The Web has lost me the ability to read.

A part of my current job is to do research for my boss. Sometimes the research is fun, and completely irrelevant, sparked by fancy or perhaps the urge to hone my research skills (such as “Stacey, please find out what kind of weaponry Genghis Khan used from the back of his little pony”). At other times, the research is actually relevant (“Stacey, please look at the Cambridge Associates website for information on securities lending – I want to find out how it works”). Most often, it involves the web rather than the library and I’m very, very good at it. I take pride in my research skills, because it’s one of the things I do that a trained monkey couldn’t do, and therefore makes me feel special. At least specialer than a trained monkey.

Unfortunately my current research project is less than fulfilling.  I’m supposed to be finding one particular line in one of two books.  The table of contents and indices of both books thus far have been less than helpful.  Scanning pages has yielded nothing as yet.  I’m pretty much stumped.  And I’ve also realized how lazy I’ve become.

When I was growing up, in high school and middle school, research meant going to the library and getting books.  The you read, or at least skimmed the books to find the material you needed.  Tables of contents and indices were  key in finding the correct material and analyzing the value of a particular resource.  And I used to be able to do all that well, and fast.  But now, I’m not so sure.  Now, I’ve gotten accustomed to online resources with ‘find’ options within the text and a wide array of summaries and abstracts readily available.  Have I lost my touch?  Or is it only natural to get frustrated with old methods of research that are less efficient?

Alas, Clinton.

I am one of those people who is likely to put her foot in her mouth.  As such a person, I am sympathetic to others who might to the same on national television (read: Clinton’s latest snafu with sniper fire).  I am stubborn, and memory is a fickle thing.  If I think I emptied the dishwasher last, you can bet I’m going to be loud and ornery abut making you do it next.  Even if I’m proven wrong, I’m likely to backpedal only slightly.  I’m am trying to adjust this in my own personality, to be more apologetic when I’m wrong, but I’m naturally argumentative, and it’s hard.

Whether or not Clinton’s comments at George Washington University and other places were politically driven and intentionally manipulative of events in Bosnia,  this serves to highlight one aspect of the current political process that I remain unenthusiastic about.  Political (and almost all public or famous figures) are under constant scrutiny.  In such an environment, how much room do we leave for plausible error, and how much should be repudiated as public manipulation?

Dune

Last night, for our second-ever movie night, Gina, Mike and I watched the David Lynch original Dune version. Afterwards, Mike told me it had been one of the biggest box-office flops of all time. I was shocked and amazed. A flop? Dune? The wonder of Frank Herbert’s genius? No way! Of course, when I first saw it myself, I remember it being boring. Perhaps disturbing as well, but primarily boring. The director ended up hating it, and the cult crowd that loves it now I am totally unsure of. Why had I even suggested we watch this thing?

And then I realized that even the first time I’d seen the thing, I’d probably already read the book. Or else, more paradoxically, when thinking back to the original boring movie, I’d confused both the book and miniseries versions with the older David Lynch version. And besides David Lynch being disturbing and weird, the movie isn’t really bad, for what it is. It’s just so much less than the book, rather than more. Of course, the miniseries had 5+ hours to say what the Lynch movie had to do in 3, so of course there had to be some skimpings on things like character development. But the book – the book had everything. Politics, religion, business, biology, environmentalism, history, poetry, arts, morals, drug addiction, relationships, you name it, it was there. There was even some economics, though its outlines were vague. Pretty much every modern problem was allegorized in the book, and done well, and somehow all compiled into a master work. War in Iraq and Muslim extremism? It’s in the book. Human impact on the environment? It’s in the book. American supremacy? It’s in the book. Religious indoctrination? It’s in the book. Political and corporates maneuvering? It’s in the book. That’s why I love the book – it has everything.

People always say all kinds of things about The Martian Chronicles, and how they’re really about life in the 50s, and what that environment was like. Dune was written in 1965, just 15 years later. Of course the world had changed significantly in those years, but Frank Herbert was writing something more than a distillation of his time. He was writing a classic, because his work has become timeless, as the cycles of humanity make his work still applicable today (whereas I have difficulty relating to most of Bradbury’s stories). Yay Frank Herbert!