Posts Tagged ‘David Foster Wallace’
* It’s official: J.J. Abrams will ruin Star Wars (more).
Imagine a documentary that depicted the Holocaust in a cool, disinterested way as a big industrial-logistic operation, focusing on the technical problems involved (transport, disposal of the bodies, preventing panic among the prisoners to be gassed). Such a film would either embody a deeply immoral fascination with its topic, or it would count on the obscene neutrality of its style to engender dismay and horror in spectators. Where is Bigelow here?
* Anti-war activism at the University of Wisconsin, c. 1940.
* Stunning read on living as a victim of child abuse from the New York Times: The Price of a Stolen Childhood.
* David Foster Wallace and depression, in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
* Steve Benen and Maddowblog has been all over the Republican vote-rigging scheme, even going so low as to cite one of my tweets. What The 2012 Election Would Look Like Under The Republicans’ Vote-Rigging Plan. Scott Walker, of course, is rigging-curious. And a delicious little bit of schadenfreude.
* It is a sin against the new world of mediocrity to be distinct or distinguished. We are in the chain-store, neon-lighted era. Almost every city looks the same. The same people all dress the same – kids as Hopalong Cassidy, men with loud sportshirts and Truman suits, women in slacks. Sometimes you can tell whether a trousered individual is a man or a woman only by the width of the buttocks. Only a few cities have individuality. They are the seaports, New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. Boston reeks of decay, and is not genteel. The rest are all Cleveland.
Would you believe me if I told you that President Obama is in constitutional trouble—with hundreds of decisions of the National Labor Relations Board from the last year now potentially invalid—over the meaning of the word the?
* So we’re going to destroy the world: Australian shale oil discovery could be larger than Canada’s oilsands.
None of these past challenges compares with the one under way now. While other humanities disciplines—philosophy, linguistics, and modern languages, for example—have relied upon a range of foundational practices at the modern mass university, many English professors have depended on literature (narrowly defined), written discourse, and the printed book as the primary elements in teaching and scholarship. But hidebound faculty members who continue to assign and study only pre-computer-based media will quickly be on their way toward becoming themselves a “historical” presence at the university.
That’s why I specialized in iPad-2-era Twitter-based fan-fiction, and frankly I’ve never looked back.
* Open, New, Experimental, Aspirational: Ian Bogost vs. ”The Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age.”
* New research indicates tuition has little correlation with educational outcomes.
* If markets are efficient and if markets make things better, then there is no explanation for why we have the worst media in the world rather than the best. The problem is that markets don’t really make things better or more efficient. They make things cheaper and they’re responsive. That’s why we get the news we want rather than the news we need.
* Defending freedom: A St. Paul man who recently purchased an assault rifle out of fear of an impending gun ban threatened his teenage daughter with it because she was getting two B’s in school rather than straight A’s, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.
* Adam Mansbach: My fake college college syllabus.
* Debunkng the “the Soviets used a pencil” gag. The more you know!
* New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions After Rape As ‘Tampering With Evidence.’ Republicans, honestly, we have to talk.
* Seriously, though, I could fix the whole damn system if they’d listen to me.
* And a little something just for the Harmenians: “I wanted a memorable Harmontown show in Kansas City, and for my sins they gave me one.” Dan Harmon predicts pain.
* All in the game: 16-bit The Wire.
* Star Trek: Settlers of Catan? Oh, all right. Meanwhile: Michael Dorn Developing Wildly Ill-Conceived Captain Worf TV series.
* The fresh crop of post-secondary students filing into the classroom this week could be in for a shock when they realize they could be paying for their education an average of 14 years after they graduate.
* Actually existing media bias: Why won’t CNN air its own award-winning documentary on Bahrain?
* You demanded it, now here it is! A Christmas Story 2. This film looks so terrible it hardly even seems real.
3. The Hulk has no penis.
They modeled every part of the Hulk, except for one. “When the maquette came in, it’s just a Barbie doll,” said Jason Smith.
* Who’s going to be the lesser evil in 2012 2008 2004 2000 1996 1992 1988 1984 1980 1976 1972 1968?
* The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block.” These results have since been confirmed.
* The real affirmative action: Researchers with access to closely guarded college admissions data have found that, on the whole, about 15 percent of freshmen enrolled at America’s highly selective colleges are white teens who failed to meet their institutions’ minimum admissions standards.
* How many people have died because Walter White got cancer? And a Breaking Bad Fermi problem: What is a good approximation of how much money Skyler had in the storage unit when she showed Walt how she stopped counting it?
* Report: Student Debt Is Holding Back The Housing Recovery. Are you interested in student debt now, old people?
* Getting spicy: Hacker Group Claims to Have Romney’s Tax Returns.
* BREAKING: Rachel Carson Didn’t Kill Millions of Africans.
* BREAKING: Social Security Administration to arm illegal immigrants with hollow-point bullets to murder taxpayers. Wake up, sheeple! The truth is out there.
* A tale that grew in the telling: The Hobbit is officially a trilogy. Oh, all right, I’ll allow it.
* 84-minute David Foster Wallace TV interview from 2003. Go ahead, I’ll be here when you’re done.
* Symbolism a bit on the nose, don’t you think? Ancestry.com is claiming Barack Obama is descended from the first slave in America—on his mother’s side.
* Postscript on the Society of Control: Twitter can predict when you’ll get sick a week before you do, with 90% accuracy.
* Just remember, the Koch brothers can buy anything, but they can’t buy science.
* What everyone is linking today: How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance.
* A proposed court-supervised agreement filed today will ease restrictions for transgender people born in Illinois to obtain new birth certificates that reflect their correct gender.
* The People of the Future have finally come to collect Chris Marker. Rest in peace.
* And today in obscenity: Sexual Assault Victims Charged Up To $1,200 In Wisconsin For Cost Of Their Rape Kits. That’s not okay at all.
To appreciate these skills and some of the difficulties involved, you might wish to do an experiment. Try sitting alone in a room with a clock, turning on a tape recorder, and starting to speak into it. Speak about anything you want—with the proviso that your topic, and your opinions on it, must be of interest to some group of strangers who you imagine will be listening to the tape. Naturally, in order to be even minimally interesting, your remarks should be intelligible and their reasoning sequential—a listener will have to be able to follow the logic of what you’re saying—which means that you will have to know enough about your topic to organize your statements in a coherent way. (But you cannot do much of this organizing beforehand; it has to occur at the same time you’re speaking.) Plus, ideally, what you’re saying should be not just comprehensible and interesting but compelling, stimulating, which means that your remarks have to provoke and sustain some kind of emotional reaction in the listeners, which in turn will require you to construct some kind of identifiable persona for yourself—your comments will need to strike the listener as coming from an actual human being, someone with a real personality and real feelings about whatever it is you’re discussing. And it gets even trickier: You’re trying to communicate in real time with someone you cannot see or hear responses from; and though you’re communicating in speech, your remarks cannot have any of the fragmentary, repetitive, garbled qualities of real interhuman speech, or speech’s ticcy unconscious “umm”s or “you know”s, or false starts or stutters or long pauses while you try to think of how to phrase what you want to say next. You’re also, of course, denied the physical inflections that are so much a part of spoken English—the facial expressions, changes in posture, and symphony of little gestures that accompany and buttress real talking. Everything unspoken about you, your topic, and how you feel about it has to be conveyed through pitch, volume, tone, and pacing. The pacing is especially important: it can’t be too slow, since that’s low-energy and dull, but it can’t be too rushed or it will sound like babbling. And so you have somehow to keep all these different imperatives and structures in mind at the same time, while also filling exactly, say, eleven minutes, with no dead air and no going over, such that at 10:46 you have wound things up neatly and are in a position to say, “KFI is the station with the most frequent traffic reports. Alan LaGreen is in the KFI Traffic Center” (which, to be honest, Mr. Z. sometimes leaves himself only three or even two seconds for and has to say extremely fast, which he can always do without a flub). So then, ready: go.
David Foster Wallace, “Host.”
* Community is back March 15, but NBC still hates you; they’re putting Parks & Rec on hiatus instead.
* Weirdest Unsolved Mysteries of World War II. I feel certain Indiana Jones was involved in each of these.
* ‘I exist wholly for you. I will never reject you. You cannot disappoint me.’ A brief history of the money shot.
FLOGGING CULLY. A debilitated lecher, commonly an old one.
COLD PIG. To give cold pig is a punishment inflicted on sluggards who lie too long in bed: it consists in pulling off all the bed clothes from them, and throwing cold water upon them.
TWIDDLE POOP. An effeminate looking fellow.
* Jim Henson, 1969: How to Make a Muppet. Also on Muppetwatch: A 1979 profile of Henson in anticipation of The Muppet Movie.
* The secret history of “Mahna Mahna”: “How a ditty from a soft-core Italian movie became the Muppets’ catchiest tune.”
* Almost literally the least they could do: Davis Will Drop Charges Against, Pay Medical Bills of Pepper Spray Students.
* I’ve seen this movie: The Air Force “has asked industry to develop a new heat and motion sensor capable of detecting enemy gunfire from 25,000 feet over the battlefield — and then swiftly directing a bomb or missile onto the shooter.” I believe Terminator suggests the name HKs…
* The full congregation of Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church voted Sunday to prohibit the church pastor from legally marrying anyone until she can legally marry same-sex couples under North Carolina law.
* Michael Bailey and Forrest Maltzman say their poli-sci model shows the Affordable Care Act will be upheld. Scott Lemieux says there’s no reason to think they’ll confine themselves to precedent and that it still all comes down to what Anthony Kennedy has for breakfast.
* Google greets Thanksgiving (outside the US) with the mother of all interactive doodles.
* And speaking of obvious scams: Is a Law Degree a Good Investment Today?
David Foster Wallace and Stephen King save me from a scandalously poor showing on this year’s New York Times 100 Notable Books. (You’re next, Murakami!)
* As you may have seen on Twitter, the National Council of the American Studies Association endorsed Occupy Wall Street this weekend. Political Dissent in a Time of (Economic) Crisis.
In order for that clique to create full consensus on a decision, minority dissenters were often subtly urged or psychologically coerced to decline to vote on a troubling issue, inasmuch as their dissent would essentially amount to a one-person veto. This practice, called “standing aside” in American consensus processes, all too often involved intimidation of the dissenters, to the point that they completely withdrew from the decision-making process, rather than make an honorable and continuing expression of their dissent by voting, even as a minority, in accordance with their views. Having withdrawn, they ceased to be political beings — so that a “decision” could be made. More than one “decision” in the Clamshell Alliance was made by pressuring dissenters into silence and, through a chain of such intimidations, “consensus” was ultimately achieved only after dissenting members nullified themselves as participants in the process.
On a more theoretical level, consensus silenced that most vital aspect of all dialogue, dissensus. The ongoing dissent, the passionate dialogue that still persists even after a minority accedes temporarily to a majority decision, was replaced in the Clamshell by dull monologues — and the uncontroverted and deadening tone of consensus. In majority decision-making, the defeated minority can resolve to overturn a decision on which they have been defeated — they are free to openly and persistently articulate reasoned and potentially persuasive disagreements. Consensus, for its part, honors no minorities, but mutes them in favor of the metaphysical “one” of the “consensus” group.
* Two from Rolling Stone: The Keystone Pipeline Revolt: Why Mass Arrests are Just the Beginning and Climate Change and the End of Australia.
“In fact, according to Rosenbaum the Justice Department attorney said, ‘We don’t believe that the VA has any authority or any responsibility to provide housing.”
* The “Do cell phones cause cancer?” pendulum has swung back around again. This week they don’t.
* Steve Jobs reviews Barack Obama: Steve Jobs Told Obama He’d Be a One Term President.
* I hate to condemn poor Aaron to a life spent gathering links for me, but his Sunday Reading series has rapidly become a core part of my Internet experience. I’d never lie to you; some of the links below I stole from him. We just need to get him that intern and we’ll be all set.
* David Foster Wallace on 9/11 (from 2007): “Just Asking.”
* Read Catherine Liu: Disaster capitalism keeps creating a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurial education reformers. David Sirota just wrote a powerful piece on public education: The Shock Doctrine Comes to Your Classroom . Sirota’s thesis is that the financial crisis has been a golden opportunity for rapacious for-profit companies in the education industry to divert public education funds into their own swollen pockets. Instead of paying teachers and building school infrastructure, administrators are spending more and more of their budgets on standardized tests and other instruments that produce big profit margins, but little pedagogy. The New York Times has recently taken note of what critics of education reform have been repeating over and over again: radical reforms and gadget fetishism do not produce measurable improvements in classroom learning. Sirota focuses on the darker side of the technophile narrative in public education: even as public education budgets are shrinking, the share that goes to high tech and for profit testing companies keeps growing.
* Matt Taibbi on the coming civil war.
I’ve always been queasy about piling on against the Republicans because it’s intellectually too easy; I also worry a lot that the habit pundits have of choosing sides and simply beating on the other party contributes to the extremist tone of the culture war.
But the time is coming when we are all going to be forced to literally take sides in a political conflict far more serious and extreme than we’re used to imagining. The situation is such a tinderbox now that all it will take is some prominent politician to openly acknowledge the fact of a cultural/civil war for the real craziness to begin.
Most people aren’t thinking about this because we’re so accustomed to thinking of America as a stable, conservative place where politics is not a life-or-death affair but more something that people like to argue about over dinner, as entertainment almost. But it’s headed in another, more twisted direction. I’m beginning to wonder if this election season is going to be one none of us ever forget – a 1968 on crack.
* According to this report, NPR has no idea who is right. It cannot provide listeners with any help in sorting through such a dramatic conflict in truth claims. It knows of no way to adjudicate these clashing views. It is simply confused and helpless and the best it can do is pass on that helplessness to listeners of “Morning Edition.” Because there is just no way to know whether these new rules try to make life as difficult as possible for abortion providers, or put common sense public policy goals into practice in Kansas. There is no standard by which to judge. There is no comparison that would help. There is no act of reporting that can tell us who has more of the truth on their side. In a word, there is nothing NPR can do! And so a good professional simply passes the conflict along. Excellent: Now the listeners can be as confused as the journalists.
* North Carolina as swing state. That’s a good electoral map for the Democrats, but somewhat unexpected; you’d expect Obama to be doing significantly worse here than he is.
I lost some friends because of these difficulties, especially when I could not convince some whom I trusted and who knew this person that a problem existed that was worth being concerned about. It now seems self-dramatizing to write all of this down, mainly because nothing “real” came of the threats other than unwanted contact. Yet when someone is sending email that involves your family, that makes it clear he has researched property records and knows the acreage your house was built upon, you tend to worry about the crossing of lines. I also wonder if in now revisiting these episodes from the past, I will trigger another outbreak. I realize that if my objective is to ensure that something so unpleasant never unfolds again, silence is my best strategy. Yet I have always felt that remaining taciturn makes it seem as if the events never happened. It also leaves me alone with them. The stalking occurred, and it changed my relation to the internet.
Having gone through something quite similar (twice) in my own blogging past—both times much less frightening than Jeffrey’s experience—I really related to this.
* And is Exit Through the Gift Shop “real”? Ron English says it is. Problem solved.