Monthly Archives: July 2007

Random Footnote

A few years ago — well, to be candid, many years ago — Phil gave me a copy of David Antin’s book tuning as a summer reading present. I don’t remember what weird circumstances directed his attention to it, but I’ve loved tuning from first reading (which was delayed for a while because I was put off by Antin’s ad hoc punctuation and typography). I’ve pushed it on friends, and assigned it to a PhD seminar on hermeneutics.

I glimpsed my copy of tuning the other day as we were packing up, and it reminded me of how richly provocative I found Antin’s work. So I dug up some links, made an entry, and blogged him.

Self-Sustaining and Good For the Public

I hear the expectation that not-for-profit endeavors have some prospect for sustaining their existence (if not exactly a “business plan,” at least a responsible budgetary path), and I understand that especially when we hear of mismanaged charities and institutions we heighten our sense that generous donations not underwrite high livers and wastrels.

At the same time: I remain aggrieved that this rhetoric rules out from the start projects for which there is an explicable absence of market support, which nonetheless stand to benefit a wide public. The report on “University Publishing in a Digital Age” (via Inside Higher Education) provides a case in point; there’s a strong case, I would argue, that disseminating scholarly discourse can’t be a break-even proposition any more than (for instance) the public library system can support itself.


Yesterday I finished the lectionary columns and solicited some reader comments; today I’ll make some edits and send them off. We finished the upstairs bedrooms — the ones we’re vacating — though we need to pack up the clothes in suitcases and get them out of the way, so that the cleaners can come in at midday and dust, polish, vacuum all the surfaces that we can make available to them.


Because of our family’s circumstances this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about my ownership of so many books. I’d be very happy, I thought, to share my books with my circle of friends, many of whom now have duplicates of books that I own, and who’d be inclined to be interested in most of the books I have that they don’t (and vice versa). Sadly, we mostly live in widely-distributed locales, and none of us can afford to buy a building to house a collection any place. (My fantasy of being endowed with an informal compound with tons of dry shelf space and dorms and sheds for guests to sleep and write in seems further from realization than ever.)

These thoughts were flitting about my mind when I read Scott McLemee’s column about culling book collections in this week’s Inside Higher Education. I don’t buy nearly as many books as I used to, and the trend is downward, but we still have an enormous theological (and philosophy/literary theory) library. I wish there were a way of maintaining ready access to books that I’ve paid for, while relocating them to another site, one where others could benefit from the library as well.
Continue reading Deaccessioning

Verbal Tics

Not “ticks,” as I saw in another online source this morning (later: either Josh Marshall corrected this, or perhaps I misread it the first time through), though verbal ticks would be annoying too – perhaps burrowing under your cognitive skin and sucking out your creativity, infecting you with chronic cliché syndrome?

As I pound out my last Evanstonian paragraphs of the summer, I catch myself repeatedly resorting to formulaic constructions that vex me much (friends who’ve worked with me in the Writing Group will recognize these old nemeses coming back to besiege me): First, the “One of the. . . is. . .” construction, a prevalent but weak way of characterizing a specific item or quality from a range of other possibilities (“One of my most common tics is the ‘one of. . . is’ tic”); second, the negation-affirmation tic (“It is not X but Y,” boy does that one possess my writerly soul); and third, the paired-term tic (“fiercely and persistently,” “oppression and steadfastness,” blah blah blah). I will probably leave many of them in, from lack of time to edit them all out – but how annoying to observe myself yield to their power over me!


We hope to close out the bedroom today; we have at least one trip to the Salvation Army planned, and some other errand-type things. Cleaners come in tomorrow.

[Later: Ha! Finished drafting Set One of lectionary helps!]

Bruce Schneier points to an article on airline security by David Mackett, the president of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance. Why are our security czars an array of duplicitous cronies, and not competent, qualified experts? Are we safer with Michael “I think with my intestines” Chertoff and Heckuva Job Brownie than we would be with Schneier and Mackett?


We made some headway on the bedroom yesterday, but we need to push hard today as well. Bea gets a trip to the vet and a haircut today. I should try to grind out the last of my lectionary helps for assignment #1 (I have two more sets of lectionary helps to produce in the next few weeks).

Yesterday Si and I were talking about the article in the NY Times Magazine (registration required) Prince’s clueful approach to making a living in the digital media environment. Si kept focusing on Prince’s megamillions; I certainly respect his (Prince’s, not Si’s) capacity to generate massive revenues, but since arguments about digital handcuffs on music recordings typically try to represent themselves as a favor for the smaller-scale artist, I promoted the cause of Michelle Shocked (warning: involuntary music track for site, sorry), who has been making her way as a recording and performing musician in the digital environment, without a record label owning her, for a number of years. Like Prince, she rebelled against a restrictive contract; like Prince, she protested that she was in effect a slave (she sued Mercury Records under California statutes against involuntary servitude, and entitled her 1996 album with Fiachna O’Braonain “Artists Make Lousy Slaves”); like Prince, she won her free agency; but unlike Prince, she’s not a purple-obsessed multimillionaire. She’s making modest records and terrific concert appearances, selling music online (albeit with fierce, sharing-hostile monitory notes), and doing okay for herself. Her new album comes out in September, and I’m sure to buy a download.

The industrial mediators of music distribution have enthralled the populace with their glamourous promise of wealth and notoriety, but that lottery-hit windfall comes only to a tiny proportion of the musicians from whose energies and creativity the industry profits. If we’re looking for proof that musicians can manage just fine in the digital environment, let‘s look not only at Prince, but at Michelle Shocked, too.

Five To Go

We’ve got five days left here. Margaret has finished, pretty much, with Pippa’s room and the guest room; we mostly just need to pack up our bedroom and the bits of my office that I’ll be leaving for my sub. I’m making some progress on the lectionary articles I owe (resisting any temptation for cutesy topical allusions to Harry Potter). Bea has vet and grooming appointments. We have cleaners coming in on Thursday. Saturday we set out to connect with Nate in Ann Arbor, and a whole huge year-long adventure begins.

I’m not quite as queasy-stressed-out as I was last week; Margaret has shouldered a massive accomplishment in packing/storing to get us to this point. And Saturday is in sight.

Accio, Deathly Hallows!

I’ve taken my turn for reading the Deathly Hallows, and I suspect I enjoyed it every bit as much as Si did. Rowling included some vexatious bits of teenage contention again, but she didn’t allow that to dominate the story (and in its own way, it advanced the plot somewhat). We’re criticizing Harry Potter in the midst of its cultural currency — always a dangerous gesture, as a retrospective glance at media “of the Year” awards will reveal — but I anticipate that Harry will stand up as a durable contribution to its literary neighbors.


Jeneane really feels like packing up someone else’s stuff (and selling some on eBay).

Margaret and I feel nauseous about packing and decluttering our stuff before we go to Princeton.

Why does she live there when we live here?

[Speaking of Jeneane, last night Margaret and I had a difficult time sleeping because Beatrice kept whining and yipping in response to a mysterious thumping sound we heard in the night. Jeneane theorizes that it was the hamster-essence of Marshmallow, making its way to Hamster Heaven, intimidating our seven-year-old Bichon Frisé puppy.]