👓 Why Books Matter for the Long Run | Knowledge@Wharton

Read Why Books Matter for the Long Run (Knowledge@Wharton)
Book publishing is a business and increasingly a technical one, but at its heart it is an art, writes Peter J. Dougherty in this opinion piece. He is the editor-at-large at Princeton University Press,

A nice little essay here.

👓 An Interview with John O’Brien | Dalkey Archive Press

Read An Interview with John O’Brien (dalkeyarchive.com)
The following interview was conducted in-house at two different times, in 2000 and 2004. The purpose of the interview was to provide a very readable documentation of Dalkey Archive Press’s mission and history. It was amended in 2004, and likely will be amended again in the future, to reflect changes in the culture that have an impact on the work we do.

After reading this interview, how could one not want to devote their life to supporting such an institution?

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

subversive  

maybe also the word uncomfortable?

December 19, 2018 at 05:10PM

uncomfortable  

ha!

December 19, 2018 at 05:11PM

There is no sense that this particular novel has its place among-and should be evaluated against-a whole history of other novels.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:14PM

As with all of the arts, literature was once upon a time entirely made possible through patrons. This goes at least as far back as Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. They were able to write because their patrons provided them financial support. And this was of course true of all of the other arts. Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, however, literature and commerce got mixed.  

In some sense, there is a link between these areas of art/writing and funding and what we see in social media influencers who in some sense are trying to create an “art” for which they get paid. Sadly, most are not making art and worse, most of them are being paid even worse.

December 19, 2018 at 05:18PM

While many people say that such and such a book changed their lives, you can be sure that they could not tell you who published the book. The identification is with the book and its author, not the publisher.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:25PM

My models were New Directions Press and Grove Press.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:32PM

Michael Orthofer at the Complete Review  

December 19, 2018 at 05:35PM

Academics will probably bristle at this thought but, at least in relation to literature, all you have to do is look at the courses that are offered featuring the literatures of other countries. Not only don’t they teach these literatures, they don’t read them.  

We certainly could use an Anthony Bourdain of literature to help peel back the curtain on other countries and cultures.

December 19, 2018 at 05:38PM

I think only the philistine mind thinks that art needs a social or moral justification.  

Quote of the year.

December 19, 2018 at 05:46PM

A prerequisite for war, as well as bigotry, is that one sees a people or a country as a stereotype, as something sub-human or non-human; this is why politicians spend so much time trying to create stereotypical images for those countries they want to go to war with.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:48PM

Small publishers are oftentimes awful at getting their books out to people, even though of course the marketplace determines many of the limitations.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:51PM

Ordering In-N-Out by Chapter and Verse: Hot Cocoa Edition

In a very rare move in January 2018, In-N-Out  added a new item to their sparse menu: hot cocoa. As part of their roll out and for marketing purposes, they serve free hot cocoa on rainy days to children under 12 years old. 

A few years back, I had written about the bible verses that In-N-Out “hides” on their product packaging. I remember hearing about the hot cocoa addition to the menu when it was initially released, but had forgotten about the bible verses until I had the occasion to visit on a recent rainy day.

So to complete the enlarged canon, here are the details for the bible verse found on In-N-Out’s hot cocoa cup.

Products and Bible Verses (continued)

  • Hot Cocoa:

    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

    John  13:34
    In-N-Out Hot Cocoa Cup with a reference to bible verse  John 13:34

Notes

This certainly seems an appropriate verse to put on a product that they give away on rainy days. And who doesn’t love commandments involving hot cocoa?! I do notice that the verse isn’t hidden underneath the cup, like it is on the soda cups, but instead it’s front and center in relatively larger bold font on the side of the cup.

If one takes my prior call to replace the deity references with the product, then we’ll know that everyone who loves one another is a disciple of hot cocoa. They’re also likely to avoid improper microwave use too.

👓 Tech suffers from lack of humanities, says Mozilla head | The Guardian

Read Tech suffers from lack of humanities, says Mozilla head by Alex Hern (the Guardian)
Mitchell Baker says firms should hire philosophy and psychology graduates to tackle misinformation

Is it just me or am I seeing a major uptick in articles defending the humanities over the past several years? I find it interesting given the political climate (at least in the United States) where it seems the sciences are under attack–at least culturally. Perhaps both are under attack, but from very different perspectives and levels.

👓 A message from President Daniels to students on the humanities | Johns Hopkins

Read A message from President Daniels to students on the humanities (The Hub | Johns Hopkins)
President Daniels: 'Hopkins believes in the essential value of humanistic inquiry and its capacity to aid you in realizing your aspirations and building lives you want to live and of which you will be proud'

👓 Maryland’s Goucher College eliminating several majors, including math | Baltimore Sun

Read Maryland's Goucher College eliminating several majors, including math (Baltimore Sun)
Math majors at Goucher College will soon be a thing of the past.

👓 The Guardian view on digitising culture: make manuscripts more illuminating | the Guardian

Read The Guardian view on digitising culture: make manuscripts more illuminating by Editorial (the Guardian)
Editorial: Putting the contents of libraries and museums on the web makes much wonderful, hidden art accessible

Some great digital resources in here.

👓 After review, closure of Johns Hopkins Humanities Center ‘will not be considered’ | Hub

Read After review, closure of Johns Hopkins Humanities Center 'will not be considered' (The Hub)
Committee recommends three possible paths forward for 50-year-old academic center

Glad to hear this may have a happier ending that I had suspected. I remember a conversation several years ago in which Dick Macksey was reticent to retire because it might have adverse effects on the department. I hope to see his legacy and that of the humanities at Hopkins continue unabated.

Attributes in Paintings May Stem from Mnemotechnics Dating from Ancient Greece

As I delve into the history of mnemotechnics, I suspect that attributes in paintings originally stem from memory techniques that date from Simonides of Ceos (c. 556 – 468 BCE) and potentially earlier through the oral tradition.

As I delve further into the ancient history of mnemonics and mnemotechnics, I  strongly suspect that attributes in paintings (like those frequently seen in depictions of Christian saints) originally stem from memory techniques that date from Simonides of Ceos (Σιμωνίδης ὁ Κεῖος; c. 556 – 468 BCE) and potentially earlier by means of the oral tradition.

The National Gallery has a short little primer on paintings of saints and recognizing them by means of their attributes. As an example, in the painting below Saint Genevieve of Paris holds the candle which she miraculously relit. On the brooch at her neck are the alpha and omega signs. Saint Apollonia of Alexandria’s brooch shows pincers: she was tortured by having her teeth extracted.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1472 - 1553 Saints Genevieve and Apollonia 1506 Oil on lime, 120.5 x 63 cm Bought, 1987 NG6511.1 This painting is part of the group: 'The St Catherine Altarpiece: Reverses of Shutters' (NG6511.1-NG6511.2) http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6511.1
Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1472 – 1553
Saints Genevieve and Apollonia (1506) Oil on lime, 120.5 x 63 cm
Bought, 1987; NG6511.1
This painting is part of the group: ‘The St Catherine Altarpiece: Reverses of Shutters’ (NG6511.1-NG6511.2)
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6511.1

Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies

I just ordered a copy of Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo. Although it seems more focused on economics, the base theory seems to fit right into some similar thoughts I’ve long held about biology.

Why Information Grows: The Evolutiion of Order from Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo
Why Information Grows: The Evolutiion of Order from Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo

 

From the book description:

“What is economic growth? And why, historically, has it occurred in only a few places? Previous efforts to answer these questions have focused on institutions, geography, finances, and psychology. But according to MIT’s antidisciplinarian César Hidalgo, understanding the nature of economic growth demands transcending the social sciences and including the natural sciences of information, networks, and complexity. To understand the growth of economies, Hidalgo argues, we first need to understand the growth of order.

At first glance, the universe seems hostile to order. Thermodynamics dictates that over time, order–or information–will disappear. Whispers vanish in the wind just like the beauty of swirling cigarette smoke collapses into disorderly clouds. But thermodynamics also has loopholes that promote the growth of information in pockets. Our cities are pockets where information grows, but they are not all the same. For every Silicon Valley, Tokyo, and Paris, there are dozens of places with economies that accomplish little more than pulling rocks off the ground. So, why does the US economy outstrip Brazil’s, and Brazil’s that of Chad? Why did the technology corridor along Boston’s Route 128 languish while Silicon Valley blossomed? In each case, the key is how people, firms, and the networks they form make use of information.

Seen from Hidalgo’s vantage, economies become distributed computers, made of networks of people, and the problem of economic development becomes the problem of making these computers more powerful. By uncovering the mechanisms that enable the growth of information in nature and society, Why Information Grows lays bear the origins of physical order and economic growth. Situated at the nexus of information theory, physics, sociology, and economics, this book propounds a new theory of how economies can do, not just more, but more interesting things.”

See Leopold. See Molly. Hear Molly’s Soliloquy.

October 22, 2014 (10:50 am)

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Brief Review: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

The Swerve: How the World Became ModernThe Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephen Greenblatt provides an interesting synthesis of history and philosophy. Greenblatt’s love of the humanities certainly shines through. This stands as an almost over-exciting commercial for not only reading Lucretius’s “De Rerum Natura” (“On the Nature of Things”), but in motivating the reader to actually go out to learn Latin to appreciate it properly.

I would have loved more direct analysis and evidence of the immediate impact of Lucretius in the 1400’s as well as a longer in-depth analysis of the continuing impact through the 1700’s.

The first half of the book is excellent at painting a vivid portrait of the life and times of Poggio Bracciolini which one doesn’t commonly encounter. I’m almost reminded of Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra: A Life, though Greenblatt has far more historical material with which to paint the picture. I may also be biased that I’m more interested in the mechanics of the scholarship of the resurgence of the classics in the Renaissance than I was of that particular political portion of the first century BCE. Though my background on the history of the time periods involved is reasonably advanced, I fear that Greenblatt may be leaving out a tad too much for the broader reading public who may not be so well versed. The fact that he does bring so many clear specifics to the forefront may more than compensate for this however.

In some interesting respects, this could be considered the humanities counterpart to the more science-centric story of Owen Gingerich’s The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus. Though Simon Winchester is still by far my favorite nonfiction writer, Greenblatt does an exceedingly good job of narrating what isn’t necessarily a very linear story.

Greenblatt includes lots of interesting tidbits and some great history. I wish it had continued on longer… I’d love to have the spare time to lose myself in the extensive bibliography. Though the footnotes, bibliography, and index account for about 40% of the book, the average reader should take a reasonable look at the quarter or so of the footnotes which add some interesting additional background an subtleties to the text as well as to some of the translations that are discussed therein.

I am definitely very interested in the science behind textual preservation which is presented as the underlying motivation for the action in this book. I wish that Greenblatt had covered some of these aspects in the same vivid detail he exhibited for other portions of the story. Perhaps summarizing some more of the relevant scholarship involved in transmitting and restoring old texts as presented in Bart Ehrman and Bruce Metzter’s The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption & Restoration would have been a welcome addition given the audience of the book. It might also have presented a more nuanced picture of the character of the Church and their predicament presented in the text as well.

Though I only caught one small reference to modern day politics (a prison statistic for America which was obscured in a footnote), I find myself wishing that Greenblatt had spent at least a few paragraphs or even a short chapter drawing direct parallels to our present-day political landscape. I understand why he didn’t broach the subject as it would tend to date an otherwise timeless feeling text and generally serve to dissuade a portion of his readership and in particular, the portion which most needs to read such a book. I can certainly see a strong need for having another short burst of popularity for “On the Nature of Things” to assist with the anti-science and overly pro-religion climate we’re facing in American politics.

For those interested in the topic, I might suggest that this text has some flavor of Big History in its DNA. It covers not only a fairly significant chunk of recorded human history, but has some broader influential philosophical themes that underlie a potential change in the direction of history which we’ve been living for the past 300 years. There’s also an intriguing overlap of multidisciplinary studies going on in terms of the history, science, philosophy, and technology involved in the multiple time periods discussed.

This review was originally posted on GoodReads.com on 7/8/2014. View all my reviews

Latin Pedagogy and the Digital Humanities

I’ve long been a student of the humanities (and particularly the classics) and have recently begun reviewing over my very old and decrepit knowledge of Latin.  It’s been two decades since I made a significant study of classical languages, and lately (as the result of conversations with friends like Dave Harris, Jim Houser, Larry Richardson, and John Kountouris) I’ve been drawn to reviewing them for reading a variety of classical texts in their original languages. Fortunately, in the intervening years, quite a lot has changed in the tools relating to pedagogy for language acquisition.

Jenny's Second Year Latin
A copy of Jenny’s Latin text which I had used 20 years ago and recently acquired a new copy for the pittance of $3.25.

Internet

The biggest change in the intervening time is the spread of the  internet which supplies a broad variety of related websites with not only interesting resources for things like basic reading and writing, but even audio sources apparently including listening to the nightly news in Latin. There are a variety of blogs on Latin as well as even online courseware, podcasts, pronunciation recordings, and even free textbooks. I’ve written briefly about the RapGenius platform before, but I feel compelled to mention it as a potentially powerful resource as well. (Julius Caesar, Seneca, Ovid, Cicero, et al.) There is a paucity of these sources in a general sense in comparison with other modern languages, but given the size of the niche, there is quite a lot out there, and certainly a mountain in comparison to what existed only twenty years ago.

Software

There has also been a spread of pedagogic aids like flashcard software including Anki and Mnemosyne with desktop, web-based, and even mobile-based versions making  learning available in almost any situation. The psychology and learning research behind these types of technologies has really come a long way toward assisting students to best make use of their time in learning and retaining what they’ve learned in long term memory.  Simple mobile applications like Duolingo exist for a variety of languages – though one doesn’t currently exist for classical Latin (yet).

Digital Humanities

The other great change is the advancement of the digital humanities which allows for a lot of interesting applications of knowledge acquisition. One particular one that I ran across this week was the Dickinson College Commentaries (DCC). Specifically a handful of scholars have compiled and documented a list of the most common core vocabulary words in Latin (and in Greek) based on their frequency of appearance in extant works.  This very specific data is of interest to me in relation to my work in information theory, but it also becomes a tremendously handy tool when attempting to learn and master a language.  It is a truly impressive fact that, simply by knowing that if one can memorize and master about 250 words in Latin, it will allow them to read and understand 50% of most written Latin.  Further, knowledge of 1,500 Latin words will put one at the 80% level of vocabulary mastery for most texts.  Mastering even a very small list of vocabulary allows one to read a large variety of texts very comfortably.  I can only think about the old concept of a concordance (which was generally limited to heavily studied texts like the Bible or possibly Shakespeare) which has now been put on some serious steroids for entire cultures. Another half step and one arrives at the Google Ngram Viewer.

The best part is that one can, with very little technical knowledge, easily download the DCC Core Latin Vocabulary (itself a huge research undertaking) and upload and share it through the Anki platform, for example, to benefit a fairly large community of other scholars, learners, and teachers. With a variety of easy-to-use tools, shortly it may be even that much easier to learn a language like Latin – potentially to the point that it is no longer a dead language. For those interested, you can find my version of the shared DCC Core Latin Vocabulary for Anki online; the DCC’s Chris Francese has posted details and a version for Mnemosyne already.

[Editor’s note: Anki’s web service occasionally clears decks of cards from their servers, so if you find that the Anki link to the DCC Core Latin is not working, please leave a comment below, and we’ll re-upload the deck for shared use.]

What tools and tricks do you use for language study and pedagogy?

Ordering In-N-Out by Chapter and Verse

Eating at In-N-Out has always been a religious experience for me, but did you know you can order almost anything they make by Bible chapter and verse?

Eating at In-N-Out has always been a religious experience for me, but today, to mix things up when ordering lunch, I tried making my order by number, but not In-N-Out’s traditional , #2, or #3 system.

I got myself

  • a Nahum 1:7
  • a Revelation 3:20 with cheese
  • two Proverbs 24:16s
  • two John 3:16s
  • and a Chocolate Proverbs 3:5.

What?!” you ask. “I’m all too aware of In-N-Out’s ‘Secret menu’ and have heard of a 4×4 and even a mythical 20×20, but what is a Nahum 1:7?!”

In-N-Out aficionados have probably noticed that the company prints references to Bible verses with just the book, chapter, and verse on their burger wrappers, fry containers, and on the bottom of their cups, so why not order this way as well?

For those not in-the-know, here’s the “translation” to help make your next meal more religious than it already was:

Products and Bible Verses

  • Burger and cheeseburger wrappers:

    Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

    Revelation 3:20
    In-N-Out Burger Wrapper with bible verse Revelation 3:20
    In-N-Out Burger Wrapper with bible verse Revelation 3:20
  • Beverage cups:

    For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    John 3:16
    In-N-Out soda cup with bible verse John 3:16
    In-N-Out soda cup with bible verse John 3:16
  • Milkshake cups:

    Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

    Proverbs 3:5
    In-N-Out shake cup with bible verse Proverbs 3:5
    In-N-Out shake cup with bible verse Proverbs 3:5
  • Double-Double wrapper:

    The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.

    Nahum 1:7
    In-N-Out Double Double Burger Wrapper with bible verse Nahum 1:7
    In-N-Out Double Double Burger Wrapper with bible verse Nahum 1:7
  • Fry container:

    For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.

    Proverbs 24:16
    In-N-Out French Fries with bible verse Proverbs 24:16
    In-N-Out French Fries with bible verse Proverbs 24:16

 

I’ll note a few interesting things:

  • The verse for the hamburger is about dining together with others – this is always important.
  • If you substitute the product the wrappers contain for the words “Lord,” “God,” and “Son,” there is certain sense of poetic verisimilitude in the new verses: their shakes apparently have a heavenly thickness, the double-double sounds like it will fill you up, and the sugary sodas will give you everlasting life. I wonder what would happen if we transubstantiated a hamburger bun?

Animal Style Anyone?

Now if only there were a special chapter and verse for getting my burger “animal style!”

Genesis 7:2 perhaps?

Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.

This might be far preferable to Exodus 22:19:

Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.

But let’s be honest, with all the fat, salt, sugar, and cholesterol in a good-ol’ traditional , I’m going to die sooner than later whether it comes animal style or not.

I’m curious how many In-N-Out employees know their product so well that they can take orders this way?

 

The Two Cultures

C.P. Snow, Kt., CBE (1905 – 1980), an English physical chemist and novelist
in 1959 Rede Lecture entitled “The Two Cultures”

 

C. P. Snow, English physicist, author, and diplomat.
C. P. Snow, English physicist, author, and diplomat.