Friday, December 31, 2010

K/S: "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve"?

I WISH I could say I made this myself, but it's M'ret's (of smoothable). (M'ret advises it's best to let the whole video load before playing, for maximum smoothability.)

Kirk/Spock - "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" on Vimeo.

M'ret writes:
"Spock wants to know what Jim's doing for New Year's Eve but is - understandably - having trouble spitting it out.
The song is a Verve Remix of Ella Fitzgerald's 'What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?'"

(I, Fresca, love this song, especially Rufus Wainwright's cover.)

Ah, I find I do have the time to compose a brief answer on Kirk's behalf.

Tchotchkes Piled Up Like the Musicians of Bremen Say, Si, Se Puede!

Laura Borealis gave me the porcelain fish planter from Japan, weirdly & wonderfully decorated like a jewelry box, for Christmas.

I have been writing about Cesar Chavez––not really related to communications, but I'm managing to wedge him in, at least in this rough draft––who, I was surprised to read, was NOT a good public speaker (like King George VI, not that he stuttered).

In 1974 Dorothy Rensenbrink said,
“I have heard César Chávez speak many times... this time, as always, I am puzzled by the power of such an uncommanding person to command so much loyalty from so many.
...I am finally caught by recognition. It is hard to describe why. It is not self-recognition, just a kind of kindred recognition;
as it is with thee, so it is with me.”

--The Words of César Chávez,
(links to Google Books edition,

One of favorite things in 2010 is Google Books. They've made available, right here on this screen, old books from the 1700s and 1800s I'd have had to wait days or weeks to get through Interlibrary Loan, *if* they even circulate.

And on we go, into 2011. We can do it!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Join, Or Die (Networking Images, 2)

See also Networking Images, 1 and Networking Images 3 .
"Networking" here is meant in a broad sense, including communication technologies (practical tools) and design that connect people and ideas.

Like, here's some of the technology I'm using for research.

I keep collecting these interconnecting images as I go along. I'm crazy for the recurring patterns. Things look like other things, I'm always saying.

ABOVE: George Washington Treaty Wampum Belt
The original of this belt is the record of a Treaty with George Washington in 1789. The house in the center is the longhouse of the Six Nations (Iroquois Confederacy).

ABOVE: Handwritten sermon by Puritan minister Cotton Mather (1663-1728). From LOC exhibit "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic",

ABOVE: Portable Field Pulpit (Same LOC exhibit,
Preacher George Whitefield, of the colonial religious revival called the Great Awakening (ca. 1725–1740) used this for open-air preaching.

Benjamin Franklin's political cartoon, "Join, or Die," 1754.,_or_Die

ABOVE: Eames's diagram "Friends and Acquaintances" for the 1976 U.S. bicentennial exhibition The World of Franklin and Jefferson. Ben and Jeff in the middle, and the names around them are J. Adams, T. Paine, Lafayette, Washington, etc.

Chart of Methodist hierarchical organizational structure, Broadside, 1810-11. LOC exhibit,

ABOVE: 1864 Shape Notes, musical notation system invented in the United States, ca. early 1800s. Each symbol represents a different note (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti). From The Young Campaigner.

Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze, 1894,

ABOVE: Recording cotton stock prices, off ticker tape: Dallas News, 1951,

Inter-departmental Envelope, Nodes and Links,

Library check-out cards,


Fake BlackBerry ad, re newly elected president Barack Obama's comment, "I'm still clinging to my Blackberry. They're going to have to pry it out of my hands."From the New York Daily News, Jan. 2009,

Sci-Fi raygun decal, 2010. I want. Tragically, it's sold out on Etsy. (Star Trek "Jesus Fish" take-off here.)

Visualizing Friendship, Map of Facebook,[!/note.php?note_id=469716398919&id=9445547199].

50 more data visualizations:

Another clever visual pun: "Slytherin Revised," from Marci and Deth. (Everyone knows Slytherin is Snape's school, in Harry Potter, right?)

Oh, I mentioned Snape. According to The Rule, that means I must post an image of him.
*runs to nets, rummages in drawers*
OK, this one made me laugh. "I haven't got all day, you know." Snort. From here.

Fun Bug (More Networking Images)

I. Computer Bug
Here's another fun networking image:
The first recorded computer bug.

From wikipedia: computer bug
"ABOVE: The First "Computer Bug"
Date: 9 September 1947
Source: U.S. Naval Historical Center Online Library Photograph NH 96566-KN
Author Courtesy of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, VA., 1988.

"Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, 9 September 1947. The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: "First actual case of bug being found.'"

II. The Mails

Rural Delivery (Where the Mail Goes, 'Cream of Wheat' Goes)
by Newell Convers Wyeth, 1906, at the Minneapolis Inst. of Arts
III. Radio Free America

I hadn't known that radio was free (no commercial broadcasts) and unregulated for the first couple decades of its existence.

Are we living in a Golden Age of Internet freedom? Will we look back and be amazed at the lack of regulation, the amount of free expression?

I was surprised how much debates over every new technology sound like our debates about the Internet. Is it--the telegraph/telephone/television––the door to a bright new future, or an invention to suck our brains dry?

Every new communications invention--from writing [1] to the printing press to the radio-- has been met with cries of Too Much Information, Too Fast, and warnings about how it would destroy society.
(And of course, they always did destroy society as it was, or transform it.)

Then, there're the questions, should it be regulated? By whom? The government? Commercial interests? The great unwashed?
Another fun thing: Wikipedia just raised $16 million dollars during its fun(d) drive: 500,000 people contributed, and the average contribution was $22.
(I sent $20.)

When I think technology could be the door to a better world, I think of the model of Wikipedia. You know? It shouldn't work--it should be a total mess. But it does work.
[1] Plato warns against writing:
[Writing] will introduce forgetfulness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not practice using their memory because they will put their trust in writing, which is external and depends on signs that belong to others, instead of trying to remember from the inside, completely on their own.

"You have not discovered a potion for remembering, but for reminding; you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not with its reality. Your invention will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have came to know much while for the most part they will know nothing.

And they will be difficult to get along with, since they will merely appear to be wise instead of really being so.”
(Phaedrus 275a-b)
We're still saying this about our communication tools, and it's still true... and not.

And now I am going to FINISH the rough draft that will, if I'm lucky, impart the illusion of wisdom.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Man Up

In the midst of the slog to finish writing The Book, I am grateful I went to see The King's Speech, which lauds the virtue of perseverance.

Colin Firth (below, nice to see him acting outside of formulaic romantic comedies again) plays Bertie, the duke of York, unknowingly soon to become, upon his brother's abdication, King George VI, father of our Elizabeth (I call her "ours"; we Americans have to borrow our royalty, and we do). Bertie valiantly struggles to overcome his stammer, over and over again accepting humiliation as he obeys his father's wishes that he speak in public.

If grade school oral reports panicked you to the point of nausea, like they did me, you may well relate to the sick look on Firth's face here.
Eventually Bertie's wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, who dials down her usual keyed-upness), the future Queen Mum, finds him an Australian speech coach, Lionel (the wonderful Geoffrey Rush, below, right).
Lionel operates out of squalid basement rooms, which the camera convinces you are uncomfortable (damp and moldy) yet shows to be beautiful. (The photo here doesn't do them justice. The peeling wall deserves an Oscar in itself.)

The good man comes to the rescue as Bertie, now George VI, is heading toward a stutterer's worst nightmare: his duty, as the king, to speak to the nation and the empire on the radio, at the dawn of Word War II.
And he does it.
Cue Beethoven. (Really. 7th symphony, 2nd movement---it's perfect.)

Virtue comes from vir, Latin for "man," as in "male," not "human."
As a young feminist, I resented that, but I've come to appreciate the special qualities of the male man in some circumstances, such as in the term man up, which I like the way I like original sin: with reservations.

The two are a sort of tag team that name some home truths.
At their best, they comfort and encourage.
This being-human gig is bigger than us, Original Sin says, and we have a tendency to fuck it up. Let us face up to that, Man Up responds, and carry on as best we can.
At their worst, they cudgel and diminish.

The King's Speech comforts.
We, in 2010/2011, are at war, the economy is bad: the times are right for many of us to welcome such comforting reminders of the virtue of the long slog, done well.
(Have you noticed the recent popularity of the British wartime slogan--it was to be used in case of German occupation--"Stay Calm and Carry On?")

Best of all, the film is generous in its embrace: it shows the Queen Mum, the little princesses, and the working class Australians all man up too.
Graciously, it doesn't do it at the expense of the man who doesn't man up to his kingly duties: Bertie's older brother David, crowned Edward. I'm glad of that, because I'd definitely run screaming, as he does, from the ridiculous restrictions of Duty to King and Country (not less restrictive if one is the king, though a terrific scene of Bertie blowing up at Lionel, when the speech coach sits in the wrong chair during the coronation rehearsal, demonstrates that a belief in the divine right of kings helps to bear it).

When Edward breaks down at his father's deathbed, because, he confesses to his brother, "now I'm trapped," he has our sympathy.
"Manning up" is like "staying the course": unless you have faith it's a good course, it's best not to.

Bertie, at least according to this movie, was a lucky man in one way at least: his temperament, if not his tongue, matched his destiny.
Would we were all so lucky.
The real George VI (right) and Queen Elizabeth, meeting air raid victims in London's East End, April 1941.

Oh, did I write, just yesterday, that I couldn't blog because my book is due in 6 days?
Call me Edward.
(I'm not abdicating, just dawdling with my mistress, the movies.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Countdown, from the Trenches

The Book is due one week from today--that'll be Monday, January 3, 2011.

It's been sort of awful (on top of fascinatingly wonderful, tracking 600 years of communication in the USA).
The awful part is the slog of writing the damn thing because, I don't know how other writers do it, but I pretty much can't do anything when I'm supposed to be writing except write or else I won't write at all.

I mean, if I do anything but sit at my desk first thing in the morning, my brain declares it's a holiday and I don't have to write at all that day. If I take a midday break to go to the YW, my brain declares I am done for the day. If I write anything of substance except The Book, say, a blog post, it totally throws my book-writing brain off track.
Also, I can't write much once the sun goes down (about 5 these days).

So I sit here and sometimes I write pretty well and sometimes I don't.

Off and on I feel bad, lazy, insane, stupid, pathetic, misguided, and/or hopeless for not being able to toss words out lightly, like doves at a wedding, instead of tracking them through muddy trenches.

I have the sort of dreams you have when you're feeling you're bad, lazy, etc.

Also, I feel fatter and droopier than I was when I started, and physical evidence confirms this is not a neurotic illusion.

I know I am not, in fact, any of those things (except fatter & droopier):
these unpleasant feelings are just the by-products of writing, for now. Writing for work, anyway.

Yes, of course I know I could [fill in the blank with sensible advice here, like "go to the gym in the evening"].
More power to those who manage such things.

Alas, Jan. 3 is not the end, it's just the date the ms goes to the editor. I'll have to do rewrites, possibly substantial, (a dreadful prospect, of course).

The nice thing is, I'm pretty sure the book will be fine, in the end.
The material is great, anyway--I've dug through lots of amazing primary sources, and they provide fun lumps of quotes. I just have to provide the mortar that holds them together, which I'm actually not that great at. Some people can pour forth that stuff with ease, but I can't.

I have this feeling that if I keep doing this work--turning muddy history into tidy bricks--I'll get good at it.
I don't know that I want to get good at it.
Secretly, underneath the feelings of being bad, I feel it is the work that is dim, not me. That this is not how I want to use my brain.

I'm not sure if I just feel this way because this is such a long slog. Possibly this is exactly the sort of thing I need to be sharper.

I can't see clearly right now, but I feel a lot better, having said so.

Have you seen Sebastiao Salgado's photo essay, Serra Pelada Gold Mines, Brazil? It bugs me when people try to dismiss their pain by saying it's not as bad as X, because, you know, our pain is our own and it's worth paying attention to;
but I've gotta say, when I was writing about what a slog this is, I thought how lucky I am I'm not literally hauling mud uphill.

A few more, here: Fotonix.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Puppies!

FOX TERRIER PUPPIES!!! IN A BOX [picnic basket?]!!!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

17" of Snow

Between blizzards & bishops, I've written nothing on my book...

Walked/bused over to bink's house, during the BIG blizzard yesterday. Helped push a couple stuck cars along the way. On the street, people were (mostly) in the jolly "we're all in this together" mood. This neighbor was shoveling his car out with what I thought was a snowboard, but he told me is a snow-skate.

A couple hours later, the buses stopped running. So I stayed at bink's and helped shovel out.

Home again now, about to cover my windows with plastic. Wind-chill is well below zero.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"The Result of It Was Hurt": Returning Archbishop Nienstedt's DVD

Here's my 2-min. video of the crew returning thousands of Archbishop Nienstedt's anti-same-sex-marriage DVDs to the office of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and Saint Paul today.

I forgot to bring my good microphone along so had to add subtitles. But I kind of like the clarity and weight they add.

I'm too exhausted to write more. Just to say, I am so proud of the way Bob (Return the DVD spokesperson) nailed it, so simply:
This hurts people.

I added the James Joyce quote on the uTube description 'cause, you know, how often do you have the perfect opportunity to use it?

"Here Comes Everybody...
...from good start to happy finish
the truly catholic assemblage gathered together in that king's treat house of satin
alustrelike above floats and footlights..."

--Finnegan's Wake
Dennis McGrath, Director of Communications, and Thomas Schulzetenberg, Administrative Chancellor, represent the archbishop, who declined the meeting.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Soul of a New Machine: Afternoon Tea

I used to have a friend who was always quoting Goethe, "Only within limitations is true mastery revealed."
(Wrongly, perhaps?)

Anyway, my limitation is that I have to sit here until I am done writing This Damned Book (so, until New Year's), and my mastery, such as it is, is revealed in photographing the bits and pieces around me.

Here Comes Everybody (Tchotchke of the Day)

The title of Clay Shirky's great book about the nets, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, comes from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, which has lots of HCE's in it, including the initials of the protagonist, Humphrey C. Earwicker.
Not that I've read FW.

But I rummaged around online and found one of the references:

" was equally certainly a pleasant turn of the populace which gave him
as sense of those normative letters the nickname
Here Comes Everybody. An imposing everybody he always indeed looked,
constantly the same as and equal to himself
and magnificently well worthy
of any and all such universalisation, every time he continually surveyed,
amid vociferatings from in front of "Accept these few nutties!"
from good start to happy finish
the truly catholic assemblage gathered together in that king's treat house of satin
alustrelike above floats and footlights..."

--James Joyce, Finnegan's Wake, New York: Viking Press, 1939, p. 32.

I really like those last three lines!

Quote found in comment thread about whether or not Joyce was referring to the Catholic Church--seems he meant "catholic" with a small-c (meaning "universal"), here .

Video of Shirky talking about his book.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Frinky Turtle, C'est Moi

Another of the magic totem animal friends that keep me company at my desk. bink drew this--it's me swimming through work.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hopeful Otter

I bought this otter in Santiago, Spain, at the end of the Camino in 2001.

I'd wanted to go ever since I saw Buñuel's film The Milky Way (1969) a long time ago.

Yesterday I wrote well on The Book.
Just have to keep doing that, like putting one foot after the other.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In My Corner

Dancing Ganesha. My Hindu tchotchke, bought at a Buddhist Tibetan store the other week to help me my finish writing The Book. 

He looks like, but isn't, marzipan. I wish he were: I'd ritually consume him when I'm done. Maybe I'll make a marzipan Ganesha for Christmas, to fill in a missing religion.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Inside / Outside

This morning.
My front door.
The neighbor's snow plow.

I'm having an agonizing time writing The Book. I spend days at home doing everything but. Then I resent having made plans to go out, even though it's doubtful I would have worked anyway.

I think this awful slog may just be the way it is. Could I lighten up about judging it? Just accept that this is how I work? Then I wouldn't feel awful on top of feeling awful, if you know what I mean.

Hm. Maybe I could feel awe full:
"Wow. Look at the power of your resistance! That is one prize mule!"

Once the mule gets pulling, she pulls with the same power she balks.
Come on, mule. Pull!

But now I have to go out--I'm helping a friend with her annual studio sale.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Star Trek Rap

Of course. It's the law:
If it exists, there's Trek of it. [Subset of Rule 34.]

From Apropos of Something

Star Trek Rap - 99 Problems but a BREACH ain't one!

"Star Trek parody of the Jay Z song "99 Problems" by J. Marcus Xavier.
Original Lyrics from REDDIT

Jay-Z: "I got 99 problems, but a b--ch" ain't one.
Warning: includes reference to dog fighting (mild, but still)

Friday, December 3, 2010

What Rhymes with George? (In Which I Tumble to a 30-Plus-Year-Old Art Form)

Guess what I found out.
It rhymes. It rhymes the INSIDES of words. It looks into words like looking inside sugar Easter eggs for the magic scene. Then it sets them spinning like tops.

It is so cool.

I had no idea.

I haven't paid much attention to music since Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, you know, in 1975, and anyway, here's what I'd heard about rap: it's violent & racist & misogynistic.
So I gave it wide berth.
Except sometimes I'd hear guys rapping in the back of the city bus and it was clear to me this was living poetry. But still, I never once sat down and listened to it.

Then a couple weeks ago I heard Tish Jones rap at a media conference. I was only there because of The Book [current status: sticking bamboo splinters under the nails of my psyche], but she was the thing. She stood with her toes over the edge of the stage, and so did her words.

Soon afterward, as these things go, I was wasting time in Barnes & Nobles and I saw a clerk directing a young black guy in a hoodie to a book he was looking for, commenting, "This is selling a lot."
Curious what the only person in the store not carrying a Starbucks was buying, I looked at the book. It was rapper Jay-Z's Decoded.

(You know I'm musically ignorant when I tell you I had to look up Jay-Z on Wikipedia later. (Billboard ranked him in the top 10 most successful artists of this century. Plus, he's Mr. Beyoncé. (Even I know Beyoncé.)))

I skimmed through Jay-Z decoding his lyrics and his life, and on p. 161, I read this sentence:

"The larger point was, I wasn't going to be a partner to my own invisibility."

I bought it.

I bought it because I recognized that. I saw that same refusal to participate in one's own obliteration in bink's DVD to ART project, and, yes, in Trekkie culture ("I don't care, I'm wearing my Starfleet uniform in public"), and in every other culture of authenticity.
Also, it was on sale.

That week everyone was talking about the Jay-Z interview on Terry Gross's Fresh Air. When I heard his remix of "Hard Knock Life" from Annie, I thought, this is as audacious as mixing John Donne & Star Trek.

So, intrigued and attracted, I added going to the open mic Tish Jones hosts at a local coffee shop to my List of Stuff to Do, and tonight I, who almost never go out after dark, went.

And was smitten.

It wasn't so much what anyone was saying (which varied), it was how they were saying it--along the lines of pulling doves out of top hats.
And the rhymes! I went up to a couple of the rappers afterward and burbled on about how cool the rhymes were.
I was like, "You guys! This is so neat! Your stuff RHYMES!!!"

They took it really well.

I've been working in the word mines for the past ten years in publishing, and this was like coming up and seeing the open sky;
like stepping out of the word sweatshop and seeing words at play.
Really, I had no idea.
No idea how cool rap can be and no idea how much I've been feeling like a sharecropper in my writing work.

Well, maybe a little bit I did, this week.
Maybe you remember me working on the Frindian War book. I'd tried hard to show what a complex scene it was.
So... I saw the final version. It got edited into a book about George Washington. The title got changed and everything to add his name.

As a book about GW in the war, it's good. (Hey, I hope it sells a lot! I get royalties.)
But it's not the book I wrote.

GW is not important to the war; I didn't even need to mention him, and now I wish I hadn't. I'd only used him to frame the story, as a fun "waddya know?"
The thing is, it's not my book, it's the publisher's.
Says so on the contract, signed by me.

Hard knocks.

If I could rhyme, I'd rap about it.