Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Monday Morning Links!

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The first cut of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ was over 3 hours long. I’m sure that would have solved all the problems.

* Science Fiction and the Urban Crisis.

In short, riots aren’t counterproductive because they do not achieve their goals. They are counterproductive because they are an expression of those who are already-counterproductive, those “individuals committing the violence,” those ever-ready to riot.

Starfleet as the Federation’s “Dumping Ground for Orphans.”

Keywords for the Age of Austerity 18.5: “Peaceful Protest.”

* Wow: Rebuilt slave sites being unveiled at Jefferson’s Monticello.

The U.S. Civil War ended 150 years ago, but once a year, deep in the sugar cane fields of southern Brazil, the Confederate battle flag rises again.

Parents call cops on teen for giving away banned book; it backfires predictably. They’re banning Sherman Alexie? Come on.

Salvage Accumulation, or the Structural Effects of Capitalist Generativity.

Executive Who Presided Over Nonprofit’s Fall Seeks $1.2 Million Payday.

* The names of the chemical elements in Chinese. More links below the chart.

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The Washington Post‘s Police Problem.

* Judith Butler’s talents are wasted on a “What’s Wrong With ‘All Lives Matter’?” piece that really should be obvious to everyone.

* The most amazing thing about this exchange is that Sam Harris thinks he won this argument so completely he needed everyone in the world to see.

* The headline reads, “Nepal’s Kung Fu Nuns Have Refused To Be Evacuated – They’re Staying Back To Help Victims.”

* “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things: Disability in Game of Thrones.”

Porn data: visualising fetish space.

* Ideology at its cutest (hat tip: Justin I.): Vermont Teddy Bear introduces Bernie Bear.

Big Bird Actor: I Almost Died on the Challenger and I Cry in the Suit.

Report: Cop Dismissed Freddie Gray’s Pleas for Help as “Jailitis.”

Christie signs law greenlighting fast track sale of N.J. public water systems.

The Great Victoria’s Secret Bra Heist of Pennsylvania.

* Behind the scenes of the Game of Thrones map.

* It’s always worse than you think: The CIA has been organizing clandestine TED Talks.

“Cool” is a bit of a moving target. Sixty years ago it was James Dean, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette as he sat on a motorbike, glaring down 1950s conformity with brooding disapproval. Five years ago it was Zooey Deschanel holding a cupcake.

* “Social media trend sees men ditching sit-ups for snack cakes.” My moment has arrived!

Tesla unveils a battery to power your home, completely off grid.

* I hate to link to an SNL bit, but their parody of a Black Widow movie was really pretty good.

* Area X novella coming… eventually. I liked the first book in the trilogy much, much more than the latter two, but I’m still in.

Can 3D printing save the rhino? Seattle-based bioengineering start-up Pembient believes it can. The company plans to flood the market with synthetic 3D printed rhino horn in an effort to stem the number of rhinos killed for their horns. But conservationists fear that the plan may backfire, undermining their own efforts to cut the demand for such products in China and Vietnam, the main black markets for rhino horns.

* The coming DC Cinematic Universe trainwreck, Suicide Squad edition.

* Life in the City of Refuge.

A University Is Not Walmart.

* Trustees are basically heroes, and the Chronicle is ON IT.

And LLAP, Grace Lee Whitney.

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Sunday Links!

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* Don’t miss my flash review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron! As I say in the update, thanks to my friend Ryan Vu for priming the pump (and look for his brilliant review of Captain America 2 in a few months in SFFTV).

Why Avengers: Age of Ultron Fills This Buffy Fan With Despair. Nerd Plus Ultron: There Has to Be More to ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Than Printing More Money.

* Notes on the coming DC disaster: In the early going, some in Hollywood are questioning whether Warners has acted too much in haste without having fleshed out the world on which so much hinges.

These Imaginative Worlds and Parallel Universes Will Forever Change How You Think About Africa.

2030 is set largely in the titular year, 100 kilometers south of Ho Chi Minh City. The initial title card establishes that 80% of the population has been evacuated due to the rising sea level as an effect of global warming.

* Great university boondoggle reporting from Freddie deBoer.

Late last week, using the hashtag #talkpay, people began tweeting about how much money they make—a radical thing to do in a culture that treats disclosing your salary as the ultimate taboo.

Dear Superprofessors: The experiment is over.

I’ve been buried in final book manuscript revisions, and have been noticing that I’m increasingly using the term “management” rather than “administration” in my analyses of university governance.  Part of the reason is that my employer, the University of California, uses Senior Management Group as a formal employment classification. But it’s also because the friendlier aspects of the term “administration” seem decreasingly part of everyday academic life. Friendliness was administration as support structure, as collaborator, as partner, as the entity that did not take orders from obnoxious egocentric faculty prima donnas the way that frontline staff often had to do, but that accepted balanced power relations  and a certain mutual respect that could make decisions move relatively quickly and equitably. It would avoid command and control of the kind that prevailed in the army and in most corporations, where executive authority consisted of direct rule over subordinates.

Pay hike at McMaster University for female faculty.

Lawmakers back away from increased course loads for UNC professors.

Fewer professors, more managers work on Cal State campuses.

* …Carey has produced a sloppy polemic, a revenge fantasy that tries to turn personal resentment and cynicism into public policy.

* Horrifying, literally unbelievable story of peer review gone awry. More here.

* Well, I guess that settles it: In 50-49 vote, US Senate says climate change not caused by humans.

Study: Climate Change Threatens One in Six Species With Extinction.

Babies born 3 miles apart in New York have a 9-year life expectancy gap. 15 Baltimore neighborhoods have lower life expectancies than North Korea.

The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Protest, 1965-1975.

Rikers Island meatloaf did have rat poison.

An Empty Stadium in Baltimore. A Brief History of Pro Sports Played in Empty Stadiums.

Keywords for the Age of Austerity 18: Descending into Violence.

‘Rough Rides’ and the Challenges of Improving Police Culture.

New ACLU Cellphone App Automatically Preserves Video of Police Encounters.

The particularity of white supremacy.

* It’s hard out there for a gifted kid.

* “No one has walked on the moon in my lifetime,” I told them. “Yet you try to tell me that it’s my generation who has lost their wonder?  That it’s the young people of today who have let everything slip and fall into ruin? You don’t understand. You had the dream and the potential and the opportunities, and you messed it all up. You got hope and moon landings and that bright, glorious future. I got only the disasters.”

In some ways Ex Machina may be considered a feminist film by sheer dint of our low standards, the scarcity of stories that explore female desire beyond the realm of sex and romance.

Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Cat’s Cradle’ to Be Developed as TV Series By IM Global.

The Secret Mountain Our Spies Will Hide In When Washington Is Destroyed.

A 7-Year-Old Girl Got A New 3D-Printed Left Hand For The Wonderful Price Of $50.

This 5-year-old girl knows a lot more about presidents than you do. At this point I say put her in charge.

If you’re 33 or older, you will never listen to new music again—at least, that’s more or less what a new online study says. The study, which is based mainly on data from U.S. Spotify users, concludes that age 33 is when, on average, people stop discovering new music and begin the official march to the grave.

How Old Is Old? Centenarians Say It Starts in Your 80s; Kids Say Your 40s.

“How Does a Stand-Up Comedian Work?”

* Whiteness and the Apple Watch.

* The arc of history is long, but Cheez-Its is finally going to sell a box of just the burned ones.

* The same joke but with this Iceland law allowing anyone to murder any Basque on sight.

* “NASA has trialled an engine that would take us to Mars in 10 weeks.”

* The most racist places in America.

* Daddy, there’s a monster under the bed.

* If you want a vision of the future, imagine James Cameron directing Avatar sequels, forever.

* And the same joke but with 21 Jump Street sequels.

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Written by gerrycanavan

May 3, 2015 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Lesser Whedonia 2: Age of Corporate Directives

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LATER-THAT-NIGHT UPDATE: I hadn’t realized when I wrote this how strongly it was influenced by the great review of Captain America 2 that Ryan Vu wrote for us for Science Fiction Film and Television, but reflecting on it a few hours later I really see Ryan’s review as the clear precursor to this. Look for his review in a few months! It’s really smart.

In my five-sentence Avengers review from a few years ago I wrote:

Of course I deeply enjoyed The Avengers, but my sense is it’ll be up to The Avengers 2: Avengers Reveng’d! to salvage the series from the scrapheap of Lesser Whedona. … Though certainly funny and engaging, and on occasion very clever, The Avengers is more or less superheroes completely by-the-numbers, almost entirely lacking in the deconstructive self-awareness that characterizes more artistically ambitious Whedon creations like Buffy, Firefly, and especially Cabin in the Woods and the too-neglected Dollhouse. The film has zero critical purchase on its genre, and precious little Whedonesque irony about itself.

In short, The Avengers is what Buffy would have been, if it were only fight scenes and quips.

Age of Ultron, like The Avengers before it, is fine, though if anything the film actually doubles down on the hollowed-out anti-cinema of the first film: it’s even fightier and much, much quippier, with very little heart (the paltry attempts at character development are exhaustively cloying) and excruciatingly little self-awareness about the genre it is participating in (it really pales in comparison to Captain America 2 on that front, as you knew it would).

A film like this seems to me to defy either aesthetic or political response. What is there to say about it that it isn’t already screaming at maximum volume? Even the film itself can barely muster the energy to care about its own setup or execution, breezing over the only character choice that has any genuine stakes (the initial creation of Ultron) in the span of five or so minutes (and then assiduously refusing to return to it under any circumstances).

The only really interesting thing about the film, to me, is its metatextual participation involving the endless shifting around of pieces in the MCU for a climax that will never arrive. When I watch Age of Ultron my major critical response is in trying to reverse engineer the corporate directives that Whedon was handed when he started to break out this story, and then trying to imagine other ways he might have tried to move the pieces into the proper places instead. What else could he have gotten away with? What did they make him rewrite or reshoot? What was allowed, and what was forbidden?

Of course this is always fantasy franchise-running, but we can be certain that the #1 directive here was “clear the decks.” The primary point of this film is to get rid of characters who won’t appear in the franchise until the next Avengers film at the end of “Phase 3.” In this sense Age of Ultron culminates “Phase 2,” like The Avengers culminates “Phase 1,” but here the climax is more like a toilet flushing than a fireworks spectacular. The central narrative concern here is to remove the blockage of investment in characters played by too-expensive actors so a new crop of rather less famous stars can run through their own four- or five-picture contracts in due course.

What else, besides that? I’d wager Whedon was given orders to soften the surface anti-Americanism of Winter Soldier, perhaps combined with a stick-a-thumb-in-DC’s-eye directive to “do something that will force reviewers compare this movie favorably to the ending of Man of Steel whether they want to or not.” Other than that: Give us some action figures? Make sure you leave some narrative gaps for the video games and the tie-in comics and Agents of SHIELD to play with later? Make sure that you complete the narrative return-to-origin so utterly that, even within the terms of your own diegetic universe, it’s as if the film never happened at all? There’s really hardly anything here, as (again!) perfectly enjoyable it is for the two hours it is on the screen.

It seems to me that Age of Ultron exemplifies a new type of narrative in this kind of media. First we had the franchise film; then we had the prequel trilogy; now every film is a prequel to a film that hasn’t been written yet, a film that will itself merely set the table for the fantasy of still another sequel or series or reboot or tie-in down the line. The real climax, the real pleasure, is permanently deferred, always another greenlight away.

To me a film like Age of Ultron invites speculation about Marvel/Disney’s thirty-year-plan to the exclusion of all other criticism or critique. We need a new theory of artistic creation to explain how films get made in this mode. It isn’t auteurism, it isn’t even really in the hands of individuals at all: it’s a kind of automatic, autonomous process using the combination and recombination of preexisting building blocks, almost on the order of an algorithm, or an artificial intelligence. We have this intellectual property that we think we can monetize more aggressively than we’re monetizing it currently; we have these and those prior narrative elements; now, JARVIS, build me a story.

What Day Is It? Links

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* Later today, at UC Davis: Environments & Societies: Gerry Canavan, “Science Fiction and Utopia in the Anthroposcene.”

Marquette Protest on Diversity, University Seal.

The LAO and Permanent University Austerity.

* Proclaims British economist Noreena Hertz, who recently surveyed more than 1,000 teenage girls in the United States and England: “This generation is profoundly anxious.”

* Failing the entire class.

* Rebirth of the Research University.

* Our research indicates children learn 4% more efficiently when being slowly boiled alive.

* Natalia Cecire on resilience and unbreakability.

2015-04-29 12.20.23 amThe Brutality of Police Culture in Baltimore. The Mysterious Death of Freddie Gray. Nonviolence as Compliance. Images of the Unrest in Baltimore. “I Blame The Department.” “Those Kids Were Set Up.” The Baltimore Riots Didn’t Start the Way You Think. In Freddie Gray’s Baltimore neighborhood, half of the residents don’t have jobs. Why Baltimore Rebelled.

How Often Do Officers Lie Under Oath?

Police Cadet Turns in Cop for Turning Body Cam Off Just Before Pummeling his Victim.

Sneaky crosswalk law in Los Angeles is a tax for the crime of being poor.

How Photography Was Optimized for White Skin Color.

The disturbing differences in what men want in their wives and their daughters.

* It was a group assignment for four of them, but one of them did any actual work.

The Shining, Retold as an Atari 2600 Game.

If a bug in a slot machine says you’ve won $41.8m, can you claim it? Not in the case of Pauline McKee, 90, denied the payout after Iowa’s supreme court sided with the house.

* I didn’t become a doctor for the money.

* Netflix’s numbers are much less impressive than you would have thought.

I will burn this fucking place to the ground before I get rid of that mirror.

* The struggle is real: Zoo Keeper Helps Constipated Monkey Pass Peanut By Licking Its Butt For An Hour.

* Your Tumblr of the day: Samplerman.

* “Sucralose, better known as Splenda, and acesulfame potassium, which is often called Ace K”: parent, talk to your kids about drugs.

Men Accused of Sexual Assault Face Long Odds When Suing Colleges for Gender Bias.

Jane Goodall Says SeaWorld ‘Should Be Closed Down.’

* Wisconsin’s roads are the third-worst in the nation. That’s pretty grim: how could two different states possibly be worse?

* Sounds like Age of Ultron will disappoint you twice.

* Scenes from the class struggle in California.

Who created Caitlin Snow on #TheFlash? According to @DCComics, nobody.

* And why not him? The Bernie Sanders Decade.

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Open Call for Papers: SCIENCE FICTION FILM AND TELEVISION!

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Science Fiction Film and Television invites submissions for our summer reading period! Preferred length for articles is approximately 7000-9000 words; all topics related to science fiction film and television will be considered. Typical response time is within three months. Check the journal website at Liverpool University Press for full guidelines for contributors; please direct any individualized queries to gerry.canavan@marquette.edu.

We are also continuing to accept submissions related to our upcoming special issue on Star Trek at 50.” The deadline for submissions for the special issue is September 1.

Sunday Night Links!

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But trains loaded with millions of gallons of crude oil thread the thickly populated areas of some of the nation’s biggest cities. Including Milwaukee.

Love Song for a Neoliberal University: StarbucksU.

* Corinthian Colleges Inc. shut down its remaining 28 for-profit career schools, ending classes for about 16,000 students, in the biggest collapse in U.S. higher education.

* I’m not anti-technology, or anti-innovation. And I think traditional colleges are deeply flawed. But I am very, very much against expanding the money-laundering side of our financial aid system. And that is the coal mine into which the ASU-EdX canary is being lowered.

* Surge Pricing for Your Entire Life.

On the deep grammar of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

* Hell didn’t exist, so we built it: the Alcatraz of the Rockies.

What It’s Like to Be a Girl in America’s Juvenile Justice System.

* Baltimore “has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming that police officers brazenly beat up alleged suspects. One hidden cost: The perception that officers are violent can poison the relationship between residents and police.”

* The myth of police reform.

A Residence With Locking Doors And A Working Toilet Is All That’s Needed To Justify A No-Knock Warrant.

This is the toxic tribalism that repeats itself over and over throughout the West. Western victims are mourned and humanized, while victims of Western violence are invisible and thus dehumanized. Aside from being repugnant in its own right, this formula, by design, is deeply deceptive as propaganda: It creates the impression among Western populations that we are the victims but not the perpetrators of heinous violence, that terrorism is something done to us but that we never commit ourselves, that “primitive, radical and inhumanely violent” describes the enemy tribe but not our own.

When George Packer gets bored, I get worried. It means he’s in the mood for war.

* Tom DeLay: People keep forgetting that God ‘wrote the Constitution.’

Can We Preserve the Ferguson QuikTrip? Ferguson’s Fortune 500 Company.

Entire Treasury Department Competing For Same Goldman Sachs Job Opening.

Ex-NBA player who made $60 million explains what really happens to your money when you sign an 8-figure contract.

23 maps and charts on language.

Before And After: Earthquake Destroys Kathmandu’s Centuries-Old Landmarks.

How Well Does ‘Daredevil’ Handle Disability Issues?

* Tetris: The Unauthorized Biography.

An Abandoned Island in The Middle of NYC.

Native Hawaiians are fighting off an invasion of astronomers. The Heart of the Hawaiian Peoples’ Arguments Against the Telescope on Mauna Kea.

* And some local interest from the Decolonial Atlas: The Great Lakes in Ojibwe.

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Sunday Morning Links!

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* One might, it’s true, wonder how cultural capital has survived the last half century’s apotheosis of pop, the rollback of the old patrician-bourgeois culture of the West, postmodernism’s putative muddling of low and high. But the sociologists have gone and checked, and the answers are not hard to find: Fancy people are now more likely to consume culture indiscriminately, that is, to congratulate themselves on the expansiveness of their tastes; indistinction has become distinction. They are more likely to prefer foreign culture to their own, at least in some who-wants-takeout? kind of way. And they are more likely to enjoy culture analytically and ironically, belligerently positing a naïve consumer whose imagined immersion in the object will set off everything in their own approach that is suavely arms-length and slaunchwise. Such, point for point, is the ethos of the new-model English department: of cultural studies, new media, the expanded canon, of theory-courses-without-objects. To bring new types of artifacts into literature departments is not to destroy cultural capital. It is merely to allow new things to start functioning as wealth. Even here, the claim to novelty can be overstated, since it is enough to read Bourdieu to know that the claim to interpret and demystify has always been an especially heady form of symbolic power. The ingenious reading confers distinction, as do sundry bids to fix the meanings of the social. Critical theory is cultural capital. Citing Judith Butler is one of the ways in which professional people outside the academy understand and justify their own elevation. Bickering recreationally about the politics of zombie movies is just what lawyers and engineers now do.

* The Kindle edition of The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson is (still) on sale for $1.99. Here’s the LARoB review!

* Meanwhile, LARoB also reviews Paradoxa 26, which has my essay on Snowpiercer in it.

* Extrapolation 56.1 is now available.

Sherryl Vint, “Skin Deep: Alienation in Under the Skin
Isiah Lavender, “Reframing Heart of Darkness as Science Fiction”
Sharon DeGraw, “Tobias S. Buckell’s Galactic Caribbean Future”
Karen May and David Upton, “‘Ser Piggy': Identifying an Intertextual Relationship between William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones
Lee Braver, “Coin-Operated Doors and God: A Gnostic Reading of Philip K. Dick’s Ubik”

Nepal After the Earthquake.

* Baltimore after Freddie Gray.

* The good inequality. Policy debate in the age of neoliberalism.

* Gene Wolfe, sci-fi’s difficult genius.

* The slow apocalypse and fiction.

* Can you fix the NBA draft?

In the meantime, we will all have to cope with the fact that education technology has just become weaponized. Arizona State is now the first predator university. They are willing to re-define what education is so that they can get more students from anywhere. If they don’t kill other universities by taking all their students with a cheap freshmen year, they’ll just steal their fish food by underselling 25% of the education that those schools provide and leaving them a quarter malnourished. The result is that schools which stick to reasonable standards with respect to the frequency and possibility of teacher/student interaction now have to fear for their very existence.

Contingency and Gender.

The Invented History of ‘The Factory Model of Education.’

The obvious corollary is that, in order to stem the tide of tuition increases, we should seek to stabilize or increase state funding and curb the power of administrators.

Why They Hate Cornel West.

* I’m seeing it mostly mocked and dismissed, but I think the Columbia case (K.C. Johnson summary at Minding the Campus) will be important flashpoint in Title IX law. My sense is that the wind on this is really changing strongly against the feminist left; we’re going to see many of the received truths of campus anti-rape policies coming under serious challenge. It’s going to be difficult, and it’s going to require some unpleasant reconsideration of the way we talk about this issue.

New Simulation Shows How The Pacific Islands May Have Been Colonized.

Incredibly, the percentage of parents throughout the state who engaged in the civil disobedience of refusing the test for their kids is higher than the 15 percent of eligible voters who cast a ballot for Andrew Cuomo in the low-turnout election last year.

* All of the juniors at Nathan Hale High School refused to show up for state testing this week.

* Against the creative economy.

* What if Man of Steel was in color?

* Gasp! The Apple Watch May Have a Human Rights Problem.

Microsoft Word Spells the Names of Game of Thrones Characters Better Than You Can.

Nine Months After He Filmed Eric Garner’s Killing, the Cops Are Trying to Put Ramsey Orta Behind Bars.

“We must disband the police: Body cameras aren’t enough — only radical change will stop cops who kill.”

* Meanwhile.

* Yes please: Telltale is making some kind of Marvel game.

The Feds Say One Schmuck Trading From His Parents’ House Caused a Market Crash. Here’s the Problem.

* See, Dad? I knew you could survive on girl scout cookies.

* There’s always money in the banana stand: The Fed’s Cold War Bunker Had $4 Billion Cash For After The Apocalypse.

* Won’t you give? What you can? Today? Poetry is going extinct, government data show.

* I believe any crazy story with China in the headline. That’s my policy.

* Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything.

It’s Time To Stop Treating Childhood as a Disease.

* And you thought The Dark Knight Strikes Back was bad.

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