Thursday, October 28, 2004

Fork It

It's been officially a month since I blogged. Good thing nobody reads this.

I am at MLA - the Michigan Library Association conference. It's a little disorienting to actually have to do something at a conference. Science fiction conventions are usually less... structured. I also seem to need to get in with the hip crowd, because there were no room parties that I saw. The keynote speaker was a Mr. Marshall Keys, a sort of library futureologist. His tools for predicting what will happen to libraries are : Environmental Scans (What's happening in the world around you), Historical Studies (What happened the last time something similar happened), Scenario Planning (What should we do if this trend continues), Lessons Learned (After you plan) and Benchmarking (If at first you don't succed, find someone who's doing it better and steal their ideas).

He essentially noted that medium doesn't matter, but access does, and that this is especilly important as formats change and information access becomes more distributed. He mentioned things as varied as a P2P sharer that might (or might not) be in the Palestinian refugee camp, and digital shoplifting, a bizarre practice where people will take camera phones into bookstores and "steal" articles by taking pictures of them, tying them together very neatly into his observations.

"Does the American Medical Association have a center for the stethescope?" He asked, "They way we have a center for the book?"

He seems to think even computers are too cumbersome for the up and coming generation. I was admiring the computer room at Traverse City, but began thinking that maybe we really could skip that and go straight to laptops. I don't think we will be doing text messenging reference any time soon. It sounds like carpal tunnel waiting to happen.

One of the things I disagree with is his assertation that the blogging mentality means that privacy is unimportant while community is very important. I don't think any cultural change can be so simply drawn. I was interested by a article on teen blogging in the Detroit News, where a young said that he didn't care who saw what he wrote, except, of course, his parents. We try draw our boundaries carefully (whether or not we can).

All in all, I thought he was very perceptive.

I also saw a presentation on RFID by the West Bloofield Library. What I thought was most interesting about that was that their patrons check out 90-98% of items through self check out. Equally interesting was that they didn't fire circ staff: they just shifted them to doing other things. It still seems like a lot of work.

Reading: DaVinci Code by Dan Brown - Uh. Okay. For like, a year, every time I put out the Catholic Magazines, it seemed like there was an editorial about how the DaVinici Code was a load of crap. I kept wondering what had the church in such a tizzy about a work of fiction.

After having read the book, I have even less idea what the fuss is about. It's not a bad book. It's largely a fun read. I thought the resolution was clever. But it is a potboiler, with no grace and little soul. The two main characters are ratcheted through a bunch of encounters that center largely around easilly fooled cops and Sunday newspaper brain teasers. The church is not portrayed as a villain. Even Opus Dei, a fairly noxious sounding organization, gets off as well intentioned.

Do some Catholics really think the DaVinici Code is the only thing that will make the world aware of the church's ethical lapses? Or that it will trigger a mass converstion to Goddess worship? It's not like Mr. Brown has secret information that hasn't been out there for the world to make use of before. But, apparently yes. I suppose I should hope that's not a common belief, but I know better than that. I think, really, that the folks most worried about impressionable youths, are too impressionalbe themselves.

Desperation. Stephen King has no right to write a boring book. Unlike Anne Rice, who's just long winded, King is a really gifted writer. I think everything before It will eventually become cannon. You really have to cherry pick at that point.

I think that one of King's problems is that he can't give up on his theater of the mind theme, which really took over his oeuvre with It. It seems false to literalize internal problems, to make one's own neurosis as awful a threat as, say, a man with a gun. In fact, the real crux of personal problems are how they impact the concrete. And after a while, it gets repetetive. His other theme, the horror of the innocuous, is also wearing thin. In this novel, he sort of walks into Andy Warhol territory by fetishizing action figures.

Desperation is a well crafted story with interesting characters that makes the violent toys and television of an autistic child into killers. This might have been a compelling theme (although I personally disagree with the idea that violent media makes for violent children) if he didn't blame it all on an alien vampire in the end. Stick a fork in it.

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