13 April, 2011

Over 40 days after "Quaddaffi must go", he hasn't died yet, even of old age

Just read a post on a leftist site I check every so often (the kind that wants to purge Democrats of, well, pretty much everybody left to help them win an election including, increasingly, Obama) about a lawsuit filed by one of the people who wrote on Arianna Huffington's website for free for years and the claimant wants a share of the money she's made from selling the website. If you don't know any of the details about this, count your blessings.

Anyway, one of the posters on this thread talked about the devaluation of writing, having been a professional journalist since 1974. [Sidebar: Another poster on another thread mentioned being targetted by J Edgar Hoover, and a third poster on a third thread referred to working on the McGovern campaign. How old are the people on that website?] In this internet age, people are able to write for free, so he no longer gets paid a dollar a word. His bitterness was clear although, in this internet age, obviously he could be making everything up and there's no way to prove him a liar. Personally, I find it easier to assume people are telling the truth and let lies reveal themselves, but I digress...

I certainly can't deny the idea that the internet devalues writing, especially in the 'opinions are like assholes, everybody has one' categories. Fortunately, it and other technological advances like it are also instrumental in fewer people knowing
how to read, so it balances out.

Every so often, an internet meme goes around, citing an actual test from a schoolhouse in somewhere, USA from the year 18-something aimed at sixth or seventh graders. As you've probably already guessed, the questions are difficult enough that very few college graduates could get a passing, and even fewer would have enough, well, education, to even have a grounding in those areas. However smart or stupid a student might have been, to pass those math questions would require not only an understanding of the questions, but all the math that leads up to them. Yes, most of the questions are relevant to today's students, or could be made so without making them easier.

Not many kids could make it that far in school - life was a lot harder in the year 18-something - but those that could would definitely have a grounding in the world that could take them far. You know, the thing education is there for in the first place. It provides opportunities to the bright kids (as well as the idiot sons and spinsters for the wealthier families) which can pay off in the long run. If Ma and Pa and the other kids can work a little harder and keep the farm going without Junior breaking his back 12 hours a day right next to them, the education would be an asset.

Yes, writing is devalued by the fact that so many people can do it, especially in public. It still seems better than the alternative. And with the onset of Generation... what are we up to now, "Z"? What comes after Z? Anyway, these kids with their video games and internet and rocky roller music and hula hoops aren't even going to a school where the basics of a classical education are considered remotely important. "There isn't enough diversity and anyway, math is hard."

Writing is hard too. Even if you don't have anything to say (does anyone?) to keep doing it, and do it well, is something you have to want to do. A dollar a word is a nice incentive/bonus (I would imagine) but it's not the reason for doing it. Even if it's garbage, the person's ability and willingness to write something more complicated than a tweet is itself a decent justification.

[A couple of days after writing the above] I've spend most of a weekend doing little. Went into the office a couple times for some work, a bit of editing on the works-in-progress, major or minor. Today I've killed a bunch of time on at theagonybooth.whatever, a site devoted to extensive recaps of bad movies/tv shows/cartoons/comics. Recaps, not reviews. They go into excruciatingly detailed recaps of the movies. Not scene by scene or line by line, but the writers take us through the movie/whatever chronologically, usually with hilariously-captioned screenshots. They comment with a film buff's eye and as someone who is not a film buff, they usually do so with an enjoyable style.

It's not scholarship they're after so much as a group of creative individuals sharing a common sense of... fun [it's late, I don't have a better word for it]. Many of the movies are stuff you've never heard of, with some interestingly off-the-wall choices [the 1910 version of "The Wizard of Oz" being a favorite] and have recently expanded to pursue a few other lines. There are some 50's comic books, some 80's cartoons and tv shows - as someone who has real affection for "Family Ties", I loved the eviscerations nonetheless and wish to God they'd do more episodes - a number of superhero movies (most of which I haven't seen, or saw only once). There are a number of movies known by reputation - Dune, Battlefield: Earth, Gigli (odd grouping, that) - and a large amount of Trek, which is where the site's title comes from. For a Trekkie, especially one who likes being poked fun at, every part of the franchise has quite a few recaps and they're worth it. The writers obviously work hard on it, and the work reflects their biases. They aren't writing about bad movies just to be writing about bad movies, they have a distinct point-of-view with standards to uphold. They certainly don't take requests.

The Trekkie thing is actually what led me to write this, because I just realized that - having spent a chunk of the day doing so - I'd rather read articles about "Star Trek" than watch any part of it except the handful of movies I've seen and liked. And even there I have no interest in anything other than the original series and the movies based off of it. Once in a while, I happen to think about some aspect of "Trek" trivia, which Wikipedia quickly satisfies. Otherwise the subculture is interesting to me in a way the source material isn't.

Parodies of "Trek" are funny though. The "Frasier" cast doing a Frasier skit, only with Trek humor, CPT Janeway reading all the Frasier lines and you-know-who dressed up as a Klingon? That's funny. A convention beseiged by Zombies in "Night of the Living Trekkies"? Comedy gold. I can watch those over and over. Otherwise, I may see II, III, IV and VI again sometime before I die, but I'm not worried about it.

There's certainly overlap between Trek and areas I am interested in (comic books, Star Wars), so it's not like I'm unfamiliar with the material, just that I don't get the interest others have for it. Years ago, this actually bothered me to the extent that I went out and rented a VHS copy of what's considered to be the best episode ever, "The City on the Edge of Forever". And the whole time, I'm watching what's supposed to be a sci-fi masterpiece and wondering 'how is Spock able to build those futuristic machines in the 1930's?' For that matter, what were Kirk and Spock doing there in the first place, since they would have blinked out when McCoy jumped through and changed time just like the Enterprise did. Remember, they tried to hail the ship and failed, leaving them no choice but to follow the Dr. into the past.

So - perhaps much like comic books and Star Wars for other people - I just don't get the appeal. Discussing Nurse Chapel vs. Yeoman Rand, the Borg, Tribbles, no idea what people see in it. [Picard versus Kirk, I get]

Here's the trailer for a small movie that looks like a generic slacker rom-com (as I say, I'm not a film buff) but uses the Artist Formerly Known As Shatner creatively.

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