Links in the Time of Coronavirus, Vol. 1: March 11–April 15, 2020

I originally intended in late May 2020, when the spring semester was finally over and I had some time to finish “Spring 2020 Links (Pre-COVID-19),” to post one big link dump for coronavirus-related things. But the hyperarchival barrage of news over the past three months, including everything that has happened in the United States the past three weeks (combined with how little time I still have . . .), has made it clear that it would be better to divide posts into smaller, more manageable bits. So here is everything I came across from March 11-April 15, 2020. More to come soon.

Sheri Fink and Mike Baker, “‘It’s Just Everywhere Already’: How Delays in Testing Set Back the US Coronavirus Response.”

The New York Times, “Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak,” “Coronavirus in the US: Latest Map and Case Count” and “Coronavirus Tips, Advice and Answers to Your New Questions.”

IHME, “COVID-19 Projections.”

Katie Zezima, Joel Achenbach, Tim Craig, and Lena H. Sun, “Coronavirus Is Shutting Down American Life as States Try to Battle Outbreak.”

 

Coronavirus Think Pieces (General)

Laurie Penny, “This Is Not the Apocalypse You Were Looking For.”

Naomi Klein, “Coronavirus Capitalism–and How to Beat It.”

Frank Pasquale, “Two Timelines of COVID Crisis.”

Arundhati Roy, “The Pandemic Is a Portal.”

Anne Applebaum, “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff.”

Dan Kois, “America Is a Sham.”

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The Seventieth Anniversary of the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Other Links

Nuclear and Environmental

Thomas Powers, “Was It Right?”

Jonah Walters, “A Guide to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Attacks.”

Colin Wilson, “The Slaughter of Hiroshima.”

The New York Times, “Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Revives Debate Over the Atomic Bomb.”

Christian Appy, “The Indefensible Hiroshima Revisionism that Haunts America to This Day.”

Rebecca J. Rosen, “Rare Photo of the Mushroom Cloud Over Hiroshima Discovered in a Former Japanese Elementary School.”

Paul Ham, “The Bureaucrats Who Singled Out Hiroshima for Destruction.”

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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.”

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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.

 

Science

Earth twin found. And here.

Climate change is not natural.

A space elevator? . . . almost.

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Big News in Science and Other Links

Science

The first evidence for cosmic inflation–i.e., the Big Bang–was discovered this week.

Megan Garber at The Atlantic, “What It’s Like to be Right About the Big Bang?”

The search for Flight MH370 is revealing one thing: the ocean is filled with garbage.

Kim Stanley Robinson alert: Paul Rosenfeld, “Would You Take a One-Way Ticket to Mars?”

And as part of his forthcoming 3 million page novel, Breeze Avenue (2015), Richard Grossman has buried a crystal ball deep inside of Princeton Mountain in Colorado. The ball, “made of synthetic sapphire, which is almost as indestructible as diamond,” has the Ten Commandments inscribed on it in Hebrew, and in “20 million years, as a result of natural forces carefully calculated by the geologists, the Torah Ball will emerge from its eroded resting place and bear the Ten Commandments down the mountain.” Hyperarchivalists of the deep future rejoice!

Richard Grossman, The Torah Ball (Synthetic Sapphire, Princeton Mountain, 20 Million Years of Erosion, 2011).

Richard Grossman, The Torah Ball (Synthetic Sapphire, Princeton Mountain, 20 Million Years of Erosion, 2011).

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What Will Probably be an Ongoing Series Reporting on the (Premature, Exaggerated, and Just Wrong) Reports About the Death of the Humanities and the End of Literature as We Know It With Links

David Brooks’s 20 June 2013 op-ed piece for The New York Times, “The Humanist Vocation,” in which he declares that the humanities are in decline, has sparked a flurry of debate and response. One of these reasons for the flurry of commentary is that the issue is more complicated than Brooks allows for in his quite brief piece (and he’s simply wrong on a few points, see Michael Bérubé below). Another reason for the considerable response is that his discussion of the humanities cuts to the bone for those of us who actually work in the humanities. (Certainly for me, as will be apparent below.)

Brooks’s article accompanied a report released by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences titled The Heart of the Matter, which takes the familiar line of: the humanities have to “retool” to fit the changes presented by our networked, scary world, with its new global economy, etc. This is not a quote,[1] but for anyone who has been following the discussions about the crisis in the humanities/higher education for the last five (or thirty) years, the kind of language The Heart of the Matter employs is familiar in its generality and emptiness, along with its refusal to look at how successful the humanities have been for the last five, ten, thirty, seventy, two-hundred, one-thousand . . . years. Indeed, part of its long-term success is that the humanities teach and emphasize old school things, like reading and writing. And that, despite all claims to the contrary (and with the requisite nods to the many questions posed about reading and writing during the theory boom, as well as to Marshall McLuhan and Friedrich Kittler), reading and writing do not change all that much, and haven’t for a long time.[2] To suggest that the technological changes bombarding us are going to remake the world and the people in it—how we interact and communicate, how we understand our place in the world—is to point out the blatantly obvious. But to suggest that the incredibly slow moving institution of humanistic study needs to rapidly change to meet these “new challenges,” is both to fundamentally misunderstand how the humanities work and to misunderstand the achievements made possible by an institution that is fundamentally stable[3] (i.e., grounded upon things—reading and writing—that do not change all that much[4]). Certainly humanistic study will have to change in some ways in these hyperarchival times, but I am of the mindset that the stability afforded by the humanities also gives them incredible flexibility to respond to and reflect upon the world. If you tend not to think the humanities is incredibly capable in terms of helping us understand, comment upon, change, and, perhaps most importantly, imagine the world . . . then you clearly haven’t studied the humanities, or at least not very well.

And I guess this is the whole point. For it is not just David Brooks that is telling me that my vocation does not matter, my students do as well (which is way worse). It seems easier and easier every semester for my, say, engineering students to inform me—thank you, by the way—that my class does not matter to them, because it will not help them get the job they want. That the stuff we are doing in this class—reading poetry, writing about it—does not matter. These skills do not pertain to their lives. Okay. Sure. I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. I’m not. In my experience, if this is your attitude, there is only like a 1% chance I’m going to change your mind. And I’m just not interesting, charismatic, personable, or smart enough to do so. I’ve tried. I know. But of course you are able to say how this class does not matter and will not matter for you imagined-engineering-student because . . . you know very little about the humanities (which is why you are here anyway!). You also don’t know much about your own life yet, really.[5] Nor the future. Nor what skills you will actually need. Nor history. Etc. In other words, you are in a unique position. You are sitting in front of me because you do not know these things yet. You know a lot, certainly, and I can only teach you so much, and perhaps you will be able to teach me far more than I could teach you. But I do know a thing or two about literature, and I do know why it might be worthwhile to study. (And I’m certainly learning more every day. It is my job after all.) If you really knew this stuff, you would not need an education, at least from me. To base arguments for or against the humanities on undergraduate enrollment (undergrad enrollment is fine, by the way) as Brooks does, or on what undergraduates think they need, or in the way that undergraduates are now almost universally treated as consumers, again misunderstands the goals of the humanities, and certainly misunderstands the very concept of education. Imagined-engineering-student, you are in my seemingly unimportant classroom for a number of reasons, but one of those is because you cannot possibly know yet how learning to critically think, to closely read, and to carefully write will help you in the future. You can’t. Please stop informing me otherwise. And that way we can get to the really fun stuff. Which is, by the way, humanistic study.

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