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.