Posts Tagged ‘Nabokov’
* Two bad tastes that taste good together: Rand Paul filibusters drones.
* Apocalypse now: The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air jumped dramatically in 2012, making it very unlikely that global warming can be limited to another 2 degrees as many global leaders have hoped, new federal figures show.
* The entrapment defense rarely succeeds, both in terrorism cases and more quotidian (usually drug-related) prosecutions, largely because “entrapment” means something very different in a courtroom than it does in ordinary usage. For nearly a century, the federal courts have allowed a criminal defendant to dodge criminal liability by showing that the governmentinduced her to commit an unlawful act. Once the accused makes such a showing, however, the government still has the opportunity to prove that she was predisposed to commit the crime, even before government agents entered the picture. If a jury accepts the government’s characterization, other factors—the nature or size of the “bait,” the complexity of the government artifice, or the independent wherewithal of the defendant to commit the crime—basically don’t matter: the defendant is still guilty. This means that when entrapment is at issue, the personality, reputation, criminal history, and political or religious beliefs of the accused become the centerpiece of the trial. Post-9/11 juries have had little trouble concluding that the disaffected Muslims (and occasional anarchists) ensnared by the FBI have been sufficiently “predisposed” to engage in terrorism.
* #slatepitches: What SimCity Teaches Us About Real Cities of the Future.
* Ephemeral third ring of radiation makes appearance around Earth. If we lived in a comic book, I bet this story would be fifteen times as awesome.
* And the latest issue of The New Inquiry posits time is the fire in which we burn.
* I saw this movie: Brains of rats connected allowing them to share information via internet.
* Beyond the MOOC: While other universities move quickly to offer courses online for free, Carnegie Mellon University is instead starting for-profit efforts designed to capture segments of the education market. I’ll promote this a bit more as the date gets closer, but I’ll be speaking at a “What’s the Matter with MOOCs?” event at UWM in mid-March.
* Justice, American style: The city’s complaint in federal court claims that if Ms. Truong is entitled to damages for the nearly three years she spent in jail awaiting trial, then Mr. Ryan is as much to blame as the city because he took too long to get the coerced confession tossed out of court by the judge.
* Will a Republican friend-of-the-court brief tip the Supreme Court in favor of gay marriage? I’m pretty sure it’ll have more luck than Obama’s.
* These numbers are unprecedented: by 2014 President Obama will have deported over 2 million people – more in six years than all people deported before 1997. That “before 1997″ actually means since 1892.
“We need union jobs today, not tomorrow,” said Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “The resolution balances our desire to protect the fragile ecosystem of the earth, while acknowledging the economic benefits of a high-road strategy to develop the doomsday technologies of the future.”
* Never forget: The entire staff of the West Wing died on Voyager.
The social events of the 1948 holiday season had to be canceled. And with good reason: Experts called the third floor of the White House “an outstanding example of a firetrap.” The result of a federally commissioned report found the mansion’s plumbing “makeshift and unsanitary,” while “the structural deterioration [was] in ‘appalling degree,’ and threatening complete collapse.” The congressional commission on the matter was considering the option of abandoning the structure altogether in favor of a built-from-scratch mansion, but President Truman lobbied for the restoration.
* And American history, Breitbart style: Journalists on the campaign trail saw Johnson drunkenly board a plane armed with nuclear weapons and then accidentally drop them on the United States. We all saw it!
2520 Intro to American Literature 2
Thematic Title: “Thrill and Dread in the American Century”
Description: “To be modern,” Marshall Berman wrote, “is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world—and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.” This course traces the development of this tension between hope and disaster, between “thrill” and “dread,” in American literature since the Civil War. In this course we will examine and interrogate this explosive sense of what it means to be “modern” with respect to themes of history and futurity, identity and difference, politics, community, war, empire, and the environment. From the private lives of individuals and families to the very public relationships that exist in and between diverse communities to the nation’s assent to global superpower status in the context of a nuclear-powered Cold War, we will find America in the post-Civil-War period understands itself as a place where anything can happen—in good ways, and in bad.
Readings: Norton Anthology C,D,E; Nabokov’s Lolita (1958); Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993)
* Credit where it’s due: despite my fears, Obama’s contraception judo turned out to be a genuinely inspired solution that gives everyone what they want. As I and others have been saying on Twitter, this whole thing is a good reminder that for all his other faults there’s almost no one better than Obama at campaigning. I don’t know if the trap was planned or if he just played a bad hand well, but either way this now looks a rare case of actually existing eleven-dimensional chess.
* Obligatory Republican primary links: Even At CPAC, Conservatives Seem Despondent About 2012 Choices.
* And Nate Silver invades your dreams: The Bettor’s Case for Santorum.
* If it’s possible to miss the point of Pale Fire any worse than this, I don’t want to know about it. Via PCEgan.
* Learned helplessness watch: Congressional Democrats, obviously feeling the heat from my persistent calls to use reconciliation to get around Republican filibusters, have now taken reconciliation off the table altogether. Idiots.
The comics present a different image of the Kryptonian city on each occasion, and Kelley sees in this a complex allegory, the diversity of representations signifying the instability of memory. The installation Kandor-Con includes architecture students who continuously design new Kandors, feeding them to a Superman fan site. For the artist, the inability of the original draughtsmen, the new designers or the hero’s internet fans to fix the form of Kandor once and for all illustrates “the stupidity and ridiculousness of technological utopianism.” The capital of the planet Krypton, says Kelley, is “the utopian city of the future that never came to be.”
You had me at “Bonjour.”
* I was kidnapped by lesbian pirates from outer space! A comic, via MetaFilter.
* Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels and meet energy needs, the International Energy Agency warned today.
* A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is the patient, according to a study that examined the role gender played in so-called “partner abandonment.”
* Always start your viral marketing campaign after your show is already doomed.
Kolbert’s closing words are, however, a little unfair.
To be skeptical of climate models and credulous about things like carbon-eating trees and cloudmaking machinery and hoses that shoot sulfur into the sky is to replace a faith in science with a belief in science fiction. This is the turn that “SuperFreakonomics” takes, even as its authors repeatedly extoll their hard-headedness. All of which goes to show that, while some forms of horseshit are no longer a problem, others will always be with us.
Not unfair to Levitt and Dubner, mind you, but to science fiction. After all, two science fiction authors, Frederick Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, had their number down way back in 1953 with The Space Merchants (Pohl, amazingly, is still active and alive).
The Conservationists were fair game, those wild eyed zealots who pretended modern civilization was in some way “plundering” our planet. Preposterous stuff. Science is always a step ahead of the failure of natural resources. After all, when real meat got scarce, we had soyaburgers ready. When oil ran low, technology developed the pedicab.
The Space Merchants is truly great, incidentally. Read it if you haven’t.
* Twenty years after the Berlin Wall. The “click to fade” images are stunning.
Lately I’ve shied away from reviewblogging, partly because I don’t think I’m especially good at it but mostly because I haven’t been moved to write about anything I’ve seen. Synecdoche, New York moves me, but only to say “Go see it.”
Almost certainly the best film of 2008—only Dark Knight really comes close—and Kaufman’s best film since Being John Malkovich, Synecdoche can’t really be described without being reduced to a series of gimmicks. I wouldn’t even read reviews of it. Just go.
For those who have seen it, or who plan to flaunt my sage advice, the best writing I’ve seen about Synecdoche has been from Adam Kotsko, who writes, insightfully:
While watching Synecdoche, New York this week, a thought occurred to me: the reviews that presented the movie as an elaborate puzzle requiring multiple viewings to unravel are wrong….
[T]here is, within the frame of the movie, no “underlying reality” that can be uncovered through the work of decoding, not even that of Caden Cotard’s dream. All the action is taking place directly at the surface. That’s what the proposed title “Simulacrum” is telling us (a name he suggests to Claire, not Hazel, pace Dargis).
“What really happened” is only what you can see: Kaufman is being brutally direct. No amount of plot summary can get at what it feels like to be watching this movie, and to get to caught up in trying to decipher “what’s going” on is to run the risk of failing to feel what it feels like to be watching this movie.
I’d even go so far as to suggest that Synecdoche should really only be viewed once. The novels to which one might be tempted to compare it—Ulysses? Pale Fire? If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler?—are surely not “elaborate puzzles” to be solved but do possess rich textual subtleties that reward an nth reading. Synecdoche, I fear, may not only lack these subtleties, but may in fact be significantly worse when re-viewed in the context of a known whole.
In particular I’m afraid any rewatch would just direct us more and more towards the notion that [SPOILER—HIGHLIGHT TO READ] Cotard is in the process of dying, likely from suicide committed either very early in the movie or perhaps slightly before it began, and Synecdoche is his dream. To the extent that the suggestion of any “underlying reality” can be deciphered in Synecdoche, it seems to me it can only be this one—and just the slightest taste of that is more than enough.
But wherever they point us, I feel fairly certain the uncovering of any “clues” upon rewatching would only throw the movie’s vital ambiguity off-balance. It’d ruin it. Synecdoche‘s a truly great film, that is to say, but probably just the once.
UPDATE: Copied from Facebook wall scribblings:
my fave reader review from the nyt:
This movie was really boring! Just like life! This movie thought it was original and cutting edge but wasn’t! Just like life! This movie has been made before about seven trillion billion times! Just like life! This movie was way too long! Just like life! The first half was okay but the second half made up for it! Just like life! I almost walked out of this movie! Just like life! Some people don’t realize how awful this movie is and actually think it is good! Just like life!
I have a long Thanksgiving break this year (something I must admit I’m very thankful for). Here’s a few links to celebrate my good fortune.
* Boston College will stop offering incoming students email addresses; instead, they will redirect email to a private service of the students’ choice. In other words, the moronic email addresses they made up as a joke in eighth grade will now follow BC students forever.
* The new MacBook Pros (like mine!) come saddled with major DRM problems. The good news is that your machine is only crippled for media you purchase legally; pirated media still works just fine.
* Pushing Daisies has been canceled. It’s a shame.