sugar among the chickens
The Cyborg Manifesto: stuff like this pisses me off. I recognize that they're deliberately espousing an extreme position in order to generate debate (at least I hope to God that's what they're doing), but I still knew people at Stanford who actually thought this way. The naivete borders on offensiveness in passages like:
Together we will venture beyond the tyranny of genes. We will become more than simple bags of chemicals and cells that begin to decay at the moment of birth. We will find remedies for all our current frailties - wrinkles, obesity, hair loss, sexual dysfunction - and cures for every disease.
Or in their take on digital commerce:
Decisions are largely predetermined by self-replicating global institutions like the IMF and the WTO, whose logic, power and lifespan far exceed even the most elite individuals who serve them. The global economy is now a living machine - an uber-brain stitched by switches and routers, with systems of finance linked to systems of media linked to systems of education linked to systems of employment linked to systems of government linked to systems of protest. The whole is suspended above any real world concerns.
Uh huh. I'll give you that to an extent, maybe, technology can transcend genetics. What it ain't going to transcend is economics. Sure, if you live in the developed world you'll get to take advantage of some new complicated enzyme treatment à la Brazil that will obviate the need for face lifts; but in most parts of the world wrinkles don't rank as the No.1 health concern. And all the science in the world won't do most of its population any good so long as they're at the bottom of the economic ladder. Of course global economics are "suspended above any real world concerns" if you're a goddamn e-trader; you make your paycheck off manipulating symbols, and you could give a flying fuck what those symbols represent. It's a little different if you're sick in a sub-Saharan nation whose annual debt burden exceeds its annual health care budget. Sorry, this stuff tends to bring out the angry liberal in me.
More cheerfully, tonight I read Lewis Nordan's The All-Girl Football Team (out of print, natch), a short collection of semi-linked stories which I can't recommend highly enough. In the first story, the narrator fishes for chickens - as in tries to get them to bite a baited hook - and ends up with an angry rooster on his head, at which point, startlingly enough, it turns lyrical:
And yet my steps were not heavy. My life was not ruined. I could wear this chicken on my head forever. I could bear this pain forever. In a year no one would notice the chicken but myself. Then even I would not notice. My mama had believed that spending your life in the place of your birth, absorbing its small particulars into your blood, was ruination. I looked at my parents beside the gate. My daddy held my mama in his arms as they looked at me. My daddy had got the gate open now but again I held up my hand and stopped him. I knew now what I could give them. It was a picture of myself that I would live the rest of my life to prove true: they watched their son wearing this living crowing rooster like a crown.
Also, The New Yorker, endearingly dowdy as always, appears to have noticed that many other magazines have constructed some kind of website thing, and decided to follow suit. They have David Schickler's "The Smoker" up there, another excellent offbeat story originally published in the summer fiction issue, probably intriguing enough actually to be readable online.
Salon's got a free mp3 of "The Hook," from the new Stephen Malkmus (ex-Pavement) solo album.