"The revery alone will do..."

Emily Dickinson poem carved into a planter outside the library where I work:

"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few."


Matthew Cusick's Map Works

In the "Why the hell didn't I think of that?" category, a breathtaking series of collages made from maps by artist Matthew Cusick, via BoingBoing.

[previously, and somehow relatedly in my head, Richard Saja's embellished toile]


Don't miss seeing this! "Ain't No Grave": Beautiful Crowdsourced Video--The Johnny Cash Project

This is flat-out freaking gorgeous. (click, or view below):

"The Johnny Cash Project is a global collective art project, and we would love for you to participate. Through this website, we invite you to share your vision of Johnny Cash, as he lives on in your mind's eye. Working with a single image as a template, and using a custom drawing tool, you'll create a unique and personal portrait of Johnny. Your work will then be combined with art from participants around the world, and integrated into a collective whole: a music video for 'Ain't No Grave', rising from a sea of one-of-a-kind portraits. Strung together and played in sequence over the song, the portraits will create a moving, ever evolving homage to this beloved musical icon. What's more, as new people discover and contribute to the project, this living portrait will continue to transform and grow, so it's virtually never the same video twice. Go to www.thejohnnycashproject.com to participate!"

The above version was posted to YouTube 3 months ago. See the current version at The Johnny Cash Project. If you click "Contribute," you'll be given three frames to choose from. Select one, and you can draw it right on the site over (if you choose) the original frame for reference. If you click "Explore," you can watch different versions of the video--ones with only pointillist drawings, with only "sketchy" drawings, with the top-rated frames, with the most recently-drawn versions of the frames, etc. Fantastic.


The Getty Museum's Augmented Reality Art

From The Getty Museum: augmented reality lets you remotely view one of their art objects in 3D, turning it around to see all of its sides. If you have a webcam, you can try it yourself.

The brief video demonstration makes me want to create 3D objects meant to be viewed this way, and not in person:

(via post at Free Technology for Teachers)


Paris Review: All Writer Interviews Now Online, Free

The Paris Review has put all of its interviews online, free to read and arranged by decade. Of the few I've read so far, (50s: Ralph Ellison,  60s: Edward Albee, 90s: Jose Saramago), standouts are

Marianne Moore's:

Working as a librarian was a big help, a tremendous help...

Words cluster like chromosomes, determining the procedure...

Do the poet and scientist not work analogously? Both are willing to waste effort. To be hard on himself is one of the main strengths of each. Each is attentive to clues, each must narrow the choice, must strive for precision...

and the interview with Jorge Luis Borges:

Ah, New York. I was there, and I liked it very much—I said to myself: “Well, I have made this; this is my work" and comments on Old English poetry, Eliot and Sandburg, humor in his work, and more--reading this one felt like being a student in a fantastic seminar.


"Changing Education Paradigms" video by Sir Ken Robinson

I really enjoyed this short presentation on our current dominant educational model and its--in many ways--lack of relevance (and sense) at this time. Didn't hurt that the speaker moved quickly and seamlessly from topic to topic in a way that reminded me of Eddie Izzard:

via Stephen's Lighthouse

More and more across the web, I've been seeing the idea that real growth or solutions or invention comes from groups, not individuals, and it made me think about how I dreaded group assignments in school because of the way they usually turned out: not with the group working together, but with individuals taking a portion of the work and doing (or not doing) it, then the group rushing to slap it all together in a way that barely cohered before presenting the finished piece. The times I can remember groups working really creatively, the excitement of working together, was when we were given a problem to solve--as opposed to "Do a group report on art in Japan." The problem-solving type of group project was usually assigned in a science class, the "do a group report" in humanities classes. As a parent and someone interested in the future of education, I'd like to see more problem-solving-type group activities assigned in humanities classes. The first (not great) example that comes to mind: "You're a group of representational painters, making your living painting portraits and landscapes. Photography has just been invented. How do you respond? What should painting do now?" rather than "Do a group report on Cubism or Impressionism."


Iambik Audiobooks: Small Press Books in Audio!

I don't use exclamation points in blog post titles often. I do often refer library patrons looking for recordings of public domain works (there are inevitably way too many last-minute holds on Huck Finn on CD at the end the summer when it's been assigned to every highschooler in town) to LibriVox, which features free audiobooks recorded by volunteers.

Today, LibriVox founder Hugh Maguire has launched a company that sells (very inexpensive) audio recordings of a selection of small press books.

Iambik, the new company, currently offers 11 DRM-free audiobooks as mp3s or m4bs, including Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Davis (Soft Skull) and Like Son by Felicia Luna Lemus (Akashic Books).

Iambik seeks input on which small press books you'd like to listen to, and is also open to hearing from publishers, authors, narrators, and prooflisteners who might be interested in working with them. Great news, I think.

Enjoying today's #sadchildrensbooks tweets on Twitter

Some favorites:

@norakl If You Give a Mouse a Cookie You Can Track His Web Usage and Invade His Privacy

@delilahsdawson How Do Dinosaurs Eat Your Legs?

@robertbtaylor Schrodinger's Cat in the Hat

@michaelbain Little House on the West Bank

@Sascha_Zuger Just So So Stories

@meandmybigmouth The Secret Garden Centre

@HouseofJules One Fish, Two Fish, Dead Fish, New Fish

@MattHoltzclaw Slap The Bunny

@mollage Tales of a College-Educated Nothing

@petersagal Bread and Water for Frances

@thatsmynewband Where's Waldo? I Have to Tell Him His Parents Died

and (I can't find the attribution) Everybody Poops...Except You


"Everybody Likes the Snappy Worker"

Via Metafilter. Charles Mather's "Work Incentive" posters, printed in the 1920s, were "the first motivational posters for the private workplace market." You can view 62 of them here.

62 Work Incentive Posters by Charles Mather


Online Archive of Gov't-Commissioned Comics

Well, this is cool--an online archive of comics commissioned by the US government starting in the 1940s. Click on a cover, get the pdf: for example, here are 1951's Bert the Turtle Says Duck and Cover and Foxhole On Your Front Lawn. Famous comics characters even show up from time to time: in Security is an Eye Patch (1968), Charlie Brown and Sally help the government educate readers about lazy eye syndrome.

*Government Comics Collection (UNL Libraries Digital Collections), via the ever-valuable Research Buzz


24 Cents Annually for the Arts: Taxpayer's Receipt

At The Washington Post, Ezra Klein suggests that taxpayers should get receipts with breakdowns of what they're paying for what. Klein offers a sample receipt for a taxpayer earning $34,140, coincidentally almost exactly what I make:

I'm paying 24 cents for funding for the arts (don't spend it all in one place, artists) and roughly 2606 times that for Medicare. I hope all the anti-tax Tea Party recipients of Medicare appreciate my contribution. Via swirlspice.

Being Visibly Queer-Friendly: Please Consider It

Six GLBTQ teen suicides were reported in the month of September. Six that we know of. Six that made the news.

I urge you, if you work with kids in a library or school or afterschool program or religious organization, to please consider wearing something (or posting something in your office, if kids visit you there) all the time that identifies you as GLBTQ-friendly. At 36, out since 18, I still feel a little lift (and gratitude) when I see a rainbow sticker on a car or posted in a shop window (or, for that matter, a queer magazine with all the other magazines in a library). It still makes a difference to me.

When I was 17, in 1992, a professor of mine wore a pro-GLBTQ button on his bag, and seeing it made my heart beat faster. I bought one and wore it (this was a button that simply said that the wearer supported GLBTQ rights--not that the wearer was GLBTQ) from my dorm room all the way to the bathroom. Then another girl opened the bathroom door, and I turned red and ripped it off before she’d even seen it, and buried it in a drawer back in my room, and even then worried that my roommate would find it when I was out of the room. Just conjuring up that moment for some weird reason makes me feel scared enough, now, to need to pee. I couldn’t wear the button yet (when I came out a year later, things went a bit too far the other way: I hardly had one piece of clothing that didn’t have some kind of queer slogan on it)—but it made a difference, however small, that someone I knew and respected—the professor—could wear it without blinking or even mentioning it, like it was perfectly normal.

I remember that dark swirling feeling I had in high school and the first year of college before I came out, the feeling that if people knew who I was that their stares would crumble my body to dust. I remember blushing a lot, and feeling my stomach sink a lot, and feeling hunted and baited by the few people (I think it was only a few) who suspected. I remember feeling ice cold when I walked by their lockers. I remember feeling like my sexuality was the source of their deepest amusement, their most hilarious joke among themselves. That they daily looked forward to that moment when I would pass by and they could make me pay for who I was, if only with their eyes and cruel, knowing grins.

I was never openly, loudly bullied, and I never had more than three or four people who made me feel bad. I’m trying to imagine what it feels like to have a huge portion of your school—including adults at your school—enjoy making you feel bad, ashamed, sick (that’s right--not just making you feel bad, but enjoying it, thriving on it, feeling a little thrill when you walk by or when they think of some new clever way to attack or hurt you). And then going home and having their intolerance follow you onto Facebook or Myspace or in texts to your phone. Bullying without borders.

As GLBTQ rights are slowly won, each generation of GLBTQ people tends to think that it's easier for the new one coming up. I know I've been guilty of thinking "Well, if I was 11 in 2010 instead of 1985, I'd have come out at 11." In 1985, I didn't even have a vocabulary to describe who I was--I honestly didn't know what "gay" or "lesbian" even meant. In 2010, most kids know what it means. And they see successful, out, unashamed GLBTQ folk, at least on TV. And maybe their schools have GSAs, though I’m sure some kids are afraid to attend meetings (I know I would’ve been—my siblings went to the same school. I might’ve been ready for a GSA, but I wasn’t ready for my family knowing I was interested in one). But perhaps there's a mistake in thinking this stuff makes it easier.

In addition to seeing Ellen and Kurt on Glee, today’s GLBTQ teens are also seeing GLBTQ rights discussed almost every day in the media. Eat breakfast. Wait to see if the country decides folks like you are allowed to be in the military. Pop a Diet Coke. See a photo of Fred Phelps picketing funerals with a “FAG BURN IN HELL” sign. Take a bus. See a campaign ad arguing that you should never be allowed to marry. Right at that moment when change seems to be accelerating--a biracial president! Gay marriage legal in Iowa!--is when we see a huge backlash against the change. People that were passively racist/homophobic/etc become actively so. People, goaded by anger and irresponsible politicians, somehow feel it's okay to make remarks they wouldn't have made before. Hatred in the air and on the airwaves trickles down to kids. Opinions get magnified into passions and crusades.

And there are parts of being a queer adolescent that, even when role models are available and rights are won, are humbling. So entrenched is the default assumption that everyone is straight that straight kids don't have to come out to their parents. And coming out, as long as GLBTQ folks are considered "lesser" (and discussions of sex between generations are considered taboo) in the U.S., isn't easy--even to accepting parents. For one, you usually know your orientation before you're ready for your parents to think of you as a sexual being. And when an 11-yr-old girl tells her parents she has a crush on a boy, they don't respond, "How can you know you're straight when you're only 11?" Queer 11-yr-olds are regularly told they can't possibly know who they are yet. Finally, as long as GLBTQ folks are considered lesser, you might have the feeling that you're disappointing your family, letting them down by being queer, giving them one more thing to have to "deal" with. This is not a great sensation to be running around with as a young teenager.

We can help young queer kids by knowing about things like the It Gets Better project, I'm From Driftwood, and The Trevor Project--and promoting them through posters or buttons or bumper stickers, so kids can see and learn about them without having to ask for them (which they might not be ready to do). We can also help by visibly wearing a button on our lanyards or bags that identifies us as queer-friendly. Kids will notice, even if they don't yet feel comfortable approaching you to talk about it. I wear a "Be Proud at Your Library" button on my lanyard that I whipped up at Zazzle. It costs $1.45 to get a button from Zazzle. They're easy to make. Consider making one--or customizing the one I've linked to (you can change text to "school" or whatever fits your situation)--and wearing it. Bumper stickers are a little more expensive at Zazzle, with a base price of $3.99. I made the below and ordered one. You can also make shirts, stickers, posters, and more. Note: before buying anything from Zazzle, check at RetailMeNot for promotional coupon codes--Zazzle regularly offers them.

Why buttons and bumper stickers? I think it's extremely important to be visibly queer-friendly out in the world, especially in less metropolitan areas. Some kids aren't ready to attend GSA meetings, and some may even shy away from watching queer-friendly YouTube videos if it's on their home (or even a library) computer. Seeing a car pass by with a friendly sticker while your mom's driving you to your piano lesson doesn't require a kid to pursue anything: it just happens. And we need to reach (and not judge) kids who aren't ready to pursue anything, but may be comforted by seeing a queer-friendly face (or bumper).

Please consider making or buying and wearing or posting something that identifies you as a GLBTQ-friendly adult, and passing this post on or writing your own. We are needed.


T-Rex to Go: Build Your Own with Chicken Bones

This morning in off-the-beaten-path library finds:

T-Rex to Go: Build Your Own with Chicken Bones by Chris MacGowan

Back flap: "The famous carnivore Tyrannosaurus Rex has fascinated humans for years. Now, with simple explanations, easy-to-follow diagrams, and a few household items, you can turn the remains of your chicken supper into your own miniature--and frightening--model T. rex, complete with teeth! McGowan provides a wealth of information on dinosaur evolution and paleontological procedures, as well as delicious chicken recipes and step-by-step dinosaur-skeleton-building instructions, making this a book the whole family can enjoy."

Makes me think of the Brittany Murphy character in Girl, Interrupted. Could be a kick-ass science project for the right kid, though.


"Once a little boy sent me a charming card..."

"Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, 'Dear Jim: I loved your card.' Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, 'Jim loved your card so much he ate it.' That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it."

--Maurice Sendak

[This quotation has been reblogged all over Tumblr the past two days, but I can't find a documented source for it.]

Three Poems from Heaven

Heaven is poet Mairead Byrne's blog. The Best of (What's Left of) Heaven, Byrne's most recent book, currently tops my wishlist.

Man, do I love these three poems:



He worked really hard.
He worked really really really really really hard.
He was no good though.
I don't even think he wanted to be good.
He just wanted to work really really really really really hard.


Your father. Your poor father. Your father.

His mother. His poor mother.

His father.


This poem is the opposite of Concrete Poetry:

Concrete poems are poems that don't look like poems.

Heck they might only have one word.

My poems look like poems alright.

But there

the resemblance ends.


Links: Music and Language

Recently bookmarked:

*Dewey Music, an interface for much more easily browsing the Internet Archive's vast free collection of music (if you're a fan of live recordings, here's the mother lode). I could spend hours just looking up all of the genres on the "browse" page

*American English Dialect Recordings--a collection from the Center for Applied Linguistics that features 118 hours of North American accents

*RapGenius, a growing archive of rap songs with allusions and potentially unfamiliar slang explained (and sometimes, less usefully, just commented on)

*"Even Isolated Cultures Understand Emotions Conveyed by Western Music"--a post at Cognitive Daily, and a finding that somehow disappoints me

*"Linguistics Challenge" Puzzles--fun set of linguistics puzzles to work through

*Cover Lay Down, a music (and mp3) blog devoted to "folk covers of familiar songs, [and] reimagined versions of folk songs"


Shana Moulton: Food for Thought

Or rather, herbal tea for thought: Shana Moulton's image essay, "Squiggles, Trees, Ribbons and Spirals: My Collection of Women’s Health, Beauty and Support Group Logos as the Stages of Life in Semi-Particular Order." (small excerpt, left--go see whole)


What? There's a Gertrude Stein statue in Bryant Park?

The statue has been there since 1992, but I haven't been to NYC since 1990. Wow.

Image by & via New York City Statues, who I hope won't mind my reposting it here, and who note that Stein's was the first public statue of an American woman to be installed in New York City. (Yep. In 1992.)


"Because of Libraries We Can Say These Things"

by Naomi Shihab Nye

She is holding the book close to her body,
carrying it home on the cracked sidewalk,
down the tangled hill.
If a dog runs at her again, she will use the book as a shield.

She looked hard among the long lines
of books to find this one.
When they start talking about money,
when the day contains such long and hot places,
she will go inside.
An orange bed is waiting.
Story without corners.
She will have two families.
They will eat at different hours.

She is carrying a book past the fire station
and the five and dime.

What this town has not given her
the book will provide; a sheep,
a wilderness of new solutions.
The book has already lived through its troubles.
The book has a calm cover, a straight spine.

When the step returns to itself,
as the best place for sitting,
and the old men up and down the street
are latching their clippers,

she will not be alone.
She will have a book to open
and open and open.
Her life starts here.


Instapaper, e-readers, & some articles I've enjoyed recently--

More than books, I've been using my Nook to read longer articles--massive blog posts or long-form journalism that I've saved in my Bloglines account to (supposedly) read some day. Instapaper rocks my world. I've known about it for a long time, but--like the articles--never got around to trying it out. Getting the Nook was a long-overdue push to do so.

If you're not yet familiar with Instapaper, it works like this: you set up a free account at Instapaper, and can either add an Instapaper button to your browser, or manually enter links (while signed into your Instapaper account) to online articles you want to read. The articles stay saved there until you decide to download or print them. You can download them to read on a Kindle, or in ePub format to read on other e-readers (like the Nook); you can print them, or you can read them right there at Instapaper (minus all the distracting ads and clutter that surrounded them at their home on the net). I have a hard time reading long articles online--I'm one of those folks for whom e-ink really is easier on the eyes--and Instapaper in tandem with the Nook means I'm reading longer articles again. It's ridiculously easy to use, and it means I have a steady free stream of fantastic non-book content to read on the Nook.

Some pieces I've recently enjoyed and recommend:

*"The Surprising Satisfactions of a Home Funeral" by Max Alexander (Smithsonian, March 2009)

*"Google's Book Search: a Disaster for Scholars" by Geoffrey Nunberg (Chronicle, August 2009) (a smart and entertaining look at troubled metadata at Google Books)

*"Spar" by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld Magazine, October 2009) (a deservedly award-winning science fiction short story)

*"Washington, We Have a Problem" by Todd Purdum (Vanity Fair, September 2010) (on a US president's day in the age of 24-hour news, among other impediments. This made me a little more sympathetic to the current administration, and to any future administration--it's astonishing how many barriers there are to getting anything accomplished these days in Washington. We absolutely do have a problem, unless something gives. Highly recommended)

*"Letting Go: What Should Medicine Do When It Can't Save Your Life?" by Atul Gawande (New Yorker, 8/2/10) (Of all of these, this is the one I'd most strongly urge--physically, if I had to--people to read. Important stuff)

In other e-reader news: you can now (haven't tried yet) get Lifehacker and other Gawker blogs in your e-reader via Calibre, and digitizing your own books is becoming popular in Japan, creating demand for more bookscanning-friendly scanners. I'd love to be able to put some of my favorite books that aren't yet (and many never be) available in ebook form on the Nook. If you're interested in more ebook news, TeleRead is an excellent blog for it.


Noise to Signal: On Blogs

Rob Cottingham, creator of the webcomic Noise to Signal, has been on a roll lately on the subject of blogging:


Who Are the Marketed-To in Your Neighborhood?

Via Lifehacker, a fascinating tool put out by Nielsen used by marketers to determine what "types" live in your ZIP code and how to market to them. Types are arrived at by, according to Nielsen, "ground-breaking segmentation techniques." You can look up your ZIP code here, and see your area broken into five main types, some with less-than-flattering names. Click on any one type to see more information about it.

I currently live in South Minneapolis, at 55407. Types include:

American Dreams, who are

"a living example of how ethnically diverse the nation has become: just under half the residents are Hispanic, Asian, or African-American. In these multilingual neighborhoods--one in ten speaks a language other than English--middle-aged immigrants and their children live in upper-middle-class comfort." American Dreams folks, we learn, shop at Old Navy, buy motivational tapes, read Black Enterprise, watch TeleFutura, and might drive a Lexus IS;

Big City Blues, described this way:

"With a population that's almost 40 percent Latino, Big City Blues has one of the highest concentration of Hispanic-Americans in the nation. But it's also the multi-ethnic address for low-income Asian and African-American households occupying older inner-city apartments. Concentrated in a handful of major metros, these younger singles and single-parent families face enormous challenges: low incomes, uncertain jobs, and modest educations. Roughly 25 percent haven't finished high school." Big City Blues families shop at The Gap, go to movies, read Ser Padres, watch Noticiero Telemundo, and drive Volkswagens;

Close-In Couples: "a group of predominantly older, ethnically diverse couples living in older homes in the urban neighborhoods of mid-sized metros. High school educated and empty nesting, these mostly older residents typically live in older city neighborhoods, enjoying their retirements." Close-In Couples shop at Macy's, travel by rail, read Essence, watch Rachael Ray, and drive PT Cruisers;

Money & Brains: a "wealthy, older family mix" who "seem to have it all: high incomes, advanced degrees, and sophisticated tastes to match their credentials. Many of these city dwellers are married couples with few children who live in fashionable homes on small, manicured lots." Money & Brains types shop at Nordstrom, contribute to NPR, read the Sunday newspaper, watch News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and drive something from the Lexus RX series. [I can't remember ever seeing a Lexus in my neighborhood, and now two segments drive them!]

and finally, Multi-Culti Mosaic: "a mixed populace of Hispanic, Asian, and African-American singles and families. With nearly a quarter of the residents foreign born, this segment is a mecca for first-generation Americans who are striving to improve their lower-middle-class status." Multi-Culti Mosaic folks shop at CVS Pharmacy, buy "Spanish/Latin music," read Seventeen, watch Premio Juventud, and might drive a Volkswagen GLI.

In my neighborhood proper, there are also a bunch of white, queer or queer-friendly, work-at-nonprofits, bicycle-riding, left-leaning, shop at farmers' markets and Savers and Target (but no more!), watch Rachel Maddow or Democracy Now, over-educated, etc. folks, but not enough to make up a fifth of 55407.

Before moving to Minneapolis, I lived in Milford, DE, 19963--a town of 15,000 about 20 miles north of Rehoboth Beach--whose types included, Nielsen says, Crossroads Villagers, Mayberry-Ville, Simple Pleasures, Traditional Times, and Young & Rustic.

The library I work at is located in 55344--one of the ZIP codes of Eden Prairie, the Twin Cities suburb recently rated the #1 place in the country to live by Money magazine--and 55344 includes Executive Suites, Gray Power, Home Sweet Home, Movers & Shakers, and Young Influentials. At least a third of our library users--maybe closer to half--are not included here, and are Somali immigrants who have come to live in Eden Prairie in the last 10 years (most more recently), who do not have internet access at home. Not surprising, I guess, but interesting: that the people who most use the library here aren't the people who are most recognized by marketers. I'd wondered about the use of this tool for libraries (who are, ever more, needing to market ourselves). But then, the people who most use the library don't need to be marketed to: they're there because they have to be. So perhaps it's still useful. The "Gray Power" category certainly is, in terms of program planning.

As for 90210--come on, you were wondering--its types include Bohemian Mix, Money & Brains, Movers & Shakers, Upper Crust, and Young Digerati.

I could spend a lot of time with this strange little tool, finding out what the Young Digerati read (Wired, I was hoping--but no, of course: The Economist) and marveling that it's the Middleburg Managers who "buy books on tape." The Segment Look-up shows all 66 (and a 67th: "Unassigned") categories in which United States residents might be officially lumped (what on earth are Country Squires? Hey, there's a category called Shotguns & Pickups!). It's a weird little glimpse into how we're glimpsed. Thanks to Lifehacker for blogging it.


Hurt Wit Chu: 3 Favorite New Mashups

I've posted about mashup artist Pheugoo before (9/07). Here's a new favorite of mine: Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails meets Queens of the Stone Age (the video's a still image; embedding so you can hear the song)

You can download the mp3 of "Hurt Wit Chu" free at Pheugoo's site.

BRAT Mashups are new to me (and available as free downloads at BRAT Productions Mashup Page). This one, laying the vocal from the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" over the music and backing vocals from the Commodores' "Easy," is brilliant:

Finally, here's "Time After Romance"--Lady Gaga/Cyndi Lauper/Three 6 Mafia by mochi beats (free download). It's more of a jolt than the above two at first (I like that in a mashup: when it takes a second for your brain to rearrange itself and be able to simply hear the music as it is, not just how it differs from its source tracks), but on repeated listens, I think the mix really brings out the sweetness of "Bad Romance"--it's a love song, fit for a slow dance:


Clay Shirky re: Publishing

From Cognitive Surplus:

"Scarcity is easier to deal with than abundance, because when something becomes rare, we simply think it more valuable than it was before, a conceptually easy change. Abundance is different: its advent means we can start treating previously valuable things as if they were cheap enough to waste, which is to say cheap enough to experiment with. Because abundance can remove the trade-offs we're used to, it can be disorienting to the people who've grown up with scarcity. When a resource is scarce, the people who manage it often regard it as valuable in itself, without stopping to consider how much of its value is tied to its scarcity. For years after the price of long-distance phone calls collapsed in the United States, my older relatives would still announce that a call was "long distance." Such calls had previously been special, because they were expensive; it took people years to understand that cheap long-distance calls removed the rationale for regarding them as inherently valuable.

"Similarly, when publication--the act of making something public--goes from being hard to being virtually effortless, people used to the old system often regard publishing by amateurs as frivolous, as if publishing was an inherently seriously activity. It never was, though. Publishing had to be taken seriously when its cost and effort made people take it seriously--if you made too many mistakes, you were out of business. But if these factors collapse, then the risk collapses too. An activity that once seemed inherently valuable turned out to be only accidentally valuable, as a change in the economics revealed."

(Shirky elsewhere discusses how, yes, being able to publish at the push of a button means we'll see a lot of crap published--but we'll also see more experimentation and variety in what is published, as publication is no longer tied to the need to make a profit and appeal to a large swath of consumers; a book doesn't need to be a "guaranteed bestseller." Before movable type, the average book was a classic--only canonized "great books" saw paper, because they weren't a risk. Movable type paved the way for cheesy romances, throwaway lit, etc--but also for more risky writing. Same with the "publish" button on blogs or elsewhere on the web. Poetry has long been in this kind of model, I think--to some extent it seems, now, as if all the world's not a stage--but a small press.)


What a great idea: a small theater company in Portland, OR performs "Trek in the Park"--"a live performance of a classic Star Trek episode." I'd happily perform Golden Girls episodes in a Minneapolis park if I found some willing costars.


I wasn't able to get into Justin Cronin's The Passage before I had to return it to the library, but the epigraph stood out for me: Shakespeare's Sonnet 64 with the final couplet lopped off. I like reading and writing sonnets, but find the turn in the final couplet (or sestet) often feels dishonest ("All sonnets say the same thing"--William Carlos Williams). Sonnet 64's final couplet doesn't feel as forced as others, but I think I agree with Cronin that the poem's stronger without it. I had a professor who theorized that Shakespeare wrote the first twelve lines of his sonnets, then farmed out the final couplets to an apprentice.


From Victor Dover's "Retrofitting Suburbia":

"On crude functional levels the postwar suburbs have failed. One can measure, for example, the miserable rise in vehicle-miles traveled, up 40 percent in just the past decade, with all the associated problems of energy, pollution, time and stress. Or one can watch the annual budget scramble in which unsustainable municipalities attempt to provide services to far-flung citizens or to maintain an inefficient, non-compact infrastructure...On a less crude, human-nurturing level, sprawl does not measure up either. We are only beginning to discern the social entropy that results when 'sense of place' vanishes. Participating in self-government has become a low priority for many because they've lost the sense of belonging to a local culture."


New research from Harvard indicates that doing a good deed can temporarily strengthen your physical endurance--and doing an evil deed may give you an even greater boost.


X-Ray Pin-Up Calendar

Berlin-based ad agency Butter created this calendar as a promotional giveaway for Eizo, a German company that supplies monitors for x-ray viewing. Click through to view misses January-December (most in more risque poses than these). Via PicoCool.


Hyperbole and a Half on Being an Adult

Neatorama points to a great short comic about the times one occasionally decides to try to be an adult: "This is Why I'll Never Be an Adult". I love the expressions its creator, Allie, manages to completely nail in just a few seemingly simple drawings:

I admire adults who aren't like the one the comic depicts, but I'm nothing like them. Click to see the full comic, with captions.


One half of a secret handshake

I’ve just started listening to Michael Chabon’s recent book of essays, Manhood for Amateurs, and this line from early in caught my attention:

Every work of art is one half of a secret handshake.

It articulates so well my experience of reading books as a child. Or looking at art, for that matter. I feel now that I experience most works of art (including ones I manage to make) as one half of a fist bump.


Janet Maslin refers to Josh Kilmer-Purcell's new memoir--one of many, many memoirs in the last few years about urban sophisticates moving to somewhere countryish, milking goats, and raising chickens--as "Chicken Lit." I like this designation almost as much as "Bonnet Rippers" (don't know who said it first) for Amish romances.


[on cutting hours at public libraries]

"Public Broadcasting is a good example for public libraries (and a competitor for donor support). Does public radio turn off their transmitter when they need money? No, they put on specially good programming and have pledge drives. My local library puts donor names on bricks; I'd like to see libraries put donor names on opening hours."
-from "Are Public Libraries in a Death Spiral?" by Eric Hellman (via Katherine Gould's PVLD Director's Blog)

Also: NYPL President Paul LeClerc Testifies at City Hall in Response to Proposed Cuts to Libraries (full text of testimony)


Boneshaker Books, opening in what had previously been Arise!Bookstore's space on Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis, has an intriguing offer for book lovers (or book writers):

"Do you have a favorite book that you or your organization thinks every bookstore should stock? Join our Skeleton Crew with a $250 donation. You'll get to select a book that Boneshaker Books will stock, permanently. That's right: we promise to always have your selection in stock."

Kind of scary. Kind of awesome. Don't tell any Tea Party members.


Caught in the oil at The Big Picture

The Big Picture has a new gallery up, by AP photographer Charlie Riedel. Eight photographs of seabirds mired in oil in Louisiana. Don't miss it.

"I Am Sitting in a Video Room 1000"

In homage to Alvin Lucier's "I Am Sitting in a Room,", YouTube user canzona uploaded a video to YouTube, ripped it from YouTube, uploaded it to YouTube again, and repeated the process 1000 times.

Here's the original video (or click to view):

Here's the 1000th iteration (or click to view):

You can see more (all?) videos from the process at canzona's YouTube channel.

(via BoingBoing)


"Kiss From a Rose" at David & Anna's Wedding

Just as the reception after my brother's wedding was beginning to wind down, someone requested "Kiss From a Rose." What resulted was my & my family's favorite part of the day: Dave & Anna's friends surrounding them as they slow danced, in this kind of undulating anemone of warm wishes--a bodily serenade. The video's of very low quality (you can just barely spot the bride & groom dancing in the center--look for the dress), but I'm really grateful to 12-yr-old Bella for being the only one in the room to realize that the moment needed recording, even if all she had was a low-end digital camera (view below or click to watch):


Shyness as a form of self-attention

Embarrassingly, this simple observation blew my mind:

"[L]et’s not confuse shyness with modesty or humility. Charles Darwin, who was very interested in shyness, correctly diagnosed it as a form of “self-attention” — a preoccupation with self. How do I fit in here? What do they think of me?"--from a 04/10 article, "Shyness," by James Parker on Boston.com

I consider myself shy
= I consider myself too much.

Documerica on Flickr

For its Documerica Project (1971-1977), the EPA hired freelancers to photograph "images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life in the 1970s." The photos have been posted to Flickr as part of the US National Archives Flickr stream (link goes to their sets). Like many of the collections public institutions have made available at the Flickr Commons, they make for good browsing.

(photo: Ernst Halberstadt)

I remember sitting in cylinders like these. They were fantastic. I haven't seen any in a park in a long time.

A 1973 electric car that looks a lot like the current Smart car:

(Frank Lodge)

Load any one set and be bathed in the dimly bright coolish warmth of the 70s-photos color palette: (for example).

(Danny Lyon)



Meara O'Reilly's Chladni Singing

Via BoingBoing, and absolutely mesmerizing--

Sound designer, instrument builder, and singer O'Reilly writes, "Chladni patterns were discovered by Robert Hook and Ernst Chladni in the 18th and 19th centuries. They found that when they bowed a piece of glass covered in flour, (using an ordinary violin bow), the powder arranged itself in resonant patterns according to places of stillness and vibration. Today, Chladni plates are often electronically driven by tone generators and used in scientific demonstrations, but with carefully sung notes (and a transducer driving the plate), I'm able to explore the same resonances. I'm currently writing songs based on sequences of patterns."

Chladni Singing from meara o'reilly on Vimeo.

I can't wait to explore O'Reilly's site (list of projects includes "Sung Language Studies," "Glass and Water Tone Generator," "Maritime Listening Device" and more) further.



Cory Doctorow: front matter from For the Win

Cory Doctorow's second YA book, For the Win, launched today. Below is the front matter in its entirety, which I think is incredibly worthwhile reading even if you aren't interested in and don't plan to read the book itself:

----------------[all below is by Doctorow]-------------


For the Win is my second young adult novel, and, like my 2008 book Little Brother, it is meant to do more than tell a story. For the Win is a book about economics (a subject that suddenly got a lot more relevant about halfway through the writing of this book, when the world's economy slid unceremoniously into the toilet and got stuck there), justice, politics, games and labor. For the Win connects the dots between the way we shop, the way we organize, and the way we play, and why some people are rich, some are poor, and how we seemed to get stuck there.

I hope that readers of this book will be inspired to dig deeper into the subjects of "behavioral economics" (and related subjects like "neuroeconomics") and to start asking hard questions about how we end up with the stuff we own, and what it costs our human brothers and sisters to make those goods, and why we think we need them.

But it's a poor politics that can only express itself by choosing to buy or not buy something. Sometimes (often!), you need to organize to make a difference.

This is the golden age of organizing. If there's one thing the Internet's changed forever, it's the relative difficulty and cost of getting a bunch of people in the same place, working for the same goal. That's not always good (thugs, bullies, racists and loonies never had it so good), but it is fundamentally game-changing.

It's hard to remember just how difficult this organizing stuff used to be: how hard it was to do something as trivial as getting ten friends to agree on dinner and a movie, let alone getting millions of people together to raise money for a political candidate, get the vote out, protest corruption, or save an endangered and beloved institution.

The net doesn't solve the problem of injustice, but it solves the first hard problem of righting wrongs: getting everyone together and keeping them together. You still have to do the even harder work of risking life, limb, personal fortune, reputation,

Every wonderful thing in our world has fight in its history. Our rights, our good fortune, our happiness and all that is sweet was paid for, once upon a time, by principled people who risked everything to change the world for the better. Those risks are not diminished one iota by the net. But the rewards are every bit as sweet.


The good folks at Random House Audio produced a fantastic audio edition of this book. You can buy it on CD, or you can buy the MP3 version from a variety of online booksellers. I also sell it myself on my site.

Unfortunately, you can't buy this book from the world's most popular audiobook vendors: Apple's iTunes and Amazon's Audible. That's because neither store would allow me to sell the audiobook on terms that I believe are fair and just.

Specifically, Apple refused to carry the book unless it had "digital rights management" on it. This is the technology that locks music to Apple's devices. It's illegal to move DRM-crippled files to devices that Apple hasn't blessed, which means that if I encourage you to buy my works through Apple, I lose the ability to choose to continue to sell to you from Apple's competition at some later date in the future. That seems like a bad deal for both of us.

To its credit, Audible (which supplies all of the audiobooks on iTunes) was willing to sell this book without DRM, but they insisted on including their extremely onerous "end user license agreement," which also prohibits moving my book to a device that Audible hasn't approved. To make it easy for them, I offered to simply record a little intro that said, "Cory Doctorow and Random House Audio grant you permission to use this book in any way that does not violate copyright law." That way, they wouldn't have to make any changes to their site or the agreements you have to click through to use it. But Audible refused.

I wouldn't sell this book through Wal-Mart if they insisted that you could only shelve it on a Wal-Mart bookcase and I won't sell it through any online retailer that imposes the same requirement on your virtual bookshelves. That's also why you won't find my books for sale for the Kindle or iPad stores -- both stores insist on the right to lock you into terms that I believe are unfair and bad for both of us.

I'm pretty bummed about this. For the record, I would gladly sell through both Apple and Audible if they'd let me sell it without DRM, and under the world's shortest EULA ("Don't violate copyright law.") In the meantime, I thank you in advance for patronizing online audiobook sellers who respect the rights of both authors and audiences. And I am especially grateful to Random House Audio for backing me in this fight to get a fair deal for all of us.


The Creative Commons license at the top of this file probably tipped you off to the fact that I've got some pretty unorthodox views about copyright. Here's what I think of it, in a nutshell: a little goes a long way, and more than that is too much.

I like the fact that copyright lets me sell rights to my publishers and film studios and so on. It's nice that they can't just take my stuff without permission and get rich on it without cutting me in for a piece of the action. I'm in a pretty good position when it comes to negotiating with these companies: I've got a great agent and a decade's experience with copyright law and licensing (including a stint as a delegate at WIPO, the UN agency that makes the world's copyright treaties). What's more, there's just not that many of these negotiations -- even if I sell fifty or a hundred different editions of For the Win (which would put it in top millionth of a percentile for fiction), that's still only a hundred negotiations, which I could just about manage.

I hate the fact that fans who want to do what readers have always done are expected to play in the same system as all these hotshot agents and lawyers. It's just stupid to say that an elementary school classroom should have to talk to a lawyer at a giant global publisher before they put on a play based on one of my books. It's ridiculous to say that people who want to "loan" their electronic copy of my book to a friend need to get a license to do so. Loaning books has been around longer than any publisher on Earth, and it's a fine thing.

Copyright laws are increasingly passed wihtout democratic debate or scrutiny. In Great Britain, where I live, Parliament has just passed the Digital Economy Act, a complex copyright law that allows corporate giants to disconnect whole families from the Internet if anyone in the house is accused (without proof) of copyright infringement; it also creates a "Great Firewall of Britain" that is used to censor any site that record companies and movie studios don't like. This law was passed without any serious public debate in Parliament, rushed through using a dirty process through which our elected representatives betrayed the public to give a huge, gift-wrapped present to their corporate pals.

It gets worse: around the world, rich countries like the US, the EU and Canada have been negotiating a secret copyright treaty called "The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" (ACTA) that has all the problems that the Digital Economy Act had and then some. The plan is to agree to this in secret, without public debate, and then force the world's poorest countries to sign up for it by refusing to allow them to sell goods to rich countries unless the do. In America, the plan is to pass it without Congressional debate, using the executive power of the President. Though this began under Bush, the Obama administration has pursued it with great enthusiasm.

So if you're not violating copyright la right now, you will be soon. And the penalties are about to get a lot worse. As someone who relies on copyright to earn my living, this makes me sick. If the big entertainment companies set out to destroy copyright's mission, they couldn't do any better than they're doing now.

So, basically, screw that. Or, as the singer, Wobbly and union organizer Woody Guthrie so eloquently put it:

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."


Every time I put a book online for free, I get emails from readers who want to send me donations for the book. I appreciate their generous spirit, but I'm not interested in cash donations, because my publishers are really important to me. They contribute immeasurably to the book, improving it, introducing it to audiences I could never reach, helping me do more with my work. I have no desire to cut them out of the loop.

But there has to be some good way to turn that generosity to good use, and I think I've found it.

Here's the deal: there are lots of teachers and librarians who'd love to get hard-copies of this book into their kids' hands, but don't have the budget for it (teachers in the US spend around $1,200 out of pocket each on classroom supplies that their budgets won't stretch to cover, which is why I sponsor a classroom at Ivanhoe Elementary in my old neighborhood in Los Angeles; you can adopt a class yourself here).

There are generous people who want to send some cash my way to thank me for the free ebooks.

I'm proposing that we put them together.

If you're a teacher or librarian and you want a free copy of For the Win, email freeftwbook@gmail.com with your name and the name and address of your school. It'll be posted to http://craphound.com/ftw/donate/ by my fantastic helper, Olga Nunes, so that potential donors can see it.

If you enjoyed the electronic edition of For the Win and you want to donate something to say thanks, go to http://craphound.com/ftw/donate/ and find a teacher or librarian you want to support. Then go to Amazon, BN.com, or your favorite electronic bookseller and order a copy to the classroom, then email a copy of the receipt (feel free to delete your address and other personal info first!) to freeftwbook@gmail.com so that Olga can mark that copy as sent. If you don't want to be publicly acknowledged for your generosity, let us know and we'll keep you anonymous, otherwise we'll thank you on the donate page.

I've done this with three of my titles now, and gotten more than a thousand books into the hands of readers through your generosity. I am more grateful than words can express for this -- one of my readers called it "paying your debts forward with instant gratification." That's a heck of a thing, isn't it?

-------------------------[end Doctorow]

FTW, indeed.


Etsy find: Tinder & Bloom

I recently bought a slim leather iPod case from Tinder & Bloom that I love:

It feels good and solid in my hand--more protective than a lot of the other handmade cases I've seen, and definitely easy to spot in a pile of mass-produced cases. It smells nice & leathery. I like a lot of artist Suzanne Allen's other cases, too (I already want another, and I'm not a buy-it-even-if-I-don't-need-it [which I won't, I don't think: my case feels sturdy]-kind of girl).

Passing it on in case you're case-hunting (or looking for a great small gift for an iPod/iPhone/othergadget user). I spent $25.

Information Overload, 18th century-style

The multitude of books is making us ignorant. --Voltaire


Zane Presents Barack Obama

Suzetta Perkins's new book Nothing Stays the Same arrived today at the library, with interesting cover art:

The framed Obama poster is on both the front and back cover. You can't see it in this image, but "Hope" is stamped across Obama's forehead.


Single Ladies Devastation

Don't you try and tell me who I am.

I shared this on Facebook, but want to post here, too. As of now, it's racked up 1,567,355 views on YouTube, and I think at least 30 of those were me. See below or click to view.

I followed a path from the family's YouTube channel to Ragamuffin Soul, Carlos Whittaker [The Spoiler]'s blog, which I enjoyed wandering around in--especially when I found this post.


One Sentence

I'm still reading and enjoying One Sentence (I mentioned it here about a year ago) which posts "True stories, told in one sentence" from a variety of anonymous contributors--PostSecret without the visuals, and probably with more focus on the construction of the sentence. Here are some sentences from the blog I've held on to since last posting about it:

I came across an old lady laying on the side of the road in the middle of the night and when I approached her she looked up and asked, "Did I win the race?"

My ex-wife would freeze up every time she told the story of coming home from church as a child and finding all the dolls she had left lined up in tiny chairs replaced by the dead squirrels that her father had killed that morning.

We told my older sister that if she had wanted to decorate the tree with us, then she should have gone to community college.

I became bitter about the whole thing when the story in the newspaper was more about how the family had lost their fruit stand and less about how the fruit stand crushed you to death.

As a child, my parents convinced me that when the ice cream truck played its song, it meant the ice cream was finished.

When I told my dad I'd misplaced my class ring, he told me his was lost 30 years ago when "a girl died in a car accident."

During a 6.2 earthquake that shook our building violently, my half-asleep husband sat up, looked at me in confusion and asked, "What are you doing?"


Notes on Reality Hunger, Fantasy Hunger, & David Shields

I picked up David Shields's Reality Hunger after reading not reviews of it, but mentions of how polarized the reviews of it have been. The book is apparently a new classic, a jolt to the solar plexus that belongs on every syllabus, a wake-up call for the 21st century--or a piece of crap.

I found it neither. I'm looking up reviews after the fact to try to figure out why so many have responded so intensely to the book. I enjoyed it; I'll give it a 3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads. I don't think it said anything new, unless the newness is in David Shields being the one saying it. The main thrusts seem to be:

A) all memoir is fiction, people, just like all history and biography: bits are fictionalized, whether they be "perfect recollections" of conversations that took place decades ago or claims that one spent three nights in jail when one did not. Hence, it is kind of silly to be morally outraged by James Frey. (With this I did not disagree--though I do think one could claim a little outrage if the book was only published because the publisher thought it was true--outraged that it might have remained in the slush pile otherwise. But if you're an editor/publisher and you're only publishing a book because you think it's true, I think you should reconsider whether you'd still find the book of quality if it were "not true"). All memoirists, if writing for an audience, are manipulating things. There is no memory that is not manipulated. Agreed.


B) David Shields likes mashups and remixes and books that cannot be easily classified into one category. Not only that, but these are the only forms that are relevant to life today. The first sentence there works; the second really doesn't, as Shields seems to be mistaking a personal preference or a change in one's own reading habits or way of thinking for some new huge cultural shift. The speed and ease with which one might now mash up songs/videos/digital texts has wildly increased [and does mark a new huge shift], yep, and people are doing awesome things. But mashups and cut-ups and hymns-quoted-in-symphonies have been around for ages. Shields claims that narrative bores him not just because it bores him but because of this moment in time--and therefore narrative is dead. That is: narrative has come to bore him, he seems to believe, because he lives in the 21st century and not some other.

I share a lot of Shields's taste in literature. But I didn't enjoy sweeping generational saga-narratives with near-countless characters loooong before the rise of remix culture. I don't think narrative is dead, but IF it were, it wouldn't be because it's 2010. William Carlos Williams said, nearer to the beginning of the 20th century, "All sonnets say the same thing." One could as easily say that "all straightforward narratives say the same thing," which seems to be what Shields is trying to say. But, Shields, don't you see? All fragments with white space around them say the same thing, too! Honestly. "Oh, boy, another sonnet, which like a cat will always land on its feet, and where everything will be resolved in the final couplet." --that's Williams (well, I'm paraphrasing [grin]). But also, "Oh boy, another poem in fragments with lots of white space around them that reflect, how, like, nothing is reconciliable, and mumble mumble aporia lacuna gasp." Or "Another fucking collage."

The Onion indirectly made a much stronger argument for the death of the novel (or memoir or nonfiction or poetry that isn't chopped up into small chunks) a few weeks back with its brief, home-hitting article Nation Shudders At Large Block of Uninterrupted Text. But that's really more about the [potential] death of a delivery mechanism: the long-ass chunk of text. Japan's wildly popular cell phone novels have plots and narratives--people are just receiving them a little bit at a time, which likely heightens suspense and excitement about where the plot is going. I don't think that cell phone "lyric essays," Shields's form of choice, would succeed as well.

Plot isn't dead. Ask the cell phone novel. Ask James Patterson's empire--sometimes in the library it seems like every third book we own is "by" James Patterson, and he recently signed a deal to produce 17 more books in the next 3 years. James Patterson's books are nothing BUT plot. Yeah, Shields probably means that plot is dead in "literary" fiction, but he cites the popularity of reality shows as evidence of our culture's "reality hunger," so he isn't just talking about high art, either. Plot isn't dead, and it won't be as long as James Patterson or someone agreeing to write as James Patterson lives. Dialogue and character development, maybe, but not plot.

Up until my late 20s I pictured life like one long story…one fairly straightforward narrative. I feel now like it's more of a series of very loosely connected stories. Shields is right in that our lives now don't resemble long straightforward narratives. But really, did they ever? Say you're a serf in the 13th century. You only have a first name. Day after day, you have to do the same thing in the same place. You never travel more than a few miles from the place where you were born. Does this resemble a straightforward narrative? Not to me. Long, straightforward narratives were no more "appropriate to the time period" then than they are now. Narratives came into existence because of a hunger for narrative. Fictional characters came into existence because of a hunger for fictional characters. I don't look around and see any evidence that that hunger is gone from the culture at large. Gone for Shields, maybe, and never much of a hunger for me, either. But, for goodness' sake, look at Harry Potter: character! Hero! Quest! People are absolutely still hungry for story. And fantasy novels have been more popular in the last few years than "realistic fiction" has, by a landslide (with, in addition, a rise in adults reading children's & YA fantasy literature)…a hunger for LESS reality?

Now that I think about it: isn't the popularity of reality shows due to a hunger for fantasy, not for reality? American Idol/America's Next Top Model: an ordinary person like me gets to send in her photo or audition in front of powerful people she'd never meet in "real life," and maybe they'll see she's a diamond in the rough, and she'll rise to superstardom in the space of weeks! The Biggest Loser: I get a personal trainer, a first-class gym and a personal chef, all as top-notch as Oprah's, to help me lose weight! And free time to concentrate on nothing but getting fit! Supernanny: an awesomely effective taskmaster with a British accent comes into my home and solves all my kids' behavior problems like that! The Bachelor. Survivor: I get to live outside and test my physical & psychological mettle like I've always wanted to! I get weeks off from work to do this!

Reality shows are fantasies come true. A hunger for reality would be a desire to watch people who want to lose weight check diet books out of the library, make themselves meager, halfhearted breakfasts, and try to exercise somewhere between parenting and work duties without collapsing from exhaustion. Just because the contestants on The Biggest Loser are working hard doesn't mean their situation isn't a fantasy. COPS might've been closer to something one should call a reality show.

Anyway--Shields finds straightforward narratives, now, inherently boring. But "novels of ideas" can also be boring. Lyric essays can be boring as hell. Mashups can be boring (Shields does admit as much in reference to Girl Talk's mashups. Hear, hear). Collage (a technique Shields heartily approves) can be boring--just look at 80% of the collage greeting cards for sale at Etsy (a site I heartily approve, but still). Aphorisms can be boring (all aphorisms say the same thing). Shields seems to imagine working in these forms automatically gives value to one's work--a bad collage is better than a great narrative, makes more sense at this moment in time than a great narrative. I really disagree with him here.

I didn't get much of a "manifesto" vibe from Reality Hunger (subtitle: A Manifesto). My favorite quotes from it did strike me as manifesto-like: clean, direct statements of an argument that make one go Unh and that hit with the weight of facts:

Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings. --Auden

The way to write is to throw your body as the mark when all your arrows are spent. -- Emerson

...and the heaviest, most painful one, one I was already familiar with, but that still had me burst out, when I read it, "I want another ticket!"--the most powerful quote in the book, for me:

In the end one experiences only oneself. -- Nietzsche



I'm reading Reality Hunger, David Shields's commonplace book, and it led me to rummage around until I found a few pages of quotes and passages I'd kept, typed out from my reading, when I was an undergrad. They never had an arc beyond my liking them. I still like a lot of them:

"Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops." --Kurt Vonnegut

"'You have to let other people be right,' was his answer to their insults. 'It consoles them for not being anything else.'"--Andre Gide

"It is better to say 'I am suffering' than to say 'This landscape is ugly.'"--Simone Weil

"Indeed, her injuries were the cleanest areas of her body."--Patricia Cornwell

"There is a curious, extremely interesting term in Japanese that refers to a very special manner of polite, aristocratic speech known as 'play language,' asobase kotoba, whereby, instead of saying to a person, for example, 'I see that you have come to Tokyo,' one would express the observation by saying 'I see that you are playing at being in Tokyo'--the idea being that the person addressed is in such control of his life and his powers that for him everything is a play, a game. He is able to enter into life as one would enter into a game, freely and with ease. And this idea is carried so far that instead of saying to a person, 'I hear that your father has died,' you would say, rather, 'I hear that your father has played at dying.'"--Joseph Campbell

"Had we a theatre, would you, tragic one, stand there again and again--" --Rilke

"help me sing of grandpa who went to the store for a tube of toothpaste 16,000 lines of dactylic hexameter ago and never returned"--Mark Leyner

"Nature has given way to aura. A man cuts himself shaving and someone is signed up to write the biography of the cut."--Don Delillo

"'How strange it is that they can't tell us what they themselves seem to know,' a tall, thin beast murmured.'"--Madeleine L'Engle

"I have always been fascinated by that story which a friend found for me in a geography textbook: certain Australian tribes, when one of their members dies, eliminate a word from the vocabulary as a sign of mourning. This makes language equivalent to life, asserts that men are in control of what they say and that they give it orders rather than receive them from it."--Roland Barthes

"Even when we don't desire it,/God is ripening." --Rilke

"The place we rip open again and again/that always heals--that's God."--Rilke

"She always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day."--Virginia Woolf

"I want to take your hands off my hips/and put them on a statue's hips"--Frank O'Hara

"the high lore's in the mail"--Pattie McCarthy

"We say 'far away,' the Zulu has for that a word which means, in our sentence form, 'There where someone cries out, 'O mother, I am lost.' The Fuegian soars above our analytic wisdom with a seven-syllabled word whose precise meaning is, 'They stare at one another, each waiting for the other to volunteer to do what both wish, but are not able to do.'"--Buber

"Can I safely say that Greece was mainly/water, rock, and ideas?"--David Berman

"You can press his pants/but you cannot pant//when he presses you/against his Tuscan postcards"--John Yau

"Please do not understand me too quickly."--Gide

"If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion...but also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion." --Ursula LeGuin

"That feelings yield no personal life is understood only by a few. For the most personal life of all seems to reside in feelings, and if, like the modern man, you have learned to concern yourself wholly with your own feelings, despair at their unreality will not easily instruct you in a better way--for despair is also an interesting feeling."--Buber

"Baboons love maize. I have seen them running through maize fields in an orgy of gluttony, sticking an ear of maize under each arm, grabbing more ears, letting the first ears drop, replacing them with more ears, which fall when the next two ears are stolen. At the end of the row the baboon emerges with two ears of maize--and a whole trail of fallen and abandoned ears."--William Maples

"As long as he had his own car he was an American and could not die"--Joyce Carol Oates

"Believe me, for certain men at least, not taking what one doesn't desire is the hardest thing in the world."--Camus

"Liking is probably the best form of ownership, and ownership is the worst form of liking."--Jose Saramago

"What do you expect, one is what one is, partly at least."--Beckett

"What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but Loose-Fish? What all men's minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What is the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish? What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish? And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?"--Melville


I'm enjoying the Shields--I'm about half-way through--but I'm not finding it as fresh and illuminating as some reviewers are, or as off-putting as other reviewers are. Part of me keeps thinking, "But poets have known this stuff for decades."