Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘spectacle

Christmascism

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* I’ve started something new and a little bit experimental at Marquette this month: I’m teaching one of the courses in the pilot January session. Mine is a departure for me in a number of ways; in addition to being a very abbreviated, intensive session, it is also entirely online and links literary study with short-story writing in a way our intro classes typically haven’t. Three days in, I’m enjoying the experience a lot! Designing and producing the course materials over the fall was a hectic experience, to say the least, but having all the material ready and up front on launch day certainly makes the day-by-day operation of the course easier.

* Elsewhere on the Marquette beat: the university has recently purchased a first edition of The Hobbit. I’ve asked to teach my Tolkien class again in the fall, so maybe they’ll let me look at it, if not touch it…

* Also coming this fall: The five stages of fascism. This piece from the Post has filled me with renewed dread that Trump is actually going to be very good at this. He seems to understand exactly how superficial and how fundamentally stupid the American public sphere has become. I don’t think he’ll have any trouble manipulating the press exactly how he wants to.

* Tech and Trump.

* I can’t wait to find out who wins the 2016 election.

* I loved this piece on the Reddit community that is sure Sinbad played a genie in a movie in the 1990s. I asked Jaimee afterwards if she remembered the film; she remembered it immediately and is now furious with me. Of course it reminded me of my own benighted quest to find the TV show intro theme where someone opens a door and gets a paint roller over their head. Yes, you remember that one too, no, it doesn’t exist…

* Putin, Comey, Putin, Comey: Almost all the US jobs created since 2005 are temporary. And it’s likely to get a whole lot worse very soon.
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* : the gerry canavan story

* Jonathan Lethem and Kim Stanley Robinson talk Philip K. Dick.

* Wild! Google sued over policies ‘barring employees from writing novels.’

* Still more on the original ending of Rogue One, with confirmation that it was very different.

* Food, floods, flu, and the Doomsday Vault.

* Strange days: Brianna Wu says she’s running for Congress.

‘Jeopardy!’ contestant didn’t live to see her winning streak on TV.

* Playtesting the coming cashless dystopia in India.

I Was All Set to Become the Most Popular Guy in the Cancer Ward. Then I Met My Nemesis: Ben.

* And you can’t argue with science: Apparently cat owners might be more into bondage and BDSM than everyone else.

Sunday Morning Links!

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As Marquette’s faculty gathers in the basement of the Bradley Center for commencement, some links…

* I have sat in philosophy seminars where it was asserted that I should be left to die on a desert island if the choice was between saving me and saving an arbitrary non-disabled person. I have been told it would be wrong for me to have my biological children because of my disability. I have been told that, while it isn’t bad for me to exist, it would’ve been better if my mother could’ve had a non-disabled child instead. I’ve even been told that it would’ve been better, had she known, for my mother to have an abortion and try again in hopes of conceiving a non-disabled child. I have been told that it is obvious that my life is less valuable when compared to the lives of arbitrary non-disabled people. And these things weren’t said as the conclusions of careful, extended argument. They were casual assertions. They were the kind of thing you skip over without pause because it’s the uncontroversial part of your talk.

* There’s tons of great stuff in issue 17 of Jacobin, from the Peter Frase editorial on automation to a call to democratize the universe to ruminations on edutopia and the smartphone society.

Mad Max: Fury Road Is the Feminist Action Flick You’ve Been Waiting For. 3 Brief Points on Mad Max: Fury Road.

Alastair Reynolds Says What It’ll Take To Colonize Other Planets.

University of Wisconsin flunks the financial transparency test.

* Juxtaposition watch: Maryland governor vetoes $11 million for schools, approves $30 million for jails.

The awful truth about climate change no one wants to admit.

Hillary Clinton personally took money from companies that sought to influence her. The next couple years are going to be a bottomless exercise in humiliation for Democrats.

People Who Opposed The Iraq War From The Beginning Are The Best Americans.

* History is a nightmare for which I’m trying to hit the snooze: NJ Republican Introduces Resolution Condemning ‘Negative’ AP History Exam.

City leaders approve plan for National Slave Ship Museum.

“Do something that will force reviewers compare this movie favorably to the ending of Man of Steelwhether they want to or not.”

Let the Kids Learn Through Play.

Why Are Palo Alto’s Kids Killing Themselves?

There is no f*cking way that you can hack a plane’s engines from the in-flight TVs. I won’t accept it.

* “He was released on $30,000 bond to home confinement after the agreement was made and faces between 0 and 5 years in federal prison, along with a possible fine of up to $250,000.”

* I also won’t accept that Someone Did a Shit So Bad On a British Airways Plane That It Had to Turn Around and Come Back Again.

* “DesJarlais, a former physician, voted for the ban despite allegedly pressuring his mistress and ex-wife to get abortions.”

When Sandy Bem found out she had Alzheimer’s, she resolved that before the disease stole her mind, she would kill herself. The question was, when?

If Catch-22 appeared a few years before Americans were ready to read it, Something Happened jumped the gun by decades, and the novel was already forgotten when its comically bleak take on upper-middle-class life became a staple of fiction.

Jurors In The Boston Bombing Case Had To Agree To Consider The Death Penalty Before Being Selected. This is a very strange requirement of the law that seems to strongly interfere with the “jury of your peers” ideal.

How a police department tried to save a failing Rust Belt town by luring all the local drug dealers to one party.

* Deleted scene from Infinite Jest. So bizarre.

* Dibs on the young-adult dystopia: Teenagers who show too much leg face being sent into an “isolation room” for breaching the new uniform code.

New Zealand Legally Recognises Animals as ‘Sentient’ Beings.

Schools are failing boys because lessons have become “feminised”, says a leading academic who wants to see outdoor adventure given greater emphasis in the curriculum. That’ll solve it!

What Even Can You Even Say About The Princess-Man of North Sudan?

What Would You Do If You Could Censor Your Past? A Visit to the UK’s Secret Archives.

The Ecotourism Industry Is Saving Tanzania’s Animals and Threatening Its Indigenous People.

* “On the occasion of David Letterman’s retirement after 33 years of hosting a late-night talk show, Jason Snell presents his take on Letterman’s significance, told with the help of a few friends.”

* Friends, they may call it a movement.

* And I’ll see you again in twenty-five days.

Written by gerrycanavan

May 17, 2015 at 8:45 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Weekend Link Flood!

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* Average Salaries of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty at 4-Year Colleges, 2013-14.

How Endowment Hoarding Hurts Universities.

* On anxieties in the humanities.

* The bad old days in academia. University is No Place For Women, or, ‘What About the MEN?’

* Should I write for free? No. Maybe? No.

‘I got into sex work to afford to be a writer.’

Against “doing something” or Love Your Sadness.

* What we talk about when we talk about low-wage workers. On (not) getting by in the gig economy.

* Her and twee fascism.

* Neobracketology at Slate. Walk off the court. The NCAA-Killing Lawsuit Might Finally Be Here. There simply never has been a compelling moral or ethical argument that the NCAA and the university had an inalienable right to every last nickel they could squeeze out of the work done by their student-athletes. Don’t tell me the odds.

* U. of Wisconsin Is Fined $35,000 in Settlement of Animal-Welfare Inquiry.

* The Apartheid of Children’s Literature.

US foreign policy’s gender gap.

* Silver will either have to keep his project modest in its topical scope, rendering it boring, or expand it into normative subject areas, rendering it incompetent. Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight is getting some high-profile bad reviews. By claiming the mantle of pure analysis, Silver is falling into a familiar journalistic trap. Nate Silver’s New Science Writer Ignores The Data On Climate Science.

* From way back in the archives: Gay Trek.

JRR Tolkien translation of Beowulf to be published after 90-year wait.

* The West’s Coming Tragedy of the Commons. More at the New York Times.

A Forgotten Scandal in Baltimore’s High Society.

* BOSS: The Biannual Online-Journal of Springsteen Studies is now soliciting submissions for its second issues.

* Wes Anderson symmetry supercut.

* Blame-the-victim gender-police watch: School Bans Boy From Wearing ‘My Little Pony’ Backpack, Claims It’s A ‘Trigger For Bullying.’

* Former Coach Is Awarded $360,000 in Bias Case Against U. of Minnesota.

* If you want a vision of the future, imagine George R.R. Martin writing Game of Thrones tie-in films, forever. Is Game of Thrones unfinishable? Followup.

Martin surely was writing a conventional fantasy novel about an ancient evil and an exiled princess but somehow got distracted by what probably was summed up in some original one page outline in about one sentence (“Westeros monarchy weakened by infighting and succession problems”). Having fallen in love with what was supposed to be a bit of window dressing, he has continually expanded its role within the series even though it threatens to completely drown out what the series was supposed to be about in the first place. Is it any wonder that he has suffered from the contemporary genre’s most famous case of writer’s block? I’m sure that long ago he planned what would happen to Daenerys and the Night’s Watch, but now he feels obligated to give equal time to characters like Brienne who are likable yet serve little purpose to the central narrative and are instead dragged through increasingly arbitrary make-work scenes to keep them available for some later bit of relevance.

* Pixar sequels forever.

* Guys: Twitter says you’re using Twitter wrong.

Darwin’s Children Drew All Over the On The Origin of Species Manuscript.

* CNN teaches the controversy.

* Why do we let 80,000 Americans suffer a ‘slow-motion torture of burying alive’?

* BREAKING: The last decade was a historically awful time to enter the job market.

* BREAKING: The United States Needs to Guarantee Paid Maternity Leave.

* No one could have predicted: Google Under Fire for Data-Mining Student Email Messages.

2ºC Warming Is Enough To Seriously Hurt Crop Yields.

Florida Has Never Executed A White Person For Killing A Black Person.

* Mother Jones tries to argue marijuana is ecologically unsound for some reason.

The Third Narrative Advisory Council says it wants to counter the notion — in an era when the idea of academic boycotts of Israel has gained some momentum — “that one has to be either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian.” The truth is probably somewhere win the middle, I always say. LARoB roundtable on academic activism and BDS.

* The coming Democratic majority: Democrats don’t manage to run anyone for Nevada governor.

* Gamification in The Baffler.

* Maps of the day: how Hollywood destroys America. No, literally, how it does it. No, you’re not understanding.

* Science we can use: Why Dark Chocolate Is So Damn Good For You.

* You had me at 600-Pound “Chicken From Hell.”

* And the Very Best Tumblr of All Time: Skeletor Is Love.

‘Terror and Mismemory’: On 9/11

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Like the Normandy Invasion, like World War II, as time passes 9/11 is increasingly figured as a lost, Utopian past, a perverse sort of Golden Age which in the same singular instant is both forever lost and always just around the corner.

Several years ago I wrote an article about 9/11 for a book that, due to the whirling speed of academic publishing, is only just now coming out: Portraying 9/11: Essays on Representations in Comics, Literature, Film and Theatre. My piece for the book is titled “Terror and Mismemory: Resignifying September 11 in World Trade Center and United 93” and is about the way the trauma of 9/11 has been reimagined by film and journalistic retrospectives as “a permanent state of emergency from which there is no possible relief or escape.” Instead of allowing time to progress forward, we simply replay the tape over and over again, stuck in the single moment when the Towers were still on fire but before they collapsed.

After discussing briefly my own memories of 9/11, including the myriad reports of phantom attacks from that morning that are now no longer discussed and the long list of “possible” attacks in news reports since then that have similarly never happened, the piece concludes like this:

This feeling of permanent, unmitigated existential threat has begun at last to dissipate, but it has never really left us — a temporal loop caused by that day’s repeated reconsumption as spectacle. Though the attacks lasted only a few hours on one very devastating morning, on the level of spectacle they remain ongoing and unending. This is perhaps one reason why Freedom Tower, the new office complex and memorial long scheduled to be built on the ruins of Ground Zero, has for so long remained unbuilt and perhaps in some real sense unbuildable. We have been frozen in time, unable to move on.

I have never felt this more than I did after opening Twitter and my RSS reader this morning to discover a ubiquitous wall of chatter about 9/11. @ibogost sums it up in a single evocative phrase: “The sad exhaustion of an event named to repeat itself forever.”

Adam Kotsko makes much the same point from a different direction in a blog post he put up last night, “An Isolated Incident: Or, The Day Nothing Changed.” While I disagree in an important sense with Adam’s major conclusion — I do believe 9/11 makes a turning point in the breakdown of the rule of law in the U.S., as well as the attitude of the U.S. towards imperial exercise of its military superpower — I agree with him in nearly all the particulars. 9/11 was a trauma, not a new reality. Constantly reliving that trauma, constantly re-experiencing it over and over to the point where it becomes a strange sort of macabre celebration, is not helping anybody. We need to move on.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 11, 2011 at 10:32 am

How ‘Lost’ Teaches Us to Grieve It

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The spectacle is the ruling order’s nonstop discourse about itself, its never-ending monologue of self-praise, its self-portrait at the stage of totalitarian domination of all aspects of life.
—Guy Debord

I caught a bit of a break in assigning Guy Debord in my “Watching Television” class the day after the Lost finale extravaganza, which I’d asked my students to watch “for as long as they could stand.” (Many of them made it all the way from Lost: The Final Journey through the episode itself before petering out sometime during Jimmy Kimmel. That’s over six hours. I count myself among them.)

Debord’s well-known argument in The Society of the Spectacle is that our inner lives are increasingly structured and monetized by corporate interests; “the society of the spectacle” pushes out real life, as it was once authentically lived, in favor of imagistic simulacra fed to us by mass media. The result is deep alienation not only from each other but from our ourselves, from our own wants and desires. As Debord puts it:

The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender “lonely crowds.” With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions….

In the spectacle, a part of the world presents itself to the world and is superior to it. The spectacle is simply the common language of this separation. Spectators are linked solely by their one-way relationship to the very center that keeps them isolated from each other. The spectacle thus reunites the separated, but it reunites them only in their separateness.

I knew when I originally constructed the syllabus that Lost: The Final Journey would be a nearly perfect example of spectacle’s “never-ending monologue of self-praise,” and in this respect it certainly didn’t disappoint; think only of the frequent ad bumpers that showed viewers’ love letters to Lost being read by characters on the show:

The language here is intense emotional commitment; in both cases the rhetoric of romance is used, and it’s clear that for at least a certain segment of the audience the relationship with Lost surpasses any one might have with other people. (You may not have friends or real human relationships, but you have do TV.) More precisely, this is how ABC wants us to think about viewership; this is the model of fandom-as-devotion it presents to us to follow. (Who knows, after all, if Marcia S. or Chelz W. are even real people.)

Where Lost brings people together, we are shown, it is only to share in the transcendent experience of watching the show; we see this at the start of the Jimmy Kimmel special after the show, in which we see Kimmel’s audience’s tears as they finish their shared “journey” at their own Lost “viewing party”:

This was the level of self-praise I anticipated when I saw there’d be a special, which is why I assigned the Debord. Where I caught my break was in the strange self-reflexive turn the narrative content of the show took in its final hours, which now turn out to have been an extended celebration of Lost itself all along. In the trope of the flashes-sideways, we find our heroes (living lives where they never visited the Island) experiencing climactic epiphanies in which they suddenly remember key moments from the series:

Hurley and Libby, Sayid and Shannon, Sawyer and Juliet, Kate and Aaron, Charlie and Claire, and on and on—this precise epiphanic sequence, down to the quick cuts, overwrought music, serene gaze, and gasping tears, is repeated over and over, at least once for every major character on the series. Surpassing the self-indulgent self-reference of even the Seinfeld finale, but without the irony, the plot of the final season has been a literal recapitulation of the viewers’ own vicarious participation in the series all along, with the major characters’ entire narrative arcs transformed into tiny testaments to the greatness of the series itself. In this way the division between the audience and its protagonists is made to erode: these characters are on a quest to remember their adventures as we, their audience, have been watching them all along—and in the happy moments when their quest for revelation is achieved we get to glimpse again the show’s iconic sequences, naturally seeing them not from the characters’ visual perspective but from our own. The series reproduces itself in tribute to itself.

And in case we missed how we were supposed to feel about all this, Christian Shepherd makes the point as explicit as he can in the series’s final monologue, a moment that is visually framed as a religious funeral, with contextually appropriate dialogue about “remembering” and “letting go.” Consider what he says at approximately 3:10 in the linked clip:

Ostensibly speaking to Jack, but really speaking to us, just a few degrees away from looking directly at the camera, Christian sagely, hypnotically intones: “The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people.”

Who could ever doubt it?

Terrorball

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The first two rules of Terrorball are:

(1) The game lasts as long as there are terrorists who want to harm Americans; and

(2) If terrorists should manage to kill or injure or seriously frighten any of us, they win.

Paul Campos explains the rules of Terrorball. Via Kevin Drum.

These rules help explain the otherwise inexplicable wave of hysteria that has swept over our government in the wake of the failed attempt by a rather pathetic aspiring terrorist to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. For two weeks now, this mildly troubling but essentially minor incident has dominated headlines and airwaves, and sent politicians from the president on down scurrying to outdo each other with statements that such incidents are “unacceptable,” and that all sorts of new and better procedures will be implemented to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Meanwhile, millions of travelers are being subjected to increasingly pointless and invasive searches and the resultant delays, such as the one that practically shut down Newark Liberty International Airport last week, after a man accidentally walked through the wrong gate, or Tuesday’s incident at a California airport, which closed for hours after a “potentially explosive substance” was found in a traveler’s luggage. (It turned out to be honey.)

As to the question of what the government should do rather than keep playing Terrorball, the answer is simple: stop treating Americans like idiots and cowards.It might be unrealistic to expect the average citizen to have a nuanced grasp of statistically based risk analysis, but there is nothing nuanced about two basic facts:

(1) America is a country of 310 million people, in which thousands of horrible things happen every single day; and

(2) The chances that one of those horrible things will be that you’re subjected to a terrorist attack can, for all practical purposes, be calculated as zero.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Friday Afternoon Linkblogging

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Friday afternoon linkblogging!

* 28% of Republicans claim to believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and another 30% “aren’t sure.” Results for the South are even worse. So it’s official: our national discourse is completely broken.

* Entertainment Weekly asks: Was 1984 the greatest year in movies ever? I’ve always been partial to 1999: Rushmore, The Matrix, Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, Magnolia

* Vanity Fair has your sketchbook history of the drug war.

* Steampunk monkey nation.

* Jericho may be returning once again as a TV movie to wrap up loose plot points. My recollection of the finale was that there weren’t very many loose plot points left, but your memory may vary.

* Chris Hedges: “The Rise of Gonzo Porn Is the Latest Sign of America’s Cultural Apocalypse.”

* And Scientific American explores the quiet end of the Neanderthals.

Written by gerrycanavan

July 31, 2009 at 5:55 pm