Tag Archives: dystopian

Roqué’s Sunday Book Review: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

July 18, 2021

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

Writer Kazuo Ishiguro is as accomplished as an author can get. As a winner of the Nobel Prize in literature (among several accolades), he has written novels such as The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go that have resonated with audiences all over the world.  Each novel submerges the reader completely into the mind and sensibilities of its characters. Ishiguro’s writing is self-assured and crystalline in its delivery and style.  In his new novel just released this year entitled Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro is in mighty, top form.

The story of this novel takes places somewhere in the not-too-distant future. Ishiguro incrementally unravels what this future world looks like, and it is striking to see how believable he makes it all feel. Klara, the titular character, is a robot—one that was designed to act as a companion and confidante for children and teenagers. She is an incredibly sensitive and highly sophisticated piece of machinery that can engage with humans in, well, very human-like ways. 

Klara conveys empathy by remembering every nuance of behavior that she observes around her. She aggregates all of the data she compiles to inform how she interacts with the child who keeps her. Internally, she actively questions all she sees and any contradictions she comes across. Her mission is to support the child and his/her wellbeing as completely as possible. The sun and its solar energy are her power sources, and as such, she is a robust and efficient machine that can run itself for as along as possible.

This premise alone is fascinating, but the story itself is incredibly well-crafted. I found myself sighing at the end, which I will not give away here. What Ishiguro offers up in this book is an analysis of the shortcomings of humanity, despite its blistering ambition and technical powers. 

If you are looking for an absorbing book that is as tenderhearted as it is disturbing, this book may be right up your alley. Ishiguro, once again, schools the rest of us over how it’s done. He builds depth and complexity out of subtlety and nuance. What appears to be a gentle slap to the face is actually a tight-fisted, forceful punch to the gut.  You won’t know what it you.  

This book is masterful indeed. 


Fixing my Social Media Problems

September 14, 2020

Culture and Society / Roque Recommends

In a recent post, I discussed a few of the struggles I am having with social media. In addition to the dystopian data-mining that global conglomerates like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram carry out, they take up valuable time from my life and important mental space in my brain that all need to go toward bigger priorities. I’ve had time to think about what to do about all of this, and now, I have a plan.

My first impulse was to quit all social media completely. The two primary reasons against this are the connections I keep with dear friends and family all over the world through social media and the free promotion I can utilize for my films, music, and other creative projects.

So if quitting them entirely is not an option, I did some research, and I’ve devised a plan that I am calling Social Media Subterfuge (SMS). It is a strategy that allows me to utilize the benefits of social media that suite my needs while avoiding their addictive and negative impacts on my time and mental/emotional wellbeing.

Here’s my plan:

SMS Tactic #1: Advanced Post Scheduling

It is actually not sustainable to post on social media in real time. You have to break from whatever you are doing and active posting keeps you inside the walls of the social media ecosystem (which keeps the powers that be in control). Through the use of a service I’ve found called Planoly, I will be scheduling my posts in large batches far in advance as much as possible on all social media. (There are actually many services to choose from now depending on your personal and business needs. Find one that works for you.) Eventually, I will go about my day while this service does all of my posting for me.

SMS Tactic #2: Remove or log out of Social Media apps on my mobile phone.

I have removed Facebook from my phone. The only social media app that I have left is Instagram, and I stay logged out when not in use. Most of the engagement now happens on my laptop at a specific time.

SMS Tactic #3: Leave my phone in another room at all times.

When my phone is near me, it feels like an appendage of my body and the inclination to fire it up becomes second nature. I cannot allow this to continue. It wastes time and keeps me distracted from the many other tasks that need attention. My phone sits and gets charged in separate and distant areas away from where I do my work.

SMS Tactic #4: I stay on social media on my laptop computer for a half hour in the mornings and do not look again for the rest of the day.

After my morning walk, I spend time checking Facebook and Instagram. I go through as quickly as possible and check in with specific people to see how they are doing. I may respond to their posts with a “like” or a comment and then move on. After all of this, I am done with social media for the day.

SMS Tactic #5: Disable all notifications.

I do not need to know how many people liked my posts and who they were at all times. That little red badge with the number is designed to give you a small but not inconsequential dopamine fix. The sense of affirmation that one gets from likes is so alluring and addictive. I am learning how to live without getting this fix. Resisting the pull of social media in any way possible is a good start.

I’ve carried out all of these tactics now for the better part of the last three weeks, and I am loving the results. Here are some of the benefits I’ve found:

  • I literally have more time for everything else. It’s kind of shocking how much time I have freed up when my default activity for every spare moment does not involve staring at my phone. I’ve finished reading 6 books in the last 4 weeks, and I’ve been consistently getting exercise every day. Cool huh?

  • My days are calmer and more free flowing. Social media tends to be a negative space fraught with posts in which people air out their frustrations and anxieties. I have been able to free up mental space in my head for my creative work and the actual needs in my daily life without dealing with all of that.

  • I’ve been able to take more control over my life. With more time and space in my head, I’ve been able to organize other aspects of my life such as my workflow with my films, my musical pursuits, and self-care. Social media has often thrown a wrench into my plans and taken me off course. Instead of practicing on my ukulele for example, I’d waste an hour scrolling on my IG feed. That will happen no more.

  • I have the satisfaction of knowing that a corporation is not taking over my life.
    Peace of mind is such a rich and delicate gift. I cannot let the powers that be at Facebook get the better of me. They want me to patronize their advertisers. They want to know what I like and sell that information to advertisers. They want to control what I see on my feed. They want to take up as much of my time as they can get. Well, no thank you. I want the peace of mind that autonomy can give.

I cannot say, dear reader, that I will be perfect in these SMS pursuits, but so far so good. I will still get what I need out of social media while safeguarding my time and mental wellbeing. The greatest challenge has been getting used to not constantly looking at my phone and firing up IG or FB. When I feel that inclination (which is more often than I care to admit), I simply put my hands down, sit still, and let my mind wander toward something else.

I will keep you all posted on how I am doing with this, and I may make a short film about it for my Youtube channel. If you have any experience and insights in these matters, please share them in the comments or on social media. (Just know that I may not respond immediately.)

However you are spending your time, I hope you are doing something important and meaningful to you. I hope you are fully steering your own ship and that no other encroaching and unwelcome entity has any say in the matter.