Do androids post clickbait for electric sheep?

Spoilers ahead for Blade Runner 2049. My girlfriend posted this article on Facebook and it prompted discussion. I spent a while writing a response to the discussion and figured I’d done my daily writing. Here goes.

So I think these are all pretty valid criticisms of the movie. The one conceit that I’m not buying into is that the sequel’s box office performance is tied to its lack of representation. Films with shitty representation go gangbusters at the box office all the time. It sucks and it’d be great if that wasn’t the case. It’s a niche, long and contemplative Sci Fi sequel of a cult film released something like 30 years ago. Also like they said, the original wasn’t a huge hit either. Also how often are people buying tickets to films knowing how effective their representation is? Isn’t that something you learn after watching the film? Using its box office performance issues as a tag for an otherwise pretty decent article seems pretty clickbait-y.

So first off, I’m not positing this as me having some crazy hot take. Unabashedly I really enjoyed the film and kind of just want to have people to talk about it with. I’m also of the opinion that you can both love a piece of art and criticise it without detracting from the fact that it meant something to you. I think that this article’s author had a bunch of pretty salient points and I’m interested in a discussion.

She’s on the money saying that women in this film were primarily relegated to window dressing and signposting. I mean, Robin Wright, in typical Robin Wright fashion, was fantastic. She was certainly a Boss Ass Bitch, but even she was reduced to essentially a gatekeeper making sure to quell the uprising in a very motherly position.

So how would we go about fixing the script? First and foremost, I don’t think the gender of K is super important to the plot. I mean, the commoditization of female bodies is sort of a central idea, whether it’s the corporation mass producing replicants like some kind of big baby factory, or trying to obtain the replicant born child to cheapen the reproduction process. Having K be female could’ve opened avenues for her to navigate these themes as well as the nature of reality, humanity and all that jazz. Then again, it’s not like this movie needed a longer run time.

I don’t know where I sit on the whole JOI aspect of not having agency, because that was kind of the point, right? She was a product created by the corporation to sell to their own products (I mean, grow your own consumers? That’s gotta help your bottom line). The whole “I tell you what you want to hear” idea was central to the plot and eventual twist. I think it would’ve gone some ways to have depicted male JOI units too (because surely the corporation wouldn’t skip out on selling to half their market?). Maybe even including a scene with The Lieutenant using one? Could’ve added a nice layer. Maybe have male sex workers too? Sexy nude dudes on that Vegas planet as well?

I mean, the Vegas planet was a nice backdrop for a film obssessed with the nature of reality and illusion, the holographic performers, etc etc. I did think it was a bit much that we were only seeing female bodies sexualised.

As for the sex scene, it felt more like they were using it to show off impressive SFX than super important narrative pathos. Was JOI organising the sexual encounter an extention of telling K what he wanted to hear? Did it show how much he was tied into the idea of her as real? They had the rain scene, him pouring her a glass, that dumb “buckle up” line. Did it add enough to necessitate its inclusion? I’m not sure. It looked pretty, but felt kind of throwaway to me.

Luv is another matter. I think [my friend in the thread] made a pretty great point about the sociopathic relationship with Wallace. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit sleepy when I saw the film, especially during the Leto scenes. This strikes me as a pretty astute read on the character. The details were either subtle enough that I missed them entirely or maybe dozed through them. It would’ve been great to have just a little bit of dialogue implying that she had agency in her decisions, or furthering her motivation along those abusive relationship lines. We know she was his tool. Hell, K was just a tool himself after all (and the question of agency was another big part of the film, right?) but the film was built around him. It could’ve done a ton to build her out as an antagonist if her motivations were more apparent.

I kinda want to watch this film again…

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You know something? I used that middle urinal and I felt like a god.

At improv yesterday we were learning about status and our teacher told us something interesting. She said that status is a choice. It’s not something that can be taken from us, it can only be volunteered. She said to imagine status as some kind of liquid within us. We wake up each day with it filled to the brim. Countless interactions throughout the day allow us to tip out or refill that status, depending on our response. When our status is lowered, that’s a choice we’ve made. It went deeper, but let’s keep things pretty simple.

Status exists on two poles; high and low. Those poles each have tiers to them. The highest is happiness, then anger and lastly sadness. Status is also largely a concept that we buy into societally. We’ve decided that attributes such as wealth, power and attractiveness dictate our status. We see those who possess these traits as opinion leaders or somehow more capable than those without. It sucks, but when you think of high status, what image comes to your mind? Is it a tall white dude wearing a nice blue suit getting into his Mercedes? Society is all kinds of biased. It’s sexist, racist, ableist and, well, facist too. It’s systematically drilled into us a certain image of status and over time we’ve chosen to accept that.

I started to think about the way I roam the world and how I exchange status. A lot of the time in public, I aim to be as considerate as possible. This can involve stepping out of the way on the footpath, standing on public transport, making myself as small as I can to let people through. I’m not a tiny person or physically unimposing, but I’m aware of how I could be perceived as thus. I’m conscious that as a dude, I tread upon a mountain of privilege every day and I intentionally try not to take it for granted. I know that if I didn’t go out of my way to consider others, it’d seem like I was any other white dude imposing himself upon the world. That sounds shit in my book, so I try to mitigate it. I try to lower my status to even the playing field. Whether this works, I have no idea. Most people tend to find me pretty non-threatening, so maybe I’m on track.

Our teacher said something else. She said that the difference between confidence and arrogance involves whether or not you ever choose to willingly lower your status. If you refuse to ever yield status, you come off as an asshole. Cocky and unfriendly. People will resent that you seem to put yourself above them. I thought about this and wondered what balance I could strike to raise my status without trampling on others. I often joke about what the world must seem like to a confident person (doing power moves like pissing in the middle urinal of three), but it’s not like I don’t have that option in front of me. Recently I’ve been trying small tricks to see if they’ll help. I’ve been checking my posture more regularly. An upright chest with neutral spine, shoulders back, pelvis tilted forwards. I’ve been trying to smile more often in a fake it till you make it kind of fashion. If I do move aside or let someone through, I do it with a smile. Happiness is a status move, whether intentional or not. I’ve been heeding another lesson learned in improv- that it’s okay to pause before responding. You don’t need to always have an answer right away. Taking a second to consider isn’t a sign of weakness. It shows you’re thinking about the right answer.

Status is a privilege and it’s also a choice. It’s weird to think that I had a say in this all along.

Sounds choice to me.

Thanks for doing me a solid, Snake.

Imagine having the kind of confidence where entering a room didn’t trigger your threat analysis mode.

Before we start with this, I don’t assume I’m anything special or exceptional from the norm. Then again, I don’t often talk with others about all of my eccentricities, so who knows? Every time I walk into a room, take in my surroundings. My eyes will dart around and even if I don’t get to look in all directions, I’ll try to get a feel for people in my vicinity. If I’m putting something down, for instance, I’ll do slightly exaggerated movements, or after setting it on a surface, I’ll pivot. Am I nuts? Well we assumed as much already. Is this, however, the central reason?

I don’t have a solid notion of where this habit came from, but I’ve absorbed enough pop culture that I expect misfortune to come from all angles at any moment. If it’s not a ninja, katana half drawn, it could be a co-worker ready to ambush me with small talk or a telemarketer (*whispering* they’re everywheeeeere). Frankly, it’s probably a latent habit from high school theatre. Having your back to the audience is verboten, so you learn techniques for subtle movement and turns. Side-on conversations, etc. I guess at some point I folded this into everyday life. Even, wait, ESPECIALLY at parties I’m constantly taking inventory of where everyone/thing is situated. If I have my back to a doorway, I’ll repeatedly rotate or gesture around me as a way of increasing my vantage. I’ll subconsciously shift or move, according to anything that could catch me off-guard.

It has to be a modicum of control freakism leaking out. As if instilling a belief that you have status in a scenario, when that’s still to be determined. Hell, even the fact that on some level I’m placing an intrinsic status into my interactions should set off red flags. I DON’T LIKE BEING TAKEN BY SURPRISE, ALRIGHT? When you assume everyone’s trying to get one up or wants something out of you, taking steps to mitigate their reach feels not only helpful, but necessary.

The flip side of this is that if two of me existed, I’d be my own worst enemy. I try not to telegraph my presence unless I think it’d seriously worry the other person. I’ll often quietly walk into a shared space (like a kitchen) and begin doing something without saying hi. There’s also the weird trait I developed after noticing that nobody says goodbye in phone conversations. Now if I’m having a benign conversation I’ll quietly walk away when it dies down rather than dropping farewells and niceties. I’d hoped it would make me more enigmatic, but people probably just think I’m an asshole. Not gonna lie, it gives me a little thrill to go unnoticed. Stealth is exciting to me, which is how I wind up matching others’ breathing and steps without any intention of doing so. I’ll be walking down steps behind someone and find my stride matched with theirs. Or I’ll notice the extra focus my body is putting into masking my footfalls.

Like every societal ill, let’s blame video games for that one. Playing through stealth games, sneaking silently often results in avoiding damage. Perhaps I intuitively translated that to real life. If people don’t know I’m there, they can’t engage me in boring conversation. I get to choose whether or not I want to opt into interaction. What could be better than that?

If I was a therapist, I’d have a bunch of easy points to pounce on. This kind of behaviour has to be a response to childhood bullying and its lasting trauma. Or to feelings of inadequacy. Desiring control on this level is less about getting one up on others and everything to do with intended inoculation against further hurt. I’m only human. If you prick me, I’ll probably bleed out in the gutter. Isn’t it better to stay puncture free?

Oh, and in retrospect it tasted great. Hope that allays any fears.

I’m not really big into pot. It’s the kind of thing I’ll smoke socially from time to time, but it’s far from a mainstay in my life. I rarely clean my bellybutton (which is probably why it smells more like a bellybutt), but I likely clean my bellybutton more than I smoke pot. My girlfriend is trying medical marijuana as an anxiety treatment and she’s been pretty pleased with the results. Occasionally I’ll join her if I have a free night where I don’t need to accomplish anything. Not often, but every once in a while it’s nice to coast for a stress free evening. When it comes to alcohol, I have a large tolerance. Weed on the other hand, hits me hard and fast. I like retaining a certain level of awareness and getting high throws that right out the window. I’ve always been a soft touch on it so I’m careful to have only small amounts at a time. One or two puffs is more than enough for a few hours worth of mellow and it’s rare that I imbibe more. Last night we were having a couple over for dinner who’d just moved to Toronto. We had a tiny toke maybe 15 minutes before they were set to arrive. I had a drag and a small puff. Five minutes before they were due to arrive I turned towards my partner in horror.

“Oh shit. I am way too stoned to host a dinner.”

She assured me that we were a team and we’d get through it together.

One of my issues when I smoke is that I have trouble parsing information. It’s not that I don’t take in information, but my usual subconscious filters come out to the fore. It makes almost everything a conceptual minefield. Furthermore, it certainly didn’t help me prepare dinner. We’d put roast veggies in the oven much earlier, so those were cooking away. We’d chopped up and salted eggplant to sweat out the excess moisture. All that we had left was to pan fry it and heat up our guests’ shepherd’s pie. I had two pans going with 1cm thick slices of eggplant. One was large and non-stick, the other was a cast iron grill pan. Outwardly my guests saw me cooking eggplant. Inwardly my dialogue was a little more like this…

When was the last time I cooked eggplant? Have I ever cooked eggplant in a pan? How long did the recipe say? Five to seven minutes per side? Does it change if one of the pans is flat and the other has a grill? Does that mean they need different cooking temperatures? How much oil do I need? Is this a light pan fry or something deeper? Does deep frying even happen in a grill pan? Won’t the oil get stuck in the grooves? What kind of texture does fried eggplant have? Do I want it to be soft and gooey or crispy? Or a combination of the two? I remember something in the recipe about eggplant being naturally bitter. Is that a flavour that subsides once it reaches a certain level of cook-ed-ness? Or is that something I need to counteract with spices/ingredients? Isn’t eggplant umami? How do I balance that flavour? Do I need to add lemon for acidic elements? Garlic? More oil? But doesn’t eggplant soak up a ton of oil? Does that mean I need more or less? It’s getting burnt, is it supposed to get burnt? Does that mean that I’m cooking it well or does that make me a bad chef? Am I a bad chef? I know that I like it when there’s a burn to things, but is that because my tastes are weird? Or is it a taste that people naturally enjoy when it comes to eggplant? Wait, am I trying to place my values when it comes to food over the preferences of others? How am I supposed to know how other people like it? There are three other people here. What if I cook it in a way that only one or two others enjoy? Does that make me a bad host? Or is it impossible to guess how others enjoy things and you just do your best? Is this subjective or objective? Are the darker bits the more or less cooked parts? Let’s have a taste of one. Hmm, is that what bitter tastes like? I’ve forgotten what a bitter taste is. I think I enjoy it, but it has a certain aftertaste. I’m pretty sure I like that aftertaste, but is that just because I’m stoned? What if others don’t like it? Does that mean I’m being shitty to them? How am I even supposed to know this? Would I understand better if I wasn’t stoned? Do I normally automatically know all of this stuff? Why am I thinking so hard about something that shouldn’t be challenging?

That was maybe a minute of internal dialogue.

The rest of the night was just as much of a maze. I felt like I was in some dinner party disaster movie and this was my subplot. I kept saying things, but not understanding why I was saying them or how I gauged whether or not things were appropriate. All I knew was that I somehow had to make it through the evening without our guests knowing that I was stoned. I don’t know why that was such an issue, but I think it had something to do with this lofty sense of social decorum (when in reality if I just said “sorry folks, but I’m really stoned right now, so if I’m acting weird that’s it”, they would’ve most likely been receptive to that). I’m pretty sure I enjoyed myself and the evening went by without any major hitches. Still, even today I still feel a little unhinged. I’m still piecing together how my brain works. Like, at brunch this morning I ate grilled plantain and didn’t realise I was eating the skin too. I ate maybe half a plantain skin.

Maybe I’ll wait a while before smoking again.

Sometimes it takes a while to make things click. I can’t always blame dysfunctional websites.

I’m trying to buy tickets to an event, but I can’t. I know, I know, I can be inept at times, but I swear this isn’t totally my fault. The event is selling tickets through a larger site. In order to buy the tickets, I need to be a member. The fun part is, I am a member. I’ve bought tickets through them before. I just don’t know how. Every time I try to login, it tells me that my password is incorrect. When I click the “forgot password” box, it tells me it’s sent an email to sort it out. I’ve been checking all my email folders, but I haven’t gotten this email. So I can’t reset the password and can’t buy tickets. I swear I’ve bought tickets within the past year. How the hell did I do it last time? At this rate I’m gonna have to make a new account with my work email.

….

Okay, everything’s fine I’m just an idiot.

That’s such a peculiar sensation. You’re trying to think of what to do and you think how would past me have acted? Then you try something and it turns out that’s exactly how past you would’ve reacted. There’s a smugness to it. There’s a comfort in knowing that fundamentally we don’t all change that much. Also I guess it’s neat to still be able to surprise yourself. When it happens to me, I can’t help but feel a little proud that I managed to figure myself out. As ludicrous as that sounds. Like I have this fear of growing in such different directions that I’ll no longer recognise my past thought patterns. I of course want to shift and develop in myriad ways, but I don’t want that at the behest of forgetting where I’ve come from.

At times it seems like we’re all taking in so much information that a ton gets lost in the shuffle. As time passes, we go through so many experiences that it’s a marvel we remember as much as we do. I used to think it was silly how people always talked about young minds being spongey. I was a teen and I still had a damn good memory. I’d commit lines from plays without trying. Memorise vast amounts of information from video games with the capacity to recite it from memory. Even in university I could still pull theorists’ quotes from my arse without much effort. Information landed in my brain and stuck there. Maybe it’s a case of rose-tinted reality, but in my current recollections, my past was flush with the ability to recall all the more vividly.

Now when I give anecdotes, I need to be a lot more intentional when it comes to having specifics in place. You know that feeling when your mind is reaching for a name or word? So often those names or words were within my brain’s arm’s reach. Now it’s usually the case that I need to stretch or strain to grab hold of them. Otherwise my anecdotes are a string of “what’s its name?” And “you know, the thing?” “I can’t remember the line exactly, but trust me, it was really funny.” Consequently, while I have more stories and life experiences to share now, I share fewer of them. Not having the details you want is pretty damn mortifying.

I’m sure most people have the experience of family members who repeatedly tell the same stories. Maybe this is why. I’m sure it’s partly having forgotten that they’d told the story, but it could also be an easy way of sharing an experience and getting recognition. It sucks scrambling for information that you feel should be on hand. Losing awareness of your memories must feel almost dehumanising, as if your past is being erased. If you can’t remember events in your life, how do you gauge their personal value? Dark, but inevitable.

I don’t know how much I feel like delving into this right now. I logged in. I purchased the tickets​. Now all that’s left is to have an experience profound enough that it’ll give me stories worth boring family and friends with for years to come.

Am I a tough crowd? Or a robot?

So this was written late at night while I was exhausted. At the time I thought it was terrible. In retrospect, I still think it’s terrible.

In an attempt to be relevant with at least one show that’s current, I started on BoJack Horseman season three. You know what? I don’t actually find the show to be funny. It’s a weird stance, but I recognise there’s humour in it, it’s just not humour that gets a rise out of me. It’s bizarre, because on paper a cartoon filled with anthropomorphic characters and puns seems like it’d drill straight into my funny bone. It practically leaks pop culture references. It’s also crammed with a ludicrous amount of talent. Seriously, just look at this list. Absurd, right? Now I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the show, just that the humour doesn’t appeal to me. I feel like a ton of it either falls flat in my eyes or feels random for random’s sake. I’m quite sure that hordes of people think it’s hilarious and I’m not here to argue with them. Each to their own and all that.

So why is it that I enjoy the show? Oddly enough, for a comedy, it’s the drama that reels me in. That doesn’t quite do it justice. The show is very well written. It builds its characters out and gives them heaps of developmental moments or chances for redemption. See, half the cast of characters are varying degrees of terrible people (animals, mostly). They’re flawed and broken, bringing out both the worst and best in one another. Between the levity (even if not in my case), there are deep lines that land with gravity. The oft quoted “You know, it’s funny; when you look at someone through rose-coloured glasses, all the red flags just look like flags” line rings poignant. There’s a weight to that and other lines of its ilk that carry an undeniable truth. Even when the show takes absurd turns, it doesn’t retreat from them. Actions have consequences and in this world, they’re all too real. Hell, two characters in a ludicrous marriage are actually following through with therapy, dealing with their inability to communicate their needs in a vulnerable fashion. It’d be all too easy for the show to make them break up, then move on, but it refuses to.

Obviously, I’m gonna keep watching. As someone who’s still not even into the heart of this season yet, I feel like there’s still rock bottom left to explore. How would that not sound enticing?

Proving that yes, it is possible to feel this way dressed in a Snorlax kigurumi.

December and January were big months for activity. Holidays meant parties and festivities oozing out of every spare evening. Food and drink revolved around the “use sparingly” portion of the food pyramid. Consequently joy was everywhere. It was a great time to alive, to celebrate and surround yourself with loved ones both romantic and platonic. I did. Oh, did I ever? Yes. OH yes.

February on the other hand has heralded a crash back down to terra firma for me. I’ve cut alcohol in an attempt to reorder my food pyramid and in general let my body breathe. I’m not getting preachy, you do you. I’m just here doing me. I’ve done the teetotaller thing before many times and it’s very doable. In all honesty though, it’s never fun. In some cases the downward trend of “never fun” keeps drilling down until my mood feels six feet under. If I’m not careful I get riddled with all sorts of self-loathing, negativity and withdraw into myself. Is it just a subconscious attempt to keep the URL of this page relevant? My inner social media specialist slamming putting the brand awareness pedal to the floor?

Example time.

I had a party to go to last night. A house warming party of some good friends. The kind of place crammed wall to wall with the kind of people I love being around. Neither my girlfriend nor I were drinking, but that’s fine. I’m a social guy and I like shooting the shit with friends or strangers. I got there and glommed onto some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. There was a truth or dare-ish game going on in the lounge, but I kept my distance. There’s nothing wrong with the game, but it’s not something I can handle sober. Truth or dare grabs all of my insecurities tied to self-confidence and cranks them up to 11. I feel like I have to perform in a certain fashion and no matter how I do I always feel a kind of tension, as if people are waiting for me to fuck up so they can laugh at rather than with me. If anything flirtatious comes up, I withdraw or deflect. It brings me right back to my teenage years of feeling unwanted and clumsy. Playing the fool to compensate for the fact that nobody had any real romantic or sexual interest. I mean, it’s easy to see how much of it was self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn’t see myself as an entity deserving of desire, so I acted in a congruent manner. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t let anyone else either. I wish that I could say all of that has vanished into the path and I’ve owned feelings of self-worth and sexual capital, but I prefer honesty. At the age of 29, I can handle this kind of thing with tipsy relaxation. Last night though? I stayed away, my girlfriend jumped in and I kept to the fringes of the room seeking quiet conversation.

The place was crowded, it was noisy and I was having trouble concentrating. Without alcohol to dull my senses, I was listening to multiple conversations simultaneously, which left me paralytic. It was an effort to string together coherent sentences and everything I said felt stupid or lame. I couldn’t keep up with friends on that amped wavelength whose attention spans spurned conversations longer than several minutes. I felt so small and my body language reflected this. I now see that I continually sought out tiny spaces to cram myself into. The corner of a kitchen bench, the small alcove in front of the rubbish bin next to the filing cabinet, the railing next to the stairs. Places that would give me a wide outlook so I could prepare for anyone entering my personal space. It was a subconscious defensive move and I didn’t realise what I was doing until I’d left.

The front of the room got rowdier as the game picked up. Lots of nudity, body shots, flirtatious behaviour. I’m not shitting on anything that happened, it was all in good fun. In my state at the time though, it only served to make me feel more alienated, distanced. A mixture of jealousy and helplessness at my inability to let go and relax, to have fun in a space intended for just that purpose. My muscles tightened and I found myself speaking less and less. I was upset, but found myself incapable of saying anything. Something inside of me said it was unfair to make my problems anyone else’s. It wasn’t fair to inhibit anyone’s fun because I was feeling shitty. What right did I have to bring others down with me? Of course I couldn’t act or speak out in a shared public space, this was my issue and I had to solve it. At the time, I didn’t have the wherewithal, so negative thoughts coalesced into a dense, deep mass around my brain. I felt worse and worse, compounded by the overwhelmingly happy crowd surrounding me. If everyone else was fine, what was wrong with me that I couldn’t get on their level?

I needed to leave, but my girlfriend was having a great time. Who was I to get in her way? The happier she was, the more of a divide I felt. Logically, of course she couldn’t have known how I was feeling. Emotion doesn’t play by those same rules though, so instead I felt isolated. The smart thing would’ve been to tap her on the shoulder, to have a word and explain how I was feeling. Instead of using my brain, I stewed in everything and felt deflated, void of anything useful. Instead of making my needs known, I waited for perhaps another hour and a half while I felt utterly miserable. I wanted to either be somewhere else, alone, or just not “be” at all. At some point I couldn’t take any more. I apologised for interrupting my girlfriend’s conversation and quietly told her that I needed to get out of there quickly. I called an Uber and pulled a French exit, incapable of mustering up the fake enthusiasm I’d need for farewells. We got the fuck out of there barely saying a word.

We got home and I unpacked a bunch, describing how and why the night had took a turn. This morning I unpacked a bunch more. She listened, helped me through as much as we could and I felt a little better. In the wake of now though the emptiness has returned. Putting my feelings on a page hasn’t helped. The logical part of my brain knows exactly what happened, but that does little to help. I still feel miserable and no matter what I watch, play or read my mood isn’t shifting. I just want to find whatever light exists at the end of this, which is my mind seeking some kind of escapism. It makes me want to drink, or find an alternate way to get out of my head. I want release that puts me out of myself, that lets me relax and pretend I’m somebody that seems so far from where I’m at. My mind is looking for something to treat the symptoms and forget the disease exists.

You know what? Drinking would work. 100%. I’d find enthusiasm for things outside of myself and actually want to be around people. I’d have a great fucking time and be able to put this shit behind me until it reared its head some time in the future. I’d have to wrest with the recognition that I said I’d do something (not drink for a month) and failed to deliver, but we humans have this amazing ability to justify anything we do if it made us feel better. Hell, drinking would’ve made last night fine, but how am I supposed to feel about that? How do I deal with my inability to connect in an active social space sans liquor? Alcohol is not some fantastic elixir I can use medically. Conversely, stewing in negativity does nothing for me either. I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know how to finish this paragraph. I might as well lean into this resurgence of teen angst and listen to No Children on repeat with the lights off.