Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Narnia

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

Wednesday Night Links

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* The Utopia symposium in the new issue of Science Fiction Film and Television is especially good, if I do say so myself. Featuring Raffaella Baccolini, Troy Bordun, Catherine Constable, L. Timmel Duchamp, Carl Freedman, Lisa Garforth, Dan Hassler-Forest, Veronica Hollinger, Alexis Lothian, Roger Buckhurst, Tom Moylan, Sharon Sharp, Steven Shaviro, Debra Benita Shaw, Rebekah Sheldon, Imre Szeman, Phillip E. Wegner, and Rhys Williams…

Afrofuturism Reloaded: 15 Theses in 15 Minutes.

Fear of an Ill Planet: On the Importance of Sickness and the Demands of Otherness.

* I think maybe every literally academic I know has been talking about this story.

Houstongun

* The Scalia obituaries keep coming: 1, 2, 3.

* Huge cuts to ethnic studies at SFSU.

The Troubled Academic Job Market for History.

* Never in my worst dreams about the future of the university could I have imagined such a thing was possible: Chicago State University Cancels Spring Break.

David Milch, the storied mind also behind ‘Deadwood,’ changed television. Now, according to a lawsuit, the racetrack regular has lost his homes, owes the IRS $17 million and is on a $40-a-week allowance. Still, his supporters stay close: “He’s brilliant.”

* Yay, Bernie Sanders’s radical past. Booooooo, Bernie Sanders’s radical past. In any event.

* Drip, drip, drip…

Hillary Clinton Made More in 12 Speeches to Big Banks Than Most of Us Earn in a Lifetime.

* “There no longer are any rules in the Supreme Court nomination process.” I’ll do you one better!

* Usually this sort of mythologizing isn’t caught fast enough to be traced: The Evolution of the Myth of the Sanders “English Only” Chant.

* Social media, the new mind control.

* Polls and Trump’s Supporters. My word.

* Elsewhere in dystopian backstory: The Virginia Senate has passed legislation that would transform all law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth into secret police, quite literally, a dangerous step in the direction of unaccountable and non-transparent government. No other state has gone as far as the Senate bill would take Virginia into the realm of secrecy where it concerns state and local police.

When the Public Defender Says, ‘I Can’t Help.’

* Nobody, but nobody, can trip over their own feet like Obama.

* The Huntington Tumblr has a few pictures up from one of Octavia Butler’s horse stories.

* The contested legacy of Stan Lee.

* A People’s History of #CancelColbert.

* Nice work if you can get it: Rutgers president gets a $97,000 bonus.

The Oscars Forgot to Nominate The Force Awakens For Best Picture.

Why Professor Indiana Jones Never Published His Research.

* Ok, sold: Margaret Atwood’s Next Book Is a Prison-Bound Take on The Tempest.

* Well, that doesn’t sound so bad… Seas Are Rising at Fastest Rate in Last 28 Centuries.

Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist.

* On the plus side, we are living through a golden age of theme parks.

Rosemary G. Feal will step down as executive director of the Modern Language Association next year after 15 years in that job, the group announced on Wednesday.

* Fermi Paradox watch: maybe life is that rare.

But mostly Fuller House evokes a smut-free porn parody, with sexualized adult versions of characters who, in the collective psyche, are frozen in amber as children. Elsewhere on the Onion‘s Full House porn parody beat.

“Dogs and Certain Primates May Be Able To See Magnetic Fields.” Tell no one my secret.

* Breastfeeding is probably really not that big a deal.

* Winning the lottery can also bankrupt your neighbors.

* Twilight of saying “Aycock” at Duke and UNCG.

* KSR coverage in American Literature: “Forms of Duration: Preparedness, theMars Trilogy, and the Management of Climate Change.”

Why Is Inver Hills Banning Union Activist From Campus?

The Problematic, Sexist Subtext of Laughing at Hitler’s Alleged Micropenis.

* Debt and subjectivity.

* Lev Grossman on Narnia and grief.

* The best news I’ve gotten all year: Milwaukee’s Air and Water Show postponed until 2017.

* 888-NEED-SCI.

* Blade Runner 2 is an abomination that should never have been made, but I am interested to see how they deal (or don’t) with the Deckard/replicant issue.

* Like Uber, but for…

* And Philip K. Dick is just straight-up writing our reality now.

Notes Towards a Miss Reading of Kimmy Schmidt

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Seeing this review of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt at the Los Angeles Review of Books has inspired me to finally write up some somewhat idiosyncratic thoughts I’ve had about the series that I haven’t seen reflected anywhere else. (And thanks to the people who have indulged me about this on Twitter, especially @millicentsomer and @evankindley.) I definitely agree with the reviewer that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a “woman out of time” story, but I really think the interpretive emphasis on “Unfrozen Middle Schooler from the 1990s” should be on “middle schooler” rather than “from the 1990s.” My take is that the 1990s nostalgia is largely driven by the Millennial audience the show is pitching itself at — it’s an engine for jokes but not really the center of the project. “Unfrozen Middle Schooler,” in contrast, is the actual heart of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, at least the way I want to read it as a feminist work.

One of the things I talked about with Lili and Evan on Twitter was whether Kimmy’s abduction is taken seriously as an event or if the bunker is taken seriously as an actual lived environment. Having completed the series now, I still don’t think so: I think “the bunker” essentially functions in the series like being in a coma, or being shot with a Grow-Up Beam, or making a wish to be Big. It’s a magic spell to get Kimmy from middle school to adulthood without having to go through high school and college, which is the source of her power in the series, from her refusal of the usual rules of society to her love of backpacks and bright, mismatched clothing. You can see this utopian imaginary working really clearly in the incredibly infectious theme song, where the removal of the girls from the bunker and a closeup on Kimmy’s ecstatic childlike grin over the lyrics “Unbreakable! They alive, damnit! It’s a miracle!” quickly gives way to a montage of nostalgic, home-video-style images of childhood (and specifically girlhood), which express the same unvarnished joy but also absolute self-confidence (thumb’s up), total mastery of their environment (the dancing, the hula hooping, the monkey bars), and maximum resilience in the face of adversity (the baby plopping down face first).

We return to the in-universe “autotune the news” frame only once during this thirty-second sequence, to be told that “females are strong as hell” — the clear implication to me being that we ought to draw an interpretive connection between the claim of female power and childhood, specifically, girlhood: before sex, before even puberty, before the male gaze, before pervert teachers and abusive boyfriends and quasi-consensual sexual encounters and ubiquitous street harassment and the too-familiar host of other abuses inflicted upon women from the moment they enter young adulthood. What the magic spell of the bunker allows Kimmy to do is pass over the moment in which girls are forcibly conscripted into becoming “women” (somewhat or entirely against their will) and emerge instead as an adult who has not internalized our society’s misogyny or its mean, psychosexual aggressivity. So much of what is delightful about Kimmy is precisely the fact that she has retained the aspirations, expectations, confidence, and general affect of a precocious middle-schooler without having had to temper or diminish herself through unhappy experiences with patriarchy. If the show has a moral or utopian message for women, it’s Let’s all go back to thinking about ourselves the way we did before society told us we were worthless, and it’s a pretty damn good one.

We’ve been working with children’s stories a lot in my “magic as literature” course this semester, and one of the oppositions we’ve really been focusing on (especially as we’ve studied Disney, and Frozen, recently) is the opposition between what mythographers call “the girl’s tragedy” and what we’ve been calling instead the utopia of childhood or (here more directly) the utopia of girlhood. The girl’s tragedy is the female answer to “the hero’s journey,” but the narrative doesn’t work the same way: instead of the boy hero who sets out from home, masters the outside world, slays the dragon, and then returns home to become king, the girl’s tragedy is a story about being ripped from safety and forced to accommodate oneself to the whims of adult men, particularly their sexual urges. The happy ending for the girl’s tragedy — the happiest one available — is that she accepts her role as wife and mother and gives birth to a male son who will then inaugurate the next cycle of heroism; girls and women who refuse to play the proper role are typically cast out of the realm of the human altogether, turned into animals or plants or stars or foam. The utopia of childhood describes those comparatively rare stories that are exceptions, where the girls are neither forced to become mothers nor punished, but allowed to remain what they were without transformation by instead bending the adult world to their will (as in Brave, or Moonrise Kingdom, or arguably Frozen, though in most of these the girl-heroes seem only to buying themselves time rather than enacting a full and permanent transformation of their circumstances).

Of course the utopia of childhood can itself be deeply retrograde, and is frequently misogynistic in its way — we spent a lot of time on “The Problem of Susan” in the Narnia books precisely so we didn’t fall too in love with the impossible fantasy of never growing up (when in the end we all have to). Nor can we safely imagine childhood in such uncomplicatedly rosy terms, both because childhood can also be a time of fierce frustration, competition, and intense pain even when it is not actively shattered through the cruelty and abuse of adults. But all the same there is something undeniably appealing about the idea of returning to a childhood that is both happy and which never gives way to something else, a desire that structures so much of our culture (particularly the middle-class culture of “good parenting”) that it really almost goes without saying. And in the case of Kimmy Schmidt‘s feminist politics of course the idea is not that women find some fantastical way to literally de-age themselves so much as they look to their younger, effortlessly capable and supremely confident selves as inspiration in the present.

There’s one more thing to say about Kimmy Schmidt, which is again about the abduction and the bunker, which would seem to be a rather large problem for my reading of the series. Isn’t Kimmy’s entire situation itself a literalized girl’s tragedy, insofar as she is abducted as a child and put into radical seclusion, all the while being fed obscenely misogynistic lies by a woman-hating male adult? Well, yes! The question of Kimmy’s abduction, and the horrific sexual violence it inevitably implies if thought about too much, is a pretty thorny one for the series: fixated on too much, it threatens to derail any potential for comedy in the show at all. (UPDATE: Someone just sent me Emily Nussbaum’s review, which talks a lot about this issue.) The series cleverly solves the problem by opening the door just a crack — “yes, there was weird sex stuff in the bunker” — and then simply leaving it there. Something happened — perhaps, as Evan suggested in what has become my headcanon, it was all between the girls and not involving the preacher at all — but it hasn’t changed Kimmy, or defeated her. And she emerges from Hell neither pregnant with the monster’s baby, nor transformed into a weeping plant or into sea-foam, but just as unflappable and unbreakable as she was when she went in.

And in any event the treatment of the bunker doesn’t really work the way the ten-second summary of the setup would suggest. The presence of the preacher is actually a further occasion for Kimmy to refuse to internalize her sexist training, precisely because it is now located within a single, odious man against whom she can fight. The button at the end of the first episode demonstrates precisely this: Kimmy proves he is lying to them, he says he’s going to break her someday, and she replies no, he never will. It’s easy to see why, in contrast to the microaggressions and little indignities — alongside the very big ones — that make up girls’ training to be women in our society, which is constantly delivered by parents and siblings and friends and trusted authority figures and widely celebrated mass culture texts, Kimmy’s more direct training in misogyny at the hands of the Reverend never really takes. In the bunker she had an obvious enemy, someone she could tell she was feeding her poison, and so she could reject it. It’s actually outside the bunker where the true brainwashing takes place, which is all the more insidious because it seems like education, like help, like love.

Thursday Links!

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* Marquette English Spring 2015 courses! I’m teaching a section of 3000 (our new intro to major — mine is themed around magic) and the second round of my NEH “Cultural Preservation” course. I’m also doing a honors seminar on “video game culture” that I’m really excited about, GamerGate notwithstanding.

* A rare spot of optimism: Lockheed announces breakthrough on nuclear fusion energy.

* But don’t hang on to it: It’s time to push the panic button on the global economy. Markets are panicking again. What’s going on?

Sea Level Rising Faster Than Anytime In 6,000 Years, Study Finds.

* WHO: 10,000 new Ebola cases per week could be seen. The CDC is apparently taking the over. One thing is certain: it’s time to panic.

* Another Obama triumph for the left: let a thousand wage thefts bloom.

The Assassination of Detroit.

* Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education Into Private Profits. Neoliberalism, Higher Education, and the Rise of Contingent Faculty Labor.

* Identifying The Worst Colleges In America.

* Could Oculus Rift be the next great higher education boondoggle?

* In Taste of Autonomy, Sports Programs Now Battle for Athletes’ Bellies.

The most alarming thing I’ve heard from friends who’ve had miscarriages is their surprise (only upon miscarrying) at hearing about how many of their friends, aunts, cousins, sisters, mothers and grandmothers have had them, too. If miscarriages are so common, why do we hide them behind a wall of shame and silence?

* What It’s Really Like to Have an Abortion.

* The radical teamsters of Minneapolis showed what democratic unionism looks like.

* “Most schools’ internal judicial systems are the worst of both worlds,” Berkowitz said. “They don’t give the accused the protections of the criminal justice system, and they mistreat the victims, too.”

For example, even into the 1980s, some doctors didn’t believe that babies felt pain and so routinely did surgery on them using just muscle relaxants to keep them still. Pain and medicine.

* Guy Debord’s The Muppets. More links below Gonzo.

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* “You had one job” screwup of the week.

* South Carolina governor levels outrageous accusation against the nation’s CEOs, says they’re all white supremacists. Huge if true.

* Study claims that whales and dolphins can speak to one another.

* DC has a bit hit on its hands with The Flash, so of course the smart move here is to recast for the film.

* Father, there’s a gateway to Narnia in the closet!

The Absolute Weirdest Thing Ever To Happen At A Political Debate.

How A California Man Was Forced To Spend 100 Days In Prison For Being An Atheist.

* Next week: Civilization: Beyond Earth.

* Behold! The Counter-Intuitivist!

* And we are all Bartleby now.

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Monday Morning Links

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* Of course you had me at “Sun Myung Moon’s lost ecotopia.”

In 2000, Moon paid an undisclosed amount for roughly 1.5 million acres of land fronting the Paraguay River. Most of that property was in a town called Puerto Casado, about 100 miles downriver from Puerto Leda. Moon’s subsidiaries wanted the land to open commercial enterprises ranging from logging to fish farming. But a group of Puerto Casado residents launched a bitter legal battle to nullify the deal. While that controversy continued to divide Paraguayans, the Puerto Leda project proceeded under the radar. Moon turned the land over to 14 Japanese men—“national messiahs,” according to church documents, who were instructed to build an “ideal city” where people could live in harmony with nature, as God intended it. Moon declared that the territory represented “the least developed place on earth, and, hence, closest to original creation.”

* Right now I am sitting at my computer, writing a post that I will receive no money for and which is not part of any career plan. It’s a little thing, obviously. But why do I do it? Because human beings aren’t little efficiency machines. Human life is what you experience when you aren’t busily accruing material resources.

* 1994 literature syllabus from David Foster Wallace, featuring Stephen King, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Harris, and Mary Higgins Clark.

* For six years during my twenties, I worked as one of the principal ghostwriters for a mass-market series for teenaged girls called Sweet Valley High.

* Student Persistence in Bioelectricity, Fall 2012 (Duke University MOOC).

DukeMooc

New data from a long-term study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College suggest that some of the students most often targeted in online learning’s access mission are less likely than their peers to benefit from — and may in fact be hurt by — digital as opposed to face-to-face instruction.

* Five Experts Give College Scorecard a Barely Passing Grade.

* Accepting the Oscar for Marlon Brando, 1973.

* 9 Sexist Things That Happened At The Oscars.

* The Debt Everyone Is Freaking Out About Does Not Exist.

* “When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists,'” said Gibbs, now an MSNBC contributor.

* And an Angela Davis biopic comes out April 15.

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The Anxiety of Influence

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Spoiler Alert: Susan Doesn’t Get to Go to Narnia

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* With rock-bottom expectations, I apparently thought the Lost finale was better than the entire rest of the Internet—which is to say “Across the Sea” has already trashed my hopes that we’d get an actually decent ending. But even counting the offensively pointless flashes-sideways and a genuinely silly fistfight-with-the-Devil climax, what we got still beat BSG.

* Here’s your obligatory Lost nostalgia. Spoiler alert: I make the same Narnia joke in the thread. If you need more, there’s always Television without Pity.

* Mark Twain wrote an autobiography that he asked not be published for 100 years, and they actually listened. It’s due out this November.

* Oil spill booming 101. Very informative, but watch out for the F-bombs. Via MeFi. Related: DOJ considering criminal prosecution of BP.

* The oil spill will be with us for decades.

* Copy machines store all your copies on an internal hard drive, for no apparent reason whatsoever. Also via MeFi.

* David Simon hates New York.

* And my beloved home state of New Jersey is apparently seeking to require state employees to live inside the state, which seems to this non-lawyer to be unconstitutional on its face.