June 18, 2003

Romance of Food, Barbara Cartland

I looked up author-celebrity-cookbooks a while ago, in awe of Terry Pratchett. Cartland published several, sucessfully in her time; you too may run across one in a used bookstore or junk shop. If you find The Romance of Food, I recommend to you the photograph of noisette of lamb w/baby veg (p44). And then note, with (if you would) Judeo-Christian wonder, the romatic tie-in:
"what woman does not long to be carried like a lamb in the arms of the man she loves."

A shepherdess, for one. Better to be certain that one is an old ewe too tough for mutton.

ISBN: 0-385-19269-x

Posted by clew at 01:19 PM | TrackBack

Sidelight on Tahitian tourism

Found something relevant to Sultry Climates; Bellona Times' (scroll down a bit) reproduction of Henry Adams' Tahiti; written because a tourist running from grief fell in love with a seventy-year-old woman whose language he couldn't speak.

Sultry... did have examples of tourism that wasn't totally unpleasant for the natives, but even those - if I recall correctly - tended to be a bit accidental, since the tourists were omphaloskeptic. It seems Adams fell in love in a sense I recognize, a plain delight in the particulars of a person or thing, not in how he was reflected by it.

"I do not know whether Papara is commonly thought to be one of the beautiful parts of Tahiti. I imagine not. Travelers can find so much that charms them elsewhere, and so much variety in the charm, as to make them indifferent to all scenery but the most impressive. Among a dozen books that have been written by visitors to the island, I am not sure that one of them, except Moerenhout, devotes a dozen words to Papara. To the Tevas and their chiefs, naturally, Papara is the world, and probably no part of the island compares with it for association, pride and poetry. Every point, field, valley, and hill retains a history and a legend. Purea's Marae of Mahaiatea still rises, a huge mass of loose coral, above the level of the plain. Aromaiterai at Mataoae could fix on the spot where his own Marae -- Teva's Marae -- of Mataoa invited him home, where in his time each of the two chiefs had a seat or throne on either side of the altar. " (ch. 4)

In this troubled world... I see that James' experience grew out of the decline of Tahiti, and maybe depended on it. I can't say beforehand what 'appreciations' of other cultures are mocking, derivative, Orientalist, parasitical. Still, often, I meet something I can't explain except as a hopeless love of something other and useless. It's what makes Cowboy Bebop good, and justifies many a tiny yappy dog.

URL: http://www.kokonino.com/tahiti/index.html

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June 17, 2003

Three Men on the Bummel, Jerome K. Jerome

In which the characters of Three Men in a Boat, older but not much more sensible, take a bicycle tour of Germany.

It's less funny than its predecessor, partly because the clerks are a trifle older and more sensible; partly because more of it is a real travelogue describing German customs and personalities. It can't often be as unconsciously revealing¹ as ...Boat was for the English middle classes.

No surprising observations; gentle mockery of the German love for order, with the semi-respectful stipulation that the German character he describes doesn't just expect other citizens to be controlled, but does scrupulously follow the laws himself.

"The German can rule others, and be ruled by others, but he cannot rule himself. The cure would appear to be to train every German for an officer, and then put him under himself....

[Duty] is a fine ideal for any people; but before buckling to it, one would wish to have a clear understanding as to what his 'duty' is."(p. 341)

Just after that, and probably as important to a pre-WWI reader, a comparison of the German and English commercial character: in which he says the Germans are less competitive because their classes are not so fiercely marked; no-one not born into the German aristocracy can get into it, and everyone else is on a standing of more or less bourgeois comfort and mutual respect. By his description, this led to less luxury than English social climbing, but a great deal more independence.

¹ I don't assume that Jerome was unconscious, no.

ISBN: 0-14-043750-9

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The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Gail Carson Levine

An invented fairy-story, strongly to type: the kingdom withers from plague, because of a character flaw in its king and people. The narrator, the shy one of two princesses, fulfils the prophesied requirements to break the curse.

It would be a better story, but maybe less of a fairy-story, if the readers were unsure that the curse would be broken. It's a pretty good one because the heroine is convincingly unsure she'll succeed, though she risks a lot to try.

Definitely a children's novel.

"For there is no friend like a sister          
In calm or stormy weather;          
To cheer one on the tedious way,          
To fetch one if one goes astray,          
To lift one if one totters down,          
To strengthen whilst one stands."
-- Goblin Market, Christina Rosetti

ISBN: 0-06-029315-2

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A Whistling Woman, A. S. Byatt

Far too good for me to write a real review of. (If you haven't read any Byatt, start with the short stories or The Virgin in the Garden, the first of the quartet ending with Whistling....

But one funny thing I noticed; Margaret Atwood writes science fiction and denies it. Richard Powers writes fiction about science that certainly gets very woo-woo close to science fiction but, AFAIK, never gets called on it. Byatt has a chunk of a fantasy novel in here, but it's pretending to be written by a character, so her use of fantasy tropes to say things about real life slides under the radar. Also, of course, whatever she's saying isn't obvious; and since she got away with writing some invented Browning and Rossetti, moreorless, in Possession, what's a little invented heroic fantasy?

Her characters judge some of the things going on around them in terms of Tolkien:

Leo thought that if Tolkien had been describing this music he would have said that it was like the endless rippling of a brook, with rapids and whirlypools. There were quite a few Tolkienish people in the audience, people with silvery bands round their brows and those sort of flimsy shirts which flared out to pointy cuffs and dangled. Leo didn't like to see them. They looked sort of made-up and unreal, and in some way diminished the shining reality of the Tolkien-world in his head. (p. 342)
Leo is a child; but the people doing Tolkien badly around him are adults, if barely. Helps fill in my sense of whether Tolkien was actually in the public consciousness in 1970, or just those of a few students. (I was a babe in arms, myself.)

Along with pretty, imagistic writing, this novel has a lot of plot - plots are laid, hearts traded, buildings burn down, madness proves prophetic or not, long-kept secrets are finally revealed. However, the events and their people are not as perpetually dispiriting as I found them in Babel Tower, its immediate predecessor. Relief!

ISBN: 0-375-41534-3

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The Man I Should Have Married, Pamela Redmond Satran

I wonder why this was published as a light novel (trade paper, no flowers in the cover illustration) and not a genre romance novel. It's a tolerable bit of fluff about a wealthy married woman, who, when her husband leaves her, finds happiness in old-house renovation and a hunky old flame.

The best thing about it was the increasing complications of all the blended families - I think every child has a step-sibling in each direction by the end - which adds a lot of difficulty to any pair of lovers getting together, without requiring them to be deeply stupid. Okay, maybe that's why it's a real novel¹: believable conflict, based on moral duties, which spring from choices freely made before a substantial change in character. The worse part of the novel is the financial fantasy of running lovely little shops and doing really sensitive old-house renovations for profit. Desirable, of course, and the heroine gets seriously dirty doing it, but I think it's shown less realistically hard than the parenting problems. Therefore it's a summer novel.

¹I don't think there's a clear line in writing quality; I'm sure that some genre writing is more complex and subtle than some 'respectable' writing. I am finding the latter hard to specify, though, since I don't keep those books - or even finish them - and seem to have successfully denied them memory-space.

ISBN: 0-7434-6354-4

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June 15, 2003

firugeal

This would seem to be either an invention of Connie Willis', or a typo, or (my bet) a typo she adopted when she found herself in need of something like a Snark.

It doesn't appear in the OED, and Google finds it only in another reference to To Say Nothing of the Dog. I bet it was 'figural'.

Posted by clew at 03:23 PM | TrackBack

June 13, 2003

The First Scientist, Brian Clegg

Subtitle: A Life of Roger Bacon

Not a gripping story, not by the author's fault, nor the subject's. Bacon probably had a gripping life - theological and scientific controversy, not that he would have distinguished between the two - but it takes a summary of 13th century religious politics to explain why. Maybe he was imprisoned in durance particularly vile, without even the sacrament of confession; there is a gap in his known writing, and a story of his having been imprisoned. There are also stories of his having made a brass head speak and having attended colleges not founded until after his death. Plenty of the book is on later misrepresentations of Bacon (as author of the Voynich manuscript, for instance).

Still, Clegg's last chapter makes an argument for Bacon's having nailed together the four legs of science. He lists these -

  • the importance of mathematics;
  • what we would call objectivity without personal bias;
  • communication with other scholars; and
  • experimental verification.
These seem a respectable historical foundation for the scientific method; the odd thing is that Roger Bacon left some evidence of not being good at math, and hardly perfect at checking results before reporting them, and he principally communicated to the Pope Clement IV, before that man's early death. There are excuses; expense and the rules of his order made many of these difficult. A little more worrying is that the evidence has to come from a tiny proportion of the Opus majus - a proposal for a research and library grand plan for science - the Opus minus, a summary of the ...majus, and Opus tertium, a précis of the summary - a million words by Clegg's reckoning. If suspicious, one would want to weigh the modern against the medieval. Boethius¹ and even Herodotus² said some things more scientific than credulous.

So maybe Roger Bacon wasn't a great scientist in the modern sense, but would have been a worldshaker if he ran a university; except that he ran through an enormous family fortune, and wasn't good at politics or diplomacy. Clegg argues that his failure to bend to authority is part of his nascent scientific worldview; that seems very fair. Clegg also describes him as more a theoretician of how applied science should have been done than an applied scientist, and that also seems fair.

Update: at least one manuscript partly by Roger Bacon has been scanned and put online by the Bodleian; and it has annotations by John Dee.

ISBN: 0-7867-1116-7

¹ That "everyone knows" a plant is a machine for making other similar plants.

² He is, I think, often respectably cautious in saying when he is reporting tales heard from travellers; early anthropology.

Posted by clew at 12:51 PM | TrackBack

Pushmi Pullyou

In the perfect world, some few bookish institutions would keep the database of all known printed books, and someone referring to a book (in a review, bibliography, for sampling, whatever) could not only refer to it by this official, understood description, and provide a link there, but could leave a link with the record itself, so that one could automatically see a list of all references and uses. "Trackback", in blog.

But gosh, what a spammable resource. I can just see every book on any political or philosophical topic full of references to Chomsky's and Gingrich's latest... entertaining as it is to imagine something written by both of them, I am actually thinking of more likely duelling spams. Euck.

I don't think anyone wants to provide server space for that. Amazon does the moderation necessary to prune it, but (leaving out questions of who owns the review) Amazon is not good at things not for sale. Besides, any centralized and corporate entity would be susceptible to censorship or greed.

I think an intermediate database would make me happy enough; some reasonably global bibliography, legally copiable, with some grand smarts to lump and split as users want. (Sometimes I want to know that these-three-reviews are of different printings of the same text: sometimes not.)

And then all the cleverness of reputation servers might come into it; I could tell my Reader's Agent that I liked reviews by these six people, and wanted, every week, to see twelve fiction reviews and twelve nonfiction reviews, starting with them and working outward through the circles of trust. For that matter, I'd like to see the commentary by these other four people who I despise... one of the most likely uses of reputation services, it seems to me; the Holy Rollers and the Rock-and-Rollers are likely to use each others' recommendations, only inverted.

In this case, I am thinking of the (Dublin Core or something like) database as providing an intelligent ID, along with help in finding a copy of the work. Instead of references to references to a book, references to copies of it: available for sale, scanning, download, rental, borrowing with such-a library privilege. I drool at the thought.

Posted by clew at 12:17 PM | TrackBack

June 11, 2003

Again, the Scots

A while ago I was dubious that How the Scots Invented the Modern World proved its claim. Ken MacLeod's The Early Days of a Better Nation today describes early eighteenth-century Scotland as the hinge "between the empires of capitalist England and absolutist France". This is his summary of Neil Davidson's Discovering the Scottish Revolution 1692 - 1746, q.v.

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June 10, 2003

Restoration London, Liza Picard

More Pepys!

Picard was fond of Pepys, and fond of London, and happy to spend possibly quite a lot of time reading original documents from Pepys' era in London; she also has a felicity of expression something like Sarah Caudwell's. Do all British tax lawyers write like that? Should we read Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce straight?

Tidbits:

London Bridge, built up with houses, deserves a book of its own; see Ex Libris, a good novel set there.

Petticoat breeches:

"'all open, like a short petticoat, having no sewing up between the legs'...heavily trimmed with yards and yards of ribbon, and also they were worn at half-mast, hanging precariously from the wearer's hips, no longer attached to the doublet...The gap was filled by an expanse of billowing linen shirt filled with point." [lace] (p. 117)

But no skateboards.

A 1792 drawing of a 16th-century mansion composed largely of windows; small panes, but large windows running around three stories at least, including the ground floor. Expensive! Seems to be set around a courtyard, perhaps a private one, maybe the windows were safe because of that. All the house that isn't window is heavily carved. It's grand and pretty.

Samuel records eating an enormous amount of meat, and no vegetables; personal taste, descriptive bias, or was that actually what people ate? Recipes are ambiguous (one 'grand sallet', p. 152, would do James Lileks proud: violets, capers, preserved oranges, and a architectural or geometrical arrangement stuck with rosemary and hard-boiled eggs and lemons. However, there is legal and economic evidence of a steady flourishing market in vegetables and fruits. She assumes that people ate them but didn't bother to talk about them.

Other good recipes: what looked like a pie but actually contained a live snake:But 'this is only for a wedding to pass away time', which can drag at such gatherings. (p. 153) Also, Take a male Pike, rub his skin off whilst he lives...(p. 155)

Complicated common beliefs about sex; female orgasm was believed necessary to conception (except by at least one midwife), and women were spoken of as dangerous sexual devourers, but Pepys' and other descriptions of actual dalliance are sometimes very explicit that the woman couldn't have enjoyed herself and the man didn't care. Picard can cite a period of six months in which Samuel did not lie with his wife (who he loved and admired) but did have encounters of various casual sorts with other women. Maybe it was the religious madonna/whore split, although that seems too etiolated for the age and man in question; maybe it sublimated guilt about the dangers of childbirth. After all, with no contraception and a serious risk of death with each pregnancy, a man would be helplessly moved not to have sex with a woman he loved; and the rationalizations around a double batch of helplessness would be severe. Not that I have any evidence for this; it just allows one to think a little more kindly of half of Pepys' behavior.

By 1671 there were fifteen Quaker boarding schools, of which two were for girls and two were coeducational. (p. 187)
Have you ever heard a well-trained actor reading Chaucer aloud? He sounds like a drunken Cornish bumblebee trapped in a jar of honey - with impeccable erudition, I am sure. Now turn your mind the the early years of our present Queen's reign; her broadcasts to the nation on Christmas Day could have cut glass at 50 paces. Between the two eras the Great Vowel Shift has occurred. (p. 199)

Maybe there are examples of each online.

Marriage - although theoretically marriage was indissoluble and well-defined, Henry VIII had fuzzed up the first, and actually the second was complicated by the sort-of-indissoluble condition of betrothal. I think The Knight, the Lady and the Priest has the background on why the Church philosophically needed to recognize private mutual promises as marriage. In practice, between human hotheadedness and parental opinion and what all, it wasn't always clear who was betrothed. Even a marriage recorded in a church register has to have been hard to prove if the participants wouldn't say where it had been. Finally, people abandoned by their spouses seem to have technically been married until they could prove they were widowed, but in practice were considered widowed after seven years. Collusion would have sometimes been irresistible, I should think.

ISBN: 0-380-73236-X

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High Fidelity, Nick Hornby

I don't know enough pop music to get the relevant jokes in most of this novel; but that's all right, I still haven't found out what Yonge had against an embroidered church cushion.

Summary: Feckless slacker makes a fool of himself, insults people, is finally rescued by (more than one) girlfriend who seems too good for him... I assume that, like Bridget Jones' Diary, this makes sense because we can assume that the narrator is self-denigrating wherever possible.

My other half found it disconcerting that the hero is only saved by having his girlfriend run his life without asking. True. On the other hand, more growth in the time given would have been even less believable.

ISBN: 0-575-40018-8

Posted by clew at 09:49 PM | TrackBack

Silicon Follies, Thomas Scoville

Ellen Ullman did most of the elements of this novel better - Silly Valley as a flip-side of the counterculture; cautious sex; and the pleasure of working with the machine. The last, she did much better. Scoville seems embarrassed by it.

He has a tidier, more old-fashioned plot, which you may regard as a good or bad thing. Given its length and lack of seriousness, this would be about right for the commuter hop between Seattle and San Jose.


ISBN: 0-7434-1120-X

Posted by clew at 09:41 PM | TrackBack

June 08, 2003

Sultry Climates, Ian Littlewood

Subtitle: Travel & Sex.

Tease! After the suggestive title & the seductive dustjacket, Littlewood writes a beautifully severe introduction, explaining where he curtailed the book and why - the astringincy is lively in itself, and it promises both a well-ordered book and a field of extensions from it.

Littlewood announces that he limits himself mostly to France , Italy, and Tahiti; to English travellers' published accounts; and that he leaves out professional travels - "business travel, military service, colonial administration and the like." And he suggests that he need not spend words explicitly condemning the exploitative behavior he describes; and that dividing tourism into 'sex' and 'other' categories is facile. "To propose other places and people as spectacle, which is what tourism does, promotes an essentially amoral response to experience, and sexual spectacles are just one aspect of the general tourist experience."(p 49).

The first few chapters are a brisk trot through the rise of the Grand Tour. Boswell, logorrheic, is the meat of it; Thomas Coryate, who Tim Moore followed with mixed results, appears. So does Fanny Trollope; I think Trollope's biographer cited the same worry about English girls at risk of gaining non-English habits that Littlewood does.

I know I've read a funny description, by Fanny Trollope, of a tourist trip down some boringly lovely and historical river (Germany?) during which a new husband reads, quiveringly, from Lord Byron. His new bride raises her handkerchief to her eyes, which he takes as a show of sentimental tears, and everyone else sees hiding yawns of boredom. Littlewood hits his stride with Byron's notorious travel, sexual escapades, stunning book sales based on the illicit thrills of foreign ways - Littlewood's title, of course, is from Byron's Don Juan:

What men call gallantry, and gods adultery,
Is much more common where the climate's sultry.

So after Byron the link between tourism and sexual license was too widely admitted to be covered by antiquarian studies. Littlewood writes, of Jekyll & Hyde or the Victorian tourist generally,

It is not that he is a hypocrite - both the pleasure-seeker and the respectable doctor are genuine sides of his nature - but there is no social mechanism that allows him to give expression to the pleasure-seeker without compromising the gravity of the doctor.(p. 120)

The pleasure sought is very often homosexuality or pederasty, increasingly dangerous for a man who stayed in England. There were harder-to-define claims that England was stuffy and grey and boring in all ways. However, in being descriptive rather than judgemental, I think Littlewood ends up condemning many of the sex tourists most forcibly, out of their own contradictions. Someone who always gives his young paramours cricket-belts has not found a value-system free of Englishness. Worse, men who have affairs with poor boys in poor countries, instead of each other, are not great evidence that they were touring for freedom in general instead of the freedom they get from being on top of the heap. They wanted, perhaps, to feel like outlaws but to be safe. Byron at least abandoned safety.

Gaugin was even worse: he had to move to progressively poorer islands to find women he could bribe into sleeping with him, because he was visibly syphilitic.

Odd connection to WWI - everything connects to WWI or Fanny Trollope - some lines from Rupert Brooke, on his way back from sun-drenched romance in Tahiti, describing the possible war as an escape into 'cleanness' from tired old civilization. More credibly, after WWI, sun-worship for reasons of public festival & universal hygiene became common in the UK and Germany. That might even be admirable, a resort to valuing the good things that don't need rationing.

The famous female travellers (Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, etc) are mentioned, and it's clear they had an interest in sexual freedom too, but there aren't nearly as many details - ten, twelve pages total.

To look up: John Pemble, The Mediterranean Passion, for evidence that the Victorians liked a tanned skin even in women.

ISBN: 0-306-81155-3

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Creature Tech, Doug TenNapel

Science fiction, romance, religion, horror, and thoroughgoing subjective distortions in the drawing.

ISBN: 1-891830-34-1

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Liberty Meadows, Frank Cho

Subtitle: Eden Book 1

It's an okay comic, set in an animal rescue facility (demented, anthropomorphized animals; coupla nebbish guys; babelicious, athletic women). I checked it out of the library because somewhere, a while ago, I ran across an annoyed comment by Frank Cho that he had gotten a complaint from someone about how oppressively beautiful the main female character is. IIRC - I probably don't - his defense, aside from 'get over it already', was an engaged puzzlement that a competent, pleasant, central female character should be so annoying.

I think I know why his representation of her is annoying. The female characters (Brandy, some unnamed ag students in the bar - none of the animals, why not? ) - are drawn in as realist a style as he uses. Some of this is that the humans are more realistic than the animals; but the men are less detailed than the women, and Brandy is most 'posed' of the lot. Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, pp. 28-37, has a convincingly illustrated argument that realist drawing reduces the amount of reader identification with a character. Something I don't see in Understanding..., but think is at least as important, is that distortions of a drawn character to express emotion are a strong appeal to identification, because they're much closer to how we feel when we have the emotion than to how we see other people who we deduce have the emotion. Brandy, when emotional, is still drawn realistically. All the other series characters are distorted at least sometimes when strongly emotional.

So the oddity about Brandy, heroic female character, is that she's drawn as the one character in the book we couldn't possibly be. Or possibly she's the character who has no subjective existence to express, which is even creepier.

There is a excellent book by Marina Warner on a related thought: Monuments & Maidens: The allegory of the female form. If I recall correctly - and alas, it's been a while since I read it - this combines lots of evidence that Beaux Arts Paris usually represented all the strengths and virtues by realistic female images, with lots of evidence that the same people had no such expectations or allowances for actual women; and she may have an argument that these habits are mutually reinforcing.

Liberty Meadows, ISBN: 1-58240-260-4

Understanding Comics, ISBN: 0-87816-243-7

Monuments & Maidens, ISBN: 0520227336

Posted by clew at 05:07 PM | TrackBack

June 05, 2003

Referring to...

In which I rant about things that bother me because I think they're encoding bad librarianship[?]. Yet I know nothing about library science - or the Sematic Web, or knowledge representation, whatever. Sorry. Corrections hoped for.

The ISBN is a bad choice for the default ID of books mentioned online.

  1. Plenty of books were published without an ISBN; many of those are still in copyright, so we can't 'just digitize them'. (Are books still published without ISBN? In what countries, in what sense of 'published'?)
  2. No way built into the ISBN to get from the ISBN for one physical representation of a book to the ISBN for another representation; so no good way for autodiscovery that two mentions refer to the same thing.
  3. And what about books that are available online?
    • most of which were published well before the ISBN;
    • some are copies of a text which may have been republished with an ISBN;
    • some are approximations of several physical versions, so are bibliographically distinct although related to the others.
  4. And what about non-books: obviously Webpages, but also broadcasts, music, journal articles; heck, any time-space coördinate.

Unfortunately,

The ISBN is a great online ID for books.

It's common, recognizable and short enough to build apps around.
  • With John Udell's bookmarklet, you can look up an ISBN at many public libraries, or Amazon, or....
  • AllConsuming can aggregate references to what people are reading, as long as they use the ISBN and link to one of the main stores.
  • Or there's a MovableType plugin, based on AllConsuming, to create a link to Amazon's book page, and put a little picture of the front cover on your blog.
Three things about these make me unneccesarily cranky. The first is that we're too effin' close to trashing everything older than the ISBN anyhow. I'm not [forgot his name] who gets all miffy about electronic catalogs because 'a word incised in stone demands to be read as stone'; I think everything good about card catalogs can be encoded in an online catalog (except the smell), and more and better besides; although I doubt it always is. But I do worry that old books and their contents are hard to get. It doubly bugs me that ignoring any pre-ISBN book loses pre-TV history, because it seems to me that we are especially bad at remembering anything before TV. Old fuzzy newsreels may appear mostly as background in cheap amusement, but that's what makes them the unquestioned Way Things Used to Be. Separate rant there, sorry.

The second thing that bothers me is an increase in encouraging us all to read the same things at the same time. Individual blogs do this only weakly; bestseller lists and AllConsuming strongly. I don't think there's an equally strong online method to find 'more like this' measured by subtler similarities. What I miss is the great joy of seeing all the possible cross-reference subjects in a card catalog, once I had finally found the entry I was looking for.

And, pettily, the pictures of the covers annoy me a lot. With a link to an online store right there, why waste space and attention to attract the magpie brain? (Because some people want to pick it up in a physical place: okay, fair.) I'm looking forward to print-on-demand so I can get the books I want hardcopy all the same size, and bound to match. If all my books were the same size, I could pack them in my bookcases much more efficiently. If they were all bound with my binding, I could retrieve them from my friends' shelves, especially if I included RFID. I wave my hand in lordly fashion to assume that the careful work of layout & design for each book can be scaled to fit the sizes I like (wide margins?).

Dublin Core

And look! the annoying detail work about how to refer to anything anyone might want to look up has been well-begun! They're even going to be in my town this fall.

At least one other book-reviewing enthusiast has worked out an RDF by which an item announces which items it's about.

Catalogablog does know about libraries, and has a list of blog-suitable metadata initiatives.

There should be a public-knowledge database of books, for everyone to refer to. Maybe being the de facto database is worth enough to Amazon that they would commit to providing an interface to the skeleton of their data; it might not be worth the effort, esp. as they're now linked to without promising anything.

Maybe one could be assembled by scraping library databases; hm; do libraries own their databases, do they buy rights from publishers, do they share data already?

Linkrot

Some problems with referring to things online:
  1. they vanish
  2. they move
  3. they get edited and make your comments irrelevant
  4. I might really be referring to both a source and a process: for instance, for the many things kept in 'dirty ASCII', maybe I should be scrupulous and say both that I started with the data at [URI1], but read it after it was processed by the program at [URI2]. Examples:
    • I read an online text after it's been HTML-prettied by one program, or turned into a .pdb file by another
    • The English-language version of something I read (a foreign newspaper?) was generated by a particular translating program; boy, there's something to hack to damage international relations.
Some fixes: caching the copy you first saw; permalinks; store a hash instead of a version# or ISBN.
Posted by clew at 12:13 PM | TrackBack

June 03, 2003

Propagation Basics, Steven Bradley

It's nice in a beginner's how-to book to have the author address novices but assume that they're naturally going to become wild enthusiasts. This book has good practical advice - cloches out of junk, when to use an old cheap saw instead of ruining a good one - and background biology both; and of course they're closely linked, if you're going to get into the subject: you'll need the practice to experiment on the biology.

I will, anyhow.

Crogglers: scooping and scoring tunicate bulbs; leaf cutting begonias. (Online info from the extension services again: thanks, government.)

Note to self: fuschia and pelargoniums by softwood cuttings in the spring; camellia by semi-ripe cuttings taken autumn or winter &
rooted on the windowsill; Ribes by hardwood cuttings in autumn.

ISBN: 0-8069-8851-7

Posted by clew at 03:01 PM | TrackBack

June 02, 2003

Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde

More relentlessly twee than its predecessor (The Eyre Affair). I laughed out loud more than once, but I don't think it would be funny on rereading; the emotional parts of the plot are less fleshed out, and the jokes are largely of the shaggy-dog and funny-voice kind, all on literary subjects.

ISBN: 0-670-03190-9

Posted by clew at 08:39 PM | TrackBack
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