Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Week #9

I must admit--and I think I've read this on a few other blog entries written for this week's assignment--that I'm a bit torn about the whole music copyright issue. On the one hand, I completely agree with the larger music recording corporations who are simply trying to protect their legal property. We are, for better or worse, under the general umbrella or capitalism. These companies and, by extension, the artists they represent put money into these endeavors and want their duly earned money.

Having said that, what I like about Steve Jobs's article is how it points to a fundamental flaw in the logic of the supposed remedy of DRM these "big four" so faithfully cling to. The technologies of Web 2.0 are so advanced now and grow at a rate so breathless sometimes that it truly takes remarkable foresight to really tackle the problem of digital piracy (music and otherwise) with any kind of effectiveness. I'm only marginally intelligent [your joke here] and thus I have no idea what kind of solutions are out there, but I'm sure that's what these corporations along with Apple, Microsoft, and the like are doing their best to find.

On to the eXplore sites--

Like one of the previous week's assignments, I find that there's a singular flaw in websites or services that recommend music (or movies or books) based on the particular artist you like. People's tastes (I hope) are varied and eclectic and to narrow down a range of likes or dislikes in this manner is, I find, slightly nearsighted. But...

to be fair, these sites really are about discovery and that really is to be applauded. If you type in an artist you like and it leads you to new artist you like, but of whom previously you had not been aware, then I guess that's a good thing. And for me--especially with music.

I freely admit to the fact that I listen almost nothing new when it comes to music. I listen almost exclusively to older music. Anything from old blues and jazz down through to classic rock and soul music from the 60s and 70s. I have though been interested recently in an indie band called Bishop Allen, whose music I first heard in the movie Mutual Appreciation. And because I'm not too up-to-speed on the current music scene, I find the music sites like Liveplasma and Last.fm pretty informative. I particularly like Last.fm because you immediately get to listen to that artist's music and then artists similar to them.

BTW, I was so impressed with Emily Wallace's music. Had to listen to a few songs a few times over they were so good!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Week #8

I should first start off by stating that I do, in general, like the idea of online learning and what the whole Web 2.0 thing has to offer. But I do have reservations about the sort of long-term ramifications it will have on our mass culture. I recently checked out a book called The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture by Andrew Keen. I won't go into a long book review of it, but Keen's position in part is to criticize the Web 2.0 culture/phenomenon for creating a too-even playing field where the line between artist and audience is blurred--even erased--thus causing a rotating series of stupid YouTube videos, Flickr pics, and uninformed op-ed blogs made by amateurs locked up in their rooms drowning out the sounds and images and ideas of knowledgeable experts who actually have something of merit to offer.

To be honest, I've always had these reservations, but in the way Keen offers in his final chapter, it really is about the way we use it and not the technology itself. If we can use the technology to highlight the overlooked and enhance, not water down our culture, then I think Web 2.0 can be incredibly useful.

But that was yet again one of my many rants. Back to this particular week's lesson. I have helped a few of my co-workers with some of the details of the lessons and I think it's really great that we are open enough to share what we think about the work we're doing, both as a group and individually. There are a lot of blogs created for this course that I love reading and I love that I get to be a part of that.

As far as Flickr is concerned, I don't have a digital camera per se, but I'm gonna try to take pics on my cell phone and figure out how to upload them and see how that goes!

Friday, June 22, 2007

AFI Redux... or redo?

This past Wednesday, June 22, the American Film Institute unveiled its second list of the 100 greatest American movies ever made. Entitled AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies - 10th Anniversary Edition, this list can be seen as a do-over for the earlier attempt, a chance to right some wrongs and to reassess the collective canon of great American films.

Like any list of this nature, AFI's original 100 Years... 100 Movies caused much controversy. This list will be no different. Many newspapers and film blogs have already voiced opinions defending or criticizing the inclusion and rank of many films on the list. So, guess what, I'm joining in on the parade.

I'll start off with some of the things I believe the panel got wrong. One of the more notable omissions for me was Stagecoach, John Ford's 1939 seminal western. It was the fullest maturation of the genre, lifting it from a primarily B-movie category to A-list status. That it fell off and The Searchers vaulted up the list (thankfully!) is a bit surprising.

Another--and far more fascinating--exclusion is the one of The Birth of a Nation (1915). Its omission, at least most obviously, is a reflection of its overt racism. There's a remarkable paradox here. D.W. Griffith's film is a true benchmark of cinema to that point and to not include it because of an albeit abhorrent message seems to be a kind of timid revisionism. The AFI panel did included Griffith's following film, Intolerance (1916), which wasn't on its original list and merits inclusion here. But are they simply substituting one for the other for its lack of controversy? Good or bad, the film is an important part of our cinematic heritage and, in the end, isn't that kind of the point. But having said that, what if a movie came out today that portrayed the same kind of racism (or sexism, or age-ism, or homophobia)? I think that I and most others would be appalled--and correctly so.

So what are we left with? In part, lists like AFI's are pocket history lessons. We don't ignore moments in history just because we don't like them.

On to the good... and there are a lot of them.

The biggest jump in the list was the aforementioned The Searchers, John Ford's 1956 western. In the original list 10 years ago, the film barely made it, ranking at 96. This time, the movie jumped an astonishing 84 spots to #12. Personally, I think I would rank it somewhere in the top ten, but that the panel more readily recognizes the power and greatness of the film is refreshing.

And the panel made the right decision in finally recognizing that Vertigo (1958), and not Psycho (1960), is Alfred Hitchcock's greatest film. Despite the jagged bravura and modernism of Psycho, Vertigo is his most confident and personal, his most complete achievement as a filmmaker.

But to me the most delightful surprise of watching the TV special and perusing the list is seeing Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931) vault 65 spots from #76 in the '98 list to #11 this year. City Lights is absolutely my favorite movie of all time and they were right (as in the similar case with Hitchcock) that it is Chaplin's highest accomplishment, better than The Gold Rush (1925), which many hold out to be his greatest.

There are so many other highs and lows that I could point out, from the thankful inclusion of The General and Do the Right Thing to the exclusion of The Third Man (if it can be considered an "American" film at all is to be debated) and the ridiculous inclusion at #50 of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. But really, that's one of the reasons lists like that do and should exist. It engages people in a dialogue about what films are great and what makes them great. And in the end, like the '98 list did for me, it provides for the would-be cinephile who wants to know what great movies are out there and doesn't know where to start.

For additional commentary on this topic see Roger Ebert's (along with a complete list of the 100) and Jim Emerson's websites.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Week #7

I will first start off by saying I love trivia. Lurv it, luff it. I like the idea of Blufr, but I can only take so many what are essentially true-false questions. I did a little searching--and when I say a little searching, I mean clicking on the first link in Yahoo after typing in "trivia"--and found a pretty neat site called FunTrivia.com. In grand Web 2.0 fashion, you can upload and submit your own quiz and conduct your own tournaments in which other members can participate.

I also started a traineo account, but now that I think about it, I don't think I'll use it that much. I don't often think about what I eat except when I'm actually eating. Same with exercising. I eat when (and what) I eat and I exercise when I exercise. Outside of that, I don't like keeping track of that. But what I do like about it is how people can share healthy recipes and workout tips in the forums.

And I like animals just fine (and certainly more than some people I know!), but not enough to waste my Learn 2.0 time on it. Ditto on the beer and wine. The Puzzle Player was a bit of a disappointment in the general trivia stuff, but I liked the word and math puzzles just fine.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Week #6

...a little late, but oh well...

It seems a few of the library apps we had to eXplore covered the same territory or offered the same services and, of them, GuruLib was my favorite. I used to have an inventory of my CDs and DVDs on a simple document file on my computer, but I love the way their system works and how easy it is to organize and upload information.

I was interested in what What Should I Read Next? and their film and music site This One Next had to offer, but I was fairly disappointed. Maybe I didn't work the site properly, but it was little difficult--for me anyway--to maneuver and I think you can find recommendations on other sites that work better than this one. In any case, I'm always wary of these kind of places that tell you if you like one thing that you're going to like another. I'm not necessarily against it, but I think on the whole it assumes too much of why a particular piece of art (novel, film, music album, etc.) reaches the person who enjoys it. And some places simply recommend another novel or movie for no other reason than the fact that its plot is similar, completely without regard to quality, at which point the recommendation just seems empty and pointless.

Anywho, that was my mini-rant about that. I also really like the idea behind Elf, but as I am only a member of our particular library (which also offers those services), I really had no need for it.