This reminds me – I didn’t post it earlier because the trailer was so drab, but Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey has also brought forth another version of Romeo and Juliet, with Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Damien Lewis, and Paul Giamatti. Steinfeld was a real find in True Grit, but I’m otherwise not seeing the point of this.
Or for a longer but equally goofy answer, see Louis Menand in The New Yorker, circa 2002: “The Cat in the Hat was a Cold War invention. His value as an analyst of the psychology of his time…is readily appreciated: transgression and hypocrisy are the principal themes of his little story. But he also stands in an intimate and paradoxical relation to national-security policy. He was both its creature and its nemesis — the unraveller of the very culture that produced him and that made him a star.”
“Politicians and businessmen are fond of talking about America’s scientist shortage — the dearth of engineering and lab talent that will inevitably leave us sputtering in the global economy. But perhaps it’s time they start talking about our scientist surplus instead.”
The Atlantic‘s Jordan Weissman takes another gander at the sorry state of the PhD life in America, with an emphasis on the sciences. “The pattern reaching back to 2001 is clear — fewer jobs, more unemployment, and more post-doc work — especially in the sciences. A post doc essentially translates into toiling as a low-paid lab hand.”
Note also the dismal situation of the humanities in the graph below. The average salary for a humanities PhD is not only less than I’m making in speechwriting these days — it’s less than what I was making in 2001, before I went off for grad school. It’s also less, or at the very least comparable, to the average salary of a public school teacher in America — a job where you’re probably much more likely to make a difference in the lives of your students. But hey, check out the big brain on me.
Update: “Let me start with the bad news. It is not even news anymore; it is simply bad. Graduate education in the humanities is in crisis. Every aspect, from the most specific details of the curriculum to the broadest questions about its purpose, is in crisis. It is a seamless garment of crisis: If you pull on any one thread, the entire thing unravels.” Literature professor Michael Bérubé surveys the sad state of affairs in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“This series is an experiment where a dictator, a psycho, a murderer (sometimes they are the whole package) or even a suspicious figure from real life is mashed with a comics bad guy – strangely related some way or the other with his counterpart.” Brazilian artist Butcher Billy’s Legion of Doom, by way of Normative.
“This is not a list of the ‘best’ fantasy or SF. There are huge numbers of superb works not on the list. Those below are chosen not just because of their quality – which though mostly good, is variable – but because the politics they embed (deliberately or not) are of particular interest to socialists.”
Sci-fi author China Mieville (Perdido Street Station, Iron Council, The City & The City) offers up his personal list of the 50 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Works Every Socialist Should Read, including Octavia Butler, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edward Bellamy, Iain Banks, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Mervyn Peake. “Ayn Rand—Atlas Shrugged (1957): Know your enemy. This panoply of portentous Nietzcheanism lite has had a huge influence on American SF. Rand was an obsessive ‘objectivist’ (libertarian pro-capitalist individualist) whose hatred of socialism and any form of ‘collectivism’ is visible in this important and influential – though vile and ponderous – novel.”
“In The Sparrow we follow two stories: The global miscommunications that arise when one culture attempts to convert another, and one man’s crippling loss of faith. On February 1st, Russell herself announced that The Sparrow might finally be flying from page to screen.” In intriguing TV news, AMC options Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow for a possible television series. (My thoughts on the book are here, and its sequel here.) Now, who to play Father Sandoz…Ciaran Hinds?
“As I move through the book it becomes more demanding…Toward the end of a book, the state of composition feels like a complex, chemically altered state that will go away if I don’t continue to give it what it needs. What it needs is simply to write all the time. Downtime other than simply sleeping becomes problematic. I’m always glad to see the back of that.” Via Brain Pickings, daily routines of famous writers.
“It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie. It was an entire evening based on demonstrable lies told in service to the overriding demonstrable lie. And there was only one real story for actual journalists to tell at the end of it.
The Republicans simply don’t care.
They don’t care that they lie. They don’t care that their lies are obvious. They don’t care that their lies wouldn’t fool an underpaid substitute Social Studies teacher in a public middle school…They don’t care that their history is a lie and that, by spreading it, they devalue the actual history of the country, which is something that belongs to us.”
As Winston Smith wrote in his diary, “Freedom is freedom to say 2+2=4. If that is granted all else will follow.” And that is exactly the freedom Ryan launched a full-scale assault upon in his convention speech. In short, this was a new low for the GOP.
“Hubble has made over a million observations since launch, but only a small proportion are attractive images — and an even smaller number are ever actually seen by anyone outside the small groups of scientists that publish them. But the vast amount of data in the archive means that there are still many hundreds of beautiful images scattered among the valuable, but visually unattractive, scientific data that have never been enjoyed by the public.“
“And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”
“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012.
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther, jump ever higher, collect all the coins… Hey, wait a tic…The Great Gatsby Nintendo game. Once again, he’s playing with power.
“A dazzling green aurora frames the arc of the Milky Way over Jokulsarlon, the largest glacier lake in Iceland, in a picture taken in March. The image was a first-prize winner in the Second International Earth and Sky Photo Contest’s ‘Beauty of the Night Sky’ category.” Speaking of green lights, National Geographic chooses the top space photos of 2011.
“Ballet pointe shoes are not typically thought of as technological artifacts, but they certainly are…Dancers on this pointe regimen developed characteristically long, lean leg muscles. Balanchine also encouraged dancers to let the shoes remake their bodies, including developing bunions that gave the foot just the right line.” Speaking of shoes and from the Atlantic, a new paper examines pointe shoes within the history of technology. “[I]n 1980 dancers threatened to strike — not over hours or pay, but for better pointe shoes, and better management of them.”
Two weeks ago, I did in fact finish the Baltimore Half-Marathon: Total running time was 2 hours, 3 minutes, 35 seconds, so I clocked in at just under nine and a half minute miles. I’m totally fine with that, especially given that I only got in six weekend-warriorish weeks of training beforehand. And, other than not being able to walk so well for a day or two afterwards, no serious damage done – I may be up for another long race as early as December. (This is quite a contrast with my failed attempt to run the DC Cherry Blossom ten-miler earlier this year: Then, my feet fell apart. I’m now an enthusiastic convert to the Vibram toe-shoes.)
Also, after a slog through A Feast of Crows in particular, I am now totally caught up with George R.R. Martin on A Song of Ice and Fire. And, well, there is a definite drop in quality after the first three books: Four and five are far more meandering (Martells and Tyrells? 1100 pages and Tyrion still hasn’t met up with Dany?) and repetitive (drink every time somebody says “words are wind“) than they need to be. Still, I’ve read worse: Count me in for Winds of Winter, if and when it ever drops. In the meantime, I’ll be ensconced in Steve Erikson’s ten-tome Malazan Book of the Fallen.
“‘In the movie, they play it like it’s a drama,’ said Forkan…’There’s no mugging for the camera. Everything has this level of seriousness. In the “Oath of the Horatii” they’re talking about the future of Rome. In the film they’re talking about a rug that got peed on, but they’re as serious about that as the characters in the painting were. I liked that level of drama in these images that were also loaded with humor.’“
“We decided to walk around and for a moment we were like, ‘Are we in Toronto?’ We covered most of downtown in an hour. But as the days went on, we realized that there is great food, it’s very eclectic, and the vibe is quite funky.“
“[T]he detail is stunning in his original high-res version. You can see craters on Tethys, and the thick atmosphere enshrouding Titan (including the north polar haze cap). The image is very close to natural color, so this is approximately what you would see if you were there (shortly before freezing and asphyxiating, but what a way to go).“
Propaganda or no, a fully-armed and operational battle station would seem to be approaching Saturn’s moon of Titan in this breathtaking image by Gordan Ugarkovic, taken from data by the Cassini spacecraft. “Spacecraft and observatories store their images on hard drives, and anyone with access and the knowledge of how to process that data — no simple task, I assure you! — can use it to do their own work.“
“All you lazy people out there who want to get maximum effect from minimum work, I want you to meet the arch-idler of all time, Terry “Python” Gilliam!” Via the Twitter machine, Terry Gilliam, circa 1974, explains the craft of cut-out animation. “The problem when you’re doing cutouts is to be totally aware of the limitations…I’m always accused of doing violent things, well, it’s because of the nature of cut-outs.“
“He told one British journalist that ‘conversations with two friends…influenced me. Each of them had been wounded in the war, one of them very seriously The first one told some very funny stories about his war experiences, but the second one was unable to understand how any humour could be associated with the horror of war. They didn’t know each other and I tried to explain the first one’s point of view to the second. He recognized that traditionally there had been lots of graveyard humour, but he could not reconcile it with what he had seen of war. It was after that discussion that the opening of Catch-22 and many incidents in it came to me.‘”
“At first, divers will play back one of eight “words” coined by the team to mean “seaweed” or “bow wave ride”, for example. The software will listen to see if the dolphins mimic them. Once the system can recognise these mimicked words, the idea is to use it to crack a much harder problem: listening to natural dolphin sounds and pulling out salient features that may be the ‘fundamental units’ of dolphin communication.“
As it happens, the iPad wasn’t the only modern technology predicted by Douglas Adams. Researchers at Georgia Tech and the Wild Dolphin Project develop a machine that will (hopefully) speak dolphin — or at least speak at dolphins. Says a skeptic: “‘Imagine if an alien species landed on Earth wearing elaborate spacesuits and walked through Manhattan speaking random lines from The Godfather to passers-by.’”
“I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:
1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
“For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda. Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must — and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.“
Unfortunately (and of course), that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. Instead, Congress is laying the foundation fora wider war: “Contained in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 is a new authorization to use military force that would grant the executive branch the power to ‘address the continuing and evolving threat posed by these groups.’ In practice, that means the president could use military force against any suspected terrorist across the globe — indefinitely.“
Indefinite war? No thanks. There’s been an eerie touch of Emmanuel Goldstein in the way Bin Laden was used to justify all manner of extraconstitutional actions and civil liberties violations under Dubya — actions that have beenratifiedand continued under Obama. Now that the Bogeyman is dead, it’s time to stand down. It’s time to start acting like America again.
“As the Evil Queen, Olivia Wilde joins Alec Baldwin as the spirit of the magic mirror from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’ In the dark depths of her lair, the Queen has summoned the mirror’s spirit through wind and darkness to reveal the identity of a lovelier maid than she. The caption reads, ‘Where magic speaks, even when you’re not the fairest of them all.’“
“Mr. Freeman at least lived up to Mr. Jackson’s billing, offering a comic denial that the ‘Hobbit’ project was cursed. Despite the many setbacks the films had faced, Mr. Freeman told Agence France-Presse, “we’re ready to go – just as soon as 2015 comes around.” While PJ recovers from recent surgery, the cast of The Hobbit get ready to embark on a grand adventure. Cue the Glenn Yarborough…
In related news: In Soviet Russia, the Ring carries you…Salon‘s Laura Miller takes a gander at Yisroel Markov’s The Last Ringbearer, a Russian fan-fictiony novel purporting to tell the War of the Ring from Sauron’s side. “In Yeskov’s retelling, the wizard Gandalf is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science ‘destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!’ He’s in cahoots with the elves, who aim to become ‘masters of the world,’ and turn Middle-earth into a ‘bad copy’ of their magical homeland across the sea.”
“There is no shortage of proposals for radically innovative space launch schemes that, if they worked, would get us across the valley to other hilltops considerably higher than the one we are standing on now–high enough to bring the cost and risk of space launch down to the point where fundamentally new things could begin happening in outer space. But we are not making any serious effort as a society to cross those valleys. It is not clear why.“
“In the 1930s, while painters are celebrating skyscrapers and cars and the angular delights of modernity, Hopper’s reaction to the modern is to stake out a timeless urban streetscape or rural view. He retreats to the countryside and paints small towns and American scenes…He likes women in impossibly tight dresses; men rarely escape the costumes of their profession; and public places promise no interaction (for this reason he repeatedly painted the lonely movie theater in his neighborhood).“
Star Trek: Into Khan (4/10) The Great Gatsby (7.5/10) Iron Man 3 (8.5/10) Oblivion (6.5/10) To the Wonder (3/10) Side Effects (6/10) West of Memphis (7/10) GitM BEST OF 2012 GitM Review Archive
Hidden Cities, Moses Gates
What It Takes, Richard Ben Cramer Founding Finance, William Hogeland Twilight of the Elites, Chris Hayes Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams The Forever War, Joe Haldeman Uphill all the Way, Kevin Murphy