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Monday, June 24, 2013

World War Z

If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.
Source: CDC
My local paper ran a feature McClatchy-Tribune News story about the new zombie film, World War Z. I read the book during the Christmas-New Year's break and enjoyed it, though I know that fans are a bit worried about the movie. Of course, readers are often worried that film directors will butcher their favorite book when it is translated to the big screen.

As everyone in IR knows, Dan Drezner's related book has made zombies a hot topic in the discipline. Zombies represent threats and provide a conveniently abstract way of thinking about how different IR theories explain and address threats. Zombies make for an interesting pop culture teaching tool.

Along these lines, Roger Moore's feature story included some on-point quotes from World War Z director Marc Forster:
“Zombies have always been a great metaphor for other things — trends in society, outcasts. And when they show up, the rest of us have to put aside our differences, don’t we?” ...
“We’re living in a time where there is a lot of fear out there — failing economies, job uncertainties, terrorists, an environmental future that seems very uncertain. The movies are reflecting that. We’re fictionalizing everybody’s anxieties with zombies, and these other catastrophes on film." 
As any viewer of The Walking Dead knows, not every zombie story leads the main characters to put aside their differences.

Disclosure: I've proposed a conference paper based on this 2011 blog post: "Understanding Zombie Comedy." Thus, you might see more zombie blogging in coming months as I watch ParaNorman and Warm Bodies.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Dog Blogging

I haven't posted a picture of the dogs in some time. Here's one that was taken in the last month:

That's Paddy on the left and Robey on the right. They'll be 8 years old next month, which is hard to believe. Note the grey on Robey's muzzle.

Obviously, our deck needs to be stained.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

College trip, 2013

Photo credit:
Incredibly, [insert yet another cliche' about rapid passing of time here], my youngest daughter just completed her junior year of high school and is thus taking her college board tests, receiving piles of mail from various universities, and visiting potential academic homes for fall 2014.

She is primarily interested in schools with excellent theatre programs -- though she has other academic interests as well. This means she is also looking for a very good and well-rounded educational institution.

Last week,  I accompanied my daughter for this itinerary:

Ithaca College (NY):  tour and information session

We had a long travel day Monday because of weather, so we were tired to start the week. But Ithaca is a good school with a well-regarded theatre program and we had an excellent student tour guide (a theatre major!). She emphasized the school's sustainability initiatives and various living opportunities.

Hartt School of University of Hartford (CT):  tour and information session

After making the 5 hour drive from Ithaca, we toured the suburban Hartford campus with one other potential student and his father. The new theatre building is terrific, though remote from the main campus. The BFA students obviously spend most of their time in this location. We also visited downtown Hartford (partly to see the stage, which has a relationship with the university).

Boston University (MA):  tour and information session

BU has a long and thin campus stretching along the Charles River. The tour was packed with dozens of families and both my daughter and I were impressed with the school and its facilities. We vowed to return Friday to visit the theatre program, which was not included on the general tour.

Emerson College (MA):  tour and information session

Emerson has a vertical campus, filling several tall buildings in the theatre district of Boston. The institution has obviously devoted significant resources to the facilities as most of what we saw looked new and impressive. A number of generous alumni have had success producing television programs (Friends and Will & Grace).

Tufts (MA): student tour (pictured above).

We lived near Tufts back in 2005 while I was on sabbatical, but my daughter didn't remember much of that period (she was 8 when we arrived). I also visited Tufts with her sister in 2010. In any case, Tufts is a very good school with a nice campus. The tour guides told us about Jumbo, the mascot and I made a joke about elephants (and zombies) in a tweet.

BU (return visit)

We went back to BU in the afternoon to tour the theatre building and meet with a couple of current students. The facility is old and undergoing renovation (slowly, it seems), but the program seems first rate. The student guide for the tour kept referring to it as a conservatory.

Previously, my daughter visited Webster, Washington University, Northwestern, Columbia College, DePaul, Wright State, Ball State, University of Illinois, Otterbein, Baldwin Wallace, Mary Baldwin, University of Virginia, Georgetown, Barnard, NYU, Rutgers, Marymount Manhattan, and University of Evansville.

Those are roughly in the order of the visits and I marked the schools that I also saw with her. She has fewer geographic constraints than her older sister and has already visited schools in DC, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Virginia.

She still intends to visit Michigan and perhaps a school or two in California.

Feel free to provide any insight about these choices in comments. We are about to enter the winnowing stage. That reality makes it harder for me to ask, "Why not Kansas or Maryland?"

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

DVD Pick

Last night, my spouse and I watched "Searching for Sugar Man," the 2013 Oscar winning documentary. It is a terrific story and the film is well worth your time.

I first learned about this movie last summer when it was the opening night feature for the Traverse City Film Festival. We were unable to attend then, but I made a note to check out the film later.

If you don't know anything about the movie, it concerns a late 1960s and early 1970s Detroit rock musician named Rodriguez who released a couple of albums that quickly faded into obscurity in the US. However, someone apparently took a copy of one of his albums to South Africa and through word of mouth the record became a hit there. The film strongly implies that the musician's records sold half a million copies in South Africa -- though no one really knew anything about the musician since he did not become popular or famous in the U.S. It is a very strange case of globalization at work.

Much of the film focuses on the efforts of a journalist and some other amateur detectives to track down Rodriguez. Various rumors suggested that he had killed himself on stage -- either by revolver or self-immolation. Indeed, other than liner notes and song credits, those searching for Rodriguez had very few real leads to pursue. They start with the record companies and attempt to follow the money back to someone who would know about the singer-guitarist. The "Sugar Man" in the title refers to one of Rodriguez's songs.

The film provides an interesting account of the conclusion of the search and strongly suggests that someone benefited a great deal from the sale of Rodriguez records in South Africa. However, it was not the musician or his family.

Here's the film's trailer:

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