Posts Tagged ‘Tolkien’
* The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction is “temporarily out of stock,” but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t place your order! Cyborg Lincoln commands it!
* The Day the Purpose of College Changed. Great piece. I’ve added it to Wednesday’s reading in the Cultural Preservation course, alongside readings from Bérubé and Bousquet that I added to the syllabus this year.
* The idea behind it is simple: Get donations, and give them to contingent faculty members in need.
* Scott Walker can’t afford to let Bobby Jindal be the only candidate in the race who destroyed education in his state. And while we’re on the subject: Dropkick Murphys Order Scott Walker To Stop Using Their Music: ‘We Literally Hate You!’
* I’m going to have to differ with former president Clinton and possible future president Bush. To me, Arizona State looks like a dystopia, rather than a model for the future. ASU is pretty clearly set up as a factory of credentialing, and any lip-service to educational excellence, particularly in the undergraduate sphere, is exactly that.
* What provosts think. The crucial takeaway: Say Nothing if you Want a Job. Elsewhere in academic freedom: Fox News Raises Alarm Over College Course About Race. Other universities could stand to learn something from ASU’s statement on the subject:
The university, however, issued a statement Friday after the segment, reading:
This course uses literature and rhetoric to look at how stories shape people’s understandings and experiences of race. It encourages students to examine how people talk about — or avoid talking about — race in the contemporary United States. This is an interdisciplinary course, so students will draw on history, literature, speeches and cultural changes — from scholarly texts to humor. The class is designed to empower students to confront the difficult and often thorny issues that surround us today and reach thoughtful conclusions rather than display gut reactions. A university is an academic environment where we discuss and debate a wide array of viewpoints.
* Of course, in addition to everything else ASU is also the school that’s trying to force its composition adjuncts into a 5/5 workload with minimal salary increase, so I’m not going to lose my mind defending it or anything.
* Part everyman tale, as far as English departments go, and part lesson in unintended consequences, Maryland English’s story looks something like this. Between 1996 and 2011, the number of majors actually grew, from 641 to 850 students. Then the university rolled out a new, faculty-backed general education program. Unlike the old general education program, which centered on the liberal arts and required a literature course, the new one offers students much more flexibility in how to fulfill their various requirements. So students who aren’t interested in the liberal arts can much more easily avoid them. Part of the idea was to take some of the burden off departments, such as English, that fulfilled requirements for many students under the old system. Faculty members generally supported the idea.
But then the numbers got funny. In the spring of 2012, the English department lost 88 majors. The following year, it lost 79 – then 128 more majors 12 months later. Between spring and fall 2014, 66 more majors fell from the rolls. Over all, the department lost 363 majors — about 40 percent — and the numbers continue to fall. I basically get called out personally as the article goes on:
One of the more controversial departmental reform topics is how to change the English program itself, including by creating more recruitment-oriented, lower-level courses. Cartwright said there’s a demonstrated interest in updated versions of Great Books courses, but also in what he said some have called “zombie courses” – pejoratively, not descriptively. Those include courses on such popular genres as science fiction, fantasy literature, J.R.R. Tolkein, regional literature or children’s literature.
Cartwright said there’s some feeling among his colleagues that such offerings equate to “dumbing down” the curriculum. But he said others feel there’s value in meeting students “where they are.” And of course there are professors whose areas of expertise are in those fields and vouch for their importance.
* Associate Dean of Eureka Moments. Now accepting applications.
* The children of the rich and powerful are increasingly well suited to earning wealth and power themselves. That’s a problem. A Hereditary Meritocracy.
* Greek Conservative Spokesman Concedes Defeat to Anti-Austerity Left. Greece: Phase One. I guess I’ll take the “Eeyore” side of the bet:
* How Amazon series misreads The Man in the High Castle. I’m glad someone got to this thinkypiece before I did; I’m crossing it off my list.
* The State department wants Frozen PSAs to finally convince the powerful children’s voting bloc to support climate change legislation.
* The bacteria at USC depend on energy, too, but they obtain it in a fundamentally different fashion. They don’t breathe in the sense that you and I do. In the most extreme cases, they don’t consume any conventional food, either. Instead, they power themselves in the most elemental way: by eating and breathing electricity. You were supposed to find us bacteria that eat garbage and shit electricity. I swear to god, I don’t know what you scientists are even doing sometimes.
* American Sniper is a racist, militaristic movie. But it has much to teach us if we want to build a successful antiwar movement. Learning from American Sniper.
* Ninth Circuit Panel Suggests Perjury Prosecution For Lying Prosecutors. You mean that’s not the rule already?
* The age of miracles: Near-Impossible Super Mario World Glitch Done For First Time on SNES.
* The murderers of Charlie Hebdo prove that Puritan thugs (broadly defined) do in fact exist. However, this does not mean (contra McKinney and his supporters, educated and otherwise) that all those speaking out against Puritan thugs are beyond reproach. Nor does it place a seal forever upon the righteousness of comics creators or comics scholars. Is comics scholarship an academic field devoted to the understanding and discussion of comics, bringing a wide range of knowledge and approaches to a complicated, sometimes beautiful, sometimes flawed, sometimes undervalued, and perhaps sometimes overvalued medium? Or is comics scholarship to be devoted to boosterism, advocacy, and sacralization?If Charlie Hebdo’s accomplishment was to fight against all priesthoods, then surely it does them little honor to try to set up a priesthood in their name, handing down stern pronouncements about how their work must be read and understood.
* Great moments in he said/she said: Maybe Drunk, Sleeping Woman Wanted to Be Set on Fire.
* Within two seconds of the car’s arrival, Officer Loehmann shot Tamir in the abdomen from point-blank range, raising doubts that he could have warned the boy three times to raise his hands, as the police later claimed.
* Within two seconds of the car’s arrival, Officer Loehmann shot Tamir in the abdomen from point-blank range, raising doubts that he could have warned the boy three times to raise his hands, as the police later claimed.
* Deflategate by the numbers: Data Show The Patriots Have Fumbled The Ball Far Less Than Any Other NFL Team.
* The headline reads, “Pope Uses Balloons As Peace Symbols After Dove Debacle.”
* The New Measles: One of the most infectious viruses on the planet is making a comeback in the United States, and many doctors have never even seen it. How Anti-Vaxxers Ruined Disneyland For Themselves (And Everyone Else.) Measles is horrible.
* The idea that a major problem with climate change is “sunburn” is just so incredibly, blisteringly stupid I doubt I’ll ever sleep again.
* I’ve let so many tabs pile up since my last link post I have no choice but to do a “nightmare headlines” lightning round: Burglar gets 30 years in prison for raping 101-year-old woman in home. Father of ailing twins can only donate his liver to one of them. Vanderbilt Woman Didn’t Think She’d Been Raped Until She Saw Video Of It. Nearly two dozen cats seized from a Md. home, then euthanized touches off a furor. Prison Visitor Says Guards Made Her Prove She Was Menstruating By Letting Them Inspect Her Vagina. Ocean Warming Now Off The Charts. Here’s A Spider So Awful You’ll Wish It Would Only Bite You To Death.
* Weird op-ed (linking to Serial) that seems to argue that extreme prosecutorial coercion through overcharging and oversentencing is a feature, rather than a bug. That said, I’d thought the podcast itself had explicitly explained why strangulation is associated with “premeditation,” though perhaps that’s only something I saw on Reddit.
* #serialseason2: Who killed Padmé Amidala? I actually like this
theory fan rewrite a lot.
* George Lucas said Disney killed all his ideas for New Star Wars movies. Okay, so they did one thing right.
* The precession of simulacra: Car Manufacturers Have Been Faking Our Engine Noises.
* Peak Vox, but I actually found it interesting: Here are 9 surprising facts about feces you may not know.
* My current favorite video: Marquette in the 1980s.
* And here they all are, together forever. All 1,547 Star Trek lens flares.
Course Number: 4610/5610
Course Title & Subtitle: Individual Authors: J.R.R. Tolkien
Course Description: This decade will see the hundredth anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s earliest writings on Middle-Earth (The Book of Lost Tales, begun in 1917) alongside the completion of Peter Jackson’s career-defining twenty-year project to adapt The Lord of the Rings for film (1995-2015). This course asks the question: Who is J.R.R. Tolkien, looking backward from the perspective of the twenty-first century? Why have his works, and the genre of heroic fantasy which he remade so completely in his image, remained so intensely popular, even as the world has transformed around them? Our study will primarily trace the history, development, and reception of Tolkien’s incredible magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings (written 1937-1949, published 1954-1955)—but we will also take up Tolkien’s contested place in the literary canon of the twentieth century, the uses and abuses of Tolkien in Jackson’s blockbuster films, and the ongoing critical interests and investments of Tolkien fandom today. As Tolkien scholars we will also have the privilege of drawing upon the remarkable J.R.R. Tolkien Collection at the Raynor Library here at Marquette, which contains the original manuscripts for The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Farmer Giles of Ham.
Major Readings: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and selected additional readings
Assignments: two shorter papers, one final paper, weekly forum posts, one presentation, class participation
Course Number: 6700
Course Title & Subtitle: Studies in Twentieth Century American Literature: American Literature after the American Century
Course Description: In 1941, Time Magazine publisher Henry Luce called upon the twentieth century to be “the first great American Century,” and it’s been ending ever since. This course takes up American literary and cultural studies from the post-everything standpoint of the “after.” What is it to study American literature today, after the American Century, after American exceptionalism, after modernity, after the university, after the idea of the future itself? Our shared investigation into contemporary critical and scholarly practices will focus on key controversies in twentieth- and twenty-first-century literary study, including the ongoing reevaluation of “the canon” (Lolita), popular culture studies (The Body Snatchers), identity and identity politics (Dawn), nationalism and transnationalism (Tropic of Orange), postmodernity and neoliberalism (the short stories of David Foster Wallace), and ecocriticism in the Anthropocene (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves). Our reading will also draw heavily on recent scholarship in critical theory, especially “the new American studies” and the emerging discipline of critical university studies. Alongside weekly reflections and enthusiastic class participation, students in this course will produce a 15-20 page seminar paper on a subject of their choosing related to the themes of the course, as well as present their work to their peers in a conference-presentation format and develop a sample syllabus for an undergraduate course in American literary or cultural studies.
Readings: Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita; Jack Finney, The Body Snatchers; Octavia E. Butler, Dawn; Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange; Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; the short stories of David Foster Wallace; selected additional readings
Assignments: weekly reflections, class participation, conference-style presentation, seminar paper (15-20 pages), sample syllabus
* The new issue of Extrapolation is out! This one was put together before I was an editor, but it’s still really great stuff.
* Dear English Major: A 7-Step Guide to Your Final Semester as an English Major.
* It’s syllabus prep week at universities all across America. Here’s a provocative one from Vanderbilt: PHIL 213: Police Violence and Mass Incarceration.
* Give me the child at 18 or so, and I will give you the man: Nine Percent of 114th U.S. Congress Are Alumni of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
* Why we can’t have nice things, 2015 edition: The Senate’s 46 Democrats got 20 million more votes than its 54 Republicans.
* I say teach the controversy: “Creationist: Aliens Will Go to Hell and Not Even Jesus Can Save Them.”
* Actual Supreme Court decisions: To remain silent, one must first speak.
* Dog bites man: 2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record Globally By Far.
* On the 60th anniversary of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” the Los Angeles Review of Books has assembled a group of female authors, artists and performers who, dedicated to examining the faces, bodies and voices of the young girl, consider the significance of Nabokov’s pubescent protagonist as both a literary conceit and an object of patriarchal fetish.
* As a growing movement of unschoolers believe, a steady diet of standardized testing and indoor inactivity is choking the creativity right out of our kids. The alternative: set ‘em free.
* People diagnosed with serious mental illness — schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression — die 20 years early, on average, because of a combination of lousy medical care, smoking, lack of exercise, complications of medication, suicide, and accidents. They are the most discriminated-against and neglected group in the U.S., which has become probably the worst place in the developed world to be mentally ill.
* “The little girl come to my door,” 71-year-old Larry Wilkins told NBC News. “She told me that her mom and her dad were dead, and she was in a plane crash, and the plane was upside down. She asked if she could stay here.”
* “I’m no longer watching television in which middle-aged men figure out how to be men. I’d rather watch shows about teenaged girls figuring out what it means to be a monster.”
* A team of researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Another study, by a coalition of nonprofits called the Independent Sector, revealed that people with incomes below 25 grand give away, on average, 4.2 percent of their income, while those earning more than 150 grand a year give away only 2.7 percent. A UCLA neuroscientist named Keely Muscatell has published an interesting paper showing that wealth quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy: If you show rich people and poor people pictures of kids with cancer, the poor people’s brains exhibit a great deal more activity than the rich people’s. (An inability to empathize with others has just got to be a disadvantage for any rich person seeking political office, at least outside of New York City.) “As you move up the class ladder,” says Keltner, “you are more likely to violate the rules of the road, to lie, to cheat, to take candy from kids, to shoplift, and to be tightfisted in giving to others. Straightforward economic analyses have trouble making sense of this pattern of results.”
* I can’t believe I’d never read this before: the original script to Back to the Future is wonderfully bananas, including the “nuke the fridge” scene from Crystal Skull thrown in as a sweetener.
* Peak neoliberalism: eventheliberal Kevin Drum says an AI revolution that will be “pretty brutal for the 90 percent of the population that occupies the middle classes and below” will be a “basically positive” development.
* PS: Drum might have been overestimating the timetable here. In 10 years, your job might not exist.
* The paper makes no claims about in-person classes or very large online courses, but says that the study’s findings provide “the first evidence that increasing class sizes in the online context may not degrade the quality of the class.” And the paper says that “these results could have important policy and financial implications.”
* Anti-terror plan to spy on toddlers ‘is heavy-handed.’ Well, that’s debatable.
* Police say at least 30 people are sleeping permanently in Madrid airport’s terminal 4 but the number goes up in winter.
* In 1997 the Swedish parliament wrote into law a “Vision Zero” plan, promising to eliminate road fatalities and injuries altogether. “We simply do not accept any deaths or injuries on our roads,” says Hans Berg of the national transport agency. Swedes believe—and are now proving—that they can have mobility and safety at the same time.
* Science fiction poetry: “Sci-Fi Violence.”
* It’s good to get ahead of things: Should Martians Pay U.S. Taxes?
* And the winner of the Worst Thing Written in 2015 has been announced. Thank you for your interest and we hope to see you again in 2016.
* Somebody thinks 2015 could be a doozy: Treasury Department Seeking Survival Kits For Bank Employees.
* Remembering the reason for the season: During Holiday Season, City Erects Cages To Keep Homeless People Off Benches.
* But, are they more likely to precipitate police violence? No. The opposite is true. Police are more likely to kill black people regardless of what they are doing. In fact, “the less clear it is that force was necessary, the more likely the victim is to be black.”
* And whether or not people accept it, that new normal—public life and mass surveillance as a default—will become a component of the ever-widening socioeconomic divide. Privacy as we know it today will become a luxury commodity. Opting out will be for the rich.
* “Enhanced interrogation” is torture, American style. Exceptional torture. Torture that insists it is not torture. Post-torture? This uniquely American kind of torture has six defining characteristics.
* “The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled”: In praise of The Usual Suspects.
* Games are ancient, and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. But their stock is not rising at the rate that their fans’ Twitter streams and Web forums might suggest. Instead of a ludic age, perhaps we have entered an era of shredded media. Some forms persist more than others, but more than any one medium, we are surrounded by the rough-edged bits and pieces of too many media to enumerate. Writing, images, aphorisms, formal abstraction, collage, travesty. Photography, cinema, books, music, dance, games, tacos, cats, car services. If anything, there has never been a weirder, more disorienting, and more lively time to be a creator and a fanatic of media in all their varieties. Why ruin the moment by being the one trying to get everyone to play a game while we’re letting the flowers blossom? A ludic century need not be a century of games. Instead, it can just be a century. With games in it.
* I am no fan of the North Korean regime. However I believe that calling out a foreign nation over a cybercrime of this magnitude should never have been undertaken on such weak evidence.
* The black and African writer is expected to write about certain things, and if they don’t they are seen as irrelevant. This gives their literature weight, but dooms it with monotony. Who wants to constantly read a literature of suffering, of heaviness? Those living through it certainly don’t; the success of much lighter fare among the reading public in Africa proves this point. Maybe it is those in the west, whose lives are untouched by such suffering, who find occasional spice and flirtation with such a literature. But this tyranny of subject may well lead to distortion and limitation.
The filmmakers’ cartoonishly evil vision of Saruman is unfortunate, as it deprives a fascinating narrative of its complexity, while also being untrue to Tolkien’s own vision. Jackson and his team seem incapable of imagining that a person can be wrong without also being evil. For example, the Master of Lake-town in The Hobbit was greedy, but he was an elected official, generally well regarded by the community (at least until he absconds with the municipal funds, a fact revealed only on the last page of the book); in the film The Desolation of Smaug, he is a murderous tyrant who opposes even the idea of elections. An even worse example is the case of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, who in the books has been driven mad by grief and despair, partly owing to the cruel machinations of Sauron himself; in the film (The Return of the King), he is made so irredeemably evil that Gandalf actually attacks him, while we the viewers are expected to cheer. If this is what Jackson does to weak and pitiable characters, what must he do to Saruman, who is a legitimate “bad guy” in The Lord of the Rings?
* America’s own 7 Up: Johns Hopkins’s Beginning School Study.
* And of course you had me at Grant Morrson’s All-New Miracleman Annual #1.
* For a small group of comedy writers, however, their yearly viewing couldn’t be further from Bedford Falls. Instead, they gather ’round a never-aired 1996 Comedy Central special: Escape From It’s A Wonderful Life.
* Jacobin remembers the Christmas truce, one hundred years old yesterday.
* Let 2015 be Year One of the post-carbon future. 4 Legal Battles This Year That Were All About Climate Change. Sewage in the streets of Miami. Could flooding finally wake Americans up to the climate crisis? Irreversible But Not Unstoppable: The Ghost Of Climate Change Yet To Come.
* Elsewhere on the local beat: A Milwaukee doctor says he has the answer to concussions.
* And, sadly: Milwaukee’s poet laureate passes away.
* Among recent graduates ages 22 to 27, the jobless rate for blacks last year was 12.4 percent versus 4.9 percent for whites, said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
* I missed this one in August: Tobias Wolff on the heart of whiteness.
* I can’t believe they made a movie out of Bill, The Galactic Hero. I can’t wait to see it.
* A look inside 8chan, the worst place on the Internet: “The Mods Are Always Asleep.”
* There’s magical thinking, and then there’s “Believing in Santa Claus could help your kids develop a cure for cancer.”
* This was a nice, short, readable explanation of how all the statistical analysis in The Bell Curve was bullshit.
* 10 Story Decisions Scifi And Fantasy Writers Ended Up Regretting. Tough list to get down to just ten!
* In the 1950s, Egypt and Britain played an old version of tit-for-tat. Egypt took the Suez Canal. The British decided to pay them back by stealing the river Nile itself. Yes, the whole Nile.
* Parents Are Moving To The Same Towns Where Their Kids Go To College. When my kids go to college, I’m enrolling in their freshman classes. I don’t want to miss a moment.
* The melancholy of all things done” is the way Buzz once described his complete mental breakdown after returning from the moon. Booze. A couple of divorces. A psych ward. Broke. At one point he was selling cars. Buzz Aldrin and the dark side of the Moon.
* A public service announcement: Black Mirror: White Christmas was fantastic. Find a way to watch it!
* And if you squint just right it looks like the world isn’t ending. Happy Holidays indeed!