Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘theme parks

Thursday Afternoon Links!

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* Mark Z. Danielewski has written a pilot for a potential House of Leaves TV series. It’s good! The question of adapting the novel wound up being a minor subtheme in our discussion of the book in my summer grad class last month, so I was gratified to actually get to see the script — and directly incorporating the novel into the storyworld of the TV series seems like an intriguing solution to the book’s basic unfilmability. I think I hope someone makes it!

* I haven’t had a chance to see Ant-Man and the Wasp yet, so I’m gratified someone went ahead and wrote my triennial rant about franchise fictions and narrative closure on my behalf.

* Texas Studies in Literature and Language has a special issue on Wes Anderson.

* CFP for the SFRA guaranteed panel at ASLE 19. ASLE 19 (in Davis, CA) is a week after the planned dates for SFRA 19 in Hawaii, so if you’re going to the West Coast anyway it could be almost like a two-for-one…

* The second issue of Fantastika Journal is now available.

* That the things that gave my life meaning growing up have all become vectors for recruitment to misogynistic and white nationalist hate groups is the bitterest surprise of my middle age. That and Trump. Two bitterest surprises.

Nominations Are Open for the 2018 Brittle Paper Awards.

Ken Liu Presents Broken Stars, A New Anthology of Chinese Short Speculative Fiction.

* The Fall of Wisconsin. How to win Wisconsin back.

* Shakespeare in the state parks.

* Specialized program for Marquette undergraduates with autism disorders gifted $450,000, set to launch fall 2019.

“In some ways, I now think that one of the primary functions of the university, for the ruling class, is precisely to train a generation in indebtedness, in a state of being in debt.”

The Self-Helpification of Academe: How feel-good nostrums cover up the university’s cruelty.

* Another piece on searching for work outside academia.

* Professor Faces Fraud Charges for False Job Offer. Reading the confession letter just makes me cringe.

His University Asked Him to Build an Emoji-Themed Parade Float. Then It Fired Him.

* Why Donald Trump Nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh Will Mean Challenging Times For Environmental Laws. The Vice Report. The Coming Era of Forced Abortions. The end of net neutrality. The imperial presidency 2.0. Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Could Spell a Fresh Hell for Workers’ Rights. Brett Kavanaugh Ruled Against Workers When No One Else Did. The issue with Kavanaugh is that he seems completely reactionary, bouncing from one indefensible position to another, without applying any judgment whatsoever. Liberal media in full effect. The Liberal Case for Kavanaugh Is Complete Crap. He’s a very normal Republican pick — that’s the problem. Establishment Extremist. What’s coming. It’s bad y’all. Someone investigate precisely how this deal was made and what the terms were. And from the archives: The Three Alitos.

* The Supreme Court: still bad.

* Capitalism is ruining science. The Business Veto: The demise of social democracy shows the precariousness of any project of reform under capitalism.

* Here come the DIY guns.

Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras.

Technoleviathan: China, Silicon Valley, and the rise of the global surveillance state. How Artificial Intelligence Will Reshape the Global Order.

Silicon Valley Is Bending Over Backward to Cater to the Far Right.

* How Silicon Valley Fuels an Informal Caste System. Rule-Making as Structural Violence: From a Taxi to Uber Economy in San Francisco.

* It’s amazing that US governmentality has finally crossed the threshold where its obvious illegitimacy can be spoken about in public.

Former Obama Officials Are Riding Out The Trump Years By Cashing In.

* The end of NATO. ‘They Will Die in Tallinn’: Estonia Girds for War With Russia.

* Trump is set to separate more than 200,000 U.S.-born children from their parents. Trump’s Office of Refugee Resettlement Is Budgeting for a Surge in Child Separations. ‘Don’t You Know That We Hate You People?’ ICE is lawless, racial profiling edition. Where Cities and Counties Are Detaining Immigrants. Pregnant Women Say They Miscarried In Immigration Detention And Didn’t Get The Care They Needed. Government Told Immigrant Parents to Pay for DNA Tests to Get Kids Back, Advocate Says. As Migrant Families Are Reunited, Some Children Don’t Recognize Their Mothers. Deported after Trump order, Central Americans grieve for lost children. ‘What if I lose her forever?’ Undocumented Grover Beach mother deported despite community rallying in her support. Facing a Tuesday deadline to reunite about 100 migrant toddlers with their parents, feds say they’ve reunited 2. Inside The Courts Where Some Immigrants Plead Guilty Without Knowing What’s Happening. Now they’re coming for grandmas.

* Woman arrested in assault of 91-year-old Mexican man who was told to ‘go back to your country.’

* Weird coincidence.

There’s been a spate of violent far-right extremism since the 2016 election.

* If you’re anti- antifa, that must mean…

* Andrew Cuomo and ICE.

It’s Not Civil Disobedience if You Ask for Permission.

Liberalism, legitimacy, and loving the Parkland kids.

Eleven Theses on Civility.

Why Marx’s Capital Still Matters.

* Nixon’s $7B carbon tax forms centerpiece of energy agenda.

* The Industrial Age May Have Actually Been Kind of a Bad Idea.

* An interview with Julia Salazar. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, In Her Own Words. Cynthia Nixon: I’m a democratic socialist. Meanwhile our old pal Joe Crowley looks like he’s trying to get away with something.

We Should Embrace the Ambiguity of the 14th Amendment.

* Sure, why not?

* Alan Dershowitz is ALL IN on Trump. But he’s not the only person with some truly around-the-bend ideas of what lawsuits can do.

* Weird science: Girls sometimes inherit almost two full sets of their dad’s genes, which seems to cause rare cancers.

The Art and Activism of the Anthropocene, Part III: A Conversation with Helen Phillips, Amitav Ghosh, and Nathan Kensinger.

An Arkansas man complained about police abuse. Then town officials ruined his life.

* Did… did Milwaukee write this?

Jeff Bezos Is Now $50 Billion Richer Than Anyone Else on Earth.

All 12 Thai Boys Successfully Rescued from Cave after Third Dangerous Mission. The only person unhappy is Elon.

WHO’s Language on Breastfeeding Really Is Flawed. This was our experience with breastfeeding  for sure; I’m sure it’s great for a lot of people but we needed formula as a supplement from the first night on. That said, the corporate forces that promote formula over breastfeeding are utterly gross.

* When the relationship status truly is complicated.

* Nabokov’s dreams.

* Scotland’s official plan if the Loch Ness Monster is found.

* Brexit: It’s bad!

* Being Bobcat Goldthwait.

* Billy Dee is back.

* Japan and the stay-at-home dad.

* Reality Winner and the espionage act.

* My Best Friend Lost His Life to the Gig Economy.

* When your child reveals sexual abuse from your parent.

The Socialist Case for School Integration.

* Factchecking David Brooks.

* Your town tomorrow: Kure residents cut off from outside world due to flooding.

* Nope, no thanks.

* I knew wearing a tie was making me stupid.

* Bad subtitling is a daily problem for deaf viewers.

* Melt Monument Ave.

How swimming pools became a flashpoint of racial tension in America.

* California brings emissions down below 1990 levels. But it’s not all good news.

Feminist Apparel CEO Fires Entire Staff After They Learn He’s An Admitted Sexual Abuser. RIP, Papa John.

There is too much uncertainty in sports; even if you bribe the officials, something unaccounted for could still cause the “wrong” result. It can be a bad idea to gather large crowds opposed to your team (and, by extension, your dictatorship). During Franco’s rule, Barcelona FC’s stadium was the only place the Catalans could wave their flag and sing their songs. Dictators are better off with tyranny and oppression. Football is for people who can accept a loss.

David Graeber’s new book argues that many of us are toiling in dummy jobs with no ostensible purpose. Any poll will show you he has a point. But his thesis is built on scant evidence and dubious claims of a ruling class conspiring to keep us busy. Bullshit jobs exist not due to orchestrated oppression but because of something altogether simpler: bad managers. 

* An even tougher review of a book that seems like a big step down from Debt.

* The SAT, constantly innovating new ways to make teenagers unhappy.

* “I sort of feel like I’m taking the bait on this, but: Can you imagine the copy they *rejected* for this Handmaid’s Tale pinot noir?”

Through such characters, Muluneh’s work explores the layered psychic realms of blackness and womanhood that the African-American science fiction writer Octavia Butler, whom she cites as a major influence, explored through her otherworldly prose. In the process, Muluneh’s work has helped reorient the way black women are perceived. “As women, especially as African women,” Muluneh said, “we forget—and the world forgets—our positioning in history and religion and culture.”

And amusing ourselves to death: 12 theme parks where the danger is real.

Written by gerrycanavan

July 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Monday Morning Links! All of Them! ALL OF THEM

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* Of course you had me at Zelda propaganda posters.

* Special issue of Deletion: Punking Science Fiction.

* Editorial: We Should Create a Honors College to Propagandize on Behalf of the People Who Already Control Everything.

* Victory in Ireland.

* A surprisingly large number of Obama-era ICE and HHS horrors got rediscovered as if they were new to Trump this weekend. This is a case where Trump’s horror truly is as much continuity as break.

* Even despite that continuity, though, we seem to be moving to a new energy state: Taking Children from Their Parents Is A Form of State Terror.

* Fighting spectacle with snores, or why Trump could easily win a second term.

* Is America heading for a new kind of civil war?

* Fascism is back; blame the Internet.

* Genocide in Yemen.

* I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous.

* After a white supremacist killed a protester in Charlottesville in 2017, Facebook pushed to re-educate its moderators about hate speech groups in the US, and spell out the distinction from nationalism and separatism, documents obtained by Motherboard show.

* Wisconsin Prisons Incarcerate Most Black Men In U.S. Milwaukee PD Misconduct Has Cost the City $22 Million Since 2015.

* When a Nashville man named Matthew Charles was released from prison early in 2016 after a sentence reduction, he’d spent almost half his life behind bars. But in a rare move, a federal court ruled his term was reduced in error and ordered him back behind bars to finish his sentence.

* Man, 79, sentenced to 90 days of house arrest in 5-year-old girl’s rape.

* She Went to Interview Morgan Freeman. Her Story Became Much Bigger.

* This has created a problem that has not been seen before: voluntary, intentional, migrating, mobile, functional, litter. The bikes and scooters are disruptive to the locations where they are abandoned and, because they are constantly moving, the issues of abandonment and refuse are constantly cycling (sorry) throughout an urban region. Yesterday’s bike or scooter blight might be around today, or it might move for a few days and then return. In short, the bikes and scooters share a civic pattern similar to that of homelessness. Thus, in an unexpected way, the dockless bikes and scooters are also competing with the homeless for pieces of urban space upon which to temporarily rest.

* Mike Meru, a 37-year-old orthodontist, made a big investment in his education. As of Thursday, he owed $1,060,945.42 in student loans.

* Executives of big U.S. companies suggest that the days of most people getting a pay raise are over, and that they also plan to reduce their work forces further. Also, rich people are going to be needing your blood so they can stay young forever, just FYI.

* Be more like Chipotle, Jerry Brown tells California universities.

* Report Says Rising CO2 Levels Are Ruining Rice. Allergy Explosion Linked to Climate Change.

* For Women of Color, the Child-Welfare System Functions Like the Criminal-Justice System.

Now that’s what I call ideological state apparatus™.

* A new front in the drug war.

* HUGE IF TRUE: Hollywood isn’t on the side of the resistance.

* Teen Vogue and woke capital.

* Antonin Scalia was wrong about the meaning of ‘bear arms.’ I think a better description here is “not even wrong”; originalism is a rhetorical style, not a claim of fact.

* Sexpat Journalists Are Ruining Asia Coverage.

* A People’s History of Superstar Limo, Disney’s “worst attraction ever.”

* Solo crashes and burns, even underperforming Justice League. I haven’t seen it yet, but it certainly sounds like it had it coming. Relatedly: The Ringer takes a deep dive into the now-decanonized Han Solo prequels from the EU.

* Wakanda fans might be interested in the very odd turn the comics have taken. Relatedly: ‘Black Panther’ meets history, and things get complicated.

* Janelle Monáe for President.

* Conducting a posthumous interview with science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler. Your People Will Find You: A Podcast with the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network. And Ayana Jamieson’s authorized biography of Butler has a Patreon.

* This LARB review of Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland’s The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. made me very interested in reading it.

* Built in 718 AD, Hōshi is the second oldest ryokan (hotel or inn) in the world and, with 46 consecutive generations of the same family running it, is hands down the longest running known family business in history.

* Wendy Brown at UC: What Kind of World Do You Want to Live In?

* Interesting Twitter thread on emergency and the suspension of the law.

* Half the budget, half the fun: A Star Trek World May Be Coming to Universal Studios.

* Power vs. responsibleness. Politics y’all. Existence is objectively good.

* This is an urgent reminder: Mindflayers are not sympathetic.

* As Kip Manley said, this is the flag of the Anthropocene.

* And I want to believe! US aircraft carrier was stalked for days by a UFO travelling at ‘ballistic missile speed’ which could hover above the sea for six days, leaked Pentagon report reveals.

Written by gerrycanavan

May 28, 2018 at 8:15 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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1001 Sunday Links

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CcgUqWmUMAAaA31* Penn Gillette on three-card monty and graduate school in the humanities.

Towards a taxonomy of cliches in Space Opera.

“Use Tatooine sparingly” and other rules from the Star Wars style guide. io9 has a few other highlights.

* A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.

Inside Disney’s America, the doomed ’90s project that almost sunk the company.

“The Contemporary” by the numbers.

From a work in progress: Nomic and net.culture.

* Podcasts and disposability.

* Vice science faction: After the Big One.

Alumnae vowed to save Sweet Briar from closing last year. And they did.

* Radical notion: College Presidents Should Come from Academia.

Simon Newman, the college leader whose metaphor about drowning bunnies made him infamous in higher education, announced late Monday that he has resigned, effective immediately, as president of Mount St. Mary’s University. The Mount St. Mary’s Presidency Was a Corporate Test Case. It Failed Miserably..

The only MFA program in the US that focuses on African American literature could close.

UW slips out of top 10 in new public university ranking. Amid rough seas for UW System, wave of challenges hits UWM.

UC Davis chancellor received $420,000 on book publisher’s board. The University of California paid hedge fund managers about $1 billion in fees over the last 12 years, according to a white paper study released by the university system’s largest employee union.

* A Field Test for Identifying Appropriate Sexual Partners in Academia. She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’

* “The GRE is like taking a cancer test that was invented in the 1940s.”

Putting on a “Brave” Face: On Ableism and Appropriation in the Film Industry.

Justice Dept. grants immunity to staffer who set up Clinton email server. What you need to know about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Did Clinton and Petraeus do the same thing? Clinton, on her private server, wrote 104 emails the government says are classified.

* The Libya Gamble: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Push for War & the Making of a Failed State.

Clinton insiders are eager to begin recruiting Republicans turned off by the prospect of Donald Trump to their cause — and the threat of Sanders sticking it out until June makes the general election pivot more difficult. Inside the Clinton Team’s Plan to Defeat Donald Trump. Smart to announce it now!

* But, look, it’s not all Clinton negativity: Hillary Clinton promises to ‘get to the bottom of UFO mystery’ if elected, and ‘maybe send a task force’ to alleged alien prison Area 51.

The Official Head Of The Democratic Party Joins GOP Effort To Protect Payday Lenders. Bernie Versus the Earthquake Industry.

Republican Voters Kind Of Hate All Their Choices. 1927 flashback. Kasich May Have Cut Off Rubio’s Path To The Nomination. Trump gives supporters permission to be violent with protesters: If you hurt them I’ll defend you in court. Researchers have found strong evidence that racism helps the GOP win. ‘Not even my wife knows’: secret Donald Trump voters speak out. Is this a realignment? The rise of American authoritarianism. Awkward.

The car century was a mistake. It’s time to move on.

* 2°C.

* Another piece on the end of Louisiana.

* I don’t know that the Melissa Click case is really the best example here, but there’s every reason to think body cameras will be used to serve police interests, not citizen interests.

Lab tech allegedly faked result in drug case; 7,827 criminal cases now in question.

Georgia Police Chief and Officer Accused of Arresting People on False Charges in Order to Extort Them.

Can a 3-year old represent herself in immigration court? This judge thinks so. Please watch my show Three Year Old Immigration Lawyer next fall on ABC.

Did the Spanish Empire Change Earth’s Climate?

* The Flint Next Time: Fears About Water Supply Grip Village That Made Teflon Products. Flint is in the news, but lead poisoning is even worse in Cleveland.

This Guy Spent Four Years Creating an Imaginary Reddit for 3016.

Sci-Fi Hero Samuel Delany’s Outsider Art.

* Marquette in the news! Oh.

Sweetin’s autobiography begins with a very different two-word phrase. The first line ofUnSweetined, which Sweetin wrote (or rather told in bits to a ghostwriter) in 2009, is “fuck it.” She is referring to her attitude right before smoking meth and doing a plateful of cocaine, the night before she was scheduled to give a speech at Marquette University about her commitment to sobriety (she did give that speech in 2007, and she was high the entire time she was on stage).

* Over at Slate friend of the show Eric “The Red” Hittinger explains clearly and succinctly why rooftop solar power probably won’t ever challenge big utility companies.

When People With Schizophrenia Hear Voices, They’re Really Hearing Their Own Subvocal Speech.

Bob Dylan’s Secret Archive.

This video shows what ancient Rome actually looked like.

Steph Curry Is On Pace To Hit 102 Home Runs.

Mysterious Chimpanzee Behaviour May Be Evidence Of “Sacred” Rituals.

* Here’s a silly thing I watched: “Great Minds with Dan Harmon,” 1, 2.

* Sports corner: Ivy League Considers Banning Tackling During Practice.

* A Believer interview with the great Andy Daly.

A Plagiarism Scandal Is Unfolding In The Crossword World. Professional Bridge Has a Cheating Problem.

The Enigmatic Art of America’s Secret Societies.

Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming.

The astonishment that such things are “still” possible.

The Retirement Crisis Is Getting Truly Scary.

The Fact That None Of The 2016 Presidential Candidates Have A Space Policy Is Tragic.

From the start, in 1967, “Trader Joe” Coulombe devised his “low-priced gourmet-cum-health-food store” with an “unemployed PhD student” in mind as the ideal customer.

Reading from a statement while speaking with analysts, Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby said SeaWorld’s board of directors has “directed management to end the practice in which certain employees posed as animal-welfare activists. This activity was undertaken in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats.”

* The color thesaurus.

What Mars Would Look Like Mapped by Medieval Cartographers.

New York City Is in the Throes of a Häagen-Dazs Heist Epidemic.

Thus, I conclude that in fact, Gygax’s strength scoring system is actually…pretty good! But only good for fighters, in a system like AD&D where we can reasonably assume that all fighter PCs have been training for 10+ years and are genetically super-gifted. However, if you’re Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance Chronicles and are in all probability an underweight untrained or novice lifter of average height, then you are probably looking at a STR score of around 6-7. If you are a woman of my current weight and untrained, you are looking at a STR score of around 3-4. If you’re my current weight and train consistently for a couple of years, you can expect to have a score of around 8-9. Men and/or individuals with higher testosterone levels will have somewhat higher scores, but it is definitely out of the question that a 10-11 can represent an average strength in our society, though it may be in a farmer-dominant society where everyone lifts a lot of hay bales.

Every Bryan Fuller Star Trek episode, ranked.

* Secrets of my success: Narcissistic Students Get Better Grades from Narcissistic Professors.

* The dialectic never stops turning: Hope is reactionary: it cocoons actuality in the gossamer of the tolerable, dulling the thirst for change. Despair is revolutionary: it grinds the knife-edge of the intolerable against the whetstone of actuality, sparking the will to change.

* We are the second best girls.

* 20 Cognitive Biases That Screw Up Your Decisions.


Written by gerrycanavan

March 6, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Wednesday Night Links

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

Afrofuturism Reloaded: 15 Theses in 15 Minutes.

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

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


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

* Huge cuts to ethnic studies at SFSU.

The Troubled Academic Job Market for History.

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

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

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

* Drip, drip, drip…

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

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

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

* Social media, the new mind control.

* Polls and Trump’s Supporters. My word.

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

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

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

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

* The contested legacy of Stan Lee.

* A People’s History of #CancelColbert.

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

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

Why Professor Indiana Jones Never Published His Research.

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

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

Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist.

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

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

* Fermi Paradox watch: maybe life is that rare.

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

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

* Breastfeeding is probably really not that big a deal.

* Winning the lottery can also bankrupt your neighbors.

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

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

Why Is Inver Hills Banning Union Activist From Campus?

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

* Debt and subjectivity.

* Lev Grossman on Narnia and grief.

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

* 888-NEED-SCI.

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

* Like Uber, but for…

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

2016 Links!

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20081210* This Man Is Claiming To Be Able To Bring The Dead Back To Life By 2045. That’s good news, because Scientists Say They Can Recreate Living Dinosaurs Within the Next 5 Years. Perhaps relatedly.

* So tragic: These parents cryonically froze their toddler in the hope she might live again.

* Like looking into a mirror.

* More bad news for my particular demographic.

* I’m at MLA this week, giving a paper on Saturday evening on Richard McGuire’s fantastic graphic novel Here for a panel on “The Anthropocene and Deep Time in Literary Studies.”

* The Year of the Imaginary College Student.

Facebook ran experiment to see how long users would wait before giving up and going elsewhere, but people ‘never stopped coming back.’

Can’t Disrupt This: Elsevier and the 25.2 Billion Dollar A Year Academic Publishing Business.

* Keywords for the Age of Austerity 24: Sullen. Also, here’s John Pat’s current syllabus on Innovation: A Cultural History of the Contemporary Concept.

* I think this one is old, but maybe it’s not old to you: Soc 710: Social Theory through Complaining.

This video about the aging pipeline below the Great Lakes should be this summer’s top horror flick.

* That’s when New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed an amended lawsuit against the two companies, this time asking for them to give back all the money they made in New York State, to give it back to those who lost money and to pay a fine of up to $5,000 per case.

* In February 1964, then future NS editor Paul Johnson wrote an article attacking the Beatles and all they stood for. It became the most complained-about piece in the Statesman’s history.

I Studied Oregon’s Militia Movement. Here’s 5 Things You Need to Know.

What Writing Shared World Fiction Taught Erin M. Evans About Worldbuilding.

12 reasons to worry about our criminal justice system.

Entire Florida police department busted for laundering millions for international drug cartels.

* David Harvey on Consolidating Power.

No More Statutes of Limitations for Rape.

* Some Last Words on Pessimism.

* I’m finally #ready4hillary.

New Heights (Lows?) in Philosophy Job Application Requirements.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 8.05.41 AM* The Far-Out Sci-Fi Costume Parties of the Bauhaus School in the 1920s.

What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2016?

When a prison closes, what happens to the prison town?

* Four years later, Liss-Riordan is spearheading class-action lawsuits againstUber, Lyft, and nine other apps that provide on-demand services, shaking the pillars of Silicon Valley’s much-hyped sharing economy. In particular, she is challenging how these companies classify their workers. If she can convince judges that these so-called micro-entrepreneurs are in fact employees and not independent contractors, she could do serious damage to a very successful business model—Uber alone was recently valued at $51 billion—which relies on cheap labor and a creative reading of labor laws.

* Tufts in the news! Researchers Teaching Robots How to Best Reject Orders from Humans.

* The novelistic sublime: Joseph Heller’s handwritten outline for Catch-22.

* If Google is a school official, I wonder if it’s a mandatory reporter.

* Tom Lutz and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

* Through the looking glass: Game of Thrones author George RR Martin misses last TV deadline for new book.

* On reading Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. On reading Ten Little Indians.

Debunking “The Big Short”: How Michael Lewis Turned the Real Villains of the Crisis into Heroes.

Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick?

The Sherlock special “The Abominable Bride” was terrible. Has this show completely lost its way? My DVR, in a noble effort to save my sanity, opted not to record it.

* It’s all happening again: Infinite Winter. A flashback.

What I learned not drinking for two years.

Lifting the Veil on the New York Public Library’s Erotica Collection.

Harvard’s Find of a Colonial Map of New Jersey Is a Reminder of Border Wars.

What would a technological society look like that somehow managed to side-step the written word?

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Target List From The Cold War Declassified For The First Time. 

This Asian Time Travel Thriller Could Be Next Year’s Breakout Action Movie.

An Appreciation of Chuck Jones’ ‘One Froggy Evening’ On Its 60th Birthday.

When Gene Roddenberry’s computer died, it took with it the only method of accessing some 200 floppy disks of his unpublished work. Here’s how this tech mystery was solved.

Periodic table’s seventh row finally filled as four new elements are added.

* The rising academic field of David Bowie Studies.

* A Brief History of Farting for Money. (via)

* Hybrids. Uncanny Valley. And then there’s the weirdest, most unbelievable SF short film I’ve ever seen.

* Barbasol presents Disney’s James Cameron’s Avatarland.

* And of course there’s always more Star Wars links: The Feminist Frequency Review. Editing The Force Awakens. Listening to Star Wars. The Original Star Wars Concept Art Is Amazing. A Not-So-Brief History of George Lucas Talking Shit About Disney’s Star Wars. Is Han Solo Force-Sensitive? The Bigger Luke Hypothesis. Cross Sections of TFA Spaceships and Vehicles. Most Citizens of the Star Wars Galaxy are Probably Totally Illiterate. Are droids slaves? Rey & BB8. Reading Anakin Skywalker after Jessica Jones. If you want a vision of the future.


Written by gerrycanavan

January 5, 2016 at 9:00 am

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From the Archives! Interview with Cory Doctorow on Disney, SF, Violence, Meritocracy, Goodhart’s Law, Fandom, and Utopia

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Several years ago I taught Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom for a Writing 20 class at Duke called “Writing the Future,” which resulted in a lenthy interview between my students and Doctorow. For many years the interview was archived at the course site at, but it looks like it’s been pulled down; even the Wayback Machine has been thwarted. Since I’m fond of the interview, and frequently return to some of the things he says in it, I’m reposting it here. Enjoy!

The interview took place in Spring 2010.

“Trying to Predict the Present”: An Interview with Cory Doctorow

W20: What did this novel mean to you when you first wrote it, and how has the meaning changed in the nine years since? How might the novel be different if you wrote it today?

CD: That’s a really tough question to answer—not specifically because of the change in circumstances, but because of the change in the writer over time. The more time you spend writing, the more different your approach to the work is. That was the first novel I ever finished—it’s fundamentally different to write a book when you know you can finish a book than to write a book when you don’t know if you can a finish a book—and I actually think those differences would swamp any differences that arose from circumstances or politics or new wisdom or whatever. Just the idea of writing a book, when you know you can write a book, completely overpowers any of the other changes.

I don’t know if that makes sense. It probably doesn’t answer your question very well.

One of the things I realized in the course of writing the book, and that I think a lot of people miss when they read the book, is that Whuffie has one of the fundamental problems that accrues to money or property, which is that the more you have the easier it is to get more. That’s a pretty a pretty enormous gap in the Utopian character of Whuffie. A properly Utopian system is one in which you have something that’s a lot like merit, not like circumstance—where people are rewarded based on how great they are, not based how great they used to be. And I think Whuffie is primarily one of those systems that rewards you for having gotten lucky or doing something good some time ago, and then continues to reward you for that forever at the expense of other people.

I think Whuffie would follow a power-law distribution, just like in-bound links to blogs, for exactly the same reason.

W20: We talked a little bit about this, and it leads to the second question, whether or not large corporations are starting to create a system that’s sort of like Whuffie, but at the same time proprietary. We were thinking of Google, YouTube, Facebook especially, but even something like LinkedIn—isn’t this something like Whuffie that’s starting to materialize? Blog linkage would be the same sort of thing, facing the same sorts of problems you’ve just been talking about.

CD: I based Whuffie at the time more on Slashdot’s Karma, and I don’t know that Faceook has an exact analogue to it. I guess Facebook has this thing where you can see who has the most inbound links, who has the most friends, and you can “digg” up yourself by getting more of those.

I think that in general we have a pathological response to anything we measure. We tend not to measure the thing we care about; we tend to measure something that indicates its presence. It’s often very hard to measure the thing that you’re hoping for. You don’t actually care about how calories you eat; you care about how much weight you’re going to gain from the calories you eat. But as soon as we go, oh, well, calories are a pretty good proxy for weight gain, we start to come up with these foods that are incredibly unhealthy but nevertheless have very few calories in them. In the same way, Google doesn’t really care about inbound links because inbound links are good per se; Google cares about inbound links because inbound links are a good proxy for “someone likes this page; someone thinks this page is a useful place to be, is a good place to be.” But as soon as Google starts counting that, people start finding ways to make links that don’t actually serve as a proxy for that conclusion at all.

GDP is another good example. We don’t care about GDP because GDP itself is good; we care about GDP because the basket of indicators that we measure with GDP are a proxy for the overall health of the society—except as soon as you start measuring GDP, people figure out how to make the GDP go up by doing things like trading derivatives of derivates of subprime subderivates of derivatives, but which actually does the reverse of what we care about by undermining the quality of life and the stability of society.

So I think that one of the biggest problems that Google has, taking Google as probably the best example of someone trying to build a reputation currency, is that as soon as Google gives you any insight into how they are building their reputation system it ceases to be very good as a reputation system. As soon as Google stops measuring something you created by accident and starts measuring something you created on purpose, it stops being something that they want to measure. And this is joined by the twin problem that what Google fundamentally has is a security problem; they have hackers who are trying to undermine the integrity of the system. And the natural response to a problem that arises when attackers know how your system works is to try to keep the details of your system secret—but keeping the details of Google’s system secret is also not very good because it means that we don’t have any reason to trust it. All we know when we search Google is that we get a result that seems like a good result; but we don’t know that there isn’t a much better result that Google has either deliberately or accidentally excluded from its listings for reasons that are attributable to either malice or incompetence. So they’re really trapped between a rock and a hard place: if they publish how their system works, people will game their system; if they don’t publish how their system works it becomes less useful and trustworthy and good. It suffers from the problem of alchemy; if alchemists don’t tell people what they learned, then every alchemist needs to discover for themselves that drinking mercury is a bad idea, and alchemy stagnates. When you start to publishing, you get science—but Google can’t publish or they’ll also get more attacks.

So it’s a really thorny, thorny problem, and I elide that problem with Whuffie by imagining a completely undescribed science fictional system that can disambiguate every object in the universe so when you look at something and have a response to it the system knows that the response is being driven by the color of the car but not by the car, or the shirt but not the person wearing it, or the person wearing it and not the shirt, and also know how you feel about it. So it can know what you’re feeling and what you’re feeling it about. And I don’t actually think we have a computer that could that; I don’t think we have Supreme Court judges or Ph.D. philosophers that can do that.

W20: That’s sort of a fantastic self-criticism, actually—you’re exposing what’s so great about Whuffie and what’s so impossible about it all at once.

CD: Sure, and that’s why I think Whuffie feeds the fantasy of a meritocratic society. There’s something particularly self-serving about people who are doing very well imagining that society is meritocratic: it means that the reason you are doing so well is because you have merit, not because you were lucky or because you screwed someone else. So I’m always suspicious of people who are doing extremely well telling you how meritocratic society their society is. I’m also somewhat suspicious of people doing very poorly who tell you how meritocratic society is, because I think that’s often aspirational: they’ve basically bought the story that if only they work hard and are good and pure of heart they’ll catch up to the people who have been rich for a hundred generations. So I think the idea of meritocracy is a really tricky one because the embrace of meritocracy is seductive for reasons that transcend logic.

W20: I don’t know if I’ll include this in the interview, to shame my students or not, but this is something that comes up a lot in Duke classes. Duke students believe very much in meritocracy because they’re the winners of the system.

CD: Yeah, sure. I think we have a problem in that we end up with this tautological definition of merit in a meritocracy. How do we know what’s meritorious? It’s the thing that’s on top. You have this very Milton Friedman way of measuring accomplishment: you come up with some self-serving thing that makes you better, and declare whatever outcome you have as the best possible one. And I think that’s pretty nakedly not a great way of apportioning social resources or measuring the quality of life.

W20: Let me switch gears to the next question, which is kind of a shadow version of the last one. We talked a little bit about smartphones, and about closely they seem to match the things you describe in the book as the start of the Bitchun society, these little handheld devices. So on the one hand we have the question of whether or not it can still be Bitchun if it’s run by corporations, if they’re provided not by these collectives but by Apple. And then, as a secondary question, to what extent was this novel your personal prediction for society’s future, and what did you not predict that you wish you had?

I’ve never really done anything predictive in my life. I always say that I try to predict the present. Which is to say that you take those elements that seem futuristic that are kind of floating around in the present, but because they’ve snuck up on us so gradually, because we were boiled frog-style so gently in them that we end up not even noticing that they’re there.

My friend Jim Griffin always says that anything invented before you’re 20 was there forever; anything invented before you’re 30 is the coolest thing ever; and anything invented after that should be illegal. And I think one great way that a science fiction writer can help overcome that, or call attention to that, is to have a look at what’s around you and the stuff that feels futuristic and just write about it as if it hadn’t been invented yet, as if it were something you were making up for a science fiction story. And so everyone goes, “Wow, look at that, it’s this incredibly futuristic thing that we have right here about to happen”—and then they look around again and say “Oh my god, it’s happened!”, even though it was there before you started.

So I guess the best example of this was a presentation I once heard someone give on gold-farming at a games conference about five years ago. And then I wrote a short story “predicting” there would be gold-farming in the future. And people who discovered the story first and then read the article, or read more articles as the phenomenon increased—there’s now 400,000 people who earn their living goldfarming—assume that I predicted it. And really what I’d done is written about something in the present as though it were being invented in the future.

I didn’t answer the part about whether smart phones can be Bitchun. And no, I don’t think so—I think the problem with smartphones is not necessarily that they’re run by corporations but the specific corporations that run them. Phone companies are basically a regulatory monopoly wrapped around a soft chewy core of greed and venality. The phone companies have always disguised a complete aversion to change, progress, and democracy by wrapping it up in high-minded talk about how they’re guardians our natural infrastructure. There’s a famous case called Hush-a-Phone in which finally customers won the right to attach a Privacy Cone—like the cone you put around your dog’s head when it has stitches—to the receiver of your phone. Because up until then Bell argued that connecting anything to a phone endangered the network, including, you know, putting stickers on it. And you see this today. Why can’t you get an open phone that you could run any software on? Oh, you could crash the network.

So I think the specifically the fact that cells are run by phone companies and then also run by control-freak companies like Apple that have decided that you shouldn’t be allowed to decide what software you want to run. And Apple has made this unholy alliance with the music industry, who are also great believers that you shouldn’t be able to inspect the workings of your device, and that you shouldn’t be able to use protocols anonymously, and so on. That unholy trinity of the entertainment industry, Apple, and the phone companies means you’ll never get anything remotely great out of mobile phones until someone breaks the deadlock.

W20: What about that last part, what did you not predict that you wish you had? I guess this doesn’t make sense as a question because you don’t predict anything.

You know, in terms of staying power, there are a few things that I predicted would still be in Disney World that have just shut down. The Adventurer’s Club, which I still think is the best Disney has ever done, is now shut. But I guess I could say that in my future they’re reopened it; I could fix that by adding a sentence that says, “The first thing they did was reopen the Adventurer’s Club,” and we’d be back in business.

W20: We were surprised to check your archives and find out that you’d liked the Johnny Deppification of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Given your character we thought you might have wanted it to stay the same.

I really like that. In fact we rode it last week, as we’re stuck in L.A. The new Lincoln Bot is good too; The new Lincoln Bot is awesome, actually: he’s lip-synching, he’s gesturing. The last Lincoln Bot, he was really, um—what they did is go back and research all of his historical gestures, and they put every single into his 90-second speech. They’d made it look like he had Tourette’s.

W20: I’m going to skip a question because we’re now talking about Disney World. They were really interested in why it was you set the novel in Disney World, how it fed into the plot or the themes of the novel. They were wondering if Disney World came first, or did it fit into the idea you had for the story line?

CD: No, it was definitely that Disney came first. I’d always wanted to write a book about Disney World. It’s always inspired me, going to Disney World. I find it inspiring as a piece of art and a piece of social engineering. And inspiring not in the entirely good sense, but inspiring in the sense that every time I go there I have a bunch of thoughts. It really gets both my creative and critical juices flowing, to go to Disney World. I’m not the only one; if you read Baudrillard, he spent all this time there too.

It definitely started with Disney, and to be totally frank one of the cool things about writing a book set in Disney World is that it makes your Disney trips tax-deductible. Which is sort of an interesting, science fictiony thing: anything you choose to write a book about becomes tax-deductible. There’s a reason why Iain Banks took a year off from writing thrillers to write a book about whiskey; his whiskey became tax deductible for a year!

Disney has always had a love-hate relationship, or at least an ambivalent relationship, with audience participation. And with remix, obviously, which is ironic given all the ways Disney has borrowed from the culture before it to make new and I think very good cultural artifacts, by and large.

The Mickey Mouse Club, in the early days, actually met and made their Mickey stuff, and did their own Mickey activities. There’s always been this aspect of, you know, take Mickey and make him part of your world—make your Disney memories classic memories of your life that stick with you forever. All that stuff has always been part of Disney’s DNA. At the same time they’re very proprietary: that shalt not copy, we own all rights in all media now known and yet to be invented throughout the universe, and so own. There’s also some of that.

But when you go to Disney World, what you find is that Disney’s implicit and sometimes explicit social contract with its visitors is that you are a resident of Disney World while you’re here. This is your place too. I once did one of the Disney management courses at the Disney Institute, and one of the things they said is that after a couple of days in Disney World people who are staying there start picking up trash when they see it.

So they want to form a social contract with says that you and we are in this together—which I think is one of the reasons Disney doesn’t go after people who put entire ride-throughs of their rides on YouTube, or why by and large they don’t stop you from taking photos even of the photo ops where they sell you the photo. There’s never a time when they tell you to put away your camera because you’re “on stage”; you can always have your camera out, you can always be shooting. And that’s because it’s your place too; you’re supposed to be making memories and taking them home because that’s where they’re getting their value from.

And yet they’re not completely into this; there’s a place at which the social contract breaks down and becomes a commercial relationship again. And I think it’s pretty natural that fans of Disney World, who’ve been told for generations to form a social contract with Disney where they treat it as their own place, and also become not just guests but custodians of it, start to act like custodians of it.

There’s a great book by Greg Egan called Quarantine—it’s his first novel. In it, there’s a conspiracy of kind of bad guys, and one of the things they do to anyone who is on their trail is put a chip in their brain that makes them absolutely loyal to the conspiracy: they can’t betray the conspiracy, they’re neurologically incapable of betraying the conspiracy. And the way that they get out of it is really clever: what they do is have this mental game in which they say, “Only people who have this chip can be truly loyal to the conspiracy. Therefore the people who put the chips in our head aren’t members of the true conspiracy. They’re members of a false conspiracy because they can choose to betray the conspiracy and we can’t. Therefore it is our duty as members of the true conspiracy to betray the people who put the chip in our heads that make us loyal to them.”

I always thought that was a really interesting little bit here, to say: Who are you to say that you’re the true keeper of the flame? Maybe I’m the true keeper of the flame. You’re just a corporation who’s in it to make as much money as you can from these assets. And maybe that converges sometimes with being the best custodian, and maybe sometimes it doesn’t; maybe sometimes you’ll go off and chase the quarterly profits at the expense of long-term value. Meanwhile, I have no commercial interest in it – therefore I’m a better custodian than you, I should have more say in it that you do. And I think that relationship beats in the heart of big Disney fans, the people you see who know the park like the back of their hand.

W20: So then my follow-up question about whether Disney is a utopia or an anti-utopia has again already been answered in the sense that it’s both, right—that it has these utopian qualities and then these other kinds of countervailing qualities that push against it.

CD: Yeah, that’s right.

W20: So, then, two more questions. The first one—we’ve had a lot of talk about ecology and the environment in our course, and we got a little hung up on what you meant by Free Energy, whether this was something you were imagining seriously as a post-scarcity economics or if it was just something that was some magical thing.

CD: This is Free Energy in the kind of crank sense—zero point energy, cold fusion, perpetual motion machines. The perpetual motion machine has been a feature of Utopianism since Newton I guess. It’s science fiction shorthand, I think, for all of the above—an entropy reversing ray, another universe from which you can siphon off energy, whatever it is. You know, theoretically, fusion, if we ever get, fusion becomes more or less free energy. Not even cold fusion; moderate temperature fusion is more or less free energy forever, because it turns water into electricity.

W20: I think the feeling of the students who asked this question really had to do whether or not this was kind of like the short-circuiting you were talking about with regard to Whuffie; that you kind of skip over the post-scarcity engine that makes this thing work, and that without something like Free Energy (which may or may not actually be possible, probably not) we could never actually get to the Bitchun society because we’d constantly be falling back in to the scarcity wars, constantly falling back into exploitation.

CD: I don’t know that scarcity is necessarily what drives exploitation. I think abundance can drive exploitation too. The record industry certainly responded to a death of scarcity in its core product as a social evil. I don’t know that abundance is necessarily the necessary precondition.

But this is more like the physicist who sits down at the start of the Gedankenexperiment: let us assume a perfectly spherical cow of uniform density. Every Gedankenexperiment necessarily elides certain details, because that’s not what the experiment is about. The thought experiment is not about

how we would get infinite energy, the thought experiment is about what we would do if scarcity vanished. There’s a different thought experiment about how we could get infinite energy; Damon Knight wrote a book called A for Anything that’s very good about that. A very cynical book, I think, but very good. And so there’s a lot of different variations on that theme.

W20. Last question and then I’ll let you go. Thanks for doing this. This was about whether you want to live in the Bitchun Society personally: Would you deadhead, erase memories, flashbake, use backups? What wouldn’t you do? Basically the question is: is the Bitchun Society Cory Doctorow’s Utopia?

CD: I would definitely backup; I would probably flashbake; I don’t think I would deadhead though it’s hard to say what you’d do after 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 years. Nobody really knows the answer to that question. And I think that by and large the Bitchun Society would be better than the one we have now; I don’t know that it’s Utopia. But one of the advantages of the Bitchun Society as opposed to other Utopias is that it doesn’t require a tabula rasa as an interim step.

I think Utopianism has genocide lurking in its bowels; I think a lot of Utopians are saying, “First we eradicate all the systems that are present. We settle all the grievances, we wipe the slate clean, we level the earth, we pave everything, and then we start from go.” The Bitchun Society doesn’t require that at all; it does have a lot of social upheaval in it, but it doesn’t begin “First what we do is kill anyone who has a beef with anyone else in the Middle East, and then we settle up with whoever is left.” That’s a bad solution.

MLK Day Links!

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