Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Kafka

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 How to write an essay about teaching that will not be published in the NYTChronicle, IHE, or anywhere else.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.

Late Night Monday

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* In a post-employment economy, many are working simply to earn the prospect of making money.

John Scalzi: 

So when a publisher comes to you and says “We like your book, can we buy it?” do not treat them like they are magnanimously offering you a lifetime boon, which if you refuse will never pass your way again. Treat them like what they are: A company who wants to do business with you regarding one specific project. Their job is to try to get that project on the best terms that they can. Your job is to sell it on terms that are most advantageous to you.

When People Write for Free, Who Pays?

* Kafka wept:

Oakland Police kept a man on its Most Wanted list for six months though he was not wanted for anything, the man claims in court.

And the most amazing part:

After “nearly a week of hiding in fear,” Van turned himself in on Feb. 13, “to resolve this devastating mistake,” the complaint states.

He was held for 72 hours, never charged with anything, then released, according to the complaint.

Yet on Feb. 14, the Oakland Police Department released a statement, “Most Wanted Turns Himself In,” which began: “One of Oakland’s four most wanted suspects has been taken off the streets. Last week, Oakland’s Police Chief Howard Jordan named Van Chau as one of the City’s four most wanted criminals. Today, the Oakland Police Department reports that Van Chau is off the streets of Oakland and is safely behind bars after turning himself in due to media pressure. Chief Howard Jordan said, ‘A week ago I stood with community members and asked the community to stand with me to fight crime and today we have one less criminal on our streets. Today a victim is one step closer to justice.'”

Via @zunguzungu.

The State Department’s latest environmental assessment of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline makes no recommendation about whether President Obama should approve it. Here is ours. He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem. Good conscience! Good conscience! Hilarious.

The Inevitable 2014 Headline: ‘Global CO2 Level Reaches 400 PPM For First Time In Human Existence.’ The melting of Canada’s glaciers is irreversible.

Arizona’s Law Banning Mexican-American Studies Curriculum Is Constitutional, Judge Rules.

*  “It’s not for everyone”: working as a slavery re-enactor at Colonial Williamsburg.

Where banks really make money on IPOs. Via MeFi, which has more.

* Nation’s Millionaires Agree: We Must All Do More With Less.

* The world’s most useless governmental agency, the FEC, is still trying to figure out fines for crimes committed three elections ago.

* Anarchism: illegal in Oklahoma since 1919!

* Also from the Teens: Dateline 1912: The Salt Lake Tribune speculates about “vast thinking vegetable” on Mars.

Teacher Accidentally Emails Students Secret School Document Revealing What Faculty Members Really Thought About Them.

* Marvel declares war on the local comic shop, offers unlimited access to their comics for $10.

* Charlotte Perkins Gilman was right: New Experiment Suggests Mammals Could Reproduce Entirely By Cloning.

* Does the loneliest whale really exist?

* The Senate is the worst, and the New York Times is ON IT. Meanwhile, really, the Senate is the absolute worst.

* Neil Gaiman remembers Douglas Adams.

11 More Weird & Wonderful Wikipedia Lists. Don’t miss the list of fictional ducks and the list of films considered the worst.

CLEAR Project Issues Report on Impact of NYPD Surveillance on American Muslims.

* And let freedom ring: Judge strikes down NYC ban on supersized sodas.

Wednesday Morning Links

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* “Professor Furedi, how do you get around learning outcomes?” a young lecturer asks me in a breakout session. I have just spent 10 minutes explaining the corrosive influence of learning outcomes on education to my audience at the recent Think Festival in The Hague. Nevertheless, I am caught off guard by my blunt questioner. That is probably why my reply is a bit more candid than I had intended it to be. “I just make them up and ignore them,” I say.

The good folks on the most-excellent BBC Radio/Open University statistical literacy programme More or Less decided to answer a year-old Reddit argument about how many Lego bricks can be vertically stacked before the bottom one collapses.

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Chris Hayes: ‘The Time For Choosing Sides On Climate Change Is Now.’ To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios.

* American Kafka: A former death row inmate with intellectual disabilities has languished in the Texas prison system for over 30 years despite having no valid criminal conviction.

The Sublime Sci-Fi Buildings That Communism Built.

* Teaser trailer for Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color.

* Dan Harmon vs. television.

49% of GOP voters nationally say they think that ACORN stole the election for President Obama. We found that 52% of Republicans thought that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama, so this is a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn’t exist anymore.

* And Bill O’Reilly explains how Christianity is not a religion. The War on Christmas is confusing, y’all.

Welcome Back Kafka

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The order reads: “If your vehicle’s license plate ends in a letter (A,B,C…), you are only permitted to fuel the vehicle on odd-numbered days.” Numbers are allowed on even-numbered days.

The problem: All license plates in New Jersey end in letters, except for vanity plates. So on Saturday, most everyone in the state could buy gas. On Sunday, no one can. Or so it seems.

“It’s an executive order from the governor’s office,” said Drew Niekrasz, the Bayonne deputy police chief. “We have to follow it. Even though it makes no sense.”

Wednesday Links

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* There’s an Earthlike planet in Alpha Centauri. This is the best news I’ve ever heard and I’m halfway to my space victory already I just have to research Fusion and Ecology.

* Compared to this the discovery of a planet with four suns and another all-diamond planet just seems boring.

* The other day they drove the Space Shuttle through Los Angeles.

* University of Phoenix to close 115 locations.

* Like Lee Bessette I’m pretty skeptical of this move towards a “teaching track.” Has establishing multiple tiers like this ever improved labor conditions?

* World’s biggest geoengineering experiment ‘violates’ UN rules. I’ve been fascinated for years that large-scale geoengineering projects are now within the reach not just of nations, but of individuals. Things are going to get interesting, in the “ancient Chinese curse” sense.

* Title suggestions for Future Die Hard Movies.

* The Problem with Presidential Precedent.

* Will California end the death penalty this year? They should.

* Firefly animated spinoff? I really think at this point I’d rather just be happy with what we got than ride a bad version of the thing I love into the ground. #geekheresy

* The Strange Death of Alfalfa.

* Debt Collector Illegally Seizes Disabled Vet’s Savings, Tells Him ‘You Should Have Died.’

* How Buffy Predicted Geek Misogyny. I’m not sure predicted is really the right tense here. What an Academic Who Wrote Her Dissertation on Trolls Thinks of Violentacrez. Michael Brutsch, ViolentAcrez, and Online Pseudonyms. On Ruining Violentacrez’ Life. I’m told r/creepshots is already back, masquerading as a “fashion police” subreddit.

* Gallup and Josh Marshall teases crisis as a real divergence seems possible between the popular and the electoral vote.

* Some debate highlights: a brutal on-the-spot fact-check that will be part of presidential debate prep for years to come. How epistemic closure hurts a candidate. The binder story that launched a thousand memes wasn’t even true. Leaked Debate Agreement Shows Both Obama and Romney are Sniveling Cowards. And whoever is elected, the planet loses. What an embarrassing spectacle for the people of the future to witness. Not that it’s anything new.

* Trove of Kafka Documents Must Be Released, Israeli Judge Rules. You can pick them up at the Castle…

Monday Night Links

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* The Dude—not Jeff Bridges, the original—visits Occupy LA. Aaron Bady has been all over Occupy Oakland. Chemical bomb tossed into Occupy Maine. MTV will air “True Life: I’m Occupying Wall Street” on Guy Fawkes Day. China is banning searches for “Occupy X.” And the tents come to Duke.

* Angus Johnston: “University of California Faculty Group Supports OWS, Silent on Student Protest at Home.”

* American exceptionalism: the death penalty in decline.

Capital punishment laws are on the books in 91 countries, but only 23 of them carried out any executions last year. The U.S. executed 46 people last year, and 37 so far this year — more than any other country, except for the dictatorships of China, North Korea, Iran, and Yemen. In most parts of the modern world, the practice appears to be in steep decline. Since 1976, a total of 123 countries have effectively abolished the death penalty as a barbaric legacy of the past. All signs point to an unmistakable downward trend, says Mario Marazziti, co-founder of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. “There is worldwide growth of a new moral standard of decency and of respect for human rights,” he said, “even the rights and lives of those who may have committed severe crimes.”

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Monday finalized a landmark settlement with Google in which the company has agreed to be audited for its privacy practices for the next 20 years.

* Vancouver to end homelessness by 2015.

* Wikileaks is broke. More here.

* 62% of Americans want to eliminate the Electoral College.

* And Flavorwire has your Surprising Hobbies of Famous Authors.

Franz Kafka apparently had an enormous collection of pornography, ranging from the run-of-the-mill (“girl-on-girl action”) to the more obtuse (“animals committing fellatio”). We imagine Franz as a meek, self-conscious man with a mind working a mile a minute, so we guess this makes sense, but we have to admit we’re surprised all the same.

I really feel as though I’m not surprised at all by this.