Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Harlan Ellison

Saturday Morning Post-SFRA Links! All! Tabs! Closed!

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* SFRA is over, but ICFA season has only just begun! The theme for ICFA 2019 is “Politics and Conflicts” and the special guests are Mark Bould and G. Willow Wilson.

* And keep saving your pennies for SFRA 19 in Hawaii! Stay tuned for more information soon.

* Ben Robertson put up his SFRA talk on the MCU and abstraction as well as his opening statement for the Avengers vs. Jedi roundtable (which coined the already ubiquitous term “naustalgia”). My opening statement was this image, more or less…

* Other piping hot SFRA content at #SFRA18! It was a great conference.

The Economics of Science Fiction.

* A book I’m in won a Locus Award: Check out Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler! Congratulations to Alexandra and Mimi.

* Black Women and the Science Fiction Genre: an interview with Octavia E. Butler from 1986.

* CFP: TechnoLogics: Power and Resistance. CFP: Childhoods of Color.

The early career academic: learning to say no.

The Humanities as We Know Them Are Doomed. Now What? Jobs Will Save the Humanities.

* Revised Course Evaluation Questions.

Essentially total victory for John McAdams over Marquette at the WI Supreme Court. I don’t talk about “Marquette stuff” on here because of the slippery nature of my status as an agent of the university, but noted for history. More here. Marquette “agrees to comply” but doesn’t concede wrongdoing.

“The undisputed facts show that the university breached its contract with Dr. McAdams when it suspended him for engaging in activity protected by the contract’s guarantee of academic freedom,” states the ruling, written by Justice Daniel Kelly.

Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the Soviet Union. So good.

Since it isn’t, a simple question arises: where’s all the fucking money? Piketty’s student Gabriel Zucman wrote a powerful book, The Hidden Wealth of Nations (2015), which supplies the answer: it’s hidden by rich people in tax havens. According to calculations that Zucman himself says are conservative, the missing money amounts to $8.7 trillion, a significant fraction of all planetary wealth. It is as if, when it comes to the question of paying their taxes, the rich have seceded from the rest of humanity.

* If Elon Musk can save the trapped Thai soccer team though I’ll definitely forgive him for everything else, for at least a couple weeks. In the meantime… 

* Trump’s ethnic cleansing operation is blowing past boundaries that would have been considered utterly sacrosanct only a few years ago. The Trump administration just admitted it doesn’t know how many kids are still separated from their parents. “In hundreds of cases, Customs agents deleted the initial records in which parents and children were listed together as a family with a “family identification number,” according to two officials at the Department of Homeland Security.” The teenager told police all about his gang, MS-13. In return, he was slated for deportation and marked for death. Toddlers representing themselves in court. USCIS is Starting a Denaturalization Task Force. Trump’s Travel Ban Has Torn Apart Hundreds of Families. Trump’s catch-and-detain policy snares many who have long called U.S. home. At 9 He Lost His Mom to Gang Violence. At 12 He Lost His Dad to Trump’s Immigration Policies. After being released from custody in El Paso on Sunday, the parents have now learned the whereabouts of their children, a shelter director said. But there are more hurdles before they’re reunited. Lawful permanent resident freed nearly three weeks after arrest. Sick Child Couldn’t Walk After U.S. Took Him From His Mom. Painful memories of Michigan for immigrant girl, 7, reunited with mom. The Awful Plight of Parents Deported Without Their Children. From behind bars, a father searches for one of the 2,000 kids still separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Dad, I’m Never Going to See You Again. Feds failing to put migrant parents in touch with separated kids. Former Seattle Chief Counsel sentenced to 4 years in prison for wire fraud, aggravated identity theft scheme. “At night, Andriy sometimes wakes up screaming in the bunk bed he shares with his mother and baby brother.” “My Whole Heart Is There.” “My son is not the same.” “Are You Alone Now?” There was a pilot program. Transport Fees. A Migrant Mother Had to Pay $576.20 to Be Reunited With Her 7-Year-Old Son. Letters from the Disappeared. Listen. Border Agent Threatened to Put Immigrant’s Daughter Up for Adoption, ACLU Says. A New Border Crisis. Separated Parents Are Failing Asylum Screenings Because They’re So Heartbroken. A Twitter Bot Has Joined the Immigration Battle to Fight ICE With Facts. A Twitter Bot Is Posting the Names and Locations of Immigrant Detention Centers Across the U.S. Over the course of three weeks, a major U.S. defense contractor detained dozens of immigrant children inside a vacant Phoenix office building with no kitchen and only a few toilets. The Immigrant Children’s Shelters Near You. Supreme Court just wrote a presumption of white racial innocence into the Constitution. The Trump administration is not answering basic questions about separation of migrant families. Immigration Attorney Says ICE Broke Her Foot, Locked Her Up. This is what Trump and ICE are doing to parents and their children. A practice so cruel that the United States ended it for a quarter-century. It’s only going to get worse. Torn apart. Don’t you know that we hate you people? (Only) 17 states sue Trump administration over family separations. News outlets join forces to track down children separated from their parents by the U.S. We might not even have ever known. New 1,000-Bed ICE Lockup Set to Open on Site of Notorious ‘Tent City’ in South Texas. Potemkin camps. Research suggests that the family of Anne Frank attempted to escape to the U.S., but their efforts were thwarted by America’s restrictive immigration policy. Exclusive: Trump administration plan would bar people who enter illegally from getting asylum. We’re Going to Abolish ICE. Woman Climbs Statue of Liberty to Protest Family Separations, Island Shut Down. How to Abolish ICE. And just for fun: ICE Training Officers in Military-Grade Weapons, Chemical Agents. Dogsitting.

The Central American Child Refugee Crisis: Made in U.S.A.

I’ve Been Reporting on MS-13 for a Year. Here Are the 5 Things Trump Gets Most Wrong.

* I feel pretty confident the buried story here is that Trump blackmailed Anthony Kennedy by threatening to destroy his son’s life; I suppose it’ll all come out during Truth and Reconciliation in the 2040s. Anyway this is just about the final end of America, buckle up.

* Down we go.

* All of American history fits in the life span of only three presidents.

Trump Confidant Floats Crazy RBG-For-Merrick-Garland SCOTUS Swap. I am a huge proponent of this deal but you’ll have to confirm Garland first. You understand.

* How democracy ends.

* There’s no returning to a golden age of American democracy that never existed. Donald Trump, the resistance, and the limits of normcore politics.

* What can we learn from 1968?

* Trump Inauguration Day rioting charges against 200+ people abruptly dropped by U.S.

* A major Republican leader in the House has been accused of facilitating the sexual abuse of huge numbers of children in his previous career as a wrestling coach. No, not him, this is a new guy.

* Clown car.

Farmers in America are killing themselves in staggering numbers.

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Debt to Me.

* In the richest country in all of human history.

* A country of empty storefronts.

* $117,000/year is now considered low income in San Francisco. Class and America.

* How Flint poisoned its people.

* The thing about peace.

* ‘A way of monetizing poor people’: How private equity firms make money offering loans to cash-strapped Americans. With special appearance by Obama Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner!

* Onward to Venezuela!

* Sure, why not.

* Twilight of UW.

* Rosa Parks’s Arrested Warrant.

The Beautiful, Ugly, and Possessive Hearts of Star Wars.

* Every parent’s secret suspicion confirmed: She was worried how a ‘teacher of the year’ treated her 5-year-old son. So she made a secret recording.

Lows of 80 degrees and higher, now commonplace, were once very rare. They occurred just 26 times from 1872 to 1999 or about once every five years. Since 2000, they’ve happened 37 times or twice every year on average. Probably nothing.

It’s So Hot Out, It’s Slowing Down the Speed of Stock Trades.

* Flood insurance is completely broken.

Companies buying back their own shares is the only thing keeping the stock market afloat right now.

* @jack is a collaborator.

* Facebook destroyed online publishing, then quit the business.

The US Left Has Only Four Tendencies.

Students in Detroit Are Suing the State Because They Weren’t Taught to Read.

* Doesn’t seem like a great sign, no.

* A great ideas as long as you know nothing about either writing or computers.

Turns out that’s an easy question to answer, thanks to MIT research affiliate, and longtime-critic of automated scoring, Les Perelman. He’s designed what you might think of as robo-graders’ kryptonite, to expose what he sees as the weakness and absurdity of automated scoring. Called the Babel (“Basic Automatic B.S. Essay Language”) Generator, it works like a computerized Mad Libs, creating essays that make zero sense, but earn top scores from robo-graders.

To demonstrate, he calls up a practice question for the GRE exam that’s graded with the same algorithms that actual tests are. He then enters three words related to the essay prompt into his Babel Generator, which instantly spits back a 500-word wonder, replete with a plethora of obscure multisyllabic synonyms:

“History by mimic has not, and presumably never will be precipitously but blithely ensconced. Society will always encompass imaginativeness; many of scrutinizations but a few for an amanuensis. The perjured imaginativeness lies in the area of theory of knowledge but also the field of literature. Instead of enthralling the analysis, grounds constitutes both a disparaging quip and a diligent explanation.”

“It makes absolutely no sense,” he says, shaking his head. “There is no meaning. It’s not real writing.”

But Perelman promises that won’t matter to the robo-grader. And sure enough, when he submits it to the GRE automated scoring system, it gets a perfect score: 6 out of 6, which according to the GRE, means it “presents a cogent, well-articulated analysis of the issue and conveys meaning skillfully.”

Winners of the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest.

* Pruitt 2024!

* Utter lawlessness.

In 1934, an American professor urged that Jews be civil — to the Nazis.

* California reconsiders felony murder.

* Scholarship for dark times.

William Shatner kicks off July 4th by implying that UW-Madison & Penn should consider firing 2 kid lit professors for disagreeing with him about whether it’s appropriate to note racism in Little House of the Prairie.

* Six decades after being told her mother was dead, she found her — 80 minutes away and 100 years old.

Between 1984 and the mid-1990s, before better HIV drugs effectively rendered her obsolete, Ruth Coker Burks cared for hundreds of dying people, many of them gay men who had been abandoned by their families. She buried more than three dozen of them herself, after their families refused to claim their bodies. For many of those people, she is now the only person who knows the location of their graves.

* How Universities Facilitate Far-Right Groups’ Harassment of Students and Faculty.

* Video games and fatphobia.

* A location scout’s view of California.

* Not all heroes wear capes: How an EPA worker stole $900K by pretending to be a CIA agent.

How Pixar’s Open Sexism Ruined My Dream Job (Guest Column).

* Reality Winner pleads guilty.

* When copyright goes wrong, EU edition.

* Academic minute: Geoengineering.

Anglo-Saxon Studies, Academia and White Supremacy.

* The Millennial Socialists Are Coming. How Ocasio-Cortez Beat the Machine. A Conversation with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Fights the Power. Next: Julia Salazar Is Looking to Land the Next Blow Against the New York Democratic Machine. The socialists are coming! But huge, if true.

The clearest lesson, which holds now as it did then, is that to rearrange international order in an egalitarian way, you need an egalitarian and internationally oriented domestic politics in the richest and most powerful countries. Otherwise, your best-laid plans can be scuttled by something like what happened then—the neoliberal revolt of capital, the crushing of the labor unions, the turn to the construction of the current international regime of relatively free flow of goods, services, and capital, but not people. Today’s nationalist revolts, most notably the catastrophe in the United States, are another body blow to progressive internationalist aspirations. Ironically, they are directed in part against some of the pieties of the neoliberal order—although certainly not in any constructive or progressive direction.

A Subreddit Dedicated to Thanos Is Preparing to Ban Half of Its Users at Random.

* lol

* Hard pass, thanks.

* The UK is committing national suicide to satisfy a laughably illegitimate referendum that never should have happened in the first place and no one is going to stop it.

Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?” The wealthy are plotting to leave us behind.

* If there is hope, it lies with the Juggalos.

* Luke was a Boomer.

It is tragic. I’m not a method actor, but one of the techniques a method actor will use is to try and use real-life experiences to relate to whatever fictional scenario he’s involved in. The only thing I could think of, given the screenplay that I read, was that I was of the Beatles generation—‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘peace and love’.

I thought at that time, when I was a teenager: ‘By the time we get in power, there will be no more war, there will be no racial discrimination, and pot will be legal.’ So I’m one for three. When you think about it, [my generation is] a failure. The world is unquestionably worse now than it was then.

* The first superhero movie is more than 100 years old.

* Rest in peace, Harlan Ellison. Rest in peace, Steve Ditko.

* Anatomy of a superhero.

NASA’s Policies to Protect the Solar System From Contamination Are Out of Date. We’re not going to is the thing.

Space is full of dirty, toxic grease, scientists reveal.

Man suspected of killing 21 co-workers by poisoning their food.

* There could be as many as 7000 tigers living in American backyards.

“When I Was Alive”: William T. Vollmann’s Climate Letter to the Future.

* Remembering Google Reader, five years on.

* Very cool: If you use Gmail, know that “human third parties” are reading your email.

* A classic edition of “our brains don’t work”: that’s because your freaking visual system just lied to you about HOW LONG TIME IS in order to cover up the physical limitations of those chemical camera orbs you have on the front of your face.

* Sports corner! The Warriors Are Making A Mockery Of The NBA Salary Cap. A Literary Lineup for the World Cup. We Timed Every Game. World Cup Stoppage Time Is Wildly Inaccurate. Catching “the world’s most prolific criminal fixer of soccer matches.”

* Physics says that our perception of smoothly flowing time is a cosmic accident. So why do we think the future always comes after the past?

* A Dunbar number for place: At any point in life, people spend their time in 25 places.

* Some monkeys in Panama may have just stumbled into the Stone Age. Don’t do it, guys, it’s not worth the hassle.

I was basically my own editor for 25 years at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And then the publisher decided he didn’t like what he saw.

* Life as a professional dungeon master.

* Naked Japanese hermit forced back into civilization after 29 years on deserted island.

* An Oral History of ASSSSCAT.

* Peyton Reed (director of Ant-Man and the Wasp) remembers writing Back to the Future: The Ride.

* The Roxy, West Hollywood, CA, July 7, 1978.

* Readystolen.

* Someone in the club tonight is stealing my ideas.

* The arc of history is long but seriously they really took their time with this.

* What should we read if we want to be happy?

* And Incredibles 3 looks wild. Don’t miss Old Man Incredible! I’m here for it.

Written by gerrycanavan

July 7, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Tons of Tuesday Links

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Putting Time In Perspective.

Humanities Studies Under Strain Around the Globe, and the New York Times is ON IT.

The Eliminative Turn in Education.

The marketisation of our universities: Economic criteria get precedence over what’s good in human terms.

Black female professor reprimanded for pointing out existence of structural racism to white male students.

* “The Great Stratification” at CHE essentially argues that academia turn into the skid and establish an official multiple-tier levels of instruction, like the hierarchy of care that exists in medicine. I think this misunderstands the nature of medicine; it’s not that medicine has somehow escaped the logic of deprofessionalization so much as it’s simply the last “good career” to do so. Medicine is only starting to see the flexiblization that has already destroyed everybody else.

Most History Ph.D.’s Have Jobs, in Academe and Other Solid Occupations. Lots of hand-waving and dedifferentiation here.

* Meritocracy! Well-Off Children Are Six Times More Likely To Attend Elite Colleges.

* CFP: Feats of Clay: Disability and Graphic Narrative.

* Attacks on Obama over the rough rollout of the ACA hit the president where it hurts: his attempt to replace politics with expert management.

* Los Angeles public schools has a billion dollars for iPads but not teachers, custodians, or librarians.

Fast Food Strikes Will Hit 100 Cities On Thursday.

* On teaching outside your field: The Courage to be Ignorant.

* More Kotsko! The solution to unemployment isn’t better-trained workers: Or, Systemic problems have systemic solutions

Dare to get the federal government off weed.

* Exploited laborers of the liberal media.

All that compiles is not gold.

A Graduate Student Left to ‘Die on the Vine’ Finally Gets Her Day in Court.

Shimizu, a Japanese architectural and engineering firm, has a solution for the climate crisis: Simply build a band of solar panels 400 kilometers (249 miles) wide (pdf) running all the way around the Moon’s 11,000-kilometer (6,835 mile) equator and beam the carbon-free energy back to Earth in the form of microwaves, which are converted into electricity at ground stations. 

* Now Jeff Bezos wants his own robot army. But don’t believe the hype!

Bezos’ neat trick has knocked several real stories about Amazon out of the way. Last week’s Panorama investigation into Amazon’s working and hiring practices, suggesting that the site’s employees had an increased risk of mental illness, is the latest in a long line of pieces about the company’s working conditions – zero-hour contracts, short breaks, and employees’ every move tracked by internal systems. Amazon’s drone debacle also moved discussion of its tax bill – another long-running controversy, sparked by the Guardian’s revelation last year that the company had UK sales of £7bn but paid no UK corporation tax – to the margins. The technology giants – Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al – have have huge direct reach to audiences and customers, the money to hire swarms of PR and communications staff, and a technology press overwhelmingly happy to incredulously print almost every word, rather than to engage in the much harder task of actually holding them to account.

Missed delivery notes of the future. My week as an Amazon insider. A Cyber Monday paean to the unsung hero of consumer capitalism: The Shipping Container.

Harlan Ellison releases his never-produced 1966 Batman episode pitch.

A Map of the United States’ Mythical Lake Monsters.

The bonfire of papers at the end of Empire.

Dozens of commuters missed connections Sunday night when Delta Airlines kicked them off their Gainesville-to-Atlanta flight to accommodate the University of Florida men’s hoops team.

* How (one guy at) Gawker manipulates you.

* The stalker economy.

* Scott Walker’s War on Christmas.

* Writers hate the very idea of symbolism.

* What Steven Moffat Doesn’t Understand About Grief, and Why It’s Killing Doctor Who.

Colleges are teaching economics backwards.

* Hunting witches at UNC.

How to be a feminist (according to stock photography).

To boost concern for the environment, emphasize a long future, not impending doom. Meanwhile, impending doom: Shocking report reveals that 21,286 animal species are under threat of extinction.

* And paging Margaret Atwood: A chimp-pig hybrid origin for humans?

Tuesday Night!

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* This is probably the most American thing that has ever happened: A 70-year-old woman employed by the same court for more than 34 years was fired just nine months before her scheduled retirement, for helping an inmate obtain a DNA test that led to his exoneration.

The System Isn’t Broken, It Was Designed That Way: A Critical Analysis of Historical Racial Disadvantage in the Criminal Justice System.

* A people’s history of Oregon Trail.

Harlan Ellison Isn’t Dead Yet.

* North Carolina Ends Teacher Tenure.

Emissions From North Dakota Flaring (Visible from Space) Equivalent To One Million Cars Per Year.

* If McDonald’s doubled workers’ pay, your Big Mac would cost 68 cents more.

* The Sexy Lamp Test: When the Bechdel Test Is Too Much To Ask.

* Did I do this one already? Grad Students Are Ruining Everything.

Which brings me to the second intersection: Universities are saving a ton of money in this arrangement. Good jobs with health insurance and a decent salary are being replaced by grad students who are desperate to stand out in a competitive marketplace. Our own job descriptions are so vague (if they exist on paper at all) and our employment so tenuous (its common to not know if or how much you’ll get paid from semester to semester) that you can convince us to do just about anything: we’ll work 60, 80, maybe 100 hours a week on things that amount to maybe one line on a CV and another soon-to-be outdated software fluency skill. This is time that could be spent on a second job (if you’re contract lets you even do that) that might supplement your paltry living stipend. A grad student might need the money for all of the supplies and services that she’ll need to buy upfront on her credit card while she waits a few weeks or months for her reimbursement. Or maybe a grad student just needs to buy a new computer, something that every other white-collar corporate job would have waiting for you at your desk. Or $400-worth of books because your cash-strapped library hasn’t procured a recent title in your field since 2007.

* And MetaFilter perfects mansplaining as a bunch of dudes without kids hector poor moms about how to manage their diaper needs. Stay for the breastfeeding hectoring!

A Few More

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Sunday Night Lights

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* The Wrong Side of the Heart: this weekend’s dose of vintage movie poster greatness.

* AskMetaFilter has all the huge-nerd podcasts I crave.

Dr. Metzinger first proposes his thesis: there is no such thing as the self. The subjective sense of being a conscious person – the sense of being a self that is distinct from the body and present in a single, unified reality – is not a separate, coherent brain function but rather the result of many different systems running at the same time. I was telling you people this years ago!

* Four lesser-known members of the Fantastic Four. I’d never even heard of She-Thing.

* Pension war update: “…public employees and their dominance of blue states is going to be the biggest issue in this country for the next several years.”

* Marco Roth vs. the “neuronovel.”

The last dozen years or so have seen the emergence of a new strain within the Anglo-American novel. What has been variously referred to as the novel of consciousness or the psychological or confessional novel—the novel, at any rate, about the workings of a mind—has transformed itself into the neurological novel, wherein the mind becomes the brain. Since 1997, readers have encountered, in rough chronological order, Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love (de Clérambault’s syndrome, complete with an appended case history by a fictional “presiding psychiatrist” and a useful bibliography), Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn (Tourette’s syndrome), Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (autism), Richard Powers’s The Echomaker (facial agnosia, Capgras syndrome), McEwan again with Saturday (Huntington’s disease, as diagnosed by the neurosurgeon protagonist), Atmospheric Disturbances (Capgras syndrome again) by a medical school graduate, Rivka Galchen, and John Wray’s Lowboy (paranoid schizophrenia). And these are just a selection of recently published titles in “literary fiction.” There are also many recent genre novels, mostly thrillers, of amnesia, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder. As young writers in Balzac walk around Paris pitching historical novels with titles like The Archer of Charles IX, in imitation of Walter Scott, today an aspiring novelist might seek his subject matter in a neglected corner or along some new frontier of neurology. 

Via MeFi, which also links to the Jonah Lehrer’s response.

* And what Harlan Ellison makes, the world takes. Also via MeFi.

Cheat Codes Won’t Save Your Soul and Other Tuesday Night Links

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* Via Vu, Buzzflash has the 50 best protest signs of 2009.

* When I first heard about Sketchy Santas, I too was skeptical. But I think you’ll agree the results speak for themselves.

* zunguzungu on the UC crisis.

…the scandal of the administration’s conduct is not the fact that they’re cutting services while raising fees, at least not in and of itself. In bad economic times, some kind of response is necessary. The scandal is that Mark Yudof and the regents are using the crisis of the moment to push forward a plan to privatize the UC system that has long been in the works and is geared to be permanent. And they are doing it by assuming “emergency powers” which allow them to arbitrarily overturn the precedents and policy that would otherwise explicitly prevent them from doing so, everything from caps on the amount that student fees can be raised to the contracts they’ve signed with university employees to the “Master Plan” for higher education that the state of California established fifty years ago. So if we want to talk about “Sacramento,” then let’s do so. But we need, then, to talk about two things: first, how the Republicans that run California through the governor’s mansion have been trying to privatize the state’s public education for a very long time, and, second, how the regents and Mark Yudof have been using the rhetoric of “crisis” to push that agenda through, bit by bit and step by step, replacing the UC’s traditional system of shared governance with a system of top-down corporate management.

* Yet another health care compromise shot down by Senate moderates. (UPDATE: Maybe not?)

* North Carolina’s constitution is clear: politicians who deny the existence of God are barred from holding office. Via MeFi.

* Harlan Ellison v. God.

* Ze v. The War in Afghanistan.

* Fox News v. basic math. More here.

* Over the past decade, oil giant Exxon Mobil has paid millions to organizations and “think tanks” in an attempt to deceive the public about the science behind global climate change. It’s no surprise that those very same organizations are now doing everything in their power to please their benefactor by drawing attention to the so-called “Climategate” scandal involving hacked emails from the University of East Anglia in England.

* Today at the Infrastructurist: How Can the U.S. End Its Oil Dependence for Good?

* Why Republicans Stopped Believing in Climate Change: “The growing skepticism among Republicans, with no matching shift among Democrats, suggests that the changes measured in this poll may be a reaction to having a Democrat in the White House rather than a shift in underlying attitudes toward global warming,” said Keating Holland, CNN polling director.

* Ted Gayer’s testimony to Congress in favor of a carbon tax. Related: Cap and Trade Won’t Work for Climate, It’s a Scam.

* Nuclear explosions since 1945. Kind of related: Maps of Jurassic Park.

Dollhouse, Flashforward, and a Few SF Links

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Dollhouse, Flashforward, and a few SF links.

* Both Dollhouse tonight and Flashforward yesterday were noticeable improvements over a string of weak episodes, but problems persist. On Flashforward, the characters remain essentially interchangeable ciphers, with almost no tension or mystery surrounding their relationships or their individual participation in these events. (This is perhaps the one area where the show really should have cribbed more from Lost.) But the tease that China may have been involved is a nicely paranoid reading of the disastrous consequences of the Flashforward for the Western hemisphere and a clever post-9/11 twist on the novel, which has no such subplot—and the connection of the isolated L.A. office to a larger investigatory framework has been much needed. And the episode was just more fun.

The Sierra episode of Dollhouse was good, but I can’t help feeling as though the show is being quietly retooled yet again; the actions of most of these characters just aren’t commensurate with either half of last season. In particular, most of last season was devoted to a multi-episode arc in which the Dollhouse staff struggled to stop the dolls from “glitching”—but now the exact same glitches are considered perfectly acceptable to everyone involved. Echo is allowed to openly discuss her newfound continuity of memory without consequence or even particular interest from the staff, while Victor and Sierra are apparently now allowed to openly date. What has happened to account for this radical shift in Dollhouse policy? Dr. Saunders’s disappearance and the generally chaotic atmosphere that plagues the Dollhouse week to week should incentivize them to keep a closer eye on the dolls, not give them freer reign.

Likewise, the idea in the episode that the Dollhouse staff had been “misled” about Priya’s situation—a fairly clear attempt to retcon one of the characters’ most heinous crimes—doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny; patients in mental institutions can’t consent to secret medical experimentation (or, for that matter, sex slavery) any more than kidnapped women can. There’s no excusing what’s been done to Priya either way, and that Topher supposedly believed he was somehow “helping” her barely qualifies as a fig leaf. I think I preferred the harder edge of Original Recipe Adelle and Topher 1.0.

Other things rankle, too. The violent final scenes in the Evil Client’s House are well-acted, but the sequence of events makes little sense outside the heat of the moment. What did Priya and Topher think was going to happen, and why were they so utterly unprepared for what obviously would? Topher would have given her a ninja update at the very least.

Seeing so much praise for this episode from critics and the Twittotubes just shows again how badly people want this show to be better than it really is. I’m still enjoying Dollhouse, but abandoning the 2019 arc and failing to sign Amy Acker as a regular are starting to look like fatal flaws for the series. Even an heavily hyped episode that (for once) didn’t focus on Echo doesn’t compare to last season’s stellar second half (1.6-1.11 and 1.13). I hope the upcoming focus on Senator Wyndham-Price and the inevitable introduction of Summer Glau help pick things up.

No new episodes until December, in any event.

Meanwhile:

* Harlan Ellison has won $1 from Paramount Pictures in his suit regarding Star Trek‘s “The City on the Edge of Forever.” In fairness, $1 was all he asked for.

* Christopher Hayes reviews Ralph Nader’s “practical Utopia,” Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!.

* And Gregory Cowles reviews Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City for the New York Times.

Lethem’s Manhattan is an alternate-­reality Manhattan, an exaggerated version where an escaped tiger is rumored to be roaming the Upper East Side and Times readers can opt for a “war-free” edition dominated by fluffy human-­interest ­stories. Instead of terrorist attacks, an enervating gray fog has descended on the financial district and remained there for years, hovering mysteriously. (Mysterious to the novel’s characters, anyway; investigators may want to subpoena DeLillo’s airborne toxic event.) 

Looks good.