Piskor – Hip Hop Family Tree, v. 1

Hip Hop Family Tree: 1970s-1981, v.1, Fantagraphics Treasury edition by Ed Piskor
Date read: 24-26 April 2017
My rating: Leaving unrated
Challenges: 2017gnc, 2017nfc, 2017poss

Cover image of Hip Hop Family Tree: 1970s-1981, v.1, Fantagraphics Treasury edition by Ed Piskor

Library binding, 112 pages
Published 2016 by Fantagraphics; Fifth Fantagraphics Books edition
Source: Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [ML3531 .P37 1970-1981 v.1

This is what I wrote in Goodreads regarding this book:

I am not going to rate this as I am completely unqualified to rate it. I recognize a few names and a few song titles but most of this is all new to me and as succinctly as it is presented–is it even really a narrative?–provides me no additional info really. I was looking forward to the other volumes and maybe the narrative gets a bit more expansive but this was the early history and the more important to my [lack of] knowledge, in my opinion, so moving on.

I did enjoy it in a sense but with so little grounding in the culture of hip hop this title failed to provide me any real grounding. I have been using graphic novels the last couple of years to explore topics that I may not be ready or willing (with so many other interests) to read a standard, prose, nonfiction book on; e.g.,

These, and several others, have been variable in their ability to inform [entertain/surprise/…] me, but all were better than this one for me.

Recommended for fans of hip hop or folks with some knowledge of the genre and its artists but who want a bit more. I am not saying it is a bad book, just that it did not do what I needed it to do for me to get a better appreciation (and knowledge) of hip hop. No doubt it works better if you have a bit more of a starting background knowledge/awareness.

This is the 9th 7th book in my 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge [2017gnc]

Image for 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Reading Challenge

Designed by Nicola Mansfield

This is the 20th book read and 8th reviewed in my in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc].

I have read 11 books so far this year in my 2017 Books To Read Challenge (personal) [2017poss] but this is the first to be reviewed. That eleven includes this title and one I finished this morning, though. I have also read from 8 of the 16 different categories so far. Goal is “to complete 2 from each of the 16 categories and a total of 35.” Two categories are “complete” in that sense, re-reads (2) and beer and brewing (3), but that doesn’t mean I won’t read another book on those lists.


Kleist – Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist; Michael Waaler, translation
Date read: 02 January 2017
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017gnc, 2017look, 2017nfc, 2017transl

Cover image of Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness by Reihard Kleist

Paperback, 221 pages
Published 2009 by Abrams ComicArts [Originally published in German in 2006 by Carlsen Verlag GmbH]
Source: Summit via OSU-Cascades

I quite enjoyed this graphic novel biography complete with several songs, such as “A Boy Named Sue” and “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” as a sort of illustrated musical interlude at points.

It covers most of Johnny’s history from when he was just a kid up until his death in 2003 and also includes a short bibliography in the back.


This book met 2 of the unfulfilled categories from my 2017 “the looking all around list” Self-Reading Challenge [2017look] : A biography or memoir and A translation. It also meets several already fulfilled categories but they’re already met.

This is the 2nd book in my 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge [2017gnc]

Image for 2017 10th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Reading Challenge

Designed by Nicola Mansfield

This is the 1st book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge 2017 [2017trans]. It is also the 1st book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc].

It is looking like neither of these is happening this year so I will do them my own way and update my challenges post to represent how I intend to handle them.

Dysart, et al. – Neil Young’s Greendale

Neil Young’s Greendale by Joshua Dysart (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Todd Klein (letterer)

Date read: 30 May 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Neil Young's Greendale by Joshua Dysar

Hardback, unnumbered
Published 2010 by Young Family Trust and DC Comics
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Teen Graphic novel DYSART JOSH]

I greatly enjoyed this. It went places I hadn’t imagined and it’s far more complex than it needs to be as if there are more Green family stories out there still to be told. Almost makes me tingle.

Let me back up. I heard and acquired this album when it came out in mid-2003 and listened to it many, many times. I was fully immersed in Greendale lore as either directly elucidated or as hinted at on the album. I truly wanted to have a serious “book discussion group” about this album as a text, as a narrative. I was at university at the time and was well-integrated into a couple of those sorts of discussion groups then so it made some sense. Sadly, it never happened. The album truly is that complex. There is one other album from around the same time that I believe merits the same treatment, Poe’s Haunted.

Greendale (the album is Young’s twenty-sixth studio album and his ninth with Crazy Horse. My copy was one of those which “… was originally released with a DVD of live “Neil-only” acoustic performance of the Greendale material from Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland.” So this was another interpretation.

At some point I also got the movie, which gave another spin on the story. Clearly, Greendale was a rich mental ecosystem for Young.

This graphic novel adaptation by Joshua Dysart and others, with a short intro by Neil (and supposedly some direct involvement) really expands the world while keeping the story the same. It really is pretty brilliant. I honestly think I want to own a copy of this. As I said above, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Greendale on a fairly serious level.

Highly recommended whether or not you know the album or even if you can’t stand Neil Young (I know those people exist; I don’t hold it against them.).

I really wish there was more of this world, perhaps exploring more of those members of the family who barely made a complicating appearance.

Description from Vertigo website:

“Legendary singer-songwriter, musician and activist Neil Young brings one of his most personal albums, GREENDALE, to comics. Overseeing the work of acclaimed writer Joshua Dysart (UNKNOWN SOLDIER) and fan-favorite artist Cliff Chiang (HUMAN TARGET), they compose a graphic novel that explores a whole new dimension to the album that Rolling Stone voted as one of the best of its year.In the Fall of 2003, as the nation gallops into war, a politically active teenage girl named Sun lives, loves and dreams in a small California town named Greendale.Sun’s always been different. There’s been talk that the women in her family have all had a preternatural communion with nature. And when a Stranger comes to town – a character whose presence causes Greendale to, well, go to hell – she’ll find herself on a journey both mystical and mythical. To face the Stranger, she’ll unearth the secrets of her family in a political coming-of-age story infused with its own special magic.”

This is the 26th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

My Story, My Terms: Unofficial CV activity [DigiWriMo 2015]

DigiWriMo, which I am doing again this November, has asked that I Reconsider Me: to compose in some manner an unCV to introduce myself.

I have decided to go with song titles as the section headings of a table of contents, mostly comprised of song titles.

[N.B. I only got part way through the library and ignored large swaths along that road too. Titles should in most cases be taken as only the title and not as the content of the song; except when not. Most of these songs are quite meaningful to me but I may be twisting the heck out of that meaning with how I am using it here. Song titles are in italics. Performers will be listed at the end broken into sections.]

Ready Or NotThis Box Contains the Ballad of a Thin Man.

Table of Contents:

Industrial Disease [2014-present]

     Heavy Fuel

     So They Say

     Don’t Let Us Get Sick

     Here Come Those Tears Again        

     Dazed and Confused

     All Tore Down


     Poor Poor Pitiful Me

     It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

     There’ll Be Some Changes Made

     The Distance

Setting Me Up [2015 goals]

     The Things I’ve Gone & Done


     You Tripped At Every Step

     Or Down You Fall

     Wicked Game


     Every Thing Happens to Me

     Ain’t That The Way

     Just One of Those Things

     You Painted Yourself In 

What I Am

     So Madly In Love  

     Almost Blue

     The Naming of Things

     21st Century Schizoid Man

     Moody Fucker

     Wishing For Contentment

     Searching For A Heart

     On the Border

     My Mind is Ramblin’

     Sorry I Am

     I Drink Beer

     Rebel Rebel

     32 Flavors

     Sittin’ and Thinkin’


     Wondr’ing Aloud


     I’m a Stranger Here

     Little Earthquakes


     Something Beautiful  

     Existential Exile

     Cause Cheap Is How I Feel

     Battered Old Bird

     Damaged From the Start

     Fuzzy Freaky

     Fuck, I Hate the Cold

     Howlin’ at the Moon

     In Love But Not at Peace

     It’s a War in There

     Calling the Moon

     Here For Now            

     Writing in the Margins   


From the Ashes [Aspirations]

     Don’t Get Trouble on Your Mind

     Get Up Stand Up


     Fierce Flawless

     Mercy of the Fallen

     Learn to Be Still

     I Love Myself Today

     Work Your Way Out



     Don’t Be Afraid of Your Anger


     With My Own Two Hands

     New Dawn Coming

     All the Best                     

     Why Worry


     Breathe Deep        

     Wake Up Dreaming

     I Wish You Peace

This is me. Some sides of me, more honestly. Clearly, it has been a rough last year and a half. Trying to amble into the future as it comes.

Looking forward to DigiWriMo this year.

Cast List, in Order:

Warren Zevon, The Fugees, Ani DiFranco, Bob Dylan

Dire Straits: Dire Straits, Cowboy Junkies, Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Winter, Becky Chace (and others; e.g. Bowie), Warren Zevon, Bob Dylan, Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler, Cake

Dire Straits: Carrie Newcomer, Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello, Gil Scot-Heron, Chris Isaak, Andrew Bird (or Natalie Merchant), Lightnin’ Hopkins, Ani DiFranco, Anita O’Day, Jolie Holland

Edie Brickell: Georgia Gibbs, Elvis Costello, Andrew Bird, King Crimson, Lambchop, Andrew Bird, Warren Zevon, Al Stewart, Howlin’ Wolf, Ani DiFranco, Dan Reeder, David Bowie, Ani DiFranco, Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Jethro Tull, bitch and animal, Lambchop, Carrie Newcomer, Elvis Costello, Clem Snide, Conjure One, Cowboy Junkies, Eric Clapton, Dar Williams, Cowboy Junkies, David Byrne, Cowboy Junkies, The Chenille Sisters, Dar Williams, Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams, John Gorka, Little Feat

Rosanne Cash: Jolie Holland, Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams, Eagles, Bif Naked, Ani DiFranco, Jolie Holland, Ani DiFranco, Clem Snide, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, Cowboy Junkies, John Prine, Dire Straits, Calexico, Lambchop, Little Feat, Eagles

DigiWriMo 2014

I have committed to participating in Digital Writing Month 2014, more commonly known as DigiWriMo, this November. I did it its first year in 2012 and made my goal of 50,000 digital words. Most people who know November as a writing month know it as National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. There is also Academic Writing Month, AcWriMo. Wikipedia says there’s an Academic Book Writing Month, AcBoWriMo but that’s a new one on me. Well, on Twitter there is no #AcBoWriMo but there is plenty of #AcWriMo.

I have been driven to write lately—perhaps driven by the mysterious and as yet undiagnosed illness; which is neither here nor there. I have so many ideas and there are tons of old ideas not finished, or ever even fleshed out, to work with.

Preparation has involved recording these ideas as they occur and corralling old recorded ones too, prepping my Scrivener project file (my writing tool), and spending more time learning to use it well.

This year my goal is ≥ 1k words/day, with a total of ≥ 25k words/November. Yes. I am aware of the missing 5 days. I am trying to be gracious with myself. [If this illness can possibly help teach me that idea then, OK, I’ll take the rest. I’m not counting on this being an actual lesson, though.]

I do not know how much I will do with the, thankfully, re-expanded DigiWriMo folks’ official efforts but I will be “playing along at home” at a minimum. I certainly hope and plan to interact a fair bit. I just have to manage my stress triggers and adding a #digiwrimo twitter search window to my already overflowing two twitter accounts for a month ….

I also recently acquired a new phone making the leap from an iPhone 4S to a 6. I had been eligible for an upgrade for well over a year and $200 was the most they were ever going to give me anymore for my 4S. Or that anyone was going to give me. For a lot of hoops and a delay of several weeks, I got to pay roughly $100 and a $35 activation fee to move from a 16GB 4S to a 64GB 6. I took that deal.

It was particularly tempting as I use both TextExpander and 1Password on my computer. They have also both been on my phone but were basically useless. Finally iOS 8 allows them both to be useful. [Sadly, I will not be putting iOS 8 on my iPad 2. It is struggling already.]

The point of all this is that having those 2 programs actually doing good work on my phone may let me use it to do just a couple more tasks than I would’ve before. Also, the bigger screen isn’t to laugh at with my old eyes. They will also allow me to more productively write digitally even though what I “write” on my phone will still be pretty damned minimal.

Some of what I write will be public, much as now although even more will be. Much will be kept private. I really want to start doing a better job of journaling, in a couple senses of ‘journal.’ I hope DigiWriMo will spur me to do so, or at least take advantage of the illness’ urging me to do so. I hope to get a few more blog posts up here and definitely more written on By the barrel.

Poetry, 2015 goal planning, book reviews, tweeting, and all sorts of other writing endeavors are on the docket. Some of the topics I hope to address, whether public or not, include Facebook, gender labels (as language), gender on labels (as in depiction of on beer labels), sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, body image, altered consciousness, and many others. We will see what happens.

If any of you are participating in some kind of writing month in November let me know if you would like some support and hopefully we can find a mutual venue.


Thursday night we went to see Spamalot at the Tower Theatre. It was incredible!

This was a Stage Right Productions performance presented by the Tower Theatre Foundation.

On Friday, Sep. 6th, which being the first Friday of the month was Art Walk, the Tower opened their doors to the first rehearsal by the cast in the Tower itself. Previously they had been practicing in the 2nd Street Theater where they generally perform. We popped in just before they opened the doors and stayed for 3 or 4 numbers. This was without costumes, props or any amplification but we could still tell it was going to be hilarious so we immediately purchased tickets. We were able to get seats in the second row, just house right of center for a show that eventually sold out.

On Wednesday I watched the DVD of Monty Python and the Holy Grail that we got from the Deschutes Public Library. I wanted a good frame of reference for Spamalot since it is “a new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture” and I hadn’t seen the movie in a good while. You can pillory me now if you must but I really don’t think the movie has held up very well.

Anyway … the show was stupendously excellent! The serious amount of work that the cast and crew had put into the production was evident. I thought everyone was quite good but I want to point out a few of my favorites.

Gary Fulkerson as King Arthur was a great choice. “Solid as a rock,” one might say.

Tommy Kuchulis as Sir Lancelot (also as French taunter and Tim the Enchanter) was particularly good in his early scene and was absolutely superb in the gay song and dance number. He threw himself into it with total abandon and the fun he was having was clearly evident.

Randy Brooks was very good as Sir Galahad with long blond hair and—except for one still to-be-named actor/part—after his earliest scenes I thought he would be my favorite of the evening.

Michael Stumpfig as Sir Robin was exceptional! (Also as Guard #1 and Brother Maynard.) I loved pretty much every second he was on stage. His facial expressions and body language/movements were perfect for his role. He was almost my favorite of the evening.

That “honor” goes to Russ Pennavaria as Patsy. Patsy was so far beyond superb in every way! Even if he hadn’t been the one to sing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” I still would have been totally enchanted by his performance. Everything he did, from galloping along clomping his coconut shells to being put out when Arthur is complaining about being alone to his soul beaming forth when Arthur calls him family, was the epitome of stagecraft.

As I said, everyone did a wonderful job and the musical was immensely hilarious. I am so very glad we went. Thank you to all involved and congratulations on an incredible show!

Be sure to check out 2nd Street Theater’s website for upcoming shows and ticket information.

We are moving to Bend, Oregon

We are moving to Bend, Oregon in early August.

Sara got a job as the librarian for OSU-Cascades in Bend. She starts in the 3rd week of August so we are in full on packing and move planning mode.

We are really looking forward to this move. Just over two years in Sioux City (SUX) has been plenty. Don’t get me wrong, Sioux City has a fair few good things going for it and we’ve made a few friends who it hurts to leave, but for two liberal, vegetarian (or nearly so [me]), academically-oriented librarians it has little to offer.

Our time was certainly not wasted here, which is a consolation. Sara got more experience as a librarian and was promoted to Director of Educational Technology, a position created for her. I had a poem published in the Iowa state poetry contest annual, and a photograph published in a literary magazine and on display in the Sioux City Art Center for about 7 weeks. I also helped edit this year’s edition of the Briar Cliff Review, took several classes, all of which were literature or writing courses, except for one digital photography course where I finally learned to use my Nikon D40X off of automatic.

We saw a few concerts, the more important of which we had to go to Iowa City, Omaha and Minneapolis for. We attended the Iowa Library Association annual conference in Coralville, THATCamp LAC in Green Bay and the Library Technology Conference in Minneapolis, and a few smaller ones here and there in Iowa.

I was hired as a cataloging contractor by Briar Cliff’s Bishop Mueller Library and eventually was able to do a lot of collection development work, particularly weeding, among other things. We are hoping that I will be able to continue doing some work for them by distance.

But. Bend. Oh my. We already have tickets to see Madeleine Peyroux and we will attending a 3-day yoga festival in early Sep. That is no doubt more than my quota of yoga in one sitting but I figure it’ll be a good way to suss out the local community and see if there are any instructors whose style I like and so on.

They are also a craft brewing haven. There are 8 microbreweries within walking distance of each other in Bend alone, with a few more in the nearby Central Oregon environs. There are also 3-4 more opening in the next 6 months to 1.5 years. That web site lists 14 breweries in Bend and one in Sisters but it also includes brew pubs.

They have tons of events like the upcoming Fermentation Celebration on 12 July (we’ll miss it), which is the kickoff to Oregon Craft Brewers Month. Also, coming up (and we’ll be there!) is the Ninth Annual Bend Brewfest. There is a Bend Ale Trail and they even have an app. Oh, also coming up is the 4th Annual Little Woody Barrel Aged Brew and Whiskey Fest. Oh my.

Downtown has an independent coffee shop on most every street where we have one (perhaps 2) decent coffee shops in Sioux City.

There’s an organization called (theNatureofWords).  How can I not like an organization with that for a name? Their mission statement:

The Mission of The Nature of Words is to strengthen and support the literary arts and humanities in the high desert region of the Northwest through community interaction with acclaimed authors and through creative writing programs for youth and adults.

There are several disc golf courses in the area including one right out back of the library Sara will be working in.

Mountains, forests, outdoor activities of all kinds, new forms (to me) of natural objects to learn about and photograph, and so on.

Moving sucks, as usual. And yesterday I tripped and fell backwards over something in the basement while working down there so I now hurt far more than I did simply from the labor of packing and disassembling things which I’ve been doing for a week and a half now; started with the books and the office primarily. Also sorted out still fully packed boxes in the basement from those needing repacking. So lots of heavy, tiring work. And more to come after a day off today.

But we’re going to Bend!

Scholes, English After the Fall

Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewer Program.

I read this book from 23 Nov – 13 Dec 2011 and the bottom line is that I enjoyed it and recommend it.


  • Prologue: English after the fall
  • Ch. 1: Literature and its others
  • Ch. 2: The limiting concept of literature
  • Ch. 3: Textuality and the teaching of reading
  • Ch. 4: Textual power—sacred reading
  • Ch. 5: Textual pleasure—profane reading
  • Epilogue: A sample program in textuality
  • A Note on Sources
  • Works Consulted
  • Index [missing in this uncorrected proof copy]

This book is a follow-on to his previous book, The Rise and Fall of English, which he claims “came about because of the alluring but ultimately fatal choice of literature as the central object of the English curriculum” (xiii). I have not read that book but will probably do so now; I will certainly be looking into other books and writings by Robert Scholes.

I have included a fair few quotes from the book to give you an idea of his style.

Prologue: English After the Fall

The Prologue gives us an overview of how the book came about, what the Fall of English is, provides a quick overview of the argument for “textuality,” provides Scholes’ qualifications and interests in this arena, and outlines the rest of the book.

“This book is simply a profession of faith in that fallen field of studies and an attempt to suggest a direction for its future” (xiii).

“The fall of English is actually part of the fall of all the humanities in a world that is driven by technological progress and the bottom line” (xiv-xv).

“In the case of English, the more obviously useful features of the field have been relegated to the bottom of the reward system, …. What is needed, as I understand the situation, is a broader reconsideration of the purpose of English studies. We need to see the main function of English departments as helping students become better users of the language—basically, better readers and writers. Literary works have a role to play in this function, but they are a means to, not the end of, studies in English, though they have often been treated as the end. In this book, I want to make the case for a shift in the field—from privileging literature to studying a wide range of texts in a wide range of media—so that what I call “textuality” can become the main concern of English departments” (xv, emphasis mine).

English as an academic field and the rise of such departments is about a century old. They replaced departments of rhetoric and took students from classical studies (xv-xvi) and this change coincided with the rise of modernism in literature and other arts (xvi).


  • history of ‘literature’
  • how a constricted notion of literature contributes to the fragmentation of the field
  • expanded field of textuality
  • illustration 1: the sacred
  • illustration 2: the profane

The prologue is quite understandable and provided me a bit of enthusiastic anticipation for what followed.

Ch. 1: Literature and Its Others

This chapter provides a rapid-fire intellectual/conceptual history of the concept of ‘literature.’ While it was interesting, it was not at all as clear as I had hoped it would be. This is definitely the weakest link in the book and its argument. Thankfully, it really isn’t required for the argument in any serious way; although it could certainly strengthen the argument if done well.

Intellectual history, and its close kin conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte), are my favorite kinds of history and I was highly interested in learning about the concept and idea of ‘literature’ as it has developed. Sadly, I am still pretty much in the dark after reading this romp of a chapter. I do understand Scholes giving just under 10% of the text to this chapter, seeing as it isn’t really fundamental to his argument, but I am still disappointed. Thankfully, this is really my only disappointment with the book.

Ch. 2: The Limiting Concept of Literature

Discusses the limits put on the concept of ‘literature’ within English departments and how that constrains what is taught.

“At the simplest level, as we have seen, this literary designation may rule excellent written texts out of consideration in our basic courses in reading, writing, and thinking. And that is one reason why we need to free ourselves from a restricted notion of literature” (23).

“We would not deny that certain kinds of texts, like instructions, are usually very low on the literary scale, but we all believe that there is a scale, and that there are poems, plays, stories, and expository texts all along that scale. This scale is a measure of a quality we may call “literariness” (which I would define as a combination of textual pleasure and power), but it is neither easy nor right to draw a line across the scale at some point and call everything on one side of the line literature” (24-5).

Provides a couple examples of the literary used for other forms of teaching and of the ‘nonliterary’ as examples of the literary.

Ch. 3: Textuality and the Teaching of Reading

(Some) problems with the restricted notion of reading:

  • “you can read it but you can’t write it”
  • “led to the separation of the study of reading/literature … from the study of writing/composition”
  • led to hierarchical structure of faculty
  • “further split between those kinds of writing that can be designated as ‘creative’ and those that cannot.”
  • “now have programs claiming creative status for certain sorts of writing not included in the restricted notion of literature, like the personal essay.”
  • “tied too tightly to the book”
  • “tied to a narrow view of what makes a text creative or literary”
  • “prevents us from demonstrating in our classrooms the relevance of the texts we cherish to the actual lives of our students” (33-34)

To solve these problems we need to redefine English as the study of textuality rather than literature. Such a redefinition has a number of aspects, but it begins with the recognition that English is all about teaching—not research—and that this teaching has two main branches: reading and writing. That is, the business of English departments is to help students improve as readers and writers, to become better producers and consumers of texts” (34, emphasis mine).

Scholes claims that “textuality has two aspects:”

  1. “broadening of the objects we study and teach to include all of the media and modes of expression.”
  2. “changing the way we look at texts to combine the perspectives of creator and consumer, writer and reader” (35).

“The basic purpose of humanistic education is to give students perspectives on their own cultural situation, opening the past so that they can connect it to the present” (35-6).

“…, we must find ways to make what students actually want and need more rewarding for their teachers, and we must find ways of making what teachers wish to teach more interesting and useful for those who may come to them for instruction. The solution, in my view, is to put these two aspects of English education back together. That is, teachers must not simply advise students how to consume texts but help them understand how these texts were constructed in the first place. The study of textuality involves looking at works that function powerfully in our world, and considering both what they mean and how they mean” (37).

“Cultural studies have actually been a part of the English curriculum for a while now. I am suggesting that English departments move these studies to the center of the historical dimension of their enterprise, using the connections between contemporary audiovisual media and the earlier print media as a way into our cultural past. This action also means historicizing cultural studies, …” (47).

“If English teachers can accept the responsibility to teach all aspects of textuality—the production, consumption, and history of texts in English—we will have a curriculum that can be competitive in an academic world in which the humanities have been marginalized.
In what follows in this book I take up some of these issues and pursue them to greater depths, concluding with some attempts to illustrate the kind of cultural work I think we should be doing, using the full range of texts available to us in the realm of textuality” (48).

He lays out and considers 3 levels or phases of reading, which are also further considered in rest of the book:

  1. Reaction – personal response
  2. Interpretation
  3. Criticism (50-2)

Ch. 4: Textual Power—Sacred Reading

“… we should treat all texts held to be sacred with interpretational respect. That is, we must see them as attempts to present a true version of events or a valid way of life, even if they seem to contradict our own views. Which does not mean that we need to believe any of them—even our own. Respect is different from belief” (53, emphasis mine).

Sacred reading includes both main sources of sacred texts: religions and governments.

Several sections are included in this chapter:

  • The Nature of Sacred Texts
  • A Fundamental Problem
  • A Failure to Communicate
  • Lots of Folks Forget That Part of It


“To simply make sense of it [notion of ‘sacredness’] in a basic way, however, we must perform an imaginative act, which tells us, I believe, that no text can be perfectly sacred in actuality—precisely because it is a text” (57)

US political sacred documents are “ideal for the study of interpretation” because we do know a lot about who wrote them and how they were composed (59).


“One of the main functions of textual education is to help people learn how to see things from more than one perspective, and to understand that these perspectives are not exactly matters of choice for many people, but ways in which they have been conditioned to see the world. ‘To see ourselves as others see us’ is important, but so is the ability to see others as they see themselves” (61).

“The textualist reader, then, must acknowledge the seriousness of fundamentalist readings, while resisting and criticizing the zeal that often results in interpretive leaps to an unearned certainty of meaning, achieved by turning a deaf ear to the complexity of the texts themselves, their histories, and their present situations” (63).

“them, there, then” ==> “us, here, now” “… “we must try to determine the text’s proper bearing on our own values and our conduct in the world” (71).

Ch. 5: Textual Pleasure—Profane Reading

“All texts that are not accorded sacred status may be considered profane—especially if we can do away with the semi-sacred category of literature” (89).

Focuses on musical drama and, in particular, opera in this chapter.

“Because performative works depend on audiences, the question of what they mean to “us, here, now” gains in importance. We live in a performative world, which is another reason why we should pay special attention to enacted stories in our classrooms” (92).

This chapter also has several sections:

  • Sacred versus Profane on Screen and Stage in the Twenties
  • Can’t Help It
  • Nobody’s Perfect
  • I’ve Become Lost to the World
  • The Pleasurable Pains of Opera
  • Send in the Clowns
  • Put on the Clown Suit
  • It Ain’t Over ‘Till the Fat Lady Sings

This chapter focused a lot on performance and roles.

Epilogue: A Sample Program in Textuality

“The essential matter for teachers of textuality is to get the interpretation of sacred texts into the curriculum, and to help students take pleasurable texts seriously—and to care about both the texts and the students” (142).

He ends with a “suggestion for a core of courses to be followed by advanced work drawn from whatever curriculum is already in a given institution” (142).

Most of these courses probably already exist, at least in title and with some applicable content. They would need to be restructured to focus on the textuality of the, hopefully, broadened range of texts used to comprise the content. I do see this as a totally doable venture, though.

Recommended! In particular, I feel that, at a minimum, the following folks could benefit from reading and thinking about this text: Lit majors [all languages], writing majors, and humanists of all stripes including digital humanists. This includes everyone from undergrads and their parents, through grad students on up to professors, department chairs and anyone else involved with or concerned with curriculum of literature(s) and writing.

This is a short but, nonetheless, important book. It is a quick read but supplies plenty to think about and act on.

Enjoy Every Sandwich – a short grump

Zevon, W. (2004). ‘Enjoy Every Sandwich‘: the Songs of Warren Zevon. New York, NY: Artemis Records,

Several weeks ago, for some reason I can’t remember due to Jackson Browne and David Lindley playing some Warren Zevon songs at the concert, I played some Zevon for Sara. As she started asking me about him we consulted Wikipedia and I came across the above CD.

I checked the Sioux City Public Library catalog and they did not hold it, but checking Iowa SILO I found it was available in the state so I requested it via the ILL form at SCPL.

Finally a couple of days ago I got a notice that it was in and today I picked it up. Turns out they just went ahead and bought it. This is the 2nd item I ordered via ILL that they bought for me. OK, really for their collection, but because I requested it. The other was Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget.

So, mad props to Sioux City Public Library for taking care of patrons. They rock!

My little grump is due to the fact that upon checking it out I was informed I only get it for one week instead of the usual three weeks. It seems it already has a fair few holds against it … so I get a restricted loan period.

Um, it wouldn’t even be available if I hadn’t requested it. It’s not like this is a new CD or something; it’s from 2004.

Anyway, no big deal really. I don’t need it for longer than a week. And, again, SCPL is rocking my ‘info needs’ so far. At least the ones I pass their way.

By the way, on first listen I pretty much agree with the All Music Guide review which you can read at the WorldCat page from the link above. But, so what? I’d rather having a loving tribute to Zevon than no tribute at all!

A taste of the Sioux City music scene

Last Friday evening Sara and I attended a showcase of local singer/songwriters at the Meet Virginia coffee house in downtown Sioux City.  We thought it would be great to get exposed to some of the local musicians in our new home.

The show was scheduled to start at 8 PM so we arrived at 7:20 or so to get a decent seat, which we did.  We both had tasty coffee-ish drinks and some very tasty cookies.

We heard the sound check of the local songwriter/musician, Kelli Johnson, who was the host for the event.  We also heard Kelsey ‘Doll’ Klingensmith do her sound check.  Both were impressive so we were looking forward to an evening of excellent music.

Nearer to 8 PM the place rapidly starting filling up.  More of the singer/songwriters (11 total), their friends and families, and folks like us quickly filled the coffee shop to capacity.

The show started promptly at 8 PM.  I believe the first artist was Page Rose, a young woman somewhere in her later teens perhaps.  We enjoyed what we heard of the 3 songs she did but it was hard to tell if we really liked her music or not because it was hard to hear her.  The second act was two young men, Ian Osborn and Cole Barbee, performing as “Good Morning Revival.”  I enjoyed what I could hear of the guitarist but their style of music is not really one Sara or I are big fans of.

Again, we heard little of this duo due to the crowd.  Sara had already hinted at leaving any time I was ready since we couldn’t really hear.

The article in the local arts & entertainment weekly, Buzz, quoted the host discussing these kinds of shows in Nashville where “You get shushed if you talk.”  He mentioned this at the opening welcome Friday night though he also added, as he did in the paper, that he wasn’t going for exactly that vibe because “He believes the coffee house setting in Meet Virginia is ideal for this type of performance. ‘The musicians will be very well received,’ he says. Most people coming to Meet Virginia are there for the music…and a good cup of coffee” [Buzz, 21 Sep 2010].

Except none of that was the case.  We were so pissed!  It seems most of the folks were there to be seen and perhaps support their own kin or friends but not the other performers.  We found the vast majority made up one of the rudest music audiences we have ever had the unfortunate experience to be around.  And it wasn’t just a few people.  Most people were busy talking to someone else while the musicians were performing.  Only a few people, it seemed, were earnestly trying to pay attention to the performances.

The third act was the extremely talented and young, 11-years-old, Kelsey ‘Doll’ Klingensmith so I stubbornly stayed a bit longer because I really wanted to hear her.  Except we couldn’t.  We stayed for 2 songs and then got up and left.  There was no point in remaining.  For most of the crowd there that night, although they had ostensibly come out for the music, they were not there to support and appreciate the hard work of these musicians.

I tried to get a quick word to the host, Kelli Johnson, on the way out but he was quite busy as one might expect.  We both sincerely appreciate his hard work in arranging this event.  We do.

Also, Meet Virginia seems like a lovely place (we had been there once before on a weekday afternoon) and I can recommend it. I am sure they did a pretty good business Friday evening.  The drinks and cookies we had were excellent!  I understand they also have sandwiches but I have yet to experience one.  But I cannot recommend it as a venue for any music that actually needs to be heard to be appreciated.

So, unless we are assured that the shushing rule will be in full effect for the next such event we will not bother to come out and try to experience the talented local musicians we have in the area.  And that is a shame as we both love supporting local musicians.

It will be a long time before Sioux City can convince us that they have any real respect for the effort required to get up on stage and bare your soul; especially when that soul belongs to an angsty (or not) teenager, just learning to play their instrument and write songs.

Thanks to our aborted local music date night we now only have two artists to look for in the future instead of the perhaps 5-8 we might have otherwise if we could have actually been able to hear the musicians performing.

We will especially be keeping an eye out for Kelsey Doll (as she goes by) because that young lady wrote and played amazing songs.  We apologize for leaving in the midst of your set but, in some small way, that was showing you far more respect than anyone staying.

If you were in the crowd at Meet Virginia last Friday night, may I ask, did the evening meet your expectations?