Archive for the ‘Look at what I found on the Internet’ Category
* Over the past decade numerous stories have come out about Soviet and American military personnel who were given orders to fire nuclear weapons between the 1960s and 1980s. Their conscience stopped them, only to learn later that it was a mistaken order. We now have another horrifying story to add to that growing list of possible post-apocalyptic futures.
Former Air Force airman John Bordne is now an elderly man. But in the early morning hours of October 28, 1962 he and his fellow airmen nearly launched their nuclear weapons during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Air Force has only now given Bordne permission to tell his story of how America nearly started World War III.
* Time travel short film of the day: “Therefore I Am.”
* Bullets dodged: Aaron Sorkin once pitched a Pixar movie about talking office supplies.
* The book includes diary entries about the tensions between Mrs. Bush and Nancy Reagan (“Nancy does not like Barbara”) and his private comments about Michael S. Dukakis, his 1988 opponent (“midget nerd”). It reports that as defense secretary for the elder Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney commissioned a study of how many tactical nuclear weapons would be needed to take out an Iraqi Republican Guard division, if necessary. (The answer: 17.)
* Meanwhile, back at the ranch: The Most Militarized Universities in America.
* Prose and poetry—all art, music, dance—rise from and move with the profound rhythms of our body, our being, and the body and being of the world. Physicists read the universe as a great range of vibrations, of rhythms. Art follows and expresses those rhythms. Once we get the beat, the right beat, our ideas and our words dance to it—the round dance that everybody can join. And then I am thou, and the barriers are down. For a while. Ursula K. Le Guin, y’all.
* Students suspended or expelled over allegations of sexual assault rarely succeed in lawsuits against the institutions that punished them. That’s starting to change.
* “What’s your secret?” ““Oh, we just kick out the bad ones.”
* I have a pair of appearances in the new Eaton Journal of Archival Research in Science Fiction: one the transcript of the archival research panel at the last ICFA, and the other a writeup of the Octavia E. Butler papers at the Huntington. Boing Boing liked it, so should you!
* Deadline extended: “In More’s Footsteps: Utopia and Science Fiction.”
* The reason for the season: China Miéville: Marxism and Halloween – Socialism 2013.
* The layoffs and program reductions will save Rider close to $2 million annually once the changes take effect next school year, the university said. The university has a $216 million operating budget and faces a current deficit of $7.6 million, a school spokesman said.
* School and prison, school as prison, yes. But the most troubling possibility, I think, is school or prison. By using this locution, I don’t intend to invoke the uplift narrative that posits education as a means of avoiding criminality or, really, criminalization—a narrative that the “school-to-prison pipeline” concept has already undone. The or of my “school or prison” marks not a choice between alternatives but an identity produced through the indifferent interchangeability of functions.
* Penny booksellers are exactly the sort of weedy company that springs up in the cracks of the waste that the Internet has laid to creative industries. They aren’t a cause; they’re a small, understandable result. Penny booksellers expose the deep downside to efficiency capitalism, which is that everything, even literal garbage and rare high art, is now as easy to find and roughly as personal as a spare iPhone charging cable.
* Teach the controversy: “The destruction of Alderaan was completely justified.”
* Chimera watch: A Man is His Son’s Uncle, Thanks to a Vanished Twin.
* I’ll allow it, but listen, you’re on very thin ice: Wes Anderson would like to make a horror movie.
Longtime readers will know I have a very soft spot for Back to the Future, a series of films I have adored since I was a child and now internalized to a degree that is perhaps unwise. So it’s something of a mixed bag to have lived too long and made it to October 21, 2015, both in the obvious sense that we never got our hover cars and also in the more abstractly philosophically sense that this is the last day depicted in the series, and thus we are now definitely and irrefutably living in that weird space of sadness after the future itself.
We’re doing a small Back to the Future event tonight on campus where I plan (of course) to talk a little bit about the familiar problems posed when you start to overthink the nominally happy end of the movie: the very big problem of the briefly glimpsed Second Marty, who travels into 1955 totally unequipped to replicate the events we’d just witnessed, as well as the longer-term problem of our Marty, Marty 1, who is the last survivor of an obviated timeline and thus surrounded for the rest of his life by the uncanny duplicates of the people he once loved but with whom he now shares no memories or any genuine connection.
But I also want to talk about the original script a little bit, which I find a really fascinating document. Most people know that in the original script the time machine is a refrigerator — changed so that kids wouldn’t climb into them hoping to travel in time — and that the lightning strike is the blast from an atomic test (the two together forming an image that stuck with Spielberg long enough for him to use it to ruin Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). But there’s some other really amazing stuff in there too. The thing is shot through with fears about oil depletion and the end of progress: it’s the subject of a lecture at Marty’s high school in the beginning of the script and something he keeps trying to ask the people of the 1950s about later, to no effect. That sort of science fictional nostalgia for a future that no longer seems possible is really a major theme in the original script, which is reduced to jokes about UFOs and “all the fallout from the atomic wars” in the produced film — the sense that the zany Jetsons future of technological world-transformation we once collectively looked forward to has been lost and the only one left for us is a much more depressive vision of imminent deprivation and catastrophe. (In this sense any eventual 2000s-era “dark, gritty reboot” would actually just be a return to the themes of the original script.)
But something weird happens at the end. In the original script Marty is the co-creator of time travel when he accidentally spills some Coca-Cola on the time device; Coke’s unique chemical formula turns out to contain tremendous energy inside it, easily providing the 1.21 gigawatts necessary to power the Flux Capacitor. Marty’s trip to the past ultimately tips Doc off to Coke’s unknown energistic property, and so when Marty returns to the future at the end of the film he isn’t hopping into a very similar timeline where he just happens to have grown up rich instead of poor, but into an incredible retrofuturistic world of free energy and robot servants and flying cars — precisely the cartoonishly optimistic milieu that is relocated to 2015 for the gag at the end (and later, the sequel). (Doc’s pouring of the half-empty soda can into Mr. Fusion at the end of the film is, I think, the last remaining trace of this original idea.)
In this way “Back to the Future” was actually originally a pun: Marty goes not just back to his future but back to the future, the good future we were supposed to get, instead of the lousy one we actually did…
* I want to complain to the studio execs who commissioned the current season of “21st century”; your show is broken.
* But maybe a big reboot is coming! Astronomers may have found giant alien ‘megastructures’ orbiting star near the Milky Way.
* Another potential redirection for the series: Women who sniff this Hawaiian mushroom have spontaneous orgasms.
* Potentially major finding: Huntington’s disease protein controls movement of precious cargo inside cells, study finds.
* Speaking my language: A strong El Niño may mean a warmer, drier winter in southern Wisconsin.
* You can time travel with Marquette another way, too: here’s a sneak preview of our Spring 2016 course offerings.
* First-year composition, in other words, is more than a course in grammar and rhetoric. Beyond these, it is a course in ethical communication, offering students opportunities to learn and practice the moral and intellectual virtues that Aristotle identified in his Nicomachean Ethics as the foundation for a good life. And that’s why America is such a paradise today.
By the same token, I know that an emphasis under a major has the same student-learning outcomes as the parent major, so I can create a new program without expanding the number of assessment reports that I have to do. This just means that a major is basically a magical bag of holding for emphases: I can fit as many emphases as I want inside a major without becoming encumbered by more paperwork!
* Die Hard was the gold standard of unprequelizable films. Kudos to all involved in this important project.
* Wayne Simmons, a regular Fox News commentator who claimed to have worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for almost three decades, was arrested on Thursday for allegedly fabricating his agency experience.
* Žižek, social reformist: The lesson here is that the truly subversive thing is not to insist on ‘infinite’ demands we know those in power cannot fulfil. Since they know that we know it, such an ‘infinitely demanding’ attitude presents no problem for those in power: ‘So wonderful that, with your critical demands, you remind us what kind of world we would all like to live in. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where we have to make do with what is possible.’ The thing to do is, on the contrary, to bombard those in power with strategically well-selected, precise, finite demands, which can’t be met with the same excuse.
* I’m so glad this turned out to be the case: Standing Desks Are Mostly Bullshit.
* Just don’t tell Shia: FX is turning Y: The Last Man into a TV series.
* And teach the controversy: Your Favorite Band Sucks.