Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘steampunk

Friday Links!

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* The Department of Education is surprisingly frank about how impossible it is to turn Obama’s gibberish on education into a usable ratings system. And here is the tentative list of stats colleges must now juke.

Serial missed its chance to show how unfair the criminal justice system really is. What Serial really taught us.

* Aaron Bady interviews Sofia Samatar on steampunk, Afrofuturism, science fiction, and more. The latest in his Post45 series.

Marquette says it hasn’t suspended professor John McAdams.

* The best list like this I’ve seen: 5 Reasons To Study The Humanities.

* Uber is a terrible idea.

Uber claims Done wasn’t even the driver who was supposed to pick the woman up, and points out that he passed a background check before he started driving for them.

So did the L.A. driver charged with kidnapping and rape, the San Francisco driver charged with hitting a passenger in the head with a hammer, and another San Francisco driver accused of assault who turned out to have prior felony convictions and was on parole for a previous battery charge.

* But in statehouses across the country, Uber has fought against legislation requiring background checks as strong as those demanded of traditional taxis. Other ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Sidecar, Uber’s chief rivals, have also pushed against the laws, but supporters of stronger background checks say Uber has been by far the most aggressive.

The Winning Images From National Geographic‘s 2014 Photo Contest.

* The very last Colbert. RIP. Today marks the exact moment this stops being a relevant reference for students, so expect to see it fade from classrooms around 2027.

* And I too wish my snowman were alive.

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Super Ultra Mega Monday Links, Supplemental

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* Anyway, I have no solution to this. It just really struck me at the symposium, because the whole thing felt good. It was rich and exciting and fun. And we were talking about ideas, in much the same way that scholars talk about ideas (four of us teach at universities for goodness’ sake!). So you tell me. Why do scholars have to be so miserable? What is it about our culture–let’s say US academic culture, to keep it simple–that creates this desire for the downtrodden, humiliated, suffering (humanities) scholar? Of course we like suffering artists as well… hmm. But artists suffer and are adored, while scholars suffer and are despised. Artists, when they suffer, are ritual sacrifices; scholars are the meanest sort of criminals.

* A new survey shows that Americans, on average, think that Santa Claus should make $140,000 / year. “Perhaps more interesting is that 29% think Santa should make nothing at all whereas 29% think he should make $1.8 billion.”

* You Can’t Make a Living: Digital Media, the End of TV’s Golden Age, and the Death Scene of the American Playwright. The author, Alena Smith, has been making waves in an entirely different context today.

* In a creditocracy, the goal is to keep debtors on the hook for as long as possible, wrapping debt around every possible asset and income stream to generate profit. Figuring out which debts we can legitimately refuse may turn out to be the only way of salvaging popular democracy. Education is the best place to start. Though it is supposed to serve as the incubator for a free-thinking, active citizenry, it is fast becoming its opposite—a chop shop where the life choices and optional political imagination of young people are downsized to fit the lifelong demands of financial contracts.

* This city where sidewalks burn and sewers fill with oily ooze is a city built here almost specifically for that very reason; Los Angeles, in many ways, is a settlement founded on petroleum byproducts, and the oil industry for which the city was once known never actually left. It just got better at hiding itself.

* The Police in America Are Becoming Illegitimate. Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014.

* After Tamir Rice Was Shot, Cleveland Police Allegedly Handcuffed His 14-Year-Old Sister.

* Luke Cage was created in 1972. Four years earlier, in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed. Five years before that, in 1963, Medgar Evers was shot and killed. Eight years before that, in 1955, a young Black man named Emmett Till was tortured, then shot and killed. These events, and numerous others with frightening similarity, happened in a line, and in the early years of the first decade to reap the social benefits of the Civil Rights Movement, Marvel Comics gives the fans (and the world) a Black male superhero whose primary superhuman aspect… is that he’s bulletproof.

* A One-Way Trip to Mars? Many Would Sign Up.

* What the World Doesn’t Need Are Steampunk Luxury Condos.

* Democrats have a truly heroic devotion to continuing to lose despite ever-increasing demographic advantage.

* What Tolkien got wrong.

My defense was simple but impassioned: Tolkien explicitly stated in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings that he was merely translating the Red Book of Westmarch, not writing an original story. Since Tolkien claimed the Red Book is over 6,000 years old, it must be in the public domain and so open to everyone to reinterpret and repurpose as they see fit. The Red Book didn’t belong to the Tolkien Estate, it belonged to the world.

* Parable of the Polygons.

* And/but the kids are all right.

Friday Links!

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* On the docket in Cultural Preservation today: David Graeber, “The Sadness of Post-Workerism, or, ‘Art and Immaterial Labour’ Conference: A Sort of Review” (main reading); Michael Bérubé, “American Studies without Exceptions” and Graeber, “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” (optional).

* A great postdoc, if you’re looking: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for 21st Century Studies Provost Postdoc Fellow, “Humanities Futures.”

“Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”

* To reform higher ed, we need a federal job guarantee.

* 2013 Is the Fourth Hottest Year on Record. 37 years straight of above-average temperatures. Soon, Sochi Won’t Be Cold Enough To Reliably Host The Winter Olympics.

* BREAKING: Rich people are ludicrously rich, everyone else totally broke. It’s fantastic.

* I had no idea cheerleaders were so radically underpaid. I’d always thought it was waged, full-time work — like being a mascot is.

There Has Been An Average Of One School Shooting Every Other School Day So Far This Year.

* Woman Takes Short Half-Hour Break From Being Feminist To Enjoy TV Show. Nation Back On Board With SeaWorld Following Awesome Orca Trick.

* Officials looking for info on second chemical in WV spill. Behind West Virginia’s Massive Chemical Spill, A History Of Poverty And Pollution. ‘We live in a human sacrifice zone.’

The FBI Just Busted the King of Revenge Porn.

Obama Promises Governmentwide Scrutiny of Campus Rape.

Booz Allen Hamilton Looking To Hire Snowden Catchers. I bet Edward Snowden would be great at this job.

* The allure of the map.

* Durham police practices under microscope by Human Relations Commission.

* Low-Wage Federal Workers Walk Off Job.

The Academic Job Cover Letter I Wanted to Write.

* These 11 Popular Sodas Tested Positive for a Potential Carcinogen. Pepsi One Won’t Give You Cancer as Long as You Don’t Drink a Whole Can.

* CNN is now officially the worst.

* New Hampshire is considering institutionalizing jury nullification. I’m strongly in favor of all good uses of jury nullification and strongly opposed to all bad uses of it, so I’m pretty torn here.

* Obummer Watch: Southern leg of Keystone XL opens in U.S.

* My friend Jennifer Whitaker reviews my friend Allison Seay’s poetry collection, To See the Queen.

Bob Dylan is either the most public private man in the world or the most private public one.

* The duties of professors at college and universities.

Adjunct Unionization.

Chicken Soup for the Neoliberal Soul.

* Why breaking is funny, and when it isn’t.

Researchers predict Facebook will die out “like a disease.”

* Breaking the Facts of Life.

* Canavan’s Razor comes to Superman comics.

* Revolution: A Guide.

“Yale College seeks smart students from poor families. They’re out there—but hard to find.” More here.

As part of a settlement between the Archdiocese of Chicago and the victims of 30 pedophile priests, a cache of 6000 documents has been made public, detailing the Catholic Church’s efforts over many years to cover up sexual abuse and protect accused priests.

* If there must be a surveillance state, at least let it be steampunk.

* Chessmate-in-one puzzles on the iPad.

* And the last place on Earth without human noise.

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Everything Right Is Wrong Again

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 21, 2011 at 11:21 pm

What If Stanley Kubrick Directed ‘Iron Man’?

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

Things That Are Bad For You: Steampunk, Football, Graduate School, and Barack Obama Edition

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* MetaFilter calls my name with critiques of steampunk from Charlie Stross and my friend Nisi Shawl. Charlie:

Forget wealthy aristocrats sipping tea in sophisticated London parlours; forget airship smugglers in the weird wild west. A revisionist mundane SF steampunk epic — mundane SF is the socialist realist movement within our tired post-revolutionary genre — would reflect the travails of the colonial peasants forced to labour under the guns of the white Europeans’ Zeppelins, in a tropical paradise where severed human hands are currency and even suicide doesn’t bring release from bondage. (Hey, this is steampunk — it needs zombies and zeppelins, right? Might as well pick Zombies for our single one impossible ingredient.) It would share the empty-stomached anguish of a young prostitute on the streets of a northern town during a recession, unwanted children (contraception is a crime) offloaded on a baby farm with a guaranteed 90% mortality rate through neglect. The casual boiled-beef brutality of the soldiers who take the King’s shilling to break the heads of union members organizing for a 60 hour work week. The fading eyesight and mangled fingers of nine year olds forced to labour on steam-powered looms, weaving cloth for the rich. The empty-headed graces of debutantes raised from birth to be bargaining chips and breeding stock for their fathers’ fortunes. In other words, it’s the story of all the people who are having adventures — as long as you remember that an adventure is a tale of unpleasant events happening to people a long, long way from home. 

* zunguzungu and Adam Kotsko take on the “So you want to get a Ph.D. in the humanities” video that’s been everywhere this week. Here’s zunguzungu:

Mostly, we’re identifying with the person in a position of power bullying the student, and we attempt to pass off  contempt and hatred as cynicism. That’s the thing that’s so striking about the humanities xtranormal video (compared, say, to the law school one): how clueless the prospective grad student is. The law school student at least stands up for herself, but the humanities cliche is just a clueless robot, babbling on in utter hermetically sealed envelope of idealism. And since so many of the things that abusive bully of a professor says are so completely true, her bullying gets passed off as realism. This accomplishes several things. For one, it allows us to contrast our own bitter cynicism (we’re identifying with the jaded prof, remember?) with the naiveté of the student. We would never be so naive, thereforewe are not her. Which is the same dichotomy between good cynical realism on the one hand (though not coded as male here, as it usually is) and stupid (as usual, infantilized and feminized) idealism, just as when Fish quoted Hemingway. And if we get off on seeing the cynical-realist-us attacking and flagellating the dumb-idealistic-naive-us, well, that says a lot about us.

It also, by the way, allows us to defend our own position (or the one we would like to pretend we will have) from the competition. After all, the glaring thing in both cartoons is the fact that the cynical prof figure is trying to deter the student from following his/her own example. Not that one shouldn’t be very careful about encouraging others to follow in your own example — sometimes tenured profs can encourage students to follow in their footsteps without telling them the whole story about their chances – but as someone I’ve been conversing about this on twitter pointed out, this seems much more like an attempt to demonize the faceless masses of competitors who make the likelihood of our getting a job so much smaller. In other words, we address to the “oversupply” of humanities PhD’s by trying to deter potential competition or project onto it the rage we feel about not getting the job and life we rightfully deserve.

And here’s Adam, very nicely describing my approach to graduate school better than I could:

My approach has been that the job market is apparently very random. We can follow all the best advice in the world, but it still comes down to the preferences of a handful of people at some randomly-chosen department and the outcome of a power struggle that probably no one outside the situation could ever fully understand or predict. So aside from broad guidelines (try to publish in good journals! present at conferences! get teaching experience! finish!) that 95% of PhD candidates are following anyway, there’s essentially no way of tailoring yourself to the job market.

Under such circumstances, the only thing you can do is be true to yourself. Use your grad school years (and as many years after as you can hold out without going crazy) to do what you want to do and what you probably wouldn’t be able to do under other circumstances. For me, that included language work, serious reading in the intellectual traditions most important to me, and serious writing that intervenes into debates I find compelling and important — and more recently getting the privilege of introducing young people to those intellectual traditions and debates.

All of those things are worth doing, and I wouldn’t have been able to do them otherwise. I maintain that they’re worth doing even if society isn’t willing to pay what they’re worth. I could’ve made a lot more money, or at least had a lot more job security, doing other things, but I don’t think those other things are likely as worthwhile, and having a full-time job takes up a lot of time, particularly in the kinds of professional fields that college grads try for — so that I wouldn’t have been able to do basically any of the things I’ve done during my time as a grad student and young academic. I would’ve kept reading regardless, and I would’ve wound up a well-informed person and a good conversationalist, but I never would’ve written the books and articles I’ve written, nor would I have been able to teach anyone in any kind of sustained way.

The fact that I chose what I did doesn’t make me a cynical badass, and I also don’t think it makes me particularly “idealistic” — after all, it’s not as though I’m making some noble sacrifice for the common good: I’m doing what I want to do and what I enjoy. I’m proud that I’ve been able to publish this much. I’m satisfied that I’ve done a good job of teaching and that students like me and my colleagues here want to advocate for me. Having made these choices might adversely affect my quality of life further down the road, but in the meantime it’s greatly enriched my quality of life compared to working 40-60 hours in some office.

There’s no sacrifice involved here, because I didn’t finally do all this stuff so that I could get a job — I want to get a job so that I can continue doing all this stuff! I want to get tenure so that I can finally stop worrying about where the next paycheck is coming from and have all that emotional energy freed up for my work. The fact that it might not work out doesn’t make me a jaded self-destructive badass, it makes me a person living in a world where we don’t always get what we want.

* Shock study: playing football is incredibly bad for you.

* Obama sits down with left critics to discuss DADT.

* And Obama defends his record on tonight’s Daily Show.

“What happens is it gets discounted because the assumption is we didn’t get 100 percent of what we wanted, we only get 90 percent of what we wanted — so let’s focus on the 10 percent we didn’t get,” Obama added.

Someday they’ll learn that this is a terrible messaging strategy. Someday.

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