Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Vonnegut

Syllabus: Science Fiction in the Summertime

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I find teaching in the summer very agreeable in some ways and very difficult in others: I really feel as though a “life during wartime” spirit of camaraderie develops in the classroom, which is nice, but at the same time it can be difficult to cover the amount of material I’d normally cover in a semester (especially since it’s so hard to assign the usual amount of either reading or writing). This summer in particular I’ve really had to accept that summer classes are just different — my class meets only two days a week, for an impossible 3 1/2 hours at a stretch.

My plan is to break each class period into roughly three one-hour chunks, with two short breaks between each. There’s a lot more in-class stuff than I usually do, and even more little clips and exercises that I have planned that won’t be the major focus of the day and so aren’t listed in the syllabus. No papers — just take-home midterm, take-home final, forum posts, and quizzes.

People who know my classes or my work can probably tell that I’ve chosen texts I know inside and out, including a bunch I’ve written on. This is not an accident.

With all those caveats, here’s the gameplan:

M June 29 INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE

in class: Ted Chiang, “Liking What You See: A Documentary”

in class: excerpts from Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica (2000s), Interstellar, Mass Effect, etc.

W July 1 in class: film, Avatar (2009)
M July 6 Avatar discussion continues: Annalee Newitz, “When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like Avatar?” [web]; Slavoj Žižek, “Return of the Natives” [web]

Kim Stanley Robinson, “The Lucky Strike”

in class: Kim Stanley Robinson, “A Sensitive Dependence on Internal Conditions”

W July 8 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (first third)
M July 13 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (second third)
W July 15 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (whole book)
M July 20 TAKE-HOME MIDTERM DUE TO D2L BY 5:30 PM

James Tiptree, Jr., “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” [ARES]

in class: Ursula K. Le Guin: “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

in class: film, “The Space Traders” (1994)

W July 22 Mark Bould, “The Ships Landed Long Ago” [ARES]

Samuel R. Delany, “The Star Pit” [ARES]

in class: TV, Star Trek: Deep Space 9: “Far Beyond the Stars” (1998)

M July 27 Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (parts one and two)
W July 29 Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (part three)
M August 3 Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (whole book)

in class: excerpt from Octavia E. Butler, Adulthood Rites

W August 5 Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Volumes 1 & 2

in class: zombie film and television, zombie games

LAST DAY OF CLASS

M August 10 TAKE HOME FINAL DUE TO D2L BY 12:00 PM

Sunday Links!

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* Don’t miss my flash review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron! As I say in the update, thanks to my friend Ryan Vu for priming the pump (and look for his brilliant review of Captain America 2 in a few months in SFFTV).

Why Avengers: Age of Ultron Fills This Buffy Fan With Despair. Nerd Plus Ultron: There Has to Be More to ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Than Printing More Money.

* Notes on the coming DC disaster: In the early going, some in Hollywood are questioning whether Warners has acted too much in haste without having fleshed out the world on which so much hinges.

These Imaginative Worlds and Parallel Universes Will Forever Change How You Think About Africa.

2030 is set largely in the titular year, 100 kilometers south of Ho Chi Minh City. The initial title card establishes that 80% of the population has been evacuated due to the rising sea level as an effect of global warming.

* Great university boondoggle reporting from Freddie deBoer.

Late last week, using the hashtag #talkpay, people began tweeting about how much money they make—a radical thing to do in a culture that treats disclosing your salary as the ultimate taboo.

Dear Superprofessors: The experiment is over.

I’ve been buried in final book manuscript revisions, and have been noticing that I’m increasingly using the term “management” rather than “administration” in my analyses of university governance.  Part of the reason is that my employer, the University of California, uses Senior Management Group as a formal employment classification. But it’s also because the friendlier aspects of the term “administration” seem decreasingly part of everyday academic life. Friendliness was administration as support structure, as collaborator, as partner, as the entity that did not take orders from obnoxious egocentric faculty prima donnas the way that frontline staff often had to do, but that accepted balanced power relations  and a certain mutual respect that could make decisions move relatively quickly and equitably. It would avoid command and control of the kind that prevailed in the army and in most corporations, where executive authority consisted of direct rule over subordinates.

Pay hike at McMaster University for female faculty.

Lawmakers back away from increased course loads for UNC professors.

Fewer professors, more managers work on Cal State campuses.

* …Carey has produced a sloppy polemic, a revenge fantasy that tries to turn personal resentment and cynicism into public policy.

* Horrifying, literally unbelievable story of peer review gone awry. More here.

* Well, I guess that settles it: In 50-49 vote, US Senate says climate change not caused by humans.

Study: Climate Change Threatens One in Six Species With Extinction.

Babies born 3 miles apart in New York have a 9-year life expectancy gap. 15 Baltimore neighborhoods have lower life expectancies than North Korea.

The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Protest, 1965-1975.

Rikers Island meatloaf did have rat poison.

An Empty Stadium in Baltimore. A Brief History of Pro Sports Played in Empty Stadiums.

Keywords for the Age of Austerity 18: Descending into Violence.

‘Rough Rides’ and the Challenges of Improving Police Culture.

New ACLU Cellphone App Automatically Preserves Video of Police Encounters.

The particularity of white supremacy.

* It’s hard out there for a gifted kid.

* “No one has walked on the moon in my lifetime,” I told them. “Yet you try to tell me that it’s my generation who has lost their wonder?  That it’s the young people of today who have let everything slip and fall into ruin? You don’t understand. You had the dream and the potential and the opportunities, and you messed it all up. You got hope and moon landings and that bright, glorious future. I got only the disasters.”

In some ways Ex Machina may be considered a feminist film by sheer dint of our low standards, the scarcity of stories that explore female desire beyond the realm of sex and romance.

Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Cat’s Cradle’ to Be Developed as TV Series By IM Global.

The Secret Mountain Our Spies Will Hide In When Washington Is Destroyed.

A 7-Year-Old Girl Got A New 3D-Printed Left Hand For The Wonderful Price Of $50.

This 5-year-old girl knows a lot more about presidents than you do. At this point I say put her in charge.

If you’re 33 or older, you will never listen to new music again—at least, that’s more or less what a new online study says. The study, which is based mainly on data from U.S. Spotify users, concludes that age 33 is when, on average, people stop discovering new music and begin the official march to the grave.

How Old Is Old? Centenarians Say It Starts in Your 80s; Kids Say Your 40s.

“How Does a Stand-Up Comedian Work?”

* Whiteness and the Apple Watch.

* The arc of history is long, but Cheez-Its is finally going to sell a box of just the burned ones.

* The same joke but with this Iceland law allowing anyone to murder any Basque on sight.

* “NASA has trialled an engine that would take us to Mars in 10 weeks.”

* The most racist places in America.

* Daddy, there’s a monster under the bed.

* If you want a vision of the future, imagine James Cameron directing Avatar sequels, forever.

* And the same joke but with 21 Jump Street sequels.

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Written by gerrycanavan

May 3, 2015 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Cloudy with a Chance of Apocalypse Links

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* CFPs for MLA 2015 from the discussion group for science fiction, fantasy, horror, and utopian literature: Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Concept of Culture (guaranteed session) and From Siberia to the Planet Mars (fingers crossed).

* America’s fraternities, and the lawyers who serve them. Great piece.

‘Rasputin Was My Neighbor’ And Other True Tales Of Time Travel. Unlikely simultaneous historical events.

When pilgrims were landing on Plymouth Rock, you could already visit what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico to stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant and buy Native American silver.

The first wagon train of the Oregon Trail heads out the same year the fax machine is invented.

Nintendo was founded in 1888. Jack the Ripper was on the loose in 1888.

1971: The year in which America drove a lunar buggy on the moon and Switzerland gave women the vote.

NASA’s Gemini program was winding down at the same time as plate tectonics, as we know it today, was becoming refined and accepted by the scientific community.

When the pyramids were being built, there were still woolly mammoths.

The last use of the guillotine was in France the same year Star Wars came out.

Oxford University was over 300 years old when the Aztec Empire was founded.

* A new genre had been born: the apocalypsticle.

* President Obama Pens Personal Apology to an Art Historian. Spoiler: it’s a pretty lousy apology!

* Football workers of the world unite. The cult of amateurism plaguing the sports world.

* This North Dakota Oil Town Has The Highest Rent In The Country.

* The film ‘Back to the Future’ provides the OED’s earliest recorded example of a colloquial sense of ‘hello’, used to imply (sometimes disbelievingly or sarcastically) that the person addressed is not paying attention, has not understood something, or has said something nonsensical or foolish. – See more at: http://oupacademic.tumblr.com/post/52859022183/the-film-back-to-the-future-provides-the-oeds#sthash.3jb8w2Nr.EuYbel9A.dpuf

* Making the rounds again: Kurt Vonnegut Diagrams the Shape of All Stories in a Master’s Thesis Rejected by U. Chicago.

* In Louisiana, which offers some of the most lucrative tax giveaways to Hollywood, the Legislative Auditor’s Office reported that the subsidies cost the state $170 million in lost tax revenue in a single year. By one estimate, the state is handing $70,000 per episode to the cast of Duck Dynasty – all while pleading poverty to justify deep cuts to public health care programs and to retirement benefits for police officers, firefighters and teachers.

* UNC Greensboro Students Walkout Against Budget Cuts.

About a dozen faculty members and 30 students at St. Mary’s College, a public school in Maryland, have proposed a plan to limit the salary of the highest-paid employee to 10 times that of the lowest-paid employee.

What Does it Mean that Most Children’s Books Are Still About White Boys?

Basically, @BarackObama Is a Parody Twitter Account.

* [grabs popcorn] Emails Suggest Scott Walker Knew Of Illegal Campaign Coordination.

Wednesday’s proposed reforms efforts — reached in negotiations between the civil liberties group and the state DOCCS — entail an end to the solitary confinement of prisoners under 18-years-old, pregnant women and prisoners with developmental disabilities. You mean to tell me they were using solitary confinement on — what? What?

Missouri Likely To Drop Its Lifetime Food Stamps Ban For Drug Convicts. You mean to tell me they were — really?

* Another day, another coal waste spill.

Cop Allegedly Shot And Killed Teenage Boy After Mistaking His Wii Controller For A Gun. “Allegedly” doing a whole lot of work in that sentence given that plain facts of the matter on which everyone agrees.

* What it’s like living in your 90s.

* Twitter lost $645 million last year, almost as much as its total revenue.

* The death of pool.

The Pentagon’s whitewashed history of the Vietnam War provokes troubling questions about how the invasion of Iraq will one day be remembered.

Frank despises most everybody—why should we be an exception?

* What would Lovelock do now, I ask, if he were me? He smiles and says: “Enjoy life while you can. Because if you’re lucky it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.” Have a good weekend, everyone!

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Monday Night Links!

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* Northrop Frye by way of Adam Roberts: The basis of critical knowledge is the direct experience of literature, certainly, but experience as such is never adequate. We are always reading Paradise Lostwith a hangover or seeing King Lear with an incompetent Cordelia or disliking a novel because some scene in it connects with something suppressed in our memories, and our most deeply satisfying responses are often made in childhood, to be seen later as immature over-reacting… As a structure of knowledge, then, criticism, like other structures of knowledge, is in one sense a monument to a failure of experience, a tower of Babel or one of the “ruins of time” which, in Blake’s phrase, “build mansions in eternity.” Adam makes the same connection to SF I make:

I think this resonates so strongly with me partly because science fiction was something I fell in love with as a child-reader. I still love it; still write it and write about it. But I’m increasingly conscious of the ways in which the exercise is based upon a kind of structural hermeneutic inadequacy. ‘Our most deeply satisfying responses are often made in childhood, to be seen later as immature over-reacting’ is almost a too perfect thumbnail of the adult apprehension of SF; and SF criticism always a kind of running-to-catch-up uttering various post-facto justifications. What’s neat about this Frye quotation is the sense it conveys that, actually, all criticism is in the business of doing this.

“Industrial-era education” as rhetorical whipping boy.

* Lukewarm Obama scandals coming day-by-day now. Hello, second term!

“Of the 41 percent of Republicans who consider Benghazi to be the worst political scandal in American history…

* Lili Loofbourow covers the struggle against privatization of higher ed in Chile for Boston Review.

* NPR profiles Duke’s Own Fred Moten.

So This Is How It Begins: Guy Refuses to Stop Drone-Spying on Seattle Woman.

* Peter Frase has more on Universal Basic Income as utopia.

* Why all babies say “mama.”

* Kurt Vonnegut’s final exam prank.

And let this be our culture’s epitaph. We could do worse.

Why Hasn’t Somebody Made Sunday Reading an Internet Tradition?

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Less than 24 hours after last night’s Powerball drawing, reports confirmed that the two winners of the $587 million jackpot are both already divorced from their respective spouses, alienated from their friends and families, and completely bankrupt.

* Calvin and Hobbes search engine. Get it before it’s DCMA’d!

* Vandana Singh interviews Ted Chiang.

Finally, can you tell us something about what you’re working on now?

I don’t want to talk too much about what I’m working on, so I’ll just say that it’s a story about memory and the written word.

Sold!

* Kurt Vonnegut’s term paper prompt.

As for your term papers, I should like them to be both cynical and religious. I want you to adore the Universe, to be easily delighted, but to be prompt as well with impatience with those artists who offend your own deep notions of what the Universe is or should be. “This above all …”

* Another round of analysis from Yves Smith on the Rolling Jubilee tax issue.

If Rolling Jubilee’s tax position is incorrect, the consequences would be ugly. In many cases, the people it claimed it was helping would be worse off than if it had done nothing.

The forgiven debt would be treated as taxable income. If the individual is a non-taxpayer (as in has too little income) the debt forgiveness could push them into owning taxes, and for anyone who was a taxpayer in the year the debt was forgiven, would result in additional taxes owed.

The worst of this is that in many cases, the debt forgiven by OWS would be invalid debt: past the statute of limitations, discharged in bankruptcy, disputed, paid off but for some reason not removed from a bank’s systems. In these cases, if Rolling Jubilee’s tax view turns out to be incorrect, the borrower will be considerably worse off, since he could have disputed the invalid debt (and debt collectors tend to roll easily) but will now have to disprove the validity of the debt to the IRS. The result is that this shifts the burden of proof: in debt collection matters, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, the debt collector, to demonstrate the validity of the debt and the amount owed. In disputes with the IRS, the burden of proof is with the taxpayer.

In addition, even if Strike Debt is correct in its gift argument, it would in some cases owe gift taxes. It does not appear prepared for this eventuality. Nor would winning on the gift question save it from running afoul of the private benefit question. Even a gift to an individual is a private benefit. If it were to lose its 501 (c)(4) status, Rolling Jubilee would owe additional taxes and penalties.

Rejected jokes submitted to a kids’ jokes site.

* The Inside Story of Pong.

* The Video Games Women Make.

Thomas Jefferson: American Fascist? The third president was a creepy, brutal hypocrite. And the very worst thing you’ll read today:

Jefferson, Finkelman tells us, was not a “particularly kind” slave-master; he sometimes “punished slaves by selling them away from their families and friends, a retaliation that was incomprehensibly cruel even at the time.” And he  believed that  ”blacks’ ability to reason was ‘much inferior’ to whites’ and that they were “in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.”  So what?  Really – so what?  If you want to think that he was a bad guy — or even a really bad guy, with truly grievous personal faults — you’re free to do so.  But to claim that that has something to do with Jefferson’s historical legacy is truly preposterous.

A growing if largely invisible community hard-hit by Sandy faces a unique challenge: Undocumented immigrants must get help to fix illegal apartments.

Chinua Achebe At 82.

The Sports Tax That Everyone Pays.

* People on the Internet are going to have to start self-diagnosing themselves with something else: Asperger’s Dropped As Separate Condition From DSM-V.

And the mint is considering eliminating $1 bills entirely. Yes, again!

Saturday Morning

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* Nevertheless, these arguments are potentially more intellectually coherent than the ones that propose that the race is “too close to call.” It isn’t. If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public. Obama has 431 ways to win; Romney has 76.

* “I Refuse to Cater to the Bullshit of Innocence”: a late Believer interview with Maurice Sendak.

* The Longform Guide to Climate Change.

* Kurt Vonnegut visits Biafra in 1979.

* Mark Hamil teases Star Wars: Episode IX, c. 1983.

* And Evan and China tear it up at the Memory Marathon.