The Delights of “Herding Cats”

There’s been far too much loose talk in recent years about the challenges of herding cats. I know I’ve used the expression a few times myself, especially in regard to the difficulties of getting more than one faculty member moving in the same direction at the same time. It turns out we’ve been maligning our fine feline friends for all these many years. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks — actually you can!– but cats are capable of being trained as performers, as is illustrated by this remarkable video about the Moscow Cat Circus. Watch and enjoy this film for three minutes of delight! My hope is that it will lighten your burdens as so many of us go through the hell of finals week.

True enough, most of these cats aren’t being herded: they are doing their own tricks, but they are, in many cases, being coordinated, which is not any easier to do with faculty colleagues.

I stumbled onto this video on a recently discovered site, SnagFilms, which is still in its Beta test phase. The site features literally hundreds of documentaries — from very short subjects to full length movies — including some which have generated lots of buzz (Super Size Me!, What Would Jesus Buy?), some which have been featured on this blog before (Confessions of a Superhero) and some which I’ve never heard of but which look interesting (Manga Mad Tokyo). The topics range from nature to popular culture to politics to human tragedy. Think Hulu for documentaries — everything is free but with a few commercials embedded. For many of us, the advertisements are a small price to pay for getting access to films which would never otherwise be available. And, as you can see, the films are spreadable to any other social space where you might want to reference them.

Interestingly, less than 24 hours earlier, one of my CMS graduate students Ana Domb introduced me to The Auteurs, another site in Beta which was inspired in part by Hulu, which offers access to classic and contemporary international films, including many still playing on the global film festival circuit. Domb explains:

The Auteurs now streams over 70 movies. This is looking very promising. The films aren’t embeddable yet, but the service is in beta and one must have hope. The quality of the videos is spectacular, exactly what you would expect from Criterion, defending the cinematic quality at all costs, while shifting the exhibition platforms to make films available to a wider audience. You “pay” for the stream by watching one commercial. Thus far, I’ve only “paid” by seeing trailers for movies that I might want to watch later on.

In some cases, there is a $5 fee to watch the movies, especially those drawn from the Criterion collection, but many more of them are free to access. There’s a very active discussion community around the films with people who really care about cinema.

All I can say is: Enjoy the cats now, go back and explore these sites when your papers and/or grading is done. But, man, it’s a great time to be a film buff!