September 11, 2009
Present at the Creation, Part Two
There's always been a funny connection between Snarkmarket and Current.
After all, introduction aside, my very first Snarkmarket post inaugurated the "Gore TV" category. More followed. November 2003. March 2004. ("Man, I thought I had put this behind me. But now I'm all excited about it again.") May.
But then what? How did I end up, not too many months later, here in San Francisco, working for what was then called INdTV?
On August 1, 2004, I sent an email to Joel Hyatt, INdTV's CEO. (I found his address on the web. After searching for days.) In the email, I introduced myself—a reporter/producer/blogger in St. Petersburg, Florida, with two years of experience at a non-profit journalism institute—and lobbed in an idea for how this new TV channel could use the web in an interesting way. And, more importantly, I promised (threatened?) to follow up with another idea, and another, and another. Thirty-one total. An August of ideas.
To his everlasting credit, and to my everlasting gratitude, Joel's reply did not say "never email me again, you weird kid." Rather: "OK, let's see what you've got."
Keep in mind that I had about four ideas cooked up when I sent that first message. And then my part of St. Petersburg got evacuated because of a hurricane. And then I drove cross-country, from Florida up to Michigan, then over to California, stopping at the wifi-enabled rest stops along I-80, dispatching ideas, racing to come up with more. It was a pretty crazy month.
The final idea, sent on August 31, was, perhaps, predictable: You should hire me!
And again, this is a point at which Joel could very reasonably have said "you weird kid." Instead, he invited me into the city for lunch.
At Current, I've been, successively, an interactive producer, a blogger, a channel manager, a futurist (note: bad title choice), ad sales adjunct faculty, and the vice president of strategy. I've been here for just a hair under five years.
But finally, there's just too much other cool stuff to do. Today is my last day.
Current is the company, the idea, that brought me to San Francisco, and I have a lot of people to thank for the depth and breadth of my Current experience. But none so centrally as Joel, who took a chance on a 24-year-old who sent a bunch of emails. I mean, guys: This is big. This is what makes lives happen, or not.
Anyway, I'm sure I'll have more reflections to share, but I'll leave it at that for now. Mostly, I wanted to tell the tale of that fall five years ago because it makes the step I'm about to take, in the fall of 2009, seem relatively conservative by comparison. Ha!
Here's the agenda:
First: Spend the next fifty days absolutely jamming on this book. On one level, this is just simple necessity. I sort of set a trap for myself here, didn't I? On another level, I had an epiphany the other day: There is nothing in the entire world I would rather do for the next two months than work my ass off to create something wonderful for the people on this list. Not sure I've ever had quite that level of clarity before. Gotta say: I like it.
Then: Consulting—for Current, for starters. Freelancing, in a few different domains. There's more writing in the works. And some bigger ideas, which I won't try to squeeze into this post. But I won't keep you waiting for too long, I promise. I'm going to need your help!
Update: Ha hahaha. I got a web-monitoring text message this morning saying that robinsloan.com was getting slammed with visitors, and I'm thinking to myself, "Wow, jeez, big news... I guess?" Nope, different reason. Shoulda known!
File under: Gore TV, Media Galaxy, Self-Disclosure
August 28, 2009
Don't Take My Word For It
I married my wife because not long after we met, she told me that when she was a little girl, she would rehearse for a never-to-happen appearance on Reading Rainbow, reviewing her favorite book, Norman Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth.
That's a true story.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Self-Disclosure
August 9, 2009
Now that my dissertation is good and filed, I want to share a few fragments of what I've been working on, on-and-off, for the past few years.
Here's a few selected grafs from the first chapter:
The history of Modernism is part of the history of paper. That is, the transformation of literary and visual culture announced by Modernism and the avant-garde is inseparable from the transformation of the largely paper-based communication and information technologies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries...
From the daguerrotype to the cinema, the history of photography simultaneously parallels and intersects the development of paper and print. A single image, handmade by an artisan, is succeeded by a continuously-fed reel of industrially-made material. In fact, the chemical treatment of wood pulp cellulose with sulfurous acid to produce paper is only slightly different from the chemical treatment of wood fibers with nitric acid to produce celluloid film. Nitrocellulose (also called guncotton) in ether or acetone yields collodion, the albumen alternative that allowed for glass-plate photography; the evaporation of collodion in turn led to the discovery of celluloid film. Celluloid emerges as a paper alternative with Eastman Kodak, the company credited with the introduction of flexible film and the supplier of continuous film rolls for Edison's early motion pictures. Kodak had originally used ordinary paper treated with collodion in their famous “roll” cameras; amateur photographers could take multiple photographs then send their camera, including the paper film, to the company for development. Kodak’s invention democratized photography by eliminating the chemistry required to prepare a plate and develop a print, but when the plain paper stock produced poor quality negatives, Kodak quickly switched to celluloid, a paper-like (and paper-based) polymer. The earliest popular forms of photography, too, were paper products: the newspaper, which was quick to adapt photography for both journalistic use and graphic interest, and the codex photograph album of course, but also the carte de visite and cabinet card, both of which displayed portraits on thin paper prints glued to inexpensive card stock. The paper document had not been eliminated by the photographic image; the two had transformed together...
“It takes very little to start a little magazine,” Reed Whittemore writes. “As a minimum a secondhand typewriter, some paper, and access to a mimeograph machine will do.” And indeed, the mimeograph, invented in 1876 by Thomas Edison, helped to make several upstart avant-garde magazines possible. Its use is most notable during the postwar period, but what Stephen Clay and Rodney Phillips call “the mimeo revolution” of little magazines between 1960 and 1980 can easily be placed much earlier, in the 1920s, if not before. William Carlos Williams’s account of starting Contact in 1920 with Robert McAlmon gives an especially direct example:
Our poems constantly, continuously and stupidly were rejected by all the pay magazines except Poetry and The Dial. The Little Review didn’t pay. We had no recourse but to establish publications of our own. For after all, the outlets being so meager, we had otherwise far too long a time to wait between drinks. It was the springtime of the little magazines and there was plenty for them to do…
Pa Herman [Williams’s father-in-law, a paper manufacturer] cut up some paper for us and sent us a ton of it—I’m still using it and shall be for the rest of my life I imagine, I’m writing on it now… There were the first two issues, mimeographed and clipped together, then one printed on the same paper, with a printed cover; then a final issue printed and bound on white paper. That was the last. Nobody bought—and there was much else in the wind.
Williams and McAlmon could afford an issue printed on good paper while retaining editorial control because McAlmon had married Bryher, a wealthy heiress and writer also known as Annie Winifred Ellerman, H.D.’s companion who would later co-found the film journal Close Up. McAlmon’s Contact Editions was an early example of an independent American modernist press, and would eventually publish Spring and All in 1923. But it began with Williams’s paper, McAlmon’s earnings from nude modeling, and a mimeograph machine. I contend that Contact may be the first mimeographed literary magazine, predating Yvor Winters’s Gyroscope (Clay and Phillips’s candidate) by nine years...
In “The Rhetoric of Efficiency in Early Modernism,” Susan Raitt has shown how various modernist formal strategies, from Imagist poetry to stream-of-consciousness fiction, position themselves on the side of verbal, psychological, and social efficiency, in many cases following the model of contemporary theories of scientific management. I think this theory is essentially correct, but I would specify that the principal problem of scientific management during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is the efficient conservation of paper, whether in its scarcity and or its plenitude. During World War I, for example, paper shortages and increased government regulation of the printing trade made publishers and typesetters (who were equally responsible under British law) skittish of printing anything likely to run afoul of the censor or public indifference. D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow was seized and burned in 1915, the same year that the British government took steps to restrict and regulate the paper trade, control that intensified as shortages increased throughout the war. In 1916, Ezra Pound promised James Joyce that if printers refused to print A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with objectionable phrases intact, “I shall tell Miss Weaver to print it with blank spaces and then have the typewriting done on good paper and pasted in. If I have to do it myself.” When Portrait reached its second edition in 1918, Pound began his article in The Future by exclaiming:
Despite the War, despite the paper shortage, and despite those old-established publishers whose god is their belly and whose godfather was the late F.T. Palgrave, there is a new edition of James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” It is extremely gratifying that this book should have “reached its fourth thousand,” and the fact is significant in just so far as it marks the beginning of a new phase of English publishing… The actual output is small in bulk, a few brochures of translations, Eliot’s “Prufrock,” Joyce’s “A Portrait,” and Wyndham Lewis’ “Tarr” (announced), but I have it on good authority that at least one other periodical will start publishing its authors after the War, so there are new rods in pickle for the old fat-stomached contingent and for the cardboard generation.
It’s no accident, then, that once the shortage had ended, modernist writing found both more outlets for publication and room for longer and more adventurous works. However, it still had to frame itself in the terms of an aesthetic of scarcity formed during the war. As Pound notes in his “Paris Letter” for The Dial published May 1922, Ulysses’s “732 double sized pages” have “greater efficiency,” “greater compactness,” and “more form than any novel of Flaubert’s.”
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Object Culture, Self-Disclosure
July 27, 2009
The Feed Giveth, the Feed Taketh Away
Pieter's description of his reading habits resonated with me. I, too, subscribe to an info-megaton of feeds, and derive a sort of cruel pleasure from scrolling through them at warp speed. If you don't catch my eye, too bad for you. Mark all as read.
But then, over at Laura's site—which is crisp and appealing—I find a link to Jon Kyle's, which is amazing. Look at that quote treatment. That is the best quote treatment I have ever seen on the entire internet.
Now I'm imagining those quotes, completely stripped of style, in Google Reader. Mark all as read.
Jon Kyle's site just keeps going. It's stunning.
What do we do about this? On one hand: the demands of scale; the great, brain-tingling opportunities of aggregation. On the other hand: the richness of a great frame; all that the setting adds to the stone.
I don't even really have a dream solution. These two values feel really fundamentally incompatible to me. Scale vs. specificity.
Of course, I'm not just talking about a few beautiful sites; I could put those in a bookmark folder and check 'em every so often. I'm talking about the rapidly-growing regime of words and images as portable, style-free info-bundles—which has a lot going for it!—vs. a world where words and images are fundamentally linked to their design and context, because without them they'd just be lame quotes in a Google Reader window.
July 13, 2009
Giving Things Away Is A New Liberal Art
The title is half a joke, but half true. Part of navigating the logic, grammar, and rhetoric of this century of scarcity and abundance is going to involve not just working and understanding flows of goods and money, growing and eating things, understanding marketing or images, or managing your attention and identity (or identities), but also trying to figure out what you give away and what you charge for, what you take and what you pay for, and why and how you do all of these things.
Many, many people have been at least as interested in how and why we printed only 200 copies of New Liberal Arts and then gave digital copies away as they've been interested in any or all of the entries. And you know what? I'm kind of more interested in that too -- at least for the past thirty minutes or so.
Kevin Kelly's formulation of what we did is worth repeating: "The scarce limited edition of the physical subsidizes the distribution of the unlimited free intangible." We knew that we wanted to make an honest-to-goodness well-made book*, AND that we wanted everything to be freely available on the web. I don't think there was ever a conversation about doing it any other way.
But I think there's a difference between just selling a physical thing and giving it away for free. One of the things that I think was clever was the "ransom" model that Robin came up with, whereby the free copies were only released after the print run was sold. I think it was the motive of patronage, the aligning of the interests of the purchasers with the freeriders, that made it work.
(Aside: When I was a kid, I remember how the Detroit Lions' football games on TV used to be blacked-out in Detroit whenever the Silverdome didn't sell out. Since the Lions stunk, this happened a lot, and CBS wouldn't even show you another football game, you'd just be stuck watching reruns or infomercials instead of football, which made you hate the Lions even more.)
Janneke Adema keys in on this:
Actually this is just a variant of the delayed Open Access model, in which after a certain embargo time the books or journals are made Open Access. What I like however about the example Kelly mentions of the New Liberal Arts book, a Snarkmarket/Revelator Press collaboration, is how they combine this delayed Open Access model with a community support or maecenas model.
In another, earlier entry, she elaborates:
It looks like we might be slowly returning to the old Maecenas system, or Maecenate, when it comes to culture, flourishing as it did in the old Rome of Virgil and Horace, and still visible today in many a countries’ subsidy system, stimulating (historically) mostly the so called ‘high arts’ which in some cases and some countries have known some kind of patronage or state subsidy for ages (the Dutch system is a good example in this respect).
What seems clear however is that this new digital Maecenic culture will be quite different in many respects from so called subsidy systems. It will be way more ‘democratic’ for one, no longer favoring art picked out by committees of wise experts but directly benefiting those chosen by the public to merit their money. It will also not be a ‘traditional’ Maecenic culture in which a few rich people out of philanthropy and the goodness of their hearth give their money to the arts or the projects they endorse. This new Maecenic culture will probably be upheld by large communities of people of all income classes, all offering a little money to support their favorite band, artist or cultural entrepreneur (think of those small labels again).
The new digital Macenate! Just typing it gives me shivers of delight.
Until I read Adema's post, though, the way I'd been thinking about it was less classical, and maybe less flattering. I was thinking about Polish farmers in Prussia.
Okay, I'll explain. Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism begins with a weird and probably a little racist anecdote about Catholic farmers in the Eastern province of Germany. The farmers, and young people from the farms who'd emigrated to the cities, didn't seem to respond to economic incentives. They were traditionalists: if you showed them a new way to farm that yielded more crops, unless the difference was overwhelming, they didn't care; they'd just do it the way they always did it. If you paid them more for their crops to try to get them to produce more, they'd work less, because they could live off of the same amount of money they'd always had.
Actually Weber very smartly avoided the racist conclusion - that the Polish farmers were congenitally lazy -- that most of the Prussian farmowners who employed these Polish workers had made. Instead, he concluded that to work your butt off to make more money than you could most likely spend was actually a very strange way to live - that it wasn't, as some of the early economists and social engineers thought, a natural and universal response to maximize utility, but a historically contingent phenomenon.
He spends the rest of his startlingly brilliant book trying to trace the conditions under which that phenomenon could have emerged based on the startling economic success made by Protestant sects in Western Europe and the United States, all of which hinged on new notions of work and personal austerity that turned out to be, quite accidentally, a primary engine in the development of modern capitalism as it emerged in the West.
So, where am I going with this?
Well, the NLA model is like a color negative of the noncapitalist peasant. I say a color negative because the economic conditions have actually reversed. The peasant could earn more, but he didn't really have any place to put it. Once his physical needs were met, he had no reason to keep working. He would curtail the potential abundance of nature when the scarce physical resources were purchased.
What can do is the opposite - to unlock the potential abundance of the artificial once the scarce physical resources have been paid for. Instead of stopping work - stopping the flow of goods and closing the circuit of circulation - this opens it up. This is only natural.... Read more ....
File under: About Snarkmarket, New Liberal Arts, Self-Disclosure, Snarkonomics
July 11, 2009
I had never heard of this disorder before:
In hyperlexia, a child spontaneously and precociously masters single-word reading. It can be viewed as a superability, that is, word recognition ability far above expected levels... Hyperlexic children are often fascinated by letters and numbers. They are extremely good at decoding language and thus often become very early readers. Some hyperlexic children learn to spell long words (such as elephant) before they are two and learn to read whole sentences before they turn three. An fMRI study of a single child showed that hyperlexia may be the neurological opposite of dyslexia.
Often, hyperlexic children will have a precocious ability to read but will learn to speak only by rote and heavy repetition, and may also have difficulty learning the rules of language from examples or from trial and error, which may result in social problems... Their language may develop using echolalia, often repeating words and sentences. Often, the child has a large vocabulary and can identify many objects and pictures, but cannot put their language skills to good use. Spontaneous language is lacking and their pragmatic speech is delayed. Hyperlexic children often struggle with Who? What? Where? Why? and How? questions... Social skills often lag tremendously. Hyperlexic children often have far less interest in playing with other children than do their peers.
The thing is, this absolutely and precisely describes me in childhood, especially before the age of 5 or 6. (This is also the typical age when hyperlexic children begin to learn how to interact with others.) It also describes my son - which is how my wife found the description and forwarded it to me.
You walk around your entire life with these stories, these tics, and the entire time, your quirks are really symptoms. It's a little strange.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Braiiins, Language, Learnin', Science, Self-Disclosure
June 25, 2009
The Future Is All Filters
I made my Iran dashboard because I needed a better filter for Iran news. But filters aren't just for just for tracking global tumult; people need them on all levels. For example: My sister, an ultra-busy grad student and dancer, doesn't really have time to read Snarkmarket.
No you cannot unsubscribe from this feed and sign up for that one. I'm going to know if you do. We have analytics for these things.
June 6, 2009
Making Those Schrifts A Little Shorter
Before coming to Snarkmarket, I blogged solo for four years at Short Schrift. After trying a handful of different ideas, I wound up having SS mirror my posts here -- but usually with a lag, since I update a bunch of posts at once.
Well, today I'm changing the format of Short Schrift to make it more like a link blog/reading diary. Snarkmarket will be the home of ideas, questions, problems, and commentary, while Short Schrift will be more, um, gestational. My first "new" post is here: "Bursting the Higher Education Bubble." Old and new readers alike, check it out. And look at some of the archives too! There's a lot of stuff in there that I'm still thinking about. I would love for you to think about it too.
June 5, 2009
How Do You Follow The Web?
Me, I subscribe to a lot of sites, so I get auto-updated. I use an RSS reader, NetNewsWire, with Google Reader as a woefully unsynced backup. I keep feeds sorted into folders by category, and I just tweaked the categories:
academia blogs books and libraries CFPs digital life downloads friends' blogs friends' personal history ideas journalism mac magazines media music must reads my blogs news online mags politics radio sports tv and movies
I also have a couple of things emailed to me semi-regularly: new comments or links to Snarkmarket, Counterfictionals, or Short Schrift, mentions of my name, and new search results for "blood and treasure." (Weird, I know.)
How do you do it?
May 22, 2009
Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
File under: "Why didn't you just Twitter this, again?" I've been shopping for a laptop bag as we speak, so I am 100% primed for this, but I still love Lifehacker's "What's In Our Bags" series. Gina Trapani just posted her bag + contents, shouting-out a bagufacturer I'd never heard of, and an awesome idea I'd never thought of -- headphone splitters so two people can watch a movie on a plane or train!
Me, I keep insane junk in my bag -- whatever the Bookstore was selling the day my old whatever the Bookstore was selling up and quit on me -- for way too long -- receipts and airplane stubs, books and student papers (oops), pens in zippered components that don't even work (the pens, not the zippers). The only constant companion is laptop plus plug. Even then, sometimes I discover (as I did on a trip to central NY for a job talk) that there's a scone from Au Bon Pain where my plug should be.
But I wish, nay long for, a genuine system! And the Lifehacker folks actually seem to have one!
It's also positive proof that the dematerialization thesis (you know, the idea that objects themselves don't matter, everything is up in the cloud, etc.) is bunk at worst, needs to be qualified at best. We just pretend that matter doesn't matter, until you can't get your Prezi on the screen 'cause you forgot your DVI-VGA thingy, if you ever even took it out of the box in the first place.
Here are people living the life digitale to the fullest, and what do they do? Schlep their stuff around in a bag, just like us jerks. And when they have a good idea, do they whip out their magic pen-with-a-microphone for instant digitalization? Only if they're jotting it down on a 99-cent spiral notebook. All this is very reassuring to me.
File under: Design, Object Culture, Recommended, Self-Disclosure
May 16, 2009
What I Have Learned About Teaching By Being A Parent, Vol. 1
Axiom: You can't teach anyone anything without intentionally or accidentally modeling humanity for them. It isn't enough to adequately convey information to students or take care of the mechanics of teaching - this is just feeding and changing diapers. You have to choose or (more properly) cultivate the form of humanity you want to perform/become/become through performing/perform through becoming.
Corollary 1: The most important and humbling thing that any teacher must learn is respect for humanity that fundamentally differs from yours. If you are studious and a hard worker, you have to avoid the temptation to identify with and reward your students who are studious hard workers. If you are a charismatic and eloquent speaker, you have to resist the urge to cut your charismatic students more slack. This is above all true when this identification with your students flatters your own (perhaps aspiring) identity in some way.
Corollary 2: The first corollary to this axiom does not follow logically from it, but rather contradicts it. This is just and proper.
Corollary 3: The Latin word for both this axiom and its first corollary is caritas. It means both charity and love.
File under: Beauty, Learnin', Self-Disclosure
May 3, 2009
If This Were 1998, This Wouldn't Be So Hard
Following on Robin's post about Google Profiles, I've re-entered this old debate with myself about whether to create a personal web page. It'd be fun, I'm sure, and maybe even useful, but maybe not.
When I first became aware of the internet, the way to show that you were a savvy web-user was to create your own web page. This was where you stored all of your information that you wanted to share with the world: contact info, work stuff, pictures, writings and ideas, and a smartly curated set of links to other sites.
Now, of course, we've scattered all of that information all over the web to sites managed by companies (usually) and devoted to that purpose: Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and of course, blogs. Academics (which I am) often keep material on their university pages, but those sites usually aren't suitable for sharing more than a photo, email address and short set of interests.
Strangely, though, that's become in a way the preferred style for contemporary home pages -- a single page that quickly sends you elsewhere, rather than gathering very much together.
My ideal would be to have a site like Bruno Latour's, but I don't have his CV with which to pull it off.
So what say you, Snarkmatrix? How many of you have an all-in-one home page? How does it work for you? If you were putting one together now, how would you do it?
April 23, 2009
Returned To The Forest Primeval
Flint, MI is contemplating shrinkage:
Instead of waiting for houses to become abandoned and then pulling them down, local leaders are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighborhoods.
The population would be condensed into a few viable areas. So would stores and services. A city built to manufacture cars would be returned in large measure to the forest primeval.
I'm always awed that when it comes to cities like Flint, EVERYTHING is thought of in near-cosmic terms. Instead of "let's replace abandoned neighborhoods with new parks" -- which is already a pretty dramatic undertaking -- it's "let's let that bitch goddess nature take back what's hers, for we can no longer maintain even the pretense of civilization."
I mean, look:
These days, crime is brazen: two men recently stripped the siding off Mr. Kildee’s old house, “laughing like they were going to a picnic,” Ms. Kelly said. Down the street are many more abandoned houses, as well as a huge hand-painted sign that proclaims, “No prostitution zone.”
Maybe this is what Flint needs:
Then again, Rome had a working economy.
NB: If it seems like I sound too callous or flippant, I should add (for the benefit of readers who don't know me personally) that I was born in Detroit and grew up in Michigan; I get wounded every time I read articles like this, and lash out with gallows humor. Watching these cities die, with nobody but the occasional national reporter to pop in like a hospice nurse to check their vital signs, is like watching a family member succumb to cancer.
This isn't dancing on Flint's grave; this is an Irish wake.
April 19, 2009
Brothers In Arms
Most people who know me well know that I have two brothers, one older, and one younger. We're all oversized, bigbrained, bighearted, redheaded guys with Irish names (Sean Patrick, Timothy Brendan, and Kevin Daniel). Sean's a high school math teacher and football coach; Kevin is a counselor/advisor at a liberal arts college. Sean's two years older, and Kevin's a year and a half younger. They are honestly more like each other than I am like either of them, but since I'm in the middle, I was probably equally close to both of them. Kevin and I shared a room together until I was 16; Sean and I went to college and lived together for three years.
This is a long way to go to say that whenever I read about Rahm Emanuel and his brothers, I smile and smile and smile.
April 16, 2009
What's Still In The Inbox
Some people keep tabs open in their browser for days or weeks; I keep them open in my well-loved RSS reader NetNewsWire. (NNW doubles as a browser; I almost certainly do more READING of web content there than in Firefox.)
I like it -- it keeps the old stuff next to the new stuff, and puts little pictures of what I want to read or re-read. I usually use MarsEdit to blog stuff, and MarsEdit is really well integrated with NetNewsWire, so it's a good workflow to keep things open that I want to post to Snarkmarket eventually, or to make some other use of. (MarsEdit doesn't play nice with Movable Type 3.2 [edit - but see below], which is why I occasionally have crazy characters in my posts for smart quotes, apostrophes, em-dashes, usw.)
Anyways, like any other workflow, this one gets backed up; I can't think of exactly what I want to say, or (more often) other stuff gets in the way. But I think it's still good to take some time to register the things I'm thinking about, because you might want to think about them too. Here's what's still in my inbox.
- if:book, "design and dasein: heidegger against the birkerts argument." E-book readers and phenomenology? Content, thy name is Carmody. Disappointingly, author Dan Piepenbring hasn't actually read a lot of Heidegger, so the argument is a little underdeveloped (check my comment down the thread). I really want to blog about this, but I also wanted effectively to remake the whole idea from scratch, and I don't have the time right now to do that.
- CFP for Wordless Modernism at MSA 11. Academic CFP listservs come in RSS form now! This is so, so sweet. So is the CFP here: "If, as W.J.T. Mitchell has argued, the 'linguistic turn' of the early twentieth century took place alongside a concomitant 'pictorial turn,' how does this change the way we approach modernism’s engagement with visual media and theories of sensation?" See also “Film Grammar and Literary Modernism”. If I can't get a paper in Montreal this year, I need to hang it up.
- Two other cool CFPs: Multiple Perspectives on Collecting and the Collection (for a Spanish-English journal -- I may submit something from my chapter on Borges, Melville, and Citizen Kane) and Re-viewing Black Mountain College, for a conference at the BMC museum.
- "Beyond Life Hacks: Reusable Solutions to Common Productivity Problems." Gina Trapani is so, so good. I look at this fight-procrastination guide every day now, trying to read it first thing in the morning.
- "Gabriel García Márquez, literary giant, lays down his pen." In 2005, García Márquez didn't write a line. There probably won't be any new books in his lifetime. (PS: Go read One Hundred Years Of Solitude. Just do it. I won't tell anyone you haven't yet.)
- Clement Greenberg at 100. "I’m so excited. I’m one of the few graduate students who will be presenting at a centennial symposium looking back to the life and work of the legendary Clement Greenberg. (So my name isn’t listed yet on the official publicity, and that’s all right. I haven’t paid enough dues yet to warrant headlining status. Rosalind Krauss and Thierry de Duve, Luke Menand and Serge Guilbaut have)." I wonder how this conference went?
- Diana Kimball drops this perfect quote from Bruno Latour:
In politics as in science, when someone is said to ‘master’ a question or to ‘dominate’ a subject, you should normally look for the flat surface that enables mastery (a map, a list, a file, a census, the wall of a gallery, a card-index, a repertory); and you will find it.
- Wyatt Mason on Proust and Nabokov. I've really been loving Pale Fire lately.
- Jason Kottke, "Gairville." A Brooklyn neighborhood (now Dumbo) once named for the guy (Robert Gair) who invented the modern cardboard box. Jason's interested in the neighborhood; I'm interested in the boxes.
- "Obama Offers Plan to Improve Care for Veterans." Electronic records come to the VA. I want to write a post called "In Praise of Bureaucrats," about how "bureaucracy" has such a mixed meaning as an insult/complaint (meaning both robotic impersonality and feudalist inefficiency) and how much really good information science (and scientists) could improve, um, everything. Not a new liberal art as such, but maybe the new engineering.
- "Substance and Style" (on Wes Anderson). Watched The Royal Tenenbaums the other day, and thought a lot about the subtleties of the writing, especially for Royal.
Royal: Can I see my grandsons? Chas: Why? Royal: Because I finally want to meet them.That little inversion -- "finally want to," instead of the expected "want to finally" -- which could (almost) be unintentional -- tells you so much about Royal. Nine out of ten phrases are like that.
Now, to fill up the tabs again.
March 18, 2009
Blood and Treasure: Genealogy and Contexts
About three years ago, Robin noticed a strange phrase making the rounds in political talk about the costs of the Iraq war: "blood and treasure." I'd noticed it too, and when he posted about it, I started to do some digging into its origins. I thought that it would be a nice tidy little search, make for a fun thread and discussion, and we'd figure out that it came from Washington, maybe, or Lincoln, or Clausewitz.
As it turned out, I spent the better part of a year trying to find out where "blood and treasure" came from. I exhausted databases. I learned languages. I asked everyone I knew about it. I gave lectures on it. I contemplated scrapping my planned dissertation to write about it instead, and when that seemed like a bad idea, I contemplated leaving graduate school to write a book about it instead.
"Blood and treasure" is in its own way the key to all mythologies. Tracing the phrase traces the history of human thought about violence, whether in politics, history, religion, philosophy, or literature. I wanted to share here a fraction of what I have found so far.... Read more ....
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Language, Learnin', Self-Disclosure, Snarkonomics, Snarkpolitik, Society/Culture
March 16, 2009
Augmented Reality Toys
This whole theme is particularly poetic because it plays on what's already magic about kids and toys: There is so much happening that an observer can't see. In a very real sense, toys are already surrounded by layers of augmented reality. But the technology that powers it isn't fancy goggles; it's just imagination.
I remember playing with Transformers and other assorted robots as a kid and being impatient for the "toy fugue state" to kick in. Like reading a book, you know? There's a big difference between the moment after you've just opened a book -- just-reading-each-word-in-order -- and the cruising speed that comes later, when the pages have melted away and something totally different is happening with your eyes and your brain.
The same thing exactly would happen to me as I "got in the groove" of playing with toys. It was sorta like flow for kids! Does this ring a bell with anybody else? Any similar experiences?
February 23, 2009
My Facebook universe, clustered by cross-connections:
February 21, 2009
Oh, man -- Lifehacker has a powerful strategy for home office clutter. The principle is, don't add more shelves to organize your stuff or spaces to put it in -- they'll just fill up with more junk, like cars and highway lanes in Atlanta. Instead, eliminate physical matter wherever you can, by scanning and shredding your files. Then, you must prebind yourself into a limited, manageable, securable amount of space. You must move your workspace into the closet.
Attentive Snarkmarket readers may know that this is where it gets interesting.
You see, one of the Snarkmasters already has a workspace in his closet, and while not an exact copy, it actually looks a whole lot like that very elegant picture above. And sometimes we joke about the whole "office in a closet" idea.
Another Snarkmaster, who lives in a city that, while not cheap, offers a whole lot more square feet for the money than the locale of SM#1, has a whole library in his apartment, filled with bookshelves and comfy chairs and file cabinets. But it's also full of empty boxes, piles of books and papers, strollers and baby toys, the occasional laundry basket full of clothes, old card catalogues that are really cool-looking but that he hasn't figured out what to do with, and these super-beautiful pocket doors that he uses to just close up the whole mess while he taps away on his laptop in the dining room.
The point is, one of these methods has achieved a kind of zen simplicity. The other may very well offer its own path to enlightenment, but it's going to require a lot of digging to come out on the other end. So, to you, sir, kudos.
File under: Design, Gleeful Miscellany, Object Culture, Self-Disclosure
February 19, 2009
The Late Shift
This essay by Ben Mathis-Lilley on why Conan O'Brien, haters aside, will kill as the new host of The Tonight Show, is merely probably true. However, this collective autobiography of O'Brien fans is right on the money:
Even Conan's biggest fans are worried that he'll fail or, worse, dumb down his act in an attempt to imitate Leno's lucrative inanity. In this scenario, success is a more horrifying possibility than failure. I know about that last part because I'm one of those fans, a member of the demographic most likely to view Conan with love and affection: people who reached late-night-TV-watching age at around the same time Conan's show started getting good, around 1995 or so. If you're like me, you started watching Conan regularly at around age 13 or 14, and continued as a highly regular viewer for the next eight or nine years, your loyal fandom enabled by the fact that, as a teenager and then a college student, you had no problem staying up until 12:40 every night. (Fortunately, my turn toward marginally more responsible sleep/lifestyle choices has coincided with the rise of DVR.)
In fact, this observation is so good, I can't believe BML doesn't capitalize on it. This is why Conan will kill at 11:30 -- because his fan base isn't in their teens any more. We're in our thirties, close enough, or older. We don't even like to stay up that late, we've got to TiVo the damn show. And Jay Leno's fans don't want to stay up past eleven. The show will be a success not because Conan's "matured" but because We Are Old.
I started seriously watching Conan in my freshman year of college; as a kid, I used to sneak downstairs to watch Johnny Carson. The Tonight Show w/ Johnny offered adulthood at its most enigmatic and alluring; with Jay, it seemed phony, bloated, contrived -- above all, to be avoided. Hence, cartoons and Conan.
We're the people who watch The Tonight Show now. Does it feel too soon?
File under: Media Galaxy, Self-Disclosure, Society/Culture
February 7, 2009
Everybody Needs One
Sometimes a single detail makes an entire story. I think that's the case with Jodi Kantor's profile of Richard Holbrooke:
(Many people have personal trainers; Mr. Holbrooke has a personal archivist.)
I was actually thinking about archives this morning, after reading this bit from Tim's Whitman post:
But Whitman's notebooks at this time are filled with images, just jottings, of these people, what they're doing, what they look like, what their names are.
Cross-reference with Michael Bierut's wonderful stack of notebooks. I love the idea of keeping a durable, written record like this... but I am congenitally incapable of using and keeping notebooks. I'm way more comfortable with digital notes -- emails to myself, short little Google Docs, etc.
What's a good compromise? Is there some easy way to physical-ize those notes? Maybe I need an app that literally scans my stuff for certain kinds of documents, saves them, and prints 'em out en masse.
I mean, until I get a personal archivist, anyway.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Self-Disclosure, Society/Culture
January 10, 2009
California, for Warmer Weather
Not to jinx anything, but I'm giving a job talk on Monday.
Please, please, please, let my plane get out of Philadelphia tomorrow. (They're predicting snow.)
December 21, 2008
The Film Version Of Your Life
In mine, I would be played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. There's a fair-to-middling physical resemblance, to be sure, but mostly, I just feel like he would do a really, really great job.
I'd also like it if he would say this about me:
The world is hard, and ... being a human on this earth is a complicated, messy thing.” Hoffman paused again. “And I, personally, am uncomfortable with that messiness, just as I acknowledge its absolute necessity. I find the need to play a part like [Tim Carmody] inescapable, and I only want to do things I’m that passionate about. I know there are actors out there that present themselves as cool cats, but you better take your cool-cat suit off if you want to act. You can’t otherwise.
June 12, 2008
Mpls Meetup: 7/11 Weekend
OK, if we were actually to to do this meetup exactly a month from now in Minneapolis (7/10-7/13), who could make it? I've got a comfy leather couch, a queen-sized aerobed in my spare bedroom (weightroom), floor space for anyone who doesn't mind it, and I might be able to rustle up a friend or two to host some folks as well. I can promise a rip-roaring time, an itinerary packed with culinary and cultural delights, at least one save-the-world-caliber conversation, and lefse.
March 22, 2008
Just Under the Surface
[Quoting Melissa Harris-Lacewell.] "One of the things fascinating to me watching these responses to Jeremiah Wright is that white Americans find his beliefs so fringe or so extreme. When if you’ve spent time in black communities, they are not shared by everyone, but they are pretty common beliefs." ... What’s happening, I think, is that the Obama campaign has led many white Americans to listen in for the first time to some of the black conversation — and they are thunderstruck.Speaking as a fully assimilated Negro, with a white boyfriend and a surfeit of white friends, living in an overwhelmingly white neighborhood, it's hard for me to write about Obama's speech. There's a lingering note in Kristof's column that threatens to narrow and polarize this conversation just as it begins -- "You white folks just don't get it." Some even heard it in the speech itself, and it instantly deafened them to what was said; it sounds so much like assigning blame to non-blacks for something that they just cannot help. And for me, inhabiting the whitest world a black American man can inhabit, it's even more awkward to say that the note rings true. From the severity of the reaction to Jeremiah Wright's speeches, it seems that a large number of Americans, including many of my colleagues in the press, just had no idea.
In black communities, words like Wright's are commonplace.
Those words you're hearing over and over again on YouTube are not the rantings of a lunatic fringe, they are the frequent utterances of a sizable segment of black America. It's just that this time they've spilled out of our closed conversation in a dramatic way.... Read more ....
File under: Self-Disclosure, Snarkpolitik, Society/Culture
August 1, 2007
December 26, 2006
The Tag Stops Here
Er, Robin, Will tagged us with this '5 Things You Didn't Know About Me' meme last week. We don't really have a protocol for this stuff on Snarkmarket. Hmm.
OK, how's this? I will throw an unspecified number of things about myself into the comments as I come up with them. If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged. Feel free to jump in the comments and add stuff about yourselves as well, or do so on your own blog and link back to it here. And if you, gentle reader, have no interest in trivia about the lives of me, Robin, or any of your fellow Snarkmarket readers, consider yourself unmolested.
October 3, 2006
How Current Works
Hey, if you have any interest in the nuts-and-bolts of how Current works, check out this long interview with my boss Joanna Drake Earl over on [itvt]. It is almost ridiculously long and in-depth... I love online interviews.
One of the things Joanna talks about is the fact that aspiring VC2 producers can now download legal, licensed production music for their videos from the Current site. As I said on the Current blog, it exemplifies my favorite thing about Current: We take people (and their desire to do good work) seriously.
June 27, 2006
Um, Who's Been Using My Computer?
I know it is self-indulgent to post a screenshot of your Firefox tabs, but this made me laugh, so permit me: Ha!
April 1, 2006
Yahoo!® Buys Snarkmarket
It's exciting to be finally able to say this is official. This deal has been in the works for what feels like ages. But Robin and I are thrilled to announce we will be joining the Yahoo!® family. When we started Snarkmarket almost two-and-a-half years ago, we really didn't know what to expect, and we definitely weren't expecting to sell this baby off. (Under the terms of our acquisition, we're really not allowed to discuss figures, but I think saying there are three commas involved is oblique enough.)
But as we've evolved into a media powerhouse, with a user base of almost 7 regular commenters, it became clearer and clearer that the only responsible thing for us to do was to partner with a large organization that could give this community the resources it needed to realize its potential. Yahoo!® is certainly the best partner we could have imagined. We're excited about what's in store for us, for you our users, and for the world.
January 6, 2005
These'll Be Worth Something Someday
So I was just doing a long-belated sweep of an old work e-mail account before it gets closed down for good, deciding what to save.
I'm pretty swift with the delete key, and exactly two classes of messages survived the cut:
- E-mails from girls I had/have crushes on
- E-mails from friends or colleagues who I think might one day be famous
Both surprisingly large groups, as I am by nature optimistic.
Also, this may be revealing too much, but I had an Outlook folder titled 'NYT stalking.'