Archive for the ‘Look at what I found on the Internet’ Category
UPDATE: We wound up talking a bit more about this on Twitter. Here’s the Storify.
Since March I’ve been chewing over this MetaFilter comment on the “brony” phenomenon:
OK. I’m a gonna say it. Bronies are rape by proxy. Girls are not allowed a safe place in pop culture. They are not alowed to have role-models that are not hypersexualized by a “fandom.” Guys into sex with ponies are into fucking women back into their place, and not about celebrating the triumph of imagination… and those guys into sex with ponies would never, ever dare air their rapiness without the vast subculture of adult men obsessing over a kids’ show aimed at girls. PPG got away with it, Billy and Mandy got away with it… Equestria has to be fucked into submission.
It was the first thing I thought of when I saw this New York Times piece on a “bold new direction” for the My Little Pony franchise, summarized thus: My Little Pony Gets Sexualized Teen Reboot. The recent Brave kerfuffle goes in here somewhere too.
* At last we have it in English. Summa Technologiae, originally published in Polish in 1964, is the cornerstone of Stanislaw Lem’s oeuvre, his consummate work of speculative nonfiction. Trained in medicine and biology, Lem synthesizes the current science of the day in ways far ahead of most science fiction of the time.
According to one observer, “the ones who fell asleep (or at least appeared to be asleep) [were] Tranel, Marklein, Pridemore, Tittl, Hutton, Bies, Nass, Tiffany, and Knodl. It was hard to tell with some of them, but Tranel was definitely asleep. Nerison, who sits next to him, shook him awake at one point.”
I think we have to accept that traditional colleges like ours have benefited from inequality. That’s biting us in the ass now because it’s being used to say we’re elitist as if we weren’t designed to do precisely what we’re doing. I mean c’mon. So let’s accept that part of our own story and say yeah we’ve got other stories too.
* Yale fined $165,000 for underreporting sex offenses. Is that a lot of money? You might very well think so.
* The Freud Museum announced earlier this week that it needed £5000 to restore Freud’s couch, the centerpiece of a study crammed with other relics, a cluttered cabinet of antique curiosities that Freud called his ‘old and dirty gods’.
* And the headline reads, “Venezuela Has Run Out of Toilet Paper.”
One aspect of MOOCs is that the stars are (almost) all men. At one website only 9 of 56 History MOOCS were presented by women. Without a doubt, the model of the MOOC – of the authoritative talking head – is one that privileges cultural perceptions of men and male control over certain types of knowledge. The gendered nature of the hierarchy of knowledge transmission that takes place is clear in the MOOC model of education. Although “students” are invited to respond at different points, to a large extent, the presenter controls the topic, the vocabulary, and the trajectory of whatever “dialogue” might take place. In recent stories on MOOCs at Princeton and Harvard, the instructors (all men) are described by their reputation as charismatic teachers.
The first thing I want to do, then, is slow us down a bit, and go through the last year with a bit more care than we’re usually able to do, to do a “close reading” of the year of the MOOC, as it were. Not only because I have the time, but because, to be blunt, MOOC’s only make sense if you don’t think about it too much, if you’re in too much of a hurry to go deeply into the subject.
* IRS Sent Same Letter to Democrats That Fed Tea Party Row. Gasp! You mean this whole scandal isn’t?
* Adam Kotsko on the US as a party state.
The really disturbing thing is that the party duopoly renders both parties above the law. We can see this in the IRS scandal that is currently unfolding: although there are very good reasons to suspect Tea Party organizations of being less than completely upright when it comes to taxes, the formal state apparatus is likely to back down and sanction the agents who carried out those investigations, because the appearance of neutrality vis-à-vis the two parties is more important than the rule of law. Similarly, one cannot prosecute Bush-era war crimes, because that would be an illegitimately “partisan” move. Given that Clinton and Obama have both committed similar atrocities, one might have some sympathy with the inevitable Republican whining that would accompany a Bush prosecution — it genuinely wouldn’t be “fair.” But it’s when one asks why we don’t just prosecute Bush and Obama that we realize that the two parties are truly above the law — a bipartisan agreement on foreign policy trumps even the most sacred norms of international law.
In the US, it’s common to think of sickle cell anemia, a genetic condition, as a “black disease,” and in fact statistics on prevalence bear that out — black Americans are far more likely than whites to carry the sickle cell gene. But that fact, it turns out, is a result of ethnicity and history, not race.
Sickle cell is common in some parts of Africa, and some parts of Europe, but not others. As it turns out, most American blacks have ancestral origins in areas of sickle-cell prevalence, and most American whites do not. But if the geographic distribution of Americans’ ancestors were different — if, for instance, the country had been settled by South African blacks and Sicilian whites — the incidence of sickle cell in the white population would be higher than the incidence in the black population.
Race is a form of shorthand, in other words. It’s an approximation. In some situations, for some purposes, it’s a useful approximation. If you’re trying to tell someone which of your several friends named Jim you’re referring to, specifying that you mean “the white Jim” may be helpful, and if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck in a sickle-cell awareness media campaign, targeting black media may have merit.
But the fact remains that Nelson Mandela is at less risk of sickle cell than Al Pacino.
See also Race and IQ: That Old Canard.
* Even the Onion wouldn’t stoop this low for a bit: Soldier In Charge of Sex Assault Prevention Accused of Abuse, Pimping.
What is Earth like in STAR TREK’S CENTURY? For one thing, we’ll never take a story back there and therefore don’t expect to get into subjects which would create great problems, technical and otherwise. The “U.S.S.” on our ship designation stands for “United Space Ship” – indicating (without troublesome specifics) that mankind has found some unity on Earth, perhaps at long last even peace. If you require a statement such as one that Earth cities of the future are splendidly planned with fifty-mile parkland strips around them, fine. But television today simply will not let us get into details of Earth’s politics of STAR TREK,’S century; for example, which socio-economic system ultimately worked out best.
* Via Slate’s Vault: Original Series Star Trek Writers/Directors Guide. Gems on every page!
SULU — Ship’s Helmsman, played by actor George Takei. Mixed oriental in ancestry, Japanese predominating, Sulu is contemporary American in speech and manner. In fact, his attitude toward Asians is that they seem to him rather “inscrutable”.
* App of the day: Buycott.
* And the headline reads, “Columbia University seeks to change ‘Caucasians only’ requirement for fellowship.”
Is it hard to imagine a Coursera version of Apple’s now-infamous App Store restrictions that seem to limit the speech considered “valid” in app form? Here’s what it might look like:
We view MOOCs different than books or traditional courses, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a business practice or industry, write a book. If you want to describe sex or capitalism, write an article or an op-ed, or pursue a research grant. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content on Coursera.
WNYC and The Record asked, separately, for documentation of NJ Transit’s hurricane preparedness plans. Both news organizations received the same reply: a three-and-a-half page document with the words “New Jersey Rail Operations Hurricane Plan” atop the first page.
* Angelina Jolie writes in the New York Times about her preventive double mastectomy.
* Justice Department Responds To Freedom Of Information Act Request On Online Snooping With 100% Blacked-Out Document. That is just straight trolling.
* Adam Kotsko on the Mad Men backlash. With special guest appearance!
* And a good piece for understanding the IRS scandal. Not that it will make a lick of difference in how this thing plays out.
* Northrop Frye by way of Adam Roberts: The basis of critical knowledge is the direct experience of literature, certainly, but experience as such is never adequate. We are always reading Paradise Lostwith a hangover or seeing King Lear with an incompetent Cordelia or disliking a novel because some scene in it connects with something suppressed in our memories, and our most deeply satisfying responses are often made in childhood, to be seen later as immature over-reacting… As a structure of knowledge, then, criticism, like other structures of knowledge, is in one sense a monument to a failure of experience, a tower of Babel or one of the “ruins of time” which, in Blake’s phrase, “build mansions in eternity.” Adam makes the same connection to SF I make:
I think this resonates so strongly with me partly because science fiction was something I fell in love with as a child-reader. I still love it; still write it and write about it. But I’m increasingly conscious of the ways in which the exercise is based upon a kind of structural hermeneutic inadequacy. ‘Our most deeply satisfying responses are often made in childhood, to be seen later as immature over-reacting’ is almost a too perfect thumbnail of the adult apprehension of SF; and SF criticism always a kind of running-to-catch-up uttering various post-facto justifications. What’s neat about this Frye quotation is the sense it conveys that, actually, all criticism is in the business of doing this.
* Lukewarm Obama scandals coming day-by-day now. Hello, second term!
* Peter Frase has more on Universal Basic Income as utopia.
* And let this be our culture’s epitaph. We could do worse.
* Sarah Kendzior and Rebecca Schuman tee up for the grad-school-backlash-backlash-backlash-honestly-I’ve-lost-count. As always, I’m very glad people are talking about exploitation, but nonetheless the unvarnished, apocalyptic negativity of some of these pieces just doesn’t reflect my own experiences in the academy very well at all. Academia contains multitudes; that’s actually a huge part of the problem.
* CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law. Of course, the “law” being skirted is a toothless disclosure requirement, so don’t even sweat it.
* Yglesias wept: Bangladesh to allow unions for garment workers.
Wright proposes that the central document to understanding Hubbard’s psyche is his so-called “secret memoir,” composed around 1947, otherwise referred to as Hubbard’s “Affirmations” or “Admissions.” The document itself has an interesting history: it was found by a former archivist for the Church of Scientology, Gerald Armstrong, who had been tasked with organizing the founder’s personal papers. The more Armstrong read, the less he believed. Convinced that Hubbard was a huckster, Armstrong copied the documents that he discovered in the archives and delivered them to his lawyer. He was thereafter sued by the Church of Scientology. During the trial, Armstrong tried to get on record portions of Hubbard’s “Affirmations,” under the vehement protests of the Church’s lawyers. Since then, the document has leaked to the internet. Among Hubbard’s Affirmations:
“I can write.”
“My mind is still brilliant.”
“That masturbation was no sin or crime.”
“That I do not need to have ulcers any more.”
“That I believe in my gods and spiritual things.”
“That my magical work is powerful and effective.”
“That the numbers 7, 25, and 16 are not unlucky or evil for me.”
“That I am not bad to look upon.”
“That I am not susceptible to colds.”
“That these words and commands are like fire and will sear themselves into every corner of my being, making me happy and well and confident forever!”
Hubbard emerges, in Wright’s account, as a pitiable figure, driven by relentless ambition yet also stalked by an enduring fear of irrelevance. Flawed, prone to tyranny and abusive behavior, he sought to conquer his insecurities by achieving an outsized grandeur. “If one looks behind the Affirmations to the conditions they are meant to correct,” Wright concludes, “one sees a man who is ashamed of his tendency to fabricate personal stories, who is conflicted about his sexual needs, and who worries about his mortality. He has a predatory view of women but at the same time fears their power to humiliate him.”
* Austerity comes to CTU: the new 24 will only have twelve episodes.
…the New Yorker hyping MOOCs and pretending to feel bad about it. All those moments of actual education will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
Here we see a real purpose behind lesswrong.com. Ultimately it doesn’t matter that people like Thiel or Kurzweil or Yudkowsky are pushing a crackpot idea like the singularity; what matters is that they are pushing the poisonous ideas that underlie Bayesianism. Thiel and others are funding an organisation that advances an ideological basis for their own predatory behaviour. Lesswrong and its sister sites preach a reductive concept of humanity that encourages an indifference to the world’s suffering, that sees people as isolated, calculating individuals acting in their self-interest: a concept of humanity that serves and perpetuates the scum at the top.