Thursday, September 21

must be seen as

I have been wanting to write something about this newsworthy mess that unfolded in Virginia ever since it happened over a month ago. but what to write? and why? and why now?

my thoughts have needed time to percolate. I still don't know if they are done percolating. is there an ideal thought-percolation time? is there a point at which you have thought enough about something? I kind of don't think so. but probably it depends on what your thinking-goals actually happen to be. are we thinking to do something, or solve something, or...? usually I am thinking for the sake of it, and in that case there is never enough. but I usually have to stop at some point, because only so many things can fit into the whole percolation.

more and more thinking about Charlottesville would also need more and more data about Charlottesville. and while I've been able to get some, there is no way to get it all. I wasn't there. what I have to think with are observations and thoughts that other people have written down on twitter and facebook and other internet spots. such places become the avenues by which I find my news and my sense of newsworthiness. there is so much room in the world for so much news these days. so many stories and voice. this twitter-essay is less directly related to the Charlottesville mess, but it's a story and a message I keep thinking about.

to supply my brain with more informed view, I could, I suppose, listen to more newsy podcasts. or watch some more newsy videos. the podcasts I tend to put on while I wash the dishes are more ponderous, less newsiness. although, in the way of timeliness, 99% Invisible did recently re-run this Memory Palace episode about a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

I don't know if there are any confederate monuments in Indiana anywhere. there is this place, though, just up the road a bit. though it fits the theme of memorials to dead white guys who participated in the general ruination of many, many non-white guys, I don't think anyone is likely to get all enraged about it. I'm not sure though.

it's difficult to think about the complexities of causality and blame. I wonder quite often, what good does blame do? what use is it to spend so much time investigating the precise sources of evils and ills and wrongs and badness, even if we are able to figure it out? does investigating it all make us think we will have any control over the wrong?

maybe just knowing is control enough, in some way. however complex and impossible, we have to try to make things less bad, if we can, right?

sometimes it's hard to see how. sometimes it's easier. sometimes listening is enough. and sometimes listening isn't even that easy.

I've been listening to a few new podcasts lately. Malcolm Gladwell's pet research-and-thinking-aloud project Revisionist History has been a mix of interesting and meh. this very first of the episodes struck me--it's about art and snobbery, patriarchy and sexism, and the concept of "moral licensing." go listen. learning about moral licensing was worth it despite Gladwell's rambling self-important tone.

moral licensing. a justification for keeping all our old and toxic ways of thinking because we spent a little time poking a hole or two in their edges.

so much to think about. I've also been reading a little from a book called Intersectionality. the chapter on how educational institutions play various roles in perpetuating injustice has been thought-provoking for me, now, as I consider my future as a small piece within larger systems of educational institutions. my favourite part of Intersectionality was a quote from Audre Lorde.
"Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependence become unthreatening." (qtd in Collins & Bilge, p. 169)
necessary polarities. necessary and productive difference. no consensus, no flattened-out unity. difference. to see difference differently changes it. is that what Lorde means? that what might be threatening to us if we resist will transform into a beautiful, wonderful thing is we'd just learn to see it that way?

or is it actually that the threat was all in our heads to begin with?

I'm not sure who the we is. hypothetical we. everyone we.

or me and you. maybe. partly.

and then there is the whole paradox of tolerance to grapple with. what belongs in this world we are creating, and what doesn't? what things are okay, and what things are so bad we shouldn't even look at them? think about them?

Monday, August 21

fall semester, 2017

if all goes as it supposedly should, this will technically be my very last fall semester as a student. I am not sure how I feel about that yet.

I think I feel less optimistic than I was feeling last fall. this year is so different, so pressure-filled. so seemingly monumental in all its changes and changing. a final year. slipping away already. counting itself down from 11 months and a half to only 11 months and a quarter, just like every year but also in an extra-bewildering way now. the idea I can't help but swirl around in my head over and over again is: there will never be enough time.

and maybe that idea is right. but also... maybe... I'll deal with my finite amount of time just fine.

I will have to. we'll all have to, and so it goes.

today's writing music: Solar Fields
today's re-reading: Kathleen Fitzpatrick
and today's prooflistening: poetry

Monday, July 31


as of two weeks and three days ago, this is our new place.

it is a very nice place, freshly painted with all the windows and light my plants and I could ask for. and it is where we are finding places to keep our things. old things and new things. some things that once were mine and some that were once his (and a few that were once other people's, too), most of the things don't really need those separate pronouns anymore.

the dog is ours. the furniture is ours. the dishes in the sink are ours. I have hung clocks on at least one wall in every room, and there are piles of books and notebooks on at least three different tables.

we still don't know where (or if?) to keep our bikes, there are shelves that don't have anything on them yet. but most of our things have settled in with us now. and we get to share this balcony and a bench swing here, for one more year of phd-ing.

Friday, July 7

word quartets

in downtown Lafayette, there is this new sculpture-statue-thing. it's tall and shiny. two metal figures on tip-toes are holding an interesting metal version of the city flag.

you can't see it very well in this photo, but their stylized metal thighs have word-shaped cut-outs on them. I will list them for you here and ask you to pay attention to how the list makes you feel.


if I could format them all vertically, I would. you'll just have to imagine how they look going up and down these metal thighs in all capital letters.

we could put them in this order instead:


do you have any preference? did you or didn't you cringe a little bit at the lack of parallelism? does it feel different to treat "believe" as the misfit verb in a list of nouns, or "kindness" as the misfit noun in a list of verbs?

now that I've done a smidge of googling research, I have learned that the artist behind this piece is named Robert L. Barnum. the words were chosen by children involved with the Hanna Community Center and they are also the ones who named it "We Rise Above," which is how it is listed here on this list of other local public art.

as much as the inconsistency niggles and pokes at my hyper-educated writerly brain, I of course can't fault children for choosing this particular quartet of words without thinking about which parts of speech they all function within. most people do not automatically think about such things. even if part of my hyper-educated writerly brain things they probably should.

but the more I think about this sculpture and is misfit verb and its misfit noun, the more strangely grateful I get about how mismatched the words are. had they all four been straight-up non-ambiguous verbs or nouns, with no funky Venn-diagram of just noun, noun-or-verb, just verb going on, then I wouldn't have stopped to pay that much attention. if you just gave me a list of sappy-sounding nouns like


then that's all it would be and my allergies to sappiness would have kicked in and dismissed the whole thing.

instead, the funky Venn-diagram that these words presented got me pondering. how interesting it is that love and trust, simple little words, are both noun words and verb words. commandments and descriptors, both. but the other two, they aren't. they have to be one or the other. and it's simple enough to flip the verb believe into a similar one-word noun. not so simple with the noun kindness, though. why is that? probably there are linguistical, etymological word history reasons for which overlapping functions and orthographic representations match up or don't. I haven't looked into that yet.

I walk past this tall, shiny sculpture fairly often. someday it may lose its thought-provokingness for me. but until then the hodgepodge of words stir up lots of lovely questions. is this art speaking imperatively, or narratively? is it reflecting something the artist and his consultants see in the world, or is it praying for something they would like to see? are these virtues the sculpture asks us to admire in the world? to nurture in ourselves? are they efforts and actions we are supposed to take up, or are they knick-knacks and baubles we should collect where we can? or both?

of course it's both, probably. if they'd all been cut out in noun form, that wouldn't mean love and trust would lose their imperative vibes altogether. if they'd all been in verb form, with kindness split into its English infinitive, be kind, that wouldn't stop us from noticing the moments where those verbs swirl and collect around us into warm fuzzies to hold on to. and maybe our parts of speech are only one limited and insufficient way of chopping up language for storage. these four cut-out words have no context, after all. there is no frame for the list that they seem to make up. there is no sentence for them to live in. nothing outside this sculpture of words dictates how one is supposed to read the thing. that makes the hybrid noun-verbiness of half of them even more exciting, almost. you can interpret these words in multiple ways! and the unwritten noun and verb forms of the other half can perhaps haunt this tall, shiny art, hovering in the gaps for anyone who wants to notice them.

Thursday, June 15

re-reading and un-liking stuff on twitter and elsewhere

yesterday I did some re-reading. first, I re-read six months or so of things I've liked on twitter. a confession: sometimes as I skim through things I once liked on twitter, I end up un-liking things I once liked in the past. liking never has to be permanent, does it? nothing is permanent. some twitter things are not things I feel like my likes need to stay on-record for. is that okay?

second, I re-read three months or so of my file of semi-daily meta-scholarly writing. it was good to remember some of the fun, inspired conference notes and see little inches of progress on projects. that file is 370 pages long now. messy, and not truly daily, but still an accomplishment.

I'm sure most of the stuff in that file is sixteen thousand times more boring to the world than most of the stuff I've liked and not yet un-liked on twitter. if we could quantify boringness, anyway.

the twitterings that I like on twitter seem to fall into pretty clear categories:

1. there are links to things that exist and that just seem wonderful--

2. there are lovely impressive and/or brave pieces of micro-blogged inspiration--

or do some of these count as lessons? instructions, perhaps?

3. there are cool, amusing blips of nothing all that important--

4. there are attitudes and ideas that I find myself agreeing with, resonating with--
that is a valid life goal, right there. don't leave blank pages at the end of your documents, people. it's all part of that "paying attention to the world" thing.

and 5. there are links to longform stuff that I imagine I'll go back to read later--

sometimes I do go back and read them. sometimes I change my mind when later arrives. sometimes I forget entirely. I can't read everything. and twitter is not really meant to be a bookmarking service. but I'll use twitter however I want, okay?

Tuesday, May 30

briefly, for now

apparently Rosa Parks wrote recipes on the backs of envelopes too. really, is there anything else as useful to do with the back of an envelope? maybe doodling.

just the other week, right before our roadtrip to Utah and back, I wrote this brownie recipe down on the back of a small, greenish envelope. the brownies were baked, and then proceeded to get lost in our box of roadtrip snacks for almost the whole trip. but we found them again, and I ate several alongside the bananas.

speaking of recipes, I've been very much wanting to make this marvelous pie again, but there has hardly been any time inbetween celebrations and driving and driving and more celebrations and more driving. making pie crust is the hold-up today. if only I had pie crust in the freezer, I would be set.

all I have in my freezer by way of crust-esque stuff is phyllo dough at the moment. so I have been prompted to go searching for a phyllo tomato and corn pie recipe. and I found one. my hastily-thrown-together version of it is in the oven now.

unrelatedly, I am recently fascinated by Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. my sister had a copy of it sitting around when I was at her (very cute, new) house in March, and while she hemmed a huge fat white ballgown for me, I read to her from it. we only got to chapter 3 or something, but ever since I have been thinking about it and wanting to keep reading. not long ago, on my little non-LibriVox LibriVox app, I found a free audiobook copy, read by the lovely Cori Samuels, whom I feel like I sort of know from listening to practically every single episode of the LibriVox Community Podcast.

I have a section and a half still to go, I think. I'll finish it soon and then see where my thinking takes me next. I'm especially intrigued by Woolf's section about women writers in the centuries preceding hers. there are so many she cites that I want to go look up and investigate a bit more: Anne Finch, the Countess of Winchilsea. Aphra Behn. George Eliot.

Mary Carmichael is fictional, it turns out, or I would want to look her up too.

but ah well. I do have enough reading to do anyway, without adding fictional novels to my list.

and oh, guess what-- my first audiobook solo has been catalogued! I may work up a whole post for it one of these days, in which I'll have space to outline the tricky process of translating a text into a series of audio files, and comment on the intertwining layers of authorial and narratorial presences. we'll see.

and oh, one more thing-- it did rain, but not too much. I loved it all.

Wednesday, May 24

unread and half-remembered

everyone is talking about commencement speeches, it seems, and that got me curious about who the speaker must have been at Utah State University's spring 2006 commencement. in my searching I found this handy archive of the past 12 years of commencements, but there's no speaker listed for my year. I wonder why not.

I wonder many things. including what is this blogpost is going to be about, ultimately. there are various notes here in front of me now. links to this and that, references I half-remember adding when I opened this draft. now I'm sitting down on this mid-week evening to connect them all up with words. or at least try to. what may end up happening is that I replace all the things I thought I might blog about with completely new things, now that I'm here. such is my impetuous yet meandering writing-process.

I have not yet read any Neil Postman, but his name has been coming to my attention over and over and over again in recent days. he wrote a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death. Brooke Gladstone of NPR wrote a book of her own using Postman's work as a springboard. the Richard Lanham book I finally finished the other day quoted Postman, too. Gladstone and Lanham take very different approaches, using their very different lenses (pop journalism and literary philosophy, respectively). from these two second-hand servings of Postman's book, I see a theme of worrying about too much silliness + worrying about not enough silliness. nervous hand-wringing that our culture will stagnate into everything bland and flat and human-less. more nervous hand-wringing that our culture will dissolve into nothing at all meaningful or deep or serious.

probably, a little bit of both will happen. it'll all get mixed together and nobody will really know where to draw the lines between what's stagnant, cold, heartless and artless and what's only buzzy, frothy, sugary air bubbles and useless. it most likely depends too much on who you are.

Mr. Postman's title reminds me of another book's title: Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I started reading a copy half-borrowed from friend Tony. I say "half-borrowed" because I don't think I ever took it out of Tony's house--just read it while I was there dog-sitting the pugs several summers ago. according to my goodreads archive, where Infinite Jest is (perhaps fittingly?) still listed under "currently reading," I first opened the book on August 3, 2014.

someday I'll get back to it. I did finish that Lanham treatise after starting it even longer ago.

I'm sure Amusing Ourselves to Death and Infinite Jest would resonate rather grandly, were I to read them together. have any of you read them both? what were they like? do they talk to each other interestingly?

so many books I haven't read. did I mention yet this Ben Terrett fellow is posting reviews of books he's never read and never will read? with pictures? it seems a cool thing to do.

so many books I'm in the middle of reading. and non-books, too. this, for example, seems intriguing, at least from the twitter commentary and the first three sentences: "What It's Like to Use an Original Macintosh in 2017."

and a bunch of articles like this one over here.

well, I guess this blogpost is about mostly books and about the immortality of cultural crises. with a little dash of possible subtext about change writ large, and how we bolster each other for such changes in moments marked by speeches and such.

and only two or three of my original inspirational jottings for this post have been clipped out, to be saved for something else later on. there.

Friday, April 28

why not mark this morning

this morning, early. the forecast for today is cloudy, with a 40% chance of rain at 4pm.

but maybe it won't rain.

I have been collecting things to blog about. have been meaning all month to blog about them. since the month is almost over, and since after today I shall be 79% in wedding traveling honeymoon traveling not-paying-attention-to-anything-else mode, I'd better finally blog about a few of the collected things. here they are--

a new (to me) podcast: On the Media, which I was finally persuaded to subscribe to because RadioLab did a crossover special with excerpts from their series on poverty myths. I like it for it's meta-awareness of itself and its media-ness. it's interesting criticism, but I can't say it will become my favourite podcast or anything. I find it too mired in political drama (I know politics matter a lot, but they are not the only thing media is for, surely?) and at times a little too navel-gazey. but still, informative. and twice-weekly, which is more often than most podcast shows produce stuff.
but it is interesting

an old (to me) podcast: Israel Story is back! subscription feeds are so great, just for that feeling of seeing new content appear in a long-empty slot in the list of podcasts on your phone. 

speaking of podcasts and audio and criticism, I somehow came across this article the other day: "Towards a Poetics of Audio." I'll read it again and take better notes later. so many neat thoughts about sound and orality and art and disciplines and legitimacy.

and lastly, an old (but new to me) semi-silly poem, with wonderfully deep thoughts and anlysis from Hugh McGuire himself about said poem, all posted on the LibriVox forums way back in June, 2006. I can find nothing else of this poem anywhere else in internet-land. has anyone else heard of it? 

I hope it doesn't rain too much at 4pm, if it does.

I hope all the photographs will look nice even if it stays so cloudy.

Thursday, March 30

tracing recognitions

I find it amusing to read the uploader's disgruntled comments on this audio file of Blake's "The Tiger," when the nearly-identical track is included in this collection of the same poem (which collection proliferates across mirrors and apps from here to there). creative people have remixed the track into various interesting musicalish and ambient tracks of their own.
see here, here, here, and here.

tracing all those connections is quite fun. who knows if it is useful. but not everything needs to be useful.

I'm reading Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus at the moment. it's a quick few chapters of popular non-fiction. and it makes quite a nice sequel to Benkler's The Wealth of Networks--which I finally finished the other day! I have many thoughts on all of Shirky and Benkler's thoughts, and how they combine with many other people's thoughts. the unifying theme is one of how much technology has changed the kinds of opportunities we all have for connecting with each other and sharing stuff. so many new possibilities for useless remixing. isn't it exciting?

it was probably more exciting in 2006. it seems normal now, mostly.

anyway, the thing Shirky brings up that stands out is that the "useless" judgement only really applies if you're looking at things from a certain limited frame. dominant in most of our capitalist society is a frame of monetization and professional production values. amateur readings of poetry and slapped-together cat photos with funny captions are useless in that frame. they are free and mediocre at best. but if you switch frames, and instead of money you value communal experiences of making and sharing, then such things are not so useless after all. in that frame, the commercially produced and marked-up-for-profit books and comedy and content become the useless stuff.

Shirky is not the most academic of sources, but that may matter less than parts of me imagine it might. in combination with everything else I'm reading, he seems pretty useful no matter what the popularity of his chosen genre.

in my library database adventures the other week, I came a cross an unexpectedly familiar name. I'd searched for "librivox" and found, among random and mostly useless-to-me news snippets, this edited collection. It includes a whole chapter about LibriVox, and another chapter written by a philosopher/historian/LibriVox volunteer. Matthew Rubery was the editor, and I recognized his name, incidentally, from a random but not so useless news snippet.

Jeremiah's grandfather had clipped this out for me--a piece of a review of Rubery's new book. Jeremiah's grandfather has taken quite an interest in my dissertation topic. I feel like I may have to work just as hard over the next year to impress him with my work as I will to impress my committee members.

I have The Untold Story of the Talking Book on request with our library. with any luck the Inter-Library Loan people will get me a copy soon, so I can find out what, if anything, Rubery has included about my favourite online audiobook project.

Saturday, March 11

almost twelve years ago...

so I find myself writing/typing/thinking/articulating this phrase "almost twelve years ago" more frequently than normal lately. so many relevant things happened in the fall of 2005, I guess. I was finishing my last year as an undergraduate student. looking for internships and reveling in all the learning and work and writing and code. it's weird to remember.

twelve years ago exactly, the first Tournament of Books was going on. this year's tournament, the 13th of its kind, just started this week. I haven't even read the second match yet. no time.

as excited as I am about Tournament of Books season, I am also quite excited about spring conference season. I'll be flying next week to Portland, to present at the ATTW conference and to see old alumni friends at the reunion our program at Purdue always hosts the night before CCCCs. I'm looking forward to all of it (including rainy Portland weather).

it doesn't feel like springtime at all, but eventually I'll be able to open my windows again and start seeing my plants grow faster. I hope.

it doesn't feel like springtime at all yet, but I'm getting married in 47 days.

still need to figure out flowers.

two more days to finish writing an important paper.

three more days to finish preparing my conference presentation.

and in the meantime, I kind of want to see this movie. and this one. and maybe all these others friend Patti wrote about the other week?