Sowa – Marzi

Marzi: a memoir by Marzena Sowa, with art by Sylvain Savoia; translated by Anjali Singh
Date read: 23 February – 12 March 2017
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017gnc, 2017nfc, 2017trans

Marzi: a memoir by Marzena Sowa, with art by Sylvain Savoia

Oversize paperback, 230 pages
First American edition published 2011 by DC Comics. Published by arrangement with Mediatoon Licensing, France. Original title: Marzi – L’Integrale 1  – La Pologne vue par les yeux d’une enfant
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel SOWA MARZENA]

I quite appreciated and enjoyed this memoir of young girl growing up in 1980s Poland. While Sowa may have experienced them quite differently, many of the topics and events that she covers are also touchstones for me as I spent much of my time in Europe in the 1980s and both of my children were born there (1980 and 1983).

These are some of the big events/topics she covers and dates from Wikipedia:

  • The Polish Pope, John Paul II       16 October 1978 – 2 April 2005
  • Solidarity / Solidarność                  founded on 17 September 1980
  • Martial law Poland                          December 13, 1981 to July 22, 1983
  • Chernobyl                                       26 April 1986
  • Tiananmen Square                         04 June 1989
  • fall of the Berlin Wall                       began the evening of 9 November 1989

I was in Germany the first time when Pope John Paul II was elected and for the rise of Solidarity. I quite well remember the declaration of martial law in Poland. I was stationed on a nuclear missile site in then West Germany and the entirety of the US military in Europe went on high alert.

When Chernobyl happened I was stationed in Belgium and well remember not being able to eat certain food products for months.

I found her young, but lived, experience of and reactions to TV, religion, visiting rural relatives for farming and vacation, living in a high-rise and stairwell culture, American toothpaste, food lines, and so on to be interesting and empathy building. I, too, have experienced sides of many of these but certainly not all and often not to the extent she did.

Highly recommended!

This is the 21st book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc] and the 9th reviewed.

This is the 2nd book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge [2017trans]. Whoa! I am way behind on this!

This is the 9th 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


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.

Movies watched in 2009

Most of these are new to me, but a few are venerable classics that I got to share with Sara for the first time [Stop Making Sense] or that we got to see together in the theater [The Shining]. Many movies I watched are not on this list because I have seen them before. As Sara pointed out, I’m not entirely consistent with my including or not.  Le sigh. [Not that I had any delusions that I was, mind you. And after a discussion on the way to the Urbana Free Library (UFL) today it seems we are recording them for somewhat orthogonal reasons. But I may begin leaning her way. The things I wanted to “count/analyze” would be available via her more elaborate bookkeeping, amongst others.]

It appears I listed 5 movies I have seen before that I saw with Sara in some venue this past year. One of these [Woodstock] was from Ebertfest.

Twelve movies were seen at Ebertfest in April. We have our festival passes ordered for this coming year, too.

An additional 14 were seen on the big screen, for a total of 26 in the theater.

A few (3-4) were seen at the IMC and at the Krannert Art Museum on assorted mid-sized screens (DVD projection generally) [KAM link has been down for several days].

The rest were on DVD via purchase, That’s Rentertainment, Urbana Free Library, Netflix, or on Netflix streaming, oh, and one or two from our own Undergraduate Library; I need to think of them more often.

Total looks like 79 movies. Again, what exactly does this number represent? Even I am hard pressed to accurately say. Nonetheless, the movies I generally saw for the first time in 2009.

January 2009

Stop Making Sense – 1st time for Sara
Unrepeatable – Eddie Izzard
War of the Worlds (1953)
War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise)
The Lady Vanishes (1938 Hitchcock)
The Man Who Would Be King (1975 Connery/Caine/Plummer – Kipling)


Sunset Boulevard (at Krannert Art Museum)
Firedancing (2001 by Jimi Jones) (IMC Film Fest with Sara & Tim & Tracy)
Proceed and Be Bold (2008 by Laura Zinger about Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., letterpress printer) (IMC Film Fest with Sara & Tim & Tracy)
Puccinni for Beginners


Watchmen (Savoy)
The Tiger and the Snow – 1st time for Sara [link]


Doctor Who: The Five Doctors

Ebertfest 22-26 April (at The Virginia Theatre )
22 Apr

23 Apr
My Winnipeg
Chop Shop
Trouble the Water

24 Apr
Begging Naked
The Last Command
Frozen River

25 Apr
The Fall
Sita Sings the Blues
Nothing But the Truth
Let the Right One In

26 Apr


Wolverine (With Sara & Jess at Savoy)
Hairspray (orig. 1988) (at IMC)
Star Trek (at Savoy)
Northanger Abbey (2007)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang


Invasion of the Bee Girls
Unconscious (Sp)
Synecdoche, New York (That’s Rentertainment)


Fist of the Warrior
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Savoy)
Moon (Boardman’s)


Beautiful People (from UGL)
A Collection of 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Films (from UFL)
Charlie Wilson’s War (from UFL)
Incubus (1965 William Shatner in Esperanto)
Red Hot + Blue


500 Days of Summer (Savoy)


She Wolves of the Wasteland
Miss Potter (from UFL)
Quantum of Solace (from UFL)
History Boys
The Shining  (at The Virginia)
Were the World Mine
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia #1 [streaming!!]
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Dancing Men #2
Where the Wild Things Are (at Savoy)


Getting Home / Luo Ye Gui Gen (China – Global Lens – at The Virginia)
Mutum (Brazil – Global Lens – at The Virginia)
shrink (2009 – Kevin Spacey)
Il Mare (Korean)
2012 (at Savoy)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Naval Treaty #3
My Blueberry Nights (Norah Jones)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Solitary Cyclist #4
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Crooked Man #5


My Time Will Come / Cuando Me Toque A Mi  (Ecuador – Global Lens – at The Virginia)
Jellyfish (Israel)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Speckled Band #6
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Blue Carbuncle #7
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Copper Beeches #8
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (from UFL)
Man of Flowers (1983 Aussie / from UFL)
City of Embers
Avatar 3D (at Savoy)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Greek Interpreter #9 (with Charles Gray)

Chinese Food & Movie Day (aka Christmas Day)
Sherlock Homes (at Savoy with Ellen & Lori)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Norwood Builder #10

My Fair Lady (from UFL)
Twelfth Night (2003)
Moonlighting (pilot – from UFL)
The Brothers Bloom
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939 Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Ida Lupino)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Resident Patient #11

Some good, some bad. A few great. Wondering what’s in store for 2010? It’ll be a couple more months before the lineup for Ebertfest 2010 is announced (March usually). Can hardly wait!

Some things seen around the Internet lately

Drinking with the Troops

From a local blog, Urbanagora, comes “Drinks with a Soldier.” I just love how some jackass commentor tries to hide behind the shield of anonymity and call the post author a liar. Certainly there are all sorts of views on this war, including those of the troops fighting it.

Perhaps if you ever get the chance—you could try arranging the chance—you, too, should have drinks with a soldier (or sailor, airman or marine) and find out a bit about what it is like on the ground in this war.  Of course, don’t forget the millions of servicemembers still living who served in our previous wars. A patient, caring ear would do many of them a world of good.

The value of a liberal arts education

For an interesting discussion on the value, or lack thereof, of a liberal arts education and liberal arts colleges see “On Liberal Education” at the Academic Librarian blog. Wayne Bivens-Tatum critiques the views of the author of a new book on the subject, as presented in The Kansas CW.

A spirited back-and-forth between Bivens-Tatum and the book author follows in the comments. I should state up front that I agree entirely with all of Bivens-Tatum’s points and his larger argument. The book author tries to point out some flaws in Bivens-Tatum’s arguments which simply are not there. I found that rather humorous.

But the one point I was hoping Bivens-Tatum would take up was the author’s insistence that some immediately practical subjects should get substituted for liberal arts classes because students are incurring too much debt, can’t pay their student loans, have to take high paying jobs vs. the job of their dreams, have to move back home with mommy & daddy, etc. because colleges are financially predatory.

So the solution is immediately practical vocational training? Wouldn’t better financial counseling for students, laws barring credit card companies from preying on students, educational finance reform, and so many other things be helpful, too, and perhaps even more ethically important? Have a look and see what you think.

Early Mike Wallace interviews with “important people”

Via Resource Shelf comes The Mike Wallace Interview.

In the early 1960’s, broadcast journalist Mike Wallace donated 65 recorded interviews made in 1957-58 from his show The Mike Wallace Interview to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. The bulk of these were 16mm kinescope film recordings, some of the earliest recordings of live television that were possible, and that survive today. Many of these have not been seen for over 50 years, and they represent a unique window into a turbulent time of American, and world history.

See interviews with jockey Eddie Arcaro, stripper Lili St. Cyr, actress Gloria Swanson, Steve Allen, Frank Lloyd Wright, birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt, novelist Pearl Buck, and many others.

Doing the dirty fictionally

Via 3 quarks daily we get a book review in the New York magazine of Robert Olen Butler’s Intercourse: Stories. Find it in a library near you via WorldCat.

Robert Olen Butler’s new story collection, Intercourse, is, as its title suggests, totally about doing it. It imagines the thoughts of 50 iconic couples as they knock the proverbial boots, beginning with Adam and Eve copulating on “a patch of earth cleared of thorns and thistles, a little east of Eden,” and ending with Santa Claus blowing off postholiday steam in January 2008 by doing the nasty with an 826-year-old elf in the back room of his workshop. But, as the clinical tone of Butler’s title also suggests, Intercourse is very much not a work of erotica. It tends to ignore messy fluids and crotch-logistics in favor of wordplay and psychological nuance.

Civilization and cultures

Also via 3 quarks daily we get Tzvetan Todorov in the Pakistan Daily Times thinking and writing to his usual standard of quality.

But if you look at this line of argument more closely, the flaw in Barnavi’s argument is immediately apparent. The meaning of the words civilisation and culture is very different when they are used in singular and plural forms. Cultures (plural) are the modes of living embraced by various human groups, and comprise all that their members have in common: language, religion, family structures, diet, dress, and so on. In this sense, “culture” is a descriptive category, without any value judgement.

Civilisation (singular) is, on the contrary, an evaluative moral category: the opposite of barbarism. So a dialogue between cultures is not only beneficial, but essential to civilisation. No civilisation is possible without it.

[There, S, I did it. And no, neither linking to the Academic Librarian nor WorldCat invalidates my effort. 😉 ]

“Perhaps they’re better left unsung”

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music?
Would you hold it near, as it were your own?

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung

Grateful Dead ¤ Ripple ¤ American Beauty

As some of you know I am not doing so hot again.

Before I go any further, let me say “Thank you!” to those of you who check in with me, make me laugh and remind me that those I care about also must face their own demons. I think (hope) you know who you are.

There are so many reasons for my current situation; many are old and highly persistent. Many will never be mentioned here.

I am sick, again. Now many people in the world are facing far more serious health issues than I am. But, nonetheless, this almost constant low-grade ill feeling for the last year and a half or so has become tiresome, in multiple ways. It is also actively interfering with any attempt to actually get back in better shape so that I could generally feel better. Viciously circular, ’tis.

It is also that time in “the cycle.” Spring is, or at least used to be, much worse. A few of you are aware of why that is and I’ll leave it at that. But this past Spring went quite well; even dreadful expectation didn’t make it too bad. Oh, there were small issues, no doubt, but my hard learned coping skills were enough.

This time I’m not so sure. I still noticed the onset of “symptoms” and I have begun implementing those skills. Check. But something is different.

I’ve had a few realizations recently that have affected me deeply. One will never be talked about here but it is something which I absolutely cannot stand about myself. Perhaps it can change as it is a fairly recent phenomena.

The other has been building over time but has only recently found full expression. It, too, was fairly devastating for a while. I have since realized that, although true, it was only one side of the story. The other side, which I had been telling myself and many others, is also true.

Despite my continuing education being a way to avoid facing much about the state of my life, it still serves all of the more positive reasons that I have espoused. And those reasons will serve my patrons, my employer, and myself quite well.

In the meantime, I am about through with “school.” Although my education does not match most of those who have been (somewhat rightfully) complaining about the state of LIS education in the blogosphere, and elsewhere, it is starting to grate on me. In my case, it is not the content of LIS or any other discipline. It is school. Although I have an amazing department and set of professors and instructors who almost never give busy work or meaningless assignments or other kinds of assignments to be derided, I nonetheless could care less about doing most of my assignments.

I simply want to read and to discuss what I’ve read with folks who have also read and care about the issues involved. I don’t care if they agree with me either. Just make me think. Of course, I also want to spend time with people who think somewhat along the same lines as I do so that we may jointly attack issues and problems of merit.

Friday I turned in a midterm that almost had something along the lines of “I simply do not care” as answers for a few of the questions. I managed to do a little better than that because I am a big boy and do, on some level, care. This is not to say that I think any of the questions are meaningless, unimportant, or even busy work. I know that they are important and meaningful questions, and I greatly appreciate and respect that fact. But, personally, I could care less if tic-tac-toe can be modeled as a DFA or not. Nor do I particularly care why, and how many states it might require. Important? Yes. Meaningful? Yes. But those questions are for theorists of computer science to answer. And that person is not me.

Now I know (or at least feel) that that attitude is wrong. I especially feel bad since the person who almost received such an answer is the one who wrote and presented me with an award at my MLS graduation. I feel as if I am letting him down. I do not like that at all. But the mind leads one into painful territory when it goes into self-preservation mode.

So it is definitely time to get out of full-time school. Thankfully (God, I can’t believe I just said that), I am almost there. I have hopefully (awaiting confirmation) moved my Python class back from 4 to 2 hours meaning I won’t have to do a final project. So I have a few more small programs to write and a small final, I think. This leaves me a tad freer to keep reading what I am interested in, particularly towards my CAS project topic.

Of course, I will need to do my bibliography for Dr. Krummel. Now I’m pretty certain that I won’t want to do that either. But I’m fairly certain that I can motivate myself since it is pretty important towards making progress on my CAS project.

After that it is just my CAS project in the Spring. I am going to try and sit in a class or two, though. Allen Renear is teaching a class on Ontology development and Kathryn and Pauline Cochrane are having a seminar on Subject access.

590OD’s description is not in the catalog yet, but here’s the one for 590SA:

An advanced topics seminar in subject access that covers a range of topics including aspects of the traditional bibliographic canon, Hjorland’s philosophical challenges to universal subject access, ongoing discussions at the Library of Congress about Library of Congress Subject Headings, experimentations with hybrid folksonomic and taxonomic approaches, as well as case studies of how enhanced subject access can increase ROI in business and industry.

Hey! This is the first time I actually read the course description (as it matters not to my desire to sit in) and see? See? Hjørland. I need to be there. Of course, all the other clauses are good enough justification, too.

Some of you may be wondering why in the hell I’d want to sit in on more classes if I am fed up with school. Fair enough. But I said sit in, as in unofficially audit. I know Allen is fine with it. I am hoping Pauline and Kathryn will be. I can go and listen. I can prepare if I want to. And I can participate once in a great while when I can no longer sit on my hands and/or keep my mouth shut.

Besides, I’ve had several Ph.D. students, past and current, tell me that it is best to keep oneself somewhat engaged in something that interests you once you get to the full-time writing.

There is still the unspoken question about actually writing my CAS paper. I’m pretty sure that I’m OK here. Sure. I’d prefer to just read and discuss. But another of my problems is that I have almost no one to discuss with (in a manner conducive to my style of discussion. Not to dismiss those who gratefully continue to attempt discussing with me in this venue and by email). Despite the fact of writing very little for my classes while pursuing an education in LIS, I do well remember writing lengthy papers on complex topics. Grappling with one (or a few) main text and a few supporting or peripheral texts and working through some serious analysis and synthesis to produce something that one could be proud of is something I remember fondly from not too far back in the past [See the stuff under Sociology].

The thing to be proudest of was often the immense amount of learning that took place and not necessarily the actual product that was written. The actual writing of the paper only serves to focus the work of analysis and synthesis and, thus, the learning. And that can be a very valuable means to do so. It also serves as something for the professor to use as a judge of the learning that has taken place, but that is primarily a requirement of our educational system and not of learning proper.

So, assuming I can keep such experiential knowledge in mind, I think I can write my paper just fine. I may have few hopes, but this is an important one, and I am looking forward to it.

My plan at the moment is to keep reading and hopefully thinking about the issues. I was taking some notes but need to get better about it. I also need to enter more of my readings into Zotero and not just here.

From what I’ve read so far I need to pick out what I consider to be key texts and do the above with them if I haven’t already, along with writing some draft annotations. I need to identify what others seem to be potentially key and prioritize them. Some of what I have been reading has been driven by the 2- or 3-week loan periods with no renewals that a few lenders are imposing. Grrr!

As for my Python class, well, I just don’t know. I tried lots of things earlier today to get my 3rd program working. While I was able to get lots of assorted error messages, I was unable to get anywhere. Having tried so many different things I am now more confused than I was when I started. If I was ever on the right road I have no idea now. This one isn’t due until Monday afternoon so we’ll see.

There are avenues of help available to me but none of those really work for me. The effort to implement them is simply too great for me in my present state. They’d be a royal pain in a normal state. Now….

I do know I dropped a class as late as 11 Nov. once.

I haven’t had much time since getting back from ASIS&T to do what I should in this venue. I have lots of comments to get to, lots of emails—personal, school-related and professional—to attend to, and other ways in which I haven’t really treated others as well as I’d like, discourse-wise, over the last few weeks.

Lots of things to say/do but far too broken to say/do them. I hate being here and I do not like that person who incessantly whispers in every corner of my mind when I am. And, no, I am perfectly sane. I am well aware that that person is me.

I can no longer hear my own voice
nor am I holding it near

Perhaps they are better left unsung

I told you something was different this time. I do not know exactly what that is … but the fact that I’m using this song to illustrate something negative is breaking my heart. It is not the only positive touchstone that I have lost touch with.

Perhaps this whole post was best left “unsung.” Maybe so. But recently Kirsten reminded me that I, too, had been doing more self-censoring than I intended. Depression is rampant in our society and yet we do not talk about it. In the meantime, we get drug ads that convince people that “If you just took this pill you’d be fine.” Well, that is pure bullshit! “What is it about our society that is causing this level of depression?” is a far more important question in my mind than is designing some pill. But I’ll leave that battle alone for now in the interest of actually accomplishing something.

XMAS Post hoc comments: “Bah, humbug!”

Let me begin by saying that I had a wonderful “Christmas.”

I put Christmas in quotes because, as it has been for a long time, Christmas is really a couple to a bunch of Christmases at different places over what may be a several week period (only 6 days this year).

It was great to see almost all of my (immediate) family; everyone, that is, except my Mom and my little (younger than Sara) brother, David, who is in the Air Force and currently stationed at Fort Gordon, GA (Disgusta, GA. Horrible shivers!).

I got to hang out with both my kids most of the afternoon/evening Christmas Eve and pretty much all day Christmas at the ex’s. And Jeremy met me at the diner for breakfast Wednesday as he headed to his girlfriend’s in Ohio.

Yesterday, I went to St. Louis to hang out with Dad’s side of the family (minus David). My sister and her family had driven in from DC. I went down and back yesterday, but was there from around 11 AM – 8:30 PM. That was nice.

I got several nice presents, including Cowboy Junkies The Trinity Session, Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, Davis and Phillips’ Learning PHP and MySQL, The Muppet Show Season 1 DVD, Epictetus’ The Art of Living, Cicero’s On the Good Life and $80 for books.

I am already reading Epictetus, and I have no doubt I could finish it by this evening, but no need to rush it.

I like not getting a ridiculous amount of stuff; makes life a bit more manageable. I am, almost paradoxically, excited about having cash to exchange for more “books,” though. Plenty left on the wish list.

But back to the title:

As Christmas Eve arrived, I did not greet the day knowing that I was heading to Mary’s, as I did not know both kids were already there. It was also a Sunday morn so doubly slow. Once I learned they were there (around 10 AM, I think) I was still needing breakfast. So, I cleaned up, got dressed and headed to Merry Ann’s diner on the way.

I sat in what I hoped was a quiet spot, next to a couple around my age. This couple. This couple. I wanted to knock their heads together! I felt bad about it; I did [I still have plenty of Baptist guilt to go around]. But I really did want to knock their heads together and yell at them to “Grow the fuck up!”

I finally had to pull out the laptop and throw in my earbuds to try and drown out the incessant whine, which did not work so well. For the whole time I was there—trying to enjoy my Christmas Eve breakfast—one or the other was on the phone, loudly, complaining about portions of their family, how fucked up it was that they had to miss most of the football game today to be somewhere with family, how they went late to something else because of some awesome new interactive game system, shouldn’t the brother’s families just get together and play games and ignore the rest of their familial commitments [clearly not their words], yadda, yadda, yadda.

Jesus. I wanted to scream! I mean WTF! If your family really does suck that much, then Christ almighty (whose birthday we are theoretically celebrating), get a new family! If you are my age in this world, and you have yet to figure out that you create your own family, you are, well, in serious freaking trouble.

I’m no longer Christian, and even when I was Christmas was also highly secular, nonetheless, Christmas for me is about love, family, being with the ones you love and the family you have created, sharing that time together, and traditions, including starting your own [the last is very important]. There are few good reasons to be with people you don’t really consider family (or at least friends, in a traditional sense of “friend”) at this time of year. Call me old-fashioned. Anyway, this couple really started my “Christmas” out badly. “Grow the fuck up, people!”

At least I got these shots out of this trip to the diner.

My other, even bigger, Christmas gripe is about television. And I think maybe I’ll just leave it at that.

I did have a great holiday season—generally low-key, not a lot of traveling, got to spend time with most everyone, and a got a few great gifts. There were just two biggies that I’d like to avoid in future manifestations of “Christmas.”

I hope everyone’s was at least as good as mine! And, although, I might say it again later in the day … Happy New Year 2007!

College Hoops

…I never saw this one coming.

Went to visit a friend in Chicago yesterday and hung out and watched the Illinois – Louisville game.  His family is from Louisville so he was back-and-forth on the phone trash talking.

I actually enjoyed the game.  It was well played, the level of sportsmanship was quite high, and I was quite impressed with the Illini.  I’ve ignored as much as I could of the whole affair all season.  But, they really were an amazing team in yesterday’s game!  Lots of passing, very unselfish playing, everyone contributing, settled, patient and in control.  Now, if we only get rid of that divisive, racist mascot.

Although I would certainly never take credit for anything related to this win, I would like to mention that the only time the Ilini weren’t in the lead I was reading a book my friend had handed me.  I got engrossed for a few minutes and when I ‘came back’ to the game we were down a little.  I put the books down and watched the rest of the game.  The only reason I mention this is because I know a few very bright and highly educated people who only listened to the game by radio and wouldn’t watch it on TV because when they watched during the Arizona game we were losing and we were winning when they were away from the TV and listening to the radio.  [We all know people like this.]  What utterly ridiculous behavior!  Why is it intelligent people believe in such nonsensical theories of causality?

Today is beautiful out!  Mid-60s and not very breezy.  Went to Lohmann park and threw 9 holes of disc golf.  Now that is my kind of sport!  I sure wish I had the time to throw more–maybe this year.

CEA announces Declaration of Technology Independence

Presents Six Principles to Guide Intellectual Property Debate

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) issued today [Mar 16] a Declaration
of Innovation Independence. The document provides a series of
principles to ensure that fair use, home recording rights and
innovation are protected in legislative, judicial and regulatory
debates regarding the protection of intellectual property (IP)).

"For too long, the content community has been allowed to define the
terms of the IP debate. Today we reassert our independence," said CEA
President and CEO Gary Shapiro. "We reassert our independence from the
content community’s stranglehold on determining the language of the
debate. We reassert our independence to counter their efforts to
inhibit the democratization of creativity enabled by digital
technology. And we reassert our independence to ensure that legal
activities conducted by consumers remain legal and are not inaccurately
labeled as ‘piracy.’ The principles we present today are designed to
protect the critical American values of innovation and creativity while
preserving basic consumer rights."

I know I’m a little late on this one, but I haven’t seen much on it yet.   It does have implications for the library world to say the least.  I imagine Walt will probably have something intelligent to say on it.  Go read the whole press release.  It’s short.  So is the accompanying article in their house organ, Vision, Our Declaration of Technology and Independence.  This is actually better than the press release. 

WHEREAS, The Supreme Court in 1984 held that it is legal under the copyright law
to sell a product if the product has substantial non-infringing uses.

This Betamax holding paved the way for the introduction of revolutionary technologies
enabling recording, storage and shifting of content in time and space without
the prior permission of the copyright holders.

Technologies such as MP3 encoding, the PC, the Internet and digital and audio
recorders have supported a creative renaissance that has enriched the content
community, empowered consumers and helped establish the United States as the world’s
economic leader.

Our nation attracts the world’s smartest and most innovative people because
our society embraces and encourages entrepreneurship. Our nation of immigrants
has created the world’s largest technologies and communication systems.
Currently, our leadership in innovation is being threatened by the content industry’s
misguided attempts to protect intellectual property.

The recording and motion picture industries have often resisted, opposed or sought
to stifle new technologies and products, despite the fact that these technologies
transform markets and create new avenues for profitable content creation and distribution.

The influential content lobby has in many respects shaped the current state of
copyright law. Copyright terms have been unreasonably extended so that the reporting
of history itself is subject to permission. Makers of pioneering technologies
are now routinely subject to expensive and time-consuming lawsuits that discourage
innovation and impede U.S. companies from competing globally.

Moreover, false equations have been drawn between intellectual property and real
property, noncommercial home recording and commercial piracy, and national creativity
and sales of particular products and formats, such as CDs.

THEREFORE, as Americans concerned about preserving our rights of freedom of expression
and striving to be leaders in advancing creativity, and who understand that new
technologies promote and enhance creativity, communication and our national welfare,
we hereby ask policymakers to:

Recognize that our founders instituted copyright law to promote creation, innovation
and culture rather than to maximize copyright holders’ profits, and that
it can do this only if new technologies are not stifled and fair use rights are

Reaffirm the Betamax holding that a product is legal if it has significant legal

Resist pleas by big content aggregators for new laws, causes of action, liabilities
and ways to discourage new product introductions;

Re-establish the fundamental rights of consumers to time-shift, place-shift and
make backup copies of lawfully acquired content, and use that content on a platform
of their choice;

Re-examine the length of the copyright term and explore avenues for content to
be reliably available for creative endeavors, scholarship, education, history,
documentaries and innovation benefiting society at large; and

Realize that our nation’s creativity arises from a remarkable citizenry
whose individuality, passion, belief in the American dream and desire to improve
should not be shackled by laws that restrict creativity.

I know that there must be some sort of down-side to the hardware manufacturers taking on the content providers in the fight over fair use, but I sure can’t think of one off the top of my head!  I just can’t help thinking how conflicted Sony must be.  HeHeHe!

The Electronic Frontier
Foundation (EFF), the American Conservative Union (ACU), the Home
Recording Rights Coalition (HRRC) and the American Library Association
(ALA) are all co-sponsors. 

Even Lessig doesn’t have anything in his blog…?  Guess I’ll check EFF and ALA.  Be right back.

Wow, and double wow!  Nothing that I could see at either
organization in their press rooms.  I really wish I wasn’t so burnt out
at the far end of Spring Break because maybe I could say something
interesting.  Oh well.  I really do hope that Walt writes something
about this.   Maybe I’ll just be gutsy and email him.  I checked his
‘blog’ too, subscribed while there. 

I believe I found out about this from Intellectual Freedom news /
IFACTION Digest 1256.  Not sure how broadly this is distributed, or if it is completely local to us, but we get it frequently on our Announcements bulletin board.  They pointed to this article,
but I decided to go to the CEA site from there.   I actually get much
of the sources I blog about from the links in IFACTION Digest.

This seems a very balanced declaration.  If you actually read and
think about its claims you can see that they actually understand some
very real nuances of the debate.   I used to be a  lot more invested
(intellectually; I have been fiscally for several decades now) in the
consumer electronics industry, but I have thought for a long while that
they had abandoned me.  Sure, they wanted me to buy their newest and
best products but that was all they wanted.  They really didn’t seem to
care what they were giving me for my money either.  Then, often lately,
it seemed as if they were in cahoots with content providers as to how I
could use the products of my culture.  Bless their hearts!  And Thank
You!  Now start making the kinds of products I actually want.  You know
I will give you money for good products that do a few things
exceedingly well.  Take it easy on the convergence, will you?  Sure,
make all the converged products you want and can sell.  Just make some
non-converged and I guarantee they will sell too.

Well, I haven’t really said anything particularly intelligent here
regarding the possible implications of this declaration for libraries,
but I hope to discuss it with some intelligent library-types at ACRL in
early April.

As a final comment [in this post anyway] I absolutely love this
sentence, "Copyright terms have been unreasonably extended so that the
reporting of history itself is subject to permission."


Ellul and Perrow on the “adapted man”

   Ellul says that "the better adapted man is, the more tolerant and liberal the system can act toward him.  The more he conforms, the less constraint has to be used." (Ellul, 1980, 109) He makes this claim while discussing flexibility as a feature of the technological system.  Ellul says that as long as man does not challenge the system he is allowed a fair amount of independence.  This is accomplished by increasing the abstraction of the system and the establishment of second- and third-order controls.  Seemingly he acquires greater freedoms, but these freedoms are compensation for, or adaptations to, the system; thus, they actually further decrease our freedom and responsibilities while providing the sense that we are free and responsible.  We are given more choices but these choices are only choices of technique.  So long as we choose a new self-help group, or a little blue pill to elevate our mood or our members, or choose MP3 over CD, and so on, we are free to do as we like.  In fact, these and many other lifestyle choices, to include who we want to be today, are marketed to us.  So what are these second- and third-order controls that are used to give us the illusion of freedom and responsibility?

   Perrow’s article gives us the answer to this question.  First-order controls are direct surveillance, orders, and rules and regulations.  These do, of course, exist in the technological system, but their overuse would result in our correctly feeling the loss of freedom and responsibility.  Proliferation of rules and regulations also leads to errors, primarily because people will choose the least inconvenient rule to follow and not necessarily the most applicable.  Second-order controls primarily consist of standardization and specialization, but also include hierarchy according to Perrow.  He specifically says that these concepts have "technical origins and rationale," that is, they are technique. (Perrow, 7)  By limiting the amount of stimuli that people have to respond to they control people.  They channel behavior and if they are well constructed they result in more predictable and efficient behavior. (Perrow, 8)  So although second-order controls result in our having less to control, they provide us with the feeling of being in control.  This parallels Ellul’s claim that the technological system strips us of our responsibility.

     Large amounts of ambiguity and uncertainty produce fear and
anxiety in us.  We are afraid of making an error and the possible
consequences of doing so.  This is why we hand over all of our
responsibilities, particularly our moral responsibilities, to experts.
Moral judgments always involve contexts that include ambiguity or
uncertainty.  Thus, we rely on those who are specialized, or on
standard procedures, to make these decisions for us.  Third-order
controls change or control our premises.  By controlling our premises
our attention can be directed to some stimuli and redirected away from
other stimuli.  This is done by reducing the amount of information we
have in an area and increasing the amount somewhere else.  By using
this form of control less first- and second-order controls can be
used.  By having our premises changed we feel even more in
control; that we are freer.  Several of the ways that our attention is
directed or redirected is by signs, posters, speeches, and performance
reviews; frowns and smiles in everyday conversation; repeated use of
keywords (ala plastic words [see Plastic Words: The Tyranny of a Modular Language by Uwe Pörksen]); controlling the number of words; and reinforcement, particularly positive reinforcement. (Perrow, 11-13) 

   These types of control certainly seem applicable to the
organization or corporation; but how do they apply to society in
general, and how do they support the technological system?

nowadays we have all kinds
of complicated machines
so no one person
ever has to have blood on their hands
we have complex organizations
and if everyone just does their job
no one person ever has to understand
Ani DiFranco – crime for crime

    Second-order controls are particularly prevalent.  Our
institutions are all highly standardized and specialized.  Law no
longer involves judgments but has become procedural rules to be
followed.  Techniques for everything from sales to test taking to
critical thinking have been developed.  Standardized testing is well,
standardized, and is a massive industry.  Standards apply to
practically everything we buy or consume.  Equipment must be
interchangeable and work together, food must be safe, labeling laws
specify what must be listed and how.  Schools of higher education have
reduced themselves to simply (re)producing technicians.  I could go on ad nauseum
about second-order controls, but far more interesting for the feelings
of freedom and responsibility that they impart to us are third-order
controls.  The reduction of the amount of information in certain areas
of our lives is easily taken care of by the control of the media by a
very few, very large corporations.  This is particularly important in
the areas of politics and world affairs.  But by control being in the
hands of only a few, usually locally remote, corporations we do not
even know what is going on in our "own backyards." 

[para break added]

   These same large media corporations also conveniently handle the
redirection or replacement of these missing stimuli by other stimuli.
The compensations of the media are practically endless, and this is
where we are most "free."  There are a practically unlimited number of
channels on TV, be it satellite, cable or broadcast.  Every week
several new movies are released.  Didn’t that ad on TV look great?  An
unlimited supply of specialty magazines exist for the connoisseur of
everything from Barbie® dolls
to cigars.  Music—would you like that on tape, vinyl, CD, DVD-Audio,
SACD…?  Propaganda of all sorts is used as redirection, or is it
misdirection?  How is it that over sixty percent of the American
population came to believe that direct ties existed between Saddam
Hussein and al Queda?  Why were we being told in the immediate
aftermath of 9/11 to go shopping?  Just what does "We Stand United"
mean?  Psychological commitment to the organization is a classic result
of third-order controls.  By changing our premises—making us
believe that if you do not support George Bush and his cronies that you
are not only unpatriotic but treasonous; convincing us that Britney
Spears can really sing—we believe that we are in control; that we are
responsible for our choices; and that we are free. 

(Sources for this answer are primarily The Technological System by Jacques Ellul, chap. 4; The Bureaucratic Paradox: The Efficient Organization Centralizes in Order to Decentralize by Charles Perrow, Organizational Dynamics, Spring 1977: 2-14; crime for crime by Ani DiFranco on Not A Pretty Girl and class notes.)

Afterthoughts and Notes:

Written as part of final exam for Sociology 469.04 Seminar in
Sociological Institutions – Technology and Modern Society. Fall 2003 at
Illinois State University.

If I had know the amount of first-order controls to be implemented
over the course of the Bush presidency I would have spent more time on
them in the 2nd paragraph.  Certainly more than basically just "their
overuse would result in our correctly feeling the loss of freedom and
responsibility."  See for example: The Homeland Security State

Additions to text marked by [ ].

Fleshed out the sources a bit more since the professor knew many of them but you may not.