Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘fandom

Another Very Busy Couple of Weeks, Another Absolutely Too Long Linkpost

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* ACLA 2016: The 21st Century Novel at the Limit. Feminism and New Generations of Old Media. Aesthetic Distance in a Global Economy.

* And one for NEMLA: Women Authors from the Great War.

Special Issue CFP: Queer Female Fandom.

* You broke peer review. Yes, I mean you.

* Graduate students are employees when that’s bad for them, and students when that’s bad for them.

* Last year, Yale paid about $480 million to private equity fund managers as compensation — about $137 million in annual management fees, and another $343 million in performance fees, also known as carried interest — to manage about $8 billion, one-third of Yale’s endowment. In contrast, of the $1 billion the endowment contributed to the university’s operating budget, only $170 million was earmarked for tuition assistance, fellowships and prizes.

Why financial aid might make college more expensive.

* Scenes from the schadenfreude at UIUC.

* TurnItIn doesn’t even work.

First, Do No Harm? The Johns Hopkins System’s Toxic Legacy in Baltimore.

* SF short of the month: the found footage / time travel narrative “Timelike.” “Suicidium” is pretty good too. Both are very Black Mirror.

* Salon’s Michael Berry interviewed me and a bunch of other SF scholars recently on the greatness of Dune.

* No more fire, the water next time: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Global Warming and White Supremacy.

* Hobbes v. Snoopy.

* Science fiction and class struggle, in Jacobin.

* Precrime comes to Pennsylvania.

* Seven habits of unsuccessful grad students. Job market secrets from the English department at U. Iowa. How to avoid awkward interactions during your tenure year.

* Clinton’s ed plan poised to continue the bad disruptivation of the Obama administration. Yay!

Northwestern Football Players Cannot Form Union, NLRB Rules. Former Berkeley Football Player Sues Over Concussions. UNC-Chapel Hill Reports New Possible NCAA Violations.

* Coca-Cola and the denialists.

* Life extension and prison.

* Abandoned college campuses of Second Life.

Yes, your gadgets are ineluctably engineering your doom.

* What If Stalin Had Computers?

* The NLRB might (finally) shut down the temp economy.

On average, it’ll take four minutes for you to get to the end of this piece, and quite frankly you should be spending those four minutes asleep.

Crowdfunding Is Driving A $196 Million Board Game Renaissance.

* Sesame Street and neoliberalism, but like for real this time.

Why 35 screenwriters worked on The Flintstones movie.

Yes, We Have “No Irish Need Apply.”

* Epigenetics: Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children’s genes.

* Evergreen headline watch: “Michigan Fails to Keep Promise to Native Americans.”

UC Davis workers: “We exposed students to asbestos.”

* Understanding Neal Stephenson.

* The Bucks as case study for the stadium scam. Bucks affiliate the Biloxi Shuckers and their endless tour.

They had no inkling about what was really going on: Gubb was a serial fraudster who made a living by renting houses, claiming to be a tenant, then illegally subletting rooms to as many residents as he could cram in—almost always young women desperate for a piece of downtown living.

How a jerk scams a free quadruple espresso at Starbucks 365 days a year.

* US and Boeing developing a targeted EMP weapon. Looking forward to the surplus sale.

* Another car remotely hacked while driving. If a Cyberattack Causes a Car Crash, Who Is Liable?

How Much Of California’s Drought Was Caused By Climate Change?

By 2100, Earth Will Have an Entirely Different Ocean. You probably can’t undo ocean acidification even if you find a way to pull carbon out of the air.

* The climate hackers.

* The ice bucket challenge may have been a much bigger deal than you thought.

In just eight years, Pinellas County School Board members turned five schools in the county’s black neighborhoods into some of the worst in Florida.

* The bail trap.

* The end of Columbia House.

* An oral history of Six Feet Under.

* Death penalty abolition in Connecticut.

* Being Stephen Colbert.

* Happy Earth Overshoot Day.

* The new Cold War is a Corn War.

* Donald Trump and fascism. This is the moment when Donald Trump officially stopped being funny.

* Writing the second half of the Harry Potter series replacing Cedric Diggory with a Slytherin.

Banksy’s Dismaland.

* Twilight of the Bomb.

* Interactive widget: How to fudge your science.

* Science proves parenthood is a serious bummer.

How We Could Detect an Alien Apocalypse From Earth.

* Who mourns for the Washington Generals?

* Well, it makes more sense than the official story: ‘Aliens prevented nuclear war on Earth’: Former NASA astronaut makes unexpected claim.

* Is Howl the Netflix of podcasts? Watch Earwolf’s user base revolt.

* The kids today and the end of funny. The unfunny business of college humor.

Racial Bias Affects How Doctors Do Their Jobs. Here’s How To Fix It.

* Here comes Star Wars Land.

NBC chairman threatens ALF reboot if Coach reboot is successful. Just give them what they want! Pay anything!

Controlling the Narrative: Harper Lee and the Stakes of Scandal.

* Hell, with same-day delivery.

Locked in Solitary at 14: Adult Jails Isolate Youths Despite Risk.

* I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave.

Mars One Is Still Completely Full of Shit.

A Troll in the Lost City of the Dead.

In 2010, anonymous emails started popping up in the inboxes of Department of the Interior officials. The messages accuse museums across the country of failing to deal with their massive collections of Native American bones. Those remains are there illegally, the emails allege, and should be returned to the tribes to which they belong. They’re all signed “T.D. White.”

* Science proves the universe is slowly dying

* How DC has played Suicide Squad all wrong.

* The law, in its majestic equality, permits both rich and poor to sleep outside.

Dutch Artists Celebrate George Orwell’s Birthday By Putting Party Hats On Surveillance Cameras.

Ancient whistle language uses whole brain for long-distance chat.

* “We’re Fighting Killer Robots the Wrong Way.”

An early YA novel gets lost in the Freaky Friday canon.

* My dad was right! Social Security really is a Ponzi scheme.

Don’t freak out, but scientists think octopuses ‘might be aliens’ after DNA study.

* Don’t bring your dogs to work.

* Today in Wikipedia hoaxes.

* Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal continues to overthink Superman in the best possible way.

Architects are trying to raise $2.8 billion to build this city from Lord of the Rings.

You Know Who Hates Drones? Bears. They love pools though.

* Don’t say it unless you mean it.

* And we shall Truffle Shuffle no more forever.

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Written by gerrycanavan

August 23, 2015 at 10:13 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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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.

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Written by gerrycanavan

August 11, 2015 at 10:20 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Wherein a Former Academic Blogger Emerges from Book Jail, Weary and Bleary-Eyed, to Discover He Has 300 Open Tabs

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* I had a short interview with the writing center journal Praxis go up this week: “Working Out What’s True and What Isn’t.”

* Can Faculty Deal with Policy Drift? A List of Options.

We know what happened next. After 2008, this paradigm has made it easier for governors and legislatures to cut and not restore, since it established a “new normal” that defined down the limits of reasonable budget requests.  The results have been predictable.  A recent report concluded that “forty-seven states — all except Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming — are spending less per student in the 2014-15 school year than they did at the start of the recession.”

* University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime. An addendum.

Now That We Have Transformed Our Institutions to Compete with the University of Phoenix, It’s on Life Support.

* Academic Freedom among the Very Serious People.

If Colonialism Was The Apocalypse, What Comes Next?

* Digitizing the fanzine collection at the University of Iowa’s science fiction collection.

* Samuel Delany and the Past and Future of Science Fiction.

An Astrobiologist Asks a Sci-fi Novelist How to Survive the Anthropocene.

* Ursula K. Le Guin on China Miéville’s latest.

* “City of Ash,” by Paolo Bacigalupi. Part of a “cli-fi” series at Medium alongside this essay from Atwood: “It’s Not Climate Change, It’s Everything Change.”

19490141502_c48e8b967b_o* Modernist — really, brutalist — sandcastles.

* Early reports are calling Fantastic Four the worst superhero hero movie of all time. Grantland elegizes. Josh Trank points the finger.

* Steven Salaita has won a major victory against UIUC, on the same day that Chancellor Phyllis Rise resigns (to a $400K resignation bonus) amid the revelation that she misused her private email to secure his firing.

Fired University of Akron painter spills the details of president’s $951,824 house remodel. Meanwhile, on the other side of town…

Bullying, I propose, represents a kind of elementary structure of human domination. If we want to understand how everything goes wrong, this is where we should begin.

* The Problem We All Live With.

* This is the sort of adjunct-issue reporting that always frustrates me: it seems to me that it is engaging with the issue entirely on an emotional, rather than structural, basis, in the process more or less accepting entirely the think-like-an-administrator logic of forced choices that paints every laborer as the enemy of every other.

Refusing to foreground the actual monetary costs of academic labor in the current economy is a kind of grad-student gaslighting, and a form of abuse.

Why Your Rent Is So High and Your Pay Is So Low.

* The art of the rejection letter. Personally I think the only thing that is ever going to approach “universally acceptable” here is a very short “We’re sorry, but the position has now been filled.”

* Shoutouts to my particular demographic: A paper forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research identifies a segment of customers, dubbed the “harbingers of failure,” with an uncanny knack for buying new products that were likely to flop.

India’s Auroville was envisioned as an international community free of government, money, religion, and strife. It hasn’t exactly worked out quite as planned.

* Students under surveillance.

Instead of a multiple-choice test, try ending the semester with one last, memorable learning experience.

Nevada is the uncanny locus of disparate monuments all concerned with charting deep time, leaving messages for future generations of human beings to puzzle over the meaning of: a star map, a nuclear waste repository and a clock able to keep time for 10,000 years—all of them within a few hours drive of Las Vegas through the harsh desert.

The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here.

Startups have figured out how to remove carbon from the air. Will anyone pay them to do it?

California Has Lost the Equivalent of an Entire Year’s Worth of Rain.

* Ghost Town Emerges As Drought Makes Nevada’s Lake Mead Disappear.

The Bureaucrats Who Singled Out Hiroshima for Destruction.

* Going to give this effort a C-: Environmental Protection Agency Dumps a Million Gallons of Orange Mine Waste into a Colorado River.

Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an “Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery.”

Here Are the Internal Documents that Prove Uber Is a Money Loser. How Uber hides behind its algorithm.

iTunes Really Is That Bad.

* “You May Know Me from Such Roles as Terrorist #4.”

There have been 204 mass shootings — and 204 days — in 2015 so far.

Vermont Struggles With Renewables.

Eight Years After Student’s Unjust Expulsion from Valdosta State U., $900K Settlement Ends ‘Barnes v. Zaccari.’

Doug Williams used to give polygraph exams. Now he’s going to prison for teaching people how to beat them.

* Elsewhere on the legal beat: Lawyer seeks trial by combat to resolve lawsuit.

* Fitbit as confession.

No Charges For Two Officers Who Backed False Version Of University Of Cincinnati Shooting. Alabama officer kept job after proposal to murder black man and hide evidence. How a philosophy professor with ‘monklike tendencies’ became a radical advocate for prison reform. Univ. of California Academic Workers’ Union Calls on AFL-CIO To Terminate Police Union’s Membership.

* Instapundit is terrible, but I think he’s right about jury nullification. More here.

* Campus police, off campus. How the 1960s created campus cops.

* The Milwaukee Bucks boondoggle makes Last Week Tonight.

* Transportation research group discovers 46% of Milwaukee’s roads are in poor condition. I hope it studies the other 54% next.

* The Milwaukee Lion could be an escaped exotic pet rather than a wandering cougar.

MarshallProj_2015-Aug-07* Milwaukee cops are going to GPS-tag cars rather than engage in high-speed pursuit.

* Milverine: Behind the Brawn.

* Chomsky in Jacobin.

Watch what happens when regular people try to use handguns in self-defense.

* Tressie McMillan Cottom: “I Am Not Well.”

* Good kids make more money. Bad kids make more money. Losers make more money. So that should clear it up.

* Game of the weekend: Ennuigi.

* House of Picards.

* Vox interviews Bernie Sanders.

* Two centuries of Chicago’s rivers being super gross.

* On Clinton and Cosby. Speaking of which, my hiatus also covered the amazing New York Magazine spread of the accusers.

* On the other side of things, there’s this from Freddie deBoer, on sexual assault accusations and the left.

* Gambling! In a casino! Wealth doesn’t trickle down – it just floods offshore, research reveals.

* Gasp! Middle class parents use ‘glass floor’ to ensure their children succeed over poorer peers, report finds.

* What could explain it? Millennials Who Are Thriving Financially Have One Thing in Common.

At 12 years and 9 months, she remains the youngest girl ever executed in the United States.

* I shared What Happens One Hour After Drinking A Can Of Coke last week, now I’m duly shamed.

* Science ain’t an exact science with these clowns: When Researchers State Goals for Clinical Trials in Advance, Success Rates Plunge.

* Is fat a sixth taste?

What on Earth is Fake Cream Made Out Of?

Man born with “virtually no brain” has advanced math degree.

* Chaos on the Bridge: When Gene Roddenberry Almost Killed Star Trek.

A fucking interesting history of swearing on television.

* The prisoner’s dilemma as pedagogy.

* Class and free will.

Dystopic stories are attractive. They appeal to a readership that feels threatened — economically in an age of downward mobility, and politically in an age of terror. But we need to be asking what kinds of stories about living and working with media these influential narratives offer. How do the stories orient young peoples to the potential power and danger of media use? What kinds of literacy practices are sponsored in them?

Kids in the Aftermath: Katrina in Young Adult Fiction.

The Cherry’s on Top: Celibacies and Surface Reading.

 

* …there is a profound link between literature and evil.

* A brief history of Tijuana Bibles.

Man Creating Women’s-History Museum Decides Last Minute to Make It Serial-Killer Museum Instead.

Are you holding your own daughter back? Here are 5 ways to raise girls to be leaders.

* The cutthroat world of competitive bagpiping.

* The arc of history is long, but it bends towards degoogleplusification.

The long, repressed history of black leftism.

* The austerity delusion.

* Clickhole has the series bible for Breaking Bad. Amazing how much the series changed from its original conception.

* Also at Clickhole: 7 Words That Have No English Translation.

* A dark, gritty Little Women reboot.

* Another scene from the dark, gritty Subway reboot.

* A delightful pitch for a Matrix prequel.

* There is hope — plenty of hope, infinite hope — but not for us.

* The future looks great: Facebook patents technology to help lenders discriminate against borrowers based on social connections.

* Woody Allen finally found a way to characterize his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn that’s even more sickening than “the heart wants what it wants.”

Twitter Asks: What if Hogwarts Were an HBCU?

* #FreeJudyGreer.

* #FreeBritneySpears.

* #BanCarAlarms.

* Do people start off crazy, or just end up that way?

What’s it like to be a top Magic: The Gathering player?

How do you plan on spending the $1 tax cut WI Republicans gave you?

* Everyday evil.

* Review is back. Life is sweet again. Four and a half stars.

* PS: Andy Daly and Paul F. Tompkins interview each other in honor of the occasion.

When your self-driving car crashes, you could still be the one who gets sued.

* And don’t even get me started on what happens if your robot umpire crashes.

* The World Turned Upside Down, or, The Folly of Man Exemplified in Twelve Comical Relations upon Uncommon Subjects.

* The latest in Twitter’s executives working overtime to destroy it.

* Decadence watch: KFC’s new chicken bucket is also a Bluetooth photo printer.

* Decadence watch: Solitaire now has in-app purchases.

* statementofteachingphilosophy.pdf.

* Say goodbye to Jon Stewart the Adam Kotsko way.

* Because you demanded it! Soviet-era erotic alphabet book from 1931.

* And you don’t have to take my word for it! That ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket.

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Written by gerrycanavan

August 8, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Oops, Forgot a Title Links

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* I have a review out today of Aurora and Seveneves (both great!) in The Los Angeles Review of Books. My review actually has a lot in common with two other reviews they’ve run recently, one from Tom Streithorst on Mad Max: Fury Road and the other from Sherryl Vint on Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife.

* I always said the point of the five-year Ph.D. was “produce more adjuncts,” but UC Irvine has gone and formalized it.

* RT @cnewf: USC fundraising staff: 450. USC TT faculty in Arts & Sciences:460.

* Scenes from the class struggle at Arizona State.

University of Iowa Receives 18,000 Volume Science Fiction Library.

* The Toast interviews @AfAmHistFail.

* On working dads.

#charlestonsyllabus

* Sweet Briar lives. Joy Over Sweet Briar’s Reopening Is Tempered by Questions About the Road Ahead. Lessons from Sweet Briar. Sweet Briar Savors the Promise of Revival, but Fund-Raising Challenge Is Vast. Sweet Briar’s ‘No Nonsense’ New President Faces a Tall Task. Reinventing Sweet Briar. I just want someone to look into all their weird investment losses and figure out what was happening there.

How to Teach Your White Kids to Fight Racism.

* The flag might actually come down.

* For every “justifiable” gun homicide, there are 34 criminal gun homicides, 78 gun suicides, and two accidental gun deaths.

Rhodesia and American Paramilitary Culture.

The cell phones in the pockets of the dead students were still ringing when we were told that it was wrong to ask why.

* CCC, call your PR office.

The brutal truth is that most of American political history is an experiment in seeing what will happen if national political elites agree not to offend white supremacist Southern white men.

* “Sanders surge is becoming a bigger problem for Clinton.”

According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, she leads Sanders by 47 percentage points.

Surge!

But set Obama’s impressive electoral victories aside and the Democrats look less like an emerging majority and more like a party in free fall: Since Obama was sworn in six years ago, Democrats have suffered net losses of 11 governorships, 30 statehouse chambers, more than 900 statehouse seats, and have lost control of both houses of the U.S. Congress. They’re certainly finding every possible way to blow it.

* Scenes from the charter school scam: Milwaukee Public Schools edition.

For as long as women have been doing time, prisons have had to contend with the children they carry.

The Martian Author Andy Weir Explains All the Ways Mars Wants to Kill You.

* Erasmus Darwin, supervillain.

* Think Progress on suicide and trans* identity.

* Use/Mention distinction really hits the big time.

* What happens when the sea swallows a country?

* It’s just impossible to elect anyone who is actually on the left. Look what happens.

* It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of McDonalds.

* Amazon developing exciting new ways to destroy publishing.

Clash of Clans is made by the Finnish game studio Supercell. It launched in August 2012 and rapidly became one of the top five highest-grossing titles in Apple’s App Store. In 2013, when Yao and his invitation-only clan, North44, were at their peak, Clash of Clans helped create $555 million of revenue for the company. The next year, Supercell’s revenue tripled to $1.7 billion — a seemingly inexplicable sum produced by a roster of games that, like Clash, are free to download and can be played without spending a dime. So how is Supercell generating all that money? By relying on players who don’t simply want to enjoy the game but who want to win. Players who, like Yao, are willing to spend a great deal of cash.

* Against porn. May have spoken a bit too directly to me given that I read it while watching the Rashida Jones documentary Hot Girls Wanted, which is utterly, soul-crushingly depressing.

‘Star Trek’ Fan Invited to Pitch ‘Star Trek Uncharted’ TV Series to Paramount. The best part: it actually sounds like a good idea.

* And the arc of history is long, but Walter White From ‘Breaking Bad’ Will Appear in a Future Episode of ‘Better Call Saul.’

Written by gerrycanavan

June 23, 2015 at 7:53 am

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Wednesday Links!

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Fans aren’t the irrational ones. They know how to seize pleasure from the world and hold tight even as it hurts them. If fandom is simply an obedient response to the signals of the consumer market, it is an obedience which threatens to overrun its master while saying yes.

* On unprofessional bodies.

* Another “I’m a professor” essay.

What my experience has taught me must become every instructor’s priority — that is, if we are in the profession because we want to develop engaged citizens. I have learned to teach students to notice how they are being groomed to join a “docile and contingent workforce” whenever they are not encouraged to think in ways that feel like a challenge. I couldn’t do this if I were busy cowering to avoid complaints. Besides, I want my students to be passionately engaged and to feel empowered about speaking up both inside and outside of my classroom. The real question, then, is: how can professors broach controversial topics in a way that does not lend itself to complaints that are grounded more in emotion than in intellectual inquiry? The solution is simple, but implementing it requires courage and tenacity: professors need to directly discuss power and power differentials, no matter the subject area.

Tenure, Fairness, and Fear(lessness).

But that is not really something that makes professors special. Rather, it is good for people to make their lives less fearsome and their minds less fearful. Those of us who have some of that privilege in our working lives should hold our heads high and try to be allies to others who are working to get their share of it. There’s no shame in having security, only in keeping other people from it.

In the wake of the UW System Board of Regents’ decision last week to “pretend to have tenure,” System leaders are coming to acknowledge more and more in their public statements the correctness of the worries they have simultaneously attempted to depict as alarmist. The very grave problem posed by section 39 of the JFC omnibus motion is finally on the public radar of UW administrators, though they continue to soft-pedal its severity.

Can the University of Wisconsin Survive Governor Walker?

* Unless you are in highly unusual circumstances, really, do not think of adjuncting as a long-term career.

* What different colleges could do with $400 million.

In Heated State-Budget Fights, Students Strive to Be Heard.

* Scenes from the class struggle at Cooper Union: Five Trustees, Including Daniel Libeskind, Abruptly Resign.

The accusations against Mr. Walker, one of several new claims of academic misconduct involving Texas athletes, illustrate how the university has appeared to let academically deficient players push the limits of its policy on academic integrity as it has sought to improve its teams’ academic records.

* On disliking poetry.

But the emerging field of Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election is something else altogether. Of the dozen or so people who have declared or are thought likely to declare, every one can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.

* And then there was Rand, scooping the Democrats again.

“We will make them appear less Asian when they apply,” he says. “While it is controversial, this is what we do.”

Concerned that kindergarten has become overly academic in recent years, this suburban school district south of Baltimore is introducing a new curriculum in the fall for 5-year-olds. Chief among its features is a most old-fashioned concept: play.

* From infancy to employment, this is a life-denying, love-denying mindset, informed not by joy or contentment, but by an ambition that is both desperate and pointless, for it cannot compensate for what it displaces: childhood, family life, the joys of summer, meaningful and productive work, a sense of arrival, living in the moment.

How Utah Became A Bizarre, Blissful Epicenter For Get-Rich-Quick Schemes.

* New government research shows that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women, a startling finding that experts say poses disturbing questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who serve in the armed forces.

Apple is finally fixing the reason your Mac and iPhone’s Wi-Fi sucks.

The constant cycle of phone upgrades — in which consumers buy phones once a new model comes out every two or so years — is having serious effects on the environment, according to a new study.

Why These Tiny Island Nations Are Planning To Sue Fossil Fuel Companies.

* music is inefficient beep bop boop

Why Franklin Richards Is The Most Ridiculous Character In All Of Comics.

* Information wants to be free! With regard to the pornographic material Osama Bin Laden had in his possession at the time of his death, responsive records, should they exist, would be contained in the operational files. The CIA Information Act, 50 U.S.C 431, as amended, exempts CIA operational files from search, review, publication, and disclosure requirements of the FOIA. To the extent that this material exists, the CIA would be prohibited by 18 USC Section 1461 from mailing obscene matter.

Six days in North Korea.

* “Officer Involved.”

Iceland put bankers in jail rather than bailing them out — and it worked.

* And Germany’s oldest student, 102, gets PhD denied by Nazis.

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Weekend Mega-Links, Please Use Responsibly

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In 2015, we will open applications for Tiptree Fellowships. Fellowships will be $500 per recipient and will be awarded each year to two creators who are doing work that pushes forward the Tiptree mission. We hope to create a network of Fellows who will build connections, support one another, and find collaborators.

* It’s a small exhibit, but I really liked A Whole Other World: Sub-Culture Craft at the Racine Art Museum, as well as the Consumer Couture exhibit running at the same time.

A new economics paper has some old-fashioned advice for people navigating the stresses of life: Find a spouse who is also your best friend. Hey, it worked for me!

* I went off on a little bit of a tear about dissertation embargoes and grad-school gaslighting the other day: part 1, part 2. Some “highlights”:

* Next week in DC! Resolved: Technology Will Take All Our Jobs. A Future Tense Debate.

Will Your Job Be Done By A Machine? NPR has the official odds.

What If Everybody Didn’t Have to Work to Get Paid?

Shields said these perceptions of race were the focus of his work and he aimed to deconstruct them through imagery that reflected a striking role-reversal. Not only do the individuals in this particular lynching image reflect a distinct moment or period in history, they are positioned as opposing players in a way that delivers a different message than those previously shared. This one of a cop is amazing:

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19 Pop Songs Fact-Checked By Professors.

For those who didn’t go to prestigious schools, don’t come from money, and aren’t interested in sports and booze—it’s near impossible to gain access to the best paying jobs.

So, going by (17) and (18), we’re on the receiving end of a war fought for control of our societies by opposing forces that are increasingly more powerful than we are.

New Grads Can’t Really Afford To Live Anywhere, Report Finds.

Uber hard at work on effort to replace drivers with machine.

Uber: Disability Laws Don’t Apply to Us.

* The prison-industrial complex, by the numbers. Cleveland police accept DOJ rules you can’t believe they didn’t already have to follow. Charging Inmates Perpetuates Mass Incarceration. The Price of Jails: Measuring the Taxpayer Cost of Local Incarceration. How to lock up fewer people. The Myth of the Hero Cop.

* Poverty, by the numbers.

* Science Fiction: For Slackers?

CGI7dHpU0AAOtHr* Presenting Matt Weiner’s wish-list for the final season of Mad Men.

How to be a fan of problematic things.

* Bernie as the official opposition. And then there’s the issue of the bench.

* A new day for the culture war, or, the kids are all right.

* Can Americans update their ideas about war?

* “I often wonder if my forefathers were as filled with disgust and anger when they thought of the people they were fighting to protect as I am.” Would you like to know more?

The Political Economy of Enrollment.

Now, the UC administration claims that the cost of instruction is greater than in-state tuition. But these claims are at best debatable and at worst simply not credible, because as Chris Newfield and Bob Samuels have shown they include research and other non-educational expenses in order to inflate the alleged instructional cost. (It’s gotten to the point that, as Samuelsobserves, the administration literally claims it costs $342,500 to educate one medical student for one year.) According to Newfield, a more reasonable estimate of the cost of instruction for undergraduates would be somewhere between 40-80 percent of the administration’s figures. Even using the higher rate, then, the administration still generates a net profit for every extra student they bring in.

LIBOR for the universities?

UW System faculty’s role in chancellor picks could be diminished. Also let’s make tenure not a thing. Also, no standards for teachers, just while we’re at it.

* Meanwhile, Wisconsin to burn $250M on famously losing basketball team.

Board of Governors discontinues 46 degree programs across UNC system.

How Poor And Minority Students Are Shortchanged By Public Universities.

How NYU squeezes billions from its students—and where that money goes.

What’s Left After Higher Education Is Dismantled.

Midcareer Melancholy: life as an associate professor.

A Top Medical School Revamps Requirements To Lure English Majors.

* Academia and legitimation crisis. This situation (and distrust/abuses from both sides) is going to get worse yet.

* Parenthood (and especially motherhood) in the academy.

* The cost of an adjunct.

* On opposing capitalism on its good days, too.

This supposed opposition serves the interests of both sides, however violent their conflict may appear. Helped by their control of the means of communication, they appropriate the general interest, forcing each person to make a false choice between “the West or else Barbarism”. In so doing, they block the advent of the only global conviction that could save humanity from disaster. This conviction—which I have sometimes called the communist idea—declares that even in the movement of the break with tradition, we must work to create an egalitarian symbolisation that can guide, regulate, and form the stable subjective underpinning of the collectivisation of resources, the effective disappearance of inequalities, the recognition of differences—of equal subjective right—and, ultimately, the withering away of separate forms of authority in the manner of the state.

Ecology against Mother Nature: Slavoj Žižek on Molecular Red.

* Stunning photos of the California drought.

The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, the Experiment That Changed Superheroes Forever.

Why Are You Still Washing Your Clothes In Warm Water?

Rickrolling is sexist, racist and often transphobic in context.

Carbon Nanotubes Were An Ancient Superweapon.

Amazon rolls out free same-day delivery for Prime members.

* Breaking: The Web is not a post-racial utopia.

* Breaking: it’s all downhill from 29.

* The waning thrills of CGI.

* Horrible: DC to Begin Placing Ads on Story Pages. Even more horrible: the end of Convergence is the dumbest universal reboot yet.

* The science of awe.

The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares. Interesting, but really flattens a lot. It’s not geography that constrains kids’ futures, it’s class.

* The World Cup and prison labor. The World Cup and slavery. The World Cup and total universal corruption.

* They say Charter Cable is even worse than Time Warner. I don’t believe such a thing is possible.

Five hundred new fairytales discovered in Germany.

U.S. Preparation Lagging to Battle Potentially Devastating EMP.

The Ethical Game: Morality in Postapocalyptic Fictions from Cormac McCarthy to Video Games.

10 bizarre baseball rules you won’t believe actually existed.

* Congrats to John Scalzi.

So you’re related to Charlemagne? You and every other living European…

Timeline of the American Transgender Movement.

* Judith Butler: I do know that some people believe that I see gender as a “choice” rather than as an essential and firmly fixed sense of self. My view is actually not that. No matter whether one feels one’s gendered and sexed reality to be firmly fixed or less so, every person should have the right to determine the legal and linguistic terms of their embodied lives. So whether one wants to be free to live out a “hard-wired” sense of sex or a more fluid sense of gender, is less important than the right to be free to live it out, without discrimination, harassment, injury, pathologization or criminalization – and with full institutional and community support. That is most important in my view.

* The PhD: wake up sheeple! Still more links after the image, believe it or not.

phd052215s* Muppet Babies and Philosophy.

* Broken clock watch: Instapundit says fire administrators to fix higher ed.

* Became self-aware, etc: campus climate surveys said to be triggering.

Penn State administrators announced Wednesday that a fraternity that maintained a well-curated secret Facebook page full of pictures of unconscious, naked women will lose its official recognition until 2018, pretty much ruining senior year.

The Proof That Centrism is Dead.

* Against consensus.

* Understanding Sad Girl Theory.

* Dialectics of union activism. I’ve been really fascinated by what’s been going on at Gawker Media.

Someone Has Done A Statistical Analysis Of Rape In Game Of Thrones.

* The arc of history is long, but that Florida community college will no longer force its students to practice transvaginal ultrasounds on each other.

* Trigger warnings, still good pedagogy, still bad administrative policy.

* A fetish is born: Porn actors must wear protective goggles during shoots.

* Ring Theory: The Hidden Artistry of the Star Wars Prequels.

* This roundtable from Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, and others on sexism and comedy is pretty dynamite.

* The age of miracles: New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function.

* How to Bash Bureaucracy: Evan Kindley on David Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules.

The ongoing legacy of the great satanic sex abuse panic.

* Teaching pro-tips from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

* Google Drought Truth.

Moore’s Law Keeps Going, Defying Expectations.

* The morality of robot war. Counterpoint: Killer robots will leave humans ‘utterly defenceless’ warns professor.

* Parental leave policies don’t solve capitalism. You need to solve capitalism.

* Against Mars.

The Nuclear Freeze campaign prevented an apocalypse, so can the climate movement.

* Honestly, you get used to the taste after a while.

* And at last it can be told! The real story behind the Bill Murray movie you’ve never seen.

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Written by gerrycanavan

May 29, 2015 at 2:54 pm

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From the Archives! Interview with Cory Doctorow on Disney, SF, Violence, Meritocracy, Goodhart’s Law, Fandom, and Utopia

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Several years ago I taught Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom for a Writing 20 class at Duke called “Writing the Future,” which resulted in a lenthy interview between my students and Doctorow. For many years the interview was archived at the course site at duke.edu, but it looks like it’s been pulled down; even the Wayback Machine has been thwarted. Since I’m fond of the interview, and frequently return to some of the things he says in it, I’m reposting it here. Enjoy!

The interview took place in Spring 2010.

“Trying to Predict the Present”: An Interview with Cory Doctorow

W20: What did this novel mean to you when you first wrote it, and how has the meaning changed in the nine years since? How might the novel be different if you wrote it today?

CD: That’s a really tough question to answer—not specifically because of the change in circumstances, but because of the change in the writer over time. The more time you spend writing, the more different your approach to the work is. That was the first novel I ever finished—it’s fundamentally different to write a book when you know you can finish a book than to write a book when you don’t know if you can a finish a book—and I actually think those differences would swamp any differences that arose from circumstances or politics or new wisdom or whatever. Just the idea of writing a book, when you know you can write a book, completely overpowers any of the other changes.

I don’t know if that makes sense. It probably doesn’t answer your question very well.

One of the things I realized in the course of writing the book, and that I think a lot of people miss when they read the book, is that Whuffie has one of the fundamental problems that accrues to money or property, which is that the more you have the easier it is to get more. That’s a pretty a pretty enormous gap in the Utopian character of Whuffie. A properly Utopian system is one in which you have something that’s a lot like merit, not like circumstance—where people are rewarded based on how great they are, not based how great they used to be. And I think Whuffie is primarily one of those systems that rewards you for having gotten lucky or doing something good some time ago, and then continues to reward you for that forever at the expense of other people.

I think Whuffie would follow a power-law distribution, just like in-bound links to blogs, for exactly the same reason.

W20: We talked a little bit about this, and it leads to the second question, whether or not large corporations are starting to create a system that’s sort of like Whuffie, but at the same time proprietary. We were thinking of Google, YouTube, Facebook especially, but even something like LinkedIn—isn’t this something like Whuffie that’s starting to materialize? Blog linkage would be the same sort of thing, facing the same sorts of problems you’ve just been talking about.

CD: I based Whuffie at the time more on Slashdot’s Karma, and I don’t know that Faceook has an exact analogue to it. I guess Facebook has this thing where you can see who has the most inbound links, who has the most friends, and you can “digg” up yourself by getting more of those.

I think that in general we have a pathological response to anything we measure. We tend not to measure the thing we care about; we tend to measure something that indicates its presence. It’s often very hard to measure the thing that you’re hoping for. You don’t actually care about how calories you eat; you care about how much weight you’re going to gain from the calories you eat. But as soon as we go, oh, well, calories are a pretty good proxy for weight gain, we start to come up with these foods that are incredibly unhealthy but nevertheless have very few calories in them. In the same way, Google doesn’t really care about inbound links because inbound links are good per se; Google cares about inbound links because inbound links are a good proxy for “someone likes this page; someone thinks this page is a useful place to be, is a good place to be.” But as soon as Google starts counting that, people start finding ways to make links that don’t actually serve as a proxy for that conclusion at all.

GDP is another good example. We don’t care about GDP because GDP itself is good; we care about GDP because the basket of indicators that we measure with GDP are a proxy for the overall health of the society—except as soon as you start measuring GDP, people figure out how to make the GDP go up by doing things like trading derivatives of derivates of subprime subderivates of derivatives, but which actually does the reverse of what we care about by undermining the quality of life and the stability of society.

So I think that one of the biggest problems that Google has, taking Google as probably the best example of someone trying to build a reputation currency, is that as soon as Google gives you any insight into how they are building their reputation system it ceases to be very good as a reputation system. As soon as Google stops measuring something you created by accident and starts measuring something you created on purpose, it stops being something that they want to measure. And this is joined by the twin problem that what Google fundamentally has is a security problem; they have hackers who are trying to undermine the integrity of the system. And the natural response to a problem that arises when attackers know how your system works is to try to keep the details of your system secret—but keeping the details of Google’s system secret is also not very good because it means that we don’t have any reason to trust it. All we know when we search Google is that we get a result that seems like a good result; but we don’t know that there isn’t a much better result that Google has either deliberately or accidentally excluded from its listings for reasons that are attributable to either malice or incompetence. So they’re really trapped between a rock and a hard place: if they publish how their system works, people will game their system; if they don’t publish how their system works it becomes less useful and trustworthy and good. It suffers from the problem of alchemy; if alchemists don’t tell people what they learned, then every alchemist needs to discover for themselves that drinking mercury is a bad idea, and alchemy stagnates. When you start to publishing, you get science—but Google can’t publish or they’ll also get more attacks.

So it’s a really thorny, thorny problem, and I elide that problem with Whuffie by imagining a completely undescribed science fictional system that can disambiguate every object in the universe so when you look at something and have a response to it the system knows that the response is being driven by the color of the car but not by the car, or the shirt but not the person wearing it, or the person wearing it and not the shirt, and also know how you feel about it. So it can know what you’re feeling and what you’re feeling it about. And I don’t actually think we have a computer that could that; I don’t think we have Supreme Court judges or Ph.D. philosophers that can do that.

W20: That’s sort of a fantastic self-criticism, actually—you’re exposing what’s so great about Whuffie and what’s so impossible about it all at once.

CD: Sure, and that’s why I think Whuffie feeds the fantasy of a meritocratic society. There’s something particularly self-serving about people who are doing very well imagining that society is meritocratic: it means that the reason you are doing so well is because you have merit, not because you were lucky or because you screwed someone else. So I’m always suspicious of people who are doing extremely well telling you how meritocratic society their society is. I’m also somewhat suspicious of people doing very poorly who tell you how meritocratic society is, because I think that’s often aspirational: they’ve basically bought the story that if only they work hard and are good and pure of heart they’ll catch up to the people who have been rich for a hundred generations. So I think the idea of meritocracy is a really tricky one because the embrace of meritocracy is seductive for reasons that transcend logic.

W20: I don’t know if I’ll include this in the interview, to shame my students or not, but this is something that comes up a lot in Duke classes. Duke students believe very much in meritocracy because they’re the winners of the system.

CD: Yeah, sure. I think we have a problem in that we end up with this tautological definition of merit in a meritocracy. How do we know what’s meritorious? It’s the thing that’s on top. You have this very Milton Friedman way of measuring accomplishment: you come up with some self-serving thing that makes you better, and declare whatever outcome you have as the best possible one. And I think that’s pretty nakedly not a great way of apportioning social resources or measuring the quality of life.

W20: Let me switch gears to the next question, which is kind of a shadow version of the last one. We talked a little bit about smartphones, and about closely they seem to match the things you describe in the book as the start of the Bitchun society, these little handheld devices. So on the one hand we have the question of whether or not it can still be Bitchun if it’s run by corporations, if they’re provided not by these collectives but by Apple. And then, as a secondary question, to what extent was this novel your personal prediction for society’s future, and what did you not predict that you wish you had?

I’ve never really done anything predictive in my life. I always say that I try to predict the present. Which is to say that you take those elements that seem futuristic that are kind of floating around in the present, but because they’ve snuck up on us so gradually, because we were boiled frog-style so gently in them that we end up not even noticing that they’re there.

My friend Jim Griffin always says that anything invented before you’re 20 was there forever; anything invented before you’re 30 is the coolest thing ever; and anything invented after that should be illegal. And I think one great way that a science fiction writer can help overcome that, or call attention to that, is to have a look at what’s around you and the stuff that feels futuristic and just write about it as if it hadn’t been invented yet, as if it were something you were making up for a science fiction story. And so everyone goes, “Wow, look at that, it’s this incredibly futuristic thing that we have right here about to happen”—and then they look around again and say “Oh my god, it’s happened!”, even though it was there before you started.

So I guess the best example of this was a presentation I once heard someone give on gold-farming at a games conference about five years ago. And then I wrote a short story “predicting” there would be gold-farming in the future. And people who discovered the story first and then read the article, or read more articles as the phenomenon increased—there’s now 400,000 people who earn their living goldfarming—assume that I predicted it. And really what I’d done is written about something in the present as though it were being invented in the future.

I didn’t answer the part about whether smart phones can be Bitchun. And no, I don’t think so—I think the problem with smartphones is not necessarily that they’re run by corporations but the specific corporations that run them. Phone companies are basically a regulatory monopoly wrapped around a soft chewy core of greed and venality. The phone companies have always disguised a complete aversion to change, progress, and democracy by wrapping it up in high-minded talk about how they’re guardians our natural infrastructure. There’s a famous case called Hush-a-Phone in which finally customers won the right to attach a Privacy Cone—like the cone you put around your dog’s head when it has stitches—to the receiver of your phone. Because up until then Bell argued that connecting anything to a phone endangered the network, including, you know, putting stickers on it. And you see this today. Why can’t you get an open phone that you could run any software on? Oh, you could crash the network.

So I think the specifically the fact that cells are run by phone companies and then also run by control-freak companies like Apple that have decided that you shouldn’t be allowed to decide what software you want to run. And Apple has made this unholy alliance with the music industry, who are also great believers that you shouldn’t be able to inspect the workings of your device, and that you shouldn’t be able to use protocols anonymously, and so on. That unholy trinity of the entertainment industry, Apple, and the phone companies means you’ll never get anything remotely great out of mobile phones until someone breaks the deadlock.

W20: What about that last part, what did you not predict that you wish you had? I guess this doesn’t make sense as a question because you don’t predict anything.

You know, in terms of staying power, there are a few things that I predicted would still be in Disney World that have just shut down. The Adventurer’s Club, which I still think is the best Disney has ever done, is now shut. But I guess I could say that in my future they’re reopened it; I could fix that by adding a sentence that says, “The first thing they did was reopen the Adventurer’s Club,” and we’d be back in business.

W20: We were surprised to check your archives and find out that you’d liked the Johnny Deppification of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Given your character we thought you might have wanted it to stay the same.

I really like that. In fact we rode it last week, as we’re stuck in L.A. The new Lincoln Bot is good too; The new Lincoln Bot is awesome, actually: he’s lip-synching, he’s gesturing. The last Lincoln Bot, he was really, um—what they did is go back and research all of his historical gestures, and they put every single into his 90-second speech. They’d made it look like he had Tourette’s.

W20: I’m going to skip a question because we’re now talking about Disney World. They were really interested in why it was you set the novel in Disney World, how it fed into the plot or the themes of the novel. They were wondering if Disney World came first, or did it fit into the idea you had for the story line?

CD: No, it was definitely that Disney came first. I’d always wanted to write a book about Disney World. It’s always inspired me, going to Disney World. I find it inspiring as a piece of art and a piece of social engineering. And inspiring not in the entirely good sense, but inspiring in the sense that every time I go there I have a bunch of thoughts. It really gets both my creative and critical juices flowing, to go to Disney World. I’m not the only one; if you read Baudrillard, he spent all this time there too.

It definitely started with Disney, and to be totally frank one of the cool things about writing a book set in Disney World is that it makes your Disney trips tax-deductible. Which is sort of an interesting, science fictiony thing: anything you choose to write a book about becomes tax-deductible. There’s a reason why Iain Banks took a year off from writing thrillers to write a book about whiskey; his whiskey became tax deductible for a year!

Disney has always had a love-hate relationship, or at least an ambivalent relationship, with audience participation. And with remix, obviously, which is ironic given all the ways Disney has borrowed from the culture before it to make new and I think very good cultural artifacts, by and large.

The Mickey Mouse Club, in the early days, actually met and made their Mickey stuff, and did their own Mickey activities. There’s always been this aspect of, you know, take Mickey and make him part of your world—make your Disney memories classic memories of your life that stick with you forever. All that stuff has always been part of Disney’s DNA. At the same time they’re very proprietary: that shalt not copy, we own all rights in all media now known and yet to be invented throughout the universe, and so own. There’s also some of that.

But when you go to Disney World, what you find is that Disney’s implicit and sometimes explicit social contract with its visitors is that you are a resident of Disney World while you’re here. This is your place too. I once did one of the Disney management courses at the Disney Institute, and one of the things they said is that after a couple of days in Disney World people who are staying there start picking up trash when they see it.

So they want to form a social contract with says that you and we are in this together—which I think is one of the reasons Disney doesn’t go after people who put entire ride-throughs of their rides on YouTube, or why by and large they don’t stop you from taking photos even of the photo ops where they sell you the photo. There’s never a time when they tell you to put away your camera because you’re “on stage”; you can always have your camera out, you can always be shooting. And that’s because it’s your place too; you’re supposed to be making memories and taking them home because that’s where they’re getting their value from.

And yet they’re not completely into this; there’s a place at which the social contract breaks down and becomes a commercial relationship again. And I think it’s pretty natural that fans of Disney World, who’ve been told for generations to form a social contract with Disney where they treat it as their own place, and also become not just guests but custodians of it, start to act like custodians of it.

There’s a great book by Greg Egan called Quarantine—it’s his first novel. In it, there’s a conspiracy of kind of bad guys, and one of the things they do to anyone who is on their trail is put a chip in their brain that makes them absolutely loyal to the conspiracy: they can’t betray the conspiracy, they’re neurologically incapable of betraying the conspiracy. And the way that they get out of it is really clever: what they do is have this mental game in which they say, “Only people who have this chip can be truly loyal to the conspiracy. Therefore the people who put the chips in our head aren’t members of the true conspiracy. They’re members of a false conspiracy because they can choose to betray the conspiracy and we can’t. Therefore it is our duty as members of the true conspiracy to betray the people who put the chip in our heads that make us loyal to them.”

I always thought that was a really interesting little bit here, to say: Who are you to say that you’re the true keeper of the flame? Maybe I’m the true keeper of the flame. You’re just a corporation who’s in it to make as much money as you can from these assets. And maybe that converges sometimes with being the best custodian, and maybe sometimes it doesn’t; maybe sometimes you’ll go off and chase the quarterly profits at the expense of long-term value. Meanwhile, I have no commercial interest in it – therefore I’m a better custodian than you, I should have more say in it that you do. And I think that relationship beats in the heart of big Disney fans, the people you see who know the park like the back of their hand.

W20: So then my follow-up question about whether Disney is a utopia or an anti-utopia has again already been answered in the sense that it’s both, right—that it has these utopian qualities and then these other kinds of countervailing qualities that push against it.

CD: Yeah, that’s right.

W20: So, then, two more questions. The first one—we’ve had a lot of talk about ecology and the environment in our course, and we got a little hung up on what you meant by Free Energy, whether this was something you were imagining seriously as a post-scarcity economics or if it was just something that was some magical thing.

CD: This is Free Energy in the kind of crank sense—zero point energy, cold fusion, perpetual motion machines. The perpetual motion machine has been a feature of Utopianism since Newton I guess. It’s science fiction shorthand, I think, for all of the above—an entropy reversing ray, another universe from which you can siphon off energy, whatever it is. You know, theoretically, fusion, if we ever get, fusion becomes more or less free energy. Not even cold fusion; moderate temperature fusion is more or less free energy forever, because it turns water into electricity.

W20: I think the feeling of the students who asked this question really had to do whether or not this was kind of like the short-circuiting you were talking about with regard to Whuffie; that you kind of skip over the post-scarcity engine that makes this thing work, and that without something like Free Energy (which may or may not actually be possible, probably not) we could never actually get to the Bitchun society because we’d constantly be falling back in to the scarcity wars, constantly falling back into exploitation.

CD: I don’t know that scarcity is necessarily what drives exploitation. I think abundance can drive exploitation too. The record industry certainly responded to a death of scarcity in its core product as a social evil. I don’t know that abundance is necessarily the necessary precondition.

But this is more like the physicist who sits down at the start of the Gedankenexperiment: let us assume a perfectly spherical cow of uniform density. Every Gedankenexperiment necessarily elides certain details, because that’s not what the experiment is about. The thought experiment is not about

how we would get infinite energy, the thought experiment is about what we would do if scarcity vanished. There’s a different thought experiment about how we could get infinite energy; Damon Knight wrote a book called A for Anything that’s very good about that. A very cynical book, I think, but very good. And so there’s a lot of different variations on that theme.

W20. Last question and then I’ll let you go. Thanks for doing this. This was about whether you want to live in the Bitchun Society personally: Would you deadhead, erase memories, flashbake, use backups? What wouldn’t you do? Basically the question is: is the Bitchun Society Cory Doctorow’s Utopia?

CD: I would definitely backup; I would probably flashbake; I don’t think I would deadhead though it’s hard to say what you’d do after 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 years. Nobody really knows the answer to that question. And I think that by and large the Bitchun Society would be better than the one we have now; I don’t know that it’s Utopia. But one of the advantages of the Bitchun Society as opposed to other Utopias is that it doesn’t require a tabula rasa as an interim step.

I think Utopianism has genocide lurking in its bowels; I think a lot of Utopians are saying, “First we eradicate all the systems that are present. We settle all the grievances, we wipe the slate clean, we level the earth, we pave everything, and then we start from go.” The Bitchun Society doesn’t require that at all; it does have a lot of social upheaval in it, but it doesn’t begin “First what we do is kill anyone who has a beef with anyone else in the Middle East, and then we settle up with whoever is left.” That’s a bad solution.

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