Madness, movies, and committees

January 9, 2007

Actually, I have decided to take a respite today from my own extended musings on a single topic. Instead, I have decided to provide you with three unrelated, well-written pieces that might be of interest to those interested in information science-y things. Well… two, actually. The third piece is probably something to which most of us in higher education can relate.


In a column for The Guardian, Charles Brooker begins by talking about an enthroned existential epiphany he had about the death of human “civilisation.” He believes that we will go out with neither a bang nor a whimper, and that we are not being dumbed down. Instead, we will “die screaming” because our brains are succumbing to what he identifies as a “dizzying madness.” Brooks made this realization while looking at (not reading) a magazine with “rowdy colours and exclamation marks,” where the faces of celebrities are accompanied by bits of text that boil down their “essential” characteristics.

While reading the article, I couldn’t help but think of social networking sites (if they’re still the “hot thing,” which they likely are not for all we know). Fortunately, unlike the sheet Brooks was reading (errr… looking at), users can cram a bunch of information about oneself into a social networking account and reduce the likelihood of fast-and-easy essentialism. Still, I do wonder if some people are content with presenting themselves in the same manner that various publications present celebrities, saying in a sense that, “This is who I am, and that’s all. Therefore, I’m kind of like a celebrity.”

Anyway, enough about that. It’s now time for…


David Denby in The New Yorker ponders the future of movies, beginning with his experience of viewing Pirates of the Caribbean on iPod’s two-inch monitor. His piece is a bit thick for a decent summary and analysis (as is the case with many decent New Yorker articles), but I’ll take a stab at some of the things that resonated most with me.

I found Denby’s experiences with viewing different movies in different media fascinating. Later in the article, he describes watching some films on a large flat-panel television, which comes closest to approximating a cinematic experience. He describes how The Philadelphia Story and Spider-Man seemed to work well, but that the experience of watching Taxi Driver seemed more rarified than it should have been. I have only seen the last movie on a television screen, which is smaller than a large flat panel. I got the “general effect” of the film just fine, but I can only envy those who have had the experience of viewing it in the theater. The same goes for 2001, or any other favorite films that I have not had the opportunity to view in the theater.

Some may be content with viewing stuff on a tiny screen, which is fine. However, connoisseurs of film should not be denied the pleasure of feeling overwhelmed by the experience just because “the kids” apparently want movies anywhere, anytime, 24/7 (to repeat the mantra of contemporary life). As Denby says, “In a theatre, you submit to a screen; you want to be mastered by it, not struggle to get cozy with it.” I know that idea might make some people a bit uncomfortable, but that is what makes movies so special. Within the cinematic realm, you can either “escape” from harsh realities, or you get in touch with something very real within yourself. (Personally, I find such distinctions rather arbitrary.)


This deviates from the two information science-y stories from above, but I felt that many of you would appreciate this First Person piece about committee work from The Chronicle. Of course, I’m sure some of you are already thinking that it could relate to the first topic listed in the title of today’s posting. Reading about the experiences of “John Lemuel,” such an assessment seems fair. I won’t say much, however, since I suspect that some of you can readily relate to being overcommitted (or “overcommitteed”), which could ultimately lead to being just plain “committed.”


2 Responses to “Madness, movies, and committees”

  1. Jason Says:

    Hmmm… the cinematic experience of viewing movies sounds a lot like virtual reality. Just less “interactive,” whatever that actually means.

    Let me just say that I’d be a bit intimidated by an interactive version of Taxi Driver.

    You talkin’ to me?

  2. […] Do you watch TV shows or news on devices other than a television: I actually don’t understand the appeal of watching something on a portable device. It might work for news or low-kinetic visuals, but I prefer to see shows and movies on larger screens. […]

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