Tag Archives: Uuganaa Ramsay

Artificial can be real

Sick days have their benefits; such as catching up with design work for the upcoming project for Uni, doing further research for dissertation and generally doing things in my own pace, not stressing out, relaxing as much as possible – with copious amounts of tea and excellent literature and a film or two tossed into the mix, for the heck of it. I went through all of the Harry Potter films (first time ever!) when my fever was too high to think anything more intellectual and all I want to do is scream episkey or whichever spell that would clear my sinuses. Then I saw the Wolf of Wall Street and honestly felt nearly sick to my stomach just from over-the-fricking-top carousal.

Multitasking

Multitasking

Then today I wanted something more stimulating. Interesting, if you will. And first I saw Frances Ha, although I have to admit it failed to grip me in any interesting way, despite how I usually love Noah Baumbach‘s style (The Squid and the Whale is one of my favorites, which I saw years ago at Dublin Film Festival whilst studying film at DBS). I ended up spending much of the film time with fidgeting about with InDesign and my project (and browsing Reddit once in a while…), not paying much attention to the film. Shame, I’m sure it’s really good. Just wasn’t for me, not today.

But then – I just finished watching Her. Spike Jonze’s (creator of greats such as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) visualisation of a future where people and computers work side by side, comfortable with one another. Where the world hasn’t (yet) been overtaken by the master mind machinery and technology but rather, the computers are colleagues, friends and partners; like another human being, sitting in the next cubicle. Luckily, Jonze doesn’t go overboard with the futurism, and sticks to simple hints of advanced technology and bigger, edgier buildings counter-balanced by the rather 50’s styled costumes. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), heart-broken and cocooned in sadness, but loved and lovable protagonist, ghostwrites letters; beautiful, personalised, heart-felt letters that a layman would not be skilled to write. That’s his job – dictating beautiful words to a computer that prints the letters in the individuals own handwriting. So far seems rather dull. I start fidgeting again. InDesign, now that I have learned how to use it (thank you, Laura), and want to make the best possible job.

Then Theodore installs a new program. A hyperintelligent operating system that is designed to make his life easier, to provide him assistance and to anticipate his needs. And now the smouldering voice of Scarlett Johansson fills the screen, in the role of Samantha. The emotionally void Theodore, surviving through the pieces of his failed marriage, Theodore and Samantha quickly build a rapport. A rapport than rather surprisingly develops one night into love-making, and the love-making turns into a relationship.

Now, loving a physical object is not that surprising – I definitely have a strong connection with mixed emotions with each my bookshelf, my film collection, my MacBook and my easel – but what is surprising, is how no one (par from the ex-wife, who accuses Theodore of always having wanted a relationship with a machine in order not to have to deal with the reality of physical woman) bats an eye on the relationship. Having an OS as one’s girlfriend seems to be a socially acceptable and even a normal thing, and Theodore is not alone in having such a relationship. Especially, with an OS like Samantha who has a personality with spunk and tenderness, keen eye and quick wit; and someone, who by her own words, is constantly developing learning. Ideal woman, right? Especially as Samantha is painfully aware of her lack of a physical body, and finds a woman who is willing to be the body for them. To be the physical representation of Samantha, so Theodore would have someone to touch, hold and make love to. Ultimately, though, that proved to be too strange for Theodore – the girl wasn’t Samantha.

A love story like no other. But in no means is it strange. That’s the strange part. Their relationship is like any other. With the first highs of being infatuated to the point of nauseating, spending all free time together, falling in love. Then the first cracks appear, and bit by bit the relationship slides towards the growing apart bit that is the end of many relationships.

This soulful, captivating retro-futuristic film had me from Samantha’s first introduction till the end glued to the screen. Admiring the beautiful cinematic storytelling of Jonze, a brave take on how technology is becoming more and more part of our daily life, and how ultimately we learn to accept that and not be afraid of it. Even accepting it as our partners in life. Artificial intelligence seems that much more real and palpable; and when (or if?) it becomes part of our reality, will we believe the OS/AI’s are just mimicking us, or are they actually learning and developing despite us? It is the constant balancing out and flipping over of what is expected, the general assumptions versus what is illusion and made up. An unconventional reality. The beauty of transition from technology to person, from friend to relationship and back to being alone shows Jonze’s command on the material, the inner investigation – a romantic film like any other, just one of the participants hasn’t got a body, but does that make it any less real?

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Uuganaa Ramsay: Mongol Memoir Book Launch

Mongol Book Launch
On January 16, 2014, Uuganaa Ramsay’s memoir Mongol  held a successful launch at the Waterstones on Argyle Street, Glasgow. The occasion is grand in all meanings of the word; turn out is great, the memoir is a powerful expression of a woman’s journey from a happy care-free childhood into a mother who lost her child, and for Uuganaa it is a physical sign that her son, Billy, will always be remembered.

Uuganaa Ramsay and Sara Hunt

Uuganaa Ramsay and Sara Hunt

Uuganaa begins her short speech with thanking those important in her life, holding back emotions is palpable both from

the audience and Uuganaa herself, especially as her father is sitting there – on the first row, unashamedly tearing up

both for bride of his child and the memories Uuganaa’s words evoke. Her words ring true to her descriptions of a childhood where she was loved, supported and (in her own words) even spoiled – for Uuganaa her family and friends, her experiences and the support she received is gold in many layers.

Why did Uuganaa decide to write a book so personal, so touching? She tells the listeners how she began to write her blog after Billy died, to have Billy live on people’s minds, and have something tangible that will always be there – especially as a copy of Mongol will always be in the British Library.

That being said, for Uuganaa the memoir is not just about Billy – Billy is big part of her story, but she also wants to emphasize how she wanted to write about Mongolia, Mongolian culture and the word Mongol, to show that people from Mongolia can be normal, like Uuganaa, as Uuganaa has had to explain during her student times. In essence, it is a memoir of Uuganaa’s family values, culture and language as much as a memoir of the memory of her son who happened to be Mongolian, and have Down’s Syndrome.

A powerful paragraph in the memoir is when the doctor has related news of Billy’s Down Syndrome to Uuganaa and her husband, with the note that is might not be as obvious due to her ethnicity (Mongol, p.12). This was the first step towards countering the use of the word “mongol” in a derogatory way and to start advocating the correct use of the term to mean the nation full of history, the ethnicity and the language only. Uuganaa’s wish is one day to have people see the term through Mongolian eyes; just one nation among all the others.

After introducing us her book, Uuganaa read three short pieces from the memoir; all very different and all very

Uuganaa Ramsay

Uuganaa Ramsay

emotional, and all very important. I mostly remember them already from when having had the chance to talk with Uuganaa for the Saraband book trailer, the difficulty deciding what to read that would show the nuances of the memoir. Uuganaa started with the beginning of chapter three (Mongol, p.18), reliving the memories of her happy childhood in the ger, a portable, felt-covered, wooden-framed and circular traditional Mongolian home. Next Uuganaa reads the part of when she had to explain Down’s syndrome to her mother, and how it was as much an emotional as a cultural shock, trying to explain something that was unfamiliar, and have that mother’s initial reaction of “no, no, no. Not my girl. You have gone through enough in life. You can’t suffer like this.” (Mongol, p. 10). Last but not least, Uuganaa finished with a bit of humour after all that upheaval – cultural differences between couples (Mongol, p. 15) where Richard, the husband-to-be, was giving Uuganaa a compliment which actually for her was an insult: “Not too long after we were together, he commented that I looked tanned. I was offended. I was so offended that I didn’t talk to him for a day.” Naturally, it was all a misunderstanding but does put life into a perspective, thinking what the Western culture yearns for versus what is considered attainable in the East.

Uuganaa’s reading and speech had the listeners emotionally opened and drained that in the Q&A there were not so Mongol Book Launchmuch Q’s as there were thank you’s and praise for Uuganaa’s bravery for writing her memoir, voicing out the culture and the importance of Billy as a human boy despite his ethnicity or extra chromosome. A father speaks how having his daughter taught him to be more in touch with his feelings and how, like Uuganaa, he has benefitted from the enormous support of other parents (also, absolute must would be the Ups and Downs Theatre Group). Another one of Uuganaa’s friends thanks her for writing such an important work, and implores her to translate it into Mongolian so the memoir can be shared back home as well.

Uuganaa finishes (before signing a massive pile of books for her audience) with thanking Scotland and her family for giving her a voice, for being open-minded and supportive. And maybe what with all the support she has received, there could be another book about to be written?

Find out more about Uuganaa and her views at the wonderful interview by Trish Nicholson.

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