If the American Geophysical Union Were More Like the Movies
Gentle Reader, help me out here: Did I accidentally write Tuesday’s post in crazy moon-language? The response to that coordinated swarm of movie reviews – from people who are affiliated with Sizzle, as well as people like Chris Mooney, who just plain liked it – appears to be that those of us who hated the movie are just powerpoint-obsessed scientists who don’t understand. It makes me wonder if anyone actually read my review. The Sizzle team sent out an email:
The bottom line is that we see two groups of viewers. One group who are interested in the facts and accuracy, and they want to know what is real in a movie and what isn’t. The other group really isn’t that concerned about the fact/fiction divide and mostly just want to enjoy a fun story, AND prefer there not be too much information (these people love Marion because he interrupts the scientists interviews and stops the flow of information).
I am accustomed to people thinking that I carry around some kind of political correctness billy-club in an uncomfortable locale, and that the only reason I don’t laugh at their stilted caricatures is that I have sublimated my natural sense of humor into a twisted joy in gratuitously taking offense. I was expecting that one; I’m actually surprised it got so little play. The idea that I’ve got a stick up my butt about wanting to see movies that more closely resemble scientific conference presentations, though, is delightfully novel. Of course, now that I think about it, a secret desire for bland facial expressions and uninflected speech might just explain why I ever bother to see stuff starring Keanu Reeves…
And I definitely don’t want to see AGU attendees adopt conventional cinematic storytelling techniques. I mean, really, what would happen?
- 90% of talks would focus on a controversial, exotic geohazard that immediately threatens at minimum a major city, and preferably the entire planet. Talks on bread-and-butter basic research would not be accepted.
- The standard answer to weird or pointed questions wouldn’t be “that’s interesting, let’s discuss it after the session” – it would be “goddammit, there’s no time for that!”
- If I were there at all, then after my talk – which would be less than 10 seconds long including scene transitions – I would shake my hair out of its bun, undo a couple of buttons, and transform into a sexy love interest for the movie’s main character.
- After giving my talk, I would not discuss my own work ever again, except insofar as it can be used to back up whatever the male hero of the conference has to say. I would especially not talk about my work with other women.
- That male hero would probably be a “maverick” – I would be stuck fawning over a pseudoscientific crank.
- At the Fall Meeting in San Francisco, earthquakes would occur near the conclusion of every important talk. Other, regionally appropriate interruptions (terrorists or congressional staffers with urgent business in D.C.? Mounties who wander in just to say “eh?” and “aboot” in Toronto?) would occur during the spring Joint Assembly.
- Instead of sensible jargon, we would all speak in technobabble, failing to notice that terms like “antiseismicator”, “Richter scale readout”, and “lava crater” are wholly non-cromulent.
… Nah. It just sounds like a bad idea, and I don’t want my career to have that many explosions.