Archive for December, 2006

The Lost Room

Despite the fact that I’m currently getting crushed in my Weblog Awards category, I just wanted to mention that I found myself pretty engrossed in the new Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, The Lost Room, which debuted last night (the series runs through Wednesday). The series focuses on Police Detective Joe Miller (Peter Krause) who discovers a motel key that allows its possessor to open any door into the mysterious Room 10 of the Sunshine Motel, which serves as a kind of portal allowing you to travel virtually anywhere, with the room magically resetting every time the door is re-opened. As the Sci-Fi Channel plot summary reveals, the mundane contents of the room (a bus ticket, eyeglasses, and a ball point pen, among others) all take on unique powers. The bus pass, for example, allows its possessor to “zap” anyone who approaches out to a distant highway in Gallup, New Mexico.

Of course, possession of one of these Objects poses any number of psychological and physical risks, as Miller quickly learns. One of the subplots of the series is Miller’s custody battle over his daughter Anna (Elle Fanning), who vanishes when the door to Room 10 closes and the room resets to its original state. Anna’s disappearance sets in motion Miller’s attempts to recover additional Objects that might allow him to rescue her. And because the Objects posseess such useful powers, other collectors seek to possess as many Objects as possible. The room’s powers are, thankfully, never fully explained. There are some vague supernatural speculations, but at least in the first episode, the mystery is left relatively open.

My interest in the series derives in part from the vaguely nostalgic style of the series. Room 10, as the SciFi Channel’s description suggests, suggests those lonely hotel rooms that dotted Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles during the 1950s and ’60s, while Detective Miller, in some ways, recalls the hard-boiled detective of film noir (including some nice low-key lighting during several key sequences). I’m not yet ready to come to any conclusions about The Lost Room, but so far it’s good pulpy fun. Also check out the Pop Matters review and the discussion at TV with MeeVee.

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Tentative Syllabus: A Request

Because one of my students in my spring semester graduate course, “Technology and the Language Arts Curriculum,” requested that I provide her with a reading list in advance, I’ve put together a tentative syllabus (or at least a reading list) for the class. One of the stated goals of the course is to provide high school teachers with a few strategies for using technology in the classroom, and I’ve been working to balance theoretical debates in media studies with the specific, practical problems that my students will face in the classroom. I’ve added the reading list below the fold, and I’d very much welcome any suggestions my readers might have. And of course I’m very grateful for interesting courses by Kathleen and Scot (among many others) that have informed my thinking about this course.

To name one example, I’m considering spending one week of class discussing the debates about plagiarism detection services, drawing in part from Clancy’s discussion of that topic a few weeks ago. But I’m very much looking forward to teaching this course, so I’ve enjoyed taking a break from grading today to put this reading list together.

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Birthday 2006

My yearly birthday post: Like last year, I’ve been agonizing about this birthday more than usual, perhaps in part because it has been a year of transitions and adjustments: a new job, a new “city,” new students, new friends. Even some new research and teaching interests.

Most of these changes have been positive. It’s nice to have a tenure-track job, certainly, but living in Fayetteville has been a learning experience, especially after several years of living in large cities. It’s still very difficult not to feel disconnected from the independent movie cultures that were much easier to find in DC and Atlanta, but I think I would feel even more disconnected without the internet and especially without the blog communities in which I’ve participated. Of course, it’s also hard not to feel like I’m window shopping, standing on a sidewalk looking at a beautiful but inaccessible window display when I hear about what’s happening in the indie film scene in bigger cities.

And I think that in the end-of-semester grading rush (which, amazingly enough, is almost done), it’s easy to forget that it has been a productive year for me professionally, both in terms of new publications and in terms of thinking long-term about my research goals. But I am glad that this very long semester is finally coming to a conclusion and that I won’t have another birthday for another 365 days or so.

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Weblog Awards Voting Now Open

Shameless self-promotion here: voting in the 2006 Weblog Awards is now open. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a finalist in the Best of the Top 5001 – 6750 Blogs category, and if you’re so inclined, you can vote for me once every 24 hours.


Lazy Wednesday Links

Just a quick pointer to the latest installment of the Teaching Carnival curated by David of Silver in SF. As always plenty of great reading.

And, for your viewing pleasure, a “Scary Mary Poppins” trailer (thanks to Wiley for the tip).


Don’t Forget to Vote

Voting doesn’t start until tomorrow, but it appears that I’m a finalist for a 2006 Weblog Award (I’m in the “Best of the Top 5001 – 6750 Blogs” category, which could use a more exciting name, but whatever). I’ll provide a direct link to my category a few times next week just in case anyone feels inclined to vote for me.

The 2006 Weblog Awards

Update: Some other cool bloggers including Bitch PhD, Michael Berube, and Geeky Mom are also finalists. Vote for them, too.

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Vampires in Mississippi

Via GreenCine Daily, news of an unproduced screenplay by William Faulkner about vampires, leading people to call the film, “William Faulkner’s Nosferatu.” Faulkner’s daughter discovered the screenplay among the novelist’s papers a few years ago, and producer Lee Caplin wants to make the movie, transferring the film’s setting from Eastern Europe to the deep South. Sounds like the film is a long way from being made, but I’d be incredibly curious to see the film get made, if only because I wrote a master’s thesis on Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.

In other Faulkner news (in the same article), Oprah Winfrey wants to film Faulkner’s Light in August, which I think is a really bad idea. Not so much because it’s Oprah but because I think a lot would get lost in adapting such a sprawling novel to the big screen. Okay, maybe I’m a little worried about Oprah.


Teaching Media Literacy

Just wanted to mention that an article I wrote for the newly launched Re:New Media blog is now available. The article, “Teaching Media Literacy in the Age of YouTube,” is meant to address some of the challenges media studies professors now face when it comes to teaching media literacy and reflects some of my recent interest in the role of YouTube clips in shaping political discourse (as well as my long-term interest in “homemade media”). In particular, it focuses on the tendency to treat video sharing sites as mere content, kind of a giant, virtual video library, rather than considering the discourses that have already grown up around video sharing and videoblogging (and how that, in turn, has come to reshape the contents of these sites).

Re:New Media is the new name for National Video Resources. The organization seeks to promote independent artistic production through a variety of venues incluidng public screenings and discussions, as well as other educational uses of independent media and, of course, the Re:New Media blog where my article was posted. It looks like a valuable resource for independent artists, as well as educators and audiences interested in independent media. Worth checking out: Neil Sieling’s “Digital and Tangible: How DVDs Are Impacting Independent Media.”

Thanks to Agnes for inviting me to contribute to this exciting new resource. Comments on the article are definitely welcome.


Grading Marathon Links

I’m caught up in all the usual end-of-semester grading madness, but here are a few links worth checking out. First, Andy Horbal’s Film Criticism Blogathon. Lots of interesting posts here, and if I get some spare time tonight, I might put up a belated entry myself.

Second, via Jesus’ General, a very interesting video, The Coolest 8 Year Old In The World Talks About O’Reilly, in which an 8-year old girl takes on the Fox News talk show host. The girl is a natural performer, but as the General points out, her comments have provoked some rather disturbing responses (see the General’s post for that discussion).

The video itself is from the group The Bastard Fairies and appears, in part, to be promoting their documentary, The Canary Effect (trailer), which explores the devastating effects of the US government policies on Native Americans.

There’s a follow-up video featuring The Coolest 8 Year Old’s Uncle that is also worth checking out. More later, when I’ve gotten some grading done.