Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Heat

This is what happens when one leaves unopened soda cans in a car in the sun when the outside temperature reaches close to 115 degrees F. One can literally blew its top (kinda messy). All the others in the case are distended like the other one pictured here.

Hmmmm... do you think these are still drinkable?

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I was reading Ted Striphas’s The Late Age of Print and came across a passage where he writes, “This discovery helps to explain the motivation behind the aggressive campaign by Waldenbooks in the late 1980s to bring its warehouses and 1,000 plus retail stores online…” (100).

Working, as I was, at a Waldenbooks (Summer and Fall 1988 in San Antonio), it made me reflect on the changes I was seeing in our little mall store at the time. This was the year between my undergraduate degree and starting grad school, when I was actually shopping for grad schools. I had just been to ICA in New Orleans to meet Larry (and James and a number of other folks) to talk about Illinois (and to talk about Wisconsin with Fiske). Anyway, I worked full time at a Waldenbooks in a mall in San Antonio. I liked the store because the manager had customized the stock a bit—we actually had copies of Foucault and other critical theorists on our shelves, and other more esoteric volumes tucked in with the usual wares. We were not computerized in those days. We hand entered ISBN’s, I think, into the register. Then we actually got our first scanner so that we could scan bar codes (and spent too much time playing with it). To look up something for a customer meant pulling out microfiches from Ingram or Baker and Taylor to see if they had things.

At some point in my six-month tenure at the bookstore (around Thanksgiving I quit and went to work for a small mail order company, Haverstick and Ballyk, selling classical CDs) we started getting inventory lists from the main office. These were lists of what we were to have on our shelves and we had to go through and pull anything not on it (bye bye Foucault). I got the sense that our store manager was getting increasingly frustrated by the controlling nature of the corporation (trying to rebel at one point by shelving an entire display of a new bestseller, dictated by the corporation, upside down--the Assistant Managers put them right). Anyway, the store became much less interesting after the purge.

One of the things that Waldenbooks did was run a deep discount of all New York Times bestsellers. What surprised me is that the company seemed to know what a bestseller was before a book was even released. So that the new Ludlum (for example) was discounted right out of the box even though, technically, it hadn’t been sold and couldn’t therefore be a bestseller.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Surveillance and TV

Forgot the list of TV shows about surveillance.
I should note that I'm looking for fiction (which eliminates documentary, reality TV, etc.)

The Prisoner
The Wire
The Last Enemy

Surveillance Films

I'm compiling a necessarily incomplete list of films about surveillance. That is, films which are primarily about surveillance, where surveillance is a key element of the film, the atmosphere of the film, or plot of the film, not just films with shots of people watching each other, or occasional images of CCTV cameras. Potentially this is quite a large genre if we include police procedurals and spy films where surveillance is a matter of course. But are there specific films which seem to reflect on the act of surveillance?

I haven't categorized them, just put them alphabetically. I've included a very short list of TV programs about surveillance as well, though I'm primarily concerned about film.

Additions to the list (or objections for the inclusion of certain films on the list, I haven't watched them all) most welcome.

1984 (1956)
1984 (1984)
Blue Thunder
Body Double
Bourne Identity (&c)
Code 46
The Conversation
Deja Vu
The Departed
The End of Violence
Enemy of the State
Final Cut
The Good Shepherd
The Handmaid’s Tale
Hi, Mom!
The Lives of Others
Minority Report
The Net
The Net 2.0
Oceans 11
One Hour Photo
Panic Room
Peeping Tom
Rear Window
Red Road
Der Reise
Stakeout (& Stakeout 2)
Surveillance (2008)
Surveillance 24/7
The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse
THX 1138
The Truman Show
V For Vendetta
Winter Kills