Monthly Archives: April 2011

On the spot with J.U.L

Last month, the Just-Us League, a collection of local artists who create live art at live events, held a fundraiser for the earthquake/tsunami victims in Japan.  I wasn’t involved with the fundraiser at all.  I came in at the tail-end of the night, looking around at the art left (donations from locals, and a couple of famous people), carefully not bidding on anything because I didn’t have any money.  As usual, there was a large canvas for everyone to add their art, this time extended to all the event volunteers, as well as the attendees. In the spirit of the J.U.L.’s live art vibe, this, too was an on-the-spot creation.  I penned this at the last possible moment, Jerod patiently waiting for me to finish, as he was trying to pack up everything. It’s a little off–muddied, cluttered with repetition, in dire need of a good edit–but it’s there.  Also, please excuse the crappy-ness of the pic itself, as I only had my woefully inadequate 2.0 MP camera phone on me, and I absolutely suck at photo editing.

I also drew a few leaf/branch things right above it, but I didn’t think to get a picture of that.  This banner is currently in the possession of the Japan-America Society of DFW; maybe I’ll go by there one day and get one.


Is sharing caring?

Today, I read a Yahoo! article (yes, I know) about the TLC Show “Sister Wife”.  At the bottom of the article was a real life interview (did you catch the sarcasm?) with a true sister wife–a woman who had entered into a plural marriage with her younger sister’s husband.  She admitted that she was (and is) unhappy in her marriage; she admitted that she and her sister don’t often talk.  However, she calls one woman extending a plural marriage to another a gift.  A gift?  You just said that you’re unhappy, and you and your sister have so many issues with each other, not a few because of this polygamous marriage, yet you say she gave you a gift?  I don’t get it.  What about this is a gift?

An FLDS man with his wives. Stephanie Sinclair/VII for National Geographic.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t (and wont) prohibit or demonize any lifestyle that a consenting adult wishes to enter into.  Adults have a right to do what they want, as long as it doesn’t harm another.  But I do have the right to express my confusion at this particular practice, and wonder at the blind adherence of the adults who ascribe to this particular lifestyle (I speak of those fundamentalists who practice polygamy, not the people who decided, outside or regardless of any religious or societal mores, that they’d like to give it a go).  How, exactly, do you consider this a gift, an honor?  To me, a gift is something you endow to someone that is wholly their own; asking them to halve their own happiness is a burden of self-sacrifice–and why would you think it right to ask someone you respect and/or trust to sacrifice their happiness for someone else’s?  I won’t get into all the other concerns I have about plural marriage; I just wanted to bring up a point that I hadn’t yet seen anyone else mention.

I’m reminded of a book I read many years ago, called The Kitchen God’s Wife, (by Amy Tan, if you’re at all interested).  In this book, the mother, Winnie, bemoaned her daughter’s guest bedroom, which was much smaller than the master bedroom the daughter and husband shared.  She called the reservation of second best for guests a very American way of thinking, while the reverse (only the highest and best for honored guests) was the Chinese way of thinking.  (By the way, readers, I do see the irony in using this fictional literary anecdote to question the fundamentalist view of polygyny–as the practice was very widespread in China–but I’m using it anyway.)  Whatever happened to the tenet of “give others the better of yourselves” that I learned in Girl Scouts?  Is this only a Girl Scout thing?  Did the dear GS teach me wrong?  Or does this only apply to children and those not allowed or deemed unfit to decide upon their own welfare?

It begins

“Man,” I cried, “how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!”

 – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Replica of Maschinenmensch Maria from Fritz Lange's iconic film Metropolis. On display at the Museum Tinguely.

Today’s cool thing of the day is definitely cool, but scary, too. It’s the genesis of a scenario we’ve seen played out in countless sci-fi novels and films, has been the subject of international symposiums, and spawned a life’s age worth of individual–and societal–anxiety.  I’m speaking, of course, of artificial intelligence. That’s right, guys.  Think Terminator, think the Matrix. Hell, think Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert.  The advent of artificial intelligence has been around for centuries (both Frankenstein and Pygmalion dealt with sentient, man-made beings), but I don’t think it ever seemed as close as right now.

You think I’m being an alarmist?  ‘Cause I don’t. Peep that name, ya’ll; these people are not playing.

Though I’ve only read a few of his short stories, I really do think that Isaac Asimov best described the struggle between humans and robots.  Movies only focus on the strife between the two; they fail to address the causes of the problem.  What humans have to ask each other–what they’ve never asked each other–is: are robots people?  No matter that they are man-made.  If AI is intelligent, sentient, and able to reason, doesn’t that mean that they are, in fact, people deserving of rights?  Doesn’t the mere fact that we created them mean that we must take pains to bestow, and, indeed, allow such rights?

History reminds us time and again that man is phenomenally bad at sharing.  That being said, it may be best that we quit while we’re ahead.