Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘childhood

Where Is Your Labor Day Now Links

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* Great local event alert: George Lipsitz (Black Studies, UCSB) will be speaking at UWM’S Golda Meir on Wednesday (September 9) at 4:30pm on “The Ferguson Conjuncture: Why the Humanities Matter Now.”

* One of Jaimee’s poems was on Lake Effect on Friday; her full interview on the program is coming soon.

* After meeting my class and talking a bit with them about their familiarity with Tolkien I’ve updated my syllabus with a few supplementary readings.

There’s a storm in the poetry world, this one set off by the bio in Best American Poetry 2015 of Michael Derrick Hudson, who has been publishing under the name Yi-Fen Chou. A pre-post-mortem from editor Sherman Alexie.

@AcademicsSay: The Story Behind a Social-Media Experiment.

Wikipedia Editors Uncover Extortion Scam And Extensive Cybercrime Syndicate.

Iowa’s New President Is Choice Faculty Opposed. Unpopular pick. On the Suborning of Free Speech and Shared Governance at the University of Iowa.

UH shifts millions from academics to sports.

* Harvard as tax-free hedge fund.

* Speaking for the humanities.

Instead of hoping that higher education should be the solution to all of our economic problems, we should follow Cassidy’s advice and return to the notion that college is a public good and an end in itself: “Being more realistic about the role that college degrees play would help families and politicians make better choices. It could also help us appreciate the actual merits of a traditional broad-based education, often called a liberal-arts education, rather than trying to reduce everything to an economic cost-benefit analysis.” If we focus on making higher education more accessible and affordable as we enhance its quality, we can at least make sure that it does not enhance inequality and decrease social mobility.  The first step is to stop believing that college degrees produce good jobs. 

Meant to keep academics compliant, obedient, and domesticated, audit culture comes to Canadian universities at an otherwise exciting moment for research. Indigenous epistemologies and publicly engaged, participatory, and open forms of research are asserting their places in the academic landscape today. In response to rich debates about what constitutes knowledge, universities are being called to feature relationally and community oriented research outcomes. But with audit culture’s narrow benchmarks and retrograde understandings of what counts as real research, there is little breathing room in the academy for public engagement, community-based research, and Indigenous forms of knowing, since these methodologies can’t be easily captured in the audit forms. Indeed, academics are driven away from socially engaged scholarly activities in part because they are more difficult to measure, assess, and judge.

Daniels seems mildly indignant at the extent to which he has been monitored by Disney, now the home of the Star Wars franchise. As well he might. He didn’t just step off the first space-cruiser from Mos Eisley: he is 69 years old and has been playing C-3PO since before many of his current paymasters were born. “The secrecy has been beyond ludicrous,” he sighs. “For heaven’s sake, it’s a movie. When I got the script, it was typed in black on paper of the deepest red so you couldn’t photocopy it. I got a hangover just reading it.” He was censured by the studio recently for mentioning on Twitter a fellow actor from The Force Awakens.

* Obamaism distilled: In Alaska, Obama warns against climate change but OKs drilling.

Scientists Calculated How Much Lembas Bread Would be Needed to Walk to Mordor.

The Privatization of Childhood: Childhood has become a period of high-stakes preparation for life in a stratified economy.

The oceans are full of bodies. The things they carry. Migrants welcome.

* TNI, on the counterfeit.

* Assessing the Legacy of That Thing That Happened After Poststructuralism.

* Jacobin on Radical America and on the Ashley Madison bots.

* The earning power of philosophy majors.


Paid Leave for Fathers Is Good for Everybody.

The experience will be disheartening, but remember: it is you who chose to play Adjunct Sudoku.

* The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional. Someone tell Wisconsin!

Deaf Culture and Sign Language: A Reading List.

After all the media fawning over the nonprofit Teach for America, there are some veterans of the program who are now telling a different story. “Teach for America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out” contains 20 essays with anecdotes that seem too crazy to make up.

10,000 zines and counting: a library’s quest to save the history of fandom.

* The end of overparenting. The end of workplace friendships.

* Wake up and smell the weird.

* “Stonehenge II: Archaeologists uncover true scale of ‘superhenge’ – discovered just a few miles from famous prehistoric monument.”

* The total surveillance society, but with a human face.

* Toronto’s parking ticket jubilee.

* Alzheimer’s at 38.

* PC Comedy and Paul Revere vs. Putting Out Fire with Gasoline.

* Free your mind; start high school later in the morning.

* Course List for Rupert Giles, Master of Library Sciences Candidate, Michaelmas Term 1982.

* And of course you had me at The Alternative Universe Of Soviet Arcade Games.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 8, 2015 at 8:18 am

Tuesday Links!

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The Madison Journal of Literary Criticism interviews my friend Ramzi Fawaz about his exciting new book on the X-Men in the 1970s: The New Mutants.

* David Foster Wallace’s blurbspeak.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Story of Kullervo Will Be Published In October.

Scientist studies Diplomacy game to reveal early signs of betrayal.

* US Education Reform and the Maintenance of White Supremacy through Structural Violence.

* Whatever happened to Gary Cooper: You’ve heard of women’s studies, right? Well, this is men’s studies: the academic pursuit of what it means to be male in today’s world. Dr. Kimmel is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system, which will soon start the first master’s degree program in “masculinities studies.”

* The fire next time: The Pension Crisis at Public Universities.

* The Clinton plan for college. This summary leaves out all the awful disruptivation and neoliberalization stuff that will be part of any actual plan, so it sounds great.

Widespread use of private email revealed a day after Wise resigns. The Revelations in Phyllis Wise’s Emails. Legal experts react. It’s so bad the board is going to vote on whether to pull her $400,000 golden parachute.

Academic Freedom at UIUC: Freedom to Pursue Viewpoints and Positions That Reflect the Values of the State.

* More on Duquesne’s proposition that adjunct unions would interfere with its Catholic mission.

SeaWorld sees profits plunge 84% as customers desert controversial park.

The Making of the American Police State.

* The Socrates of the National Security Agency.

Police Union In Missouri Declares ‘Darren Wilson Day’ On Shooting Anniversary. Yankees’ Minor League Affiliate Holds ‘Blue Lives Matter’ Event On Anniversary Of Michael Brown’s Death.

One Holdout Juror Was Likely Why James Holmes Avoided Death Penalty.

This Woman Was Awarded $685,737 After Learning Her Boyfriend (And Father of Her Child!) Was an Undercover Cop Sent to Spy on Her.

* Comic book movies and the forgotten art of the ending. You heard it here first!

* Astro Boy and the atom.

* The big Superman reveal (from the pre-52 DC Universe) that DC never got around to revealing.

Always a Lighthouse: Video Games and Radical Politics.

No girl wins: three ways women unlearn their love of video games.

Netflix’s Dystopian Show 3% To Be Developed Entirely In Brazil.

3% takes place in a world where most of the population lives in “Hither”: a decadent, miserable, corrupt place. When people reach 20 years of age, they go through the “Process”, the only chance to get to “Thither” – the better place, with opportunities and promises of a dignified life. Only three percent of the applicants are approved by the Process that will take the applicants to their limit, putting them in terrifying, dangerous situations and testing their convictions through moral dilemmas.

* More incredibly bad behavior in SF fandom. A little more context here.

* Judge Faults University for Requiring Student to Prove He Was Innocent of Sexual Misconduct. Colleges Under Investigation for Sexual Assault Wonder What Getting It Right Looks Like.

* Peter Thiel, übermensch.

* Here come the automated trucks. Kids today don’t even want to drive anymore (or their helicopter parents won’t let them)!

* The Amazonization of Everything.

* On Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon.

* Point: Please don’t have sex with robots. Counterpoint: Humans should be able to marry robots.

* Point: They clearly should have let Max Landis write Fantastic Four. Counterpoint: The Fantastic Four Are Jerks.

* Two interesting essays on sex work and sugar daddies from TNI’s “Daddy” issue: “Letter to a Young Baby” and “You Deserve It, Sweetie.”

* Atlas Shrugs Google Rebrands.

Natalia’s tweet became a whole great blog post on modernism, childhood, and tech.

* When Shakespeare toked.

* Why do hotels have ice machines?

* Why do pro wrestlers die so young?

* Did they find Croatoan?

* Prison-industrial-wildfire complex: Nearly half the people fighting wildfires wreaking havoc across California are prison inmates.

Sandernistas would do well to reflect on one thing.  In a few months’ time, Sanders’s campaign will be gone. He will not win. … But Black Lives Matter, or rather the movement with which it has become synonymous, isn’t going to go away.  And it is far more important to America’s long-term future. A useful corrective, I think, though my intuition remains that this is one brand of underpantsgnomism competing with another for underpants-gnome supremacy.

* Diseases of the twenty-first century: Foot Orgasm Syndrome.

* This could actually be interesting: Harvard Professor Larry Lessig To Explore Democratic Presidential Run.

* Because you demanded it: Werner Herzog’s Ant-Man.

* Science has discovered a new pentagon.

* And while the lion still remains at large, Milwaukee remembers its polar bear.


Written by gerrycanavan

August 11, 2015 at 10:20 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Another Loose Firehose of Weekend Links!

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* I’ve been so busy this little bit of clickbait isn’t even timely anymore: 3 reasons the American Revolution was a mistake. And this one isn’t timely either!

* New China Miéville story, in Salvage.

A Laboratory Sitting on a Graveyard: Greece and the Neoliberal Debt Crisis.

Campus cops are shadowy, militarized and more powerful than ever.

* How to Support a Scholar Who Has Come Under Attack.

Guns, Prisons, Social Causes: New Fronts Emerge in Campus Fights Over Divestment.

* The final budget numbers that University of Wisconsin campuses have been dreading for months were released late Monday, prompting a mad scramble on campuses to figure out the winners and losers. Wisconsin’s Neoliberal Arts.

* In other words, states would be required to embrace and the federal government would be obligated to enforce a professor-centered vision of how to operate a university: tenure for everyone, nice offices all around, and the administrators and coaches can go pound sand. Sanders for president!

* Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature.

* Rich Kids Study English.

* 11 Reasons To Ignore The Haters And Major In The Humanities. “Quality of life” almost barely sneaks in as a criterion at the end.

* Towards a New Common Sense.

* On Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye.

* Deep cuts: Why Do TV Characters All Own the Same Weird Old Blanket?

* The plan creates, in effect, a parallel school district within Milwaukee that will be empowered to seize MPS schools and turn them over to charter operators or voucher-taking private schools. While there is, in principle, a mechanism for returning OSPP schools to MPS after a period of five years, that mechanism carries qualifications intended to ensure that no OSPP school will ever return to MPS. This, alongside funding provisions for OSPP and MPS spelled out in the motion, makes it hard to avoid the conclusion that the plan’s purpose is to bankrupt the Milwaukee Public Schools. It is a measure of Darling and Kooyenga’s contempt for the city and its people that they may sincerely believe that this would be a good thing for Milwaukee schoolchildren.

The failure rate for charter schools is much higher than for traditional public schools. In the 2011-2012 school year, for example, charter school students ran two and half times the risk of having their education disrupted by a school closing and suffering academic setbacks as a result. Dislocated students are less likely to graduate and suffer other harms. In a 2014 study, Matthew F. Larsen with the Department of Economics at Tulane University looked at high school closures in Milwaukee, almost all of which were charter schools. He concluded that closures decreased “high school graduation rates by nearly 10%” The effects persist “even if the students attends a better quality school after closure.”

The Verdict on Charter Schools?

* “Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.” Letter to My Son.

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

On June 8, CNN unveiled “Courageous,” a new production unit and an in-house studio that would be paid by advertisers to produce and broadcast news-like “branded content.” 

* Social networking and the majority illusion.

* Reddit in chaos.

* “Colleges’ Balance Sheets Are Looking Better.” Happy days are here again!

* Is Bail Unconstitutional?

* My Severed Thumb and the Ambiguities of Technological Progress.

* So much for “most unpaid internships are illegal.”

* Now that the Supreme Court has once again saved Obamacare, can we have an honest talk about it?

* From the archives! Liberalism and Gentrification.

* From the archives! The world’s oldest continuously operating family business ended its impressive run last year. Japanese temple builder Kongo Gumi, in operation under the founders’ descendants since 578, succumbed to excess debt and an unfavorable business climate in 2006.

* Dear Alice Sheldon.

* “Zach Anderson” is the latest outrageous story from the sex offender registry to go viral.

* Prisoner’s Dilemma as pedagogy.

In its 2015-17 budget, the Legislature cut four-year college tuition costs by 15 to 20 percent by 2016 — making Washington the only state in the country to lower tuition for public universities and colleges next year.

* Shadow work and academia.

* Art and the wage.

* The end of “weaponized anthropology.”

Keywords for the Age of Austerity 20: Pivot.

* Tumblr of the week: Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in [Mainstream Film Title].

* New Jersey congressman pitches the least substantive response to the student debt crisis — SO FAR.

Neither special circumstances nor grades were determinative. Of the 841 students admitted under these criteria, 47 had worse grades than Fisher, and 42 of them were white. On the other end, UT rejected 168 black and Latino students with scores equal to or better than Fisher’s.

Thousands Of Children Risked Their Lives In Tanzania’s Gold Mines For $2 A Day.

* Kotsko has been blogging about his latest turn through the harassment grinder. He’s taking on Big Santa, too. He just doesn’t care.

* Climate science and gloom. But at least air conditioning might not be that bad.

* Weird day for computers this week. Anyway we should put algorithms in charge of everything.

* Scenes from the Olympic scam, Boston edition.

20091207* At least it’s an ethos!

* Sci-Fi Crime Drama with a Strong Black Lead.

* Salaita, one year later.

The world of fracketeering is infinitely flexible and contradictory. Buy tickets online and you could be charged an admin fee for an attachment that requires you to print them at home. The original online booking fee – you’ve come this far in the buying process, hand over an extra 12 quid now or write off the previous 20 minutes of your life – has mutated into exotic versions of itself. The confirmation fee. The convenience fee. Someone who bought tickets for a tennis event at the O2 sent me this pithy tweet: “4 tickets. 4 Facility Fees + 4 Service Charge + 1 Standard Mail £2.75 = 15% of overall £!”. Definitely a grand slam.

* The initial, back-of-the-napkin notes for Back to the Future 2 and 3.

* Nice try, parents! You can’t win.

* What my parents did was buy us time – time for us to stare at clouds, time for us to contemplate the stars, to wonder at a goiter, to gape open-mouthed at shimmering curtains of charged particles hitting the ionosphere. What it cost them can be written about another time. What I am grateful for is that summer of awe.

The “gag law also forbids citizens to insult the monarchy and if someone is found guilty in a defamation or libel case, he or she can face up to two years in prison or be forced to pay an undetermined fine,” local media outlet Eco Republicano reported as the public expressed its anger against the law introduced by the ruling Popular Party.

* Wisconsin Democrats sue to undo the incredible 2011 gerrymander that destroyed the state.

* Obama Plans Broader Use of Clemency to Free Nonviolent Drug Offenders. This is good, but still much too timid — he could free many times as many people as he’s freeing and still barely make a dent in the madness of the drug war.

* EPA’s New Fracking Study: A Close Look at the Numbers Buried in the Fine Print.

* The central ideological commitment of the new Star Wars movies seems to be “well of course you can’t really overthrow an Empire.” Seems right. (Minor spoilers if you’re an absolute purist.)

* Brian K. Vaughn will write an issue of The Walking Dead.

* Dune, 50 years on: how a science fiction novel changed the world.

* When adjuncts go union.

* So you want to announce for the WWE.

* When I Was White.

* This isn’t canon! Marisa Tomei is your Aunt May.

* I’m not happy about this either.

* A Quick Puzzle to Test Your Problem Solving, or, Our Brains Don’t Work. I got it right, though I doubt I would have if it hadn’t been framed as a puzzle.

* Your time travel short of the weekend: “One-Minute Time Machine.”

* Or perhaps post-apocalyptic Sweden is more your flavor.

* Another round of the polygamy debate.

* RISK: Game of Thrones.

Everything You Thought You Knew About Nic Cage’s Superman Film Is Wrong.

* Remnant of Boston’s Brutal Winter Threatens to Outlast Summer.

* And then there’s Whitesboro.

The Lost Girls: One famous band. One huge secret. Many lives destroyed.

Armed police in England and Wales only fired their weapons twice over the course of 14,864 operations that took place from 2013-2014.

Cellphones Do Not Give You Brain Cancer.

* 7,000 Fireworks Go Off at Once Due To Computer Malfunction.

* Sopranos season eight: How two technology consultants helped drug traffickers hack the Port of Antwerp.

I never noticed how sexist so many children’s books are until I started reading to my kids. Preach.

* A gendered history of LEGO.

* Aurora is out! Buy it! You don’t have to take my word for it! Excerpt! More! More!

* And there’s nothing sweet in life.


Written by gerrycanavan

July 10, 2015 at 8:02 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Sunday Morning Links!

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* One might, it’s true, wonder how cultural capital has survived the last half century’s apotheosis of pop, the rollback of the old patrician-bourgeois culture of the West, postmodernism’s putative muddling of low and high. But the sociologists have gone and checked, and the answers are not hard to find: Fancy people are now more likely to consume culture indiscriminately, that is, to congratulate themselves on the expansiveness of their tastes; indistinction has become distinction. They are more likely to prefer foreign culture to their own, at least in some who-wants-takeout? kind of way. And they are more likely to enjoy culture analytically and ironically, belligerently positing a naïve consumer whose imagined immersion in the object will set off everything in their own approach that is suavely arms-length and slaunchwise. Such, point for point, is the ethos of the new-model English department: of cultural studies, new media, the expanded canon, of theory-courses-without-objects. To bring new types of artifacts into literature departments is not to destroy cultural capital. It is merely to allow new things to start functioning as wealth. Even here, the claim to novelty can be overstated, since it is enough to read Bourdieu to know that the claim to interpret and demystify has always been an especially heady form of symbolic power. The ingenious reading confers distinction, as do sundry bids to fix the meanings of the social. Critical theory is cultural capital. Citing Judith Butler is one of the ways in which professional people outside the academy understand and justify their own elevation. Bickering recreationally about the politics of zombie movies is just what lawyers and engineers now do.

* The Kindle edition of The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson is (still) on sale for $1.99. Here’s the LARoB review!

* Meanwhile, LARoB also reviews Paradoxa 26, which has my essay on Snowpiercer in it.

* Extrapolation 56.1 is now available.

Sherryl Vint, “Skin Deep: Alienation in Under the Skin
Isiah Lavender, “Reframing Heart of Darkness as Science Fiction”
Sharon DeGraw, “Tobias S. Buckell’s Galactic Caribbean Future”
Karen May and David Upton, “‘Ser Piggy’: Identifying an Intertextual Relationship between William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones
Lee Braver, “Coin-Operated Doors and God: A Gnostic Reading of Philip K. Dick’s Ubik”

Nepal After the Earthquake.

* Baltimore after Freddie Gray.

* The good inequality. Policy debate in the age of neoliberalism.

* Gene Wolfe, sci-fi’s difficult genius.

* The slow apocalypse and fiction.

* Can you fix the NBA draft?

In the meantime, we will all have to cope with the fact that education technology has just become weaponized. Arizona State is now the first predator university. They are willing to re-define what education is so that they can get more students from anywhere. If they don’t kill other universities by taking all their students with a cheap freshmen year, they’ll just steal their fish food by underselling 25% of the education that those schools provide and leaving them a quarter malnourished. The result is that schools which stick to reasonable standards with respect to the frequency and possibility of teacher/student interaction now have to fear for their very existence.

Contingency and Gender.

The Invented History of ‘The Factory Model of Education.’

The obvious corollary is that, in order to stem the tide of tuition increases, we should seek to stabilize or increase state funding and curb the power of administrators.

Why They Hate Cornel West.

* I’m seeing it mostly mocked and dismissed, but I think the Columbia case (K.C. Johnson summary at Minding the Campus) will be important flashpoint in Title IX law. My sense is that the wind on this is really changing strongly against the feminist left; we’re going to see many of the received truths of campus anti-rape policies coming under serious challenge. It’s going to be difficult, and it’s going to require some unpleasant reconsideration of the way we talk about this issue.

New Simulation Shows How The Pacific Islands May Have Been Colonized.

Incredibly, the percentage of parents throughout the state who engaged in the civil disobedience of refusing the test for their kids is higher than the 15 percent of eligible voters who cast a ballot for Andrew Cuomo in the low-turnout election last year.

* All of the juniors at Nathan Hale High School refused to show up for state testing this week.

* Against the creative economy.

* What if Man of Steel was in color?

* Gasp! The Apple Watch May Have a Human Rights Problem.

Microsoft Word Spells the Names of Game of Thrones Characters Better Than You Can.

Nine Months After He Filmed Eric Garner’s Killing, the Cops Are Trying to Put Ramsey Orta Behind Bars.

“We must disband the police: Body cameras aren’t enough — only radical change will stop cops who kill.”

* Meanwhile.

* Yes please: Telltale is making some kind of Marvel game.

The Feds Say One Schmuck Trading From His Parents’ House Caused a Market Crash. Here’s the Problem.

* See, Dad? I knew you could survive on girl scout cookies.

* There’s always money in the banana stand: The Fed’s Cold War Bunker Had $4 Billion Cash For After The Apocalypse.

* Won’t you give? What you can? Today? Poetry is going extinct, government data show.

* I believe any crazy story with China in the headline. That’s my policy.

* Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything.

It’s Time To Stop Treating Childhood as a Disease.

* And you thought The Dark Knight Strikes Back was bad.

Tuesday Links!

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* In case you missed it, I put up a short thing about The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt yesterday. It was an odd and sad day to have done so, in retrospect.

* And here’s everything we know about season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

* Some (more) thoughts on the Hugos. And some more.

* Science Fiction Film and Television 8.1 is now available. And don’t forget our call for papers on Star Trek at 50!

* If you want a vision of the future: University of Florida admits 3,000 students — then tells them it is only for online program.

Visiting Africa: A Short Guide for Researchers.

* Rolling Stone has retracted their UVA story, as well as a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism detailing what went wrong. Reaction online has generally been that the Columbia report doesn’t go nearly far enough, and that RS is in total denial about the seriousness of what they did — though there’s speculation that RS‘s non-response is at least partially driven by the fact that the fraternity plans to sue.

* What happens when you build a town around a prison?

* What percentage of national Democrats have been placed there as sleeper agents specifically to disrupt literally any attempt at improvement, do you think? 90, 95%?

* The American West dries up. In a development that will surprise no one, California’s wealthy aren’t doing their part to save water. Water-rationing plan leaves corporate interests untouched. Nestlé called out for bottling, selling California water during drought. And the state has been fracking into their aquifers this whole time. We know what our problems are and we do nothing or make them worse.

Report: Majority Of Earth’s Potable Water Trapped In Coca-Cola Products.

Melting Ice Caps Expose Hundreds Of Secret Arctic Lairs.

* Man-made earthquakes in Oklahoma. Bonus points for a truly good headline pun: “Weather Underground.”

First Gorgeous Look At Mark Z. Danielewski’s New Series, The Familiar!

* Finally, someone is responding to voter ID panic in the proper way.

* Can Marxist theory predict the end of Game of Thrones?

A former Harvard associate professor is pursuing a federal Title IX lawsuit against the university, alleging she was discriminated against while trying to secure tenure there in 2013.

NYC officials remove Edward Snowden statue secretly installed in Brooklyn park.

“Recognizing that Native American art was made by individuals, not tribes, and labeling it accordingly, is a practice that is long overdue,” said Dan L. Monroe, executive director of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., which has a large Indian collection and has made some attempts to identify individual artists since the mid-1990s.

In short, ruin porn hides more than it shows. It creates the hyper-visibility of some elements of crisis, usually infrastructural damage and death, while simultaneously making others invisible, namely the social and political forces that engender uneven patterns–and origins–of damage and recovery.

* Helen Keller, socialist.

I was arrested 75 times: how violent policing destroys mental health.

* Strange fashion choices of the 24th century.

* Inside Brown’s plan to make its faculty more diverse. I don’t see how “postdoctoral fellowships” is even part of this conversation. Postdocs aren’t faculty.

* Paul “Freaks & Geeks” Feig has a new show, outer space comedy Other Space.

* Lucille Ball statue terrorizes small town.

* And I’ll see you again in twenty-five years: The Twin Peaks revival is apparently going to happen without David Lynch.

Notes Towards a Miss Reading of Kimmy Schmidt

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Seeing this review of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt at the Los Angeles Review of Books has inspired me to finally write up some somewhat idiosyncratic thoughts I’ve had about the series that I haven’t seen reflected anywhere else. (And thanks to the people who have indulged me about this on Twitter, especially @millicentsomer and @evankindley.) I definitely agree with the reviewer that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a “woman out of time” story, but I really think the interpretive emphasis on “Unfrozen Middle Schooler from the 1990s” should be on “middle schooler” rather than “from the 1990s.” My take is that the 1990s nostalgia is largely driven by the Millennial audience the show is pitching itself at — it’s an engine for jokes but not really the center of the project. “Unfrozen Middle Schooler,” in contrast, is the actual heart of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, at least the way I want to read it as a feminist work.

One of the things I talked about with Lili and Evan on Twitter was whether Kimmy’s abduction is taken seriously as an event or if the bunker is taken seriously as an actual lived environment. Having completed the series now, I still don’t think so: I think “the bunker” essentially functions in the series like being in a coma, or being shot with a Grow-Up Beam, or making a wish to be Big. It’s a magic spell to get Kimmy from middle school to adulthood without having to go through high school and college, which is the source of her power in the series, from her refusal of the usual rules of society to her love of backpacks and bright, mismatched clothing. You can see this utopian imaginary working really clearly in the incredibly infectious theme song, where the removal of the girls from the bunker and a closeup on Kimmy’s ecstatic childlike grin over the lyrics “Unbreakable! They alive, damnit! It’s a miracle!” quickly gives way to a montage of nostalgic, home-video-style images of childhood (and specifically girlhood), which express the same unvarnished joy but also absolute self-confidence (thumb’s up), total mastery of their environment (the dancing, the hula hooping, the monkey bars), and maximum resilience in the face of adversity (the baby plopping down face first).

We return to the in-universe “autotune the news” frame only once during this thirty-second sequence, to be told that “females are strong as hell” — the clear implication to me being that we ought to draw an interpretive connection between the claim of female power and childhood, specifically, girlhood: before sex, before even puberty, before the male gaze, before pervert teachers and abusive boyfriends and quasi-consensual sexual encounters and ubiquitous street harassment and the too-familiar host of other abuses inflicted upon women from the moment they enter young adulthood. What the magic spell of the bunker allows Kimmy to do is pass over the moment in which girls are forcibly conscripted into becoming “women” (somewhat or entirely against their will) and emerge instead as an adult who has not internalized our society’s misogyny or its mean, psychosexual aggressivity. So much of what is delightful about Kimmy is precisely the fact that she has retained the aspirations, expectations, confidence, and general affect of a precocious middle-schooler without having had to temper or diminish herself through unhappy experiences with patriarchy. If the show has a moral or utopian message for women, it’s Let’s all go back to thinking about ourselves the way we did before society told us we were worthless, and it’s a pretty damn good one.

We’ve been working with children’s stories a lot in my “magic as literature” course this semester, and one of the oppositions we’ve really been focusing on (especially as we’ve studied Disney, and Frozen, recently) is the opposition between what mythographers call “the girl’s tragedy” and what we’ve been calling instead the utopia of childhood or (here more directly) the utopia of girlhood. The girl’s tragedy is the female answer to “the hero’s journey,” but the narrative doesn’t work the same way: instead of the boy hero who sets out from home, masters the outside world, slays the dragon, and then returns home to become king, the girl’s tragedy is a story about being ripped from safety and forced to accommodate oneself to the whims of adult men, particularly their sexual urges. The happy ending for the girl’s tragedy — the happiest one available — is that she accepts her role as wife and mother and gives birth to a male son who will then inaugurate the next cycle of heroism; girls and women who refuse to play the proper role are typically cast out of the realm of the human altogether, turned into animals or plants or stars or foam. The utopia of childhood describes those comparatively rare stories that are exceptions, where the girls are neither forced to become mothers nor punished, but allowed to remain what they were without transformation by instead bending the adult world to their will (as in Brave, or Moonrise Kingdom, or arguably Frozen, though in most of these the girl-heroes seem only to buying themselves time rather than enacting a full and permanent transformation of their circumstances).

Of course the utopia of childhood can itself be deeply retrograde, and is frequently misogynistic in its way — we spent a lot of time on “The Problem of Susan” in the Narnia books precisely so we didn’t fall too in love with the impossible fantasy of never growing up (when in the end we all have to). Nor can we safely imagine childhood in such uncomplicatedly rosy terms, both because childhood can also be a time of fierce frustration, competition, and intense pain even when it is not actively shattered through the cruelty and abuse of adults. But all the same there is something undeniably appealing about the idea of returning to a childhood that is both happy and which never gives way to something else, a desire that structures so much of our culture (particularly the middle-class culture of “good parenting”) that it really almost goes without saying. And in the case of Kimmy Schmidt‘s feminist politics of course the idea is not that women find some fantastical way to literally de-age themselves so much as they look to their younger, effortlessly capable and supremely confident selves as inspiration in the present.

There’s one more thing to say about Kimmy Schmidt, which is again about the abduction and the bunker, which would seem to be a rather large problem for my reading of the series. Isn’t Kimmy’s entire situation itself a literalized girl’s tragedy, insofar as she is abducted as a child and put into radical seclusion, all the while being fed obscenely misogynistic lies by a woman-hating male adult? Well, yes! The question of Kimmy’s abduction, and the horrific sexual violence it inevitably implies if thought about too much, is a pretty thorny one for the series: fixated on too much, it threatens to derail any potential for comedy in the show at all. (UPDATE: Someone just sent me Emily Nussbaum’s review, which talks a lot about this issue.) The series cleverly solves the problem by opening the door just a crack — “yes, there was weird sex stuff in the bunker” — and then simply leaving it there. Something happened — perhaps, as Evan suggested in what has become my headcanon, it was all between the girls and not involving the preacher at all — but it hasn’t changed Kimmy, or defeated her. And she emerges from Hell neither pregnant with the monster’s baby, nor transformed into a weeping plant or into sea-foam, but just as unflappable and unbreakable as she was when she went in.

And in any event the treatment of the bunker doesn’t really work the way the ten-second summary of the setup would suggest. The presence of the preacher is actually a further occasion for Kimmy to refuse to internalize her sexist training, precisely because it is now located within a single, odious man against whom she can fight. The button at the end of the first episode demonstrates precisely this: Kimmy proves he is lying to them, he says he’s going to break her someday, and she replies no, he never will. It’s easy to see why, in contrast to the microaggressions and little indignities — alongside the very big ones — that make up girls’ training to be women in our society, which is constantly delivered by parents and siblings and friends and trusted authority figures and widely celebrated mass culture texts, Kimmy’s more direct training in misogyny at the hands of the Reverend never really takes. In the bunker she had an obvious enemy, someone she could tell she was feeding her poison, and so she could reject it. It’s actually outside the bunker where the true brainwashing takes place, which is all the more insidious because it seems like education, like help, like love.

Friday Links!

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* TNI CFPs we have believe in: “The Stars.”

How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future.

Childhood, Emergency.

The child was too young to have a criminal record. Young enough, at 12, that to claim he was “no angel” would have been extraordinarily obscene. Yet it did not take long before media agencies began looking into his parents’ past. Around dinner tables across the country, some black uncle or aunt or mother or father or grandparent or brother or sister is asking why the parents weren’t there, didn’t or couldn’t do more to protect him. People will solemnly nod, but they will know the truth. For too many black childhood is a gestation period, an interlude between a period of less-than-innocent babyhood and maturation into full social pathology. Black children, but not just black children, are denied childhood. Instead, they come to be the stuff of nightmares, youths who are simply younger versions of the terror they will embody. “A hallucination of your worst fears.”

Police officer Darren Wilson is not a monster; he is the mundane and day-to-day face of white supremacy as experienced by people of color in the United States.

Who Killed Robert McCulloch’s Father?

Why Americans Call Turkey ‘Turkey.’

* BREAKING: Algorithms Can Ruin Lives.

* Kitty Queer. On the queer subtext of Chris Claremont’s long run on X-Men.

Hooray! 83 episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are now available to download.

Can the NFL survive its concussion crisis?

* Great moments in not thinking of an elephant: “The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans.” This has got to be the worst imaginable framing to argue on behalf of kindness or generosity towards immigrants.

* A theory of politics predicated on “how to convince your right-wing uncle to act on climate change” isn’t one. Unless “Uncle Richard” is Cheney, and not even then.

* Excerpts from Hillary Clinton’s contract rider.

The Mysterious Antikythera Mechanism Is More Ancient Than We Thought.

* The long-awaited final book in Adam Kotsko’s psychology trilogy, Creepiness, is now available for preorder.

* And maybe we should just try to figure out who’s cloning all these Hitlers.



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