Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘fandom

Commencement Weekend Links!

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* Commencement speech bingo. More links below!

ut_bingo_f* Pro-tip: apparently it only counts as free speech if you’re already powerful.

* ICYMI: My guest post at SF Signal on dystopia, anti-utopia, and the end of the world.

College is a promise the economy does not keep.

Of Course Women Are Getting Sexually Harassed by Drones.

* CFP: Into the Pensieve: The Harry Potter Generation in Retrospect.

* Rethinking Monopoly for neofeudal capitalism.

Thousands of Toddlers Are Medicated for A.D.H.D., Report Finds, Raising Worries. Well, yes, I’m definitely worried. That’s madness.

“Hood disease.” My God, don’t call it that.

* It places the United States in the top spot, ahead of Sweden and Canada, which come in at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Yet when the scores are adjusted for national levels of income, the United States drops to 15th place, behind such developing countries as China and Serbia.

* If you want to help low-income students succeed, it’s not enough to deal with their academic and financial obstacles. You also need to address their doubts and misconceptions and fears.

* The proposed rule would cut off student aid to career-focused programs at for-profit and nonprofit colleges if the program’s student-loan default rate reached 30 percent or if half of its graduates failed two student-loan debt standards.

* Kansas and the death of academic freedom.

* The NCAA will allow Boise State to help its homeless player.

MRA city councilman files Title IX complaint on behalf of U Oregon players arbitrarily kicked off team after DA slow-walks the process to protect their eligibility for March Madness and then declines to bring charges, thereby completing the circle of shitshow.

According to faculty accounts, deans received an email from the administration on the evening of May 5, alerting them to a meeting the next day about staffing issues. At that meeting, deans in certain colleges were told they needed to cut a prescribed number of full-time faculty positions. Of 16 total cuts, 11 were to come from the College of Arts and Sciences, faculty members said. Deans were given two days – until Thursday – to consult with their department chairs about which faculty members to terminate. Affected instructors were notified that day.

* Kate Hayles and Mark Kruse have developed a model for humanities/STEM cooperative teaching.

* U.S. Cities Under 12 feet of Sea Level Rise.

* The Forever Drought.

* The best way to think of the dilemma is keeping in mind the three things Obama wants his regulations to accomplish: He wants them to effectively reduce carbon pollution, he wants them not to cost consumers too much, and he wants to be sure they can survive legal challenge. The trouble is that he can only pick two of these. And the primary question weighing on administration regulators as they make their decision will be how to read the mind of Anthony Kennedy.

* To turn the US-Mexico border into “The Border,” America had to erase its Caribbean history.

An article about secrecy and the death penalty in Missouri got the May edition of St. Louis Magazine banned from the Missouri Department of Corrections.

* Meanwhile the New York Times is a complete mess.

The Rise of the Voluntariat.

The voluntariat performs skilled work that might still command a wage without compensation, allegedly for the sake of the public good, regardless of the fact that it also contributes directly and unambiguously to the profitability of a corporation. Like the proletariat, then, the voluntariat permits the extraction of surplus value through its labor.

But unlike the proletariat’s labor, the voluntariat’s has become untethered from wages. The voluntariat’s labor is every bit as alienable as the proletariat’s — Coursera’s Translator Contract leaves no doubt about that — but it must be experienced by the voluntariat as a spontaneous, non-alienated gift.

* Will roads made out of solar panels save us?

Playing football is even worse for players’ brains than we thought.

* An Oral History of The West Wing.

* Medical nightmare of the week: Morgellons disease.

* Speculative genetic explanations for social phenomena have an old and undistinguished history, some of which Wade reviews superficially, presumably to demonstrate his skill at reviewing topics superficially. The common thread, though, is that such explanations have always been (1) put forward to establish a bio-political point, to draw imaginary limits around the social progress of certain human groups; (2) accompanied by the dissimulation that they are not political statements, but merely value-neutral science; and (3) false.

* The Bay Area author of an upcoming book shatters the image of California’s historic missions as idyllic sites where Franciscan friars and Indians lived in harmony. Speaking before about 100 people Saturday at the American Indian Resource Center at UC Santa Cruz, Elias Castillo, author of “A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions,” said in reality the missions were “death camps.”

* Save your research in the cloud, they said.

* Viggo vs. Lord of the Rings.

The New York Pizza Project, Documenting New York City’s Pizza Shops in Photos and Interviews.

He also had a theory about colonizing the solar system using nuclear bombs. We could terraform other planets, he argued, by pulverizing them and then moving them closer or further from the sun. What could possibly go wrong?

* So maybe it’s for the best that Russia’s just evicted us from space.

Thursday Forever

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* Thursday at C21: Christopher Newfield, “The Humanities in the Post-Capitalist University.” Then, this weekend, elsewhere at UWM: After Capitalism.

* I have a short piece on “WALL-E and Utopia,” pulled from the Green Planets intro, up today for In Media Res’s Pixar week. I also owe SF Signal a post that should go up … eventually that’s also in conversation with the Green Planets stuff (though not cribbed quite so directly).

* The humanities and citation.

* White House petition: abolish the capitalist mode of production.

More acutely, when you consider the math that McKibben, the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) all lay out, you must confront the fact that the climate justice movement is demanding that an existing set of political and economic interests be forced to say goodbye to trillions of dollars of wealth. It is impossible to point to any precedent other than abolition. Great piece from Chris Hayes.

* College towns and income inequality.

* But, clearly, if we can afford such a massive increase in professional staff, as well as such an increase in executives whose salaries have been escalating very dramatically, the sharp decrease in the percentage of all instructional faculty who are tenured or on tenure tracks is a matter of a dramatic shift in priorities—in the conception of the university.

* Gasp! At Elite Colleges, Legacy Status May Count More Than Was Previously Thought.

* On the disinvestment/reinvestment cycle. Returns to university endowments 1980-2010. The Soul of Student Debt. Against anonymous student evaluation.

* Vice interviews Matt Taibbi on his new book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.

* Understanding Wonder Woman, at LARoB.

* When Spider-Man fought misleading sex education.

* Could Mystery Science Theater return?

* The public pension scam.

* How the Super-Rich Really Make Their Money.

* Companies used to borrow in the markets as a last resort finance investment in their business. Now it’s a front for shareholder giveaways.

* Capitalism and Nazism: Now It Can Be Told.

* The school, called Explore + Discover, will be available to children between the ages of 3 months and 2 years. Tuition is $2,791/month for kids who attend five days a week. You can also pay $1,990 for three days a week or $1,399 for two days but don’t you love your child?

In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.

For men, having children is a career advantage. For women, it’s a career killer. University managers believe women themselves are primarily responsible for the gender imbalance in higher education, according to research published today.

There’s Even A Gender Gap In Children’s Allowances.

“Faculty ignored requests from women and minorities at a higher rate than requests from White males, particularly in higher-paying disciplines and private institutions.” Reviewers will find more spelling errors in your writing if they think you’re black.

David Foster Wallace Estate Comes Out Against the Jason Segel Biopic. Meanwhile, this insane Lifehacker piece suggests we bracket the whole “suicide” bummer and take David Foster Wallace as our lifecoach.

* Atheist lawsuit claims ‘under God’ in NJ school’s daily pledge recital harms children. I guess I’m just another survivor.

* Wired goes inside Captain Marvel fandom.

* Woman writes about something traditionally regarded as a male-orientated industry or area of interest; if she’s conveying love, she’s doing it “for attention” (so what?) or “fake” (whatever that means); if she criticizes, she’s insulting, whining, moaning, on her period; if she says anything at all, her argument or point is made invisible because her damn biology is getting in the way.

What’s it like for the first living ex-pope in 600 years to watch from up close as the successor he enabled dismantles his legacy? 

* What That Game of Thrones Scene Says About Rape Culture. George R.R. Martin doesn’t want to talk about it.

* Aaron Sorkin Wants To Apologize To Everyone About The Newsroom.

* Does world government have a future?

* Mars or die.

Texas Prisons Are Hot Enough to Kill You.

* #MyNYPD.

* The great Colbert rebranding begins.

Netflix and Mitch Hurwitz Joining Forces Again.

Nichelle Nichols Talks with Janelle Monae.

* Game of the night: solar system simulator Super Planet Crash.

* Joss Whedon’s New Film Isn’t in Theaters, But You Can Watch It Online for $5.

Gabriel García Márquez on Fidel Castro, the Soviet Union, and creating “a government which would make the poor happy.”

* Forrest Gump, as directed by Wes Anderson.

“The only thing preventing a catastrophe from a ‘city-killer’ sized asteroid is blind luck.”

* Horrific, tragic story out of Rutgers.

Risk of New York City coastal flooding has surged by factor of 20, says study.

* The latest on the big animal personhood case in New York. Dolphins as alien intelligence.

That Time Cleveland Released 1.5 Million Balloons and Chaos Ensued.

* CIA torture architect breaks silence to defend ‘enhanced interrogation.’ Facial recognition and the end of freedom. The end of net neutrality and the end of the Internet. Late capitalist subjectivity and the sharing economy.

Bullied Kids at Risk for Mental Health Problems 40 Years Later.

* And/but/so the kids are all right.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 24, 2014 at 7:20 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Almost Too Many Thursday Links, Really, If You Ask Me

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* Extrapolation is seeking essays for a special issue on Indigenous Futurism, edited by Grace L. Dillon, Michael Levy and John Rieder.

* Designing for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

* No state worse than Wisconsin for black children, says new national study. The Fight for Wisconsin’s Soul. Other People’s Pathologies.

* Why UWM Matters.

* Life and debt.

* Coffee pods and ecology.

* University of California graduate students explain why they’re striking. Students Occupy Dartmouth President’s Office. Coaches Make $358,000 In Bonuses For Reaching NCAA Tournament Final Four. Emory University Eradicates its Visual Arts Department. Dear Harvard: You Win.

* A Brief Report from the University of Southern Maine. Armed guards at faculty meetings.

Major attack on academic freedom in Michigan.

* Academia Under the Influence.

* Surveillance, Dissent, and Imperialism. NSA Surveillance and the Male Gaze.

* The secret history of Cuban Twitter. If this tweet gets 1000 favorites Castro’s beard falls out.

Kingdom Prep is one of dozens of basketball academies that have popped up in recent years to cater to “postgrad” players—recent high-school graduates who need to improve their standardized-test scores to meet the NCAA’s academic requirements.

* Just when I thought I was out: Marquette hires Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski.

* The really rich are different from the rich, who are different from you and me.

* An heir to the du Pont fortune has been given probation for raping his three-year-old daughter because you know damn well why.

* What Can You Do With a Humanities Ph.D., Anyway?

* Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k).

* Libertarian Police Department. Koch Brothers Quietly Seek To Ban New Mass Transit In Tennessee.

* Detroit: Then and Now.

* A new study shows how Lake Tahoe might serve as a mammoth reservoir that could significantly mitigate California’s chronic water shortages without tarnishing the lake’s world-renowned beauty. What could possibly go wrong?

* The geographic sublime, from the Rural Assistance Center.

* How to Think About the Risk of Autism.

* Sepinwall vs. How I Met Your Mother.

* How To Negotiate With People Around The World.

* Gasp! CIA misled on interrogation program, Senate report says.

* Gasp! Torture Didn’t Lead to Bin Laden.

* New G.O.P. Bid to Limit Voting in Swing States.

* Who’s afraid of Suey Park?

* You once said: “I’m part-android.” Has that revelation haunted you?

* The kids are all right: Talking With 13-Year-Old Leggings Activist Sophie Hasty.

* Bourbon and Girl Scout Cookie Pairings.

* How to Improve Aquaman.

* The Definitive Ranking Of Robin’s 359 Exclamations From ‘Batman.’ 25 Weird Batman Comic-Book Covers.

* Fan work: Labor, worth, and participation in fandom’s gift economy.

* Norman Lear, Archie Bunker, and the rRise of the BBbad Fan.

Original Star Trek II: Wrath Of Khan VFX Storyboards Are A Visual Feast.

* The greatest, richest, freest country in the history of the world.

* The wisdom of markets: Walmart Realizes It’s Losing Billions Of Dollars By Denying Workers More Hours.

* Classic good news / bad news situation: Television Without Pity Archives Will Stay Online. Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come.

* Weird science: Gunshot victims to be suspended between life and death.

* On Moretti-ism: Knowing is not reading.

* The New Inquiry’s “Money” issue is out with some great pieces, including one on China that really highlights a key contradiction in American ideology, which simultaneously holds that capitalism is the only possible economic system and that the future belongs to China. And Rortybomb’s piece on human capital is super chilling: basically dystopian literature, and it’s pretty much already real. And then the freedom piece! And the egg donation one! Great issue all around.

A person may be free because she can choose among a broad range of possibilities, or she may be free while she undertakes some action about which she has no choice at all, but whose compulsion she deems legitimate. Or she may be free when she faces a range of options, one of which is clearly superior to the alternatives, so that her behavior is perfectly predictable despite a formal freedom to choose. Freedom is not, at bottom, about the range of possibilities one faces but about the degree of consent one offers for the action to be taken or the circumstance to be endured.

Japan Ordered To Stop Killing Antarctic Whales For “Science.”

* Teen Wins $70,000 Settlement After School Demanded Her Facebook Password.

* Is being thin more deadly than being obese? Take that, skinnies!

*  I’ve had this dream: Student claims college instructor spent months teaching class the ‘wrong’ course.

* I dream of the day that Seattle and Portland can get along.

* And please don’t make me say it again.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 3, 2014 at 7:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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All This Weekend’s Links at Half the Price

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* Michael Lovell, Marquette, and Milwaukee. MU’s students are on board.

* Turns out academic freedom isn’t free: Michigan State University could risk losing $500,000 if it does not stop offering courses that allegedly promote unionization.

* “They call us professors, but they’re paying us at poverty levels,” she said. “I just want to make a living from a skill I’ve spent 30 years developing.”

NCAA in Turmoil: Why UNC Can’t Get Past Its Fake Classes Scandal.

In Silicon Valley there really is a class war going on, a wage-fixing cartel that’s pitting the one percent against everyone else.

LAX Baggage Handlers Took Whatever They Wanted From Bags for Months. I’m actually pretty sure they stole our camera, which we haven’t seen since we left California.

* The typographical sublime: Switching from Times New Roman to Garamond could save the government almost half a billion dollars.

* End of an Internet Era: Television Without Pity Gets Shuttered. It’s Hard To Imagine The Internet Without Television Without Pity. Raised on Television without Pity. MetaFilter mourns. The real tragedy here is the absolutely unnecessary closing of the forums; there’s a valuable decade of Internet TV writing and fan commentary, lost overnight.

* Dialectics of Stephen Colbert: We Want To #CancelColbert. What We Can Learn From the Embarrassing #CancelColbert Shitstorm. A profile of Suey Park.

* Who Needs a Boss?

* In Praise of Odd Children’s Books.

* Facebook Is About to Lose 80% of Its Users, Study Says.

If You Support The Death Penalty, You Are Probably White.

* Rebecca Schuman on The Most Important University in St Louis. More from the new, Serious™ Schuman: Save Fulbright!

The Case for Making Revenge Porn a Federal Crime.

* Free speech having a tough time tonight: Arrest Climate-Change Deniers.

* io9 has a visual history of prosthetics.

Unpaid Interns In New York City Are Now Protected From Sexual Harassment. Well, obviously, of course they would be, what could be more obvious — wait, now?

* Oh, America empire, you’re incorrigible! As our troops pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re abandoning fixers and translators to the dangerous countrymen who view them as traitors. Asylum in the U.S. could be their last hope. If only we’d let them in.

* Presidents gotta president.

Scott Walker Signs Early Voting Restrictions Making It Harder For Low-Income Voters To Vote.

* Wisconsin also having a tough time tonight: BP Admits To Spilling Even More Oil In Lake Michigan.

* Come back here, we’re not done getting bummed out yet: The Pacific Ocean Is Turning Sour Much Faster Than Expected, Study Shows. Texas Oil Spill Is Killing Birds, Threatening Fishing Industry.

How The Justice System Is Rigged Against These Cheerleaders Suing The Raiders For Wage Theft. Federal Judge Tells Women Lawyers Not To Dress Like ‘An Ignorant Slut.’ Virtually the entire judiciary is made up of former prosecutors and corporate lawyers.

* Tumblr of the weekend: Shit Settlers Said.

* The 1897 Petition Against Annexation That More Than Half of All Native Hawaiians Signed.

* The ASA is now asking for $100,000 in donations to defend itself from attacks resulting in its decision about how to spend a few hundred. Well done, everyone!

* So old I can remember when teaching was a career. Standing Up to Testing. New York Schools Are the Nation’s Most Racially Segregated. And if you only count the best-performing schools, charter schools are doing great!

* This is a land of peace, love, justice, and no mercy: Shanesha Taylor, Homeless Single Mom, Arrested After Leaving Kids In Car While On Job Interview.

* A year to make a game, a weekend to rip it off.

* This is a generic brand video.

* And at least it’s almost all over for humanity: Crazy Stone computer Go program defeats Ishida Yoshio 9 dan with 4 stones.

Supersized Post-Computer-Crash Weekend Feel-Good Happy Links

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Sorry I’ve been MIA. John Siracusa’s OS Mavericks review didn’t tell me the update would completely nuke my computer for three days. Fairly big omission, JS.

Only by the grace of God did I not wind up on Senator Session’s anti-NEH hit list.

* Apple screws up Capitalism 101 by having its products remain useful on a too-long obsolescence-cycle.

“If part-time is so good, why don’t we have part-time administration?”

* Against student evaluations. UPDATE: Of course the natural form for discuss this is a Twitter fight.

* Rape culture at UConn. Really stunning report.

Carolyn Luby, a student who organized the complaint, said the university failed to stop harassment she faced for criticizing the school’s new “powerful and aggressive” Husky logo in an open letter to UConn president, Susan Herbst. Luby saw the redesigned logo as “glorifying intimidation with an already prevalent rape culture.”

In reaction, commenters on Barstool Sports posted links to her Facebook page. Rush Limbaugh did a segment criticizing Luby in which he stated, “I, El Rushbo, have amplified it and made it even bigger. Let’s see what happens.”

Luby subsequently received rape and death threats. People walked by her on campus and called her “a bitch,” she said. One email she received told her, “I hope you get raped by a husky,” and another said, “I wish you would’ve run in the Boston marathon.” Fraternity members sexually harassed her, Luby said, making statements like, “Don’t worry, we won’t rape you,” as they drove by.

“[The university] would send campus-wide emails about picking up trash, but no warning about hate speech and harassment,” Luby said.

Unlike Georgetown University’s president, who sent a campus-wide email defending Sandra Fluke after Limbaugh and others made her a target in 2012, UConn did nothing, Luby said. Herbst remained silent, and Luby said one school official told her, “That’s kind of the risk you run when you publish something on the Internet.”

University police suggested she keep a low profile and wear a hat on campus, Luby said.

* I ranted about this one enough on Twitter, but this story about the University of Iowa TA who accidentally emailed nude photos to her class (which I feel dirty even linking to at all) is also rape culture in action.

62% of higher education professionals report experiencing workplace bullying.

Talking with Students about Being an Adjunct. Totally insanely, CUNY hasn’t been paying its adjuncts for months.

The UC Davis Pepper-Spraying Cop Gets a $38,000 Settlement, $8000 more than his victims.

City College of S.F. outlines closing plan.

* Thinking (only) like an administration: Faculty Couples, for Better or Worse.

We have the rare opportunity to chronicle a labor movement’s development in real time from its infancy as we watch the organization of college football players.

Confessions of a Drone Warrior.

Flood Insurance Jumping Sevenfold Depresses U.S. Home Values. I wonder if even “the market speaking” could pull us out of the death spiral now.

* Climate change cost you the McDonald’s dollar menu. Greenland Has Melted So Much That We Can Mine It for Uranium Now. Arctic Temperatures Reach Highest Levels In 44,000 Years. Gambling with Civilization.

* The men’s rights movement is a nightmare from which we are trying to awake.

* Rortybomb on striking fast food workers and the neoliberal failings of Obamacare. From the second:

Conservatives in particular think this website has broad implications for liberalism as a philosophical and political project. I think it does, but for the exact opposite reasons: it highlights the problems inherent in the move to a neoliberal form of governance and social insurance, while demonstrating the superiorities in the older, New Deal form of liberalism.

* The Decline of Wikipedia.

Yet Wikipedia and its stated ambition to “compile the sum of all human knowledge” are in trouble. The volunteer workforce that built the project’s flagship, the English-language Wikipedia—and must defend it against vandalism, hoaxes, and manipulation—has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking. Those participants left seem incapable of fixing the flaws that keep Wikipedia from becoming a high-quality encyclopedia by any standard, including the project’s own. Among the significant problems that aren’t getting resolved is the site’s skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy. Authoritative entries remain elusive. Of the 1,000 articles that the project’s own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don’t earn even Wikipedia’s own middle-­ranking quality scores.

The main source of those problems is not mysterious. The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage.

* Mitch Hurwitz at the New York Television Festival.

* Davis Sedaris writes about the suicide of his sister Tiffany.

* We should put hyper-efficient rich people in charge of everything: How to lose $172,222 a second for 45 minutes. That’s why they earn the big bucks, I guess.

Condé Nast Discontinuing Internship Program. The first of many, I’d bet.

* After all this time I’m completely amazed that people still talk to the Daily Show at all. “They made all those other people look like total idiots! I’d better be super-careful as I make my wise and reasoned argument!”

* From the archives: How They Made Bottle Rocket. 1995.

* Wisconsin conservatives file challenge against state’s same-sex partnership law. Special Prosecutor Looking At Wisconsin Recall Elections. Milwaukee has still not enrolled anyone for ACA.

What Good Wife Storyline Did CBS Kill to Avoid Pissing Off the NFL?

* They said it: Fox News: Anti-Bullying Policies Limit Conservatives’ Free Speech.

America’s Most Popular Boys’ Names Since 1960, in 1 Spectacular GIF.

* The Harvard Crimson says don’t teach for America.

American Schools Are Missing 389,000 Teachers. Study: Charters Pose a Financial Threat to Already-Struggling School Districts.

* The Duke Chronicle says walk out on Charles Murray.

A man is stealing your home, poisoning your food and burning the forests around you, all the while explaining why you should thank him. Maybe you are allowed to question his genius, and maybe he answers. Some nod; others frown.

And you watch the flames rise, knowing at least you have engaged in “discourse.”

Mayor Bloomberg grants Metropolitan Museum of Art right to charge mandatory entrance fee.

The homeless population of New York City is higher than it’s been in decades. Nobody seems to notice.

List of reasons for admission to an insane asylum from the late 1800s, supposedly.

California Deputies Shoot and Kill Boy Carrying a Fake Gun. Black Teen Detained by NYPD for Buying an Expensive Belt.

Zombie Simpsons: How the best show ever became the broadcasting undead.

* It’s handled: Scandal has its own scandal after popular fan blogger turns out to be ABC executive. UPDATE: Followup!

* Old villains never die, they just fade away: Diebold charged with bribing officials, falsifying records in China, Russia, Indonesia; fined nearly $50 million.

* Gawker is seriously arguing no one should be fired for uncritically publishing an entirely fact-free smear job so ludicrously inaccurate it didn’t even last two hours. I disagree!

* We’ve all been there: Groom Who Called in Bomb Hoax to Own Wedding Sentenced to Year in Jail.

Facebook OKs Decapitation Videos (But No Breastfeeding).

* OMG WTF TSA.

* And today’s apocalypse: “We’ve Reached ‘The End of Antibiotics, Period.’”

Written by gerrycanavan

October 25, 2013 at 9:32 pm

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Bad Fans, Good Fans, and Some Quick Thoughts on ‘Breaking Bad’

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I gave a presentation this weekend at the Reception Studies Society conference on the figure of the “fan-villain”—what Emily Nussbaum in a widely circulated blog post at the New Yorker recently called the Bad Fan. The Bad Fan is that figure whose investment in the text is excessive, or inappropriate, or misplaced, who takes up the text in ways that go beyond or are counter to the idealized “Good Fan” of the author’s intentions, critical consensus, and/or common sense. What I was interested in at the conference were the ways texts and creators seek to talk back to the Bad Fan, most typically by including the Bad Fan within the text either through paraphrase, parody, or (most characteristically, I think) through personification as an actual character within the fictional universe—and further I was interested in this extent to which this talking back is typically quite hostile. But today I’m interested in the other side of that binary.

To back up: Breaking Bad fandom—as is common in the capital-Q Quality TV genre more generally—appears divided between critically sophisticated Good Fans who recognize the show’s nuanced, complicated, and quite emotionally fraught deconstruction of privilege through (again as with most Quality TV shows) its central protagonist, the White Male in Crisis, and the naïve, unsophisticated Bad Fans who take all this in entirely uncritically and who love the show precisely because they think “Walt Is A Badass.” Nussbaum’s recent writings have pointed to the show’s attempts to speak back to the Bad Fan, not simply in Anna Gunn / Skyler White’s recent op-ed in the New York Times decrying the sexism of this portion of the show’s fanbase, and not only through Walt’s bitter and ugly parodying of the #TeamWalt discourse in “Ozymandias,” but through the addition of the creepy sinister character of Todd, who idolizes Walt in a way that seems both increasingly familiar (as the marking of the Bad Fan) and increasingly horrifying.

As may already be evident, I think this imagined division between “Good Fans” and “Bad Fans” is simultaneously useful and potentially deeply misleading, as we can see from Internet insta-reactions to last night’s “FeLiNa,” the final episode of the series. Here we find the Good Fan feeling flattered and pandered to, particularly in the scene in which Walt “confesses” to Skyler that he ultimately become a druglord because he enjoyed it, because it made him feel alive. “Finally,” the Good Fan sighed, “Walt tells Skyler THE TRUTH!” But in fact this scene is almost directly parallel to the phone call scene, in which Walt the consummate schemer deploys partial truths and well-timed emotional outbursts in order to manipulate those around him. This is about controlling his legacy, about telling Skyler (and the Good Fans) a version of what she wants to hear so that she is (and we are) willing to go along with him on his redemption arc.

A point of critical consensus around “FeLiNa” is that it is characterized by a truly remarkable amount of catharsis and narrative closure, dotting every i and crossing every t. But that catharsis, I think, has to come undone the longer we think about the show; what isn’t being talked about much yet is the complexity and the falseness of the redemption narrative, precisely because both the Good Fans and the Bad Fans alike are happy to buy into it all. This cycle of gaslighting apology, followed by grand-gesture redemptive act, followed by an inevitable slide back to form, is part and parcel of how a person like Walter White abuses those around him; the events of “FeLiNa” only seems to offer narrative closure because this time events have conspired to finally kill Walt at the high moment of the abuse-apology cycle. (He knows his cancer is back, and/so he plans to commit suicide-by-Nazi or suicide-by-Jesse at the camp after achieving “redemption.”) In the spirit of Žižek’s reading of the emergency-exit “happy endings” of Titanic and Avatar, we might perversely imagine the version of the end of the series in which this doesn’t hold: Walt’s cancer has never returned, he does not catch a bullet in the massacre, he lives, and is thereby forced to continue to live in the world and take genuine, not fantasy, responsibility for his actions. How long does his turning over a new leaf last, without the miracle of certain death to propel him forward for a mere eighteen hours, give or take?

As Malcolm Harris succinctly put it in response to some of my tweets:

We can see the Heisenberg-Walt at work even in the moment of Skyler scene; “finally, THE TRUTH,” yes, but also a calculated attempt to set the conditions of her last memories of him in terms that are favorable to Walt. “In the end,” she may have thought, and many Internet commentators actually wrote, “the ‘real Walt’ came back.” And again, maybe, partially; but all the same the legacy money won’t go to her, and her life remains utterly destroyed. Meanwhile his final act is an intricate staging of his own death so that he will receive full credit both for killing the white supremacists and for cooking the blue meth, credit even for the “better than ever” batches he didn’t cook—to again set the terms of reality not in fidelity to truth or to what is best for other people but simply in accordance with the way he prefers things, which as always is having it both ways. Walt’s true chemical genius has always been in controlling the reactions of the people around him, in how easily he gets others (and us) to play along. We Good Fans turn out to be just as happy to be lied to, we just want a different sort of lie.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Upcoming Stuff

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* This Saturday, I’m giving a paper on Superboy-Prime and the fan-as-villain at the Reception Studies Society Conference at Marquette. I’m talking at 10:15 AM.

* Next Tuesday we’re hosting the English department’s second Pop Culture Lunch of the semester at 12:30 PM at the Tory Hill Cafe at the Marquette University Law School (we’ve taken to meeting in the adjoining atrium). We’ll be talking all about Breaking Bad.

* Then next Saturday I’ll be at the annual meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Notre Dame, giving a paper on “Capital as Artificial Intelligence” and appearing on a roundtable about metaphors of climate change.

Killin’ Time with Tuesday Links

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Six More for Monday Night

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* Breaking Bad, That Phone Call, and Bad Fans.

But what was truly fascinating about that phone call was that if it was trolling the Bad Fan, it was also trolling me: the sort of feminist-minded sucker who took the speech at face value, for nearly an hour, until I suddenly realized, in a flash of clarity, that it was a fake-out for the police. (Skyler realized long before I did.) Once my analytical skills flared back into being, I was stunned by the moment’s effectiveness. I mean, on one level, that speech was just what it looked like: Walt venting every toxic feeling he’d ever had about his wife. On another level, it was the opposite: it was Walt pretending to be an abusive husband, as a gift to Skyler. It was an apology to her, as well as an attempt to get her off the hook legally, to honor Holly saying “Mama.” Walt’s language was pretty much a PowerPoint presentation of abuser behavior, designed to make Skyler’s case in court proceedings. And yet it still had the sting of catharsis, letting Walt say what he felt: that Skyler is a whiner, a nag, a drag, responsible for anything that happened to her…

Blattman, who is known for his frank approach to decoding college and graduate school for students on his blog (he once wrote a “how-to” post on e-mailing professors), outlines protocol for would-be advisees in a new post called “If you want to be my student.” Described as “advice on how to manage [me],” it links to a page on Blattman’s website for Ph.D. students.

* Ideology at its purest: Glen James, the homeless man who returned a backpack of $2,400 in cash and $39,500 in traveler’s checks, was honored today by the Boston Police Department.

* David Souter: Fund the humanities or face national extinction.

On Game Day, Dallas Cowboys Stadium Uses More Energy Than Liberia.

* And the CDC officially wants you to be terrified: “We Will Soon Be in a Post-Antibiotic Era.”

Tough Issues in Fandom, Brony Edition

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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.

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Written by gerrycanavan

May 16, 2013 at 10:38 am

Friday Morning

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Lots of Thursday Links! The University in Ruins, How to Predict the Future, Lesbian Science Fiction, and More

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Five Katrinas A Decade? Warming Projected To Boost Extreme Storm Surges Ten-Fold.

* Cause of windfarm sickness identified: it’s spread by human mouth.

“If our universe was a simulation you could totally tell. There’d be things like a fastest possible speed or a smallest possible size or a lowest possible temperature, or events wouldn’t actually be computed until they were observed by a player (you know, for computational efficiency).”

* Nicola Griffith recommends good lesbian science fiction novels.

* How to Predict the Future.

“During a summer in the late 1960s I discovered an easy and certain method of predicting the future. Not my own future, the next turn of the card, or market conditions next month or next year, but the future of the world lying far ahead. It was quite simple. All that was needed was to take the reigning assumptions about what the future was likely to hold, and reverse them. Not modify, negate, or question, but reverse.”

The number of Purdue administrators has jumped 54 percent in the past decade—almost eight times the growth rate of tenured and tenure-track faculty. “We’re here to deliver a high-quality education at as low a price as possible,” says Robinson. “Why is it that we can’t find any money for more faculty, but there seems to be an almost unlimited budget for administrators?”

Recent Deep State Higher Education Cuts May Harm Students and the Economy for Years to Come.

Wayne State University and the University of Michigan could lose 15 percent of their state funding if the schools ratify new union contracts that bypass Michigan’s new right-to-work law under a House Republican budget proposal introduced Tuesday.

Backroom Financial Dealings of a Top University.

It’s true that the university, for whatever reason, offered provisional admission to some students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino. Forty-two were white.

* In this sense, frighteningly, the MOOC seems like the next logical frontier in the increasing contingency and “adjunctification” of labor in higher education. Faculty unions in California are already arguing that MOOCs might do some serious damage to collective bargaining agreements, as some faculty have already agreed to assemble MOOCs for free. But to get even more apocalyptic than that, it seems like this specter of the cyberteacher – emerging from the shadows of the murky MOOC lagoon – is some dystopian icon of the brave new cost-cutting educational future. What better way to cut labor costs in higher education than to simply replace human educational laborers with software?

“I believe we’re in the best basketball conference in the country right now. If you look at the history of the schools, the original seven plus the new three, it’s obviously an elite group,” Father Pilarz said. “The new conference offers a tremendous opportunity for all 16 of Marquette’s athletic programs to compete against mission-driven and like-minded institutions.” 

* The Most Accurate Map of NCAA College Basketball Fandom. Brackets with just the colors and logos. An Oral History of Beating Duke. The NCAA: Poster Boy for Corruption and Exploitation.

A minimum wage worker in California must toil about 130 hours a week in order to feasibly  afford a two-bedroom rental, a new report found.

* Life after Steubenville.

Photos of Children From Around the World With Their Most Prized Possessions.

But journalists deserve a share of the blame, too—and not only for the failure to question more skeptically the Bush Administration’s claims about Saddam’s non-existent WMD. Journalists failed, above all, to show the war as it was. Americans who did not serve may think that they have some idea of what the war in Iraq was like, but they’re wrong. The culprit here is a culture of well-intentioned self-censorship that refuses to show the real conditions of modern warfare.

* Klein doesn’t think a state invaded another state; he thinks “we” went to war. He identifies with the state. Whether he’s supporting or dissenting from a policy, he sees himself as part of it. He sees himself on the jeeps with the troops. That’s why his calls for skepticism, for not taking things on authority, ring so hollow. In the end, he’s on the team. Or the jeep.

* Communist Monopoly.

The goal of the game, which will officially be launched on Feb. 5, is to show how hard and frustrating it was for an average person to simply do their shopping under the Communist regime in Poland. The game has been developed by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), a Warsaw-based research institute that commemorates the suffering of the Polish people during the Nazi and Communist eras.

* Life advice from the OnionFind The Thing You’re Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life.

The New Yorker Rejects Itself: A Quasi-Scientific Analysis of Slush Piles.

* Feedback from James Joyce’s Submission of Ulysses to His Creative Writing Workshop.

* The kids aren’t all right: In Survey, Professors See a Lack of Professionalism Among Students

Professional wrestling fans, we who are “smart marks” especially, are in many ways more sophisticated than the political junkies who populate political blogs and web sites (what are really fan boy and fan girl mark hangouts) like the Free Republic or The Daily Kos. They know that professional wrestling is a work and a game.

Bradbury’s fan letter to Heinlein.

How Viable Is Rand Paul for 2016?

* And Dear Television considers the finale of Girls.

Reception Studies Conference @ Marquette This September

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The fifth conference of the Reception Study Society is at Marquette this September. The CFP and additional details are on Facebook.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 13, 2013 at 10:37 am

A Few More for Friday While I Procrastinate

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* A week ago, no-olds was a novelty; today it is one of the profession’s most cherished traditions. I’ll just recycle my jokes from Twitter: “Anyone who’s been on market longer than that knows how quickly Harvard and Yale turn asst profs over. They want it to be a surprise.”

* When ideologies collide: Man Accused of Threatening Woman with Handgun for Smoking While Pregnant.

* Chait: Mitt Romney created his most recent campaign shitstorm by launching an attack that was, simultaneously, an absurdly disingenuous argument built upon a series of demonstrable lies. After an initial period of recrimination andlashing out at the media, Romney and his allies are insisting that he was absolutely correct all along. It is a remarkable testament to the party’s ability not just to engage in spin but create and sustain an alternate reality. Meanwhile, SEK is having too much fun with his smirking-Mitt meme.

* Nate Cohn and Ed Kilgore have your polling roundups. The short version is that while it’s not over, it’s definitely slipping away from Romney.

Should We Stop Referring to Student Loans as “Financial Aid”? Researching 2000s college aid admissions on behalf of my brilliant cousin, it’s struck me how decisively “no-loan aid” has become a new marker of elite status in recent years for Ivy and Ivy-Plus schools.

William Gibson on Why Sci-Fi Writers Are (Thankfully) Almost Always Wrong.  J.G. Ballard vs. the fans.

* Lost and Found: NPR has all your vintage photographs.

* And of course you had me at “New Monkey Discovered.”

Thursday Links

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* Put this one on humanity’s tombstone: But where the United Nations envisioned environmental reform, some manufacturers of gases used in air-conditioning and refrigeration saw a lucrative business opportunity.

They quickly figured out that they could earn one carbon credit by eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide, but could earn more than 11,000 credits by simply destroying a ton of an obscure waste gas normally released in the manufacturing of a widely used coolant gas. That is because that byproduct has a huge global warming effect. The credits could be sold on international markets, earning tens of millions of dollars a year.

That incentive has driven plants in the developing world not only to increase production of the coolant gas but also to keep it high — a huge problem because the coolant itself contributes to global warming and depletes the ozone layer. That coolant gas is being phased out under a global treaty, but the effort has been a struggle.

* College debt and the upper middle class. Well, that’s almost everyone; can we act now?

* How Much Water Debt Are We Taking On? This Scary Map Shows How Much.

* Male Superheroes See How The Other Side Lives.

“Over the course of fifty episodes, Breaking Bad has turned its fans into some of the worst people on the internet.” This is certainly true with respect to discussions of Skylar, as the piece notes. As my totally 100% accurate quote from fake Vince Gilligan noted last night: “Dear Internet, I literally could not have made it any clearer that Walt is a villain and Skylar one of his many victims.” How is this even up for debate? More Breaking Bad tweets from this morning at Storify.

* Harry Potter Books Out, Fresh Prince of Bel Air In as Gitmo Prisoners’ Entertainment of Choice.

* Returning home from work Wednesday evening, area woman Caitlin Levy suddenly realized that, quite unusually, she had not been harassed or propositioned for sex even once the entire day, the puzzled 28-year-old told reporters.

Noting that she had experienced a lingering sense of ease and safety all day long that “just felt off,” the paralegal told reporters that, strange as it may sound, she somehow could not recall one single instance from the past 10 hours in which she had been gawked at, hit on repeatedly, or otherwise leered at by a male as she conducted her daily routine.

“Huh, that’s weird,” said Levy, remarking on the fact that at no point during her day did a total stranger attempt to provoke her with suggestive language. “No unwanted sexual advances, no creepy comments, no obscene gestures, nothing.”

“Can that be right?” she asked as she ran down a checklist of emotionally scarring behaviors she has been confronted with every day of her life, in some form or another, since age 13. “No, that’s impossible. I must be forgetting something.”

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