#DiGiWriMo – November 29 – late entry

#HortonFreire could not have arrived at a better time. I needed the fresh infusion of Myles Horton (whom I had heard of, of course, the founder of the great Highlander Folk School) and Paulo Freire (was it #rhizo15 or #moocmooc that got me mainlining his stuff?) for my presentation at CUA’s Bridging the Spectrum coming up in February.

Sleep descends. I’ll finish this in the morning.

So I discovered this reading group though my subscription to and regular reading of Maha Bali’s blog about education, Reflecting Allowed. If you are interested in education, you should be reading Maha Bali’s cutting edge commentary. But back to the subject. The reading group is reading a book co-authored by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, “We Make the Road by Walking.” There are already tons of great posts and blogs, which you can find tweeted at #HortonFreire.

On time, because I am dusting off papers I’ve stored in folders on book shelves, in previous blog posts, in emails, and on my computer desktop for this talk I want to give on Deleuze and Guattari and the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy.  The final draft proposal abstract (150 words) is due today.  Here is what I have distilled it to:

There has been much discussion about the content of the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. This briefing does not add to that content discussion. Instead, it focuses on how we perceive the framework itself and how that perception might influence the way we use it. I introduce the rhizomatic approach, developed by Deleuze and Guattari in their philosophical study, “A Thousand Plateaus.” In botany, rhizomes grow as a network of roots with no true center. Using features of rhizomatic learning, i.e., connectivity, heterogeneity, multiplicity, asignifying rupture, and cartography as a way to approach the frames, we see how each frame might relate to any others, how information literacy develops and transforms as it passes through various frames, and how the interplay of the frames captures information literacy as a process.

My teaching practice this semester has been limited to one-on-one interactions at the reference desk  (not inconsiderable!). But I am finding interesting pedagogical practice with my docent training at the Library of Congress. A tour guide is a special kind of educator, it is one-shot instruction, and you have to focus on getting that handful of facts across to your group in the 45 minutes that you have them. I have labored to nail down a central theme and relate it to the various artifacts that make up the presentation, but I remain torn between my traditional love for the spirit of the library as an aggregation of relationships between information seekers and information sources, and my new found love for all the art, sculpture and architecture that adorns the walls and the space of the library. I am settling on a compromise and a unity. The two are one.

So a lot is going on. I got through the introduction and first chapter of “We Make the Road by Walking” last night. It’s a dialogue, which makes it a bit clunky to read, but musically it is a duet, which makes it very interesting and soothing to listen to. Duets are the best music, right?

You pick your own poison, or medicine, so to speak.

#DigiWriMo – November 18 – late entry

Short entry.

Came across three websites of interest Friday.

Blue Feed, Red Feed shows liberal Facebook and conservative Facebook posts, side by side.

All Sides shows news and issues from multiple perspectives along a blue to red spectrum.

Media Bias Fact Check identifies the political and philosophical bias of various news websites.

I will continue to populate this list as I come across similar sites.


DMOZ is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web.

Yale University Library LibGuide – Ethics & Watchdog Groups Research strategies and resources on media, popular culture, journalism, copyright, digital society, and related topics.

Stanford study on student ability to evaluate fake news


#DiGiWriMo – November 17

It was a tale of two cities, almost three. In 1800, President Adams approved an act to relocate the capitol from New York to Washington, which came to be known as the Accommodation and Removal Act,

to make provision for the removal and accommodation of the Government of the United States.

But that is only the end of the story. The whole tale has far more detail.

Jefferson arrived at the nation’s capital in New York in 1790 to begin his service as Secretary of State. The southern legislators, led by Madison, wanted a decentralized farming economy where slavery would be preserved. The Northerners, led by Treasury Secretary Hamilton, wanted their debts from the war to be assumed by a strong national economy and were willing to grant taxing powers to that government in exchange for debt assumption.

The plot thickens.

The southern states, flush with slave labor and agricultural cold cash, had not incurred significant war debt and stood to gain very little from a federal assumption of the war debt. But northern industrialists and businessmen, holders of the overwhelming majority of the war debt, figured that their combined fortunes would grow even larger with their debts being assumed by a growing, and taxing national government.

Now, unrelated (perhaps) to the debt assumption issue, the Constitution mandated a central location for federal authority, but did not specify where the location would be. There were at least 16 possible cities being considered, all between New York and the Potomac. Madison, a Virginian, advocated for a site on the Potomac, near Washington’s Mount Vernon home. But votes were leaning towards Philadelphia as a more central location.

Hamilton, Treasury Secretary, supported a strong central governing authority, with a strong fiscal policy arm, and read the Constitution as supporting the same.

On a June evening in 1790 Thomas Jefferson hosted a dinner at his New York residence with Madison and Hamilton. Legend has it they worked out the deal over the dinner table. As a nod to Madison and Jefferson, the capital would move from New York to Washington, not Philadelphia. As a nod to Hamilton, the federal government would assume all war debt of the states. But as an additional nod to Madison, Virginia who owed very little war debt, would have its share of the combined federal debt reduced by $1.5 million. Hamilton would support the relocation of the capital to Washington, and the Virginia delegation would convince all the states bordering the Potomac to vote for Hamilton’s debt assumption plan.

Did I leave anything out?

For a ten year interval, Robert Morris negotiated into the agreement a short, temporary stay for the capital in Philadelphia, hoping that perhaps, a case could be made for permanent relocation to the City of Brotherly Love. But at the end of the ten year interregnum, and no doubt influenced by a mid-decade yellow fever epidemic, the Virginians won out and the move was made to Washington.

Oh yeah. Let me tell you the Library hook. Physically moving the capital to Washington required a Congressionally-approved appropriation, i.e., funding for moving all the stuff, the records, books and papers of the legislature and executive departments, and for furnishing the President’s house and congressional offices. A single clause in that appropriation provided “for the purchase of a library to assist the Congress in its work.”  And hence, the Library of Congress was born.

p.s. Did I forget to say that one of my ancestors, George Hairston, Virginia (Henry County) politician, farmer and slave breeder, was the richest guy in America at the time?




#DiGiWriMo – November 14

Sad news today. Gwen Ifill, PBS NewsHour anchor, passed away after a long battle with illness most of us did not even know she was fighting. I didn’t know Gwen, I knew her sister Marie from work (as they say, there are only two degrees of separation between any two black people with graduate degrees). But we welcomed Gwen into our our living room every evening because we never missed PBS NewsHour. And we trusted the information she brought us.

All of a sudden, tonight all this politics babble is inconsequential. Hillary’s email and the Clinton Foundation are inconsequential. Trump’s SecState pick is inconsequential. In fact, his whole cabinet is inconsequential. Tonight’s Super Moon is inconsequential. Nothing has real meaning because Gwen is gone.

Our house is sad. W. H. Auden put it best:

“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.”

#DiGiWriMo – November 12 – late entry

I can’t believe I’m hearing this.

I can’t believe “they” are using this.

“She won the popular vote.”

So what? So did Al Gore in 2000. So did Richard Nixon in 1960. So what?

I wrote in Facebook yesterday,

“Can you imagine the howls of laughter from the DNC and the press if Clinton had won the Electoral College and Trump won the popular vote and people called to abolish the electoral college and make the popular vote getter the winner? #ThatsNotTheWayItWorks #LetsBeRealYall

Lots of likes, comments, even shares. So people do get it. Later in the day, after hearing more soft-headed sop about getting rid of the Electoral College no doubt put out by the Clinton machine, I wrote this addition to my Facebook status:

It is simple but flawed logic to say that the popular vote makes each vote more equal. For one, people living in cities that are more densely populated would have greater power over the election results than people living in sparsely populated areas. Ultimately, candidates would only have to campaign in California and on the eastern seaboard and those voters would have greater say.

Once upon a time the system was rigged to give more power temporarily to the southern states. It was called the three-fifths clause (look it up, you will remember it longer). There are pro and con arguments about the intentions of the Founding Fathers with regard to the three-fifths clause. Thankfully, it was repealed though there are scholars who say it had a continuing effect and a taint that lasts until today. #SaturdayLibrarian

Get rid of the Electoral College? And replace it with what? The tyranny of the majority? The tyranny of New York and California and the subjugation of the heartland?

The VOA (Voice of America) put out a snappy little video that explains the process to foreign audiences.  Check it out here.

So, let’s leave the Electoral College right where it is. Let Freedom ring!  From sea to shining sea (and all between).

#DiGiWriMo – November 11

Events of the day snatched my attention away from unhealthy dwelling on election post-mortem discussions.

I woke up early to do some reading (I generally go to bed around 9, then get up around 2 to do a couple hours of reading, then back to bed until sunrise) and discovered that Leonard Cohen had passed away. I have been a huge Leonard Cohen fan for many years, but it all started late in the 70’s with the Roberta Flack covers of Suzanne and That’s No Way to Say Goodbye. From there on, I was a die-hard Cohen fan. Years later, my friend Noha Fekry did a cover of Dance Me To the End of Love, a Leonard Cohen song I had never heard up to that point, at a club in Zamalek (Cairo). The lyrics knocked me off my feet.

Never saw him in concert, though.

I came to appreciate Cohen as a poet, as a poet would appreciate another poet and his poetry. There is a lot to say, a lot of poetry to sample, but I’ve already posted a bunch to Facebook and Twitter today, so I’ll spare you, dear blog reader. Meanwhile, here is a poem from the archives that is part of a series I wrote following the death of a different poet. It may also be applicable today:

What if poetry is speaking in tongues,
and tomorrow – the tomorrow of our dreams –
is really yesterday, or the day before? 

And what if time dislocates itself
from time to time, like water,
always seeking its own level?

And what if we live and love inside
a closed box, where freedom and justice
are just optical illusions,
dream-like holograms of hope?

And what if poetry is speaking in tongues,
and homeless shelters and prisons
our true condition, an accurate depiction
of our feeble, temporal existence? 

And what if poetry is speaking in tongues,
and pure information our medium of exchange,
transmitted exclusively by a holy kiss?

Here is the whole series.

Today was Armistice Day, also known as Veteran’s Day.  By luck I stumbled upon this Leonard Cohen reading of a famous World War 1 poem by John McCrae, In Flanders Fields:

Not everybody gets to call themselves “veteran.” It is an honorable title, though often I look back and ask myself what the hell was I thinking when I decided to join up and when I decided to stay and get the commission. Maybe it is a common introspection. But hey, no regrets.

Still, in dreams 20 years later, I often am on a ship at sea, or scenes transpose (as they do in dreams) and I end up on a ship, in an engine room, or dealing with some shipboard equipment malfunction.  It is a debt I pay, and a benefit, and an inheritance of sorts.

DiGiWriMo – November 3

Today’s post is dedicated to tenets, themes and traits of American Renaissance art.

(Between the paragraphs, I am wondering if the idea of an American Renaissance has leaked into current political discourse, i.e., the willingness to look back to classical underpinnings for modern examples, buried for years beneath the faux progressivism of modernity and neo-liberalism.) 

This comes almost exclusively from Prof. Thomas Somma’s published and unpublished papers that we’ve used in docent training.

The American Renaissance lasted from 1876 to 1917, from the nation’s centennial to the beginning of World War 1.

(Again, between the paragraphs, I am wondering what were the forces correlated with the end of WW1 that snuffed out the renaissance movement in art. And was there a 20th century American Renaissance in literature, in poetry especially?)

First, the American Renaissance as an ideology identifies with the classical traditions of the Italian Renaissance and of ancient Greece and Rome, and seeks to include the following tenets:

  • personification, i.e., use of the human form symbolically and metaphorically;
  • humanism, or the study of living human beings, how they move, how they are constructed, how they think and react to one another;
  • skepticism, i.e., the individual use of their own intellect, critical thinking, and the celebration of the intellect, of making sense of the world by applying the intellect;
  • the use of classical art as a pedagogical tool, to teach something, to appeal to the intellect.
  • inclusiveness of the best aspects of all previous cultures, especially aboriginal and indigenous ones, and saving those aspects for all posterity.

(Between the paragraphs, I see these tenets all but disappearing/disappeared in modernist discourse. Somma suggests they might re-emerge/reappear in post-modernism.  I used to think the Wynton Marsalis alternation between classical music and avant-garde jazz was a possible expression of that tendency, of that re-emergence.  Just heard that Marsalis is experimenting with a violin concerto. Might be a hopeful sign.  MJQ and others experimented with what they used to call “third stream music,” a synthesis of classical and jazz elements. Yes, there is hope.)

Here are a few characteristics (in no particular order: these are all from the Somma article, by the way, listed as aspects of Jeffersonian belief, inherited from the Enlightenment):

1) public access to accumulated knowledge is essential to the integrity of a free and democratic society (rationality, the rule of law, and unfettered access to accumulated human knowledge as intellectual cornerstones of a modern enlightened republic);

2) the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom is in and of itself an essentially moral endeavor;

3) the diversity of nations and cultures contributing to human progress;

4) the lifelong pursuit and practical application of knowledge;

5) the cultivation of wisdom as a civilizing influence (the two Minervas, of peace and culture and of defensive war, and the lampbearers, distant cousins to the Statue of Liberty, illuminate the library visitor’s personal journey along the path towards truth and enlightenment);

6) individual exemplary achievement in law, government, science, and the arts;

7) promotion of the common American Renaissance notion that modern “civilized” institutions are actually rooted in aboriginal cultures and that the entire human family contributes to civilization’s general progress;

8) the educated American worker is the true source of the nation’s power and wealth.

(Between the paragraphs for a final time. This is coming together for me as a universal and an inclusive ethic. Pulling back the external layers, I have to confess that it sounds to me more like current conservative trends in politics, preserving the standards of the distant pass, and less like other existing streams of political thought. That may make me bad to a lot of readers of this blog. I accept that.)  

And three themes of the American Renaissance:

  1. reliance on art historical sources from antiquity and the Italian Renaissance;
  2. a belief in the social usefulness of art; and
  3. unity (and harmony) of the primary arts (painting, sculpture, and architecture)


Somma, Thomas P. American Sculpture and the Library of Congress. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy. Vol. 80, No. 4 (October 2010), pp. 311-335. Accessed at http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/655873 on September 30, 2016.

Somma, Thomas P. “The Sculptural Program for the Library of Congress.” Unpublished manuscript, Ithaca College, July 15, 1996.

Somma, Thomas P. (Producer). 2006, November 14. Statuary in the Thomas Jefferson Building. Library Docent Training Webcasts (Episode 9). Webcast retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4251

DiGiWriMo – November 2

Si fractus illabatur orbis, / impavidum ferient ruinae

“Should the whole frame of Nature round him break,
In ruin and confusion hurled,
He, unconcerned, would hear the mighty crack,
And stand secure amidst a falling world.”

(Horace, Odes 3.3.7-8, translated by Joseph Addison.)

These are times that require a stoic view.

I went to bed early after a long day and missed both the Cubs victory and the weekly ModPo webcast. I also missed the breaking news about the Clinton Foundation. All these things can be caught up later, fortunately.  One of my MOOC group friends sent out a link to a Charlie Rose talk with Eric Kandel that you can find here, discussing his book, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science. Need to look more closely at Jackson Pollock and my favorite artist, Aaron Douglas, both of whom have paintings in museums and galleries here in what was formerly known as Chocolate City.

Found some passages from Panofsky’s Studies in Iconology (luckily the library had a copy on the shelf and lucky for me it was a Wednesday when I usually work) that I hope to incorporate into my docent work.

It’s admittedly a rambling blog post, and short, but wanted to get the Horace quote out there.


DigiWriMo – November 1

OK. This is not a novel. It’s just that it has been so long since I posted anything to this blog. Today that all changes. For the rest of November, at least. Maybe.

Someone landed on my poetry blog last night and “liked” a poem I wrote during August Postcard Poetry Month.  So I took a closer look at that poem, wondering what made it attractive to said anonymous person.  It is a sonnet, non-modern perhaps because it has some internal rhyme and consistency, maybe post-modern.  I was thinking these thoughts this morning when I got to my docent class.  That’s when it dawned on me: focusing on art and architecture history in my docent class is altering the way I look at poetry. Is that a bad thing? Before you answer, I think it is a pretty cool thing.

OK.  Before we get too deep in the weeds about the whys, here is the sonnet in question:

Bus stop (the 31 to Tenleytown)

I neither wanted nor needed freedom
in my youth. My brain, on fire, needed
a container with lots of oxygen
to cool and feed its insatiable thirst
for truth. Older now with vision clouded
by smoke & smog, I seek that same freedom
I once disdained, forsook, refused, denied.
Older now with knees that ache at the thought
of bridging the divides that hide inside
my conversations – – wait! My bus arrives
at its destination at last! One more
shuttle to catch, one more chapter to read,
one more sonnet of love or fate to extract.
And one more thirst, across the years, to quench.

It was one of those rare days when I chose to ride the bus instead of the subway to work. My knees need a break from those subway station escalators every now and then. I started writing the poem on the bus, but finished it at work.  My colleague at work read and liked it, especially the line about “the divides that hide inside,” but I know she is just a sucker for rhymes. Maybe. And that is not a bad thing on most days. So I added it to the collection and forgot about it.

Then today, this morning, I noticed my poetry blog had a hit. Hmmm. Then I went to docent training class and we had a videocast of an art historian/professor, Thomas Somma, about DC statuary, except only the audio worked, so we had to focus on the words and see the images he described in our imagination, sort of like poetry, right? Anyway, here is a pertinent paragraph of his talk:

“That’s basically the aesthetic language that the American Renaissance artists adopt.  And certainly, by the time we get into the 20th century, that’s seen as very conservative.  And this is actually one of the reasons why the art that we see in the Library of Congress for a long time was not studied by American art historians, it was not taught by American art historians, it was not emulated by American artists, because they were modernists.  And modernism means a number of things, but one of the things that modernism means, the modernist sensibility, is to disconnect from the past; a sort of assumption that the way things were done in the past are no longer relevant to the present.  That’s always been a fundamental aspect of modernism, beginning in the middle of the 19th century and carrying right through the 20th century.  So, a style that is so dependent on looking back to the past is something that was just out of vogue with the art establishment throughout the 20th century. 

Now that we’re in a post-modern period, so-called post-modern period, we’re past modernism.  We’re in a more pluralistic, even a globalistic cultural period.  And so many artists, many art historians and so on, are reevaluating the past, are reevaluating styles in the 20th century, artists in the 20th century that were more dependent on the past.  And so we’ve got a renewed interest in buildings like the Library of Congress, like the Pennsylvania State Capital, like the courthouse — Appellate Courthouse in New York, and on and on, because the art of these buildings, you know, was ignored for so long, and now we’re going back to look at them; they’re taking on new values.  Okay, so this two-headed approach, looking back to the past for role models upon which to build a foundation off of which we’re moving to the future; a turn for influence back through the Italian Renaissance, back to ancient Greek and Roman Art.”  (From transcript of Thomas Somma 2006 webcast of lecture to Library of Congress docents.) 

So I am thinking about art and wondering if American poetry has a similar renaissance that got buried by the modernists. And I am feeling pretty good, for once, about liking sonnets, about trying to write sonnets, even though they don’t always have a rhyming scheme “as classified by those who classify.” And I am thinking it might be time to re-evaluate the poetry past. And I am thinking that perhaps there was an American Renaissance in poetry, but because the poets were black for the most part, they sort of got buried in the so-called Harlem Renaissance. Later in his talk Somma mentioned Matthew Arnold, but he was British (Back in the day I memorized portions of his poem, Dover Beach).  I gotta go back and check out Matt Arnold!

So what else is up? My participation in ModPo has stalled. I’ve missed some webcasts because of work. I haven’t kept up. Work is cool, but I haven’t done any classroom teaching like before, and I feel that part fading out a bit, though I still get psyched and excited about Freire and hooks, about ethnography, and about the rhizome as it applies to everything educational. As soon as the docent training is done I’ll get back to some of these other pursuits. But for now, the docent training is thrilling, and fulfilling, and everything I had hoped for in this chapter of my life story.

I think I’ll log off on that note.  Peace out, y’all!