Via Jess: “Craziest,” a short video story by Liz Dubleman. “Life is a game of patterns and chance and those who play well will win. I joined the National Scrabble™ Association.”
An event I’ve organized—mark your calendars!
READING AT RISK? A PANEL DISCUSSION
Released in July of this year, the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Reading at Risk” report garnered widespread attention for its dramatic and troubling findings, chief among which were that there has been a documented 10% national decline in “literary reading” since 1982, with the drop-off even more precipitous among younger age groups. (The report is available in its entirety online at: http://www.nea.gov/pub/ReadingAtRisk.pdf). These findings are surely of concern to anyone who cares about the future of reading and a literate populace. But what is reading in the current day and age? What can we learn from the history of media change, where previous moments of technological transition have been accompanied by similar expressions of anxiety and concern? Or are we truly facing an uprecedented shift in what and how and why we read? What are the implications for education? The arts? Public policy and civics? Join us on Thursday, November 18th, 2:00-3:45, in the McKeldin Special Events Room for a discussion of this issue, featuring a number of distinguished speakers from the College Park campus and beyond:
MARK BAUERLEIN, Director of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts. He is also Professor of English at Emory University. He has written many books and articles on American literature, history, and philosophy, and his commentaries and reviews have appeared in Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, TLS, Yale Review, Chronicle of Higher Education, and many other national periodicals.
MICHAEL COLLIER, Professor of English and Co-Director of Creative Writing at UMCP, and former Poet Laureate of the State of Maryland. Professor Collier is the author of several books and collections, and over 100 published poems.
LISA GITELMAN, Associate Professor of English and Director of Media Studies at Catholic University. Professor Gitelman is the author of Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines (Stanford UP, 1999) and co-editor of New Media 1740-1915 (MIT Press, 2003).
SHIRLEY LOGAN, Associate Professor of English at UMCP and former Chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (the 4Cs). She is the author of We Are Coming The Persuasive Discourse of Nineteenth-Century Black Women (Southern Illinois, 1999) and co-editor of many other books.
CLIFFORD LYNCH, Director of the Coalition for Networked Information. He is a past president of the American Society for Information Science and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Information Standards Organization.
NICK MONTFORT, co-editor of the New Media Reader (MIT Press, 2003) and author of Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interfactive Fiction (MIT Press, 2004). Currently a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, Montfort is also a highly-regarded writer of interactive fiction.
The panel will be moderated by MATTHEW KIRSCHENBAUM, Assistant Professor of English at UMCP. It is intended to be of broad topical interest to a diverse and interdisciplinary audience. Free and open to the public; entire classes welcome.
Sponsored by the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) and the Department of English. Please contact Matt Kirschenbaum (mgk “at” umd “dot” edu) with questions.
Charles Bernstein at Bridge Street Books in Georgetown earlier tonight. That’s Charles sitting in the front row getting introduced (he’s much higher-rez in person). We watched from the second floor. He read poems from The Sophist and World On Fire, among others.
We’re about to embark on Don Delillo’s Underworld in my Postmodern Literature class. As Frost said of the woods, it’s lovely, dark, and deep. It’s also long, 800+ pages. I’ve been unable to conjure any practical advice for my students other than to use a daily page quota and “Just do it.” Perhaps there isn’t any other advice. But if there is, I’d like to hear it.
Four of “my” graduate students (never quite sure what the academic possessive actually implies) are giving conference papers in the near future. Here’s some general advice. Feel free to add on.
For more in this vein, see Paul N. Edwards, “How to Give a Talk.”
The most thorough examination of the CBS documents I’ve seen. Thanks to Nick Montfort for sending me the link.
First the Florida hanging chads, now this. Also the widespread anxiety over electronic voting and the lack of a “paper trail.” Seems like analytical bibliography and document examination are increasingly part of the public sphere in this late age of print.
Every wonder what class participation has to do with sprezzatura? Sage advice, via Kari Kraus.
Blogrolling’s gone dark and the blogrolls lie limp, no shuffle and bustle as busy blogs hustle their way to the head of the queue.
Gone too are the diacriticals, small, precious marks of individualization, the QWERTY electron bursts that celebrate fresh activity, new life—our SETI receivers. Brackets and parentheses, asterisks and exclamations, plusses and minuses and equals and other arithmetic operators, all gone as we soldier on with our invisible speech. Here’s my mark, I’ll make it in its absence: ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
There. But will anybody read this now? Or have these characters already gone cold, the way dead letters do, lost in the blogosphere amid the silent rolls of empty updates?
My inbox doubles as my short- to medium-term to do list. Reminders about upcoming deadlines, stuff I have to answer, things I’ve promised, things I haven’t promised but need to attend to anyway. Everything else gets filed away in folders.
This morning I have two items remaining in my inbox.
Congratulate me. It won’t last past tomorrow.
The Book as the Gold Standard for Tenure and Promotion in the Humanistic Disciplines. A study by Leigh Estabrook at the Universtiy of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science, funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation. Among the more interesting findings:
With the exception of scholars who are doing “creative work” or whose work is in certain subfields of Anthropology, department chairs expect a faculty member to have published (or have in press) a scholarly monograph prior to consideration for tenure.
Only in History departments does a majority of faculty believe a book should be required (with rare exceptions) for tenure in their departments. Faculty with tenure and faculty who have not yet achieved tenure are similar in their views about this issue.
Most of the faculty members surveyed do not feel a book length manuscript is necessary to present their scholarship.
Faculty members are beginning to examine electronic publications as an outlet for scholarship. A small number of departments have formally considered how electronic publications should be evaluated.
As the site says, 93 copies of 21 plays. Beautiful, high-quality page images, a generous interface, and a marked emphasis on comparison amongst the different versions of the texts. All courtesy of the British Library.
In terms of public visibility and scholarly influence this may be the single most important thing the digital humanities and digital library scholarship have done to date.
This is beeg. Very beeeg.
My CD collection, about 400 titles, once a powerful externalization of identity—displayed in the living room for all to see—now shelved high up and out of sight in the bedroom closet, the archive for the music stored on a single magnetic disk in my 30 GB MP3 player. Anonymous and inscrutable, the device fits comfortably in the palm of my hand or in my pocket.
Anyone here used to play BATTLESHIP? Below the fold you will find a so-called “after action report” (AAR), which is a write-up or narrative of a simulation game I played earlier today. It depicts the naval battle of Coronel, fought between British and German cruiser squadrons off the coast of Chile in WWI. I suspect it will be of tangential interest to most readers here, but I include it as an example of how I spent a few hours this holiday weekend. While more generous than some in its presentation of historical context, this particular AAR is by no means atypical in its level of detail; and it’s occured to me that AARs might make for an interesting genre study someday.
Are there similar narratives that are spun from computer gaming?
The Battle of Coronel (1 November 1914, off the coast of Chile) was undoubtedly the low point of the First World War for the British navy. It came on the heels of the Goeben fiasco in the Mediterranean and the loss of a string of ships to mines and torpedoes in the North Sea. The Grand Fleet languished in self-imposed exile in the far northern waters around its base at Scapa Flow. To the German successes at commerce raiding during the early months of the war would soon be added the cold-blooded but incontrovertibly daring sorties against sea-side towns in England itself; the Royal Navy, by contrast, had only the messy action at Heligoland to show for its exploits, and that had come closer to being a botch than anyone liked to acknowledge. Coronel would see the loss of two armored cruisers—the backbone of the motley West Indies squadron—and 1600 men, including the squadron’s commanding officer Rear Admiral Kit Craddock. By contrast, the German East Asia squandron, under the expert command of Maximilian von Spee, escaped all but unscathed (only to meet their fate at the Falklands a month later).
The battle was a mis-match from the start: Craddock’s older cruisers were outgunned and manned largely by reservists, while von Spee’s ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau boasted the best gunnery in the German navy. Von Spee was also able to take perfect advantage of his superior position against the darkening coastline to ensure that his long-range guns would destroy the enemy with little to fear by way of reprisal.
Yet things might have been different. Craddock had repeatedly requested that the modern armored cruiser Defence join his squadron, a request summarily denied by the British Admiralty; the fast, well-armed Defence would be sent to the theater only after the disaster at Coronel, where her well-trained crew and four 9.2” guns could have trebled Craddock’s long-range capacity against von Spee. The fumbling fingers of the Admiralty, meanwhile (where none other than Winston Churchill held sway as First Lord) had sought to instead insert the aged battleship Canopus into the squadron. Canopus was plagued with engine difficulties, and Craddock eventually left her behind, fearing that she would slow the squadron past any hope of intercepting the Germans. (Craddock was aggresive by nature, and also haunted by the opprobrium heaped upon his colleague Troubridge in the Mediterranean after the latter declined to engage the Goeben whom he judged a “superior force.” For Craddock there was no queston that there must be a battle.) Yet at least some of Canopus’s mechanical troubles were exaggerated by her demented Chief Engineer, and while it’s questionable whether the lumbering pre-dreadnought could have kept pace, her massive 12” guns would have been a force to be reckoned with in any engagement—perhaps even be “the citadel” of the squadron, as Churchill was to put it.
So I plan to refight both potential alternative versions of the action at Coronel, first with Canopus added to the British squadron and then with Defence. I’m using Jack Greene’s The Royal Navy for my rules, the counters from FG&DN, and my splendid new Chessex vinyl megamat (tip of the hat to Karl Laskas for recommending it). Here’s what happened.
Canopus variant. First off, even though things were tough for the Brits already, I dropped in some additional gunfire mods: +5 when firing east (hurts the Brits) reflecting the difficulty of hitting ships against a darkening coastline, and -2 (helped the Germans) when firing west, reflecting the advantage of targets silhouetted against a setting sun. Both lines were heading south, 12,000 yards apeart, the British further out to sea to the west. Initially only Good Hope (Craddock’s flagship), Canopus, and Glasgow were in range for the Brits. German gunnery proved decisive from the outset. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau targeted Good Hope and Canopus; Good Hope was hit and immediately began to flood, while Canopus was sent reeling out of the line with her forward 12” turret destroyed. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were untouched by the British reply. These were very historical results: in the actual battle (remember, Canopus wasn’t present) Good Hope had had her big forward guns destroyed in the opening salvo, thereby hampering Craddock’s ability to conduct a long range fight even further. Craddock then tried to close the range, which von Spee refused; the range remained constant. Again, very historical. One thing that became immediately clear was the difficulties the British would have faced in maneuvering such disparate ships. Canopus, for example, wound up wallowing out of the line, her fire blocked by the faster moving Glasgow. The British squadron would remain a mess from there on out, and things began to go rapidly downhill: Scharnhorst and Gneisenau pounded Good Hope and Monmouth, which began to turn away to the southwest when it was clear even to Craddock that the situation was beyond hopeless. Von Spee then conducted his most aggresive maneuver of the battle, turning in to pursue the British ships. Good Hope and Monmouth, both subjected to relentless continuing salvos from Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, caught fire and sunk just minutes apart; but, von Spee’s action had also brought his light cruisers within range of Glasgow and Canopus, and a sharp, secondary action broke out along the rear of the German line. Leipzig, which suffered a flash fire from an ammo handling accident the first time it fired its guns, received multiple hits from Glasgow and Canopus, and began to go rapidly down at the bow; Dresden was also damaged in the exchange, though less severely so. Glasgow, meanwhile, suffered steering damage, and after a desperate but ineffectual attempt to torpedo one of the German armored cruisers went veering off to the west. Von Spee then moved quickly to extract Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which had thus far remained untouched, from harm’s way; as they did so, the armored merchant cruiser Otranto, which had thus far played no role in the battle, drifted within range of their guns. Parting shots from Scharnhorst and Gneisenau quickly reduced her to a burning hulk. As night fell the German squadron then made good its escape to the south, the newly arrived Nurnburg nursing Leipzig (the only one of von Spee’s ships to suffer significant damage). In their wake they left three flaming hulks, a badly damaged cruiser (Glasgow), and an impotent Canopus.
Analysis: First off, Canopus was hardly the “citadel” Churchill imagined. Even had her guns stayed in action longer against the German armored cruisers, she was simply too lightly armored to remain effective in the face of the kind of firepower at von Spee’s disposal. Beyond that, though, the game merely confirmed the hopelessness of the overall tactial situation for the British: the twilight environmental variables were consequential, and the contrasts between the opposing crews even more so. Moreover, as noted above, the disparity between the speeds and capabilities of the British ships made maneuvering the squadron in the thick of battle a lost cause. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, by contrast, were able to remain together; their secondary and tertiary armaments are also generous, at least as represented by J. Greene, and so anything that came within 10,500 yards or so—the only range at which most of Craddock’s ships could be effective—was pretty much toast. Tactically this was not a battle the Royal Navy could have won, even with Canopus; it was a battle that should never have been fought under the operational circumstances.
Next up: Defence variant. I suspect Defence’s presence will finally give von Spee something to worry about.
Von Spee’s squadron at steam. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, followed by Leipzig, followed by Dresden.
Von Spee turns in: Monmouth is on fire at the front of the confused British line, with Good Hope right behind her. Both ships would soon be gone. Canopus trails, Glasgow tries to screen.
This isn’t the street, it’s the gutter. Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s (very) graphic graphic novel Transmetropolitan is a neo-neuromantic romp through a superdense urban core, with the Hunter Thompsonesque journalist Spider Jerusalem at the center of it all, gonzoing his way through the muck and the scum and the info-trash (lusty female assistants in tow). You’ve been here before: Gotham, Metropolis, mongrel Manhattan, even the spaceport at Mos Eisley. Hans Moravec has become a cult figure, and the mean streets of the eponymous City teem with the corporeal byproducts of a thousand strains of recombinant DNA splicing and spiraling and spinning off their mortal coil — but this may be its least interesting aspect. Transmet’s a story of truth and justice and even, God help us, the American way (duly post-nationalized), but whereas Clark Kent’s mild-mannered day job was just a foil for his extracurricular exploits in tights, Spider’s columns fall to earth like a B-29 brought down a split second behind its erupting payload. Spider as Superman then, but also Everyman, folk-hero: like Woody Guthrie’s guitar, his always-on laptop, with its curiously antique Remington-style keys, is a machine that kills fascists.
The piece was good fun to write, and it was nice working with Elin Sjursen on the editing.
I liked my original title whole a lot better though.
Which was . . . wait for it . . . “Loose, Watery, Prolapse.”
Fans of the series will understand.
I know Spider would have liked it better too.