Monday, November 24, 2008

For the Online Record, Against the Day

This must be recorded online: In 1869, Thomas Pynchon gave Myron Eells a specimen of Iceland Spar for Whitman Seminary.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

To Collect is to Sustain a Life

In Collections of Nothing (Chicago, 2008), William Davies King explores the compulsion to collect. “This widely shared impulse,” King claims, is rooted in a personally or collectively felt wound. “Collecting may not be the most direct means of healing these wounds, but it serves well enough. It finds order in things, virtue in preservation, knowledge in obscurity, and above all it discovers and creates value” (7). Moreover, collecting “is a way of linking past, present, and future” (27); the collector transcends time, finds a more comprehensive and more coherent narrative, and builds a kind of “monument” against death (38). “Collecting,” King writes, “is a way of coming to terms with the strangeness of the world” (76).

Some collages by King may be viewed at:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blog Analysis

At there is a post about “blog analysis tools.” Here are the tools and the results for this blog:

Gender: "We think is written by a man (82%)."

Personality type: "The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type: INTP - The Thinkers"


blog readability test

(I do quote geniuses here often.)


My blog is worth $564.54.
How much is your blog worth?

Friday, November 14, 2008

No Excitement on Wall Street

I’m busy writing offline, but I just came across a diary entry, written on October 18, 1870, that connects with the present (and recordkeeping):

Went … into the exchange building in Wall st. There is no excitement only men writing in little books. Deep waters are still.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gloves Off

There is a nice, brief piece in The New York Times about exposing undergraduates to rare book (something I do regularly).

Here is a snippet:

[Robert] Darnton asks his students to “diagnose the symptoms” of a book—bits of petticoat in rag-based pages, symbols stamped in the binding, scribblings in the margins, called marginalia. By examining a book’s physical attributes, he says, “you can enter a world we have lost and understand it as it was.”
—“Handle This Book!” available from:

An interesting slideshow, “The Past Between Two Covers,” accompanies the article online:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Historical Dimension of Crisis

Present crises turn some toward the past, which may offer precedents and perspective.

The current financial crisis has caused many to recall the S&L debacle of the 1980s and the Great Depression that followed the stock market crash in 1929. Others have looked back farther, to 1873-74, 1836, and even the 15th century.

I have a hard time pulling myself away from my personal history with the financial sector:

Speaking of economic history, here is an interesting review of a new book on religion and the rise of free market capitalism in 19th-century America: “Stewards of Capitalism,” available from:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Professor in Chief

The title of this post is taken from a headline in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “America Gets a Professor in Chief,” available from:

For more on Obama in academia, see the piece that appeared in the September 21, 2008, issue of The New York Times Magazine (the College Issue): “Case Study: What Barack Obama’s teaching methods tell us about the kind of president he might make,” available from

From Inside Higher Ed: “How do academics respond to a unique, precedent-shattering election? Insist it was predicted by entirely ordinary models.” More:

I was in a rather a-temporal place at this historic moment.