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Showing posts from August, 2012

Painter with a Movie Camera: A Tribute to Tony Scott

I suppose that comparing the late Tony Scott to Dziga Vertov will seem ridiculous to many (most!) people, as will proclaiming Domino a masterwork. So be it. Here's a tribute to Tony Scott in which I do both of those things:

Painter with a Movie Camera: A Tribute to Tony Scott from Matthew Cheney on Vimeo.

And here are the tributes I mention in the video:
Manohla Dargis, "A Director Who Excelled in Excess"
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, "Smearing the Senses: Tony Scott, Action Painter"

"How to Play with Dolls"

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This little story was originally published in Weird Tales 352, Nov/Dec. 2008, edited by Ann VanderMeer.



How to Play with Dolls
by Matthew Cheney

Jenny's father spent a year making a dollhouse for her, a three-storey mansion with four gables and six chimneys and secret passageways and a dumbwaiter and a tiny television that, thanks to a microchip, actually worked.  He gave it to her on her seventh birthday.  Jenny thanked him and kissed him and told him she had always wanted an asylum for her dolls.

Though he wanted her to make the house into a pleasant place for tea parties and soirees, Jenny's father stayed silent as he watched his daughter restrain her dolls with straightjackets fashioned from toilet paper.  He kept his silence as she built prison bars with toothpicks and secured every door with duck tape.  But as she placed the dolls into their cells and set a group of them to stare at the television, he could not observe quietly any longer, and so he went to his workshop an…

On Weird Tales

It was a sad day when Ann VanderMeer and the rest of the staff at Weird Taleswere fired when the magazine was bought by people who wanted to change the direction away from the great innovations Ann et al. had brought to it and instead return the magazine to publishing, apparently, Lovecraft pastiches. Apparently, Ann and creative director Stephen Segal winning a Hugo for their work wasn't good enough. The new owners wanted, they said, to return the magazine to its roots.

Well, Lovecraft was a thoroughgoing racist, and apparently those were the roots editor/publisher Marvin Kaye had in mind, although in his mind it's actually "non-racist". Sure, keep telling yourself that. [Update: Weird Tales has taken Marvin Kaye's post down from their website, so the link there doesn't work. However, there's a Google cache. I'm happy the publisher has apologized, but I'm not a fan of memory holes.]
For a better chronicle of the awful, see Nora Jemison's post…

Legitimate

Here's an important post from Atlantic senior editor Garance Franke-Ruta regarding Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin's repugnant comments about pregnancy rarely occurring from "legitimate rape" (just typing those words makes my hands shake).

Franke-Ruta makes the important point that Akin is not an outlier in the world of anti-abortion zealots. His ideas are connected to those that seek to distinguish between "forcible rape" and something else. Such dangerous delusions are central to so many of the misogynistic and ignorant tenets of the anti-abortion movement and to the sorts of ideologies that seek to downplay the frequency of sexual assault and defund the institutions that attempt to address sexual violence:
Arguments like his have cropped up again and again on the right over the past quarter century and the idea that trauma is a form of birth control continues to be promulgated by anti-abortion forces that seek to outlaw all abortions, even in …

"The trap of data, numbers, statistics, and charts"

Maria Konnikova, from "Humanities aren’t a science. Stop treating them like one" at Scientific American'sLiterally Psyched blog: Every softer discipline these days seems to feel inadequate unless it becomes harder, more quantifiable, more scientific, more precise. That, it seems, would confer some sort of missing legitimacy in our computerized, digitized, number-happy world. But does it really? Or is it actually undermining the very heart of each discipline that falls into the trap of data, numbers, statistics, and charts? Because here’s the truth: most of these disciplines aren’t quantifiable, scientific, or precise. They are messy and complicated. And when you try to straighten out the tangle, you may find that you lose far more than you gain. It’s one of the things that irked me about political science and that irks me about psychology—the reliance, insistence, even, on increasingly fancy statistics and data sets to prove any given point, whether it lends itself to tha…

An Accidental Nonfiction Writer

In the author's note to his new collection of essays, Magic Hours, Tom Bissell calls himself "an accidental nonfiction writer", and then says:
When I first started writing for magazines, I imagined that I would use nonfiction writing as a way to fund my fiction writing. This did not go exactly as planned. Insofar as I am known as anything today, it is as a nonfiction writer. Earlier in my career, I was neurotic enough to let this bother me. When I started out as a writer, I regarded fiction — novels, especially — as the supreme achievement of the human imagination. While I still hold fiction in very high regard, and continue to write it, I no longer believe in genre chauvinism. Life is difficult enough.

Fall Classes

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I've just about finished drafting syllabi for my fall classes, and so it's time once again for my semi-annual post about how I'm planning the coursework.

I'll be teaching three classes at the university, two for the English department and one for the department of Communication & Media Studies. The English classes are "Advanced Prose Workshop" and a general education intro to lit class, "The Outsider". The Com/Media class is "Media as Popular Culture". I've taught The Outsider a bunch of time, Media as Pop Cult once before, and have never taught Advanced Prose Workshop, which I'm doing only because our writer-in-residence is in Ireland this term.

Was Worldcat Designed By People Who Actually Use Libraries?

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Update: Attention has been paid! Please see the comments for a nice response from a WorldCat representative. We now have an answer to the title question: Yes.

My beloved university library has now switched over from an in-house computerized catalogue to using WorldCat. There are definite advantages to this, and some neat things WorldCat can do.

But for all its many useful features, I wonder: Does anybody at WorldCat actually use libraries?

The Sci-Fi Ticket

"Hell Broke Luce"

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Tom Waits has made a beautiful, surrealist video for the song "Hell Broke Luce" from his Bad as Me album. It's one of my favorite of his songs, a coruscating view of war and soldiering. Play it loud. (Note: Some strong language.)


Readercon Update: Making Amends

The Great Readercon Harassment Debacle of 2012 has resolved with a statement from the Convention Committee that is an excellent example of how to apologize for mistakes and, more importantly, how to make amends.

When I read the statement, I'd just gotten the new album by Franz Nicolay, Do the Struggle, and a line from the chorus of the magnificent first song seemed oddly appropriate: "The hearts of Boston have a hurricane to answer for."

The hurricane's dying down. The rubble is getting cleaned up. The hearts are strong.

There are lots of things in the statement to pay attention to — ideas that will, I hope, serve as a model for other events in the future, not just Readercon. I was especially pleased to see this among the actions the committee has committed to: "Working with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center to train concom members and volunteers in swift, appropriate reactions to observed or reported harassment."

Such actions move Readercon from having pa…