Emmons, Baseball nights and DDT

Baseball Nights And DDTJeanne Emmons; Pecan Grove Pr 2005WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This is an excellent book of poems which consists of four sections: “Refinery,” “Cooking from Scratch,” “Possessions,” and “The Sound of One Hand.” Amongst the poems of each section is a poem of the same title, except in “Possessions” where the poem is actually “The Possession of Susan Smith.”

This is the second of Emmons’ three books of poems; the first being Rootbound and the third The Glove of the World. I have not yet read the third book.

Full disclosure time: Jeanne Emmons is a friend of mine and the professor I have taken the most classes from at Briar Cliff. Other than providing me a deeper knowledge of the poet, which helps in placing the poet in relation to some of the subject matter of the poems, I do not think it colors my judgement of the poems in the slightest. These are powerful poems whether or not I have more insight into some of them than the general reader of them does.

The poems in “Refinery” center around the author’s growing up in south Texas: Halloween, the baseball nights and DDT of the title, Southern Baptist churchgoing, segregation, living in a refinery town. “Cooking from Scratch” encompasses relationships and where they lay in time; friends, family—living and gone—make their appearance. The third section, “Possessions” contains exactly what it says, the things that possess others and ourselves: gardens, travel, names and events in the news, mythology. The last section, “The Sound of One Hand,” consists of poems about Emmons’ father and their complex relationship and the whole book is dedicated to her father, Winfred S. Emmons, who passed in 2000.

There are so many poems I’d like to share with you or comment on but I’ll keep it to a bare minimum.

On her parents’ wedding night, from “Fantasia Reissued”:

That year, someone would split the atom,
and Bald Mountain would soon be racked
with thunderbolts and deadly rain,
but they held out hope and loved each other
with pink parasols, one after the other,
opening and opening in the darkened theater.

“Contingency” is one of the most beautifully and quietly erotic poems that I have ever read, even more so since there is nothing explicit in it.

“Medusa” is a wonderful reinterpretation of the boy-meets-girl story.

Since I cannot transcribe the whole thing, go find a copy and read them. You will be rewarded.


Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 6

This is update 6 in the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.


Helen has been quite busy this month … catching up on blogging things that she has read over the last few months.

Trinity by Leon Uris

She gave this one 5 stars in goodreads. “It is a dreary & beautiful slog through fictionalized history of a conquered people.” See her review for more.

The Littlest Hitler by Ryan Boudinot

This collection of short stories garnered 3 stars from her. While the “stories were all technically very well written” she “just kept thinking over and over that it was all trying too hard. The writing was effortless and a pleasure to read, but the story was always a little too hip, a little too cool, a little too ‘look how shocking.'” She hopes to try some of his more recent stuff before writing him off.

Pure Drivel by Steve Martin

“Usually I love Steve Martin’s writing, but this one was a miss for me.” 3 stars. See her review for why this one just didn’t work for her.

Scenes From An Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine

Another 5 star book. “I hear that this comic isn’t his best work from lots of folks, but since a) I’ve read and loved all his work and b) I feel a kinship to his attitude about most things, I feel qualified to say this book was awesome.” As someone ‘recently’ married, she has convinced me to read it.

Murder Unleashed by Rita Mae Brown

“This story is a murder mystery that encompasses a wide variety of topics including but not limited to: the mortgage crisis, squatter’s rights, hunger both human and animal, coyote’s and ranch politics, cattle farming, campaign finance, school buses, and sex industry workers. I’m sure there was more, plus the everyday lives of regular characters. The story is easy and RMB has a gift for packing a lot of content into a weekend read without making it laborious.”

She thinks the series is improving but read her review to find out why she only gave it 3 stars.


After a drought, two books down

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

“This is the fourth book in the Dresden series and I loved it. It lived up to Butcher’s standards for adventure, inventiveness, and fun.”

Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes

“[I]nspired by a reference in The Violets of March” she was led into the Stacks at UIUC and was “glad that I followed through on reading it. … Indeed, I found it a thoughtful telling of a life, the choices made, and the results that come from those choices.”

Sounds like a good read. And Brava, Jen, for daring the Stacks! I miss them so very, very much!

The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer

Past, present, Vienna, World War II, art, death and lovers. Wow. “The book drew me in almost instantly, making want to know more about the characters–their past, their future, how they would deal with the present. … This book is a wonderful get-a-way from the day to day and I especially like the time shifting of it and getting to witness the impact that the choices made in one’s youth had on the future.”


Quiet Renaissance Power

Sara reviewed two books “that were very different but struck similar chords” for her, which she read during the same time period as part of her Creativity theme for the 2/3rds Book Challenge: Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain, and The Renaissance Soul: life design for people with too many passions to pick just one by Margaret Lobenstine.

“In the end, I benefited from reading both of these books and I think reading them at the same time worked out really well. From Renaissance Soul, I have a list of specific goals and a timeline which actually feels realistic. From Quiet, I have several other book recommendations (I think I’ll finally get around to reading Flow now) and better ways of articulating what I need to myself and others.”

She does caution readers about an “us and them” premise which is present in both books, though.


The Wild Palms (If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem) by William Faulkner

This was a tough one for E but it will be with her for a long time. Life often puts these complex and difficult texts in front of us during times of stress, whether we need them or not, and they change us; often for the better, more often not appreciated until much later.

Read her powerful review.

“Do I even need to tell you that there can’t possibly be a happy ending? “That story ends very badly for all involved, you know.” “Don’t all the good ones?” And then there’s this, where I am right now, drinking bourbon in the back room of my new apartment in Pilsen, listening to the whistle of trains in the distance, scanning for the moon against the night sky.”

Keep scanning for the moon, my friend. She’ll always be there for you. Day or night, day and night, she has always been there for me.


In Defence of the Enlightenment by Tzvetan Todorov

I really wanted to like this book but it let me down. Sure, my review is far more nuanced than that, and I am glad I read it, but that is the gist of my reaction to it.

See you next month.

Two-Thirds Book Challenge, a non-update

It looks like all of us have been too busy to finish any of our reading and post a review on our blogs this month. Not a problem; forward only requires one step at a time.

In related news, though, while I am here, I will be adding (substituting) a few titles to my list. I am not picking any in particular to replace but am simply going to count a few that weren’t on the original list.

One of these, which I finished this evening, I read twice. I read a chapter or two and then went back and reread them and took my notes. I finished my reread and note-taking of the last two chapters and epilogue this evening. I’ll write it up soon, I hope. That book is:

Tzvetan Todorov ; translated from the French by Gila Walker. (2009). In defence of the Enlightenment. Atlantic Books.

Another book I am adding is one I received yesterday and am fidgeting to get started on as I am hoping to put it to use for one of my papers in Enlightenment Lit this semester. That book is:

Wayne Bivens-Tatum (2012). Libraries and the Enlightenment. Library Juice Press.

So, onward to next month, friends. Good reading, all!


My friend Jess talked me into participating in JaPoWriMo, or January Poetry Writing Month. At least that is how I am parsing it out.

The idea is simply to write one poem a day. She insisted they could be a short as haiku and that there was no requirement for them to be any good. I am sharing them with her and my wife, of course and, so far, one or two with the odd other here and there.

Much of my month is taken up with my Grimm’s Fairy Tale class and editing and other magazine production duties putting together this year’s issue of the Briar Cliff Review. Thus, a couple have been about Grimm’s; I foresee one or more about editing; I have written a couple about books, those I’ve read and those I won’t be reading (end-of-2011 book post); one about meetings (after a long meeting on Friday); one about our SirsiDynix Symphony ILS (subject of said and several other meetings); one about not having a subject; and so on.

There is no need to worry—not much anyway— as I will not be sharing all of them with you here. Many of them are bad, and I doubt that any of them are actually good. But I agreed to commit to this writing a poem a day in an otherwise already quite busy month as I hoped that more writing, even if mostly tossed off, would help me in assorted ways as a poet and a writer. The bottom-line is that I am a lazy poet. Perhaps this will cultivate a habit, perhaps this will leave me with a few choice phrases or lines or ideas, perhaps nothing will come of it.

With all of that said, I would like to share two that I wrote in response to my Grimm’s class. The first was written about 15 minutes before the class met for the first time; the second was written this morning and is a conflation of “Snow-white and Rose-red” and “Little Snow White,” which we read for and discussed this past Friday, along with other generic thoughts on the role of “beauty” in the tales we’ve read so far (~10).


Grimm’s excitement today
Innocents start to play
Villains and ogres slay
Justice wins come what may

3 January 2012

Beauty for its own sake, enticement.
Or is it really entrapment?

The hunter spares her …
The wicked queen poisons her …
The dwarves domesticate her …
The prince wants her … dead and mute.

Snow-white. Rose-red. Two
Halves of the same girl.
A maiden on the edge
Of womanhood.

Tame the bear,
Emasculate the dwarf,
Remain kind to the vile.
Gentleness, purity, innocence

Retained. These are the steps to
Make oneself a woman.
Chaste, yet chargedly erotic.
Snow-white. Rose-red.


8 January 2012

I may spend some time with the second as it could undoubtedly be improved. But, considering that I wrote it in about 10 minutes this morning I can live with it.

Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 3

This is the 3rd update to the Two-Thirds book Challenge.


Themes are the structure to Sara’s Challenge so we’ll honor those here. Her comments on the following four books can be seen here: Books of 2011


The Late American Novel, edited by Jeff Martin, “was an excellent choice.”

“Dozens of writers of various genres put in their two cents about the future of writing, reading and books. The reactions are all over the place, the styles vary dramatically, and the different voices are very strong. Out of all these essays, there were only a couple I found myself skimming through rather than reading carefully and soaking up. I took many notes and in some places laughed out loud. Ironically, I read the book in the Kindle app on my iPad. I would love to get a paper copy and read it again in a year to see how the predictions are faring. Highly recommended for personal collections and gift giving.”

I am hoping to read this so I sure hope lending is enabled on this title.


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“Gaiman takes Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book and changes the setting to a graveyard. He pulls it off in a wonderful way, and without a tacky ending. I would love to see more stories with these characters.”

Perhaps this can be my entrée to Gaiman.

The Magicians AND The Magician King by Lev Grossman

“When Magician King came out, I saw all sorts of interviews and reviews on book blogs discussing the allusions and references to writers like C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, Neal Stephenson, and many others. Just like my fascination with retold myths, I was intrigued by this series that admitted to so many influences. It took me a couple times to start The Magicians — Quentin is not the most sympathetic character, after all. But once I pushed through the first few chapters, the book really took off for me and the second book was even better.”


E found Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End “an enjoyable, engaging read” that she “zipped through” in a couple of days for her book club. She found several aspects well done: “the first person plural narration, the sense of futile frenetic energy in a workplace trying to justify its existence, the disconnect between real life and work life. I loved the bits and pieces of Chicago that emerged throughout the story. The interlude at the center of the book – a meditation on a woman’s cancer diagnosis – was moving and effective.” But she also felt that on occasion it fell flat and was clichéd.

Part of the problem for her might be that it reminded her of Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs, one of her favorite books. If you are not overexposed to the workplace novel, or simply love them, then check out E’s review in its entirety and consider Then We Came to the End.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Another book club selection for Miss E, and a Kindle read. She thinks she may have gotten through it primarily by being stuck in a lengthy blood drive line, which gave her “time to really get hooked on the story, if not on the characters themselves.”

“I can say definitively that Egan is a master storyteller. A Visit from the Goon Squad weaves in and out of time, with a number of stories told in layers, folding and unfolding onto themselves. The reader encounters characters at different points in their lives. … Each of these stories – episodes – windows of time is deftly, though not always gracefully, presented, surrounded by music and an indelible scene, whether it is the Bay area in the 70s, New York in the early 90s, full of optimism, or New York in the near future, recovering but not recovered from 9/11.”

She certainly has some more to say so check out her review if the above intrigues you.


Jen has been ripping through books!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Jen almost beat the buzz around this by starting on it with her son a few years ago. He finished it but she did not. 🙁 With the family slated to see the new movie (Hugo) and a bit of peer pressure she read it.

Her bottom line, post-movie: “To sum up: great book, great movie, just see the movie first.”

Sara and I both also read this recently. We loved it! It is a ~530-page book but with so many beautiful illustrations I read it in under 2 hours. It isn’t a graphic novel but it isn’t simply a text novel either. It is something else and, whatever that something is, it is wonderful.

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

Jen didn’t have a lot to say about this one directly, but we’ll chalk that up to her being under the weather. It sounds like this is a book to focus on, unlike how many of us read sometimes.

“Most books I can easily drop in and out of and not lose my place, as it were, but I had trouble with this book. That aside, the book is both as fantastical in parts as it is earthbound and realistic in others. Since the voice changes between characters, I was sometimes lost if I went too long without reading or was waiting to hear the voice from someone in another book (the problem mentioned above). I don’t think that these characters will haunt me in the ways that other ones do, but I will carry with me some of the observations they made along the way. I wish I had marked pages and passages that touched me, but I didn’t.”

Between Jen’s comments and looking at the book at amazon (gorgeous covers on her books!) this one sounds intriguing as hell.

Black Like Me (50th anniversary ed.) by John Howard Griffin

“This is a wonderful book about racial inequalities, laid about as bare as possible. While the writing isn’t eloquent, it doesn’t need to be. The author used medicine to change the color of his skin from white to black and lived for ~6 weeks as a black man. Nothing else changed about him–he kept his name, profession, history, etc. While I found the whole of the book to be enlightening in many unexpected ways, I found the last part and the afterward the most intriguing.”

This is one of those books I need to read. Many others, I suspect, do to.

My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business: A Memoir by Dick Van Dyke

A memoir in the man’s own words. Nothing shocking here, Jen says. But would one expect shocking from Dick Van Dyke?

“He did smoke for a long time, and was an alcoholic and that’s as scandalous as it gets. If you’re looking for something disreputable, stay away from this book. Instead, it’s a happy walk down a fantastic memory lane.”

Mark (me)

I called Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov an “odd text” and that it is. Nowadays there are more things like it but for its time it was pretty groundbreaking. I had a fair bit to say about it in my post but the gist is that:

“I did enjoy Pale Fire although I doubt that I yet appreciate it as much as a few trusted recommenders do. I will need to reread it some day to better appreciate it in all its nuances: hidden, overt, and otherwise. Nabokov is a master of indirection as Rorty points out in his introduction.”

Transformations by Anne Sexton

“Brutal. Unflinching. Caustic. Anne Sexton let loose on fairy tales.”

“Sex and death. The never-ending story. Incest. (Real or contrived.) Old aunt. Father. Mixed in with the typical fare of lust, greed, hate, pride, and all of the other human foibles.”

Not, as I say, for the uninitiated. Sexton is quite powerful: pulls no punches, spares no sacred cows.


That does it for this installment in the Two-Thirds Book Challenge. Stay tuned.

Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 2

This is the 2nd update to the Two-Thirds book Challenge.

This time of year is always busy and for one of us facing a big move it is especially so. Thus, not many of us were able to finish reading and/or write up any of our books.

Helen read Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty.

As a rule, Helen says, she loves Steve Martin’s books. Although she had been warned that she might not “really get or enjoy this story” as she has no specific interest in the art world, she found that it provided “a glimpse into a world I will never be a part, giving it a sense of fantasy while referencing things I know are real having lived in New York.”

She adds:

Steve Martin is gifted at laying out spans of life in a effortless way, showing the through lines of a persons life so subtly that it’s as if you’re going through it with them. In the case of this story, we follow the rise and fall of an intrepid, sometimes devious, always ambitious, woman in the high powered art world of New York.

She found it a little forced at the end but forgivable in light of the rest and considering how authentic it seemed.

I finished William Stafford’s The Way It Is which I quite enjoyed.

I’ll start with the negatives and finish on a more upbeat note as I do like Stafford’s poetry. One drawback of this book was that there are simply too many poems here to digest at once. That, though, could easily be handled by reading it in a different manner, which I mentioned in my review post.

More important as a true negative, in my opinion, is the ridiculous way the poems are arranged throughout the book. I did not follow that ordering but that also provided its own drawbacks. This is also explained more fully in my post.

More positively, here is some of what I said:

These poems accompany one as well as would a wise, world-observant, loquacious, and avuncular (but frequently solitary) companion who knows how to give one all the space and time one needs to grow just as wise and world-observant. He never gets in your way, never obstructs your view, doesn’t tell you what to think or even what to observe. The Way It Is is not a prescription but a description, and it winds its way through the whole volume and not simply the single short poem that bears that title. In fact, lines and phrases quite similar to “the way it is” are peppered throughout the poems of this volume.

Jen, along with her daughter, read Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm. [And, yes Jen, it does count even if she read part of it to you. Sara and I read books to each other and then we both consider them read. If it was an audio book it would count. Seems like the best kind of audio book to have a loved one read to you!]

Enthusiasm and amazing characterizations by her daughter helped Jen succumb to the story.

Hansel and Gretel weave their way through several story lines, most of them quite tragic (as traditional fairy tales are wont to be) and prove once and for all that children (at least these children–Hansel and Gretel) should be adulated and obeyed by adults. (I might have a bone or two to pick with that assertion.) Written by a teacher, the author humorously breaks in to the story line repeatedly to warn the reader to send small children away when horrible things are about to happen.

For a while Sara and I had an advanced reader copy of this but I think we weeded it without either of us reading it. This (now) makes me sad! I’ll be taking a very short, 3-week, 1-credit class on Grimm’s Fairy Tales this coming J-Term in January. Sadly, we did that round of weeding before I knew there would be a Grimm’s course [Ah, early Sep 2010 it was weeded].

Well, that is it for this installment of the Two-Thirds Book Challenge. Keep reading and next time we’ll hear about some more enticing sounding books.

Note: In the last couple days of writing and proofing this I see that Jen has finished another book. I also know that Sara has finished something that she should be including but she hasn’t had a chance to write it up. We’ll save these for next time. 😀

Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 1

[Minor edit: 24 November 2011 to add links to Helen’s posts at her blog.]

Over two months ago, I dreamed up a reading challenge, My Two-Thirds Book Challenge, after finishing another over the previous year. The new one began on October 1st.

So far, four people have joined me: 3 friends, E, Helen, and Jen, and my wife. This post will serve as the pointer to everyone’s lists and as the first reading update.

E – 2/3 Reading Challenge

E has listed 10 titles and has given herself 5 wild cards. Thus, she hopes to read 10 books. She got off to a quick start having finished one book and posting a review within the first month.

2/3 Book Challenge: Netherland

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

This is a book that E could neither put down, nor can stop thinking about. With 9/11 serving as a background, it is, she says, both a story of the American Dream, and one of “finding connection, finding home.” She writes:

One respondent to The New Yorker’s 9/11 project wrote that Netherland “seems to capture with great poignancy that powerful sense that a certain kind of world has slipped away.” This summarizes the book better than I possibly can. It’s wonderful and wonderfully written, full of sadness and loss and exploration.

Helen’s goodreads shelf

Helen is the most ambitious of us, at least publicly ambitious, with 75 titles on her list.

She appears to have finished one book so far.

The Believer’s Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies: How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Shermer

I think she is going to post her reviews on her blog, Highway to Helen, but for now I am linking to her review at goodreads. [My Two-Thirds Book Challenge – Intro and My Two-Thirds Book Challenge – Book 1 added: 24 November 2011]

Helen gave it 3 of 5 stars and writes that: “I loved the first half, which explained in layman’s details how the human brain seeks patterns and forms beliefs in all kinds of things.” But, sadly, the second half focused “entirely on theories relating to cosmology and origins of the universe,” which seems to have left the subtitle a little overambitious and the text itself a little narrower than advertised.

Jen – 2/3 book challenge

I am unsure exactly how many books are on Jen’s list (13, I think), but that is perfectly OK as I told her that I am keeping this low-key. Nor is this a contest in any way, but simply a challenge to personally motivate the individual reader.

Jen has read two books so far and has short reviews at her post with her list.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:

While slow at first, I ended up adoring this book. Set in Nazi Germany and narrated by Death, the book centers around a young girl and the family that has taken her in. At times funny and, of course, quite sad, it’s a wonderful ride and an interesting perspective.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery:

I bought this book while in Seattle based on a reader review that was posted with it. The book lived up to the review and I devoured it on my flights home. Like the reviewer, I found myself getting unashamedly teary-eyed while on a flight surrounded by strangers. A secretly intelligent concierge and a young suicidal girl who lives in the building both have life-changing experiences when a new tenant from Japan arrives. A lame review, but I’m worried about giving up too much. I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and the characters still come to mind and I wonder how they’re doing.

Sara – Two-Thirds Book Challenge

Sara’s list is even squishier than Jen’s. She is pursuing themes instead of specific titles as she has learned that if she doesn’t get around to reading a book she put on a list within 6 weeks or so then it will not get read. Her themes are: Creativity, Language, Writing, Erudition, Tech, and Fiction; and, she has links to her shelves at goodreads with possibilities within each theme at her post.

Mark (me) – My Two-Thirds Book Challenge

I have 30 titles on my challenge shelf at goodreads. I will, of course, read many more than 30 books over the next year. Since the challenge began I have read and finished 9 books and have begun 5 books which I am still reading. Three of those in process books are from my challenge list: Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Stafford’s The Way It Is, and Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. None of the finished books, though, are from my list.

My books are also divided into themes but, in my case, that division is a post hoc grouping after the titles were selected.

Pale Fire – Sara suggested I read the poem first and then go back and reread the poem along with its commentary. I have read the poem all the way through, and did so within the first few days of the challenge beginning, but now need to go back and reread/read the book in its entirety.

Hero with a Thousand Faces – I am a little over halfway through with this. It is somewhat slow going as I can only stomach so much of the psychoanalytic mumbo jumbo. Also, Campbell’s writing in some sections is crystal clear and in others it is as murky as can be. The murkier sections tend to dampen my enthusiasm for reading it. I wanted to read it during the fall semester, though, as it ties in well with my Classical Lit and Mythology class that I’m taking. The class is, well, myth and our text book authors also stress the psychoanalytic interpretations.

The Way It Is – I am at least 7/8 or so done with this. It is hard to say as it is one of those poetry collections that some editor decides is best in whatever whacky arrangement they’ve dreamed up instead of simply in the order in which were poems were published. As I chose to read them in chronological order, I have to jump around the book a lot, by and within sections, and that makes it difficult to know exactly how far I am.

Future Updates

I hope to get a bit more regular and have monthly updates. With any luck they will be posted within the first 10 days of each month. I know that E has a few things read to post reviews of, and I will certainly finish Stafford very soon and post a review.

If anyone still wants to join us make a list somewhere, in some form, that contains a smattering of things which you think you can finish 2/3rds (or more) of between October 1st 2011 and September 30th 2012 and post your reviews somewhere. Of course, let me know where this happens so I can add to you to our monthly updates.

Good reading to you all!

Some things read lately, or, new shit has come to light

This blog used to have a “feature” entitled “Some Things Read This Week” but I ended it before my blogging dropped completely from sight. With no promises one way or the other I’d like to start blogging again about some of the things I read.

As I said a couple of posts back:

I am ramping back up the work on my CAS thesis via several angles of attack. I am working on the paper proper and I am also working on a journal article, which will be highly related (as in with a little reworking can become a chapter), and I am thinking about trying to come up with a presentation for a conference in early December. The conference is “Semantics for Robots: Utopian and Dystopian Visions in the Age of the ‘Language Machine’. ‘The Language Machine’ is one of Roy Harris’ early books, of course.

Thus, I am reading and taking notes again. Along with trying to “reconstruct” work I have done previously, I am also continuing to pursue these interests further, along with pursuing other interests. In these areas I am also reading and taking notes. Having not written much of anything in quite a while I need to get assorted writing chops back in order, be it annotated bibliographic entries, blog posts, general and specialized note taking, summarizing, journal article(s), or CAS thesis.

So I am going to jump in again. Any feedback is appreciated whether on style, further reading suggestions, etc.

The first article I want to discuss is:

Dill, E. A., & Janke, K. L. (2010). “New shit has come to light”: Information seeking behavior in The Big Lebowski. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1805/2099 [pre-peer reviewed version of a forthcoming article in The Journal of Popular Culture.]

No doubt, many of you saw references to the Dill & Janke article over the last two weeks. Many people, understandably, could not help themselves in mentioning it in one venue or the other. “New shit has come to light” as the title of an academic paper is worth mentioning in its own right, but assuming you get the reference to The Big Lebowski then you doubly could not help yourself. I can appreciate that. And do. So a quick shout out to the two folks I first saw reference it, Dorothea Salo and Christina Pikas [although probably saw the 1st references in twitter].

The first, and perhaps most important, thing I want to say about this article is that I am glad this is going into The Journal of Popular Culture. It is about time some of the research from our field shows up in other places besides our own stodgy journals. Now, I’d much prefer that other LIS research made its way where it is needed and that it was actually being cited and used in other fields. This, though, is a small start. If no one in another field is aware of our work then they cannot and will not use it. And to my knowledge JPC is pretty interdisciplinary.

This article, as noted above, is a preprint of the prior-to-peer-review paper. It will be interesting to see what changes have been made once it is in print. I am looking forward to reading it again for that reason alone.

The paper uses four characters from The Big Lebowski to highlight some differences in information seeking behavior, going from least effective to most. Along the way the authors use assorted LIS literature on information seeking behavior to support their analysis of these characters styles and methods. Or as they say, “This paper analyzes the information seeking behaviors of Donny Kerabatsos, Walter Sobchak, The Dude, and Maude Lebowski through the lenses of a variety of information seeking theories and models” (pp. 2-3).

Their claim is that “The film’s most important contribution to the study of information seeking behavior is its illustration of how a highly complex information search is not about finding the “answer,” but rather is about an individual’s ability to make sense of and create meaning from the process of information seeking (Dervin par. 8)” (p. 2). This I certainly agree with, both the author’s claim and Dervin’s. “Answers” frequently come along for the ride but then an answer is whatever one is willing to (currently) accept as an answer. This is true whether the one is an individual or a social group of any size.

Some of the assorted theories, models, and researchers used to illustrate the characters information seeking behaviors are the following [for the record, some of these are borrowed from outside LIS]:

  • Selection of dubious information sources : Elfreda Chatman studied the working poor, women, prisoners and retirees.
  • People prefer informal sources for spur of the moment info needs : Kirsty Williamson, older adults
  • Information sharing within groups (ostracism/exclusion) :  Eric Jones, et. al.
  • User’s perspective : Carol Kuhlthau
  • Beliefs : Donald Case on J.D. Johnson’s model
  • Personal construct theory : George Kelly
  • Preference for attitudinally consistent info amongst those with strongly held beliefs : Laura Brannon, Michael Tagler and Alice Eagly
  • Competency theory : Justin Kruger and David Dunning
  • Overconfidence as indicator of incompetence : Melissa Gross
  • Invitational attitude (as in “new shit”) [vs. indicative attitude] : Kelly’s personal construct theory
  • Positive attitude : Kuhlthau; and, Eva Jonas, Verena Graupmann and Dieter Frey (dissonance reduction)
  • Openness to experience : Jannica Heinström

If you are interested in any of these ideas and how they affect info seeking behavior, or you are a library-type and fan of TBL then you ought to have a look at either this preprint or the published article [Sure wish I could tell you when that is].

A friend of mine wrote on her blog (private, no link) that she was watching TBL as she was inspired by hearing about this article.  I told her that I enjoyed the article even if some times some of this research is fairly questionable. She responded that she was glad that “our profession has people like you who can quickly identify questionable research.” To which this was my response:

As for quickly recognizing … well, that’s the problem. It isn’t quick. It takes a weirdo like me who actually checks (and then reads) the things people cite. Are the methods appropriate to that kind of study? Can it be generalized? Or does it only apply to upper middle class, white kids, in private schools from the Midwest, and so on? (Like in many disciplines), most are too lazy to check that stuff so even if an author says explicitly not to generalize from their study and gives excellent reasons why not other people will. Some of our most beloved truisms in LIS come from this sort of thing. (Same in other disciplines, too.) Much of it is fairly intuitive, “Oh, you say depressed people have shoddy info behaviors? They give up easily and tend not to trust themselves? Blah. Blah.” Anyway, I wish it were easier so perhaps others would do more of it.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the article and am glad others might see some of this research. I just hope they do their jobs if they want to make use of it and read the actual studies themselves.

I should clarify that I am not saying that any of the research cited in this article is shoddy.  Nor am I saying that it is generally so in info behavior research. The biggest problem as I see it is that someone does a study and for assorted reasons—only one method used where more are appropriate, small sample size, etc.—they clearly state in the section(s) on further research, limitations of their study, and/or conclusions to not generalize, and give excellent reasons not to do so, and the next thing you know the article is cited over and over again as showing “such-and-such behavior” in general, or in a completely different group of people than studied. This happens far more than one would hope. And while I can imagine multiple reasons for it occurring none of them are good.

I have one particular article in mind which we read in our introductory course, LIS501, which studied a very limited and demographically narrow group of fifth-graders (sample size 10, computer-savvy, bright, middle class+, well-funded school district, etc.). The author clearly stated this was an exploratory study and could not be generalized. According to ISI Web of Knowledge this article has been cited 71 times. I have read some of those articles and I noticed their citations to the one I am thinking of. And believe me, their use of this as article as supporting evidence for their claims is in no way appropriate. I imagine many of the uses are appropriate but of the several I have seen none of them are.

I see this repeatedly. But the “ability” to see this sort of thing does not come easy. One must pay attention as one reads. One must look at the citations an author uses, especially if used as support for their argument. And one must often go and read those sources cited.  You certainly do not have to read everything everyone cites but by looking at what is being cited, particularly around an area of your personal interest, you will begin to notice the things being repeatedly cited. At that point, you ought to definitely read those.

None of that is easy. Nor is it quick. It may even increase the amount of crap you read. [Yes, crap gets repeatedly cited.] I imagine that it qualifies as one form of slow reading; at least, I would argue that it does.

Anyway, I am hoping that this article does not get eviscerated before seeing print. Eviscerated? C’mon. You are familiar with The Big Lebowski, aren’t you?

12 Books, 12 Months Challenge

A friend who was unhappy with her previous attempts at book clubs, in-person and virtual, decided a book club where we each read whatever it is we want to read might work better. Thus, 12 Books, 12 Months was born.

Here are the rules for the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge:

  • Pick 12 titles from your To Read Pile.  These should be titles you currently own in whatever format you prefer.
  • Acquisition of other formats or translations is permitted.  So, if you have a paperback but want to read on your Kindle, you can get a Kindle copy.  If you have a library copy but want to buy your own, that’s kosher.  Heck, if you own a copy and want to check another out from the library, I’m not gonna stop you.
  • Post your list in your public space of choice by September 1, 2010.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your list.
  • Read all 12 titles between now and September 5, 2011.  Might as well tack on an extra long weekend at the end for cramming.
  • When you finish a title on your list, post about it in your public space of choice.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your review.
  • Once a month, I’ll post a round-up of the reviews posted from that month so that we all know what everyone else has read.

My list:

  1. Ronald Gross, Peak Learning I am trying to find some kind of structure (best word I can think of at the moment) to help me get a grip on my own pursuit of lifelong learning and am hoping this might have some ideas that I can (and will) implement. I know goodreads says that I am currently reading this but that was months ago and I will need to start over. I hadn’t got very far anyway.
  2. Catherine C. Marshall, Reading and Writing the Electronic Book I am interested in e-books for a variety of reasons and while I love print books I also think e-books can one day provide immense value over and above the mostly “convenience factor” that they now provide.
  3. Carol Collier Kuhlthau, Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services Even though I expect to disagree a fair bit, I did like some of the ideas from a short bit of Kuhlthau that we read in 501 (intro course), and, really, the title says it all for me. Also, seeing as Kuhlthau is one of the major players in this area I need to know her ideas better if I am going to be critiquing work in this area of the field.
  4. Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening This is another one that I started a while back. I got almost halfway through before being “interrupted” by a couple of weddings and a move. Going to start over. I am interested in Buddhism and its tenets, at least the non-mystical kind. I have another of his books on my TBR shelf that I am also looking forward to reading.
  5. Michel Meyer, Of Problematology: Philosophy, Science, and Language This came recommended by David Bade via his citing it in a couple of places and then some f2f discussion. What is problematology”? The study of questioning.
  6. George Lakoff and Mark Turner, More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor Metaphor and poetry. ‘Nough said.
  7. Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History From the inside jacket blurb: “The weapon of pedants, the scourge of undergraduates, the bete noire of the “new” liberated scholar: the lowly footnote, long the refuge of the minor and the marginal, emerges in this book as a singular resource, with a surprising history that says volumes about the evolution of modern scholarship.” I have been wanting to read this for several years and finally acquired a copy earlier this year.
  8. John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, The Social Life of Information I have been wanting to read this ever since it was brought to my attention in LIS501 Fall 2004. In fact, I probably acquired this copy back then so that I could. ::sigh:: Oh well, I’ve had books in storage for this long that I acquired in the mid-80s and still haven’t read. Anyway, hoping that it will have something useful to say about “information” beyond society’s preoccupation with the “stuff.”
  9. Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse I have read a couple of her books and have quite enjoyed them. I am particularly looking forward to rereading Eros the Bittersweet some day.
  10. Jorge Luis Borges, Seven Nights Seven lectures over 7 nights in June and August 1977. Topics are: The Divine Comedy, Nightmares, The Thousand and One Nights, Buddhism, Poetry, The Kabbalah, and Blindness. I have seen these referenced in multiple places and am looking forward to them. I also highly recommend Borge’s This Craft of Verse (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)
  11. Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions Can one really have too much Borges? I think not.
  12. George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss I adore Middlemarch and Silas Marner and also enjoyed the other shorter things of hers I have read. I have this in 2 different editions, the Penguin Classics referenced here and a nice leather bound one from some set of “great books.” I have been wanting to get to this for a while and a couple of months back I read some idiot commenting on free e-books that “If I had wanted to read The Mill on the Floss I would have done so in college!” Screw the idiots of the world! I’ve read a bunch of e-books and almost every one of them has been free. And many of them have been exceptional!
  13. S. R. Ranganathan, Classification and Communication This was recommended to me by fellow student, friend, and all-around-brilliant-guy, Tom Dousa. This, as Tom assured me, will probably run counter to what I believe about the interface of these topics but one must understand one’s betters if one is to critique them.

Whoops! How did I end up with 13 books?

There are scores more books I want to/could read and there are certainly more on my goodreads to-read shelf besides being a couple (or more) score not on the list.

The above are all certainly currently near the top of my TBR list but things changes; i.e., interests, focus, discovery of something previously unknown or just published, ….  Thus, I am going to reserve the right to substitute any book for one on this list.  As I see it I will probably read more than 12 books in the next year anyway so maybe they’ll only be additions. One can hope.

What’s on your list? [Whether or not you intend to participate in this or any other challenge, I am interested.]

Long time gone

[This post title is, for me, multi-meta in that it refers to several things.]

It has been a long time since I’ve been here. Part of me is sad about this fact and part of me thinks that is just fine.

A lot has happened since I last wrote here:

I quit my job as a serials cataloger at the University of Illinois so I could concentrate on (then) upcoming weddings and our move.

Sara and I were married in late May in a small but wonderful ceremony amongst family and friends in a cabin on the banks of the Sangamon River.

At the very beginning of June I started prepping for our move to Sioux City, Iowa.

A couple of weeks later, my daughter got married in Oberlin, Ohio in an even simpler, but absolutely lovely and moving, ceremony to a wonderful young man that I couldn’t be prouder to be related to.

On the evening of 3 July we left Urbana, IL and headed for Sioux City. As of 4 July we are residents of Sioux City. This is a vastly different place  than Urbana-Champaign, in so many ways. We are still getting it sorted out but we will.

We had a good week and a half before Sara had to start her job and we made good use of it. Sara worked for 3 days and then we took a vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota to spend some time in a couple of cabins with some friends of Sara’s from high school and their respective significant others and children. On the way home we drove through the Badlands. I have a couple of pictures up but I have 100s more to be tagged, labeled, decided upon and uploaded. Suffice it to say that it was beautiful! And being the against much of pop culture fiend that I am, we skipped Wall Drug (unfortunately not the signs though), Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.

Once back Sara got back to work and is enjoying learning the ropes of this vastly different, and vastly smaller, university. I got back to work on organizing the house, merging two large book collections, much of which was in storage, along with merging two large CD collections, of which all of hers were in storage. There is still a bit to do on all the house organizing fronts but it is definitely getting there.

Shortly after we got here we bought ourselves a 32″ LG HDTV with built-in netflix streaming so we’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and some other things.

We’ve been taking an online class on HTML5 via SitePoint and in a few weeks will take one on CSS3. They were $9.95 each! So the last 2 weeks that is what we’ve been doing in the evenings when Sara gets home from work. (And, yes, I know the CSS3 course says it is $14.95 but by signing up for both at the same time we got a $5 discount!) I think that for the price they are quite good. As with any class it is (mostly) about what you put in to it.

Speaking of courses, Briar Cliff University has a 100% tuition remission policy for spouses so I’ll be taking a 1 credit class this fall called Madwomen Poets. About all I know about it is that it includes Sexton and Plath. But who cares what, if anything, else it might be? Who could ignore a class entitled Madwomen poets?

I know. I know. I’m supposed to be doing other things, “more important” things. And I am. But it is 50 minutes, 1 day/week. I figure it’ll help keep my mental chops in order. And at this point I still don’t know if I’ll be taking it for a grade or auditing.

As to that more  important stuff … I am ramping back up the work on my CAS thesis via several angles of attack. I am working on the paper proper and I am also working on a journal article, which will be highly related (as in with a little reworking can become a chapter), and I am thinking about trying to come up with a presentation for a conference in early December. The conference is “Semantics for Robots: Utopian and Dystopian Visions in the Age of the ‘Language Machine’. ‘The Language Machine’ is one of Roy Harris’ early books, of course.

As for conferences, I am really sad that I will not be able to attend ASIS&T in Pittsburgh this year. But seeing as we gave up about $40k in income with me not working there is little means of justifying the expense of travel and lodging. And, honestly, the registration cost is plain crazy for an unemployed non-student, non-retiree.

Sara and I decided that the Integrationist conference in Chicago in December, along with being far cheaper, is really more where I need to be right now. I need exposure to more Integrationists and Integrational thinking and I will get far more out of a small conference (as I always do) than a bigger one. Whether or not I can get something submitted (and possibly accepted) I am highly looking forward to it. Nonetheless, this will be the 1st ASIS&T I’ve missed since I started going in 2006.

And if any of my Chicago friends are reading this, I’d adore an invite to stay with you for a couple days in early December (2nd-4th, or so), especially if you are near the Univ. of Chicago.

Tomorrow night we are, thanks to a surprise from Sara, going to see Jackson Browne and David Lindley and the historic Orpheum Theatre here in Sioux City. I have been listening to (early) Jackson Browne for close to 40 years now. I haven’t really kept up with anything since the mid-80s or so but, nonetheless, I am stoked to finally get to see him live for the first time.

We also have a Super Secret Date night scheduled for Sunday night. Sara had that lined up well before we left Urbana. She offered me the chance to find out what it’ll be last night but I passed. I like the surprises! She’s done so well every time in the past. And it also makes me aware that it is past time for me to step up in the Super Secret Date Night scheduling department.

And in case anyone who cares isn’t aware of it yet, my son is in Afghanistan for his 3rd war zone tour. He left just days after we moved. Grrrr.

I guess I best end this for now. It is getting long and the simple shock of seeing a post from me is probably enough already. With any hope I won’t be gone as long before the next time.