« December 2009 | Main | February 2010 »

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Looking for a Job in California in Early 2010: An Anecdote

In July 2009, I notified my chair that I would not be returning to my job as a professor of literature. My departure was abrupt and left the department in the lurch. For that I am sorry. I am not sorry, however, about my decision to leave, one that had been years in the making. The short version (and all I’m likely to share unless you number among my friends or family) is that I write slowly and was unwilling to rush writing a book no one needed so that I could live longer in a place I did not love.

On 1 August 2009, Pam and I signed a one-year lease for an apartment in San Francisco’s Fillmore district. I’ve wanted to live in a city like this since going to college in Fall 1985 when I mistakenly thought L.A. would be such a city.

In October 2009, the bit of money I made in the sale of my house started running out, so I sold my Camry. For the first time since purchasing my first car in 1987, I did not own a motor vehicle, a condition to which I had been aspiring since 1993.

My 2009 holiday excursions over, I had depleted my sustaining funds by more than one month. I would run out of money in February as opposed to mid March. Pam had been telling me to expect in this economic climate that my job search would take two to four months.

I did and did not hear her; I was on vacation for the first time since 1990, on a five-month bus driver’s holiday that began in the second half of 2009. I got to work unimpeded on my favorite digital projects, this blog among them.

On 13 January, I started sending resumés to prospective employers and started receiving responses on 18 January. On 21 January, my first choice extended an offer for slightly more than I made at my last job (as a professor). The next day, I accepted.

Today is my first day, and the only thing I feel more than happy is lucky.

end of article

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Philosophy of Signage Followed By a Short Blogger’s Vacation

I will be starting a new job on Wednesday, 27 January and have decided to take a much-needed break starting today. This means no posts until Wednesday, 27 January at the earliest and Saturday, 30 January at the latest.

In the meantime, here’s an interview with yours truly conducted by Cheerleaders for Signage, a group based in Athens, OH. In the interview, I explain how successful signange can help stupid indecisive people identify the items they want to buy at a garage sale.

If you’d like me to come talk about signage to your group, just let me know.

Duration: 32 s

Clicking downloads a 6.4 MB file.

Please be patient while the file loads

Ctrl/Right-click here to “Save File As . . .”

end of article

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Rumored Apple Tablet and the Rumored Future of Print

The hype machine is cranked to frenzy and the air is smokey after the Apple’s latest burst, Come see our latest creation. The more perspicacious among us are connecting dots» between Apple’s product announcement and the New York Time’s imminent (re)erection of a paywall».

Previously, I considered the effect of the digitization of print to paper, which (for now) I think is important to distinguish paper print versus digital print.1 Thinking about the long-term effects of the Google Books project, I wrote

It was easy to believe that the future of the book, not just its electronic advent but its commercial feasability, was in fact a distant future, somewhere between an Apple-branded tablet device and flying automobiles. As long as the present day ability of readers to curl up in the bathtub with their favorite gathering of toxically produced wood pulp remained unchallenged, no one really considered the economic and social impact of etext and ebooks. The day people realized Google was moving its books project out of the academic cloister toward commercial respectability was the day everyone crapped their paper print diapers.

Paper print publishers have been resisting the digitization of the current and back catalogs because this is the way incumbents behave. Like Xerox who suppressed WIMP, like scribes who opposed the printing press, like the music industry who crushed Napster, the paper print industry cannot afford to understand how digital print fundamentally changes the way in which media are used, including non-digital media. Or more succinctly: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it! 2

I suspect Apple will show up with some important partners when they announce a device to bring (among other things) digital print to the rest of us. The publishers and creatives who produce content for this market will reap unprecedented financial reward and historical renown. The next era of human media information is digitally enhanced and is portable. One way or another, next Wednesday we’re going to have a lot to talk about.

end of article

1 Paper has many features distinct from electronic media. The position is so accepted that it’s generated reactionary lists about the ways in which paper books are superior to digital books (exemplum). My point in emphasizing the comparison between paper and digital print is to foreground those features of digital print that are not only distinct from paper, but are also distinct from, say, digital video. For example, digital print can be (more easily) searched for text. Quoting digital print is much easier than quoting digital video. Digital print can be transcribed to paper print with greater holographic fidelity. Etc.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Conservative New York Times Columnist David Brooks Nails What’s Wrong With Slightly Misinterprets James Cameron’s Avatar

Jake Sully and Neytiri

Neytiri and Jake Sully (source)

On Saturday night (9 January 2010), I posted and retracted a bits link to the David Brooks article linked in this entry.

I’ve seen James Cameron’s Avatar twice now and both times I liked the film pretty OK. The accolades thundering throughout the blogosphere and echoed by the geekarati are to me just so much noise.

The film’s special effects are great, sure, and the Pandora ecosystem is highly detailed and richly imagined, yes. That still didn’t change my opinion that with the exception of Jake Sully and Neytiri the characters were flat as cardboard cutouts.1 I also hardly believedspoiler»

I also had problems with the film’s colonial narrative, which makes the colonists villians and heroes with the Na’vi caught in between. I’m reminded of what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick says about the role women play in homosocial relations. Brooks’s nutshell summary seemed exactly right when I first read it.

(show nutshell/spoiler)

After posting a bits entry with an earlier version of the title of this entry, I unpublished it because I realized Brooks’s excellently conceived analysis neglects a crucial point about the film, namely that Jake Sully uses an avatar in the war between humans and Na’vi. The heroics Jake undertakes are in fact the heroics of someone using a meat puppet, and his successes may partly be due to that fact. Most of what Jake achieves does not require placing his actual body in harm’s way.spoiler» When embodiment can be non-local and temporary, advantage accrues to those who use avatars.

The lesson is clear.»

end of article

1 Trudy Chacon also has a little bit of depth, but only as a cliché. spoiler»

Sunday, 10 January 2010

6.5 Earthquake Rocks Humboldt County

Trudy’s Sweets and Treats plate glass shattered by earthquake on 9 January 2010

Trudy’s Sweets & Treats in Ferndale, CA (source)

The linked SFGate article notes that no injuries were reported, but 18,000 customers were without electricity as darkness fell.

It calls to my mind the 12:29 PM 17 August 1991 Honeydew earthquake. A group of us HSU English TAs were meeting in a portable building on a hill. The rumbling started and the sides of the building started skewing back and forth by maybe 3 to 5 degrees. We looked at each other wide-eyed and, after about 7 seconds, took slow-motion cover under the tables. Crouching on hands and knees, we all wore wild, edgy grins. I remember David Reynolds and Jolien Olsen. I’m pretty sure Adam Shinn, Margaret Walker, and Julie were there, too.

Later, Darren Cooper told us he had been walking his pooch on the beach when the quake struck. The beach started rolling in waves like the ocean. The Louisiana-Pacific smokestack stopped puffing and, once the shaking stopped, it vomited a black cloud of soot.

Pam says, I’m telling you, we should go where the sea lions went.1

end of article

1 Apparently, the Pier 39 sea lions may have gone to find food.

Friday, 08 January 2010

“The San Francisco Roach is Generally German or Oriental in Derivation”

Pacific Heights» is a vastly underrated psychological thriller. Part of the problem likely is the wooden acting by Matthew Modine and the unconvincing ditzy by Melanie Griffith, though Michael Keaton plays creep quite well.1 Another part of the problem is that the film’s narrative arc reads like a landlord’s repudiation of tenants’ rights, and I can’t say any more without a spoiler tag.

The following scene (40:46 - 42:06) stars the inimitable Tracey Walter and contains not-so-subtle racist characterizations of Asians and Germans. Still, it manages to contribute at least 1 star» to the film. A couple more like this and it woulda been a cult contendah.

Duration: 1m 22s

Clicking downloads a 23 MB file.

Please be patient while the file loads

Ctrl/Right-click here to “Save File As . . .”

end of article

1 I briefly met Griffith in the late 1980s when she threw a birthday party for Dennis Quaid. The highlight of that night working for Z-Valet was having a Citroen pull up. I went to greet the driver and found myself gazing directly into David Byrne’s wide open eyes. It was the only time I ever found myself starstruck.

Friday, 01 January 2010

I’m From the Future and I’m Here to Help.

Happy New Year!

It’s the first day of 2010 and I’m looking forward to starting the year off right, which is that this year is “Twenty Ten” not “Two Thousand Ten.”

On our way home from our New Year’s Eve festivities driving past the Civic Center, I rolled down the window and yelled, We’re living in the future! »

You see, while the twentieth century prepared us for 2000’s advent, seeding our dreams with visions of a space-faring culture, the future is not evenly distributed. Depending where you are—Athens, OH; Seoul, South Korea; St. Petersburg, Russia—you may in fact be somewhen other than now.

For ten years, English speakers said “two thousand [some single digit number 1 through 9]” rather than saying “twenty oh [some single digit number 1 through 9]” because they (we) were living in the past, living in the run up to the twenty-first century.

It’s ten years in, peepo. Come join me in the future.

end of article

« December 2009 | Main | February 2010 »