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?

Saturday, February 25

a day for not going on walks

I was going to get up just before sunrise today, and go for a walk, but it was snowing. and my waking self decided to think about dreams (they were, from what I remember, about deep blue love, yarn and instructions) instead.

the day has taken me other directions. podcasts. LibriVoxing. reading interesting snippets. writing out thoughts. watering plants.

it's still a bit too cold to go for a very enjoyable walk today. reading and writing are much more appropriate.

this was the xkcd on Wednesday. it resonated enormously, matching up with all my recent feelings of having too many screens in my face all the time. mostly it's work. but also twitter and email and youtube and endless vacillating between distractions and productivity and in-between.

I used to leave the house without my phone all the time. maybe I should do more of that. just every once in a while.

I also used to write in paper notebooks much more than I seem to do these days. I definitely should do more of that. just let me finish this blogpost first.

ps: this audio series is adorable and if you like music and adventure, you will probably like it.

Thursday, February 16

decades and half-decades

dearest Jeremiah and I finished the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer last month. it felt sort of odd to finish it after so long. seven long seasons of twenty or so 40-minute episodes, set in the familiar, bygone half-decade of 1997-2003. not that long ago. but also half my life ago.

speaking of bygone decades, and along more responsible/academic lines, I have been obsessively skimming old wikipedia versions from 2006, and blogposts from 2006 and 2007 (in the archives of and and listening to these eclectic old podcasts (I'm up to the ones from 2008 now-- it's slow going). did I know podcasts existed back in 2008? no, I did not. 2008 had a lot of stuff in it that I missed.

as I trace LibriVox here and there across the last decade of the internet, I'm finding myself absorbed in miscellaneous newsy pieces about how cool the project is. they still get talked about now, too, but there's less awe about it these days, it seems like. in 2007 there was more awe. in 2008 it was still new and exciting to see what all these volunteers were actually accomplishing. crowdsourced things like this don't seem that amazing anymore, do they? we can blink and a million people have donated $5 each to fund a new game or show or product. a few thousand audiobooks isn't necessarily so special.

the history of all this awe and excitement fading into yeah-okay-old-hat-ness is deeply fascinating to me at the moment. the insatiable, detail-oriented parts of my brain want to chronicle and storify every moment of the development of this project, and all the murmurings and discussions and controversy and publicity surrounding it, too. I find myself idly wondering if I should've studied history instead of writing. if I should wander off and study history instead...

but now that I think on it, studying history doesn't sound as fun as writing history. can you do the later without the former? hmm.

I may end up finding some compromise and incorporating historiography into my dissertation somehow. that might work just fine.

anyway. after we finished Buffy, it was my turn to choose the next show. Sherlock. because dearest Jeremiah had not seen any shred of it at all. but now he has, and we are on the verge of the most recent season. it's all going by much quicker, since there only four seasons of three episodes each--though they are longer mini-series-style episodes and not as easy to squeeze in while you're eating breakfast.

Tuesday, January 31

with eyes unclouded by hate

hello January's end. here we are. and a few weeks back I decided, determinedly, that even though my once weekly blogging habit has been set aside on and off for quite some time now, I cannot let this blog die. so the new blogging goal is two posts per month. one of them shall take a somewhat serious form, and the other shall be about anything at all that might come to mind.

I don't know which this one counts as, this time.

earlier this month Jeremiah and I went to see the 20-year-old classic anime Princess Mononoke, which I thought I might have seen before at some point in those two decades, but could not actually remember. in the theatre, the opening art did stir a few memories, but other than that I had no recollection of the film.

I just went to search friend Melanie's blog to see if she's reviewed Princess Mononoke. so far it is featured here for its beautifulness, and mentioned in a handful of other posts, but there is no full review for me to defer to (yet).

we saw the dubbed English version, with script by that one British author you may have heard of, Neil Gaiman. Princess Mononoke is definitely beautiful, and a complex, funny, and fairly moving film. not many films succeed at moving this amelia person, but this one did, in a subtle, lasting sort of way. I have found the story worth pondering even weeks later. our questing protagonist is full of honor and self-sacrifice and talent, but he is not perfect and does not ultimately save the day (not entirely, anyway, and certainly not by himself). our title heroine is stealthy-fierce, all mysterious and vengeful. there are no simple characterizations, no straight tropes. the film bends this way and that way and it surprises you.

I liked what Leah Schnelbach says in this piece (it is spoiler-y, fair warning) about the multi-facetedness of the characters and the realness and meaning of the story. it's good stuff:  people and their worlds are complex, actions have consequences, plurality and balance are ideals, and hate from any side--no matter how 'righteous'--will poison everything.

the soundtrack behind this film is also exceedingly lovely. the themes and story have depth that makes my brain smile. so yeah. Princess Mononoke is on a very short list of movies that I'd much enjoy watching again every so often.

Wednesday, January 25

background signal

what if it were illegal to yell?

part of me almost sort of likes that idea. criminalizing all the obnoxious, excess noise...

101 years ago, a fellow named Dan McKenzie published a book called The City of Din: A Tirade Against Noise. someday I will have time to read it and when that time comes I'll be so excitedly interested I can hardly imagine it. The City of Din is a public domain text (available via the Hathi Trust), so maybe someday I'll read it (calmly and softly and in a lovely, quiet room) for LibriVox.

McKenzie's tirade was made known to me by Russell Davies, who blogged about it in the context of a more recent book: The Age of Noise in Britain. that one also sounds like a fascinating-to-me book. there is always so much and more to read. not enough time.

what I am reading (still), is Benkler's The Wealth of Networks. I'm treading water in this fat, deep treatise, soaking up quarts and quarts of 10-year-old wisdom about humans, technology, ideology, policy, and the economy. this quote stood out to me yesterday, and I transcribed it first into a notebook and then into this blogpost:
“culture operates as a set of background assumptions and common knowledge that structure our understanding of the state of the world and the range of possible actions and outcomes open to us individually and collectively.” (p. 297)
a few pages on he points to a need for us to study how culture works on us, how it influences policies, how it does its structuring and how it draws its lines. he writes, “we must diagnose what makes culture more or less opaque to its inhabitants…” (p. 299). Benkler consistently uses a metaphor of containment and habitation in this discussion. culture is all around us. it's what we swim and breathe and see in.

of course that reminded me of David Foster Wallace's renowned speech (do you remember me blogging about it before, once?)--"This is Water," as it's sometimes called. this video rendition is rather neat. go watch it if you haven't. it isn't that long. not even 9 whole minutes. totally worth it, believe me.

in other related and semi-relevant things-I've-been-reading lately, there is an article (stumbled upon via the smacksy blog) about how powerful it can be to recognize the frames of your own perspective. I'm thinking that the phrase “the story I’m telling myself is…” can easily be adapted into “the culture I’m swimming in says…”. either mental trick can pull us out of our bubbles for a moment or two, help us remember our limits and our contexts, yes, but also our agency and our responsibilities. it's empowering to reflect on the background structure of your whole life. to actively participate and acknowledge your role in either accepting/reinforcing or resisting/revising the culture you swim in--that seems important. that's what it takes to make all of that power and structure more open-book, more readable, more transparent and less like a vice.

today, in my LibriVox researching (I'm almost one year into all ten+ years of these), I wound my way over to this set of slides from a 2007 podcasting conference. I'm curious what the spoken half of the talk must have been like, but the slides do stand alone pretty well. transparency is a theme there, too. openness and empowerment.

I do not think I would really want yelling to be illegal. a quieter culture might be nice, and if I can in some small part bend my world that direction, maybe I should. but then I think about how subjective it will always be. what's horrible noise to me would be awesome entertainment to someone else, and what's perfectly comfortable background music to me could be uselessly inaudible to the next person.

and then there's the whole issue of times when making some serious noise seems useful, meaningful, and lastingly important. it's probably very meaningful and important that yelling is not illegal.