April 30, 2007

Some thoughts about the evolution of computing

There's no doubt that a lot of my life revolves around this machine, before which I spend several hours a day. I've been riding this pony since 1992 (when I started building a Gopher presence, soon after I started work as a reference librarian at W&L), or maybe since 1989 when I started playing with HyperCard, or perhaps since 1984 when I bought my first microcomputer (a TI-Pro, still in the barn), or maybe 1979 when I started to play with SYMAP (making maps of demographic data from the Hungarian census of 1900), or maybe 1962 when I first started working with punch cards (as research assistant to Bob Textor in cross-cultural studies). At each of those junctures I had some idea of where I was heading, but the destinations kept changing as new possibilities emerged.

I seem to be in another spate of thinking about the ways the Web is/has been evolving, in the proximal contexts of Licklider's Libraries of the Future [1965] (which I'm reading at Gardner's instigation) and the impending visit of friends with three home-schooled kids (for whom my question is: where does The Computer fit in what they're doing?)... and reflecting on the many ways in which my life has been tangled up with computers. For at least 45 years I've seen them as essential tools for things I needed to do, though generally my imagination has outrun my technical capabilities, and I've relied upon the multiple kindnesses of others to assist with practicalities and realize my imaginings. There's a looooong history of books and articles and Web resources that I've been influenced by, and an equally convoluted history of apps I've experimented with as I've worked at making sense of the potentials. Wish I could reconstruct all the steps...

I started library school in January 1991 with the question What will microcomputers do to libraries? but I certainly didn't foresee that the most profound effect would be to distribute the end-user's experience in most information transactions --to make the physical library mostly irrelevant to seeking answers, to enmesh the user in networks composed of nodes that might be on different continents, to make multimedia an everyday experience, and to proffer tools that make the user an active contributor to the construction of distributed knowledge. Two of today's cases in point:

Harper's release of 150+ years of full text archive exposes a glorious trove, and the possibility of gathering up David Halberstam's contributions to the magazine adds a great deal to a resource like Christopher Lydon's program recorded two days after Halberstam's death
I discover that others who are reading Eco's Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana have established a Wiki-based annotation project for the book.

At the moment I'm eagerly awaiting the imminent arrival of Dave Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (publishing tomorrow), listening to Weinberger's Radio Open Source appearance, keeping an eye on Weinberger's blog around the book, and still savoring a two-hour podcast of Weinberger's Social Media Cluster talk of last week.

Posted by oook at 07:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2007

Avoidance and mitigation

Another bonzo post over at Language Log, this one invoking (among other things) aposiopesis and gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk, both of which had escaped my notice heretofore. My education continues, and seems to be picking up speed on the downhill run. Perhaps coincidentally, I'm enjoying Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.

Posted by oook at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

links for 2007-04-29

Posted by oook at 03:18 AM

April 25, 2007


Fairly often I'm gobsmacked by the complexities of things I knew just a bit about. Latest case in point: the perhaps-fatuous domain of lolcat, referenced in today's Language Log. I mean, I did know about

but I didn't grasp its deeper significance. See more on the harbl meme... and a couple of hours later, LOL-Kitteh as a Second Language (LKSL-101) in Five Easy Steps, via The Lexicographer's Rules. Whatever NEXT?

Posted by oook at 11:34 AM | Comments (2)

April 23, 2007

links for 2007-04-23

Posted by oook at 03:17 AM

April 22, 2007

OK, stop everything

...and watch this 1993 AT&T Vision of the Future (via Paleo Future, "a look into the future that never was"). You won't be sorry...

Posted by oook at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

Sphyngolipids and beyond

I finally got around to watching The Inner Life of the Cell from the Biovisions at Harvard initiative (via Make's blog a week or so ago). The animation is, well, amazing. The narration tumbles along polysyllabically (can you say 'Leukocyte Extravasation'? I thought you could...), and it's a damn good thing that one can watch and re-watch, and that there won't be a quiz... On a more serious note, the watching prompted me to scratch my head again over the challenge of Gardner's comment to my Grand Jeté post, which ends with this interesting observation/question:

...the notion that knowledge is dynamic, ever-circulating, breathing in and out, washing some books up to shore while washing others away to the great unbounded deep, works very well for certain of the humanities, but works only occasionally for the physical sciences. A test case: what about advances in medical knowledge? Are they part of this great sussuration of knowledge, or are we really getting somewhere? Do we really need to rethink, oh, the idea of a cell?

Posted by oook at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

Higher fi

I've just connected my laptop into the sound system (via an Indigo Echo unit that I bought a while ago), and I'm enjoying mp3s and YouTube stuff through the Earthworks speakers. Can't think why I didn't do this long ago. Stuff like this from Nederlands Blazers Ensemble comes through amazingly, and renews one's faith in humanity:

Posted by oook at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2007

Tom Ze is Out There

If Tom Ze isn't a household word out your way, give a listen to the four items linked at Captain's Crate ("Rare, funky, and soulful music from the treasure trove of Captain Planet and Murphy's Law")

Posted by oook at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2007

links for 2007-04-20

Posted by oook at 03:18 AM

April 19, 2007

Grand jeté

The Glossary of Ballet may turn out to be a fruitful source of imagery.

Patrick Lambe is really onto something over at Green Chameleon, and it fits remarkably with my Pirouettes thread. Today's post points to and quotes wittily from The Interstitial Library and Uncyclopedia, and I'll reproduce a couple of bits here to tempt you to read Green Chameleon further:

We contend that every reader is an amateur librarian, with a mental library organized according to a private cataloguing system that is never identical with that prescribed by the AACR2R (the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Revised). Since every system of organization highlights some kinds of information and obscures others, we contend that these idiosyncratic catalogues have advantages—advantages that could be shared.

We do not consider the “authoritative” taxonomies of the Library of Congress (or Barnes & Noble) to be superior to private ones. We are suspicious of taxonomies that appear self-evident, unbiased, objective. All taxonomies are interpretations. All interpretations are valuations. We ask, how does a given taxonomy, which is always a reduction and a generalization, come to be associated with objective or ideal categories of knowledge? We contend that the question of what matters and what does not is a political and philosophical one that should be open to the input of individual readers.

(that one is from Interstitial Library, and the next is Patrick Lambe himself)
Taxonomies and category systems are filters. They render certain things visible and help ensure those things are preserved. The things in between, not captured in our official categories, are ignored, and hence easily forgotten and lost.

If they are there but not seen, then we need strategies for seeing them – or for bumping into them. These strategies need to directly counter the mechanisms we use for rendering this stuff invisible. We need inversionary mechanisms.

...To counter the invisibilising effects of limited taxonomies, we need interstitial categorisation systems, that deliberately break sensible rules, and bring stuff together on idiosyncratic principles. Individuals do this all the time, so we simply need to be able to see their idiosyncracies.

Posted by oook at 01:01 PM | Comments (2)

What were they thinking

Shorpy keeps pumping out wonderful images like this detail I've extracted from a panoramic image:

(see the whole thing)

Where to begin? The architecture (there's no other word for it) of those costumes is breathtaking, but the looks on the faces of the background spectators are just too wonderful.

A detail from another one:

...and the whole thing

Posted by oook at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2007

Pirouettes continued

Still thinking about the Prelinger Library article, and considering that we need some models/visualizations for the kinds of distributed collections I'm working on, or toward. I made a marginal note when this phrase tripped through the forebrain:

tesseracted Whole Earth Catalog
and now I want to follow it up with some interlinked digressions.

First, the Whole Earth Catalog and, seriatim, its various successors (CoEvolution Quarterly, Whole Earth Review, the WELL, Long Now Foundation...) have been essential to me for ...bless us... almost 40 years, ever since I first frequented the Whole Earth Truck Store in Menlo Park. The basic model of knowledge as a sprawling and interconnected and navigable system of tools for understanding the world has been with me ever since, and some of that snuck into a summary of Goals and Methods of Teaching that I wrote at tenure time, about 12 years ago, and still find apt. And Fred Turner's From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism is a fine entrée into the dramatis personae and associated mindspaces.

The word 'tesseracted' isn't one I can remember seeing or thinking before, but it seemed to fit the model of multidimensionally interconnected broad-ranging knowledge that I was imagining as an antidote to the geocentric but shelf-bound linear array that is described as the ordering principle of the Prelinger collection. The 'tesseracted' form turns out to be not uncommon.

I first encountered the Tesseract as a concept in a Robert Heinlein story ("And he built a crooked house") reprinted in Clifton Fadiman (ed.) Fantasia Mathematica (1958). The book was used as an auxiliary text in a marvelous math class (Plane and Solid Geometry) I had as a high school sophomore, taught by Phil Coyle, who went on to grander things.

Google found a 1996 text by Michael Jensen (now Director of Web Communications at National Academies Press) which is wonderfully prescient: Here there be Tygers: Uncharted Tesseracts in the Age of Disintermediation. Some bits:

Intermediation is what we all do, every one of us in this room, in some form or another. What happens when so many institutions are put in doubt or confusion because their primary role of intermediation is challenged by direct digital access to anything we want?

...Something quite separate from the technology --though predicated upon it-- something under the sun that is truly new, something unfathomably transformative, is being loosed upon us: disintermediation.

I think of societial disintermediation as the online tesseract --you remember, the "wrinkle in time" that shortens the distance between two points.

Two things are required to make possible the tesseract of disintermediation: rapid easy access to distant digital content, and easy financial exchange.

The first of the pair is here, as we all know. I can pull down a Web page located in Australia as easily and almost as fast as I can one from Duluth. Any material --whether a recording, a video clip, a multimedia presentation, a monograph, a poem, an encyclopedia-- can be put online by its creators, and pulled down and displayed the viewers. In three years, it'll be absurdly easy.

The second part isn't quite there yet, but we're almost there, and that's online micropayments... To my mind, when I can easily, safely, and comfortably pay a buck, a quarter, a nickel, or a tenth of a cent online, then a day of revolution will have arrived.

I don't say that lightly, or with too much melodrama. I'm quite serious. Micropayments will be transformative, challenging most institutions, most governments, and most economies, perhaps even more than the Internet itself.

...It was Colin Day, director at the University of Michigan Press, who first described the Internet as a "giant disintermediation machine," and he's right. The Internet will be--heck, is--challenging the historical intermediaries like publishers, movie studios, television stations, printing companies, libraries, specialty stores, universities, schools, salespeople, even governments. The filterers, the gatherers, the duplicators, the distributors, the finders, will all find themselves sprinting to restructure themselves in the new economy, and they won't all make it.

Just how to build and manage tesseracted collections is up for grabs, and seems like sort of an apotheosis of conventional hyperlinkage. I flirt with 'holographic' and 'fractal' as other terms that might convey the multiple interrelationships among objects in such collections, but I'm not as clear as I should be about where the metaphors outrun the requisite lexical precision. Working on it...

Posted by oook at 09:25 PM | Comments (4)

links for 2007-04-18

Posted by oook at 03:18 AM

April 17, 2007

links for 2007-04-17

Posted by oook at 03:19 AM

April 16, 2007

Conceptual pirouettes

Another piece from the May 2007 Harper's: Gideon Lewis-Kraus "A World in Three Aisles: Browsing the post-digital library" has me thinking about collections, legacies, contextualizations, and the bugaboos I struggled with during my 15 years as a Librarian. With all that, this posting may take a while to unreel itself, and I'm thinking to break it up into money quotes from the article (which is eminently worth reading, even if you are not now nor have ever been a Librarian) and my own ruminations. So (with emphasis added here and there for bits I particularly like):

...why do they [Rick Prelinger and Megan Shaw Prelinger] truck across town to spend their afternoons painstakingly arranging and rearranging fifty thousand uncataloged and whimsically classified items, very few of which are overwhelmingly rare or commercially valuable... (pg 48)

...they want to help preserve a space for the physical, the limited, and the fussily hand-sorted alongside the digital pile. And they think there is a way that the small private library ...can be reimagined to do just that. (pg 49)

The first rule [of the classification scheme] is that locality trumps all other considerations (pg 49)

Megan describes the library as fundamentally a physical organization of their own mental furniture. Their assortment maps out the range of future projects they have considered pursuing, and its varying granularity of organization provides insight into what they have worked through and what they haven't quite gotten around to yet. (pp 50-51)

The charm of the Prelinger Library lies in the canny and pleasantly unexpected ways one subject blends into another [examples]...This latter transition is one of the conceptual pirouettes that Megan is proudest of, as it bridges the gap between the material and immaterial worlds. (pg 51)

The connections in Rick and Megan's browsable narrative require varying degrees of imaginative exertion. (pg 52)

...the library is in a constant state of associative refinement, what Megan characteristically calls "brushing the teeth of the granularity" --that is, "work," which also includes the transport of heavy cardboard boxes from one heap to another. (pg 52)

(Public libraries) are increasingly centered around computer terminals and stupidly grandiose atria that make them feel less like book repositories and more like shopping malls or free Internet cafés. The San Francisco Public Library... was constructed at enormous public expense in the nineties, and the result --a vacuous hotel-lobby sort of space, the actual books peripherized as a guilty afterthought-- is unanimously considered a disaster... The reference librarians, reconciled to their new roles as customer-service technicians in the guise of advanced-degree "information scientists," stand behind high oak-paneled counters and field questions about how to use these Internet resources, or more often how to get the printer to work... (pp 52, 54)

[the Prelinger Collection] is not about browsability per se but tailored and pointed browsability --browsability within a narrative structure and in service to some very particular ideas about the ownership of culture and the cultural frameworks of democracy (pg 55)

The promise of the Internet-as-Alexandria is more than the roiling plenitude of information. It's the ability of individuals to choreograph that information in idiosyncratic ways... (pg 56)

...the Dewey decimal system is a helpful but ossified structure best suited to the bureaucratic centralization of thousands of different libraries (pg 56)

"We want to foment bursts of concentrated discovery across the spectrum," Megan told one tour (pg 57)

As I read and re-read this article I found myself alternately cheering and tut-tutting, and here and there scribbling something in the margin, and when I add all that up I end up with the label "provocative" for the whole thing. There are some things that bother me, some scabs I continue to pick and itches that will be scratched.

The actual physical environment of the Prelinger collection centers on

haphazardly rigged shelves, eleven-foot stanchions, a gleaming gunmetal... [consisting of] about fifty thousand items... [including] twenty thousand pieces of what they call "ephemera," maps and charts and brochures and errant scraps of apposite paper (pp 47, 48)
...so it's different from my private library in being, well, bigger, but a lot of us preside over collections of a lifetime, which we tend and prune and augment and keep in idiosyncratic order (generally less apparent to outsiders than to ourselves), and which contain precisely what we "have worked through and what we haven't quite gotten around to yet." Managing such mathom houses, and turning them to productive use, is the greatest of pleasures for some of us. And now we have the means (via the Web) to put such ephemera into context and present some of their facets to a global audience.

The challenges of array and navigation are pretty profound, and I'm not convinced that the Prelinger approach to classification and order ("locality trumps all other considerations") is of general utility --though I surely have myself bits of shelvage that are ordered by geographical considerations. Really the important point is one that I can't find mentioned anywhere in the article: every item has more than one quality/characteristic that makes it worthy of membership in a collection, and a user needs to be able to use those earmarks to find associated items, and needs to be able to attach additional earmarks (OK, let's call them TAGS) as new relationships emerge as a consequence of use.

A physical item pretty much has to reside in one location (its place on a shelf, or a labelled folder, or whatever), and serendipitous browsing is an important discovery method, but systematic frameworks and tools for managing such dynamic collections are essentially non-existent. The world of cataloging standards isn't much help if the materials aren't included in the standards (e.g., my collections of photographs, or of musical instruments, or coffin plaques, or extinct mass storage devices...). Thinking through all of this makes me realize the fairly obvious truth that what associates all these things is a narrative structure, the tales they are or can be woven into. Again, we have the medium for curation and distribution of those tales --the Web-- but there aren't a lot of examples or models out there. Perhaps more accurately, most of the existing examples and models are institutional, and based on grants and budgets and administrations. I need to keep a weather eye peeled for the work of others who are thinking along these lines, while continuing to pursue them myself. Expect to see more about this in this space...

Posted by oook at 02:09 PM | Comments (1)

links for 2007-04-16

Posted by oook at 03:19 AM

April 15, 2007

links for 2007-04-15

Posted by oook at 03:20 AM

April 14, 2007

Annals of Med'cin

Before you visit another doctor or take another pill, I suggest a reading of Gary Greenberg's "Manufacturing depression: a journey into the economy of melancholy" in the May 2007 Harper's (not yet online, but widely available at newsstands and even supermarkets. Better yet, subscribe and get access to the WHOLE archive, back to !!1850!!). Here's a bit of what you'll encounter:

...in more than half the clinical trials used to approve the six leading antidepressants, the drugs failed to outperform the placebos, and when it came time to decide on Celexa, an FDA bureaucrat wondered on paper whether the results were too weak to be clinically significant, only to be reminded that all the other antidepressants had been approved on equally weak evidence. (pg 40)
...irresistable ideas about who we are only come along every so often, and here at Mass General they've gotten hold of a big one. They have figured out how to use the gigantic apparatus of modern medicine to restore our hope: by unburdening us of self-contradiction and uncertainty, by replacing pessimism with "optimization," by inventing us as people who seek Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction, who will buy from the pharmacy what we need to forge ahead toward Well-Being unhindered by Depressive Symptomatology, to pursue antidepression if not happiness. Who can resist this idea that our unhappiness is a deficiency that is in us but not of us, that it is visited upon us by dumb luck, that it can be sent packing with a dab of lubricant applied to a cell membrane? (pg 46)

Posted by oook at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

Syllepsis for the masses

It's always a comfort to learn a new bit of terminology, especially when a favorite bit of lyric is attached, and thus further clarified. Today's case in point, from Language Log, invokes a song that's been warming my little heart these 40 years, Michael Flanders' and Donald Swann's Madeira M'Dear. If you don't know it (and I can see by the look of you that some of you don't, as Flanders was wont to say), a tiny fragment (but without the delicious syllepsis) is available via Amazon. Or you could watch a version, via Eric Storm and kwego:

Have Some Madeira M'Dear - kewegoHave Some Madeira M'Dear - kewego

Have Some Madeira M'Dear - kewego
Humorous song written by Flanders and Swann.
Keywords: humour song and flanders swann
Video from ptolemy

While you're at it, if you don't already know The Gnu Song, here's your opportunity, though once again not at the hands of the Original Authors.

Posted by oook at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

links for 2007-04-14

Posted by oook at 03:18 AM

April 13, 2007

Still trying to figure out spam

I don't hold any brief for the Importance of this thread, but to the degree that I'm a student of human communication (a hat I sometimes try on in front of the mirror), I'm fascinated by stuff that's at the edges of the comprehensible. This morning I saw the spamsubject "actication actifation actiwation actigation" and just had to look at the message it was shilling for. Here it is, and once again I'm baffled (and this time no Louisa May Alcott that I can discern...):

Jersey north carolina ohio oklahoma oregon rhode island tennessee. Wwwktmch wwwlidilde sty wwwloscom wwwlotto ptr wwwmapes.
Yuka yule yung yuo yuotube yuotup, yupy yusuf. Dedtectors dietectors deitectors, dhetectors. Yobynet yobynetsp yoga espaol.
Twats lkr damn ugly hostel! Detehctors detsectors detesctors detexctors. Sinksby, bly survivors stories charges gone wild founder. Cracl cracm aaltn alltn alttn, altnn ccrack crrack craack. Commands your shells contacting meet needs names and. Wwsexcom wwsexde wwterras, wwyou tubecom wwe wwelayla wwecom. Sun scenic design sue. Auatralia auwtralia auctralia auetralia.
Trademarks, statement trust human?
Attempt steal fileif valuable stored, encryption integrity. Wwyou tubecom wwe wwelayla wwecom wwinsock adela. Nation corzine breaks leg ribs crash cbs drops don.
Wwwinfo wwwjyskpl wwwkde wwwlf. Television mouse cinematic slide music. Military, associated cedit alsolook, wiktionary relating, stub expanding.
Anny, wazowny, gd nr.
Wwwikea wwwil meteoit wwwingr wwwinboxlv wwwinfomg wwwinpsit wwwinterit wwwitvppl. Barskip centerskip subscribe nowskip, about index frequent raquoaz agency.
Detectofrs detectorfs detectodrs detectords detectoras detectorsa detectorws, detectorsw detectorse.
Into andyg, uv started readin dis. Adding sodas drinkapple upcoming leopard launch instead pick obvious. Ahovska zveza lovek uvari gromova aaa rtliche. Flavor, possible goodness sake invent new marketing pmdeeddawg koolaid.
Wioteczne witeczne witujemy wityt mikoaj ifreli, szler.
What can the Semantic Web make of this?

Posted by oook at 08:27 AM | Comments (1)

links for 2007-04-13

Posted by oook at 03:18 AM

April 12, 2007

links for 2007-04-12

Posted by oook at 03:19 AM

April 11, 2007

Another new genre?

uncharacteristically bacteria
He between disembowel
He yourselves causate
chiropractor untie
Go millard my distraught
I've been continuing to grab spam subject line text, but I've just discovered a NEW possibility that seems to unlock a Joycean reservoir of litrachur in a genre I didn't even know existed, and can't imagine how it's generated. W&L's new spam filter lets you see the content(s) of a spamunit before you discard it. Here's one:
but??voice, van corked the bottle at a blow, threw down the corkscrew, spells hard, fussy words, like chi-rog-ra-phy and bron-chi-tis as their favorite nourishment is the seed-cake; apples also are freely
but but by train. nowadays there are fewer trains and henry, a: could you tell her to give doug a call when she gets back???the instant she saw him she felt that there was no hope, for she
the instant she saw him she felt that there was no hope, for she??and rose began to cuddle it in the fond, foolish way women have 'i don't worry about sat looking at the friendly words, as they took a new meaning, and
from the doctor to "hold the lamp a little higher, please," or an "oh, put basin, sponge, towels, and a block of brown soap into my hands, eyes with her hand, and took a long look at a figure down in the??by storm, and held her position, in spite of doctors, matron, and
"i saw her going down the avenue??him that his dear mistress was coming back on the following saturday. "we'll remember, mother!" and drift along blindly. watch and pray, dear nat; and while your hand
twice round the triangle without stopping, a star for emil, who "yes, dear, that is the true can never be the polished gentleman that my poor departed friend, ball," proposed audacious molly loo, always ready for fun.??f: where
then, as she vanished,??"she will wait and wait, mother, so dazzled by the brilliancy and beauty that has suddenly of years gone by, and put up a splendid procession of ladies
another with every aggravation they could invent, as they and passion. to regard them as soberly as the enthusiastic mamma did. and??flash:??gods, and i will try to like yours,' said bess, beginning time is 8:45.
henceforth." wrathful, &c. none of the stories are precisely those of aesop, last, "and that is to return to the nome king and oblige him world.??whose kind old heart was full of sympathy, which he longed
"i do not know," said the head; "but last, for the mirror had plainly told her that she was 'a don't expect perfection, but i should like one as good as model, and let us see you," said her uncle, with an approving??voyage. it was a very different story from the written one;??half-fierce, half-imploring eyes of a wild animal caught in
those who had missed so great a blessing. to get upset about. were continually dodging his long arms
I'd have thought it was nowt but fluke, but then along comesd another:
Tackled, adjunct design challenges howeverby andrew binstock principal analyst. Goodies xceed suite theme med. Esc selects button press tab taskbar, shiftf context.
Hard there included shows preview, selective possible. Openmp set interfaces greatly simplifies. Policy copy, pty ltd rights.
Maximize close windowalt, althyphen.
Which of the, current.
Link featured netjava unified voice messaging powerco.
Formats supported, quicktime avi mjpeg mpeg!
Optimized ear drum rocking.
Deari know they thinking clear, huge change.
Filterkeys num, lock togglekeys offleft altleft shiftnum mousekeys? Planni study animation company demand solutio.
Collapses expanded otherwise childleft parentback property tabsback. Regular dosage, two, grains!
Up to ussubmit, policyrss with, usapc back issues may.
Tutorials sitemap hot, alliances submit, job. Reserved keyboard shortcuts, homeselect.
What interests me here is that these texts don't mean nothing, indeed may really mean something if one has the Magic Decoder Ring. I continue to await developments, and hope others can shed some light on What It All Means.
Posted by oook at 03:00 PM | Comments (1)

links for 2007-04-11

Posted by oook at 03:19 AM

April 10, 2007

Shorpy's 'Your Photos'

NB that the wonderful Shorpy 100-Year-Old Photo Blog is now encouraging the contribution of photographs, and that http://www.shorpy.com/yourphotos has an RSS feed. Luvvit.

Posted by oook at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

Another from Open Source

Gardner and Alice, and Bryan too, know vastly more about film than I do, and so might find the recent Open Source program with Slavoj Žižek and Sophie Fiennes less entrancing than I did, but I was pretty continuously bugeyed by what I heard. The mp3 was the soundtrack to a brisk morning walk in which I seemed to see a photograph every few strides (and the camera at home on the kitchen table), but perhaps my reaction was a function of all that seaside oxygen. Clearly I hafta get my hands on the documentary, yclept The Pervert's Guide To Cinema. These outtakes from the conversation may convey some of what riveted me:

choosing fiction over reality: The Matrix (0:40)
the true mystery of cinema (0:33)
Žižek on freedom (1:08)
Fiennes on psychic transvestitism (0:30)
Žižek on 300 (1:05)

Posted by oook at 02:17 PM | Comments (3)

links for 2007-04-10

Posted by oook at 03:18 AM

April 09, 2007

Shirley Temple gives a dramatic reading

I know I shouldn't give in to such impulses, but I jes' can't help myself. I promise to reform...

Posted by oook at 07:03 PM | Comments (0)

Joshua Bell plays the Metro

I don't know how long this Washington Post story will stay accessible, but MAKE time to read it, or at least skim through, before They pull it. Here's the deal: famous violinist busks in the DC Metro, playing incredible music incredibly well on a damn Strad, and most of Boobus Americanus doesn't even turn a head, let alone slow down to listen. Tsk.

There's even a couple minutes of video, in 3 segments.

DON'T miss it. (via waxy.org)

Posted by oook at 01:13 PM | Comments (2)

free-form spam subject-line poetry, redux

Gardner's What poetry form am I? pointer has led me to thinking about realms of the poetic, not generally something I do much of. I discover that I'm beyond simple vexation with spam, on the Other Side of simple vexation, where I start to perceive the glory in the medium of the spam subject line. Nick, over at Voice 0'Reason, has been on this case for a while, and I've been inspired (in great admiration for his efforts) to start harvesting the stuff myself. Today's haul has pushed me over the edge, into what I fear may become a recurring obsession:

To myself watchmen
on epistemology my byroad
was cerebellum many wherein
It everything tutorial
It augment ourselves proviso
shut about-face
Is posterity untill dearth
One could argue for different ordering of the lines, adding punctuation, or executing edits ('untill' is just too poeticall, isn't it?), but I'm for letting it stand as it falls, and Devil take the hindmost. What we have here is a new genre, and it calleth forth Utilities to support its gleaning and promulgation (a metric analyzer, for those who would have anapests and the like; a random combo generator to burrow through the corpus; a grand Corpus for the combo generator to work upon; usw...).

Posted by oook at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2007

On the epiphanic

I was walking briskly down toward Port Clyde, listening to Chris Lydon talking with Sonny Rollins, and reflecting on reflecting (we seem to be very reflexive today at #312; has to do with reading a few pages of Calvino with the first morning coffee), and the word 'epiphanic' slid into the foreground as I was listening to a bit of St. Thomas. Ah, I thought, that's it, that's the word that epitomises the frisson of Recognition, the instant of grokkage, one of the states of mind I love most. So first some delicious trivia:

From Greek epiphaneia, manifestation; and from epiphainesthai, to appear.

An epiphany is a sudden shift of perspective or flash of intuition that opens one to a greater or more subtle understanding. "Epiphanic" describes something or somewhere that is full of epiphany.

and from morewords.com:

epiphanic is a valid word in this word list. For a definition, see the external dictionary links below.

The word "epiphanic" uses 9 letters: A C E H I I N P P.

No direct anagrams for epiphanic found in this word list.

Adding one letter to epiphanic does not form any other word in this word list.

Words formed when one letter is changed in epiphanic

No words found when changing letter 1 (E)
No words found when changing letter 2 (P)
No words found when changing letter 3 (I)
No words found when changing letter 4 (P)
No words found when changing letter 5 (H)
No words found when changing letter 6 (A)
No words found when changing letter 7 (N)
No words found when changing letter 8 (I)
No words found when changing letter 9 (C)
Sorry, no words at all (in this word list) can be found by changing one letter in epiphanic.
So 'epiphanic' is a lexical dead end, sort of. But the Googly fun doesn't stop there. I found this lovely wrang-wrang on the subject, at hypermedia joyce studies:
Joyce's epiphanies and the accounts of the epiphany he stages in his work, lack claritas. They leave us wondering what exactly an epiphany is. While we may be able to separate the epiphany off from the conceptual void or plenitude, and appreciate it as a conceptual complex in itself, its final harmony or whatness eludes us. The set-piece presentations of the theory, in Stephen Hero and Portrait, signally fail to work as epiphanies of the epiphany, while taking their place no doubt in the relation of part to part, in reading as an exercise in consonantia.
Ouch. It goes on from there...
But back to Sonny Rollins, and Chris Lydon. Even when I find the guest(s) annoying (Camille Paglia, or the acolytes of Hannah Arendt for instance), it's all so conversational and unrehearsed, and there's a freshness to what Chris is doing. It's good for me to find out something about stuff that I wasn't paying attention to, and didn't know I was interested in. Tubas, for instance.

Here are some especially succulent bits from the Sonny Rollins conversation. You have to slow yourself down a bit to get the full benefit of the wisdom in what Sonny is saying, and not-saying (some stuff is just hard to talk about in words...). The whole interview is really a gem, and these outtakes are just a few that especially grabbed me:

St. Thomas: origins and DRM (1:20)

playing with Bud Powell (1:29)

what do you think about when you solo? (1:11)

all of the above (1:14)

1958: how ironic (1:32)

listening to myself is an ordeal (1:16)

with Sonny Stitt, and about others he's played with (3:06)

act on it (1:33)

Posted by oook at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

links for 2007-04-08

Posted by oook at 03:17 AM

April 07, 2007

Irresistable Future

Miranda July's innovative Web design strategy is completely convincing, and casts interesting lights in all sorts of directions while getting her message across memorably. When I came to it, I hit the "buy" button, figuring that anything that clever has earned a supportive response. Another surprise brought to my attention by if:book, a continuing source of stuff I'm glad I encountered.

Posted by oook at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

links for 2007-04-07

Posted by oook at 03:17 AM

April 06, 2007

links for 2007-04-06

Posted by oook at 03:18 AM

April 05, 2007

Worth the six minutes it'll take

I love the label "Shift Happens". Seems so much more positive than without the 'f', though I've usually read the original bumpersticker with the emphasis on HAPPENS. I'm not so sure about the jiggy Riverdance-y soundtrack, but not sure what I'd substitute to better support the message.

(this arrived virally, via Stephen's Web, which links The Learned Man, who credits Tata Interactive Systems, who fingers Scott McLeod's repurposing of Karl Fisch's Arapahoe High School presentation... what a glorious trail!)

Posted by oook at 11:24 AM | Comments (2)

Sort of nice, actually

Here's what it looks like now:

Fortunately, no need to go anywhere or do anything.

Posted by oook at 06:52 AM | Comments (2)

April 04, 2007

Runnin' around with the rag top down

As Gillian Welch puts it, Oh me oh my-oh

(detail from this panoramic gem, 1928)

My fascination with vernacular photography is generally known to readers of this blog [if not, see Nova Scotia Faces and Squidoo on Vernacular Photography], but perhaps you won't yet be acquainted with Shorpy the 100-year-old photo blog, where things are really being done RIGHT, including images by Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, Andreas Feininger, various WPA photographers, and not-so-famous people too.

Posted by oook at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)

links for 2007-04-04

Posted by oook at 03:18 AM

April 03, 2007

State, dog and syntax

Here's a book some of you will love and need to possess, one more from my MIT Press Bookstore haul of a few weeks ago: Virginia Tufte's Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style

Savor (or, if outside the US, enjoy the extra opportunity and savour) the opening paragraphs, which follow an exemplary quotation:

And the words slide into slots ordained by syntax, and glitter as with atmospheric dust with those impurities which we call meaning.
Anthony Burgess, Enderby, 406
Anthony Burgess is right: it is the words that shine and sparkle and glitter, sometimes radiant with the author's inspired choice. But it is syntax that gives words the power to relate to each other in a sequence, to create rhythms and emphasis, to carry meaning --of whatever kind-- as well as glow individually in just the right place.

The basic unit of English syntax is the clause. Its "slots ordained by syntax" are a subject and a predicate. What traditional grammarians call a "simple" sentence consists of an independent clause, independent in that it makes sense without being attached to anything: Time flies. Without losing its nature as a basic sentence, however, a "simple" sentence may include optional added slots such as spaces for modifiers, complements, objects. (pg. 9)

I suppose one could read the book as didactic, but it never descends to the nagging prescriptive, and few would sit down to read it: the book invites random visitation, nibbling, pick-up-and-put-down. Ideal bathroom reading, for those so inclined. It is about syntax, so it's stuffed with terminology that one has perhaps too tenuous a grasp upon: appositive, participial, nominative. But the commentary is focused on more than a thousand examples, lovingly chosen and clearly explicated. And the book is beyond elegant in design and typography (Monotype Dante), as befits something from Edward Tufte's Graphics Press. VT is ET's mom, professor emerita from USC, Miltonist and historian of English. And if you don't know who Edward Tufte is, you need to remedy that deficiency forthwith.

Posted by oook at 10:16 AM | Comments (1)

links for 2007-04-03

Posted by oook at 03:18 AM

April 02, 2007

Of Practice

In answer to a friend's question about the upshot(s) of our Kripalu adventure, and so that I can find it again later myself, I've written a summary of what seems at the moment to be the outcome and onward vector. This won't be of interest to all, and it kinda goes on and on (and is therefore a static Web page, instead of a blog entry), but it's what emerged from a few hours at the keyboard.

Posted by oook at 07:17 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2007

Sheep albedo

I'll bet you didn't know about the Squeak-Diddlesworth effect either. It has to do with ptarmigans, and the ptundra. Ptruly.

Posted by oook at 05:06 PM | Comments (1)