everybody wants to be a hero

My review of the documentary Darkon has been published on Blogcritics. To be honest, I was surprised by how good it was. The cinematography is often quite stunning, and whomever they had doing the animation knew their stuff. Sure, it’s edited with a bit of a slant, and as the commentary track reveals, some things happen in the gameplay that might not have had the cameras been absent, but all in all, it comes off as a fair representation of the LARP game and players.

The tagline for the documentary Darkon is, “Everybody Wants To Be a Hero,” which succinctly sums up the main message of this film about a group of people involved in the full contact, live-action role playing (LARP) wargame of the same name. As one of the players puts it, “If you could watch Brad Pitt or be Brad Pitt, which would you rather do?” For these Baltimore area gamers, the answer is easy — they would rather pretend to be the heroes they wish they were.

#6

My review of Sylvia Engdahl’s Stewards of the Flame has been published on Blogcritics. I’ve had it on my pending review list for far too long, but most of that was because the length intimidated me. I still haven’t broken my pattern of reading a book cover to cover in one sitting, so I wasn’t particularly eager to jump into the 450+ page tome. However, since I still don’t have teh internets at home, I was able to put off my usual evening routine for a couple of nights and finally get this book read.

Stewards of the Flame is a thought provoking novel that may make you question the authority and direction of modern Western medical practices. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading genre fiction with some substance to it.

luck is fickle on the interstate

boxes and boxesThe past week has been a mix of good and bad, along with an overwhelming volume of “stuff what must be done,” and the end result is that I neglect the blog. In brief: Hit a F-150 in my (new) car two days before I moved into my new apartment. Discovered that my insurance doesn’t cover rentals, so paying for that out of pocket. On the upside, no one was injured. On the downside, experiencing unexpected and expensive transportation costs. As for the move, it was a scramble, but I managed to find a few friends to help me, which saved both time and my back, and I drove a UHaul for the first time.

The new digs are nice — not fancy, but livable and close to both work and play. I haven’t really begun to unpack yet, but I hope to get a good bit of that finished this weekend. For now, I’m catching up on sleep and some reading/writing that needs to be done.

Speaking of which, my review of Eccentric Cubicle by Kaden Harris was published on Blogcritics last week. That puts me at five books so far this year. I’m slipping behind again, but that was to be expected. I’m currently reading book #6, so hopefully I’ll have something to post here about that soon.

Oh, and before I forget, my commentary on Harvard and open access was noted in the Library Journal Academic Newswire. There’s my 15 seconds of fame, not to mention the honor of being included along with the other more thoughtful and scholarly types.

let’s get this party started, yo

My review of Freezepop’s Future Future Future Perfect has been published on Blogcritics. This was a purely voluntary review of a CD I bought with my own money, which doesn’t happen very often since I’m usually busy with the publicist-provided stuff.

My love affair with synth pop began some years ago when the general manager at WRFL handed me a few CDs and recommended that I play some tracks off of them on my show. The sweet, sweet sounds of synthesizers and ethereal pop vocals hooked me immediately, and from then on I kept an ear to the airwaves, hoping to find more of the “right stuff” that makes this music so addictive.

Over the past few months, I have discovered that the Boston-based trio Freezepop has the “right stuff.” Their new album, Future Future Future Perfect (Cordless/Rykodisc), has been on constant rotation in my “favorites” playlist, to the point that it has woken my muse to write a few pithy words about it.

trying out Windows Live Writer

So far, it has been an easy installation and setup.  The software took the URL of my blog, along with my user name and password, and in less than 30 seconds had created the connection needed to make this work.

My plan is to use the software when I travel or for live blogging conferences. I have slacked off quite a bit on the latter, although I do still use my laptop to take extensive notes. Mainly, I haven’t had time to sit down after the conference and compose those notes into a blog entry.  Hopefully, a Word-like tool such as this will help me compose my thoughts quickly and post shortly after each session, rather than whole-sale summaries days (or months) after the conference.

Windows Live Writer seems to be very easy to use. It has all the functionality of composing in WordPress and then some. Haven’t run into any snags yet, but then again, this is my first post from it.

i iz blogginz / leef I alonze

Harvard & the Open Access movement

A colleague called the Harvard faculty’s decision on making all of their works available in an institutional repository a “bold step towards online scholarship and open access.” I thought about this for a bit, and I’m not so sure it’s the right step, depending on how this process is done. Initially, I thought the resolution called for depositing articles before they are published, which would be difficult to enforce and likely result in the non-publication of said articles. However, upon further reflection and investigation, it seems that the resolution simply limits the outlets for faculty publication to those journals that allow for pre- or post-publication versions to be deposited in institutional repositories. Many publishers are moving in that direction, but it’s still not universal, and is unlikely to be so in the near future.

I am concerned that the short-term consequences will be increased difficulty in junior faculty getting their work published, thus creating another unnecessary barrier to tenure. I like the idea of a system that retains the scholarship generated at an institution, but I’m not sure if this is the right way to do it. Don’t get me wrong — repositories are a great way to collect the knowledge of an institution’s researchers, but they aren’t the holy grail solution to the scholarly communication crisis. Unless faculty put more of a priority on making their scholarship readily available to the world than on the prestige of the journal in which it is published, there will be little incentive to exclusively submit articles to publishers that allow them to be deposited in institutional repositories beyond mandatory participation. There are enough hungry junior faculty in the world to keep the top-shelf journal publishers in the black for years to come.

#4

I have been reading Rita Mae Brown’s (& Sneaky Pie Brown’s) mystery series for at least ten years, if not longer. I have read all of them, and in the past few years, I’ve begun to collect them in hardcover. In fact, I have bought the last three new in hardcover as soon as they were released, so you can imagine that I was pleased to greet another January with another new book in the series. Except that I didn’t pick up my copy until the first day of February….

Anyway, The Purrfect Murder is now available, and I have spent a lovely evening reading it. After the boring local and unpleasant characters of the last book, and the gruesome and dark murder in the book before it, I was pleased to note that Brown has returned to her tried and true formula for this book. Some might say it’s worn and dated, but for me, it’s just the right kind of predictable-yet-new brain candy that I crave from time to time.

Brown has allowed her characters to grow and develop over time, and she has also continued to incorporate some into the core that were originally introduced as side characters in previous books. Sneaky Pie notes in the afterwards that each book is meant to represent a season, and that four books equal one year in real-time. This was good to know, and something I hadn’t quite consciously noted before now. However, since Brown references events from previous books, it might be difficult for someone not familiar with the series to understand the context.

My only complaint with this book is that it is more noticeably preachy at times. Brown seems to use her characters to make statements on current politics, social issues, and just about any other hot-button issue of the day. I found this distracting, even when I agreed.

the geography of light

My review of Carrie Newcomer’s The Geography of Light has been published on Blogcritics. The album won’t be out for another week and a half, so make sure you save your lunch money between now and then. It’s worth it.

With the first pull of the bow across a violin strings and the pluck of an acoustic guitar, I knew immediately that The Geography of Light was going to be everything that I love about Carrie Newcomer’s music. Warm, inviting, and as comfortable as an old pair of jeans.