Posts Tagged ‘Kim Stanley Robinson’
* It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.
* So, to recap, nationalization of the health insurance industry in 2009 would have cost no more (and almost certainly a lot less) than $240 billion. The savings in waste resulting from replacing the health insurance racket with an extension of Medicare would have resulted in no less than $158 billion a year. That’s an annualized return on investment of 66 percent. The entire operation would have paid for itself in less than 18 months, and after that, an eternity of administrative efficiency for free. And, of course, happy shareholders.
* Seven in 10 college seniors (71%) who graduated last year had student loan debt, with an average of $29,400 per borrower. From 2008 to 2012, debt at graduation (federal and private loans combined) increased an average of six percent each year.
* Academia as horror show: The Chronicle‘s 2013 “Influence” List.
* BREAKING: MOOCs don’t work.
* Brad DeLong says save Berkeley by “(partially) transforming it into a finishing school for the superrich of Asia.” What could go wrong?
* A vote being held tomorrow and Wednesday could secure union recognition for New York University graduate students, which the administration withdrew and then withheld from them — with help from congressional Republicans and Obama’s now-Treasury Secretary — for the past eight years. If the United Auto Workers emerges victorious in the vote, NYU will become only private sector U.S. university to bargain collectively with graduate student teachers and researchers — though such workers will remain excluded from U.S. labor law.
* “This comic is shaping up to be, in many ways, a departure from the sometimes light-hearted series.” He’s taking, impossibly, about the Serenity comic followup Leaves on the Wind.
* Good news! FBI can secretly turn on laptop cameras without the indicator light. 1984 as instruction manual.
* Novelist Kim Stanley Robinson (Red Mars, 2312, and Shaman) debates the merits of utopian thinking with Aeon Magazine’s Marina Benjamin and political theorist Alex Callinicos.
* Nice work if you can get it: Fox News Paid Fired Executive $8 Million to Keep Quiet.
* And Disney can now ruin Indiana Jones, too. This is the darkest timeline.
* A Functional Form Has Its Own Beauty: An Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson. I liked Redshirts and all, but 2312 really should have won the Hugo.
* Florida International extracted more than $18 million of its $25 million in 2011-12 revenues in the form of student fees. College Football’s Grid of Shame.
* Radiation levels spike at Fukushima nuclear plant. But the lede is buried a bit here:
TEPCO had originally said the radiation emitted by the leaking water was around 100 millisieverts an hour. However, the company said the equipment used to make that recording could read only measurements of up to 100 millisieverts.
Better even than a real conflict, though, is a hypothetical conflict. Why bother with the effort of forgetting, when you can merely invent? Those are the very best wars, the ones that are dreamt of in the American imagination. No conflict has ever been as noble, no war as good, as our hypothetical war for Rwanda.
* And the news just gets worse: Legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki announces his retirement.
I have a few pieces out in a couple of new books:
* “Debt, Theft, Permaculture: Justice and Ecological Scale” is in Debt: Ethics, the Environment, and the Economy, which is based on a conference the Center for 21st Century Studies at UWM held a few years ago. This one is a little bit more political economy than the usual stuff I write, extending what Lisa and Ryan and I tried to do in the Polygraph introduction, though I did manage to sneak in some Kim Stanley Robinson near the end.
* “Life Without Hope? Huntington’s Disease and Genetic Futurity” is in Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure, out in hardcover today. The piece takes up a bunch of different pop-culture figurations of Huntington’s disease, but the focus is on Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos, Ian McEwan’s Saturday, Robert J. Sawyer’s Frameshift, and Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy and “The Evening and the Morning and the Night.” No Kindle or paperback yet, but call your library!
I was also recently invited on the Old Mole Variety Hour out of Portland to talk a little bit about utopia, which you can find as a podcast here. As you can see at the link, I appeared as my famously inarticulate character “Jerry” Canavan, which explains why I begin every answer with “absolutely” and end every answer with “right?”
* Is it too late? The long view offers reason to hope. From Kim Stanley Robinson.
* In a previous post on this site I announced a plan for the creation of MOOA, or massive, open, online administrations that would supplant the thousands of separate administrations currently managing the affairs of America’s colleges. The MOOA idea was, of course, satire. However, I must report that two educational consultants contacted me to offer their services in bringing my MOOA to the market. Additionally, three separate reporters called to discuss the MOOA concept. When I explained that MOOA was a satire, one asked, “Are you sure?”
* What we need instead, I think, is a study of neoliberal bias in the university, particularly since the rhetoric of neoliberalism has now become ubiquitous, the lingua franca of administrators and even many faculty. In the 1990s Bill Readings observed that the new rationale of the university was the amorphous, technocratic one of “excellence,” rather than the traditional ones of disciplinary reason or national culture. The incantation of “excellence” no longer has quite the same currency; the new neoliberal mantra includes the buzzwords “disruption,” “innovation,” and “choice.” Part of their force is that they seem self-evident goods: who would be against innovation or choice? But I think that they sidestep some of the crucial problems of higher education, especially regarding equality. According to all the statistical markers, college is subject to a steeper class divide than it was 40 years ago, and academic jobs show a sharper stratification. This violates the best hope of the American university. What good is innovation if it brings us a more inequitable world?
* …given what we know from the big picture, I think it’s safe to say that ostensible reason for the long-term collapse in humanities enrollment has to do with the increasing choice of women to enter more pre-professional majors like business, communications, and social work in the aftermath of a) the opening of the workplace and b) universal coeducation suddenly making those degrees relevant. You’d have to be pretty tone-deaf to point to their ability to make that choice as a sign of cultural malaise.
* I used to maniacally play Solitaire Tic-Tac-Toe to keep myself sane in high school. If I’d known about Tic-Tac-Toe2, I might never have graduated.
* And good news everyone! The housing bubble is back!
Congratulations to my friend Kim Stanley Robinson, winner of a 2012 Nebula for 2312! I reviewed it for Los Angeles Review of Books last summer.
* AMC passed on Red Mars, but then greenlights this? Those idiots.
The minimum wage machine allows anybody to work for minimum wage. Turning the crank will yield one penny every 4.97 seconds, for $7.25 an hour (NY state minimum wage). If the participant stops turning the crank, they stop receiving money.
* What started out as a case about whether corporations could be held accountable in U.S. courts for human rights violations abroad now turned into a case about whether anyone can be held accountable. And on Wednesday, a five-justice majority of the U.S. Supreme Court held that the answer is, mostly, no.
* Mellon Foundation awards grant to develop new careers for humanities Ph.D.s. At the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
* Disney Says New ‘Star Wars’ Films Will Open Every Summer Starting in 2015. The internet has spoken: put Patton Oswalt in charge.
* “More toyetic”: The cast and crew of Batman and Robin explain what went wrong.
* Preposterously bad idea watch: Breaking Bad Spin-Off With Saul Goodman In The Works. Has to be a very dry joke on Vince Gilligan’s part.
* What is the political situation in the Mario universe? It is a never-ending condition of war within and war without, fraught and constantly changing as one faction or another vies for control, riven along racial and ideological fault-lines and held together only by the intervention of foreign interlopers, propping up the dominant superpower and whose ultimate motivations are shrouded in secrecy.
* A much larger revenue stream comes from federal student loans—$108,641,000 in 2011. In 2010, NYU had $659 million in total student debt, a figure bigger than the gross domestic product of twelve countries, and it is a national leader in the debt carried by its graduates, at 40 percent more than the national average. According a recent Newsweek ranking, NYU is now the fourth “Least Affordable School” in the United States. And in the latest Princeton Review college rankings, its financial aid and administration ranked first—for being the worst. The projected $5 billion expansion plan is certain to increase the student debt burden. Most of current student loans are federal money, so we can add these on to the public inputs received by this private university at a time when public universities are being put to the sword.
* Reframing the statement “don’t go to graduate school” to one that fully addresses the attack on tenure helps us to see and recognize each other, and our labor. I think it also helps us to identify new partners who might be able and interested in challenging or modulating some of the forces at work in educational restructuring.
* Guess Who Waits Longest to Vote? You’ll never guess!
* Authorities are still investigating how the younger child obtained the .22-caliber rifle: New Jersey 4-year-old shoots 6-year-old neighbor in the head.
* And I think I remember this movie: Lockheed Martin Harnesses Quantum Technology.
* In fact, Doctor Who is so British that Brits tend to disbelieve that it has become popular in the US. Their reaction at being told that one of their quirky national traditions attracts an audience unfamiliar with tea towels and gap years is a bit like an American being told that the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is being livestreamed unironically across France. Really? That’s what you’re watching? But only we watch that.
* The next Kim Stanley Robinson novel! Shaman: A Novel of the Ice Age.
* McSweeney’s: “I’m an English professor in a movie.”
* The University of British Columbia is striking a blow at gender inequity in professors’ pay, promising all tenure-stream female faculty a 2 per cent pay hike by the end of the month – a rare approach expected to cost the school about $2-million this year. I asked on Twitter and nobody answered — is this legal in Canada? I don’t think it would be here.
* Expelled Student Activist Wins $50K Court Judgment Against University President. The president is being held personally liable for his decisions.
An environmental activist expelled from Georgia’s Validosta State University (VSU) has won a $50,000 award in a lawsuit against the university president who kicked him out of school in 2007. In a dramatic rebuke to President Ronald Zaccari, the federal jury that heard the case found Zaccari personally liable for violating Hayden Barnes’ due process rights.
* Amy Bishop, a neurobiologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, sat down at the conference table just moments before the faculty meeting began. It was three o’clock on February 12, 2010, and thirteen professors and staff members in the biology department had crowded into a windowless conference room on the third floor of the Shelby Center for Science and Technology. The department chair, a plant biologist named Gopi Podila, distributed a printed agenda. Bishop was sitting next to him, in a spot by the door. Inside her handbag was a gun.
* School closings are a popular method of cost-cutting for big-city districts, but critics say the savings are exaggerated. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for up to 100 school closings this year. New York City just announced 26 planned closures.
But studies refute claims of savings. School buildings are difficult to sell. They cost money to maintain, and when vacant can become blights on their communities. Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee closed 23 schools in 2008, claiming she would save $23 million—and instead cost the district $40 million.
* Being touched against your will has become a twisted rite of passage for American females. It’s a reminder that you’re never safe anywhere. That your body is not really yours—but instead public property, there to be rubbed against by an old man or pinched and videotaped by a young one.
* It was a startling assertion that seemed an about-face from church doctrine: A Catholic hospital arguing in a Colorado court that twin fetuses that died in its care were not, under state law, human beings.
We believe that even the trickiest challenges confronting mankind can be diverted via human centrifugalization. Spinning people around at a sufficiently high G-Force will solve every problem.
* Canada ends the penny. This means the U.S. will start talking seriously about ending the penny in about fifty years or so.
* I left for Thanksgiving travel in a rush and wasn’t able to post a link to my traditional Thanksgiving post.
“The birds are then, in proverbial fashion, said to live happily ever after. In reality, however, they are usually killed within a year and stand-in turkeys are supplied. This goes on year after year. The chosen birds are killed because they have been engineered and packed with hormones to the point that they are unfit for any other purpose than their own slaughter and consumption. They are fast-forward turkeys. Presidential turkey caretakers have explained that most succumb rather quickly to joint disease—their frail joints simply cannot bear the weight of their artificially enhanced bodies. The sturdiest survivors may live a little more than a year. But the birds are always finally put out of their growing misery. Then they are buried nearby in a presidential turkey cemetery—the ritualistic significance of which remains to be explored. (May the archaeologists of the future excavate it!)”
The reason that these turkeys are so ill suited for their lives of freedom is that they are supplied by the National Turkey Federation. They are products of industrial farms, bred to grow fat quick rather than live long. Much could be said about the fact that corporate lobby’s interests trumps even the symbolism of the ceremony, making even the pardon itself a lie within a lie.
* To pardon, after all, is to forgive. And, if we’re talking about a turkey, it becomes difficult to discern what criminal or immoral behavior on the bird’s part may be said to establish the necessary preconditions for its forgiveness.
* If Walmart were a country, its GDP (US$443.9bn) would be greater than that of South Africa’s ($422bn). Visa would be bigger than Zimbabwe, Wells Fargo dwarfs Angola, and eBay, Amazon, Costco, Proctor & Gamble would swamp Madagascar, Kenya, Sudan and Libya respectively.
I am very reluctant to speak of “climate change adaptation” in this connection, because I feel that that phrase is a seized term, like “sustainable development,” and both are coded ways of saying “business as usual” or “capitalism must endure no matter the damages.” Because of that I think we should still be insisting on “climate change mitigation” as the appropriate task for our time. Ultimately, however, the entire biosphere will be adapting to the new physical conditions we are creating by our impacts, and we are going to have to get involved with that adaptation to make the best of it, meaning keeping the number of extinctions to a minimum, and trying to steer the biosphere toward best outcomes for all the species on the planet. This is necessary, because all the species together form one single supra-organism, and the health of all together determines the health of any individual species, including ourselves. Because of that reality, inhabiting the Earth successfully in the centuries to come will necessarily be a utopian project. It’s become a case of utopia or catastrophe.
* Outstanding achievements in bullshitting: John Podhoretz.
* Chevy Chase Is Leaving Community, Effective Immediately. Bring back Dan Harmon? It’s not too late!
* And finally: Zissou vs. the whale.