Friday, September 26, 2008

A book is an e-book is a computer game is a film is a website

A book is an e-book is a computer game is a film is a website

So who would like to sponsor my trip to Frankfurt? I will take any forms of currency. Also, I promise a full report complete with pictures.
You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bon Iver: Sparse And Ghostly

Bon Iver: Sparse And Ghostly

NPR loves this guy which is awesome. Because he is really good. Another Bon Iver interview; enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

College Panel Calls for Less Focus on SATs

College Panel Calls for Less Focus on SATs

boo-yah! Though the suggestors of less focus on the SATs still want to use a test score but based on individual subjects. This may have a far-reaching effect in gauging how students are learning in high-school and force the removal of standarized tests at the high-school level. I think less focus on the SATs will require better teachers but hopefully will give motivated learners the chance to learn subject areas as important to learning across high school and college levels which will, hopefully, carryt them into learning after college.

From Inside Higher Ed

Dramatic Challenge to SAT and ACT

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Motorcycles and thought

Have you seen this book? Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Mark Richardson. I saw it this evening. I leafed through it. I read several pages. I put it down in disappointment. It is possible that my perception was skewed as I was looking at the new arrivals table which has historically contained less than stellar selections. The discerning reader can only hope, deeply deeply hope, that the real new arrivals from the publishing house are either still on a pallet in the back or someone placed the authentic new arrivals on the 50% table.
As any knowledge-seeking young man, I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I finished the work and desperately wanted to own a motorcycle and think really deep thoughts.
My motorcycle fever has waned though I'm still trying to think some semi-deep thoughts. While I don't completely agree with some of Pirsig's premises, the book attempts to find out
what is and consistently asks and interacts with worthwhile questions. Pirsig also is a brilliant writer. His descriptions, settings, interactions with the landscape,
the romance he shares with his bike, his detailed inner struggles told through a thrid-person narrative are excellent. The premise of Zen and Now is that Richardson is retracing
Pirsig's journey. This is not unheard of or unusual and so I was somewhat interested in the description of Richardson's journey. However, Richardson simply summarizes chunks of
what Pirsig was writing about. Frankly, the majority of people woh are going to pick up Zen and Now are going to be people who are already interested in Pirisig and
most likely have already read him. We don't need an Pirsig exegesis; we've already clocked hours in coffee shops doing that. The book seems like a publisher's ploy to cash
in on Pirisig's work which is basically alluded to on the inside cover of the dust jacket. The dust jacket indicates Zen and Now was published to coincide with the 40th anniversary
of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I was hoping for a much stronger showing for anyone attempting to retrace and/or recapture Pirsig's journey and thoughts.

This is old but good

Douglas Coupland : Polaroids From The Dead : From Fear To Eternity

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the farce of balance

I've stopped using the word balance. I don't think it exists; the it being the idea of balance as a method of living. Perhaps it is applicable in the realm of gymnastics or in purely mechanical
terms. A balanced life? I think what people mean when they say balanced is controlled, manageable. In pursuing what Schall describes as the life of the mind, this involves moving towards what becomes an unbalanced life. Not mentally unbalanced or out of control but a life that is continually questioning the other, to know what is and attempting to reatively,intelligently and logically answer those questions. This goal, I think, requires a dialectical view of the nature of things.
Reading one book is out of balance because it means that I'm not reading at least one other book or even multiple books that might be more balanced.
This is taken from Barthes' idea that the one thought being written or said is at the expense of another thought being written or read. To ask questions is to create conflict.
Balance and seeking it requires not asking questions attempting to find a standard of normalcy in which one can operate. While Hegel proposed dialectical view of history to understand
how events in history meshed together, his view of thesis, antithesis, synthesis helps to understand our process of encountering and thinking through difficult and complex issues.
Perceiving balance as a possible method of living or pursuing balance as a method of living is to disregard Hegel's view entirely to the extreme detriment of the individual.
How is the dialectical process fed? I would argue that it is primarily done through reading, writing and discourse. The solitary individual can ask themselves a series of questions to work through the dialectical process but I think, based on experience that it is much better to engage with other people in this process. This is especially because other people have read books that I have not other people have asked questions that I have not and have resources that I do not have. These questions if properly ask will upset the balance I may have created in the manipulation of any knowledge I have possibly attained. The goal of questioning is not to blow one's life or family members' life into complete disarray but to attempt to determine from life's texts what can be learned from them.
(A note: I was thinking about this some more and one of the best illustrations of this idea is Bach, especially his inventions or his fugues. Ideas and motives are introduced against each other for their mutual dissonance, passing, conflict and resolution. Each requires the other and it is in experiencing the other that the full potential of the motive is realized.
The other thought I had was Schenkerian in nature. Schenker believed, if I remember correctly, that any music could be reduced to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. He arrived at this, in any number of pieces, by reducing the items in the piece to a background, middleground and foreground. It may sound ridiculious and it is slightly but Schenker's method of approaching the piece is quite helpful. I think this approach also lends some understanding to understanding my role. Whatever the narrative or musical work, pick your metaphor, of my living is reduced to its smallest form it should resound the Westminster Shorter Catchecism. "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

THE DEATH OF THE BOOK (oh really?)

I would like to suggest that the next person to title on an article on books in the 21st century a Death of the Book in another cute, smarter-than-digital article praising the triumph of books over digital and suggesting the continued success of books should be denied access to the Internet for about a year. (granted I'm not sure when this was published. I think a rational guess would be 2000 or 2001 based on the bibliography at bottom of the page.) That would make this article rather dated which I think shows in the author's outlook on the perceived continued success of reading physical books. This article also does not take into account the report released a year and a half ago about the low rate of people reading nationwide. The argument focuses on digital vs. physical but the issue is deeper than that. The issue is, I think, a loss, in being interested in what is (as per James Schall) The problem is not E-Ink versus paper, information is being shared either through digital or paper, it's the pursuit of knowledge for its own rather than the value of its entertainment or its financial value. The what is search is not to be the most esoteric or the most philosophical but to express an geniune and continued concern and interest in knowledge for its own sake. It's a process. People not reading is more important than if books or digital is going to "win". The percieved winning trashes the pursuit of the what is, the other in hope of aspiring to the top of the heap. My issue is that the only reason books are being read at all is because the romance novel, erotica, detective story and health/wealth books are carrying the pack. If you don't believe me check out any used bookstore on the eastern seaboard. What's the largest section? Romance, hands-down. My wife and I visited the book barn in Connecticut last month. I spent 2 hours in the fiction shack. There was no Brautigan and only one Barthelme, which I promptly purchased. Why is this? Not because people are not reading these books but because they are not getting rid of them. Used book stores show the consumptive readers waste products; trade-paperbacks barely held together to sustain their flimsy pages past one reading let alone annotation.
Technology will continue to declare the death of the past; it's the nature of the technological hopefuls. They seem to consistently deny their history. Bibliophiles, on the other hand continue to claim the past will triumph despite whithering numbers of true readership. The goal is once again excite in people a joy in the journey of discovering what is, encountering the life of their minds. Neither technology nor printed materials will do that. It requires a change of focus, a paradigm shift.