The West Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapse and Other Portents of Doom

Climate Change

The New York Times on the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Paul Krugman, “Points of No Return.”

Eyder Peralta, “New Report Finds Climate Change Already Having Broad Impact.”

Gerry Canavan on “Dystopia, Anti-Utopia, and the End of the World.”

Peter Frase, “Adjusting to the Apocalypse.”

A very interesting piece at Jacobin reflecting on an analogy between abolitionists and environmentalists: Matt Karp, “A Second Civil War.”

Roger Peet, “A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis.”

Martin Lukacs, “New, Privatized African City Heralds Climate Apartheid.”

Julie Beck on John Oliver’s “Statistically Representative Climate Change Debate.”

Saskia Sassen, “Countdown to Oblivion: The Real Reason We Can’t Stop Global Warming.”

Mike Wall, “To Combat Climate Change, Humanity Must Act Now, NASA Chief Says.”

Brad Plumer, “Five Horrifying Maps of America’s Massive Drought.”

And “Picture This: U.S. Cities Under 12 Feet of Sea Level Rise.” An example:

The Back Bay in Boston under 12 Feet of Sea Level Rise

The Back Bay in Boston under 12 Feet of Sea Level Rise

But don’t fret, “This Couple is Making Roads Out of Solar Panels, and They Actually Work.”

And Michelle Nijhuis, “How to Laugh at Climate Change.”


NSA and National Security State

Coral Davenport, “Climate Change Deemed Growing Security Threat by Military Researchers.”

Glen Greenwald, “‘I Have Been to the Darkest Corners of the Government, and What they Fear is Light.'”

Michael Paterniti on Glen Greenwald, “The Man Who Knows Too Much.”

Democracy Now: “‘The Stuff I Saw Really Began to Disturb Me’: How the U.S. Drone War Pushed Snowden to Leak the NSA Docs.”

Jason N. Breslow, “How Edward Snowden Leaked ‘Thousands’ of NSA Documents.”

Willie Osterweil, “Hollywood’s Love Affair with Surveillance.”


International Affairs

Ioan Grillo, “How Russia Arms America’s Southern Neighbors.”

Mary Beth Quirk, “Europe’s Highest Court Tells Google People Have the ‘Right to be Forgotten.'”


H.R.Giger Art 75

US Culture and Literature

H. R. Giger will be missed.

Bhaskar Sunkara, “Let’s Embrace the End of Food.”

My friend David Letzler is cited in the new Wikipedia entry on the “Encyclopedic Novel.”

Mark Strauss, “A Key Reason Why U.S. Politicians Don’t Understand Science.”

Anthony Lane reviews Godzilla (2014) in “Big Guy” for The New Yorker.

“Super Mario World Meets Game of Thrones.”

Matt Seidel, “The Worst Book Review Ever.”

And more from Salon‘s deluge on irony: Laura Miller, “What Hannah Arendt Understood About Irony that David Foster Wallace Didn’t.” (This is an interesting piece, but I continue to not understand why DFW is being yoked into these discussions, esp. in the title [unless it is to generate hits . . .]. Even a brief traipsing through DFW’s work will reveal his deep understanding of laughter and the need for irony–and indeed, from most people I’ve talked to, Infinite Jest and his short fiction and essays produce that rare gift: laughing out loud from reading. At the end of the day this is really an interesting interview with Marie Louise Knott on Arendt, but again the interviewee understands irony better than the people yoking DFW into their conversation: “Media irony is the result of a society, where people are thought of as consumers, while Arendt’s irony is the contrary. She wants to get closer to reality by overcoming her own impediments of thinking.” Wallace’s own use of irony [not what he says about television and media] seems to accomplish something similar. . . .)

And more! A pretty interesting piece on “normcore.” R. Jay Magill, Jr., “Irony, Sincerity, and Normcore: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Foster Wallace, and the End of Rebellion”: “the specialness of individual rebelliousness is over. The cultural power granted to symbols and accouterments of dissent — signs once referring to the bourgeois person’s cheeky, recalcitrant individuality, his or her deep infusion with modernism — only work when they remain in the margins, when they mean something over and against what everyone else is doing.” (There’s something the Frankfurt School said about this . . . and holy moly I miss the 19990s! Oh Wait.)



Andrew Leonard, “Why the ’90s are Literally Disappearing from History.” Well, there goes my youth.



Mark Strauss, “The Astronomer Who Wanted to Rearrange the Solar System, Using Nukes.”

Clara Moskowitz, “Why Science Could be Close to Solving the Biggest Mystery in the Universe.”

Sarah Charley on Mark Kuse and N. Katherine Hayle’s team-taught class at Duke: “Science Fiction or Science Fact?”


Humanities and Higher Ed

Thomas Frank, “Congratulations Class of 2014: You’re Totally Screwed.”

Rebecca Schuman, “Confessions of a Grade Inflator.”

Colleen Flaherty on the lightning fast dismissal of faculty at Quinnipiac University, “Jobless in Two Days.”

Ollivier Dyens, “How Artificial Intelligence is About to Disrupt Higher Education.”

Michael S. Roth, “Young Minds in Critical Condition.”

Jonathan Gatehouse, “American Dumbs Down.”

Tom Nichols, “The Death of Expertise.”

To end on a note of laughter: A history of Europe through student writing. Anders Henrikkson, “A History of the Past: Life Reeked with Joy.”


And I will soon have two new poems, “Oceanic” and “Survival City,” appearing in the third volume of PELT, a publication of the Organization for Poetic Research.

Abstract: Apoclaypse on Repeat: William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All and the Nuclear Imagination

Below is an abstract for a paper I will be presenting at the 2014 American Literature Association Conference, taking place May 22-25. I will be presenting this paper on a panel organized by the William Carlos Williams society, titled, “William Carlos Williams: The Poet-Doctor as Environmentalist.” The panel will be taking place 11:10-12:30 on May 23.

Apocalypse on Repeat: William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All and the Nuclear Imagination

Long out of print after their initial publication in 1923, the prose sections of Spring and All offer remarkable critical avenues for discussing William Carlos Williams’s environmentalism. Serving as both a frame for some of his more well-known poetry and a theoretical engagement with the volume’s central concern—the imagination—the prose of Spring and All cannot help but strike a contemporary reader with its anticipation of the post-apocalyptic and eco-disaster narratives of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. To begin the aesthetic work of poetic composition, Spring and All enacts total destruction followed by material repetition in order to allow Williams to formulate an imagination distinct from a romantic apocalyptic, a formulation essential for the development of his ecopoetics. The imagination in Spring and All is a material force. It is vibrant, organic, and radioactive. It is scientific and geological, and it is concerned with atomic physics well before the atom was split. This paper will argue that Spring and All articulates what I have called elsewhere a nuclear imagination. Drawing upon current reconsiderations of modernism’s relationship to atomic technology and my own conversations with J. Hillis Miller about Williams’s poetry and romanticism, I will suggest that Williams, through embracing this destructive, recursive, ironic, nuclear imagination, abandons an eschatology that could in any way be positive, even as something to be gone “beyond.” In this way, reconsidering Spring and All opens up a space for the contemporary environmental imagination that is neither apocalyptic nor post-apocalyptic, but rather thoroughly material and ecological.

Science Fiction, Science Fact, and Other Links

Science Fiction, Science Fact

Claire Cain Miller and Chi Birmingham, “A Vision of the Future From Those Likely to Invent It” and Risa Marisa, “All the Time Science Fiction Became Science Fact in One Chart.”

Deobrah K. Fitzgerald, “At MIT, the Humanities Are Just as Important as STEM.”

Early Octavia Butler stories coming out soon.

Samuel R. Delany reviews Star Wars (1977).


Inside the Hyperarchive

The CIA as patron of the arts.

Robert Darnton, “A World Digital Library is Coming True!”

One from the archives: Hunter S. Thompson, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.”


Humor and Other Petty Tragedies

On Joel McHale’s White House Correspondents Dinner. The line of the evening: “All right, how about the president’s performance tonight, everyone? Sir, it’s amazing that you can still bring it with fresh, hilarious material. My favorite bit of yours was when you said you would close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. That was a classic. That was hilarious, hilarious. Still going.”

On George Saunders and David Foster Wallace’s commencement speeches.

Student debt relief for adjuncts.

And graaaading.

May Links

Digital Culture

Conor Friedersdorf, “The Strangest Interview Yet With the Outgoing Head of the NSA.”

And here’s John Oliver’s interview with General Keith Alexander, outgoing head of the NSA.

Adam Kirsch, “Technology is Taking Over English Departments: The False Promise of the Digital Humanities.”

Nilay Patel, “The Internet is Fucked.”

Mark Sample on torture in videogames, “Sites of Pain and Telling.”

An interview with Brian Tomasik, who thinks killing videogame characters is immoral.

On work in videogames: Steven Poole, “Working for the Man.”

Rey Junco, “Beyond ‘Screen Time’: What Minecraft Teaches Kids.”



A very important essay that’s been making the rounds: Junot Díaz, “MFA vs. POC.”

Prachi Gupta, “Inside Junot Díaz’s Class at MIT: What the Writer Wants His Students to Read.”

Will Self, “The Novel is Dead (This Time It’s for Real).”

Matt Daniels, “The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop” (no surprise, it’s Aesop Rock).



Roc Morin on Rob Rhinehart and Soylent, “The Man Who Would Make Food Obsolete.”

Lisa Wade, “What Do Professors Do All Day?”

Laura Tanenbaum for Jacobin, “Mad Men in a Mad World.”

Paul Krugman on Cliven Bundy, “High Plains Moochers.”

Charles B. Pierce, “A Fan’s Worst Nightmare: The Many Problems with Donal Sterling.”