Poetry, Metal, Irony, and Other Links


Michael Robbins has a great piece in this months Harper’s, “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives: A Poet’s Guide to Metal,” which, in the space of six pages, is able to reference John Milton, Rainer Maria Rilke, Black Sabbath, and Converge. I did not know that could be done. (Even R., who tends to abhor whenever anything loud and screamy even gets near our home’s turntable, enjoyed this piece.) Highlights of the short essay include: quoting a number of lines from William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” and commenting, “sounds pretty metal to me”; describing a Converge show where they “took over that space like a bellowing wooly rhino crashing into a Pleistocene clearing. . . . It’s war music” (a pretty accurate description); and some reflections on metal and capital: “Sometimes I wonder what metal would sound like after capitalism, or whether we would even need metal then. I wonder the same about poetry.”

More DFW stuff. Peter Finocchiaro, “What David Foster Wallace Got Wrong About Irony: Our Culture Doesn’t Have Nearly Enough of It,” which, strangely enough, is actually an interview with Jonathan Lear about irony (rather than an article specifically about DFW’s sense of irony). In my revised version of an essay that will appear in David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing” (forthcoming July 2014), I make some similar points about the need for irony at the present time. That said, Lear seems to have a better handle on Wallace’s specific take on irony from the television essay than Finocchiaro, emphasizing that DFW was both a gifted ironist himself and that, in “E Unibus Pluram,” he is critiquing institutionalized irony, which I think all us post-ironists or new sincerity people would do well to heed, along with Lear’s acknowledgment that irony can actually be a from of earnestness: “There’s a very famous quote from Kierkegaard — or, I don’t know how famous it is, but it’s one of my favorites — where he said, it’s ‘only assistant professors’ who think irony can’t be a form of earnestness. Basically his claim is that irony when properly understood is a very high form of sincerity and earnestness, not its opposite. As he put it, it’s a real misunderstanding of what irony is to think it’s the opposite of earnestness toward commitment.” I feel the earnestness or “sincerity” of irony as it plays out in DFW’s work and thinking has been something that has been overlooked to the detriment of both our understanding of DFW and irony more generally.

Alex C. Madrigal and Adrienne LaFrance, “Net Neutrality: A Guide to (and History of) a Contested Idea.”

Dexter Filkins writes a letter from Iraq in The New Yorker, “What We Left Behind.”

And from the University of Pittsburgh’s great graduate student film blog, Kevin Flanagan on “Introduction to Applied Airport Studies.”

Digging Up the Archive

One of the biggest apocryphal tales in videogame history involves the reported burying of thousands of copies of E. T. the Extraterrestrial (Atari Inc., 1982) after its historic flop. The game, a poorly designed and nearly unplayable mess, such a mess that E. T. has become shorthand for many of the things wrong with the videogame industry now and then, was initially rushed to stores by the holiday shopping season to capitalize on the success of Spieleberg’s film by the same name. The sales of the game were so bad that supposedly Atari had nearly a million copies left unsold, which disappeared and rumors circulated that many of these unsold cartridges were buried. And they were! reports on Microsoft’s uncovering of these buried games in “30 Years Later, Microsoft Uncovers Buried E. T. Cartridges,” which has been done in coordination with making a documentary about the search for this buried archive. Next up, Microsoft will try to find Jimmy Hoffa.


The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities and Other Links

This winter’s special issue of differences, “In the Shadows of the Digital Humanities,” is looking like a must read for anyone interested in the subject. A number of important essays appear in the journal by a group of notable scholars, including an introduction by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Lisa Marie Rhody, and articles by Matthew Kirschenbaum, Richard Grusin, Adeline Koh, Alexander R. Galloway, David Golumbia, Patrick Jagoda, and many others.

And more on “relatable”: a very interesting piece by Lucy Ferriss, “I’m Relatable, You’re Relatable,” and an older one by Kit Nicholls, “The ‘Relatable’ Fallacy.”

The 2014 Hugo Awards have been announced, and Robert Jordan’s (and Brandon Sanderson’s) Wheel of Time got the nod. (I have a few brief words on the end of the series.) Note the exception to the Hugo rules that allow The Wheel of Time‘s nomination. . . .

Chay Close on Jazzpunk (Necrophone Games, 2014), “All Videogames Are a Joke.” Looks like I have something else to add to my summer indie game program.

More from the DFW-industry: Thorin Klosowski, “David Foster Wallace’s Best Productivity Tips.” Really?

Paul Barnwell, “My Students Don’t Know How to Have a Conversation.”

Tim Wu, “Goodbye, Net Neutrality; Hello, Net Discrimination,” and Kevin Drum, “Net Neutrality Finally Dies at Ripe Old Age of 45.”

Rebecca Schuman on student evaluations.

More End of Spring Semester 2014 Links

So because the semester is still winding down and I’m finding new oodles of time to post stuff, here’s some more links for the end of the semester.

Gabriel García Márquez

Since I posted last the world has seen the loss of one of its greatest writers, Gabriel García Márquez. In memoriam, some links.

Obituary at The New York Times. At The Huffington Post. A 1999 piece from The New Yorker. The New York Review of Books reviews One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1970.


National Security State

Vivian Salama, “Death From Above: How American Drone Strikes are Devastating Yemen.”

Edward Snowden discusses his conversation with Vladimir Putin.



Earth twin found. And here.

Climate change is not natural.

A space elevator? . . . almost.


US Culture and Literature

Grant Morrison’s Multiversity is finally coming out.

Trisha Brady on Herman Melville for boundary 2‘s Great American Author Series.

Living in the US will drive you insane.

Peter Frase, “The Comforts of Dystopia” at Jacobin.

Josh Eidelson, “Inmates to Strike in Alabama, Declare Prison is ‘Running a Slave Empire.'”



For all the teachers out there.

Izabella Kaminska, “The Postcapitalist Economy” at The New Inquiry.

More from The New Inquiry‘s “Money” issue.

On David Brooks and education.

End of the Semester Links Spring 2014

It’s been a busy end of the semester and I haven’t been able to post anything for a bit. So, now that I have a bit of time before the semester wraps up, here’s a bunch of stuff that has been happening the last few weeks. My apologies if I’m a bit late on some of these things.

Nuclear and Disaster

Laura Miller reviews Craig Nelson’s The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and the Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Age.

John Metcalfe, “What Famous Old Paintings Can Tell Us About Climate Change.”

Only .02% of published research rejects global warming.

Adam Weinstein, “Arrest Climate Change Deniers.”


Humanities and Higher Education

Robert N. Watson, “Bottom Line Shows Humanities Really Do Make Money.”

Not student debt, but the driving force of institutional debt in higher ed: “Revenue at Any Cost: Institutional Debt and the Crisis of U.S. Higher Education.”

More on institutional debt.

Something I wish all my students would read: Rebecca Onion, “The Awful Emptiness of ‘Relatable.'”

The University of Pittsburgh is twenty-second on this list of schools in terms of academic performance.

Derek Thompson, “Which College–And Which Major–Will Make You Richest?” Ugh. And “These U.S. Colleges and Majors Are the Biggest Waste of Money.” Double ugh.

Football players at Northwestern granted the right to unionize.

Elizabeth Segran, “What Can You Do with a Humanities Ph.D., Anyway?”

Professors are busy.

“Why Teaching Poetry is So Important.”

What’s wrong with the common core.


National Security State

Charles Savage, “Obama to Call for End to N.S.A.’s Bulk Data Collection.”

Daniel Schwartz, “Drone-Speak Lexicon: From ‘Bugsplat’ to ‘Targeted Killing.'”

Catherine Crump and Matthew Harwood, “Big Brother is Coming: Google, Mass Surveillance, and the Rise of the ‘Internet of Things.'”

David A. Graham, “Rumsfeld’s Knowns and Unknowns: The Intellectual History of a Quip.” And I’m actually teaching Alexander R. Galloway’s thoughts on “unknown unknowns” tomorrow.

Jon Queally, “Anger, Disbelief as Obama Defends US Invasion of Iraq.”

The painting of W. And more painting of W.

Why you should be worried about Heartbleed.

Bloomberg reports that NSA has used Heartbleed for years.

What Heartbleed has hit.

President Jimmy Carter calls America the #1 warmonger.

Russia and China are going to decouple trade from the dollar.

US Navy to use seawater as fuel.


US Literature and Culture

A must watch: Fredric Jameson’s radical solution for imagining a life after capitalism. I’m still mulling this over.

Martin Paul Eve, “Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace and the Problems of Metamodernism: Post-Millenial Post-Postmodernism?,” from the first issue of C21: Journal of 21st Century Writings.

DFW predicted selfie anxiety.

More on DFW and irony.

Andrew Hartman’s Great Books in US Intellectual History.

Jason Diamon, “2014 Will Be the Year of Lynne Tillman.”

The fifty science fiction novels you must read.

A study says Facebook is about to lose 80% of its users.

Derek Thompson, “How You, I, and Everyone Got the Top 1 Percent All Wrong.”

Evelyn Barish, from her new book on Paul de Man.


N. Katherine Hayles, Patrick Jagoda, and Patrick LeMieux on their Alternate Reality Game, Speculation. And there’s more here.

Jesse Stommel, “Toward an Interactive Criticism: House of Leaves as Haptic Interface.”

My colleague at Pitt, John Taylor, “Using Rodney Dangerfield to Rethink Masculinity in Reagan-Era Hollywood.”

“The Culture of Shut Up.”

The Postmodernism Generator: “Thus, the subject is contextualised into a precultural semioticist theory that includes narrativity as a totality.” How postmodern to have an algorithm that generates postmodernism.

A review of Jane Gregory’s My Enemies (2013) by Charles Altieri.

On Monument Valley (2014).




Annalee Newitz, “It Seems More and More Certain That we Live in a Multiverse.”

What happens when you stick your head in a particle accelerator.

A hidden ocean on Enceladus.



My friend Debra Lam is doing great work as Pittsburgh’s first Chief of Innovation and Performance, and received a glowing writeup in Next.

And seriously, check out Pittsburgh.

I wonder how this might effect our reading of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, “The Pseuo-Science of Alcoholics Anonymous: There’s a Better Way to Treat Addiction,” by Dr. Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes.

Edwin Lyngar, “I lost My Dad to Fox News: How a Generation Was Captured by Thrashing Hysteria.”

Goat Simulator.

“Dungeons & Dragons & Philosophers.”

Have you read this!!!?