In the seven years since the Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened, hundreds of thousands of seed samples have gone into its icy tombs. And not one has come out—until now.
* Huge, if true: High Rise director Ben Wheatley: societal collapse is imminent.
* Huge, if true: Bernie Sanders can’t save America.
* “Our society needs a massive reset in terms of its priorities [regarding autism],” Silberman said. “One of the main problems facing families now is their children aging out of services. Yet almost all of the funding into research goes into investigating causes.” […] “Many things are being ignored by going after the cause of the alleged epidemic that may not even be one,” said Silberman. “It is amazing to me, after all this arguing about whether or not vaccines cause autism that we still haven’t done a basic prevalence study of autism among adults.”
* The problem is, you can tear down an institution in a year. It takes 25 — if you’re the best — to build it back up again. But it’s too late now. By breaking the rules of the search, Harreld helped violate the trust of the community and the values of the university. Iowa’s tradition has been sullied. If Harreld remains and wants to be a serious university president, his job is not going to be “going from good to great,” but rather repairing the damage that the Board of Regents, the governor and he, himself have done.
* What could possibly go wrong? You Can Now Rent H.P. Lovecraft’s Old Apartment.
* Inside every dishwasher, refrigerator, and washing machine is a little valve that directs the flow of water. For decades, most of these valves have come from a factory in the northwestern corner of Illinois, but not after today.
I’ll be teaching two courses in the spring: a second run of my “Magic and Literature” gateway to the major and a senior capstone called “The Lives of Animals.” The first isn’t changing that much from last year, but here’s the description of the latter…
Course Title: The Lives of Animals
Course Description: We are currently living through a historical moment that many scientists have begun to call “the Anthropocene”: the moment when the activities of human beings become visible in the geological and climatological record of the planet, recognizable many thousands or even millions of years hence. These activities unhappily coincide—and, to an overwhelming extent, have directly caused—what appears to be the beginning of the sixth mass extinction event experienced on Earth since the first evolution of life. The extinction and endangerment of huge numbers of animal species—as well as new research in biology, genomics, and cognitive science that have utterly blurred the once-clear, once-reliable distinction between “human” and “animal”—now calls on us both intellectually and ethically to reconsider the exclusion of animal life from consideration in human political and cultural institutions. This course seeks to answer that call, serving as an introduction to the interdisciplinary scholarly work in the ecological humanities that is increasingly grouped under the heading of “animal studies.” It will also intersect with fervent debates currently raging about the status of animals in the United States and around the world, including contemporary debates about zoos and aquariums; vegetarianism and medical testing; habitat preservation; and even the potential legal personhood of chimps, gorillas, dolphins, and other higher-order mammals. It will, in addition, serve as the research capstone to your English major experience at Marquette, affording you the academic tools and the creative space to independently develop a project of significant literary-critical scholarship on the troubled and troubling figure of “the animal,” exploring some of the different ways animals have been taken up as a problem by writers and thinkers working in multiple historical periods, media, genres, and literary-cultural forms.
Readings: Will be partially determined collaboratively in our initial class meetings by your interests, but will include key philosophical, scientific, and documentary texts about animal consciousness and “animal personhood,” as well as literary texts drawn from a list including Aesop’s Fables; Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels; J.M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals; the Planet of the Apes franchise; Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; the short fiction of Octavia E. Butler, Margaret Atwood, Leo Szilard, Sofia Samatar, and James Tiptree Jr.; Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials; and Disney films about animals like The Lion Kingand The Jungle Book.
Assignments: reflective personal statement, annotated bibliography, major research paper, conference-style presentation, weekly forum posts, class participation
The majority of these reasons have to do with student desire. It is obvious that people have to want the degree for universities to feel motivated to create programs. But there are many economic pressures that induce colleges and universities to expand and aggressively advertise and recruit for programs in creative writing. We do not think it is an overstatement that, prior to the 1990s and the intensifying financial pressures that brought about the corporatization of the university, English departments tended to have a studious lack of interest that bordered on disdain about the teaching of creative writing. And top-tier schools still tend to not offer graduate degrees in creative writing. Of the top 10 universities according to USNWR rankings, only Columbia has an MFA program.
The story of how these financial pressures show up in the college where we work — a small liberal arts college that admits self-identified women and people assigned female at birth who do not fit into the gender binary — might provide a useful illustration here. In 1990, the board of the college voted to go co-ed. In response, students went on a strike that they won after two weeks; the board backed down and the school did not go co-ed. Despite the outpouring of support, the college still had significant enrollment issues. Administration responded to this in the 90s by focusing on co-ed graduate programs. Between 1990 and 2013, graduate students went from 25 percent of the total enrollment at the college to 40 percent. The MFA in creative writing was targeted for growth. During the same period, the number of MFA graduates in the creative writing program more than doubled, from an average of 13 to 34 annually. This growth was not under department control. In 2005, after a long discussion, the department decided that they wanted to admit a smaller, more selective class. It was clear that “targeted for growth” meant adding more students, not more resources. But the president of the college held the acceptance letters until the department agreed to admit everyone on the fairly large wait list. This resulted in the largest class ever admitted.
* Interdepartmental research shows that during that 12-month period when body cameras were in use, instances of some types of force by San Diego police officers actually rose by 10%.
* If You Live In These States You’ll Soon Need A Passport For Domestic Flights. I can’t imagine that this will actually come to pass, but I just got my driver’s license renewal and Wisconsin is treating its default ID as not-airplane-ready.
* In honor of the ten years since speculative fiction author Octavia Butler’s untimely transition, the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network and the Octavia E. Butler Society are joining forces to create simultaneous West and East coast events February 25-28, 2016 in L.A. and at Spelman College in Atlanta respectively. The two organizations will also be collaborating on a special edition of the academic journal Palimpsest that highlights her written work and impact on humanity.
* The majority of white people who take the implicit association test (IAT) for racial bias do demonstrate biases against dark-skinned people.
* Dispatches From the Future’s Past: How a collection of sci-fi fanzines helps us understand the prehistory of the Internet.
* “Canada’s oldest independent arts university has struggled financially in recent years, and currently faces a $13-million debt.” So of course the solution is to build a new campus for $25 million.
* If 2008 taught us anything, it’s that the whole culture has followed the economic quants far enough down the complexity rabbit hole. I would argue that it might be the scholarship that neoclassical economists dismiss most forcefully that we should look to for help in questioning the self-interested models that the financial sector asserts are real. As these books help us realize, it is humanists who are best trained to pull back the curtain on what we are talking about when we talk about finance.
* Sheboyganfreude: Scott Walker suspends presidential campaign.
* Eleanor Rigby, greenlit for six seasons and a movie.
* Gymnastics and the abusers. Incredible, incredibly disturbing read.
* Games connect you with the sublime infinity of the mathematical universe, but they intersect with the real world only in secret and for pretend. Only in your head.
* A new scandal, though, is putting Johnson’s rise at serious risk. It involves the mayor replacing civil servants with private citizens funded by the Wal-Mart empire and tasked with the twin purposes of working to abolish public education and bring in piles of cash for Kevin Johnson. The rising star, it seems, set up a fake government—and some people are starting to notice.
* The future of war, from the author of The Forever War. And a nice flashback from the archive: Almost Everything in Dr. Strangelove Was True.
* There’s some really weird, interesting stuff happening in X-Men fandom right now. It’s almost the inverse of the “Bad Fan” problem that tends to plague Quality TV shows like Breaking Bad: fans so devoted to “appropriate” affective investment in a story that the story itself can no longer be pleasurable to them…
* Insane: The EPA is accusing Volkswagen of illegally using software to cheat emissions standards, allowing the German automaker to sell half a million cars that produce nitrogen oxide, which creates smog, at up to 40 times the legal limit. Criminal charges?
* New details released Friday by researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University reveal that 96 percent of NFL players the group has examined showed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease impacting the brain. It seems hard to believe this sport can have much future.
* Counterpoint: no, Jesus Christ, save money in your twenties if you can.
* And the word’s come down: The FBI Says Retweets Are Endorsements.
* Like Kirk said, don’t let them promote you: Rising to Your Level of Misery at Work.
* Big-Name Plan B’s for Democrats Concerned About Hillary Clinton. I guess I’ll get started on Plan C.
* At long last, the billionaires have come for their ancient enemy, UNC’s English department.
* Cooperation or Collusion? Lawsuit Accuses Duke and UNC of Faculty Non-Poaching Deal. I think they bought themselves a whole lot of legal trouble here.
* Amid all the weirdness of the U Iowa president hire, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gotta spend money to make money. University of Iowa Faculty Senate votes ‘no confidence’ in Board of Regents. “We’re just getting started.”
* Some good news in Wisconsin: MATC announces free tuition for low-income students.
* Here’s the truth: academia is an amazing sector with some of the best features of any job, even if it also has substantial problems. Folks on the way out might feel like they’re biting their thumb at something, and those still “stuck” on the inside of this troubled-but-terrific career might feel some welcome-if-temporary solidarity. But after that, it’s just more fodder for legislators, corporations, and the general public to undermine the academy. It helps nobody in the long run. No One Cares That You Quit Your Job.
* Mediocrity is the secret key that explains everything. Moving beyond the early focus on conformity, we propose that the threat of status loss may make those with middle status more wary of advancing creative solutions in fear that they will be evaluated negatively. Using different manipulations of status and measures of creativity, we found that when being evaluated, middle-status individuals were less creative than either high-status or low-status individuals (Studies 1 and 2). In addition, we found that anxiety at the prospect of status loss also caused individuals with middle status to narrow their focus of attention and to think more convergently (Study 3). We delineate the consequences of power and status both theoretically and empirically by showing that, unlike status, the relationship between power and creativity is positive and linear (Study 4). By both measuring status (Studies 2 and 3) and by manipulating it directly (Study 5), we demonstrate that the threat of status loss explains the consequences of middle status.
* Half of Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes. This is framed as good news: “…after two decades of linear growth, the prevalence of diabetes in the United States has finally started to plateau.”
* The Final Discworld Book Is Bittersweet For Many Reasons. I haven’t read one of these in decades, but I’m still sad he’s gone.
* And Boots lives. I anticipate that this will make Zoey’s entire year.