Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘His Dark Materials

Thursday Links!

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Over the past decade numerous stories have come out about Soviet and American military personnel who were given orders to fire nuclear weapons between the 1960s and 1980s. Their conscience stopped them, only to learn later that it was a mistaken order. We now have another horrifying story to add to that growing list of possible post-apocalyptic futures.

Former Air Force airman John Bordne is now an elderly man. But in the early morning hours of October 28, 1962 he and his fellow airmen nearly launched their nuclear weapons during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Air Force has only now given Bordne permission to tell his story of how America nearly started World War III.

* Time travel short film of the day: “Therefore I Am.”

Kurt Vonnegut’s Electric Literature.

* Stored grain can’t melt steel beams.

* NASA is taking astronaut applications.

* The BBC will adapt His Dark Materials.

* Bullets dodged: Aaron Sorkin once pitched a Pixar movie about talking office supplies.

How We Think About Technology (Without Thinking About Politics).

The rating game: How Uber and its peers turned us into horrible bosses.

* Another McKenzie Wark piece on the Anthropocene.

Don’t believe the Democratic Party is in crisis? Then read this tweet. How badly has the Obama era damaged the Democratic party?

The book includes diary entries about the tensions between Mrs. Bush and Nancy Reagan (“Nancy does not like Barbara”) and his private comments about Michael S. Dukakis, his 1988 opponent (“midget nerd”). It reports that as defense secretary for the elder Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney commissioned a study of how many tactical nuclear weapons would be needed to take out an Iraqi Republican Guard division, if necessary. (The answer: 17.)

* Meanwhile, back at the ranch: The Most Militarized Universities in America.

* These teams earned the most from “paid patriotism.”

Prose and poetry—all art, music, dance—rise from and move with the profound rhythms of our body, our being, and the body and being of the world. Physicists read the universe as a great range of vibrations, of rhythms. Art follows and expresses those rhythms. Once we get the beat, the right beat, our ideas and our words dance to it—the round dance that everybody can join. And then I am thou, and the barriers are down. For a while. Ursula K. Le Guin, y’all.

Students suspended or expelled over allegations of sexual assault rarely succeed in lawsuits against the institutions that punished them. That’s starting to change.

* Ada #8: Gender, Globalization, and the Digital.

* “What’s your secret?” ““Oh, we just kick out the bad ones.”

* Elmo looks into the Ark of the Covenant.

 

* And Meet Dakotaraptor: the feathered dinosaur that was ‘utterly lethal.’ Cutie!

dakotaraptor

More Sick Baby Day Links

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* Ladies and gentlemen, the very worst “Should I Go to Grad School” piece ever written.

Samuel Delany and Wonder Woman.

* Letter from a Chinese labor camp?

* Quentin Tarantino’s next?

I don’t know exactly when I’m going to do it, but there’s something about this that would suggest a trilogy.  [The next part would follow] a bunch of black troops, and they had been f–ked over by the American military and kind of go apeshit… [The] black troops… kill a bunch of white soldiers and white officers on a military base and are just making a warpath to Switzerland.

* Philip Pullman will continue the His Dark Materials series.

* The headline reads, “Physicians in China treat addictions by destroying the brain’s pleasure center.”

* The cold hard facts of freezing to death.

Presenting the Royal Mail’s Doctor Who stamps.

* Why is Congress so terrible? Nate Silver says it was gerrymandering that done it.

* And just one piece from the latest JacobinThe Soul of Student Debt.

Tuesday Morning Links

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Tuesday morning links.

* If movie posters were honest. See also: if covers of marginal SF/fantasy series were honest.

* Who knew full moons had names? Via G-Lens.

* Is California the new Michigan?

* Tough times in the USA: people are eating racoon. This has nothing to do with the recession, apparently—some people are just choosing to eat it because they are gross.

* Potsdam University is offering a graduate how-to course on flirting for computer geeks.

* Arm-Chair Logic has your elementary logic test for the day.

* Solar apocalypse: NASA warns of ‘Space Katrina.’ My production company has already optioned the rights to this headline, don’t even think about it.

* Harper’s Index: Bush retrospective mega-edition.

* A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem. That’s right: online sexual predators have infiltrated top-level attorneys general offices in 49 states. We must redouble our efforts.

* And Whedonesque asks, appropriately forlorn: Has it really been five years since Angel ended? That is a little hard to believe. The Armchair Critic ranks the twenty-five best episodes, and the five worst, of one of the best (and surely the most underappreciated) SF series of all time.

His Dark Materials and the Negation of the Negation

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moreintelligentlife.com has a mildly slavish interview with fantasist-of-the-moment (and notorious atheist!) Philip Pullman that’s worth reading if you’re interested in either children’s literature or religious controversy. Here’s a bit where he rags on Lewis and Tolkien:

Several times Pullman reminds me that a work of fiction is not an argument. Perhaps it’s safest to say that in “His Dark Materials” he has constructed his own imaginative world so as not to submit to anyone else’s. He likes to quote William Blake’s line: “I must create a system, or be enslav’d by another man’s.” His story is a rival to the narratives put forward by two earlier Oxford writers, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Pullman loathes the way the children in Narnia are killed in a car-crash. “I dislike his Narnia books because of the solution he offers to the great questions of human life: is there a God, what is the purpose, all that stuff, which he really does engage with pretty deeply, unlike Tolkien who doesn’t touch it at all. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is essentially trivial. Narnia is essentially serious, though I don’t like the answer Lewis comes up with. If I was doing it at all, I was arguing with Narnia. Tolkien is not worth arguing with.”

1) It’s a train wreck, not a car crash, though this was probably the interviewer’s error and not Pullman’s. (The Problem of Susan is worth footnoting here as well.)

2) This is a strange thing that seems to happen to a lot of atheists and agnostics, and I say that certainly having recognized the impulse in myself at times as well. Rather than exiling religious and metaphysical questions to the margins, as you might expect, the recognition of the non-existence of God has the exact opposite effect: the question of God becomes the only one worth asking and the only thing worth talking about. Hence the ludicrous claim that Tolkien is “essentially trivial” because Lord of the Rings is neither a theistic nor atheistic polemic.

I don’t quite know what to make of this, but it’s very interesting. Clearly, Pullmanistic atheism has mastered the negation, but just as clearly it needs to find some way to move forward into the negation of the negation. I think that’s what actually existing atheism would have to be, rather than the cancerous anti-theism that so thoroughly dominates the category today.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 8, 2007 at 7:45 pm

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Philip Pullman, whose Dark Materials trilogy I started once a few years ago but never got around to finishing, is working on a sequel that will elaborate on his conception of atheism:

“This is a big subject and I’m writing a big, big book in order to deal precisely with that question,” he tells the magazine. “I don’t want to anticipate it too much by switching a light on the answer now. The interesting – the curious – question is, if people can be helped by something that is palpably not true, is this better than denying the thing that is not true and not being helped?”

As you can see, Pullman has developed more than a little bit of Dawkinsesque condescension when he speaks now about religion, and the question he thinks is interesting and curious is actually neither interesting nor curious—but whatever else you’ve got to say about Pullman you’ve got to give the guy credit for writing a children’s series that ends with God being unmasked as a monstrous, immoral fraud. That’s guts.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 1, 2007 at 8:15 pm

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