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There are currently two things that are annoying me about Wikisource books. These are: the inclusion of hyperlinks (to be all 1990s about it, with using that word); and the usage of straight quotation marks.
Links I can forgive, or even actively enjoy, in non-fiction; but in fiction, they have no place. (So think I, anyway.) Especially when they link to a sodding dictionary term! I know how to look up a word I don’t know. Sigh.
The curly-vs-straight argument is an odd one. We only have straight ones thanks to typewriters (or their manufacturers, I guess) not wanting to have two sorts for each type of quotation mark. So why we persist I cannot say! No, I can say… it’s mostly to do with ease of typing, on common systems, I think. It’s annoying to type the opening and the closing glyphs, when there’s only one button on the keyboard. But really! That might hold sway where there’s no automatic system for handling these things, but we have those systems and they work admirably. And certainly, when it comes to typesetting books that are going to be read by (we hope) very many people, it’s worth putting a bit more effort in to make them look nice.
Because that’s what it’s about, ultimately: making the text beautiful! For how many hundreds of years have people been taking terrific care over making books look nice?! Let’s not give up on that.
I’m not really sure why I’m writing this, today. (Probably due to the glass of White Rabbit I’ve just here.) It’s that I’m firing with the zeal of the converted! I am, you see. I used to not care about quotes, and think they should be left straight — now, I stand on speakers’ corner and holler to confused passersby!
So, would that ye enjoy yr ebooks?! Then set them with loveliness!
Right… where’s that beer…
Melbourne and Mars, by Joseph Fraser.
You cannot go twenty miles in any direction without finding an electric fountain, free to the public, from which the accumulators of any travelling machine can be instantly recharged.
…indeed, we have no wilful lawbreakers anywhere.
We have no hunting of wild beasts; they have all been exterminated long ago. This extermination has extended to vermin and insect plagues, and even to some kinds of animalculæ. There is nothing that can bite, sting, or injure us in any way.
This morning I’m at Parlapa, the lovely little caffe opposite the town hall. It’s a good place to be sat, with a slight hangover, with some nice small WordPress code to be working on, and of course with a coffee. The only down side is the fact that the City wifi almost reaches here, so I’ve got the most tantalising of faint signals and so keep trying to connect; I should give that up, and read a book.
I’m re-reading Tolstoy’s Dictaphone, which is a terrific book. But I’ve left it at home, un-terrifically, and so instead am reading Live and Let Live by Catharine Maria Sedgwick. Only read the first two pages so far so I’ve no idea what it’s about, and anyway keep getting distracted by typographical errors (so far, all resulting from the fact that Kobos don’t support small-caps. What a joke!).
Talking of small-caps, there’s movement at the GITenberg station, with a project underway to convert PG books to unicode and to use proper punctuation characters (for quotation marks and dashes, at least). The idea is to use Asciidoc, but there is no standard way to express small-caps. In fact, none of the popular lightweight markup languages seem to have small-caps; what an oversight!
So if I were with a more solid connection, I’d try to run the punctuation-fixing scripts against one of Mr Gissing’s works. Because there’s something nicer about working on books as stand-alone Git repositories, rather than in the mammoth universe of Wikisource and the WMF. A feeling that one is producing single editions, and perhaps a number of different formats for each — and is able to give each its due attention. The wikitext-as-source-format paradigm gets a bit tiring sometimes, because although the HTML output is great, and that makes for good ebooks (well, Kobo and its small-caps-ignorance aside), I’d really like to be able to produce printable (and thus bindable) output as well. Say, via LaTeX. And maybe Asciidoc is one way of doing that.
Really, the main thing that PG is missing (and GITenberg, although it’s probably easier to rectify there) is the ability to confer with the original source scans.
- Subject: ey laughs
- Object: I hugged em
- Possessive Adjective: eir heart warmed
- Possessive Pronoun: that is eirs
- Reflexive: ey loves emself
I’m doing a bit of proofreading of the first volume of the first edition of Emma, and I’ve just realised that there are more punctuation errors than I’d thought were likely. I’m slowing down now and taking more care.
This is a project that I’ve wanted for years, and now it’s here: https://gitenberg.github.io/
Project GITenberg is a Free and Open, Collaborative, Trackable and Scriptable digital library. It leverages the power of the Git version control system and the collaborative potential of Github to make books more open.
40,000 Project Gutenberg books have been uploaded to GitHub, and can now be forked, fixed, and fed back to the world’s biggest library of public domain ebooks. Other alliteration is also possible.
I’ve just sent my first pull request, for a typo I found in Gissing’s The Paying Guest.
The only thing lacking now is the original scans of these books, so that the ebooks can be verified against the source.
WikiTeam has released an update of the chronological archive of all Wikimedia Commons files, up to 2013. Now ~34 TB in total.
Just seed one or more of these torrents (typically 20-40 GB) and you’ll be like a brick in the Library of Alexandria (or something), doing your bit for permanent preservation of this massive archive.
From this post to wikimedia-l.
Reading on an ereader, I seem to lose all of the “publisher’s metadata”: there is no longer any hint of what type of book this is — no cover to judge, no binding, no typography to tell if it’s a serious literary thing or a pulpy time-passer or an old forgotten once-loved.
It’s probably good this way. Lets the text speak for itself. Mainly the loss harms my ability to recall a book, more than the way I receive its words. No more recollection of 20th century authors as dusty orange Penguins with failing glue. Now they sit alongside every other of any time whose surname begins as theirs does, or is (as arbitrarily) co-alphabetically titled.
Perhaps what I’m looking for is a chronology of literature? Victorians vs. post-war makes more sense than the alphabet as a reading criteria!
The danger is that we are becoming ever more disconnected from place: “Most modern intellectuals and scientists,” he tells us, “have hardly any interest in place, for they consider their theories to be applicable everywhere.”
—From a review of Off the Map by Alastair Bonnett.
I use LibraryThing to keep track my book collection and reading. It’s great!
(Hullo LT Matt! This post is to confirm that I am me.)
I have finished proofreading Mister Kimberly’s 1897 History of West Australia, or at least the first twenty-one main chapters. I fixed up a couple of hundred typographical errors in the Wikisource text.
There really wasn’t much wrong, just small stuff. I was repeatedly amazed at the high quality of the proofreading and typesetting of Hesperian and Moondyne — and dozens of others, as well, of course! (I don’t know how to find out the contributor statistics of a whole swath of pages at once.)
A few months ago I bought a Kobo Mini ereader. These are a few notes I’ve made since then about how well it works. It does work well, and I use it a lot.
- Quite often, after first turning the thing on, it will go back to sleep mode after the first or second page-turn—without me touching the on/off switch. After switching it back on, it stays on until commanded otherwise. This is annoying, and the first few times I thought the thing was total crap, but now I’m used to it and it doesn’t really detract from normal use.
- It took far longer than I would’ve expected to get used to turning the page! In a couple of books, it would turn the wrong way, or two pages at once, or not turn at all (but just refresh to the same page!). I think this was just my fumbling and lack of awareness of the various screen areas and swipe/tap directions, because it hasn’t happened for ages and I’ve nearly forgotten about it.
- The bezel is a bit high, casting shadows across the text when the light is not quite high. Far better than the shadow cast by the opposite page of a book, though, so I don’t really say this as a criticism (but it is noticible).
- Hyperlinks don’t work and should not be displayed as such. (This has only come up in Wikisource texts, and I realised that the epub’s stylesheet should be able to solve this problem.)
- Fonts seem lacking in some UTF characters (such as 1/8).
- Hyphenation is a bit weird. Maybe that’s something to do with the epub itself though? I haven’t bothered to read further on the issue.
- The first-run can not be done on a Linux machine, as it does some stupid reporting and updating to the Kobo HQ. Why this sort of shit is necessary is beyond me, but at least it only needs to be done once and thereafter can be treated as a USB storage device on any OS. I would have loved to have been able to take it out of the box and instantly start reading some pre-packaged whatever.
There’s lots of other stuff, but basically positive and therefore invisible. It has good battery life; good screen contrast; is physically robust (although I do have a fantastic case for it, which puts a nice slab of binders’ board over the screen when it’s not in use); all up is pretty good.
Now, I just hope I don’t have to buy another ereader for, say, five years. Ten, preferably.
The internet rumour-mill has been helped on it’s merry unstoppable way over on Tim Milsom’s blog. So easy to fall for these things; so hard for a pedant like myself to not try to set the record straight: Kevin Rudd’s great-great uncle was not hanged as this story tells it.
Still a good joke of course….
It would seem that Sir Humphrey Appleby is alive and well on the Guardian’s comment threads:
Those who rebut often claim to refute, often because they seek to refute with their rebuttals. They may believe their rebuttals to be successful, to refute that which they deny, and so refer to those rebuttals as refutations. This can give the impression that ‘refute’ means ‘rebut’, or even just ‘deny’. And then the word ‘refute’ gets used that way. But, while the rebutters certainly rebut, they might not refute. To agree that they refute is to draw a conclusion, to take their side on that point. To refer to the rebuttals as rebuttals is to leave such conclusions for others to draw.
How thoughtful of Nature to not be disturbed by people.
It was near to the ship, and there Mr. Broadhurst found the traces of two distinct camps, which nearly a century and a half had not obliterated. Indentations were still apparent in the ground made by the feet of the company while moving, in the form of a half circle, round the camps. Captain Stokes saw the bones of seals which had evidently been killed for subsistence, and these Mr. Broadhurst also found. Nature, in thoughtfulness, had not rudely obliterated these traces of such remarkable occurrences, and in the neighbourhood, amid sad memories, Mr. Broadhurst’s quest disclosed a varied selection of articles.
Today I bought a Kobo Mini ereader. It’s lovely: small and simple, feeling light and nice to touch. It’s got an on button on the top edge, and a USB plug on the bottom; the rest is screen, bezel, and back (the latter two of a sort of micro-fluffy textured plastic). So far, so good.
I bought it because I want to read Wikisource texts offline and away from the computer, and I don’t like the idea of continuing to print them out. It’s nice to proofread on paper, perhaps, but then carrying A4 pages around in manilla folders isn’t very good (for reading on the bus and whatnot). I don’t think it’s too hard to make notes about corrections in my notepad, so long as I give a suitable amount of context.
Anyway, the second thing about the Mini, after it’s pleasing appearance: it won’t work until it’s been ‘activated’! What on earth’s the point of that, other than to attempt to force me into buying books from some particular company or other?! Ridiculous! However, do it I must, if I want to read anything else — so I registered, and stumbled around in the Kobo Desktop application…
At first it looked like it mightn’t actually be possible to just copy the files I wanted to the device (despite it most sensibly mounting as a little external storage thingo), but it turned out that one must first activate it and then copy files to it, in order for them to be recognised. The file I’d copied before activation was ignored, but then after copying another there it kicked it into action and both were listed in the main menu. A relief.
So: all working on Ubuntu now, and I’ll report back in a few weeks on the actual readish fun of the thing….
Update: I wrote some more about my Kobo in July.
Great post yesterday from The Blasphemous Bicycler about people not controlling their own data:
The reasons for this are fairly easy to deduce. We were all swept away by “social media.” To send a tweet, update your Facebook status, or post a picture of your victuals on Intagram is a trivial task. Composing a blog entry requires a modicum of thought, and at least several minutes of your attention. So, in abject laziness, we abandoned our duties as Jeffersonian Yeoman bloggers, and became digital sharecroppers, churning out content for Mark Zuckerberg and his Hamiltonian ilk.
I’ve recently been twittering a bit, just to see what the Guardian’s on about in their four daily articles about how brilliant Twitter is, and I think I’ve firgured it out: it’s actually complete rubbish. It’s a cross between an IM system and a never-ending “quote of the day” competition, and the former of those is the one we need — and it’s perfectly well fulfilled by Jabber etc.
The big advantage, of course, of the big social media sites is that everyone’s there. But there is another funky-groovy technology that is massively widespread, easy to use, and also permits you to own your own data: it’s called the internet.
Oh for some quiet space in a library!
Gunzburg, Adrian; Austin, Geff (2008). Rails through the Bush: Timber and Firewood Tramways and Railway Contractors of Western Australia. Perth, Western Australia: Rail Heritage WA. pp. 208–210. ISBN 978-0-9803922-2-7. OL12330925W.
“Make things that can be archived (databases cannot be, not if you don’t also store the application that reads them). Make it possible to change one’s data structures (the ways in which things are stored — not the file formats, so much), and leave old data alone. To update, copy and morph; don’t try to force everything into the new system. Files are good for this; their formats should be standardised though, of course.”
p.41, on reading the ‘news-in-brief’ section of the daily paper:
- Tragic end for Verona lovebirds: after mistakenly thinking his sweetheart dead, a young man took his life. Having discovered the fate of her lover, the woman killed herself in turn.
- A young mother threw herself under a train and died in Russia after domenstic problems.
- A young mother took arsenic and died in a French provincial town after domestic problems.
Unfortunately, the very artistry of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Flaubert has the tendency to suggest that it would have been apparent even from a news-in-brief that there was something significant about Romeo, Anna, and Emma, something which would have led any right-thinking person to see that these were characters fit for great literature or a show at the Globe, whereas of course there would have been nothing to distinguish them [from the everyday items that make it into news-in-brief.]
There would come a moment with every book when we would feel that something was incongruous, misunderstood, or constraining, and it would give us a responsibility to leave our guide behind and continue our thoughts alone.
…there is nothing inherently three-star about a town Proust grew up in or inherently no-star about an Elf petrol station neaer Courville where Proust never had a chance to fill his Renault — but where if he had, he might easily have found something to appreciate…
It should not be Illiers-Combray that we visit: a genuine homage to Proust would be to look at our world through his eyes, not to look at his world through our eyes.
Trees have roots; I have legs. And believe me, that is a huge advantage. […] Is it possible to read Plato while wearing a Walkman? […] Books are a great bulwark for private life. […] Imagine a world where neuro-chemistry could explain Mozart… It is conceivable, and I find it frightening.
I knew Kernighan and Plauger were forward-thinking, but hadn’t realised they were 22 years ahead of their time!
(Oh, and for my own future reference: How to tear in Gimp.)
Knowledge workers are more alienated from the products of their labor than any other class in history, unable to claim some role in producing food, shelter, or even basic consumer products. And yet they can afford to spend time in beautiful places — in their gardens, in the countryside, on beaches, and near old-growth forests. As they survey these landscapes, they tell themselves that the best things in life are free, even though they have consumed mightily to travel to places where they feel peaceful, calm, and far from the worries of the modern world.
Putting faith in modernization will require a new secular theology consistent with the reality of human creation and life on Earth, not with some imagined dystopia or utopia. It will require a worldview that sees technology as humane and sacred, rather than inhumane and profane.
The risks now faced by humanity are increasingly ones of our own making — and ones over which we have only partial, tentative, and temporary control. Various kinds of liberation — from hard agricultural labor and high infant mortality rates to tuberculosis and oppressive traditional values — bring all kinds of new problems, from global warming and obesity to alienation and depression. These new problems will largely be better than the old ones, in the way that obesity is a better problem than hunger, and living in a hotter world is a better problem than living in one without electricity. But they are serious problems nonetheless.
— Evolve by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, from the September/October 2011 issue of Orion magazine.
Believing we have all the technology we’ll ever need, we seek to draw attention to its destructive side effects. This seems foolish…
—Neal Stephenson, Innovation Starvation
It is the first day of a new month. Does that mean anything? Not really, but it’s a convenient thing to kick me in to writing again.
Can we imagine things, and then have them come to be? Should we do so? I mean, should one set out with some grand plan, a vision of something (presumably) desirable, and work doggedly towards it? Is the confidence of this, fundamentally, a good thing? To throw aside doubt, charge forward with a grin, and do something! To aim to get what we think is good?
Or is the doubt that stops this, useful; does it help?
Obviously, the premise of that second stance is that, indeed, the doubt must be listened to! For otherwise, why ask? Why acknowledge that there is any doubt, if the better thing to do is to push through it?
Forgive me, I’m not making much sense. Blame the beer (and I’ve heard some advise against writing publicly in this condition… bah!). All I’m getting at is the seemingly inexhaustable bloody optimism of the tech industry…
Everywhere I turn, in my job as a coder and in my general skiving around the web, there is a pervading sense that all this tech — all these screens, these images, this communication ad adnauseam — is good. Of course that’s the prevailing mood, within the tech; it has to be. No doubt that there’s tomes of discourse, paper tomes, swapped between those who disagree with the tech-is-good premise; but they’re not on the web, and I don’t see them.
And I don’t really want to! I’m so very much on the verge of giving in to the doubt, that I really don’t need any encouragement! Where’d I be, if I listened to the posibility that the very foundations of my daily work are not to be trusted?! A gibbering wreck of anxiety, or bean-hoeing luddite; one or the other. Maybe both.
So I’m going forth with optimism (which may be blindness); grabbing the (possibly fake, or at least poorly-built) handrail of geeky progression; and climbing the hill (or decending into the pit) of joyous digital liberation.
Most of the problems today have been generated by technology, and most future problems will be generated by technology as well. I am so technocentric that I say: The solution to technological problems is more technology. Here’s a tangible example: If I throw around some really bad ideas in this interview, you won’t counsel me to stop thinking. You will encourage me to think more and come up with better ideas. Technology is a way of thinking. The proper response to bad technology is not less, but more and better technology.
The idea of privacy is a very recent concept. When people shared large huts, there was no privacy. The reason this was acceptable is that there was no privacy for anyone. The problems begin when some people are forced to be a lot more transparent than others.
I was just sitting there, just now, reading the natural navigation book that Mum gave me earlier this year, and I was struck by just how nice it was to hold something physical, something nice, in my hands. I wanted to have more of that. I wanted to be a woodworker, making my house nice all over, and having things that are good and real. But then, it all seemed pointless, as well. Why have nice things? For what purpose? Just because they’re nice? Well, yes. That’s it, really. Nothing more. It’s about the present, and the personal, immediate experience of them. It’s not about the future, and how these things will fare in the coming decades and centuries. It’s also not about how sensible and efficient and practical these things are. The book, for instance: this afternoon Tristan and I popped in to the bookshop near the Stock Road markets, and it was lovely. Nothing special, just a normal second-hand bookshop — but it was real and immediate and did not look to the future or the past; it was just for now. I bought a couple of paperbacks, thinking to add to my growing collection of Penguin Classics. Now I feel like that’s all wrong: I can’t have these temporary, poorly-made paperbacks! Why not get an ebook reader?! That’s what a paperback is aiming to be! The simplest thing, least concerned with aesthetics and the feel of the thing in the hand. So paperbacks are superceded; but well-bound hardcovers aren’t. They’re objects of beauty in their own right. I should collect them, because they’re worth more than the sum of the words they contain. But I should not collect them, because there’s just no need.
There’s no need to have these things that are nice! They’re satisfying, in the moment, but if that for which they’re being used — and now I’m thinking more about books in which one writes, journals, than published books — is not a thing that is about the current moment, then what’s the point? No, worse than that: they’re detracting from the real purpose! I write, to get words down, and be able to re-read them in years to come; this is better done on a computer (which is backed up, and the words are printed, and in other ways assured to live on) than in a paper journal. I read, to hear the author, and not to be happy with the heft of the cardboard case and the smell of the pages; these are incidental. There are lovely things about the phsical objects, and using them; but if the loveliness blinds me from getting better quality in the features that the objects exist for in the first place — exchange of ideas over time — then I’m losing out.
It’s a hard decision, and turn after turn I think I’ve made the wrong one… but ultimately, words are better off in digital form (remembering that they can always make it back on to the paper, and in multiple copies) than as ink in books. There are so many other objects that can be nice to hold, and physically satisfying to use; kitchen knifes, for example. Amazon aren’t going to replace them any time soon.
‘Five-and-forty shillings per week by the month certain at the time of year,’ said Mrs. Billickin, ‘is only reasonable to both parties. It is not Bond Street nor yet St. James’s Palace; but it is not pretended that it is. Neither is it attempted to be denied — for why should it? — that the Archway leads to a mews. Mewses must exist. Respecting attendance; two is kep’, at liberal wages. Words has arisen as to tradesmen, but dirty shoes on fresh hearth- stoning was attributable, and no wish for a commission on your orders. Coals is either by the fire, or per the scuttle.’ She emphasised the prepositions as marking a subtle but immense difference. ‘Dogs is not viewed with favour. Besides litter, they gets stole, and sharing suspicions is apt to creep in, and unpleasantness takes place.’
Own your identity by Marco Arment:
If you care about your online presence, you must own it. I do, and that’s why my email address has always been at my own domain, not the domain of any employer or webmail service.
Sadly, most people don’t care about giving control of their online identity to current or future advertising companies.
But there will always be the open web for the geeks, the misfits, the eccentrics, the control freaks, and any other term we can think of to proudly express our healthy skepticism of giving up too much control over what really should be ours.
I am reminded of that old thing: “if you do not pay for a service on the web then you are not a customer, but rather your content is a product that is sold to advertisers”.
Best Book award for Fighting For Fremantle! And a few crappy photos from my phone:
…When I asked Feal and Carol Saller, who oversees the Chicago Manual of Style, if there was a chance their organizations would go over to the other side, they both replied, in essence: “How about never? Is never good for you?”…
“Machines should work, people should think.” The message repeats itself several times; it’s the core of the film’s techno-utopian vision. We can imagine IBM executives and lawyers and public relations agents sitting across a table from Jim Henson telling him to make sure he includes these lines in his film. What if, following William Empson’s advice to readers of poetry, we shifted the emphasis just a little bit? From “machines should work, people should think” to “machines should work, people should think”? Is it possible that the film might be trying to warn us against its own techno-utopianism? Read this way, the film is less an imaginary resolution to the problem of information overload in the modern era than an imaginative critique of this imaginary resolution. Machines should work, but they frequently don’t; people should think, but they seldom do.
Service disruptions on the Fremantle Line “due to a ship colliding with a bridge and causing damage”. A bridge?! Not the bridge over the Swan, but some other of the many bridges between Freo and Claremont, I suppose…
‘[…] The first step would be to make people live dualistically, in two compartments. In one compartment as industrialized workers, in the other as human beings. As idiots and machines for eight hours out of every twenty-four and real human beings for the rest.’
‘Don’t they do that already?’
‘Of course they don’t. They live as idiots and machines all the time, at work and in their leisure. Like idiots and machines, but imagining they’re living like civilized humans, even like gods. The first thing to do is to make them admit that they are idiots and machines during working hours. “Our civilization being what it is,” this is what you’ll have to say to them, “you’ve got to spend eight hours out of every twenty-four as a mixture between an imbecile and a sewing machine. It’s very disagreeable, I know. It’s humiliating and disgusting. But there you are. You’ve got to do it; otherwise the whole fabric of our world will fall to bits and we’ll all starve. Do the job, then, idiotically and mechanically; and spend your leisure hours in being a real complete man or woman, as the case may be. Don’t mix the two lives together; keep the bulkheads watertight between them. The genuine human life in your leisure hours is the real thing. The other’s just a dirty job that’s got to be done. And never forget that it is dirty and, except in so far as it keeps you fed and society intact, utterly unimportant, utterly irrelevant to the real human life. […]’
pp. 417-418. Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley. Chatto & Windus, London 1947.
Rule #1 of local blogging: If you hear fire trucks in the night, in the morning you should be able to find out where the fire was.
— Dave Winer, http://scripting.com/stories/2010/10/22/rule1OfLocalBlogs.html
What slight clothing they wore became them perfectly, as is always the case with a costume well adapted to the natural life of its wearers. Their slow, patient effort speaks of immemorial usage, and it is in harmony with time itself.
— By the Ionian Sea, by George Gissing (PG ebook edition).
I’m not actually all that enthusiastic about this silly address book plugin, y’know. I’d rather be back fiddling with a little idea I had a while ago for a distributed bibliography thing for WP. Something a bit like LibraryThing, except that all the book data is stored within one’s own database, and importing other people’s reading and book data is easy. So I can keep my own, local, list of books and annotations, but for each one see what other people have to say about it, and see what else they’re reading (and, if I want to, bring their data over to my site with a click).
It’s a fairly basic thing, really, and I’ve done a bit of the basic formwork for it. I just have to get back to working on it, now that I’ve got these lovely mornings free (oh! I mean, “will have”… yes… that’s right… hmmm).
I yearn for quiet (I’m a Quaker, after all, and feel silence to be a necessary precondition for hearing the ssvw). Especially when I’m reading.
But public libraries are not silent.
Libraries, you see, are meant to be fun. In the morning, there are creches that consist not of storytelling but percussion-accompanied singalongs. Foreign language students chat loudly, the Germans picking up Spanish accents and the Italians learning about French kissing while supposedly swotting up English verbs. Mobiles ring and are answered not with a whispered: ‘I’m in the library’, but a loud: ‘Hiiiiii! How are you?’ In the advent of a freakish burst of quiet, you’ll hear the tinny background rattle of iTunes. The only thing you won’t hear is a ‘shush’.
Thankfully (and, I must say, suprisingly), Murdoch have a silent library floor. A whole floor (the fourth) devoted to actually reading! Imagine that! In a library! And the signs don’t say ‘quiet’, they say ‘silent’ and ‘no talking’. Jolly good, I say.
So here I am, back in the office, and bored again.
I have spent the morning trawling the Arts Full Text database; from the ‘Notebooks’ category, to ‘Reading and Books’, and thence to things about binding, I’ve been remembering that thrill of quiet, sparse, precise, personal times in libraries, with books and a notebook. Nicholson Baker wrote about transcribing to commonplaces (which is pretty much what I see this blog to be). Then an essay about reading aloud caught my attention, and I wondered where my final, aborted, art school woodwork project would be now, had I ever finished it. It was going to be a lectern, not large, but heavy, and built with old wood and all treenailed joints (even the dovetails were pinned through; I can’t remember why). A thing to own only if one never wished to move house again, I think.
In reading these writings about reading, and they were mostly a half dozen pages or so, I missed a thing from books: pages. I like turning pages, strange as that may sound: each page turned is a milestone (or, really, more like a yard-stone, if such a thing has ever existed; maybe in Huysmans’ journeys to the grog cabinet in Là-Bas they did), and forms some sort of ‘meta-rest’ — a pause in reading never intended by the author, but imposed by the printer; a gap resolved only from the book-ness of the text. On a screen there is no such thing — try reading a Project Gutenberg text on-screen, and you quickly get disoriented by the endless down, the ‘single page’ that has turned a book, a codex, into a perverse scroll that is longer than any that ever kept at Alexandria. I’ve heard that some of these so-called eBooks solve this problem by necessitating some sort of swiping gesture along the device’s margin to turn the page, but I doubt it’s the same. I love turning to a long-shut page in an old book and feeling the binding adjust and fold and present the folio, the sewing showing sometimes, and the hollow back opening smoothly. Running one’s finger down the fold, to confirm that this is where I’m reading, that though there may be much past and much to come, this page is now. (Of course, these remarks rarely hold true for a perfect-bound book: but maybe some people get satisfaction from breaking the backs of these wretched modern bricks, or in not being able to open them properly. I don’t know.)
Now it’s lunchtime, and I’m going to walk through the rain to find some lunch somewhere. With luck, a place in which reading will fit. I’m reading a novel by William Gibson at the moment, so maybe the rotten ‘mall’ will do, as at least there I’ll be out of the rain (and out of the office; I’m not particularly enamored with this place at the moment, and am thinking of quitting).
Why oh why does Tilley’s not open until nine o’clock?! Doesn’t anyone in Lyneham understand the joys of escaping first thing in the morning to a nice warm café, a good book, and the ignoring of everything one’s supposed to be doing for a few hours?! I mean, really!
I do have plans, of course, to be more comfortable—no, I mean less cold—at home. A desk in the Spare Oom, a small lectric heater, once I get a better wireless card that can make it through the monocrete walls; for now I alternate huddling and running down the hill to Tilley’s.
Where, yesterday, I was reveling in the lovely comfort of reading history: so good, so very reassuring, to read about The Past! I cease to feel so alone, so much like everything is too hard to figure out, when I know that billions of other people have come before me. It is so very good to know the stories of the past, to feel some sense of the context of one’s life. I’m not just this drifting, isolated blip in the universe: I am actually, very really and dependably, just one of millions of billions of little blips in the universe. And so there’s nothing to worry about.
I wonder how much of this journalling I should create? Am I to go on and on, putting down my world as it comes by me — as if it were a film and I a critic taking notes — and heedless of the reams of text, the “ocean waste and wide”, that I leave behind? Or am I to endevour towards the brevity of recording only that which I feel will be useful later on? Of course the latter requires I know what will be useful, and I clearly don’t. Thus I feel I must keep on this tack of logging each squall and seagull, each reef of the ocean and reef of the sails, until such a time as I have a clearer idea of what it all tends to. Please bear with me!
When I am reading I am obediently following the author, and thinking on ier [does anyone mind if I sometimes use Spivak pronouns here?] words and this is of itself an enjoyable exercise. It does enable though my mind to be freed on some other level, to go wandering off on fascinating asides (like this paragraph!). With one hand I’m engrossed in “The Poetics of Space”, and this engrossment is percisely what lets me, with the other hand, explore the endless other tangents that come up when I’m reading. There are so many thoughts racing around in my head, rarely caught by me for long, but it is through reading that sufficient of them are quieten’d for the others to be heard.
- I rather suspect that I could write nothing at all if I did not read.
- I know I could not read, not properly, if I did not intersperse times of reading with times of making.
- I should have no chance of making with any integrity if I did not prefix all with periods of still silence.
[By the way: the weird bits in this post, if they’re not mine, are from Coleridge’s Constancy to an Ideal Object.]
Hurrying off to uni after remembering the chai & cake stall, I forgot my lunch and the honey (not sweet mate), but managed to prove to myself the wisdom in having a slow bike. [Oh how I wish I could get my digital camera to work with these uni computers!] I got the chai on, retired to the Greens office to help with some ICT stuff and to do a bit of reading (more Bachelard), and headed to Civic Square for a Save The Ridge rally. I would post shots of that too, if only…
Reading. I pay close attention to my body when reading — how I’m sitting, where the pressure is, the weight of the book in my hands, my hands on my arms, where the forces are going. The intellectual exercise of entertaining the author[‘s ideas] is balanced (of course only partially — one still needs to swing from the trees shouting) by the awareness of my physical body.
The first graduate seminar that I’ve been to for weeks. Lenticulars are those pictures that move! Ooh err! (So I didn’t take many notes — eh!) The second talk set me thinking about media-independent replication of art; we’ve been doing it with text for ever, and that’s one of the aspects that draws me to the web-based data-gathering/page layout/hand-binding process: anyone anywhere could be doing similar things in totally different ways, but the ideas captured within the text would remain totally intact (much of why we marvel at digital storage). M. spoke about seating and stools and inspired me about sit/standing postures; I should like that for computeranating…
Enough for tonight!!!
I haven’t posted for a few days because I have not been doing much worthy of note. A bit more playing with boxboard pidgeonholes, a bit of reading (Morris mainly, this morning the first book of The Prelude, as well as sundry other texts relating to the… [gotta go…]