“Beam me up, Scotty, if you remember how”

computer nerdOK, so I had my first “synchronous” session with my online class two nights ago. This is when you all log in together at the same time, using a service such as Adobe Connect Meeting. The description that follows is an illustration of the phrase, “pride goeth before a fall,” since I consider myself somewhat tech-savvy.

The meeting was to begin at 9:00 pm, so at 8:45 I got set up and logged in. No one was there yet, so I dashed to the fridge for a soft drink and went back. 8:50–still no one, not even my cohost for the session. 8:55–still no one, so I sent out a quick email reminder. 9:00–room empty. What was going on? As I stared at my screen, it suddenly hit me–I had logged into the PRACTICE session I’d had a week ago to become familiar with the software. I frantically logged out and logged back into the right session, and there everybody was. I felt like the stereotypical freshman who reads his schedule incorrectly and ends up in the wrong room.

To make matters worse, my connection wasn’t good, so I kept getting booted out. Jennifer, my cohost and one of our reference librarians, dutifully kept everything going smoothly as chat messages appeared at the bottom of the screen: “Is Dr. Gobin back yet?” “I think he was for a minute.”

“YES, I’m here,” I practically shouted into my microphone, which had turned off during the reboot. It was like a bad episode from The Twilight Zone, where I was trapped in a parallel universe and nobody could see or hear me.

I may be being a little melodramatic–the evening went fine overall–but I did wonder why I was having connection problems especially since I was using a wired connection. I discovered the reason the next morning as I went to reconnect the yellow cable to my Wii console. I had in fact unplugged the wrong end of the yellow cable, meaning I was plugged into nowhere the night before and had been using our wi-fi connection without realizing it. This from a guy who does actually know how to program a VCR (what’s a VCR, you ask).

I will never again feel smug when a student asks me how to save a file.

The Invention of Lying

The overlooked Ricky Gervais film The Invention of Lying comes out on DVD January 19, and it’s my current pick for thought-provoking comedy.  Actually, the trailer makes the film seem much funnier than it is.  It’s a sad film that manages a somewhat improbably happy ending despite its central premise.

Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a screenwriter living in a world where lying doesn’t exist.  Apparently, lying includes any form of self-editing, since the characters feel compelled to tell each other whatever they are currently thinking or feeling: the idea of an unexpressed thought seems to come only to a select few.

Gervais suddenly finds himself able to lie, and the film’s plot plays out the various ramifications of his “genetic mutation.”  This is where we get a predictable amount of sophomoric humor, but the film quickly turns on a more serious note when the question of an afterlife is asked and answered.

Like its obvious borrowing from Jonathan Swift’s satiric vision in the fourth voyage of Gulliver’s Travels, in which Gulliver discovers a race of creatures unfamiliar with the concept of untruth, Gervais’ film raises the uncomfortable question of just how much lying each of us engages in on an everyday basis, mostly just to get along with others in a reasonably civilized manner.  But, by introducing God as the “big lie,” Gervais also suggests that we prefer comfort over honesty and that truth and love are usually, if not necessarily, mutually exclusive.

How funny or how sad one thinks the film is will be in direct proportion to the extent one shares Gervais’ worldview, but, regardless, watching it exposes a lot of our basic assumptions about how life works, both in this life and the next.

All About Eve (1950)

One of the great films about the drama of drama–especially the clash between theater and film, and the harsh realities facing actresses of a “certain age.”  Watch Bette Davis’ stage business with a piece of chocolate–she’s a consummate scene-stealer.