Friday, June 11, 2010

A brush with academia


When you've been published on the internet, but don't always know how far your work has disseminated, it's a fun exercise to google yourself with certain key words. Of course, you don't have to be published to google yourself -- you just probably won't find quite as many hits.

So yeah, I google myself somewhat regularly. I'm consistently bemused by how the algorithm works. For example, when you google only my name and the name of the website I write for, the first hit you get is the plot synopsis I wrote for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, years ago. Why? Who knows?

(For the record, I have not been writing for this website since 1975, when The Rocky Horror Picture Show came out. I mean, there are all kinds of problems with that -- I was two years old, and no one had any idea what the internet was back then. I believe I wrote this synopsis back in 2001, and it was probably to replace a shoddy temporary synopsis that was serving as filler on the Rocky Horror page.)

I was googling myself with my name, my site name, and one more key word (which I won't tell you, because then you'll find me!!) about a week ago, and came across one of these really funny contexts in which my name unexpectedly appears.

It was for a book on the environment as presented in popular film, written by a man and a woman who each use their middle initial -- making it sound quite snooty and academic indeed. The web page included a lengthy dissertation encapsulating the topics discussed in the book, seeming to spend an inordinate amount of time (perhaps correctly) on Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow. After this intro, it gives a breakdown of the contents of each chapter.

And at the bottom, in a lengthy "Works Cited" section, it includes my review of the film Eight Legged Freaks.

I laughed out loud when I saw this. In fact, I would abbreviate that GLOL -- "genuinely laughed out loud." (I think the term LOL is too often used in situations where the person did not actually LOL.)

I scoured the document for the specific reference to me and my review, but found it only in the works cited section. I do know that Chapter 6 is the chapter they discuss Eight Legged Freaks, so I guess I'll have to get my hands on that book if I want to get to the bottom of what I said that was so interesting.

I mean, it's not the most inspired review I've ever written. I basically just spend 300 words ripping the movie. I've got some clever zingers in there, but nothing you'd think would have grabbed the attention of academics trying to write a serious consideration of environmentalism in cinema. I could see them using Eight Legged Freaks as a source material for their book, but my review specifically? It's absolutely baffling.

Then the obvious question is: Do I need to get my hands on this book? Is it worth the price of the book and the cost of shipping just to read the one sentence in the chapter that references my review? Because this isn't the kind of book I'm going to be able to just walk into Barnes & Noble and pick up.

But maybe it's more than a sentence. Maybe the entire chapter waxes philosophic about my unparalleled ability to tear Eight Legged Freaks a new asshole.

The thing that really gets me is that I don't really have a perspective on this film's badness. I attack all of its rotten components about equally. And for sure, I don't say anything that could be construed as a comment on the film's environmental message, or lack thereof.

So maybe it's just a case of over-crediting. Maybe they read my review, were not directly influenced by it, but were trying to cover their asses, so they thought they should include it. That's distinctly possible, as I'm one of 113 different sources they cite. Incidentally, two former writers for the site are also cited: one for his review of 2 Fast 2 Furious, and one for his review of Tulsa. The plot thickens.

Well, Al Gore and Roger Ebert are also cited, so maybe I should just be satisfied rubbing elbows with these luminaries in the context of academic inquiry, and leave it at that.

2 comments:

Don Handsome said...

Maybe it’s just me, Vance, but I think you need to own that book. Write to these snooty intellectuals and ask them to send you a copy...they may just do it. Otherwise, you've got to buy it. It’s the first such citation, so owning it would be the equivalent of framing the first dollar you made at your store...you don't need to frame ALL the dollars you earn, just the first. That way when you're famous and constantly cited, you can look back at your humble beginnings and remember that it was David Arquette that got the ball rolling.

Vancetastic said...

But Don, what if this isn't the first such citation? What if there are dozens of academic pieces out there that cite my work, but I just haven't googled the right terms to find them? I just blew my own mind.

(Actually, I did once write a piece about animated movies that got good feedback, and my editor told me that some writers for a Denver newspaper were going to cite my piece. But I never followed up on that. Excuse me, I have some more googling to do ...)