Monthly Archives: March 2014


I’ve mentioned Henri Cartier-Bresson several times in the pages of this blog. One of the high points of our trip to France was a couple of hours at Centre Pompidou’s retrospective exhibit of his work. The Press Kit publicity (a pdf) isn’t really a substitute for a visit to Paris, but it’s pretty good. See also a Sean O’Hagan piece from The Guardian and another by Francis Hodgson. And here’s a short video:

The experience of visiting this retrospective is pretty stirring: first, the line to get in could be an hour or more (but when we went it was only about 15 minutes), and once in you’re part of a slow-moving crocodile that moves chronologically (more or less) through Cartier-Bresson’s life as an artist. The prints are beautifully lit, and even with the crowds it’s possible to really see the images. Photography is allowed, so I was able to grab quick reminders of images that I found especially affecting or surprising (lots that I’d never seen before, as well as the most famous/iconic of his images). Here they are as a Flickr set of 20, the wee-waw perspective of which was quite intentional on my part.

Since our return I’ve been reimmersed in Atget’s work on Paris (1890s to his death in 1927) …see a George Eastman House Flickr set. Charles Marville and Brassaï are other Paris photographers of special interest.

Awash in images

A lot of engagement with photography lately, including several new books as well as hours of processing of pictures from our trip to France. Too many different threads to knit into a single coherent posting, so there may be a succession as I continue to unpack the resources. Here’s a quote from an interesting Guardian story:

It is what it is and, in a way, photography is flourishing even if some photographers are not. I read somewhere recently that the average person in the west sees more images before lunch than someone living in 1890 would see in their whole life. It’s hard to make sense of what that means. Everyone can make a picture look fantastic now just by using an app, so that is not the point anymore. Ideas are the key. Ideas are the future.

(Erik Kessels in The Guardian, 30 March 2014)

Clay Shirky lays it out for you

Clay Shirky summarizes today’s situation eloquently in The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age. A few of the choicest bits:

Decades of rising revenue meant we could simultaneously become the research arm of government and industry, the training ground for a rapidly professionalizing workforce, and the preservers of the liberal arts tradition. Even better, we could do all of this while increasing faculty ranks and reducing the time senior professors spent in the classroom. This was the Golden Age of American academia.

…so long as college remained a source of cheap and effective job credentials, our new sources of support—students with loans, governments with research agendas—were happy to let us regard ourselves as priests instead of service workers.

…Over the decades, though, we’ve behaved like an embezzler who starts by taking only what he means to replace, but ends up extracting so much that embezzlement becomes the system. There is no longer enough income to support a full-time faculty and provide students a reasonably priced education of acceptable quality at most colleges or universities in this country.

…Of the twenty million or so students in the US, only about one in ten lives on a campus. The remaining eighteen million –the ones who don’t have the grades for Swarthmore, or tens of thousands of dollars in free cash flow, or four years free of adult responsibility– are relying on education after high school not as a voyage of self-discovery but as a way to acquire training and a certificate of hireability.

Oh but I was fortunate to be in when I was, and to exit when I did…

Ten Years

The Blog is 10 years old today, and that calls for some sort of Celebration.

In fact my page-making/html-wrangling life goes back 20 years, and began with online guides intended for distribution to specific audiences, initially in the ‘Library Instruction’ mode. These gradually morphed into subject-defined weblets, and then into dated and accretive logfiles. The earliest logfiles I can still find are from March and April 1998, just about 16 years ago, by which time I’d established the habit of opening a new logfile whenever I began a line of inquiry that I thought would be likely to persist. Many of the hyperlinks I collected in those pages are now dead dead dead, but often it’s possible to see/recover the process of discovery I enjoyed as I searched and read. A few examples: Spring 1995 OED exploration, 1995 page on searches in Biology literature, my first University Scholars course (History of Technology, winter 1999), and a suite of pages for my Fall 2002 sabbatical. Many more can be found via the Web Legacy summary (compiled Spring 2005).

By 2003 I wanted to explore RSS-linked blogging, but couldn’t get W&L’s computing services interested in hosting the necessary software; I finally set up my own domain in March 2004, and instantiated OookBlog using MovableType software. I’ve used the blog to track day-to-day discoveries and ruminations, mostly as a sort of electronic journal, with myself as the primary reader. In 2013 I transferred the contents to WordPress, and augmented the overall presentation with links to other material at the top of the page.

This morning I decided that improving the tagging of posts would be a good step at Year 10, so I’ve spent today going through the posts to add tags. Along the way I’ve reacquainted myself with stuff I’d forgotten about, and begun to think about things I might do more systematically in the next 10 years. I wish I’d been more systematic about blogging my reading, and I’m not too pleased with the categories or the consistency of my tagging (argybargy and musics show up a lot, also quote and reading; metastuff is my own creation). I’m surprised at the number and diversity of music videos (and note that quite a few are no longer available). The daily capture of my Delicious feed ended in September 2011, but I’ve discovered that my Delicious tags DO still work! The Zotero link is the best I’ve been able to do as a replacement for Delicious.

A few nuggets I was especially pleased to rediscover: the tune Otiose Maggie; a nice grasshopper picture; my first experiment in podcasting: On Musical Variety (2004); elements of my Nova Scotia Faces project: the sad tale of Poor Alice G. and two nice videos; and a scattering of poetical bits: haiku/senryu written while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine in 2002, a farewell to Makeshift, two on patriotic excess, one on debts of gratitude, and a longer one on connections.

Bits of quotation are everywhere, but today’s Prize goes to Emerson

A man of 45 does not want to open new accounts of friendship. He has said Kitty kitty long enough.

In sum, I’m quite pleased with the breadth and the onward progress reflected in what I’ve found today. I continue to Believe In this medium, even if I’m speaking mostly to myself.