Friday, October 24, 2008

Wikipedia and the Meaning of Truth

Wikipedia and the Meaning of Truth

Why the online encyclopedia's epistemology should worry those who care about traditional notions of accuracy.

By Simson L. Garfinkel

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grass Returns!!

Not coming to terms with the past

Grass has published the second volume of his autobiography; Die Box!  Unfortunately it is not going to be available in English until the end of next year which is reflective of a trend in American publishing not to publish or push translations, which has been a prominent theme in the Guardian recently, esp. in light of the recent Nobel Prize. I wonder if the insularity of the publishing community is because of their assumption of the public's reading habits. Unfortunately I also think they are right especially considering the reading public who is walking through the standard book-stores i.e. Border's/B&N who are not interested, for the most part, in any translated work. I'm dealing with students at the reference desk who are asking me "How do I read this book?" referring to Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.This question is definitively dealing with comprehension, understanding and perserverance.  Upon graduation are these individuals going to be interested in translated works, having barely moved into the English canon? This seems unlikely unless I as a librarian and others who are bridging this gap can helpfully and skillfully guide these students into new realms of reading and understanding.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why poets take trains

Why poets take trains

I would gladly take a train to work. After taking a 24 hour train ride to Purdue, Indiana as a college freshman, a deep appreciation and enjoyment of train rides was bestowed upon me. The observatory car was completely made of glass and you could watch the landscape slide past and the sun beat down on the book pages. Also the fact that we would stand between the cars like surfers on training wheels until the conductors would kick us out since we were not supposed to be there anyway. For some reason, at the age of 14 I was interested in small places and, being 14, stayed awake most of the night. Once I realized I was tired enough to go to sleep everyone else was awake so I curled up underneath the footrests of two seats and slept for about 4 hours there.
Riding the train trumps driving because the train ride removes the responsibility of paying attention to the details of others' erratic steering and allows you to see, listen and contemplate. Attempting any or all three of these at the wheel, for myself at least, typically ends in a wild wheel jerk to get my car off the rumble strip which is alarming both to the other cars and my wife and not at all conducive to the state of contemplation being pursued.
My next "road trip" goal is to take the train from Rochester, NY to Chicago, IL. It's only about 11 hours and cheaper than driving.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lost in the Rest Home

Lost in the Rest Home

Hurrah John Barth!!!

The Ambition of the Short Story

Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers

I sincerely doubt that libraries who use these gaming nights to pull in people are doing it to encourage reading. "Spurred by arguments that video games also may teach a kind of digital
literacy that is becoming as important as proficiency in print,
libraries are hosting gaming tournaments, while schools are exploring
how to incorporate video games in the classroom." It is difficult to say if these video game nights are anything less than publicity acts to pull people into the library which may not be a bad thing. But we should not attempt to disguise it in the guise of teaching kids to read.
There is an assumption, which is voiced in this article though not necessarily held by it, that all kids are now digitally-oriented and I do not think that is the case. Having a Facebook/My-Space account does not a digital native make nor does spending hours texting count either. Unfortunately, I do not yet have a good definition of digital native simply to say I do not agree with the term as I do not think it apt. It does not yet seem that the coming generation is developing as a digital generation but rather as a generation of isolated people. On the second page of this article, one young gamer says that reading is a solitary activity, that you cannot challenge someone to a reading duel. In response, not all games are multiplayer. Many are undertaken in solitude, spending hours to beat the game.
The immersion in this video-game realm does not, as least in my experience, promote better imagination or creativity. There is a quote from Mr. Jay Parini at the bottom of the second page of htis article. He says “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in 10 or 20 years, video games are
creating fictional universes which are every bit as complex as the
world of fiction of Dickens or Dostoevsky." How do we know if these universes are complex? Because we have read books in which complex universes are created. How did Tolkien create his incredibly rich and complex Middle-Earth? He was steeped in mythology and out of a combination of his encountering with that mythology and from his own logic, intuition and knowledge was birthed this world.
I myself played an immense amount of World of Warcraft my senior year of college but the reason I played it was that one of my friends was into it and I would go hang out with him and we would play into the wee hours of the morning, sometimes on several nights a week. The main reason I stuck with it so long was for the reason that he played as well and would often hook me up with great runes. Playing the game gave us additional common ground. At the end of my senior year, he moved away and I have not played World of Warcraft since but we have kept in touch. This is simply an awkard segue into this ending thought.
Thomas Howard in his work "Dove Descending" on T.S. Eliot's "4 Quartets" states, "...the Way to Reality is to be found via time and all that belongs to it, namely, our history, our mortal life and our daily experience...they stand starkly against all forms of escape. Gnosticism, Oriental religions, Platonism and our own reveries (emphasis mine) invite us to fly from the prison of time and the flesh to some eternal and "spiritual" (read "disembodied") state of affaris untouched by change and decay." (p. 41) I cannot find much redeeming value to teach learning in a medium that allows to attain to a state of being untouched by change and decay. I found it very doubtful that video games, which typically allow and encourage the helpful evolution of the character, often rendering them impregnable at a certain point, are compatible with literature which when attempting to answer the question of what is show the baseness and depravity of man.