Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘How did we survive the 1980s?

April 15, Year Zero

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It will take something more than a nuclear attack to wipe out taxpayers’ obligations to the Internal Revenue Service.

An addition to the Internal Revenue Manual, which is supposed to guide the conduct of all I.R.S. employees, declares that if the bomb is dropped, ”operations will be concentrated on collecting the taxes which will produce the greater revenue yield.” Via @adam_orbit.

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April 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Wednesday Night Links: The Sequel

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* Repeating myself from Twitter: you should know how great the Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman Sherlock series from the BBC is. How we spent our evening. Great fun.

* The situation at Fukushima continues to worsen: now they’re dropping water from helicopters. The news just gets bleaker and bleaker by the day.

* Understatement of the day: Japan crisis revives global nuclear debate.

* Chris Newfield recaps the UC Regents Committee on Finance.

* Michigan Governor’s Anti-Union Power Grab Is Unconstitutional

* Attempts to recall Democratic legislators in Wisconsin aren’t coming together. I’m sure the Koch brothers will make it happen, but I’m glad it won’t be easy for them.

* Wanna Cut Wasteful Spending? Let’s Start with Abstinence-Only Education.

And once you become willing to take on the philosophical baggage of a multifoliate universe (and aren’t bothered by your countless identical twins), some of the deepest and most vexing problems about physics become easy to understand. All those nonsensical-seeming quantum-mechanical laws—that a particle can be in two places at once, that two objects can have a spooky connection that appears to transcend the laws governing space and time—instantly become explicable the moment you view our universe as one among many. And from Greene’s point of view, the 10⁵⁰⁰ different cosmoses described by string theory have ceased to be an unwanted artifact of the theory’s equations, instead becoming a factual description of universes that actually exist. Each of these universes is a bubble cosmos with its own cosmological constants, and as he says, “with some 10⁵⁰⁰ possibilities awaiting exploration, the consensus is that our universe has a home somewhere in the landscape.” Which is to say, string theory can no longer be accused of describing a landscape of fictional universes; our universe is just one in a collection of cosmoses as real as our own, even if we’re unable to see them. Charles Seife at Bookforum on Brian Greene’s multiversism. Via (where else?) 3 Quarks Daily.

* And MetaFilter remembers creepy moments from ’80s sitcoms.

Cyberpunk at 25

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‘Aging Chrome’: Cyberpunk at 25.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Eschaton

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I enjoyed this post from Matthew Baldwin at Infinite Summer about the somewhat limited appeal of IJ as it relates to Baldwin’s to child-of-the-’80s nuclear nostalgia, especially the footnote on Eschaton and Eschaton-like games. As the recent solo winner of an email game of Diplomacy, I can back this description up:

Diplomacy (board, 5-7 players): The great-grandfather of negotiation games, which numbers among its fans John F. Kennedy’s, Henry Kissinger, and Walter Cronkite. (No joke.). Though set in the early 20th century, the back-stabbing, treachery, and deceit necessary to win Diplomacy are as underhanded as hitting a Kittenplan in the back of the head with a 5-megaton thermonuclear weapon. WARNING: Do not play with anyone you cannot afford to hate forever.

Great game. And of course it goes without saying that my victory was achieved through completely legitimate tactics and was in no way tainted by deceit. Right: The Grand Empire of Gerrytopia.

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July 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm

YouTube Thursday

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YouTube Thursday!

* 1988 Inside Edition report on Super Mario. Don’t miss the cameo appearance by a marginally less evil Bill O’Reilly.

* The Diff’rent Strokes titles recut as a horror sequence.

* Star Wars/MacGyver mashup.

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April 16, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Distractions

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The Internet keeps distracting me.

* This is brazenly dishonest, even by Fox standards.

* When Reagan tried to convert Gorbachev to Christianity. You mean that’s not the job he was elected to do?

* Great news, or greatest news? New Line pursuing a MacGyver movie. The opening to the MacGyver This American Life (free to stream) goes a long way towards explaining his continued appeal seventeen years after the show went off the air.

* David Chase’s Sopranos follow-up has been announced: it’s an epic history of the movie industry beginning in 1913.

* And get your “disrepecting the office” talking points ready: Barack Obama will be the first sitting president to go on The Tonight Show. If only Conan had already taken over…

Missed a Day

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Whoops, missed a day somehow. (Even grad students get busy sometimes.) Here’s a few links I’ve been saving; scroll all the way to the bottom for your daily dose of Watchmen panic.

* One of our most beloved blog denizens has started up a March Madness blog. Add it to your feeds immediately.

* Executing someone on their birthday may seem hilarious, but actually it’s sort of cold. (via Srinivas)

* Same goes for trading your minor-league pitcher for ten bats. Via MeFi.

* All about experimental philosophy.

* The Daily Show’s evisceration of CNBC was amazing last night. Also, incredibly well-deserved.

* Forget man-on-dog: will gay marriage start us down the slippery slope to human/robot marriages? It could happen right here in North Carolina. Only Steve Benen sees where this really leads: man/dog/robot/robot-dog polygamy.

* Two games: Linear RPG and Exploit, the second from amateur-game-creator of the moment, Gregory Weir, (The Majesty of Colors, Bars of Black and White).

* “You have to understand,” he told me, “Iceland is no longer a country. It is a hedge fund.” Vanity Fair has a huge feature on the Icelandic financial collapse that really makes for fascinating reading. More discussion at MetaFilter. (via my dad)

Global financial ambition turned out to have a downside. When their three brand-new global-size banks collapsed, last October, Iceland’s 300,000 citizens found that they bore some kind of responsibility for $100 billion of banking losses—which works out to roughly $330,000 for every Icelandic man, woman, and child. On top of that they had tens of billions of dollars in personal losses from their own bizarre private foreign-currency speculations, and even more from the 85 percent collapse in the Icelandic stock market. The exact dollar amount of Iceland’s financial hole was essentially unknowable, as it depended on the value of the generally stable Icelandic krona, which had also crashed and was removed from the market by the Icelandic government. But it was a lot.

Iceland instantly became the only nation on earth that Americans could point to and say, “Well, at least we didn’t do that.” In the end, Icelanders amassed debts amounting to 850 percent of their G.D.P. (The debt-drowned United States has reached just 350 percent.) As absurdly big and important as Wall Street became in the U.S. economy, it never grew so large that the rest of the population could not, in a pinch, bail it out. Any one of the three Icelandic banks suffered losses too large for the nation to bear; taken together they were so ridiculously out of proportion that, within weeks of the collapse, a third of the population told pollsters that they were considering emigration.

* When will voters start blaming Obama for the economy? Nate Silver has the numbers suggesting that will start in 18 or so months, though I bet that timeline could halve or worse that as people grow frustrated with prolonged economic hardship.

* What Obama could learn from Watchmen: Matt Yglesias reports on Ronald Reagan’s own Ozymandian scheme for global unity.

* And Jacob sends along your hope-crushing Watchmen reviews for the day.

J. Hoberman in Village Voice: The philosopher Iain Thomson (who valiantly brought Heidegger’s Being and Time to bear on his reading of Watchmen) maintained that Moore not only deconstructed the idea of comic book super-heroism but pulverized the very notion of the hero—and the hero-worship that comics traditionally sell. For all its superficial fidelity, Snyder’s movie stands Moore’s novel on its head, trying to reconstruct a conventional blockbuster out of those empty capes and scattered shards.

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: …this kind of reverence kills what it seeks to preserve. The movie is embalmed.

Meanwhile, Steve Benen and Adam Serwer take a stand against Anthony Lane on behalf of geeks everywhere.

‘Monsters, Maniacs, and Moore’

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Monsters, Maniacs, and Moore is a 1987 BBC documentary about “comics messiah” Alan Moore, including a running Q&A sequence in which Moore fields hostile questions from himself. Be sure and stay tuned for the collision of nuclearity, utopia, madness, and apocalypse in Part 4.

One of the things that hangs over everybody is the nuclear issue. For the first time, there is a strong possibility of everybody dying on the same day. And, I think, that it’s not stressing the point too far to say that if every concept you ever loved, if every ideal you ever cherished, every person, every institution, could be completely leveled and wiped away as if it had never been within the next four minutes—then what wouldn’t you do?

When you see the whole world geared up for that sort of act of mass destruction, then a Charles Manson, or a Richard Speck, or a Yorkshire Ripper becomes the merest bumbling out.

It doesn’t even matter whether we ever fire these missiles or not, they are having their effect upon us now, because there are a generation growing up who cannot see beyond the final exclamation mark of a mushroom crowd, there are a generation who can see no moral values that do not end in a crackling crater somewhere.

I’m not saying that nuclear bombs are at the root of all of it—but I think that it’s very very naïve to assume that you can expose the entire population of the world to the threat of being turned to cinders without them starting to act perhaps a little oddly. And during the course of writing [Watchmen] I found myself thinking, if that’s true, if I could be gone, completely gone, within the next two minutes, then I wanted to be very very sure that I felt okay with myself and with the world.

I believe, in some sort of strange fashion, that the presence of the atom bomb might almost be forcing a level of human development that would not have occurred without the presence of the atom bomb. Maybe this degree of terror will force changes in human attitudes that could not have occurred without the presence of these awful, destructive things. Perhaps we are faced with a race between the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in one line and the Seventh Calvary in the other. We have no got an awful lot of mid-ground between Utopia and apocalypse. And if, somehow, our children ever see the day in which it is announced that we do not have these weapons anymore, that we can no longer destroy ourselves and that we have got to come up with something else to do with our time, they will have the right to throw up their arms and let down the streamers and let out a resounding cheer.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

(via Cyn-C)

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September 10, 2008 at 2:31 pm

You’re Gonna Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War

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I now wish to call attention to another form of addiction, which has not been previously identified. It is more like gambling than drinking, since the people afflicted are ravenous for situations that will cause their bodies to release exciting chemicals into their bloodstreams. I am persuaded that there are among us people who are tragically hooked on preparations for war.

Tell people with that disease that war is coming and we have to get ready for it, and for a few minutes there, they will be as happy as a drunk with his martini breakfast or a compulsive gambler with his paycheck bet on the Super Bowl.

The late, great Kurt Vonnegut, writing in The Nation about America’s addiction to war, and more specifically the addiction to preparation for war. Given the date of the issue (December 31, 1983) and the content of the last few paragraphs, it seems to me that he must have written this in response to the invasion of Grenada:

Suppose we had an alcoholic President who still had not hit bottom and whose chief companions were drunks like himself. And suppose it were a fact, made absolutely clear to him, that if he took just one more drink, the whole planet would blow up.

So he has all the liquor thrown out of the White House, including his Aqua-Velva shaving lotion. So late at night he is terribly restless, crazy for a drink but proud of not drinking. So he opens the White House refrigerator, looking for a Tab or a Diet Pepsi, he tells himself. And there, half-hidden by a family-size jar of French’s mustard, is an unopened can of Coors beer.

What do you think he’ll do?

The invasion of Grenada, of course, was undertaken because of the fervent Communist desire to disrupt the world’s supply of nutmeg and thereby ruin Christmas. Or something like that. An imminent threat. You can see we had no choice. Via MeFi.

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February 2, 2008 at 3:04 pm