Posts Tagged ‘Jameson’
(…though Tuesday’s links are still perfectly good…)
* I’m really excited to see that the Jameson talk on the army as a figure for utopia I talked about at the end of my Battle: Los Angeles essay is becoming a book (with some collected responses).
* One of my favorite Ted Chiang stories, “Understand” has been adapted as a radio drama at the BBC. Go listen!
* If you’re local, don’t forget! Mad Max: Fury Road discussion on campus today at 5 PM!
* The FBI’s probe into the security of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s e-mail has expanded to include a second private technology company, which said Tuesday it plans to provide the law enforcement agency with data it preserved from Clinton’s account.
* Two great tastes: For decades, researchers have debated whether a major asteroid strike or enormous volcanic eruptions led to the demise of dinosaurs almost 66 million years ago. According to a new study, the answer might be somewhere in between: The asteroid impact accelerated the eruptions of volcanoes, and together, these catastrophes led to the mass extinction.
* The Vancouver public-speaking and drama instructor sees his reasons for assigning Alcor US$80,000 of life insurance benefits to have his brain cryopreserved as strictly pragmatic.
* Kristof said that more preschoolers are shot dead each year than are on-duty police officers. For children aged 0-4, that is accurate for the past six years. For children aged 3-5, the statement is true in most years, but not in every year. We rate the claim Mostly True.
* Twenty-first century problems: Can Crowdfunding Save This Town from White Supremacy?
* A new working paper from the Federal Reserve Board that looks at what role credit scores play in committed relationships suggests that daters might want to start using the metric as well. The researchers found that credit scores — or whatever personal qualities credit scores might represent — actually play a pretty big role in whether people form and stay in committed relationships. People with higher credit scores are more likely to form committed relationships and marriages and then stay in them. In addition, how well matched the couple’s credit scores are initially is a good predictor of whether they stay together in the long term.
* This might be even worse than the drill bits: Greenfield Police Using Pink Handcuffs, Wearing New Pins For Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
* Get a head start on next week: “It’s time to abolish Columbus Day.”
* If I were going to encourage you to take any one class simply because it’s good for the freshman soul, I would say this: Take some introductory literature class that forces you to memorize poems, heaps and gobs and mounds of poems, old poems.
* This afternoon at two o’clock the New York State Attorney General will announce the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Committee to Save Cooper Union, a group of activist students, faculty, and alumni against the Cooper Union trustees. The settlement will impose various reforms to Cooper Union governance, establish an independent financial monitor for the college, and begin the slow, difficult process of re-establishing Cooper Union as a free, healthy institution. Incredible turn of events. The tragedy of Cooper Union.
* A former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private e-mail server tried this week to fend off a subpoena to testify before Congress, saying he would assert his constitutional right not to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself. I continue to think Democrats are completely in denial about how bad this story could get.
* Massive hurricanes striking Miami or Houston. Earthquakes leveling Los Angeles or Seattle. Deadly epidemics. Meet the “maximums of maximums” that keep emergency planners up at night.
* The proportion of people with intellectual disability who have been treated with psychotropic drugs far exceeds the proportion with recorded mental illness. Antipsychotics are often prescribed to people without recorded severe mental illness but who have a record of challenging behaviour. The findings suggest that changes are needed in the prescribing of psychotropics for people with intellectual disability.
* Wow, finally: Octavia Butler’s Dawn is allegedly being developed for TV.
* Piggy, Kermit, and domestic violence. Next up: why Elmer Fudd hunting animals out of season is actually no laughing matter…
* The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
* The exciting return of “Is Health Care Reform Constitutional,” and friends, this one could be a doozy. Here Is What Will Happen If The Supreme Court Strikes Down Obamacare’s Subsidies. And from the archives: Halbig, King, and the Limits of Reasonable Legal Disagreement.
* As a society, we are somewhat obsessed with the risks of dying – from car crashes, cancer, terrorists, Ebola, or any of the thousands of mortal terrors that haunt our nightly newscasts. But we’re less accustomed to consider the risks of living long – of outliving our retirement savings.
* Is Serial problematic? Serial: listeners of podcast phenomenon turn detectives – with troubling results. What Is An Ending? ‘Serial’ And The Ongoing Story Of Wanting Too Much. Alas, I listened to this this weekend and got hooked despite all my critical detachment.
* Doritos-Flavored Mountain Dew Is Real, PepsiCo Confirms. This is unfathomable. There are some lines never meant to be crossed.
* World Cup Watch: North Koreans working as ‘state-sponsored slaves’ in Qatar.
* Against spoiler alerts, in the LARoB.
The rise of spoiler-free criticism seems like a move away from criticism as art — and a move toward criticism as an arm of fandom marketing. It’s fine to not want spoilers in your criticism. But there is something distasteful about the assumption that providing spoilers is some sort of lapse in ethics or etiquette. If you don’t treat art first as a consumer product, the spoiler-free doctrine seems to suggest, you’re being cruel and unfair. But critics really are not under any obligation to like what you like or to treat art with one particular kind of reverence. In the name of preserving suspense, the command to remain spoiler-free threatens to make criticism and art more blandly uniform, and less surprising.
* For example, research in economics has shown that the wage gap between lighter- and darker-skinned African Americans is nearly as large as the gap between African Americans and whites. In our analysis of data from theNational Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we found that the darkest-skinned African American girls were three times more likely to be suspended at school than their lighter-skinned counterparts — a disparity that is again roughly equal to the gap between blacks and whites. Alternatively put, while African American girls are three times more likely to be suspended than white girls, the darkest-skinned African American girls are several times more likely to experience suspension.
* Occasion #7 is all about debt.
* Cloud computing: the race to zero.
* Let me pause and say here: of course I love many literary dudes. They are not, all of them, smug and condescending. But let me say something else: I thought for a while that the really terrible ones were time limited — that they were products of the 1950s, of a particular time period, and that it really was a viable strategy to just talk about snacks until they all retired. But I have now realized this is not true; new terrible smug dudes are coming up through the ranks. Hydra-like, smug dude attitude keeps springing forth from itself.
* Billboard ads are expensive to construct, maintain and rent, but they don’t serve any functional purposes — so Michal Polacek redesigned them to house the homeless. The next best thing to just abolishing homelessness.
* In 2012, DiMaggio released the results of his own Safe Routes to School program. Child pedestrian injury rates had plummeted, falling to half their original numbers. “We showed that kids can still be kids,” says DiMaggio. “They can walk and bike to school and be safe.” The project’s federal funding expired last year, however, and no plans exist to extend the initiative to areas beyond the immediate vicinity of the selected schools.
* Incredibly misleading ad placement at Amazon inside the book description makes every book seem like it was an Amazon Editors’ Favorite Book of the Year.
* “But a deep look at Mars One’s plan and its finances reveals that not only is the goal a longshot, it might be a scam.” No! No! I won’t believe it!
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.