Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

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‘We Have Never Been STAR TREK’

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Everyone in the world is writing about Star Trek today. Here’s my contribution, at the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound: “We Have Never Been Star Trek.” A tiny excerpt of a long and somewhat personal piece:

And one of the most remarkable and most vexing things about Star Trek – as someone who cherishes the Idea, who in some basic way grew up on it, and was shaped by it, and who turns to it still as the closest expression of what I think our society ought to aspire to be instead of the nightmare that it actually is – is that this Idea is only sporadically present within the hundreds of hours of film and television and other media that make up the franchise. For my breed of Star Trek fan, our loyalty is to to an Idea that has only barely ever been depicted, and perhaps never truly was at all – but we are loyal, fiercely loyal, nonetheless. The very weirdest thing about loving Star Trek is that even Star Trek isn’t really Star Trek, most of the time.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 8, 2016 at 11:04 am

Labor Day Weekend Links!

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20121130* Aliens! Aliens! Not really. But it’s never too early to panic.

* This truly is the darkest timeline: Marquette signs new contract with Pepsi for on-campus beverage services.

Some Of The Best PC Games Ever Made Hit Steam This Week. Quest for Glory! Police Quest! Wow. Waiting now for the Mac port.

* Star Trek: Discovery really will follow Number One. Relatedly: The 2000s-era Star Treks we never saw. Star Trek Beyond, Reviewed by Tim Phipps.

Science Fiction World Building in a Capitalist Society: An Interview with Dan Hassler-Forest (Part One).

* The Exemption Packet.

Jason Scott Talks about Preserving Games with the Internet Archive.

* Be a rebel; major in English. A decent discussion of the fact-free moral panic involving choice of major, clickbait headline aside.

The Peculiar Success of Cultural Studies 2.0.

* How to Write an Effective Diversity Statement for a Faculty Job Application.

Mandatory Trigger Warnings at Drexel?

* Lockout at LIU.

* Symposium: Why Monster Studies Now?

* Nicholson Baker, substitute teacher. Welcome to Terror High.

The most important lesson to take from all this is that there is no way to confront the climate crisis as a technocratic problem, in isolation. It must be seen in the context of austerity and privatisation, of colonialism and militarism, and of the various systems of othering needed to sustain them all.

* Improv as self-help philosophy, as scam, as fad, as cult. (via) I’ve never taken an improv class, but my nonstop consumption of improv-based comedy podcasts has seriously helped my teaching by helping me see the importance of adopting the yes-and stance in the classroom.

Professor hunger strikes against denial of tenure.

Islam and Science Fiction, the long-running website dedicated to “fill[ing] a gap in the literature about Muslims and Islamic cultures in Science Fiction,” has just published Islamicates: Volume I, as a free-to-download release.

Check Out These Amazing Soviet Maps Of D.C.

That’s a serious charge, worthy of being considered seriously. Although easy access to inexpensive Mexican food would be a boon for hungry Americans, what would the inevitable presence of those trucks do to the American economy? How could our country accommodate an explosion of trucks at that scale? The national economic implications of a taco truck on every corner.

* Stranger Things and the spirit of play.

Here’s why: it’s about play. We have good reasons to overthink TV shows, to take them too seriously: it helps us reclaim from them all that they take for granted, all the ideology in which we find ourselves implicated as we enjoy works produced by a capitalist, patriarchal, racist culture, etc. If your fave is problematic, it’s worth thinking about why, not because you or it are bad and should feel bad, but because our world is fallen and all is vanity and what does humanity gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun, etc. Or something like that. Art has baggage; criticism is about rummaging through that bag to see what’s inside, and what you want to do with it.

* Girls feel Stranger Things, too.

Fortunately, those of us who grew up in the 80s also experienced the 90s, where Dana Scully and Buffy Summers awaited us. But with its flawlessly staged setting and piled-up homages to 80s movies, Stranger Things has performed a kind of time travel: it has reached back into my memories,Total Recall-like, and inserted characters who now seem as though they were there all along. Nancy, the nerd-turned-monster killer who can like more than one boy at once. Barb, the buttoned-up babygay whose best friend won’t let her be disposable. Eleven, the terrifying, funny, scared, brave, smart weirdo whose feelings could save the world.

Global Capitalism, Fan Culture, and (Even) Stranger Things. The Strange Motivations of Stranger Things. Sticking a tough landing: Stranger Things Season Two Will Add New Characters, New Settings, and Sequel Sensibility.

* Teasing the Fall 2016 Pop Culture series at Marquette: Harry Potter, Tarantino, and (yes) Stranger Things.

* $600,000 humanities endowment account at CUNY turns out to be a mere $599,924 dollars short.

* Learn to Write the Vandermeer Way. Keep scrolling!


Virtually every decision made by Warner Bros. with regards to its DC superhero movies has been bad. But it’s been so desperate to recreate Marvel’s success that it keeps running forward, trying to constantly course correct, when what it really needs to do it take a break, a deep breath, and start over from scratch with a long-term plan that it will actually stick to.

Jack Kirby’s long-lost, incomplete “The Prisoner” comic book.

The Myth of the Millennial as Cultural Rebel.

Apartment Broker Recommends Brooklyn Residents Spend No More Than 150% Of Income On Rent.

Airlines are surprisingly ill-equipped to handle accusations of sexual assault on their planes.

This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C., combined. Why? Yes, the word “oxy” appears in the first sentence.

Creepy Clown Sightings in South Carolina Cause a Frenzy.

* Tracing the history of the phrase “office-involved shooting.”

How Fox News women took down the most powerful, and predatory, man in media. Why Isn’t It a Bigger Deal That Trump Is Being Advised by Sadistic Pervert Roger Ailes?

Democrats really might have a shot at taking the House. Here’s the math.

* Because you demanded it! CBS is developing a scripted drama based on the life of Judge Judy. It’s also graciously decided to allow you to pay extra for an ad-free experience on its subscription service.

* Ah, the good old days. Still not done yet!


Meet Moya Bailey, the black woman who created the term “misogynoir.”

* Dialectics of Superman: The Old Lois Lane Really Doesn’t Like the New Lois Lane. The Rise and Fall of Axiom.

* Math is cool: The absent-minded driver’s paradox.

Solar Power Plant Can’t Figure Out How to Stop Frying Birds.

Georgetown University Plans Steps to Atone for Slave Past. Georgetown’s slavery announcement is remarkable. But it’s not reparations.

Deep in the Swamps, Archaeologists Are Finding How Fugitive Slaves Kept Their Freedom.

* “A short story in English is a story in which the letter e occurs no more than 5715  times.”

* How far are you from an In N Out Burger?

* Works for academic papers too.

* RIP, Gene Wilder.

Debating the Legality of the Post-9/11 ‘Forever War’ at the Council on Foreign Relations.

* Whiteness without white supremacy?

Football and the Buffalo both owe some of their survival today to Teddy Roosevelt, who loved them both because they were accessories to one of his first loves: violence, which he and others of his time and a lot of people living right now believe tempers men into steel.

Avengers: Full House.

* Sold in the room: Alison Brie Will Star in Netflix’s ’80s Lady-Wrestling Series G.L.O.W. And that’s before I even found out Marc Maron would be on it too.

* I’m also excited to option this one: Bizarre ant colony discovered in an abandoned Polish nuclear weapons bunker.

* The L.A. Times is running a six-part story on that framing of a PTA mom in California.

* Screens in Schools Are a $60 Billion Hoax.

* Socialize the EpiPen.

* The critics are saying Arrival (née Story of Your Life) is the real deal.

* The art of Biff Tannen.

* Breaking: Warner Brothers wants another five billion dollars.

Few baseball fans have heard of the tiny Pacific Association, an independent league founded in 2013. But in 2015, during the Stompers’ sophomore season, the team fielded pro baseball’s first openly gay player, Sean Conroy. Then, in the off-season, the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola approached the team to talk about making his Virginia Dare Winery, based in nearby Geyserville, one of its sponsors. That proposal came with another: he wanted the team to recruit female players.

* Understanding Prenatal Depression.

* It’s weird that 911 has an off switch, isn’t it?

* Web comic of the week: Ark.

* Short film of the week: Movies in Space. Chris and Jack’s other stuff is pretty great too.

The New York Times Reassures Parents That Their Sons’ Penises Are Probably Totally Fine.

* And I really think just one more year ought to do it.


Written by gerrycanavan

September 3, 2016 at 8:43 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Happy First Day of School Links!

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The Japanese have a word for blogs that have fallen into neglect or are altogether abandoned: ishikoro, or pebbles. We live in a world of pebbles now. They litter the internet, each one a marker of writing dreams and energies that have dissipated or moved elsewhere. What Were Blogs?

* Phew, that was a close one: In a new book, conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith argues there’s no such thing as time wasted online.

* …successful universities – surely including the University of Chicago – are congeries of safe spaces that factions of scholars have carved out to protect themselves from their intellectual enemies. More concretely – the University of Chicago has both a very well recognized economics department and a very well recognized sociology department. There is furthermore some overlap in the topics that they study. Yet the professors in these two departments protect themselves from each other – they do not, for example, vote on each other’s tenure decisions. They furthermore have quite different notions (though again, perhaps with some overlap) of what constitutes legitimate and appropriate research. In real life, academics only are able to exercise academic freedom because they have safe spaces that they can be free in.

Graduate Students Are Workers: The Decades-Long Fight for Graduate Unions, and the Path Forward.

The problem with revolutionary politics, in short, is that it tends to be naïve about political institutions.

* From prison to campus.

* Median income vs. public university tuition, 2000-2016.

What Colleges Can Do Right Now to Help Low-Income Students Succeed.

* Secrets of my success: Yes, Students Do Learn More From Attractive Teachers.

Health Experts Recommend Standing Up At Desk, Leaving Office, Never Coming Back.

The long, strange history of John Podesta’s space alien obsession.

With a shift in martial arts preferences, the rise of video games — more teenagers play Pokémon Go in parks here than practice a roundhouse kick — and a perception among young people that kung fu just isn’t cool, longtime martial artists worry that kung fu’s future is bleak.

The Rebel Virgins and Desert Mothers Who Have Been Written Out of Christianity’s Early History.

All Mixed Up: What Do We Call People Of Multiple Backgrounds?

Paris Is Redesigning Its Major Intersections For Pedestrians, Not Cars.

* Vice: All the Evidence We Could Find About Fred Trump’s Alleged Involvement with the KKK.

Louisiana, for instance, made headlines earlier this summer when it was revealed that the state had spent more than $1 million of public funds on legal fees in an attempt to defend its refusal to install air conditioning on death row at Angola prison — even though the air conditioning would cost only about $225,000, plus operating costs, according to expert testimony. That astonished U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson. “Is this really what the state wants to do?” Jackson asked, calling the bill “stunning.” “It just seems so unnecessary.”

* The Baton Rouge flooding (and the Milwaukee riots) proves just how little coastal elites care about the rest of America.

* The deep story of Trump support. The New York Times And Trump’s Loopy Note From His Doctor. Donald Trump has a massive Catholic problem. Trump might already be out of time. It’s Too Soon For Clinton To Run Out The Clock.

* When Steve Bannon ran BioDome.

The Welfare Reform Disaster.

Obama the Monument Maker. Obama Just Quadrupled The World’s Largest Natural Sanctuary.

* Tumblr of the year: The Grad Student. Keep scrolling! School hasn’t started yet.

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The Average Joe Accused of Trying to Sell Russia Secrets.

* The short, unhappy life of the Soviet Jet Train.

The first theory of evolution is 600 years older than Darwin.

Forget about drones, forget about dystopian sci-fi — a terrifying new generation of autonomous weapons is already here. Meet the small band of dedicated optimists battling nefarious governments and bureaucratic tedium to stop the proliferation of killer robots and, just maybe, save humanity from itself.

* They say the best revenge is a life well-lived. There’s a study out this year that suggests Frenchmen can feel pain. I don’t wanna be one of those people who think everything got worse around the time he hit his mid-twenties.

* My statement of teaching philosophy.

* Happy 101st, Alice Sheldon. Kirby’s 99th.

Ursula Nordstrom and the Queer History of the Children’s Book.

* “No Man’s Sky is an existential crisis simulator disguised as a space exploration game.”

* Great moments in FOIA requests.

Colin Kaepernick Is Righter Than You Know: The National Anthem Is a Celebration of Slavery.

* Big data, Google and the end of free will.

* Being Chuck Tingle.

* The logistical sublime: A Map Showing Every Single Cargo Ship In The World.

Why There’s a Media Blackout on the Native American Dakota Oil Pipeline Blockade.

Year-Long Simulation of Humans Living on Mars Comes To an End.

* Replication projects have had a way of turning into train wrecks. When researchers tried to replicate 100 psychology experimentsfrom 2008, they interpreted just 39 of the attempts as successful. In the last few years, Perspectives on Psychological Science has been publishing “Registered Replication Reports,” the gold standard for this type of work, in which lots of different researchers try to re-create a single study so the data from their labs can be combined and analyzed in aggregate. Of the first four of these to be completed, three ended up in failure.

Under pressure to perform, Silicon Valley champions are taking tiny hits of LSD before heading to work. Are they risking their health or optimising it? I reject the premise of the question.

* A special issue of Transatlantic devoted to Exploiting Exploitation Cinema.”

So last night, on a whim, I started collecting links to doctoral dissertations written by members of the House of Commons, and posting them on the Twitter.

* The Guardian reviews the new edition of Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the New Millennium.

* Missed this somehow in June: rumors of the four-point shot in the NBA. I’m not much of a sports person, but this fascinates me just as a lover of games.

* Marvel has released its charming “Where was Thor during Captain America: Civil War?” Comic-Con video.

* Le Guin honored by the Library of America (while still alive).

King Camp Gillette introduced his safety razor, with disposable double-­edge blades, around the turn of the 20th century. But before he was an inventor, Gillette was a starry-­eyed utopian socialist. In 1894, he published “The Human Drift,” a book that, among other things, envisioned most of the population of North America living in a huge metropolis powered by Niagara Falls. Production would be fully centralized, making for the greatest efficiency, while all goods would be free to everyone. That’s the only way Gillette saw to ensure that the benefits of technological development would be shared. “No system can ever be a perfect system, and free from incentive for crime,” he wrote, employing a prescient metaphor, “until money and all representative value of material is swept from the face of the earth.” His blade was a model socialist innovation: Gillette replaced toilsome sharpening labor with the smallest, most easily produced part imaginable. The very existence of the Gillette Fusion is an insult to his memory.

The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies.

Soviet sci-fi movies in English online.

* Your one-shot comic of the week: Ark.

* And, finally, my story can be told.


Written by gerrycanavan

August 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Judging a Book by Its Cover: OCTAVIA E. BUTLER

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Well, it looks like University of Illinois Press has settled on a cover for my book Octavia E. Butler, coming out this fall:


…now how much would you pay? Act fast, because supplies are running out, etc. etc. etc.!

Saturday Morning Links!

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* Really exciting new anthology I just heard about: Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation.

* CFP: Station Eleven and Twenty-First-Century Writing.

* CFP: The Literature of the Anthropcene.

* CFP: The International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts 2017.

* After Columbia: Deans often feign surprise at graduate student complaints, and claim not to notice the thousands petitioning them every semester. An n+1 roundtable on the recent NLRB decision.

Monsters and Mythical Creatures of Higher Education.

* Just can’t win: Diversity training and mandates seem to have a backlash effect.

* Black in Naperville.

* Ghosts of White People Past: Witnessing White Flight From an Asian Ethnoburb.

* The New York Times interviews N.K. Jemisin, the first black writer to win a Hugo.

* A history of little people in Hollywood.

Still, if he ends up with 7 percent of the vote — as we’d expect based upon history and the current polls — the Libertarian Party will qualify for federal campaign funding in 2020, and Johnson will claim the highest share of the vote of any non-major party nominee in 20 years.

* Who works for the workers? Unions and bureaucracy in America.

* If you ever hope to imagine hell, come to a prison, and I’ll show you what hell is like.

* The Strange Reason Nearly Every Film Ends by Saying It’s Fiction (You Guessed It: Rasputin!).

* But as Coulter let slip, the rightwing pundit class is on the verge of losing its long-term hold on the actual conduct of politics on the ground. In other words, the conservative media elite is in precisely the same structural position that the nascent forces of the new right sketched out for the great liberal media conspiracy circa 1972: assiduously manufacturing consent to an audience that was rapidly moving on to other grand political narratives. That, comrades Hannity and Coulter, is what we cranky leftwing culture critics call the cunning of history.

* Meanwhile: Republicans Are Already Planning How to Ruin a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

* Protesting too much: HAARP’s new owner holds open house to prove facility ‘is not capable of mind control.’

* Secret origins of the Choco Taco.

* And an intriguing BET science fiction web series about slavery and time travel very few people seem to have known about (I didn’t!): Send Me. Thanks to Ayana Jamieson for the tip!

Last Weekend Before the Semester Links!

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* ICYMI: My new syllabi for the fall! Infinite Jest and Alternate History. There’s also a new version of my “Video Game Culture” class, set for a new eleven-meeting schedule and with a “Capitalism” week added centered on Pokémon Go (what? oh, that thing). Relatedly: Milwaukee County Parks are trying to remove Pokemon Go from Lake Park.

* The NLRB has ruled that graduate students at private universities can unionize. How letting grad students unionize could change the labor movement and college sports. The NLRB Columbia Decision and the Future of Academic Labor Struggles. The Union Libel: On the Argument against Collective Bargaining in Higher Ed. But elsewhere in academic labor news: Adjuncts in Religious Studies May Be Excluded From Religious College Unions.

* Are PhD Students Irrational? Well, you don’t have to be, but it helps…

The point, then, is that a rational choice theory of PhD pursuit is self-sealing: by allowing the job market, and the job market only, to police our understanding of what’s rational, we’re ignoring that doctoral study is a way of accomplishing what the market typically cannot — a long-term, self-directed research project.

* Colleges hire more minority and female professors, but most jobs filled are adjunct, not tenure track, study finds.

* This morning everyone’s fighting about academic freedom and trigger warnings at the University of Chicago.

* I thought I was the only prof who didn’t really care about deadlines. But apparently there are dozens of us!

* That’ll solve it: Replace college instruction with Ken Burns movies.

A New Academic Year Brings Fresh Anxiety at Illinois’s Public Colleges.

Poor and Uneducated: The South’s Cycle of Failing Higher Education.

* Actually, I’m teaching these kids way more than they’re teaching me.

* I’ve dreamed about this since I was a kid: An Epochal Discovery: A Habitable Planet Orbits Our Neighboring Star. Time to teach The Sparrow again…

* Philosophical SF.

* CFP: Futures Near and Far: Utopia, Dystopia, and Futurity, University of Florida.

Cuban science-fiction redefines the future in the ruins of a socialist utopia.

Puppies, Slates, and the Leftover Shape of “Victory.” On that Rabid Puppies thing and my Hugo Award-winning novella Binti.

It was a long time before anyone realized there was something not the same about her.

From all indications, the next X-Men movie will hew closer to Claremont’s original Dark Phoenix story than the previous cinematic effort. But any sense of authenticity it achieves will only arouse and prolong the desire for closure of the loss not only of a treasured character who might have lived endlessly in the floating timeline, but also of the very narrative finitude in which this loss could only happen once. Comic Book Melancholia.

* Bingewatching vs. plot.

* A new book series at Rowman and Littlefield explores Remakes, Reboots, and Adaptations.

Hot Tomorrow: The Urgency and Beauty of Cli-Fi.

Do Better: Sexual Violence in SFF.

* The real questions: How Long Would It Actually Take to Fall Through the Earth?

How did an EpiPen get to costing $600? Earned every penny. A Case Study in Health System Dysfunction. But, you know, it’s all better now.

* Amazing study at Duke: Virtual Reality and Exoskeleton Help Paraplegics Partially Recover, Study Finds.

The Epidemic Archives Of The Future Will Be Born Digital.

How One Professor Will Turn Wisconsin’s Higher-Ed Philosophy Into a Seminar.

* Becoming Eleven. Concept Art Reveals Barb’s Original Stranger Things Fate and It Will Depress You. We Will Get ‘Justice for Barb’ in a Second Season of Stranger Things. This Stranger Things fan theory changes the game.

Arkansas City Accused Of Jailing Poor People For Bouncing Checks As Small As $15. An Arkansas Judge Sent A Cancer Patient To ‘Debtors’ Prison’ Over A Few Bounced Checks.

* And elsewhere: Drug Court Participants Allegedly Forced To Become Police Informers.

The times of year you’re most likely to get divorced. Keep scrolling! We’re not done yet.

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Are these the best films of the 21st century? I’m not sure I enjoyed or still think about any film on this list more than I enjoyed and think about The Grand Budapest Hotel, though There Will Be Blood, Memento, Caché, and Children of Men might all be close.

CBS is bound and determined to make sure Star Trek: Discovery bombs.

Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus.

* An Instagram account can index depression.

* After neoliberalism?

* Parenting and moral panic.

How Screen Addiction Is Damaging Kids’ Brains.

The technical language obscured an arresting truth: Basis, which I had ordered online without a prescription, paying $60 for a month’s supply, was either the most sophisticated fountain-of-youth scam ever to come to market or the first fountain-of-youth pill ever to work.

* Nazis were even creeps about their horses.

tumblr_nc27oekkA11t3cxt2o1_500* The Republicans were right!

* Mapping the Stephen King meganarrative.

* Good news for Dr. Strange: Dan Harmon wrote on the reshoots.

* My colleague Jodi Melamed writes in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on white Milwaukee’s responsibility.

The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan. Translated from the Icelandic.

* Saddest postjournalism story yet: “Vote on the topic for a future Washington Post editorial.”

Katherine Johnson, the human computer.

* I arrived at my friend’s party. A few hours later she died, exactly as planned.

* Uber loses a mere 1.2 billion dollars in the first half of 2016. Can there be any doubt they are just a stalking horse for the robots?

* It’s been interesting watching this one circulate virally: Giving up alcohol opened my eyes to the infuriating truth about why women drink.

William Shatner Is Sorry Paramount Didn’t Stop Him From Ruining Star Trek V. Apology not accepted.

Hillary Clinton will likely have a unique chance to remake the federal judiciary. How the first liberal Supreme Court in a generation could reshape America.

Many donors to Clinton Foundation met with her at State. You don’t say… 4 experts make the case that the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising was troubling.

* Does he want a few of mine? Donald Trump Used Campaign Donations to Buy $55,000 of His Own Book.

Curt Schilling Is the Next Donald Trump. Hey, that was my bit!

* Oh, so now the imperial presidency is bad.

* Good news, everyone!

At least Democrats are currently on track to retake the Senate.

* Scenes from the richest country in the history of the world: Texas has highest maternal mortality rate in developed world, study finds. Raw sewage has been leaking into Baltimore’s harbor for five days, city says. It appears aquatic life — the moss that grows on rocks, the bacteria that live in the water and the bugs that hatch there — are the unexpected victims of Americans’ struggle with drug addiction. Ramen is displacing tobacco as most popular US prison currency, study finds.

No Man’s Sky is like real space exploration: dull, except when it’s sublime.

A.J. Daulerio, bloodied but unbowed. How Peter Thiel Killed Gawker. Never Mind Peter Thiel. Gawker Killed Itself. Gawker Was Killed by Gaslight. And if you want a vision of the future: A Startup Is Automating the Lawsuit Strategy Peter Thiel Used to Kill Gawker.

* Greenlit for five seasons and a spinoff: The astonishing story of how two wrestling teammates from Miami came to oppose each other in the cocaine wars — one as a drug smuggler, the other as a DEA agent.

* Also greenlighting this one.

* The legacy board games revolution.

25 1/2 gimmicky DVD commentary tracks.

The millennial generation as a whole will lose nearly $8.8 trillion in lifetime income because of climate change. The children of millennials will lose tens of trillions.

* When Icon fought Superman.

* Do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks.

An Exciting History of Drywall.

* Title IX: still under serious threat.

* And it’s not a competition, but Some Turtles See Red Better Than You Do.


Written by gerrycanavan

August 26, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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New Fall Syllabus #2: INFINITE JEST!

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And here’s the Infinite Jest syllabus. This one turned out to be a surprisingly difficult puzzle to put together, just because I felt strongly that the book absolutely had to be finished by the class period before the class period before Thanksgiving (and later determined that we really needed a whole week to talk about the book just as a whole) — while I also felt (after the experience of the Tolkien class was so great) that it would be really good to have a slow start where we talked a bit about Wallace as a thinker and read some of his other work. This seemed especially urgent to me because of the fact of the suicide, which really does seem to risk retrospectively poisoning some aspects of the book and Wallace’s larger career (I’ve included the MLA panel we’re doing explicitly in the course as a last-day exercise, though I realized yesterday while prepping the course that I seem to have completely cryptomnesically ripped off Tom Bissell in my panel abstract — very embarrassing).

I decided early on that “beginning with the end” was the way to do this course, discussing the suicide openly and concretely at length at the very start of the class. My workshopmates in my Jesuit pedagogy seminar last semester very helpfully suggested some strategies for making the course a comfortable place to talk about some very uncomfortable things, and strongly suggested that I include an explicit content note in the syllabus (which as you can see, I did, a fairly lengthy one; I don’t think I’ve ever done one before, except in briefly offering the possibility of an alternate assignment for Lolita in a sophomore-level survey).

The result of all this is a syllabus that I’m pretty happy with and that I hope won’t be too demanding. I’ve thought a lot about not just trying to generate buy-in and a spirit of shared endeavor, but also how to make sure I don’t lose a ton of people along the way. In the end, with a MW class meeting trying to read a 1,079-page novel in nine weeks while leaving space at the beginning and end for other conversations about Infinite Jest, I decided I just couldn’t do much better than around 50-70 pages per class period for the long haul, especially in the back half. I hope the assignments and the structure of the course pull them through, and give them space to get something valuable out of it, even if (as seems inevitable) some number of them completely hate both the book and me by the end…

As before, full syllabus with course procedures and all assignments at the link, but here’s the day-by-day schedule:



audiobook: “This Is Water” (Commencement Address to the Kenyon College Class of 2005) (in class)

W Aug 31 “Alas, Poor Yorick” monologue from Hamlet, Act V, sc. i [D2L]


George Saunders, “Informal Remarks from the David Foster Wallace Memorial Service in New York on October 23, 2008” [D2L]

Jonathan Franzen, “Informal Remarks from the David Foster Wallace Memorial Service in New York on October 23, 2008” [D2L]


roundtable discussion: How to Talk About Sad Things, Together


(after class) Mandatory D2L Post #1

W Sep 7 David Foster Wallace, “The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing” (1984) and Afterword by Kevin J. H. Dettmar (2016)
M Sep 12 David Foster Wallace, “Octet” (1997/1999)

Guest Lecture: Tom Moore


(after class) Mandatory D2L Post #2

W Sep 14 David Foster Wallace, “Octet” discussion continues


Infinite Jest forewords by Dave Eggers (2006) and Tom Bissell (2016) [D2L]


roundtable discussion: How to Talk About Literature, Art, Artists, Genius, Greatness, Pretension, Ambition, “Trying Too Hard,” Success, Failure, Annoyance, Fondness, Commitment, Honesty, Community, Solitude, Work, Intellectual Experiences That Might (or Might Not) Change Your Life, &c.


(after class) Mandatory D2L Post #3



M Sep 19 Infinite Jest through p. 17


brief primer: How to Read Infinite Jest [in class]

W Sep 21 Infinite Jest through p. 63 46
M Sep 26 Infinite Jest through p. 127 64
W Sep 28 Infinite Jest through p. 171 44
M Oct 3 Infinite Jest through p. 226 55
W Oct 5 Infinite Jest through p. 283 57
M Oct 10 Infinite Jest through p. 342 59
W Oct 12 Infinite Jest through p. 398 56
M Oct 17 Infinite Jest through p. 450 52
W Oct 19 Infinite Jest through p. 503 53
M Oct 24 Infinite Jest through p. 589 86
W Oct 26 Infinite Jest through p. 648 59
M Oct 31 Infinite Jest through p. 711 63
W Nov 2 Infinite Jest through p. 775 64
M Nov 7 Infinite Jest through p. 845 70
W Nov 9 Infinite Jest through p. 911 66
M Nov 14 Infinite Jest through p. 981


W Nov 16 Samuel Cohen, “To Wish to Try to Sing to the Next Generation: Infinite Jest’s History”

N. Katherine Hayles, “The Illusion of Autonomy and the Fact of Recursivity: Virtual Ecologies, Entertainment, and Infinite Jest


M Nov 21 Research Workshop with Heather James (Raynor)

Bring in the general topic you think you might want to write about, as well as some useful research questions.


* Infinite Jest pages per day (approximate) (not counting footnotes)





Michael Pietsch, editor’s note, The Pale King (2011) [D2L]

David Foster Wallace, “Good Old Neon” (2001) [D2L]

W Nov 30 Lee Konstantinou, “No Bull: David Foster Wallace and Postironic Belief” [D2L]

Adam Kelly, “David Foster Wallace and the New Sincerity in American Fiction” [D2L]

M Dec 5 Ed Finn, “Becoming Yourself: The Afterlife of Reception” [D2L]

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Infinite Summer: Reading, Empathy, and the Social Network” [D2L], “RIP, DFW” [Web]

The Howling Fantods, Wallace-L, etc.

W Dec 7 FINAL THOUGHTS: MLA 2017 panel: “Infinite Jest at 20” [D2L]



Bring in four copies of the prospectus for your final project.