Saturday, October 17

nothing momentous

can these miscellaneous photos become something else if I throw them together in a blogpost today? can they tell a real story or scaffold the lines of a poem?

for me there are wispy old memories inside each one. the past curls up, loose and wriggling, in little mental pockets marked with "autumn 2015" or "July 2016" or "that one conference in Rochester, NY."

but what are they for you? 

evidence? or art? or both? it probably depends on who you are.

plants in a garden. plants on a windowsill.
all in the middle of growing, dying.

or both. 

all of it part of some cycle. up. down.
rainfall, rainbows,
showered on or sheltered from.

or both.

writing or drawing, or both. seeing or listening, or both

being or breathing. 

but not or-- and.

always trying for and.
or failing. 

or both. 

along with the wispy memories, there are deep and unpredictable tides of emotion, too. a longing for the pieces of these pasts that have faded too far. a fear of losing all the people and connections that once felt so close and certain. amusement and nostalgia drizzling from clouds of wonder about why everything feels so impossible.

Saturday, October 10

telling the future

I haven't done this before, ever, in all my years of following the Tournament of Books. but after listening to this episode of So Many Damn Books last week, I thought I'd sit down and force myself to guess.

the left-hand side of the bracket seemed easier, somehow. I've read fewer of the books on that half. but most of them have rather striking reputations. 

Cloud Atlas was sure to win (and it did, as I predicted).

I hoped The Road would lose, mostly out of spite (though I am no fan of the Diaz novel either). Carolyn Kellogg's judgement review yesterday was most refreshing to read. the trickiness of separating art from artist and the ethos and value of each... it will always be tricky, I imagine.   

I am still only halfway through Toni Morrison's A Mercy, and I simply cannot seem to find my way into enjoying Wolf Hall, at least not in ebook form. there is so much beauty in the former. my reading brain keeps getting lost in it. I hope to finish it this weekend, and I suppose I could always amend my predictions once I do... but... given the undeniable popularity of Mantel's historical fiction, sustained even further by the third book's recent release, I expect Wolf Hall to make it at least to the second round. but I could be very wrong! 

as for the right-hand side... I've read all but one of these books by now. I have five more days to devour The Good Lord Bird before it faces The Orphan Master's Son. we'll see if I make it. if all else fails, there is a television series of it now. would it be cheating to watch an episode of that and call it good?

anyway, on this side of the bracket I went with the books I liked the most of each match. it's been a while since I read Station Eleven, but it was so lovely and possibly even more relevant and necessary to the world we have here in 2020 than the world we had in 2014. I think that will give it a good chance.

I left the center championship match slots empty. there is so little chance that my earlier bracket choices are accurate, it seemed far too wild a commitment to guess the final winners.

A Visit from the Goon Squad I've read too recently. the zombie system of this particular tournament is so unlike the usual system. I haven't read Freedom (though I remember enjoying Franzen in small doses, way back). All the Light We Cannot See was lovely also, but I don't think it has quite enough depth to overcome its old rival.

what is the outcome I'm hoping for?

do I want Station Eleven to win? 

yes.  

.


postscript
it feels like I ought to update my notes from my last Tournament of Books post, so here I go:

The Accidental, by Ali Smith
the climax here was somehow given the perfect shape and balance-- not too dramatic, not underwhelming, strange and unexpected, but not unbelievable. the ending itself felt a little stretched and more ambiguous than it needed to be, I thought. (my goodreads review here)

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
I loved how this starts out. and then the third section came out of nowhere, shaking down everything I thought I'd be getting from the story. it unwinds from there like... like... I can't even figure out a good metaphor. the main 2011 tournament judge described it as scaffolding. in some ways, the structure echoes Cloud Atlas, but not.

The Sellout, Paul Beatty
I am still not sure that I am a person who is supposed to understand everything in this book. it's a lot. it's impressive in just how dense and rich all the writing is. but it's a lot. (my goodreads review here)

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison
I mentioned the beauty in this book already. it's a beauty that feels half-hidden. blurry, somehow. I must admit, my reading attention is currently split (quite unevenly) between this book and the audio version of Hank Green's new book, so that may be one reason I don't feel like I'm fully appreciating the former.

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
the world of this book is painted so gorgeously vivid. the journey the main character takes is so long, so fraught, but somehow steady and full of optimism.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
so many people like this book so much. I thought I'd like it too, at least as much as I like reading most books, but the sudden drastic time jump away from Thomas Cromwell's youth kinda lost me. hopefully I'll get back to it someday and give it another chance, when I don't have to read it on my phone.  

The Good Lord Bird, James McBride
still waiting to get past page 3 of this one, so far. I think I was feeling overloaded on narratives with slavery in them after The Sellout and Underground Railroad, so I had to set it down.

Monday, September 28

minds bodies words and shared responsibilities

this draft has been waiting some time for this day. I'd been thinking for a while to rework it into a post, but something always got in the way of my actually doing it. and then when I realized there was a date on the thing-- today's date-- I put it off yet again just so I could ultimately post it on its anniversary. 

this end-of-September Monday marks five years since I wrote the following five paragraphs for Dr. Thomas Rickert's posthumanism class. it is in a genre of grad school essay called the "paper day paper." (if you're curious for more examples, it just so happens that fellow Purdue student Ryan has impressively assembled all of his paper day papers here. not all of mine would be so easily digitized, though I have repurposed snippets from them before, but maybe it would be cool to follow Ryan's example someday eventually.)

-

Mind and Body are Just Words
28 Sept. 2015

I stole the title there from a recent podcast episode of Krista Tippett’s On Being, where she interviews Dr. Ellen Langer. Dr. Langer’s experiments on wellbeing and mindfulness hinge around an idea that “mind and body are just words,” separation between them is artificial, and there is real power in our expectations and perspectives. I am skeptical about the word just. It carries such belittling dismissiveness. Yes, mind and body are words, but words and meanings surely play into Dr. Langer’s whole point that perceptions can make a physiological difference. We can’t ignore words in all that. As Francesca Ferrando puts it, “futures do not appear out of nowhere: they are based on the presents, the pasts, and the ways they are being envisioned” (1). How we talk about things is part of how things thing for us, after all. How we talk about the future will be part of how the future futures.

One thoughtful listener’s reflection on the podcast’s webpage, from a semi-anonymous Sarah, adds, “Our whole body thinks, it's not a function confined to (that admittedly amazing organ) the brain; and the body, with it's [sic] internal and external senses, is dependant [sic] on it's [sic] environment as part of that thinking process.” Perhaps Sarah has been reading Andy Clark. He and this Sarah person at least seem to share some enthusiasm for the possibilities of describing our selves as inseparably enmeshed with environments and tools. Clark writes, beautifully, that “Minds like ours emerge from this colorful flux as surprisingly seamless wholes: adaptively potent mashups extruded from a dizzying motley of heterogeneous elements and processes” (219). Without all that mess, minds like ours (…if we can call them ours…) may not be possible. But for all we owe to the motley universe, Clark does allow us to own our minds and our agency. He describes these “surprisingly plastic minds” as belonging to “profoundly embodied agents: agents whose boundaries and components are forever negotiable and for whom body, sensing, thinking, and reasoning are all woven flexibly and repeatedly from the accommodating weave of situated, intentional action” (43). According to this model we are individuals, yet also systems and parts-of-systems, with flexible boundaries and all kinds of negotiable bits and pieces.

I wonder who/what has the upper hand in these negotiations. Where exactly does agency live in these woven, mashedup contraptions? Anywhere? I imagine it must be distributed, shared among world and self and materials, just as enmeshed as anything else. And if so, the question of control and responsibility—of agency—begins to feel worryingly and impossibly mystifying. This On Being episode that I have stuck in my head suggests, in its earnest, pop-sciencey way, that if one can just change one’s attitude, one can change one’s whole life (for the better, presumably). What power. What responsibility. Several comments in response to this theme argue with great concern about the ethics of asking, say, a lower-class/minority laborer to adjust their attitudes to their work, as if that should be empowering and liberating enough for any profoundly embodied agent. Is it really? Could it ever be?

Along these lines, Katherine Hayles points out early on in How We Became Posthuman the need to consider “how certain characteristics associated with the liberal subject, especially agency and choice, can be articulated within a posthuman context” (5). It doesn’t seem very easy. She later returns to the concern of subjectivity, recognizing that “As the liberal humanist subject is dismantled, many parties are contesting to determine what will count as (post)human in its wake. For most of the researchers discussed in this chapter [Narratives of Artificial Life, ch 9], becoming a posthuman means much more than having prosthetic devices grafted onto one’s body. It means envisioning humans as information-processing machines” (246). And this, of course, is only one sense of human-ness. We can—and at times already do—conceptualize ourselves as information. Hayles quotes William Gibson on the posthuman body as “data made flesh” (5). But might we reverse this? Will distinctions between information and identity blur as much as those between mind and body and world are blurring? Activist and tech designer Aral Balkan would argue and has argued in numerous talks that they have. In a manifesto-esque blogpost called “Indie Data,” (and elsewhere) Balkan writes about the tools and information and processes that are our digital selves—informational yous and mes—digital selves caught up in a market where human rights don’t necessarily apply, where corporations ask us to trade all our digital fingerprints for free access to technology. Balkan begs his audience to pay attention to the ways we participate in that conversion of self into data, and he hopes “to create, support, and popularise products that empower you to own your digital self; your data, tools, and derived intelligence.” Such ownership is not given. It too must be negotiated. Clamored for and defended and somehow brought into sustainable possibility.

Our texts so far in this class have been prodding us to draw fewer dividing lines and to start recognizing the ways in which every thing is part of a lot of other things. Whether it’s Heidegger’s Being and presencing, or Hayle’s enacted/embodied/empatterned systems and information-processings, or Clark’s EXTENDED models of mind, all these words urge more careful thinking, more open awareness, more inclusive considerations of a good future for humans and non-humans and everywhere they overlap. I’m not sure exactly how much control we have over using our present presencing to carve out space or language where the future will best future for the most people, places, and things, but I hope we have a little bit. Whether we do or don’t, we should keep talking about it and writing about it with words that are just words and words that are more than just words. Whether we do or don’t, we should try not to mess it up, if we can.

Scholarly References
Clark, Supersizing the Brain: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension
Ferrando, "Is the post-human a post-woman?"
Hayles, How we Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics

 

Postscript:
I have a new academic idol of sorts. Patricia Roberts-Miller blogs about key principles of argument and rhetoric and how those intersect with politics and demagoguery and it's all gloriously insightful stuff. I might blog more about her work later on, someday


Friday, September 18

sixteen of sixteen squared

in a mere four weeks, The Morning News will host an event the likes of which have never ever happened before in the history of books.

it will be a mega tournament of books. a Super-Rooster championship of previous tournament champions.

and while I could of course enjoy this event without having read all the contestants, as I usually do with the regular March tournaments, I decided I should try this time, since it's such a momentous occasion, to read all of them. or at least dip into the opening chapters of all of them.

of the 16, I happened to have already read 6 (mostly thanks to friend Patti sending along her copies once she'd read them) and given up on another. so that leaves 9 more. not that many. reading 9 books in 4 weeks or so is not impossible. I have the utmost faith in my reading speed.

once resolved upon this course of action, I used this handy list and put 8 of the books on hold at the downtown Prescott Public Library.

the ninth (Normal People) I remembered taste-testing as an audiobook on Libby, so I found it there again, downloaded it properly, and let my ears devour it while crafting and tidying a few weekends ago. it was quite an engaging little jaunt of a novel.

several of my requested books were available right away, and since my last library trip I've already finished Fever Dream. I'm in the middle of 4 others now. they are all already competing for points.

here, for the record, is the full list, delineated into past and present reading, with notes on either what I remember of the book or what I'm thinking about it now.

previously read (or attempted):

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
this is inarguably an impressive accomplishment of a book. I really liked it when I originally read friend Melanie's library copy back in 2013. eventually I watched the film, too, which is a less impressive piece of work, but still pretty neat. 

The Road. Cormac McCarthy.
I didn't get far with this, finding it literally unbelievable in its utter hopelessness. I don't feel like giving it a second chance so I'm not going to. life is too short. best wishes to Mr. McCarthy.

The Brief Wondrous Live of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz.
this book had the honor of being my very first free Audible download way back when. I may have chosen it because of its status in the 2008 tournament-- I don't remember. I do remember not loving the book much. it sat on pause in my Amazon account for years. once I finally finished it, I posted this rather curt review on goodreads:

"nothing at all about this Oscar fellow or his life or this story (allegedly about his life) struck me as wondrous or all that brief. what an odd and tedious book."

The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt
before I'd even read this one, I randomly predicted it to win the 2012 tournament, and I won a box of Field Notes prizes for guessing the judges' votes correctly. some time later I did read and love its enjoyable balance of silliness and poignance. there's a film of it now too, on Hulu. the film felt pretty different-- more solemn-- than I remember the book. but it was well done.

The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson
I still think about this book on occasion, though the exact details are all swirled and blurry in my memory. it was impactful for me in a way I can't totally articulate now. past me did record a moment from it here in this post, for what that might be worth.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
this is a truly lovely novel and it deserved to win. I loved reading every last bit of it. possibly I shouldn't have given my second-hand copy away (who did I give it away to, anyway?). I also blogged about Station Eleven and its runner-up here

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
on goodreads, I reviewed this one with the sentiment that it "ended too soon (in a good way?)," and I remember it as a fun little story. I read it back to back with So Lucky (another contestant in the 2019 tournament), and they made for a potent contrast and interesting mix of tone.

 

very recently read, in progress, or soon-to-be:

Normal People, Salley Rooney
I liked this story-- the narrator was wonderful-- but I don't know exactly what is so sensational about it. perhaps watching the Hulu series based on it will unlock the grand layers of risque taboo etc. for me. who knows.  

Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin
so short. so ominous. there's a ghostly vibe to this book-- partly friendly, partly unreachable, holding your hand as you read along. I could see myself rereading it someday to see what else is really there.

The Accidental, by Ali Smith
I'm finding this one the most enjoyable of the previously unread contestants so far. now that I'm a little more than halfway through, the tension and ominousness are mounting. it feels like something darkly destructive is about to happen. 

The Sellout, Paul Beatty
I picked this one up directly after Fever Dream, and the differences gave me whiplash. Fever Dream is such a gently simmering story, and The Sellout so relatively manic, I almost doubted my ability to keep up with Beatty in any way whatsoever. I'm a decent way through this one, but set it down to finish The Accidental first.

The Good Lord Bird, James McBride
so far I've just tasted this one, too. the historical setting makes it an oddball in my current reading pile. I might not get back to it til I've finished all the others here. we'll see. 

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
apparently I checked this out or borrowed it from somebody but never read it back in 2011. I tasted a few pages a few days ago, but haven't gotten properly into it yet. in my head I sometimes confuse this one with Where'd You Go Bernadette, for some reason. I need to read them both so I stop doing that. hopefully.

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison
a library copy has been acquired, but not opened yet. because the author is so revered, I am very much looking forward to this one.

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
again, copy acquired, but not opened yet. I feel like I should have read this years ago.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
this one is going to be the hardest to get from the library on time, it looks like. Mantel's historical fiction is popular stuff. maybe I should just buy a copy? I'll give it a few weeks and see how far I get with this reading-intensive project anyway.


next tasks? read like mad, fill out a bracket, place some informal bets... and then prepare to keep up with the judges next month. who's with me?

Monday, September 7

separately solemn: fall semester 2020

today begins week three of my first semester teaching at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I am the newest Assistant Professor of Professional Writing in a department without a degree program. students here can get a minor in Humanities & Communication, but nothing more. since they all want to be pilots or engineers, that's how it is.

I'm teaching two courses, three sections, this semester. one of technical writing and two of business writing. there are 62 students enrolled altogether, which might be the most students I've taught at one time ever.

COM 221: Technical Report Writing
this one is quite reminiscent of the English 421 I taught once at Purdue. for the most part, I've kept this course very similar to the technical writing and technical composition courses I've taught for the last two years. but for our final project, I'm finally going to teach some podcasting stuff. finally. 

COM 222: Business Communications
if Com 221 is the English 421 of ERAU, then Com 222 is the English 420. though the distinctions between professional/business communication and technical communication aren't so very huge, they do exist. it feels like ages since I've focused on the former. so I'm resurrecting some of the projects I taught back in 2016 and 2017, updated a little, with a new textbook to go with them this year. cause-related marketing proposals. very exciting. 

overall, Embry-Riddle feels like a mini-Purdue in many ways: engineering-heavy. mostly white and privileged students. the differences, however-- that it's a much smaller private university, perched on top of a desert-- are significant.

how many college campuses have I spent how many autumns, now? this will be the sixth campus (USU, U of Plymouth, TTU, Purdue, NSULA, and here). I don't feel like counting the autumns themselves just now. someday maybe I'll make a chart.

cottonwood_trail_20191110_119

{ photograph borrowed from this kind user of Flickr }

true autumn weather is a month or so away, still. but regardless of weather, classes have started. and that comes with a particular and lovely feeling.

only... it's different this year. and I don't think it's different just because I'm getting old. 

something like the same old scintillating energy of a college campus in September is here, jolting through brain and body every now and then. but it's so muted. six feet of space (give or take) has diluted it. closed office doors and silent office hallways are smothering it. I didn't know the trademark thrill of any given academic autumn would be so vulnerable to the side effects of separation.

after a summer of moving and reading and blogging and not teaching anything, my teaching muscles need re-building. it might take me longer to find a workable rhythm this semester. 

talking for 4+ hours (thank goodness not completely consecutive hours) in a cloth mask is exhausting

keeping track of two separate classroom cohorts for each section I'm teaching is a little hectic. 

finding my place in a new institution is tricky enough, without such strange circumstances. what with all the reasonable but seemingly unending surveillance and daily temperature checks and stern, scolding emails from administrators and wobbly hopes tossed about on fathoms of uncertainty-- it's so easy to be so panicky. and almost as easy to sweep the panic into a corner and pretend like it's not there at all.

it makes me wonder, again and again, what really matters anyway? 

I'm thankful, for now, for patient and smart students. it's a weird time for all of us. hopefully we still learn a few things that will still matter beyond this semester and next.

Monday, August 24

little by little

here is the front of several hours of weekend weaving. five different yarns. green cotton warp thread. the weaving itself is probably about three inches high. not sure how many rows of weft, total-- why would I count?

and here is the back:

I made this frame loom from one of the frames my dad and I made a few Christmases ago, which was itself made from old baseboards out of an old building. 

The Weaving Loom blog has been very helpful for instructions and inspirations. 

I have four or so more kinds of yarn I've pseudo-planned to add in. some cream, more yellow, two shades of red, and a little more variegated. it's hard work, weaving in and out and around. I'm excited to see how the design develops.

I took the photos with the weaving at the top, but in practice I'm weaving from the bottom up. I wonder which way I'll want to display the thing when it's done. whenever that is.

 

--

as a postscript, here is a photo I'd forgotten I'd taken of another Audre Lorde poem.

When you are hungry
learn to eat
whatever sustains you
until morning
but do not be misled by details
simply because you live them.

Do not let your head deny
your hands
any memory of what passes through them
nor your eyes        nor your heart
everything that can be used
except what is wasteful...

Friday, August 21

unprepared for proper wordsmithery

the third section of the Audre Lorde collection I've been reading is about two hundred pages of poems. here, for this Friday evening, are some snippets, in no particular order, of all the ones I would have dogeared if it weren't a library book.

I wish I could record "Song" for LibriVox. such lovely slant rhymes and even measures.

Wild trees have bought me
and will sell you a wind
in the forest of falsehoods
where your search must not end...

it keeps going in that steady, almost hypnotic way for six more dreamy stanzas.

"Sister, Morning is a Time for Miracles" has this great little metaphor about words being destructive. I could re-read this and think about it for a whole weekend.

Reaching for you with my sad words
between sleeping and waking
what is asked for is often destroyed
by the very words that seek it
like dew in an early morning
dissolving the tongue of salt
as well as its thirst...

I almost couldn't stop quoting from "New Year's Day." top to bottom, this one is a perfect jumble of different feelings and judgements and senses. it is a poem you could shrink down and live inside, fleetingly.

This day feels put together hastily
like a gift for grateful beggars
being better than no time at all
but bells are ringing
in cities I have never visited
and my name is printed over doorways
I have never seen

Extracting a bone
or whatever is tender or fruitful
from a core of indifferent days
I have forgotten the touch of sun
cutting through uncommitted mornings
The night is full of messages
I cannot read
I am too busy forgetting
air like fur on my tongue
these tears
do not come from sadness
but from grit in the sometimes wind.

the opening of "October" is another one I just want to re-read, re-imagine, over and over. it's another poem you almost want to live in for a little while, just until it gets too chilly.

Spirits of the abnormally born
live on in water
of the heroically dead
in the entrails of snake.

Now I span my days like a wild bridge
swaying in place  caught 
between poems like a vise
I am finishing my piece of this bargain
and how shall I return?

the opening question of "Change of Season" hits heavily. a confrontation.

Am I to be cursed forever with becoming
somebody else on the way to myself?
and the rest unfolds more and more on identity and memory. uncertainty. 

of course I like poems with questions in them. here is the entirety of "Fantasy and Conversation," because I could not choose only a segment and none of it is quite as awesome without the rest, anyway.

Speckled frogs leap from my mouth
drown in our coffee
between wisdoms
and decision.

I could smile
turn these frogs into pearls
speak of love
making and giving
if the spell works
shall I break down
or build what is broken
into a new house
shook with confusion

Shall I strike
before our magic
turns color?


I also really liked "Spring People" and "What my Child Learns of the Sea," which has such a gripping image here with the line "of the ways / she will taste her autumns / toast-brittle or warmer than sleep / ..."

for this Friday, on which it might thunderstorm or it might not, could I write my own poem?

in her preface to this collected poetry, Lorde herself talks not about writing poems but about building them, and about re-building them if they prove a little out of joint.

to build a rightly-jointed poem right now, here, behind this blinking screen, would take more time than I have to spare, I think. instead, for now, I'll prosify the sounds of stormclouds, the weight of a workweek in my shoulders, and the strewn-everywhere coziness of a shared life-in-progress with whatever thin words I can. poetry can live outside of poems sometimes, I think.

Monday, August 10

blend in

the last several days seem to have slowed down. August is only ten days old but those ten days have stretched themselves out so far, so languorous.

one week ago, we jaunted up to see this famously vast hole in the ground.

it was a nice little trip. not too far. definitely worth it.

what else?

some sewing (sloppy and frustrating), some reading (poetry and textbooks), plenty of games and naps and long walks with the puppy.

around Willow Lake the other day, we almost stepped on this little snake. it was so still and so camouflaged.


little snake (probably a glossy snake or maybe a gophersnake, according to my bits of googling), what can I learn from your sun-basking stillness?

hopefully when the semester starts I will continue making time to be outside in the sun. hopefully some of that time will be given to a little bit of sweet stillness, too.

Saturday, August 1

birthday weekend, or an excuse for photographs

today, at least according to his paperwork, is Hamilton's birthday.

there are a bunch of August birthdays in my family. my paternal grandma (the one who first taught me to knit) will turn 81 today, I think. my genius brother's birthday is in another week or so. and my sweet husband's is at the end of the month. so much to celebrate.


this is one of the very first photographs I took of the puppy, when we first brought him home in mid-January. he was skinny and timid.

now he is about ten pounds bigger and only very rarely timid. he is a good companion to Wesley and most of the time to us.

Wesley's birthday is sometime in April and I never have been told the precise day. maybe it should be April 1, for symmetry. next April, he'll be a lucky thirteen years old.


even though birthdays are just regular days and they don't really need all the pressure we put on them to be glittery and special, I ordered new nametags for both the pugs today. we've been meaning to acquire them anyway, for almost seven months now, so a birthday may as well be the prompt that gets it done. and hopefully they come in the mail soon, despite all the semi-horrifying corruption etc. that seems to be going on with the US Postal Service lately.


this last photo is Hamilton as of today, in one of his favourite spots under the chair I sit in to work. sometimes he's a perfect angel under there, quiet and content to chew on his toys. sometimes he is a hooligan who can't sit still and just wants to chew on everything but toys. but I guess we all have our angelic moments and our hooligan moments, sometimes quite close together. Hamilton is a good pug anyway.

Friday, July 31

completely, partially

my latest LibriVox contribution-- The City of Din, by Dan McKenzie-- surprisingly made its final journey through the prooflistening stage rather quickly this week, and I am pleased to announce that it's been officially catalogued here for all the world to enjoy if they so desire.

the most unique part of this audiobook is that our pug Wesley has a role in it. in the middle of section 2, Mr. McKenzie is discussing whether to categorize dogs as noisy or not, and he re-enacts the inner monologue of a man trying to sleep while a dog barks somewhere out in the neighborhood. rather than boringly intoning the word "bark" myself, I conveniently captured some of Wesley's insistent barks and used those instead. it took a lot of editing work, but I think it was worth it.

LibriVox relies on the Internet Archive for the bulk of its hosting needs. everything on that LibriVox.org page I linked to above is really pulled in from Internet Archive, where it's all displayed a little differently.

the Internet Archive is undeniably awesome. you probably agree, right? I hope so.

unfortunately the organization is dealing with a pretty awful lawsuit at the moment, one that has some terrible implications. this thread from author Cory Doctorow goes over the issues concisely and forcefully. there's been quite a lot of talk about the lawsuit all over twitter, lately. I very much hope that these greedy print publishers don't succeed in wrecking the Internet Archive's plans for facilitating free circulation of digital books. what an awful world it would be if we had to pay greedy corporations for even the most temporary access to any of media at all.

in all my researching and theorizing about the Internet Archive and similar projects, I've more regularly thought of it as what it has named itself-- an archive. a collection. a carefully stored pile of carefully gathered and curated and digitally infrastructured content. 

libraries are that, too. what's the real difference between a library and an archive? well, some archives are a little more closed-off to the public, but other than that, nothing. they are both, like so much else we humans are about, places to keep things.

sometimes I also think about these digital archives as communities, too. they are collections of things--artifacts, manuscripts, whatever... but those collections of things don't just happen without people. that's what my dissertation was all about: people working together to build archives by building tools that help them build and maintain and expand the archives. LibriVox is a really cool example of that.

smudgy pastels and ballpoint on cerealbox cardboard. "see yourself" "do the work"

I have gotten to know some of the other people who work with LibriVox, a tiny bit. some of them I feel like I know from studying the history of the site and listening to all of the old podcast episodes. some I have interacted with more closely on various projects. it would be fun to meet some of them someday, as I've done with other internet friends. who knows if that will happen or not.

two years ago I read the closing sections of this L. Frank Baum story, Phoebe Daring. the project had been initially started on LibriVox in 2015 as a solo, by a reader who worked on dozens and dozens of LibriVox projects but died before she could finish this one. when the community learned what had happened, they opened her project up and ten of us completed the recording and prooflistening work for it.

thinking about that makes me wonder what I'll leave unfinished. who will finish it. ideally I'll have several decades to keep thinking about that question.


this week, as I approached the end of this month of blogging, I kept coming back to the concept of ...well, I guess of incompleteness. but that word feels overly negative. what I was really thinking of were partly-complete things. partly-done, partly-finished. parts. partialities. my mind has been more or less fascinated lately by the idea of everything always being partial.

in some sense, that can be a negative thing. the partial nature of so much can leave me so unsatisfied. so paradoxically full of what isn't there or what I haven't collected.

in another sense it's comforting. there's still more. it isn't over yet. we have some space to add and grow and keep going. that's the side my wondering wants to be on the most.

July, however, will be complete after today. utterly in the past, over, done, gone, irretrievable. and my month of blogging will be, too. that, at least, is something finished. how I'll look back on everything I've posted in another year, or five years, who knows? but from here, it's done. perfect enough because that's what we (the royal we) decide to call it from this precious, precarious vantage point of now.

Were you thinking that those were the words, those upright lines?
those curves, angles, dots?
No, those are not the words, the substantial words are in the
ground and sea,
They are in the air, they are in you.