No Hablas Internets

When we got home Monday from visiting my folks, we discovered that our cable was gone. The TV and the Internet connection were not just on the blink but non existent. A few phone calls later proved that we were without signal altogether. Then our DVD player died. I am so not making this up. A week before we leave, with emails and all sorts of Internet related work to be done and no internet, and–and!– no way to watch TV, which is a nice way to alleviate the boredom of packing, to have some noise in the background. It’s excruciating, I tell you.

If I can manage to get to a cafe or some place with free wifi, I’ll have a cat picture up before we hit the road. My plan is to still post pictures of our trip across the country so keep an eye out for those as well.

To Librarian or Not To Librarian

Reader Anon writes:

I was hoping I could pick your brain a bit. I’ve been thinking about getting a grad degree in library/information science.

It would be a second career after nine years as a journalist. Would you mind if I asked a few questions? Talking to someone in the profession would really help with my decision. This is what I’m curious to find out.

1. What drew you to the profession?
2. Was it a mid-career change or did you go right into it?
3. How hard was it to make ends meet while going to grad school?
4. How difficult is the course work?
5. How was the job search once you graduated? I keep hearing the job outlook is bleak for recent grads and there’s a lot of competition.
6. What do you love most about your job?
Any help you can give with this would be great.

Thanks a bunch!
Best, [name withheld]

I’ll take these one at a time:

Continue reading “To Librarian or Not To Librarian”

A Gaggle of Short Movie Reviews

The Incredible Hulk was better than I thought it would be and much better than Ang Lee’s Hulk. It ties into the mythology of the Marvel Universe well, setting up ideas like the Super Soldier program, eluding to Captain America and tying in nicely with a cameo by Tony Stark. The story was pretty well done and the big ‘ol fistfight between Hulk and Abomination was fun. And really, in a Hulk film, that’s all anyone is looking for. The film works better as a link in a larger story, building towards The Avengers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

To my surprise, Kung Fu Panda is a really good movie. It looked kinda dumb form the posters and the trailer made it look like a decent kid film but it has a lot of heart, a very solid story and some first-rate animation. Really beautiful. The writers walked fearlessly into a story about following your dreams, loving who you are, and appreciating your family, whatever shape it comes in, and turning these into real character moments without being too sentimental. It’s hard to do this in any film and next to impossible in an animated family movie. But they did it, making the best movie about talking animals who do Kung Fu you’ll see all year.

I’m not going to see The Happening, as I’ve given up on Shyamalan. He has a certain craftsmanship behind the camera and can come up with interesting if ill thought-out concepts but the man can’t tell a story to save his life. From what I’ve read so far, this one isn’t any better than Signs, which I discussed at length earlier. Pass.

Go West!

It’s been really hard to sit on this news for the last two moths but finally I can share our big announcement: Elvira and I are moving to Salem, Oregon!

After 13 way-too-long years,* we’re finally getting the fuck out of Georgia, packing up the cats and heading west.

We’ll be leaving on July 1st and arriving sometime on July 7th or 8th, with a stop over in Peoria, Illinois to visit Elvira’s brother. I’m planing on shooting photos of the trip and I hope to post those here on the blog while we’re on the road.

Regular posting for the next two weeks or so might be light, as we’re in the midst of packing, looking for an apartment on the other side of the country and all that fun stuff that comes with slowly dismantling one’s life, one box at a time.

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*Mostly. I was in Maryland for the better part of 2 years at grad school.

Ignore The Man In The Rubber Suit

John Scalzi wants to know why so many classic sci-fi films suck so bad:

It’s strange that such legitimately bad films are considered classic, but there are reasons. The first, I regret to say, is that for a very long time — from just after 1927’s Metropolis through 1968’s 2001 — the number of truly good science fiction films could be counted on one’s fingers. So the entire genre is graded on a curve. But the other thing is that science fiction films — like science fiction literature — value the idea over the idea’s delivery system. So if you deliver a 150-foot reptile who is the embodiment of the mid-20th Century fear of nuclear annihilation (like Gojira), or tap into the Baby Boomer terror of the death of its own beautiful youth (a la Logan’s Run), you can get away with letting a lot of other stuff slide, like plot, acting and production design.

Science fiction is a genre of ideas, but that’s still no excuse for shoddy production levels. And while I disagree about Gojira,* he does have a point: an awful lot of sci-fi films coast by on cool factor with hardly an effort at all given towards making it a good film. Sadly, this hasn’t really changed. Just because A list actors like to take a workman’s holiday and slick CG is now affordable, it doesn’t mean the widespread use of either as plot caulk makes the new crop of sci-fi films better than their rubber monster and stiff B actor progenitors.

We could just tally it up to Sturgeon’s Law, that 90% of everything is crap. But there’s more to it than that.

For many years, sci-fi was ostracized as kiddie fare. These were films to occupy the youngsters and if they taught a ham fisted moral along the way, all the better. It would keep the RIAA off their back and let the studio have the wiggle room to get that new starlet’s top off. For dramatic reasons, of course. Hollywood didn’t want to spend money or time investing in science fiction when their was adult drama to be made. And if a few weirdos back in the early days of cinema made some art out of sci-fi, well that was an accident. Let’s not let it happen again. It took the likes of Kubrick and the success of Star Wars to let Hollywood execs know that there was money to be made in science fiction. But they have yet to grasp that their can also be artistic gain from making good science fiction rather than just summertime cash cow action movies with vaguely science fictiony elements. And they won’t until some weirdo director’s sci-fi pet project wins an Oscar for something other than costumes or make-up.

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* The Godzilla films have their own unique aesthetic. The amateur effects and implausible biology are part of that, not a detractor form it. Godzilla is a pop art fever dream. It’s what goes on in your subconscious after coming down from a sugar and caffeine high and falling asleep in the clothes you wore to the amusement park. It jangles and unnerves and works under its own weird logic, like a Warhol painting or a Dada exhibition. It’s mythology and so doesn’t have to play by George Lucus’ or Stanly Kubrick’s rules.

They Are All Method Actors

So. Everyone’s favorite hobbit/senator, Denis Kucinich has brought 35 articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush. While on a righteous emotional level, I couldn’t be more thrilled, in the real world where these things have ramifications and exert pressure in numerous unforeseen and unforeseeable ways, it couldn’t matter less.

Don’t misunderstand: I applaud Kucinich. The man spent five hours reading a laundry list of reasons, all of them good and solid, for why George W. should not just be impeached but hauled off to the Hague for a war crimes trial and maybe even tried for treason. But– and this is the real point– none of these things are going to happen. So yeah, great. There’s a record for historians to look at showing that in 2008, at least one Democrat did in fact have a spine and sense of honor and integrity and justice and the wherewithal to do everything within his power to bring such lofty ambitions to fruition. But as John Scalzi pointed out, so what? The extent of Kucinich’s influence might be great and awe inspiring in Ohio but in the rest of the world, he’s a wacky old hippie who resembles an extra from Lord of the Rings, a Presidential also-ran with a hot wife and a sixth sense about UFOs. Kucinich can’t do anything more than speak this list of crimes into the public record. There is zero chance of anything coming from it. And as much as I’d like to see that petulant little twerp, George W. Bush, writhe under the spotlight of a senate trial for high crimes against the people of the United States, spending his last few months in office trying to convince the country and the whole world why we shouldn’t revile his name, shun his descendants to the seventh generation and salt the earth around his eventual grave, it ain’t gonna happen. Even Obama says so.*

There’s a threshold that a person crosses. It’s mostly invisible but once a person crosses it, they know with utter confidence that they have achieved enough power that no matter how bad they screw up, they won’t be held accountable. The reason is simple: to hold such a powerful person accountable for their wrongdoing would lay the blame on everyone below them and tangentially related to putting them in that position where they not only had the power to make such horrid choices but to have others execute them. Impeaching Bush wouldn’t just remove him form office.** It would show that any number of other powerful people were complicit in every single nefarious act, from holding hands with Saudi Princes to shitting all over New Orleans and fucking Iraq for generations. The Republican party helped him do it and the Democrats let him do it. And those facts would be dragged into the spot light, one by one, like so many stained blue dresses for the American people to see once and for all that we are ruled by a mob not of Legitimate Businessmen of Italian decent, but of venal old men with unsavory tastes and repulsive attachments to power for its own sake.

Ten points for style but minus a million for execution.

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* Not even in office yet and he’s already disappointing us. Oh well, get used to it.
** And leave Dick “I fuck goats for fun and sport” Chaney in his place, a truly terrifying proposition. He’d be sworn in to office on his personal copy of the Necronomicon, the one bound in the skin of Iraqi children, with a built in Nuclear strike button on the cover.

Meanwhile, In The Universe Next Door…

John Quiggin at Crooked Timber brings to our attention this not-so startling study, showing that:

[…] since 1972, at least 90 per cent of the books that have been published disputing mainstream environmental science have been produced by rightwing thinktanks or authors affiliated with such thinktanks. Symmetrically, at least 90 per cent of the rightwing thinktanks in the study contributed to this literature.

John draws a parallel with Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Tlön. Which is just absurd.

In Borges’ story, a group of wealthy elites are trying to reshape the world by replacing all standard, observable knowledge with bizarre pseudoscience and quasi-religious platonic ideals. Obviously, such a group of individuals, were they to exist, would be a collection of the word’s most deluded, sociopathic assholes with delusions of grandeur. No such people could ever attain any level of power without quickly exposing themselves as frauds. q.e.d., as they say.

Though if Dick Chaney was secretly the Heresiarch of Uqbar, it would explains the man-sized safe in his office…

We Are All Living In a Shotgun Shack

John Rogers eloquently explains something that needs a lot more attention:

[…] If we want our lives changed, if we want the world changed, we have to let go of that infantile need to assign such potent symbolic powers to our leaders. The bizarre hero-Daddy Bush worship that morphed into proxy-machismo for a lot of insecure Americans is what drove us down the off-ramp to a grand national K-hole in the first place. The struggle of Hillary Clinton is neither the struggle of feminism in America nor a inextricably tied to your own personal journey — it is her own, as an individual. In the same way, Senator Obama winning or losing the Presidency (independent of resultant policies, natch) will not in any significant material way change the lives of the majority of African-Americans, or those of his Millenial followers. We only derive from their struggles what value in our lives that we assign them. Senators Clinton and Obama are powerful symbols in addition to being generally admirable humans. But that can only go so far.

Senator Clinton is not your beautiful wife. Senator Obama is not your beautiful house. And Senator McCain sure as hell ain’t your fucking life. They are politicians. They’re human. They are not totems of platonic ideals duking it out on a psychic battlefield for the fate of the human race. They’re public servants applying for a job.

We treat our political leaders in a wildly confusing and inhumane way. We expect them to be Buddhas, beyond the enticement of mere mortal concerns, moral paragons, living saints. Then we want them to sit down and have a beer and shoot the shit, just like they were a coworker. Buddha does not drink your brand of beer. He sips chi out of the navel of cherubim and wipes his dainty lips on the shroud of Turin, removing stains with his fragrant kisses. Your coworker takes a shit when he gets home from work and admires the smell. Your coworker thinks Jim Carry is a pretty funny guy. Do you see the problem? While Uncle Walt* was right and we all contain multitudes, no one man or woman can contain such wild contradictions, because the idea of one man or woman standing up as a paragon of virtue is a god damn lie. And even if such a creature were plausible, we shouldn’t invest them with such power because, as Warren Ellis said, it invites the universe to fuck with you.

Looking for competent and not-insane politicians isn’t settling for second best, it’s your civic duty. We’re not nominating Jesus, we’re looking for a house keeper who can get the stains out of the carpet.† Because the last tenant shat in the sink and used the spare bedroom to breed ferrets. We’ll be lucky if the new guy can keep the place from being condemned.

If you have invested your candidate of choice with magical powers to right all past wrongs, then prepare to be seriously disappointed, forever. Because no one is going to solve your daddy issues or erase the stigma of racism or make all your feminist dreams come true. You don’t live in that universe.

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* Whitman, not Disney. That Uncle Walt is part of the problem, building robot presidents whose bowels remain unmoved and only speak in canned platitudes.

† Also, I want a “Tripod/Lord Whiskerkins ’08” tee shirt like five minutes ago.