Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Kafka

July the 5th Be With You Links

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* Coming attractions.

* I have spent the entirety of my academic career so far watching the intensified hollowing-out of my profession. The destruction is not limited to those friends and grad-school colleagues whose “job hunt” turned up nothing—or turned up academic jobs which make the same demands as the tenure track without the same job security. The harm can be counted, too, in the numberless person-hours every academic I know has spent tailoring job application materials, drafting custom syllabuses, and performing all the other rituals of applicant abjection. If you care about the work scholars do, the atmosphere is demoralizing. It is, to be sure, worse in worse jobs: when I was a part-time adjunct, I found the isolation particularly depressing, and I liked my “individualized” health insurance plan even less. But even in a good job with outstanding colleagues and students all around, something eats away at the ordinary routines of my academic life: all the day-to-day work of simply doing the job (teaching the students, carrying on the research, going to the meetings, the meetings, the meetings) takes on more than a tinge of denial, something for the few of us who have good academic jobs to do while we wait for the last curtain to fall on professional scholarship. Nor is it encouraging to witness the parade of more active forms of denial: bad-faith solutions, illusory comforts, and intellectualized excuses for selfishness. But mostly I regret the good work that could have been done by all of us in a better, more just system. 

Mills College Lays Off Five Tenured Professors.

Prerequisites: “You will need to have seen Star Wars (episode four: A New Hope) and read The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.” The syllabi of Junot Díaz.

Space is the Place: A Crash Course in the Sounds of Afrofuturism.

* A call for applications: Foundation is looking for a book review editor.

happyfourthofjulyThe International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts Announces its 12th annual Jamie Bishop Memorial Award for a critical essay on the fantastic originally written in a language other than English.

* The “mass graves” story I linked yesterday was fake. Thanks to a longtime reader for the tip. I wonder what the point of making this up was; the best I could come up with was that it was for research about how news spreads on the left and on the right.

Why Afghanistan? Why Now?

* Batman and 1960s America.

* 25 at 50. The 25th amendment is a fantasy.

* Not our Independence Day. Toward a Marxist Interpretation of the US Constitution. Capitalism and Slavery.

This woman’s name appears on the Declaration of Independence. So why don’t we know her story?

* CTRL-F “rape” CTRL-F “slave” CTRL-F “Hemings”

* Speaking of which: Sally Hemings’s slave quarters have been discovered at Monticello. And from the archives: The Monster of Monticello.

Dear TNI Contributors,

 Our August issue theme is PATRIOTS. 

Seize the Hamptons. Probably should take a look at seizing the governor’s mansion in New Jersey, too.

In sum, here’s what they found: If you’re going to die via an asteroid, it will be the wind and shockwave that gets you.

Why Roman concrete still stands strong while modern version decays.

* America’s future is Texas.

* Mother charged with child endangerment for leaving her ten-year-old in the LEGO store unattended.

* Horrifying story: Authorities have charged a former Ph.D. candidate with kidnapping a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Yingying Zhang, originally from China, is now presumed dead.

‘Beta Males’ Want To Kill Women Because They Can’t Get Laid.

The Democrats Are Eisenhower Republicans. Even that seems too kind a description for Rahm Emanuel.

What does opposition do that resistance doesn’t? It offers a positive agenda for a better social contract, embedded in institutional transformations. Like, for example, everything that Dems don’t ever propose: real universal healthcare, public media, public higher education, debt relief, real safety nets, and so on. A social contract — whole and full and true.

* But don’t worry folks; we’ve got this.

It’s called Win the Future, and Pincus is even courting potential WTF candidates like the frontman of ’90s rock band Third Eye Blind.

This Is Why Antarctic Sea Ice Crashed This Year.

U.S. judge finds that Aetna deceived the public about its reasons for quitting Obamacare.

* Never forget: America didn’t die, they murdered it.

New justices usually take years to find their footing at the Supreme Court. For Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who joined the court in April, a couple of months seem to have sufficed. His early opinions were remarkably self-assured. He tangled with his new colleagues, lectured them on the role of the institution he had just joined, and made broad jurisprudential pronouncements in minor cases.

* Some lesser-known spells.

UK cops routinely raided police databases to satisfy personal interest or make money on the side.

Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us.) Check your privilege, NYT. You don’t speak for me.

A stressed, sleep-deprived couple accidentally invented the modern alien abduction phenomenon.

* Always money in the banana stand: Congressional panel puts plans for a US Space Corps in 2018 defense budget.

* Journalism in America in 2017.

* Kafka’s joke book.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

It had been crossing so long it could not remember. As it stopped in the middle to look back, a car sped by, spinning it around. Disoriented, the chicken realized it could no longer tell which way it was going. It stands there still.

* Nice work if you can get it: Controversial U of T professor making nearly $50,000 a month through crowdfunding.

* When basic common sense seems radical: Civilians shouldn’t have to de-escalate police.

* Forget the blood of teens. This pill promises to extend life for a nickel a pop. Forget the blood of teens? Screw you, Wired, you don’t speak for me either!

* And a few Fourth of July links from my Tumblr: Check out Captain Woke. What have you done to keep liberty alive? Untitled (Questions). Don’t Tread on Me. Brain expansion meme. Spang!

Written by gerrycanavan

July 5, 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Trumpsday Reading

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tumblr_oknrrm94td1romv9co1_500Trump is targeting up to 8 million people for deportation. Making America Cruel Again. The triumph of cruelty. Inside the White House-Cabinet battle over Trump’s immigration order. 24 Hours at JFK. ‘Breathtaking violation of rights.’ Constitutional crisis. Hero Lawyers. Stop that plane: The frantic race to halt a deportation. A Q&A With the ACLU. Our New Itinerary. Travel ban causes high anxiety for Milwaukee’s international students. The little-noticed bombshell in Trump’s immigration order. Half Of World’s Refugees Are Running From U.S. Wars. Trump’s First Weeks Leave Washington— and the White House Staff—Panting. The leaks coming out of the Trump White House right now are totally bananas. Yes, all this happened. Gasp! Trust Records Show Trump Is Still Closely Tied to His Empire. Ivanka lied about the leaving the Trump organization too. Make War with Mexico Great Again. Trainwreck in Yemen. Even Australia. Onward to Iran! 14 Versions Of Trump’s Presidency, From #MAGA To Impeachment. Trump and the Republicans Are on a Suicide Mission Together. Editing Trump. Authoritarian Government Watch. We just let this one go without even making a big deal about it. And this one was crazy too! A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. Seems legit. This is not normal. #TheResistance. A Reader for Trumplandia. Trump: A Resister’s Guide. SNL 1, 2, 3. Oh man. The law, in its majestic equality. 4 in 10. A whole year? Jesus. The numbers. A 3,900 percent increase. It takes 3.5% of a population engaged in sustained nonviolent resistance to topple brutal dictatorships. Here’s how much the anti-Trump protests cost, at Trump paid-turnout rates. Disobey.

tumblr_okptgkqlob1romv9co1_500* I had a very brief segment on Wisconsin Public Radio last week discussing 1984 and the Trump administration.

The worst, most terrible things that the United States has done have almost never happened through an assault on American institutions; they’ve always happened through American institutions and practices. These are the elements of the American polity that have offered especially potent tools and instruments of intimidation and coercion: federalism, the separation of powers, social pluralism, and the rule of law. All the elements of the American experience that liberals and conservatives have so cherished as bulwarks of American freedom have also been sources and instruments of political fear. In all the cases I looked at, coercion, intimidation, repression, and violence were leveraged through these mechanisms, not in spite of them.

There is a style of political reasoning which the Trump moment lends itself to, which can be called conspiracism. Against omniscience.

Everyday Authoritarianism is Boring and Tolerable.

* V-Milwaukee!

* Vaughn Prison Uprising.

* Screaming about Trump into a Well: A Text Adventure.

The Democratic Response to Gorsuch Is Easy: Just Say No. Why Democrats Should Oppose Neil Gorsuch. Make Republicans Nuke the Filibuster to Confirm Neil Gorsuch.

Football players at private institutions in college sports’ most competitive level are employees, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel stated this week, and will be treated as such if they seek protection against unfair labor practices.

* Chris Ware on George Herriman. A rebuttal.

* The African Speculative Fiction lecture series at the University of London.

* Inside the Disney Vault.

The Hot New Brand of Higher Education.

* Riot at Berkeley. #Milosexual and the Aesthetics of Fascism.

* After-the-Horse-Has-Left-the-Barn Department. Well at least you’re sorry.

Who Cares If the Dow Jones Hit 20,000?

Under A New System, Clinton Could Have Won The Popular Vote By 5 Points And Still Lost.

The U.S. military’s stats on deadly airstrikes are wrong. Thousands have gone unreported.

* Academics boycotting the U.S.

* The end of Locked-In Syndrome… in the Twilight Zone.

* Same.

* The new issue of the SFRA Review is up.

The Youth Group That Launched a Movement at Standing Rock.

* Poker and the machines.

Guns, hostile lawmakers, and professional bigots are more dangerous to academic freedom than left-wing activists are.

* Other Space, the best SF series no one but me watched.

* Against the Constitution. Against the Supreme Court.

Video Game Voice Actor Strike Now Second-Longest In SAG History.

* Zelda map size comparisons.

How a Cult That Believes Cats Are Divine Beings Ended Up in Tennessee.

* How to Kellyanne Conway.

Why the voting age should be lowered to 16.

* February 17 is the next time the general strike isn’t actually going to happen.

In the Trump International Penal Colony and Golf Resort.

* Marquette in the ne — come on, again?

* Also they enslaved and tortured generations of animals, but that’s not important right now.

* no no no no no no no no

* If you want a vision of the future.

* …and now it’s canon.

* Decolonizing Science Fiction.

How an Interstellar Starship Could Actually Explore Alpha Centauri.

How Astronauts’ Brains Are Changed By Spaceflight.

* In the future, everyone will be hated by thousands of strangers for 15 minutes.

* The Milwaukee Bucks Century.

* The war comes to Whitefish Bay.

Pension giant TIAA is leading a global wave of deforestation and the destruction of small farmers’ livelihoods.

The richest society in human history.

* And like Nietzsche said: it is forgetting, not remembering, that makes life possible.

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Written by gerrycanavan

February 5, 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Submitted for Your Approval, Wednesday Links

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* CFP with a Monday deadline: Paradoxa 29, “Small Screen Fictions.” And relevant to my current courses: CFP: The Man in the High Castle and Philosophy.

Application period now open for 2016-17 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship.

Yet we still have not thought seriously about what it means when a private investigative project—bound by no rules of procedure, answerable to nothing but ratings, shaped only by the ethics and aptitude of its makers—comes to serve as our court of last resort.

* Tor has an excerpt from Cixin Liu’s Death’s End, which is amazing (and which I’ll be reviewing for The New Inquiry, by and by).

Just in the nick of time, the United States’ newly minted Solar Forecasting Center was able to convey the true cause of the radar jamming: a rash of powerful solar flares.

* On Pokémon Go and Psychogeography (and Philip K. Dick).

Submitting (SFF) While Black.

* Trump, Second Amendment people, and stochastic terrorism. Could this actually be rock bottom? Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not two sides of the same coin but libidinally necessary for one another. The horror of Trump manages to create the ultimate liberal fantasy of post-partisanship, consensus and respect for the discourse.

How the Trumps Got Rich.

Remember When Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Were Maybe Forced To Pose Nude In College?

* Coming soon to a university near you: We’re implementing new general education requirements without having first figured out how we want to deliver it or even what it is we’re trying to deliver, on a model where all the previous examples we can think of have failed.

The US government will track killings by police for the first time ever.

Justice Department to Release Blistering Report of Racial Bias by Baltimore Police. Should shock even the most cynical.

Chicago Police Can’t Explain Why Their Body Cameras Failed At The Moment Of Unarmed Black Teen’s Death. I suppose it will always be a mystery.

A generation of lawyers has been wiped out in Quetta, and it will leave Baluchistan, in more ways than one, lawless.

Oneida: The Christian Utopia Where Contraception Was King.

Israel’s supreme court has ruled that Franz Kafka’s manuscripts are the property of the National Library of Israel, ending a lengthy legal battle, judicial sources said in Monday.

Keywords for the Age of Austerity 26: Bootcamp.

Finally, there’s a good way to play Dungeons & Dragons online.

* The debate over who should be allowed to compete as a woman has more to do with ethics than endocrinology.

An unsettling thing happened at the Olympic diving pool on Tuesday: the water inexplicably turned green, just in time for the women’s synchronized 10-meter platform diving competition.

* Exceptionalism: More and more women are now dying in childbirth, but only in America.

* Nailing it: We’ve Devoured a Year’s Worth of Natural Resources in Just Seven Months.

* DCTVU Watch: This is a bad idea and they shouldn’t do it, though they will.

* Harley Quinn and sexism by committee. All the Ways Suicide Squad Could Have Been Much, Much Better.

* Trailers! Luke Cage! Story of Your Life Arrival! Even an improvised Rick and Morty mini-episode!

* And a friendly reminder to always look on the bright side of life.

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Written by gerrycanavan

August 10, 2016 at 8:06 am

Surprise Sunday Links! Watch Out!

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* The route Google Maps recommends if you’re headed to Ferrum College from the west involves what may be the loneliest and most roller-coaster-like stretch of roadway ever to earn a state route number from Virginia. It’s a narrow ribbon of pavement with no center line, a twisting trail you drive imagining that if you go over the edge, weeks could pass before anyone found the wreckage. Only at the other end do you spot a yellow sign that reads, “GPS Routing Not Advised.” Small, Rural Colleges Grapple With Their Geography.

* A friend recommended the short Cuban SF novel Super Extra Grande to me, which I liked a lot. Some profiles on the author: 1, 2.

* Horrific terror attack at historic Orlando gay night club leaves 20 dead.

* Scientists think they’ve figured out the Antikythera Mechanism.

* Being Tig Notaro.

* In search of Cervantes’s grave.

* Old and busted: AI. New hotness: IA.

* Landscaping in the Anthropocene.

As an added experiment, the researchers applied their model to the current distribution of human populations on Earth. They found that, under all the same assumptions, 12.5 percent of the global population would be forced to migrate at least 1,000 kilometers, and up to a third of the population would have to move more than 500 kilometers. 

In a paper published in the May issue of the journal Astrobiology, the astronomer Woodruff Sullivan and I show that while we do not know if any advanced extraterrestrial civilizations currently exist in our galaxy, we now have enough information to conclude that they almost certainly existed at some point in cosmic history.

…what our calculation revealed is that even if this probability is assumed to be extremely low, the odds that we are not the first technological civilization are actually high. Specifically, unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in 10 billion trillion, then we are not the first.

Twitter must fix this. Its brand is increasingly defined by excessive harassment.

* More on The 7-1/2-Hour O.J. Simpson Doc Everyone Will Be Talking About This Summer.

Because poetry is considered so small, so irrelevant, it’s tempting for poetry critics to look for the BIG themes in poems to demonstrate that poetry matters. I continue to learn from critics who take on this labor. However, because ALL African literary criticism is assumed to matter the more it focuses on the BIG SOCIOPOLITICOECONOMICDISASTERTHATISAFRICA, I am inclined to turn to quieter moments—spaces for the intimate, the friendly, the quiet, the loving, the depressed, the depressing, grief, and melancholy. I’m drawn to the register that is not the shout, and never the headline. I linger at the quotidian to insist that the African imagination considers livability and shareability.

For everyone, he claims, is shortchanged when the guiding principle and “key driver” of the institution is no longer thought, but money (ix). Faculty are silenced, yes, by the drive to conformity and homogeneity. But students are also cheated when they are treated simply as “human capital”: “When the university is reduced to the function of preparation for jobs and not for life, life itself gets lost under the jobs” (85). Most broadly and seriously of all, society as a whole suffers as the university abandons its traditional role as “that institution that has a responsibility to counter the incipient violence of natural force” (40). The fate of the university is bound up with the fate of democracy and citizenship at large. If society is to change, and injustice and inequality challenged, we need now more than ever an institution whose role is to be “’critical’ of the existing world state of affairs, dissident with respect to it” (6).

* I sometimes wish tenure were what its enemies believe it is.

* White supremacist PACs and Trump. The stain of Trump. “A GOP senator might vote for Hillary Clinton. Here’s how rare that is.” Trump has underperformed the real estate market by a mere 57% since 1976. Alas, Mitt.

* I’m calling it: Trump will drop out of the race by July 5 at the latest. He will blame the unfair media and political correctness, allude to some wack-ass conspiracy involving Black Lives Matter and/or Hezbollah, and go to his grave telling everyone he knows that if he had stayed in the race, he would’ve beaten Clinton.

* You may be done with your quasi-legal homebrew server, but your quasi-legal homebrew server is not done with you: The FBI has been conducting a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information for months.

We narrowed Clinton’s vice-presidential possibilities to 27. Now you pick one. For a long time I’ve thought it definitely be one of the Castro brothers, probably Julian, but Elizabeth Warren has made such a push lately I’ve started to think it could actually be her. Of course you can pick Trump’s too, from such a weak field it includes his own daughter.

Let me close with a broad statement. In the news you will see some rather hysterical statements about how all bets are off this year. That is true to an extent: on the Republican side, the national party’s positions and their rank-and-file voters’ preferences are far out of whack. In a deep sense, their decision process in 2016 became broken. But that does not mean that opinion is unmeasurable. Far from it. In the aggregate, pollsters still do a good job reaching voters. And voters are still people whose opinions move at a certain speed. To my thinking, polls may be the best remaining way to assess what is happening.

* But just in case: I Spent the 90s Fighting Fascists on the Streets of Warsaw.

* According to multiple federal complaints, young black students in New York City are being forced out of school after being sexually assaulted.

* If you’re not sick of these yet: What Hamilton Forgets About Hamilton.

* The gentrification of Sesame Street.

* Review: Warcraft Is The Battlefield Earth Of The 21st Century. Warcraft, Hollywood, And The Growing Importance Of China’s Box Office.

* Because you demanded it! Kevin Smith Says That His Mallrats Sequel Will Be a 10-Part TV Series.

* Same joke but for The Passion of the Christ 2.

Sixty Million Car Bombs: Inside Takata’s Air Bag Crisis: How the company’s failures led to lethal products and the biggest auto recall in history.

* The case for Lady Stoneheart showing up in season six of Game of Thrones. Let me say I have my doubts.

* What to do if you find a goose than lays golden eggs. Machine Learning: A Flowchart. If you read Kafka’s stories backwards, they all make great kids’ movies.

* And the moral cowards at Wikipedia have moved to suppress my work again.

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Written by gerrycanavan

June 12, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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New Course for Spring 2016: “The Lives of Animals”

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Here’s the syllabus for my English research capstone course this semester, titled “The Lives of Animals.” As you can see from the last pages of the syllabus, this course is going to be developed collaboratively with the students, so the post-spring-break units are currently undefined. But here’s the schedule for the first half:

T Jan. 19 FIRST DAY OF CLASS
Th Jan. 21 The Book of Genesis, chapters 1-9 [online]

Post-Spring-Break Discussion

T Jan. 26 Aristotle, “The History of Animals” [AR]

Boria Sax, “Animals as Tradition” [AR]

Post-Spring-Break Discussion Continues

Th Jan. 28 Charles Darwin, The Descent or Origin of Man, Chapter 1 [online]

Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, excerpts [D2L]

Post-Spring-Break Discussion, Final Decisions

T Feb. 2 Franz Kafka, “A Report to an Academy”
Th Feb. 4 Michael Shermer, The Mind of the Market, Chapter 6 [online]

Will Wiles, “The Behavioral Sink” [online]

Personal Statement Due

T Feb. 9 Franz Kafka, “The Metamorphosis”
Th Feb. 11 Franz Kafka, “Jackals and Arabs”

Clinton R. Sanders and Arnold Arluke, “Speaking for Dogs” [AR]

T Feb. 16 Jeremy Bentham, “Principles of Morals and Legislation” [AR]

Peter Singer, “Animal Liberation or Animal Rights?” [AR]

Martha Nussbaum, “The Moral Status of Animals” [AR]

Th Feb. 18 J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals (part one)
T Feb. 23 J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals (part two)
Th Feb. 25 J.M Coetzee, The Lives of Animals (Garber, Singer, Doniger, Smuts)
T Mar. 1 Coral Lansbury, “The Brown Dog Riots of 1907” [AR]

Lynda Birke, “Into the Laboratory” [AR]

Th Mar. 3 Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Parts One and Two)
T Mar. 8 Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Part Three)
Th Mar. 10 Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Part Four)
T Mar. 15 Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (whole book)

FINAL PAPER—ELEVATOR PITCH DUE ON D2L

     

POST-SPRING-BREAK SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE

WEEKS 10-11 (MARCH 29-APRIL 7): STUDENT-DEVELOPED UNIT #1!

WEEKS 12-13 (APRIL 12-APRIL 21): STUDENT-DEVELOPED UNIT #2!

WEEKS 14-15 (APRIL 26-MAY 5): GROUP PRESENTATIONS!

THURSDAY, MAY 12: FINAL PAPER DUE VIA D2L DROPBOX BY 10 AM!

My other course is my always-very-fun “Magic as Literature” course, which has barely changed from last year except for a little bit of extra time allocated to speculating about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child…

What Day Is It? Links

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* Jaimee’s book was reviewed in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week. We spent the weekend in DC for her book launch and reading at the Folger, which was amazing. She just absolutely killed it. Buy her book! And come to her reading in Milwaukee next week…

Part of the issue is an image problem around the impact of humanities research on the wider world. The public should know about Priscilla Wald, an English professor at Duke University, whose explanation of the “outbreak narrative” of contagion is changing the way scientists think about the spread of infectious diseases. Yeah they should! Humanities research is groundbreaking, life-changing… and ignored.

* “The Time Traveller,” a story in tweets by Alberto Chimal.

* “Nuclear War” Turns 50: A Fun Game about Human Extinction.

Slave labor either physically built the modern American university or was the wealth vehicle that conditioned its making.

* Professorial anger, then and now. A bit more here.

Every NYT Higher-Ed Thinkpiece Ever Written. How to write an essay about teaching that will not be published in the NYTChronicle, IHE, or anywhere else.

* Bousquet against alt-ac.

* The semipublic intellectual.

* What happens when you fiddle with just one knob on the infernal machine: rich people get richer.

* Billionaires and superstorms.

* Nice work if you can get it.

* Meanwhile.

Are Public Universities Going to Disappear?

* The care work of the (mostly female) academic: “I estimate that someone cries in my office at least once every three weeks.”

* Playboy‘s science fiction.

* An incredibly rare Tolkien-annotated map of Middle-Earth was just discovered in a used bookstore.

* Highly irregular: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be considered the eighth book in the Harry Potter series.

In a final speech to the synod, Pope Francis endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States, while taking some clear swipes at conservatives who hold up church doctrine above all else, and use it to cast judgment on others.

What Happens if a Former CEO Actually Goes to Prison?

Cop Attacks High School Student In Her Classroom.

The Hoverboard Scene In Back To The Future 2 Nearly Killed A Stuntwoman. Amazing story.

* Look, I’m not made of stone.

* A Google Tour Through The Underground: How to Read a Russian Novel Set in the Moscow Metro.

* NLRB Returns to Grad Student Unions.

* Bring on the climate trials: ICN has demonstrated that as early as the late 1970s, Exxon scientists were briefing top executives that climate change was real, dangerous, and caused by their product. By the early 1980s, their own climate models were predicting—with great accuracy—the track the global temperature has taken ever since. Meanwhile.

* David Mitchell on A Wizard of Earthsea.

* College sports: still the worst.

A statue of Vladimir Lenin in the Ukrainian city of Odessa has been given a sci-fi twist – by being transformed into Darth Vader.

* Portugal has apparently smartly baked the potential for coups in its official constitutional order.

Emolument took data from both the US and UK and found that while science grads get a bit of a headstart straight out of university in terms of pay, in later life it’s people with humanities degrees who tend to get bigger pay cheques.

* How to Make a Virtuoso Violinist: One mother’s devastating study of 100 musical prodigies.

A DEA Agent Who Helped Take Down Silk Road Is Going to Prison for Unbelievable Corruption.

The Ecological Uncanny: On the “Southern Reach” Trilogy.

* Boondoggle watch: The City of Milwaukee has been awarded a $14.2 million federal grant for construction of a spur connecting the streetcar with the lakefront.

* “Many Colleges’ New Emergency Plan: Try to Account for Every Possibility.” Well, that’ll work.

Should a Cal State Fullerton math professor be forced to have his students use $180 textbook, written by his boss? Why is Cal State letting the math department chair require his own book?

The Man Behind the Dragon Tattoo: Former Internationalen editor Håkan Blomqvist on the socialist politics of his colleague Stieg Larsson.

“They didn’t hire me, they hired me minus 35 pounds,” Fisher recently quipped.

* The arc of history is long, but Subway will finally pay for calling an eleven-inch sandwich a “footlong.” Next up: they shouldn’t be allowed to call that bread.

* Miracles and wonders: Landmark Huntington’s trial starts.

* Star Wars but with philosophers.

* “Blood alcohol concentration predicts utilitarian responses in moral dilemmas.”

* Sesame Street will introduce an autistic muppet.

* I hate it when Yglesias is right, but sometimes he’s right: Democrats are in denial. Their party is actually in deep trouble. Down-ballot the Obama years have been a complete disaster in ways no one in the party seems ready or able to face.

Wesleyan University’s student assembly is considering substantial cuts to the student newspaper’s budget, in a move that is surely *completely unrelated* to a truly stupid recent uproar when the paper published an unpopular op-ed. The paper is soliciting donations to stay alive.

* My brilliant colleague C.J. Hribal on his old house.

* The secret linguistic life of girls.

* Talkin’ Trash with Brian Thill and Pinar Yoldas.

Police “disappeared” more than 7,000 people at an off-the-books interrogation warehouse in Chicago, nearly twice as many detentions as previously disclosed, the Guardian can now reveal.

* A literary history of whales.

The Deadly Legacy of HIV Truthers.

Things Men In Literature Have Died From.

Exploring ‘Cartozia Tales,’ The Crowdfunded Fantasy Anthology for Readers of All Ages.

* Nabokov v. Kafka on drawing the monster.

* “Gentlemen, I just don’t belong here”: throwing shade the Le Guin way.

* Guys, we are definitely living inside a simulation. And possibly just a few years away from either crashing it or figuring out how to hack it.

* And teach the controversy: Luke Skywalker, Sith Lord. I really think this is just an effective viral marketing ploy, but I’ll concede I’m starting to have my doubts.

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Written by gerrycanavan

October 27, 2015 at 7:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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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.