Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

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Monday Morning Links

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* I was delighted to find Octavia E. Butler on Locus’s 2016 Recommended Reading List. And you can vote for it as nonfiction book of the year! Make Ursula work for it.

Eight works of science fiction that present tyrants (not all of them human).

To maintain the USA as an integral entity is a constant struggle, with no guarantees of success. Science fiction shows us some of the many ways to fail at the task.

* I’d taken England off my list of countries to flee to, but perhaps I could be coaxed.

* Madness at the National Security Council. The Spy Revolt Against Trump. ‘A Sense of Dread’ for Civil Servants Shaken by Trump Transition. How To Deal with Reichstag Fire Fears in the Age of Trump. Twilight of Mike Flynn. Meanwhile, Trump is doing international diplomacy in the public dining room at Mar-a-Lago. “We have at most a year to defend American democracy, perhaps less.” Trump’s two-year presidency. Two years. Jesus. Shitgibbon.

* This seems fine.

One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all. The president of a free country may dominate the news cycle many days — but he is not omnipresent — and because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times. A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene. In that sense, it seems to me, we already live in a country with markedly less freedom than we did a month ago. It’s less like living in a democracy than being a child trapped in a house where there is an abusive and unpredictable father, who will brook no reason, respect no counter-argument, admit no error, and always, always up the ante until catastrophe inevitably strikes. This is what I mean by the idea that we are living through an emergency.

We have been shy about stating the obvious: that something is terribly and uniquely wrong with this president. His powers weaponise the problem.  We can all see it. We can all feel it, too. Donald Trump is the walking, talking, hate-tweeting embodiment of the howling identity crisis afflicting the entire United States.

* Federal agents conduct immigration enforcement raids in at least six states. What it’s like to be arrested by ICE. Fear and panic. Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos’ deportation to Mexico from Arizona this week was the last chapter of a long nightmare for her family. It began in 2008 with a knock on the door by sheriff’s officers. And they finally found an undocumented immigrant who voted. For Abdulkarim Jimale, escape was the only way to survive. Trump’s immigration order means bureaucrats have to decide who’s a “real” Christian. #KnowYourRights. What Geology Has to Say About Building a 1,000-Mile Border Wall. How big a deviation is this from Obama?

The initial estimate is here: Trump’s wall will cost more than a year of the space program that we’re also not going to have anymore.

* Asylum seekers fleeing the US into Canada. Losing Hope in U.S., Migrants Make Icy Crossing to Canada. Newcomer centre has no more room for border-crossing refugees.

* Revealed: FBI terrorism taskforce investigating Standing Rock activists.

* Shock report: Republicans are completely morally depraved. But don’t worry, the Democrats have got this.

An updating tally of how often every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president.

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-05-04-pm* Mr. President.

* Everything is about Trump now.

* Well, it’s come to this: a geoengineering plan to refreeze the Arctic Circle. We may live in a post-truth era, but nature does not. Simple equation shows how human activity is trashing the planet.

* Turns out you make more money on university endowments when you don’t sign over all the money to hedge-fund scam artists.

As for hedge funds and other high-cost alternatives, “the whole two-and-20 model” — in which investors typically pay 2 percent of assets under management and 20 percent of any gains — “is ridiculous,” Mr. Morris said. “The cost structure is outrageous. As they say on Wall Street, ‘Where are the customers’ yachts?’ I’m not going to play that game.”

A US-born NASA scientist was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone.

* Hello old friends: Foreground objects in adventure game scenery.

* lol x2: Geraldo Rivera quits post after Yale removes slavery supporter’s name.

* Today in “police claim.”

Amazon now controls 46% of all e-commerce in the United States.

* A brief history of the gerrymander.

Why does the United States still let 12-year-olds get married?

How American women fell behind Japanese women in the workplace.

* A brief history of punching Nazis in Marvel Comics.

* AI and the end of the middle class.

Rio’s Olympic Park, 6 months after games.

Reframing Faculty Criticisms of Student Activism.

* Milwaukee offers America’s longest-lived experiment with urban-school vouchers, but their mixed legacy is not a story you’ll frequently hear from lawmakers and advocates currently championing the spread of private school–choice programs across the country.

* A university, attacked by its own malware-laced soda machines and other botnet-controlled IoT devices, was locked out of 5,000 systems.

* Double majoring will not save you. Only the great god STEM will save you. All praise STEM!

* Springsteen shrugged.

* Mark Fisher (1968-2017).

* And this is great, like everything they do: Arnie, Usidore, and Chunt play Gauntlet.

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Weekend Links!

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tumblr_ol5we0t6ty1romv9co1_500* Are you at AWP? Or in DC generally? Jaimee is! She’ll be doing a book signing at the Waywiser Table at 12:30 Saturday and then reading at the Waywiser reading at 7:30 PM at the Den.

* I’ll be giving a short workshop on Octavia Butler and Kindred at the Stanford Humanities Center next Thursday, if that’s convenient to you!

This is so outrageous. 21 years in the US, arrived at 14, two US citizen children, arrested at a scheduled check-in with ICE. You could hardly find more compelling proof that this is entirely and exclusively about cruelty.

* “Pentagon journal explores what could happen if a president called for Muslim internment camps.” Gee, I wonder.

Meanwhile, in another classic authoritarian maneuver, the outsized ego at the heart of the Trumpist seizure of power has surrounded himself with an obliging retinue of enablers and quisling yes-men. Trump likes to divide people between “haters and losers”—a cheap shot that is actually a fairly useful way to categorize his own team. It’s Already Happened Here. How to Stop an Autocracy. Profiles in Courage: Rand Paul, Civil Libertarian.

* Every day. Something crazy happens every day.

* The history of this era is going to be so, so unbelievable.

* Neither Nordstrom nor Ivanka but International Socialism.

* Of course…

* It’s getting to the point where you can’t even call for the wanton slaughter of students without some PC SJW raising a stink about it.

tumblr_ol51udr3fd1romv9co1_500How Political Fear Works. Beware of Self-Censorship. Who Benefits From Trump’s Chaos? What’s in it For The Collaborators? There Are No Good Reasons Not To Fight.

* Obama’s Lost Army: When Obama Killed OFA.

* I liked this: The Meitheal Manifesto: Thirteen Agreements to Save the World.

* Some rare good news on the climate.

* Darkest thing I’ve ever seen, first for one the one reason and then for the other.

* The arc of history is long, but Mac malware is slowly catching up to its Windows rivals.

Solitary Confinement Is a Great American Shame.

* Remembering Richard Rorty on Trump (and the reformist left) (again).

* No one is reading those reference letters. “Truly, this is the single easiest fix in academic culture.”

* Science education in the time of Trump.

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* You can’t argue with facts, little brother.

* Bees aren’t endangered anymore! Surprisingly easy fix actually.

Everything is hot now and getting hotter. Everything seems off or wrong and it is hard to get your bearings because so few of the old landmarks remain. It is hard to believe that some things ever happened, that certain places ever existed. Sometimes I am convinced my memory is wrong or fooling me. The idea that there might be a United States. The idea that this vast and unruly countryside, these ruined cities, these endless refugee camps, might have once been something else. If no one invades us now and only some countries send food and aid, it is only because they too are under stress. Or because we are so fucked up and so many of us have so many weapons. Somewhere in the lost places, there are still nukes, too. Jeff VanderMeer’s “Trump Land.”

* SF Cities Beyond Blade Runner.

* Graverobbing the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

* Source map from the first great comic book crossover.

* TGIF!

* Oh, this was so brutal to read. There but for the grace of God go I at least for now.

Here are my vitals: I have more than $200,000 in student loans and $46,000 in credit card debt—all accumulated during my B.A., M.A., and Ph.D., and then search for a tenure-track job. My annual salary translates to a little more than $3,000 in monthly take-home pay. I pay $800 a month in rent, $1,100 in credit card bills (paying only the monthly minimums), $350 in student loans, and have $285 a month car payment. I also pay the usual insurances, utilities, groceries, gas, et al. I don’t have cable. Or a kitchen table. Or blinds on any of my windows. I’ve cancelled all magazine and newspaper subscriptions—an actual dilemma for a journalism professor. For my first year in Bangor I didn’t even have a bed. Instead I slept on a Target air mattress until it lost its breath; then I moved to the couch (which I had purchased on credit), until my back finally demanded I buy a bed (credit, again).

* And of course you had me at A New Deep Space Nine Documentary Reveals What Would Have Happened in Season Eight. Here’s another good writeup.

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Wednesday Is Now Trumpnesday, All Hail Trump

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* CFP: 42nd Meeting of the Society for Utopian Studies, Memphis, TN.

* Fascism happens fast: First look at Biff to the Future, the alt-history comic chronicling the BTTF universe.

* Trump and disaster capitalism.

* The Trump Story Project.

Dissenting from Within the Trump Administration.

Delusional Democrats Yearning to Prove They Can Work With Trump. From Jonathan Chait, no less!

Overshadowed by headlines about chaos and infighting, the new administration is notching a string of early victories.

* “The White House is deploying a network of advisers to the top of federal agencies as a direct line to stay on top of Cabinet officials.” “U.S. Government Agencies Go Silent, May Have Been Swallowed By Black Hole.” “Trump Health Care Plan Would Take Medicaid Coverage Away from Up to 31 Million People.” “Trump Aides Can’t Stop Blabbing about How He’s a Madman.” “Donald Trump’s stock in oil pipeline company raises concern.” Oh, no, not concern! “American Carnage.” “The Resistance.” Nailing it.

* Poor guy.

The bad press over the weekend has not allowed Trump to “enjoy” the White House as he feels he deserves, according to one person who has spoken with him.

* Almost certainly our next president, ladies and gentleman.

Beyond the Usual Suspects: Saturday’s marches were successful because they rallied millions, not just a small core of activists.

* Within minutes of each other: Trump Revives Keystone Pipeline. Canada oil pipeline spills 200,000 liters on aboriginal land.

Bill would end Virginia’s ‘winner take all’ electoral vote system.

* The voter fraud delusion.

* Some details on the shooting at the Milo Yiannopoulos talk at U Washington.

* Science corner! Badlands National Park Twitter account goes rogue, starts tweeting scientific facts. The Science of Sean Spicer’s Compulsive Gum Swallowing Habit. How long would a liberal have to cry to fill a coffee mug with tears? Flint water is fine again, also it was no one’s fault, trust us.

Standpoint theory doesn’t say we can just make shit up; it says we need a clear-eyed understanding of power relations in order to understand and evaluate knowledge-claims. In other words, pomo feminists didn’t create “alt facts”; it’s pomo feminists who have given us the tools to oppose them.

In Discarded Women’s March Signs, Professors Saw a Chance to Save History.

Minnesota bill would make convicted protesters liable for policing costs. N.C. state lawmaker says shouting at current or former gov’t officials should be punishable by 5 years in prison.

* Interesting little story about Dan Harmon’s work on/against an early version of Dr. Strange.

* An interesting piece of fan fiction about something that will never happen again in our lifetimes: a story ending.

* Like someone peeled open my skull and put my inner monologue on the Internet.

* The arc of history is long, but white women are going to prison at a higher rate than ever before.

Wisconsin lawmaker wants Sheriff David Clarke booted from office, immediately.

Further Thoughts on the Problem of Susan.

* The Case Against Unity.

* The View from Trump Tower.

* Whitefish, Montana vs. the Nazis.

This is how American health care kills people.

* Going back to the old days on health insurance, a first draft.

Potential Trump Science Adviser Says 90 Percent of U.S. Colleges Will Disappear. I’m amazed they think a full tenth will escape the Sentinels.

* Arrested Development Season 5 rumors.

Columbia University Releases Report on School’s Ties to Slavery.

The Other Buffett Rule, or, why better billionaires will never save us.

The Web Is a Customer Service Medium.

* ISIS and social media.

* And this truly is the darkest timeline.

Tom the Dancing Bug 1322 view from trump tower 2

Tom the Dancing Bug 1322 view from trump tower 2

Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Links

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* Some of my own stuff from the weekend: Making America Great Again with Octavia Butler and the formal, official, can’t-take-it-back-now release of Octavia E. Butler in Kindle, hardback, and paperback. CFP: Buffy at 20. Jaimee’s election poem at the New Verse News: “Donald Trump, Kate McKinnon, Leonard Cohen.”

* CFP: Capital at 150. CFP: Marxist Reading Group: Genre and the Crisis of Narrative.

* Jerome Winter on the new space opera.

* Other books I’d rather be reading: In a Galaxy 90 Miles Away: The View from Cuban Science Fiction. No Mind To Lose: On Brainwashing.

How I Wrote Arrival (and What I Learned Doing It). A Ted Chiang profile in The Guardian.

* A history of Chinese science fiction. An Islam and Sci-Fi Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson.

* The Two Americas.

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* www.holyfucktheelection.com

* Shirtless Trump Saves Drowning Kitten. The Trump Meltdown Begins. There is no way to predict where this is heading. (Okay, maybe we can predict a little bit.) How Trump Won. The counties that flipped parties to swing the 2016 election. It probably wasn’t voter suppression (except maybe in Wisconsin). We have 100 days to stop Donald Trump from systemically corrupting our institutions. Yeah, good luck. It Can’t Happen Here in 2016. The Plot Against America in 2016. Sixteen Writers on Trump’s America. Preparing for the Worst: How Conservatives Will Govern in 2017. Trump takes to Twitter to blast ‘hater, loser’ children; vows retribution. Where the Democrats Go From Here. How to Build an Exit Ramp for Trump Supporters. Amazing what a week can do. Blue Feed, Red Feed. Abolish the Electoral College. Post-Election College Grading Rubric. Google Emoluments Truth. The nine liberals you meet in hell.

* He might as well try: Obama Can and Should Put Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court.

Hillary Clinton’s Vaunted GOTV Operation May Have Turned Out Trump Voters. The Democrats’ Real Turnout Problem. Clinton Aides Blame Loss on Everything but Themselves. Comey! The Clinton Campaign Was Undone By Its Own Neglect And A Touch Of Arrogance, Staffers Say. Epic. This didn’t have to happen. They Always Wanted Trump: Inside Team Clinton’s year-long struggle to find a strategy against the opponent they were most eager to face. Twilight of the Messageless Candidate. Blame the Clintons. Obama after Obama. Whatever happened: The whole Democratic Party is now a smoking pile of rubble. 2009: The Year the Democratic Party Died. The decimation of the Democratic Party, visualized. Does the Democratic Party Have a Future? Well, have you met the Democrats? The Worst Possible Leader at the Worst Possible Time. These are the key governors’ races the Democrats will blow in 2018. Blueprint for a New Party.

* DNC Aiming To Reconnect With Working-Class Americans With New ‘Hamilton’-Inspired Lena Dunham Web Series.

* From the archives: Umberto Eco on Ur-Fascism.

* Historians under Hitler. When Hitler Pivoted. Autocracy: Rules for Survival. What Is The “Alt-Right”? A Guide To The White Nationalist Movement Now Leading Conservative Media. Prepare For Regime Change, Not Policy Change.

Why FiveThirtyEight Gave Trump A Better Chance Than Almost Anyone Else. More from Nate’s Twitter. And from another angle entirely: Things look an awful lot like they would if we decided elections by coin flip.

So many more examples could be given, but it’s getting late, and one general takeaway from the 2016 Election seems clear: our popular media, from those producing it to those sorting it with editors and algorithms, are not up to the task of informing us and describing reality. This won’t happen, but those people who got Trump sooo consistently wrong from the primaries to Election Day should not have the job of informing us anymore. And if you were surprised last night, you might want to reconsider how you get information.

* The New Inquiry has been all over the Trump Resistance. Waking up in Trump’s America. Lose Your Kin. Against Extinction. Fuck. The Gamble. And the struggle goes on: “Thanksgiving is the festival of white reconciliation.”

* No President. What a proper response to Trump’s fascism demands: a true ideological left.

* Richard Rorty, 1998.

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* Do any laws bind electors to vote along with their state? Not really. But this cuts both ways, and basically ruins any sort of “hack the Electoral College scheme” from the jump too. Meanwhile, let’s hack the Electoral College, because what could possibly go wrong.

* Truly, only the superrich can save us now.

* Beginning to look a lot like Christmasttime: UPS strike. O’Hare strike.

* Rise of the Sanctuary Campus.

And yet, to my knowledge, no one has explained clearly enough that globalization is over, and that we urgently need to reestablish ourselves on an Earth that has nothing to do with the protective borders of nation-states any more than the infinite horizon of globalization.

* Being Productive in Scholarly Publishing: Advice from Jason Brennan. No one said you’d like it.

* A GoFundMe for SEK’s medical bills. I only wish the prognosis were better.

The New Intellectuals: Is the academic jobs crisis a boon to public culture?

* Title IX is effectively finished, at least in its current form. More here. “College” as a concept may not be all that far behind.

* On toxifying, rather than repealing, the ACA.

Trump Will Have Access To Personal Info Of “Dreamers” For Deportation Efforts. This precise possibility, of course, was raised as an objection to Obama’s action at the time.

* Democrats, 2016, preserving the state, and the man of lawlessness.

* After a tweet blaming this all on Bill Clinton, Steve Shaviro provided a time-travel novel to soothe my pain: The X-President.

* The coming Democratic defeat on infrastructure.

What Women Used Before They Could Use the Law.

* Trans in Trump’s America.

* Passing the baton.

* I want things to be different.

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* This world is so messed up. Let’s go do something good.

* How to Reverse Engineer Smells.

november_2016* The Official November 2016 Guide for Making People Feel Old.

* The 100-Year-Old Man Who Lives in the Future.

* Why kids need recess.

Fact-checking doesn’t ‘backfire,’ new study suggests. Calling people racist might, though.

Harry Potter and the Conscience of a Liberal.

* What if X-Men were a Gothic novel?

* Calexit.

The economists are leveraging their academic prestige with secret reports justifying corporate concentration. Their predictions are often wrong and consumers pay the price.

* Next crash brewing.

* Huge, if true: Report finds many graduate students are stressed about finances.

* An Oral History of My So-Called Life.

* The Fate of Reading in a Multimedia Age.

* I think I did this one a few months ago, but at least somebody has a plan: Optimal search path for finding Waldo.

* We asked eighty-six burglars how they broke into homes.

* New research suggests the Earth’s climate could be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than thought, raising the spectre of an ‘apocalyptic side of bad’ temperature rise of more than 7C within a lifetime. With Trump’s election I think any hope of solving this without geoengineering is over, and perhaps all hope period.

The North Pole is a mere 36 degrees warmer than normal as winter descends. Give it a chance!

Stephen Hawking says we’ve got about 1,000 years to find a new place to live. So you’re saying we have 999 years before we even need to think about this.

* But it’s not all bad news! Blood from human teens rejuvenates body and brains of old mice.

* And the thrilling conclusion to the thisisfine.jpg trilogy, truly the epic of our times.

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Written by gerrycanavan

November 18, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Thursday Morning!

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* A major new report suggests serious underemployment among liberal arts majors, affecting as many as 50% of recent graduates in some majors.

* Liu Cixin has an essay on Death’s End up at Tor: Chinese Literature and Apocalyptic SF: Some Notes on Death’s End (and has a review up already as well). My review probably won’t be published for another few weeks, so I’ll just say again: just buy it!

* Once more, with feeling: Student evaluations are useless.

* CFP: The Job Market. CFP: Loanwords to Live With. I know some of the editors of the Loanwords project and I think it looks really exciting. CFC: A Marxist Game.

* Congratulations to Claudia Rankine on her MacArthur grant.

* The New Republic reviews Alice Kaplan’s new book on The Stranger.

* David Fahrenthold’s reporting on Trump’s foundation has yielded a major scoop, evidence of self-dealing in public documents that would appear to be trivially against the law. Even wilder: this is their defense.

* America: taste the rainbow.

* Instapundit has been suspended from Twitter for a tweet about the Charlotte protests. The tweet in question seems pretty indefensible to me, though Reynolds tries at the link, and regardless of its defensibility suspending him for it seems likely to have very bad consequences both for Twitter and for left academics on a pragmatic level. 9:04 AM UPDATE: He’s already back on.

“Actuaries shamelessly, although often in good faith, understate pension obligations by as much as 50 percent,” said Jeremy Gold, an actuary and economist, in a speech last year at the M.I.T. Center for Finance and Policy. “Their clients want them to.”

Seven charts that speak volumes about the opioid epidemic.

* Since the dawn of time, man has fought the rat.

From Back to the Future II to Stephen King’s saving-JFK novel 11/23/63, the lesson one learns again and again is that trying to improve the world through time travel is a fool’s game, creating far worse problems than whatever you’d hoped to fix. Most of time travel fiction these days is one way or another designed to help us swallow the bitter pill that this life is the one we’re stuck with, that trying to make things better will only backfire.

Cut-throat academia leads to ‘natural selection of bad science’, claims study.

* Something has gone wrong with our atheists.

The bear who fought in World War II.

* Stranger Things spinoff greenlit.

* Going to go ahead and greenlight this one too: Family flee home after finding spiders which can cause four-hour erection followed by death in ASDA bananas.

AI will eliminate 6 percent of jobs in five years, says report. Yes, even yours!

Greenland’s huge annual ice loss is even worse than thought.

A Massive Sinkhole Just Dumped Radioactive Waste Into Florida Water.

* In the Criminal Justice System the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups, the police and the police.

* Teaching the controversy: “Should police officers be required to provide medical aid to people they’ve shot?”

* Slate vs. Stone re: Snowden.

* The Internet and the end of porn.

* Know your white supremacy.

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* Communists are everywhere!

* Contradictions of Capital and Care.

* The end, one hopes, of Anthony Weiner.

* “Karen Gillan Promises There’s a Reason Her Jumanji Character Is Dressed Like That.”

* Been there: Child’s Loose Grasp On Balloon Only Thing Between Peace And Anarchy At Restaurant.

School lunch worker forced to throw away student’s hot meal decides to quit.

* Save the Day, from Joss Whedon.

* Take that, every authority figure in my personal history! A new study finds that fidgeting — the toe-tapping, foot-wagging and other body movements that annoy your co-workers — is in fact good for your health.

* Political correctness run amok.

These are the most lewd-sounding town names in each state.

* And now, truly, more than ever: “Tonight the Character of Death Will Be Played by Brad Pitt.”

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All Your Weekend Links

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* Waywiser Press has two new MP3s of Jaimee reading from her first book, How to Avoid Speaking: “Derrida Eats a Dorito” and “On Beauty.”

* New SF from Cixin Liu: “The Weight of Memories.”

* Duke Lit is hiring. And Georgetown has a cluster hire in African American studies.

* Automatically preordered: Kim Stanley Robinson’s next novel, New York 2140. China Miéville’s October: A History of the Russian Revolution. The Miéville- and Le-Guin-fronted new edition of More’s Utopia. Box Brown’s graphic history of Tetris.

* I love this Oulipoesque writing game from Steve Shaviro, on writing like a pundit.

  1. Every sentence must be a cliche.
  2. There must be no logical or narrative connection among the sentences. Each one must be a complete non sequitur.

Supporting Transgender Students in the Classroom.

Reevaluating Teaching Evaluations.

Can grad students unionize? Academia awaits major labor board ruling.

Univision buys Gawker for $135m, shuts Gawker itself down.

Conservatively, counting just the biggest chunks of staff time that went into it, the prison story cost roughly $350,000. The banner ads that appeared on the article brought in $5,000, give or take. Had we been really in your face with ads, we could have doubled or tripled that figure—but it would have been a pain for you, and still only a drop in the bucket for us.

* Relatedly: Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons. Some immediate effects.

* The new Star Trek distribution model in a global context.

15 Technologies That Were Supposed to Change Education Forever.

* Foundation 124 is out, with a special focus on More’s Utopia.

* I feel this now about a lot of things I read: Why Scott Snyder Doesn’t Write Damian Wayne Much.

Unfortunately, Landis — the director who co-wrote and executive produced Clue — and the studios were completely wrong about there being any box office appeal for a film with three endings. As Lynn explained, “The audience decided they didn’t know which ending to go to, so they didn’t go at all.”

* Meanwhile, from the death of culture.

It was the deadliest massacre of disabled people since World War II. How do we honor the victims if we don’t even know their names? Remembering the Sagamihara 19.

Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing.’

* Something unexpected I learned recently: the practice of giving presidential candidates classified intelligence briefings began in the 1950s with President Truman, who didn’t want his successors coming into office without knowing crucial information (the way he hadn’t known about the Manhattan Project).

* Donald Trump is assembling gathering the Legion of Doom. (The ubiquitous Twitter joke was calling it “the hospice stage.”) Trumpism: first as tragedy, then as farce. The Presidential Debates Will Almost Definitely Exclude Third Parties. Finding Someone Who Can Imitate Donald Trump. Battleground Texas? The short, unhappy life of the Naked Trump statue. #TrumpExplainsMoviePlots.

The GOP’s Chances Of Holding The Senate Are Following Trump Downhill.

* A digital exhibit from the Milwaukee Public Library on the history of race and class in Milwaukee. Milwaukee by the numbers.

hobbiton-google* Frodo’s trip to Mordor as a Google Map. Via Boing Boing.

* Aetna to pull out of the Obamacare markets, apparently for revenge. EpiPen Price Hike Has Parents of Kids With Allergies Scrambling Ahead of School Year.

Diagnoses of 9/11-linked cancers have tripled in less than 3 years.

Why gifted kindergarten is 70 percent white. How schools that obsess about standardized tests ruin them as measures of success.

“Clickbait”-esque titles work for academic papers too.

* Why aren’t there more women in Congress?

* What crime is the robbing of a neighborhood, compared to policing it?

These Researchers Are Using Reddit to Teach a Supercomputer to Talk. In a panic, they try to pull the plug…

The Original Plan for Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four Sounds Completely Amazing.

In addition to Annihilus and the Negative Zone, we had Doctor Doom declaring war against the civilized world, the Mole Man unleashing a 60 foot genetically-engineered monster in downtown Manhattan, a commando raid on the Baxter Foundation, a Saving Private Ryan-style finale pitting our heroes against an army of Doombots in war-torn Latveria, and a post-credit teaser featuring Galactus and the Silver Surfer destroying an entire planet. We had monsters and aliens and Fantasticars and a cute spherical H.E.R.B.I.E. robot that was basically BB-8 two years before BB-8 ever existed. And if you think all of that sounds great…well, yeah, we did, too. The problem was, it would have also been massively, MASSIVELY expensive.

By coincidence, we watched the actual Trank Fantastic Four tonight and I was utterly shocked to see that there was almost a decent movie lurking in there somewhere.

Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom To Be Murdered.

The spectacle of mixed gender racing unravels fascistic models of sex/gender difference and sex/gender purity.  Every woman runner competes with the lie that men are faster than women. That fiction can only be maintained by ensuring that men and women never run with each other — when men and women run with each other, they scale down each other’s understanding of their differences. The Life and Murder of Stella Walsh, Intersex Olympic Champion. Capturing Semenya.

The Forgotten Tale of How America Converted Its 1980 Olympic Village Into a Prison.

That time NASA accidentally sold a piece of irreplaceable Apollo history for less than $1,000.

* Nothing gold can stay: The Heidelberg Project is coming down.

* Allow me to recommend the Julia Louis-Dreyfus portion of this episode of the Katie Couric Podcast, where she talks Veep, Hillary Clinton, and Trump. The Al Franken episode is pretty good too.

* This episode of Criminal, on the founder of The Leaky Cauldron’s experience of being cyber-stalked for eight years, is also a really fascinating listen.

* I’m sad about this, but it’s probably time: Walking Dead Creator Robert Kirkman Announces End of Long-Running Superhero Comic Invincible.

“Distance from center of diagram measures explanatory generality, comprehensive power, & potential banality”

Perhaps, once at a summer barbecue, when both were still alive, Maude grabbed Marge’s hand under the table and held tight.

* Meritocracy and system dysfunction. Meritocracy and system dysfunction and free tuition at public colleges.

* One of the biggest crime waves in America isn’t what you think it is: wage theft.

The race of the police officer doesn’t matter. The race of the mayorimplementing the policy doesn’t matter. What matters is who enjoys a “right to the city” — and who gets thrown up against a wall and patted down.

New Museum Connects History of Slavery to Mass Incarceration.

* Elsewhere at Jacobin: Jacobin vs. Scientology.

* google sugar high truth

Scenes From the Terrifying, Already Forgotten JFK Airport Shooting That Wasn’t.

* Stranger Things, Parallel Universes, and the State of String Theory. And an interesting proposition from Chuck Rybak: Is the ubiquity of cell phones driving the nostalgia craze in film and TV?

* Please don’t mess this up: Marvel And Hulu Announce Runaways TV Series.

* Or this one either: Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar return for animated Batman movie.

* What killed The Nightly Show?

* When Nixon almost implemented universal basic income.

* Understanding the Harambe meme. Understanding the bees are dying at an alarming rate meme.

* A list of 150+ SF Writers of Asian Descent.

* Terraforming Mars without Nukes.

Gins often said that the reason she and Arakawa made art and architecture was to “construct optimism.” Their whole philosophy began there, in the desire to embrace being alive and to shift their focus away from the certainty of death. Gins made the choice to believe that art, and her work, were strong enough to do that. It was her version of faith, and her work made that faith solid, physical. Her life, like all our lives, was often filled with sadness and difficulty. There were periods of depression, anxiety, sick parents, financial problems, her husband’s illness and death. Through it all, she insisted not just on continuing to live, but on living forever. Trying to build a world where fewer people suffered made her own suffering bearable. A year and a half after Arakawa’s death, Gins recalled in a letter to a friend her struggle to move forward. “Despite my shattered state,” she wrote, “in spite of the gaping hole that had been punched into my optimism, I asserted that nothing is of more interest than to be alive.”

J.K. Rowling announces new Harry Potter short story collections.

* Stop me if you’ve heard this one: In the 136 years scientists have been tracking global temperatures, there has never been a warmer month than this July, according a new NASA report. 

* Arctic Cruises for the Wealthy Could Fuel a Climate Change ‘Feedback Loop’.

* RIP John McLaughlin, who I watched with my father every week for a decade. Bye-bye.

* Dune, as it was always meant to be experienced.

* Feet of clay: Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland vs. the unions.

* Exercise we can believe in: Watching horror films burns nearly 200 calories a time.

* And physicists may have discovered a fifth fundamental force of nature. This is the one that gives people superpowers, I know it.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 19, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Reading and Teaching Harry Potter after THE CURSED CHILD (No Spoilers, Just a Few Instant Reactions)

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Zoey slept in this morning, so I was able to read the entirety of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on my Kindle app under the covers, racing both an iPad battery that was very rapidly heading to zero and a four-year-old whose every tiny twitch and movement suggested the end of my project was drawing near. I think it’s good. It’s definitely strange. As a revisionary work, it throws some very odd wrinkles into the interior logic of the Harry Potter universe, and as a result I suspect it will always have a sort of quasi-authorative, even apocryphal status within the canon, even beyond what one would have suspected because of the unusual circumstances of its multi-author composition and its form as a play rather than a novel or even a film. It never feels quite real, never feels like the actual future of these people and these circumstances; it’s a tie-in book, oxymoronically authoritative fan fiction. Still, there are a few things here worth lingering on, and it’ll start a lot of conversations.

I know I’ve read the thing almost comically early, so perhaps I’ll do a follow-up post in a week or so with some actual spoiler-laden analysis about the events of the plot. But what struck me most as I was reading The Cursed Child is how directly it resonates with the way I’ve been teaching the series in my literature courses the last two years (a pedagogical focus undoubtedly driven by the fact that I’m a parent now myself). Like many other things in life, the original Harry Potter books look rather different after one becomes a parent, and living inside the franchise again I’ve really come to see it as in large part as a frustrated rumination on bad parents, and on bad fathers in particular.

The class I teach Harry Potter in is a foundations course for English majors, but the theme is “Magic and Literature”; we spend the last half on children’s literature and the last full month on Harry Potter, first talking about the franchise as a whole (with some exceptions, they nearly all know it by heart) and then (re-)reading the fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, together. I choose Order of the Phoenix deliberately: the first three books are all still a little childish, and the fourth is mostly so until the shocking events at the end, which (after Cursed Child) now looks even more like the fulcrum of the entire series. (A surprisingly high number of students in the current college-age cohort had younger siblings who were initially not allowed to read past book three, and only came back to the series later, if at all, after a year or more break.) The sixth and seventh books are really plot-driven, almost to the exclusion of the world-building; you can’t really read one without reading both, and at that point you’re completely excluding any students who don’t already know the series extremely well. But the fifth book is in the sweet spot: it’s adult, in a way the earlier ones aren’t, and it opens up on the larger, darker Wizarding World while still being a stand-alone adventure. It’s also, perhaps it goes without saying, my personal favorite of the five, and I think the actual best writing of all seven — and it brings up some fascinating issues about the Wizarding World and its internal politics that aren’t really developed anywhere else.

We spend two weeks on Phoenix, and afterwards we talk a little bit about the epilogue to the last book, which (as every child knows) flashes forward nineteen years to the day Harry Potter’s second son, Albus Severus, goes to Hogwarts. We need the epilogue in the class because, in my teaching, it’s the culmination of the various explorations of bad parenting that structure Phoenix.

The discussion for the first day inevitably focuses on the scene with Molly Weasley (chapter nine, “The Woes of Mrs. Weasley”). Mrs. Weasley is a fascinating character from the perspective of the Harry-Potter-rereader-as-a-parent, as she is one of only a handful of genuinely “good” parents anywhere in the series: good in the sense that she sees her children (and Harry) as pearls beyond price and simply wants to love, nurture, and protect them, rather than instrumentalize them either in the service of her own ego (as with, say, Lucius Malfoy) or in the service of some larger, supposedly greater cause (as with Dumbledore).

(The character most like Molly in the series is, weirdly, Narcissa Malfoy, as my students in the first iteration of the class pointed out to me: Narcissa is the version of Molly who doesn’t take the word of the men for an answer and who is therefore able to get what she wants and protect her child at any cost, the Higher Cause be damned. That’s a not-insignificant plot detail for reading The Cursed Child.)

In chapter nine of The Order of the Phoenix we see Molly Weasley get excoriated by every other member of the original Order of the Phoenix for being weak, and being unwilling to see that war has come to the children (especially Harry, who is 15) and that they now must grow up and be soldiers instead. Molly says no, leave them out of it, they’re children, and gets shouted down. (In case we miss the point, Molly is then humiliated by the narrative by being unable to defeat a boogeyman parademon that the children had been taught to defeat with a simple spell two years before.) The remainder of the book and really the series as a whole is an exercise in further proving that Molly and those who think like her, like Hermione, are wrong (even though from a strict plot perspective Molly is in fact completely right and if the children had done nothing but just be kids everything in Book Five would have turned out fine). But within the logic of the original series it’s Molly who has to change; she only gets her redemptive moment in Book Seven when she is finally able to reconcile love to violence when she tells Bellatrix Lestrange “Not my daughter, you bitch” before murdering her.

Dumbledore explains at the end of Book Five that, in fact, his problem is that he loves Harry too much, and has been unwilling to fully weaponize him as the circumstances demand, treating him too much like a child — but now he will, reluctantly and with regret, bring Harry completely into the fold as his full lieutenant. (It’s only in Book Seven that we find out Dumbledore is still lying to Harry, even here, and that Dumbledore has always known he was raising Harry for the slaughter; even Snape, who himself has barely any conscience or pity, is horrified when he finds this out.) Both years teaching the course I’ve said at the end of the first day that my overall take on Dumbledore is that he seems to be a brilliant general, a middling-to-poor teacher, and an absolutely terrible father; no one agrees with me on day one, but by the end of the full lesson about half the class or more does. Dumbledore, like Gandalf, and like the Doctor, and like Obi-Wan, and like any other number of mentor wizards in the history of science fiction and fantasy we could name, abuses his protege and everyone else as his instrument in the name of a higher, nobler purpose — and if that’s painful, if that hurts, well, please know he’s sorry, it’s only because he loves you so very much.

The Dumbledore pseudo-apology scene that comes at the end of Book Five is important enough, central enough to the Potter mythos that it plays out again with one of Dumbledore’s portraits in The Cursed Child — only this time, Harry gets to talk back, and this time Dumbledore turns out to be definitely and definitively wrong.

This is why the books always needed the nineteen-years-later epilogue, despite all the many reasons it was a tremendously bad idea compositionally: what we see in the epilogue is that while Harry continues to admire the many men around him who seek to deploy him as their child-soldier, and even names his two sons after his four bad dads (James, who at least was bad mostly because he was dead; Sirius; Severus Snape; and Albus Dumbledore), he actually parents them like Molly Weasley. In the scene Albus is scared that he’ll be sorted into Slytherin, and wants reassurance from his dad that it won’t happen:

“Albus Severus,” Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was now on the train, “you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”

“But just say — ”

“– then Slytherin House will have gained an excellent student, won’t it? It doesn’t matter to us, Al. But if if it matters to you, you’ll be able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin. The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account.”

“Really?”

“It did for me,” said Harry.

He had never told any of this children that before, and he saw the wonder in Albus’s face when he said it.

The punchline of the whole Hogwarts adventure, in my reading, is that Harry’s reward is that he gets to be a father, and/but that he isn’t a father like Dumbledore, Sirius, or Lucius. He just loves his kid unconditionally, whoever he is or isn’t, no matter what, forever.

The play’s retelling of the Deathly Hallows epilogue in Act I, Scene II truncates this scene crucially by eliminating the bolded dialogue. (I haven’t seen it performed so I can’t be sure how it plays on stage, but the stage directions don’t indicate any special reaction from Albus to this information either.) It has to retcon out Harry’s choice to love his children like Molly and Narcissa so that he can spend the play learning that lesson instead. So instead of Harry the Good Dad, we spend most of The Cursed Child with Harry as actually a pretty bad one, who fundamentally misunderstands his role in his son’s life, so at the end he can reform and be returned to the place where the original epilogue had always left him anyway.

In that sense, I suppose, the plot of The Cursed Child writ large is itself a little bit like the bubble timeline of any classic time-travel story, existing temporarily to dissipate in the face of reconciliation with the place we already were all along. But that reconciliation is an interesting thing; even reconciled, we can’t read the earlier books in quite the same way, because after The Cursed Child even Rowling won’t let Dumbledore off his hook. The story The Cursed Child tells in the foreground is ultimately the one the Harry Potter series was always telling in the background: how easy it is to be a bad parent, and how easy it would be to be a good one, if only you were stronger.