Stern also directed “The Andy Milonakis Show,” which I tend to enjoy every once-in-a-while, but tends to annoy me for some reason.

    In closing, again, my life yearns for “Saul of the Molemen,” season 1 and if someone from Adult Swim is reading this, please, pretty please, make the season available for those of us who enjoy immersing ourselves in schlocky science-fiction comedy.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel