Thursday, December 17, 2009

mewling fluff

This short article from NYRblog is a nice take on the virtues of virtual egalitarianism. While there's not anything in here that is necessarily brand new, it ties in nicely to some other reading/thinking I've been doing on learning and education. "To be human is to engage in relationships with others and with the world...whether or not men can perceive the epochal themes and above all, how they act upon the reality within which these themes are generated will largely determine their humanization or dehumanization, their affirmation as Subjects or their reduction as objects." (Freire p.1/5 Education as Critical Consciousness) As we as users continue to invest our time, which is the commodity with which we are now primarily dealing, into virtual networks and pixel-worlds we support certain statements about the route of the world's thinking. (Granted this version of classlessness is only available to those who are in possession of a computer. Thus, the divide between rich (computer-owners) and poor (non-computer owners) is established and wide. The argument could be made that since libraries provide many with computers it is less necessary to purchase your own thus helping to span the gap or smooth out the class hierarchy into a smooth, shiny surface.) To a large extent the type of our engagement (both in the initial encounter and continual interaction) with certain aspects of our culture state or demonstrate how we think about it. While it is possible to parse out belonging to a social network in terms of a/the class struggle it is also possible to discuss if this interaction allows us to demonstrate our involvement in our own epoch or if we are simply interacting within those limits that have been handed/suggested to us, democratically of course. It is easier to keep track of those whom I know through Facebook bc I have a centralized address book/photo album/IM/messaging service/marketing tool. It's a bit more work to maintain relationships through other means that are not lumped into one spot. As humans we have begun to route our relationships through the most convenient route possible. As students/learners we have also begun to/continue to focus our learning on the end result, the derived product and what it does for me. This focus is directly opposed to the idea of "the pointless encounter with an unconsumable object", entering into a relationship with an 'other' to ask of it (text/person) "What is..." Companies are not stupid-they understand that we the users are desperately and constantly trying to regain that time we think that we are losing though I am sure we do not know what we are trying to save it for.
“We powerlessly watch the stupefaction of children and adults in front of the television and the fact that we spend more and more time intensely working to buy more things designed to save us time. By the same token, we see the amazing advancement of available potential, and we are unable to turn it into a better life.” (Freire. p. 27 Pedagogy of the Heart) Stated slightly differently, technology is not only the vehicle of much of the cultural/societal change it's also the driver. If we are not paying attention we are simply going to let ourselves be steered without ever knowing where or why. Not knowing what is steering moves us from Subjects to objects.
We should seek to be more concerned with the questions of 'why(s)' and the 'what is' about how this particular item in question has come into interaction with us. Doing this will allow us to better navigate our epoch(s) and our relationship to it/them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The end of the world

Mr. Danny Sullivan gives notice to the ultimate customization: the customization of your searches.

The Indie Lit Secret Santa

Check HTMLGiant for one of the t coolest, esp. if you're down with the indie publishing /lit scene, Secret Santa gift exchanges. And if you are not, this is a great way to get into it. Here's how the sign up for the second annual HTML Giant Indie Lit Secret Santa is set up:
"From now till December 15, sign up to play Secret Santa at HTMLGiant. It’s easy! On the sign-deadline, you will find out your recipient and her or his address, and by Christmas (it’s December 25, this year, I think), send them a book from an indie press or a subscription to an indie mag. And you get one too! Sounds like it was a great success last year, and it’s sure to be this year, too.."
There's a few more details about signing up so head on over to their website to check it out. It's also worth scrolling down through the comments on the page as there are a large number of indie presses giving some really good/great deals on books including free shipping and $10 off your order.
Go book-loving s(S)antas, go!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hitler's Library

A very interesting and well-written article by Timothy Ryback on Hitler's Library. Article explores/exegetes what books were in Hitler's library with a fascinating short study of the marginalia in many of the works held by the Library of Congress.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Latest bit on Google Books

Here's an article with some of the latest developments and intrigue on the GoogleBooks continued drama: CLICK THIS. I'm not sure how I think about this except I keep coming back to two things. 1) The 'socialization of texts' while helpful for searching should not be consolidated into an entity who is in fact a for-profit company that desires to make money. In my opinion, and has been expressed elsewhere, it is not healthy nor ultimately beneficial. Unfortunately it seems that only an entity who has the money-making power Google does is able to  sustain such a large project, especially as Microsoft and others have dropped off the pace.
2) Who stands to ultimately benefit from this digitization? Do books in digital form actually circulate better? The Kindle is not exactly spreading like wildfire though it does seem to be picking up steam. These questions keep getting rehashed and I don't know what the good answer is.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Personal Note

On a personal note, I'm going to be playing my first show in a long time next Friday at 6:30pm as the bassist for a band called Scapegoat. It is going to be a gnarly multimedia event-fog, lights, stage, images, music, etc. It's actually at Davis, here's the info. Also here's the band myspace page.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Elie Wiesel - Nov. 17 - Wilkes Univ.

On Tuesday Nov. 17 I had the distinct pleasure of seeing/hearing Elie Wiesel (b.1928) lecture at Wilkes University. Wiesel's lecture was part of an ongoing series entitled the Outstanding Leader's Forum. Other speakers have included Madeline Albright, Colin Powell and Rudy Giuliani . Wiesel is a Holocaust survivor (Auschwitz, Buchenwald) and a Nobel Laureate. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his humanitarian and activist work. He has over 50 novels to his credit with a new work of fiction entitled A Mad Desire to Dance due out in Feb. 2010. His best work is probably Night which details his experiences in the concentration camps.
Wiesel spoke sitting down at a wooden table that was situated on a tan Oriental rug. He spoke into the microphone on the table often waving his hands about on either sides of the mic to help make his point. It appeared that he also had a sheaf/sheet(s) of notes that he carried onstage and then placed on the the table to his right hand side but he did not refer to them at any time during the evening.
It is difficult to gauge the impact of these type(s) of events where there is a large bunch/group of fairly diverse people coming together by the purchasing a ticket to see/hear one individual speak, followed by clapping and departure. One wonders how effective this approach is or what the actual purpose, for those attending, of such an event is.
Seeing Wiesel was awesome. However, I posit, b/c of easy access to media that has enabled the history to be the present longer, it is very easy to lose the appreciation of the group encounter of an individual. This does fall into Scruton's category of "the purposeless encounter of/with an unconsumable object". There is/was no consumeristic benefit for the audience in listening Wiesel, in fact we paid to listen to him. No t-shirts were sold, no bumper stickers were available though programs were given out. The only artifact that carries from this particular encounter is my four pages of notes and my memory. (Since the notes are not a transcription they are artifacts themselves being greatly removed from their original context and in my fairly terrible handwriting, esp. in the situation of trying to keep up w/ Wiesel w/o a pause button.)
So why do we as people have the interest in going to see individuals like Wiesel? Do we go for inspiration, for the cult of celebrity, so that we are seen by others? Does it matter why anyone else goes or does it matter only if I go? Is it Wiesel's accomplishments which are many and laudatory, his erudition and knowledge what attracts us (or any audience) to him. To borrow form Benjamin, is there still belief that the physical speaker carries an aura that is not possible perceive outside of the moment of its occurrence? B/c we have read his books?
The other question then is what are/were we hoping to receive/achieve? Is it the ability to tell grandchildren/children "I saw/heard Wiesel" (historiography). I can click here and see multiple instances of Wiesel speaking.
Wiesel recounted that some time after the camps he was asked how he managed to keep his sanity. He said "It is learning. I teach because I want(ed) to learn. The privilege of the human is to learn from creation both about the created being and the C/creator. Learning never stops." It is tempting then to argue that going to see Wiesel is to continue the learning process by encountering another human being (an 'other'). It is tempting then to tack on as well the fact that this is someone who had survived one of the most horrific experiences of humanity's recent history and has redeemed/transformed that experience to story and work with other people. This is a powerful thing and demands respect. However perhaps it is enough just that Wiesel represents an instance of 'the other'.
Wiesel spoke on the importance of learning and passion and the necessity for the combination of both, calling for their continuation in the active survival of compassionate humanity. Approximately halfway through his lecture, Wiesel stated that "...the enemy has more imagination then the victim. He (the victim) did not imagine Auschwitz, but the enemy did. B/c we did not imagine it, we were not ready." In order to to be able to imagine something like Auschwitz we need to be able to think another's thoughts against our own. Scruton also suggests that "We have knowledge of the facts and knowledge of the means but no knowledge of the ends." Perhaps this is because we have lack the imagination and thus the means of asking the question of "What is...?"This requires intelligence/intuition which can only result from the committed learner, continuing to invest in the exploration of questions not for solipsistic ends but for the sharing of that experience even if that experience is only through an sixty minute lecture or is expanded out to 50 novels.

"Do we ask the right questions? That is the question." ~Elie Wiesel

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grateful Dead Archivist

This came across my email this morning. I'm not a dead head but this looks awesome, challenging and all the good stuff that goes along with 'librarying'.


Grateful Dead Archivist

The University Library of the University of California, Santa Cruz, seeks an enterprising, creative, and service-oriented archivist to join the staff of Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) as Archivist for the Grateful Dead Archive. This is a potential career status position. The Archivist will be part of a dynamic, collegial, and highly motivated department dedicated to building, preserving, promoting, and providing maximum access both physically and virtually to one of the Library's most exciting and unique collections, The Grateful Dead Archive (GDA). The UCSC University Library utilizes innovative approaches to allow the discovery, use, management, and sharing of information in support of research, teaching, and learning.

Under the general direction of the Head of Special Collections and Archives, the GDA Archivist will provide managerial and curatorial oversight of the Grateful Dead Archive, plan for and oversee the physical and digital processing of Archives related material, and promote the GDA to the public and facilitate its use by scholars, fans, and students."

20 years later

Came across this piece in the NYT this (yesterday 11/09) morning. Gunter Grass's work Too Far Afield deals largely with the implications impact and importance of the Wall coming down. Much like Dresden circulates through Vonnegut's work, the Wall is a constant motif through much of Grass's work.
My friend had/has a piece of the wall that his uncle brought back for him.
When I was 7/8/9? (90/91/92?) was taken to West Point to watch a hockey game of West Point v. a team I do not recall. In the lobby of one of the WP buildings was a large section of the wall. It was probably at least four feet wide by 6.5 or 7 feet tall but it served, and has continued to serve as a synecdoche of the Wall. The fragment had all of the necessary trademarks of its parents, the colorful graffiti, the worn and pitted grey cement with rebar twisting out the disconnected ends; frozen and taut. A fragment, loosed from its moorings and from its context, removed from its role as a barrier transformed into a set piece or found object or sculpture. I can't remember if I touched it or not. I think if I did that it was warm. I could walk around it easily surveying it from all sides without having to hurdle or despair about the reason for the separation. At 6/7 years old I think that I do remember the excitement but not the reason for that excitement or the importance of this wall coming down just as any pre-adolescent has no knowledge of the swirling events passing around and over their heads.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Something to think about

Listening to Nature-Derrick Jensen
I found myself in a consistently dialectical relationship with Jensen's writing. On the one hand I've read his book 'Walking on Water', dealing with education, twice in the past year as I've started teaching for the first time and found it immeasurably helpful. I've also read Endgame Vol. 1 The Problem of Civilization and my mind has been seriously tweaked since then. This isn't a bad thing except that I have some difficulty identifying exactly how his suggestions/actions might play out if enacted, though I think this is true of most revolutionary-type thinking, whether or not that thinking is realized in action.
This morning I got up at 5am, showered, dressed in warm clothes and with my bow in the back seat drove 20 minutes out into the rural area north of Binghamton. At 5:45 I, and the owner of the land, was walking through a moonlit field while the stars were pin-pricks of white light demonstrating out their constellations. As we created the first hill looking over our left shoulders at the opposite hills the sunrise showed itself in a solid orange band fading into the brilliantly subdued blue of the early morning sky. The grass and leaves were white with frost as the temperature was close to 17 degrees (Celsuis). Climbing into my stand at the top of the hill I watched the sun continue to push out from the opposing hills spreading its light over the stars but leaving the moon to hang opaquely almsot directly over my treestand. About 15 minutes after getting into the stand, four doe slowly worked their way about 35 yards beneath their hooves crunching loudly through the undergrowth. Not 10 minutes after their passing a large buck moved through the woods after them and presenting an excellent shot at 20 yards. I drew, released the arrow and completely missed, failing to take into account the angle of the hill. The deer bolted downhill approximatley 15 yards stood for several minutes and then trotted uneasily down the hill. Rather perturbed with myself I sat and watched the dawn take over the day. The bird song crept up in volume and the little red squirrels performed noteworthy feats of acrobatic skill about the fallen trunks. A piliated woodpecker did his search for grubs about the surrounding trees. The buck was the last deer I saw. But the morning was worth it becuase of the ability to enjoy the other animals and their activity within the woods. Would getting the deer have been awesome? Absolutely. Venison is delicious and versatile as a meat but killing the animal does not make the hunting experience awesome. Rather it is the interaction wtih the outdoors, to sit and watch and listen as a semi-invisible watcher and discover what I did not know and was not aware of before becuase of my activity and motion. I believe that this enjoyment of nature is a direct gift of God to us and because of that gift we should do a better job of managing our interactions with nature. To this end I believe Jensen is correct.
As a capstone, I would quote Dr. Fred Putnam. This quote hangs in my office as a reminder and goad.
"I dream of a school in which visitors cannot distinguish faculty from students, because all are equally engaged in learning from whatever text lies open before them, whether that text be a great tree under which they sit, a specimen observed through a microscope, a piece of music, the host and rank of heaven, or galaxies of letters in constellations of words on a page."

NYRB-Dreams of Better Schools

The NYRB recently published this article by Andrew Delbanco. I've not read either of these two books so I'll avoid what Steiner detests and not post thoughts on someone else's thoughts based on their reading. Simploy to say that this article is an interesting read and I would like to read both of these works.
Would appreciate any comment back from anyone who has read these or any other works by these gentelman.

Books reviewed:
The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools, by E.D. Hirsch Jr., and
Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us, by Mike Rose

Monday, November 2, 2009

One for the Good Guys

One for the Good Guys

Dave Eggers' recent review of a posthumous volume of Vonnegut's previously unpublished short stories entitled Look at the Birdie from Vonnegut's writing in the 1950s. This collection also includes a letter by Vonnegut dealing with the reasons behind his writing.
Looks like an interesting and enjoyable collection.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Interview with Dave Sizemore

Around September 15th, 2009 a new website was born. Frankly, the birth of new websites is not all that exciting except this one emanates from the insanely imaginative and complexly talented head of David Sizemore (official site: DavidSizemoreDesign). Entitled H1N1forEveryone, the site details the swine flu pandemic through Dave's imaginative and complex images, some of these culled from pop culture while others are birthed directly from Dave's grey matter.
An interview follows between myself and Dave dealing with his thoughts on the rise and influence of H1N1, his work process, technology's impact on human interaction and the involvement of art and life.

Q.1: Dave, could you start by giving a brief introduction of yourself (who you are, where you work, are you married and educational background?)

A.1. Hello, my name is David Sizemore. Grew up in New Jersey, moved out to Ohio to go to university for graphic design. Met an amazing girl, graduated, married her, and we moved to North Carolina. I live there now, doing design work full-time.

Q.2:H1N1 is not really something that is particularly funny but your artwork seems to attempt to point at the funnier side of the H1N1 scare. What inspired you to start doing this?

A.2. H1N1 is terrifying. What I’m doing is cathartic. I read way more news than is healthy for me, and I obsess over all the contradictory information out there. Is the threat blown out of proportion? According this article in the New York Times, it is. Are we all going to die? According to this doctor's blog, yes, slowly and painfully. There is just so much out there. Is it better to get
the vaccine? Should New York require all of its medical personnel to have the vaccine if they want to say employed? Is there a way for me to do anything to protect myself sans a self-inflicted quarantine?
This past Sunday I was working in the nursery at my church, and a lady came through and dropped off a kid with mucus running from his bright-red face down his arms to the palms of his hands. He was wandering around, touching everything, squeezing out a string of rough coughs every forty-five seconds. But instead of flipping out on this stressed-out mom for exposing all these children to whatever her kid had, I made a picture lambasting her and posted it on the internet. It’s just a quasi-healthy way of dealing with the panic I feel every time I hear someone cough at the office/supermarket/car next to me at the stoplight.

Q.3: On one of your first mask images, the text 'Everyone Panic Now' is seen printed on the front of the mask. Are you a fan of Douglas Adams?

A.3. I am a fan of all the Douglas Adams I have read, which isn’t much. I’ve just read a bunch of the Hitchhiker's Guides, ending with Thanks For All The Fish. I probably haven’t read them since high school, though. British humorists are fantastic. So yes, I am a fan, but that ‘everyone panic now’ wasn’t directly, or at least consciously, inspired by him.
I’d say that my phrase was more inspired by Glenn Beck’s Doom Room. He freaks me out. I don’t agree with his view of politics (life, really), which makes it easier for me to write him off as a kook, but I can relate to his fear and paranoia and overinflated sense of self-worth. We all can, to some extent. But that’s where that phrase came from, mostly.

Q.4: One of my particularly favorite images is your use of BRA (Be Ready Always). Do you think the use of this type of mask will really catch on?

A.4. Isn’t that great? I love that someone spent the time and energy to develop a bra that will actually work as a proper medical mask. No, I don’t see it catching on. I can’t imagine a major undergarment company working with the people who own this patent to develop a comfortable version of the product, which I think would be its biggest hurdle. Then you’d have to convince people it was worth the extra money to own these bras exclusively, since they would only be useful in an emergency if you already had it on. Then you’d have to convince the lady next to you to take off her bra and let you stick it over your face, which is quite hard to do.

Q.5: The obvious question then is have you tried this and under what possible circumstances?

A.5: Of course. It's a great pick-up line. I used it back in 1968 during the Hong Kong flu. That's how I met my wife.

Q.6: Your adaption/use of American Gothic is somewhat eerie (even more than the original). Do you see yourself doing more of this type of work in future-perhaps Mona Lisa or Picasso's Three Musicians?

A.6: That image is so creepy because the woman is gone. There is a guy with a surgical mask on and his wife missing. It’s a familiar image sans an integral piece, which is off-putting. Is the woman dead? Is she refusing to participate in her husband’s paranoid fantasy? I actually have a version of this with my wife in there, but it doesn’t look good because I couldn’t get her hair right. In frustration I took her out, and then the piece worked, so I was done. Voila, secret revealed.
I don’t plan on using other famous images. Frankly, I get tired of images from pop culture being recycled endlessly. It might happen, though. I wasn’t planning on using American Gothic, Iwas just trying to make an image using my wife and it evolved into something else. Something without her, actually. So, no Mona Lisa.

Q.7: The title of your site H1N1foreveryone could be considered offensive to some people who have encountered the flu. Have you had swine flu? Where do you stand about the danger of swine flu?

A.7: It is offensive, a bit. I would imagine it would be quite offensive to anyone who has lost someone to the flu in the past year. Being offensive is not my aim, and hopefully most people will understand that. But it’s the Internet, so I’m sure someone will eventually take offense. C’est la vie.
I have not had the swine flu. I was ill last week, but I displayed none of the respiratory symptoms and only missed a day of work. So I’m sure it was something else. But I stand on the flu being super-duper dangerous. People have died. Death is dangerous. But so far more people die annually from the regular flu, so that’s pretty dangerous, too. What isn’t dangerous?

Q.8: Do you think that as viruses, such as the avian flue or H1N1, continue to spread do you think companies will begin to invest in designer-made masks?

A.8: I’d imagine a few designer masks, but there will probably be more home-customized masks. Celebrities will have designer masks for when they have to come out to mingle with the ordinary people. They’ll be more expensive, safer, and have little logos embroidered on the mask's silk in gold thread. There will be lots of folks who draw smiley faces on their masks, but that will come to an end after CNN does an investigative report that finds the ink in sharpies degrades the structural integrity of a mask’s protective field.

Q.9: Do you have a designer mask?

A.9: I don’t actually own a mask at all. If I did I would draw a Tom Selleck mustache on it.

Q.10: I very much enjoyed your rendition of Michael Jackson and the Thriller zombies. Do you plan to do a celebrity line of mask-based art?

A.10: I love that one! Michael Jackson was never on my musical radar until he died. Then he was all over the radio for a while, and I discovered that I actually liked his music. Started doing a little research, which wasn’t hard in the aftermath of his passing, and found all this picture of him and his kids in masks. I knew he had worn some for a while, but absolutely loved the pictures of his kids. It’s a perfect way to deal with the paparazzi. So I had to do one for him, and then with the zombies from the Thriller video cross pollinated with the DVD cover for 28 Days Later; it all just wove together so nicely. And I said I didn't like recycled pop-culture references.

Q.11:Who are your influences? Whom do you find has really pushed you to succeed in this particular area of epidemic-based art?

A.11: Ha. My influences for this? This stuff I’ve been doing doesn’t look like anything that I like. I really like illustration work that has strong, dark lines, very graphic work. Michael Sieben, Travis Millard, Mike Giant, Von Glitschka. But the work I do on my H1N1 blog is all done on the computer on lunch breaks - if I started out from sketches, it would take a lot longer and I’d be pushing out one a week. So this looks very different than what inspires me. They are my inspiration, I’m not sure exactly what has influenced this work. Maybe Eric Tan, a little. His work is amazing.
As far as pushing goes, I’d have to say paranoia. Coffee-fueled paranoia.

Q.12: What inspires you to do a particular image? Is something on the news or, as you mentioned previously, simply paranoia playing?

A.12:.Mostly news. Or an event that happens specifically to me. Renting the Watchmen DVD led to posting a Watchman themed mask. Voila. Thats normally how it works. Or I’ll get worked up over something and need to release some of that pressure. I’d like post something about vaccines soon - I’ve been reading a lot about them recently, and it makes me very upset to hear so many people deciding not be vaccinated.
Go ahead and check your Facebook page - I guarantee someone has posted a link to some article about how the government is trying to turn children into autistic communists via vaccine, or how the flu shot is 95% mercury and 4% rat poison. And these are sane, rational people! How the Internet turns otherwise normal people into raving lunatics is beyond me. So instead of ranting, and contributing to the idiocy, I try to come up with some silly pictures. It’s just more healthy for me, dealing with things this way.

Q.13: Do you listen to any particular music while working on these?

A.13: I listen to exclusively to Genghis Tron’s “Things Don’t Look Good", setting it to just repeat over and over. Normally I don’t equate music with inspiration. Certain packaging or posters for bands might be inspiring, but that’s different from their actual music. Example: Pearl Jam always puts out quality gig posters, but I don’t particularly enjoy their music. They’ve influenced me, but I don’t listen to them. I like music, but I’m not sure any sonic vibrations influence my work.

Q. 14: I recently read World War Z by Max Brooks and one of the things your images reminds me of is the no-contact type of thinking between those who are ill and those are not. The occurence of H1N1 seems to give some credence to zombie films whereby avoiding the infected the uninfected stay safe. Of course with H1N1 nobody is lopping heads off. Leprosy comes to mind as well. As you build these images and contemplate new ones does the zombie film culture/sub-culture influence your thinking at all? Have you drawn a similar parallel?

A.14: Zombie-ism definitely influenced some of my images. The part of zombie lore that I relate to the most is the sense of helplessness that the average human has in a zombified culture. There’s an inevitableness to a zombie situation. Normal people become zombies. That’s just what happens. There’s going to be three or four people running around doing quasi-heroic things, but that’s not you and me. We’re going to be trying to eat their brains. And that sort of inevitability comes into play with how I think about H1N1.Of course, that scenario is very much a zombie-movie scenario. I imagine - I have not read it - that World War Z is quite different. A book can deal with all sorts of global repercussions and the cool political aspects that would not translate as well, or as easily, in a movie.

Q.15: Do you think the occurence of H1N1 will have any lasting mental effects, even more than then physical sickeness on us as Americans? In a society that is increasingly more withdrawn, because of the ease of home access to media, do you think that something like this 'pandemic' will help to isolate people further?

A.15: Perhaps. You can Netflix your movies and buy your books on and work from your home, but you still see other humans. The isolation is there, but it has not yet eradicated human contact. That contact might not be meaningful to you, but it’s still there. Feelings of isolation don’t actually make you isolated! You simply cannot isolate yourself enough to create real barriers without radically changing your lifestyle, which few people are likely to do. We want ease as well as protection. But this aspect of isolation is why we have malls. We want shopping without having to be exposed to crime. So instead of taking a train into the city and walking the streets, we drive to a Segway-patrolled parking garage where we take an video-monitored elevator to our floor. Yes, it’s also convenient, but again, we weigh ease and safety as equal.
I foresee less a change in people’s patterns and more changes in what they consider acceptable amounts of protection. I don’t think people will stop going to malls - I think they will require that the mall hire medical personnel to perform screenings before they let people attend a movie. Seriously. As long as private businesses do it and not the government, I would imagine very few people complaining.

Q.16: Related to the previous question-Do you think there may be any other effects in terms of social interaction or human thinking?

A.16: Perhaps a greater willingness to exchange information between countries. Mexico seemed to be pretty transparent when this all started, and we were hearing a lot about safety precautions all over the world, even in some countries that don’t necessarily have a reputation being open with their media coverage. I haven’t been alive long enough to know if that’s normal, but it seemed like governments were okay with letting news organizations let other countries know what they were doing, which was neat. Maybe in the future we’ll have better communication between governments as horrible plagues sweep the globe. That would be nice.
I think social interaction is currently changing drastically, but I think that has more to do with technology than particular events. An example would be Twitter and the Iranian elections - that was a global event that changed how people view media and social interaction, but it seems like Twitter benefitted more from the convergence than Iran. I see the news of the use of technology being more important than the actual event(s) are for a period of time in the near future. If that makes sense. That sounds pretty crazy.

I guess that’s it. Also, I have to make sure that I warn anyone who has made it all the way through this that they should really avoid Genghis Tron, the Watchman DVD, zombie movies, and Twitter. I think they are all really crappy. But if you like any of those things, that doesn’t make you a crappy person. Some of those things are okay sometimes. Different people like different things.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Carlos Ruiz Zafon on the brain

(In terms of reading modern fiction) "...It seems like it is a sin that if it is popular it can not be good... Who is saying those things? What is their personal agenda, what are the interests behinds this type of things...that someone is trying to tell us what we should think, What we should consider good is it because we are idiots and cannot decide for ourselves? One of the things I am trying to communicate to readers is to...think for yourself, decide for yourself. We have a brain between our ears...and that's a lot of the point of reading and exploring literature is about that, about using that brain to enjoy, to find beauty, to find intelligence to find ideas. So let's use it. And then we'll be able to decide." Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Friday, October 9, 2009

H1N1-Young, Hip, High at Risk

You should immediately head over to H1N1ForEveryOne! This is a site of artwork inspired by, and dedicated to, the mystique, style and allure of H1N1. This timely and provocative work was created and posted by none other than the illustrious and handsome David Sizemore-check out his new website as well. The images on this clever and witty site definitely puts the 'fun' into H1N1.
David is originally from NJ, went to Cedarville where he graduated with a BS in Exceptional Graphic Design (EGD) and currently lives and works in NC with his lovely wife Kari.
Please stay tuned here for an interview to be posted to this site at a later date.

Elie Wisel to speak at Wilkes Univ. (PA)

Found out this morning that Elie Wisel will be speaking at Wilkes University on Nov. 17. Definitively an opportunity of a lifetime to hear this man. He is a Holocaust survivor and continued advocate of human rights as well as being an accomplished author and teacher.
Details here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gentleman control your thumbs

This is a really interesting article dealing with the issue of the control of technology. Because people are acting in an unsafe way (texting/emailing) within their cars, this article states that the technology of the phone needs to control the individual's use of it. Yhe phone will not work in particular situations so as to prevent the individual from harming themselves or others. This is remarkably backwards. It, the situation, also questions the viability of the truth that development of technology is a progression forward, an evolutionary movement upward. The article makes the very poignant statement that "...drivers value convenience more than safety..." What this situation brings into sharp relief is our distance from our community(ies). Driving already puts the driver into a plastic/metal/glass bubble and texting/emailing and to a certain extent talking on the phone puts that individual into a second bubble, if you will, within the first further removing them from initial bubble as well as knowledge/concern for the other bubbles about them. It's only when these bubbles come into forcibly interact (i.e. crash) that there is awareness of interaction. The issue here is not of control of technology but of our own ability to control ourselves. The fact of this article even being written indicates that the convenience of being able to text, some might even say 'the right to text', is more important than limiting oneself to not texting while driving. As a civilization (D. Jensen) we/I/they are seemingly, universally unable to keep a very small, device, that we can deactivate at will with the touch of a button, from constantly, even imperiously, commanding our attention whenever it vibrates/beeps/rings/plays your favorite obnoxious song.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

turn the page see the video

NYT reported on a new type of book this morning as something called a vook which is begin marketed as a digital hybrid of video and text. While navigating through the prose the reader can then view a video that 'adds' content and flavor to the work. This approach to a certain extent makes sense with some books that this is being applied such as exercise or how-to books. However, in my humble opinion, the inclusion of images/background into a fictional/non-fictional/biographical text continues to move towards removing any work from the part of the reader. Granted, not all books should be work to read but, again my opinion, the good and really good ones are work. In a closely related article this morning, also from NYT, the idea of reading and some of the implications of the vook are explored in greater detail garnering quotes from both sides of the process. About halfway through the article a publisher is quoted as wanting to add music/perfume to the text with the goal of wanting " use all the senses". The first question to this statement is why? Why does a text need to reflect the pretty smells of a text or be stimulated by other sensory input? What is added? If you want a pretty smelling book I would suggest going to your local library and perusing their used book table/rack. Find as many trade paperbacks as are there and start smelling. I can almost 100% guarantee that one of those books is going to smell like perfume. Problem solved. Besides all the implications of reading as a past time being lost as the book struggles to find its way through this 'late of age of print' as Striphas refers to it, there is also the question of how does this benefit the reader's experience. For the book on 18th century French street music that has links to the tunes, that makes a lot of sense because the linking provides outside support rather than attempting to help carry the story. The counter-argument could be made that including some video in a fiction book provides the same support but I believe that the philosophy of inclusion is different. While there may be a side product of entertainment when listening to the clips of French music the only goal of a video inclusion in a fiction work is entertainment, at least based on what is included here. Is the publisher looking to help the reader or simply sell more titles? Is the goal here consumption control or is it consumer benefit? To a certain extent, this thing called the 'vook', absolutely horrible name, helps to illustrate what Ted Striphas in his recent book 'The Late Age of Print' recognizes as the tension between moving images and text. (I'm currently finishing up this book and will post some thoughts on it.) The vook is a logical conclusion of attempting to resolve some of those tensions. Unfortunately, based on these articles, it comes across as a cheap hack rather than a thoughtful development.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Other blog/experiment

I've set up a technology blog for the two sections of the Comp3121 class in order to share interesting and relevant links/info/random bits. Please excuse this narcissistic bit of posting.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A digital letter from a bookless man

James Tracy, the headmaster of the Cushing Academy who decided to go with the bookless library for his school, posted a letter dated Sept. 10 on the school's site. There's a couple of disturbing things about this particular bit of newspeak. (Here's an interview with Cushing on Here and Now)
"Moreover, many teachers continue to assign printed books in their courses, and students are encouraged to read literature in any format they find most convenient." It is interesting to note the library's transformation from a historical understanding of it into a building that is specifically designed as a meeting place. The question raised from my reading of this is wehre are the students to get these print books. (As a side note the Kindle doesn't have any pages so in citing it as a source you have to use its location numbers-according to CMOS) This may seem simply like a dusty bibliophile complaint but it is more a request for some logical arguement from Tracy.
Probably the most illuminating, albeit disturbing, aspect of Tracy's letter comes towards the end of the document. Tracyattempts to defend his choice by briefly referencing his 'incurable bibliophilia' but finishes with this statement. "... the younger generation as a rule does not share my nostalgia for the printed book, and they are discovering capabilities and aesthetics in the electronic world that my generation can scarcely fathom.The future of learning is electronic..." This is an incredibly telling statement. First because Tracy implies that learning is not a continual exercise we are constatnly engaging in as humans but that learning requires a specific medium in which to occur. Tracy's statement also highlights the continual difficulty of one generation to talk to another about the efficacy of the printed word. In this letter Tracy seems unwilling or unable to recognize that his stance on physical books is ultimately hypocritical. He states that he loves seeing students read but is filling the former library building with screens of news feeds composed of data that is constantly changing. While the school is supposedly giving out Kindles, it is a limited number so where are the students going to go and get these books?
I wonder if this approach does a severe disservice to these students by eliminating their chance to experience any interaction with books. How does this affect them going to college? Does this mean that these students will have no interaction with a university library or even a desire to? It seems, based solely on my anecdotal experience, that students exposed to databases in high school are more likely to use them in college. Is it possible that the possibility of exposure to books, which Tracy has decided is no longer necessary, being removed from these students which help to keep them from ever experiencing the breadth of a library.
In some way Tracy may be right that technology is going drive future literacy. In a recent article entitled So Maybe Not the Dumbest Generation (a play on a dubious book title of recent publication) the author deatils some of the results revealed by the Stanford Study of Writing as conducted by Andrea Lunsford with 14,672 Stanford students over a five year period. The results seem to indicate that there is an actual increase in literacy but that different tools and methods are required to do this well. In a review of the same study Clive Thompson at appluads the results seeing the study as proof of students developing tools and skills that are necessary to communicate effecitvely and with brevity because of the interaction with social netowrking, texting and Powerpoint. It's difficult to tell whether this is a new re-hashing of the old 'texting-as-new-language' arguement or if students really are writing better.
At the very least we need to be thinking about literacy in new ways; as a combination of new and old technologies in order to provide perspective and context to the study of this world through the process which we call education. Tracy's claim that nostalgia doesn't cause student to use books is right-on however he fails to attempt to concern himself with helping his students establish perspective of understanding and encountering the past in a way that helps to manage/understand the present and map out (a) future road.
**There's also the question, as raised by of where the library director is in all of this hoopla.**

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thanks Koha Community!

The last time I looked at the Koha documentation page was back in May of this year and I've not been back until today. A very big thank you to all those who took up the task of formatting and arranging the information on the documentation page. It look fantastic and is extremely easy to navigate! Grateful Kudos.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Good night


He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!"

From Life-Emily Dickinson



A precious, mouldering pleasure 'tis
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,

His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;

What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty.
And Sophocles a man;

When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,

He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown.

His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Close one

There' s a whole bunch of this online but just to demonstrate that I'm not completely out of the loop the Philadelphia Free Library System will not be shutting down just passed this evening-you can read about it here. Note that this was all libraries in the system. Good deal that this did not fail!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today we remember: D.F.W.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of David Foster Wallace's death. It may seem that an appropriate response would be to post a meaningful quote, but as been discussed on wallace-l it is very difficult, if not inappropriate, to 'quotify' Wallace. Thus I would like to pay short tribute with a bit of narrative.
The only thing I had read of Wallace's up until Sept. 12 was the online version of the Kenyon Commencent Speech, eventually published as This is Water. Shortly after his death I purchased a used copy of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I've read it several times. In the past year Infinite Jest, Consider the Lobster, The Broom of the System, Oblivion and This is Water have passed through my head/hands to join A Supposedly Fun Thing on my shelf cheek by jowl with Issue 55/56 of the Sonoma Review, various Harper articles, the Amherst Review and other early works that others have been kind enough to share. Many of the new books that were added to the library where I work were catalogued to the accompaniment of Wallace's voice either in conversational interview, a public reading and Q/A, selections from Consider the Lobster or the rememberance from Amherst and the Kelly's Writer House as well as the audio performance of BIWHM. I've stumped around the web trying to find other things on DFW only to be continually amazed by what I have not found as various members of wallace-l continue to post and share their thinkings, findings and writings. I had the excellent experience of participating in the group read of Oblivion and have learned much about reading/criticism and textual interaction from that read.
It's possible that this seems like simple authorial obssession-cultish, blinded and obssessed. However exploring an artist in this fashion opens up whole different worlds. I've also encountered DeLilleo, McCarthy, Ozick, Vollman and Powers. These are amazing writers that I had to this point missed/was ignorant of. The point of reading/listening is not simply to ape that writer's thinking/philosophy/style, though this is a distinct temptation, but to absorb their methods of thinking about the world, as much as is possible, in order to examine those methods and connect those methods with the reader's previous thoughts/readings/contexts. It helps in this that the writer be genuis-level, as I think DFW was. He was in no ways perfect but he wrote fiction, and essays, that continue to think and explore the world differently while maintaining well-crafted historical connections that encourage scholarship and criticism.
I never had the privelege of meeting DFW. I would have sincerely loved to have heard him read, gotten a book signed or sat in his class, even once. But the perserverance and connection of text allows me to continue to encouter DFW as often as I am wliling to open the pages.

Today, we remember

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Interesting Book Review

Late Age of Print Reviewed
Haven't read this yet but it's on my list. Good review especially in light of the previous post.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Forget libraries without walls here's a library without any books.

On Friday (Sept. 4th, 2009) the Boston Globe submitted this story about Cushing Academy (90 minutes west of Boston) announcing that their library is going to be going the way of the buffalo, at least their books are. This article has sparked a large reaction/response from the blogs and listservs frequented by librarians and book-lovers alike. Some of these responses are measured, informed and questioning, such as's response or LibraryJuice. Then there are responses/related articles of the type from CNN with the opening sentence that reads: "The stereotypical library is dying -- and it's taking its shushing ladies, dank smell and endless shelves of books with it." The CNN article gets a little better as it does discuss the tension that exists in the between-place thatmany libraries seem to currently occupy between going compeletly digital and holding to those physical things, books, that were the reason the libraries were built in the first place.
It seems that the main tension point can be captured in PBS's recent cancellation of Reading Rainbow. Quoting from that article, the several hundred thousands of dollars that would have been used to renew Reading Rainbow are being used so "... that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read..." This however is not the reason that Reading Rainbow was put into place, rather "..."Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read... the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read." The why vs. the how. The support of how to read rather than the why of reading also seems to contribute to the driving force behind Cushing's decision to go bookless.
“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy" (headmaster of the school) For Tracy, as portrayed by this article, the presence of physical books do not meet the technological standards that are, seemingly, necessary for an educational institution to survive. To arrive at book as an outdated technology is to ask them how they are competing rather than to ask
In place of the books "...the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a
“learning center,’’ though that is only one of the names in contention for the new
space. In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large
flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on
special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a
$50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine."

This seems to be a rather curious position for a school to take in terms of pedagogy because it seem that what they are effectively telling their students is that information absorbed/received through screens is the most important and that the only data worth discussing is that received from the Internet. (The other question raised here is who is choosing the content? Or is this generation so good at selectively ignoring information that the choice of content won't matter?) Is this approach really creating complete learners? Forgot the whole library/book issue here for a brief second this approach raises serious questions about the educational approach and furthering consequences as these students start achieving positions of power/prestige in Fortune 500 companies and government (why else do you got to a phenomenally expensive New England prep school-seriously. Not to seem needlessly cycnical or paranoid but there are surely governement leaders and policy -makers that are going to comfortable in a non-book oriented society and are most likely going to be willing to promote that as a policy and direction.)
From a librarian's perspective the school/library is going to attempt to counter the whole bookless thing with 18 (eighteen-count 'em) ebook readers for their students. The school has "...$10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by and Sony. Administrators plan to distribute the readers, which they’re stocking with digital material, to students looking to spend more time with literature." The focus not being on why students/faculty should have access to the library books but how they should have access and that access should be immediate and, for now at least, limited. Also that the administrators are stocking the e-readers with digital material rather than the students exploring how they develop their own reading habits and styles. Granted librarians order books so there is some control inherent but also the stacks are typically propagated in such a way as to encourage the exercising of personal choice and taste.

In reading various librarian responses to the Cushing Academy's/Headmaster Tracey's decision one of the themes that seems to exist is the lack of a really concrete argument(s) we as a profession have yet to come up with for the continuing of books in a physical form. Unfortunately, in terms of a logical defense, we often shoot for either 1) nostalgia (how the books smell/feel) or 2) serendipitious searching (finding other interesting items outside of the specified books). While these two items are held with open arms and wildly-beating hearts by all bibliophiles, librarian or not, these are not good arguments for the continued use of books, especially to people who didn't think that in the first place. Even though I firmly and completely believe in these two items as reasons to use books, I am more than capable of positing a ridiculouisly strong arguement for the use of digital materials only, both in terms of books and journals. Do librarians have a good argument for the continued use of phsyical materials?
As I've been thinking about this issue, I wonder if one of the issues at stake here is our collective uncomfortability with ambiguity-both in meaning and in purpose. That is to say some/much of the reward in reading literature is dealing with the ambiguities and shades of meaning and working through them both in terms of encountering the material and afterwards (the not-knowing as Bartheleme states). Granted the book's content does not change whether reading it through a screen or through a page but the question of ownership of that content as well as sharing and commenting on that content. Using only logic perhaps it makes sense to get rid of our books. If we are only seeking to build a world in which screens and input devices deliver our content for us, in which there are no ambiguities of meaning or finding, then this is a good thing. The siren-call of technology-as-progress is a deeply pulling one but I think we need to beware that this pursuit overtake our love of learning for the why. If we are only concerned with how we only need input/content devices. But if we are concerned with the why we need to exercise our wills in choosing/encountering our own ambiguities rather than having them scripted for us.
The other aspect of this how/why question is found in limitation. In reading reviews of the Kindle one of the stated benefits is that the reader can, if desired, switch to a completely different book on a whim. This bypasses the idea of limiting oneself in order to fully explore the particular item. STravinsky's example in his book Poetics of Music states that in sitting down to compose he is lost when he examines the entire keyboard but limiting himself to seven particular notes he is able to focus his energies. "If everything is permissible to me, the best and the worst; if nothing offers me any resistance...consequently every undertaking becomes futile." (pg. 63 Poetics of Music) Our knowledge is not enhanced by overhwelming ourselves with a mass of information but our knowledge is enhanced by limiting ourselves to a particular work or study. If I can only read one book at a time there is no tempation, in theory, of switching to another book as in an e-reader.
There is not much question how to use a book but rather why to use it. When readers posit to non-readers reading is how you learn about the world or how the world can be dreamed/enchanted or explored the very consistent response, in my experience from the non-reader, is I don't like to read. This assumption that can be drawn from this is that this non-reader quote unquote is getting their exploration of the world elsewhere and, while this is extremely anecdotal, most likely they are getting it from a screen.
If there is any arguement for books above the nostalgia I think it is this. Books assist us in limiting ourselves and our information gathering processes which in turns helps us to/provides the ability to think the world more deeply. If we are unable to set boundaries for ourselves in information gathering we will not be able to create knowledge for ourselves and will be reduced to functioning as screens ourselves-only regurgitating the information we've received without any thought, critical or otherwise.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

education as crops

Consumption seem to be an integral part of human experience. Adam and Eve are given the job of expanding the garden (be fruitful/multiply) and that every plant yielding seed and tree that bears fruit was theirs for food. (Gen 1:29 ) Thus the expectation is that these resources were to be consumed in order to help sustain their lives as well as their families, etc. However they are responsible for maintaining the resources of which they consume. Genesis 2: 15 Adam is told to cultivate and keep the garden. (This is also, supposedly, translatable as 'worship and obey' which has other implications.) Even in Genesis when Adam is handed his part of the curse for his failure to speak up he is still responsible to raise the bread for which he will eat though with much more effort and labor.
As 21st century individuals we are usually very removed from the originating source of our food/clothing. I have no connection to the cow(s)(and their chemists) that generated the milk that is currently in my fridge.(To my own credit, I've been to a working dairy farm and have helped push a herd of cows through the milk rotation while also trotting around the 2" of manure/urine that cover the majority of the barn floor chasing errant cows back to the milk chutes. This is easily one of the top three worst smelling places I've ever been in. ) I/we are used to having our milk show up in grocery stores in already packaged containers assuming it is properly pasteurized and deliciously nutritious. As natural consumers we/I need food to survive. As 21st century consumers, I/we don't think about it and I think this is from whence the danger comes. I was thinking tonight that perhaps the issue with our consumption patterns may not be completely in the act of consumption itself (though this has its own issues) but is rooted in the pattern of thought behind the consuming.
Since we are no longer an agrarian society, as a culture we/I do not have an (in)vested interest in the production of our food. We have been so far removed fromit we have no idea the effort it takes to produce. In some ways this is good because it measn that we arefree to pursue other interests/hobbies, etc. However I think that this aspect of consumption far from the source of production of sustenance mainfests itself in our education processes as well. As Postman and others have written, the current schooling system in the West is set up to produce consumers only w/o grounding in asking "What is?" Students are moved through standardized testing consuming facts, vomitting them back up in darkly filled No. 2 pencil dots and, having conusmed these facts are given diplomas in order to get a job in order to buy stuff, that is consume. This may sound slightly radical but read any major organ of higher ed and the focus is on the job market with the call resounding that we (the institution) need to help the student break into the market place. If the focus of this 'higher ed' is only the job market then there is no need for Bible courses or philosophy. The arguement that these items are needed for the student's worldview is no longer relevant as the necessary knoweldge can be obtained from Sunday School.
My question is: How are we/I helping students think critically? (I understand this term 'think critically' is almost dead as a cliche but I think this practice is the foundation of education.) Maybe this means eschewing whatever pragmatic approach is currently trendy and rocking a class rap session together. It definitely means more writing. There are schools that are doing both. Check out Deep Springs College which is a two year school where the students work to sustain the school (farm/ranch) and study with a very small faculty who leave the light on at night on their front porches if they want to let students know that the faculty are available to chat. This is education experienced in community-outside the bounds of the 50 minutes of classroom time. Check out their academic statement here. I completely doubt Deep Springs is a utopia but I think their touches to the heart of developing respondible students and invovled citizens. I think this approach of requiring laboring scholars . If we/I work to build/maintain a place then I/we have invested something more than federal loans or our parent's money. I believe that consumption of education is directly combatted by knowledge of its importance. If If education is simply a job training process then colleges should go out of business bc people change careers like old socks. But if college is going to challenge the process of only consuming then I think we need a holistic approach that requires not only the minds of the students but their hearts and hands as well.

One of the things that sparked this somewhat admittedly labyrinthine bit of text was the five questions Prof. John Oliff raised on his blog a week or two ago. See the original post here and partially reproduced below:

"I begin the semester with copious questions (again) about the nature of the educational process and the value of traditional education system. I am still convinced the way the system is currently structured leaves students unprepared to face the realities of the world post commencement. Here are some of my lingering questions:
(1) what value is it to students in the real world to have them memorize data for the sake of tests and measurements - dates, outlines, paradigms, etc.? Why have students write "research" papers when they have no clue how to write in the first place - I mean, when a student applies to a retail job or a desk job in the future, their bosses are not going to have them do such a thing, right. If one argues it is simply to build in them the discipline to do so, then I think it is not the proper motivation. They did not come to University to build discipline (that is for the home, prior to coming) but to be trained to think about systems, analyze texts, and write critical essays on them, right?
(2) Do we stifle the process of dialogue and learning by having 50 min. classes where the process is cut short by the clock - what does this model about learning?
(3) What do we really mean by integration? If by it we mean take Bible classes and fit the other disciplines into the Bible, then I think it is not what it means (I am open to suggestions here).
(4) Prejudices, how much of what I do in the classroom and out of it is based on known and unknown prejudices - ones passed on to me from others who have them and have not considered their origin? Am I even aware of my own? Do I know them but fear the outcome of questioning them?
(5) Why do students come to University? Why spend thousands of dollars a year to come to University - to get a job, I think not? To go in debt - I think not... To learn to think! To evaluate reality, to learn to interact with other humans who are doing the same thing?!?!?!?!

Ok, enough, you get the point. One of my goals this term is to love to learn and learn to love in a way that will stimulate others along the same path. Remember, the unexamined life is not worth living (Aristotle).
So let it begin, let the texts be opened and the mind expanded! Cut the student lose from the chains that have bound their minds to unexamined presuppositions, to wonderment of the unseen realities surrounding them. Let them be human - seekers of truth, answers that fail them... let them learn to "be". "

Thursday, August 13, 2009


So today I and another Davis College employee, Josh Ridall, are departing Davis College at 4 pm with the goal of flying out of Elmira, NY at 7 pm enroute to Michigan and then catching a connecting flight back to the Chicago area, getting picked up by a car dealership company in order to be dropped off at a hotel in a town that in 1999 was rated "one of the worst metropolitan areas to live",(bottom of the page) arising early in order to get picked by the same car dealership by 7 am in order to drive the two newly purchased vans from Illinois through Indiana, Ohio, PA and into NY for 11 hours and 35 minutes where our route will take us through Cleveland for much of Ohio parallels Lake Erie eventually shuttling us onto Route 86/17 in NY which is easily the most interminable road that I've ever driven on so in order to stave off sleep/boredom/fading off the road my drive will be accompanied by Kerouac's On the Road being read by Will Paxton which was chosen because it was the best audio book available from the local library that was also long enough to cover the entire drive.
Adventure on!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The NYT is a technology hub this morning and some of these articles are worth sharing
Digital Classrooms Digital Textbooks

I’ve Got Mail

Breakfast Can Wait. The Day’s First Stop Is Online.
It's quite interesting to read the second and third articles in conjunction with each other. Both articles identify this tug that information (or the possibility of new information) has on our collective consciousness. In my mind, and in my experience, this constant 'waiting for something to happen (email/facebook/blog update) promotes, again this is for myself, a state of tension that is difficult to identify unless I'm distinctly cut off from them. My previous position was at a company who did everything through email and in the IT section where I worked we used IM (instant messaging) to share information. Thus typically some sort of informational message was constantly popping into my screen. Transitioning from that comapny to the college library where I know where was surprisingly difficult in the mental transition of setting goals for the day. Where I was used to my day being a reactive one based on the information pumped into my computer, at the library on a busy day I may get 10 emails. This seriously blew my mind the first two weeks of working here and I find myself staring at Outlook and whacking away at the F9 button to make sure there weren' any message hanging just outside of the range of the computer's consciousness.
One of the questions I think that we as a culture and a nation, possibly a world, are going to have to address is what is a good relationship to the amount of technology and information to which we have access to? I don't think we have successfully done this yet. There are many books dealing with exploring what the technology and information have done to our society and some of those effects but I'm not sure if we've begun to grapple with how to successfully navigate them as the second article points out. The idea of a machine updating ties nicely into the evolutionary concept that progress is continually happening and that things are consistently getting better.
If any of the 3-4 readers of this blog know of any, or even any blog postings/articles that may deal with this I would be interested in reading them, so please feel free to share.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

do you have any tea?

I had a very drunk 63-year-old with no teeth tousle my hair at 9:28 this morning. The reason that he happened to tousle my hair was that he was explaining the Holy Trinity to me. After ticking off God, (his thumb) Jesus, (the second finger) he reached up and tousled saying this is the Holy Trinity. The initial reason that we were even contact was that
while in my office working on cataloging books I heard someone yelling obscenities which is really rare for the Davis campus. Sticking my head out of the front door brought the shouter into view. He was swaying gently back and forth next to the handicapped ramp. I asked him if he needed help. He requested tea from the cafe. Unfortunately for his purposes the cafe wasn't open yet so I suggested coffee as that is what I had. He asked for tea again. I said I didn't have tea but I did have coffee. S As I was coming back out of the library with the coffee in hand, someone across campus had sneezed and Steve was kindly administering the common courtesy extended to sneezers from his perch on the steps.
Handed him the coffee and attempted to avoid sitting down on the library steps.
-You scared?
-(in my head- a bit)
-(out loud) Nope.
-What's your name?
Steve, the teetering elderly man with no teeth, yelling at people across campus. Steve is about 6' and was wearing a greenish short-sleeve button-down shirt (possibly grey) over a yellow t-shirt with his legs wearing dirty jeans and white sneakers. He also wore glasses-bifocals. I think his eyes were brown and his hair was short and dark grey matted slightly so that it almost looked he may have used gel but based on the remainder of his physical appearance that was probably not the case.
I sat down next to Steve
We managed to discuss(where discuss = he talked and I insert Sure/indeed/ok at appropriate intervals. He was difficult to understand.) where he lived (about a mile away in Johnson City) the wonder of creation, Adam and Eve, the appropriate treatment of spouses, his occupation (this was tricky bc he said he was an art teacher (plausible) and he broke people's backs (implausible). This breaking backs thing may have been a metaphor to his perserverance as the literal was probably not true as he was barely in shape to walk.)
and infinity. Steve lacked teeth which made have made him harder to understand. He said
-Iforgot my teeth.
-that's alright, man.
-oh alright.
In the beginning of the conversation he managed to stick his tongue out about 5-6 times. Steve has an amazing tongue-partially bc it was mostly white rather than the standard pink/salmon tongue color that is expected and also bc he could basically touch his unshaven chin with it. (Not sure if this is due to a short chin or a long tongue-either way it was impressive.)
The weird thing is that conversation was progressing fairly well until he attempted to explain the Trinity in addition to the thumb/forefinger bit that the sound of the contractor's saw was also the Trinity and I responded really/i'm not sure if that's correct/I don't agree with you at which point I was told I was a lying sack of 'poop' and didn't know garble anything.
The police had been called apparently but I was not aware of this. I am not sure if I had been aware if I would have offered my hair to be tousled as a continued distraction.
The police arrived about 10-15 minutes afterward and I gave the report. The officer said if I wanted anything for my hair, not that there was really anything they could do. I said no not being particularly worried about it but my head continues to tingle, which is unusual. (Apparently Steve had been on campus before; hopefully I was on vacation when this happened bc according to the person telling me Steve had to be strapped down to a gurney by the ambulance who came to pick him up and if I had missed that working in the library I've got my own issues to work out.)
There's another part of this story that might be considered metaphysical. That the part where I'm not sure where if this is sad or funny or challenging or a call for action. How should this story be told? In the light of humor at his expense? Or do i swing it around at my expense where at the same time I'm hoping for some commendation for my interaction with him-on the level of a normal person interacts w/ non-normal person via a cup of coffee (which didn't even get finished as the coffee spilled during one of his stories and the cup was crushed underneath Steve's foot and for reasons unknown to me, upon his departure Steve pocketed the squashed cup) which I think is empty as it sounds but knowing the emptiness doens't seem to curtail or, more importantly, seem to dissolve the desire for that recognition. Even writing this down is probably a back-handed attempt to win recognition. However at the same time this is one of the much more poignant encounters than I normally have and so to document it, for rememberance and contemplation.
The police officer asked me if we (the college) wanted him around again. I said no. In his prior state, Steve was not particularly conducive to Davis campus. During the once a week chapel session we talk about inviting people onto campus and informing the community that they are welcome however the implication that they are in a state of mind and behavior that would be considered the antithesis of Steve's state of mind. This is not to be unfair or unduly ideological but rather that Steve in his appearance and demonstrating his distance from the life God has called us to walk requires something more than an invitation or a police escort off campus. We normal people usually call it 'help' as in 'Steve needs help' which is probably true whether or not he sees it that way and Davis is not equipped to receive and help people struggling the way Steve seemed to be as we are attempting to equip ourselves to help a different sort of struggling person. Should/can we be? Not everyone wants to be helped. I don't and from my viewpoint I'm much more 'together' than my man Steve seems to be.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A day in the life of a library (aka what a librarian might do if that librarian was me)

So there's a project over at A Day in the Life of a Library which seemed like a library-geek type of fun project to get down with. The very simple aspect sharing what my day was like. Since this project has been going on since Monday here's a quick synopsis of my week thus far up until today:

Monday-cataloged new books (Monday might have had something else more exciting happen but I simply cannot remember.)
Tuesday-cataloged new books
Wednesday cataloged new books
(The reasons for this exciting week of repetition being two-fold with a caveat 1) ordered a whole bunch of books throughout the summer and bc of 2) the semi-massive rearranging project have just now gotten to the cataloging with the caveat being that there's some prep-work for the class I'm teaching in the fall I'm supposed to be doing but am a bit nervous about and so am deflecting that nervous energy into cataloging.)
You can throw into that exciting mix answering the occasional email and checking out the occasional patron but cataloging has been my life this week.

Thursday (today)
7:10 get to the library. It rained last night so there's a good chance there's water in the basement. Surprise; there is. I spend 30 minutes wet/dry vacuuming it up.
7:45 send a couple of emails.
8:00 Head out to Ithaca, NY for a Grant Writing Workshop that starts at 9:30. This was hosted by SRLC (Southeast Regional Library Council) Lovely people-really hard-working, extremely gracious and charming!
9:15 drive past the meeting place twice.
9:20 finally get there.
9:30-12 great workshop. It was awesome! Well presented a whole-bunch of good information and resources. I'm looking forward to digging into this area and seeing what may benefit the library. (I am, however, a horrible networker. Going to need to work on that.)
1:20 stop by the apartment so Kara can drive me to work and take the car
1:30 eat a PBJ sandwich and check email some good stuff from the wallace-l list as well as some interesting stuff in RSS feeds (Possible Koha/liblime dustup??)
1:45-2:45 catalog
2:45 talk to a couple of patrons about how awesome the library looks with all the periodicals moved upstairs and the resulting new space. (So I don't a picture readily available but basically picture a cave, wood-panelled and now picture a cave, wood-panelled with floor to ceiling windows around 90% of it. That's basically how the corner of the library now looks. The periodicals moved upstairs for anyone who was worried) I do need furniture and talk to patron who is willing to donate their leather sofa (AWESOME!).
2:50 call up office furniture place that also deals in used furniture. the salesman is in the office and they are only five minutes away-I'm going over!
2:55 apparently my car battery is dead (It's been acting up-don't believe there was any tomfoolery on my part.)
2:56 Rob (the IT guy) jumps my car and away I go. (To the careful reader yes the mention of another car seems convoluted esp. as to the note about the switch but there's a whole other side story that doesn't quite have room to be explained here.Email me if you're really interested.)
3:00-4:00 meet with furniture salesman. Realize my budget is hosed for what I want to do this year especially since even the nice used furniture is not really in my budget and since it is used there's typically not enough of the stuff anyway. Salesman is quite nice. Take furniture catalogue and some weighty thoughts and go back to the office to consider other possibilities
4:00-5:30 look at more furniture/library furniture catalogs then I would care to mention while creating an excel spreadsheet to track possibilites and prices, etc. Consider calling up Bill Gates and directly applying for a grant for furniture. It is ludicrous how much it costs for chairs. (If only I had hung onto the 50 volumes of Reader's Digest condensed novels recently disposed-I could have gotten at least one chair out of that lot, I am sure of it.)
6:00 pm turn off lights-head home on bike.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thoughts on reading as consumption

One of the problems with reading fiction, and possibly reading at all, is that to properly read it (where properly equals attentive/connectivedly) is to have to pay attention constantly. This paying attention is not only to the storyline but also to attempting to determine the raison d' etre of the story that is both integrated with the storyline as well as the possible socio-historical context of the author. Not trying to show off using 'socio-historical' but it's a good word and appropriate. So why read fiction? Why attempt to make a difference between Grisham and Grass or between Patterson and Wallace? The first response is that it's healthy, stretching and places one in touch with Kultur(Humboldt) as well attempting to place the current standing of the zeitgeist as perceived or responded to by the author. It's also entertaining. Narrative myth is a powerful method of dealing with the world and attempting to plumb the trueness of that myth. Should time be spent then with only a small number of texts, the quote unquote essential ones, or with as many texts as possible knowing that I will not possibly remember them all?
The thought that I have though is that ten years from now when asked/contemplated being asked what have I done with my time and I respond read is that enough? is that sufficient?
In my head I respond that it is necessary to continue to read to absorb and connect think about these texts as much as possible because one never knows when one of these texts will apply. or when opening up the new book catalogs that land on my desk on a regular basis and the popping and snapping of certain titles from the pages makes the demand directly of me to read or at least add to my list. Why do these certain books enact desire w/in me to be read? (This is an entirely different question)
The problem I've begun to think about though is this approach is inherently flawed because while I may eschew the consumption of television still what I'm doing is consuming texts
which may not be any healthier esp. if I can't coherently talk back the work to the interested party and end up sounding like a schmuck who read the book just for the intellectual kudos/notch on the proverbial book-reading-belt or shelf. There is where conversation comes in and writing but if there is an irregular contact of conversation is it still worth the reading as I would prefer or is it required to shift reading into channels that allow for mutual conversation? Does writing about reading on this blog suffice or should it through more academic channels? Again the argument in my head is that any writing is good bc it's some sort of practice or even praxis but the fact of wanting to be read and known makes publishing to the blog occasionally incredibly exasperating bc of that wanting. Of course this then brings the question if I'm simply a narcissistic solipsist consumed with the texts swirling in my navel.
The issue with the academic channel (grad school/seminars) is that this constitutes a system that is designed to help the student consume and compete. "American economic and cultural systems that work very well... in terms of selling people products and keeping the economy thriving, do not work as well when it comes to educating children or helping us help each other know how to live…and to be happy… if that word means anything. That feeling of having to obey every impulse and gratify every desire, is, it seems to me to be a strange kind of slavery. Nobody talks about it as such, though. [Everyone] talks about it as freedom of choice, and you have the right to have things." (From a transcript of a short German interview with David Foster Wallace)
In seeking out these works to read am I a part of this consumptive cycle? I don't feel that I have to buy every book especially as I wouldn't have time to read them all. Knowledge, or simply information, are presented as purchasable, consumable items with an end result being nebulously presented as a 'scholar' or being able to trundle out words like 'socio-historical'.
Steiner suggests that "...we would recognize in today's idolatry of the 'informational', of classificatory logistics and data storage, an almost parodistic fulfilment of the encyclopaedic lust in the medieval spirit, of that omnivorous appetite for a summa, for a summa summarum (all in all) of the writ, glossed, annotated world." (Real Presences-43) This is in the context of his arguement against the continuing spiral of commentary about works.
In attempting to avoid simply being a consumer of texts, is there a correct way to read? Sire suggest that it is by reading slowly that this is the method to follow. Of course the problem with methods is that they can turn out to be ends rather than means.
Perhaps the issue is that my terminology is wrong. If in continually glossing, annotating, checking definitions and ideas when moving through a text this process prevents me as the reader from consuming bc this process is a braking one, especially that of taking notes while reading.
In an interview with John O'Brien, David Foster Wallace and Richard (I believe) Powers, Powers is answering the question why he writes and he responds that "...I write out of pleasure and every morning I can't believe I'm getting away with write to enhance your pleasure of life and increase your sense of where you are and where you've been dropped down." (19:00) Perhaps this is where the purpose of reading then stems from, all concerns about consumption aside, to increase my knowledge of where I am and where I've been dropped down.