Saturday, June 25, 2016

Kafkaesque - more than an unnecessarily frustrating experience

In comics this season, we studied the graphic adaption of Kafka's Metamorphosis by Peter Kuper. In the story, a salesman wakes up and finds he has turned into a bug - seems the perfect premise for a graphic novel.

Kafka's novellas led to the creation of the adjective Kafkaesque which according to Mirriam means something "having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality, such as Kafkaesque bureaucratic delays" (we've all had those). The hoops one has to jump through are often so twisted and frustrating that success is pointless.

Kafka's many short stories have strange illogical, usually bureaucratic, twists that are worth reading. They reflect the disconnect in industrialized societies, the alienation that comes when life is reduced to working for faceless bureaucracies and corporations and being subjected to the rules and laws of the same. One strange twist in Kafka's Metamorphosis is that when Gregor discovers he's turned into a bug he worries incessantly about how he is going to get to work instead of what happened to his body.

Have you read other Kafka stories? If so, how do they relate to today's world? If you haven't, have you been trapped in a DMV line? Stuck in a mound of red tape or bureaucratic paperwork? Have you lived a Kafkaesque story?

Friday, June 24, 2016

When will we see these fashions on campus?

Predicting the future is never easy and when we look back at 1930 clothing predictions for the new millennium it all seems so ridiculous, but these styles weren't created for laughs, these designers on history's cutting edge were serious.

What did they predict? Women will wear trousers (what a shock), climate controlled dresses, and even a headlight to "catch a man." The male narrator treats style for women as simply a way to attract the other sex. Maybe that's true in an evolutionary sort of way, but hey, if any guy saw the way I dressed on the weekends . . . not to mention sexuality in the 1930s could only be fathomed in the female/male variety. The one prediction designers of the 1930s seemed to get right was the portable phone--today's cell phone, except that only men would "wear" them.

Predictions are a sticky business and there have been a lot of bad ones. Remember Y2K when all the computers would stop working. Or the Mayan calendar crisis of 2012 - hey, we're still here. In 1977 a global ice age was predicted, in 2008 it was global warming, now it's climate change (just sayin'). Haley's comet is going to take out planet earth. As the physicist Niels Bohr once said,“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

So now you are on the cutting edge of history, what predictions would you look to forecast for 2085? What will we wear and drive? Will we all be living underground? What will the environment be like? What kind of government(s) will populate the planet? What will we do for fun? Will we all be embedded with chips? Will we be living in a transhuman or even artificial intelligence sort of world? Will Skynet have wiped out all the humans?

Most of all, why do all predictions have to be so gloomy? Don't any of us think that we may be living in a better world?