Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Borges

February 28 Links! All the Links You Need for February 28

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sfftv-2017-10-issue-1-cover* Science Fiction Film and Television 10.1 is out, with articles on the suburban fantastic, the work of art in the age of the superhero, utopian film, review essays on The Martian and Terminator: Genysis, and my article on apocalyptic children’s literature. At long last, the world can discover why The Lorax is actually bad…

* My Octavia Butler book was discussed on the most recent episode of GribCast, on Parable of the Sower. (They start talking about me about 59ish minutes in, and especially around 1:30.) Meanwhile, later this spring: Octavia E. Butler’s Archive on View for First Time.

* If you knew our friend Nina Riggs, here is the donation page for John and the boys. And here’s the Amazon page for her book, which comes out this June.

* Instrumentalizing Earthseed.

Fast Forward #289 – Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson.

* CFP: “Crips In Space: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Futurism.” And there’s still one day to submit to the SF exec group’s guaranteed MLA 2018 session on Satire and Science Fiction in Dystopian Times.

* Presenting the Nebula finalists.

Inside the Brutal World of Comedy Open Mikes.

* The Melancholy of Don Bluth.

* Comics studies comes of age.

The Capitalocene.

* Purging Iowa’s universities. The Campus Free Speech Battle You’re Not Seeing.

* NEH, NEA, Americorps.

* How Trump’s campaign staffers tried to keep him off Twitter. In Trump’s Volleys, Echoes of Alex Jones’s Conspiracy Theories. Asylum seekers take a cold journey to Manitoba via Trump’s America. We Are Living In the Second Chapter of the Worst-Case Scenario. How to lose a constitutional democracy. Silence of the hacks. Trump’s Tlön. The Trumpocene. Untranslatable. Neurosyphilis?

We can imagine a person slowly becoming aware that he is the subject of catastrophe.

Hear Something About An Immigration Raid? Here’s How To Safely Report It. On ICE. Is ICE Out of Control? ICE detainee with brain tumor removed from hospital. Deportation ruses. What It’s Like to Be a Teen Living in an Immigration Detention Center. Ten Hours in Houston. Abolish ICE.

Donald Trump is unpopular enough that Republicans could lose the House, but there’s a lot of uncertainty.

On the Milo Bus With the Lost Boys of America’s New Right. 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump.

* On the deep state. Ditching the deep state. The Deep State, the Media, and the Crisis of Legitimacy.

Indeed, both sides are equally illegitimate on the popular level. Both sides are pushing agendas with no constituency. No one outside a small hardcore of party insiders and hack pundits wants either “smart” technocracy or nihilistic faux-libertarianism. The Democrats have been electorally devastated, but the Republicans are in the awkward position of being given the keys to the kingdom and yet realizing that they are advocating things that no one wants. They probably will push through more of their destructive idiocy, just because that’s who they are, but it’s mainly happening because they’ve set up the system so that it’s nearly impossible for them to get voted out — an interesting counterpoint to the other major institutional structures (the Deep State and news media) that we absolutely can’t vote out of office.

The only rallying point for genuine popular legitimacy right now is a desire to remove Trump and, in the meantime, humiliate and impede him as much as possible. And I’ll be clear: those are goals I share. The danger is settling for that goal, in such a way as to finally close the door on democratic accountability altogether.

* On North Carolina’s Moral Mondays.

* Space news! Nearby Star Hosts 7 Earth-Size Planets. SpaceX plans to send two people around the Moon. Mars needs lawyers!

The Relevance of Biopunk Science Fiction.

* Preserving video games.

* Like domesticity, segregation had to be invented.

Do voter identification laws suppress minority voting? Yes. We did the research. The Trump Administration’s Lies About Voter Fraud Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression.

* Income inequality and advertising. That link is probably the good news.

* Guys I think the FBI might be bad.

* Even Trump’s fake terror arrests are worse.

* Anyway we’re all going to die. And pretty soon!

* Rule by algorithm. An Algorithm Is Replacing Bail Hearings in New Jersey.

* Why facts don’t change our minds.

* Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

* The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens.

* Checking in with SMBC: The Problem of Good. The Path of a Hero. How to Solve a Physics Problem. On the Etiology of Fuckers. Paging r/DaystromInstitute. Solving Sophie’s Choice. Gifts from God. And now to insult my core demographic. And that’s why I invented cancer. Don’t you dare stop scrolling, not now, not ever.

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* The radical argument of the New Oxford Shakespeare.

The Rise and Fall of the Socialist Party of America. After more than a half-century in the wilderness, the socialist left reemerges in America.

Teen suicide attempts fell as same-sex marriage became legal.

* The ACLU sues Milwaukee over stop-and-frisk.

* The last days of Standing Rock.

‘Alternative’ Education: Using Charter Schools to Hide Dropouts and Game the System.

Grad student Zachary Turpin discovers a long lost Walt Whitman novel, about a year after he discovered a long lost Whitman self-help treatie.

* “For decades they hid Jefferson’s relationship with her. Now Monticello is making room for Sally Hemings.”

Now Arizona has responded with a new — and some say bizarre — solution to this quandary: Death row inmates can bring their own execution drugs. The state’s manual for execution procedures, which was revised last month, says attorneys of death row inmates, or others acting on their behalf, can obtain pentobarbital or sodium Pentothal and give them to the state to ensure a smooth execution.

* And I say $100/day is too good for ’em!

Scientists Say They’ve Discovered a Hidden Continent Under New Zealand. Probably ought to invade just to be on the safe side.

* Huge, if true: Millennials aren’t destroying society — they’re on the front lines against the forces that are.

Fighting Gerrymandering With Geometry.

* Radical feminism finds a way.

This is what Earth will look like if when we melt all the ice. Is It Okay to Enjoy the Warm Winters of Climate Change? Milwaukee temperature hits 66 degrees, shatters record. Wednesday marks 67 consecutive days since the City of Chicago logged an inch of snow.

Up to 16% of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells spill liquids every year, according to new research from US scientists.

* This interview with Peter Singer makes it very hard to see his work as anything but horrifyingly eugenic. What seemed to begin several decades ago as a thought experiment about animal intelligence has shifted into very disturbing ableism.

* Andrew Cuomo is so obviously the worst possible Democrat for 2020 I don’t see how they can possibly do anything else.

* In an age without heroes, there was the Boss.

* In search of Forrest Fenn’s treasure.

* The kids are all right.

* I hate this more than the discovery that the Death Star flaw was engineered. I don’t like much of this either. Bring back the old EU!

* This one’s okay.

20 Brutally Hilarious Comics For People Who Like Dark Humour. You had me at hello!

What Are the Chances? Success in the Arts in the 21st Century.

* Zombie cities of the Chinese Rust Belt.

The nation’s only deaf men’s college basketball team, on the verge of its first March Madness. Meanwhile, UVM is undefeated.

* Uber is doomed.

* And you can’t fool me: this one was already a Black Mirror episode.

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Written by gerrycanavan

February 28, 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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I Have (Not a Joke) 300 Tabs Open and This Afternoon I Am Closing Them All: Election Night Links!

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I’ve been so ridiculously busy I haven’t been able to tend to my open tabs at all. There’s over 300 — and I’m not leaving this room until I’ve closed them all. Let’s go!

* Really, I’ve been so busy I haven’t even been able to shamelessly self-promote: I missed announcing my trip to Atlanta for SLSA 2016 and my presentations on “Literary Studies after Blackfish” and the upcoming almost-almost-done issue of Paradoxa on “Global Weirding,” as well as my New Inquiry review of the (fantastic) end to Liu Cixin’s (fantastic) Three-Body trilogy. My new essay on “Geriatric Zombies” from The Walking Med was namechecked as part of a larger zombie news report in the Seattle Times. Most importantly I haven’t been able to hype my Octavia Butler book, which is printed and apparently shipping. I’ve even held one in my hands!

* Meanwhile, here’s my guess for tonight’s final results, just to get it out of the way: 340-198.

* CFP: Letters to Octavia Butler. CFP: The Comics of Alison Bechdel. CFP: English Studies in Ruins? CFP: The World of Harry Potter.

* A new issue of the Eaton Journal in Archival Research in Science Fiction is out, including a piece from Larisa Mikhaylova on Star Trek fandom in Russia.

French town upholds law against UFOs.

Invisible Planets / Invisible Frameworks — Assembling an Anthology of Contemporary Chinese SF. I’ve been reading the Invisible Planets collection and it’s great.

* Why we should lower the voting age in America.

Žižek on the lesser evil. Jameson on fascism, but not yet. Study Confirms Network Evening Newscasts Have Abandoned Policy Coverage For 2016 Campaign. Americans, Politics, and Social Media. Stop Calling the United States a Banana Republic. Yes, Trump Really Is Saying ‘Big League,’ Not ‘Bigly,’ Linguists Say. The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List. No, “we” are not collectively responsible for anything. Journey to the Center of the Alt-Right. Ivanka is the real threat. A Reading Guide for Those in Despair About American Politics. And did someone order a Constitutional crisis with a 4-4 Supreme Court?

* What Happens if You Vote and Die Before Election Day? Too late for all of us, alas.

In contrast to the Fordist society observed by Gramsci, power now seeks to circumvent the public sphere, in order to avoid the constraints of critical reason. Increasingly, it is non-representational codes—of software, finance, human biology—that mediate between past, present and future, allowing society to cohere. Where, for example, employee engagement cannot be achieved via cultural or psychological means, increasingly business is looking to solutions such as wearable technology, that treat the worker as an item of fixed capital to be monitored physically, rather than human capital to be employed. The key human characteristics are those that are repeated in a quasi-mechanical fashion: footsteps, nightly sleep, respiration, heartbeat. These metronomic qualities of life come to represent each passing moment as yet another one of the same. The New Neoliberalism.

“We are all Thomas More’s children”: 500 years of Utopia. And at LARB.

It isn’t every day that a street criminal—a high-school dropout with two felony convictions—is accused of stealing a centuries-old violin worth as much as $6 million. But nothing about the heist of the Lipinski Stradivarius, which galvanized the music world last winter, was normal, or even logical.

How America Outlawed Adolescence. The Cognitive Benefits of Being a Man-Child.

Inside the NSA’s For-Sale Spy Town. The Indiana Town That Modernism Built.

* Where Ph.D.s Work. IPFW Community Shocked by Restructuring Recommendations. Last month’s strike at Harvard. And its results. A City Clerk Opposed an Early-Voting Site at UW–Green Bay Because ‘Students Lean More Toward the Democrats.’ Saudi college student in Wisconsin dies after assault. Johns Hopkins threatens to close its interdisciplinary Humanities Center, sparking outcry from students and faculty members. San Diego State University tuition, 1959. How State Budget Cuts Affect Your Education.

* Cornell looks for ways to cut time professors spend on administrative requirements, as opposed to teaching and research.

The Heterodox Academy Guide to Colleges rates America’s top 150 universities (as listed by US News and World Reports) and will soon rate the Top 50 Liberal Arts Schools according to their commitment to viewpoint diversity.

The American Association of University Professors has launched an investigation focused on the dismissal of Nathanial Bork, who had taught philosophy courses at the college for six years before he was dismissed. The AAUP says that his dismissal raises concerns both because of the issues he raises about rigor and also because he was fired shortly after he complained about the situation to the Higher Learning Commission, the college’s accreditor. Further, Bork was active in efforts to improve the working conditions of adjuncts at the college.

mapmapampA More Accurate World Map Wins Prestigious Japanese Design Award. Love this.

* Borges and maps.

* “University Paid for Bigfoot Expedition.”

* Dig this Beatnik glossary.

* Starship Troopers coming back just as documentary footage of 2016. A darker, grittier Muppet Babies, for a tragic time.

Quentin Tarantino still insists he’s going to stop at 10 movies.

Playing with History: What Sid Meier’s Video Game Empire Got Right and Wrong About ‘Civilization.’

* “Capitalism Broke Earth, Let’s Protect Mars.”

Inside Magic Leap, The Secretive $4.5 Billion Startup Changing Computing Forever.

The video for Soul Asylum’s 1993 smash hit featured real missing kids. Some eventually came home; some never did.

Her toddler suddenly paralyzed, mother tries to solve a vexing medical mystery. Football Alters the Brains of Kids as Young as 8. Why treating diabetes keeps getting more expensive. The Other Sister: Returning Home to Care for an Autistic Sibling.

Inmates Explain How They’d Run Prisons.

* If Women Wrote Men the Way Men Write Women.

* Zork in your browser.

Russia Reveals ‘Satan 2’ Nuclear Missile Capable of Destroying Texas in One Blow. Bathroom air freshener causes emergency response at nuclear site.

* Why can’t the Star Trek timeline advance?

* The end of butterflies.

The Venom From This Snake Will Make Your Life a Living Hell.

Inside The Strange, Paranoid World Of Julian Assange.

* Ruin chic.

Why Did This Guy Collect 500 Screenshots of Soda Machines in Video Games? Because He’s a Genius. And elsewhere on the Jacob Brogan science beat: Everyone Poops. Some Animals Eat It. Why?

* Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, Thumb U.N. won’t intervene.

* Now Is The Perfect Time For The Indians To Quietly Abandon Chief Wahoo.

* Deep time’s uncanny future is full of ghostly human traces. How the Concept of Deep Time Is Changing.

* The Average American Melts 645 Square Feet of Arctic Ice Every Year.

In rural North Dakota, a small county and an insular religious sect are caught in a stand-off over a decaying piece of America’s atomic history: The Pyramid at the End of the World.

Penn State Fined Record $2.4 Million in Jerry Sandusky Case.

* Dibs on the screenplay: Yellowstone’s “Zone of Death.” And I’ll take this one too: The Canadian Military Is Investigating a Mysterious Noise In the Arctic.

How Doctor Strange went from being a racist Asian caricature to a magical white savior.

* A new favorite poem:

* Animal minds: the new anthropomorphism.

* You weren’t educated, you were trained.

Twenty-first century Victorians.

* Remembering Tom Hayden.

How We Tell Campus Rape Stories After Rolling Stone.

* Native lives matter. Tribe vows to fight North Dakota pipeline through winter. The world watches. A Standing Rock Syllabus.

* Superheroes and sadness. Pixar and sadness.

* Presenting The Black Mirror Expanded Universe.

* Wildlife numbers more than halve since 1970s in mass extinction. Inside the Frozen Zoo That Could Bring Extinct Animals Back to Life.

* The secret history of Teaching with Calvin & Hobbes.

* A bad idea, but fine: The Adventures of Young Dumbledore.

Kardashev Type III Societies (Apparently) Do Not Exist.

* And frankly you had me at LEGO, but I like the rest too: LEGO’s New Line of Female Superheroes Is the Toy We Deserve.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 8, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Weekend Links!

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* Call for applications: 2014—15 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship.

* So Paul Di Filippo really liked Green Planets.

* Receive this petition in nomination of three candidates for MLA Executive Council and one for 2nd Vice President.

* Explaining Tuition Hikes at the University of Michigan. Construction Not Instruction: Bonds and Buildings at the Public University. 5 Links Between Higher Education and the Prison Industry.

And this is the pattern with austerity. The measures introduced under the rubric of an emergency, the supposed need to consolidate debt and appease “the market,” ultimately do little for the debt, and only consolidate the market’s tyrannical reach.

* On trigger warnings and who gets to count.

Journey to the Centre of Google Earth.

* I was born too early.

The Lion King: A short history of Disney-fascism.

But the emotional trauma that Disney tries its damnedest to induce in young children is only the spadework for the ugly principles it feels it must implant in each new generation. Although the film takes place in an imaginary jungle, THE LION KING really expounds the Law of the Schoolyard: only the strong and the beautiful triumph, and the powerless survive only by serving the strong. As Disney sees it, children must not only acknowledge the supremacy of those born privileged and violent, the children must love them. The young must gaze in hushed veneration at the princely predators who stand ready to harvest the labor and flesh of their subjects. They must learn to giggle at the hopeless scampering of weak and stubby creatures as they dodge the jaws of their overlords. They must accept that true friendship means flattering those who would otherwise feast on their entrails.

DaysOver95-MJ* Climate denialism and the Outer Banks. These time-lapse maps show how much hotter the USA will be when you’re old.

Why Did Borges Hate Soccer?

Was the U.S. Robbed Against Portugal? It Depends on What Time Means.

* You got your class-based analysis in my intersectionality NO you got your intersectionality in my class-based analysis

* Another exciting week of Good SCOTUS, Bad SCOTUS.

* Kunkel reviews Piketty. The circle is complete.

* Title Now Everybody Sue Everybody: expulsion and sexual assault at IHE.

Democrats are the worst, Daily Show edition.

Hillary Clinton 2016 and the Folly of the Left-Flank Push.

If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here and lay their hands on me to enslave me. Did you think to terrify me by presenting the alternative to give my money to you, or give my body to Slavery? Then let me say to you, that I meet the proposition with unutterable scorn and contempt.

* The Star Wars museum is coming to Chicago.

* Konczal v. student debt.

* Obamaism v. teacher tenure.

* People aren’t worried about robots, they’re worried about who owns the robots.

* A New Bike Lane That Could Save Lives and Make Cycling More Popular.

*  “You express amazement at my statement that ‘civilized’ men try to justify their looting, butchering and plundering by claiming that these things are done in the interests of art, progress and culture. That this simple statement of fact should cause surprise, amazes me in return.”

* What could go wrong? Missouri School Districts Start Training Teachers To Carry Concealed Weapons In Classroom.

Former College Basketball Player Sues NCAA Over Concussions.

* ‘Think They Got Killed?’ 1964, L.B.J. and Three Civil Rights Icons.

* When Rambo was going to fight werewolves.

* In praise of Janelle Monáe.

* On phone horror.

* Another Fermi Paradox post.

* Here comes Pacific Rim 2. Plus a cartoon! But we still live in a vale of tears.

* Humanity Surprised It Still Hasn’t Figured Out Better Alternative To Letting Power-Hungry Assholes Decide Everything.

​The 20 Most WTF Magical Items in Dungeons & Dragons.

* Free at last: Oakland to decriminalize pinball.

* Kill Bill as an 8-bit video game.

* Episode 7 is already ruined.

* But the kids are all right.

Monday Night Links

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Thursday Thursday Thursday

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* A filibuster too far? Granting that no one has ever been thrown out of office for underestimating the attention span of the American people, filibustering a jobs bill at a time of 10% (official) unemployment seems like a really bad idea for Republicans interested in capitalizing on their apparent political momentum. Of course, this is the same party that spent eight months needlessly blocking the appointment of a woman confirmed today 94-2, so obviously we’re playing by different playbooks here.

* More bad policy that is also bad politics: the Republican “shadow budget” apparently calls for an end to Medicare. I’m so old I can remember when the Republicans were pretending they loved Medicare last summer. Can Democrats find a way to miss this pitch?

* The White House is how quietly telling people they support the course of action that is obvious to everyone.

* Visit Kcymaerxthaere, “a parallel universe that shares, to some degree, our physical planet.” Via MetaFilter, where a commenter notes this is reminiscent of the plot of Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.”

* Also at MetaFilter: great moments in prank wills.

* Vu and Kottke both have articles about proposed revisions to evolutionary theory, the first highlighting enviromentalistic biases in traditional evolutionary theory and the second suggesting horizontal gene transfer has been the dominant mode of evolution for most of life’s history on Earth.

* And today’s saddest headline: ‘Ancient tribal language becomes extinct as last speaker dies.’

Infinite Summer #5: Maps and Territories

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Anyone who has been in graduate school as long as I have recognizes a reference to maps and territories immediately:

If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where, with the decline of the Empire this map becomes frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts – the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing), this fable would then have come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.

Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself.

What destroys the Interdependence Day Y.D.A.U. game of Eschaton—which I must admit is another personal favorite sequence in the novel—is exactly this Baudrillardian sense of (Pemulis’s words) “map-not-territory equivocationary horseshit” (337), i.e., the postmodern inability to distinguish between maps and territories that is, in the end, the inability to locate “territory” at all. For Pemulis this kind of cognitive breakdown threatens our ability to think at all:

Pemulis howls that Lord is in his vacillation appeasing Ingersoll in Ingersoll’s effort to fatally fuck with the very breath and bread of Eschaton. Players themselves can’t be valid targets. Players aren’t inside the goddamn game. Payers are part of the apparatus of the game. They’re part of the map. It’s snowing on the players but not on the territory. They’re part of the map, not the clusterfucking territory. You can only launch against the territory. Not against the map. It’s like the one ground-rule boundary that keeps Eschaton from degenerating into chaos. Eschaton gentlemen is about logic and axiom and mathematical probity and discipline and verity and order. You do not get points for hitting anybody real. Only the gear that maps what’s real…

…and Pemulis shouts across that it’s so totally beside the point it doesn’t matter, that the reason players aren’t explicitly exempted in the ESCHAX.DIR is that their exemption is what makes Eschaton and its axioms fucking possible in the first place. … Pemulis says because otherwise use your heads otherwise nonstrategic emotions would get aroused and Combatants would be whacking balls at each other’s physical persons all the time and Eschaton wouldn’t even be possible in its icily elegant game-theoretical form. He’s stopped jumping up and down, at least, Troeltsch observes. Players’ exemption from strikes goes without saying, Pemulis says; it’s like preaxiomatic. Pemulis tells Lord to consider what he’s doing very carefully, because from where Pemulis is standing Lord looks to be willing to very possibly compromise Eschaton’s map for all time. (338)

It’s not hard to see Pemulis’s impotent, rage-filled anxiety over the fate of Eschaton’s objective purity as, in miniature, the reaction of traditional Enlightenment rationality to its challenge from an increasingly hegemonic postmodernity that is characterized by cognitive decentering, indeterminacy, irrationality, and labyrinthine self-referentiality. Pemulis is not the first to shout that we must build floodwalls against certain lines of speculation and deny the possibility of alternate subjectivities for fear of total cognitive chaos (whether said chaos is named postmodernism, social constructivism, cultural relativism, theory, or something else entirely)—to claim, in other words, that only a sufficiently abstractive and “objective” faux universality, the terms of which have always been agreed upon in advance, properly counts as Thought in the first place.

Two further thoughts emerge: first, that this anxiety about maps and territories is clearly a central problem for the reader of Infinite Jest as well, who, I think, must struggle to stay afloat in a narrative whose irony is confusingly unstable, with satire that is constantly threatening to devolve into parody and even to mere gag. 390 pages in, I find that I am still trying to get a firm grip on what is “real” and what is “not real” in this text, that is, what is best understood through a conventionally realist interpretive lens and what is better described as hyperbolic and hyperreal in the style that James Wood famously named hysterical realism.

And second, that the opposition between maps and territories laid out in the Eschaton section is central to one of the more memorable turns of phrase that DFW uses throughout IJ: the endless variations on “eliminate his own map for good” as a euphemism for suicide. That we ourselves are maps, not territories suggests, on the one hand, a idealist vision of the universe in which objective reality takes a backseat to our subjective understanding of it and on the other a psychoanalytic framing of consciousness itself as essentially false and illusionary—the latter take driven home at the end of the section by Hal’s need to feel his own face to see if he is wincing (342). What do we do if consciousness itself is a simulacrum without a referent, and all self-reflection therefore a kind of hopeless mise en abyme?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Late Night

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Late night.

* ‘Our Phony Economy’: Why measuring GDP doesn’t tell us much of anything we need to know. In Harper’s, via MeFi.

The purpose of an economy is to meet human needs in such a way that life becomes in some respect richer and better in the process. It is not simply to produce a lot of stuff. Stuff is a means, not an end. Yet current modes of economic measurement focus almost entirely on means. For example, an automobile is productive if it produces transportation. But today we look only at the cars produced per hour worked. More cars can mean more traffic and therefore a transportation system that is less productive. The medical system is the same. The aim should be healthy people, not the sale of more medical services and drugs. Now, however, we assess the economic contribution of the medical system on the basis of treatments rather than results. Economists see nothing wrong with this. They see no problem that the medical system is expected to produce 30 to 40 percent of new jobs over the next thirty years. “We have to spend our money on something,” shrugged a Stanford economist to the New York Times. This is more insanity. Next we will be hearing about “disease-led recovery.” To stimulate the economy we will have to encourage people to be sick so that the economy can be well.

* Springfield Punx Simpsonizes celebrities and superheroes. At right: Tobias Fünke.

* Al Giordano says Tim Kaine is growing on him for VP.

The number one rule in choosing a vice presidential nominee is “first, do no harm.” If you’re a presidential nominee, you don’t want a running mate that will distract from you, commit gaffes, speak off-message, or that secretly thinks he or she is too good to be number two.

And the second rule is, “then, do some good.” You want a VP that will reinforce your messages and make voters more comfortable with you.

Kaine is so far passing both tests with flying colors.

I’m not there yet—as I’ve mentioned before, just about everything I hear about Kaine turns me off—but Al’s instincts have never steered me wrong. I guess we’ll see.

* What are the essential reads in literary fantasy? Personally I’d have to start my list with heavy-hitters from the twentieth century (and my bookshelf) like Kafka, Borges, García Márquez, and Calvino…

* Mission accomplished, corporations! Wal-Mart employee voluntarily enforces her entirely false belief that “copyright lasts forever.”

* And will Burn After Reading, the new Coen Brothers comedy, be the new greatest movie of all time? All signs point to yes: