Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘happy endings

Exactly the Right Number of Finely Curated, Carefully Selected Links from Around the Time My Computer Crashed Last Week to Around the Time I Got It Back This Week

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* CFP: “TechnoLogics: Power and Resistance.” CFP: Blade Runner 2049 and Philosophy.

* I have an essay in this new open-access book, Materialism and the Critique of Energy: “Peak Oil after Hydrofracking.” It’s a bit of a departure from my usual work but I thought it came out well… Check it out!

* Kim Stanley Robinson makes the left’s case for geoengineering. And from Peter Frase: Geoengineering for the People.

* The Buffy Not-a-Reboot: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come.

How author Nnedi Okorafor found her identity.

* Fascinating presentation on the SF writing market. Lots to think about here.

Inside the World of Racist Science Fiction. What can we learn from the utopians of the past?

* Why are there so many staircases in space?

* We were halfway through 2018 when the drugs began to take hold.

* Brexit: That Sinking Feeling. This is what a no-deal Brexit actually looks like.

Reading Your Problematic Fave: David Foster Wallace, feminism and #metoo. And a report from the 2018 David Foster Wallace Conference, partially a profile of my college classmate Ryan Edel.

Most academic books aren’t written to be read—they’re written to be “broken.” That should change.

* How to Prepare a Diversity Statement.

* When you’re the only person in your department.

* When your students (might) record you. A good thread on the subject from Angus Johnson.

* Teaching in a red county after Trump.

* Now he tells us! Mea culpa: there *is* a crisis in the humanities.

* I get it.

We now live in a country where it is seen as abnormal, or even criminal, to allow children to be away from direct adult supervision, even for a second. Motherhood in the Age of Fear.

* Nintendo announces Labo Kit #3.

* Astounding finalist images for Astronomy Photographer of the Year.

How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions.

Where the Super-Rich Go to Buy Their Second Passport.

Time to Take Sexism in Post-Secondary Education Seriously.

* So much of our culture has been shaped by predators.

* Federal judge allows emoluments case against Trump to proceed. Trump’s ‘emoluments’ battle: How a scholar’s search of 200 years of dictionaries helped win a historic ruling.

These Three Immigrant Families Were Just Reunited After Months Apart. Here Are Their Stories. A Migrant Boy Rejoins His Mother, but He’s Not the Same. A 6-Year-Old Girl Was Sexually Abused in an Immigrant-Detention Center. A child has died following her stay at an ICE Detention Center, as a result of possible negligent care and a respiratory illness she contracted from one of the other children. Immigrant Youth Shelters: “If You’re a Predator, It’s a Gold Mine.” Deportations take unique toll on blended American families. Hundreds of separated parents potentially deported. Deleted families. ICE agents pressured parents to be deported with their children — then separated them again when they refused. Suicide in ICE Custody. ‘Like I am trash’: Migrant children reveal stories of detention, separation. ICE snatches 25-year Minnesota resident from his family in harrowing video. A Father and Son Were Finally Reunited. Later that Day, the Government Ripped Them Apart Again. ‘Why Did You Leave Me?’ The Migrant Children Left Behind as Parents Are Deported. They were warned. It’s happening here. Don’t doubt it for a second. The Number Of Parents Who Were Deported Without Their Children Keeps Growing. Separated Parents Were “Totally Unaware” They Had Waived Their Right To Be Reunified With Their Children. Baby took first steps, spoke first words while in US custody: report. Florida Cops Ship 24-Year-Old Mom to ICE After She Paid Traffic Ticket. This Immigrant Returned To Her Dangerous Home Country — Where She’d Been Raped — After Having A Miscarriage In A US Detention Center. A mother and her son turned up for a domestic-violence case. Then ICE arrested them. A Philadelphia immigration judge was removed from a high-profile case and replaced with a judge who would order the man in the case immediately deported, a move that smacks of judicial interference by the Trump administration, according to a letter signed by a group of retired judges this week. From Crib To Court: Trump Administration Summons Immigrant Infants. Activist judges up to their old tricks. ICE Raids in New York. Philadelphia won’t share information with ICE in big win for activists. Pizza Delivery Man Pablo Villavicencio Freed From Immigration Detention. Protests and petitions call on universities to end their contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Swedish student stops deportation of Afghan man with protest streamed on Facebook.

The Trump administration is bullying trans kids, and it’s up to us to stop it. Transgender women say the US government is revoking their passports. Documenting the Trans Generation: Kids, Families and the Fight for Rights.

Q is a massively successful, deranged conspiracy/entertainment brand/game with roots in prior vile conspiracies like Pizza- and Gamergate. And many Trump supporters LOVE it. Flashback: What Is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained.

* I’m stuck in Guantanamo. The world has forgotten me.

* They still haven’t fixed the water in Flint.

* Scenes from the class war in New York City, NYDN edition.

MSNBC has done 455 Stormy Daniels segments in the last year — but none on U.S. war in Yemen.

Brett Kavanaugh’s Legal Opinions Show He’d Give Donald Trump Unprecedented New Powers. Brett Kavanaugh Thinks Undocumented Workers Aren’t Really Employees Under The Law.

The over-under on the Supreme Court’s liberal minority cohort all continuing to draw breath is about five years.

Imagine being a Democratic senator & actually telling yourself you are “playing the long game” by not doing everything you can to stop a lifetime Supreme Court appointment that will shift the entire American judicial system for the rest of everyone’s lives.

* Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?

* Undaunted Democratic Centrists Ready to Fight Trump and Bernie at Same Time.

The Expressive Function of the Russia Freakout.

* Gasp! Portugal Dared to Cast Aside Austerity. It’s Having a Major Revival.

* Gasp! A New Zealand company that tried 4-day workweeks says people were more creative, more punctual, and more energetic — and they want to keep it going.

* Quiet Skies: Air Marshals are following thousands of random Americans through airports and on planes, for no articulatable purpose.

* Unidentifiable fossils: palaeontological problematica.

* The world’s first trillionaire may be an asteroid miner.

* Science fiction design after cyberpunk.

In all these cases we see a de-saturated view of the world, no longer neon on black, just a pall gray. Gone is the “Coolness” of Cyberpunk, now replaced by the “coolness” of a color palate that ranges from a flat blue to an olive drab with only slightly less than 50 shades of gray in between.

The Architecture of Evil: Dystopian Megacorps in Speculative Fiction Films.

* Sure, 1,000,000% inflation sounds bad.

* Understanding “Kokomo.”

Why ‘Sorry to Bother You’ Is 2018’s Sharpest Political Satire. “Crazy” Anticapitalism.

* The fracking of America.

In 2016, China imported two-thirds of the world’s plastic waste. So when China stopped buying the world’s discarded plastics, it threw markets into turmoil. Meanwhile: The Dirty Truth Is Your Recycling May Actually Go to Landfills.

The Hidden Environmental Cost of Amazon Prime’s Free, Fast Shipping.

The Carr Fire Is Officially One of the 10 Worst Wildfires in California History. California is burning (again). The common thread in California’s wildfires: heat like the state has never seen. If you want a vision of the future. If you want a vision of the future. If you want a vision of the future. How Did the End of the World Become Old News? It’s a big problem.

Climate change is supercharging a hot and dangerous summer. Arctic Circle wildfires rage on as blistering heat takes hold of northern Europe. Crop failure and bankruptcy threaten farmers as drought grips Europe. Scandinavia Is on Fire. In Greece, Wildfires Kill Dozens, Driving Some Into the Sea. Dozens Dead in Japan. Climate change means bigger Arctic spiders — but don’t worry, that could be a good thing.

* I suppose there’s just no one to blame.

Cows, trees, corn, and golf – how America uses its land.

* In America, land votes. More election maps! Emails show Michigan GOP bragged about cramming ‘Dem garbage’ into gerrymandered districts. Why the argument for democracy is now working for socialists rather than against them.

* The Hacking of America.

“Cooking Them to Death”: The Lethal Toll of Hot Prisons.

We’re Living a Constitutional Crisis. And despite this, there’s no way out.

* Libertarianism and white supremacy.

“I’m No Donna Reed”: Postfeminist Rhetoric in Christian At-Home Daughterhood Texts.

It’s hard realizing that you’re the bad guy, because then you have to do something about it. That’s why the most aggressive players on the gory stage of political melodrama act in such bad faith, hanging on to their own sense of persecution, mouthing the plagiarized playbook of an oppression they don’t comprehend because they don’t care to. These people have a way of fumbling through their self-set roles till the bloody final act, but if we can flip the script, we might yet stop the show.

Uber and Lyft Are Overwhelming Urban Streets, and Cities Need to Act Fast. Pave Over the Subway? Cities Face Tough Bets on Driverless Cars. Yes, the scooters are fun, but.

Mortgage, Groupon and card debt: how the bottom half bolsters U.S. economy.

EPA staff worried about toxic chemical exposure — for Pruitt.

NJ governor bought a women’s soccer team to inspire his daughter, but ran it into the ground.

There’s a New Scholarly Take on Mizzou’s Race Crisis, and Its Former Leaders Don’t Fare Well.

A case involving professors at Plymouth State U raises questions about when it’s OK to speak up for colleagues or students accused of sexual misconduct, if ever. In this case, professors defended former student who admitted to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old. The description honestly doesn’t do it justice; these letters of support are completely eye-popping under the circumstances.

* Number of patients suing USC over sex abuse claims tops 300 as faculty push for Nikias’ exit.

* Ex-Trump staffers should not get plum jobs at elite universities.

* Is Elizabeth Warren Running for President?

* How a Swiss Army Knife is made.

* The latest in the stadium scam.

What would motivate a company to give away 52,000 tablet computers for free? Can you crack this case, gumshoe?

* Bet it’s still a bit long.

A new report finds that big companies could have given their workers thousands of dollars’ worth of raises with the money they spent on their own shares. Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy?

* Let the computers be the doctors, they said.

* You don’t know me, computer!

* They’re real good at memes though.

* The anarchist roots of writing.

* Today in Sheriff Clarke news.

* Truly the Devil can quote Scripture for his purposes.

She Gave Millions to Artists Without Credit. Until Now.

* The Bayeux Tapestry with knobs on: what do the tapestry’s 93 penises tell us?

Game Studio With No Bosses Pays Everyone The Same.

* WorldCon is crisis (again).

* Twilight of James Gunn.

Conservative Think Tank Says Medicare For All Would Save $2 Trillion.

* Angelo Secchi, the Jesuit father of astrophysics.

* Wariness and wonder at a conference devoted to “Ancient Aliens.”

Conversation is impossible if one side refuses to acknowledge the basic premise that facts are facts. This is why engaging deniers in such an effort means having already lost. And it is why AskHistorians, where I am one of the volunteer moderators, takes a strict stance on Holocaust denial: We ban it immediately.

Locke & Key Has Been Ordered To Series. Flight of the Conchords is coming back. Disney’s Next Heroine Will Be an African Princess. Carrie Fisher Will Appear in Star Wars: Episode IX Via Unused Footage.  Shazam looks 90s-cable-level bad, though maybe I’ve just been persuaded that the character is irredeemable. In the First Trailer for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, the U.S.S. Enterprise Boldly Arrives. And they’re making a Parable of the Sower graphic adaptation.

Inside J.R.R. Tolkien’s Notebooks, a Glimpse of the Master Philologist at Work.

* Uneven, but finding its voice: @moviegoofs.

* A People’s History of the Greatest Music Video of All Time, Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.

The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News.

* A reporter went undercover as a Facebook moderator and was trained not to delete certain racist memes and images of child abuse.

* When factchecking backfires.

* History in an Age of Fake News.

* When a stranger decides to destroy your life.

* Orwell knew.

We must not just ask what a contemporary slave rebellion would look like—we must be on its side.

* A biological intelligence, a machine intelligence, and a god intelligence walk into a bar. Ethics and the self-driving car. Heaven. Can I interest you in a happy ending? From hell’s heart I stab at thee.

* And you may ask yourself.

We’ll probably never know what really makes people happy.

Every Circle In This Image Is The Same Color And It’s Breaking Our Brains.

* Mr. Rogers was my actual neighbor. He was everything he was on TV and more.

* Behold, the thagomizer.

Dungeons & Dragons is having its best year ever, Hasbro CEO says.

* Great thread about New York City’s grid layout, with a great punchline.

Did… did a cat write this?

* The new astrology.

* And the guy who slated classic Star Trek takes was unfazed by the whole thing. It’s a living…

Written by gerrycanavan

August 1, 2018 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Tolkien, THE FORCE AWAKENS, and the Sadness of Expanded Universes

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(some spoilers near the end of the post, though I try to be vague)

Not long after completing The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien briefly began work on a sequel called The New Shadow, set 100 to 150 years later during the reign of Aragorn’s son Eldarion. (The main link between the two stories is the minor character Beregond, the noble but disgraced soldier of Gondor whose son, Borlas, would have been a major character in The New Shadow.) The New Shadow reveals that the eucatastrophic fairy-tale ending of The Return of the King was extremely short-lived; with the Elves and the Wizards gone from Middle-earth, the Dwarves moving underground, and the Hobbits now isolated in what amounts to an enclave in the Shire, Men are quickly falling back into their old bad habits. In fact the Men of Gondor already seem to have forgotten much of the details of the War of the Ring, even though it remains in living memory: they seem not to remember, or take seriously, the fact that they once strode with gods and angels in a war against pure evil, and were victorious. Instead, children play at being Orcs for fun; the death of Elessar has been an occasion for political striving and reactionary plots; and even something like a secret death cult of devil-worshipping rebels seems to be spreading through the elites of Gondor.

Tolkien wrote 13 pages of it.

He later wrote:

I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall, but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless — while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors — like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going around doing damage. I could have written a ‘thriller’ about the plot and its discovery and overthrow — but it would have been just that. Not worth doing.

Instead, Tolkien turned his attention back to the imaginative project that had more or less defined his life: The Silmarillion, begun between 1914 and 1917, which he tinkered with on and off until his death in 1973. The Silmarillion has always marked, I think, the grey line between being a casual Tolkien fan and becoming a Tolkien enthusiast — a path that then leads one even further into Christopher Tolkien’s twelve-volume History of Middle-Earth and the discovery of Tolkien’s own very elaborate (and somewhat fannish) self-commentary on his legendarium alongside many multiple alternate drafts of the narratives that form the barely glimpsed mythological background of The Lord of the Rings. 

The Silmarillion is nominally a prequel — ostensibly it is the Elvish legends that Bilbo translated and appended to the Red Book while he was retired in Rivendell — but the published version of the book includes a two-page summary of the War of the Ring that culminates in a brief, New-Shadow-style glimpse past Aragorn’s reign. We are reminded of the sapling of the White Tree that Aragorn and Gandalf find in the mountains near Gondor, which Aragorn plants in Minas Tirith as a symbol of his reign, and told that “while it still grew there the Elder Days were not wholly forgotten in the hearts of the Kings.” While it still grew there — which is to say, it doesn’t grow there anymore.

I don’t know that I would call this material “sinister,” but I taught The Silmarillion this semester after having tried and failed to read it as a child, and I think it would certainly be fair to call it “depressing.” What looks, in The Lord of the Rings, like a fairy-tale about how good and decent folk are able to do the impossible and defeat evil (with just a little bit of help from the divine, here and there) becomes in The Silmarillion and The New Shadow and Tolkien’s pseudo-theological commentary only the briefest, most temporary respite from a nightmare history in which things always turn out wrong, millennia after millennia after millennia. In fact Arda, the planet on which the continent of Middle-earth rests, is a cursed and fallen place, infused with evil and wickedness at its material core, and the only thing to do is raze the place and start over, as Eru Ilúvatar will at long last at the very end of time. To study Tolkien beyond Lord of the Rings is to come to a keen understanding of how tragic this history actually is, how Return of the King looks like a happy ending mostly because that’s where Tolkien (quite deliberately and self-consciously) decided to stop writing. But the Fourth Age was no better than the Third, and likely quite worse, and on and on through the degenerative millennia that bring us to the end of the Sixth Age and the beginning of the Seventh with the fall of the Third Reich and the development of the atom bomb.

I’ve been thinking about The New Shadow since it became clear that The Force Awakens would be borrowing from the Expanded Universe the notion that the Battle of Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi did not mark a full or permanent victory for the Rebel Alliance. The Force Awakens is The New Shadow, sinister and depressing, except they decided to go ahead and do it anyway. I joked in the link post earlier this morning that you can tell who read the EU novels and who didn’t based on whether your reaction to The Force Awakens is sadness — but the events of The Force Awakens, as sad as they are, are really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how horribly Luke, Leia, and Han are punished in the EU novels, over and over, as everything they attempt to build turns to ash and the galaxy repeatedly falls into chaos, war, and catastrophe. In the farthest reaches of the EU universe, the Star Wars Legacy comics, set around 140 years or so after the Battle of Yavin, Luke’s descendent Cade Skywalker wanders a Galaxy that is again in war, as it always is, with a resurgent Empire again ruled by Sith masters — and when one casts oneself into the mists of time in the other direction (in material like the Knights of the Old Republic games, set thousands of years before A New Hope) one finds more or less the same basic story of genocidal total war playing out there too. Star Wars has always been, in the EU at least, a universe more or less without hope, that only looked hopeful to casual fans because they were looking too closely at just a very slender part of it.

This is why, while I can certainly understand the impulse to complain about The Force Awakens as derivative, I really think this is more repetition with a difference than mere or base or stupid repetition. One Death Star is a horror; two Death Stars and one Starkiller Base and whatever horrific murder innovation the First Order will come up with for Episode 9 is something more like the inexorable logic of history, grinding us all to dust. Likewise, it’s true that The Force Awakens hits many of the same story beats as the Original Trilogy, but almost always in ways that are worse: the death of Obi-Wan was sad but mysterious, suggestive of a world beyond death which the Jedi could access, while the death of The Force Awakens‘s version of Obi-Wan is not only brutally material but visceral, and permanent, as far as we have any reason to believe right now. The loss of Alderaan is sad, but the loss of what appears to be the entire institutional apparatus of the resurgent Republic is unthinkably devastating; aside from the loss of life it would take decades for the Galaxy to recover from such an event, even if they weren’t having to fight off the First Order while doing it. The film is extremely vague about the relationship between the Republic and “the Resistance,” but it appears to be a proxy guerrilla war against the First Order fought inside their own territory, secretly funded by the Republic — and prosecuted by Leia, Akbar, Nien Nunb, and all our heroes from the first movies, whose lives are now revealed as permanently deformed by a forever war they can never put down or escape. (If you want to ask me where Lando is, I think he said “good enough” after Endor and walked away, and that sort of makes me hope they never find him, never drag him back into it.) It’s horrible to lose a parent to addiction, or to mental illness, or to ordinary everyday cruelty, however you want to allegorize Vader’s betrayal of his children — but how much worse would it be to lose a child to it, how much worse would such a thing taint every aspect of your life and poison all your joy.

That Star Wars implies a world of sorrow belied by the spectacle of Jedi‘s happy ending isn’t a surprise to me — I told you, I read the EU books — but I can see why it’s a surprise to someone whose last memory of these people is smiles, a fireworks display, hugs, and a picnic. Return of the Jedi never asked us what we thought would happen when those people woke up the next morning and the Empire still had 90% of its guns, ships, territory, generals, and soldiers, ready to descend into vicious, scorched-earth fanaticism as they slid into defeat; it just wasn’t that kind of story. The Force Awakens is that kind of story, and I find that interesting enough to be excited about 8 and 9, to see where they try to take this story now that it turns out fairy-tales aren’t real and that deeply entrenched totalitarian systems don’t have exhaust ports, trench runs, or single points of failure. So I think the emerging critical consensus that The Force Awakens infantilizes its audience by re-presenting us with the same images we all saw as children is actually deeply wrong: The Force Awakens condemns Luke, Leia, and Han to actually live inside history, rather than transcend it, and it condemns us too.

ABC Is The One ABC Has Been Waiting For

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Written by gerrycanavan

March 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Saturday Links

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…a few lifted from zunguzungu’s increasingly misnamed Sunday Reading.

The Daily crunches the numbers on rising university tuition costs and finds that, if they keep growing at the same rate they have for the past three decades, a four-year degree at a private institution will cost $274,684 by the time a baby born this year is ready to enroll, in 2031. At the top 10 most expensive, private universities, one year of tuition would come with a $110,432 price tag.

The Court Case That Almost Made It Illegal to Tape TV Shows.

* Hullaboo has a long post with links on recent evidence that the removal of led from home environments is responsible for today’s diminished murder rate.

* Evidence from the University of Vermont that English has a bias towards positivity.

* The original Star Wars‘ budget breakdown.

* And Cracked has your 6 Horrible Aftermaths Implied By Movies With Happy Endings. Of course the Endor Holocaust clocks in at #1…