Archive for March, 2009

Wednesday Links

I’m back in Fayetteville after my mini-spring break tour, which consisted of a brief stop in Durham, NC, for the Internet for Everyone Town Hall, and a slightly longer stay in Spartanburg, SC, where I had a chance to catch up with George (and where he introduced me to Little River Roasting Company, makers of some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted).  I’m still recovering from the trip, in part because I locked my keys in my car in a Florence, SC, fast food parking lot and spent 2.5 hours waiting for a locksmith, so I’m starting off with a quick links post.  I’m planning to write short reviews of The Watchmen and Waltz with Bashir, hopefully, but that may require a little more energy than I have right now.

  • The biggest news is that I mailed the index and page proofs back to my publisher this week, basically the final step (for me) in writing the book.  George was there to document the occasion with a couple of photographs.  While creating the index did cause some angst, I found it to be a somewhat rewarding experience, allowing me to uncover connections that were only implicit in the book’s original argument.
  • Just a quick note on the Internet Town Hall: I found the discussions rewarding enough, and as someone who teaches with technology, it was interesting to learn about the experiences that others have with broadband access.  Sometimes the discussion felt a little forced, with answers already implied in the questions, but I liked the mix of small group discussions and wider dialogues.
  • Now that I have a little spare time to explore new projects, I’m sitting down to read a review copy of Alex Halavais’s Search Engine Society (Polity), a book that explores how search engines are affecting thought.  I’ve known Alex via blogging for a while, so my reading is shaped by that, but I’m finding Alex’s book incredibly helpful in thinking through some of the challenges our department is facing with regard to the fairly panicked reaction to the use of digital technologies such as search engines in the classroom (a reaction that isn’t uncommon from what I gather).  In particular, so far, Search Engine Society has been helpful in providing me with a slightly better language for characterizations of the current crop of students as “digital natives,” a description that leaves out quite a bit.  More on that in a few days, hopefully.
  • A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to catch Liz Witham’s A Certain Kind of Beauty, which focuses on one family’s struggles after they learn their son has MS, at Silverdocs.  Now the film is available in its entirety from SnagFilms, the very cool online streaming source for documentary films, where the filmmakers hope to raise money to support 160 people living with Multiple Sclerosis to attend support groups, a cause that would seem to extend the film’s overall goals.
  • If you haven’t seen Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married, Aaron Hillis’s DVD review over at GreenCine should be more than enough to convince you.  I’m inclined to agree that it’s one of the best films of 2008, and I think that Aaron’s reading is pretty much right on.     Like Aaron, I’ve been mystified by reviewers who charcterized the wedding party scenes as overly sanguine multiculturalism because they miss the degree to which these expressions of community mask the family’s deeper pains.  It’s a beautiful little film, well worth your dime (or at least pushing to the top of your rentl queues).
  • While he misrepresents the new goals of GreenCine blogger Aaron Hillis (who is not seeking to relace David Hudson as a film blog and news aggregator), Adrian Martin does raise a valuable question about the future of festivals in the digital age.  Given the widespread access to DVD screeners and the massive growth of active film bloggers who have created all kinds of forums for talking about film, do we need to “physically stage” film festivals anymore? It’s an interesting discussion, and while I made some passing references to SxSW’s role in marketing Mumblecore in the book, I’d like to address these ideas in further detail.  I do think there is some benefit to sitting down face-to-face over drinks in Austin, Park City, Durham, or wherever, but Martin’s question is a provocative one (link via David, of course).
  • J.J. Murphy raises an important point about the state of independent film in 2008 and 2009.  Citing a friend who expressed concern that 2008 was a “bad” year for quality indie films, Murphy points out that there were a number of great films last year but that few of them played beyond big cities.  Murphy goes on to list an impressive-looking top ten, none of which played theatrically in Fayetteville to my knowledge.  This is probably old news for anyone who reads my blog, but Murphy’s post helps to underscore the ways in which our filtering a promotion systems still make it difficult for indie fans to find all of these compelling films.
  • I’m just now catching up to Girish’s list of links posted last Friday.  As usual, he provides a wealth of great reading material.  Some favorites: Anthony Kaufman’s Moving Image Source article on the demise of VHS and its implications for film history, and a Film Festival research bibliography (also cited in the above essay by Martin).
  • Oh yeah, and if you haven’t seen it, Kutiman’s remix “album” of YouTube musicians, ThruYou is pretty amazing, both as a work of art and as a commentary on the community-building practices on YouTube (or, at least, the desire for those communities).

That’s enough for now.  It’s nice to feel like I’m not scrambling toward a deadline, so hopefully I can start using the blog again as a way of tracking down and thinking about new research.  And just maybe I can get back in the habit of writing reviews again.

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Teaching Carnival Update

Teaching Carnival 3.3 is now available for your reading pleasure.  This issue was hosted by Alan Benson and includes a number of great reads about education.  In related news, I’ll be hosting Teaching Carnival 3.4 right here on March 23, so if you have links that you would like to nominate for inclusion, please send them my way via email (chutry[at]msn[dot]com) or by posting the links on Delicious using the teaching carnival tag (teaching-carnival) or just follow these instructions from the Teaching Carnival website.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the Teaching Carnival, it was established a few years ago as a way of collecting some of the more interesting discussions we have about teaching in a single location.  Much like the film blogathons, it has proven to be a great way of developing community around shared interests.

Teaching Carnivals have always done an outstanding job of culling posts on pedagogical issues from humanities scholars, and those of you who are attending the Conference on College Composition and Communication (aka 4Cs), feel free to pass along your pedagogy-related posts about the conference, but as a scholar of film and media studies and as someone who hangs out in the film blog community, I’d also enjoy receiving blog posts on film and media studies topics as well.  What are some of your teaching strategies in film courses? In TV studies courses?  What are some of the best practices for teaching media, old and new?  What can movies and TV shows tell us about education?  Does film or television serve a pedagogical purpose?  As usual, everyone is welcome to participate, so please do send along your links.

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Twitter Time

In case you missed it elsewhere, I expanded the blog post I wrote responding to Alexander Zaitchik’s critique of Twitter into a full-length article for AlterNet, “Why You Should Be on Twitter.”  Some of the links disappeared in transition, but otherwise, I’m relatively happy with how it turned out.  I’m not really trying to “defend” Twitter to the degree the title of the article suggests, as much as I am trying to dispel some of the media panic surrounding it.

Update: I’ve really enjoyed seeing the response to the Twitter article as it has spread across the twittersphere over the course of the day, even from the Twitter haters out there.  In particular, Logan Roberston offers a nice read of some of the social benefits of Twitter.  I’m always perplexed when readers see Twitter (or Facebook or blogging, for that matter) as a substitute for face-to-face interaction, and Logan illustrates, anecdotally, how social networking sites don’t have to encorage disengagement from the real world.

Steve Buttry also has an engaging post on columns that dismiss Twitter.  In particular, he focuses on a column by Leonard Pitts, normally one of my favorite national columnists, who decides, after briefly browsing the site, never to Twitter.


Documenting the Digital Divide

A few days ago, I mentioned an upcoming Internet Town Hall, sponsored by, that will be addressing the problems of disparities in internet access among residents of North Carolina.  Now, thanks to an article on Alternet, I’ve had a chance to check out “Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road,” a series of documentary shorts featuring a number of North Carolina residents who have been affected by a lack of access to high-speed broadband internet access.

The first such story, told by Rhonda Locklear, who lives just a few short miles from Fayetteville in Hoke County, was especially resonant for me, in part because she is geographically close but also because she describes the ways in which having dial-up access at home makes it much more difficult for her children to complete homework assignments.  Work that can be completed quickly for those of us with broadband can take hours for people with dial-up.  Combine that with Robeson County’s disproportionately high unemployment rate, thanks to the closure of several nearby textile mills, and a number of Hoke County residents, many of whom are members of the Lumbee Tribe, face major challenges in conducting business or completing an education, to name two tasks that others might take for granted.

Others, such as Jay Foushee, describe the difficulties they face in keeping open a family farm while using dial-up internet.  But all of the stories illustrate the potential of short-form digital documentary in depicting the challenges faced by a number of North Carolina residents in navigating the digital divide.

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03-03-09 Links

I haven’t posted in a few days, mostly because I’ve been doing quite a bit of non-blog writing, but here are a few links that have crossed my radar in the last few days:

  • I really like this little video clip, “Scary Movie,” from the people at the Service Employees International Union.  the video uses the aesthetic of 1970s grindhouse movie trailer to satirize the scare tactics being used by conservatives to try to derail the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would provide workers with more power to unionize.  Conservative groups have described passage of the bill as potentially causing “Armageddon,” so the mockery works well here.  The end of the video, where the same haunting voice-over describes the EFCA is less effective (a different voice might have better separated the video’s two modes of address).
  • Earl Wilkinson has a thoughtful, informative article about the “crisis” sweeping the newspaper industry and offers a few useful caveats, suggesting that some newspapers are better equipped to weather the current financial storm and offering suggestions for new business models.  I can’t pretend to be an expert on all of these issues, but it is a nice corrective to some of the more alarmist depictions of the current status of the newspaper industry. 
  • Salman Rushdie’s Guardian article on celluloid adaptations of novels (including his own) is worth a read, especially given Rushdie’s own fascination with the “social adaptations” that are necessary in a rapidly changing world.  Unlike a number of authors and readers who seem genuinely hostile to the process of adaptation and see it as a form of (bad) imitation, Rushdie sees it as a kind of creative act.  The article is also marked by Rushdie’s trademark wit and humor–a nice break for those of you grading, preparing for, or recovering from midterms.

Update: Forgot to mention it earlier, but it’s “Digital Documentary” week on In Media Res this week.  Also worth noting, Rich Edwards has a recent IMR post on a video clip discussing the now-famous Shepard Fairey poster and its viral distribution on the web.