Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Charlie Brown Grows Up

In class it was mentioned that The Peanuts was not as dark as it could have been simply because the comic featured children who weren't going out and shooting up to make themselves feel better. Apparently Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane feels the same way and pictured this as the future of the cast:

Directions for Self-Evaluations

Everyone should send me an email or hand me a written version of their self-evaluation by Tuesday at the latest.

I want three things. First, a self-rating on a scale of 1 to 5 of your participation in class, and a second self-rating on a scale of 1 to 5 of your work on the blog (for almost all of you, this amounts to a self-evaluation of your critiques of the writing of other students. Third, feel free to include a sentence or two, or at most a short paragraph, commenting on your performance in either area, or both.

Here's what these scores mean.

1) You only rarely participate in class / your critiques are often short & perfunctory (you usually focus on trivial details, and that only briefly, or you simply praise them then quit) -- or you don't even do them.
2) You have something substantive to say perhaps once a week / your critiques are sometimes acceptable, and sometimes sub-par.
3) You have something useful to say most classes / your critiques are consistently acceptable, but in no way extraordinary; for instance, you might focus on minor details but consistently avoid talking about their main argument.
4) You constructively participate several times each class / your critiques are more often good than acceptable.
5) You believe that nobody in the class has more useful things to say than you / your critiques are consistently thoughtful and detailed (you *always* spend your hour on them).

Note: I'm asking for this because I really want to know what you think. Generally speaking, I will be guided by honest self-evaluations; if you are obviously exaggerating, though, I won't be happy. Here's another way to put it: I'll tolerate a little inflation, if you seem to have honestly thought through your own work, but only a little.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jimmy's World Isn't As Dark

It’s interesting to see in Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth, how in various pages, there are times where the frame is actually a stage with an audience looking at the comic as though it was a theatrical show. What’s more intriguing is how the audience is set to look as though they are in the 19th century, including the architecture of the theatre and their clothing. It’s almost as though the audience is looking into the future as the story of Jimmy Corrigan, is set well into the 20th Century.

There are several images that have similar feature like this. However, certain other images do the complete opposite where the story suddenly looks back on the past. In one specific image, in the process of Jimmy and a girl are running away from an Indian cowboy, they stumble upon ‘a rift in time’ where they look across a river. From the scene, it seemed as though Jimmy was taken away by the grand view of a large building under construction. All the settings, other than Jimmy and the girl, in this frame clearly have a 19th century feel to it, including the other people. For instance, near the building being constructed, there is a horse and buggy driving past the building while other residents around the area are all in coats, top hats, dresses, etc. Another interesting point to make about this image is that it has no frame, adding to the shock and awe that the reader feels from viewing this image.

These scenes of going back and forth are unique as they have no significant or direct effect to Jimmy’s journey and yet Jimmy still seemed touched in some sense from the way he looked at his surroundings. They also appear to be targeted to surprise the reader by showing something that appears both surreal but majestic, especially given the general darkness of the entire book.

Jimmy's Technology

The theme of technology and its impacts strikes us once again in F.C. Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth. There is technology from the way the book is set up to the theme of the World’s Fair in Chicago to even when the Jimmy was playing hide n’ go seek around the same time of his grandma’s funeral.

First, lets talk about the way the book was set up. Inside the front cover is a picture description that tells the reader how to read the book. I didn’t notice this off the bat, so I had to learn on my own, and it too me a few pages. The book is different then any of the other books we have read in class or I have read in my life. You can’t just read left to right. There are different size frames. There could be four small frames (two on top and two on bottom) making up a square equal in size to the frame just to the right. You would have to read the two top frames, left to right and then the bottom two frames left to right and then move on to the bigger frame on the right. Sometimes, Ware decided to mix up the pattern of reading, but luckily for us he inserted arrows to direct us along.

For a good chunk of the book, we learn about Jimmy Corrigan’s grandfather’s experiences growing up around the time of the World Fair in Chicago. This was the time when electricity was introduced to the world via Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse (“Worlds”). General Electric proposed to power the fair via direct current at a cost of one million dollars, but was out bid by Westinghouse by half a million dollars. The fair was then powered by Tesla’s high frequency and high voltage alternating current (“World’s). Jimmy’s great grandfather mentions that if it weren’t for the electricity, the work would have never gotten done in time for the World Fair.

Also, this fair represented the technique of how a city should be built. The Chicago World Fair “was, in large part, designed by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted. It was the prototype of what Burnham and his colleagues thought a city should be. It was designed to follow Beaux Arts principles of design, namely, European Classical Architecture principles based on symmetry and balance (“World’s”). The World Fair referenced a new “technique” (referencing the Greek root techne’ of technology) in designing and building a city. Also in the city, was the world’s largest building, the building with the dome that was imaged through out the book. It was the same building which Jimmy’s grandfather and his friend snuck up to the top of. Also, it was the same building in which Jimmy’s great grandfather ran out on Jimmy’s grandfather and left him alone on top of the world’s tallest building.

During the funeral of Jimmy’s great-great grandmother, Grandfather Jimmy and two of his friends were playing hide n’ go seek in the yard. The text reads as follows,
Fortunately, for these children a recent planting of trees, telephone poles, and houses on their bleak neighborhood landscape helps to make their game much more exciting. After all, who’d want to play hide & go seek in a swamp? A half century earlier, the only place to secret yourself around here might’ve been in a depression in the ground or behind an indian on horseback. But with the inevitable forward march of progress comes new ways of hiding things, and new things to hide.
So as progress moves forward, technology also moves forward and the landscape and the world are changing. They are changing from wilderness to farmlands and cities. This changing gives rise to new places to hide, not only in hide n’ go seek but also now places to hide out and get away from everything. When Jimmy goes to visit his dad, he leaves and hides from his job and his smothering mother. Ironically, it is also the technology that allows for the job and his smothering mother.

Going back to the root word, techne’ of technology, we can point out another new technique that has risen. Towards the end of the book, we are introduced to Jimmy’s sister, Amy. She is a colored girl adopted by two white parents. This technique of raising a family is certainly new and this technique poses a constant struggle from the interactions of Amy and Grandpa to the interactions with the hospital staff after her dad was in the car accident.

I started with discussing the new technique of how to read this book, and I want to finish it by talking about the book itself. On the fourth to last page entitled “Corrigenda,” Ware discusses his relationship with his father. He symbolized his life and relationship with his father through that of Jimmy Corrigan in weekly comic strips. He mentions that most people who want to write about their life experiences do so in a memoir type format. He wanted to do something different. So, he created this book out of those comic strips. He planned on giving a copy to his father, but unfortunately unable to do so due to his fathers sudden death. Like Jimmy Corrigan, Ware was robbed of using technology to express his true feelings about his relationship with his father to his father.

Works Cited

"World's Columbian Exposition." Wikipedia. 2008. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 28 Oct 2008 .

Jimmy Corrigan and the Metal Man

Jimmy Corrigan is full of recurring symbols, some of which are more easily decoded than others. There was one image in Jimmy Corrigan that kept bugging me because I just could not wrap my head around what it meant. That was the image of the metal man. It was not until I began to look at the other symbols that operate in conjunction with it that I was able to make some sort of sense out of it.

The main symbol that it is connected to is the crutch. In the metal man sequence there is the full-grown metal man and what you might call the metal child. The metal child rolls out of bed and plops down the stairs to discover a single crutch as his birthday present. It is after this sequence that in the actual ‘reality’ of the story we find Jimmy with a sprained ankle and using a crutch. Also, between the end of the metal man sequence and the beginning of the next is one of the paper cutout projects that is supposed to end up as a zoetrope. The moving image that this zoetrope is supposed to depict is a metal man walking with a crutch. Through these connections it is clear that the presence of the crutch is to stand in for the metal man in the reality of the story.

The first few frames of the metal man sequence show Jimmy, as the metal man, confronting a tearful and overemotional imagined version of his father. The metal Jimmy’s reaction seems to be a mixture of discomfort and disdain. It seems to me that the image of the metal man represents Jimmy’s inability to connect emotionally with other people, thus the hard cold exterior. This also conjures up an association with the tin man from The Wizard of Oz, who had no heart.

Transferring the meaning of the symbol to the crutch, Jimmy’s emotional and social ineptitude is a figurative crutch as well, often keeping him from saying or doing the things that he wants to. The other place that we see a crutch in the book is when the father in the flashbacks to the 1890s is laid up with his leg in a cast. While this character does not carry the crutch around for the rest of the book, this association marks him as another character that is unable to connect emotionally with other people. We see this in his interaction with the widow, whom he had had a relationship with, and in his cold treatment of his son. The difference between this character and Jimmy, however, is that where Jimmy reacts by regressing into a fantasy world, the father reacts by lashing out physically.

Another way to interpret the metal man image is to see it as a literal ‘man of steel’. The connection with Superman and his repeated imagery as a distorted father figure suggests perhaps the source of Jimmy’s emotional detachment. Also, Superman’s broader image as an ideal of American masculinity, then associated with emotional distance and repression is perhaps saying something about how men in American society are expected to deal with their emotions.

Cartoons as Timelines

Throughout the comic, there are three instances of a timeline being drawn out in images. One is in the introduction/instructions, one is right after Jimmy meets his father, and the last one is right after Jimmy’s taxi ride to the train station. One thing all of these have in common is a lack of words and a rather scrambled path through time. I will focus on the placement of the two that are actually part of the story.

The first timeline is about Jimmy and it pretty much summarizes what we know of his life growing up and just a hint of his grandparents. Beyond showing what his life was like, we see how his father leaving affected his life. The image of the torn photograph is tells us that his father was never talked about. That photograph was refinished so that it only showed Jimmy and his mother. The timeline and photograph show that Jimmy’s father left when Jimmy was young. As a result, there was no father or father figure in Jimmy’s life when he was growing up. From the depiction of the lives of Jimmy and his parents, it looks like it was never a very happy family.

The other timeline is of Amy’s life and heritage. Her story, it includes a family tree going back four generations. Since Amy’s introduction is much shorter, the timeline is more important to understanding who she is. Amy is not James’ biological daughter so he had more of a choice if he wanted to be a father or not. This clearly affected their relationship because he actually tried to make everything work with Amy where he failed with Jimmy.

Amy’s timeline is much busier and more colorful than Jimmy’s. Both of their timelines reflect their individual relationship with James. James’ is sparser and rather dull in the color palate while Amy’s is more packed and colorful. The colors, business and placement serve to summarize both their individual lives and relationship with James Corrigan.

Chris Ware’s “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth” follows the life of Jimmy Corrigan, who is, as Ware explains, “a lonely, emotionally-impaired human castaway.” Ware makes it perfectly clear in every frame that Jimmy is lonely. He is usually only seen with another person for business purposes rather than friendly scenarios, and does not speak much to them at all. He does not have any friends and cannot talk to any women other than his mother, who calls him constantly and who he calls at least once a day.

Jimmy had never met his real father and was surprised when his father sent him plane tickets to meet him. While visiting, Ware depicts a scene throughout three pages where Jimmy writes a letter to his father, in which he introduces himself, and begins to daydream while mailing it. His daydreams are cut short when the mail truck hits him and he must go to the hospital. It is not entirely clear whether or not Jimmy actually wrote a letter to his father or if it was another dream of his, because at the time of the scene, he was already visiting, but the frames show his thought process and rough drafts. He is indecisive, crosses out words, and writes a couple different versions of an introduction, and then he declares that he doesn’t know what to say.

While in the process of mailing the letter, Jimmy notices a deer crossing sign. He stops to look at it a while and thinks about his letter. Then he steps in a puddle, which made his foot wet. He became upset about his wet foot and stopped what he was doing to worry about it. In the midst of his worries, some deer appear beside a building and Jimmy immediately turns his focus onto them. He had never seen real deer and was curious about them. He stood thinking for a short while about how they behave until the mail truck screeched and broke his thought. Ware uses these short thoughts to show how uneventful and uninteresting Jimmy’s life is.

On the second page of this scene, one frame seems like it does not fit. It is a picture of Jimmy sitting in his chair physically writing the letter. The first thing to notice about this picture is that it is in the center of the page, which almost always catches the eye immediately. Also, instead of being a part of the outdoor setting in which the scene is taking place, this frame is taking place indoors. Lastly, the coloring of this particular frame is not yellow, as it is throughout the rest of the scene. The green tone of the room that Jimmy is in stands out against the other frames, which draws the reader’s attention.

In this frame, the chair, pencil, notepad, and window are much bigger in proportion to Jimmy than they normally would be. Ware does this to indicate to the readers that Jimmy feels inadequate and self-conscious. Because he is so small, it seems that Jimmy has no control over what happens in his life, and this is proven repeatedly throughout the story. This could also be an indication of Jimmy’s mindset. Perhaps he feels like he is still a child because he is still closely connected to his mother and has not had an intimate relationship with any female companions.

Although in a way it is a random frame in the midst of a scene, it does fit. The scene takes place as Jimmy is mailing his letter, and the frame takes place as he is writing it. This is the only connection that the frame has to the scene, but its design separates it from the rest to attract the reader and make a statement.

Little Boy, Big Child

Throughout this work of art, Jimmy Corrigan is shown to be a depressing and awkward character. With a greedy, overbearing mother and an absent father, Jimmy tries to escape his sorrows through his imagination. Often times, different characters repeatedly show themselves in Jimmy’s daydreams and usually get him into trouble. One of the aspects of these characters I would like to discuss is their size. I believe Chris Ware uses exaggerated sized characters to express the feelings of Jimmy without writing any words.

In this comic, Jimmy is depicted at many different ages and of many different sizes. When he is at his grandmother’s funeral, he retreats to his room where he imagines himself as a giant above the neighborhood again. I believe this is Ware trying to show the rejection Jimmy feels in his own home. He was just in a fight with a girl and was called a bastard and then he walks into his grandmother’s funeral and everyone there does not even notice him. He has no one there to comfort him and is alone in his own house. Although no one notices him, he feels like he sticks out like a virgin in a strip club (relating to Ware’s somewhat dirty humor) or a giant among miniature houses as portrayed. All of Ware’s life he felt alone because his father was not present in his life. In almost every scene Jimmy is portrayed as insignificant or some sort of freak.

Ware uses this comic/novel as an autobiographic tool. He uses the sizes of characters to demonstrate feelings and he also compares characters to people in his life. This ‘superman’ character constantly shows himself throughout the novel acting in many different forms. Very early in the story, Jimmy is sitting in a room when a miniature superman lands on his windowsill while he is talking to his son. Superman then grows into a giant and turns the house upside down leaving Jimmy’s son in pieces. Jimmy then kills his son by smashing a block on his head. This could have been related to when Ware met his father for the first time. This figure is represented as having a small role and excites Jimmy. Then this peaceful figurine transforms into a giant and destroys all of Jimmy’s life.

Ware said that after a certain age, we really do not “see” anymore. We spend our time naming and categorizing and identifying and figuring how everything all fits together. By changing the sizes of the characters and exaggerating drawings, he makes it much easier for us to identify his thoughts by his representation. The old saying, “a picture says a thousand words” is obviously relevant in comics, but Ware takes it to heart. Every detail of every drawing has a meaning in his comic. Whether it is to describe his life or relate to ours, Ware uses the sizes of characters to express their feelings without writing a word.

Jimmy Corrigan: A Creative Imagination and Lack of Father

Jimmy Corrigan never had a father. He and his mother were abandoned. Jimmy always wandered what his father looked like. He had numerous thoughts running through his mind about who his dad even was. This is what i would like to talk about here. They say that all young men grow up to be their father. This comes from Freud's theory about how boys will imitate their father's actions to try and impress their mother, but that's beside the point. The point is that Jimmy Corrigan had no father figure. He had no one to teach what it means to be a man. He was alone in this world with nothing but his mother, and a vivid imagination.

So what did young Jimmy do to try and have a father figure? He let his imagination run wild. He uses the image of Superman as a potential father. Maybe his strong liking of the cereal Captain Crunch was also a father figure. We see him eating it within the first few pages when he was a young boy. Then we see him eating it again later as an older man. Maybe this was his imagination at work. Maybe he felt that since he had no father, the Captain on the cereal box was his "dad."

Or perhaps Jimmy just liked that particular brand of cereal. Either way he uses his imagination to try and figure out who his father is or could be? All kids use their imaginations, and I'm sure there are fatherless or even parent-less children out there that do the same thing. But why does Jimmy use fictitious characters as his "father?" Perhaps Jimmy feels that by seeing his father in this particular way, he can feel better about him not being around. Maybe Jimmy just does not want to realize the truth of the situation. Or maybe, just maybe, viewing these characters as his father will give him the male role model he has been lacking all these years?

Well, as we see later in the comic, Jimmy imagines killing and scalping his father. I don't think Superman or Captain Crunch would necessarily scalp a man with a piece of broken glass. Now what kind of role model would show someone how to do that? A sick one, that's for sure. Jimmy needed a role model in his life that would be beneficial to his growing up. Superman is a good choice but he isn't real. He can't teach Jimmy how to fish, hunt, shoot a gun, play football, etc. He doesn't teach Jimmy anything.

Jimmy needed someone real and the only person there was his mother. Now some single parent boys, raised by their moms, turn out to be just fine and others turn out the way Jimmy did. They turn out sheltered and afraid to leave the "nest." They have no sense of freedom as they get older because mommy is always hounding them to do this and that.

Not having a father figure hurt Jimmy so much psychologically that he dreams about killing his dad. No son should ever dream about that but it all starts with the dad being a man. He has to take responsibility in raising his child and telling them he will always be there. Unless, he wants his children to turn out like Jimmy Corrigan, the smartest kid on earth.

Jimmy's Emotional Toll

Jimmy Corrigan seems like he is racing against time. Jimmy is constantly reminding himself that he is growing older and may end up alone in the world. Everything in the town his dad lives in must remind him of this. Furthermore the depressing mood set in this comic is enhanced by the fact that it is winter and we are always reminded of it through the picturing of the leafless trees and Jimmy and his dad always wear thick flannel and sweater-vests.

Jimmy seems like an old person, not only in age but in emotional demeanor. Just take one look at that nearly bald head and droopy face. When he walks he seems to just drag himself along all hunched over and looking at the ground.Time must have been cruel to Jimmy; he works at his hum-drum job in his drab, undecorated cubicle with one lone picture taped to the wall. This picture, to me speaks volumes because most everyone has a few pictures of their kids or wife in the cubicle or place of work. Moreover, you would at least think he would have more than a single photo and what looks like a stress ball-like animal thing. When I found out he was 36, I was very surprised but then that reaffirmed my initial impressions because he looks like he should be in his mid to late 50s.

This is a major and recurring theme all throughout the book, especially on the postcard page. All the buildings pictured look boring and run-of-the-mill or even old and run-down. There are also no people in the postcards making the town look aged or dead, which is also a major theme in the book. There seems to be a weird fascination with death in the book especially with the death of Jimmy’s grandfather’s grandma in the late nineteenth century and the death of Jimmy’s dad later in the book, but less attention is given to it.

Jimmy is further reminded of his agedness when he breaks his leg and is restricted to using a crutch for almost the duration of the story. One could theorize that because he doesn’t have a wife or girlfriend to take care of him, he could have become even more morose. This also makes him look like an older person because it slows him down further and forces him to use a crutch.

I have also noticed that nearly every meal Jimmy eats with his dad is eaten out and they eat out a lot. This can mean two things, the first of which is that they have nobody to cook for them, they are now alone so there is no reason to cook because they are the last two members of their family. The second reason is that it gives them something to do; some way to kill a decent amount of time. It’s over a meal where most of the important dialogue between Jimmy and his dad take place.

Jimmy’s loneliness is taking a severe toll on not only his social and mental health but his physical health too. The stress of trying to find a girlfriend is making him old.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Jimmy Corrigan- his true character

They say that a picture can say a thousand words. In the case of a comic like Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware the combination of drawings and captions tells the tale of our tragic narrator Jimmy Corrigan. Through his tale of meeting his estranged father we get a glimpse into who this man really is. Overall Jimmy can be seen as a deeply lonely and sad man who’s only searching for acceptance. We get a true sense of this through specific images that capture Jimmy’s disposition head on.

Before delving into the graphics and text it’s pertinent to discuss comics as whole. When I, as well as many others think of comics the first two things that come to mind are the funnies in the newspaper and superhero comic books such as X-Men, Batman and all of those others that have been made into great film adaptations. Initially as a series of weekly installments in a Chicago newspaper Jimmy Corrigan can be compared to the funnies in the paper like peanuts, etc. I would say there is huge difference in the content and depth of the two. Usual comics in the paper were short, to the point, ended with or joke or moral, and really had no continuity between each week’s segments. This is quite the contrast Ware’s installments that were longer, far more complex with each weeks new addition being a continuation as a story as a whole. This is where the similarity between Jimmy Corrigan and the superhero comic books comes into play. Despite the fact one could hardly see Jimmy as a superhero of any kind Ware makes the bold statement of calling him “our hero” on the cover of the graphic novel. I guess if you consider that a lot of people reading comics could be viewed as similar to Jimmy he could be viewed as such a hero to them. The fact the story was told as comic with certain readers in mind plays a role in how “our hero” Jimmy can be perceived.

Jimmy’s demeanor is constantly showcased in the novel through his body language and appearance in general. In the scene where Jimmy is flying to meet his father this is especially the case. He is hunched over almost in the fetal position. This position in a way is a shielding from people coming in. It’s like your blocking yourself off from the world. He appears to be scared most likely because he knows his fears of meeting his father are going to occur and quite possibly since he is so close to another woman, one which he presumably finds attractive. From that you can see that he has a confidence issue. He can hardly stand up for himself once she accuses him of staring at her and stutters on trying to come up with words which just further solidifies his lack of confidence. His face appears to be that of a saddened man. Although his age isn’t revealed I would guess he should be around forty due to the age of Amy, his sister, who was born in the mid sixties. For someone being about forty he looks terrible for his age. His cheeks sag and look wrinkly and he always seems to be frowning. If I ever saw someone like that in real life I would say they were deeply depressed or distraught. This is all constantly shown to us through the narrative of the story and various scenes where Jimmy shows similar body language.

Jimmy’s loneliness and sadness is a reoccurring theme in the novel. Through various techniques such as dialogue and illustrations Ware has created a deep character that is relatable on many levels. He’s nagged by his mother, longs for love and even friendship. No he isn’t a hero in any way, he’s an average Joe which I think can be an appeal to people. It can make you feel good to read about someone who’s worse off than you, or even comforting if you’re in the same boat. Jimmy’s character of loneliness and imperfection brings a truth to a genre that usually showcases the complete opposite.

Jimmy Corrigan vs Action Comic #1 (Superman)

When first reading the title “Jimmy Corrigan – The Smartest Kid on Earth”, my first intuition what the book would be about was adventure. I thought Jimmy Corrigan was a young boy living at home with smart powers. Jimmy was, after the first couple pages, a middle age man with no life who talks to his mother all day. To my demise, it never got off that subject. Jimmy was not a super hero and was not the normal comic I thought it would be. Then, I decided to go online and find a comic book to compare and contrast “Jimmy Corrigan”. I picked Action Comic #1. This comic book has superman in it, so I decided to use superman. Superman was used in Jimmy Corrigan a lot as references to a father like figure and someone Jimmy Corrigan looked up to.

The first obvious differences in the two comics are the physical appearance of the two characters and the physical appearance of the words and pictures themselves. Jimmy Corrigan looks way older in appearance than his real age. He has saggy eyelids, always frowning, not in shape. Superman, on the other hand, looks younger than his age. He is in shape and is always smiling. The physical appearance of the comic itself is different, too. Superman is more of a comic book in that it uses a lot of cuts and breaks. It uses a lot of explanations marks and question marks. I feel like it’s never really calm its jumpy with just the colors blue, orange, red, blue – regular colors. It reads back and forth and its pretty apparent its supposed to be read that way. “Jimmy Corrigan”, on the other hand, reads more like a book to me. It has specific events where it shows you the comic more like a film role on a movie. For example, the part where he has a nose bleed in the hospital from getting hit from a truck it shows him holding his nose for a couple pages. The colors and the words are different because there a very intricate and looked like it took a lot of time each frame to make.

The second difference is the story line and how the story line is portrayed. Superman is an obvious linear progression. The plot is usually “To be continued” like I read in this particular comic. Superman usually has a bad guy and a damsel in distress. “Jimmy Corrigan” is all over the place. There are flashbacks, dreams, and of course linear story plots. It uses certain events in history like the Chicago fair in the 19th century. Jimmy doesn’t really have a bad guy. He himself could be the bad guy in trying to find himself. Superman usually does not show Superman doing things like going the bathroom or eating. Superman is more than just a man. Corrigan, however, is shown on the toilet, sleeping, on the phone with his mother. I think we can relate to Corrigan because he is kind of more like us in a way.

I think that Corrigan and Superman are two separate people and two separate genres of comic books. Corrigan is more personal, and Superman is more like a hero to us. Maybe that is why Superman is Corrigan’s father like figure in the comic book.

Question for whose proofreading mine : how to cite page numbers in Jimmy Corrigan and should I cite Superman at all??

Double Dose

As is demonstrated time and again throughout Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, Jimmy is an emotionally frail character. Jimmy is conflicted since on one hand he wants a level of freedom and independence which he has never before had thanks to his overbearing mother and his own lack of self-confidence. On the other hand, Jimmy seems to be afraid of actually breaking away from his mother and becoming his own person in order to gain his desired level of freedom. Being master of his art, Chris Ware demonstrates Jimmy's inner conflict in two different ways to fully emphasize the matter to the reader. First, Ware makes it clear through the plot of the story. Jimmy's awkward demeanor around most other people quickly demonstrates his social ineptitude. However, Ware hammers the point home doubly well by also illuminating the nature of Jimmy's character through his artwork. Ware is able to use his art to enumerate Jimmy's emotional issues in situations distinct from similar enumerations in the plot. In this manner, Ware is able to truly force the reader to understand Jimmy.

Jimmy's overall lack of drive and his reliance on his mother should be apparent to most simply from the beginning of the book. His mother calls him constantly to hound him in regard to his plans, what he is doing at the moment, and other relatively inconsequential matters. For much of it, Jimmy himself seems to be very reluctant and exasperated in dealing with her; he commonly explains that he's busy at work, even when he is clearly not busy, and that he cannot talk to her on the phone. While this indicates Jimmy's desire for freedom, the fact that he does not have the willpower to gain such independence manifests itself once he has met his father. While the two of them are eating a meal at a restaurant, Jimmy feels the need to lie and say he needs to use the restroom in order to sneak to a pay phone and call his mother. Later in the story he continues to be plagued with thoughts of his mother, such as when he decides he has feelings for Amy but is concerned in regard to what his mother would think of the situation.

This scenario demonstrates through the context of the story how emotionally dependent and seemingly powerless that Jimmy is. He has finally gone through with doing something on his own in going to visit his father, but he is unable to go without his mother for what must seem to him such a vast expanse of time. Thus, he feels the need to eventually call her. While the context of the story makes that clear, Ware attempts to truly drive the point home by expressing it in the book's artwork as well. A prime example of this occurs while Jimmy is in the doctor's office after being hit by a truck.

Through a series of a dozen slides, Jimmy envisions himself literally standing up out of a nest and flying through the air. He is summarily joined by a bird as they fly over Waukosha. The bird begins to descend, however, and Jimmy can only watch in horror as it flies directly into a window of the doctor's office. These slides essentially make the same point as several pages worth of text-based content. Jimmy's standing up from the nest is a clear example of breaking away from his mother and going out on his own. Ware uses the metaphor to exemplify Jimmy's desire to be free of the constraints of his mother and live on his own. However, Ware in turn demonstrates that any desire of Jimmy's for freedom can only last for so long before he will hamstring himself and return to his old ways. The plight of the bird crashing into the window brings this fact to light. As Jimmy flies alongside the bird, the bird serves as an extension of himself. The bird, just like Jimmy leaving the nest, stands for freedom. However, the bird's haphazard attempt to fly through the window symbolizes Jimmy's inability to keep himself away from his mother and the control she represents.

The bird, much like Jimmy's notion for freedom, is able to take flight. To draw a clear comparison, the bird is capable of leaving a nest and flying through the air; Jimmy is capable of taking a trip away from the city without his mother's knowledge, let alone her consent. However, the bird with Jimmy only flies for a short period of time before being drawn back to the ground in an attempt to fly through the window. This parallel's Jimmy's inability to go through his entire trip, the manifestation of his freedom, without input from his mother, either in the form of his phone call to her or his concerns in regard to what she would think of his actions. Jimmy allows his mother to dictate his life even when she is not physically present in it. Such a characterization is extremely important throughout the work, especially at the end when Jimmy realizes that his mother was not constantly pawing over him for his own sake but for hers. Once she has found a new person to focus upon in Mr. Johnson she is willing to all but ignore Jimmy. Only by understanding Jimmy's emotional issues surrounding his mother can the reader understand the devastating impact his mother's actions had. Chris Ware's work serves to strongly drive home his representation of Jimmy's character. Readers of his work are forced to recognize Jimmy's situation as they are exposed to it both textually and visually. By merging the concepts he develops with both his text and his art in seperate and distinct portions of the work, the reader is constantly exposed to and reminded of Jimmy's plight. Thus the reader can sympathize with Jimmy as the plot progresses.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jimmy Corrigan

Throughout the comic Jimmy Corrigan, Jimmy is constantly belittled whether by images or by the people around him. Both his mother and Antonio talk down to him throughout the entire piece. While his mother does not necessarily talk down to him, she treats him as if he is still a ten year old who needs her approval for everything he does. I believe Ware uses images and supporting characters around Jimmy to show him as a small man maybe even to the extent of him being a child.

One of the main images that portray this is when Jimmy is being shown alone in his apartment. In one such image, the reader sees Jimmy sitting in a chair, much too big for him, with a pencil and paper twice the size of his body. The immense scale of this room makes Jimmy seem like an ant in comparison. Ware uses this same image many times throughout the book to show how little of a man Jimmy really is.

Another image Ware uses is of Jimmy standing in the streets of Chicago in an intersection surrounded by gigantic buildings. This paints the same picture as Jimmy in his house, but on an even bigger scale. One of the most notable times this is used is when Amy, one of the few people other than his mother and father who he has a real connection with, yells at him. Amy tells him to get away and he is seen fleeing back to his hometown where he is shown in this intersection. Ware also these characters to show us how little of a man Jimmy really is.

Of the few acquaintances Jimmy has in his life they all seem to treat him as if he is a little kid. The most evident example of this is with his mom. His mom calls him every second of every day to check up on him. His dad also treats him like a child. One good image of this is when Jimmy gets hit by a truck and is taken to the doctor’s office. During this scene, you see Jimmy in a doctor’s office sitting on a table while his dad talks to the doctor. When I was reading this part, I just kept thinking how it looks oddly similar to whenever I would go to the doctor’s office as a kid.

Chris Ware uses many different methods to show the childlike attributes of Jimmy Corrigan, whether it is his minuscule size in comparison to the objects around him, or his mentality when around other people. Jimmy never tries to take charge in any way or change how people see him. The people around him always hold him down and treat him as if he were not really a man. Jimmy, surrounded by all these people, does not start coming into his own until the very end of the book when the people around him start fading out of the picture.

Behind on Grading

Dear Students -

I need to beg your indulgence over the next week or two. I'm going to do my best to get caught up on grading sooner rather than later, but I'm recovering from a nasty case of bronchitis (complete with sprained/cracked ribs, etc.). I expect to be able to teach on Tuesday, but I doubt I'll be caught up with your grades by then.

Little Jimmy in the pursuit of superdad

Ever since the story opened I could not shake the suspicion that Jimmy Corrigan was in fact a child. First of all, the title was fairly misleading. After hearing the title “Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth” you would think it was about a child who makes mischief with his superior intelligence, but the real story could not be farther from the truth. However, it still seems to me like jimmy is still a child (at least on the inside). His mannerisms are very innocent and childlike. In fact, when confronted with a question, he often hesitates, looks around (as if for approval) and gives some vague mumble of an answer. Most adults, even the excessively strange and socially awkward ones, are more adult-like than jimmy. Also, he is in constant contact with his mother and still submits to her every whim as a child. Both his mother and father treat him like a child. Jimmy seems to require their every guidance and reassurance. They lead him around like a dog and he fears to upset them in much the same way a small child does. He sometimes sweats, mumbles, and becomes frantic when either his mother or father confront him on simple issues. He even daydreams like kids would do. The most striking instances of this are when jimmy becomes hurt or scared. Like a child, he always needs some parental figure to “come to his rescue.” In the opening chapter when jimmy was a child, the superman figure came to his rescue and saved him from his mother's wrath, gave him and his mom a free dinner, and even gave him a superhero mask. It would seem like this was the first fatherly figure jimmy had ever encountered. Every time jimmy is in a position where he would expect a fatherly figure to act or intervene, he sees (or imagines) a superman. For instance, when jimmy is laying hurt after his brush with the mail truck, it is superman who comes to his rescue... or so he sees. Also, in the hospital when he is recovering from being pale, he sees superman again, this time it is the doctor who is concerned about him. It seems like he associates every helping male figure with the original superman in the beginning of the story. The connection with superman and jimmy's paternal ideal is completed when he wears his real fathers superman shirt. It is only towards the end, when he finally seems to start warming up to his dad that gets the shirt and, like the original superman in his life, is soon left with a superman memento as his only reminder of him. Both men, both father figures, came and went in his life leaving only superman memorabilia behind.

The Laughing... (Jimmy Corrigan)

The thing I wanted to delve into here for Jimmy Corrigan was not actually the imagery, per se, but something in the text itself. It’s a curious phenomenon, one that I’m almost certain has a meaning, that it was done deliberately. I am referring to the laughing used throughout the book. Open the book to any page where there is any sort of laugh involved. Most of the time, with small exception, that you’ll find that it’s just a simple “Ha ha” no matter who it is that’s laughing. It repeats itself, like so many other things repeat themselves. This simple phrase used at different times, in different contexts. I associate it with Jimmy himself, usually, since it’s a little ineffectual laugh that sounds forced, lacking any real humor while ultimately feeling too awkward not to say anything. It’s like his repetition of “Uh, I guess” when he answers questions, a fact which the book draws attention to while he is in the doctor’s office with the bloody nose.

But back to repetition… Because the book seems so keen on it, I knew that the laughing had to be important somehow. It might’ve been just simply because it’s repetition, but when you consider that Jimmy’s father (also Jimmy) laughs similarly, as well as the rest of his family, and anyone they have ever seen or known or heard in this book, it creates an atmosphere of the repetition, like an infection. What is it doing? Whether it’s a mocking laugh or genuine humor, it’s still just the same old “Ha ha”, like a worn out laugh-track. And sort of like throwing the brick at the cat, that’s the idea. It’s there to point out that the brick has been thrown. Generally, every time Jimmy (any Jimmy) is put on the spot, there are bricks being lobbed. (Being hit with a mail truck was a fairly-sizable brick, though.)

The simple comedy of cat getting hurt by mouse has been expressed as a theme in this book, and so the laughing plays its part in there too. Since it’s not a comic that is outwardly funny, you must call it a comedy of errors, laughter at the expense of the characters who have tragic and embarrassing lives. And since Jimmy is the main character with that same ineffectual laugh, he is the mold set in place for everyone else, leaving us to determine what the laughter does, whether it is awkward or outgoing, helping or harmful.

Monday, October 20, 2008

we are also supposed to read James Tiptree "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" for tuesday but it says that it is a handout . . . anyone know about this?


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Next prompt - and extension

It's going to be a few days (at best) before I'm caught up on reading and grading, so I'm not going to bother to make anything due for this week. Instead, *everyone* should blog on Jimmy Corrigan for *next* week, although you can certainly post it early if you want. Here's the prompt.

This next formal blog can be about anything you wish, as long as it has a clear argument and focuses on a single image, or small set of images, from Jimmy Corrigan. You may, if you wish, relate it to another comic, or you may simply make a focused argument about how we should understand some aspect of it. Some of the possibilities will be more clear after our initial discussion in class.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

option 2

The ancient Greeks and Chinese philosophers were studying and writing about human nature in their writings. Thucydides found human nature to be main course of the aspects of politics. The world has changed a great deal since then and yet, human nature appears to have remained the same. It is undisputable that the latest discoveries of technology gave humanity a fourth dimension. The most precious of the gain of humanity through technology is communication and the possibility to travel faster than ever anywhere on the planet. Human nature is characterized by curiosity and inclination toward research. Humans always questioned everything and this was the chance for technology to thrive. Human nature is characterized by opposite features, like generosity and desire to do justice, but also by greed, self-interest, vanity and the pursuit of happiness. All these motivated scientists to look for answers, regardless of their reasons. Technology enhances people’s lives, makes capitalism possible since society is now able to reproduce itself over and over again, but it also makes alienation or even total destruction possible. Since the beginning of the industrial era, writers, scientists, and artists have written or created their works under the influence of the technological advances that were rapidly changing the world as they know it since the dawn of times. An example of alienation through advanced technology is the novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, written by Philip K. Dick. The human nature dictates people to care for animals and for their fellow men. When they find themselves in a world almost destroyed where living animals are to the point of extinction and the humanity is on the verge of destruction, people will find a way to replace their objects of care or those they intend to exercise power over. They will continue to care for animals or order someone around even if there are few animals less to care for and even fewer people they can employ to do jobs. They will find a replacement of those objects in artificially created animals and humans. The result will be total alienation from what the human spirit was supposed to be about in the first place. It becomes grotesque, disproportionate, but then the real world has experienced incredible wars and even more grotesque pictures resulted from reckless, careless, sometimes illogic human action.
Earlier, in the twentieth century, Nathaniel Hawthorne was also tackling the relationship between the technology and human nature, even if in a subtler war, as an adjacent theme beside the other themes of the novel. The principle of knowing one’s history in order to be able to shape one’s future, sustained by the classics is present in the romance’s character and the characters are greatly depending on the acknowledging of this fact. The Pyncheon family is doomed for over two centuries because of the crime committed by colonel Pyncheon, a prominent member of the society in the 1600s. The ignorance characteristic to the seventeenth century that lead to the trials and murders for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, encouraged the murder of hundreds of innocents. Two centuries later, the colonel’s family was still under the legacy the colonel ad is false testimony brought upon it, but technology changed a great deal of the way society moved and reacted. Approaching the climax, Hepzibah and her brother, Clifford Pyncheon, flee the city after Judge Pyncheon’s death. The railroad, a recent mean of transport developed by the technological advances, is the mean that brings them away from the obscure past, helps those who can see the difference, find their freedom. Fantasy intertwined with the most practical aspects of reality and the protagonists look at the world out the trains’ windows and find something completely different, even from what someone imagination could have predicts it would be like: “looking from the window, they could see the world racing past them. At one moment, they were rattling through a solitude; the next, a village had grown up around them; a few breaths more, and it had vanished, as if swallowed by an earthquake. The spires of meeting-houses seemed set adrift from their foundations; the broad-based hills glided away. Everything was unfixed from its age-long rest, and moving at whirlwind speed in a direction opposite to their own.” (Hawthorne, Ch 17). One of the wonders of technology, the railway, is described in the chapter where the two flee the town in a very poetic and yet very realistic style. The industrial revolution and then the railroads have opened the world to those who were willing to conquer it. An unprecedented possibility to get together, to unite forces, idea and ideals faster than ever before was created thanks to the wonderful invention of the steam engine. People and merchandise were suddenly able to reach every corner of the country. People were brought together, first under the same roof of a train and then in the places they were traveling to thanks to technological advancement. And people immediately seized this opportunity and traveled whenever they could and shipped their goods wherever they were needed or the market seemed to create the need for. There was the dawn of globalization and the modern times were asking that peoples of the world keep pace with the new technological conquers in order to stay in the competition. The keyword for the new era under the umbrella of globalization was “efficiency”.
Another field that comes into mind when talking about the relationship between technology and its influence on or relationship with the human nature and human destiny is that of economics. During the last two hundred of years, there has been a strong debate over the effects of globalization under the circumstances of the unprecedented technological advancement that was bringing states, governments and companies closer and closer together on a map that seemed to shrink more and more every year.
Frederock Winslow Taylor wrote his monograph, The Principles of Scientific Management, in 1911. A few years before the outbreak of World War I, the book is principally tackling subjects of managerial techniques under the modern view of a world under the influence of technological advancement. The author put the theories of the past in opposition with those he sees fit in a world where efficiency must be the primary concern of a state in order to be sure of his endurance. “In the past the prevailing idea has been well expressed in the saying that “captains of industry are born not made”; and the theory has been that if one could get the right man, methods could be safely left with him. In the future it will be appreciated that our leaders must be trained right as well as born right, and that no great man can(with the old system of personal management) hope to compete with a number of ordinary men who have been properly organized so as efficiently to cooperate”(Taylor, 1911). The author finds the rules of scientific approach absolutely necessary in the world of the twentieth century and presents his theory related to the system that has to replace the individual so that the whole society can function properly and have the chance to successfully develop. Technology has brought new opportunities for people to cooperate, to come together and exchange ideas. Technology has improved the standards of living for those living in advanced societies that had the opportunities to increase the efficiency of what natural resources they had in order to stay in the race of the powerful nations. At the beginning of the twentieth century people were still enjoying the marvelous discoveries of scientific research until the atomic bomb was created, thanks to the discovery of the dynamite and threatened to destroy the whole world at the push of a button. Taylor presents in his book what he considers to be the best solution for a scientifically created management of the workmen and machines that are involved in the production process.
The three authors presented above and their works were considering the different ways science and the results of scientific knowledge translated in the advance of technology influence human lives. Hawthorne saw technology positively influencing the lives of those taking advantage of it and helping them get out of the darkness of unknown; Dick was imagining a much more gloomy outcome of the combination between human nature and technology, while Taylor was presenting the importance of addressing the issues of prosperity in an industrial society benefitting the advantages of technology solely from the point of view of science.

I'm Sorry

If I had known that absolutely everyone in the class was going to write on the same prompt, I would have chosen something different.

Sorry Adam.

Technology vs Human Nature

As we discussed in class, technology is defined as the discourse surrounding techniques. However, the dictionary defines technology as “a technological process, invention, method, or the like.” This second definition, especially the term invention, applies to the way most people think of technology and the ways in which it has been interacting with human nature throughout history. In order to form a relationship between technology and human nature, we first need to know what exactly human nature is. It is defined in the dictionary as “the psychological and social qualities that characterize humankind.” Since technology is considered to be new inventions, and human nature is considered to be social characteristics, we can determine the relationship between the two. Does one affect the other? It would seem that human nature is affected by technology, because new inventions tend to have an impact on society and people’s lives, but it also seems that technology is affected by human nature, because without society’s changing attributes, there would be no need for new inventions. Therefore, it is safe to say that the relationship between technology and human nature is a never-ending cycle of each being influenced by the other, which is present in real life and in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

This cycle has to start somewhere, but much like the question of the chicken or the egg, it is difficult to say which came first. However, we do know the causes of some instances in which technology encouraged human nature. For example, the invention of vehicles, horse-drawn and motor-powered, changed life for almost everyone in the nations that adopted such vehicles. Soon people were able to travel or move to other cities and meet new people easily without tiring themselves by walking for miles. Also, vehicles provided extra opportunity for people to open shops and businesses, with new customers every day while passing through town or driving into town, and those new customers could find work in the new area. Another instance of technology manipulating human nature is with the invention of the television. When the television was introduced to society, children began to stay indoors more than they had prior to the invention and adults tended to shy away from spending time with their neighbors. Families watched their favorite shows together and bonded with each other, but stopped being as active as they had been before. Over time since the television was first mass-produced, the rate of obesity in the United States has risen significantly due to a lack of physical activity, and that led to an increase in other health issues, such as heart problems. Also, since this invention, people have not been as close with their neighbors. Before the television, people were friendly and spent time with everyone they knew, but after the television, people stayed indoors more often and did not get to know their neighbors like they had once before. This caused towns and neighborhoods to be much less lively and attractive to visitors and potential residents. Although these inventions have affected the way people live, it is not the only cause and effect relationship between technology and human nature.

As I have already stated, human nature can determine what types of new technologies are created. For example, when people from other towns or areas needed to relay messages to one another, such as in the military or government, it was slow and inconvenient to deliver these messages on foot. They needed a faster way to communicate, so the Pony Express was invented. Horses are not only quicker than people, but they can carry heavier loads, making it possible to relay many messages at a time. Eventually, with budding technology, people found an even more convenient way to communicate. The telephone had been invented and it was possible for anyone to communicate directly with whomever they pleased, and waiting for a response was no longer an issue. Many decades afterward, when people began to travel more often and jobs sometimes required long distance business trips, the cell phone had been invented to accommodate everyone regardless of where they were. Also, another need for communication in the military between countries, before the invention of the cell phone, the internet was invented. It was used for underground operations and secret information, and made communication from country to country a lot less complicated. Because of its success with the military, the internet was released to the international public for private use and quickly became very popular, especially with the younger generations. After a short while, social networking sites were invented for people to keep in touch with friends and family and to meet new people from various cities all around the world. These technologies were greatly affected by society’s needs.

It does not stop there, however. The cycles continue. The impact on society because of one technology leads to another technology, and the technologies created because of human nature only lead to more social characteristics. For example, when people started going away after the vehicle was invented, the airplane was invented so that people could travel even farther. Because television urged children to stay indoors, video games were invented to give the children something to do other than watch television while they were inside. The invention of the telephone and cell phone has established a problem with laziness. Instead of walking next door to speak with a neighbor, people usually would rather call or send a text message. Worst of all, however, is the impact that the internet has had on the youth. Since the social networking sites have become popular, there have been many cases of children meeting and being abducted by internet predators. It is indeed a never-ending cycle of cause and effect between technology and human nature.

The same cycle is present in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Prior to the beginning of the story, World War Terminus had destroyed most life on Earth, leaving everything dark and dusty. Not many people or animals had survived the war, and the lack of life on the planet left many of the people who did survive lonely. Therefore, false animals had been invented to keep people company and to raise their self esteem, because owning animals was an important aspect of life. Also, on Mars at the time, laziness led to the invention of the androids, which were owned as slaves. When the androids fled to Earth, new jobs became available. People were needed to retire the androids, and people were also needed to produce the androids. Aside from the androids, the false animals also needed workers. Jobs became available for building the animals, and then people were needed to act as veterinarians to the false animals, dressing in medical uniforms and driving medical vehicles to fool onlookers. Another technology in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the mood organ. People used it to choose their mindset for the day instead of relying on real emotions. However, the mood organ was a cause of confusion in human nature because it made it more difficult to know whether the people were actually people or if they were androids. The book clearly demonstrates the same cause and effect relationship between technology and human nature as is evident in real life.

Human nature, which was defined as social characteristics do affect technology, which was defined, simply, as inventions, and these inventions also affect the social characteristics. This cycle has been continuing throughout all of history, and will continue to persevere for the rest of time. As long as people have new needs, people will continue to produce whatever will satisfy those needs, and that product will continue to change the way people live.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

single vision produces the worst vision

Human nature is the concept that there are a set of logical characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling, and acting, which all ’normal’ human beings have in common.
Technology is a broad concept that deals with a species’ usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species’ ability to control and adapt to its environment.

The relationship between human nature and technology is a tough one to describe, especially when I have a problem with the definition of human nature. To clarify what a ‘normal’ human being is, we will use an average American around the age of 30. For me, it would be tough to say that technology is not part of human nature. In our generation, technology is so prominent. So many lives revolve around the newest inventions and the latest technologies that it is very easy to say that technology is very much a part of human nature.

The reason I chose age 30 for my ‘normal’ human being is because of the time-frame that a 30 year-old grew up in. When someone thinks of technology nowadays, they think of computers, microchips, cell phones and all those other fancy gadgets. If I would select an older age for a norm, they would think technology is a new word that all the ‘hip youngsters’ throw around. The problem is technology is any type of tool that will affect how you adapt to your surroundings. Technologies have been around since man first discovered the wheel or how to control fire. Although technologies have changed throughout generations, they have had the same affect on human nature.

With the advancing of technology, human nature does change. Advances in science have help people live and feel life for many more years than before. Books and computers have changed the way people think; think about solving problems and life in general. The television and popular culture has changed the way almost every child in our norm acts because they want to be ‘normal’.

Technology unfortunately determines human nature. I would be as bold to say that technology is human nature in most of our normal human beings. Of course, our society is different from the rest of the actual world. One of the reasons the United States is struggling as a country is because there are no individuals. There are very few people who come up with original ideas and whose lives are not completely influenced by other people. Other people can be technology, after all, they are used as a tool to help one adapt to an environment.

“The experiences of the atomic scientists clearly show the need to take a personal responsibility, the danger that things will move too fast, and the way in which a process can take on a life of its own. We can, as they did, create insurmountable problems in almost no time flat. We must do more thinking up front if we are not to be similarly surprised and shocked by the consequences o our inventions.”[2]

Joy was not the only author who warns us of unknown powers. In “The House of the Seven Gables”, Holgrave tells a story to Phoebe about a Maule ancestor who uses hypnotism to control Alice Pyncheon. The actions by the Maule ancestor lead to the death of Alice. This is in comparison to Joy’s writings because Maule was accused of dealing with something he did not understand, hypnotism, the same way Joy accuses us of not understanding the technology we are inventing. In Hawthorne’s story, he gives us hope through Holgrave. Holgrave really likes Phoebe and could use the same powers that Maule used on Alice. Holgrave holds back though. He thinks about hypnotizing Phoebe, but he looked back at the mistakes in the past and made the correct decision not to play with his unknown power. Holgrave sticks to what he knows, the basics, and eventually wins Phoebe over.

Bill Joy warned of the problems that come with unknown technologies. Unfortunately, many people did not listen and got into problems so quickly that they did not even know they were in trouble. The people of our time are so reliant on technologies that they do not know what to do with themselves when they do not have their iPod or computer to use. There is hope for these lost electric sheep. When people are separated from these machines and returned to nature, that’s when real human nature kicks in, Survival. Although many people get caught up in technologies and different ways of life, in the back of everyone’s mind is survival. After all, what else are we doing here?

The human mental capability, combined with an erect body carriage that frees the arms for manipulating objects, has allowed humans to make far greater use of tools than any other species. It seems we were bound to let technology overpower us because of our physical attraction towards it. I have no problem with technology being an aspect of our lives; after all, there is no way to avoid it. Before you are even born, you are surrounded by all sorts of technology and as the old saying goes, ‘you are what you eat’. The problem I do have is when someone lets technology overwhelm their life and threaten their human nature. When this happens, these people become like cyborgs or machines. Haraway talks about these types of people. “They could not achieve man’s dream, only mock it. They were not man, an author to himself, but only a caricature of that masculinist reproductive dream. “[1] Yes, it has some other meanings, but Haraway is trying to say that without originality you might as well be a robot. The only way to get ahead in life is to make your own decisions and not let others choose your destiny.

“Single vision produces worse illusions than double vision or many-headed monsters.”[1]

In today’s world, there are too many people focused on the small picture, focusing on things they think are important. Really, they are closing their mind off to the truly great things in life. The only way to really learn is to be open-minded. Many vantage points are always better than one. There is more clarity in a television screen when there are more pixels. I am all for accepting technology and allowing it to be a part of our lives. In fact, I do not think there is any way to avoid it. Technology cannot rule the lives of any more generations. I know it will be a part of their lives, but they must learn to think, feel, and act for themselves. Technology is an aspect of human nature. It may alter us, the same way a child alters his parents, but it cannot dictate who we are as human beings.

[1] Haraway, Donna “A Cyborg Manifesto”
[2] Joy, Bill “Why the future doesn’t need us.”

Nature Should not be Pacified

As technology advances, man tries more and more to apply it in various ways to the world around him. As a whole, we seek to control our surroundings, quite often to the devastation of the pre-existing natural systems. In his book One-Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse puts forth his belief that should civilization gain the technological means, we should protect Nature from itself. While this is a worthwhile idea, as we are now, man does not have the technology, will or unity to try to ‘protect’ Nature. Also, ideas like this often sound good on paper, but are next to impossible to execute.

Looking at humanity’s track record regarding the use of new technology, it is easy to see that we usually have to experience the destruction that comes with its use before moving to fix it. A perfect example would be here in Pittsburgh during the time of the mills on the rivers. When the mills were in operation, they dumped countless pollutants into the rivers and into the air. Pollutants destroyed the river ecosystem while the air hurt not only the surrounding wildlife, but also everyone who lived in the city. Today, the river is much cleaner but the black tarnish can still be seen coating buildings. It was only long after we saw the effects of the mills that any regulations were made to protect the environment.

With currently technology advancing so quickly, it is hard to keep up with how each new device effects nature. With the reality of nanotechnology just around the corner, man has the ability to pose an even greater threat to nature. Bill Joy expounds on this in his essay “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us”. In the essay, Joy makes a point of explaining how nanotechnology could easily get out of hand with replicating assemblers destroying wrecking havoc on a natural system before anything could be done to stop them. Another point Joy frequently returns to is how humans tend to find it easier to militarize any given technology than put it to constructive use.[1]

Along with the dangers approaching with nanotechnology is the growing number of nations with nuclear capabilities. As an increasing number of nations gain access to nuclear weapons, the chance of a Blade Runner-esque world grows. If we ever do experience a “World War Terminus,” then by the time humanity has the technology and will to protect Nature, it could be too late.

Instead of trying to subdue or pacify nature, we need to learn how to live side-by-side with nature. Throughout the ages, nature has its own way of balancing everything out. Since the start of life on earth, there has existed a natural balance between predator and prey. Left alone, these cycles would continue in harmony. Occasionally, a system is altered by the appearance of a new species or a disease that devastates one already in the cycle. Both instances occur naturally and without human interference. If, however, we add careless, unthinking humans to the system, the system can be severely damaged before we realize what we have done.

Take, for instance, the odyssey of the gray wolf in the American Midwest. As settlers moved west they destroyed the bison, elk, moose and deer that the wolves relied on for food. With their natural food source nearly gone, the wolves turned to the livestock the settlers had brought along. Turning on the livestock only made the wolves a more immediate target of the settlers and ended up nearly extinct.[2] Fortunately, we have learned from this experience and have been able to stabilize the system and restore some semblance of balance to the cycle. But who knows if we will be as lucky the next time.

Humans need to realize that we are just another variety of life on earth. While we have the largest capacity for thought and rational thinking, humans might not be the smartest animals. Instead of living in balance with nature, we try to impose our will on it, harming whatever natural systems already exist in the area. Before we can transform nature using the power of Reason, we must learn to exercise that Reason as it applies to humans.

Mercuse’s believes that in order to save nature we must subjugate it. To me, that means we must assume full responsibility for everything that occurs, keep a constant eye on every animal in every corner of the world, and take care not to disrupt any natural systems in the process. In short, the whole planet would become a gigantic zoo. Given that we still know relatively little about organisms living at amazing depths, deep in jungles or other extreme locations, this is simply impossible. I do not think it should even be attempted given how difficult running even a city zoo can be.

Not only is Marcuse’s belief impossible to realize, but for the good of nature, it should never be attempted. Humanity does not have the resources or the will to make such a system work without first destroying the very thing they are trying to protect: Nature.

[1] Joy, Bill. “Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us”.

[2] Gray Wolf Fact Sheet. Accessed 10/13/08.