Monthly Archives: November 2006

For your consideration

I went to the movies this weekend. It’s been ages since I did that. Somehow I usually can’t muster up the interest to go spend too much money to get to the flicks. But I like Christopher Guest and his wacky stock company so I took the time to go see For Your Consideration at the theatre. The plot is pretty simple. During the making of an independent film (“Home for Purim”), the veteran lead actress (Catherine O’Hara) learns there’s been some Internet buzz about her performance and a possible Oscar nod. Before long Oscar fever has swept the cast and the entertainment world.

There are some sidesplitting scenes–any of the footage of Home for Purim is worth the price of admission. I didn’t love the movie though and I came in prepared to do that. All the actors are incredible performers, but there is some unevenness in this movie and I’m not sure why. Catherine O’Hara really shines as the aptly named Marilyn Hack. There’s depth and pathos in her performance. I wonder if that’s the problem. She took her role to the next level and no one else did? Or perhaps it was out of place in this kind of film? I’m not sure. Worth seeing, but nowhere near as cohesively brilliant as Best in Show.

Google Answers is dead but are the GARs?

Many of the soon-to-be-ex-Google Answers Researchers are debating starting up a new service of their own. Meanwhile Yahoo Answers is inviting the GARs to check out their own service.

I know this isn’t the most popular opinion in LibraryLand, but I think there’s a place for services like GA. Not everyone wants to do their own research, nor do they necessarily find it convenient to come in to a library and ask for help. There’s a reason corporate librarians don’t spend time showing their patrons how to do the search. I’m sorry to say that my own attempts to get assistance at the respective reference desks of public libraries were often really unsuccessful. I was willing to dig to find my own answers. Not everyone is. Sometimes it’s simpler to pay somebody the money to do the work for you.

On a totally different topic, the second issue of the open-access, peer-reviewed journalLibrary Student Journal is out.

Google Answers is no more

Google announced that they’re canning their 4-year-old Google Answers project. I have to admit to feeling a little misty about it. For those few dark months after I graduated from library school, Google Answers kept me afloat. Yes, I was a Google Answers researcher (GAR). I know there are librarians who were appalled when GA was instituted, but my experience was pretty positive. I concentrated on questions that required the use of print sources and I learned an awful lot about reference books and our local collections. I got to know some of the GARs; on the whole, they’re an impressive lot–knowledgeable, thorough, conscientious. I’m really hoping Google decides to keep the archive of questions and answers up because it was truly an interesting experiment. It would be a shame for all that data to disappear.

New Wiki

Nice to see a wiki started up for academic medical librarians who serve as liaisons to department.

Call for Papers

Two of my colleagues have started up a new journal, Communications in Information Literacy. Here’s the Call for Papers.

What price convenience?

I recently found out that I’d be hosting Thanksgiving. My initial reaction was panic. I work a full-time job. I’ve never cooked a turkey. Thanksgiving is a big meal. My first instinct was to see about ordering parts of the meal from Wegmans. Turns out that’s what a lot of people are doing these days. Heck, apparently a lot of people order the whole meal.

The thing is…I can cook. If I say so myself, I’m a good cook. I’ve hosted dinner parties without resorting to buying the meal elsewhere. I have flambéd things (intentionally). Making stuffing does not require a degree from Culinary School. Cranberry sauce–this is why I cringe when Sandra Lee and her ilk imply that you use the canned stuff because making your own is on the same level as making pasta. It’s not. Jeez Louise, you take a cup of sugar and a cup of water. You stir till it’s dissolved. You boil the mixture. You add the cranberries and ten minutes later you have sauce. It is not rocket science.

And the turkey? My mom’s talking me through it. I can read a recipe. I can totally do this. Yeah, I’ve ordered the pie and the rolls, but the rest of my meal is being made from scratch.

Convenience is fine, but holidays aren’t supposed to be about convenience. They’re supposed to be about family–however you define family–coming together and enjoying good food and company. To my mind there should be effort behind holiday meals. Not so much effort that it drives you mad, but more effort than picking up the phone and ordering the entire meal. I’ve got my mom helping me and my best friend is also going to be pitching in. When I was little, we all did that. Even if it meant you just sat down and peeled potatoes or ran and got the good dishes. The meal meant more because it was a communal effort, because you knew that effort had been put into it. We can order takeout any day of the year. What sets Thanksgiving apart from your typical Thursday is that it’s different. It’s a feast day.

That charming article I linked up top has the grocery store rep. saying “Customers have become so busy. They don’t have the day before Thanksgiving to prepare a meal.” Yeah, they’re so busy that they take off Friday so they can get up at 4AM to hit the mall. That is what has become important. Something’s gotten very skewed in the process.

Off my soapbox now…

This is news?

Inside Higher Ed has a piece on information literacy or rather the lack thereof. There’s a distinction between possessing technical facility and possessing critical thinking and/or research skills. Why most people fail to see that has always boggled my mind. Just cause someone can use a cellphone doesn’t make critical thinking obsolete. I suspect you could get a chimp to learn how to text message.

Just one more thing

I’ve rediscovered Columbo. Yeah, it’s formulaic to a fault, but I find it oddly engrossing. Also, in general, I’ve found that watching these things as an adult and knowing who all the guest stars are adds something to the equation.

HBO had on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night. I’m sorry to say I turned it off about a half hour in. Part of the problem is the three leads. They were barely passable as child actors in the first couple of films. Now that they’re in their late adolescent years, well, their performances haven’t matured as well as their bodies. It’s too bad really. I liked the third film a lot and thought that the director had gotten some good things out of them.

Haven’t been watching all that much else except Lost. Since there’s this hiatus until February, I took out my DVDs and have been doing a little marathon of my own. The series really holds up to this kind of viewing. If anything it becomes more enjoyable. I can’t say I’ve come to any earth-shattering conclusions. Although I wonder if the glass eye they found at the Arrow station possibly belongs to this guy.

All My Children continues its inexorable downward slide. Every time I think the writing can’t get any worse, it does. They’ve lost Julia Barr, Vincent Irizarry, and if the rumors are true, Walt Willey. I keep taking longer and longer breaks away from the show. It’s painful, because I’ve been watching the darn thing for 20 years now. Scary, no?

The accidental touch of the remote

I hit the wrong channel button on my remote last night and tumbled onto the most haunting, emotionally wrenching film I have ever seen in my life.

Grave of the Fireflies is from Studio Ghibli, the same studio that made Spirited Away (another amazing film). It’s directed by Isao Takahata who I just realized was the director on Only Yesterday, which I also loved.

Grave of the Fireflies is set in Japan during World War II. It’s about the increasingly doomed attempts of 14-year-old Seita and his little 4-year-old sister Setsuko to survive. It’s also about how a surfeit of pride and what the horrors of war can do to civilians.

It is undoubtedly one of the best if not the best animated film I’ve ever seen and I don’t know that I have ever been so moved by a movie–live action or animated–in my entire life…