Archive for September, 2007

Documenting Myanmar

Just wanted to mention two interesting articles on attempts to document the events taking place in Myanmar (both via Tama):

  • After ABC’s senior foreign correspondent Jim Sciutto had his camera confiscated, he conducted his World News broadcast and his webcast from Myanmar using his cell phone (also via TV Newser).
  • A Reuters article about a backpacker who has become a Myanmar activist via Facebook. 19-year old Alex Bookbinder’s “Support the monks protest in Burma” Facebook group has drawn hundreds of thousands of members and directed attention to the government crackdown on the monk’s pro-democracy protests.

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End of an Era

I don’t mention it often here, but I’m a pretty huge Atlanta Braves fan.  I grew up watching the team on TBS (I even remember when it was WTCG), and had the good luck of being in Atlanta in the early 1990s just as the Braves’ great pitching staff was finally coming together and even got to watch many of those games live because of a season ticket connection.

But my experience of the Braves has always been mediated by the experience of watching many games on TBS, even after I left Atlanta, because of the network’s reach on cable.  While I found the “America’s Team” nickname to be a little self-congratulatory, I do think that TBS–and Turner’s media empire in general–benefited considerably from broadcasting Braves games, so I’ll admit that I’ve been following today’s game with a bit of nostalgia now that TBS has announced that it will no longer broadcast Braves games to a national audience, especially now that I live out of the reach of the regional networks that carry Braves games.  This nostalgia is no doubt reinforced by the fact that longtime broadcaster Skip Caray is discussing the early history of broadcasting on TBS.

At any rate, it’s interesting to see how the new television landscape has altered the ways in which games are being broadcast even though that means I’ll have access to far fewer games.

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New Flow Column and Other News

 I have a new Flow column up, this time asking a more general question about the role of viral videos and other internet technologies in shaping political discourse.  I think that what is most interesting about the column is the discussion of “just-in-time participation” (after Matt Hills’ concept of just-in-time fandom), the idea that political participation on the internet has a temporal rhythm, that viral videos create a brief explosion of activity that fades quickly.  I’ve been thinking about these issues quite a bit lately, in part because I’ve been discussing the rhetoric of political videos with my students this semester in my freshman composition class (in a modified version of my Rhetoric and Democracy course) but also because of a couple of longer articles I’m writing on the topic.  More later as I begin to get a better handle on those ideas.

Still working on several large projects (including a stack of papers waiting to be graded), but realized I hadn’t updated in a while. In addition to my book project (and the Flow article), I’m revising for a book collection an article I wrote some time ago on the “alternate-reality” films, Run Lola Run, Me Myself I, and Sliding Doors, all of which came out within a year of each other in 1998-99. All three films use concepts of alternate realities (or, to use Brian Greene’s phrase, the multiverse), in remarkably similar ways with regards to their female protagonists. I’m not really interested here in the physics but in how the alternate-reality plots map onto the “database identities” of the films’ major characters. I then try to map those questions back onto the late 1990s debates about the role of digital media in fragmenting film narrative, with Jeff Gordinier (in an Entertainment Weekly article) and Godfrey Cheshire representing two competing versions of that debate. It’s probably a little too much for a 7,000 word article, but I think there’s a lot of interesting material here.

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Band of Five Brothers

I just wrote a Flow essay (not yet online) wondering what effect, if any, citizen-generated videos are having on the 2008 election.  I’ve become increasingly pessimistic, especially as viral videos increasingly become inseparable from the preexisting narratives that have come to define the candidates.  But even, when those videos reinforce existing narratives, they can still be pretty funny.  I really enjoyed this ultra-deadpan Romney video, “Band of Five Brothers,” which makes use of footage available on the Romney website for a contest to create a 30 or 60-second pro-Mitt spot (thanks to Atrios for the link).

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Sunday Links and Update

While haven’t taken an official hiatus from blogging, I have been incredibly busy with all sorts of things lately. I’d hoped that one last writing marathon would get me to a complete draft of the book. In fact, I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t get a haircut until said draft was done. That’s turning out to be a potentially bad idea as my hair gets bushier by the day and as other, similarly immediate deadlines approach. I’m also increasingly finding myself caught up with university service obligations, including one university-wide committee focusing on revamping students’ first-year experience. I’m currently pushing for the use of a blog or forum of some kind to help foster campus community, so if there are any good examples of campus community blogs out there, I’d love to have them (I mentioned the Davidson College student blog, which now appears to be defunct).

I’ve also been busy with teaching stuff. In addition to my (relatively standard) Intro to Film class, I’m doing an election theme in freshman composition and currently have students doing rhetorical of campaign videos housed on YouTube. And I’ve been pleased with the increasing interest in and knowledge of the election that my students are demonstrating. I didn’t get a chance to put together a course blog this time, but may try to do a course blog for my fall 2008 classes. My senior seminar on documentary is also going well enough (I’ve really enjoyed teaching Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, even though many of my students have complained about not liking James Agee. or at least his “character” in Famous, very much).

And, for the first time in a few days, I’ve taken some time out to scroll the web (or at least my RSS reader) for a few links:

  • Via TV Squad, this amazing montage of TV production company logos, featuring everything from the “CBS Sunday Night Movie” lead-in to a number of Hannah-Barbera logos to some local logos. Like the video’s creator, I’m most intrigued by the 1970s-style futurism of many of these logos, with many of them setting off waves of nostalgia for past shows. The video is a bit rough in places, but I’m guessing that’s due to the fact that they were taken off videotape, possibly 25-30 years ago.
  • Eli has a pointer to a nice little “War on Terror Remix” by the folks at Total Recut. Turns out the video is about a year old, but it’s still pretty amusing, kind of a Don DeLillo’s End Zone for the YouTube/war on terror age.
  • Kathleen and Jason have both been talking about some of the discussion over the acceptance of innovative modes of electronic publishing, especially when it comes to tenure decisions. Kathleen points out that humanities scholars are more likely to accept online publications than their peers in social sciences, life sciences, etc, and that senior faculty are more open to innovation than junior scholars. The latter can be explained, I’d imagine, by fears about tenure expectations, something I found myself thinking about as I put together my portfolio for reappointment this year. Jason offers a useful model from his self-evaluation that helps to contextualize the kind of work we’re doing at sites like MediaCommons. And, yes, I promise to start blogging there more consistently in the very near future.
  • The folks at if:book have a blog post about Charles Ferguson’s video editorial to The New York Times, the first video editorial published by the newspaper. Ferguson, who directed the important new Iraq documentary, No End in Sight, is responding to many of L. Paul Bremer’s claims about who made the decision to disband the Iraqi army after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The video letter itself is sharply edited and thoroughly researched, one of the best features I’ve seen in the Times in a long time.
  • Finally, Chris Hansen’s incredibly fun mockumentary, The Proper Care and Feeding of an American Messiah, is now on sale at DVD Empire. Currently on sale at $9.98, it’s definitely a bargain, and you’ll be supporting a truly independent and interesting filmmaker.

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I Call on the Resting Soul of Galileo

Wanna see something completely scary?

Yes, that’s right, one of the hosts of The View isn’t sure whether the earth is round or flat. What’s worse is that Sheri Shepherd attributes her lack of knowledge about this subject to the fact that she’s too busy being a good mother to worry about such things.

Still way behind on pretty much everything, but I’ve decided to embrace that fact and to try to get back in the habit of blogging again (video via one of my Twitter peeps).

Update: To be fair, Shepherd explains herself here.

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Beware of Mountain Goats

It’ll be gone soon, but Jeff Garlin and Jon Stewart are having some fun at the expense of Wikipedia. Garlin, the co-star of Curb Your Enthusiasm, encouraged Daily Show audience members to edit his Wikipedia page to report that he was killed by a mountain goat, and at last refresh, there were at least five references to Garlin’s untimely death at the claws (jaws?) of a mountain goat.

Update: I refreshed one last time before posting, and the entry has been closed off from further editing to protect against vandalism. Still, it was pretty funny.

Update 2: It’s worth checking out the history of edits to Garlin’s entry, just to see how quickly audiences reacted to Garlin’s comments, as well as how quickly Wikipedia’s editors locked down the entry to prevent further alterations.

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Thursday Links

Still doing some heavy-duty non-blog writing, but here are the most recent links to cross my radar:

  • First, Film Festival World, a resource designed to help filmmakers in “launching films on the festival circuit” has an Essential Film Blog Reader that features a number of outstanding film blogs, including a number of my daily (or semi-daily) reads.  And I’d mention it even if my blog wasn’t listed among their “essential blogs.”
  • Second, just a quick mention of James Gandolfini’s upcoming HBO documentary about Iraq war veterans, Alive Day Memories, previewed in this New York Times article.  The documentary focuses on their experiences as veterans and their memories of their “alive day,” the day they narrowly escaped dying.  The documentary airs for the first time on Sunday, September 9 at 10:30 PM, so I’ll try to watch and do a brief write-up if time permits.

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War and Exile

Like many bloggers, I’ve been following Riverbend’s Baghdad Burning blog off and on ever since the war started back in 2003.  Riverbend, a twenty-something Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, provided one of the most compelling first-person accounts available of the initial attack, the insurgency, and many of the events over the last four years.  And now, Riverbend and her family have joined millions of other Iraqis in exile (2.35 million according to Meteor Blades), in her case in Syria, one of only two countries–Jordan is the other–accepting Iraqi refugees without a visa.

Riverbend’s narrative of her family’s long, difficult journey across the border into Syria is an important reminder of the devastating effects of the war and a compelling account of what it means to be exiled from one’s homeland.

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Sunday Links

Crawling out from underneath my manuscript to point out a few links:

  • Remember that box office slump that everyone was talking about two years ago? I think it’s safe to say that the slump is officially over (at least for one summer) as Hollywood exceeded $4 billion in box office this summer for the first time ever, which sets us up for yet another round of sequels.
  • In other movie exhibition news, Spike Lee is planning to head the jury of a new online film festival, sponsored by Babelgum, an online video sharing site.
  • I’m also curious to check out Children of the Storm, a documentary project organized by Spike Lee and CNN’s Soledad O’Brien to give cameras to 11 New Orleans teenagers to document their experiences in the post-Katrina recovery process. The project reminds me quite a bit of Deborah Scranton’s The War Tapes in its attempt to use autobiographical documentary to tell its story.  Children of the Storm originally aired a few days ago, but hoping to track it down and watch it soon (and possibly even discuss it in my senior seminar on documentary).
  • Tama Leaver points to a Star Wars-Simpsons mashup that I had missed until now.  Funny stuff.
  • Finally, Eli Horwatt has some very funny political mashups produced by, including one that sends up the attorney general scandal, “Gonzales the Cannibal.”
  • Oh, and I watched Hannah Takes the Stairs last night on video on demand (by coincidence, something I’m writing about in my book this weekend).  Hannah is one of the central texts in the Mumblecore movement and well worth checking out if you get a chance.   Hoping to write something longer about it later this week.
  • In other news, I’m still running and losing weight.  I’m down about 23 pounds from my heaviest weight on July 15 and still hoping to shed about 20 more pounds. But, as you might imagine, I’m very happy with my progress so far.  I have no real secret on how I lost the weight.  I’m simply eating less and better (more vegetables, less carbs), almost never eating between meals, and exercising more.

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