Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Self-Cititillation Syndrome (SCS)

After seeing one too many law review articles where every other footnote seems to cite to one of the author's earlier articles, I think I found the term to describe this: Self-Cititillation Syndrome ("SCS"). Definition: "the propensity of some law school professors to overly cite to their own earlier published works", from "cititillation", "the excessive pleasure taken in seeing someone else cite to your own article or other publication".

Possible usage:

"Yes, its a good article, but he better be careful - he comes close to excessive self-cititillation a few times."

"I had to stop reading after two pages because she kept self-cititillating herself."

"There's nothing wrong with a little self-cititillation. I mean, everyone does it. Just do it in moderation."

Full blog post...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Times-Picayune, Judah Benjamin, and a Poor Choice of Words

I almost choked on my oatmeal when I read this over breakfast. In a decent article in today's Times-Picayune about a nice-sounding exhibit on one of the most significant figures in Louisiana legal history, Judah P. Benjamin, the article mentioned that the driving force behind the exhibit was a state congressman's wife. She was interested in Benjamin because he is a distant relative, or, as the article put it:
Even in Louisiana, "very few people have heard of Judah Benjamin, unless they are Jewish or Civil War buffs," said Laura Cassidy, a fifth-generation descendant of Benjamin through his sister, Rebecca Benjamin Levy. (Emphasis added.)

(Jonathan Tilove, Resurrection: Groundbreaking Statesmen Judah Benjamin is All But Forgotten Today, But a New Exhibit Could Change That, Times-Picayune, April 20, 2010, at A1.)

Yeechhh!!! She's descended from Benjamin and an incestuous union with his sister? Very, very, sloppy, poor choice of woods. Yeah, obviously she's not a "descendant" of Benjamin, but of her sister. Maybe a "descendant of Benjamin's family through his sister..." or, even better, "her great-great grandmother was Benjamin's sister, Rebecca Benjamin Levy". But not descended "through his sister". Sounds like another sequel to Mandingo.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

March Netflix Report

February 2010 Netflix SummaryArrived at HomeReceived at NetflixDays at HomeMonthly Average Days at HomeCost Per Movie
Cutter's Way 03/03 03/11 8
Hurricane Season 03/05 03/11 6
The King of Marvin Gardens 03/08 03/10 2
Assassination Tango 03/11 03/26 15
Ballast 03/12 03/19 7
Cirque de Freak: The
Vampire's Assistant
03/12 03/16 4
Up in the Air 03/18 03/22 4
The Boondock Saints II:
All Saints Day
03/20 03/30 10
Brothers 03/23 03/31 8
The Men Who Stare at Goats 03/27 04/01 5
An Education 03/31 04/13 13
March 2010 7.5 $1.68

I kept up a good pace of movie-watching this month: 11 from Netflix, and it would have been more except for the Curse of the King of Marvin Gardens.

I'd love to know more about Netflix's internal statistics, like the how many movies per month the average viewer watches, how many days they keep it, BUT particularly I'd love to see their statistics on damaged discs and on how often the a damaged disc is replaced with another copy of the movie that turns out to ALSO be damaged.

This is a screen capture of part of my rental history this month:

I got three copies of that disc that were all damaged. And by "damaged" I don't mean just scratch - these discs was cracked like they all had been crushed by a heavy package during shipping. This happened to me once before and I swear I got the same damaged disc twice, but this time I noted the cracks and I swear it was three different damaged discs they sent me before I got one that was in playable condition. How many people are out there trying to watch The King of Marvin Gardens? Actually, probably a good number, given how great a lot of other Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern movies are, a lot of folks probably got suckered into putting this on their queue thinking it would also be a good flick. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Some interesting characterizations and, yes, Nicholson and Dern are playing against type and have their typical movie personas reversed here but, jeez, I don't mind movies where "nothing happens" - all those Eric Rohmer movies I saw back in college about French people on vacation come to mind - as long as the characters are people you care about or find intriguing. But that's not the case here.

Cutter's Way was another one that was built up in anticipation: I guess the New York Times weekly DVD new releases story has to fill up its column inches with something; it featured this movie when Jeff Bridges was riding the build-up to Oscar night for Crazy Heart, and so I put this at the top of my queue. Notable for John Heard's portrayal of a early, proto-typical "crazy" Viet Nam vet, but there's wasn't much else that stayed with me.

The two best recent movies this month were Up in the Air and An Education; my wife said An Education made her want to go to London, and I said it made me want to go to 1962. And I thought Up in the Air was probably the best of all the best picture-nominated movies I've seen so far, but I think Hollywood was really desperate to demonstrate their relevance and after a series of really lame Iraq/Afganistan war movies, they anointed a decent one made by a female director to be best picture of the year.

But the best surprise this month was Ballast; this was a Netflix recommendation based on other things I've watched and rated highly, and these recommendations don't always pan out but in this instance they got the algorithms right. This movie felt more real than anything I've seen in a long time and though slow-paced it is compelling and populated by characters that were real and made me hope they prevailed by the end. You don't really know whether they do, but that's part of the real-life feel of this movie.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bad Beatles Fan Art

I saw this down in the French Quarter last week and snapped a quick picture:

The Beatles as jesters, harlequins, whatever, huh?

I can't imagine what the hell the painter was trying to do here. Maybe this was the result of a challenge, an attempt at deliberate, cheesy, bad-taste anti-art? Trying to think of something more ridiculous, considered, maybe, a portrait transforming the Rolling Stones into a bunch of sad puppies on black velvet. Or something by someone who's both a Beatles fan and a Lion King fan:

Or, vice versa, a Lion King fan who is also a Beatles fan:

Here we have perfect examples of the type of internet-enabled media mash-up that I referred to in an earlier post. (The Jester-Beatles poster could have even pre-dated the Web 2.0 internet revolution; it sure didn't need the internet for someone to pull it out of their ass.) Is the world a better place because someone spent time creating these works?

Full blog post...

Friday, April 9, 2010

CBS News Typo in Justice Steven’s Retirement Letter

One of our professors forwarded the text of Justice Steven’s retirement letter to the faculty listserv, but with an obvious typo:
My dear Mr. President:
Having concluded that it would be in the best
interests of the Court to have my successor appointed
and confirmed well in advance of the commencement of
the Court's next Term, I shall retire from regular
active service as an Associate Justice, under the
provisions of 28 D.S.C. § 371(b), effective the next
day after the Court rises for the summer recess this

Most respectfully yours,
John Paul Stevens

I figured the professor hadn’t transcribed it, but had copied it from somewhere and, yes, CBS News, among other sites, apparently did a rush OCR/transcription of the letter.

Here's a screen capture for when they catch the error:

CBS News Typo of Justice Stevens’ Resignation Letter

The PDF copy of the letter, also from the CBS News web site, of course did not have the typo:

(Wow, the embedded version from Issuu.Com looks like crap - click to view it full size.)

Full blog post...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Peter Singer, the Internet, Libraries, and "Crowd-Sourced" Content

Maybe 5% of what I see via Twitter is worth reading. This wasn't really among that 1%, but was short enough for me to scan:

Peter Singer, The Unknown Promise of Internet Freedom

Yes, its that Peter Singer, but he's tackling less-controversial topics here. He notes that even as Google has decided to stop kow-towing to China, the Austrailian government is planning to go into full nanny-state mode and start blocking all manner of offensive stuff on the internet.

Most of this article summarizes several well-worn points about information and the internet: "[e]ven with censorship, the Internet is a force for change" and "we are still only beginning to grasp the extent of what [the internet] will do to the way we live", but the passage that ticked me off is some boilerplate about the vastness of the information on the internet:
Today, if you have an Internet connection, you have at your fingertips an amount of information previously available only to those with access to the world's greatest libraries – indeed, in most respects what is available through the Internet dwarfs those libraries, and it is incomparably easier to find what you need.

Remarkably, this came about with no central planning, no governing body, and no overall control, other than a system for allocating the names of Web sites and their addresses. That something so significant could spring up independently of governments and big business led many to believe that the Internet can bring the world a new type of freedom.
Wait - take away the government and big businesses contributions to what's on the internet and you have, what? Wikipedia (where the article on Britney Spears - 8512 words today - is longer than the one on George Washington - 7719 words today), 10,000,000 blogs mostly about mindless drivel, and all the cutting-edge political back-and-forth in most news site's discussion and comment forums? The internet dwarfs the world's greatest libraries only if you consider that all great libraries lack an authoritative, sixteen-thousand entry encyclopedia about Pokemon.

Singer seems to be fixating on the Clay Shirkey "Here Comes Everyone" aspect of the internet. All this user-generated stuff from the countless unwashed masses is great for the millions of niche obsessions and hobbies for which you can find kindred spirit(s) on the internet, but its crap at producing anything of enduring value. For example, I've been slowly trying to watch every available Audrey Hepburn movie and after seeing one that was new to me, I stumbled upon a fan site for her that is fantastic - it looks great and has a lot of interesting content, but its mostly trivia and photos scrounged up elsewhere on-line. Its a great example of what the internet can do (and apparently mainly the work of one guy), but if I really wanted to learn something substantive about her life, I'd read that recent biography about her that was well-reviewed in the New York Times a few years ago, not the brief Wikipedia overview that this fan site gussies up with some additional pictures. Similarly, although its amazing that a fan ther has painstakingly dubbed her version of some of the songs from My Fair Lady onto those clips from the movie, I'd maybe watch that on YouTube once for the minor novelty of it, but it would only make me want to watch the full movie, on DVD, not streaming wherever it might be available on-line.

Full blog post...