Lots of work from home

    Loaded up:
  • Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

  • Soul Coughing, Ruby Vroom
  • The Postal Service, Give Up

Death, disease, and the Irish?

My favorite passage from How to Lie with Maps by Mark Monmonier:

Similarly, black might connote mourning, death, or heaviness,
whereas blue can suggest coldness, depression, aristocracy, or
submissive faith. White might suggest cleanliness or sickness, and
green can relate to envy, compassion, or the Irish (154).

I don’t know why I think that’s so funny, but I do.

More How to Lie with Maps

I just finished Mark Monmonier’s book. It’s great. There’s one passage that strikes to the core of my being with a glowing, cartographic, nerdly joy. He writes:

…map publishers have been known to deliberately falsify their maps by adding “trap streets.” As deterrents to the theft of copyright-protected information, trap streets are usually placed subtly, in out-of-way locations unlikely to confuse or antagonize map users.(51)

It seems to me that the “trap street” is a fantastic opportunity for hypertext writers. While people working for “transparency” and “clarity” certainly wouldn’t want trap streets cluttering up their “site maps,” I think hypertext authors interesting in the more playful aspects of the web could use “deliberately falsified” elements deliciously.

When trying to write using hypertext to be more socially active or aware, this passage seems particularly apt:

By omitting politically threatening or aesthetically unattractive aspects of geographic reality, and by focusing on the interests of civil engineers, geologists, public administrators, and land developers, our topographic “base maps” are hardly basic to the concerns of public health and safety officials, social workers, and citizens rightfully concerned about the well-being of themselves and others. In this sense, cartographic silences are indeed a form of geographic disinformation(122).

Perhaps an offshoot of adbusters could be mapbusters–people dedicated to the cartographic education and elucidation of social problems often ignored in maps.

Push Butt**

Two amusing things from a local restaurant in Oak Park:
1. They had a handblower with written instructions instead of pictures. The instructions were marred in all three expected ways:

  1. Press Butt
  2. Rub hands under arm hair
  3. Stop atomically
  4. Wipe hands on pants

It was sort of a thrill to see these scratchings (including the fourth step, which is added to the machine), since the newer icon-based instructions don’t allow for this kind of play (wrong-o, Brendan!). Apparently, I’m not the only person to notice this phenomenon.

2. This particular restaurant offers trivia cards for its patrons to read. At the table behind us, two teenage daughters and their father were eating dinner. The older (probably a sophomore or junior in high school) asked, “In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy led congressional hearings looking for what?”
There was a pause and then the father said, “Communists.”
After another short pause, the younger sister (perhaps eighth grade) said “Red Scare, baby.”
I couldn’t stop laughing.

Break begins

Semester break begins today. Whoo.

    In rotation this week:
  • Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
  • Weezer, Maladroit
  • The White Stripes, Elephant

How to Lie with Maps

Two passages from Mark Monmonier’s book that struck me today. First, a funny one:

A more personal example of creative cartography is Mount Richard, which in the early 1970s suddenly appeard on the continental divide on a county map prepared in Boulder, Colorado. Believed to be the work of Richard Ciacci, a draftsman in the public works department, Mount Richard was not discovered for two years. (5!)

The second passage struck a chord with me:

…using outside contractors for compilation or drafting requires a strong commitment to quality control buttressed by the bureaucrat’s inherent fear of embarrassment. (43)

I think this passage strikes me because it highlights the difference between a bureaucrat and a good politician (“good” in the sense of being good at politicking, not in the sense of being good for the people). Both Clinton and W seem to be without any sense of embarrassment. Both know when they need to spin, but neither ever seems ashamed in the way the media and the public think they should be.

Why we’re afraid of robots

One of my favorite SF themes is that “technology is going to kill us,” part of what Bukatman suggests is the conservative undercurrent that drives SF. Behold the dangers Dorothy faced:

Brewster Rockit Copyright 2005 Tim Rickard

To continue the theme from previous posts—what do we do with this in class? Is this the rhetoric of Chicken Little? As SF and “real life” get closer and closer, the novels about VR games driving people to murder ride the same airwaves as congressional hearings about videogame violence.

Filmed Theater

For a month or two now, I’ve been greedily eyeing an ad for One Man Star Wars which I placed on my fridge. When I read Clancy‘s post about Point Break LIVE!, it reminded me of this play I will not be able to see. I’m fascinated by the remediation of cinema to the stage. We’ve seen it a lot in the last few years–The Producers and The Graduate both spring to mind as recent adaptations.

For we film scholars, it’s particularly interesting given film’s early history of being the tagalong to theater’s cool older brother. Or, as Bazin put it in “Theater and Cinema—Part One”:

The heresy of filmed theater is rooted in an ambivalent complex that cinema has about the theater. It is an inferiority complex in the presence of an older and more literary art, for which the cinema proceeds to overcompensate by the “superiority” of its technique–which in turn is mistaken for an aesthetic superiority. (What is Cinema? Vol 1 87)

Now the ship has turned. Given cinema’s huge box office revenues, can we explain theater’s turn to cinema as merely monetary? Or could it be that remediation is in full swing? Perhaps the cynic might say that we bread-and-circuses public (close your mouth, dear reader—I embrace the silliness of someone quoting Bazin putting himself in that category) just like seeing stories we already know in new forms?

This post also reminds me of the current relationship between cinema and video games. Despite the early Atari E.T. debacle, video games have been adapting movies for 25 years or so. At present, both media are feeding on one another—successful games might yield a movie, and any action or children’s movie with a large budget will certainly yield a spinoff game. Then there are games like Half-Life 2, which work almost like a movie you play.

How can we start to use these remediations? We’ve seen MOO adaptations of textual spaces, but what else can we do–Flash games? Websites? (Assignment: make a web site adaptation of a favorite movie as a way to motivate a critical conversation about an issue in your community. Use the reader’s nostalgia and knowledge of the text to pull them in and discuss the issue.)

One last thing: you may be wondering why I have not seen One Man Star Wars. I spent my theater money for the last few months on tickets to Spamalot!

That’s too funny.

Wiener wagon hotbed of sin

Two women who sold hot dogs from this camper in Levittown, L.I., also allegedly used the wiener wagon to perform sex acts.

…Skorgy and Scalia lashed out at reporters who tried to interview them outside the Eighth Precinct stationhouse in Levittown last night.

“Oh, be quiet,” Skorgy hollered, kicking at a photographer. When asked about her scheme, she countered, “Your mother sells hot dogs.”

Nothing new

After a couple weeks of mostly new music, I dug out some old favorites.

    In the Stereo:

  • James, Whiplash
  • Dinosaur Jr, Green Mind
  • Cannonball Adderly, Sophisticated Swing, disc 2

Not as many

Less does not mean “not as many.” Less means “not as much.” Fewer means “not as many.”

10_items_or_less.jpg fewer.jpg
Wrong Right

Do not write:
I didn’t have a stomachache because I ate less M&M’s than last Halloween.

Do write:
I didn’t have a stomachache because I ate fewer M&M’s than last Halloween. I still had a sugar high, though.

The “naked ‘this'”

Do not use this as a pronoun. Include the noun to which you are referring.

Do not write:
The answer to “life, the universe, and everything” is 42. This has puzzled scholars and fans of silly novels for years.

Do write:
The answer to “life, the universe, and everything” is 42. This mystery has puzzled scholars and fans of silly novels for years.

Using a “naked ‘this'” leaves the reader guessing at your meaning; don’t make them guess! (Thanks, Doug!)



So I started playing Half-Life 2 today and, to my surprise, heard Robert Guillume’s voice. Weird! I haven’t seen him since Sports Night. It’s always strange to hear recognizable voices in odd places–James Coburn selling Dodge trucks, Gene Hackman shilling for Lowe’s, and now Benson in my video game. Lord help me if Carrot Top shows up.

Odd mix

This week, I’m putting three pretty different CDs in the stereo. Makes for some interesting juxtapositions if I put them on shuffle.

    In the CD player now:
  • Muff Ugga, Hustlin Man Blues

  • Sum 41, Chuck
  • The Killers