Friday, March 30, 2007

BAG, and the Semiotics of the Political Image

Hi there. This just a quick link to a curious site dedicated to the interpretation of news images, BAG. The image above is from a December 2006 entry on Brazzaville by Hector Mediavilla.

Sacher Von Robot

No dispatch today. Just a link to an amazing blog filled with golden and silver age sci-fi covers--imagine a walk through the cold war era collective unconscious of America, filled with lust for progress, a fetish for technology, and a fear and loathing of annihilation (hence, a desire for it) and you get the idea.

Sacher Von Robot?

I don't want to be too ironic, so for those for whom the title of today's entry is a bit obscure, go here.


A curious site which spelunks a related vein. The link previous is a translation of the original.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Riches, Gypsies, and Half-Breeds

Ana Aguila Reyes, international correspondent for the Obscene Machine, is on board with a timely posting:

From: Ana Aguila Reyes
Subject: For the Blog: The Riches
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 15:39:19 -0700

Hello professor, I’ve watching this new show called The Riches on FX and the main story is interesting: a family of gypsies decide to change their lives by embracing the American Dream. They go from “let’s see what life brings us today” to credit cards and mansions in a day. The characters are very complex and the cast itself is ironic. The cast features the father as a “half-breed,”who was not born into the gypsy life but later “converted.” It’s interesting to see the term half-breed used again after watching Touch of Evil. Here it is use in the same offensive way to distinguish people. For this family anyone who is not a like them is a buffer, that is, anyone who goes to school and buys stuff. Here’s some of the dialogue from the show:

Father: We’re going to enroll you kids in school.
Mother: Would you stop scaring them.
Father: I’m serious.
Daughter: Dad, come on. School? Who wants to learn a bunch of buffer bullshit?
Father: School is the cornerstone of buffer society where you learn important buffer things.
Mother: It’s going to kill their tiny minds.
Father: No. I when to school till seventh grade. Didn’t kill my mind.
Mother: Oh, you’re a half-breed.

The family gets more complex with their youngest boy who likes to dress-up as a girl. And here’s one of the two ironies in the show, the father played by Eddie Izzard is in real life a cross-dresser. He is the executive producer as well, so I’m guessing he has a bit of influence on the show. The other Irony of the show is that they’ve got British nationals (Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver) in the lead roles going for the American dream. Not that couldn’t happen, but it just adds another layer to this already complex and weird drama of representing something you're not.

Ana Aguila

Jim Ricker and Frantz Fanon

Graduate Student journalist extraordinaire Jim Ricker chips in more wisdom this week with his latest blog entry. Our favorite desert rat never fails to further the discussion!

Frida Kahlo and Hieronymus Bosch

Graduate Student e725 correspondent Dan Barlow checks in with a cool posting:

Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2007 22:58:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: English 725: Blog material
From: "Dan Barlow"

In my post-Kahlo curiosity, I delved into the work of Hieronymus Bosch to seek out works that may have influenced Frida. While scouring Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights," I found a most interesting detail: Bosch appears to have discretely allowed for an inter-racial couple in the Garden of Eden (see "bosch" attachment and look closely at the upper left).

This immediately reminded me of Flor Garduno's "Eden" from Inner Light.

Then I went back to Frida's work and noticed the painting "Two Nudes in a Forest," once more a very edenic setting occupied by dark and light skin figures.

Interesting revisionist themes running through these works, I'd say. Also fascinating is the argument I've just read that Bosch symbolically inserted his own Catharistic views--then "heretical"--into certain works commissioned by his Catholic patrons. In any event, I found it extremely interesting to encounter these (postcolonial?) ideas from dates as early Bosch's painting of "Garden," which was c. 1505.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jerome Abramovitch

original posting 1/25/07 | Updated

Now Jerome Abramovitch's oeuvre will not be for everyone, yet there is something in his consistant experimentation and uncanny artifacts that belongs in a courses like ours, e493 and e725, concerned as they are with facsimiles of the human. This one photograph might work as an emblem of the gender theory portion of our seminar.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Brook Benton and a Blue Velvetesque Aesthetic Rarity

Next week's seminar, filled as it is with readings from Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks, will force us to re-evaluate how it is we read the "black" body, how it is we parse the African and African American dasein. This video, a moving, startling, and singular effort by Brook Benton, may well do the same! Another take on the video appears here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eye Allegories

I teach a remarkable animated short film from time to time entitled An Eye for Annai by Jon Klassen and Dan Rodrigues--those of you digging the semiotic/film theory dimension of this class will find it moving I think.

Here's another peculiar short film that theatricalize's some of the more theoretical elements of our graduate and undergraduate seminars in an accessible, if allegorical fashion.

Both owe their debt, to a greater or lesser degree, the the surrealist shenanigans of Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel in Un Chien Andalou:

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cameras, Chris Ware, Violence, Paper Semiotics

The obscene machine project, the ethnic mannequin initiative, the tex[t]-mex book, the eyegiene follow-up reverie, are all nothing more and nothing less than an ongoing meditation on the funky things that happen when word and image consort, when the the semantic and semiotic "get down," "hook-up," and basically penetrate each other.

No one, and I mean, "NO ONE," gets this better than Chris Ware.*


*OK, so I am exagerrating: John Berger, in Ways of Seeing, Frantz Fanon, in Black Skin, White Masks, Edmundo Desnoes, in "Cuba Made Me This Way" in the On Signs anthology, Jacques Derrida. in Rights of Inspection, Humberto Eco, in The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, Rosalind Krauss, in The Optical Unconscious, and Irit Rogoff, in Terra Inferma, get it also. I know, I know! I left out Roland Barthes, Paul Virilio, and others. Soon! soon!

Monday, March 19, 2007

The San Diego Latino Film Festival

Ace movie reviewer and e493 denizen Courtney Yip went to the film festival last week and just checked in to file her report!

aloha brilliant students!

this past tuesday night, i had the wonderful experience of attending a film at the latino film festival. the movie (which i randomly chose based on timingcoordination alone) was AMANDO A MARADONA, or LOVING MARADONA. entering the hazard theatres was a great experience on its own. hidden beneath the at&t sign-up booths and the creepy casting call guy asking for models, were an array of art pieces for sale by mexican and south american artists. once inside the cinema, the energy didn't stop. every attendee was talking loudly, laughing, and hanging out, it was like a bar without the good stuff (dancing and booze). argentinian and maradona jerseys adorned the empty dark room, it was a great change from the regular theatre visit.

this dynamic documentary on the life of diego maradona certainly has many ties to what we're studying in eng493. talk about obscene! director javier martin vazquez along with co-writer nicolas avruj focused most of the content on two things: maradona's rise to fame, and his affect on the latino people. a main string that linked the film together visually were interviews with fans that had tattoos of either maradona's face, body, or jersey number with "DIOS" illuminating the background. it was hilarious and sad at the same time... the audience did not know how to react except awkwardly laugh at these obsessive fans. it got even crazier when the "maradonians" came into play... yes you guessed it, "maradonian", as in a religion dedicated to diego as a god. they had a procession with little statuettes of him on an altar, and sang hymns with lines such as "praise maradona" .. i forget the exact songs they sang, but you get the idea.

this man's life became such a huge explosion into the culture of "football" and argentinian (and cuban) life, that i can barely fathom how he must feel about all of this. he repeated in the interviews that he felt honored and humbled, and he only did it for his daughters, but you've got to think, this man must be able to really suppress his ego to not get caught up in this crazy cult following. maybe he really is superhuman.

and then you glance down at diego's own shoulder, tattooed with an image of che guevara.

football, politics, money, freedom, life ... all for one?

or one for all...

check it out if you can.
'til next time.

The House of Raging Women by Los Bros. Hernandez

Our e725 Ethnic Mannequins seminar tackled a singular book by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, The House of Raging Women; here is one graduate student's response to the book:

Los Bros Hernandez: Tale Breeders

by Tria Andrews

Los Bros Hernandez’s “An American in Palomar,” from the graphic novel, House of Raging Women, is narrated through the omniscient point of view, which allows for a dual exploration of stereotyping and misunderstanding from the American and Central American cultures. The narrative not only calls into question the stereotyped stereotype--that is that cultures view differences in other cultures with a similar (and at times, identically critical eye), but also raises questions about the value and intricacies of art, particularly art photography. In “An American in Palomar,” the arrogance of American photographer, Howard Miller, temporarily causes chaos in the small town; yet the townspeople--their very realness--ultimately haunts Miller and perhaps even dispels his feelings of racial and social superiority.

When Miller first comes to Palomar, through his encouragement as well as their own aspirations, the townspeople begin to long for fame. Early in the narrative, Tonantzin envisions herself as a Latina Marilyn Monroe, but Miller’s “art” photography involves no such plans. Instead, Miller wants to depict the members of the community “as is”--that is, as they would be dressed for hard, physical labor--and the shabbier the better in order to inspire awe from his colleagues. As the story states, “‘Nice’ pictures are the last thing Howard Miller wants from his visit to Palomar. No ‘hot’ photojournalist ever got the notoriety Miller seeks shooting sunsets and waterfalls” (28). Miller, in his arrogance, thus, comes to shoot crime, poverty, and the desperation of a culture, which ultimately surprises him in its non-desperateness.

The difference between the way that Miller perceives Palomar and the residents themselves view their small community is quite remarkable. After Miller learns that Tonantzin believes he plans on carting her off to Hollywood for certain stardom, Miller is taken back. He thinks, “Ah, but I shouldn’t be angry. I suppose being stuck forever in a place like this would impoverish anybody’s life. Sad . . .” (42). Here, the contrast between Miller’s thoughts and the actuality of the situation (evident from Los Bros Hernandez’s graphics) is remarkable. In a single panel, lovers enjoy the day in the shade, a voluptuous woman saunters through town, a father and son spend time together, and children play ball. In fact, the only character who seems at all distraught is a woman reading Les Miserables. Is the Latin American culture so different from that of the American culture or any culture for that matter? Miller may not yet see the similarities--instead focusing on the differences, which he believes will win him the accolade he so desires--but for Los Bros Hernandez, it is no secret.

Quite ironically, as Miller has prejudices against the people of Palomar, so too do the children of Palomar have stereotypes against Americans. For instance, Guadalupe asks her mother “Is it true that white people copy everything they know from normal people?” (39). In this context, the word “normal” takes on an important significance, pointing up the root of all stereotypes as that which is different. What is normal to Guadalupe is what is common not only to her as a citizen of Palomar, but as a female, and as a child raised in a particular household. In an earlier panel, there is a depiction of the Oasis, where Miller makes telephone calls. Interestingly, just the building is evident in an establishing-like shot, though voices come from the building. One voice, for instance, says that what Miller says, since he is speaking English, “sounds funny” (36). Certainly, here the Oasis serves as a visual depiction of the namelessness and facelessness that allows for the perpetuation of stereotypes.

As a graphic novel, Los Bros Hernandez’s House of Raging Women serves its primary function--that is to entertain. Yet, as evident from “An American in Palomar,” the text accomplishes far more. These nameless and faceless stereotypes are defied--not only in Miller’s own mind, but also in the text as a whole--and become quite literally tales for children, which in itself is problematic. And yet in no way does House of Raging Women function as a soapbox; instead, the tales encourage more tales--not of the perpetuated postcard sort--but new stories that through their very realness humiliate and (one can only dream) eventually invalidate all stereotypes.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Vagina Monologues | Eve Ensler | School | Taboos

Do Androids Dream of Electric Genitals--or something like that... Ace detective Melissa Posa chimes in with a salient dispatch!

Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 17:50:19 -0700
From: "Melissa Posa"
Subject:The Vagina Monologues
To: Bill

Hey Nericcio,

Here's a switch from all the mannequins and robots on the obscene machine blog site. How about censorship?!?!?! For those who went to see The Vagina Monologues this will definitely be a topic of interest. I was watching the Today show and found this article and video about 3 high school girls suspended for saying the word VAGINA at a school performance with all adults. Can you believe that. But let's not leave out the part that other students were not suspended for saying FUCK!!! This is obscene if you ask me. Of course the girl defied school rules and went ahead including the word vagina in their performance, but can you really blame them. Students can curse, but they can't say the name of a body part. I couldn't help but think the school authorities were acting like puppeteers by trying to control what the students say and do. Don't get me wrong, I understand certain rules apply at school but this seems like an attempt at extreme censorship--an adult audience and the girls could not say vagina. And as the video says, what if there were children attending, is it bad to hear the name of a body part. Maybe it's my liberal side but I think the girls did the right thing. Seriously...even the school board president commends what the girls did. Here's the link

Melissa Posa

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bjork | Robot Sex | Desire | Do Androids Dream of Electric {Sex}

Ace Eyegiene Detective Smorol checks in with a haunting video--a next-generation complement to one of our first posts.

From: sarah smorol
To: nericcio
Subject: Bjork and the Obscene Machine
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2007 21:49:05 -0800

Check out this video:

This Bjork video is based on humanoid robots and directly sexual content-One ends up asking ,do they really feel/enjoy this?, or: How far is a robotic receptive sensor from a physical human feeling? Both robots have human female anatomy(are women), and the title of the song is "All is Full of Love". Are these advanced robots experiencing a kind of love? It is curious to note also that the humanoids are constructed at the start of the video by other robots,(although more like something from a car factory),so the idea of creator or "string puller" is skewed. Interestingly, while the "women" kiss they are probed vaginally and simultaneously a probe massages their skull cavity or "brain". I think this fits in quite well with our ongoing Obscene Machine dialogues.

Salt of the Earth | Century of the Wind | Galeano

Earlier this semester in both our e493 and e725 seminars, we immersed ourselves in the works of Eduardo Galeano and his disturbingly beautiful Century of the Wind. Here's a posting from e725 secret agent Sarah Smorol that authors a cinematic riff off of Galeano's singular melody.

From: sarah smorol
To: Nericcio
Subject: RE: ENGL725-01
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 00:06:40 -0800

Hello Dr. N- here is another movie that relates

In Galeano's book one of the subjects that came up over and over again was Miners. Whatever was being mined (free tin?) and wherever it was done one thing was certain- people and their rights were being abused and taken advantage of for "someone" else's gain. In 1954's Salt of the Earth this issue was addressed, as well as exhibiting the strength of the Chicana wives and girlfriends of these men. This movie deals with a true story of zinc mine in New Mexico and was originally Banned in the US! After its eventual release it was added to the Library of Congress's 100 American films(short list!) being preserved. See this and more at imdb and pbs, links below.

An UPDATE that relates as well to Eduardo Galeano's fictions:

From: sarah smorol
To: nericcio
Subject: Plaza de Mayo
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2007 18:25:42 -0800

Dear Dr. N- I subscribe to spanish word of the day (as well as english word of the day) on The Spanish word of the day is often related to cultural or historical events, although at times it is something more simple. Today's word is as follows, and elucidates something about the plaza de Mayo that I didn't glean entirely from the book(Galeano) particularly, the naming of the square and the reasons behind it, as well as the estimated numbers of dead- as you know, we get an alarmingly small amount of global history in a US upbringing-

plaza de mayo, noun
All major cities have their iconic sites, such as Time Square and Red Square. One of the most famous places in Buenos Aires is la Plaza de Mayo, word for word: May Square. It stands downtown, in front of the presidential palace. It is called Plaza de Mayo because it was in May 1810 that the events which led to the independence of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia from Spain were set in motion.
In recent history it is, sadly, most famous for las madres de la Plaza de Mayo and las abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo - the mothers and grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. These are the mothers and grandmothers of los desaparecidos - the disappeared - the thousands of people who were murdered by the military regime in the late 1970s. As a protest they demonstrated silently in the Plaza de Mayo.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Back to Dolce and Gabbana

An E493 student checks in with an update to our earlier posting on Dolce & Gabbana's obscene machine ads:

From: Lindsay
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2007 18:16:05 EST
Subject: eng. 493 article!!
To: nericcio

Dolce & Gabbana Cancel Controversial Ad Campaign

Hi Professor,
I ran across this article and thought it was something that was appropriate for our film and literature class. It's a Dolce and Gabbana ad that is being pulled from their new campaign because it depicts a sort of "fantasy rape."

I thought it was fitting for our class when I saw it's mannequin-esque models. The designers are claiming it was just supposed to depict an erotic dream, but what is erotic or dreamy about this? Just the fact that the other men are standing around the two models on the ground makes it completely offensive to me, and I believe, all women. Also the way the man is holding her down by force makes me immediately associate it with violence and rape. Just thought it was something [the class might] be interested in...

--Lindsay Steinman

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Flor Garduño and Cristina Rivera-Garza

William A. Nericcio DRAFT

Mexican Eyegiene: Photography and the Novel in the Work of Cristina Rivera-Garza and Flor Garduño

“Matilda is constructing her paradise,” Cristina Rivera-Garza writes, and I am filled with dread. Rivera-Garza, like Vladimir Nabokov and Eduardo Galeano, and, like Luis Buñuel, devil sinematographer, is an arch-fiend of cruel irony and the “paradise” that her words etch onto our psyche will prove to be as comforting as “asylum” is in No One Will See Me Cry—that is, no comfort at all (218). “There are no eyes,” she continues, “fewer and fewer things to say.”
There are many details, but there is no plot at all to guide them or stop them or give them meaning. The ether, the façade of the theater, three stars crowning the waning quarter of the moon, the smile of a stranger, fragments of broken dolls. Nothing has significance…Tautology is the queen of her heart.”

We need assistance here. The Oxford Dictionary lends a hand: “Tautology, ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: via late Latin from Greek, from tautologos ‘repeating what has been said,’ from tauto- ‘same’ + -logos (see -logy ).” A “world of no eyes” lands Matilda in a vertiginous abyss of repetition, “a wristwatch is a wristwatch. A silk tunic is a silk tunic. The desert is just the desert.”

Stasis. Nothing moves. And as Matilda moves inexorably toward her mad fate, her decades-long imprisonment in a Mexican home for the insane, we move along with her, blindfolded, mumbling repetitions, trying to emerge from the labyrinth of mirrors (too many eyes and too much “I”) where Rivera-Garza, cruel and beautiful Cyclops leaves us.

Equally savvy, devilishly ironic, Flor Garduño treats us to a similar universe with her camera. Our eyes look quickly, somewhere and they see Gabriella in Gabriella (Mexico 1999)—we come face to face with beauty and sentience and mystery: is the veil an accessory, an adornment, or, perhaps, a shield, a means to a veiling that intends to hide a secret.

But the eyes cannot stop, Garduño’s prints exert a gentle but insistant gravity and so, no tautology, Gabriella reveals more as Gabriella reveals more—they are not the same thing--the model is not the work; the work is not the model.

Gabriella reveals Gabriella’s breasts or, again, not a tautology, Gabriella reveals Gabriella’s breasts. And, of course, tautology or not, both statements come up short because it is Garduño’s camera that has made this encounter possible, Garduño’s eye or eyes as well. And then there's the problem of the model, Gabriella, who is, as the introduction to Garduño's Inner Light tells us, more an actress than a posed mannequin; more an agent than a statue.

And, lest we forget, Rivera-Garza’s writing hand and eye for eyes must come on stage now for a bow: without Matilda, without the tragedy of her captivity outside witnessing, without voyeur, in a place where “there are no eyes,” would we have been able to have seen Gabriella and Gabriella at all.

The paradox of a novel that teaches us to see a photograph and of a book of photographs that will, like Rivera-Garza’s novel, change the way we see Mexico forever.

Works Cited

Rivera-Garza, Cristina. No One Will See Me Cry (Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 2003.

Garduño, Flor. Inner Light: Still Lifes and Nudes (Boston: Bulfinch/Little Brown, 2002).

It's Wednesday, So That Must Mean Cutrufello's in the House

Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2007 13:37:29 -0500
Subject: Looks like we should have been taking Larry's sf course all
From: Gabriel Cutrufello
To: Bill Nerricio
Thread-Topic: Looks like we should have been taking Larry's sf course all

Hi Bill,

It's Spring Break here in Philadelphia. That means it is snowing, and I can only get enough courage up to head down the block to get some coffee. Perhaps, I should just send my robot to the library today to get research done, but I have some ethical reservations about abusing this sentient entity. Thanks to the South Korean government, we'll have some guidelines pretty soon.


Buñuel Screening at La Jolla's MCASD

E725 correspondent Raul checks in with a quick tip:

Subject: Luis Buñuel
Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2007 23:51:19 -0500
From: Raul


This movie by Buñuel would relate well to the E725 [and E493].

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo Cruz/ Ensayo de un Crimen (1955)

Maybe we could even watch a small clip of it in class--[among other things, Buñuel's opus has various scenes of] foot fetishism and mannequins.


Lastly, a quick reminder to e493 and e725 students that the film screening of Buñuel's Belle de jour is THIS Thursday at 7pm.

Martín Ramírez and Cristina Rivera-Garza

Just a pointer here to the Tex[t]-Mex Galleryblog where I have posted a piece on Richard Rodriguez and Martín Ramírez--in particular, you might want to research the work of Ramirez, whose life history dovetails nicely with the asylum settings depicted in Mexican novelist Cristina Rivera-Garza's No One Will See Me Cry. There's a detailed, additional illustrated piece on Ramírez at Antiques and the Arts Online.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Verisimilitude, Pulp Fiction, Three Dimensions and Romance

In the spirit of Humberto Eco (arch textual fetishist extraordinaire--see The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana),* Artist Thomas Allen combines a deft, artistic command of the x-acto knife with a sage deviant's love and understanding of all that is priceless in the realm of pulp fiction--a world where garish colors, tragic romance, science fiction, and the underworld merge into a concoction worthy of some odd tryste of Edgar Allen Poe, Lou Von Salome, and Sigmund Freud as lensed by Quentin Tarantino. The ironies of ironies here, of course, is that Miller has to destroy the objects of his love in order to create facsimiles that are more true, or, at the very least, more "alive" than the original. As the curators at his host Foley Gallery put it (twice): "Allen gently cuts around the shape of his figures, physically releasing them from their two dimensional surface. They are brought to life from their pages and covers with detailed lighting and a thin focus. Pulled and positioned, their intended drama comes to life." Holy Frankenstein, Batman! Ersatz figures "brought to life" from the paper covers of novels. This is a Borgesian wet dream without equal!

*devotees of Eco will find a nice interview with his translator here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Melting Mothers, Cigarettes, and "the Truth"

E493 diva, Bridget O'Meara, weighs in with a critique and a movie. What do you think????

Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007 11:15:20 -0800 (PST)
From: Bridget
Subject: The Truth

Hi Nericcio!

I saw something on TV that was quite offensive, or if
you will, obscene. It was slightly reminiscent of the
video of the gigantic marionette girl you showed us
earlier in the year. Not everyone will see me eye to
eye on this, but I think all can agree that this
commercial, in the very least, is disturbing.
The Truth (you know, the anti-smoking campaign) came
out with a commercial that, on first glance, I thought
was an anti-abortion advertisement. Their whole point
is that over 30 children a day lose their moms to
smoking. But the impression the commercial gives is
that female smokers kill their babies (and, as for
themselves, melt away like the Wicked Witch). The way
The Truth chooses to portray smokers as 'ice cold' is
pretty twisted.

I find it rather upsetting because I have a good
friend whose mother died from smoking-related cancer,
and I hope he never sees this. His mother was not an
object that one day just dissolved without a sound or

Here is the link or watch it just below...

Bridget O'Meara

Temple University Robotics Graduate Student Checks in Again!

Our East Coast correspondent, Gabe "iRobot" Cutrufello just can't stop himself when it comes to dispatches for the ObsceneMachine Blog, especially when it comes to a tale that weaves his twin fetishes: one literary, Philip K. Dick; the other, er, cyborgic, robots! Here's Cutrufello's piece, hot off the presses:

Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2007 01:15:33 -0500
Subject: Ok, Ok, I'll stop I promise...
From: Gabriel Cutrufello
To: Bill Nerricio

Hi Bill,

It may come as no shock to you that what graduate students like to do at 1AM is look for information about the Philip K. Dick android project. This is slightly old news (about two years ago), but Hanson Robotics created an android Philip K. Dick. Check out the way in which they create the interactive personality: "IIS will create the artificial intelligence personality of the robot by mathematically deriving it from Dick's life and works in a manner very similar to that described by Dick himself in his book We Can Build You (published in 1964)." Here are two links: one and two.

And here is a really great picture of the PKD simulacra with the back of its head removed:



PS – I read the post on the Doctor Who Cybermen (really great). Being the sf fanboy/”scholar” that I like to imagine myself, I have to recommend the new Battlestar Galactica and its take on the Cylon (its version of the simulacra).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

CYBERMEN and Doctor Who

Ana Aguila Reyes beams down with a sci-fi posting of no little interest for obscene machine devotees:

From: Ana Aguila Reyes
Subject: question
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2007 14:20:58 -0800
To: b. nericcio

Hi, professor. A while back I had a conversation with a friend about sickness and our bodies. The question of Why we were made so fragile came up. For anybody who has had an illness or has known someone who is sick, we sometimes wish we were made of some other material other than flesh in order to avoid pain and suffering. In my conversation metal came to our minds. What if humans were made of metal? No more sickness. Linking this type of thought to the reading on Rita Hayward, it seems that people try to escape from they’re problems by becoming someone or something else. The excuses are endless.

One of my favorite sci-fi shows, Doctor Who, brought this theme up in one of their shows with the Cybermen. The Cybermen were once human like us but have received the ultimate upgrade. Their human brains welded into their cybernetic bodies which have been adapted so that the Cybermen are utterly devoid of emotion.

Here’s a clip of the Cybermen:

... and a photo as well!

Courtney Yip Checks in With a Question for the Class...

From: Courtney Yip
To: bill nericcio
Subject: for the blog!

Hey Bill! Being a film major, you may understand why I immediately thought of a movie after talking about the use of shit in Eco's wonderful book. Babel is another flick that would be great to talk about in our class (especially since it directly involves the tijuana/san diego illegal immigrant stereotypes, along with many more). There is a scene that Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett share after she has been shot by one of the two young Moroccan children (a whole other story). Before this moment, this husband and wife have been arguing and not getting along at all. Towards the end of the film it looks like she may not survive, and she turns to Pitt and says, "I peed myself". They smile for the first time with each other, and she says that she has to go again. Pitt brings a pan over to her and since she can barely sit up, they embrace and hold each other in this moment of true love. As she pees, she finally looks into his eyes, as if remembering everything that was truly important (as if her peeing was a reminder of the basics in life - bodily functions, her husband, love ...) She cries and tells him she loves him. Really moving.

I was amazed at this scene. You truly have to see it to understand what the director Inarritu was trying to convey, perhaps along the same lines as Eco: shit and piss, memory and love. Does anyone agree with me, who has seen this film?

- Courtney Yip

some photos can be seen here, here, and here.