snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Because the work I have to do is stressful  — it’s a dogs biting (not really) bees stinging (not really) feeling sad (not really either) type of time

Tom and Lorenzo’s analysis of the costumes on Mad Men (the season premiere of which I finally got to see late last night) –

It became quickly obvious to us that there was no way we could examine the female fashion on Mad Men without looking at ALL the females. Costume Designer Janie Bryant deserves every bit of acclaim and applause that has come her way since she started work on the show. Think of this series of posts as a mini-retrospective. We’ll work our way up to Joan and Betty by looking at each of the other characters first.

Here’s the thing – I love the posts for the big 3 characters – Joan, Betty, and Peggy – but in some ways, I love the posts about the secondary characters more.  In the first group, the conversation is very character-driven, what different costuming choices say about different characters, which is fun and interesting.  In the second group, though, there’s just as much about what the costumes AND characters say about the time and place in which they’re set – which is right in my analytical sweet spot.

This digital history project at StanfordThe Republic of Letters.

Using social networking visualization tools to visualize the letters that scholars wrote to each other way back in the early days of scholarly communication.

Forged in the humanist culture of learning that promoted the ancient ideal of the republic as the place for free and continuous exchange of knowledge, the Republic of Letters was simultaneously an imagined community (a scholar’s utopia where differences, in theory, would not matter), an information network, and a dynamic platform from which a wide variety of intellectual projects – many of them with important ramifications for society, politics, and religion – were proposed, vetted, and executed.

You can check out their case studies, or do a little bit of playing with their tools.

Cryptogram for iPad.

This game is very easy (if you let it tell you when you guess a letter wrong) or less easy (when you don’t), and so, so pretty.

New blog to follow

And last, but only because I can’t believe anyone who reads this blog doesn’t already know this - Barbara Fister is blogging at Inside Higher Ed.

ARGH – Joss Whedon-related ARG – & me with no time

On Monday, a new thread appeared on the unfiction forums pointing out a trailhead for a new game that seems to be linked to the Fox series Dollhouse. Given the percentage of librarians who are big damn fans of Joss Whedon + my obvious fascination with Alternate Reality Games the odds were very good that I would find this very fascinating – but …. I will have no time to catch up on it until after next week.

So quick – if you fall into the above categories and are not presenting in a week:

Rabbit hole – one of the characters on Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse sends an email to this person (described as a “prominent Whedon fan” on unfiction. Not a librarian, but yes, an Oregonian). The email leads, though not directly, to this website — http://www.adelledewitt.com/

That site is then referenced at an official Fox blog, suggesting this isn’t a fan-created site, but an “official” ARG.

(Note, the login information for the adelledewitt site is provided in the comments to the Fox blog post.  Not typical ARG practice, but there it is.  And it is interesting how even on the unfiction forum there are clearly some ARG newbies being pulled in by the Joss connection)

Trailhead thread at the unfiction forums — 7 pages and 93 posts as of this moment. They really start to get into the unfolding narrative on page 2.

Game thread at the official Dollhouse forums

Game thread at the Dollverse forums – a fan-created Dollhouse portal

Where the WGA strike intersects with undergraduate education in my head

When I saw a note in the New York Times recently saying that CBS is going to bring in some Canadian series to fill the void left by the WGA strike, I thought, “now there’s a good idea – Canadian TV rules.”

Which may not always be true, but some of my most obsessive television viewing moments have happened in Canadian hotels. Like the time we watched almost an entire season of Canada’s Next Top Model in a two-night marathon. Or the time we watched a whole Lost rerun in French, trying to find out what they would do when Danielle Rousseau had to talk (she wasn’t on – we still don’t know). And then there’s the time I spent a whole afternoon in Vancouver watching the BC skip Kelly Scott lead her team to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts championship.

(Seriously, like four hours of curling)

So you may want to take it with a grain of salt when I say that I love the Canadian series Slings and Arrows so much that I think everyone else might love it too.  But really, this isn’t just weird obsession – it’s a really good show.  It’s been running on the Sundance channel, so some of you might have seen it already. It’s set in a regional theatre company, and each season is loosely centered on a different Shakespeare play. The first season is about Hamlet – and they pretty much had me there.

In the third episode there’s a sequence where troubled actor/director Geoffrey teaches Hamlet in a business seminar that is the perfect explanation for why the liberal arts matter, and should continue to matter. It’s in the middle of this much longer clip on YouTube here – the segment I mean starts about 3 minutes in.

(warning – the segment right before it is a little racy)

I was doubly reminded of this by the writer’s strike note plus this story in Inside Higher Ed‘Business’ by Any Other name - about how Spelman is trying to develop an interdisciplinary liberal arts program that prepares graduates for the business world.

Ever since I was an undergraduate at a school that had both a highly respected B-school and a topnotch liberal arts college I’ve had doubts about the undergraduate business major. My roommates pursuing business majors started talking sophomore year about their classes cross-listed with the MBA program – and since they expected to need the MBA themselves, they were looking at essentially repeating those classes a few years after graduation.

And it’s not exaggerating to say that most of the people I know well who did the undergraduate business major option wished later they had taken their chance to do something else at 18. They talk about the intangible benefits of their liberals arts classes – the ability to write, to speak another language, to comment on the art in the interviewer’s office at the place where they got their first job – as the things that have really benefited them in the “real world.”

The section of the IHE article that really struck me was this one:

Particularly for first-generation college students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, “When you dangle a ‘business major’ in front of a student who is not necessarily sophisticated in her understanding of the strengths of a liberal arts background, she may say, ‘Aha, I want to be successful, I want to go into business, I should be a business major.’…It’s a choice that’s being made without a full understanding of the options that a broader educational focus will provide for you,” Tatum says.

That feels true to me – I know that I told people I was going to law school even after I was pretty sure that wasn’t true because it meant I could get past the “what are you going to do with a history major” question without an argument.  I’m sure it is much harder for students whose parents don’t already think the liberal arts are important than it was for me.  To a certain extent, this gets back to what I was talking about the other day – we need to figure out how to communicate why these things are important to people outside the academy.  And, personally, I think Slings and Arrows is a good place to start with that.

2 things I am watching during the writers’ strike

On the one hand, I am watching this show: Make Me a Supermodel, which I had no intention of watching even though I have seen approximately one million ads for it on Bravo.  I am by no means anti-reality television — Project Runway, Top Chef and The Amazing Race are all staples in our television diet around here.

But this is another one of those borrowed from the Brits reality shows and it’s also a "let America vote" show and I might have snobbish tendencies here because I don’t really think America is going to pick a very interesting supermodel.  And I don’t even mean a Very Smart Supermodel or Supermodel With A Great Personality.  I just mean I don’t think America is going to pick a very interesting-looking supermodel.  So what’s the point, right?

But, then I found out that my sister is going to be ON this show !!! 

So now I have to watch it, and I have a genetic impulse driving me to tell everyone I know to watch it.  She is going to be the walking coach on this show.  This means, of course, that she is going to teach these model wannabes how to walk on the catwalk, but even though that makes sense it doesn’t change the fact that "walking coach" is just funny. 

Transcript of an actual conversation I have had with my sister many times:

AMD:  blah blah blah
Debbie:  I have to go teach this girl to walk.  I’m late!

Okay, that’s not a transcript, more like a composite summary of many conversations, but I’m thinking there will be lots more surreality in our conversations for the run of this show.  Not to mention that I cannot wait to watch it and then hear her take – Debbie’s got a sharp and totally hilarious wit.  So I need it to run for a long time now.  If you are at all inclined – and I know some of you are — watch it!

On the other hand, there’s The Wire.  This show, which I had every intention of watching, premieres on HBO this Sunday. 

This is my favorite show on TV.  This might be my favorite show on TV ever.  There have been a million columns, articles and blog posts in the last year all about the greatness that is The Wire.  I won’t be adding to that here except to say that I told Rachel the other day that I think the only television experience greater than watching The Wire might be re-watching The Wire.  This is the last season of the show, and it’s going to focus on the media.  I don’t see how this won’t be awesome.

And maybe there is a connection here after all.  This is a little tortured, but here it is.  Read this interview that Nick Hornby did with David Simon, creator of Homicide: Life on the Streets, and The Wire.   Simon’s attitude here about how he’s not writing for the average viewer, and how he’s not out to give the tour guide’s view of Baltimore, is kind of the opposite of the "let America vote" thing I mentioned above.  I’m not saying there’s not room for both on American TV — it’s more that I’m saying, with eleven zillion channels available there should be room for both.  We’re not in a media environment where TV shows are going to appeal to everyone, and it’s great when tv producers get that. 

But that doesn’t let people off the hook about The Wire.  There are four seasons of this show out on DVD right now and seriously, it is astonishingly good.

ETA: Shaun is going to try and blog this final season of The Wire.