I've been reading the Marcus and Sollors A New Literary History of America article by article, and this morning came athwart Daniel Albright's on Gertrude Stein ("1903: Gertrude Stein moves to Paris, and neither is ever the same again"), in which is quoted this bit from Stein's Three Lives:
...there was a constant recurring and beginning there was a marked direction in the direction of being in the present although naturally I had been accustomed to past present and future, and why, because the composition forming around me was a prolonged present... I created then a prolonged present naturally I knew nothing of a continuous present but it came naturally to me to make one.Hmmm, I thought, how very like the Web in which we live more than a century later.
Albright ends his article with this food for thought, quoting an unknown-to-me
peculiar piece from Jonathan Swift called A Compleat Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation (1738), full of passages such as this:Hmmm, I thought again, how very like the Web in which we live more than a century later...Neverout. Miss, what spells b double uzzard?If Gertrude Stein had never been born, this would seem a freakish and incomprehensible text. It still seems freakish and incomprehensible, but as an anticipation of Stein it is made familiar, assimilated into a canon that she caused to exist.
Miss. Buzzard in your teeth, Mr. Neverout.
Lady Smart. Now you are up, Mr. Neverout, will you do the the favour to do me the kindness to take off the tea-kettle?
Lord Sparkish. I wonder what makes these bells ring.
(via Neil Gaiman's equally wonderful blog, and NB the Tim Minchin video at the bottom of the posting)
I've been following the wonderful unpacking of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music at The Old, Weird America, and the project is now up to #31, the Cajun number "La Danseuse" by Delma Lachney & Blind Uncle Gaspard. Usually the compiler (gadaya, "a young french guy who loves to mentally travel through time and space by listening to some records") provides variants of each tune, but he notes for #31 that he had found none. As I listened to the original, I immediately thought of "Jeanine's Dream" from the out-of-print Stampfel and Weber LP Going Nowhere Fast (1981) and sure enough it's the same tune: first bit. The lyrics (by Antonia) are wonderful, and not readily available:
In a trunk on the attic floor
The record lay 40 years or more
'Til Jeanine came to poke about
In the attic she pulled it out
She decided to let it play
Unplayed music will waste away
So it spun on the old machine
It put her feet in a dancing dream
She was Queen of the Ball
Her surroundings fell away
And she danced in a fairy carnival
Out of lost time
The record player was turned up loud
As she danced with the fairy crowd
A mean old grandma who lived next door
Heard the racket and called the law
The record player was still turned high
When the new rookie cop came by
Jeanine came dancin' up to the door
She let him in and she danced some more
First he stared as she danced
Then the music that was playing caught him in its spell
And so he danced with her
Grandma came in and hollered "Stop!
This crazy music and crazy cop!"
But Jeanine didn't seem to hear
Then the music caught Grandma's ear
She remembered those bygone days
And how she danced while the fiddle played
So she left them and went to bed
With the tune playing in her head
And she danced in her dreams
With her husband one more time
And the record he had bought for her
Spun on 'til dawn
It'll take 3:50 of your time to watch this from Kevin Kelly:
(via Phillip Torrone, who chooses the last 30 seconds for his focused attention... but I view it in the context of my current reading of Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, about which I'll have stuff to write real soon now.)
Christopher Lydon's perennially fascinating Radio Open Source is doing a series of programs on India, well worth your attention even [maybe especially] if the Indian Subcontinent isn't your usual territory. This bit of comparative analysis by Rana Dasgupta is typical of the richness:
America is a society of systems: there should be nothing that eludes the state Ė with systems of policing, control, regulation. That is clearly not the case in India. Indians accept that things cannot be systematized, that there is inherent chaos, that you donít have to understand your neighbor, that he may live an incredibly different life from yours, but thatís not a problem. The incredible ramshackle bric-a-brac nature of Indian cities, where slums are next to high rises, is not felt to be a great shock. The face that people hack into electricity systems to run their slums is treated with wry humor by middle class Indians...
I suspect these things will play out to Indians' advantage, because Indians will be much more comfortable in the US than Americans will be in India. And at a time when the new major economic growth prospects are in countries that look more like India than they do like America, Indians will be an incredibly mobile and flexible work population... Even being very wealthy they are quite comfortable living in a house that runs out of water quite often, and runs out of electricity. Theyíre able to go into weird places in central Asia and Africa and feel quite okay, knowing how things operate... (30 minutes into the program)
I have a feeling that in every town in America thereís ten or twenty dudes that would really like what weíre doing. And if I could just get my record to those guys and if I could just hit the road every once in a while and just play for those guys, I would be completely thrilled, that would be all that I require. Iím real proud of it, and Iím just so happy and edified to see that other people like it as much as I do.A gander at the video below will tell you if you are or aren't one of the ten or twenty dudes. I am for sure:
Thinking about what to do with audio, I remembered that I'd uploaded some stuff to The Internet Archive a couple of years ago. The items turn out to be pretty interesting to re-encounter, and suggest that I should do more along these lines:
A couple of experiments I did in 2005, using an MP3 recorder to capture what was on mind mind as I walked to work: 16 March 2005 (just under 4 minutes) and 25 March 2005 (just over 4 minutes)
...and On Musical Variety (17:50) constructed in late 2004 as a come-on for a course in World Music (taught at Washington & Lee in Winter 2005)
...and Charlie Skinner tells a story (1:17)
Cory Doctorow's half-formed thoughts on one future for bookselling in this morning's BoingBoing are worth a closer look if you've just clicked past the posting without reading it. He mentions the Harvard Bookstore's Espresso book printer, which I visited and patronized myself a few weeks ago:
...but it's what he says about its implementation that caught my eye:
At the Harvard Bookstore, they have someone who spends the day mousing around on Google Book Search, looking for weird and cool titles in the public domain to print and shelve around the store, as suggestions for the sort of thing you might have printed for yourself. This is a purely curatorial role, the classic thing that a great retailer does, and it's one of the most exciting bookstore sections I've browsed in years. And even so, there's lots of room for improvement: Google Books produces the blandest, most boring covers for its PD books, and there's plenty of room for stores to add value with their own covers, with customer-supplied covers (the gift possibilities are bottomless), and so on. I can even imagine the profs across the street producing annotated versions -- say, a treatise on Alice in Wonderland with reproductions of ten different editions' illustrations and selling them through the store's printer and shelf-space, restoring the ancient bookseller/book-publisher role.