Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Pynchon

So Many Weekend Links!

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* I’ve seen this movie: Marquette working with firm to humanely manage seagulls.

* Best game I’ve played in a really long time: Rymdkapsel.

* The Milwaukee Experiment: What can one prosecutor do about the mass incarceration of African-Americans?

* The academic community has talked itself into a very strange corner with regards to adjunctification. “Respect” is just not a good rallying point: unquantifiable, unsatisfiable, turns political struggle into emotional one. The focus should stay on the system that produces adjunct jobs instead of full-time permanent ones.

* This report that administration and construction are not significant factors in rising tuition seems totally off to me. You’re dividing by different denominators in 2001 and 2011; that masks the magnitude of the change, but also hides new spending in real terms. The last student you add should be your cheapest student: all the infrastructure is in place, you’re just adding one more. But these numbers show the opposite trend: spending at colleges is increasing even given efficiencies gained by adding more students.

* CFP: The Superhero Project.

‘The Game Done Changed’: Reconsidering ‘The Wire’ Amidst the Baltimore Uprising.

* If you, like us, lusted after the art deco tiling and rose-colored lighting of the Grand Budapest Hotel lobby, or drooled over the yellow Parisian hotel room in Hotel Chevalier, here’s some enchanting news: Wes Anderson has designed a bar.

Bardolatry as Idolatry.

NSA mass phone surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden ruled illegal.

* Andrew Cuomo, pretty corrupt.

* So are the Patriots.

An Atlas of Upward Mobility Shows Paths Out of Poverty.

The Poverty Capitalism Creates.

As investigation enters fifth month, Tamir Rice’s mother has moved into a homeless shelter. Online activists raised $60K for Tamir Rice’s family — so where did all that money go?

* The End of LSU.

* If you want a vision of the future.

Some of the people ostensibly turning in those 80- or 90-hour workweeks, particularly men, may just be faking it.

The Secret Lives of Homeless Students.

Ten percent of you were meant to be police officers. You have it in your blood and bones and you will excel in this profession. For 80% of you, this is a job. It’s a job you will do well and honorably for your career with the NYPD. Ten percent of you should never have made it this far. You are too dumb, too damaged, or too criminal to be police officers and you very well will be hurt, killed, or arrested in the years to come.

The Hater’s Guide To Avengers: Age of Ultron. Are you Over the Avengers Yet? Ultron Has Always Been a Dumb Character, and That’s Okay. Even Whedon isn’t into it.

Leaked Email From Marvel CEO Is A Listicle About Why Women Can’t Be Superheroes.

* Reading the Black Captain America (both of them).

Joss Whedon Didn’t Quit Twitter Because of All the Mean Feminists.

In defense of the Mommy Track.

Urban fiction, or street lit, has been snubbed by the publishing industry and scorned by black intellectuals. Yet these authors may just be the most successful literary couple in America.

‘Comedy Bang-Bang’s’ Scott Aukerman: From ‘Screwing Around’ to a Podcast Empire.

Parents call cops on teen for giving away banned book; it backfires predictably.

The Pink and Blue Projects: Exploring the Genderization of Color.

* I really liked TNI’s “Trash” issue, though it gets Oscar the Grouch all wrong.

* Did a study find men’s beards are filled with poop?

We Accidentally Turned The Entire Statue Of Liberty Into A Battery.

Halo Players Spent Five Years Trying To Get Into An Empty Room.

* I’m glad that Facebook is choosing to publish such findings, but I cannot but shake my head about how the real findings are buried, and irrelevant comparisons take up the conclusion.

* A comics Kickstarter some of you might be interested in: Bizarre New World.

Lawmakers drop Walker’s plan to spin off UW governance.

Art Institute of Wisconsin to stop enrolling new students.

Remember when Gerber tried to market “baby food for teens?”

* What Was the Venus de Milo Doing With Her Arms?

Joan Would Have Lost Her Sexual Harassment Suit Against McCann Erickson. Assholes of Mad Men’s McCann pay dividends for real-life McCann.

Q: What do the US, Somalia, and South Sudan have in common? A: It’s totally cool to put kids in jail forever.

Academic Freedom and Tenure: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Health Insurance Companies Are Illegally Charging for Birth Control.

Report: Most College Football Concussions Happen in Practice.

* Nothing gold can stay be allowed to just be a good thing that happened one time.

Essential Reading: “I Am Error” Brings New Insight to the History of the NES.

From graduation to garbage job (literally): One twentysomething’s struggle.

The source of strange radio signals that have left astronomers at Australia’s most famous radio telescope scratching their heads for 17 years has finally been discovered. It turns out that it was a microwave oven.

“My father felt the U.S.S.R. treated him better than America,” said Tynes-Mensah, a former university chemistry instructor who was born in the Russian town of Krasnodar and now lives mainly in the United States, spending summers in Russia. “He was happy here.”

* How to lie with statistics, Nicholas Kristof edition.

* Portrait of a suicide at UPenn.

* You Oughta Know Dave Coulier Will Be On Fuller House.

Woman Who Tweeted ‘2 Drunk 2 Care’ Before Fatal Crash Gets 24 Years.

Galadriel, Witch-Queen of Lórien.

In “Let Us Now Praise Famous Orcs,” I suggested that the basic humanity of Tolkien’s inhuman creatures proved them to be more worthy of our sympathy than the elves, “whose near-perfection marks them with a profound otherness.” As immortals, elves are always playing a long game in which we finite beings cannot ever hope to be much more than pawns. The characters who seem most aware of this fact in The Lord of the Rings are, in fact, the orcs, as is tellingly revealed in the dialogue between Gorbag and Shagrat. They lament having to work for “Big Bosses,” remember the “bad old times” when elves besieged them, and make hopeful plans for a postwar future in which there are “no big bosses.” In their fear and loathing of aristocrats and high powers, these orcs express thoroughly modern, even vaguely democratic sentiments. The Witch-Queen of Lórien, much like the dark Lord of Mordor, champions a different social order entirely. I am not entirely sure that Galadriel’s vision for how the world system should be organized is necessarily the better one. For those of us who are in favor of changing the world, Galadriel and her coterie of hereditary aristocrats represent the enemy, a power to be overcome, and her “long defeat” cannot come soon enough.

* The Magicians is coming to SyFy.

Sheriffs Threaten Retaliation If The Price Of Prisoner Phone Calls Is Regulated.

* Starving the beast: The UNC system in 2015.

* There are no tough choices.

Meet the outsider who accidentally solved chronic homelessness.

* Meet the original patent troll.

* The vanishing of Molly Norris.

* Empty, Lonely Nothingness. Forever: Understanding the Fermi Paradox.

A Cancer Survivor Designs the Cards She Wishes She’d Received From Friends and Family.

* Get my checkbook! Original drawings depicting iconic Martians from HG Wells’s sci-fi masterpiece The War of the Worlds are on sale for £350,000.

Edit of the Day: Footloose Without the Music Turns Kevin Bacon Into a Maniac.

* Deleted Scenes of Women in Disaster Movies Written by Men.

* Get me Thomas Pynchon: Aide to Kamala Harris arrested for pretending to run 3,000-year-old rogue police force.

* Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot.

Fracking Chemicals Detected in Pennsylvania Drinking Water. More North Carolina Residents Warned Of Contaminated Drinking Water. Horribly bleak study sees ‘empty landscape’ as large herbivores vanish at startling rate. A future without chocolate.

* Only the super-rich can save us now.

McDonald’s to reverse declining sales with more attractive Hamburglar.

These Suburban Preppers Are Ready for Anything.

* Bill Clinton has an exciting new greatest regret of his presidency.

Someone made Game of Thrones into a Google map, and it’s amazing.

Native Americans Say This Man Enslaved Them. Pope Francis Wants To Call Him A Saint.

Which President Greenlit A Trip To The Center Of The Earth?

* The LEGO sublime.

* And a dark, gritty Sliders I wish had gone to series: Parallels. By one of the creators of The Lost Room, which I also wish had gone to series!

Written by gerrycanavan

May 8, 2015 at 8:08 am

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Monday Night Links

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Accreditor Recommends Probation for University of Phoenix.

* The Oscar’s Hostile, Ugly, Sexist Night. Why Seth MacFarlane’s Misogyny Matters. Fantasy Fans: Where’s Your Outrage? There are no three-way mirrors in Hollywood. Seth MacFarlane, misogynistic Oscar host. The End of Men Oscars. The thing about being a little black girl in the world. The long death of the middle-brow. The Onion offers a rare apology.

* State of the Industry, Part II: And the Winner Is… The State!

* College Rape Survivor Faces Potential Expulsion For ‘Intimidating’ Her Rapist.

* Art Spiegelman offers up a secret history of Garbage Pail Kids.

Django Unchained: A White Revenge Fantasy. Django Unchained, or, The Help: How “Cultural Politics” Is Worse Than No Politics at All, and Why.

* More on AMC’s planned adaptation of The Sparrow.

Bork: Nixon Offered Me SCOTUS Seat for Firing Archibald Cox.

Arrested Development Not Getting Second Netflix Season.

* Post-work: A guide for the perplexed.

* The academic jobs beat: The Cost of The Job Application Process.

* I think I might have done this one already, but regardless: meet the handful of countries Britain’s never invaded.

Keystone XL Decision Will Define Barack Obama’s Climate Legacy.

* Antimonies of Philip Roth.

* And Pynchon’s next.

The novel, set in 2001, takes place in “the lull between the collapse of the dot-com boom and the terrible events of September 11,” Penguin said in a release announcing its 2012 results.

An Oldsmobile in a World Yearning for a Prius

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Alexander Narzaryan argues American writers just don’t deserve the Nobel Prize. Of the usual list of Americans only Cormac McCarthy strikes me as a genuine contender, and I don’t know that he’ll ever actually win.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 4, 2011 at 9:10 am

Quick Links

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Quick links.

* At a newly revitalized Bitter Laughter: 73% of American Medical Association doctors want a public option.

* In the New Yorker, two takedowns of GOP insanity and obstructionism.

* Wal-Mart: actually not so great. Via MeFi, which includes a bonus link to a nice take-off on Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced capitalism is indistinguishable from socialism Soviet-style state capitalism.

* Also via MeFi: The New York Times’s Toxic Waters: “A series about the worsening pollution in American waters and regulators’ response.”

* And the thing from my lists I most enjoyed reading today just happens to be online: Thomas Pynchon’s “Is it O.K. to be a Luddite?” (UPDATE: My drive towards procrastination compelled me to write a brief HASTAC post on this.)

By 1945, the factory system — which, more than any piece of machinery, was the real and major result of the Industrial Revolution — had been extended to include the Manhattan Project, the German long-range rocket program and the death camps, such as Auschwitz. It has taken no major gift of prophecy to see how these three curves of development might plausibly converge, and before too long. Since Hiroshima, we have watched nuclear weapons multiply out of control, and delivery systems acquire, for global purposes, unlimited range and accuracy. An unblinking acceptance of a holocaust running to seven- and eight-figure body counts has become — among those who, particularly since 1980, have been guiding our military policies — conventional wisdom.

To people who were writing science fiction in the 50’s, none of this was much of a surprise, though modern Luddite imaginations have yet to come up with any countercritter Bad and Big enough, even in the most irresponsible of fictions, to begin to compare with what would happen in a nuclear war. So, in the science fiction of the Atomic Age and the cold war, we see the Luddite impulse to deny the machine taking a different direction. The hardware angle got de-emphasized in favor of more humanistic concerns — exotic cultural evolutions and social scenarios, paradoxes and games with space/time, wild philosophical questions — most of it sharing, as the critical literature has amply discussed, a definition of “human” as particularly distinguished from “machine.” Like their earlier counterparts, 20th-century Luddites looked back yearningly to another age — curiously, the same Age of Reason which had forced the first Luddites into nostalgia for the Age of Miracles.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 15, 2009 at 3:34 am

Infinite Jest #10: On Endings

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This post ditches the official spoiler-line and talks about the ending of Infinite Jest. If it’s important to you not to read such a post, please do not read this post.

I decided to read through to the end of Infinite Jest this morning, which means (1) this is post is off the spoiler-line and consequently deals with the text as a whole and (2) this may or may not be my last Infinite Summer post. In light of (2) I’d like to say that it’s been truly great, and while I’m not able to participate in the Gravity’s Rainbow followup due to my pending exams I hope to pick up again with whatever Book #3 turns out to be.

I think it’s natural to end Infinite Jest in the spirit of of anticlimax nicely captured by Infinite Detox:

…as a reader, who’s poured 1,000 pages of emotional investment into this novel and its characters, this rings hollow and false. Frankly, I’m pissed off.

…Here’s the irony: One of Wallace’s big projects in Infinite Jest was to champion the notion of sincerity, right? Of forging connections and telling the truth and dropping the anhedonic mask and opening yourself up to the emotional gooiness that may result. From an intellectual standpoint, Wallace is very much pro-sincerity. And definitely ambivalent about “hip irony”, if not downright hostile toward it. Wallace can talk the talk about sincerity and directness and forging connections, but it’s like when it comes to the point of enacting that sincerity, dramatizing it and building it into the very fabric of Infinite Jest, he can’t (or doesn’t want to) bring himself to do it.

This tension between sincerity and irony—the impossible yearning for an open, unmediated authenticity of the sort we’re smart enough to know can never be achieved—is productive of the melancholic tone that has characterized most of my reading of Infinite Jest this summer. In some essential, baseline sense I think it’s what the book is All About.™ So IJ is most assuredly not a failure, exactly, so much as a very pointed and frustrating framing of a particularly intractable problem—which is to say IJ is a (mostly) successful book on the subject of universal human failure. We are left at the end of Infinite Jest with a story that hasn’t even happened yet, much less capable of directing us towards some personal epiphany—but if we’ve been reading carefully all along we should have known it could never be otherwise. (See, for example, the conversation between Remy Marathe and Kate Gompert from 774-782, in which Marathe’s story repeatedly resists the narrative closures an increasingly desperate Gompert is desperate to assign to it. How this book would end has always been right in front of our faces.)

Now, you can allow yourself to be seduced by the teasing but doomed impulse towards closure, the fantasy that answers to all the mysteries exist somewhere inside the book. Wallace himself even points to this in an interview:

(DFW) There is an ending as far as I’m concerned. Certain kind of parallel lines are supposed to start converging in such a way that an “end” can be projected by the reader somewhere beyond the right frame. If no such convergence or projection occured to you, then the book’s failed for you.

(Wallace is, I think, being coy here. Of course there’s hints about what happens after pg. 981, but they are completely incomplete and even contradictory, as he well knows, and in any event beside the point.)

Over the years Wallace fans has struggled admirably to puzzle out these supposedly converging lines with varying levels of success, and that work goes on in the Infinite Summer forums as we speak. For what it’s worth: I think the DMZ/mushrooms theory makes a lot of sense, and definitely explains some of Hal’s strange behavior in the middle of the novel, but I remain committed to the partial-viewing-of-the-Entertainment hypothesis, the heroic partial overcoming of which in evidence during the “Year of Glad” chapter I think better matches DFW’s existential themes. I think they must have really dug up Himself’s head, even if that seems to introduce precognitive dreams into the world of the novel alongside “wraiths,” and I suspect a microwave-destroyed copy of the master was inside. There is no anti-Entertainment. I don’t think the Entertainment ends the world, a la Dollhouse‘s “Epitaph One”; what it does is both less and more apocalyptic than that. Whether or not John Wayne was a spy he was “on Hal’s side” by the grave and whatever came later, and I guess he probably died somewhere along the way, somehow. I don’t know if I think Hal gets better. I think things get worse for Pemulis. I think O.N.A.N. dissolves.

But the impulse to make this sort of over-interpretive effort is itself a kind of misreading of the novel, which is, we must recognize, explicitly anticonfluential along the theories of Himself’s own films. The displeasure of this sort of text is laid out unmistakably for us within the novel itself:

It was only after Himself’s death that critics and theorists started to treat this question as potentially important. A woman at U. Cal-Irvine had earned tenure with an essay arguing that the reason-versus-no-reason debate about what was unentertaining in Himself’s work illuminated the central conundra of millennial après-garde film, most of which, in the teleputer age of home-only entertainment, involved the question why so much aesthetically ambitious film was so boring and why so much shitty reductive commercial entertainment was so much fun. (947)

The book—which, centered as it is around a mind-consuming MacGuffin called “the Entertainment” that destroys your ability to think, and therefore live, refuses to entertain us—is an object lesson in the fact that literature is about something other, and we can hope more, than mere pleasure. Infinite Jest is extremely fun at times and incredibly tedious at others—but in its mammoth scale, sprawling scope, and discontinuous presentation it could only ever leave us with a kind of unfulfilled, anti-entertained sense of disappointment at its end. To see the missing Year of Glad or to know X, Y, and Z about it would not change that inevitable anticlimax; in all likelihood it would only bring the discomforting divide between literature and Entertainment into even sharper relief while in the process sacrificing the calculated denial of easy pleasure that is at the core of the novel’s claims to aesthetic worth. To try to close a narrative like this one is a readerly impulse that is almost impossible to avoid—it was, I’ll admit, essentially the first thing I embarked on when I put down the book—but we should only attempt to do so with the understanding that we can’t, and knowing that if we were better readers of Wallace we wouldn’t even try. The ending was never and could never have been what Infinite Jest is about; that’s why it comes first.

Friday Night Links

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Friday night in Jersey links.

* My eighth Infinite Summer post this morning on brains, rats, happiness, and the problem of atheism drew some really great comments both from my regular readers and other IJ readers; check them out.

* From @cfoster, participating in that thread: news of Inherent August.

* Topher says Dollhouse season two will live in the shadow of “Epitaph One.”

* When does a Prius have the same environmental impact as a Hummer? The 95 percent of the time it’s parked.

* Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.

Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops to join American soldiers in attacking Iraq as a mission from God. Via Boing Boing.

* And what do Slate readers fear? Their top five apocalypses.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 7, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Massive Monday Linkdump #2

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MMLD #2.

* The recession comes home to Randolph: they’re closing our beloved Pathmark.

* A musical tribute to “Ozymandias” from Handsome CD Plus Three.

* On everybody’s lips: Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. Links to reviews here and here. I look forward to having time to read this c. 2017.

* “Do It Again: One Man’s Quest to Reunite the Kinks.”

* Comics Should Be Good is running a month-long “iconic panels” series all month long to celebrate Marvel’s 70th.

* And Joss Whedon says they should have renewed Terminator instead.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 4, 2009 at 1:49 am