S omething meta: standing on a ladder to hang the hooks that will hold the ladder when you are finished and store it away.
T he Deadspin headline, "Mets Announce Largest Crowd In Citi Field History, Apparently Counting Empty Seats As Fans," intimates that seats cannot be fans. Yet the seats attend every game despite the weather. They are present for every pitch. They get sat upon, lines-of-sight blocked, schlepped with soda and mustard and nacho cheese, stepped on. What is more loyal, more devoted to the home team (e.g., the Mets) than a stadium seat? With new-vibrant materialism, game attendance should skyrocket. According to the object-oriented attendance-taker, the stadium was full! But the wonder-ful isotropy wobbles as it deflates, doesn't it?, like an air-filled beach ball that has been patted and patted and patted for a few hours, until abandoned for slow-leaking it isn't being patted any more (not even by the season-ticket-holding seats whose attendance did count).
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?
B uilding 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.
I see more of this, more items discarded in checkout lines, in discount grocer-retailers like Meijer and Super Walmart. Less of it at Whole Foods and Kroger. I suppose there's a higher randomness quotient in stores where you can pick up a half gallon of Silk, bath towels, an iPhone case, hanging file folder tabs, a Celine Dion CD, dog food, a Detroit Lions Pillow Pet, and "fresh" eggs all in one fell swoop. With so many choices, categorical thinking relaxes, loosens. Also, for context, I usually prefer the checkout lines with human clerks because the automaton clerks are always deferring to the monitoring human clerk, anyway. So I often stand in line. Waiting. Bored. Looking around at people and things. Too lazy even to tweet about the extreme ordinariness of the experience.
Lately we've taken a greater than usual interest, also a family-wide interest (i.e., multigenerational interest: Is. will go along with these what-ifs), you could say, in the castaway products--things misplaced among the indulgent and impulsive options attention-attractively located where shoppers are most idle. I see in these products a kind of distributed indecision that spans various distances from bins and shelves and departments to just before the terminal moment of consumer transaction. That is, the item has gone for quite a magnificent and hopeful ride, traveled around the store in a suspended state of possibility until, just before hitting the belt, it is denied. No sale.
And we don't know but can only speculate about what motivates the change of heart, change of mind. Why does the produce land there, so close to the end of the supply chain? The recipe didn't actually call for fennel. Or upon a closer look that's not at all like the celery we usually buy. Or I just remembered that we already have fennel in the crisper. Or fennel is too expensive (though this is less likely because the price of the fennel would show on the readout at which point, if refused, the cashier would probably set it aside for re-shelving, a set-aside that would land the fennel elsewhere than among the magazines).
R ead this morning that Honda has stopped manufacturing the Element. Bummer.
Apparently the targeted market (er, audience imagined) was too niche. Twenty-somethings proved too broke to spring $20,000 for the rinsable-interiored dream-box on wheels. Only, for my tastes--and more importantly, for my body type--there's something to be said for the head and leg room inside that box: it's roomy enough for me to drive and ride comfortably. That's not something I can say for many cars, including most family-sized mini-SUV types. We test-drove CRVs and Liberties and a Ford forgettable-something in 2004, the year we bought the Element, and while all of them had more aero-rounded bodies, they are all designed for drivers 6-2 and under. I would require a contortionist's flexibility to drive one of them for more than ten minutes. A tight-space contortionist, at that. I mean, I'd have to mush my kneecaps into my chin to fit, if I wanted to push the accelerator pedal with my right foot, that is. I suffer severe claustrophobia at the thought of it. And what else is there? Envoy? Hummer?
Obviously, I'm disappointed. The tall and big-footed life yields regular spatial disappointments, though (e.g., I don't remember the last time I went into a shoe store and actually shopped other than muttering freakishly, "Bring out your fourteens.") And anyway, it's not like we were planning to buy a 2011 Element. But I hope the one we have holds up for another ten years or longer, at which time I will enthusiastically buy your low mileage used 2010 Element.
I n The Object Stares Back (1996), James Elkins writes
In my living room there are two large bookcases, each one eight feet tall, and they have about five hundred books between them. If I step up to a shelf and look at the books one by one, I can remember something about each. As a historian once said, some stare at me reproachfully, grumbling that I have never read them. One may remind me vaguely of a time when I was interested in romantic novels. An old college text will elicit a pang of unhappiness about studying. Each book has its character, and even books I know very well also have this kind of wordless flavor. Now if I step back from the shelf and look quickly across both bookcases I speed up that same process a hundredfold. Impressions wash across my awareness. But each book still looks back in its own way, answering the rude brevity of my gaze, calling faintly to me out of the corner of my eye. At that speed many books remain wrapped in the shadows of my awareness--I know I have looked past them and I know they are there, but I refuse to call them to mind. (73-74)
I read this in the hallway of Rackham Hall yesterday where I sat for ten minutes--not staring back, ironically--as ENGL328 students filled out end-of-semester course evaluations. But what was on my mind as I read this was the workshop I was scheduled to lead at noon today for EMU's Nelson Faculty Development Center, a workshop titled, "How to Curate a Digital Antilibrary: An Introduction to Google Reader." The antilibrary comes from Taleb's characterization of the unread portion in Umberto Eco's personal collection of 3,000 books. Those unread items project felicitously some horizon of possibility. The antilibrary is not antithetical to the library; it is its premonition, its ghost from the future.
I can't decide about the relationship between Taleb's conception of "unread" and Elkins' idea here that even those books that are technically unread (whatever that means) are well-enough known to grumble for their having been neglected. At first I thought, Elkins has no antilibrary. But that's not quite right.
Instead, his books are always a little bit read: read through their titles, through an author's or publisher's reputation, through a book jacket, or even more fundamentally (as objects) through an assumed to be recognizable materiality. These are bound, shelved books, after all. Consequently, they never rightly, properly fit in the antilibrary, do they?
Elkins takes a hypothetical step back: "I know I have looked past them and I know they are there, but I refuse to call them to mind." This refusal is a curious game, striking for its thin, wispy relationship to rapid cognition, or thin-slicing. The refusal is a sort of will to indeterminacy, to unknowing, to disassociation. And I guess that's what I'm thinking about now, having read this, having talked earlier about digital antilibraries: the persistence of an antilibrary requires one part a refusal to look at what is already in the collection, one part embrace of the potentialities in the nearby-but-unknown, and another part thrill in expecting a future in which those materials-awaiting will still be there for taking up.
T wenty-four hours before the first class of the semester, my dorm-office deskscape reveals few surprises to me: books, two with cracked spines patiently waiting for me to finish this blog entry; an empty water bottle, an almost-empty coffee cup; a John Cleese YouTube video I am considering showing tomorrow in ENGL326 (for the tortoise shell concept); a flower cutout (or, rather, for the semioticians, this is not a flower); a television set I have not turned on since the World Cup; a wall calendar set to the correct month for the first time since May. This desk--the same one I worked at last year although then I was in a different office space--bears more short stacks of unshelved books than I would prefer. This condition, the result of reading somewhat less this summer than I at some point thought would be possible.
I n case I do need one of them (for research and related work-tasks), if I went ahead and picked one up now, got up to snap with how it works, then I would be fully prepared when the time comes that I actually have to use it. Maybe?
As you can see, there are the great challenges involved when predicting the future (while frittering away a few minutes before the next WC consulting session).
T oday Ph. and I cobbled this together:
It's a yard game. Goes by ladder golf, bolo toss, or, as it's named on some web sites, hillbilly horseshoes or Polish horseshoes. I like to think of it as the Ladder of Abstraction yard game. See, on top of buying the PVC pipe, fittings, and golf balls, drilling holes in the balls and running rope through them, cutting the PVC, and joining it all together, I also drafted another 600 words (a sketchy 2 pages) on the diss. I'm making a crooked path through the second chapter (all of the others are more or less planned but not yet written), the chapter that does some lit-reviewy groundwork in four concept-areas. And today's bit got me up to the point where, tomorrow, I will begin writing about visual models and distant reading methods in terms of abstraction and speculative instruments. Yes, among other things, this means Ann Berthoff and the Ladder of Abstraction. I'll try to say more about the dissertation progress in another entry. For now I only meant to register that the our yard game is so-named because it is expected to be a generative digression from the summer workload.
For anyone eager to build a Ladder of Abstraction Yard Game set of one's own, I followed this plan. We also score the game a bit differently. Each rung from the top on down gets four, three, and two points, respectively. Landing at least one of the balls from the tossing thingamabob inside the rectangular footing area wins a point. Play to 21. Going over 21 brings the frown-faced thrower back to 17. In other words, you must his 21 exactly to win, just like the basketball game of 21. Also, the wikiHow plan calls for 14" ropes for the golf balls. This seems a bit short, but they work decently if the ladders are set up 20' apart. Longer connective ropes (16"?) would be better for a slightly longer throwing lane of, say, 30'.
C oincidentally, Is.'s eleven-mos.-day fell on our moving day last Sunday. Out front, the new place has a healthy flower bed, grown thick with daisies, and, well other plants and things (I'd name them all, but why? when you can see them for yourself).
Is.'s eleven-mos.-day photo was pushed back to today. Would you believe me if I said there are others of us who are even happier to be almost settled again?
T he bubbles shift each time the level is moved.
T he garage temporary houses piles of containers, stacked desks (listed at Craigslist, on the cheap!), mattresses (Ph. has gone with a futon), a jogging baby stroller (uh...would require jogging?), a decorative artificial tree (listed at Craigslist, cheap! cheap!), a travel crate for Y., etc. This list, continued to its limits, would become so long as to be unreadable.
This is a shot of our holding bay (i.e., in-house storage unit) from yesterday. Today it does not look so piled up as this. Relocation involves a series of temporary storage spaces--relay stations. Ideally, the distance between such stations is short enough that carrying items from one to the next is not back-breaking.
W here we live now the office has new Pella windows. Lalo explained to me that they have ties to Iowa and were, on that basis alone, compelled to order and install Pella windows from Pella, Iowa.
All of the other surfaces in the office are new, too: walls, flooring, lights, outlets, wall plates, and so on. There are two windows. One looks toward the house next door; the other faces the back yard--a marvelous double lot overgrown with blackberries, wild garlic, wild grapes, choke cherries, and so on. What we've gained in yard, however, we have compromised in the kitchen and eating area. The office is a newly finished walk-in attic. Neither of the windows is positioned such that a desk would sit comfortably in front of it. This means that the pleasure of staring out through a Pella window must be indulged on breaks, on intermittent standing stretching book-retrieving breaks from whatever is happening at the wall-facing desk-table. Like the fancy windows, this work space is, compared to all of the places we've lived in Syracuse, "viewed to be the best."
T hree days after the transfer of goods, the books remain in boxes. The three bookcases in the office are bare. Well, not entirely bare. Altogether they support just one small box of books, an odd assortment: The Rhetorical Tradition, a couple of textbooks, a copy of Social Text 71, Collision Course, What Writing Does and How It Does It, Sams Teach Yourself Macromedia Flash 5 in 24 Hours, a 4th ed. MLA Handbook, Evolving Perspectives on Computers and Composition Studies: Questions for the 1990s, and a few others.
In the 30 minutes it took me to set up Ph.'s computer and reconfigure his wireless connection, he toted a major portion of the boxed books from living room floor (where we'd jointly relocated them from the garage) to the upstairs office. In the photograph, Is. appears to be asking whether the books should be brought upstairs or down (but we all knew where they went and that she could be setting us up). This means that the books are now piled next to the empty shelves, within arms reach. Tomorrow, I will unpack them, give them their independence, and restore the piecemeal collection to its "mild boredom of order."