Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Avatar

Tuesday Links!

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How Student Loans For Preschool Make A Bad Problem Worse. Kill it with fire!

* The generation duped and prodded into 401Ks is about to retire without any money.

* Pew polls Americans on radical life extension.

One in Five People Can’t Repay Their Federal Student Loans.

* More scenes from the class struggle at Amazon.com.

* Why People Don’t Care About Avatar.

* Alan Wald reviews Marjorie Heins’s Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge.

* Every cop is a criminal: The New Yorker on civil forfeiture.

Many states, facing fiscal crises, have expanded the reach of their forfeiture statutes, and made it easier for law enforcement to use the revenue however they see fit. In some Texas counties, nearly forty per cent of police budgets comes from forfeiture. (Only one state, North Carolina, bans the practice, requiring a criminal conviction before a person’s property can be seized.) Often, it’s hard for people to fight back. They are too poor; their immigration status is in question; they just can’t sustain the logistical burden of taking on unyielding bureaucracies.

Our most important finding is that family formation negatively affects women’s—but not men’s—academic careers. For men, having children can be a slight career advantage and, for women, it is often a career killer. Women who do advance through the faculty ranks do so at a high personal price: They are far less likely to be married with children than are their male colleagues.

* And your periodic reminder that hoarding kills.

At least $18.5 trillion is hidden by wealthy individuals in tax havens worldwide, representing a loss of more than $156 billion in tax revenue, according to new figures published today by international agency Oxfam.

The missing money is twice that required for every person in the world to be living above the $1.25-a-day “extreme poverty” threshold.

Tuesday!

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* C21’s book on Debt is finally almost out. My essay draws on the bits of the Polygraph introduction I wrote and is about ecological debt.

* Syllabus minute: I have W.H. Auden envy.

MOOC Completion Rates: The Data.

* How neoliberal universities build their football stadiums.

Some projections showed Athletics might not be able to make payments starting in the 2030s when the debt service balloons. The debt is structured so that for the next 20 years, Cal only needs to make interest payments on the debt. The principal kicks in in the early 2030s, resulting in payments between $24 million and $37 million per year.

Look, if it’s good enough for an idea man who settled out of court on securities fraud, it’s good enough for me.

* Kent State fires adjunct who built their journalism master’s.

* Ian Morris, psychohistorian.

* What If? on The Twitter Archive of Babel. The Twitter Archive of Babel contains the true story of your life, as well as all the stories of all the lives you didn’t lead….

Proud Species Commits Suicide Rather Than Be Driven To Extinction By Humans.

* A People’s History of “Twist and Shout.”

PPP: Russ Feingold Poised For Comeback, Could Top Scott Walker Next Year.

* Michael Chabon: Dreams are useless bodily effluvia. Nicholson Baker: Dreams are all we have.

* You and I are gonna live forever: 72 is the new 30.

* Settling nerd fights of the 1990s today:  Is This the Smoking Gun Proving Deep Space Nine Ripped Off Babylon 5?

* The Star Wars Heresies: Star Wars and William Blake. Tim Morton’s essay in Green Planets has a similar impulse with respect to Avatar.

* And in even more insane mashup news: WWE Keeps Pressure On Glenn Beck.

Monday Links

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* Welcome to the future: Another grandmother gives birth to her own grandchild.

* Whiteness and Breaking Bad: America isn’t flooded with pure meth, and it’s not because our chemists are too ethical. The illegal drug market simply doesn’t reward peerless expertise in the same way celebrity cooking shows do.

The white guy who enters a world supposedly beneath him where he doesn’t belong yet nonetheless triumphs over the inhabitants is older than talkies. TV Tropes calls it “Mighty Whitey,” and examples range from Tom Cruise as Samurai and Daniel Day Lewis as Mohican, to the slightly less far-fetched Julia Stiles as ghetto-fabulous. But whether it’s a 3-D marine playing alien in Avatar or Bruce Wayne slumming in a Bhutanese prison, the story is still good for a few hundred million bucks. The story changes a bit from telling to telling, but the meaning is consistent: a white person is (and by extension, white people are) best at everything.

* Paging Kim Stanley Robinson: NASA seems to have violated its own Prime Directive by failing to consult its Planetary Protection Officer on the Curiosity mission.

Teachers are striking in Chicago. Meanwhile: How Michelle Rhee Is Taking Over the Democratic Party. Thank goodness Obama’s winning, so he can finally crush the teachers’ unions once and for all!

* Solitary confinement in schools? Jesus Christ.

* Richard Posner is making sense: The notion of using the criminal law as the primary means of dealing with a problem of addiction, of misuse, of ingesting dangerous drugs — I don’t think that’s sensible at all.

* Debt Collectors Cashing In on Student Loan Roundup.

“I couldn’t believe the accumulated wealth they represent — for our industry,” the consultant, Jerry Ashton, wrote in a column for a trade publication, InsideARM.com. “It was lip-smacking.”

Meanwhile, America’s defaulted student loans total more than yearly tuition at public colleges.

* Star Trek 2 has a title: Star Trek Into Darkness. Early returns: Pretty terrible! Star Wars on Poverty. Lord of the Rings That Bell.

* James Cameron always envisioned Avatar as 19 films.

I have an idea for a fourth. I haven’t really put pen to paper on it, but basically it goes back to the early expeditions of Pandora, and kind of what went wrong with the humans and the Na’vi and what that was like to be an explorer and living in that world. Because when we drop in, even in the first film in ‘Avatar 1,’ as it will be known in the future, we’re dropping into a process that’s 35 years in to a whole colonization.

But what happened before that? And before that? And…

* The director of Looper has a metaphor for a model of time travel logic I don’t think I’ve seen before: the universe as a body with an immune system that seeks to push out foreign objects.

The problem isn’t that this is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life; the problem is that it’s seven of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life glued together haphazardly, their inexorable badness amplified by their awkward juxtaposition. Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski wanted to make a movie unlike any other, and they certainly did: Cloud Atlas is a unique and totally unparalleled disaster.

*  Study: There is enough wind on this planet to meet our entire energy needs.

* Tressie McMillan Cottom reviews the captivating documentary The Queen of Versailles, which I caught at the local independent movie house this weekend. It’s quite good—a stunning portrait of the wealthy’s perspective of the “normal” workings of the economy and of the 2008-2009 economic collapse.

* And when polls fail: Do 15% of Ohio Republicans really think Romney killed bin Laden? Probably not.

Wednesday!

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* It isn’t the law that is struggling to catch up to drone technology; it’s us. Like it or not, the NextGen computerized autonomous national airspace is coming. It’s not a joke, and it’s not science fiction. Coming to terms with that is important. Disbelief won’t help at this point. The coming shift in our national airspace will push our boundaries. We’ll be able to mount legal challenges against particularly egregious uses of the technology — it’s unlikely that the sheriff of Montgomery County, Texas, will get much mileage out of his wet dream of a remote-controlled aircraft armed with tear gas and rubber bullets — but we won’t be able to imagine every permutation this technology will take. This is going to be some Minority Report–level shit.

* James Cameron: Avatar was always imagined as a six-picture hexalogy. Stick around for a fun Doctor Who spoiler/rumor if that’s your thing.

* Rethinking depression in teenage girls: “Depression? Really? How About Anger and Powerlessness?”

* No! No! I won’t believe it! Military expert says there’s no way Batman’s TDKR ‘Bat’ could fly.

* Battle Royale is an obvious can’t-miss hit for a post-Hunger-Games, post-Walking-Dead TV landscape. Just about the only way it could miss is if network executives changed it so the kids weren’t killing each other, just beating each other up…

* And you can take it to the bank: Human immortality could be possible by 2045, say Russian scientists. Guaranteed!

‘Fantasy and Ideology in Avatar’

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…in Psychic Swamp. (Thanks, Melody!)

Written by gerrycanavan

April 22, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Saturday Night Links

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* Breaking: Right-wing Supreme Court Justices don’t take their jobs seriously. Supreme Court May Be Most Conservative in Modern History. Antonin Scalia, semi-retired crank.

* Jonathan Cohn, Scott Lemieux, and Richard Hansen and ponder the legitimacy of a Supreme Court that has actually gone the full monty and overturned the ACA.

* Of course they say the same thing about us. Judge Strikes Down Key Parts Of Walker’s Anti-Public Employee Union Law.

* Don’t check the date, just believe it: Google Maps QuestView for the NES.

* This collection of more-accurate Dr. Seuss titles is one of my favorite things on the entire Internet.

* James Cameron teases the Avatar sequels.

“The best inspiration I got for ‘Avatar’ 2 and 3 was dealing with the master navigator culture in Micronesia,” Cameron said by phone from Tokyo on Friday, where he attended the Japanese premiere of “Titanic 3D.”

The Micronesians, a seafaring culture who navigated the Pacific for centuries without the aid of compasses or charts, already have a lot in common with the blue Na’vi residents of Pandora — they’re an indigenous, matrilineal culture, colonized by outsiders. And the cerulean and aquamarine tones of “Avatar” and its inhabitants seem drawn from postcards from the watery Micronesian region.

* The New York Times has some fun with towards a quantum theory of Mitt Romney.

* 21st Century as Intergenerational War. More here and here.

* Why are colleges acting as volunteer loan collection agents for the banks?

In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons, versus $5.7 billion on higher education. Since 1980, California has built one college campus; it’s built 21 prisons. The state spends $8,667 per student per year. It spends about $50,000 per inmate per year.

* The lottery lie: The educational “bonus” appears to be nonexistent. Miller and Pierce (1997) studied the short- and long-term effect of education lotteries. They found that lottery states did indeed increase per-capita spending on education during the lottery’s early years. However, after some time these states actually decreased their overall spending on education. In contrast, states without lotteries increased education spending over time. In fact, nonlottery states spend, on average, 10 percent more of their budgets on education than lottery states (Gearey 1997).

* The education reform lie: it’s impossible to talk about primary and secondary education in America in any meaningful way if you won’t allow yourself to discuss class.

* Hunger Games commentary watch: Understanding Katniss.

If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the eduction of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books–books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive. Yours sincerely, Kurt Vonnegut.

* Too Smart to Fail: Notes on an Age of Folly.

But the problem goes far beyond politics. We have become a society that can’t self-correct, that can’t address its obvious problems, that can’t pull out of its nosedive. And so to our list of disasters let us add this fourth entry: we have entered an age of folly that—for all our Facebooking and the twittling tweedle-dee-tweets of the twitterati—we can’t wake up from.

* Slate continues to pioneer bold new horizons in fantasy capitalism.

* 3 New Studies Link Bee Decline to Bayer Pesticide. No one could have predicted the widespread implementation of insecticides would kill so many insects!

The government has put the chances of a magnitude 7.3 quake centered in the north of Tokyo Bay at 70 percent over the next three decades, and has estimated there would be about 11,000 casualties and 850,000 buildings destroyed.

* Cancer research: it’s worse than you think.

* “Military surplus a bonanza for law enforcement.”

* Orwell and March Madness.

* And Canada will stop issuing pennies. Honestly, they’re decades ahead of us. Could be centuries.

Clarke’s Fourth Law?

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“Any sufficiently advanced civilization is indistinguishable from nature.” Explains everything from Avatar to the Fermi Paradox. Via MeFi.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Wednesday

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* Via everywhere: “A Letter to My Students” from Michael O’Hare.

Now, your infrastructure is falling to pieces under your feet, and as citizens you are responsible for crudities like closing parks, and inhumanities like closing battered women’s shelters. It’s outrageous, inexcusable, that you can’t get into the courses you need, but much worse that Oakland police have stopped taking 911 calls for burglaries and runaway children. If you read what your elected officials say about the state today, you’ll see things like “California can’t afford” this or that basic government function, and that “we need to make hard choices” to shut down one or another public service, or starve it even more (like your university). Can’t afford? The budget deficit that’s paralyzing Sacramento is about $500 per person; add another $500 to get back to a public sector we don’t have to be ashamed of, and our average income is almost forty times that. Of course we can afford a government that actually works: the fact is that your parents have simply chosen not to have it.

* But the news isn’t all bad: Nike has filed a patent on the self-lacing shoes from Back to the Future, Part II.

* Should blogs count toward tenure? Cathy Davidson says yes, but as service work, not publication. More from Chutry, who approves.

* New Jersey in the news! The state lost $400 million in federal education funding for not following directions.

* Trailer for AMC’s The Walking Dead. I’m cautiously optimistic, even if some of this (particularly the washed-out, poorly acted opening scenes) seems really amateurish.

* John Krasinski’s adaptation of Brief Interviews With Hideous Men can be watched on Hulu until September 5. Speaking as a hideous man, I thought it was worth watching.

* “Competitive balance an issue in EPL.” Four 6-0 games in two weeks—you think?

* What’s in the Avatar special edition?

* And presenting the Next Generation that never (but almost) was, starring Wesley Snipes as Geordi La Forge.

Links for Very Early This Wednesday

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* It’s an essential, if underappreciated component of our daily lives, and a key link in the global food chain. And it’s running out. Peak Phosphorous.

* Texas school set to begin work on $60 million stadium. Note: we’re talking about a Texas high school.

* I can’t believe Larry David’s agreed to do another season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’m officially shocked. How will they ever top the Seinfeld reunion?

* Avatar 2 will have a water park theme.

* The secret origins of Dune.

* Among the many little gems in this rise and fall of fantasy television infographic is the fact that Superman has been on television nearly continuously since the medium began.

* Obama has once again supposedly learned his lesson about the GOP: President Obama thinks Republicans will engage in a full battle over his Supreme Court nominee regardless of the person’s ideological leanings, and in some ways “that realization is liberating for the president” to choose whomever he pleases, an administration official told TPMDC. We’ll see.

* And Arizona is now, officially, a dystopian hellscape. Your papers, please…

I Think One of Us Is Doing This Wrong

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Despite having written about it, Žižek now says he hasn’t actually seen Avatar. But take heart, true believers:

Žižek promises that he will see the film and then write a Stalinist ‘self-criticism’.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 14, 2010 at 10:02 am

Proliferation and the Digital

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James Cameron produced over 100 versions of Avatar to fit every possible screen and projection configuration imaginable.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 26, 2010 at 9:41 am

Select Links While I’m Away (Part 1)

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3/16

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* News that a Mississippi high school has canceled prom rather than allow a lesbian couple to attend has caused a “lesbian prom pictures” meme to ripple across the Internets.

* Inside Higher Ed has an article concerning (another) recent spate of suicides at Cornell.

* Saudi Arabia may not worry about Peak Oil, but they’re definitely nervous about Peak Demand.

* If David Brooks had a point, he might have a point. More from Taibbi and Chait.

* More Congressional procedure! Just because “deem and pass” happens all the time doesn’t mean it’s not tyranny when Nancy Pelosi does it. Ezra Klein is right when he says we should simplify Congressional procedure, but I think our friends in the GOP would be the first to tell us we can’t just unilaterally disarm.

* Avatar will be rereleased with an additional forty minutes à la Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, bringing its total running time to three days.

* But what the world needs most, of course, is another Battlestar Galactica sequel. I’ve fallen off watching Caprica, but from what I hear it’s at least good enough to Netflix—but I’m really not sure what’s left for a third series, except (perhaps) something pre-apocalpytic set on contemporary Earth using the BSG mythology as its starting point. Still, and it’s just a crazy idea: why not something new?

Žižek v. ‘Avatar’

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This does not mean, however, that we should reject Avatar on behalf of a more “authentic” acceptance of the real world. If we subtract fantasy from reality, then reality itself loses its consistency and disintegrates. To choose between “either accepting reality or choosing fantasy” is wrong: if we really want to change or escape our social reality, the first thing to do is change our fantasies that make us fit this reality. Because the hero of Avatar doesn’t do this, his subjective position is what Jacques Lacan, with regard to de Sade, called le dupe de son fantasme.

This is why it is interesting to imagine a sequel to Avatar in which, after a couple of years (or, rather, months) of bliss, the hero starts to feel a weird discontent and to miss the corrupted human universe. The source of this discontent is not only that every reality, no matter how perfect it is, sooner or later disappoints us. Such a perfect fantasy disappoints us precisely because of its perfection: what this perfection signals is that it holds no place for us, the subjects who imagine it.

Slavoj Žižek begins with something not entirely unlike my “war of genres” analysis of Avatar and goes someplace pretty interesting with it:

At the same time as Avatar is making money all around the world (it generated $1bn after less than three weeks of release), something that strangely resembles its plot is taking place. The southern hills of the Indian state of Orissa, inhabited by the Dongria Kondh people, were sold to mining companies that plan to exploit their immense reserves of bauxite (the deposits are considered to be worth at least $4trn). In reaction to this project, a Maoist (Naxalite) armed rebellion exploded.

Arundhati Roy, in Outlook India magazine, writes that the Maoist guerrilla army:

is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Saharan Africa. They are people who, even after 60 years of India’s so-called independence, have not had access to education, health care or legal redress. They are people who have been mercilessly exploited for decades, consistently cheated by small businessmen and moneylenders, the women raped as a matter of right by police and forest department personnel. Their journey back to a semblance of dignity is due in large part to the Maoist cadres who have lived and worked and fought by their sides for decades. If the tribals have taken up arms, they have done so because a government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have – their land . . . They believe that if they do not fight for their land, they will be annihilated . . . their ragged, malnutritioned army, the bulk of whose soldiers have never seen a train or a bus or even a small town, are fighting only for survival.

The Indian prime minister characterised this rebellion as the “single largest internal security threat”; the big media, which present it as extremist resistance to progress, are full of stories about “red terrorism”, replacing stories about “Islamist terrorism”. No wonder the Indian state is responding with a big military operation against “Maoist strongholds” in the jungles of central India. And it is true that both sides are resorting to great violence in this brutal war, that the “people’s justice” of the Maoists is harsh. However, no matter how unpalatable this violence is to our liberal taste, we have no right to condemn it. Why? Because their situation is precisely that of Hegel’s rabble: the Naxalite rebels in India are starving tribal people, to whom the minimum of a dignified life is denied.

So where is Cameron’s film here? Nowhere: in Orissa, there are no noble princesses waiting for white heroes to seduce them and help their people, just the Maoists organising the starving farmers. The film enables us to practise a typical ideological division: sympathising with the idealised aborigines while rejecting their actual struggle. The same people who enjoy the film and admire its aboriginal rebels would in all probability turn away in horror from the Naxalites, dismissing them as murderous terrorists. The true avatar is thus Avatar itself – the film substituting for reality.

Along the way he gives a lovely one-sentence analysis of Titanic as well:

At this moment the ship hits the iceberg, in order to prevent what would undoubtedly have been the true catastrophe, namely the couple’s life in New York.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 5, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Three For Sunday

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* Steve Benen has talking points for Democrats. I’m pretty sure I want Steve to run for Congress.

* I’ve bookmarked both these Third World uses of Avatar for possible eventual papers on the film.

* And Marginal Revolution wonders whether Cleveland would rather lose the championship than risk losing LeBron.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm

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