I still find the reaction regarding Mena Trott’s and Ben Metcalf’s little contretemps at Les Blogs to be very interesting. The concensus seems to be that Trott lost it, and Metcalf was cool under fire, especially considering that he was unexpectedly told to stand up during this conference.

In comments to Metcalf’s post, Dave Rogers:

Although I’m no fan of IRC backchannels during a presentation, I saw the video available on the web and I think you conducted yourself quite well under the circumstances. I think it was an interesting event, which gives us much to think about (though not many will, I’m afraid).

Also in comments Ian Forrester writes:

The reason why nothing was accomplished, could be for the exact reasons of what Ben was getting at? Cultural differences… Unless people like Ben stand up and call people on these things, we will never deal with the core issue.

about the actual timeframe
I’m not saying I’m totally supporting Ben in the way it came about but if you step back for one second. Mena was a speaker presenting, she understands not everyone will be in agreement. And to be fair to Ben, he did not plan to interupting her talk. He didnt shout her down and was actually listening to her. He was using the backchannel to voice his views like many others which is exactly what its there for!

Liz Lawley writes on the power difference, speaker to audience member:

Nobody seems to be acknowleding the huge power differentials that come into play there, and it’s simply *not* the same thing as making comments in the backchannel. For her to comment on and respond to Ben’s remarks are one thing (although civility in her response would have gone much further towards furthering her call for civility from others). For her to swear at him from the podium and and call him out is something quite different.

It’s also worth saying that there’s a difference between saying that a speaker’s remarks are bullshit, and saying that a person is an asshole. One is about content, the other is about personalities. I think Mena crossed a line there.

The Blog Herald writes, in sensational script:

Mena Trott has lost the plot again, this time in France during the Les Blogs conference…interrupting her speech to single out a blogger who had dared criticise her speech as part of a back channel discussion on it, and called him an Asshole and also dropped the F word….get this….during a speech in which she was imploring people to be more civil to each other.

The victim of Mena’s breakdown, Ben Metcalfe comes to his own defence on his blog…

The victim of Mena’s breakdown… Oh my God! Whatever you do, don’t let Mena on an airplane!

I wonder what people’s reactions would be if Metcalf were to jump up during Trott’s talk and suddenly burst out with, “This is just bullshit.” By doing this virtually rather than physically, is he somehow absolved of any responsibility in inciting Trott’s reaction?

Don Park takes a more zen view of the whole thing:

Civility is nice but, as a norm everyone must follow, it’s as comfortable as a bowtie to a person who is more used to baremetal communication. So called baremetal communication has a price too in that folks raised in more civil surroundings feel offended easily and noise called emotions intervenes. In the end, I believe tolerance (elasity) supercedes both civility (curve) and frankness (line).

To sum it up, my advice is to:

1. be civil mostly.
2. be direct when civility intereferes more than helps.
3. be tolerant always

I liked what Don wrote, but it reminded me of a slingshot.

My own reaction to the events is to be appalled, furiously so at first, that the conference organizers actually put a huge screen behind the speakers where anyone could post either backchannel IRC communications, photos, or what have you. The only reason I can assume they did so is because they knew that they had to use whatever gimmick they could to attach the audience’s attention, in an age where conferences of this nature occur every 2-3 months.

If this was the strategy, it worked, but then that’s all that’s being discussed from the conference, as Salvor Videoblogging points out:

It is interesting to observe what parts of LesBlogs 2.0 conference gets most attention. The most popular flickr lesblogs photo is of one of the keynote speakers sleeping during one of the sessions (video here) and the most talked about event right now seem to be when one of the keynote speakers confronted one of the people in the audience who had been fooling around on the backchannel. Why are these images of the conference so powerful?

(Marc Canter’s reactions to the photo being displayed behind him during his panel. BTW Marc, my name is spelled Shelley. That’s with an ‘E’ before the Y.)

Salvor’s question is the million dollar question: why are these images of the conference so powerful that nothing else will be remembered about the event other than these? In my opinion, it’s because they’re strong enough, emotionally, to grab an increasingly jaded audience.

This, then, leads to a question of my own: have we become emotional junkies? Do we need these confrontations in order to emotionally engage with a story? Have we run through so much writing and so many conferences and so many past discussions that it’s only the extreme of such that is capable of firing enough synapses in order to ‘hook’ us? Rarely can we find this level of interest about a piece of beautiful writing, or a joyful exchange between friends–the cross-weblog teasing and the learned discussions with respectful give and take between the participants.

If this emotional addiction is so, if in our insatiable need for more and more events that spark enough emotional connection to engage us and make us want to jump into, or perhaps a better word is slingshot into the fray, will acts such as these become the norm, rather than the exception?

I am suddenly overwhelmed with a need for something other: of beauty, of commonality, of humanity, of not this. Time to visit Wood s lot, a site created by Mark Woods who, I am fairly sure, cares nothing about anything I’ve just discussed.


First snow

We’re having our first snow of the season today. The level is already at 2 inches and could reach 4. We won’t get what the Northest is expecting to get tomorrow, but I like levels of snow that dust your toes, rather than dust your nose.

first snow

The first snow of the year always cheers me up. This has not been a happy few weeks for me, but it’s turning around, slowly. The snow, Photoshop’s performance in the new laptop (fast!), and cracking my Mom up during a long phone call last night, splurging and buying the “Pegasus” episode of Battlestar Galactica–mixed in with some other odds and ends, not to mention hearing from old friends, online and off, and the week will end better.

sun dial

I am finishing things: an edit, a writing, and an application. However, I am rewriting the application. Normally, re-working code isn’t fun, but in this case, it feels really good.

Christmas shrub


Diamonds are a monster’s best friend: Dogora

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The movie is Dogora or to give it its full Japanese name, Uchu Daikaijû Dogora (“Space Monster Dogora”). Made in 1964, it was created by the famed studio, Toho: the studio responsible for most of the creature feature flicks, including the more well known Godzilla.

Dogora is about a monster from space that, like many Toho monsters, gets its beginning from radioactivity released into the atmosphere. Rather than stomp about Tokyo, though, Dogora wrecks havoc from the air, sucking up bridges and trucks along with its favorite food: carbon.

Dogora gets most of its carbon from coal, but it also roams the earth robbing diamonds out of mines and jewelry stores. It is this “diamonds are a monsters best friend” aspect of Dogora that forms an odd secondary story that runs throughout the movie: about a gang of diamond thieves, and the authorities searching for them. The directory, Ishirô Honda, decided to combine two forms of movies for which he was famous, gangster and monster, into one and Dogora was the rather unique result.

When I was looking for information on Dogora, I found there are two versions of the movie. The first unedited Japanese version was actually meant to be a comedy (another genre Honda was known for); however, when an American version was made, many of the comic elements were deleted in order to focus more on the monster bits and fans said this ruined the movie. Which version did I see? Hard to say, as there were comical scenes in the version I saw, but not so many that I would classify the movie as ‘comedy’.

What I found interesting, though, is the differences in the movie between watching the English dubbed version and the original with English sub-titles.

In the English dubbed version, the voices of the characters were exaggerated and comical sounded, especially the so called Japanese diamond ‘G’ man. In the English subtitled version, though, this same actor had a strong, almost sinister sound, and it completely transformed his character. Returning to the English dubbed version, the only Caucasian, some form of investigator, had a deeper, sophisticated sounding voice; but in the subtitled version, his voice was higher, even slightly comical.

More, the words were changed between the versions, sometimes enough to alter the view of a particular scene. The only characters who seemed to be left alone in both was the heroine and her boss, the learned professor who belongs to an International Organization (organization of what is never said).

The monster is the same in both, though, and it is the monster that makes this a Saturday matinee movie. Unlike many Toho monsters, Dogora actually had an element of mystery and grace, as it’s tentacles extend gently and gracefully out of multi-color clouds. Even when it’s blown into bits, forming miniature bits of the monster that look like single cell amoebas, there’s an odd beauty to this creature. At least, there is when compared to Godzilla or Mothra.

Watching Dogora, I was reminded of another space creature: the tentacled creatures from the original pilot for Star Trek Next Generation.

I’m not sure why the director introduced the American Mark Jamison into the movie. I think that much of the explanation for his role was part of the comic element of the movie and eventually cut for the American version.

I did find it odd how all of the characters in the movie referred to him by his first name, Mark, rather than his last. Even when they didn’t know him, they used ‘Mark’; adding a level of familiarity that I don’t think was intended. It ended up sounding like everyone was a friend of Mark’s.

The diamond question is: did I like the movie. The answer is yes and no.

I liked the imagery of the creature, making it one of the more beautiful of the Toho monsters. I liked the period clothing, including those absurd pointy toed shoes. I appreciated the characters. I also liked one scene where the hero is seeing the heroine home and when she gentle teases him, he says in all seriousness, “Don’t make fun of me”.

I was fascinated how different the movie was between the English dubbed version and the subtitled one.What I didn’t like was knowing that I most likely only saw part of this movie. I wonder now how many foreign movies I’ve seen, that I’ve not really seen.

I also agree with another reviewer who thought that the two different plots made for a confusing story:

While watching this movie, you become aware that this should’ve been two movies. Veteran viewers of Toho style giant monster movies have seen this problem before. Toward the end of the movie, the two plot threads, monster story and crime story, become less dependent on each other. It takes several plot contrivances to keep these two stories together to the end. And since the cops and robbers subplot is more entertaining than the monster plot, the awkwardness of these contrivances become more pronounced.

I agreed, except that I thought in the very end, the twist to bring the two stories together was actually clever rather than contrived. Do I recommend this movie? Only if you can find the original, subtitled in English. And if you do, send me a copy.