Size 8

Nestleed Among the Candy Bars

I know the candy and checkout lane knick knacks are positioned by big box analysts and managers to encourage spontaneous purchases. “I didn’t intend to buy a Milky Way and a root beer, but they were right there. Practically jumped into my cart.” However, here is a case where shoes found some host who ushered them into this primo location. Size 8. Now, in shoe stores, socks and shoe laces crowd the checkout area. But what kind of store–maybe a sock store?–would feature shoes in the checkout lane?


Dinner Rolls

Building on yesterday’s remarks, another scene. Another ride around the store. Another checkout line discard. Where are the King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls in Canton’s Super Walmart?, you wonder. I don’t know about the rest of them, but you’ll find one package at register fifteen, just below the gift cards.


This story of The Ark reminded me of Brand’s How Buildings Learn: Huron-side tannery, disassembly, reassembly, blacksmith shop, furniture store, deterioration, pigeon training. Ypsilanti’s The Ark, its adrift, undecidable architecture fittingly named, an example of an early “portable.” Here’s an excerpt about its initial site:

The site was likely chosen on purpose. Tanneries were smelly places, where piles of cow skins were scraped of their remaining flesh and soaked in vats of chemicals in order to process them into leather. A location downstream from downtown meant that meat scraps and used-up chemicals could be drained into the river without creating a stench in the stretch of river traveling through town.

The lazy Sunday morning click with Brand’s book, however, (un)builds toward The Ark’s demise, which, as parallels go, blightfully suggests another end-variant true for so many buildings in aging cities: How Buildings Learn No More.

Wonder how many of those century-old pigeons are out there homing on this missing place?


The Steep Approach

I finished up Iain Banks’

The Steep Approach to Garbadale
a couple of days ago. Took me
about a week, and it felt like a faster-than-usual read, though it’s not like I
spend all that much time reading fiction for the sport of it (at least not these
days). Faster than expected, a surprisingly engaging novel, a story well
told–exactly as promised in the approbative cover matter.

The upshot: Alban Wopuld deals with a hiatus from the family circle,
resurfacing at the behest of a cousin who recruits him to stir up dissent among
family members in favor of approving the sale of their rights to a popular game,
Empire!. Alban re-emerges as an influential presence in the family, all
the while coping with two formative events from earlier in his life (and, in
different degrees, these events are at the root of his alienation): his
mother’s suicide and a cousinly love affair.

This little summary doesn’t ruin it. And I fully intend to be getting
along with other novels by Banks just as soon as…one of these days. I only had
time for this one because I am purposefully neglecting the diss for a couple of
weeks while on a back-to-back conferences jag (seriously, it must appear that I
have been shitting around for a couple of weeks now; lazing through some books
about maps, etc.). Anyhow, by this point, I sure I have done enough to pique
your interest in The Steep Approach that I should give a little bit more,
so, then, two passages from dog-eared pages:

Also, third, she tried to quantify how hopelessly, uselessly,
pathetically weak she felt. It took a long time–she was a
mathematician, after all, not a poet, so images were not normally her strong
suit–but eventually she decided on one. It involved a banana. Specifically,
the long stringy bits you find between the skin and flesh of a banana. She
felt so weak you could have tied her up with those stringy bits of banana
and she wouldn’t have been able to struggle free. That was how weak she
felt. (220)

This comes as VG–Alban’s other love interest–remembers swimming near
a reef when the disastrous tsunami welled up from the Indian Ocean in ’04.

Continue reading →

An Address


Strange Maps shows a map
of ‘the island’ in Lost, and in the
discussion, there is a question about naming, an observation that it is peculiar
that the island is un-named.  In one sense, the LAT-LON coordinates name
the island, locate it, provide it with an address (I would repeat those numbers
here but for the jinx). But the island is not named (Formosa!) in the
conventional sense of toponyms.

The map itself displays layers of plausible locations (colored dots) and
zones (rings) meant to match up with events over the first three seasons of the
program. I find the map interesting because it surfaces at the same time I am
reading and (sketchily) writing about archives, tagging and keywording, what
Derrida in Archive Fever calls the archontic dimension–consignment,
the gathering and piling on of signs.

What does the map archive? And where is the imaginary map between
commencement (sequential) and commandment (jussive)?

I don’t know.  I cannot settle this yet, and I am in no hurry. Lost
is not even airing again for a couple of months, and then, only if the writers’ strike is
resolved. Nevertheless, I am–for these few minutes–taken on a detour through
the map as a museum of Lost, of a topo-nomology embedded almost entirely in television (a
domain, like many others, about which we must continuously ask, What is lost (er,
diminished) in "legitimate hermeneutical authority" (3)?).

Photos and Locative Tagging

launched a new geotagging
this week (via).
It’s tied in with Yahoo’s mapping API; via Flickr, you can assign locative data
to your photos simply by drag-and-drop methods. The Flickr blog
an impressive surge in the geotagging of photographs with some 1.2 million
geotagged in the first 24 hours after the feature’s rollout.

Granted, if a
photo already had geotags assigned, the new system automatically recognized
them, so a fair portion of the 1.2 million were probably auto-assigned rather
than initiated by Flickr users.

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Text to Map


drew my attention to the Gutenkarte
, a series of scripts and processes that renders place-names
appearing in a given text and locates them on
a map. The Gutenkarte site announces
future plans for the project, including a wiki-like annotation add-on that will
enable a group of users to collaborate in expanding the place-name information
and related contextual relevance (one day to include digital images and video?).
The project bears many similarities to Franco Moretti’s survey of the shifting
geographies of village life in the nineteenth century. Moretti’s analysis often
moves beyond standard place-names to include positions of and distances between
people and things known to be in particular places. These he distinguishes as
geometries; plotted, they are more like diagrams than maps, he tells us (54).
The Gutenkarte project is not yet as refined as Moretti’s work; mining a text
for toponyms depends on the database’s tolerance place-name ambiguity and
spelling variations (among other things I probably don’t understand). Still,
despite the obvious limitations, the motives underlying Gutenkarte present an
affirmative answer to one of Moretti’s guiding questions, "Do maps add anything,
to our knowledge of literature?" (35), even if it is being applied to literary
texts from the Gutenberg Project for now.

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Digital Onomastics, Frenetic Place-Names

What happens to onomastics or proper place-names with infusions of the
digital? How do the logics of the web, networked writing and folksonymy
let loose (a plentitude of named small-pieces, loosely joined) the
propriety of an onomastics founded on scarcity, where place-names refer formally
to physical locations and also depend upon authorization, a kind of official
license? We will have one name and one name only! Erm, okay, two…two
names. No more. Granted, place-names or toponyms are not altogether
unraveled or let loose. Kansas is still "Kansas," or "KS," even in Google Maps (at
a certain scale, though, the name vanishes because it’s too specific,
too local; KS fades into anyplace). But while these stabilized place-names
remain on highway signs and also showing at certain scales of the
cybercartographic mash-ups, the digital introduces a capacity for differently
circulating and contending name systems. Toponyms are further compounded. For now I don’t care whether
we’re online or on I-90. New (by which I mean not pre-fixed), folksonomic names
and tags don’t automatically replace the official names, although they might one
day contend with them and even displace them or unsettle them a bit.

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