I desperately want a Bookinist chair. Because it’s not just a chair with built-in bookshelves; it’s a chair with built-in bookshelves and a secret compartment with a little Moleskine-pocket. Why has nobody thought of this before now?


In which I succumb to Harry Potter mania

Signs that we’re only a few days from the release of the new Harry Potter book, # 358:

You walk into a university library (Drexel’s, to be exact) and find the place draped with streamers in various Hogwarts house colors, and signs that say things like "Hermione’s nook" and "Voldemort Cave."

I’ll admit to rolling my eyes at that; nonetheless, I’ve succumbed to the hype and ordered book 7. I opted for cheaper shipping, so I won’t get it on the day it comes out. Instead, I’ll be spending the intervening days diligently avoiding spoilers and sticking my fingers in my ears whenever I’m around people who’ve finished reading it already.

At any rate, I’d bet good money that sign # 359 — Harold Bloom publishes indignant screed declaring (again) that Harry Potter presages the decline and fall of western civilization — will crop up any day now.

[Update, two days later: Shouldn’t have worried; my copy arrived this morning. Now I know what I’ll be doing with the rest of my weekend…]

Knitting project jamboree

I don’t know why, but my brain’s been feeling logy of late. Maybe it’s just because it’s summer and part of me still equates this time of year with school vacations and laziness. At any rate, I’ve got a bit of blogger’s block going on; most of my writing energy is going into thinking about conference paper topics.

But at least I don’t have knitter’s block. My current list of projects:

The latter is an ongoing project, and they just posted pictures of the first meeting (in which you can see the back of my head). It was good to hang out with a new bunch of knitters, and to make something for someone who needs it. Come to think of it, it’s good to be juggling knitting projects again. Maybe the left brain will wake up a bit if the right brain gets a workout.

Personal anthology: Guillaume Apollinaire

I noticed this poem somewhere on a LibraryThing discussion thread, and it stayed with me. Turns out it’s in Apollinaire’s Alcools.


J’ai cueilli ce brin de bruyère
L’automne est morte souviens-t’en
Nous ne nous verrons plus sur terre
Odeur du temps brin de bruyère
Et souviens-toi que je t’attends

— Guillaume Apollinaire

And here’s my (rather clumsy) translation:

The Goodbye

I have plucked this sprig of heather
Autumn is dead remember
Never again on earth will we see each other
Odor of time sprig of heather
And remember I wait for you

There’s more on Apollinaire at Ubuweb, including a sound file of him reading "Le Pont Mirabeau." All the poems in Alcools are available in French on Wikisource. (Incidentally, quite a few of Apollinaire’s poems have been set to music; my beloved Pink Martini adapted one of them, "Hôtel," as the title track on their album Sympathique.)

Too darn hot

Ogden Nash said it best:

Well, well, well, so this is summer, isn’t that mirabile dictu,
And these are the days when whatever you sit down on, you stick to.

I would post at more length, but it’s 95 degrees in the shade today, and my brain melted hours ago.

Thinking out loud about space and memory

I’m incubating potential topics for the paper abstract I’m planning on submitting for the Analogous Spaces conference. I want to send something in for the session on spatial analogies for memory, so, by way of making myself write some of this stuff out, I’m posting about it. (Brain-dump follows. You’ve been warned.) Among other things, I’ve been thinking about:

  • the spatial aspect of the classical art of memory, which relied on imagined architecture
  • connections between personal memory and the sense of landscape (I’ve been reading Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memory, slowly but steadily)
  • mapping applications (Google Maps et al.) as a way of presenting information in spatialized ways
  • how people internalize knowledge of their surroundings, memorize routes from point A to point B — a question I think about in my fuzzy humanist way every time I venture into a previously unknown part of Philadelphia, but also one that the cognitive psychologists have tackled, if I decide to take that tack
  • wayfinding in virtual environments, and the persistence of spatial metaphors in the online world ("home page," "back," "forward," "navigation," etc. etc.)
  • Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, particularly Zora, the unforgettable city
  • city form and memory more generally
  • local memory and place awareness in poetry (I’m gravitating toward a subset of Thomas Hardy’s poems, here, but also bits of Tennyson)
  • libraries as memory theaters — an idea that occurred to me once while working in the main reading room of the Library of Congress, looking up at the statues representing the various disciplines (Solon for law, Shakespeare for literature, and so on) and wondering if the placement of the statues originally had anything to do with the placement and classification of the books underneath them.

So I’m trying to bring together a bunch of threads all having to do with the embodiment of memory in physical or imaginary space. This is partly dissertation-retread, but with a fair number of new directions mixed in. Ultimately, I think, this could turn into a longer project, with literary parts and information-science-ish parts; right now I’m glad I have to think in terms of standard conference paper length.

Eating locally, storming the Bastille locally

On Sunday I went to the new Headhouse Farmers’ Market, where I ended up
going a bit produce-crazy: the morning’s haul included
peaches, heirloom tomatoes, a cucumber, half a dozen eggs, some really
decadent fudge, a bag of Asian salad greens, and — hard-to-find item
of the week — a bag of garlic scapes.* They’re the curly green shoots, topped with seedpods, that
the garlic plant sends up aboveground. You can cook them like regular garlic, or like green onions. Half of my bag went into some pasta on Sunday night; I’m saving the rest for a stir-fry, a risotto, or perhaps an unusually green batch of garlic bread. The extra-curly ones could also be worn as avant-garde and slightly pungent bracelets.

I liked the Headhouse market so much that I resolved to get as much of my produce as possible from farmers this summer,
and look into where to find good local produce in the winter. I don’t
think I could manage the 100-mile diet (I can’t make myself give
up coffee, chocolate, or olive oil, for a start), but I’m getting tired of going to
supposedly earth-friendly groceries and being unable to find fruit that wasn’t flown in from the West Coast or the other side of the world, even in the middle of summer.

Tomorrow night, there are going to be 4th of July fireworks by
the Art Museum, within an easy walk of my building. In two weeks, it’ll
be Bastille Day at the State Penitentiary, complete with street fair
and a mock Bastille-storming. My neighborhood rocks.

* Incidentally, I’ve heard them called both "garlic scapes" and
"garlic snapes"; the latter usage makes me wonder if that’s where J.K. Rowling got one of her character names. (I’ve finished Book 6 of the Harry Potter saga. Anyone want to
speculate on what’s going to happen in Book 7?)

Open letter to an ebook provider

Dear NetLibrary,

It’s not that I don’t appreciate having online access to a book that everyone in my cataloging class is going to be vying over this weekend. And it’s not that I don’t also appreciate the fact that you seem to have ditched the PDF format, a move for which I’m profoundly grateful, considering what a pain in the rear it was to load and resize a brand-new PDF for every single page of the books you make available.

However: why does my checkout have to expire in UNDER AN HOUR? Do you have any idea how annoying it is to keep logging back in over and over? Are you trying to make people avoid using your product whenever possible?

Also, I’m not a plagiarist, and I resent your apparent assumption that I can’t copy and paste text out of your browser without being one. If I really wanted to plagiarize, I’d still be able to transcribe word-for-word from the book, wouldn’t I? I’m not exactly thrilled about being unable to print out anything at all, either.

I don’t hate your product quite as much as I did when you were using PDFs, but I’m still not feeling any love. And I think you should fire whoever came up with the short-timeout thing.

[There. I feel better now…]

Culture jamming is alive and well

A certain behemoth of a phone company is promoting a cell phone you can use to watch TV. (Why you would want to watch TV on a screen that tiny, I don’t know, but they want you to believe it’s the next big thing.) There are billboards up around my area with the slogan "As seen on phone," as in "As seen on TV."

This morning, as the R3 train rolled toward Swarthmore, I looked out the window and saw that someone had altered one of the billboards to read "The dumbing down of America: As seen on phone."

My hat is off to you, anonymous culture-jammer, whoever you may be.

Long-range, castle-in-air travel planning

I already blogged about planning to submit a talk proposal for a conference in Belgium next May. Not long after that, it occurred to me that I’ve also been wanting for ages to go to the Pratt Institute School of Library and Information Science’s summer institute in Florence. Which, if they offer it again next summer and it’s around the same time of year, would be shortly after the conference in Ghent. Either would be a completely fabulous reason to travel; I’m thinking about applying for both, if I can swing it.

Of course, all of this is contingent on a billion factors, including how much time I can take off to go gallivanting around Europe, whether I get accepted as a conference speaker and/or summer institute student, whether Drexel would apply the Pratt course as a credit toward my MSLIS, and how fast I can save money, because European travel ain’t cheap, even if I were to youth-hostel it all the way from Ghent to Florence.

But still: if I can manage either, I’ll be ecstatic. If any of you have ideas for the budget-conscious Eurotraveler, please feel free to chime in!