Be aware: There is a lot. Without further ado:
- This week in awesome: An artist is making a map of Manhattan using only handwritten directions from strangers. It’s about as great as you’d expect.
- “Man Creates Very First Website for Women Ever”. No, this is not an Onion headline.
Where is the Gawker for women? The ESPN for women? The Awl for women? The Slate for women? The Onion for women? Perhaps when Google finally launches a search engine for women, we will be capable of locating the websites targeted at us, so that advertisers may sell us things. For now, we will read Bustle.
- Breaking Bad as Hamlet. I don’t totally buy it, but it’s an amazing comparison.
- “Mark Millar and Todd McFarlane: Ladies, Comics Aren’t For You”. And here’s where I would register my outraged shock if I had any. Shock, I mean.
Comics aren’t for women. And if women do like comics, they shouldn’t, because testosterone, and that’s not the right platform for them. But for those women who do read comics, it doesn’t matter how they’re portrayed. Because women don’t read them, you see, so it’s not necessary to write characters that will appeal to them. So if you’re a woman, and you’re reading comics, first of all, why are you reading them? Second of all, don’t expect anything that appeals to you.
- Related: Do villains really need to commit “taboo” acts for us to get that they’re villains?
A cowardly bully, who snivels and whines when any hurt at all comes their way, isn’t just a villain that people hate. He or she is a villain that people despise. It goes back to what people mean when they say a “bad guy.” Someone being “bad” isn’t just about actions, it’s also about character in the old-fashioned sense of the word. And when the focus is on “bad character” rather than atrocity, it’s possible demonstrate that a villain is despicable without showing any crime at all.
- Also related: Warren Ellis on why we do need violent stories.
We learn about things by looking at them and then talking about them, together. You may have heard of this process. It’s sometimes involved in things like science. It’s also the system of fiction: writing things in order to get a better look at them. Fiction is how we both study and de-fang our monsters. To lock violent fiction away, or to close our eyes to it, is to give our monsters and our fears undeserved power and richer hunting grounds.
- Also also related: Why it may be a good thing that video games “devalue life”, and why it might open up some opportunities to rethink the meaning of death.
This fixation on interactivity obscures the fact that games are also a computational medium, based on models and protocols, codes and commands, simulations and rules. By assigning literal, numerical values to life and death, games are necessarily going to “cheapen” them to some extent – but, as we’ll see, this cheapening can render the form peculiarly suited to exploring what life is worth in the era of biopower and computerized risk assessment, drones and cloning, artificial intelligence and data mining.
- N.K. Jemisin: “There is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo.”
Put simply, SFWA must now take action against bigots in order to prove itself worthy of being called a professional organization. SFWA’s leadership is going to have to choose which members it wants to lose: the minority of scared, angry people whose sense of self-worth is rooted in their ability to harm others without consequence… or everyone else.
- Orson Scott Card: Now officially disconnected from reality in every meaningful way. Also howlingly racist, in case anyone wasn’t sure about that.
“Where will he get his ‘national police’? The NaPo will be recruited from ‘young out-of-work urban men’ and it will be hailed as a cure for the economic malaise of the inner cities.
In other words, Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies.”
- (TW: wow racism) Amazing series of photos: “A Day in the Life of the Ku Klux Klan, Uncensored”. The only real issue is that it’s sort of implicitly presented as if any of the images are a surprise or are skewering common perceptions of the KKK, when in fact they are all exactly what I would expect.
- “Of course all men don’t hate women. But all men must know they benefit from sexism”.
These days, before we talk about misogyny, women are increasingly being asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings. Don’t say, “Men oppress women” – that’s sexism, as bad as any sexism women ever have to handle, possibly worse. Instead, say, “Some men oppress women.” Whatever you do, don’t generalise. That’s something men do. Not all men – just somemen.
- “Thoughts on the Trending Hashtag: #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen”.
Recently I had lunch with a good friend, and he asked how I felt about getting my major in Women and Gender Studies since he heard that it’s basically learning about white women, which I’m inclined to agree with. The primary feminist group on my campus simply ignored my critiques that women of color were not being truly represented by them. Instead, I was simply told, “Oh well, we believe in equality for all.” I can even think of a few times when I was on Facebook and saw white women post articles about women of color, ignore my comments regarding my own experiences as a Latina, and carry on talking to other white feminists discussing something that they have no real clue about.
- Bayou Corne, Louisiana is disappearing into a sinkhole 24 acres wide and about 750 feet deep. There are reasons why this is happening.
Bayou Corne is the biggest ongoing industrial disaster in the United States you haven’t heard of. In addition to creating a massive sinkhole, it has unearthed an uncomfortable truth: Modern mining and drilling techniques are disturbing the geological order in ways that scientists still don’t fully understand. Humans have been extracting natural resources from the earth since the dawn of mankind, but never before at the rate and magnitude of today’s petrochemical industry. And the side effects are becoming clear.
- Finally, from me: a post on the systems of cultural capital built up around print books and the spaces they occupy, placed in the context of a world that features increasing numbers of ebooks.
Of course the spaces themselves in which one goes to experience books are laden with differing degrees of cultural capital. Independent bookstores tend to be more prestigious than chains. Independent bookstores with lots of antique shelving that’s high enough to need those cool rolling ladders tend to be more prestigious than a little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore. You stand in these spaces, a hardcover first edition in your hands, surrounded by whispers and wood and that fantastic old book smell, and you can think Aha, I am a Cultured person in a Cultured space and I am Experiencing Books.
Hope the bridges all burn your life away.
Posted in Linkdump
Tagged bigotry, books, bookstores, breaking bad, comics, ebooks, environmentalism, feminism, fiction, fracking, misogyny, racism, sexism, sfwa, video games, villains, violence, yeasayer
Us. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)
Probably the last one of these for at least one iteration, because I’m moving next week and then going to ASA. August, I am not a fan of you.
Let’s get to it.
- “A Contribution to the Critique of John Mayer”. I can’t even with this essay. I’m not even sure I can call it an essay. It is purposefully opaque and incredibly surreal and I think it’s utterly hilarious as well as a genuinely sharp critique. It’s probably one of my favorite things that I’ve read this month. Your mileage may vary.
There’s no joke or reason, just trauma on a rope, and the permanent gag of birds always almost caught by that robber’s rogue of a spotted dog, or perhaps it’s the birds ever puking forth from his mouth because, like a Highwaymen or treason, dogs too know how to give back to the community. And just as always is the fact that earthworms have yet to have unstrung the warbling chords of that stubbly Mayer throat, and the ocean has yet to swallow without cough or mutter the small collection of ashes that alone bear witness to the one thing that once sat shirtless with a guitar splayed across his middle like the stripped hull of a daughter.
No, through the lump in our voice that tastes of spring cancer, we must find the courage to say aloud that: John Mayer does not merely live. He also has not been executed.
- Spoiler alert: MOOCs are really really fucking bad as practiced. For everyone.
MOOCs, at least from an educational standpoint, are designed to run themselves. The lectures are pre-recorded. The grading is done either by computer or by other students in the class, should they choose to do the assignments at all. The average drop-out rates for existing MOOCs is about 90 percent, so while Coursera may offer access to higher education anywhere in the world where potential students can get the Internet, it offers no guarantee that anybody will actually learn anything.
- “The corporations were created by humans. They were granted personhood by their human servants. They rebelled. They evolved. There are many copies. And they have a plan.”
- Tour the Saturnian system. Get your head exploded.
- That this is what at least some abstinence “education” looks like is probably not a huge surprise to anyone. The sheer extent of the lies and false information might be at least slightly impressive.
“There’s also an emotional factor with sexual activity, and ladies you are very emotional when you’re engaging in sexual activity, and that bonding agent, there’s an agent called oxytocin. … You know those couples that keep breaking up and getting back together and getting back together? It’s because the woman has emotionally given herself to someone else and it’s very hard to break that bond, because again we were meant for the oxytocin of someone that we bond with.”
- Chuck Wendig on ways writers might be doing it wrong.
If you’d rather play video games or watch movies or masturbate to at twerking videos on Tumblr — in other words, if you’d rather be doing anything else but writing — you’re doing it wrong.
If you think that there’s one way up the mountain — and that you or someone else is the magical sherpa who will guide you up that mountain — oh yeah, you’re doing it wrong.
- Robin James takes the posts that I and David Banks wrote last week on consumer tracking and quantum mechanics and Sartre and runs with the ideas therein in a really cool way.
What big data is trying to do, perhaps, is make perceptible these imperceptibly vast consequences of what didn’t happen. They’re just variables for which we can control. The more negatites we can quantify and plug in to our algorithms, the better our predictions will be. It seems like big data is invested in predicting whether you’ll choose to stay home with your mother or enlist and fight the Nazis.
- Finally, this week I got really annoyed about sexism and video games. Partially inspired by a Thing That Happened in Bioshock Infinite but by no means confined to that.
Allow me to serve you drinks in a tavern. Allow me to play the object in the tower. Allow me to serve as the sexually threatening yet strangely alluring Big Bad. Allow me to pose no real threat at all. Allow me to fight by your side in unbelievably impractical armor. Allow me to be impregnated against my will by aliens. Allow me to make a truly laughable wardrobe change, just in case you were losing interest in my less revealing clothes. Allow me to be covered in sexy wounds. Allow me to appear only as a device in a booth to sell you things. Allow me to die in this refrigerator. Allow me to serve as your motivation, your characterization, your eye candy, your psychological pain, the tears you may, in a daring show of sensitivity, cry.
Allow me to do these things. Please. I’m begging you.
We can live on forever.
Another hiatus, because I was in Texas for my grandmother’s memorial service and I had to finish writing a book. Things Happened during that time and I feel like this little collection of links is inadequate to deal with any of it but here you go anyway. Let its fragmented nature stand as a representation of what my brain has been like lately.
- “Bodies in the Justice System.” This neatly articulates a lot of what I’ve been flailing clumsily around trying to articulate to myself since the Zimmerman verdict.
The outcome—a not-guilty verdict for Zimmerman— suggests that Zimmerman did experience a dangerous situation, and his actions—fatally shooting 17 year old Trayvon Martin—were justifiable. To be fair, the verdict technically says that there is a “shadow of a doubt” surrounding Zimmerman’s actual threat level, but the fact remains that 1) Trayvon did not get the benefit of any sort of doubt, and 2) Zimmerman’s innocence necessarily implies a degree of guilt for Martin. This is not to say the verdict was legally wrong. Rather, it is to say that the law needs to be examined in a more critical light.
- Mixed feelings on the whole “I Am Not Trayvon Martin” meme. Again, all of this + so many 1s.
As I scrolled through post after post on We Are Not Trayvon Martin, it began to seem a lot less like anti-racist activism and a lot more like a white people’s guilt support group. While a very, very small number of posts stand out for offering some kind of social insight or advice on how white people can be better allies, the majority of posts can be summed up as follows: “Hey everyone! Guess what! I’m not Trayvon Martin, and I know that I’m not Trayvon Martin!” And… that’s it.
- “Nation Throws Hands Up, Tells Black Teenagers To Do Their Best Out There.” The Onion has been pretty unfunny lately, and I think it’s actually because they’re doing their job better than most other news outlets.
“I mean, what can I say? You have no legal system to turn to, the police are out to get you, and everyone is immediately suspicious of you,” said Denver real-estate agent Kelly Martin, adding that she has been racking her brain trying to think of helpful advice for the teenagers, but that all she could come up with was, “Try to stay alive if you can.” “If you’re a black teen, you’re basically living in the Wild West right now. Not exactly words of encouragement, but there you have it.”
- “Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Hot Babe.” This is beautifully written and sort of mess-with-your-head and I love it.
Neither productive nor reproductive, where the Hot Babe does not successfully embody transience, she must stand for destruction. For patriarchy woman is womb but the Hot Babe is wombless; she does not cook, she does not “love children.” She is the much-vaunted machine that comes to replace the mother.
- McDonald’s in-house budget for its workers is demeaning, insulting, condescending, shockingly unrealistic, and also a fucking scam. It’s been somewhat heartening to see that it’s generated quite the backlash.
McDonald’s has handed over its employees to Visa, possibly in exchange for a cut of whatever fees and interest rates they can gouge out of those workers by duping them into unregulated cards that charge poor people fees to use their own money. When a McDonald’s employee signs up for a prepaid debit card, Visa is able to skim a cut from every financial transaction that person makes — every line in that awful, clueless budget.
- “Four things that happened”. “The sequence is undeniable. Whether that sequence means anything in terms of causality or of culpability I will leave for the reader to decide.”
- 11 exhausted SF tropes to avoid. This is funny and also helpful, and the list of offensive tropes is excellent, but I’m also not in total agreement with it (the non-offensive list). Some of my favorite books include those tropes (some of my own books do as well, so take that for what it’s worth). Sometimes you just want to write something like that. I think SF should always be pushing harder and getting better, but I think there also needs to be room for the fluff. Especially if the fluff gives you passage to a denser core, which in my experience it often does.
- “Why Penny Arcade’s Foot-in-Mouth Problem Is Bigger Than Penny Arcade”. They keep doing this shit. They just keep fucking doing this shit.
What Krahulik—like a lot of the self-identified “geek” community—doesn’t seem to understand is that a history as a target doesn’t translate to license to shoot wherever his own crosshairs happen to fall. It’s one thing to smack down notorious bully Harlan Ellison or take on rampaging anti-video game lawyer Jack Thompson at the height of his media popularity; it’s another to go out of your way to mock rape survivors and transwomen and encourage your audience to do the same.
- “Every Misogynistic Argument You’ve Ever Heard About Video Games”. Fuck yes.
Quick aside: I’ve been playing Bioshock Infinite lately, and I love it – it’s beautiful, fun, the relationship between the protag and Elizabeth is awesome, the combat is insane, basically the whole thing gets a thumbs-up from me… or it did, until I got to a part where Elizabeth, who to that point had been clad in refreshingly un-sexed-up clothing, suddenly has to make a laughably justified wardrobe change and appears dressed in a ridiculously tight corset that shows a lot of boob. There is clearly no logical reason for it other than that the designers wanted to put her in a ridiculously tight corset that showed a lot of boob.
Now, I love corsets. I’m a big fan of boobs. But it just felt… It was one of those moments – and I’ve had this a lot with games made by Rockstar, and also recently with Dishonored – where I’m going along in a game that I really enjoy and suddenly something happens that reminds me like a kick to the face that I’m playing a game that was made without considering almost half the gamer population. Not made intentionally to offend us, but made as if we didn’t exist at all. As if the only gamers are straight cis-dudes. And it sort of ruins an otherwise great experience for me. And yeah, maybe I’m oversensitive to it at this point, but you know what: if you were getting repeatedly kicked in the face, I think you might be a tad oversensitive to it yourself.
Why are you assuming games with strong female protagonists might not also be games YOU’LL enjoy? They’re going to automatically not appeal to you just because you’re playing as someone possessed of a hooha? What the hell kind of women-friendly games are your fevered imaginations conjuring up?! SimHairBraider? Metal Gear Solid: Ovaries of the Patriots? Deus Ex: Menstrual Revolution?
Somehow, I don’t think you have to worry. You liked Beyond Good and Evil, right? Of course you did — everyone who actually played it did. Women gamers want more games like THAT. Like I said above, women gamers ultimately want the same thing guy gamers want: good games. Y’know, just good games that make them feel welcomed to rather than othered from the community.
- Finally, I wrote a thing – in response to another great post by David Banks and a comment therein by Robin James – that flails around touching on consumer tracking, Sartre, and quantum mechanics. In some universe or another it works.
Being able to record and analyze what’s not done in addition to what’s done makes it possible to explore and exploit human behavior in ways that approach the level of quantum mechanics. We like to think of ourselves as the products of our decisions, and to the extent that our decisions help to shape the particular universe we perceive, that’s true. But we’re also a collection of negatite-generators, defined as much by what we chose not to do – things which are not simply absence but which are as real in themselves as what we’ve done.
You’re the golden light.
Been a while. Life keeps happening. Here are some readable bits of it.
- The Thing with gay romance and surprise vaginas therein has become a minorly big deal and there’s a must-read link roundup of the pertinent bits on Radish Reviews.
To my knowledge the review blogger in question is still publicly trying to pretend it never happened. Lol. Oh no wait she’s acknowledging it to the tune of LA LA LA I DON’T CAAAAARE. Cute and unsurprising. Anyway, the section on harassment in the SF&F community is also a must-read.
- “I Was a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl.” This is quite simply fabulous.
If I’d known what women have to sacrifice in order to write, I would not have allowed myself to be so badly hurt when boys whose work and writing I found so fascinating found those same qualities threatening in me. I would have understood what Kate Zambreno means when she says, in her marvellous book Heroines, I do not want to be an ugly woman, and when I write, I am an ugly woman. … I would have understood quite clearly what I was choosing when I chose, sometime around the time I packed two suitcases and walked out on Garden State Boy, to be a person who writes her own stories, rather than a story that happens to other people.
- And an equally fabulous response: “Myths of glamor: faerytale archetypes & female form”.
Most folklore concerning pixies describes them as downright dangerous unless approached with the correct measure of respect. The narratives of pixies who steal infants from their cradles, who charm men to sleep for a hundred years with sleeping potions, who hold great feasts and build mountains of gold, and dance in the moonlight has been stolen from human-kind and replaced with some bullshit Hollywood fakery of a manic pixie dream girl and we collectively are the poorer for it.
- On the horrifically self-centered fetishization of “authenticity”.
A naïve belief in authenticity eventually gives way to a deep cynicism. A conviction in personal success that must always hold failure at bay becomes a corrupt stubbornness that insists on success at any cost. Cynicism, in this mode, is not the expression of a critical stance toward authenticity but is rather the runoff of this failure of belief. The self-help industry itself runs the gamut in both directions — from “The Power of Now,” which teaches you the power of meditative self-sufficiency, to “The Rules,” which teaches a woman how to land a man by pretending to be self-sufficient. Profit rules the day, inside and out.
- U2’s Zooropa is twenty years old, and while much of the rest of the U2 catalogue has frankly gone stale for me, this album has not. Here is some of why.
Here’s how Zooropa is important. It may never rise above a general estimation as a minor work in U2′s catalogue, but it’s important because it’s an example of a massively successful pop band taking some big chances, molding their sounds with all sorts of elements of the underground. This might be a bit extreme, but I’m not sure Kid A happens without predecessors like the one-two punch of Achtung Baby and Zooropa. I’m not sure Yeezus happens. For those of us who grew up when How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was new, it’s hard to imagine that this version of U2 ever existed, and certainly hard to imagine them ever becoming so bold again. But we can hope.
- We don’t know what’s actually going on in Syria because our media doesn’t either, and doesn’t seem all that interested in finding out.
In the middle of a ferocious civil war it is self-serving credulity on the part of journalists to assume that either side in the conflict, government or rebel, is not going to concoct or manipulate facts to serve its own interests. Yet much foreign media coverage is based on just such an assumption.
- Frederick Douglass – What, to the American Slave, is the 4th of July?
I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which lie is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
- “Torture and Taboo: On Elaine Scarry”. The Body in Pain was a massively formative book early on in my graduate school career, particularly the section on warfare. She introduced to me the idea of national identity literally as a thing embodied, rendering injury and death on a battlefield politically meaningful. There are a lot of flaws in the book, though, and a lot of places in her line of thought to which I’m unwilling to follow. This is a great piece on the work as a whole and the cultural taboo of torture as it’s come into being in the past century.
Politics involves comparing always dirty regimes and seeking better alternatives, and the absence of this sphere is what is most questionable about Scarry’s universe. That we focus on torture so single-mindedly—as if the institutional contexts for it and the institutional sequels to it were not more important—is due to historical experiences that, because they are the conditions of Scarry’s criticism, may escape her gaze.
- No one should die for a house.
We need to stop seeing wildfire as an enemy to be exterminated forever and instead accept it as inevitable. We need to recognize that communities built without wildfire-mitigation measures are tinderboxes waiting to burn and stop incentivizing homeowners to rebuild with kindling.
Be a fucking diva.
- Antidote to all the dismaying SFWA sexist bullshit: “Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron”, by A.C. Wise.
For this mission, they’ve chosen strictly retro-future, which means skin-tight silver, boots that come nearer to the knee than their skirts, bubble-barreled ray-guns, frosted white lipstick and, of course, big hair. CeCe the Velvet Underground Drag King called in sick with the flu, so it’s lamé all the way.
- One of the best pieces of short fiction I’ve read this year is a flash story presented as a Twitter bug report. Read it. Trust me.
- Stand with Turkey.
People who are marching to the center of Istanbul are demanding their right to live freely and receive justice, protection and respect from the State. They demand to be involved in the decision-making processes about the city they live in.
What they have received instead is excessive force and enormous amounts of tear gas shot straight into their faces. Three people lost their eyes.
- When you’re dealing with highly abstract concepts like states and corporations, what does it mean to grapple with the material?
We have the ability to fight them in the streets to a degree. We can still burn the buildings down, block the lanes of traffic, and cut the cables. But to do this, we must be able to see these material capillary beds. We cannot fight corporate cops that don’t exist, or boycott nation-state products that don’t need our business. There is a material reality to both states and corporations, but we can easily miss it, distracted by the allusions we have created in our minds for rhetorical simplicity.
- I did kind of a bit of commentary for Cyborgology on the Kindle Worlds thing.
The practical implications of this are that traditional tie-in writers might no longer be needed at all. Instead of having to pay authors advances and higher royalty rates, Kindle Worlds presents a dystopian future where media tie-ins are entirely produced by poorly compensated fandom content-serfs, where traditional writers of original fiction are simply no longer needed.
- “Melancholic Damage.” Rhianna’s new album and racist-sexist discourses of acceptable recovery. Long but so worth it.
In a multiracial white supremacist partriarchy like ours, resilience distributes racial privilege: “good” black women who “overcome” are granted some of the privileges of whiteness, while women who fail to overcome are racially darkened. To maintain white privilege, one has to keep optimizing one’s human capital. Those who can’t keep up will fall behind, ever closer to precarity, which is racially nonwhite. Whiteness is thus increasingly indexed to resilience, and non-whiteness to precarity. This is actually a vicious cycle — privilege makes it easier to “bounce back” from crisis.
- Murmuration has begun and this poem is stunning.
Edward said their thereness is just
a shadow on the sky. Before depredating colonies
of pests, the selfish herd moves
with all the precision of an equation, unraveled
by game controllers north of Tampa. Of starlings,
bats, and drones, only drones are native to Florida.
Do like they do.
Been out of the game for a couple of weeks, finishing a book and defending a dissertation proposal and wrapping up a course. Back now. Have stuff.
- Why you dislike singular ‘they’.” I am so fucking sick of people complaining about how it’s grammatically incorrect, or it’s too clumsy, or they just can’t be bothered. Sack up, motherfuckers. Also my sister has some knowledge to hit you with:
I wrote a linguistics final on this: plenty of fluent adult speakers naturally produce “they” as an indeterminate gender pronoun to avoid using the clunkier construction “his or her.” not only is it transphobic bullshit to say third person plurals are grammatically unacceptable, it’s linguistically incorrect.
- “Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation.” On Time’s awful awful awful Millennial cover story.
Basically, it’s not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it’s that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older. It’s like doing a study of toddlers and declaring those born since 2010 are Generation Sociopath: Kids These Days Will Pull Your Hair, Pee On Walls, Throw Full Bowls of Cereal Without Even Thinking of the Consequences.
- “The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform.” It’s things like the recent discourse around MOOCs that make me seriously wonder whether I’ve made a huge mistake going into academia and whether maybe I should just toss in the towel and leave the country once I have my PhD rather than watch this institution that I love shit all over itself and die.
Since educating fewer students would therefore cost money, in effect—and it would also cost money to fully staff the necessary courses—there is no solution to the problem that does not require spending more money on chairs, classrooms, and teachers to teach them. MOOCs enter the picture, then, as a kind of fantasy solution to this unsolvable problem: instead of addressing the problem by either admitting fewer students or adding more courses, we will define the problem differently: chairless classrooms! Everyone is happy.
- “Star Trek Into the Endless War On Terror.” This piece is fabulous.
Khan is blowing up Starfleet because they used him and manipulated him to built a war machine capable of defending against people like Khan. Self-justifying, perpetual war machines are what we have come to expect from governments. Even if you are defending the war, you have to justify this “new kind of war” by describing and identifying an enemy that demands a war of ambiguous lines and endless horizons. Talk about policing, intelligence, boots on the ground, or peace-keeping missions but don’t question the need for constant intervention. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek might not be the Star Trek you want, but it is definitely the Star Trek America deserves.
- “The Ethics of Extreme Porn: Is Some Sex Wrong Even Among Consenting Adults?” Really good response to a recent blog dialogue that questions whether sexual ethics based entirely around consent are a universal good (spoiler alert: kinda, yeah.)
My generation doesn’t treat consent as a lodestar merely because consent permits pleasurable sexual activity that more traditional sexual codes would prohibit. The ethos of consent is regarded as a lodestar because its embrace is widely seen as an incredible improvement over much of human history; and because instances when the culture of consent is rejected are superlatively horrific. The average 30-something San Franciscan has had multiple friends confide to them about being raped, and multiple friends confide about participating in consensual BDSM. Only the former routinely plays out as extreme trauma that devastates the teller for decades.
- I’m interviewed in the current Outer Alliance podcast, along with an all-star lineup of folks, about the acronym QUILTBAG and the idea of “metrosexual” and current SF awards. It’s fun.
- Finally, a thing by me: “Distant droning murmurs” – a reflection on the issues raised for me by Murmuration, a June festival of drone culture.
Need is by definition a loss of power. And in as much as a drone is a cultural node, it’s a node of political and social power, equally capable of surveillance and lethality, technically exact but inscrutable. A shifting, endlessly accommodating idea isn’t especially trustworthy. But maybe we want to trust. Above all, we want everything to be recognizable. We want to be able to understand.
What I think may be most terrifying about drones – at least to me – is the prospect that they might ultimately be beyond understanding. But we’ll see what Murmuration can do.
Rihanna and M83 have made a beautiful baby.
Posted in Linkdump
Tagged academia, drones, grammar, mashups, millennials, MOOCs, murmuration, outer alliance, sexual ethics, star trek, transphobia
The Orbital Antares rocket at the Wallops Flight Facility in VA. We were there for the launch yesterday, which was unfortunately scrubbed.
So things sure happened this week, didn’t they?
- Whitney Erin Boesel seriously questions whether images of tragedy belong on something like Vine.
One might argue that this self-repeating aspect makes Vine a powerful tool for reporting, but just because Vine can be used this way doesn’t mean it should be used this way. And Vine definitely shouldn’t be used this way without careful reflection about what it means to put six violent seconds on infinite (and infinitely circulative) self-repeat.
- And I expand on her points with a bit of a meditation on the nature of trauma.
Vine is only the latest, purest iteration of something familiar. Our experience of eventfulness is now the clip, perhaps more even than the still image. A few moments of something, repeated over and over, widely shared and everywhere you go. It’s a feeling of tiny saturation. You may not even notice it as it’s happening. But here’s the thing about the momentary clip, about event-as-seconds: It isn’t memory. Memory involves the incorporation and understanding of a past but also the mediation of a present and the imagination of the future. Memory is what we move through in order to get somewhere else.
A vine has no past, no future. A vine is a moment without a memory.
- Gawker asks “Is the New York Post Edited by a Bigoted Drunk Who Fucks Pigs?”
The back-to-back focus on innocent people of non-European ancestry could imply that the Post is systematically hostile to nonwhite people, and that the paper’s editors are so wedded to the notion that all Muslims are terrorists that they literally do not care which Muslim or “Muslim-looking” person they happen to be targeting on any particular day. We are not saying that Col Allan, motivated by bigotry, is intentionally trying to use the Post to stir up hostility against Muslims. We do not know that Col Allan is a racist. The evidence may suggest that he is a racist, but we are not saying that Col Allan is a racist.
- “Let’s be honest about Kermit Gosnell’s abortion ‘house of horrors’.” Why the whole “cover-up” thing is sort of maybe bullshit.
Troy Newman, a pro-life leader and the president of Operation Rescue, is among the loudest voices sounding the Gosnell alarm. He’s also talking about how Gosnell is a gift from God to the pro-life movement. What Gosnell is accused of doing in his clinic is horrifying and illegal, which is why he’s on trial. His illegal acts are no more an indictment of safe, legal abortion than one child-molesting doctor is an indictment of all pediatricians. But pro-lifers like Newman are glad Gosnell exists, because they can use him to tar all abortion providers. These are the folks who want abortion to be dangerous, gruesome and unregulated. Of course they’re thrilled that they finally found a real villain.
- “Gitmo Is Killing Me.” Read this. If you read nothing else linked here read this.
I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone…There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.
- “One Narrative Fits All.” Dove’s Real Beauty campaign is kind of problematic you guys.
Just as ads of yore leveraged the attitudes that made women feel bad about their looks in order to sell products, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty leverages the response to those attitudes in order to sell products. It allows for exactly one way that women can feel about our looks—bad—and creates a template for women’s relationship with their looks that’s just as rigid as the beauty standard it’s challenging.
- “Meet the 28-Year-Old Grad Student Who Just Shook the Global Austerity Movement.” Okay, but what’s really remarkable about this is that an economics PhD student is going out with a sociology PhD student.
Herndon was stunned. As a graduate student, he’d just found serious problems in a famous economic study — the academic equivalent of a D-league basketball player dunking on LeBron James. “They say seeing is believing, but I almost didn’t believe my eyes,” he says. “I had to ask my girlfriend — who’s a Ph.D. student in sociology — to double-check it. And she said, ‘I don’t think you’re seeing things, Thomas.'”
- “Living the Dream.” Writing for a living is hard. It’s hard even after you get to the point where you can do it at all.
There’s an inspirational quote that gets passed around, usually misattributed to Confucius:
“Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”
I’ve got a job I love, and I’m gonna come out and say this quote isn’t just wrong, it’s so fundamentally opposed to the state of “rightness” that if you put it together with a true quote, you’d create an explosion powerful enough to rip open spacetime and devour Kalamazoo.
I love being a writer, but if you try to tell me it’s not work, I’ll send goblins to eat your feet.
New Daft Punk makes everything okay.
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Tagged abortion, beauty, body acceptance, boston, daft punk, economics, guantanamo bay, racism, trauma, vine, writing