Go Free, Willy!

I had a similar experience in Zanzibar. We had just finished snorkelling off of some reef and were getting ready to head back to land when a guy on our boat dives back into the water. He had spotted a pod of dolphins who had just decided to drop by and say hello. Sadly, I had accidentally taken my camera for a swim earlier that day and the salt water disagreed with it, thus the lack of pictures. It was still really cool though.


Winter Is Coming (Or Is It Summer?)

The weather suggests that it is indeed summer that is coming, but on the other hand A Game of Thrones starts up on Sunday. Best of both worlds! I'll admit, as someone who has only recently been exposed to the series (which is a little odd considering the amount of epic fantasy I read and how long it has been around) and is making my way through the books, I'm fairly excited to see what HBO does in its adaptation and whether or not it will be able to live up to the significant hype it has managed to build up. My only reservation will be the nudity: I fully expect it to be there - this is HBO after all - but it needs to be... tasteful, and not gratuitous. I'm a little conflicted when it comes to depictions of nudity in media. On the one hand there is the acknowledgement that nudity is a normal part of life (it is after all, ahem, aur naturel state of being) and is nothing to be ashamed of, and yet on the other hand there are the problems in the glamourization of titillation so prevalent in films like the American Pie series where nudity is played to get a rise with little or no purpose beyond getting the audience to associate what they are seeing with sex.

Anyway, we'll see what happens and how much of the series I actually end up watching.

In related GoT news, the internetz got all up and indignant today with the continuing ignorance of NY Times writer Ginia Bellafante. That may seem a bit harsh, but having read a few of her tv "reviews" I find it difficult to even imagine the dark arts she must employ to keep her job. Seriously, I wonder if she is just playing us all for fools or if she really is that incompetent.

The article in question is, naturally, a review of A Game of Thrones. While the main thrust of her argument may seem valid to anyone new to the the Song of Ice and Fire series, anyone familiar with the texts or Martin can spot the fairly obvious problems with her statements. We'll leave her insistence that AGoT is a metaphor for global warming alone - though she is fairly adamant about it - and focus in on her insistence that girls would never, ever watch this show. Bellafante suggests that AGoT is "boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half." The basis for this argument is that the show is set in a medieval period with horses, swords, honour, and fighting and that the illicitness (sex) was inserted "out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise." After all:

While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first.


Perhaps we should cut Bellafante some slack; after all, how can we expect her to invest time in the characters - especially of the female variety - if she can barely handle the dramaticus personae of the tv show? It is unfortunate indeed: Martin has packed his books with strong female characters - no Mary Sues allowed. If the allure of interesting and complicated female characters wasn't enough, the series involves much more gossip and politicking than it does actual fighting, the nobility preferring to work out its aggression through subversion and alliances than outright fighting. Sounds like a certain male/female dichotomy to me.

I'm not the first, and certainly won't be the last to point out the problems in this "review", so I won't flog it any further. Ultimately, it seems more like Bellafante reinforcing the mainstream bias against genre fiction than it is an actual critical piece. She concludes by contrasting AGoT with more "real" shows like The Sopranos and The Wire:
When the network ventures away from its instincts for real-world sociology, as it has with the vampire saga “True Blood,” things start to feel cheap, and we feel as though we have been placed in the hands of cheaters. “Game of Thrones” serves up a lot of confusion in the name of no larger or really relevant idea beyond sketchily fleshed-out notions that war is ugly, families are insidious and power is hot. If you are not averse to the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic, the series might be worth the effort. If you are nearly anyone else, you will hunger for HBO to get back to the business of languages for which we already have a dictionary. 


Who Doesn't Love Renaissance Sci-Fi?

Here we go again: another version of The Three Musketeers for our viewing pleasure. I'll give this one props for its look and feel, and the fact that it appears to be clockpunk, which seriously needs more attention. The cast looks pretty good too: Milla Jovovich as M'lady de Winter; Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham; Logan Lerman as D'Artagnan; and Juno Temple as Queen Anne. The 3D makes me kind of leery, but who knows.

Also, found on cute patrol:


Essays, Web Style

I find myself at the end of the school year working late to put the finishing touches on last-minute assignments and wondering to myself if I will ever have a professor who will embrace a new style of essay writing. One not constrained to the limited capabilities of a traditional “paper”, bound by the sensibilities that come from working in a single medium for millennia. With all the new abilities afforded us by our interconnectedness to the world through the internet, why is it still unacceptable to incorporate these freedoms into academic pursuits?

The short answer is ease of use: that paper represents a sense of mobility and portability (not to mention disposability) which comes at a much lower cost than owning a laptop or a portable device capable of reading and making full use of “’net” benefits afforded by such things as video embedding in word processing documents and that cornerstone of the internet, hyperlinking. But as more and more people carry around iDevices and other increasingly sophisticated technologies – more importantly, as the price of these things drop – will we see a shift towards incorporating more fancy tech into academic writing? That is not to suggest that there is no-one doing such things, but rather that the mainstream is missing out by not adopting these kinds of changes.

Imagine if you will that you are writing a paper. For a long time you have been able to incorporate images into the text of your essays, but now you find that it is less images that bear relevance to your areas of interest and it is more short films. Or that you are, as I am now, writing about a film or a sequence and would like to make visual reference to it in your essay. Paper does not allow you to do this, but with a digital file, you could. You could even go the wiki rout with your citations: rather than leave them as ambiguous references to books or websites, you could link directly to the sections you used in your writing. The current MLA bibliography rules are perfectly situated to support this addition to the link economy.

You would still need rules to govern the appropriate use of  these extended abilities. As much as I love it, you don’t want your academic papers to be so hyperlinked to explanatory articles that it comes out looking like TV Tropes (sorry). And beware Rick Rolling! But on a whole, there is a place for the inclusion of new technology in academic settings. Who knows how long it will be before we see it?