Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘irony

End of February Mega-Links!

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* I had a little deleted scene on a recent episode of The Gribcast, cut out from the earlier episode I was on where I talked about Parable of the Talents.

* The Cambridge History of Science Fiction made Locus’s Recommended Reading List for 2019. Thanks to all who voted!

* Behold! SFRA Review 50.1!

* CFP: SFRA 2020: Forms of Fabulation. CFP: PopMeC. CFP: Transnational Equivalences and Inequalities. CFP: 20/20 Vision: Speculating in Literature and Film in Canada. CFP: Teaching About Capitalism, War, and Empire. CFP: “The Infrastructure of Emergency.” CFP: Science Fictions, Popular Cultures. CFP: OEB Third Biennial Conference September 11-13, 2020. CFP: ‘Walls and Barriers: Science Fiction in the age of Brexit.’ CFP: Current Research in Speculative Fiction 10th Anniversary Conference (CRSF 2020). CFP: The Digital Futures of Graduate Study in the Humanities. CFP: The Routledge Companion to Gender and Science Fiction. CFP: Write about Bojack Horseman for @AtPost45!

Three Californias, Infinite Futures.

Utopias are like blueprints and novels are like soap operas. What kind of art comes out of that? Sometimes I’ve experienced this as intensely stressful. In the domestic realist tradition of the English novel, what you value is, This is what real life is like. Like Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet—in theory I would aspire to write a novel like that. Yet here I am trying these utopian efforts time after time. So at a certain point along the way I got over it and just regarded it as a literary problem and an opportunity. My books are unusual, but so what? That’s a nice thing to be.

* A Sci-Fi Author’s Boldest Vision of Climate Change: Surviving It.

The New Generation of Self-Created Utopias.

* This is relatable content: Did Tolkien Write The Lord of the Rings Because He Was Avoiding His Academic Work?

* Watch a Haunting Teaser for Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Adaptation of Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men.

Empathy in John Ira Jennings and Damian Duffy’s “Parable of the Sower.”

The Shell Game: From “Get Out” to “Parasite.” Reading Colonialism in “Parasite.” Subtitles Can’t Capture the Full Class Critique in ‘Parasite.’

* All eyes on the Johns Hopkins dashboard. Amid coronavirus scare, US colleges cancel study abroad programs. Covid-19 Will Mark the End of Affluence Politics.

* Bernie and #MUnion. Bernie Sanders’s Multiracial, Working-Class Base Was On Display In Iowa. How Bernie’s Iowa Campaign Organized Immigrant Workers at the Factory Gates. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wows Iowa, Probably Not for the Last Time. The Delegate Math Now Favors Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders leads Donald Trump in polls, even when you remind people he’s a socialist. Bernie Sanders looks electable in surveys — but it could be a mirage. The Seven Stages of Establishment Backlash: Corbyn/Sanders Edition. An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter. The Millennial/Gen-Z Strategy. Bernie Sanders and the climate.

* Wisconsin, Swing State. How Milwaukee Could Decide the Next President.

Heard but Not Seen: Black music in white spaces.

* It worked for me!

* Joanna Russ, The Science Fiction Writer Who Said No.

* What Happened to Science Fiction? Something is broken in our science fiction.

Exploring some of the key tenets of neoliberal American culture, this article examines the historical forces behind the meteoric rise of interactive Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) children’s books in the 1980s.

* The Tulsa Massacre will now be part of the Oklahoma standard curriculum.

The Transformation of Adam Johnson. A shooting happened in his classroom. Could his expertise help him make sense of it?

* Striking UC Santa Cruz Graduate Students Hold Picket Lines After Police Arrest 17. UCSC Grad Students Are on Strike for a Living Wage. UC Santa Cruz Strikers to Lose TA Jobs. The UCSC Strike Is Working. The UC Santa Cruz Wildcat Strike and the Shape of What’s To Come.

Off-The-Record Advice for Graduate Students.

Serfs of Academe.

* The Job Market Is Killing Me.

* NFM: Ensuring that Adjunct Faculty Have Access to Unemployment Insurance.

* I volunteer to consult.

* The part I was born to play!

* Today, upon request of the division chair, I’m giving a short, data-based presentation to the faculty in the Humanities division meeting. The subject is career prospects for our majors. Here are the key points…

* Pedagogy corner: Against Cop Shit.

* The father of a former student at Sarah Lawrence College –accused of manipulating her school friends, extorting nearly $1 million from them, and profiting from their work as prostitutes – was charged with sex trafficking, forced labor and extortion, in a federal indictment released today.

How the central administration has consolidated power and deflected dissent at the University of Chicago.

Their findings suggest college closings won’t be as frequent as some soothsayers have predicted. No more than one out of 10 of the country’s colleges and universities face “substantial market risk,” and closings are likely to affect “relatively few students.” Six in 10 institutions face little to no risk.

* In graduate school I wrote a paper on Heaven’s Gate and it remains one of the most upsetting thing I’ve ever worked on. Haunted by Cybersects.

* Obsessing over the environmental impacts of food gone unconsumed eclipses more interesting questions we might ask of food production that don’t take for granted the ecological devastation seemingly inherent to contemporary U.S. agriculture. Wasting less food in a shitty food system won’t make that system any less shitty, and yet rarely does that realization rear its head. Like the out-of-fashion concept of food miles that launched a locavore movement, taking stock of food waste’s supposed environmental impacts appears to be more rhetorically useful than it is a reliable reflection of where and how those harms come about and who is culpable for them.

* Can we have prosperity without growth? The toxic legacy of old oil wells: California’s multibillion-dollar problem. Florida Climate Outlook 2020. Climate emergency declared in Barcelona. ‘Splatometer’ Study Finds Huge Insect Die-Off. Measuring the Carbon-Dioxide Cost of Last Year’s Worldwide Wildfires. Greta and Anti-Greta. These photo of a Bengal Tiger is composed of only 2500 pixels. That’s the number of Bengal Tigers that are still alive. Never tell me the odds!

The Tragedy of the Worker: Towards the Proletarocene.

After Carbon Democracy.

* Actually existing media bias.

* Among the Post-Liberals.

* British Photographer Remodels World Famous Architecture Using Paper Cutouts and Forced Perspective.

* The search for new words to make us care about the climate crisis.

The Great Affordability Crisis Breaking America. How $98 trillion of household wealth in America is distributed: “It’s very depressing.”

* Is there any scam like health insurance? Just so many angles.

* Adrienne Miller’s memoir of her relationship with David Foster Wallace is part of an emerging genre of women coming of age via an older, powerful man. This one actually lets DFW off easy.

Designed as a bucolic working-class suburb of St. Louis, the nearly all-black town of Centreville now floods with raw sewage every time it rains. “Bring us back some help,” residents say, living through an environmental horror that evokes centuries of official disinterest in black suffering, as well as a future in which the poor are left to suffer in areas made uninhabitable by climate change.

* In contrast, the judge has exhibited antipathy for Donziger, according to his former lawyer, John Keker, who saw the case as a “Dickensian farce,” in which “Chevron is using its limitless resources to crush defendants and win this case through might rather than merit.” Keker withdrew from the case in 2013 after noting that “Chevron will file any motion, however meritless, in the hope that the court will use it to hurt Donziger.”

* Truly, depravity in everything.

Hmong Leaders Say Reported Trump Deportation Plans Would Put People At Risk. Border Patrol Will Deploy Elite Tactical Agents to Sanctuary Cities. How the Border Patrol’s New Powers and Old Carelessness Separated a Family. The Department of Justice Creates Section Dedicated to Denaturalization Cases. Why You May Never Learn the Truth About ICE.  Federal Judge Reverses Conviction of Border Volunteers, Challenging Government’s “Gruesome Logic.” How Stephen Miller Manipulates Trump.

What Happens When QAnon Seeps From the Web to the Offline World.

* Why the Left Can’t Stand The New York Times.

* #MeToo and the Post-Traumatic Novel.

* Mr. Peanut Devouring His Son.

End the GOP.

* The 53-State Solution.

Michael Bloomberg’s Polite Authoritarianism. When Bloomberg News’s Reporting on China Was Challenged, Bloomberg Tried to Ruin Me for Speaking Out. The degree to which Michael Bloomberg is using his fortune to fundamentally alter & manipulate U.S. politics to his personal advantage extends way beyond ads. I’ve worked against him, covered him as a journalist & worked with his top aides. Here’s their playbook… Bloomberg and Trump: alike in dignity and almost everything else.

* Big yikes.

Kasy we’re counting on ya.

* Toba catastrophe watch: Stone Tools Suggest Supervolcano Eruption Didn’t Decimate Humanity 74,000 Years Ago.

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President. Target’s Delivery App Workers Describe a Culture of Retaliation and Fear. Donald Trump ads will take over YouTube for Election Day. How Chaos at Chain Pharmacies Is Putting Patients at Risk. ‘Every Single Person Is Losing Money’: Shipt Is the Latest Gig Platform to Screw Its Workers. Cost Cutting Algorithms Are Making Your Job Search a Living Hell. The Future of Housing May Be $2,000 Dorm Rooms for Grownups. Here Are the Most Common Airbnb Scams Worldwide. Uber and Lyft generate 70 percent more pollution than trips they displace: study. Hackers stuck a 2-inch strip of tape on a 35-mph speed sign and successfully tricked 2 Teslas into accelerating to 85 mph. Self-driving car dataset missing labels for pedestrians, cyclists. Draining the Risk Pool: Insurance companies are using new surveillance tech to discipline customers. Health Records Company Pushed Opioids to Doctors in Secret Deal. Pornhub doesn’t care.

* But it’s not all bad news: Kickstarter has unionized.

* Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet.

* Canada is fake.

* you: trauma me, an intellectual:

Artificial Wombs Aren’t a Sci-Fi Horror Story.

* It’s always amazing when something like the “woman tax” moves from ludicrous, laughable nonsense to explicit policy instantaneously.

Founder of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods transfers business to employees.

* ‘The Scream’ Is Fading. New Research Reveals Why.

* Twilight of GameStop.

* Dungeons & Dragons & Therapy.

* Animal Crossing and Needing Therapy.

* Universe Sandbox.

* A brief history of orcs in video games. A history of farts in video games. He gave us so many lives, but he had only one.

* Behind the scenes at Rotten Tomatoes.

* Rise of the blur.

The best $500 I ever spent: My autism diagnosis.

How libel law is being turned against MeToo accusers.

How The Good Place taught moral philosophy to its characters — and its creators.

The Quest for the Best Amusement Park Is Ever-Changing and Never-Ending.

* Next year, in Jerusalem: Star Wars Will ‘Absolutely’ Have a Future Film Directed by a Woman, Kathleen Kennedy Says.

* He Was ‘Star Wars’ ‘ Secret Weapon, So Why Was He Forgotten?

* Here comes Star Wars: The High Republic.

Disney Didn’t Just Buy ‘Hamilton’ for $75 Million; It Bought a Potential Franchise.

* Could it be that capitalism is… bad?

* Free speech and eating meat.

* Science corner! People Born Blind Are Mysteriously Protected From Schizophrenia. Exploding the “Separated-at-Birth” Twin Study Myth. How Lifesaving Organs For Transplant Go Missing In Transit. The Hope And Hype Of Diabetic Alert Dogs. Most BMW drivers are jerks, according to science. Here are a couple of ways of starting a fire in the wilderness using found materials.

* The Great Buenos Aires Bank Heist.

Crypto Ponzi scheme took Major League Baseball players and their families for millions.

* Of course you had me at “literary Ponzi scheme.”

* Basketball in North Korea is absolute chaos.

* A whatchamacallit by any other name.

* Map of Europe: Agario Style.

How to Make Billions in E-Sports. ‘Nobody talks about it because everyone is on it’: Adderall presents esports with an enigma.

* @ me next time

* The arc of history is long, but…

* And The French Dispatch has a trailer for me to get very nervous about. Wes Anderson, I’m begging you to get a new gimmick.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 26, 2020 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Friday Links!

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I’ve pointed out before that even as academic institutions are more and more distrusted, professors oddly retain a good deal of public respect. We have it because we’re free: free to say the unpopular thing, free to teach the passionate course, free to study what we think needs studying. To be free means we have to occupy the whole possibility space that waits for our explorations, and take not just our students but our publics along for the ride. We have to keep a trust as well as walk the paths we see before us.

Researcher loses job at NSF after government questions her role as 1980s activist.

* On Campus, Grenade Launchers, M-16s, and Armored Vehicles.

At least 60 institutions have acquired M-16s through the program. Arizona State University holds the most, with 70 in its arsenal, followed by Florida International University and the University of Maryland with 50 M-16s each. Central Florida received its grenade launcher in 2008; Hinds acquired its in 2006.

* In a never-before-released thesis, Reagan’s FEMA director discussed the potential internment of millions of blacks in concentration camps.

The Islamic Roots Of Science Fiction.

Here’s How Global Warming Is Already Worsening Extreme Deluges In The U.S. Trees Are Dying From ‘No Obvious Cause’ In Rocky Mountains, Report Says. A Major Accounting Firm Just Ran the Numbers on Climate Change.

* On ISIS: Where Is Obama’s Exit Strategy?

Once again our country is invited to support the “long war” described by key Pentagon officials as lasting as long as 50 to 80 years. It’s probably both unwinnable and unaffordable, but no president and few politicians have the political ability to acknowledge failure and end it.

So they escalate enough to pass it along to their successor. War on an installment plan.

Every American President in the past quarter century has now gone on television during prime time to tell the nation and the world that he has decided to bomb Iraq. Last night was Barack Obama’s turn, and it was a vexing performance.

* What Do We Save When We Save the Internet? We cannot champion Network Neutrality without admitting that the Internet is no Utopia.

* Reddit made over $100,000 off stolen celebrity nudes.

* U2, Apple and rock-and-roll as dystopian junk mail. There’s really only one cure.

Update: All Clear. The suspect has been located and the reported weapon has been identified as an umbrella.

A Brief History of Typographic Snark and the Failed Crusade for an Irony Mark.

* The kids are all right: Millennials Are Reading More Books Than You Think They Are. Why Indie Bookstores Are on the Rise Again.

Congressional Hearing Slams Feasibility Of Commercial Asteroid Mining. “The American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space Act.” You dicks.

Everyone Knows Hedge Funds Are a Ripoff.

* Scientists warn of faulty Wisconsin wolf estimates. Learn to count, wolves!

* “Why English Majors are the Hot New Hires.”

* What Is Hope? Alex Trebek Is Bringing Back His Mustache.

* Dutch Girl Fakes a Trip to South East Asia.

Archaeologists Have Made An Incredible Discovery At Stonehenge.

* The Cold War University is back! The Real Story Behind Canada’s Sudden Interest In Arctic Archaeology.

* The Soviets sent stray dogs to conquer space. This is what happened next.

China Is Mass-Producing Islands To Extend Its Strategic Borders.

What Happens to “Holdouts” Who Refuse to Sell Their Homes to Developers?

* Here’s What’s Becoming Of America’s Dead Shopping Malls.

* Wearable tech as triumph for bosses.

* Interview With a Time Traveler.

So, ironically, if we had done absolutely nothing in response to 9/11 aside from hold funerals and shake our heads in disbelief, we would have been no less safe than we are now after two useless wars, trillions of dollars and thousands of lives lost, and a decade of taking off our shoes for domestic flights.

* Another roundup of all the many things that are more likely to kill you than a terrorist.

* And Comedian Joe Mande remembers brands remembering 9/11. Never forget.

A Few for Friday

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* All Your Nightmares Are Real: Massive Mayfly Emergence in Wisconsin.

So, I would like to suggest the following as a starting point: we should highlight the accomplishments of “high-profile” faculty members at our institutions and then show the relatively (or very) modest impact that those accomplishments have had on their compensation; then we should offer, as a point of comparison, the compensation, including bonuses, of largely anonymous administrators whose “accomplishments” will be next to impossible to describe to a general audience. This sort of messaging will do two things at once: it will undercut the notion that faculty are over-paid while simultaneously undercutting the notion that administrators are simply being paid what “the market demands.”

* I would venture to say that back when societies were structured according to religious principles and everyone basically believed in God, a political or business leader who claimed to be a direct channel for God’s will would’ve been regarded as either insane or dangerously disingenuous. Re-label “God’s will” as “the market” or “the politically feasible,” however, and no one bats an eye.

* It’s been a decade since New Orleans’ post-Katrina charter school experiment began. The results have been devastating.

 

* My son has been suspended five times. He’s 3.

In a four part investigation, MPR News details the cover up of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In Its Death Throes, For-Profit College Chain Spent Over $100,000 A Month On Lobbying.

 

* …the Education Department has confirmed that it has since awarded two more exemptions to Title IX to Christian colleges that want to discriminate against transgender students.

Among the claims that form part of the case against Thomas Docherty is that he sighed and made “ironic” comments when interviewing job candidates.

* Beyoncé Class Is in Session.

* Burger King Is Run by Children.

* Ban College Bands.

California Man Fatally Shoots Allegedly Pregnant Home Invader. Man Shoots Teenaged Neighbor Three Times Over Argument About Lawnmower.

* David Harvey at LSE: The 17 Contradictions of Capitalism.

* The Committee to Save the World: Climate Change and the Santa Fe Institute.

Perhaps, Kabat concludes, the positivity should be economic incentives, that every new threat creates some business opportunity. To illustrate this, he shows a slide of a giant wave crashing down on a man. Then he shows another slide showing the same wave coming down, but this time it forms the shape of a hand shaking the hand of the man.

Oh, okay, so you’re saying we’re doomed.

* Google still doesn’t pay any taxes.

* Dibs on the screenplay: According to a NASA study, the Earth just missed what would have been not a civilization ending but a truly massive global catastrophe in 2012 because of a huge solar storm.

Space Junk Is Becoming a Serious Security Threat.

* An Elegy for the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

* Philip K. Dick’s cult novel ‘Man in the High Castle’ becoming an Amazon TV pilot.

* Indiana Jones and the Temple of Middle-Aged Sadness.

* A Brief Hiss tory of Autocorrect.

* The inventor of the high-five.

* Is it just me, or does 3 1/2 years in prison for stealing a basically irreplaceable Stradivarious actually seem pretty low by American standards?

* Here’s an Obamacare loophole that actually seems like it will significantly impact the viability of the law.

* Republicans want to impeach; Obama wants to be impeached. Gee, what do you think is going to happen?

* And if Republicans are really so stunningly incompetent why does American politics only move rightward? I guess some things will always be a mystery.

Human Irony Content at Dangerously High Levels

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 9, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Five-Sentence Review: ‘The Avengers’ as Lesser Whedona

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Of course I deeply enjoyed The Avengers, but my sense is it’ll be up to The Avengers 2: Avengers Reveng’d! to salvage the series from the scrapheap of Lesser Whedona. Could there be any better confirmation of the kneejerk elitist sensibilities of Internet nerddom than to have this film be Joss’s first genuine mainstream success? Though certainly funny and engaging, and on occasion very clever, The Avengers is more or less superheroes completely by-the-numbers, almost entirely lacking in the deconstructive self-awareness that characterizes more artistically ambitious Whedon creations like Buffy, Firefly, and especially Cabin in the Woods and the too-neglected Dollhouse. The film has zero critical purchase on its genre, and precious little Whedonesque irony about itself.

In short, The Avengers is what Buffy would have been, if it were only fight scenes and quips.

Friday!

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* First, the big news: Casey Affleck has admitted I’m Still Here is a hoax. Shock! Terror!

* Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will hold “competing” rallies on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to restore sanity and keep fear alive respectively. I think this is a good idea and I’m glad they’re doing it, but it’s frustrating to once again see legitimate criticism of Bush equated with totally insane criticism of Obama in the name of “balance” and “moderation.”

* Our long national nightmare is finally over: Karl Rove has surrendered to Christine O’Donnell.

* Science has proved Facebook causes flu and little kids have been mocking us this whole time.

* Understanding the Tea Party, from Glenn Greenwald. A good pullquote: Given all that, I’d really like to hear what it is about Christine O’Donnell, or Sharron Angle, or any of these other candidates that sets them apart from decades of radical right-wing elected officials who came before them?  They seem far more similar to me than different.  When was this idealized era of GOP Adult Reasonableness?

* The first Earth-like planet orbiting another star will be announced in May next year, if the discovery of extrasolar planets continues at its present rate, say researchers Samuel Arbesman from Harvard Medical School in Boston and Gregory Laughlin at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

* The U.S. poverty rate is at its highest level since 1994. Matt Yglesias:

Melissa Boteach, my colleague who focuses on poverty issues, points out that congress has the opportunity to act before things get even worse:

In just two weeks a job-creation engine known as the TANF Emergency Fund will expire, forcing states to begin shutting down successful partnerships with the private sector that have already created nearly a quarter-million jobs for low-income families. Congress must act before September 30 to extend the TANF Emergency Fund for another year and allow this innovative jobs program to continue.

Unfortunately, congress is typically more interested in the tax burden of millionaires than in the welfare of the poor and near-poor.

* Self-absorbed, self-indulged, and self-loathing, the Baby Boom generation at last has the chance to step out of the so-called Greatest Generation’s historical shadow. Boomers may not have the opportunity to save the world, as their predecessors did, but they can still redeem themselves by saving the American economy from the fiscal mess that they, and their fathers and mothers, are leaving behind. Via the latest MetaFilter post on the ongoing Third-Worldization of America.

* Making puppets with Jim Henson. Also via MetaFilter.

* And All-Star Superman will be made into animated movie. I don’t know why it hasn’t been green-lit for the next live-action Superman yet. Jon Hamm could kill it.

Tabdump #4

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* How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids’ textbooks.

* George Costanza’s Frogger Record Shattered.

* ‘Scientists say dolphins should be treated as “non-human persons.”‘

* If you missed it, more on the Californication of America from Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, and Steve Benen.

* In defense of baby selling? You couldn’t write a better parody of free market ideology if you tried.

* Today’s lesson in irony is especially schadenfreudelicious.

* Behold, chess boxing. More here.

Bernankemania!

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Time has named Ben Bernanke its person of the year—I assume ironically.

America!

Written by gerrycanavan

December 16, 2009 at 10:47 am

Infinite Summer #6: Environmentalism, Consumerism, Addiction, Johnny Gentle (Famous Crooner), and the Politics of Hope

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On the question of irony—where I left off last time, and where Infinite Zombies’ Daryl Houston starts off in his latest post—it’s a little difficult for me to know exactly how to read this week’s section on the Reaganesque presidency of Johnny Gentle, Famous Crooner. The signposts for reading this section as a satire are all there, not just in Gentle’s OCD and Howard-Hughes-style obsession with cleanliness but also in the complete vacuity of C.U.S.P.’s political agenda—but it is difficult to tell whether the narrative’s apparent contempt for environmentalist thinking is an aspect of the satire or the motivation for it. Gentle’s political party, the Clean U.S. Party—an unlikely political coalition comprised of “ultra-right jingoist hunt-deer-with-automatic-weapons types and far-left macrobiotic Save-the-Ozone, -Rain-Forests, -Whales, -Spotted-Owel-and-High-pH-Waterways ponytailed granola-crunchers” whose first platform was organized around the ingenious plan “Let’s Shoot Our Wastes Into Space”—is organized around an anti-ecological version of supposed environmentalism that understands “American renewal” as “an essentially aesthetic affair” (382). This is, then, a fairly pitch-perfect satire of ecology as ideology, the empty apolitics of the sort “we can all agree to” that looks for consumer-friendly solutions to the environmental catastrophe caused by consumerism itself. This is our moment: “a dark time when all landfills got full and all grapes were raisins and sometimes in some places the falling rain clunked instead of splattered” (382).

I can think here of nothing so much as a DFW quote on addiction Daryl highlighted in his own post:

An activity is addictive if one’s relationship to is lies on that downward-sloping continuum between liking it a little too much and really needing it. Many addictions, from exercise to letter-writing, are pretty benign. But something is malignantly addictive if (1) it causes real problesm for the addict, and (2) it offers itself as a relief from the very problem it causes.

Consumerism, I think, clearly qualifies, as Wallace shows throughout this section.

In IJ, it’s our malignant addiction to a consumer lifestyle that leads to Gentle’s experialist mandate, the outsourcing of environmental costs to Indian reservations and our partner “enemy-allies” (385) in O.N.A.N. It’s this malignant addiction that leads us to build wasteful and inefficient fusion reactors even though they have the “generating-massive-amounts-of-high-R-waste part down a lot more pat than the “consuming-the-waste-in-a-nuclear-process-whose-own-waste-was-the-fuel-for-the-first-waste-intensive-phase-of-the-circle-of-reactions part” (1029n150).

In the end it leads even to the forcible gifting of most of New England to Canada as the Great Concavity/Convexity, hollowed out and glass-walled with giant fans blowing our toxic air northward (385). There’s a fair critique of NIMBYism here, as well as the perpetually empty promise of near-future technological millennialism that has been so deftly exploited by the partisan right-wing and their corporate allies to preempt all environmentalist reforms over the decades. There’s a critique of the politics of Othering, too, the need for “some people beside each other of us to blame” (384) and the national ennui that apparently comes from a post-Soviet, post-Jihad era with no “Foreign Menace” to distract us from the problems of our own making (382). (What, we skipped China?) And there’s, yes, a critique of the left-wing, more-eco-than-thou granola set in (among other things) Gentle’s addictive obsessive-compulsive cleaniness and C.U.S.P.’s easy consumerist ethos, though frankly this critique seems much more of the strawman variety than most of Wallace’s jokes.

But is this scattershot, unstable irony all there is here? A pox on everybody’s house? Is there any place for the reader of Infinite Jest to imagine a non-hypocritical, anti-consumerist politics? Do we really have no stable interpretive ground on which to stand? History seems in this novel to have somehow calcified into an inevitable trajectory of decadent disposability, and the only suggested response for the educated observer of these trends seems accordingly to be a bitter, smug withdrawal. I want to see DFW as getting past mere smugness into something more viable, but he doesn’t make it easy. The only way out of this trap of hopeless cynicism that I can see so far lies in the unstable irony inherent in the novel’s own presentation, its cartoonish and over-the-top hyperbole. Here, it’s the fact that all this information is literally being conveyed to us through the well-respected and politically responsible medium of video puppet show, organized around Mario and his father’s penchant for the “parodic device of mixing real and fake news-summary cartridges, magazine articles, and historical headers” (391). But I’m not sure irony alone is enough to get us out of smugness—I’m just not sure yet if the novel gives us much hope for escape from the surreal banality of turn-of-the-millennium American life, hope for something after or beyond consumer culture. We’ve already seen in IJ the transcendental existential threat of the Entertainment, which clogs entirely our ability to want anything besides it. Elsewhere, as with Gately, we see that addictions can in fact be broken, that renewal is difficult but still possible—but where is that hope here?

The use of the phrase “years right around the millennium” in the same footnote I cited above contains, I think, an important ambiguity for all this—from what point in the future, and from what cultural assumptions, are we to understand this book actually being composed? Is it a moment where this sort of perpetual-motion fusion suddenly somehow works—a time in which the miracle works? A moment in which the Entertainment, or something like it, has destroyed the culture entirely? Or, perhaps, a moment that is not “a terrible U.S. time for waste” for other, more politically hopeful reasons—a moment where, beyond belief, we have somehow managed to change?

Can addictions only be beaten when they originate in an individual’s excess? When an addiction is communal—when it is ideological and so totally normalized—what is our prescription for hope?

Still More Links

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Still more links.

* Shepard Smith: Fox News’s email has become “more and more frightening.” I’ve asked before, but why is this man still on Fox?

* Rush Limbaugh picked the wrong day to make a birther joke.

* Jeremiah Wright picked the wrong day to say something incredibly moronic about “them Jews.”

* There is no right day to propose a Full House remake. Stamos! Via Occasional Fish.

* Fear the Emanuel hegemony.

* Fear the myth of perpetual copyright.

* 50 scientifically proven ways to be persuasive. In terms of understanding the human psyche, the academy is still decades behind the advertising industry.

* ‘Supervolcano may be brewing beneath Mount St Helens.’ Yikes. (And get me Bobby Jindal on the phone.) Via MeFi.

* Guantánamo’s Uighurs have been sent to Palau. More from Yglesias, Attackerman, Greenwald, and the Plank.

* Linda Holmes criticizes Pixar for going to the princess well for its first female lead.

* The Sopranos and postmodern irony.

Yet formally self-conscious and deliberately ambiguous though it tended to be, “The Sopranos” was by no means so completely decentered in its “overall moral or thematic attitude” as all that. On the contrary, it seems to me to have been very definitely grounded what might be called (for want of any better phrase) a deeply pessimistic Freudian moral sensibility.

Via Kotsko.

Racist!

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The casual viciousness with which the leading lights of the Republican Party (Limbaugh, Gingrich, Beck, Buchanan and Coulter, even second-stringers like Tom Tancredo) have declared Sonia Sotomayor a “racist” is startling and deeply disturbing, even putting aside the irony that these individuals of all people would wave this particular bloody shirt. I’m not really sure what their long-term goal is. Do they think this is a remotely plausible strategy for Senatorial opposition? Are they trying to make “racism” itself a toxic, he-said-she-said subject that is outside the bounds of reasoned discourse? Are they so narrow-minded and short-sighted as to somehow believe she really is a racist? I don’t get it.

This is all predicated on a single out-of-context quote from a 2001 speech she made to Berkeley law students:

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Taken out-of-context this is a statement about which reasonable people might disagree, though it surely doesn’t rise to the level of racism outside right wing histrionics. She’s not, after all, making some empirical claim about the relative intrinsic qualities of various races; she’s claiming that her life experiences inform the decisions she makes and may sometimes lead to better judgments that “a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” That’s controversial, maybe, but it’s not racist. It doesn’t speak to race; it speaks to life experience, to empathy.

But when Ta-Nehisi Coates and Spencer Ackerman direct us to the full context, the controversy vanishes for anyone with reading comprehension and a basic understanding of rhetorical irony.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

(1) She’s responding (quite humbly) to a quote attributed to Justice O’Connor that suggests that judicial reasoning is somehow universal and objective, “that a wise old man and wise old woman” will tend to reach the same conclusion on any given subject. There’s very good reason to think that isn’t so — precisely because there is no universal, objective definition of wise, however much we might wish there were — and I tend to agree with her.

In context, in any event, the correct hysterical accusation is plainly “She’s a sexist!”, not “She’s a racist!”

2) Even more importantly, in context her introduction of “a wise Latina woman” is plainly a sly, self-mocking reference to herself. It’s an ironic wink to her own position as exactly the sort of judge about which she is speaking—it’s not a truth claim about race, and no one listening to her that day would have thought it was.

Irony: It’s a Good Thing

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From the comments:

Disagree with you on the New Yorker cover.

I’m even not sure who these mythical people are supposed to be who are with it enough to have heard of the New Yorker in the first place yet still clueless enough to take the cover at face value.

People who walk by magazine stands? People who have it emailed to them? People who see it posted on a bulletin board or as the new desktop background of someone who just had it emailed to them?

We have a politics of image and symbolism. You can’t throw this kind of stuff out there into the public sphere and not expect it to be misused and abused.

I think the “oh, everyone gets the joke” thing comes from a fairly parochial point of view.

Now, I agree with Shankar on a wide range of issues, but I still think this anxiety is simply overheated. First, the image’s meaning is unmistakable, because frankly it deconstructs itself; it’s impossible for anyone with either a modicum of political intelligence or cultural savvy to take this image at face value. Obama doesn’t dress like that; Michelle Obama doesn’t look like that; presidential candidates don’t burn flags or stand in front of pictures of Osama bin Laden. That’s not to say that there aren’t still people who won’t get the joke, despite all its obvious tells—sadly, there probably are—but I just don’t think there are especially large numbers of people in that category, nor to the extent that there are do I see much compelling reason to dumb down the culture in an effort to cater to them.

Art and literature are misunderstood all the time. That’s their nature. They’re nonetheless good things to have in the public sphere, even when they’re misused and abused at the margins.

I’m also not clear on what the actual objection to the cover is supposed to be. Most of the concern on the left seems to be that the cover isn’t “useful,” which may or may not be true, but it’s neither here nor there with regard to its cultural value. (And I’d add that for what it’s worth the image may actually prove itself pretty useful to Obama—the best response to this sort of under-the-radar bullshit is mockery and marginalization, which is what we all agree this is.)

Then there are the claims that the image is tasteless or offensive. Now, I write from a very privileged subject position, white heterosexual upper-middle-class American male, and it’s certainly possible that this cartoon trips sensitivities I just don’t have. I’m open to that. But I haven’t seen any compelling explanation of just what about this extremely pro-Obama cartoon is actually supposed to be offensive; instead, its offensiveness and tasteless are simply taken for granted, as if everyone in the world but me and Jon Stewart’s writers had forgotten what irony is.

Irony: it’s a good thing, and a powerful weapon. Didn’t we learn from Orwell that without irony language is just Newspeak?

‘The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,’ he said. ‘We’re getting the language into its final shape — the shape it’s going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we’ve finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words — scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting the language down to the bone. The Eleventh Edition won’t contain a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050.’

He bit hungrily into his bread and swallowed a couple of mouthfuls, then continued speaking, with a sort of pedant’s passion. His thin dark face had become animated, his eyes had lost their mocking expression and grown almost dreamy.

‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn’t only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take “good”, for instance. If you have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”? “Ungood” will do just as well — better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood” covers the meaning, or ” doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already. but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words — in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston? It was B.B.’s idea originally, of course,’ he added as an afterthought.

A sort of vapid eagerness flitted across Winston’s face at the mention of Big Brother. Nevertheless Syme immediately detected a certain lack of enthusiasm.

‘You haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston,’ he said almost sadly. ‘Even when you write it you’re still thinking in Oldspeak. I’ve read some of those pieces that you write in The Times occasionally. They’re good enough, but they’re translations. In your heart you’d prefer to stick to Oldspeak, with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?’

Winston did know that, of course. He smiled, sympathetically he hoped, not trusting himself to speak. Syme bit off another fragment of the dark-coloured bread, chewed it briefly, and went on:

‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,’ he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. ‘Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?’

‘Except-‘ began Winston doubtfully, and he stopped.

It had been on the tip of his tongue to say ‘Except the proles,’ but he checked himself, not feeling fully certain that this remark was not in some way unorthodox. Syme, however, had divined what he was about to say.

‘The proles are not human beings,’ he said carelessly. ‘ By 2050 earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like “freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.’

Written by gerrycanavan

July 16, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Monday’s Daily Show Today

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The current test of personal character in the Obamasphere is clearly whether or not one is dickish enough to run with this story:

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS UP

Hillary Clinton enthusiastically picked a filly named Eight Belles to win the Kentucky Derby and compared herself to the horse. Eight Belles finished second. The winner was the favorite, Big Brown. Eight Belles collapsed immediately after crossing the finish line, and was euthanized shortly thereafter.

Written by gerrycanavan

May 4, 2008 at 1:22 am