Category Archives: Short takes

Now this

just doesn’t happen very often: Verlyn Klinkenborg has written a piece for the New York Times that connects the eighteenth century with speculative fiction. See “When Doris Lessing Meets Lady Mary Wortley Montagu” (Dec. 8/07) for an interesting read about the ways in which we tend to position writers from the past, and how re-imagining them can offer new insights. The wry Montagu is particularly suitable for this somewhat whimsical treatment, while conversely being enough of a heavyweight to survive a comparison with Lessing.



Short Takes. . . .

1.  In a recent interview, Derek Gordon, a VP at Technorati, observes that there are roughly 109.2 million blogs currently being maintained out in cyberspace right now, or roughly one blog for every 23 persons with internet access, or one blog for every 151 people alive on this planet, assuming the planet’s population to be around 6.6 billion.  Of course, according to Gordon, many active bloggers maintain more than one blog, and the “vast majority of blogs exist in a state of total or near-total obscurity.”  I don’t know what to think about this, but I do know that it’ll be an awfully long time before anyone responds to this post.

2.  The Community College Dean and Dr. Crazy have a civil and productive exchange about unbridled, out of control, positively unhinged faculty hatred: senior faculty hatred of students, junior faculty hatred of senior faculty, universal hatred of administrators.  What can I say?  Administrators win hands down.

3.  Profgrrrrl needs help organizing her notes, pdfs, etc.  It’s an interesting question, now that most of us routinely spend our days moving from one medium to another, without any single medium or repository to hold our thoughts.  It used to be xeroxes, or yellow pads, or manila folders, hanging files, and filing cabinets.  What is it now? 

4.  Two of the reasons why I haven’t posted so much lately: this and this.  I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving.



Short takes . . . .

1.  The Guardian has a nice review of Vic Gattrell’s City of Laughter.  Has anyone used this for their courses? (Courtesy of

2.  Greg at Slawkenbergius gives us a nice reading of Addison’s “peregrinating shilling,” with a nifty reference to Deleuzian flows of commerce at the end.

3.  Sharon at EMN directs us to Anthony Grafton’s latest essay at the New Yorker, including a very useful accompanying group of links.  I was particularly taken by the long-term interest in the retrieval of information, through note-taking systems like this one:

Fast, reliable methods of search and retrieval are sometimes identified as the hallmark of our information age; “Search is everything” has become a proverb. But scholars have had to deal with too much information for millennia, and in periods when information resources were multiplying especially fast they devised ingenious ways to control the floods. The Renaissance, during which the number of new texts threatened to become overwhelming, was the great age of systematic note-taking. Manuals such as Jeremias Drexel’s “Goldmine”—the frontispiece of which showed a scholar taking notes opposite miners digging for literal gold—taught students how to condense and arrange the contents of literature by headings. Scholars well grounded in this regime, like Isaac Casaubon, spun tough, efficient webs of notes around the texts of their books and in their notebooks—hundreds of Casaubon’s books survive—and used them to retrieve information about everything from the religion of Greek tragedy to Jewish burial practices. Jacques Cujas, a sixteenth-century legal scholar, astonished visitors to his study when he showed them the rotating barber’s chair and movable bookstand that enabled him to keep many open books in view at the same time. Thomas Harrison, a seventeenth-century English inventor, devised a cabinet that he called the Ark of Studies: readers could synopsize and excerpt books and then arrange their notes by subject on a series of labelled metal hooks, somewhat in the manner of a card index. The German philosopher Leibniz obtained one of Harrison’s cabinets and used it in his research.

It was also interesting to me how difficult it has been for entrepeneurs to find a proper business model for their digitization efforts, which have resulted in the scattered, incomplete, and/or abandoned projects that have built up ever since microfilm projects were started in the 1940s, even when there were plentiful library dollars to buy such collections.  The unevenness of these collections means that libraries and scholars will need to devote resources to cataloguing and retrieval among multiple, large-scale digital collections.

4.  The Tenured Radical has a very nice post up about giving good conference papers.  I try to do most of these things already.  But Carrie will tell you that I do wave my arms around too much. That’s why I prefer blogging.