Yes, there really is such a thing! Very handy and much easier than writing poetry myself….
Much more, and for many other holidays and special days, here:
Days and Deeds A Book of Verse for Children’s Reading and Speaking By Elizabeth Butler Stevenson
A prose version by the same authors, with a brief history of Labor Day, here:
The Days and Deeds Reader and Speaker By Elizabeth Shepard Butler Stevenson
Google Books can be quite a resource for books like these, published in the early 1900s, that you would probably never come across otherwise. Try this: an advanced search for "Atlanta" in publications that are available in full, published between 1860 and 1870. The Harper’s Magazine piece on Sherman’s Great March is an excellent read.
Historical resources such as industry trade journals are also frequently available on Google Books. Publications like The Railway Conductor may seem a bit pedantic — but they also provide a window into intellectual history by showing how ideas influence society, culture, and everyday life. This Labor Day address by J.F.T. O’Connor (click the image to read the entire address) is an example of what I mean.
Happy reading — and Happy Labor Day!
So… I think I’ve finally gotten this site and afewgoodlenses pretty well situated, and it’s time to switch my focus back to the kind of content I’ve wanted to develop all along. As my regular readers might have guessed from the flurry of activity around here lately, I’m between classes. I won’t be starting up again until mid-October, so that has given me a few months to do all this, and hopefully crank up a regular level of writing (and photoblogging!) that I can maintain fairly well once classes resume. I’m not sure if it will actually work out that way; I find it pretty hard to keep the blog updated when I’m in a class, so let me just say I have a goal of trying to do that, and we’ll see what happens. Priorities, you know….
I had forgotten about one last plugin that I had already deployed on afewgoodlenses until this evening when I was reading some comments left on my most recent delicious links post by Cooper and Rod. The Get Recent Comments plugin by Krischan Jodies lets you embed code in your sidebars (or elsewhere on your site) that fetches and displays as many comments as you want from your posts. As with many of the great plugins I’ve written about so far, Get Recent Comments provides a comprehensive set of configuration options you can use to tailor the appearance of the comments. Among other things, you can configure the number of comments you want to appear, the maximum number of comments to display from any single post, and the number of characters to show per comment. You can also restrict comments to only those posts from certain categories and display Gravatars for folks that have an account there. You have complete control over the appearance of comments via several templates provided with the plugin that you can change as you wish or just use the defaults. In my implementation in the sidebar to the right of this article, I’ve used the default templates, and selected my favorite setup option — which groups the comments under the post title so that visitors can see the flow of comments on a particular article and get there very easily. This is definitely one of the top plugins in my opinion, especially because of the options it provides.
In the coming days, I’ll pick up up on a a couple of article series that I’ve not finished yet. I developed a number of articles (already posted here) from my research into Oakland Cemetery,and have one more that’s nearly complete and will appear here shortly. I doubt that this next one will be the last one, since my explorations extended out into my neighborhood and took me down several paths into Atlanta’s early history, and I doubt that that I can stop writing about it all any time soon.
I wrote an earlier article on the book No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life by Heather Menzies, which examines the relationship between time and technology, and discusses its effects on modern life, modern society, and culture. I finished the book a long time ago, and many of the author’s ideas still resonate for me. From about twenty notecards I accumulated while reading the book, I plan at least two more articles. There are some areas where I disagree with Menzies’ conclusions that I’d like to explore also, and I’ll be interested in any reactions my assessment of this book generates here. It will be fun to debate what Menzies has to say, since she puts forth some very compelling questions about how technology effects us that I believe should be explored. I also stumbled across a companion book along the same lines, but with a more personal focus, called The Secret Pulse of Time: Making Sense of Life’s Scarcest Commodity by Stefan Klein. I will play those books off each other, so to speak, and see where that takes me.
I also just finished reading Animal Attractions: Nature on Display in American Zoos by Elizabeth Hanson — a really fine exploration of the genesis and history of zoos in the United States from the early American Victorian period through the end of the twentieth century. Zoo Atlanta gets several mentions in the book, as its history is very typical of zoos throughout the country. Discussion of zoos, American culture, American interest in animals and nature, and the rise of leisure time in the Victorian period are deftly woven into the story of zoological history, in this very unique book. I think I’ll attempt a traditional book review and post it here, just to see how that goes.
I’m also planning a series of articles that will contain reflections on my undergraduate history classes and the amazing learning experience that has turned out to be. The series will be called “Excerpts from My Education” — where, at least in part, I’ll use many of the forty or so papers I’ve written for the classes so far as starting points for articles. The first one, possibly two weeks down the road, will cover the class I just finished, Pacific Asia: Culture and History.
As always, thanks for stopping by, thanks for reading … and … stay tuned!
Last Friday, I got one of those 25%-off-a-single-book-regular-price-only coupons from Borders Rewards, which, naturally, I felt compelled to use. Of course, we all know that the purpose of a coupon isn’t really to give us price breaks, but to get us in stores; and I have no doubt there’s marketing research somewhere that confirms that once coupon-bearers get in stores, they do a whole lot more than purchase just what the coupon calls for. That’s true for me, anyway, especially when I go on bookstore runs, during which I usually visit several bookstores within my stomping grounds and seldom (probably never) come home empty-handed.
This bookstore run was no different; the magical coupon gave me three pleasant hours of browsing about the store that set me back about 80 bucks. The first fifteen were on there way out of my pocket as soon as I walked in and saw This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin on one of those conveniently-placed, book-filled tables just inside the door. It was the last copy from a stack that had once been there, and this blurb on the back cover totally got me:
Taking on prominent thinkers who argue that music is nothing more than an evolutionary accident, Levitin argues that music is fundamental to our species, perhaps even more so than language.
If I ever wanted to direct my energies toward something completely outside the interests that have come to dominate my life lately, I’d embark on a detailed study of music and its cultural meaning. I have believed for a long time that there was something more to the mental characteristics of music than is typically recognized; I would probably even go so far as to suggest that music is significant to human beings because it has an important relationship to the way the mind actually works — especially to the way the mind forms (and comes to understand) complex concepts. That’s way outside the scope of a short entry about a bookstore run; but I expect as I read Levitin’s book, I’ll spend some time exploring this a little more. I also just discovered that Levitin is appearing locally in Decatur, Georgia at Wordsmiths Books on September 15, so now I’ll need to see if I can get through the book by then and attend the event. I haven’t been to Wordsmiths yet, so it will be a good reason to go. (If you’re interested in learning more about the store, they have a blog, and are new enough to the Atlanta independent bookstore scene that you could even start with their opening press release, We’re proud to announce that Decatur has a new independent bookstore, from earlier this year.)
Next, I went looking for a couple of business/work/life/career books, because I had been following both authors’ blogs. I bought Marci Alboher’s One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success and Ben Casnocha’s My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley. Neither of these books is my typical fare; I haven’t read books of this type in a long time because so many of them seem filled with buzzwords, and they all sound alike. Still, from what I’ve read of Alboher’s work and from grazing through the book, I think she’s on to something with this notion of “slash careers” — and my interest in that stems from some discussions in the Science and Technology in Western Culture class I took early this year, as well as from my own thinking on the way I’ve been splitting my life into several distinct sets of activities over the past few years.
When I originally returned to school, I assumed I was preparing to replace my current career with another, but then began wondering if that was necessary, or even desirable. When I came across Alboher’s writing on The Heymarci Blog — starting with the first article I read, Slash Careers as Works in Progress — I realized there were some emerging ideas about careers that coincided with my own thinking. What had seemed like a strange notion in my head at the time suddenly became something much different. More on all of this when I read the book.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it was from Ben Casnocha that I first heard of Marci Alboher, when he wrote a short but lively review of her book. Not everything Casnocha writes is short by any means, but everything he writes is lively. I’m only about thirty pages into his book, but it reads with the same pace at which you can imagine him running through an airport, and you realize you’re following along, caught up, and not even panting. As with the other books I’ve mentioned here tonight, more on My Start-Up Life as I get further into it.
Finally, I bought a new book on writing that looked fresh and different,
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. If I can manage the time for it, I’ll write about the exercises in the book (which are definitely not typical of a writing instruction book) as I work through them. To learn more about Clark, take a look at his blog and note that he’s hosting a web seminar later in September.
I’ve got a couple of articles at the draft stage that I thought I might finish tonight and post, but it doesn’t look like I’ll get them done. So I decided to try something a little different and see how it goes.
You may have noticed the LibraryThing widgets in the far right sidebar, one of which shows covers from random books in my library. I have nearly all the books I own entered in LT; the only exceptions are some antique or unique books that I’ll write more about later. You can click on the widget or the title to take a look at my library; or you can just use this convenient link to my catalog, or even this equally convenient link to my profile (which, incidentally, has a really hot picture of my dog when he returned fresh from getting his hair done).
At any given time when you visit this page, the top LT widget shows up to nine of my books. With this post, I’m going to begin another new feature, Random Quotes from My Library, where I pick several of the books shown by the widget, open to an arbitrary page, and post a quotation. So we’ll have three or four or five random quotes taken from three or four our five random books, out of a randomly generated selection of nine books. If that doesn’t unravel the mysteries of the universe, I don’t know what will. Oh, and yes, you’ll have to trust me on the selections I make, since whenever you read these posts, the widget will probably be displaying something else.
It’s already quite late here in Atlanta, so let’s go with just three books, and here they are.
From Sail Away: Stories of Escaping to Sea, the opening paragraph (on page 138) to the short story “The Gentleman from San Francisco” by Ivan Bunin:
The gentleman from San Francisco — nobody in either Naples or Capri could remember his name — was on his way to the Old World with his wife and daughter, there to spend two whole years devoted entirely to pleasure.
Consider how that straightforward sentence pulls you in, making it an excellent way start a short story. The mark of a fine first sentence in any piece of writing is that it encourages you to read the second sentence.
In Decades of Crisis: Central and Eastern Europe before World War II by Ivan T. Berend, the author discusses changes in European art in the early 1900s, focusing momentarily on Igor Stravinsky and his three famous pieces, Firebird, Petrushka, and Rite of Spring. The following is from page 98:
The elemental, raw, brutal music of these works created the greatest of scandals and lasting impressions, perhaps because its deliberately primitive subject matter was expressed through the medium of the traditional, overrefined genre of the ballet.
If you have ever heard Firebird or Rite of Spring, you know Berend’s description is right on target. If you haven’t heard either one, set aside any preconceived notion about how you might react to their “primitiveness” and dive in, keeping in mind (or considering after) how such music might have been perceived around 1910.
In Cities in Civilization, author Sir Peter Hall discusses Marshall McLuhan in a chapter called “The Invention of Mass Culture.” On page 512, he describes McLuhan’s unique contribution to cultural thought in a way I’ve come across before, that has always stuck in my mind:
Print, said McLuhan, had for five hundred years been an all-pervasive medium, whose great characteristic was that the reader remained detached and non-involved. Electric technology was different because it entered the central nervous system including the brain, making it possible for us to communicate instantly with the source; and electricity allowed people to live and work — and even think and act — independently.
These couple of sentences do hit on key elements of McLuhan’s thought, including print v. electrical technologies, technology as extension of the brain and central nervous system, the effects of instantaneous communication, the effects of speed and simultaneous interactions, and the impact of technology on how people live, work, act, and think. If you wonder if you might find McLuhan interesting, try Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. You could even extend tonight’s blogging experiment, I’m sure: open McLuhan’s book to any three random pages, and you’ll have more material for more blog articles than you can possibly imagine.
I have a tendency to over-commit myself, which usually takes the form making a claim that I’ll finish something by a particular date, when there was really no realistic way to make that deadline. I just noticed that way, way back on July 9, I introduced the Featured Books category on this site with Jane Bath’s The Landscape Design Answer Book: More Than 300 Specific Design Solutions for Your Landscape and said that I’d publish a review of the book in a couple of days. Well, I’m not finished yet, and I only know that I’ll be finished sometime soon. Bath’s book is no ordinary garden design book, and I’ve ended out taking a very close look at it, reading it from cover-to-cover — which I suspect (or believe, from my own experience) is not what usually gets done with a book of that kind. Why I’ve ended out approaching Bath that way should be clear from my review, once it’s completed; for now, I’ll just say that Bath’s entire approach is so different that I’m determined to give the book the attention I feel it deserves, even if the review seems to suffer from a long delay.
On a lighter note, I guess, the good thing about setting your own deadlines is that it’s really pretty easy and painless to break them. To a point, anyway….
I’ve added a new feature to the far right sidebar, My Flickr Slideshows, which will run Flickr slideshows for each of my photo sets. The slideshows will open in a new tab or window, depending on your browser, and you can either click the slideshow link to go my Flickr site when you’re finished, or close the session to return here.
I’ve also added a new section called Featured Books. Unlike the books shown under Current Reading and Recent Reading — both of which are images of books that I’m reading or have read but haven’t necessarily discussed here — I’ll use Featured Books to highlight some that I write a post about or take the time to formally review. Like the other books displayed throughout my site, clicking the book’s image will take you to Amazon.com via my associate’s link — by which, of course, I’ll get rich. In addition, I’ll include a link under each book’s image back to the relevant post on this site, so you can read what I have to say about it.
The first book I’m featuring is The Landscape Design Answer Book: More Than 300 Specific Design Solutions for Your Landscape by Jane Bath. Bath is a landscape designer from the Atlanta area, and I heard about her when she approached a friend of mine here in Grant Park, and asked to photograph his home for the book. If you have the book, his house is shown on pages 57, 196, and 312, along with Bath’s comments on various elements of his property that she found exceptional.
I’m writing a discussion post about the book that I’ll publish in the next couple of days. For now, the “More about this book” link will take you back to this entry; when I get the review written, I’ll update the link. In the meantime, if you stumble across Bath’s book at a bookstore, spend some time with it; the writing and the photography (along with the instructional format Bath used to highlight key elements of each photograph) are excellent.
From Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage:
We have now become aware of the possibility of arranging the entire human environment as a work of art, as a teaching machine designed to maximize perception and to make everyday learning a process of discovery.
I’m putting together resources for a research paper on the cultural and social impact of photography. McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man is one of my sources, but I also picked up The Medium is the Massage, because it looked interesting (and, for a change, SHORT). I’ll have more to say about both books in the upcoming weeks, but I liked this quote about learning and thought I’d share it.
McLuhan’s books are full of gems like this. I just started browsing through them and didn’t know what to expect when I started; but nearly every page strikes me in some way or another. This particular quote leads a short piece that expresses admiration for the potential of technology, but simultaneously contains the warning that we aren’t good at grasping the effects of technological transitions. We lock ourselves in psychological and intellectual straightjackets, McLuhan suggests, because “the interplay between the old and the new … creates many problems and confusions.” McLuhan’s remedy:
The main obstacle to a clear understanding of the effects of … new media is our deeply embedded habit of regarding all phenomena from a fixed point of view….
The method of our time is to use not a single but multiple models for exploration….