Saturday, September 30, 2006

Through a Mirror Shade Darkly: The subtle sublime of cyberpunk Part 02

While it might be assumed that the goal of cyberpunk is to deconstruct mainstream science fiction, since its writers are “Steeped in the lore and tradition of the SF field” (Sterling, viii) it would be more accurate to say that the creators of that earlier lore and tradition built a house, and cyberpunk writers decided it was time for a renovation. It is this restructuring that simultaneously houses and obscures the spirituality of cyberpunk. As David Porush notes, “the intersection between the transcendent world and this one has always created or required an architecture that ultimately restructures society itself…” (556). He cites the destruction of Solomon’s Temple as the catalyst for the creation of the Jewish Talmud. Both were receptacles for the transcendent, but related that in very different ways.

The Jewish Temple contained the Holy of Holies, where heaven and earth intersected in a physical sense, but was ultimately a symbol of the complete otherness of God. The Talmud wasn’t simply a portable temple, but was rather “a new sort of invitation to transcendence: Come inhabit this world, not through the architectonics of material, but through a dynamic architecture of interpretation, dialogue, a never ending symposium. The most portable altar of all is in your head and in your words” (560).

Like Jewish temple worship, classic science fiction was concerned with finding transcendence in an exterior fashion; in some distant galaxy, on another planet, within the customs or powers of an alien race. The keys to whatever step the human race was going to take next were in outer space, beyond the confines of this world. Cyberpunk reverses the direction of this exploration. The settings are earthy; an alternate, dystopian version of earth to be sure, but earth nonetheless.

This change of direction necessitates a restructuring of the “architecture” of science fiction. The “saucer people” and “Art Deco futuroids” of Gibson’s “The Gernsback Continuum” (10) are replaced by demons and avatars in virtual reality. The materials of “white marble and slipstream chrome, immortal crystal and burnished bronze” (5) give way to “symmetrical sheetrock shitholes with vinyl floors and ill-fitting woodwork and no sidewalks” (Stephenson, 191).

And instead of blasting off into outer space, we discover that “Canaveral is in ruins” (Sterling & Gibson, 214) and the orbit on our metaphorical space stations are decaying. To escape this dark future requires not astronauts, but cybernauts, who play in the fields of cyberspace rather than outer space. As Sterling states, the technology of cyberpunk SF is “not the bottled genie of remote Big Science boffins; it is pervasive, utterly intimate. Not outside us, but next to us. Under our skin; often, inside our minds” (xi).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Through a Mirror Shade Darkly: The subtle sublime of cyberpunk Part 01

Mirror shades, the iconic emblem of cyberpunk serve to hide the eyes, “the window to the soul, insight and love” behind “reflective surfaces” (Olsen, 278-279), leading one to assume a lack of transcendent elements within the genre. However, buried within the semiotic jumble of hardwire and circuit board landscapes (both inner and exterior) and the yearnings of the rock rebel protagonists in the works of Gibson, Maddox, and Stephenson a sublimated spirituality hides.
The path to this spirituality is convoluted; to uncover it, we must first understand how cyberpunk has restructured mythic/religious narrative, by identifying the transcendent elements (and the writers’ ambivalence toward them) in various cyberpunk writings. In doing so, we will find that most cyberpunk writers could not commit to fully realizing the metaphysical levels of reality they constructed as narrative devices. Ironically, at the end of the path we will discover the trilogy of literature which first ignored its own sublimated spirituality shares the same name for cyberspace as the film trilogy which was able to realize it fully. While cyberpunk seems to state with unanimity that “God, as such, had died” (Bear, 106), it will be shown, that to the contrary, God has merely moved into cyberspace.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Excellent Quote

Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can do only as much as God makes us able to; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.

- Archbishop Oscar Romero, from his last homily, March 23, 1980

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A clearer explanation...

I looked over my last post and realized how disjointed it sounded. It chronicled the stuff I'm doing and not all the reasons why. So here's an addendum...


SPEED. And lots of it. I’ve compared my current situation to the first lap of a race on a new track, where you don’t know where all the turns, bumps, and hazards are. I’ve done school before. I’ve done work before. I’ve never done it like this, altogether with family life.
Earlier this year I was under the impression I could do my M.A. part time. The Comp Lit faculty has streamlined the program since I first looked at it, and a requirement of the Thesis track is two semesters full time. So being in school full time for the next two semesters is something that must be done to get to my goal. But that means more tuition. More books. More fees. So suddenlty the question to pay for it all?

(The car rubs up against the side of the track...)

I taught two courses for Guru Digital Arts College this summer; impressed with my work, they wanted me to do more. I was given a fall course schedule and told “however much or little as you want”. The extra money was needed, but the schedule juggling to accomplish it was Herculean. I began to despair. Jenica would be heading back to work in November, but that would only account for what the loss at the end of her maternity leave.

Now I feel like Sandra Bullock in the movie “Speed” where she had to keep a city bus driving above 50km or a bomb attached to the bus would go off. I can’t quit working to just go to school because I have the primary income. I can’t (or won’t) give up school because I’d only be returning to it at a later date with less momentum and an atrophied academic brain. Jenica can’t stay home because my solitary income doesn’t permit it, but we don’t want to put Gunnar in a dayhome because 1) we aren’t fans of other people raising our kids and 2) the amount needed to put him in daycare makes the requisite income accrued superfluous. In other words, we’d be working full time to keep him in daycare. The options are manifold, but none seem sufficient.

My first week of classes was a disaster. I was supposed to attend seminars on being a teacher’s assistant (even though I likely wouldn’t be one, since those positions are reserved for Doctoral students) but missed many while planning for the Harvest Moon weekend, and attending meetings here at HR. I had to miss a deadline for an article I was writing. By Thursday I was a tired mess. (The car hits an oil slick and goes into an uncontrolled spin) That day, I stopped by the office of one of the Graduate Studies administrators and asked a few questions. She closed by asking if there was anything else she could do for me.

“Not unless you have a teaching assitant’s position for me” I replied.

She gave me the standard response - not enough money in Interdisciplinary Studies, and those positions usually reserved for PhD students. “But if anything comes across my desk I’ll let you know,” she finished.

Friday morning I attended my first actual class. To my dismay, the attending professor is one I’m not fond of and the reading list was gargantuan(car blows a tire, comes to complete stop and stalls.). After taking a few notes, I stopped, and wrote this prayer...

“Lord, I guess we’ll have to talk like this for this semester. It’s difficult to find time to pray. You know how difficult I am finding things right now. Issues of belief...bu I still want to love you. I could be wrong obviously, but I want to take hold of those imperative words(here I was referencing the Lord’s Prayer...give us this day...). I want to be able to ask boldly. I want to be free of working at so many different things. I want Jenica to stay home with Gunnar. I am asking you, my heavenly father to open doors and close others. Please make it so.”

That afternoon I opened my email at work to discover an offer for a teacher’s assistantship. For the entire year. I had to do a double take to make sure it was real. I closed the email and reopened it. Sure enough. It was real. Six hours a week, but it would make the difference we needed. It still doesn’t mean Jen can stay home, but I’m not running in so many different directions anymore and that’s a start.

(Pit crew finishes putting a new tire on and I fire the engine again...)

With all the fall kick off events at work (the Harvest Moon weekend, last week's all-nighter) getting Sunday School off the ground, and attending several planning meetings, I’m still having trouble getting a good feel for the track, but I think with those behind me I’ve come around into the second lap, and I have a better idea of what lies ahead. All the same, your prayers and graciousness for when I show up late to things will be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Beetle Adventure Racing

Many years ago, Jenica organized the lot of hooligans I knew as friends before Y2K and got me an N64 for my birthday. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was the reason, but it was soon eclipsed by my addiction to New Tetris, and also to my wild abandon for driving the new VW Beetle in the virtual world of Beetle Adventure Racing.

Like any other driving game, each new track presents greater challenges than the ones prior. At the same time, as you advance through levels, you gain better vehicles with greater manuverability and speed.

No matter how cool a car you had though, the first lap of any level of any racing game, done for the first time will result in some rail rubbing. Or you might drive your car clean off a cliff. Or overheat the engines of your podracer. Whatever the case may be, the first time around the first lap of a new level is always a bitch. It takes you halfway through the second lap to catch your stride, and by the third you can keep up.

This fall semester feels like the first lap of a new level. I had gotten good at the levels I've been doing the past few years. I had fallen into a pattern of sorts. Part time work, part time school.

Now it's full time school, part time work and a teacher's assistant's position to boot. I think that adds up to roughly 60 hours a week all said and done. One class alone sported a reading list of 13 books. I need to read The Illiad in one week and have a presentation ready for it this Friday. I could go on, by I'll digress to that the recent release of Seven Devil Fix's second CD (and the need to play shows to promote said disc). Just sprinkle with phone calls and you've got a recipe for stress leave.

What it looks like most days is that I leave at about 9:00 in the morning and come back around 10:00 at night, or some variation thereof. I can't seem to find my stride. The one where I know what I'm doing and when I ought to be doing it. I've never done graduate level studies before. I've never been a teacher's assistant in a university. I've never worked with a senior pastor who I got along with so well he actually said yes to my suggestions, thereby having me doing new things at work in the midst of the maelstrom. And just to slap icing all over the cake, I'm the band leader for the worship team currently at the Gathering, Stone Soup. To be fair, I booked that a loooong time ago when I didn't know my life would be this hectic.

So. If I don't reply to your emails, or update the blog, or call you back on the phone, or pay any attention to you whatsoever, don't feel special. I'm currently doing it to everyone except my classmates, my professors, my students at HR, my bandmates and of course, Jen and Gunnar. And above all, please don't send me emails bitching about the lack of updates, or I'll start posting that dry academic stuff I was doing earlier this year!

What I need is the Police Beetle from the could turn on the siren and have everyone else slow down...I'm sure someone has some aphorism regarding taking time out to relate to that. My advice...keep it to yourself.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Autumn Anarchy and an Anabaptist Article

My apologies for the lack of posting over the month of August. My two speaking engagements at camps were in places where the Internet access was first just slow and then nearly non-existent. I could hardly stay logged on at the one camp long enough to check email let alone post anything. We have many photos of Gunnar from those two weeks, and I'll be posting them at the main site next week.

School has started, and it's going to be a hella busy fall for me. I'm still working at Holyrood in a part time capacity, but have been granted a Graduate Teacher's Assistantship at the University (no details yet) of Alberta where I'm doing full time studies in Comparative Literature. I'm working towards a Thesis-based M.A., which I should complete before the end of 2008.

Some of you have been bugging me that I haven't posted for awhile, so in the meantime here's a transcript and mp3 of me speaking at the Mennonite Church Alberta conference back in March of this past year on the "future of youth ministry". I recommend the mp3, because the transcript was heavily edited for content, but sadly not grammar. Enjoy!