45 Years is a brilliant and beautiful film. Kate and Geoff Mercer (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) are a long-married couple, suddenly forced to come to terms with the fact that Geoff had been engaged before they met. Both performances are amazing, and Rampling has been nominated for an Oscar. [Note: Rampling's recent comments about diversity on screen have been much criticized. On this score she is living in the world as it should be rather than the world as it is. Here I will focus on her acting and not her politics.]
The shock of the film comes early. We learn that Geoff's former lover Katya's body, missing after a hiking accident 50 years ago, has been found in Switzerland. Geoff tells Kate that he must have told her about Katya, but he almost certainly did not. Geoff and Kate did not know each other when the incident happened, there was nothing for him to hide. Nonetheless a secret kept is now a secret exposed.
I must admit that I still don't get what all the fuss is about, even though I love 45 Years. Pi Wen knew on our first date that I had been married and divorced before. Maintaining the pretense that life did not exist prior to meeting the person you spend your life with makes no sense to me. But apparently it's a thing people do.
Kate first plays it cool, but as the week continues she's looking surreptitiously for old pictures in the attic. Geoff claims that it was ever so long ago, but he takes the bus to the town travel agent in order to inquire a flight to Switzerland (which he does not take). Meanwhile their 45th anniversary party, to be attended by a large swath of friends and family, looms that weekend.
It's a tense, emotionally exhausting week. Kate and Geoff make it through, but are not unchanged. The glory of the film lies in particular moments; an impromptu living room dance, a sharp glance after an unwelcome remark. All of these are quotidian experiences freighted with meaning, of the kind that we experience everyday while demanding that the screen gives us ACTION. The action in 45 Years lies in the head and the heart, sweeping us along in its empathetic embrace.
Predictable political posturing hardly ever phases me these days. Back in the days of George W. Bush outrage was an almost daily occurrence, what with the "Mission Accomplished" braggadocio and his (failed) attempt to bake marriage inequality into the Constitution. Although this term was not in vogue at the time, it felt like Bush was trolling me.
In 2016 this is all just the lamest of theater, built for the pathetic discourse engendered by the social media age. Look at what Hillary Clinton just said! Feel that Bern! Can you believe Donald Trump! Hardy har har and pass the popcorn.
So I am quite surprised to be so aggrieved by the GOP's claim that President Obama should not nominate anyone for the Supreme Court even though he has 11 months left in office. The occasion, of course, is the unexpected death of Antonin Scalia last weekend. His passing leaves the Court with a 4-4 split on today's issues of import. Conservatives do not want to see their most reliable and pugnacious voice -- Scalia -- morph into liberal hands.
Fine then. Have the hearings and reject whomever President Obama puts forth. But do not seek to emasculate a sitting President by demanding that he not even recommend anyone for consideration. This is posturing of the most grotesque and noxious variety, which even this most jaded of observers cannot let pass without comment. Enough is enough.
UC Berkeley is currently recruiting for a new Associate University Librarian (AUL) for Scholarly Resources. Berkeley University Librarian Jeffrey Mackie-Mason explains the vision behind the new position in a brilliant post on the wonderfully named Madlibbing blog. Mackie-Mason is relatively new in this role himself, so I read this AUL position as an effort to define the focus and thrust of his time at the helm.
After reading Mackie-Mason's post a few times, I find nothing to disagree with (a rarity). The new AUL is expected to bring to fruition a new, more digital-centric notion of scholarly communication -- but without abandoning print whenever it is still the best medium of communication. The new AUL should be an advocate for improving practices in scholarly communication -- namely, making them more open. Open access, open data, open workflows. And the new AUL should systematically understand the needs and expectations of users, and tailor library resources and services accordingly. The more familiar option, of designing resources and services from the librarian's point of view and then pushing that agenda, no longer holds.
Again -- nothing to disagree with. Mackie-Mason's post in its entirety is an extremely cogent statement about the dynamics at play today in major academic research libraries. And he correctly observes that "There has never been a greater time to be an information professional."
Nonetheless there is an inherent conflict in promoting openness and a new way of working, while simultaneously catering to the needs of users. After all, those users will sometimes want academic librarians to operate as though the Internet never came to be. Just add more books to the stacks, please, and hurry. To the extent that such users have power and influence at Berkeley, the more transformative agenda that Mackie-Mason seeks will be hard to produce. Librarianship for born-digital scholarly objects has no need for stacks but does need data storage. It would be a shame if the stack budget crowded out storage for those bits and bytes.
To avoid this, hopefully the incumbent AUL will frame their user research as a series of "blue sky," open-ended explorations about the future of librarianship and research. There are more urgent questions than, "How can the library help you succeed better?" That question is important, but even more important is, "What kind of library would we build if we started with a blank slate today?"
This week I've attended the "Gaming Metrics" conference at UC Davis. From the conference description: "Have we moved from 'publish or perish' to 'impact or perish'? If so, are metrics of evaluation now creating new incentives for misconduct? Are metrics also helping the evolution of forms of misconduct in specific and innovative directions? And, crucially, can we reliably draw a clear separation between gaming the metrics game and engaging in misconduct?"
Not surprisingly, we've only scratched the surface of these enormous questions. This topic ultimately hinges around the desire to advance in the academy and the incentives that drive behavior in doing so. Resisting gaming will be hard, given the human tendency to game any system that attempts to quantify progress and achievements. Nonetheless we have a continuing imperative to ensure that the results reported by researchers are as beyond reproach as possible.
Two of the speakers here, John Bohannon and Jeffrey Beall, believe they are doing this. In 2013 Bohannon wrote the infamous "sting" that exposed the lack of peer review at fly-by-night open access journals. Meanwhile Beall maintains his list of "predatory" open access publishers as another way to shed light on this same phenomenon. By their lights these are efforts to shine light on falsity, which is an unalloyed good.
The truth is more complex. Synecdocheis the literary device in which a part comes to stand for the whole (ie "Oakland" for the Oakland A's, or "No 10" for 10 Downing Street.) Bohannon and Beall are perpetuating an unfounded synecdoche, in which the actions of fringe characters in open access publishing come to stand for the entire idea.
The reason that fly-by-night open access operations have arisen is because author processing charges represent an irresistible source of cash to disreputable publishers, who are profiting on the intense need of researchers to publish. In other words -- the scholarly publication pressures that long pre-date the birth of open access are now being used as a means of discrediting open access.
This is rearguard retrenchment, which is why Bohannon's sting faced such fierce resistance from open access advocates.
Bohannon noted that when he wrote the sting he had no conception of the passions surrounding open access -- this feels very hard to believe, but there is no way to prove otherwise. (As a librarian, Beall presumably does know the passions surrounding open access and has consciously chosen to stake out a heterodox position. I am generally in favor of against-the-grain thinking, but in this case Beall's mission has assumed a worrisome evangelical fervor in its own right.) Even if we take Bohannon at his word, his article appeared in Science magazine. As a venerable subscription based publisher, Science had every interest in perpetuating the unfounded synecdoche that fly-by-night efforts represent the entirety of open access publishing.
This leads to another point -- there is no such thing as a neutral story. Or even a neutral comment posted anonymously. The online journal club PubPeer allows for anonymous comments about the validity of published studies. Anonymity has not led to a lack of civility -- the PubPeer team does an admirable job of insisting upon civility in the comment sections. After assuring this foundation, PubPeer allows the comments to rise or fall on their own merits. There is no attempt to understand the ideological or political motivations behind the comments, and obviously such a task would be Herculean. That granted, I was troubled by PubPeer founder Brandon Stell's professed view that understanding such motivations would not be a useful data point. We all bring our political commitments and personal predilections to anything we touch. Even if are not trying to "game" discourse, we can't help it.
What's to be done, then? Acknowledge that any numerically based ranking system will be gamed. Acknowledge that citation mills will continue, particularly if we maintain the antiquated idea that journal-based citation is the primary means of demonstrating impact. And advocate for the maximum of openness -- open publication, open notebooks, open data -- as the best way on offer to mitigate these ills. Gaming will run rampant whatever we do, but at least it should be out in the open.
In 2004 I campaigned hard for John Kerry, in 2008 and 2012 I proudly voted for President Obama.
This year I just can't feel the Bern. This is true even though I agree that single payer health care would be much better than our current system of relying on private insurance to fulfill the public function of providing health carel. It is true even though I agree that college tuition is too high, and admire Senator Sanders for proudly embracing the Socialist label.
Why? Because the rhetoric about a "rigged economy" feels hackneyed, a bit too obvious, too much cops and robbers. I'm not opposed to raising marginal tax rates on high earners, but this should be to fund positive social goods and not simply for revenge.
My own reservations about Sanders are focused on his rhetorical excesses. I can't say that I am all that enthused about a Clinton presidency, because I'm not. Just as in 2008, so far she has run like she was destined to win rather than as someone who wants the office. Hopefully last night's "virtual tie" in Iowa will light a fire.
Despite her flaws, as many others have pointed out Clinton stands a much better chance of getting things accomplished with Congress than the Bern. And so my vote but not my enthusiasm will be with Secretary Clinton.