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[Wednesday, November 19, 2003]


In passing

I just want to mention how much I hate the alleged "word" webinar. I don't have a philosophical objection to portmanteaus, but this one (composed of 'web' and 'seminar', if you haven't encountered the horror yet) just makes my hackles rise.

posted 11:24 AM |

[Tuesday, November 18, 2003]


Which parts are the Dunadan's?

I haven't even seen the extended edition of Fellowship, let alone of Towers, but as you can well imagine the madness has me well in its grip. There's a writeup on the TTT extended edition in Salon (view the ad to get a day pass, or, if you are not a cheap sod like myself, subscribe), in which Peter Jackson responds to the "not enough Ents" school of criticism:

Jackson says he wants to make a spinoff TV series set in Fangorn Forest. "Nothing happens ... or I could make Treebeard a kind of crime-fighting tree who solves mysteries in Fangorn. He just doesn't do it very quickly."
While I, like many fans, am a little perturbed by the planned editing-out of Christopher Lee's Saruman, largely because I like me some Christopher Lee, generally I'm in favour of cutting the Jackson/Boyens/Walsh writing team lots of slack. My personal view on adaptations is pretty loose, to say the least. I don't expect them to follow the text point-by-point. I'm probably geeky enough to watch a seven-hour-long Fellowship which included Every. Single. Incident, and all the songs in full, but I don't measure the quality of the screenplay by its proximity to that. To be honest, I think the task which I should, as a responsible reader/viewer, evaluate them on, is how well they take Tolkien's material - the fabric - and make something of their own out of it. I suppose there is, lurking there, some coefficient of elasticity -- if the thing deviates too much, it stops being an adaptation, exactly, and more a new thing partly inspired. But in general I don't even subscribe to the "well, as long as it's faithful to Tolkien's vision" cavil; I don't think conveying Tolkien's vision is their duty. It's to convey their vision, using Tolkien's materials without doing actual violence to the nature of those materials. This I think they have done well so far.

Here is an objection from the peanut gallery, explaining why Lord of the Rings (the movie) suXX0rs.

Oh, and I doubt there was really much suspense; but if you didn't feel like reading "Warm Beds are Good" start to finish, the answer to the question "Sam and Frodo: Gay? Or Victorian?" is, unsurprisingly, "Victorian".

posted 10:25 PM |

[Monday, November 17, 2003]


The newest profession

At one time -- in my own defence, let me say that it was as a student intern -- I wrote HTML (and the odd chunk of JavaScript or Perl, and even odder Java applet) for a living. That was not quite what I thought I would be doing when (large computer company) hired me, but there it is. The mantra "It beats flipping burgers" figured prominently in tedious and Dilbertesque moments, though I'm sure the aging mainframe developers in the next set of cubes over probably thought we should all be planting trees, or running test cases, or something much less fun, and that we -- by which, mostly, I mean myself -- should get our goddamn hair cut already.

(Pause to insert false teeth) Web programming was not taught in computer science departments in those days, so we had all kind of picked it up on the fly, mostly while avoiding the things we were supposed to be doing. Mostly we picked up HTML and JavaScript from cannibalizing other peoples', and from reference guides. I had a book on Photoshop, and the Camel Book on Perl, and I knew people had read the rightly-much-maligned Creating Killer Web Sites by self-acknowledged ruiner of the Web David Siegel. Siegel got his just comeuppance as reported here:

At one point, following Berlow's intense debate with Verdana creator Matthew Carter, Siegel piped in that he will have "a chapter about that in my next book - though it will probably be obsolete by the time it's printed." Berlow gave Siegel the long, cold stare: "No, it was obsolete when you wrote it." The stunned Siegel replied with a very Anthony Michael Hall-ish "harrrrsh!" The most profound insight came a little earlier, though, when Berlow responded to Siegel's initial plugs for his Amazon bestseller Creating Killer Web Sites; Berlow hissed that he is "writing a book called Killing the Creators of Web Sites.
I managed to avoid, by good advice from others and from my own basic sense of design, engaging too much in egregious design crimes like Front Page hover buttons, entrance tunnels, and vast swathes of text in graphic-only format. All the same, I devoutly wish I had had Philip Greenspun's mighty work How To Be A Web Whore Just Like Me (more sedately issued in print as Database-backed Web Sites) to hand in those days. The Acknowledgments are swiped from elsewhere -- Olin Shivers' Scheme Shell Reference Manual -- but deserve wider propagation:
Who should I thank? My so-called "colleagues," who laugh at me behind my back, all the while becoming famous on my work? My worthless graduate students, whose computer skills appear to be limited to downloading bitmaps off of netnews? My parents, who are still waiting for me to quit "fooling around with computers," go to med school, and become a radiologist? My department chairman, a manager who gives one new insight into and sympathy for disgruntled postal workers?

My God, no one could blame me---no one!---if I went off the edge and just lost it completely one day. I couldn't get through the day as it is without the Prozac and Jack Daniels I keep on the shelf, behind my Tops-20 JSYS manuals. I start getting the shakes real bad around 10am, right before my advisor meetings. A 10 oz. Jack 'n Zac helps me get through the meetings without one of my students winding up with his severed head in a bowling-ball bag. They look at me funny; they think I twitch a lot.
A little dated by the "bitmaps off of netnews" trope; we graduate students of the modern age principally waste our time posting to our blogs.

Um. Yeah. Gotta run!

posted 3:54 PM |

Today's weather in Hell

.. a chill Arctic wind, evidently

(Background: before moving out West and becoming a pot activist, Emery was known in my hometown as a bookstore owner and hard-core anarcho-capitalist libertarian who ran for the batshitinsane Freedom Party of Ontario and pushed Ayn Rand on anybody who looked susceptible. Just to make it clear that this is a sea-change of MacLeodian proportions.)

posted 1:15 PM |