Mars Is a Hellhole: Colonizing the red planet is a ridiculous way to help humanity.

Some of Elon Musk’s stunts have caught my attention. He was involved in founding the company that became PayPal (which I use from time to time, to accept freelance payments and to pay other freelancers), and I can see a lot of people would benefit from the high-speed train systems he has advocated, but I have never been inspired by anything he says. In The Atlantic, Shannon Stirone does a…

Op-ed: QAnon, the Holocaust and the deadly power of conspiracy theories

The Holocaust was the most murderous and massive manifestation of Jew hatred — and it began and ended with the aid of conspiracy theories. State-sponsored conspiracism fueled the genocide of 6 million innocent human beings. A major pillar of Nazi ideology — and an effective method of drumming up anti-Semitism — was the false accusation that Jews had “stabbed Germany in the back” during World War I. […] One of…

Most Americans have a high opinion of the humanities, and 81% use at least one humanities-related skill on the job

While some survey respondents were unfamiliar with the term “humanities” (apparently guessing that it had to do with the study of the human body), once they were given the definition “studying or participating in activities related to literature, languages, history, and philosophy,” most respondents had a high opinion of the subject. Predictably, people who were educated at liberal-arts colleges were the most favorable towards the humanities, but science and engineering…

Fun and Games with Samuel Beckett and Pict.

Beckett’s masterpiece Waiting For Godot was once famously described as ‘the play where nothing happens – twice.’ First produced in French and then re-written by Beckett into English, it remains one of the most significant plays of the twentieth century. Beckett described it as a tragi-comedy: it has as much comedy within the characters and the plot as it does tragedy, and is, perhaps, the ultimate play concerning the human…

Making Connections in Virtual One-Shots

I often invite my colleague Kelly Clever to give the “library session” to my freshman writing students. Of course there’s only so much anyone can accomplish in a single session, but my students often credit her for helping them make the leap from a general idea to a well-formed research question. Maybe they end up changing their topic a few weeks later, but the good experiences they have during the…

Why Computers Will Never Write Good Novels

If it were possible to build a digital novelist or poetry analyst, then computers would be far more powerful than they are now. They would in fact be the most powerful beings in the history of Earth. Their power would be the power of literature, which although it seems now, in today’s glittering silicon age, to be a rather unimpressive old thing, springs from the same neural root that enables…