Virtual Graduation

Virtual graduation is kind of lame if I’m being honest. Of course, I understand that the school is doing everything they can to give us graduation and they are obviously trying to find ways to celebrate the senior class, but this is all a very underwhelming. Taking photos in my backyard by myself with an empty diploma folder felt ingenuine and unsatisfying. I was really looking forward to graduating with all my friends and having an actual ceremony. I don’t think I even want to attend virtual graduation. Watching a slideshow in my bedroom for “graduation” seems kind of pointless. Also, I have no idea what virtual graduation even entails as the administration hasn’t told the seniors anything about it. Maybe they just haven’t figured it out yet. The school year for seniors ends on June 5th, but it truly ended the day we left school in March. As I’m sure many seniors can agree, this time is frustrating and kind of sad. We should be enjoying time with our friends right now, going on senior experience, finding prom dresses, and slacking off in class. It’s the senior rite of passage. We really just got the short end of the stick, but what can you do? There’s a global pandemic happening.

Film Analysis For Techne Showcase: The Final Scene in “Ex-Machina” *big spoilers*

Ex Machina (2014) - IMDb

Ex Machina was released in 2015 and was directed by Alex Garland. The philosophical film explores the potential implications of fully conscious artificial intelligence. The movie follows a week in the life of AI fanatic and computer scientist Caleb Smith (played by Domhnall Gleeson) and his short-term intern Nathan Bateman (played by Oscar Isaac). Nathan was selected to perform the Turing test on one of Caleb’s newest robots, Ava (played by Alicia Vikander). This is particularly exciting to Nathan considering this is the first conscious robot he’s encountered. Early on in the movie Ava tells Nathan that if she could leave the room she’s existed in since her creation, she would stand in a “busy pedestrian and traffic intersection in a city,” (00:40:00). She explains that this is because it would allow her to observe “a concentrated but shifting view of human life,” (00:40:30). Ava’s goal is to escape captivity and live among other conscious human beings. At the very end of the film Ava escapes. She is finally able to live out her dream of standing in a traffic intersection.

There are no words in this final scene of the film (1:42:04-1:42:49 in the full movie or 3:00-3:31 in the YouTube clip ). There is a simple chime-like instrumental in the background. The scene starts off with a blank sidewalk intersection but it quickly fills with people; some walking alone, some walking in groups, some holding hands. The point of view is Ava’s. However, the scene begins upside down so that people’s shadows are upright and are the focal point of the frame. Then Ava’s shadow comes into frame. Her shadow stands still for a few seconds. The frame then shifts to a close-up of Ava’s actual face. She looks around the crowded street inquisitively. She then walks out of frame and merges with the rest of the bustling city. 

This is one of the most powerful moments in the film. The continuity from beginning to end allows the audience to visualize Ava’s dream of “people-watching” in the city. The lack of speech and eerie instrumental create an uneasy yet adventurous ambiance. The shadowy silhouettes add an unsettling element of mystery. When Ava’s face comes into frame she looks no different than anyone around her due to her realistic exterior, which was made to perfectly mimic that of a female human. It is clear by her facial expressions that she is equally overwhelmed, curious, and excited about her new life outside Caleb’s laboratory. Ava’s exit out of the frame marks the end of her life as a lab-rat and the beginning of her unpredictable journey of living among other humans. This scene is not only symbolic of the start of a new life for Ava, but also symbolizes that conscious AI is indistinguishable from a conscious human.

Blog #67: Marcuse? Polo!

Read Wolff pages 283-288 Marcuse and the Uses of Negation

Herbert Marcuse - Wikipedia
Herbert Marcuse

1. After reading this section, using Marcuse’s theory of art, answer Wolff’s question “what is positive about being negative?” 

I guess what Marcuse means by “negative” is what society deems to be wrong or against the norm. He sees the “negative” as a positive because it gives humans a break from the rigid order of everyday life and allows them to indulge in their desires.

2. How are repression/sublimation involved in the making of any kind of art? 

We often repress certain desires because they are not socially acceptable. However, we can’t just eliminate our desires; they simply get redirected into more acceptable actions (sublimation). Art comes from the desires that we feel like we need to push down or dull. The most meaningful and impactful works of art, according to Marcuse, are those that highlight our inherent desires.

3. What is the role of surplus repression in making art? 

People are constantly repressing (and sometimes consciously suppressing) their desires in order to fit in. When something does the opposite, like a provocative piece of art, it can feel liberating. Art gives humans the much-needed break from always trying do the right thing. People are finally able to engage in something outside of their everyday reality and fulfill both their repressed and suppressed desires.

4. How does Marcusian transcendence differ from Platonic transcendence? 

Plato defined transcendence as “the passing from this world of space, time, and objects to a higher eternal realm of forms or ideal entities,” (Wolff). Marcuse saw it differently, however. He believed that transcendence allowed people to go beyond our “one-dimensional” society and engage in a liberating showcase of our desires and energies. Transcendence, according to Marcuse, allowed people to feel happiness and relief.

5.What is the “gap,” Marcuse references in his quoted writing? 

Marcuse saw the “gap” as a threshold that exists between everyday rigid reality and liberating art. However, he believed that the advancing technological society was causing the gap to close. It seems as though he thought that society was over analyzing art and trying to make it fit certain standards. Perhaps Marcuse thought that people were labeling art in a restrictive way (pricing it, expecting it to do something specific, etc.). Often times in today’s society, art has to adhere to certain standards (complementary colors, correct proportions, sufficient negative space, etc.). However, Marcuse wanted art to be the exact opposite. He wanted it to be limitless and allow for creativity and indulgence. Perhaps he described the gap as a closing one because he believed that society was absorbing art into the world of rigid structure.

Blog #66: We’re not as special as we think

Watch the following video and reflect upon and describe two moments (2) in your life when you think you experienced Burke’s version of the sublime. 

The first time I climbed a mountain in California

This was an example of the Sublime because I felt entirely insignificant, but not in a negative way. This was my first time hiking alone and my first time climbing a mountain in California. I was pretty high up, or at least high up enough where everything looked like Monopoly houses on a gameboard. Being so high up, barely able to see people walking down below, made my problems feel unimportant. Knowing there were so many other people down there in their houses dealing with their own problems felt liberating. I realized, well I must look tiny to the people below, standing here on this mountain. To them, my problems were insignificant. It really put things into perspective for me and reminded me that I shouldn’t take things too seriously. There’s much more beyond the thoughts in my head. I’m not the only person going through stuff.

The first time I heard the saying “thoughts are nothing but thoughts”

I was reading one of my self-help books “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson and there was this one chapter about how our thoughts are not necessarily our reality. Thoughts are just things we think up in our brains. That may not be particularly groundbreaking to most people, but to me it was. I often get so wrapped up in the thoughts in my head that it ends up affecting me negatively. Realizing that our thoughts are just these insignificant ideas floating around in our brains allowed me to slow down. There’s a whole reality out there beyond my panicky brain. My thoughts about how I’m gonna get a bad grade on my essay or about how I won’t like my college roommate are nothing but THOUGHTS. Our thoughts are such small things in this great big world of reality.

Blog #65: #SYJGMIAFBY (Sometimes you just gotta meditate in a field by yourself)

Blog 65: Where am I at right now part III. How are you coping with the world around you? What do you reach for to help you through? Post something funny or heartwarming you have found that helps you manage your day-to-day in this new so-very-not-normal. 

I’m doing a lot better. I took the week off for “spring break” and didn’t do any homework and instead dedicated my time to things I needed to get done for college (finding a roommate, signing contracts, writing essays for housing applications, etc.) I’ve also started doing yoga and meditating which has been helpful. When I’m bored or lonely I try to find a project to start, whether that’s cleaning out a junk drawer or having a group facetime call with friends. I even wrote a poem about scrambled eggs the other day. I’ve also taken up vegan baking. In all honesty, the brownies I made the other day were an atrocity, but I’m getting there.

Something funny I saw the other day was some guy sitting outside on this structure behind my house. Meditating (I think?). He was just sitting there smoking a cigarette staring at the trees for like an hour or so. He was so noticeable too because he was on this giant block in the middle of an open field. All these people kept going by and pointing at him but he just sat there and blocked everything out. I thought it was pretty badass that he didn’t care what anyone thought. It was so representative of social distancing too. He was just on his own, on this little island. Just doing his thing.

Here’s a picture I took when I was on my way home from my run and saw him.

Here’s my poem about scrambled eggs. (I used to make them every weekend when I was little)

My tiny feet pattered down the carpeted stairs

A noise just loud enough to wake up Mom before the sun came up

I couldn’t wait

Scrambled eggs

With salt and pepper and sometimes garlic powder

I don’t remember now 

If it was Mom or Dad who taught me

Regardless,

I was always stuck picking eggshells out of egg yolks

I always preferred to use a whisk

Mom and Dad though,

They could beat the eggs with a three-pronged fork

And fast too

The whisk made me feel special though

Like my overcooked, slightly-browned scrambled eggs were something worth waiting for

Blog #64: A debate between two stubborn philosophical legends

Blog 64: Write a dialogue between Plato and Aristotle over a piece of art (it can be a painting, photograph, scene from a play, a film, or a piece of music). Present it as a Socratic style dialectic dialogue. Demonstrate your grasp of Plato’s and Aristotle’s differing views of the value of art in your dialogue. (It should be long enough to (1) discuss the art you choose to debate over, and, (2) demonstrate your understanding of their philosophical positions on art).

Aristotle: How beautiful this scene is, Plato

Plato: How can you enjoy this sort of imitation. This is nothing more than a copy of a copy. This measly actor is copying a human’s behavior and then you’re watching it on your television which is another level removed. You silly weasel. You’re being fooled.

Aristotle: I am aware that this film isn’t my reality, Plato. Gather yourself. It’s about what the scene represents. Poor boy’s sitting by the fire reflecting on a loved one he’s lost to another woman. How can you not feel his pain in your heart? Have you never experienced true love or loss?

Plato: Why distract yourself from the concrete reality with this nonsense? This is pointless. Why are you trying to live vicariously through this actor? It’s nothing but a dangerous illusion.

Aristotle: Sometimes it’s nice to know that these feelings we all feel so deeply are universal, my friend. To know that we all experience pain and love and sadness. That we find comfort in fires. It’s almost an escape…

Plato: …AN ESCAPE FROM REALI…

Aristotle: …Let me finish. It’s not that I get lost in the movie or absorbed into the acting or think that I am Elio or… I guess Timothee Chalamet. It’s simply a form of catharsis to view this type of thing. It makes me feel less alone. 

Plato: But if you keep watching this folly, you’re just going to end up missing out on real life.

Aristotle: Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break from ordinary, everyday life things, Plato. Just enjoy yourself. Allow yourself to appreciate this art and get distracted from time to time. Admire the beauty of his acting and feel the emotion in his watery eyes. There’s more to life than thinking so hard about reality.

Plato: That’s because you’re ignorant!

Aristotle: Perhaps I’m just more open-minded than you are…

Plato: There’s not a point in being open-minded about those kinds of things.

Blog #63: A Elmer’s Glue Bottle

Blog #63: Make a frame out of four pieces of similar material (e.g. four rulers, four sticks, four broom handles, four pencils).  Pick something around the house, or around the yard and “frame” it with your four similar materials. Take a picture of it and put it on your blog. Explain why this is art.  (Yes, we are moving into Aesthetics and Axiology).

“A Bottle of Glue”

This seemingly ordinary bottle of multi-purpose Elmer’s glue may not seem like much at first glance, but in reality, it is art. The orange and blue juxtapose one another as they are opposites on the color wheel. Because of these complementary hues, the bottle is very pleasing to look at. In addition, the clear bottle allows one to see the glue inside the plastic vessel, an excellent marketing tactic. The white goo acts as a sort of canvas for the colorful label. In addition, the font isn’t overwhelming and is easy to read. The orange cap atop the bottle ties in the orange on the label creating a cohesive piece. Even better, this work of art is three-dimensional allowing a spectator to not only see the art but feel the art. Furthermore, the bottle is practical. The glue inside can be excreted and viewed more closely than it can be when it’s within the barriers of its container. In addition, the glue can be used for crafts, thus creating a chain of art and endless possibilities.

Blog #62: A Virtual Q&A with Olivia

Olivia’s techne was tailoring and upcycling clothing. Overall, she’s made great progress and is improving every day. It’s so exciting to see her ideas coming to life and seeing the things that she creates and alters. She’s always had a great sense of style and I love how she’s able to combine her creativity with her love of fashion using her techne.

What is going well?

So I was able to take in a pair of shorts that I had bought from goodwill a while ago, I always planned to take them in so they fit but I finally did and they actually came out really well, I was worried the stitches and hemline would look really messy but I surprised myself with how clean the lines were. The shorts now fit perfectly so that was really exciting.

What is difficult?

Sewing is definitely hard, I have been watching youtube tutorials and looking up stitching methods and learning how they are used. It’s definitely gonna take some time to get comfortable but I’ve made a lot of progress, I have yet to find a sewing machine but that’s fine.

What are you working on this week?

This week I wanna take in more shorts and skirts maybe, those are much easier than pants to work with so I think it’s good to have some practice with that before I move onto more difficult projects. I also wanna practice my stitching, when I was younger I used to do a lot of embroidery with cross stitching so I might pick up on doing that again as a way to practice precision.

How much progress are you making?

I’d say I’m making a fair amount of progress, I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve so far and I’m excited to come up with more creative ideas like the sweatshirt I made rather than just tailoring clothes. It’s a really good skill to have but I also wanna use it as an outlet for creativity.

Below I have attached images of the shorts that she took in. They look awesome.

Blog #61: Oh… so this is ACTUALLY prison :)

Blog 61: Read the rest of Foucault’s Panopticism pdf from page 6…”Bentham’s Panopticism,” to page 13 (the end).

Answer the following:

  • What does this reading remind you of in your daily lives? In what ways are you under constant surveillance? List as many as you can think of.

This reminds me of how everyone is kind of keeping everyone in check. If neighbors look our their window and see groups of people or even just one person out of place like on a playground or on a basketball court, they call the cops. The police are posted strategically around my neighborhood park right now making sure everyone is following social distancing rules. My parents are paying extra attention to my whereabouts and I am no longer allowed to leave the house (and obviously it’s the law).

  • How is Panopticism good for society during a pandemic? How is it not good for a society during a pandemic?

It’s helpful because people are encouraged to isolate themselves and stay away from those who are obviously infected. However, Panopticism assumes that everyone will want to follow the rules and that the consequences of not doing so will be enough to deter rule-breakers, but the response to COVID-19 has proven that is not always the case. People are still hanging out in groups and being careless. Everyone doesn’t feel equally powerful and accounted for because those who are isolated grow increasingly frustrated with those who keep prolonging the isolation period and allowing the virus to spread.

  • What ethical systems are involved in panopticism? 

Utilitariansim: Regardless of people’s intentions in dealing with a virus, it is ultimately about the conequences of their actions and the well being of the greater good (principle of utility)

  • What mechanisms of resistance exist against a Panoptic society?

-Lack of progress

-Reduced to its ideal form, any complications or non-compliances can ruin the entire structure

-Poor and imprisoned suffer more

-Lack of freedom

Blog #60: Attention span…”oh look a dog”… is improving

Blog 60–Techne Check–How are you doing? What are challenges? What has helped you work towards developing your techne?

My techne: watching more movies and improving my understanding of them. I also want to work on improving my attention span and appreciation for film in general.

I’m doing a lot better with my techne since I have more time on my hands. I watch maybe a movie a day sometimes more sometimes less; it just depends on my workload. I won’t go into too much detail about all the movies and films I’ve watched because there’s a lot (yay), but I’ll talk about some of my favorites so far.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) Directed by Anthony Minghella

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) - IMDb

This movie was over 2 hours (2:19:00) which is something that a couple of weeks ago never would’ve voluntarily subjected myself to. However, I was actually excited to watch it. Watching all these movies and being isolated has really improved my attention span and patience. A couple of days before watching The Talented Mr. Ripley I watched Good Will Hunting which also stars Matt Damon (who I unfortunately still confuse with Leonardo Dicaprio but I’m working on that!) The movie was beautifully made and had a really captivating plot which kept me engaged basically the entire time. One of my challenges during movie watching is using my phone. I guess there isn’t really anything wrong with that, but I’m probably missing important details of the movie. Maybe the next movie I watch, I won’t check my phone for its entirety.

The Platform (2019/2020) Directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

The Platform (2019) - IMDb

This movie was a huge breakthrough for me. Even though it was only an hour and a half which was within my comfort zone, it was one of the more challenging movies I’ve tried to tackle thus far. It was in Spanish so I hardly understood a word. I did turn on the English subtitles, but I had to really pay attention to know what was going on. I hated the first thirty minutes and even turned it off not intending on finish it. However, after talking to Jeanie, one of the people who’s been helping me on this movie journey (she’s going to film school in the fall!!), I decided to finish the movie. The movie was extremely gruesome and had some scenes with cannibalism which was incredibly difficult for me to watch considering I’m afraid of blood lol. However, toward the middle, the underlying message became clear to me. I’ve always had trouble figuring out the meaning behind movies, but I think I’m getting better at it! I won’t spoil it though, in case you decide to watch it.

P.S. I watched Extremis on Netflix the other week. It was about end of life care and the ethics behind it. It was a 20-minute documentary. Maybe your philosophy class next year could watch it 🙂 How is your bagpipe techne going?

Extremis (2016) - IMDb

Update: Same day, but I watched the Fundamentals of Caring (about an hour and a half) without using my phone once. I’d already seen it, but still! Progress!! 🙂 🙂

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