Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘hope

1001 Sunday Links

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CcgUqWmUMAAaA31* Penn Gillette on three-card monty and graduate school in the humanities.

Towards a taxonomy of cliches in Space Opera.

“Use Tatooine sparingly” and other rules from the Star Wars style guide. io9 has a few other highlights.

* A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.

Inside Disney’s America, the doomed ’90s project that almost sunk the company.

“The Contemporary” by the numbers.

From a work in progress: Nomic and net.culture.

* Podcasts and disposability.

* Vice science faction: After the Big One.

Alumnae vowed to save Sweet Briar from closing last year. And they did.

* Radical notion: College Presidents Should Come from Academia.

Simon Newman, the college leader whose metaphor about drowning bunnies made him infamous in higher education, announced late Monday that he has resigned, effective immediately, as president of Mount St. Mary’s University. The Mount St. Mary’s Presidency Was a Corporate Test Case. It Failed Miserably..

The only MFA program in the US that focuses on African American literature could close.

UW slips out of top 10 in new public university ranking. Amid rough seas for UW System, wave of challenges hits UWM.

UC Davis chancellor received $420,000 on book publisher’s board. The University of California paid hedge fund managers about $1 billion in fees over the last 12 years, according to a white paper study released by the university system’s largest employee union.

* A Field Test for Identifying Appropriate Sexual Partners in Academia. She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’

* “The GRE is like taking a cancer test that was invented in the 1940s.”

Putting on a “Brave” Face: On Ableism and Appropriation in the Film Industry.

Justice Dept. grants immunity to staffer who set up Clinton email server. What you need to know about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Did Clinton and Petraeus do the same thing? Clinton, on her private server, wrote 104 emails the government says are classified.

* The Libya Gamble: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Push for War & the Making of a Failed State.

Clinton insiders are eager to begin recruiting Republicans turned off by the prospect of Donald Trump to their cause — and the threat of Sanders sticking it out until June makes the general election pivot more difficult. Inside the Clinton Team’s Plan to Defeat Donald Trump. Smart to announce it now!

* But, look, it’s not all Clinton negativity: Hillary Clinton promises to ‘get to the bottom of UFO mystery’ if elected, and ‘maybe send a task force’ to alleged alien prison Area 51.

The Official Head Of The Democratic Party Joins GOP Effort To Protect Payday Lenders. Bernie Versus the Earthquake Industry.

Republican Voters Kind Of Hate All Their Choices. 1927 flashback. Kasich May Have Cut Off Rubio’s Path To The Nomination. Trump gives supporters permission to be violent with protesters: If you hurt them I’ll defend you in court. Researchers have found strong evidence that racism helps the GOP win. ‘Not even my wife knows’: secret Donald Trump voters speak out. Is this a realignment? The rise of American authoritarianism. Awkward.

The car century was a mistake. It’s time to move on.

* 2°C.

* Another piece on the end of Louisiana.

* I don’t know that the Melissa Click case is really the best example here, but there’s every reason to think body cameras will be used to serve police interests, not citizen interests.

Lab tech allegedly faked result in drug case; 7,827 criminal cases now in question.

Georgia Police Chief and Officer Accused of Arresting People on False Charges in Order to Extort Them.

Can a 3-year old represent herself in immigration court? This judge thinks so. Please watch my show Three Year Old Immigration Lawyer next fall on ABC.

Did the Spanish Empire Change Earth’s Climate?

* The Flint Next Time: Fears About Water Supply Grip Village That Made Teflon Products. Flint is in the news, but lead poisoning is even worse in Cleveland.

This Guy Spent Four Years Creating an Imaginary Reddit for 3016.

Sci-Fi Hero Samuel Delany’s Outsider Art.

* Marquette in the news! Oh.

Sweetin’s autobiography begins with a very different two-word phrase. The first line ofUnSweetined, which Sweetin wrote (or rather told in bits to a ghostwriter) in 2009, is “fuck it.” She is referring to her attitude right before smoking meth and doing a plateful of cocaine, the night before she was scheduled to give a speech at Marquette University about her commitment to sobriety (she did give that speech in 2007, and she was high the entire time she was on stage).

* Over at Slate friend of the show Eric “The Red” Hittinger explains clearly and succinctly why rooftop solar power probably won’t ever challenge big utility companies.

When People With Schizophrenia Hear Voices, They’re Really Hearing Their Own Subvocal Speech.

Bob Dylan’s Secret Archive.

This video shows what ancient Rome actually looked like.

Steph Curry Is On Pace To Hit 102 Home Runs.

Mysterious Chimpanzee Behaviour May Be Evidence Of “Sacred” Rituals.

* Here’s a silly thing I watched: “Great Minds with Dan Harmon,” 1, 2.

* Sports corner: Ivy League Considers Banning Tackling During Practice.

* A Believer interview with the great Andy Daly.

A Plagiarism Scandal Is Unfolding In The Crossword World. Professional Bridge Has a Cheating Problem.

The Enigmatic Art of America’s Secret Societies.

Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming.

The astonishment that such things are “still” possible.

The Retirement Crisis Is Getting Truly Scary.

The Fact That None Of The 2016 Presidential Candidates Have A Space Policy Is Tragic.

From the start, in 1967, “Trader Joe” Coulombe devised his “low-priced gourmet-cum-health-food store” with an “unemployed PhD student” in mind as the ideal customer.

Reading from a statement while speaking with analysts, Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby said SeaWorld’s board of directors has “directed management to end the practice in which certain employees posed as animal-welfare activists. This activity was undertaken in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats.”

* The color thesaurus.

What Mars Would Look Like Mapped by Medieval Cartographers.

New York City Is in the Throes of a Häagen-Dazs Heist Epidemic.

Thus, I conclude that in fact, Gygax’s strength scoring system is actually…pretty good! But only good for fighters, in a system like AD&D where we can reasonably assume that all fighter PCs have been training for 10+ years and are genetically super-gifted. However, if you’re Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance Chronicles and are in all probability an underweight untrained or novice lifter of average height, then you are probably looking at a STR score of around 6-7. If you are a woman of my current weight and untrained, you are looking at a STR score of around 3-4. If you’re my current weight and train consistently for a couple of years, you can expect to have a score of around 8-9. Men and/or individuals with higher testosterone levels will have somewhat higher scores, but it is definitely out of the question that a 10-11 can represent an average strength in our society, though it may be in a farmer-dominant society where everyone lifts a lot of hay bales.

Every Bryan Fuller Star Trek episode, ranked.

* Secrets of my success: Narcissistic Students Get Better Grades from Narcissistic Professors.

* The dialectic never stops turning: Hope is reactionary: it cocoons actuality in the gossamer of the tolerable, dulling the thirst for change. Despair is revolutionary: it grinds the knife-edge of the intolerable against the whetstone of actuality, sparking the will to change.

* We are the second best girls.

* 20 Cognitive Biases That Screw Up Your Decisions.

Cognitive-Biases

Written by gerrycanavan

March 6, 2016 at 9:10 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.

Monday! Morning! Links!

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* Jaimee’s lesson on the letter L, “Lo Lee Ta,” is up at Red Paint Hill.

How to prepare your campuses for a queen sacrifice: a handy guide from Connecticut.

From Inside Higher Ed and excellent reporting by Colleen Flaherty, we start with a series of proposals to cut back faculty autonomy and increase administrative power over instructors.  The central, multi-campus administration can fire tenured profs more easily, and also move them to other campuses in the system:

tenured faculty members may be moved to another regional university without their consent, without the guarantee of tenure there. Tenured faculty members could be terminated, not just in cases of financial exigency, as is now the case, but if the administration “believes economic or programmatic conditions exist” for retrenchment. And tenured faculty members also could be fired without the chance to appeal for breaking any local, state or national law, ethical standard or policy statement…

Moreover, “faculty members would have to be ‘professional’ and ‘collegial,’” i.e.,, more easily disciplined. Additionally, a significant union-managed faculty grant program would end, making professors more dependent on the administration.

On Campus, Older Faculty Keep On Keepin’ On. Far out man.

Maryland Debacle Shows Why We Must Get Football Out Of Our Universities.

Cheat-Sheet for a Non (or Less) Colonialist Speculative Design.

The Voice Trap: On the Perils of Authorial Parochialism.

* Disaster citizenship.

Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.

* Profiting from the “cop cloud.” From TNI‘s “Cops 2” issue.

* “It is my conclusion that Officer Loehmann’s use of deadly force falls within the realm of reasonableness under the dictates of the Fourth Amendment.”

* Inspiring.

Inside the Intense, Insular World of AOL Disc Collecting.

See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used to Build Middle-Earth.

* Malicious defamation lawsuit against Mother Jones ends in exoneration, $2.5 million dollar legal bill.

Pretty vacant: the glory of abandoned spaces. Bonus: photos of empty Chinese amusement parks.

There is a long tradition in the West of dancing on the Soviet grave in order to celebrate Western values, and so it comes as no surprise that the focus on Soviet historical artifacts is a focus entirely on the dead and decaying.

* Bring on the climate trials.

* But don’t worry, a bioethics professor at NYU has the solution: stunt child growth to use fewer resources. Got it in one.

* BREAKING: Slavery in America was much worse than you probably imagined.

* Designing the space suit to explore Mars.

* RESPECTFULLY DISAGREE.

Hope Is the Enemy: Caring for a patient suffering from dementia means coming to terms with the frustrating paradoxes of memory and language.

We’re flushing all these antidepressants into our water. How big is the problem?

* From the mammography files.

Masculinity Is an Anxiety Disorder.

Donald Trump Reviews The Lord of the Rings.

* Happy Columbus Day everybody. Here’s your roundup.

* The two Sacagaweas.

* Oh, I don’t know that I’d say that I’m a genius.

* I’ll allow it, but you’re on thin ice: Wes Anderson’s Next Project Is a Stop-Motion Movie About Dogs.

* And the last alphabet you’ll ever need.

Thursday Night Links!

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Being a collection of things I may or may not have forgotten to include in today’s Thursday links.

* Postcolonial Catan. The English version of the piece starts about halfway down the page.

* A defense of Contemporaneanism. Typical tripe from the rearguard forces of retro-Contemporaneanism. Search my blog archives for a definitive rebuttal.

* Athletics forever! New Rutgers report reveals subsidies for athletics are not declining as originally forecasted.

* In short, when institutions invest in pools and climbing walls, they are catering to the needs of their least motivated, and least needy, clients — good for the colleges’ bottom lines but the opposite of society’s priorities. I’d need a lot more evidence even to grant these were “good for the colleges’ bottom lines.”

* The sky was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel, and the clocks were striking thirteen: Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting.

* Dialectics of Obamaism: Campaigners said the Pacific Remote Islands reserve – because of its sheer scale – would cement Obama’s conservation legacy. However, they noted that Obama had dramatically scaled back the reserve following opposition from the commercial tuna industry. I dunno, that seems to cement it pretty well.

Making use of PSID data for 1984, 1989, and 1994, we examine race differences in patterns of asset accumulation. Our results indicate, as expected, that inheritances raise the rate of wealth accumulation of whites relative to that of African Americans. But, while whites devote a greater share of their income to saving, racial differences in saving rates are not significant, once we control for income. Though our results may be period-specific, we also do not find evidence that the rate of return to capital is greater for whites than for African Americans. Simulations suggest that African Americans would have gained significant ground relative to whites during the period if they had inherited similar amounts, saved at the same rate, had comparable income levels and, more speculatively, had portfolios closer in composition to those of whites. And thus.

* All in all it’s a good time to be rich.

* BREAKING: They looted the public pensions but good.

* What we need now, more than ever, are technologies and organizations that are not only equally useful, but also more desirable than the status quo. Too often, leftists engage in a strange kind of doublespeak—on the one hand, we describe an insidious marketing machine that can produce want-product binaries with ruthless efficiency and efficacy, and on the other offer up restricted diets and buggy open source software as alternatives. How do we expect to win the hearts and minds of future generations?

* CCSF Accreditation Case Will Proceed to Trial.

* Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire.

H.P. Lovecraft Stories Retold As Goofy One-Page Comics.

* F.B.I. Confirms a Sharp Rise in Mass Shootings Since 2000.

* I don’t know that the state really needs to fight every case: Pennsylvania Attorney General Blames Woman For Her Own Rape.

* U. of North Texas Took $75-Million Extra From State, Auditor Finds.

* And you think things are bad now: Venture Capitalists Are Poised to ‘Disrupt’ Everything About the Education Market.

* But it’s not all bad news: Bill and Ted live!

Guiltpiercer

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I wanted to Storify my back-and-forth with my friend Aaron Bady (and a few other people, but mostly him) on the question of guilt and complicity in liberal politics, which was prompted by his Texas Stands With Gaza post and ultimately looped around, as all things must, to Snowpiercer.

Aaron is right that I’m using Snowpiercer (along with Pacific Rim, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and some other recent Anthropocene science fictions) in a piece of academic writing I’m working on, so I’ll hold off on doing a full reading of the film here for now. But I think the film actually figures this debate we’re having in a pretty direct way. The people on the train are all “guilty” and “complicit” with the Snowpiercer system, albeit in different ways and to different degrees; like any necropolitical survivor, they are all alive while/because someone else has died. Even on the level of character development, much of the movement of the film is directed towards making Chris Evans’s character Curtis feel as though he is worthy of great things despite the guilt he carries with him; characters frequently say this to him explicitly, even, most notably, the character he once tried to eat as a baby and who he later abandons in the name of the larger mission! In fact this guilt, in properly liberal terms, is indistinguishable from his worthiness to lead, with the final act of the film culminating in Curtis being offered the position of the Wizard of Snowpiercer. The Curtis plot in the film is more or less a familiar liberal drama about coming to terms with your own guilty complicity in the system, a process which as if by baptismal magic thereby makes you worthy to run the whole thing as if you’d never been guilty or complicit in the first place.

Aaron’s reading on the film insists that this is the only trajectory open to us, even as he repeatedly turns to Kang-ho Song’s Namgoong as the voice of alterity, rejecting his plan as nonviable. Namgoong knows the train is a horror and knows the train is doomed by its own entropic breakdown, rejects guilt or complicity as a frame, and instead works to blow open the doors and escape. (And this is the position Curtis ultimately settles into as well, having finally hit an encounter of guilt which he can’t autoredeem his way out of in the form of the children in the engine.) Here then we see one version of the Canavan position: guilt is a way of becoming re-trapped, linked back into the atrocity engine, while refusing to identify with the system and its terms opens up the horizon of the future. Neither Namgoong nor Curtis survive the derailment of the train (“there is hope, infinite hope, but not for us”), but their protégés do, and in the final shot of the film see a live polar bear moving outside the train, indicating that life of some kind persists outside the train and that therefore there is something like hope after all.

Now, Aaron rejects all of this — “it’s too cold out there! they have no skills or supplies! that polar bear will probably just eat them!” — and of course he’s right to do so on the level of cold realism; like most such apocalyptic scenarios, the situation is too far gone to allow any sort of genuine renewal. (I always think of the way the Matrix sequels had to confront this, ultimately having the heroic rebels make a truce with the monsters they were supposed to slay because the world is too far gone to actually free anyone anymore.) But this is where Aaron’s flattening of Jameson’s theory of utopia hurts him a bit — because the kernel of the Jamesonian reading of the film is not to imagine it as a practical alternative to the present so much as to figure the ongoing exist alternative in an era that, at every turn, loudly insists there isn’t one.

For it is the very principle of the radical break as such, its possibility, which is reinforced by the Utopian form, which insists that its radical difference is possible and that a break is necessary. The Utopian form itself is the answer to the universal ideological conviction that no alternative is possible, that there is no alternative to the system. But it asserts this by forcing us to think the break itself, and not by offering a more traditional picture of what things will be like after the break. (Archaeologies 232)

Snowpiercer, it seems to me, is pretty plainly about this effort of the imagination; neither the setup nor the climax is really amenable to any sort of realistic analysis about the practicalities of the situation. It’s preposterous from start to finish. The point of the film is to disrupt our guilty comfort and our comforting guilt about a system we all know is terrible (“those crooked fuckers”) but think we can’t oppose, only picket and sigh about and be more beautiful than (“oh, we guilty sinners, oh this fallen world”). So of course the film is an allegory after all; what it figures isn’t the actual situation of capitalism but the hopeless prospects for people who can’t see any way to stop the train, other than a crash, and who perhaps for that very reason have come to believe they’re the ones who are driving it.

Even More Wednesday Links!

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* Humanities instrumentalism we can believe in: Why do we need the liberal arts? Because it gives us sci-fi.

If the criterion for funding areas of study must be that they add to American wealth and competitiveness, then I’d like to offer my own only half-unserious case for the liberal arts. I propose that they should survive, and thrive, because they give us science fiction, and science fiction creates jobs and makes us rich.

The summit, billed as “Organizing Resistance Against Teach for America and its Role in Privatization,” is being organized by a committee of scholars, parents, activists, and current corps members. Its mission is to challenge the organization’s centrality in the corporate-backed, market-driven, testing-oriented movement in urban education. 

* The Decline of North Carolina.

* The New Yorker profiles Desert Bus, deliberately the worst video game ever made, and the charity that has sprung up around it, Desert Bus for Hope.

* Tenure-track professors on food stamps at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point.

* Gasp! For-profit education investing in Coursera.

Tourism’s real roots do not lie in pilgrimage (or even in «fair» trade), but in war. Rape and pillage were the original forms of tourism, or rather, the first tourists followed directly in the wake of war, like human vultures picking over battlefield carnage for imaginary booty—for images.

Tourism arose as a symptom of an Imperial­ism that was total—economic, political, and spiritual.

Almost every party, gender, income, education, age and income group regards Snowden as a whistle-blower rather than a traitor. The lone exception is black voters, with 43 percent calling him a traitor and 42 percent calling him a whistle-blower. 

Obama’s ‘Insider Threat Program’: A Parody of Liberal Faith in Bureaucrats. If only this program had some historical parallel we could point to to illustrate its potential dangers!

In an initiative aimed at rooting out future leakers and other security violators, President Barack Obama has ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work, according to experts and government documents.

The techniques are a key pillar of the Insider Threat Program, an unprecedented government-wide crackdown under which millions of federal bureaucrats and contractors must watch out for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers. Those who fail to report them could face penalties, including criminal charges.

* After the death of the desktop, the death of the laptop? I am quite fond of my iPad, but I can’t imagine relying on it alone…

Thursday Links!

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Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito Suddenly Realize They Will Be Villains In Oscar-Winning Movie One Day.

Is it too late? The long view offers reason to hope. From Kim Stanley Robinson.

Mourning and Melancholia in the Anthropocene.

U.S. to Retire Most Chimps From Research.

The long road to marriage equality. Adam Kotsko: Marriage and Meritocracy.

In a previous post on this site I announced a plan for the creation of MOOA, or massive, open, online administrations that would supplant the thousands of separate administrations currently managing the affairs of America’s colleges. The MOOA idea was, of course, satire. However, I must report that two educational consultants contacted me to offer their services in bringing my MOOA to the market. Additionally, three separate reporters called to discuss the MOOA concept. When I explained that MOOA was a satire, one asked, “Are you sure?”

What we need instead, I think, is a study of neoliberal bias in the university, particularly since the rhetoric of neoliberalism has now become ubiquitous, the lingua franca of administrators and even many faculty. In the 1990s Bill Readings observed that the new rationale of the university was the amorphous, technocratic one of “excellence,” rather than the traditional ones of disciplinary reason or national culture. The incantation of “excellence” no longer has quite the same currency; the new neoliberal mantra includes the buzzwords “disruption,” “innovation,” and “choice.” Part of their force is that they seem self-evident goods: who would be against innovation or choice? But I think that they sidestep some of the crucial problems of higher education, especially regarding equality. According to all the statistical markers, college is subject to a steeper class divide than it was 40 years ago, and academic jobs show a sharper stratification. This violates the best hope of the American university. What good is innovation if it brings us a more inequitable world? 

* The latest update on Capturing the Friedmans.

* …given what we know from the big picture, I think it’s safe to say that ostensible reason for the long-term collapse in humanities enrollment has to do with the increasing choice of women to enter more pre-professional majors like business, communications, and social work in the aftermath of a) the opening of the workplace and b) universal coeducation suddenly making those degrees relevant. You’d have to be pretty tone-deaf to point to their ability to make that choice as a sign of cultural malaise.

* I used to maniacally play Solitaire Tic-Tac-Toe to keep myself sane in high school. If I’d known about Tic-Tac-Toe2, I might never have graduated.

* And good news everyone! The housing bubble is back!

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