- Salience at a Glance
Summary: Global Gilligan is screwed. Probabilistically speaking, of course.
Salient points of current intractability, following the Rule of Three’s:
(*) Anthropogenic global climate change and ecocide
(*) Permanent war
A modest drill down of each point:
(*) Anthropogenic global climate change and ecocide; a continued deterioration of the habitat and habitat resources due to industrialization (e.g. carbon energy extraction & transport, hydraulic fracturing, mountain top removal, big agriculture, CO2 emissions, toxic waste disposal, general pollution); rising CO2 levels; acidification of large water systems; glacial erosion; rising global temperatures; rising sea levels; increasingly protracted and extreme weather events; deforestation; soil contamination and deterioration; mass extinction; invasive species proliferation; increases in novel epidemiological disease events; all of which is wed to zero-sum habitat competition, population dislocation,
refugee migration, immigration policy contraction; which is accompanied by a retreat into fundamentalism: religious, luddism, technocratic, market, nativism, xenophobia, tribal alienation, and the narcissism of small differences…
(*) Neoliberalism fed by the rapacious excesses of predatory capitalism, austerity, globalization, outsourcing, offshoring, massive inequality, deregulation, resource exhaustion, endless repetition of boom-bust cycles, jobless recoveries, socialized risk for privatized profits, wealth contraction that is funneled upwards, privatization of public infrastructure, monetary and fiscal policy malfeasance and/or incompetence, legislative and regulatory malfeasance and/or incompetence; all of which is wed to zero-sum habitat competition, population dislocation,
refugee migration, immigration policy contraction; which is accompanied by a retreat into fundamentalism: religious, luddism, technocratic, market, nativism, xenophobia, tribal alienation, and the narcissism of small differences…
(*) Permanent war, erosion of treaty obligations and civil law (e.g. Geneva Convention Treaties, UN Security Council Resolutions, NDAA, War Powers Act, Patriot Act, Constitutional guarantees); weapon and surveillance proliferation; extra-constitutional domestic security and surveillance; market instigated instability both abroad and within the homeland; extrajudicial executions both abroad and within the homeland;
escalation of cyber warfare,
WMD proliferation and the looming potential for accident; non-human agency in espionage, surveillance, profiling, data mining, and archiving; escalated development, proliferation, and deployment of lethal, autonomous weapon systems where non-human agency will increase in target selection, acquisition, and go/no go decision capacity; all of which is wed to targeted assignation, zero-sum habitat competition, population dislocation,
refugee migration, immigration policy contraction, which is accompanied by a retreat into fundamentalism: religious, luddism, technocratic, market, nativism, xenophobia, tribal alienation, and the narcissism of small differences…
The salients are interconnected within a web of cause-and-effect rapport. Their impacts on human behavior have overlap, and yet, the existence of these problems, let alone a determination of the cause-and-effect, has become an exercise of indifference among the elite.
Take away: We are at an inflection point where tribal alienation and the narcissism of small differences is interacting with, and being driven by, global planetary forces, neoliberalism, and endless war and domestic pacification (draconian security and surveillance).
Recommendation: Do what you must with all the intention you can muster. It maybe time to confront the possibility of a dead end, perfect storm in the making. Perhaps, the magic ten percent will survive? Who can say for sure? Survival has always been a probabilistic dice roll. It may always be so. I will put the storm & stress to a 12 bar blues.
- Utopia Buzzkill
or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love To Feel Your Pain
CO2 reading for August 20, 2016: 400.42 ppm at Mauna Loa. https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/
The horizon has gathered itself, and delivers its relentless furies to us. The human species is in the process of becoming an externality in Nature’s spreadsheet. The technological developments that humanity has cultivated and unleashed in the era of mass industrialization, usually without discourse or transparency as to efficacy, safety, or long term effects, has brought us to the vantage point where we can legitimately consider the potential for a vanishing point. We offer up the public commons, the non-human world, and the systems of life support alike, to the myopic vagaries of proprietary, human expediency.
Strictly speaking, the imaginative powers of the human species has been the primary engine that has made the intangible manifestly tangible. Moreover, this has been brought about through collective effort which tends to revolve around the following coarse grained view: Extraction, Harvesting, Refinement, Manufacturing, Distribution, Markets, Speculation, and Public Relations. Our activities of increasing abstraction cannot shed nor bury the physical connection and hold reality casts upon us — though, we separate ourselves more and more from reality, and each other. The market and media are ultimately atomizing forces for divide and conquer. Thus, we treat our habitat as a resource for profitable exploitation, not a home, nor a partner, nor an eco-system of robustness that can be made fragile and moribund. This is the first, and most important step one takes in the dehumanization of self, and then its outward projection. It is the sickness that infects a large and growing fraction of the human species.
The Market, a quasi apocalyptic force itself — boom-bust cycles, jobless recovery cycles, product displacement cycles, downward wage pressures, etc. — is the ideological framework that organizes so much of human activity. It is a fiction, architected from collective imagination, made into non-fiction reality. The fiat monetary system emerges in much the same way. Determination of value, also, emerges in much the same way. It is important to remember, much of our activities are structured around fictional architectures made from collective, human imagination. The complexity that emerges is the stuff of superstition and religion; ideological sectarianism is one of many human blind spots that plagues non-peasant and non-nomadic human culture.
Since our lives are attuned to the realization of imaginary forces, this also gives us a measure of control, and paradoxically, a measure of hopelessness, as these forces bring us suffering and a nearly intractable inertia once they take root. From human imagination we create institutions and ideologies of monstrous proportions and inertial vectors. Ideology is both handmaiden and outcome of hegemonic institutions, and likewise, hegemonic institutions are both handmaiden and outcome of ideology. One cannot thrive without the other, thus ideology and hegemony are wed together in western culture.
The desire for, and necessity of, apocalyptic outcry is driven to a certain degree from living within institutional forces that have a dehumanizing effect upon our lives. And because of institutional inertia, an inertia we collectively create and maintain, we see no means of repair, redress, nor improvement. Legacy becomes the stranglehold that trumps our will and imagination. As Fredric Jameson wrote in “Future City”: “Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. We can now revise that and witness the attempt to imagine capitalism by way of imagining the end of the world.”
Policy makers, specialists, corporate interests, speculative market forces, industrialization, etc. have essentially run amok. That is to say, the general population has the distasteful fate of serving the continued propagation and position of dominance of these institutions, in a disproportional rapport to the ability of these institutions to serve the needs of our humanity. From the perspective of the cultural west, there is a confluence of six hegemonic forces that have congealed into a unitary: Political, Economic, Media, Technological, Military, and Religion. Other hegemonic forces that play a role in this brew are science, education, medicine, and public relations. There are other ways to slice this, both finer grained and less meta-oriented, and there are other institutional forces in play, but the aforementioned forces are empirically verifiable. The means to observe their organizing unification is through their behavior in matters of existential crisis: war. It is in matters of war that we can observe that they become a reinforced collective for which lines of demarcation blur. Furthermore, they become the primary forces for which war is waged, and the spoils of the exercise, absorbed back into the culture.
To answer Jameson’s conundrum, to envision a post-capitalism world, one must envision a post-political, post-economic, post-media, post-technological, post-military, and post-religion world. One must see a means of loosening their death-grip upon us, and undo the ideological framework they place upon our worldview. This would be fairly easy if these ideologies and institutions offered few payloads of virtue or efficacy. But, they offer, to put it in the parlance of the day: a mixed blessing. To tease out the virtue from the flaw may not be possible. Throwing out babies with their bathwater, tends toward the violent and reductionist, and candidly, propagates the human condition among a different fashion du jour. What changes are the cult-of-personality, not the human condition.
Regardless, to address the problem of capital and political-economy, for which much of the current crises rests upon, it is not simply capital that has a hegemonic stranglehold upon mass culture, it is the interleaved institutional forces that have mass culture in an intractable bind. If our political structures weren’t teetering on collapse, one could argue that these ideological, institutional forces could be rehabilitated. It would require constant rehabilitation so they may satisfy one very important, primary concern: are they serving us, all of us, including nature, or are we serving them, disproportionately so?
Problematically, our political structures are in decline, perhaps teetering on collapse. They are showing a lack of resilience brought about by neoliberalism and a permanent war economy. A permanent war economy twists and ultimately distorts reality beyond the point of rehabilitation for any cultural that thrives under its spell. Add into this mix that we live under the shadow of a growing global planetary crises for which our political-economy essentially ignores, and it is easy to become confident of a brutal outcome.
Hence, our political-economy does not invite exercises in civil rehabilitation. The political climate sweeping the west especially, is a climate of growing misery that suggests the servicing of our institutions and their ideologies are reaching a tipping point of the proverbial house-of-cards. If the current crisis cannot be turned around, we face either physical apocalypse brought about by nature’s corrective power, or the intellectual, emotional, spiritual impairment of our species — and with it, our means of understanding and articulating ourselves and the reality we have heretofore, thrived in. As a species, we may disappear into a noisy, jabbering but ultimately, mute silence, whether we are rendered so by nature, or by bread and circuses.
We have found ourselves in a sort of contemporary dark age. The stakes have never been higher. Events are in the driver seat, and we are being overtaken by them. This is not particularly new or unique in human history, except that the scale and scope of the problem has never been larger. It is the scale and scope that makes the situation dire.
And so, it is from here, that I breathe a stoic, primitive yawp into the face of the de facto inevitable. A blues howl, of sorts. Twelve bars and a cloud of dust… best regards to ROS and their guests on this series.
Apocalypse Now?, Part 2: A Remade Man
Our apocalypse series began one week ago with one grim vision of the future. What if our machines managed to take control of their own code? If they began to self-regulate, even self-replicate? It’s an imaginable scenario—but one that’s still far off in the future.
But it sounds familiar in the biotech capital of Boston/Cambridge. Messing with our own code: that’s exactly what we human machines are up to, right now and more and more, in labs across this city and around the world. Thanks to a number of scientific breakthroughs—in particular, the editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9—have made possible the manipulation of multiple genetic “sites,” in the service of eliminating genes that harm or hinder—or even to introduce genes that remake, strengthen, and speed up the species, or big parts of it.
The science-minded animators at Kurzgesagt have taken on CRISPR, and why it is being treated as a kind of genetic Holy Grail—or point of no return:
This show is prompted by the incredible pace of progress, and also by some fretting about what the unlocking of the genome might do. We’re inspired to live alongside George Church, the super-confident Harvard scientist behind some of CRISPR’s wildest possibilities: including reprogramming or ridding the world of malarial mosquitoes, reversing aging, and rescuing the woolly mammoth from extinction.
Church—bearded, striking—knows he’s presiding over a revolution, and speaks, to be fair, in terms of numerous safeguards against the apocalyptic possibilities.
But our guests, writer/physician Siddhartha Mukherjee and the philosopher Michael Sandel, remind us that tomorrow’s biotechnology will have an almost unimaginable capacity to surprise, that there may be Robert Oppenheimers among the genetic Edisons.
Mukherjee refers us to the 1905 prophesy of the Mendelian biologist William Bateson, who said:
“The science of heredity will soon provide power on a stupendous scale; and in some country… that power will be applied to control the composition of a nation.”
That may mean the revival of eugenics on a 21st-century, pay-to-play model. Does that make it OK?
We close with Pardis Sabeti, the biologist at the center of the Ebola fight of 2014. That wasn’t an apocalypse, but it was a serious cataclysm: a horrifying, hemorrhagic virus attacking a third-world healthcare system and against, for too long, global sluggishness and indifference. Sabeti says she works by day and worries at night on the prospect of a manmade superbug—Ebola set loose in the air.
Sabeti’s lab at the Broad Institute, like George Church’s, is full of brilliant postdocs pipetting solvents, running centrifuges, all in the service of reading and writing genomes. But in some ways, she’s playing a prudent, even heroic kind of defense to the bioengineers’ offense: trying to make the virus extinct, but without any concept of transhumanism.
Sabeti paid tribute to Dr. Sheikh Humarr Khan, who finally died of Ebola after months of tireless work with more than 80 infected patients at Kenema Government Hospital. If there’s to be hope of global readiness for a biopocalypse—a dreadful attack on human bodies, exploiting weaknesses in our genes or in our governments—it’s going to hang on ordinary human hands and hearts, like Dr. Khan’s.
Watch our guest Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Gene, discuss the genetic theater of the Rio Olympics:
Apocalypse Now?, Part 1: The Rise of the Machines
This August, that summer-cinema experience of cataclysm and crash has escaped the theaters and invaded our everyday lives. The panic is real: about politics and economics, terrorism and temperature.
So we’re taking a cue from Hollywood for a summer blockbuster of our own. What if we looked beyond those superhero-movie scenarios—New York decimated by robots, clones, aliens, or terrorists—into the world-changing, and life-threatening, real developments of 2016? In 200 years, will humans (if they still exist!) speak with regret about Trump, the rising tide, or about trends and inventions we’ve barely even heard of yet?
With scientists, writers, humanists and technologists, we’ve got our eyes looking for the big risks and asking the life-or-death question for our entire civilization: Apocalypse Now?
Our series begins on St. Ebbes Street in Oxford, England, in the curious office of The Future of Humanity Institute. Inside, founder Nick Bostrom, researcher Anders Sandberg, and a number of other highly intelligent young philosophers, engineers, and scientists have set about imagining a way to keep what Bostrom calls “the human story” going safely along.
From Bostrom’s perspective, wicked problems like climate change or income inequality seem like a planetary heart condition, or back pain: serious, but not fatal. He and the staff of the F.H.I. want us to develop a vigilance against existential threats—the truly disastrous, world-ending outcomes that might arise, probably from our own fumbling.
Bostrom has been able to persuade very smart, tech-savvy people like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking that one such risk might come from the world of machine intelligence, advancing everyday in labs around the world.
Before you protest that Siri can’t even understand what you’re saying yet, you have to remember that the apocalyptically-minded, like Royal Astronomer Martin Rees, think on the longest of timelines.
Here’s how they see the story so far: Earth has been turning for around 4.5 billion years. Homo sapiens has only witnessed a couple of hundred thousand of those. And only since 1945 have we human beings had the ability to wipe ourselves out.
On the astronomical timeline, 70 years of nuclear peace seems a lot less impressive. And the fact that advanced computers—equipped with new methods for autonomous learning—are mastering the devilishly complicated game of Go and analyzing radiology readouts well ahead of schedule is cause for concern as well as celebration.
And our apocalypse watchers want us to be perfectly clear: they’re not talking about Terminator. Bostrom more often describes AI “superintelligence” as a sort of species unto itself, one that won’t necessarily recognize the importance we humans have typically ascribed to our own survival:
The principal concern would be that the machines would be indifferent to human values, would run roughshod over human values… Much as when we want to build a parking lot outside a supermarket and there happens to be an ant colony living there, but we just pave it over. And it’s not because we hate the ants—it’s just because they don’t factor into our utility function. So it’s similar. If you have an AI whose utility function that just doesn’t value human goals, you might have violence as a kind of side effect.
The Columbia roboticist Hod Lipson tells us how his “creative machines” learn. It isn’t by being given new rules, but by being set free to observe new behaviors and draw their own conclusions. It’s a bit like raising a child.
It’s easy to think of these machines as stuck in a permanent infancy when you watch the strangely poignant robot videos posted by our local robot lab, Boston Dynamics. They can’t open doors; they stumble through the woods. But the point is that we have plunged into the deep water of man-machine interdependency, almost without noticing it, and the current is already carrying us away in unknown directions.
With a panel of our favorite tech-concerned writers—Nicholson Baker, Maria Bustillos, and the critic Mark O’Connell—we’ll discuss the prospect of our first apocalyptic scenario: the rise of the machines.
Paul Harding II (BSS #521)
October 29, 2013
Paul Harding is most recently the author of Enon.
He previously appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #364.
Author: Paul Harding
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Subjects Discussed: William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, the relationship between Enon‘s Charlie Crosby and Tinkers‘s George Washington Crosby, Quentin Compson, dilettantes, Mark Slouka’s Brewster, Ross Raisin’s Waterline, the grief novel, blackouts, Greek mythology, Hallmark cards, spooky Halloween ghost stories, the Kübler-Ross model of grief, breaking your hand by smashing it into a wall, the many physical holes throughout Enon, Emily Dickinson, poetic dashes, what Charlie does for a living, living off meager insurance money, unemployed men in America, Harding’s disinterest in socioeconomics within fiction, house painting, avoiding the realm of fictional realism through mythology, John Cheever’s “The Jewels of the Cabots,” how a story announces its own priorities, the impact of grief on the work life, Franky Shuey, Easy Rider, self-reliant guys who work the seedy side of life, unreliable narrators, when the perspective of dreams is truer than reality, considering reader’s doubt of the facticity, unreliability as an act of bad faith, how readers determine the way in which a character is in bad shape, how common language is inadequate in describing extraordinary emotional experience, projecting personal history on to a local collective history, human connection predicated on lies, not being able to use “man” in everyday vernacular, coming to terms with ignorance, clarity usurped by dreams, the oneiric morass inside the skull, when communities enforce timetables on how to grieve, Mrs. Hale, pious matriarchs in small towns, moral standards, pardoning grievers for their morbid fantasies, violence and grief, the Protestant notion of “I am thou,” parallels between civilian grief and military grief, being familiar with the local graveyard, Harding’s stint playing in a marching band, Marilyn Robinson’s influence, fire and brimstone types, Charlie’s largely secular journey, Karl Barth, Emerson’s connection with Calvinism, leaving the church in order to find God, Emily Dickinson as “no hoper,” speaking in William Tyndale’s English, “burning strange fires” and burning the memory of your daughter, improvising a religion by worshiping the dead, making coffee and tea from ashes, coming to terms with our national history of religiosity, verifying the story of Noah’s Ark, how Moby Dick is true, bowling as an indelible part of American heritage, candlepin bowling, Charlie’s relationship with sound, grief compared with an organ chord, silence and secular prayer, thinking about emotions musically, homes in Tinkers and Enon, the home as an onion, phantoms, the impermanence of location when considered from a historical perspective, Cheever’s “The Pig Fell Into the Well,” spending your time ruminating, the correct pronunciation of “Aloysius,” how reading informs mispronunciation, old photos, the temporal bandwidth of a small town, drawing from crumbs, defining originality, Kantian notions of space and time, and the connection between originality and experience.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: I have to ask about Charlie Crosby. He is the protagonist of Enon.
He appeared in an early part of Tinkers, where he is seen reading as a child to his grandfather, who is George Washington. And in Enon, he calls himself “a reader’s reader.”
Yet we are not really entirely sure what kind of scholar he is.
Whether he’s professional or some sort of amateur autodidact. So I’m wondering. To what extent did you map out the Crosby family?
And is there room for Cathy Lee and David in the family line?
Harding: (laughs) Well, I improvise things as I go along.
Because I think technically I fudged the family a little bit.
Because in Tinkers, I think Charlie has a brother.
Correspondent: Oh yeah.
Harding: Named Sam. And I pulled the Faulkner Yoknapatawpha card.
Correspondent: I figured. How very portentous of you.
Harding: Well, it’s one of those things where the Quentin Compson of Absalom, Absalom! is not the Quentin Compson of The Sound and the Fury.
And so I keep these characters in this loose fictional world in this fictional family.
But I never sacrificed the story to the rigors of genealogy.
And I think you hit the term right on the head.
I think of him like an autodidact. He’s a little bit better than a dilettante.
Correspondent: Well, let’s actually defend the dilettante here, Paul!
Harding: (laughs) I know!
Correspondent: I mean, they are, after all, your readers.
Harding: Right. We’re all professional dilettantes.
Correspondent: We’re all dilettantes.
Well, I think of him as reading aloud on his own.
Correspondent: This book reminded me of two other books.
I’m not sure if you’ve read them.
Mark Slouka’s Brewster, which came out earlier this year, dealt with grief by looking at it from a long distance ahead.
It was set in the 1960s. There’s another book which, really, you must read.
Of course, both of the books are great.
Ross Raisin’s Waterline.
Are you familiar with that?
Harding: No. I haven’t heard of either of those.
Correspondent: Oh my God! This book is about a guy.
He loses his wife. He’s a Scottish guy. He’s unemployed. He ends up getting on a bus and working in a London hotel restaurant and gets totally exploited and then ends up drifting into homelessness.
Harding: Sounds like another musical comedy.
Correspondent: Exactly! Well, you have written a book.
I”m talking about one book that deals with grief as a surrender of time, which is Brewster.
And with Waterline, it’s a book that deals with grief as a capitulation of place. You’ve written a grief novel — if we can call it that, if that’s a genre — that involves the surrender of both time and place.
There are porous months that just flit right by, often because of Charlie’s blackouts with pills and whiskey.
I’m wondering why you think grief in fiction tends to explore this erosion of time and space more than real life. Was this one of the appeals of working on Enon?
Harding: I think it has to do, in my instance, with the way that I line up what I think of as the subjects and predicates when you’re writing narrative fiction.
So I don’t think of myself as having written a book about grief.
I wrote a book about Charlie, who is grieving.
Because the danger is that — and this is the danger from the end of writing fiction.
For me, if you think of grief thematically or objectively, as it were, the danger is that then you’ll spend all of your time making your character conform to your preconceived ideas of how grief is experienced.
And so I think of the books that I write as very, if not anything else, experiential.
So the hallmark of fiction is character. The hallmark of character is consciousness. The hallmark of consciousness is the experience of being in time.
Correspondent: Just so long as there’s no Hallmark cards.
Correspondent: Let’s avoid cliche in this conversation.
Harding: (laughs) Right.
Correspondent: You get three hallmarks.
Harding: So the whole idea is that time accelerates or decelerates or explodes or compresses, according to Charlie’s experience of it.
So then I’m not imposing any of my preconceived notions of what happens when you’re grieving on to him. And then I just followed his lead in terms of what he found himself thinking.
When I gave him the resources of knowing the town’s history and all that sort of stuff. And then he was able to superimpose his daughter, the memory of his daughter, in with all the different compounded times of the town. And I think of all these things as almost like Perseus and the mirror.
He can’t look at Medusa.
You can’t look at the tragedy head on or you’ll perish.
You’ll turn to stone.
So all of these other narratives, these other books, the history of the town, are things that I give him through which he mediates the memory of his daughter so he can try to negotiate it, be equal to it, without basically doing himself in.
Correspondent: But it is interesting that you have to choose.
I mean, here’s the thing.
You write fiction. You’re trying to align life to a narrative. But in the case of grief, you actually have to choose far more than a lot of other life experiences in fiction.
Harding: It’s more extreme.
Correspondent: And I”m wondering what you do to account for things you can’t include in choices you have to make.
It seems to me like it would be a much harder proposition as a fiction writer.
Harding: Yeah, I think it is.
I mean, when I first got the idea for the book, I thought, “Oh boy! It’s like a spooky Hawthornesque, Emily Dickinsonian.”
You know, the kind of first-person death poem.
The posthumous poems and everything.
And then, within writing half a page of the book, I realized, “Wait, this is incredibly tragic.”
Correspondent: You thought this was going to be a barrel of laughs.
Harding: Well, I thought it would be a Halloween spooky ghost story.
But of course, the premise then is much more tragic.
And so I thought more about Greek tragedy and Shakespearean tragedy and just the myths.
Orpheus and Demeter and Persephone.
A grieving parent going down to the underworld to fetch back a child.
And it was.
It turned out to be an incredibly difficult subject to write about.
But to me, that was almost a guarantee of quality control.
If you’re writing a story about a parent who’s suffering the life of a child, you take one false step in any direction and you’ve got melodrama, sentimentality, maudlin.
You’re just ringing cheap emotion out of the inherently sad, tragic nature of things.
So just as a writer, I was interested in trying to rise to that occasion.
Trying to write the novel that I felt that I was actually not good enough to write when I started.
Correspondent: This is interesting.
Because if melodrama is always the risk in looking at a death poem or looking at grief, in this case what’s remarkable about Charlie is that he doesn’t at least audibly beat himself up.
He certainly does it with the pills and with the whiskey and all that.
But he never really gets beyond that first stage of grief of the Kübler-Ross model.
Harding: Never heard of it.
That’s the thing.
The Kübler-Ross model — that’s been a subsequent description, which is interesting.
But I see him as wrestling with his conscience.
I seem him as essentially being very aware of the fact that he’s ashamed of who he’s become since she’s died.
And then that gave me an opportunity to explore a universal dramatic human predicament, which is not doing the right thing.
Knowing what the right thing and not being able to do it.
Being on the couch and being paralyzed and becoming addicted to drugs and then breaking into people’s houses.
He understands the whole time that that’s wrong.
And yet he can’t stop himself.
Correspondent: But he is in that denial stage pretty much for this one year of grief.
Harding: I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.
I just saw it as him having his attention on.
Because maybe if he’s denying other things, it’s because they’re at the expense of what he finds most important and most pressing about the experience.
Correspondent: Why didn’t he get angry over this?
I mean, he’s a very, very…
Harding: He breaks his hand. He punches the window.
Correspondent: Well, that’s true.
Harding: He breaks his hand. You know, he’s not a particularly violent guy. So I think the anger is diffused by his conscience.
So I think it’s a subtle thing. But it’s funny.
I had a scene in an early draft of the book where he runs through the house and breaks the whole house to pieces. And it never seemed authentic.
You know, he’s more Thoreau.
The quiet lives of desperation.
The drama is interior with him.
And so the anger is more diffused.
I think it refracted prismatically through his conscience. So it dispersed in a subtler way.
Correspondent: But here’s the weird thing about when he punches the wall with his hand.
As a reader, I was very well aware of the many holes in this book.
And by holes, I mean literally.
Just tons of holes.
There’s everything from the cribbage board to the golf course to the holes in the cemetery to the holes that he punches into the wall.
Harding: And then he cuts a hole in the wall at the end.
Correspondent: Of course.
To the hole in the caretaker’s throat.
Harding: That’s funny. I wasn’t aware of those things.
Correspondent: It’s because this book is so, for lack of a better word, hole happy, I didn’t see that gesture of him smashing the wall as an absolute indignant one.
Even though it is.
But at the same time, it just seems to me that that is his way of connecting with his home.
Harding: Could be.
It’s the cathartic moment then.
Correspondent: Well, what of all the holes?
I mean, the landscape in this book is just utterly porous.
And I was wondering about that.
Why it ended up that way.
It seems to me there was no conscious plan.
Harding: Your guess is as good as mine!
I mean, that happened with Tinkers.
I realized that the book was composed of a series of houses that were imperiled, where nests were disappearing or falling.
And I didn’t consciously put that in the book.
And so here, it makes sense that the portal between this life and the next are doorways, I suppose.
And he spends a lot of his time trying to break through the doorways or climb down through the grave or something like that.
And the guardian angel of the book was Emily Dickinson and the way that she crosses through the portals or the rabbit holes or whatever between this life and an imagined metaphysical realm passing this life.
So I guess that inevitably that verbiage and imagery would naturally precipitate into the language.
Correspondent: And yet dashes really aren’t that much of a part of this book.
Harding: No. Not this time.
(Loops for this program provided by cork27, djmfl, 40a, Cyto, and mingote.)
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Categories: FictionTags: author, enon, fiction, grief, interview, literature, paul harding, pulitzer, religion, tinkers
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Kieron Gillen on a decade of New Games Journalism – audio by Guardian Tech Weekly | Free Listening on SoundCloud
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Tim Schafer Explains How to Make Games, Tell Stories
by On the Media
published on 2012/06/10 16:00:16 +0000
On our June 1 episode, producers PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman interviewed game designer Tim Schafer about his decision to fund his latest game entirely through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Over the course of the 60+ minutes that we spoke to him, we got way more than we could possibly use on the show about what inspires him, how he approaches game design, and how to tell an interesting story. Since we thought other parts of the conversation might interest listeners, we decided to cut a second interview. Enjoy.
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