December 13, 2012 § 1 Comment
After finishing my first semester of grad school, I’m celebrating a few good things:
1.) I’m teaching writing & rhetoric to college freshmen next semester! In preparation I created and submitted a literacy narrative – a story about a moment when composing or reading a text became significant to me – to the Digital Archives of Literacy Narratives. This is a great site with interesting, multimodal compositions, and it’s something I may have my students participate in. My earlier blog post “Twas Brillig and Shook Me to the Core” was a draft. You can listen to the final version here.
2.) I have three poems forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review. I’m so honored as this issue features some of my favorite poets: Rae Armantrout, David Trinidad, Heather Christle, and Kirsten Kaschock.
I’m not sure I could have made it through, though, without plenty viewing of the following:
1.) We posted this in one of our first blog posts, but it still cracks me up and inspires.
2.) I love this music and this video. It makes me so happy. It will get you through your day.
June 20, 2012 § 5 Comments
I love this piece on East London’s fashion in the last 100 years. It’s so fun to hear the music and see the fashions of the last century fly by. It’s even more fun to see the styles that have stayed, returned, or never came back.
Lately I’ve felt a similar frenzied and nostalgic rush toward technology.
On one hand, I bought a new phone which prompted me to dive into the land of apps and Instagram. I even started a twitter account (another dangerous whim). Here’s my first tweet. (If you follow @abigaillzc, you can bet there will be offthefrontporch links.)
And my first instagram photo (follow @zimmeralc for more).
But as much as I’m diggin things like Voxer and AroundMe, I’m aware of how much past technology continues to influence our new habits. For example, our computer keyboards click because when they were first made with muted sound, the quiet office unnerved typists. So engineers made them click again. And the layout of the keys (the QWERTY pattern) was meant to slow down the typists so the machine could keep up with them – now our computers are more than capable, yet we continue to use the slower QWERTY layout.
So in the midst of playing around with my new toys, I also got a fresh ribbon for my typewriter, which I’ve been using to write Sylvia-Plath-style.
(Look what serious poets we both are. It’s all because of the typewriter.)
And I’m listening to classics like Otis Spain and Al Green on my record player.
Soon I will be using a lot more public transportation to get around, which – as these 100-year-old promotional infographics imply – is certainly not a new fad.
Readers, revel in the old and indulge in the new.
September 19, 2011 § 12 Comments
As a book lover, I’m often asked my opinion on the ebook versus traditional book debate. Am I not thrilled by the ease and convenience of carrying around 320 books at once wherever I go in the world whether that’s to the far reaches of Tajikistan or to my toilet? Isn’t the story the same whether on screen or on paper? Do I think the onslaught of cheap ebooks will devastate the publishing industry? (Ok, no one’s yet asked me this, but I have an opinion nonetheless.) Do I want a Nook for my birthday? (No.)
I will admit, handling a book is a large part of my reading experience. As I wrote previously, stumbling over physical books makes me pick them up to read and the presence of books cheers me up. There’s the mustiness of old books and the crispness of new ones. I like the physical knowledge of progressing through a book and seeing how much is left (which also helps me decide if I should finish it up or put it down and go to sleep), and of holding a book someone else loved: the underlined sentences, the dirt and food stains, the crumpled page corners and familiar creases. We readers leave our marks on books, and we share that part of ourselves with the next reader.
Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, sums up my feelings:
I am very grateful to the electronic world for making my life easier, but there is something about holding a book — the smell and the world of association. Even when e-books are perfected, as they surely will be, it will be like being in bed with a very well-made robot rather than a warm, soft, human being whom you love.
And it’s not just that I like to touch books; I like to see other people handling books too. Or rather, I like to eavesdrop on what other people are reading in waiting rooms and coffee shops. I’ve fleetingly met a few kindred spirits this way who share the same literary tastes. This spying is terribly hard to do electronically. Unless we’re friends and they leave frequent Facebook status updates:
- Wish Heathcliff would stop being a drama queen and just damn apologize already!
- Stayed up all night with Katniss. Still hasn’t chosen Peeta.
- Sho’nuff, too distracted by a white author’s rendition of southern Black domestic help.
Besides my own preferences, there are a few things I think we lose with ebooks. One of them is the role of book covers and browsing. As The Guardian writes, we indeed judge books by their covers and there is an art to them (check out these cheesy science fiction covers here or GalleyCat’s infographic to decode women’s books by their cover here). We browse the bookstore visually first. This isn’t impossible to do electronically, but it is harder. Online browsing is cluttered with ads, and we browse differently, urged on by Amazon’s memory of our tastes.
Good E-Reader poses the idea that ebooks are changing the way we view ownership. Unable to lend or resell your ebooks, buying digital books more closely resembles borrowing from the library than owning. And it’s harder to keep in mind the file of books in your digital library than the piles of books in your home library.
Still, I’ve found good reasons to laud the ebook format. Ebooks could help out the declining publishing industry by learning from the music industry. They give away freebies to boost sales (who doesn’t gravitate towards free stuff? And if you like it, you’ll buy more), sell individual tracks (what if you could buy just the one essay or poem you wanted? You could build your own anthology. Or what if you could buy the first two chapters of a book to see if you like it in the first place?), include bonus tracks if you buy the CD (give incentives for buying books), and sell the more expensive vinyl format in conjunction with an mp3 download (you can have the beautiful book for your shelves and still have the more practical e-version for your trip to Tajikistan).
Seattle Pi suggests that ebooks could also bring back serial stories. Not only could we read authors such as Charles Dickens the way his contemporary audience read him (and in smaller chunks, one might even get through the 800+ pages of Little Dorrit), but new writers today could build the same engaged following as television shows have with their drawn out plots and cliffhangers. When Dickens published The Old Curiosity Shop, leaving little Nell’s life hanging in the balance, American readers crowded the edges of New York City’s piers for the last installment, asking the incoming sailors if Nell was still alive in the end. What writer wouldn’t want that in any format?
Perhaps this compromise is the best way to go.
June 17, 2011 § 2 Comments
In The House of Seven Gables, Nathanial Hawthorne writes:
If we look through all the heroic fortunes of mankind, we shall find this same entanglement of something mean and trivial with whatever is noblest in joy or sorrow. Life is made up of marble and mud. And, without all the deeper trust in a comprehensive sympathy above us, we might hence be led to suspect the insult of a sneer, as well as an immitigable frown, on the iron countenance of fate. What is called poetic insight is the gift of discerning, in this sphere of strangely mingled elements, the beauty and the majesty which are compelled to assume a garb so sordid.
So come our real-life heroes, a bit marbled and muddied. Here are a few note-worthy ones.
1. Last year for Father’s Day, videographer David Hui reflected on his absent father during childhood and his present role as father to two kids, a challenge coming from any background. With Matt Kirk, he composed this moving video essay on fatherhood and faith. Here’s to many fathers.
2. Frederika has become a super-grandma. When French photographer Sacha Goldberger saw that his 91-year-old grandmother was feeling lonely and depressed, he proposed dressing up and shooting a a series of crazy photos. The shoot was such a success and she received so much support from fans, she hasn’t felt lonely or depressed since. There is even talk of a movie…
3. And of course, a brief nod is due to all those tech-savvy people in our life who come to our rescue. In any age and at most ages, we need them.