The World Changing blog has a scheme (Help us Hack the Publishing System) to raise the profile of their new book Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century [by Alex Steffen, Al Gore (Foreword), Bruce Sterling (Introduction)], involving a mob purchase at Amazon at 11:11 (PST) on 1 November. I was havering about purchase myself, but this plot brings me to the brink. $22.50 to stick it to ...erm... the publishing world? Probably worth it for the warm fuzzy feeling, and who knows? Maybe the blurb is right:
Worldchanging is poised to be the Whole Earth Catalog for this millennium. Written by leading new thinkers who believe that the means for building a better future lie all around us, Worldchanging is packed with the information, resources, reviews, and ideas that give readers the tools they need to make a difference...
Today's Guardian/Observer has a fine piece on Tom, one of my favorite musicians, by Sean O'Hagan. Two inducements to read its entirety:
'I didn't just marry a beautiful woman,' he says, 'I married a record collection.'
'It was like, "Am I genuinely eccentric? Or am I just wearing a funny hat?" All the big questions come up when you get sober. "What am I made of? What's left when you drain the pool?"'
If I was still teaching Cross-Cultural Studies in Music I'd do it quite differently, thanks to YouTube and other elements in the video revolution. Just take the example of Rajrupa Sen's sarod (6:37 YouTube performance), and a second example (6:06) with even clearer view of technique. Or Ismail Tuncbilek's saz and Husnu Senlendirici's clarinet (6:34, with appreciative live audience), and a studio setting (5:51) for another view that concentrates more on the interaction among the players (and is pretty jazzy too). Or try Ram Narayan's sarangi (5:15 --less than optimal video, but gives a clear view of a master at work). Or Michalis Tzouganakis' laouto (2:15) or a less traditional example, Pali-Pali (5:05) ...and/or this one, with dancers.
To see such performances makes such a difference in understanding and appreciation, and we can confidently expect more and more diversity of musical styles, and more experimentation. This cuatro example (1:55) is the tip of a potential iceberg of videos made by people practicing their instruments. I, for one, welcome our new musical overlords.
In not much more than an hour I was able to put together the beginnings of a version of the Joe Wilner saga using TagLoops. I can think of lots of refinements to incorporate as I add more content, and some editing features I'd like to see in future versions of the utility, but these few minutes give a good idea of basic functionality, and lead me to all sorts of Grand Thoughts for other projects.
Try it out (probably takes a minute or two to load).
Playlists are comparatively simple objects. They are nothing but lists -- here is the first song, here is the second. As a result they fail to excite the imagination of many people, because the expressive possibilities seem too limited. But from my background as a musician, arranger and composer, I know that the sequencing of aesthetic experiences has huge expressive possibilities. In my work on playlists I aim to help extend the expressive power of sequencing to objects on the world wide web.This puts me in mind of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, naturally:
A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You've got to kick it off with a corker, to hold the attention... and then you've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can't have white music and black music together, unless the white music sound like black music, and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs, and ...oh, there are loads of rules. (pg. 89 --in the film version, Rob goes into more detail)This latter passage is about the rapidly-obsolescing medium of the audio cassette, but it has some applicability in the realm of remix tools. One such, still an alpha but pregnant with possibilities, is TagLoops (watch the tutorial to experience that sweaty-palms here-it-comes technotwitch. And see their example too). In six months or so, this sort of tool will be all the rage in remix culture.
Cory Doctorow points us to this bloody marvelous story, with the money quote:
"The border guard asked us if we were carrying any Vegemite," Mr Fogarty said....which implies Racial Profiling, or at least a line in the Border Patrol Manual: if it has an Aussie accent, ask the V question. Comforting to know that the Homeland is Secure against folate. The Ozzically Underendowed might wish to consult the Vegemite timeline.
UPDATE: This snopes bit puts the report in the 'urban legend' category, but reading the details (commercial ban, not personal-use) doesn't really provide Relief. I still love the image of the Border Minion asking "are you carrying any Vegemite, mate?" when Crocodile Dundee appears at the Border.
I've gone up and down and back and forth with Hugh MacLeod's Gaping Void, but this one makes me a Believer again:
(thanks to the pointer from Patrick Lambe's Green Chameleon, and Hugh MacLeod's Creative Commons generosity)
A posting by Larry Lessig on the ethics of Web 2.0 reminded me that I've been intending to explore Google's Book Search, now that it's had some time to mature. I'm amazed to find that the full text (missing 8 pages) of Thomas Chandler Haliburton's two-volume An Historical and Statistical Account of Nova-Scotia (1829) is available as a .pdf file. This was the first book I read, sometime in 1969, when I took it into my head to do my dissertation research in Nova Scotia. How things have changed... A search for nova scotia lunenburg, limiting to "Full view books" turns up a great many volumes, as does a search for nova scotia "annapolis valley". Wandering further into my own past interests, a Full view search for sarawak turns up a marvelous library of historical treatments...
While most of the Full view hoard is books long out of copyright, I found a remarkable trove of recent material when I tried a search for somalia. Case in point: Major Timothy Karcher's Understanding the "Victory Disease," From the Little Bighorn to Mogadishu and Beyond (2004), the foreword to which notes that
US military planners must possess a solid foundation of military history and cultural awareness to ensure battlefield and strategic success today and in the future...Other happier serendipities: a search for "street directory" brought me Barnard's 1876 The City of New York: A Complete Guide, and a bit of exploring finds this magnificent advertisement for the Reactionary Lifter:
It will be seen that the EXERCISE, as well as the APPARATUS, is especially adapted for Ladies use. It is the only Machine in use by which a lady can take sufficient exercise without change of dress, soiled hands, awkward positions, etc.
And the very next posting at Savage Minds (just up from my RSS reader) provoked me to printing out for leisured enjoyment Clifford Geertz' A Life of Learning (the Charles Homer Haskins Lecture for 1999). It ends thus:
...as either White remarked to Thurber or Thurber remarked to White, the claw of the old seapuss gets us all in the end.(thanks to Alex Golub for that one)
I am, as I imagine you can tell from what I've been saying, and the speed at which I have been saying it, not terribly good at waiting, and I will probably turn out not to handle it at all well. As my friends and co-conspirators age and depart what Stevens called "this vast inelegance," and I, myself, stiffen and grow uncited, I shall surely be tempted to intervene and set things right yet once more. But that, doubtless, will prove unavailing, and quite possibly comic. Nothing so ill-befits a scholarly life as the struggle not to leave it, andóFrost, this time, not Hopkinsó"no memory of having starred/can keep the end from being hard." But for the moment, I am pleased to have been given this chance to contrive my own fable and plead my own case before the necrologists get at me. No one should take what I have been doing here as anything more than that.
Don't miss Anthony Grafton's The Nutty Professors: the history of academic charisma, a review of William Clark's Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University, in this week's New Yorker, especially if the opening paragraph draws a rueful chuckle or a wince:
Anyone who has ever taught at a college or university must have had this experience. Youíre in the middle of something that you do every day: standing at a lectern in a dusty room, for example, lecturing to a roomful of teen-agers above whom hang almost visible clouds of hormones; or running a seminar, hoping to find the question that will make people talk even though itís spring and no one has done the reading; or sitting in a department meeting as your colleagues act out their various professional identities, the Russian historians spreading gloom, the Germanists accidentally taking Poland, the Asianists grumbling about Western ignorance and lack of civility, and the Americanists expressing surprise at the idea that the world has other continents. Suddenly, you find yourself wondering, like Kingsley Amisís Lucky Jim, how you can possibly be doing this. Why, in the age of the World Wide Web, do professors still stand at podiums and blather for fifty minutes at unruly mobs of students, their lowered baseball caps imperfectly concealing the sleep buds that rim their eyes? Why do professors and students put on polyester gowns and funny hats and march, once a year, in the uncertain glory of the late spring? Why, when most of our graduate students are going to work as teachers, do we make them spend years grinding out massive, specialized dissertations, which, when revised and published, may reach a readership that numbers in the high two figures? These activities seem both bizarre and disconnected, from one another and from modern life, and itís no wonder that they often provoke irritation, not only in professional pundits but also in parents, potential donors, and academic administrators.(thanks to Kerim at Savage Minds)
A bit more than a year ago, just as I was leaving Virginia, I did an appearance on the Washington & Lee radio station, talking and playing mostly mandocello. I notice that the show is still archived (it's about an hour, and includes a number of bits recorded with Daniel Heïkalo). At the same time, I wrote a musical rumination giving some background material. Listening and reading those things a year later reminds me of projects I was planning. Now that fall is upon us, high time to start some of them.
I'm in Nova Scotia for a few days, but it seems not a whit further away from everything. Example: I'm sitting in a friend's house recovering from the 9-hour drive, and Skype goes off --my octogenarian friend Max (in Arkansas), calling to find out if I know how he can find a Mike Seeger project called Talking Feet, a film about Appalachian dance traditions. As it happens, Betsy is in Virginia for 10 days, and she's staying at Mike and Alexia's house, so I email her to ask her to ask Mike, and while waiting for her reply I do a quick Google search and what do I find but the whole film in streaming video (choose between QuickTime and RealPlayer)... and Betsy writes back to say that Mike and Alexia's current project is updating the 1987 project... It's a wonderful film, the sort of thing that'll make you think differently about the pedagogical possibilities of the YouTube revolution.
Kieran Healy stabs to the quick with this posting from Crooked Timber, which references Clifford Johnson's pointer to NPR's (well, WNYC's) April 21 2006 RadioLab show, which starts out with Diana Deutsch. To hear why you should care, listen to this 53 second outtake.
Years ago (1989-90 as I remember) Betsy was using a Mac-based sonographic tool to do analysis of pauses and other waveform phenomena in speech. I used it to explore a lot of samples of singers, as a part of the Cross-Cultural Studies in Music course that I was teaching at the time. I ran across those file folders the other day, while sorting through the academic legacy remains in the barn, and was diverted into an hour or so of what-if (paths not taken, that sort of thing). And then this morning I find Mark Liberman's Poem in the Key of What posting at Language Log, illustrating some work he's done with a new generation of sound analysis software (it's FREE too: Praat and WaveSurfer). I'm tempted to reopen that frontier. For a bit of a teaser, consider this representation of Bessie Smith's 1927 "Send me to the 'lectric chair":
ADDENDUM: I did some experimenting with Praat, and here's an extract of pitch contour. Not sure just what it all means, but it sure is fun.