Thursday, January 29, 2009

things found while (mostly) at work

i hate those days where everything seems about half again as hard as it should be. i was processing unidentified photographs this morning -- a thankless task, let me tell you! -- and i kept getting distracted by minor details in the background: what's the nametag say? what's she reading? is that really the pru under construction? and i feel i often come very close to falling off the line that marks necessary staring at the details in order to figure out who the person is, where they are, what's going on, in order to describe and catalogue -- inasmuch as these photos are being catalogued; they're mostly just getting a home in a folder under a fairly general heading -- from simple goldbricking or indecisive "look at the pretty flower"-ness.

and you know you've been living in the same place for awhile when you come out of your workplace the morning after a storm -- in this case an ice storm -- and you're automatically considering which sidewalks will have gotten the most sun during the course of the morning and will, therefore, be at least partially safe for foot traffic. i mostly guessed right. and then, of course, the notification that the book i wanted from the bpl is waiting for me at the copley branch came after i got home. of course it did.

while i sit here "working" -- no, really, i am -- i thought i should pass on this photograph which i found this morning in a online exhibit. it's part of a teaser "flipbook" for a john gay retrospective exhibit in realtime being held at....some...really neat london museum that i can't even begin to remember. the rest of the mini-exhibit is really worth looking at, as is the 8 or so photographs from the viking re-enactment fire celebration in the shetland isles, but, anyway, i think this may be the only photograph taken of nobody evans in real life. i took anna's suggestion and figured out a way to mail neil gaiman the link as well; we'll see whether or not it is possible to tell if he is amused by it, too.

i also came across this site while i was at work -- really, this one was work-related. i was trying to track down a photographer; we have a stack of contact sheets with his name and address stamped on them and i found plenty of bibliographic and old exhibit references to him but nothing current, sadly. anyway, one of the references i found was to an article housed on this scribd site and i thought it looked kind of cool.

i haven't spent a lot of time digging into it; from a quick glance or two, it looks like someone thought adobe acrobat and .pdf documents were a really good idea and wanted to build their own. the idea seems to be to offer storage and sharing space for people to upload their own documents in a kind of user-created e-library format. but, as i said, i haven't spent a lot of time looking at it. this is their faq page if you want to skip right to the description. it seems similar to me to the basic idea behind the directory of open access journals, but with a more "ground up" approach in that the scribd people want you to have access to the whole package to build the journal (if that's what you want) and the doaj people just want to know about it so they can list it.

and, while i'm "working," i'm also waiting for the clunk of the mailbox which will mean i have a 90% chance of a new netflix. in light of the forthcoming fourth entry into the terminator series and the fact that it will star christian bale, i decided i simply can't forego the possibility of spending two hours studying his cheekbones and therefore i have to go back and watch the third sequel which i have avoided 'til now. so we'll see if that's any good or if it's as bad as dragon wars which i tried to watch on netflix insty last night and ended up turning off because the total lack of logic was making me lonely for torchwood's weevils and, really, when you wish a weevil would show up just to make things make sense, things are pretty bad.

Monday, January 26, 2009

oh yes!

oh yes! and neil gaiman has won the newbery for the graveyard book! as was witnessed by what was possibly the most profane tweet i have ever seen. it was great. i'd feel totally weird sending congratulations to an author i have never met or i'd do it.


so, really, this post is all about avoiding doing thesis reading. oh, and this article from the guardian about how the british library is going to save everything digital in the uk ever. for ever. i'm not sure how they're going to do this or how they're going to pay for it, but maybe they'll hire me.

there's also this other article from the guardian (seeing a trend yet? yeah -- i don't get along with u.s. newspapers so well for some reason -- the guardian is so all about standing in the middle and making fun of everybody and i find that to be attractive somehow!) about a recent pronouncement by a high school english teacher that, with obama's inauguration, high school students are now living in a post-racist age and should no longer be required to read huck finn or to kill a mockingbird. 'cause, you know, minor subtexts like compassion, forgiveness, understanding of human suffering are of no real importance to high school kids. well, they probably aren't in their raw form but it might be good to wave 'em in front of their faces until they get the idea anyway.

having now seen underworld: rise of the lycans, i think i can officially declare that whoever's doing the reviewing for is entirely dedicated to the cause of not having a good time at the movies. i'm not sure what they thought they were going to get, but their expectations must have been really high. the scifiwire review said the battle scenes were poorly shot, badly choreographed, and, basically, impossible to watch. they looked okay to me. yeah, there were a couple bits that got bullet-time happy but that's happened in every scifi/fantasy/horror movie since the matrix came out. including in the matrix sequels. so i don't think that's quite a fair reason to condemn the whole thing out of hand. rhona mitra was never going to be better than kate beckinsale; if you didn't know that going in, you were living in a dream world. but she was okay -- definitely didn't suck out loud and there was very little sobbing which was nice. i had horrible images of her just turning into this weeping vampire princess all over the place. michael sheen and bill nighy between the two of them made the movie as far as i could see, but they were both great and i always liked viktor and lucian from the first movie, so where's the problem? and there was a rather neat subplot introducing one of lucian's henchmen from the first movie which i thought did a good job of adding a little depth to both characters and to the first movie -- retrospectively speaking.

the script got a little repetitive, i have to admit; there was a lot of emphasis on werewolves being "beasts" and "little better than beasts" and "beasts who needed control" and so on and so forth -- someone really wanted to make sure nighy got to show off his enunciatory abilities. len wiseman didn't direct this one which definitely showed in the pacing and the action sequences; wiseman's got a definite knack for how to pace and time an action scene so you get just enough to be breathless without losing it or getting overwhelmed. the new director is the creatures effects guy -- and he was fine, but you could definitely tell he wanted to show off the beasties rather than necessarily what the beasties could do.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"and now for something completely different."

so here's the latest i could find on the whole "lead in books" thing. the ala website was up the last time i checked but it took some messing around to find anything about this particular issue, so maybe it isn't such a big thing as it appears? i don't know, but i did find this news brief on the original legislation, a letter the ala sent to the consumer product safety commission, and the cpsc's response.

i also tracked down -- again, via neil gaiman's twitter which is just awesome and disturbing by turns -- a different blogger's post about the same subject. the blogger in question, nathaniel grey, went so far as to write to the ala's washington office and excerpts the letter he got in reply.

on the more amusing, less work-oriented front, i happened to luck into a copy of stephen king's latest short story collection just after sunset at the bpl today and ran through the first story, "willa," and half of the second, "the gingerbread girl," on the train home. so far, so good! i'm looking forward to his promised notes at the end of the book since those are always fun.

i also treated myself to two more episodes of the second season of torchwood which, i have to say, does not grow any more reassuring. fine by me so long as they're going to keep up this quality of show -- "meat," "adam," and "reset" were all riveting and i'm making myself be good and save "dead man walking" for tomorrow so that i don't run through my entire weekend treat in one night! i just can't imagine how they're going to ramp up from here to the season finales which i hear are killers. 

and i get to go see the new underworld this weekend -- happy dance! i notice a fair number of critics and fan sites who have already decided they hate it -- *shrug* what's not to like, really? vampires, werewolves, sharp things, leather -- where's the problem?

something nice for the end of the week

there's nothing like job security: library loans on the rise in the u.s., although technically this article says nothing about visits to archives being on the rise so maybe it's an even 50/50 "win some/lose some" situation!

i like the little chunk of obama's ala speech, too, although i think at this point in time pretty much any news article on anything at all has to feature some kind of quotation from some speech he's made, preferably within the last six months, full points if it's from the inauguration. seriously. i read articles yesterday about britain's public school system and they quoted obama. it wasn't quite entirely irrelevant, but it was really close! i can only assume there was some editor somewhere in london leaning over his desk, saying, "people love this guy! quote him! it'll get the hits up! we have to keep our stats higher than the sun!"

oh, and if you really have nothing at all to do this weekend and an aching desire to make that "to read" list enormous, check this out: the guardian's 1000 novels project. i'm not exactly certain how they've picked the novels in question but somehow or other they have divined a list of 1000 novels -- divided neatly by genre -- that they feel should be common knowledge. i don't know if the list addresses issues like non-english novels, novels in translation, etc., etc. the main page just says:

"Over seven days our writers recommend the best books to read about crime, war, fantasy, travel, science fiction, family and love. Don't agree with their choices? Series editor Philip Oltermann will be blogging on Saturday; come back and tell him why not."

i haven't spent a lot of time here 'cause, well, i had other things to do this week like go to work and sleep, but the lists look interesting if nothing else -- always good for a "but, hey, what about---" moment.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

lists and yet more lists---

okay, so i'm not quite sure what is wrong with this list, but i know that something is: robert pattinson named hottest movie vampire.

it might have something to do with this editorial on twilight that i found on the a couple of days ago. i've been mulling it over since then but i'm still not entirely sure i understand the author's point: she wants to celebrate that she felt free to go see a movie with young men in it? she approves of said young men? she's sad other people didn't go see said film?

in the interest of full disclosure, i should say that i have neither read nor seen twilight although i've been amused and baffled by the furore surrounding both. i suppose if i understood exactly why people went crazy either for or against somewhere i'd own my own publishing house or be head of collections development somewhere by now!

Monday, January 19, 2009


okay, it's really early (for a holiday monday, 8.30 is early!) and i know i don't deal well when it's early, but i just saw this on neil gaiman's twitter feed and he has it referenced as "This Is A Wrong Thing." right now, i can't come up with any better commentary on it other than it seems like the kind of thing that starts out from totally the right motives -- keep kids healthy -- and ends up doing something entirely lunatic -- removing books from libraries: new law could keep books off shelves.

i tried to find anything on this at the ala website but as of...8.55 a.m., the website was really very busted. i'll try again later.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


just saw this on the blog and thought it might be of interest to anyone who read my earlier, somewhat disconnected because written at three distinct points in the day, post about dystopic movies.

so i offer this link to rajan khanna's more coherent post about post-apocalypticness in general. i don't know quite a few of the books and games khanna references, but i have read the road and am waiting more or less eagerly for the film version to be released -- i'm suspicious about the son because i'm always suspicious of young actors, but viggo mortenson is about the most perfect piece of casting i could have thought of.

i would have thought piers anthony on the whole was a little too "sunshine and bunnies" to do a proper post-apocalypse but i could be wrong and i haven't read any of his stuff since before i was in high school. i remember thinking that night mare was just about as funny as it got when i was 12 or so. i picked it up in a used bookstore sometime in college and really quickly put it down again! "did not age well" just about describes it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

lists, lists, lists---

so when, during the week, i found it necessary to utter a moan or two (again) about jocasta nu, my least favorite film librarian of all time (more on her in a minute), my roommate, anna, semi-dared me to come up with a list of the top 10 best to worst film librarians. 

so here we go.

1. evelyn carnahan (rachel weisz), more commonly known as "evy" from the mummy and the mummy returns. (i haven't seen the third movie because i don't really care if weisz isn't involved and i'm not a big fan of maria bello.) anyway, how can you not give pride of place to someone who declares with great pride, although also great drunkenness, "i am proud of what i am. i -- am a librarian!" plus she rescues people with great elan, doesn't panic when kidnapped by resurrected mummies, and translates very quickly.

2. bunny watson (katherine hepburn), from desk set. i even went so far as to check on to make sure that "bunny" really was the only name for this character. it is. the research library in this movie is so far out of date as to be funny now -- the computer is the big bad villain of the piece and it's about as big as a large walk-in closet. but ms. watson is great -- a wonderful, funny, helpful reference librarian. and it's a really sweet, little-known hepburn/tracy romantic comedy with a great supporting cast. my dvd version even has this awesome little documentary on it about how hepburn's wardrobe for the film was promoted to catch on as 'librarian chic'!

3. flynn carsen (noah wyle), from the librarian: quest for the spear. "what is this -- slap the librarian day!" his version of library science is definitely more action-oriented than the ordinary run-of-the-mill variety -- much more kidnapping and running and nearly getting abducted and/or murdered than i see going on at the bpl. but, in the end, books are important, and what you know in your heart is important, too. oh, and don't listen to the books if they tell you to hurt small animals. that's important, too.

4. dean corso (johnny depp), from the ninth gate. this is a little unfair since dean corso isn't technically a librarian; he's a rare books dealer. but i'm putting him in the list 'cause...well, it's my list. also, because his knowledge of books borders on the encyclopedic and i love the libraries he gets to use in the movie even if he isn't working there. and both the film the ninth gate and the club dumas on which it is based are very worth while.

5. CAL (eve newton), from doctor who: silence in the library and doctor who: forest of the dead. this is also a tad bit unfair since CAL isn't a librarian so much as a library system, but i still think she's fairly cool. the ailing daughter of a very clever (and rich) family immortalized as the controlling intelligence behind the main cataloging and data computer for a library the size of a planet. she's got a few problems -- like alien intelligences are oozing out of her books, taking over the planet, and eating people -- but other than that, she's doing quite well and she does save everybody.

6. tanis (steven mackintosh), from underworld: evolution. a vampire librarian/historian/archivist. what's not to love? okay, he's in exile 'cause he pissed off the leader of his clan by remembering a few things he shouldn't have but he's still in pretty classy exile. people do keep breaking into his house and demanding he tell them things, but he mostly seems to have a pretty sweet deal going.

7. marian the librarian (shirley jones), from the music man. just has to be on the list. love or hate 'marian the librarian,' we've all heard the jokes.

8. any of the librarians from the name of the rose: the abbot, malachi, berengar, and, if i'm remembering right, jorge of burgos into the bargain (as well as numerous other monks whose names i don't even come close to recalling). their cataloging scheme defies description for complexity, their stacks are a maze (literally) -- freedom of information and accessibility are really just words to these guys. words with which they are not familiar.

9. sloan (morgan freeman), from wanted. again, i'm getting by on a technicality here. if sloan is really anything, he's probably more of a sibylline interpreter, creating "truth" out of the patterns woven in cloth. but, since he not only interprets, but also keeps and stores the cloth pieces and the records of the assassin fraternity of which he is the head, i'm calling him an archivist. (just think of the number of textile storage boxes he must buy!) but he is definitely not the guy to take as your role model -- not only is he restricting certain privileged information to his own use, he is perverting the use of that information for his own ends. not good, people, not good!

10. jocasta nu (alethea mcgrath), from star wars: attack of the clones. possibly the worst librarian i have ever seen on film. ever. not only does she give her patron cursory, verging on the outright rude, treatment, she also tells him his question is ridiculous because the information in the archives "can't be wrong." argh! someone promote her into retirement. (but, hopefully, before revenge of the sith because i don't dislike her that much.)

honorary mention: ianto jones (gareth david-lloyd), from torchwood. he insists he knows everything and, often, he seems to. i'm not sure which is more worrying.

an additional honorary mention i should be ashamed of forgetting the first time around (he really should be on the main list, but i don't feel like renumbering the whole thing and thank you, diana, for pointing out the gap!)

rupert giles (anthony stewart-head), from buffy the vampire slayer. i have to blame his omission the first time around on cold medication because there really is no other excuse. i mean, he watched "passions" with spike. this isn't strictly a librarian's job, true, but it just goes to prove that giles was just damn cool.

saturday morning again

miraculous how it just keeps comin' round, huh?

sir john mortimer, the writer of rumpole, summer's lease, the titmuss novels, journey round my father, and, not last or least, the original screen adaptation of brideshead revisited (jeremy irons, anthony andrews, nicholas grace, laurence olivier, etc., etc.) died this week. i can't help feeling it's a little ridiculous to feel sad over the death of someone i've never met but, on the other hand, i also can't help feeling that a certain voice of sanity has left england as well as an excellent writer. if you haven't read any of the above -- or, in the case of brideshead, summer's lease, or rumpole -- seen them, i suggest an addition to the ol' netflix queue and library list.

librarians -- or archivists -- rarely get to lay the smackdown. only in the movies do we generally get to tote around weapons of mass destruction (in the form of books, of course), swing through forests, or try to track down demons; mostly in the real world we even try not to shush people too much. i think this is all to the good, but, on the other hand, i can't help getting a real sense of satisfaction out of the verdict in the trial of farhad hakimzadah in london.

the first headlines i saw on this story were from last november's guardian. approximately 150 rare and/or unique books in the british library's collection had been vandalized -- pages sliced out, maps missing, etc. -- over the space of a few years. the librarians worked with the police -- and their own reading room records and the like (use statistics to fight crime!) -- to figure out what was going on and tracked the entire problem down to hakimzadah. lord love the british, they immediately took him to court for it for vandalism and, basically, irreparable damage to international cultural heritage items. if you click through into the story above, there's a partial list of some of the volumes he went through and some of them are just heartbreaking -- and they can never be the same again. even with the sliced-out maps, pages, indices, whatever returned, the books can't be fixed to be the same. the informational value will be the same -- for the books that had all their missing parts found and if those missing parts are still undamaged, legible, etc. and i don't know whether they did find all the missing pages -- but the experience of using them will never be the same for any researcher after hakimzadah.

within the last two days, the trial has concluded and the verdict handed down -- the library gets to claim about three hundred thousand pounds in damages (plus the return of the items, obviously) and hakimzadah goes to jail for two years -- plus paying legal costs, restitution, so on and so forth. (the two links above are to two very similar stories, by the way; i just included them both for the sake of completion.) apparently, hakimzadah pleaded that he had a psychological "compulsion" to steal from the library to perfect his own personal collection. apparently hakimzadah had also stolen from the bodleian (which has to be pretty pissed it didn't notice what was going on -- i see no note of whether their items are returned or paid for) and previously from the royal asiatic society which let him off if he paid for the mutilated and lost items.

now, hakimzadah, as far as i can see, has absolutely no excuse for what he did. he was a topline academic, access to research collections across the world for basically anything he might need to get his hands on outside, maybe, of the vatican archives which i hear are a pain to get into. he had money to buy more or less anything he wanted for his own collection which was, so the article said, the fourth best in his field in the world.

so we don't really get to play with the book of the dead, or the language of the birds, or the nine gates of the kingdom of shadows (which is okay by me!), but do not mess with our stuff.

Friday, January 16, 2009


would someone please please stop keanu reeves? haven't you learned your lesson, people? the remake of day the earth stood still was described by one reviewer (the guardian, i think, although i deserve no cookie here since i have to quote something without proper attribution) as "like staring into the void for two hours." please do not do the same thing to cowboy bebop!

it's not his fault, i'll grant you that, but couldn't someone find the poor guy an original project to do? remakes = 9/10 crap. bebop? leave it anime!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

snarking at lists

all right, so instead of working on my proposal for the new england historical association (doesn't that make it sound important? it's really only about a paragraph about a paper i wrote last spring), i'm going to procrastinate by poking holes in some lists that anna was kind enough to send me the other day.

the first one is this, snarkerati's top 70 vampire movies of all time. i don't know the site that well, but anything called snarkerati has to at least be fun, right? well...their list is a bit...odd.

top 70. well, okay, why not? top 50 is a bit random anyway and everyone's so sick of afi's top 100 lists that maybe avoiding 100 is a good idea. so top 70. a lot of my quibbles with this particular list are sort of taste-based. like they list blade at position 30, relatively high. i watched blade not long ago and, frankly, i couldn't wait for it to be done. if sin number one of an action movie is that nothing happens, then sin number two or three has got to be "nothing happens and it's boring." and kris kristofferson as sidekick #1? please.

underworld and underworld: evolution are far too far down the list for my taste -- they deserve better than this. interview with a vampire is undeservedly at number 15. aren't we over this by now, guys? anne rice has turned all scary-fundamentalist on us -- can we let lestat and his whiny little cohort go? yeah, he was fun when he started but, wow, talk about outsaying your welcome. and, really, who wouldn't rather look at kate beckinsale in latex rather than young brad pitt in lace cuffs? i don't think selene would even blink before decapitating louis just for being annoying.

all right, so that list is mostly just a 'but you didn't put my favorite movie first!' kind of experience. then i followed a link from that post to this one: the same site, but their top 50 dystopian movies list. this, i have more serious problems with.

by the time i got a few -- three, to be exact -- entries down the list, i was fairly sure that my version of 'dystopia' was not harmonizing with theirs -- so i went back and checked their intro section which i had skimmed before to see if they defined their terms, thinking that they must be using some abstruse definition of the term i wasn't familiar with. nope: "...the dystopian world is undesirable with poverty and unequal domination by specific individuals over others. Dystopian films often construct a fictional universe and set it in a background which features scenarios such as dehumanizing technological advancements, man-made disasters or class-based revolutions."

okay. that's fine. that's what i thought they meant -- but then why is serenity on this list? starship troopers? why on earth was star wars even on a version of this list (see end note to article) and thank you very much for cutting it out! and why are you lacking things like 28 days later, akira kurosawa's dreams, waterworld, i am legend, sunshine? even things like pitch black or silent hill or even pan's labyrinth could sneak in under a wider definition! but i think they're suffering from a slight confusion between 'dystopia' and 'alternate future' or 'alternate universe.' just because there are big machines and power blocs and the like doesn't mean you've got a dystopia on your hands.

i can absolutely see the rationale for films like clockwork orange and mad max and the like -- most of those would go down without argument as helping to define the genre of the dystopic film. some, like blade runner, have a kind of multi-format thing going on because they come from books that are part of the genre in the written word, too. but to go back to something like serenity for a minute -- yes, there are big machines; yes, these probably count -- at least a little -- as "dehumanizing technological advancements" -- although i would argue that the humans seem in fairly good control of the machines rather than vice versa which, to my mind, takes you a step back away from a dystopic situation; yes, there are man-made disasters -- at least sort of -- it depends on how you want to view the war that created the universe in which joss whedon wrote firefly/serenity; class-based revolutions? i don't know. i haven't watched the series that many times over that i've got a really firm grip on the politics thereof, but it seems to me that there are big powerful rich guys and smaller working class less powerful guys on both sides of the divide -- witness the barfight the "serenity" crew get into in the beginning of the train job.

but i think one of the important elements in almost any dystopic piece of work -- and certainly in most of the films i'm not arguing with on this list, like blade runner, road warrior, or the matrix -- is the pervasive sense of despair, depression, giving up, lack of hope, lack of ability to see a better future, lack of ability to see a way out of the system which is presently in control or, at absolute worst, lack of ability even to see the system. at best, i think of the best films in this genre as being deeply disquieting and uneasy watching. perhaps the point of the story is to show the single character -- like neo, for example -- who is brought around to being able to see the way out or just simply learns how to exploit the system for his or her own good -- perhaps like jim in 28 days later --, but i can't see that depression in serenity or, for that matter, in starship troopers although it's a far inferior film and presents characters who are in a system they either don't want to or aren't interested in questioning -- so long as they get to shoot lots of inhuman things, they don't care too much.

and, last and mostly least, i noticed this list over at of the top 10 evil computers. since 'doctor who' was listed in the tags cloud, i had to check it out. and, nice though it was of to try and get doctor who in there, i can't say that i'd've picked 'BOSS' for any top 10 list like this. and xoanon (mis-spelled in the list as 'zoanon' which nearly had me joining to correct in comments before i saw someone else had done so, although not until worryingly far down the thread) is a very cool psycho computer but against hal 9000? i don't know -- that's setting the bar awfully high! and this list, too, seems to be lacking some things -- what about 'mother' from alien, for a start?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

saturday morning randomosity

some things that strike me as amusing on saturday morning:

"young, white, and super skinny: we don't buy it." apparently, believe it or not, women prefer models who look like they do. gosh. hell of a concept, huh?

i didn't know it until 5 minutes ago, but apparently you can watch all the episodes of the original the prisoner on the amc website. since the remake with ian mckellen is looming in the near future, i think i might have to spend some time here.

and this is just far too cute for a venomous mammal.

i'm going to be laptop-shopping in a month or two -- perhaps this will be my next choice. i do love my vaios although i think this time price may have to come before shiny and i will retreat to dells.

Friday, January 9, 2009

friday afternoon

so, as pre-professional archivist, i spend a nearly unholy amount of money on hand lotion, hand cream, hand balm -- basically anything which will keep my hands in one piece with the minimum amount of blood transferring from me to the documents. blood is not a preservation/conservation material.

but, apparently, i've been thinking along the wrong lines. what i needed was more bracelets as revealed in "great uncle george's will."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

so given that livejournal, the home of my old blog such as it was, seems to be trembling at the knees (at least in a business sense) prior to (possibly?) giving way entirely, i've decided to switch over to this site. i've been playing with the look of this site for awhile now and i think i can pretty much make it do what i want it to, but we'll see.