Posted by: atarimonos | March 25, 2010

Books and Bibliocausts

I’ve nearly  completed reading “A Universal History of the Destruction of Books” by Fernando Baez. Interesting read, not bad nor good … thought provoking (something is lost in translation of the book from Spanish to English). The book is akin to an aggregator of historical happenstances from destruction of early Sumerian cuneiform to contemporary book burnings (Baez’s modern example concerns Iraq’s destroyed libraries post-U.S. invasion). In any event the question I have, struggle with, and think about is this: What’s so important about books?

I’m biased, my mother’s a librarian, I’ve surrounded myself with books throughout my life, and there’s something about the printed page that makes me happy. Apparently I missed out on current happenings: the digital age has arrived. Electronic media (video and .pdf) and devices (laptops and kindles) facilitated by the ever-growing internets provide the standard for the modern’s pissing contests: “I see your Blackberry and raise you an iPhone!” Does this bode ill for the printed material? In a word: yes. Am I happy about it: no. But why?

I’ve only the untenable argument of personal opinion to support my conviction that printed media (e.g. newspapers, books, magazines, microfiche,  et. al.) must necessarily be preserved for all persons and times. As I read Baez’s work I continually notice his reliance on his assumed premise/conclusion: books have intrinsic value, that is non-transferable to digital libraries (eg. Million Book Project). Words are words, who cares if they’re printed on a page or more conveniently transferred via .pdf files?  The reader still, one hopes, absorbs and critiques the arguments asserted in the text regardless if s/he holds the original in her hands or reads a text file on her Kindle. Baez holds that books contain a cultures collective memory. If you destroy a book, you destroy a culture’s memory. What if we keep the text and get rid of the physical book? Isn’t partial destruction of a work destruction? (To really nitpick one could pursue the idea of later editions that change the binding style/method of a text, does it take away/add to a work?) … These are idle thoughts by a bibliophile.

I’ll continue this ramble later.  To the links! Immortal Jellyfish may conquer the world by default. Noted Atheist Sam Harris holds that Science can answer moral questions, so long as context is understood. Hmmm I say, hmmm. I Google searched Who Needs Books and that (aforementioned) is what I found. I’m too livid about this old post to even give it proper introduction. Backtracking to preservation of one’s words, what about via DNA encoding? One more: Can a $500 lemon beat $400k rally cars? Yes. Something about rally cars makes me consider the Mongol Rally race. International adventure, under wacky circumstances, slim chance of death (at the very least minor hospital visits), whilst driving a litre cc.engined vehicle? If I can find a team, sign me up.

Posted by: atarimonos | March 14, 2010

Family and Books

Stories tend towards hysterical, particularly when your grandfather describes his first hangover of his college education. Also, his tale concerning early prophylactics ranks up there on the hilarity scale. These tales came out of a brunch with grandfather on a rainy day in PH. The back drop of all this is my brother’s and mine attempts to prepare for our parents 40th anniversary. So we ask grandpa for tales about our parent’s early years and end up hearing about the time he puked on a frat’s front lawn in Minnesota. We come out of the brunch with more information about Gpa’s “wild” days and less about the x-factor behind two persons deciding to “tie the knot”.

Now let us progress from wedding celebration to a more cultured pursuit: books, a most obvious segue for me.

I have found purpose in life … or at least a tangible goal: book conservation. Specifically, book binding repair and paper conservation. Nothing like learning a trade skill in  an ill-funded specialty. Woot for debt. Double woot for feelings of purpose. IS debt jealous? I think so. In light of my new found pursuit, I’ve taken to reading not a few books/blogs about, get this, books, paper production, and binding methods. Including A Universal History of the Destruction of Books by Fernando Baez (interesting read documenting destruction of libraries from Mesopotamia to the digitization of Google), the blog of Jeff Peachey, and, a personal favorite, The Library At Night by Alberto Manguel. This last book is phenomenal. It combines the personal reflections of a book collector as he organizes his library and considers the numerous forms libraries take through the march of time. Simply put: read the book.

Books and marriage. Marriage to books? Is that even legal? How does a book say “I do”? This and other inane questions find fecund pasture within mine mind. I’ll leave you readers with a few entertaining youtube clips:

The Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer brought to you by BriTANicKdotcom

How to Iron A Shirt

As I drove around town the radio played this childhood classic: Ace of Base’s – “The Sign”

Posted by: atarimonos | March 1, 2010

De laetitia

When someone asks me “Are you happy?” I always consider Solon’s response to Croesus the King of Lydia: ” Call him, however, until he die, not happy but fortunate.” [Full dialogue found in Herodotus’s Histories 1.29-33] For those of us who do not pour over classical texts such as Herodotus’s “Histories”, Solon is best known as reformer of 6th B.C.E.  Athenian laws. Here’s the abridged version:

Athenian Citizens: Solon save us from the Draco’s laws. They’re soo draconian

Solon: Sure … there. Here’s a couple of pillars. They’ve got some words. Follow them. By the way, I’m going to go for some travel. P.S. While I’m gone no one is allowed to change my laws. Awesome. Toodles.

There may have been some more dialogue, but I wasn’t there. I’m just reporting. Anywho, Solon goes on a worldwide tour going through Egypt north to Lydia (modern  Turkey/ancient eastern Persia). Where he meets Croesus the King of Lydia who asks him: “Who’s the happiest man?” To which Solon replies with the two common tales of Tellus and the brother Cleobis and Bito. Enumerating each persons’s manifold moments of merriment. In any event, Solon admonishes the king for his believing a king’s wealth is enough to purchase happiness. Reminding our wayward regent that, contrary to popular belief, money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness (though it may help) and that the true measure of one person’s life can only be reckoned at the very very end. Quite literally.

Why so dour mr-gabour? I’ve taken to this reflection for two reasons: First, my mother recently asked me the question. Second, I recently had the pleasure to watch a Japanese film entitled “Departures“. Concerning a cellist turned … the best word for us would be an en-tomber [one who puts a body into a casket] but it is much much more than that. I darn’t attempt an explanation. Instead, I will but recommend renting the DVD at your earliest convenience [“Your last purchase and someone else chooses” Departures on Coffins].

How’s this all come ’round to happiness? Far be it from me to be cynical, but we all speak in euphemism about the finality of death. So rather than commend ourselves on our ability to obfuscate reality, remember that we make our own happiness, be it for the moment or even a lifetime. Be content that when the final bell tolls: our lives are measured, remembered, and lived.

Posted by: atarimonos | February 24, 2010


On a recent foray into the intricate web humbly known as the Internets, I came to a familiar oasis known as XKCD. The comic titled Freedom gave me license guffaw. It also provided me a moment of self-reflection as we all have had moments where we really wanted to act only to be held back by social convention. For example: throwing a penny off a tall building, greeting folk with a heart felt “F-YOU!”, or even deciding that speaking in Latin for the day is a good idea. These are my thoughts, I’m sure you few readers have your own. But the point of the comic is one of options. There are quite literally thousands of options which we all COULD choose. The only thing, aside from a leash or, in the case of old-age, broken hips, holding us back is social convention.

Life is full of options. I could steal a large car and enter the life of a drifting car-thief. Peruse city libraries in drag. Perhaps even live a year near a pond, make friends with the local animals, and perhaps even write a book about it (methinks this particular idea has been done. Damn you Thoreau! [j/k deceased naturalists. y’all so real.]). The point is options. You’ve got ’em. I’ve got ’em. We get to make ’em. As individuals. I guess we could play as a collective, but that may turn out to be too unifying and unfulfilling for the one midst many (Am I the only one with reservations about collective coital acts?). In any event this led me to thoughts of commitment [sustained involvement pertaining to one’s choice].

With all these options: how committed must we be to enact a choice, particularly if that choice leads us to some soon-to-be-embarked adventure.  Does commitment mean faithfulness? If I make one decision must I act it out to it’s logical conclusion? DO I have the choice “to change horses mid-stream” [Thanks  to the movie “Wag The Dog” for providing me awful sound-bites]. I like to think there is something good to be found in commitment. You pick something a path, a way, a career, a poison … and you keep with it till you feel fulfilled, or dead in the case of poison (unless you’re looking to develop an immunity  … bully for you superhero in training). Yet, for some reason, at this particular juncture in my life commitments seem strange, far off, mythical creatures. I know of them but don’t participate in any and fearful if I actually get the stones to follow one. Yeah, commitments leave you open to failure.  I’m not fond of failure, it’s usually followed by self-pity and loathing. Things to do without.

On to things much more cheery and decidedly awesome. They also tend to be distractions from those onerous options

The OK Go – “This Too Shall Pass” (ft. Notre Dame marching band)

J. Stewart and Sam B. – “Progressivism

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – “40 Day Dream (Live)

Posted by: atarimonos | February 18, 2010


On my recent journey to PH. to see my grandfather, I was reintroduced to some old family history. My grandfather and I spent a better part of the morning reading my thrice-great-Grandfather’s journal from 1850. This particular journal of his documents his voyage from Baltimore to California via boat. Yes,  G. Everitt had the pluck to sail round Cape Horn.

The journal reads like an adventure novel. The characters take swims in the ocean, eat sharks, lament the lack of rain water for drinking, shoot pigeons for sport, have bouts of  persistent seasickness, and, of course, mutiny against the besotted captain. And all this occurs within the first third of the journal who knows what awaits the reader in the closing two-thirds. Whilst all this goes on, good G. makes meticulous notes as to position of the ship recording the Latitude and Longitude throughout the voyage … Once I’m done reading the journal I plan to plot the course of the ship … solely for my edification and most assuredly not on account of my geekiness. My biggest problem is deciphering the damn text. G. writes in seamless cursive that provides quite the challenge for the reader: double s’s appear as f’s and t’s have the constancy of l’s, but there are benefits. The author brings to my attention such verbiage as ‘stile’ [n. an arrangement of steps that allows people but not animals to climb over a fence or wall.], when he describes the fencing of goats. He also has a righteous personality. My ancestor was not above revenge: “I [G.] have always here to for succeeded in being revenged on those who offended me and revenge is sweet”. This after having  revenged himself upon a character known to us only as the “contemptuous whelp”. My my the rage of the day.

I remind myself that I too maintained a journal for the better part of my year plus abroad.  I wonder if some later generation will ever take up my journal and read (hopefully no angel will have to call it out … Augustine, anyone? anyone? no one? … I’ll refrain from referencing “The Confessions”). Will they have trouble parsing my script? Be bored with its monotonous tone? Read adventure into my daily life? Who knows, one can only hope, but I’m content to know that I’m sharing, in part, my ancestor’s journeys.  I’m very happy to hear that this boy of 22, carpenter by trade, left home on a whim and embarked on a  circuitous journey to the west.

Here here to G. Everitt. I look forward to reading the rest of your words.

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