Not Much More Than Meets The Eye

Just saw Transformers and it was everything I expected: big and loud. Cars turned into robots. Things exploded. A good time was had by all.

One question though: What is this?

Update: Phil Plait, the best bad astronomer around, reviews the science of the movie. He too wants to know what’s up with this whole Cloverfield thing.

Three Cheers For The Average User

Emily over at Library Revolution brings up a point that relates, tangentially, to something I mentioned recently in regards to Michael Gorman and his fear of a user-contributed world:

My husband and I recently took our son to the Bronx zoo, where we were in for a treat – se got to see an Okapi up close and personal. Apparently, even in the zoo it is rare to see an Okapi up close – they usually hide in the back of the exhibit. But that day the Okapi was interested in being social and was right there up by the glass.
After talking to one of the zoo guides about this interesting and unique creature and the fact that it is unusual to get such a good look, I was curious. So when I got home I took a few minutes to look up the Okapi online. I just wanted to get a little bit information, so I ended up on Wikipedia, of course. There I learned a few facts about its habitat and behavior, including the interesting fact that they like to eat the burnt wood left over from a lighting strike.

And that was enough for me. It’s all I wanted or needed to know.

So when I have conversations with librarians concerned that people are using the internet to get fast, basic information instead of coming in to the library for “real” research, I have a hard time thinking that is always a bad thing.

Don’t get me wrong. Students need to use good, reliable sources for their research, and a quick Wikipedia reference just isn’t going to cut it. Medical questions, financial questions, and other really important topics should be handled carefully and researched in much more depth. There are plenty of times when there is just no replacement for good, solid library research with the help of an information professional.

But this wasn’t one of them. And there are lots of instances when basic information gained quickly is more than sufficient. I didn’t need (or want) to delve into great tomes of zoological knowledge to learn detailed Okapi facts. I didn’t need to access scientific journals via complex databases or double check the citations and cross references for multiple sources.

This is an important development that often gets overlooked, not just by librarians but by most people in general when discussing the web: people know how to use it to find basic facts and figures that they otherwise wouldn’t. They may not be expert searchers but– and this is the real kicker– they don’t have to be. 9 times out of 10, people use the Internet to find out some basic info on Okapi, or the name of that actor, the one who plays the Lead Tenor in ‘Springtime for Hitler” in the Producers. He looks really familiar, but what’s his name? It’s easy to find out– grab the laptop, jump on line and go to IMDB. (He’s John Barrowman, better known as Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who).

Ten years ago, this answer would have been a lot harder to find out. Sure, you could wait for the credits to roll and pause the VCR, squint and go, “John Barrowman? Well great, I know his name, but what else has he been in?” You would have then had to have gone to the library, asked for a movie guide and hoped they had an up to date one, which they probably didn’t. Now, a few clicks of the mouse and you’re informed. Maybe it’s trivial information but you now know something you didn’t before and more than that, you know where to find information like that, again. Most information needs are like this, which is the dirty secret reference librarians don’t tell you. I do five hours a week on the reference desk and most of my questions are: Can I borrow your stapler? Where are the periodicals? and Why doesn’t my login info work on this computer? Every once in a while though, you get a meaty little research question. I had one recently that made my pulse jump because it was actually interesting: Are their any manifestos about Earthworks and nature installations? A student was writing a paper on Earth Art, like the Spiral Jetty or the Gates and wanted to know if there was any document that laid out the reasons and theories that motivate artists to create these works. She was interested in the history of them as well but wasn’t sure where to draw the line. Did Earth Works go back only to the Sixties or should she include ancient works like the Nazca Lines or Stonehenge? This is the sort of question that involves doing complex searching on databases and looking for books on the topic, a job that requires searching skills. Finding out about John Barrowman’s acting career? Not so much. Knowing the difference between the two types of information is important but recognizing that most people these days can find the easy stuff on their own — that’s huge.

Harry Potter Predictions

Salon has their predictions for how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows will turn out. it’s a mixed bag, which just underscores what an accomplishment J.K. Rawling has made: able to write a multi volume epic that not only has gained interest as it’s proceeded but has everyone guessing what will happen next. So, My two cents:

Yes, Dumbledore is dead. Get over it. doesn’t mean he won’t influence the story or even make an appearance in a portraits or two. But yeah, pushing up magical daisy’s, he is.

Snape is Dumbledore’s man. Always has been. Harry will just have to deal with the fact that, while not a nice person, Severus Snape is a good guy, who has sacrificed an awful lot for the Order and the general cause of Good. He’s killed, and not just random death eaters but friends and even family members. he’s also killed the one man who trusted him and knew that he was really doing it all for the better. he probably won’t survive.

Harry is the seventh horcrux. Or, more precisely, his scar is. The night his parents were killed, Voldemort’s magic backfired and part of him ended up in Harry. That’s why Harry’s a parsilmouth, was drawn to the twin wand of Voldemort and why the sorting hat wanted to put him in Slytherin House. It’s why Voldemort want’s him dead– not only will it remove an enemy, it will make him whole. Harry will most likely die but there is one possible loophole: Harry looses his magic when he looses his scar and Voldemort bites it. Though a squib, he continues to live.

Ron and Hermione live happily ever after. It takes them a while to get there, as they have to deal with their feelings and just being a teenager but eventually they have lots of red headed babies who are super smart. This doesn’t mean things are going to be hunky dory for the Weasley’s, however.

Bill Weasley will die Unable to cope with his slow transformation and disfigurement, he will become reckless and through doing something totally heroic and stupid, will save lives by sacrificing himself.

Harry and Ginny will have one brief, happy moment together. Then Harry will die. Or He’ll become a squib, and live the rest of his life surrounded by friends and family but unable to do anything but be the rich, former wizard. He’ll be bitter and resentful but will have won. But he’ll probably die.

Petunia Dursley will help Harry. Either by giving him something of his mother’s or what, I don’t know, but she’ll do something redeeming. Dudly’s a lost cause though. Maybe a Death Eater will get him? Who knows.

Anything I missed?