Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘rationality

It’s Week One of Year Zero and I’m Declaring Total Tab Bankruptcy

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gauld-declutteringvertical-panel_-1-010617* CFP: SFRA 2017. CFP: 14th Annual Tolkien at UVM Conference. CFP: Toxic Fans. CFP: Whiteness and the American Superhero. CFP: The Gibson Critics Don’t See. Call for Applications: R.D. Mullen Fellowships. CFP for MLA 2018: Creative Economies of Science Fiction. And also at MLA 18, the science fiction panel I’ll be chairing: Satire and Science Fiction in Dystopian Times.

* This thread on Gene Roddenberry and Grace Lee Whitney makes some flat assertions that are actually just well-supported speculations, but is nonetheless is a shocking and dispiriting revisionist history of Trek that’s well worth considering.

gauld-declutteringvertical-panel_-4-010617* The part I was born to play.

Race and Zootopia.

* Rick & Morty and theodicy.

* Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data.

* The novel in the age of Obama.

* The Life-Changing Magic of Decluttering in a Post-Apocalyptic World.

Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries.

* From my colleague Rebecca Nowacek: Don’t Retreat. Teach Citizenship.

* Student evaluations: still bad.

* Keywords for the Age of Austerity: Alternative.

* I’m not normally one to defend college admin, but: Trade school fires president after he let homeless student stay in library during sub-zero weather.

* Without communism, there’s something missing from dystopian stories.

* Junot Diaz remembers Octavia Butler.

Legislation in two states seeks to end tenure at public colleges and universities. Missouri Lawmaker Who Wants to Eliminate Tenure Says It’s ‘Un-American.’

* The university as asylum. The university and the class system.

* The Changing English Major. The collapse of history as a discipline. A liberal arts college without English majors? Massive cuts at the University of Alberta.

* MLA Rejects Israel Boycott. MLA by the numbers (from the right).

* When a school hires adjuncts, where does the money go?

UBI already exists for the 1%.

* 26, 171.

* Shockingly enough, legalizing murder means more murders.

Bill Perry Is Terrified. Why Aren’t You?

Somali refugee in Milwaukee publishes book.

* When the homeless die, it’s up to forensic investigators to find their families.

* The End of the Rural Hospital.

* Secrets of my success: Cracking a Joke at Work Can Make You Seem More Competent.

* The FBI has been using the Geek Squad as all-purpose informants.

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Trump Promised to Resign From His Companies — But There’s No Record He’s Done So. Congress moves to give away national lands, discounting billions in revenue. Mark Hamill, National Treasure. Searching for Time-Travelers on the Eve of the Trump Inauguration. Donald Trump, David Foster Wallace, and the hobbling of shame. A mere 34. It would be crazy not to impeach him. Keep America Great. Oh, you think? The DeVos Democrats. That’ll solve it. Here’s What You Can Do to Beat Trump. Preventing 2017 America from becoming like 1934 Germany: A watchlist. Philip K. Dick vs the Time of Trump. Here’s what Sci-Fi Can Teach Us About Fascism. Stop making sense, or, writing in the age of Trump. The stories coming out of this White House are bananas. Watch this story. And this one! How jokes won the election. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. UPDATE: This is fine.

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* Seems legit.

* This one too.

* But this one takes the cake.

* Meanwhile, the 2020 Dem frontrunner…

* But Jeet Heer thinks we can do even worse.

* Democrats in the Wilderness. Oh, they’ve got this.

* The Electoral College Is Even Worse Than You Think. But it can always be worse.

tumblr_ojwjs8g2yh1romv9co1_500What Would Happen in the Minutes and Hours After North Korea Nuked the United States?

* The Obama speeches. A politics that surrenders every level of government to its opposition cannot win the future. It has already lost the present. But this was good.

Want to Raise Successful Boys? Science Says Do This (But Their Schools Probably Won’t).

* Teachers who drink and drinkers who teach.

Bumblebee is first bee in continental US to be listed as endangered.

The Suburbanization of the US Working Class.

You Can Write a Best-Seller and Still Go Broke.

Thousands of Skittles end up on an icy road. But that’s not the surprising part.

Forced to watch child porn for their job, Microsoft employees developed PTSD, they say. The people behind the AI curtain.

* Ha ha ha, he’s the sheriff of my county, what a character, this is not frightening at all.

* Lessons from Octavia Butler: Surviving Trump.

* I still think every adult who let this get to trial should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

MST3K is that for me. It saved my life, at least twice. There’s no hyperbole in that declaration.

Sherlock‘s bizarrely self-aware problem with women.

* About that biometric password you’re born with and will never be able to change.

Women only said 27% of the words in 2016’s biggest movies.

Most primate species are now threatened with extinction.

* Neanderthals were people too.

When a Video-Game World Ends.

* Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich.

* Twilight of the cruelty factory circus.

* “We Will Miss Antibiotics When They’re Gone.”

* “Genderless Nipples account frustrates Instagram.”

* Disability and as-seen-on-TV.

Wolf-Sized Otters Prowled the World Six Million Years Ago.

Not all that long ago, as the editor in chief of Gawker.com, Daulerio was among the most influential and feared figures in media. Now the forty-two-year-old is unemployed, his bank has frozen his life savings of $1,500, and a $1,200-per-month one-bedroom is all he can afford. He’s renting here, he says, to be near the counselors and support network he has come to rely on lately.

* I still believe in Arrested Development Season Five.

* Your blast from the past: Prodigy Online’s MadMaze.

* Superheroes and the kids today.

* Episode 8 has a name.

* Autism causes vaccines.

* And RIP, Mark Fisher. A memorial fund for his wife and son. His piece on depression.

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 24, 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Last Weekend Before the Semester Links!

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* ICYMI: My new syllabi for the fall! Infinite Jest and Alternate History. There’s also a new version of my “Video Game Culture” class, set for a new eleven-meeting schedule and with a “Capitalism” week added centered on Pokémon Go (what? oh, that thing). Relatedly: Milwaukee County Parks are trying to remove Pokemon Go from Lake Park.

* The NLRB has ruled that graduate students at private universities can unionize. How letting grad students unionize could change the labor movement and college sports. The NLRB Columbia Decision and the Future of Academic Labor Struggles. The Union Libel: On the Argument against Collective Bargaining in Higher Ed. But elsewhere in academic labor news: Adjuncts in Religious Studies May Be Excluded From Religious College Unions.

* Are PhD Students Irrational? Well, you don’t have to be, but it helps…

The point, then, is that a rational choice theory of PhD pursuit is self-sealing: by allowing the job market, and the job market only, to police our understanding of what’s rational, we’re ignoring that doctoral study is a way of accomplishing what the market typically cannot — a long-term, self-directed research project.

* Colleges hire more minority and female professors, but most jobs filled are adjunct, not tenure track, study finds.

* This morning everyone’s fighting about academic freedom and trigger warnings at the University of Chicago.

* I thought I was the only prof who didn’t really care about deadlines. But apparently there are dozens of us!

* That’ll solve it: Replace college instruction with Ken Burns movies.

A New Academic Year Brings Fresh Anxiety at Illinois’s Public Colleges.

Poor and Uneducated: The South’s Cycle of Failing Higher Education.

* Actually, I’m teaching these kids way more than they’re teaching me.

* I’ve dreamed about this since I was a kid: An Epochal Discovery: A Habitable Planet Orbits Our Neighboring Star. Time to teach The Sparrow again…

* Philosophical SF.

* CFP: Futures Near and Far: Utopia, Dystopia, and Futurity, University of Florida.

Cuban science-fiction redefines the future in the ruins of a socialist utopia.

Puppies, Slates, and the Leftover Shape of “Victory.” On that Rabid Puppies thing and my Hugo Award-winning novella Binti.

It was a long time before anyone realized there was something not the same about her.

From all indications, the next X-Men movie will hew closer to Claremont’s original Dark Phoenix story than the previous cinematic effort. But any sense of authenticity it achieves will only arouse and prolong the desire for closure of the loss not only of a treasured character who might have lived endlessly in the floating timeline, but also of the very narrative finitude in which this loss could only happen once. Comic Book Melancholia.

* Bingewatching vs. plot.

* A new book series at Rowman and Littlefield explores Remakes, Reboots, and Adaptations.

Hot Tomorrow: The Urgency and Beauty of Cli-Fi.

Do Better: Sexual Violence in SFF.

* The real questions: How Long Would It Actually Take to Fall Through the Earth?

How did an EpiPen get to costing $600? Earned every penny. A Case Study in Health System Dysfunction. But, you know, it’s all better now.

* Amazing study at Duke: Virtual Reality and Exoskeleton Help Paraplegics Partially Recover, Study Finds.

The Epidemic Archives Of The Future Will Be Born Digital.

How One Professor Will Turn Wisconsin’s Higher-Ed Philosophy Into a Seminar.

* Becoming Eleven. Concept Art Reveals Barb’s Original Stranger Things Fate and It Will Depress You. We Will Get ‘Justice for Barb’ in a Second Season of Stranger Things. This Stranger Things fan theory changes the game.

Arkansas City Accused Of Jailing Poor People For Bouncing Checks As Small As $15. An Arkansas Judge Sent A Cancer Patient To ‘Debtors’ Prison’ Over A Few Bounced Checks.

* And elsewhere: Drug Court Participants Allegedly Forced To Become Police Informers.

The times of year you’re most likely to get divorced. Keep scrolling! We’re not done yet.

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Are these the best films of the 21st century? I’m not sure I enjoyed or still think about any film on this list more than I enjoyed and think about The Grand Budapest Hotel, though There Will Be Blood, Memento, Caché, and Children of Men might all be close.

CBS is bound and determined to make sure Star Trek: Discovery bombs.

Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus.

* An Instagram account can index depression.

* After neoliberalism?

* Parenting and moral panic.

How Screen Addiction Is Damaging Kids’ Brains.

The technical language obscured an arresting truth: Basis, which I had ordered online without a prescription, paying $60 for a month’s supply, was either the most sophisticated fountain-of-youth scam ever to come to market or the first fountain-of-youth pill ever to work.

* Nazis were even creeps about their horses.

tumblr_nc27oekkA11t3cxt2o1_500* The Republicans were right!

* Mapping the Stephen King meganarrative.

* Good news for Dr. Strange: Dan Harmon wrote on the reshoots.

* My colleague Jodi Melamed writes in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on white Milwaukee’s responsibility.

The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan. Translated from the Icelandic.

* Saddest postjournalism story yet: “Vote on the topic for a future Washington Post editorial.”

Katherine Johnson, the human computer.

* I arrived at my friend’s party. A few hours later she died, exactly as planned.

* Uber loses a mere 1.2 billion dollars in the first half of 2016. Can there be any doubt they are just a stalking horse for the robots?

* It’s been interesting watching this one circulate virally: Giving up alcohol opened my eyes to the infuriating truth about why women drink.

William Shatner Is Sorry Paramount Didn’t Stop Him From Ruining Star Trek V. Apology not accepted.

Hillary Clinton will likely have a unique chance to remake the federal judiciary. How the first liberal Supreme Court in a generation could reshape America.

Many donors to Clinton Foundation met with her at State. You don’t say… 4 experts make the case that the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising was troubling.

* Does he want a few of mine? Donald Trump Used Campaign Donations to Buy $55,000 of His Own Book.

Curt Schilling Is the Next Donald Trump. Hey, that was my bit!

* Oh, so now the imperial presidency is bad.

* Good news, everyone!

At least Democrats are currently on track to retake the Senate.

* Scenes from the richest country in the history of the world: Texas has highest maternal mortality rate in developed world, study finds. Raw sewage has been leaking into Baltimore’s harbor for five days, city says. It appears aquatic life — the moss that grows on rocks, the bacteria that live in the water and the bugs that hatch there — are the unexpected victims of Americans’ struggle with drug addiction. Ramen is displacing tobacco as most popular US prison currency, study finds.

No Man’s Sky is like real space exploration: dull, except when it’s sublime.

A.J. Daulerio, bloodied but unbowed. How Peter Thiel Killed Gawker. Never Mind Peter Thiel. Gawker Killed Itself. Gawker Was Killed by Gaslight. And if you want a vision of the future: A Startup Is Automating the Lawsuit Strategy Peter Thiel Used to Kill Gawker.

* Greenlit for five seasons and a spinoff: The astonishing story of how two wrestling teammates from Miami came to oppose each other in the cocaine wars — one as a drug smuggler, the other as a DEA agent.

* Also greenlighting this one.

* The legacy board games revolution.

25 1/2 gimmicky DVD commentary tracks.

The millennial generation as a whole will lose nearly $8.8 trillion in lifetime income because of climate change. The children of millennials will lose tens of trillions.

* When Icon fought Superman.

* Do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks.

An Exciting History of Drywall.

* Title IX: still under serious threat.

* And it’s not a competition, but Some Turtles See Red Better Than You Do.

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Written by gerrycanavan

August 26, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Easter Links! Find Them All!

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* The 2015 Hugo nominees have been announced, and they’re a mess. The Hugo Awards Were Always Political. But Now They’re Only Political. A Note About the Hugo Nominations This Year. The Puppy-Free Hugo Award Voter’s Guide. The Biggest Little SF Publisher you never heard of declares war. “Why I Declined a Hugo Award Nomination.”

* And in response to the question “Well, what should have been nominated for a Hugo?”: “Andromache and the Dragon,” by my brilliant Marquette colleague Brittany Pladek!

* “The Many Faces of Tatiana Maslany”: In portraying a horde of clones on ‘Orphan Black,’ the actress has created TV’s strangest — and most sophisticated — meditation on femininity. And a special bonus companion piece: Meet The Woman (Besides Tatiana Maslany) Who Plays Every Single “Orphan Black” Clone.

Reddit’s Bizarre, Surreal, Maddening, Hypnotic, Divisive, and Possibly Evil April Fools’ Joke. I’ve become obsessed with this.

* CFP: Ephemeral Television. CFP: Into the Pensieve: The Harry Potter Generation in Retrospect.

* Watching them turn off the Rothkos.

Somali Militants Kill 147 at Kenyan University.

Iran’s Been Two Years Away From a Nuclear Weapon for Three Decades. The Iran deal. What if the Iranians are people too?

So how much money is the NCAA making? In 2010, CBS and Turner Broadcasting gave the NCAA $10.8 billion for a fourteen-year broadcast monopoly on March Madness games. Estimated ad revenue for the 2013 tournament reached $1.15 billion, while ticket revenue brought in another $71.7 million. Last year no less than thirty-five coaches pulled down salaries higher than $1 million before bonuses; Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski topped the list with an income of more than $9.6 million.

Guarding against the errant, suicidal murderous pilot belongs to a category called “wicked problems” — the complexity of the system and the conflicting incentives mean that every solution introduces another set of problems, so the only way forward is always going to be an imperfect one. Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that this once again reveals how, as humans, we are lousy at risk assessment, and also lousy of accepting this weakness. The problem is wicked, but its occurrence is so rare that it is almost unheard of — partly why it terrifies us so. Our imagination, biases and fears are terrible guides to what should actually be done to keep us safer, and this has significant consequences in a whole host of fields, ranging from terrorism to childcare to health-care.

So you see, people like Tim Cook are selective in their moral universalism; morality, it turns out, is universal only insofar as extends to the particular desires of a Western bourgeoisie; deny a gay couple a wedding bouquet that they could get at the florist down the street anyway, and that is a cause for outrage and concern; extract minerals using indentured Congolese servants, well, look, we’ve got marginal cost to consider! The moral argument, it turns out, curdles when exposed to the profit motive, and the universality of justice actually does end at certain borders, one way or another.

How the Slave Trade Built America.

* But unlike its predecessor, the show has no obvious narrative progression. Nacho’s important, or he’s not; the Kettlemans are half the show, or maybe we should care about Sandpiper. There are flashbacks to Jimmy’s past where Bob Odenkirk is playing either 25 or 57—a savvy criminal or a neophyte screw-up. In the lead-up to Better Call Saul, there were theories that the show would be funnier than Breaking Bad (maybe a sitcom?) or more procedural than Breaking Bad (maybe The Good Wife for bad boys?) or more episodic (like X-Files with lawyers!). None of that is true, and all of that is true. It’s interesting, but not the way great TV is interesting. Better Call Saul reminds me more of Treme or John From Cincinnati: post-masterpiece meanders. 

* In TV’s Silver Age, a logjam of shows that are ‘pretty good,’ but not great.

Here’s A Map That Shows All The Future Megacities From Science Fiction.

* Can science fiction be a form of social activism? Walidah Imarisha thinks so, and she’s recruited everyone from LeVar Burton to Mumia Abu-Jamal to help her prove it.

* Johns Hopkins Faces $1-Billion Lawsuit Over U.S. Experiments in Guatemala.

* sirens.io, blogging from seven years in the future.

* Are Aliens Behind Mysterious Radio Bursts? Scientists Weigh In.

* Calif. Governor Orders Mandatory Water Restrictions For 1st Time In History. It’s up to us to singlehandedly save california from drought by turning off the tap when we brush our teeth! California is pumping water that fell to Earth 20,000 years ago. California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth. R.I.P. California (1850-2016): What We’ll Lose And Learn From The World’s First Major Water Collapse. Children of the Drought.

Starting this week, 25,000 households in Baltimore will suddenly lose their access to water for owing bills of $250 or more, with very little notice given and no public hearings.

* Oceans might take 1,000 years to recover from climate change, study suggests.

Drug field tests used by cops are so bad they react positively to air, soap, candy.

* Trolley Problem: The Game. Advanced Trolley Problems.

* Scott Walker’s budget cuts $5.7 million from pollution control efforts.

The Most Popular Antidepressants Are Based On A Theory We Know Is Wrong. Most antidepressant users have never had depression.

* 12 New Science Fiction Comics You Absolutely Need to be Reading.

* From Shaman to Equinox: The Challenges and Failures of Indigenous Representation in Superhero Comics Read More: Indigenous Representation in Superhero Comics.

* Hero Price Is Right model begins the revolution by just giving away a car.

* First as an unexpectedly great show, then as I don’t know it doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me.

All told, the “Detroit Industry” frescoes are probably as close as this country gets to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

* The happiness spigot.

New report says manned Mars mission could reach orbit by 2033, land by 2039.

Clarke makes her point not with stirring courtroom rhetoric or devastating legal arguments but by a process of relentless accretion, case by case, win by win. This is her cause. Because if the state cannot put these defendants to death, then how can it put anyone to death? Thirty-five executions took place in the United States in 2014 for crimes that form an inventory of human cruelty—and yet few were as willful and egregious as those committed by Judy Clarke’s clients.

Here is an example of the priorities in New York state’s budget: There is no increase in the minimum wage, but purchasers of yachts that cost more than $230,000 are exempt from the sales tax.

* U.S. Court Officially Rules that Friendship Is Worthless.

Tales from the Trenches: I was SWATed.

Texas Just Does Not Care How Hot Its Prisons Get.

* Duke tries throwing polio at cancer, as you do.

* Interesting article on design: The Secret History of the Apple Watch.

Senate Republicans say the current system is unfair because rural residents are effectively supporting urban counties’ schools and services when they shop there. Yes, that’s literally how the system is intended to function.

The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust.

* So you want to resurrect a college.

These Slow-Motion Videos of Fluids Vibrating on Speakers Are Wonderful.

* Now Full House, and the Muppets too.

These Photos Of Melanie Griffith And Her Pet Lion In The 1970s Are Everything. (UPDATE: Here’s the article that seems to be the original source, plus a little bit on Roar’s rerelease. Noteworthy lines from Wikipedia: “Over 70 of the cast and crew were injured during the production of this film.”)

* Being Andre.

Landlord Sends Man $1,200 Bill To Cleanup His Roommate’s Blood, Who Was Shot Dead By Police.

Stan VHS, A Tumblr Blog Featuring 1980s-Style VHS Cover Art for Modern Television Shows and Movies.

A Linguistic Comparison of Letters of Recommendation for Male and Female Chemistry and Biochemistry Job Applicants.

* SF Short of the Weekend: “Burnt Grass.”

* …and your short short of the weekend: “No One Is Thirsty.”

* I finally found enough time to be annoyed by Obama interviewing David Simon about The Wire.

* This Easter, we remember.

* And because you demanded it: An oral history of Max Headroom.

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Written by gerrycanavan

April 5, 2015 at 9:29 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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In Defense of the Humanities (or, Kotsko Hulks Out)

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Before the Pop Culture Lunch yesterday some of our grad students were teasing me for my somewhat jaundiced view of graduate education in the humanities. (And this, despite my actually telling people to go, given certain conditions!) In that vein let me link to Heather Horn’s relatively compelling but imperfect defense of the economic rationality of the humanities Ph.D. in The Atlantic:

So what’s the deal that most twenty-somethings are taking when they say “yes” to an offer of admission? They’re taking five years of, let’s say, $20,000, studying something they’re truly passionate about, for a shot at a tenure-track position five to seven years down the line, and a shot at a tenured position in the long run with unbeatable benefits and job security. The downside is that it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll actually wind up with that job in the end. In other words, they’re accepting five years of pretty decent, if low-paying, security with a whole lot of questions once those five years are up.

This article seems to have prompted a fairly wide-ranging discussion of the economics of graduate school on Twitter, which I’ve partially Storified here more or less entirely for the purposes of recording Adam Kotsko’s excellent rant on the subject. Some highlights:

Quick Hits

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* “Proposed new calendar would make time rational.”

According to Richard Conn Henry’s calendar, eight months would each have 30 days. Every third month would have 31 days. Every so often, to account for the leftover time, a whole extra week would be added.

The upshot: Years would proceed with clockwork regularity, with no annual re-jiggering of schedules required. Each day would occupy the same position as it had the previous year and would in the next. Were this 364-day calendar, known officially as the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, adopted on the first day of 2012, both Christmas and New Year’s Day would forever fall on Sunday.

If the bonus week can be a work-free jubilee, I’m in.

* And then climate change ate all our peanuts.

* And then Rick Perry annexed Canada.

* The SSA said 50 percent of workers made less than $26,364 last year — and most Americans have fewer job opportunities available to them. But the wealthiest Americans are relatively unscathed, with those earning $1 million or more jumping 18 percent from 2009. More here.

* Charles Taylor asks, “Is there any other living novelist who calls for a perpetual re-evaluation as much as Stephen King?” I’m not exactly a fan (though there’s quite a bit I like), but he’s definitely someone I’d like to teach a class on at some point.

* Death of cinema watch: Bridesmaids is the only top fifteen film this year that is neither a sequel, a reboot, or an adaptation.

* Bad news everyone: Clean paper towels are filthy. Your only hope now is to finally build that cleanroom.

* Why you’re fat and will always be fat. Via MeFi.

* Robert Reich predicts Obama-Clinton 2012. The Clinton-Biden switch has seemed like the only possible option for ’12 since at least 2008; it’s a huge unforced error if they don’t.

* And TEDxBrussels predicts 2061. No word on if there will still be peanuts.

Legal Rationality

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Written by gerrycanavan

April 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm

‘Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality’

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The only fan fiction I’ve ever recommended, and perhaps even read at all: “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality,” loosely organized around an alternate universe version of the J.K. Rowling novels in which (among other things) Harry’s adoptive parents were not the repulsive Dursleys but instead an rationalist Oxford scientist. The piece is written in accordance with the author’s self-established principles of fan fiction:

The First Law of Fanfiction states that every change which strengthens the protagonists requires a corresponding worsening of their challenges. Or in plainer language: You can’t make Frodo a Jedi without giving Sauron the Death Star. Read any book on writing ever and it will tell you that stories are about conflict; a hero too strong for their conflict is no longer in tense, heart-pounding difficulty. For example, Dark!Dumbledore and Dark!Harry both permit a Harry strengthened over canon – the first by turning one of Harry’s canon!allies against him, and the second by turning Harry against his canon!allies. The most spectacular application of this principle that I’ve seen is Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time, in which Harry has gained all the knowledge of ancient Atlantis and has been through literally hundreds of Peggy Sue cycles in which he learns every possible twist of fate… and Voldemort, who unfortunately got to Atlantis first, has still won every time. The Mary Sue is not defined by her power, but by her lack of an even more powerful opponent. I mention this (1) so that you know I know it and (2) because the First Law of Fanfiction ought to be in a giant banner on every fanfiction site. The most fatal temptation of fanfiction writing is to think of how much easier some character’s life would be if they were a ninja. We are naturally inclined to think up ways to solve our characters’ problems for them, but must learn instead to make their lives more difficult.

The Rule of Rationalist Fiction states that rationality is not magic; being rational does not require magical potential or royal bloodlines or even amazing gadgets, and the principles of rationality work for understandable reasons.A rationalist!hero should excel by thinking – moreover, thinking in understandable patterns that readers can, in principle, adopt for themselves. As opposed to the hero just being a born “genius” who comes up with amazing gadgets through an opaque discovery process, or who pulls off incredibly complicated gambits that would fail miserably if the reader tried something similar in real life.

I found this strange and slightly wonderful mess (where else?) at TV Tropes, which points out that it’s a self-conscious Author Tract for self-educated AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky, who seems to take Bayes’s theorem as something like religion.

Of course “HPatMoR” is definitely not for everyone—I can only imagine what Alex will say if he takes the bait and clicks the link—but it displays that precise nerdly obsessiveness I find I just can’t resist. When a fan-fic writers imagines his souped-up Voldemort turning the outbound Pioneer 11 spacecraft into one of his many Horcuxes—well, look, I’m not made of stone.

I should also say this link is roughly the complete opposite of “breaking news”—the ongoing project is nearly a year old.