Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

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Syllabus: Science Fiction in the Summertime

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I find teaching in the summer very agreeable in some ways and very difficult in others: I really feel as though a “life during wartime” spirit of camaraderie develops in the classroom, which is nice, but at the same time it can be difficult to cover the amount of material I’d normally cover in a semester (especially since it’s so hard to assign the usual amount of either reading or writing). This summer in particular I’ve really had to accept that summer classes are just different — my class meets only two days a week, for an impossible 3 1/2 hours at a stretch.

My plan is to break each class period into roughly three one-hour chunks, with two short breaks between each. There’s a lot more in-class stuff than I usually do, and even more little clips and exercises that I have planned that won’t be the major focus of the day and so aren’t listed in the syllabus. No papers — just take-home midterm, take-home final, forum posts, and quizzes.

People who know my classes or my work can probably tell that I’ve chosen texts I know inside and out, including a bunch I’ve written on. This is not an accident.

With all those caveats, here’s the gameplan:

M June 29 INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE

in class: Ted Chiang, “Liking What You See: A Documentary”

in class: excerpts from Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica (2000s), Interstellar, Mass Effect, etc.

W July 1 in class: film, Avatar (2009)
M July 6 Avatar discussion continues: Annalee Newitz, “When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like Avatar?” [web]; Slavoj Žižek, “Return of the Natives” [web]

Kim Stanley Robinson, “The Lucky Strike”

in class: Kim Stanley Robinson, “A Sensitive Dependence on Internal Conditions”

W July 8 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (first third)
M July 13 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (second third)
W July 15 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (whole book)
M July 20 TAKE-HOME MIDTERM DUE TO D2L BY 5:30 PM

James Tiptree, Jr., “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” [ARES]

in class: Ursula K. Le Guin: “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

in class: film, “The Space Traders” (1994)

W July 22 Mark Bould, “The Ships Landed Long Ago” [ARES]

Samuel R. Delany, “The Star Pit” [ARES]

in class: TV, Star Trek: Deep Space 9: “Far Beyond the Stars” (1998)

M July 27 Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (parts one and two)
W July 29 Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (part three)
M August 3 Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (whole book)

in class: excerpt from Octavia E. Butler, Adulthood Rites

W August 5 Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Volumes 1 & 2

in class: zombie film and television, zombie games

LAST DAY OF CLASS

M August 10 TAKE HOME FINAL DUE TO D2L BY 12:00 PM

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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Thursday Links!

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* 2015 CFP for the MRG: “Enthusiasm for Revolution.”

* Reminder: Call for Postdoctoral Fellow: Alternative Futurisms.

* Criminalizing parenting.

The Long, Wondrous Interview with Junot Díaz You Have to Read. By the great Taryne Taylor! From the same issue of Paradoxa that has my essay on Snowpiercer in it.

Panel Conversation on Afrofutrism between Nnedi Okorafor and Sofia Samatar at the University of Texas.

Ellen Craft, the Slave Who Posed as a Master and Made Herself Free.

Having paddled so hard to avoid the Scylla of hyperprofessionalization in English studies, some promoters of alternative careers may not notice that they are in the grip of Charybdis’s hyperprofessionalization of everything else. The harder they paddle, the harder the whirlpool pulls us all down. Great piece from Marc Bousquet addressing a number of key issues in academic labor.

* Universities without Austerity.

A History of the MLA Job List.

* The headline reads, “UMass Ends Use of Student Informants.”

* The Data Sublime.

Loved Your Nanny Campus? Start-Up Pledges Similar Services for Grads.

These Two States Will Revoke Your License If You Can’t Pay Back Your Student Loans.

* He put that cartoon up on the classroom whiteboard, and the teacher left it there all day as a lesson in free speech.

These World Leaders Are a Worse Threat to Free Press Than Terrorism.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Newspaper Edits Female World Leaders Out of Charlie Hebdo March.

* What’s Missing From the Debate on Obama’s Free Community-College Plan.

* The end of the university in Louisiana.

* Elvis vs. the Beatles.

* Malcolm Harris: The Small Miracle You Haven’t Heard About Amid the Carnage in Syria.

* Urick v. Koenig, part two.

Report: Duke Ignored Warnings on Research Fraud.

53 Historians Weigh In on Barack Obama’s Legacy.

* Back to the Future, Time Travel, and the Secret History of the 1980s.

To be clear, late-night votes might be a bit of a problem for Joseph Morrissey, the newly sworn-in Virginia House delegate who must report to his jail cell about 7:30 each evening.

Muslim Americans are the staunchest opponents of military attacks on civilians, compared with members of other major religious groups Gallup has studied in the United States. Seventy-eight percent of Muslim Americans say military attacks on civilians are never justified.

$1 Million Prize for Scientists Who Can Cure Human Aging. Sure, I’ll go in for a few bucks on that.

Trial by Ebola.

* Too real:  Woman’s Parents Accepting Of Mixed-Attractiveness Relationship.

What If We Could Live In A World Without War But Way More Famine?

Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor.

A Cybernetic Implant That Allows Paralyzed Rats To Walk Again.

In 2014, Florida recorded at least 346 deaths inside of their prison system, an all-time high for the state in spite of the fact that its overall prison population has hovered around 100,000 people for the five previous years. Hundreds of these deaths from 2014 and from previous years are now under investigation by the DOJ because of the almost unimaginable role law enforcement officers are playing in them.

* Last week: The City Is Reportedly Losing $10 Million a Week Because the NYPD Isn’t Writing Enough Tickets. This week: NYPD Slowdown Turns Into “Broken Windows” Crackdown.

The point of a strike is to stop production to show the work you do is essential. The NYPD slowdown has proven the opposite.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Time to Shut it Down.

Every day, cops toss dangerous military-style grenades during raids, with little oversight and horrifying results.

Albuquerque cop mistakenly guns down undercover narcotics officer during bungled $60 meth bust. Elsewhere in Albuquerque.

1 In 3 College Men In Survey Said They Would Rape A Woman If They Could Get Away With It.

Danny Boyle Having “Serious” Conversations About 28 Months Later. I’m in as long as it’s the first step towards Years.

* Radically unnecessary Avatar sequels reportedly having script problems. What could explain it?

* Frozen in everything, forever and ever amen.

* Seems legit: NASCAR driver says his ex-girlfriend is a trained assassin.

This Computer Program Is ‘Incapable Of Losing’ At Poker.

Scholar and activist Glen Coulthard on the connection between indigenous and anticapitalist struggles.

* This seems like glorified Avengers fan fiction but I’m on board. Meanwhile, in Fantastic Four news.

* Ah, there’s my problem: iPhone Separation Anxiety Makes You Dumber, Study Finds.

* I’m you, from the future! At the 16th most popular webcomic.

* They say time is the fire in which we burn.

* The Marquette Tribune is following the ongoing McAdams suspension at the university.

Study says we prefer singers who look like big babies during good times. This research must be stopped. Some things mankind was never meant to know.

* “To her disappointment she found that the Purchased Products did not even feel different from her regular socks and tights.”

* Community get a premiere date.

whothefuckismydndcharacter.com.

And Cookie-Based Research Suggests Powerful People Are Sloppier Eaters. Of course the sloppy among us have always known this.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 15, 2015 at 8:30 am

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Tuesday Links!

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How Student Loans For Preschool Make A Bad Problem Worse. Kill it with fire!

* The generation duped and prodded into 401Ks is about to retire without any money.

* Pew polls Americans on radical life extension.

One in Five People Can’t Repay Their Federal Student Loans.

* More scenes from the class struggle at Amazon.com.

* Why People Don’t Care About Avatar.

* Alan Wald reviews Marjorie Heins’s Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge.

* Every cop is a criminal: The New Yorker on civil forfeiture.

Many states, facing fiscal crises, have expanded the reach of their forfeiture statutes, and made it easier for law enforcement to use the revenue however they see fit. In some Texas counties, nearly forty per cent of police budgets comes from forfeiture. (Only one state, North Carolina, bans the practice, requiring a criminal conviction before a person’s property can be seized.) Often, it’s hard for people to fight back. They are too poor; their immigration status is in question; they just can’t sustain the logistical burden of taking on unyielding bureaucracies.

Our most important finding is that family formation negatively affects women’s—but not men’s—academic careers. For men, having children can be a slight career advantage and, for women, it is often a career killer. Women who do advance through the faculty ranks do so at a high personal price: They are far less likely to be married with children than are their male colleagues.

* And your periodic reminder that hoarding kills.

At least $18.5 trillion is hidden by wealthy individuals in tax havens worldwide, representing a loss of more than $156 billion in tax revenue, according to new figures published today by international agency Oxfam.

The missing money is twice that required for every person in the world to be living above the $1.25-a-day “extreme poverty” threshold.

Tuesday!

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* C21’s book on Debt is finally almost out. My essay draws on the bits of the Polygraph introduction I wrote and is about ecological debt.

* Syllabus minute: I have W.H. Auden envy.

MOOC Completion Rates: The Data.

* How neoliberal universities build their football stadiums.

Some projections showed Athletics might not be able to make payments starting in the 2030s when the debt service balloons. The debt is structured so that for the next 20 years, Cal only needs to make interest payments on the debt. The principal kicks in in the early 2030s, resulting in payments between $24 million and $37 million per year.

Look, if it’s good enough for an idea man who settled out of court on securities fraud, it’s good enough for me.

* Kent State fires adjunct who built their journalism master’s.

* Ian Morris, psychohistorian.

* What If? on The Twitter Archive of Babel. The Twitter Archive of Babel contains the true story of your life, as well as all the stories of all the lives you didn’t lead….

Proud Species Commits Suicide Rather Than Be Driven To Extinction By Humans.

* A People’s History of “Twist and Shout.”

PPP: Russ Feingold Poised For Comeback, Could Top Scott Walker Next Year.

* Michael Chabon: Dreams are useless bodily effluvia. Nicholson Baker: Dreams are all we have.

* You and I are gonna live forever: 72 is the new 30.

* Settling nerd fights of the 1990s today:  Is This the Smoking Gun Proving Deep Space Nine Ripped Off Babylon 5?

* The Star Wars Heresies: Star Wars and William Blake. Tim Morton’s essay in Green Planets has a similar impulse with respect to Avatar.

* And in even more insane mashup news: WWE Keeps Pressure On Glenn Beck.

Monday Links

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* Welcome to the future: Another grandmother gives birth to her own grandchild.

* Whiteness and Breaking Bad: America isn’t flooded with pure meth, and it’s not because our chemists are too ethical. The illegal drug market simply doesn’t reward peerless expertise in the same way celebrity cooking shows do.

The white guy who enters a world supposedly beneath him where he doesn’t belong yet nonetheless triumphs over the inhabitants is older than talkies. TV Tropes calls it “Mighty Whitey,” and examples range from Tom Cruise as Samurai and Daniel Day Lewis as Mohican, to the slightly less far-fetched Julia Stiles as ghetto-fabulous. But whether it’s a 3-D marine playing alien in Avatar or Bruce Wayne slumming in a Bhutanese prison, the story is still good for a few hundred million bucks. The story changes a bit from telling to telling, but the meaning is consistent: a white person is (and by extension, white people are) best at everything.

* Paging Kim Stanley Robinson: NASA seems to have violated its own Prime Directive by failing to consult its Planetary Protection Officer on the Curiosity mission.

Teachers are striking in Chicago. Meanwhile: How Michelle Rhee Is Taking Over the Democratic Party. Thank goodness Obama’s winning, so he can finally crush the teachers’ unions once and for all!

* Solitary confinement in schools? Jesus Christ.

* Richard Posner is making sense: The notion of using the criminal law as the primary means of dealing with a problem of addiction, of misuse, of ingesting dangerous drugs — I don’t think that’s sensible at all.

* Debt Collectors Cashing In on Student Loan Roundup.

“I couldn’t believe the accumulated wealth they represent — for our industry,” the consultant, Jerry Ashton, wrote in a column for a trade publication, InsideARM.com. “It was lip-smacking.”

Meanwhile, America’s defaulted student loans total more than yearly tuition at public colleges.

* Star Trek 2 has a title: Star Trek Into Darkness. Early returns: Pretty terrible! Star Wars on Poverty. Lord of the Rings That Bell.

* James Cameron always envisioned Avatar as 19 films.

I have an idea for a fourth. I haven’t really put pen to paper on it, but basically it goes back to the early expeditions of Pandora, and kind of what went wrong with the humans and the Na’vi and what that was like to be an explorer and living in that world. Because when we drop in, even in the first film in ‘Avatar 1,’ as it will be known in the future, we’re dropping into a process that’s 35 years in to a whole colonization.

But what happened before that? And before that? And…

* The director of Looper has a metaphor for a model of time travel logic I don’t think I’ve seen before: the universe as a body with an immune system that seeks to push out foreign objects.

The problem isn’t that this is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life; the problem is that it’s seven of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life glued together haphazardly, their inexorable badness amplified by their awkward juxtaposition. Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski wanted to make a movie unlike any other, and they certainly did: Cloud Atlas is a unique and totally unparalleled disaster.

*  Study: There is enough wind on this planet to meet our entire energy needs.

* Tressie McMillan Cottom reviews the captivating documentary The Queen of Versailles, which I caught at the local independent movie house this weekend. It’s quite good—a stunning portrait of the wealthy’s perspective of the “normal” workings of the economy and of the 2008-2009 economic collapse.

* And when polls fail: Do 15% of Ohio Republicans really think Romney killed bin Laden? Probably not.

Wednesday!

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* It isn’t the law that is struggling to catch up to drone technology; it’s us. Like it or not, the NextGen computerized autonomous national airspace is coming. It’s not a joke, and it’s not science fiction. Coming to terms with that is important. Disbelief won’t help at this point. The coming shift in our national airspace will push our boundaries. We’ll be able to mount legal challenges against particularly egregious uses of the technology — it’s unlikely that the sheriff of Montgomery County, Texas, will get much mileage out of his wet dream of a remote-controlled aircraft armed with tear gas and rubber bullets — but we won’t be able to imagine every permutation this technology will take. This is going to be some Minority Report–level shit.

* James Cameron: Avatar was always imagined as a six-picture hexalogy. Stick around for a fun Doctor Who spoiler/rumor if that’s your thing.

* Rethinking depression in teenage girls: “Depression? Really? How About Anger and Powerlessness?”

* No! No! I won’t believe it! Military expert says there’s no way Batman’s TDKR ‘Bat’ could fly.

* Battle Royale is an obvious can’t-miss hit for a post-Hunger-Games, post-Walking-Dead TV landscape. Just about the only way it could miss is if network executives changed it so the kids weren’t killing each other, just beating each other up…

* And you can take it to the bank: Human immortality could be possible by 2045, say Russian scientists. Guaranteed!

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