Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We Are Narrative Machines

As I begin the Storytelling MOOC, I thought we might also return to the most frequent topic raised on this site: storytelling, and its role in our lives. I would also like to give you a sort of top-down picture of what we've been doing here and on Mythos Media, as it is an ending for me but maybe also a new beginning. One can only hope.

Nick Brandt. Check out his work.
To begin with, if you haven't already I suggest you read the article "What Is A Modern Myth?" as it covers a lot that there's no sense in repeating. I'll wait.

Let's start with what may seem an odd tangent. But it is the event that got me started about all of this again, so it seems the logical place to begin.

In the 2nd installment of the Lord of the Rings movies, while gallivanting across the plains in hunt of two errant hobbits, Legolas says, "blood has been spilt on this night," referring to the red sky.

My wife and I watch these movies fairly frequently. At this point it is more about the act of watching rather than what the movies are. Even the stories are so familiar that they are not so much told or presented as just something we are being casually reminded about. When Legolas said that this time, my partner offhandedly said in reply, "no, stupid elf... it's just a result of atmospheric effects." But of course the red sky at morning myth has a long history, regardless of what it is interpreted as.

In a sense this story may also be true, and we like to think it is a more truthful one, but it too is a story. Which is more truthful, and what stories are we using to assess or compare those truths? As we investigated in The Immanence of Myth and the followup Apocalyptic Imaginary, without an understanding of the role that narrative plays in our understanding of the world, truth will remain forever elusive. The world of 500 word soundbytes shies away from subtleties, but myth and stories remain a realm of gray (with more than 50 Shades, one can only hope) and we are more than anything else narrative machines.

That is the primary difference between humans and some apes, and other mammals. We are narrative-minded monkeys. (See also: Mirror Neurons.)

In fact, it is this narrative-making quality that allows us to develop an understanding of ourselves, at all. 
"... I also speculated that these neurons can not only help simulate other people's behavior but can be turned 'inward'—as it were—to create second-order representations or meta-representations of your own earlier brain processes. This could be the neural basis of introspection, and of the reciprocity of self awareness and other awareness. There is obviously a chicken-or-egg question here as to which evolved first, but... The main point is that the two co-evolved, mutually enriching each other to create the mature representation of self that characterizes modern humans"

The Future of Storytelling Class

Are you interested in the mechanics of current fiction formats? Do you want to know how stories are told? Do you want to analyze, understand, contextualize and create stories and narratives? Then join our MOOC and share our passion for storytelling!
I'm presently taking this course -- sign up through this link if you'd like to join as well! (It's free.)

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Huffington Post Polyamory

Wed night, 11pm.
Co-wrote an article for Huffington Post UK: 
All of a sudden, polyamory is everywhere.
Articles flood the internet, many of them opinion pieces written by people who (so far) identify as monogamous. One of the reasons this is happening is to keep the news cycle churning now that gay marriage seems to be approaching normalcy. The clue is in the name; news is characterized by an obsession with the "new".
But in the process of giving polyamory a make-over that everyone can identify with, the only truly radical thing about the ideology is completely lost. To sugar-coat an unspoken truth: polyamory seeks to upend a many thousand-year-old narrative about ownership. We don't own our daughter's virginity. Husbands don't own their wives. Wives don't own their husbands. We may seek to avoid hurting those we love -- any healthy person (poly or otherwise) with a conscience does - but we do not own one another, and at the end of the day, our decisions, and our lives, are our own.
The prevalent made-over polyamory picture for the mainstream is of a hetero-normative couple that likes to swing on the weekends as shown in US Showtime series "Polyamory: Married and Dating". This is arguably one version of poly depending on your definition of 'love'. But so are many other versions. So much so that there is no true picture of polyamory because every instance is as unique as we are, and unique as our most intimate relations can be. We are no longer mere commodities.
In recognizing that we cannot own others, we give up our claim on other's bodies, but at the same time gain a new claim on our own freedom. The radical potential of polyamory is actually that might shift our entire societal structure. 
Full article. 

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Late One - What Had Happened Was Ep. 31

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by Susan M Omand, Omand Original, All Rights Reserved

GHCstitcher Subscribe via RSS, or download the episode directly.
What Had Happened Was is a grumpyhawk collective podcast co-hosted by grumpyhawk (that would be me) and Benjamin Combs. In this "week-in-review style" show, we cover and comment on stories with a tech, science, weird, or strange sort of angle. Visit grumpyhawk.com to see and hear more from the collective. 

Hello listeners and fans. I apologize for the late release. grumpyhawk and Benjamin have been adjusting to their recent life changes, and it's delayed the release of this episode. But onto the goodness. This week we're discussing how the oversight committee for the NSA has been deemed extraneous, yet the spying program itself isn't, Twitter rolling out Neilsen ratings for tweets, an MIT inventor and his swarmbots, and designer babies (yes like Gattaca). All on today's episode "The Late One"

Show Notes:

  1. Obama administration decides NSA spying is ‘essential,’ but oversight of NSA is not
  2. MIT inventor unleashes hundreds of self-assembling cube swarmbots
  3. Twitter rolls out Nielsen rating to track TV tweets
  4. 23andMe receives patent to create designer babies, but denies plans to do so

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Friday, October 11, 2013

Existential Depression in Gifted Children and Adults

Some food for thought for all those that have felt like "abandoned aliens" most of their lives. (I know I have...)
When people undergo a great trauma or other unsettling event—they have lost a job or a loved one dies, for example—their understanding of themselves or of their place in the world often disintegrates, and they temporarily "fall apart," experiencing a type of depression referred to as existential depression. Their ordeal highlights for them the transient nature of life and the lack of control that we have over so many events, and it raises questions about the meaning of our lives and our behaviors. For other people, the experience of existential depression seemingly arises spontaneously; it stems from their own perception of life, their thoughts about the world and their place in it, as well as the meaning of their life. While not universal, the experience of existential depression can challenge an individual’s very survival and represents both a great challenge and at the same time an opportunity—an opportunity to seize control over one's life and turn the experience into a positive life lesson—an experience leading to personality growth. 
It has been my experience that gifted and talented persons are more likely than those who are less gifted to experience spontaneous existential depression as an outgrowth of their mental and emotional abilities and interactions with others. People who are bright are usually more intense, sensitive, and idealistic, and they can see the inconsistencies and absurdities in the values and behaviors of others (Webb, Gore, Amend, & DeVries, 2007). This kind of sensitive awareness and idealism makes them more likely to ask themselves difficult questions about the nature and purpose of their lives and the lives of those around them. They become keenly aware of their smallness in the larger picture of existence, and they feel helpless to fix the many problems that trouble them. As a result, they become depressed. Full Article.  
Some thoughts:

I think there is definitely something to many of the premises put forward in this essay, although it contains many specific details that seem unhelpful toward establishing that point, such as this reoccurring idea of "higher levels" that individuals may establish through "integration."

Stepping past a great deal of uncertainty in such vague terminology, "higher" or "lower" relative to what? (See also: spatial metaphors.)

It's also neither here nor there, but the example provided of Polonius' speech in Hamlet, "to thine own self be true," completely misses the context and literary intention of that section of the play. But toward the greater point, that's nitpicking.

There are some much larger issues regarding depression, will, and neurology I want to explore here but that is going to take considerable thought, research, and writing. I will run it as soon as it's finished.

So... What do you think?

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

What Will The Mainstream Make of Polyamory

Keeping with our recent topic of sex and sexuality... 

Perhaps thanks in part to the Showtime series "Polyamory: Married and Dating," it seems yet another subaltern is coming out of the closet (or bedroom) and into the mainstream.
This season takes viewers on an intense emotional journey as we follow two families as they navigate the ins and outs of polyamory.
It is predictable enough that it would be presented on SHO in a way that is easiest to digest for the American mainstream -- although I am now I suppose a part of this 'common poly' myself, being white, married, and still available to other relationships, I would prefer the actual gamut of possibilities be presented. So, what are White American suburbanites (or urbanites) to make of this new "fad"?

One of the challenges presented by this desire, (as was discussed in an earlier tongue-in-cheek article, "Postmodernogamy"): at its core polyamory presents not an alternate model to monogamy so much as a revolution against all formal and static cultural mores which say "this way and no other."

Now that gay marriage seems to be approaching normalcy, new labels are needed to keep the relationship news cycle churning, all the while missing the only radical point presented by what is otherwise nothing more than the simple result of modernization on outdated cultural edifices: There is no model of "typical" polyamory, as it is and should be specific to every unique individual and their unique interactions.

The central goal is the basis of all koans: that there is no goal. But then how to proceed? We are challenged to let every thing be exactly what it is and nothing else, to eschew labels altogether.

For this reason, the term "polyamory" itself presents a problem. Perhaps it would be best if the label could cannibalize itself, providing only introductory training wheels for people to look again at one another as unique instances, universes with a population of 1, to which no map or guide will provide an altogether satisfactory definition or safe trajectory for discourse (let alone intercourse.)

This is a surprising and terrifying challenge for us, especially for a culture that demands a label so as to make things safe -- after all, "the gays" were made "safe" only when a narrative was provided that contextualized how the mainstream could perceive them (more or less as ideal choices for interior decorators and hair stylists.) This is what is potentially radical about polyamory. Otherwise, it is simply a revision to the old dating guidebook, for those that are at least progressive enough to recognize that serial monogamy is no solution, and that it is perverse -- but in all the wrong ways -- for Atheists to build their morals atop Christian bedrock.

In practice, the primary problem with polyamory, you will quickly discover if you explore it, is precisely the same problem that presents itself in monogamy, just in a different form: people. Other people will forever remain a problem when it comes to them doing what we want them to, or being who we want them to be, and only when we let go of all those expectations, and do our best to simply love them as they are...

But I imagine that is asking altogether too much.

Some past Modern Mythology articles on the topic that you may find interesting, useful, or absolutely annoying, depending on our outlook:

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Sex and the Lustful Animal

Following up on yesterday's post, here's another you may want to look over,

Most of us are convinced that we excel at being clearheaded, humane thinkers when it comes to sex. We appeal, and admirably so, to notions such as harm and consent. But since most of us aren’t anthropologists, we W.E.I.R.D. people (the anthropologist Joe Henrich’s apt acronym for “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic”) often assume a false obviousness along these lines of harm and consent that, interestingly enough, simply isn’t there. Scientists have found that since we would be harmed by a certain sex act,we presume others would be harmed as well. 
In fact, cultural relativism is the most glaring sign that the lion’s share of our sexual ethics is arbitrary, given that our intuitive feeling of what’s “normal” and “deviant” hinges largely on our cultural indoctrination. In the past, for instance, a proper Crow gentleman wasn’t expected to simply woo the object of his desire over a slice of homemade juneberry pie. Instead, the tradition for a man so smitten involved his crawling up to the woman’s tent in the middle of the night and fishing around with his hand under the flaps for her body. And female Crow informants explained to the anthropologists inquiring about the tradition that this manual search in the dark for her orifices was an especially romantic first move. “If he is successful,” wrote the researchers Clellan Ford and Frank Beach, “a man may by this device persuade the woman to have intercourse with him later on.” If he were successful in our society, he’d be signing his name to the sex offender registry before dawn, if he still had a hand. But in the cultural context of these Native Americans, most women, presumably, favored this custom. (Scientific American.)

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Monday, October 07, 2013

Subjectivity and Sadism

There's a paragraph in what is an otherwise mostly remedial article on the subject that I think bears inspection, as it's a sentiment that needs to be repeated more often,
Sadism isn’t the only paraphilic category for which the question of harm can get murky for psychiatrists as well as for anyone who has ever contemplated another person’s unusual sex life. As the lovely Kate Upton reminded us earlier, a universally objective reality simply doesn’t exist in the present domain; what’s harmful to me isn’t necessarily harmful to you, and vice versa. It will change as soon as I put this comma right here, but as of this very moment there are exactly 7,088,343,858 people on the planet. If all but one of these individuals were to experience harm in exactly the same way from a certain sex act, that solitary person is nevertheless just as right (or just as wrong) as all the others combined. This is because there’s no “correct” way to experience a sex act, only individual differences in subjective realities. It may be a moot point, since it’s not logic that guides culture but instead sheer social mass shouldering into it with brute force, but nonetheless 7,088,343,85shared subjective realities do not add up to a single objective fact. What was harmful to them was not harmful to him, and that, as they say, is that. Or to rephrase: one person’s horror story is another’s erotica. And I’m quite sure our vorarephile Bernd J├╝rgen Brandes would tell you so too, if only he were still around.

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Big 3-0 - What Had Happened Was Ep. 30

What Had Happened Was Logo
by Susan M Omand, Omand Original, All Rights Reserved

GHCstitcher Subscribe via RSS, or download the episode directly.
What Had Happened Was is a grumpyhawk collective podcast co-hosted by grumpyhawk (that would be me) and Benjamin Combs. In this "week-in-review style" show, we cover and comment on stories with a tech, science, weird, or strange sort of angle. Visit grumpyhawk.com to see and hear more from the collective. 

Hello everyone and thank you for listening to another episode of What Had Happened Was. Sorry it's been a few weeks; grumpyhawk was MIA with back surgery and Benjamin just got a new job and kinda got distracted and had a loss of time and that's our excuse. So, this week we talk about the FAA allowing electronic devices (finally) during takeoff and landing, krokodil, the most disgusting thing to come out of Russia, the NSA illegally storing metadata on people for up to a year, and we discuss the fact that water has been found on Mars. All of this and more on today's episode, the big 3-0.  

Show Notes:

  1. Aircraft can handle electronic device usage during takeoff and landing
  2. The flesh eating drug Krokodil has been discovered in Memphis
  3. Krokodil also discovered in Phoenix
  4. Secret file shows NSA stores metadata on millions of web users for up to a year
  5. Water discovered on Mars
Theme music is Quadra IV, provided by the Makeup and Vanity Set.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]


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