i.e. Ben Burgis: Musings on Speculative Fiction, Philosophy, PacMan and the Coming Alien Invasion

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Does Miami Dream of Electric Coke?

Well, let's see....what's happened since the last entry?

I finished all of my papers. Since they were due on Wednesday and I had to teach at Miami-Dade College on Tuesday, this involved staying up in the library until 8 AM Wednesday morning. Bleh. But they're done.

Meanwhile, I moved to the new apartment on Sunday. We've got a pool (I've gone swimming every day starting Sunday, which is a big plus for general emotional health) and the location is both convenient and historically interesting. It's right by the Metrorail line and it's right across the street from the Dadeland Mall, the site of the infamous 1979 Dadeland Mall Massacre, widely regarded as the opening salvo of the turf wars between Colubmian and Cuban coke trafficers that did so much to damage Miami tourism in the 1980s. That bit of local color asside, the mall proximity makes it a convenient location for Starbucks and Target and Best Buy and whatnot now.

And the Intro class I'm teaching at MDC is a lot of fun so far. I showed them "Blade Runner", since the chapter they're reading right now (on Phil of Mind) deals among other things with Artificial Intelligence, the Turing Test and the Chinese Room Argument. The Voigt-Kampf Test in "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and "Blade Runner" is sort of a Turing Test, but also sort of not. Or rather, it is a Turing Test--the point is whether the replicant's answers differentiate it from a human test-taker--but one that seems to be testing not for consciousness (which replicants are assumed to have anyway) but for emotional empathy.

This was actually the first time I'd re-watched "Blade Runner" since I finally got around to reading "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" last year, and I was surprised to see that (although the tone and underlying sensibilities are of course much more Philip Marlowe than Philip K. Dick) in terms of the plot and world-building, it was much closer to the book than I had remembered. Sure, they took out the trademark phildickian shrewish wife, tacked on an interspecies love story that was deeply contrary to the spirit of the original, moved it from San Francisco to L.A. and took out all the stuff about Mercerism and mood control (which was, honestly, the most interesting part of the book), but in other ways it was closer than I had remembered it. The high price and prestige of animal ownership is there (though you could easily miss it), the universal-vegetarianism still seems to be there (it's not explicit, but I don't know how else to explain some of the questions about animals in the movie's version of Voigt-Kampf) and the post-apocalpytic population scarcity seems to still be partly there--while it's a big part of the book, the movie is sort of psychitzophrenic about it, showing apartment buildings with only one occupied apartment on the one hand and a bustling China Town on the other. Meh.

In any case, I'm planning on doing the tour of sf-noir movies as tie-ins arise--"Dark City" for the chapter on personal identity, "Minority Report" for free-will/determinism and "Thirteenth Floor" for epistemology. Should be fun, and an interesting experiment to see if they actually help get students thinking about the underlying conceptual issues.


I did finish revisions on the current drafts of the story formerly known as "Mind is the Shadow of Shadowmind" (currently "Broken in the Shadow of Mind") and the story formerly known as "The Truth About 9/11" (currently "T-Shirts, Tentacles and the Melting Point of Steel"), and I finally got them in the mail on Friday. Sadly, that is the most productive writerly thing I've done in...well...I'll plead the fifth on just how long, but I might have a new thing in the works soon. I hope.


Meanwhile, next week's WisCon! I'll be getting into Madison next Wednesday night, and staying through early Monday morning. The panel I was supposed to be on has been cancelled, but I'm doing a reading (with friends from the Clarion West class the year before mine) on Friday night. Should be fun.

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