October 18, 2020

I am just about ready to swear off social media. Twitter censors you whenever they feel like it, and while I have had no censorship issues with Facebook, we really can’t be sure how Facebook may be monetizing data and information on their users. Further, Facebook “friends” cannot defend their political position without attacking yours, then have no qualms about attacking your person if they disagree with your politics. It’s the new level of civility. OK, swearing off may be extreme, and I am very likely going to try to tweet up to and including November 3rd.

Got up this morning at the crack of dawn, put on some coffee, and set a goal to finish reading The Good Lord Bird, a historical novel and soon to be a series on Showtime by James McBride. Late in the story there is a second appearance by Frederick Douglass that is not at all flattering (his first appearance was equally unflattering), a passing chance meeting with abolitionist Martin Delaney, and a short appearance at the end by Jeb Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee at the siege of Harper’s Ferry. In an interesting technique of novel writing, the chapters towards the end get shorter and shorter, in effect compressing time itself, drawing the reader through the ending events and to the conclusion that we already know and yet, the reader is kept on the edge of his seat until the very end.

The cool thing about reading fiction, even historical fiction, is getting the opportunity to engage in that time-bending process. I’d be interested in knowing what research has been done on how the brain influences and is influenced by the reading process. And along those lines, how about reading poetry? And plays? Does the actual mental process vary?

Speaking of “actual mental process,” my iMac is slowing way down. It’s going on six years old, and that is six hard years, a 2013 model I bought at the Apple Store at Friendly Center in Greensboro, NC over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2014 and transported to Cullowhee, NC where I placed it in service. I love it more than a man should love a machine, and being basically a monogamous kind of guy, when this machine dies I will get an updated version of the exact same machine.

OK. No political commentary today. There is plenty to comment on, but it all tires me. Plus, everybody know where I stand. And there is tomorrow.

Meanwhile how about a poem! Bob Kaufman, a beat poet from New Orleans, took a Buddhist vow of silence after learning of the JFK assassination. He ended his period of silence when the Vietnam War ended in 1973 with this poem.

All Those Ships That Never Sailed

All those ships that never sailed
The ones with their seacocks open
That were scuttled in their stalls…
Today I bring them back
Huge and transitory
And let them sail

All those flowers that you never grew-
that you wanted to grow
The ones that were plowed under
ground in the mud-
Today I bring them back
And let you grow them

All those wars and truces
Dancing down these years-
All in three flag swept days
Rejected meaning of God-

My body once covered with beauty
Is now a museum of betrayal.
This part remembered because of that one’s touch
This part remembered for that one’s kiss-
Today I bring it back
And let you live forever.

I breath a breathless I love you
And move you

Remove the snake from Moses’ arm…
And someday the Jewish queen will dance
Down the street with the dogs
And make every Jew
Her lover.

#Rhizo Anniversary Tweets

#recoveringrhizomist #rhizo15alum I gave a talk at a regional conference, “A Rhizomatic Approach to the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education” in 2017. It was well received but I was between jobs and never developed it into a paper.

#recoveringrhizomist #rhizo15alum That same year I wrote my wife a rhizome valentines day sonnet, “The Roots of Our Love

#recoveringrhizomist #rhizo15alum In 2015 i wrote a “rhizome” sonnet with a wicked internal rhyming scheme I called an invasive species that chokes and breeds.

#recoveringrhizomist #rhizo15alum And that same year, fresh off a wonderful gardening experience in the mountains, I penned the following (again about invasive species): “Another gardening poem.”

#recoveringrhizomist #rhizo15alum Finally, In my first August Wilson study group, we followed the order in which the ten plays were written. In subsequent sessions, we followed in decade by decade. But what about a rhizomatic approach?

Facebook status from December 23rd

For better or for worse, social media is shaping up as the battle space for the 21st century equivalent of information civil war upon which we are about to embark. The population of believers is about evenly divided, each side believing they are commissioned by a higher power to defend and expand their share of the battle space. The goal? To win the hearts and minds of the people. The weapon? Words and logical (and illogical) constructions designed to convince and persuade.

Neither side is preaching to the choir, as it were, and, actually, neither side is preaching to their opposing side. Those convinced of the moral righteousness of their cause …. are already convinced. No, we hold these public conversations to attempt to sway the uncommitted, the marginalized, those who are yet to have made up their minds. And that silent majority has considerable power so don’t play them cheap and don’t play them too close.

There is no victory or defeat on a given day, or even on a given subject. Just the other day I told two friends that they could have the final word, because, in essence, all that matters is saving up the resources to fight in the information battle space another day.

Government itself is divided. Actors on the stage are even divided within their own selves. Let that sink in. Many groups, caucuses that once had considerable power are silently approaching obsolescence. Here today, gone tomorrow. Keep that in mind as you make your choices.

\\ To be continued. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_(sonnet)

Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1856-1871 George Caleb Bingham

Protected: Seminar, or, Enough Blame To Go Around: Corruption in the Capitol in Late Empire – Act 2, Scene 2

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Blog notes from three sessions of August Wilson American Century Cycle (2018-2019)

Gem of the Ocean

Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/some-notes-for-9-gem-of-the-ocean/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/11/24/notes-on-gem-of-the-ocean-11-24-2018/
Carole’s notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/11/28/caroles-notes-on-gem-11-28-2018/

Session #3 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/03/07/pre-class-thoughts-after-reading-gem-of-the-ocean/

post class notes:  https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/post-class-notes-gem-of-the-ocean-3-9-2019/

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/some-takeaway-notes-from-joe-turners-come-and-gone/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/15/notes-joe-turners-come-and-gone-10-14-2018/

Carole’s notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/caroles-additional-notes-on-joe-turners-come-and-gone-10-15-2018/

Session #3 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/03/13/sosme-notes-on-joe-turners-come-and-gone-and-wilsons-4-bs/


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/03/08/some-links-to-background-material-for-ma-raineys-black-bottom/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/notes-on-ma-raineys-black-bottom-10-01-2018/

Session #3 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/03/22/some-pre-class-notes-on-ma-raineys-black-bottom-3-21-2019/

The Piano Lesson

Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/some-notes-and-takeaways-from-two-trains-running/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/22/notes-on-the-piano-lesson-10-19-2018/ (see Carole’s notes in the comments section)

Session #3 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/03/28/pre-class-notes-for-the-piano-lesson-3-28-2019/

post class notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/04/02/post-class-notes-for-the-piano-lesson-3-30-2019/

Seven Guitars

Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/pre-class-notes-for-seven-guitars/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/notes-on-seven-guitars-11-05-2018/

Carole’s notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/carole-horns-notes-on-seven-guitars-11-05-2018/

Session #3 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/04/04/notes-for-seven-guitars-4-3-2019/

post class notes https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/04/11/some-post-seven-guitars-thoughts-4-6-2019/


Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/some-takeaway-notes-from-fences/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/08/notes-on-week-4-fences/

Carole’s notes on Fences: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/10/carole-horns-notes-on-fences-olli-au10-11-2018/

Session #3 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/04/12/notes-on-fences-4-11-2019/

Two Trains Running

Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/some-takeaways-from-two-trains-running/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/29/notes-on-two-trains-running-10-29-2018/

Carole’s notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/31/carole-horns-notes-on-two-trains-running-with-notes-links-and-annotations/

Session #3 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/04/25/notes-on-two-trains-running-4-25-2019/

Session #2 post class notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/post-notes-on-two-trains-running-4-26-2019/


Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/some-takeaways-from-two-trains-running/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/29/notes-on-two-trains-running-10-29-2018/

Carole’s notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/10/31/carole-horns-notes-on-two-trains-running-with-notes-links-and-annotations/

Session #3 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/04/25/notes-on-two-trains-running-4-25-2019/

Session #2 post class notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/post-notes-on-two-trains-running-4-26-2019/

King Hedley II

Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/04/23/class-notes-for-king-hedley-ii/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/11/11/notes-on-king-hedley-ii-11-11-2018/

Session #3 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/some-pre-discussion-notes-on-king-hedley-ii-5-8-2019/

Session #3 post class notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/05/11/some-afterthoughts-on-king-hedley-ii-5-11-2019/

Radio Golf

Session #1 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/05/06/some-initial-thoughts-on-week-10-radiogolf/

Session #2 notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2018/12/03/some-random-thoughts-on-radio-golf-12-03-2018/

Session #3 pre-class notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/05/17/radio-golf-some-thoughts-5-16-2019/

Session #3 post-class notes: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/radio-golf-post-class-thoughts-5-18-2019/

On Spring Break (and jury duty) – reflections on week 3 at Moorland-Spingarn

A classmate and friend warned me about these week-long breaks. I confess they are quite nice for catching up on projects. We are locked out from the Library for spring break but there is plenty to think about.

I spent last week medicating and recuperating from allergies, internal and external I think. I made it to work each day, with my Flonase and antihistamine gel tabs in tow, packed in my lunch box, along with foil wrapped tumeric ginger tea bags that are expressly not to be sold outside of India. How’s that for authenticity?

Early in the week I went with one of the technicians to the on-campus warehouse to retrieve some boxes. He gave me the grand tour. And what a tour it was. We have a lot of stuff. I peeked through some of the boxes and saw some familiar names from my former career, personal papers of diplomats and members of Congress involved with efforts to increase minority foreign service participation. No comment. But amazing find.

I spent two afternoons on the reference desk. That’s where you actually get a feel for the place, the flow of researchers, the materials in demand. And the phone calls. The phone calls! From an alum, “Do you have my MA thesis from 1978?” And from a local newspaper company, “How many issues do you have of an obscure scholarly journal we published in the early 80’s?” Fun stuff. Worked with volunteers and student workers on a collection we are all jointly processing. Papers, correspondence, publications by a medical school scholar/professor/activist. Amazing content slows down my processing speed, especially when I start seeing connections to my hometown.

The place is so fascinating. There are moments walking through the stacks when I feel filled up with the spirit of the place and sense that i am able to tap into the energies and the efforts poured into it over the years. Now I am a part of that process, of a great work for my people. Can you believe all these psychic and spiritual benefits, and they pay me too?

This week, awaiting jury assignment, I am browsing through “Black Bibliophiles and Collectors: Preservers of Black History.” Finally, I am one of them. I know I have died and gone to heaven.postscript. Starting an online course this week at the Library Juice Academy. Introduction to Special Collections Librarianship. Great so far. Oh, and entering week 2 of my August Wilson study group. Check out our discussions here: https://augustwilsonstudygroup.wordpress.com/2019/03/13/sosme-notes-on-joe-turners-come-and-gone-and-wilsons-4-bs/

Week 4 – August Wilson Century Series – Joe Turner’s Come and Gone


Week 4 – Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (notes)

  • Largest cast of any Wilson play so far. 12 counting the ever-present Joe Turner, 15 with appearance of Miss Mabel, plus the unseen Eugene, plus Jack Carper.
  • Said to be Wilson’s favorite play in the cycle. Based on Romare Bearden painting, Mill Hand’s Lunch Bucket.
  • Herald Loomis is the Wilson Warrior, but Bynum and Bertha play significant supporting roles.

Themes that recur:

  • Blood as a means of cleansing, baptism, lifting the veil
  • Finding one’s song is finding one’s voice, discovering a sense and practice of agency
  • The relationship between Bynum’s Shiny Man, called One Who Goes before and Shows the Way, a sort of First Man, and Loomis’s first name, Herald, i.e., a messenger, a sign that something is about to happen. A play on words.
  • Selig, the white “trader.” Buys and sells pots (sustenance, basic necessity) and finds lost people (only because he carried them away in the first place). WD Fard. (Martha started at the Holly house and was carried away by Selig. That is why Loomis said he could smell her there and knew she wasn’t dead)
  • Bynum’s (Bind them) spirituality helps people, but still doesn’t give him his song completely, until he witnesses the return of the Shiny Man who self-baptizes, self-realizes, self-actualizes, and self-transcends (to use Maslow’s framework).

5. Play Structure

  • Exposition: Scene 1: the boardinghouse; Bynum’s spirituality; Seth’s superiority complex; Selig, the trader
  • Rising action: Arrival of Herald Loomis, Seth’s distrust.
  • Climax #1: End of Scene 1. The Juba dance scene, Loomis’s disapproval and the performance of his own “act” within and via the old slave and minstrel celebration, aided by Bynum.
  • Falling action: Seth’s growing distrust and decision to evict Loomis; the Mollie/Mattie/Jeremy love triangle.
  • Resolution: Loomis fails to romance Mattie; future prospects for Reuben and Zonia; Loomis departs the House (but we feel him watching from a distance)
  • Climax #2/Denouement: Martha Loomis returns to the House and reunites with Zonia; Loomis self-baptizes and self delivers; Bynum sees Shiny Man (in Loomis) and finds his agency at last.

6. Explaining the end of the play.

It can be argued that the end of the play is a bit whacked, poorly constructed, or just plain flawed. I proposed that taking such a position would be both inaccurate and incorrect. Of course, we would love to see Martha and Herald reunited and marching off into the sunset with their darling little girl, Zonia. But I contend that the play was never intended to be about Martha and Herald, but about Herald (the Wilson Warrior) and his development and, take a deep breath, about Bynum and his final fulfillment.  Let me set the scene.

In Act 1 scene 1, Bynum told Selig, the trader and People Finder, about a man he was looking for, a Shiny Man he met on a road who once shared with him the Secret of Life. Bynum said the man asked for his hands, then rubbed Bynum’s hands between his own hands that had blood on them and said the blood was a way of cleaning himself. Soon the road changed, the surroundings changed and “everything look[ed] like it was twice as big as it was.” The cleaning with blood was clearly also a type of enlightenment, a baptism of sorts, preparing Bynum for a future task.  During the same experience, Bynum saw his father, who told him he would show him how to “find my song,”  and explained that the Shiny Man Bynum had earlier seen was “the One Who Goes Before and Shows the Way and that

“Said there was lots of shiny men and if I ever saw one again before I died then I would know that my song had been accepted and worked its full power and I could lay down and die a happy man. A man who done left his mark on life.”

OK. Hold on to that thought . . .

Skipping forward to the end of Act 1 scene 4, the House folks have come together on a Sunday evening after dinner to do a Juba, a minstrel/African cultural celebration that involves dancing, singing, and invoking the Holy Spirit. Everybody is there and participating except Herald. When Herald arrives, he goes off the deep edge, questioning the existence of God and the Holy Ghost. He goes off into a bit of a other worldly experience, “dancing and speaking in tongues.” he then says,

“You all don’t know nothing about me. You don’t know what I done seen. Herald Loomis done seen some things he ain’t got words to tell you.”

Bynum comes to his aid, walks him through his exposition of the vision he has seen, learns about his vision, and walks him back from the edge, so to speak, and back to this world and sanity. We won’t go into the details of that vision here, but suffice it to say that elements of the vision are significant, the bones rising and walking on the water, the bones sinking all together all at once and forming a tidal wave that washes the bones, now clothed with flesh, black flesh, ashore, but still inanimate. Then a wind enters the bodies and brings them to life, and Herald Loomis is one of those bodies come to life, except at that point, unlike all the others, Loomis cannot stand up, or as he says it “My legs won’t stand up.” At that point, I think Bynum knew spiritually and at some level that he had found, at least potentially, his shiny man. But that more development would be required.

OK, moving forward to the end of Act 2 scene 5 (the stuff in the middle is not insignificant, but we can come back to it later if we have to), Martha returns to the House, Loomis returns, and Martha thanks Bynum for reuniting her with her daughter Zonia.  Loomis takes offense at that and accuses Bynum of “binding” him to the road, to a life of wandering around and dissatisfaction. Bynum denies it, and at this point, Loomis draws his knife, followed by a type of call and response that tells us with finality there is not going to be a future with Martha and Loomis together. Their apartness has developed them into different people than they were before when they were together. As Herald says, “Joe Turner’s come and gone.”

Then at the height of the exchange, Loomis draws the knife across his chest, drawing blood, then rubs that blood over his face, replicating, in some ways, the same blood cleaning and self-baptism that Bynum experienced in Act 1 with the original shiny man. Similarly, Loomis comes to a new awareness as a result of the blood baptism. Finally, he is standing and he proclaims “I am standing! My legs stood up! I’m standing now.”

This is the completion the Loomis sought. He bids Martha farewell, and Mattie rushes out to be at his side. The stage directions Wilson inserts here are pure poetry:

(Having found his song,
the song of self-sufficiency,
fully resurrected, cleansed and given breath,
free from any encumbrance
other than the workings of his own heart
and the bonds of the flesh,

having accepted the responsibility
for his presence in the world,
he is free to soar above the environs
that weighed and pushed his spirit
into terrifying contractions.)

At this point, Bynum realizes fully that Loomis is his shiny man, that his song has been accepted, and that he has lives a life of meaning.

So, Loomis is complete. He has Mattie at his side for his next journey. And Bynum can peacefully rest. Q.E.D.

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 2.35.43 PM

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 2.43.53 PM

New job, new projects, new prospects

It’s been a while since I’ve made regular posts to this blog, which began in 2013 as a series of posts on my career transition. Let me catch you up…

Late last May I started as a program analyst at the DC Office of Public Records. The job was supposed to be primarily about planning the move of DC Archives to its new site, but so far a site has not been established, so the move is likely several months if not years away. Anyway, being there, and me being me, I decided to take advantage of the lull in activity to learn something about the operation of the place.

DC Archives has a rich history of neglect and under-appreciation. Read this 2003 Washington Post article by Sewell Chan @sewellchan to get a taste of it (not much has changed). This series of letters from officials of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) @archivists_org ‏ provides reactions from the profession, and this 2015 article by Matthew Gilmore @MatthewBGilmore provides useful updates. This DC CityPaper article from 2000 written by Elissa Silverman @tweetelissa is also revealing. Here is a Vision Paper by prominent archivist Dr. Gregory Hunter that was not easy to locate. So I will take this opportunity to archive it here!

The place is dusty and moldy, but such is the way of archives. At least I don’t have to “dress up” for work. In my first month I couldn’t take the total clutter of the supply room, and volunteered to give it an overhaul. Not exactly in my job description, but it was clearly affecting operations at every level. So I took it on, and got it done, dead rats under the palates and all. In my second month, I complained about the backlog of donated collections and scheduled records deliveries piled up everywhere and took them on. After making a list and a POA&M (plan of attack and milestones: that Navy training is the gift that keeps on giving!), I offered to “do” the largest collection, processing over 250 boxes in six different locations of the personal and professional papers of a retired (and now deceased) member of the city council that had been around for almost two years, unprocessed. It took me from July to mid-October (not counting the month we took off for vacation), but I got the initial inventory done. Now we are in the description and arrangement phase (as an aside, it helps that I’m taking a course in archives management at my alma mater (CLSC 646). Anyway, for the course we had to choose a type of archives for a lit review and site visit and I chose oral histories of foreign service offices at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training  @ADSTnews ‏. See the paper that resulted here. I have fallen in love with oral histories!).

I wrote a sonnet that captures some of my initial impressions of the “spirit” of the place. Give it a try: https://thisismypoetryblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/archives-sonnet/

Back to the subject. With the initial inventory complete, I was unsure of the next step and we hadn’t at that point gotten that far in class. So I was talking with a colleague over lunch and he told me that with large collections of personal papers, one allows the main themes to emerge from the inventory, then organizes the papers along those themes in a second run. So that’s what I did. I started with about 40 themes that covered the whole collection, then consolidated them down to about 20 themes, then assigned numbers to those themes and put those numbers into the original inventory spreadsheet. Then sorted, and presto! We had a plan! (The royal “We,” mind you, it is only me). So each theme is now a group and as of today,  October 27, I have completed arranging the two largest groups at the folder level. The first two groups were both large, and lucky for me, concentrated pretty much over some 70 boxes, so it made sense to move the boxes from their temporary storage on the second floor to the processing area I mapped out on the ground level (not having an adequate processing area has been an excuse not to attack the backlog, but I was new and didn’t yet know the ropes…). But for subsequent groups that are significantly smaller and less concentrated, I will change my operational model and dive boxes directly at their temporary storage site on the 2nd floor. (p.s. I had arranged the bulk of the boxes in numerical order is what I thought to be a safe place (basically where they had been for over 18 months) but in a miscommunication due to some infrastructure work, all the boxes got moved by contractors without my knowledge, losing all the numerical order. Luckily, the boxes were numbered, but it makes the task slightly more tedious when numbered boxes are stacked on top of one another outside the original order).

This weekend’s readings for class this Monday focus on arrangement and developing finding aids, so it’s pretty cool that there is this alignment between my coursework and what I am doing at work.

Simultaneously, the course requires a 50-hour practicum, which I am doing at DC Public Library. Slightly different, this project is an item-level collection where I am documenting every piece of paper in a single box and doing the complete accession using ArchivesSpace. More about that in a subsequent post…

DC Archives has a small library attached, some 1500 books on shelves (not counting several boxes of books already accessioned as archives that will need to be transferred to the library whenever a librarian can be hired). The boss asked me to draft a collection policy (since I am a librarian by trade), which we got approved downtown, so a project in the near future might be to weed out the collection and whip the library into shape.

The third part of the operations is the records center. I went out to Suitland, MD to do a one-day training at the Federal Records Center in my first month on the job. At some point we will have to tackle the big problem of storage of DC records at several federal repositories that dates back to pre-1985, when DC records were considered federal records managed by National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Our present facility doesn’t have the space to consolidate all our holdings, so stuff remains all spread out and incurring huge monthly rent expenses for DC Government.

OK. Finally, there is a local organization, Friends of the DC Archives @FDCArchives, the present iteration of which emerged from a shadowy origin about the same time as the beginning of the Mayor Bowser administration. They claim no ties to the original Friends group formed in 2006, and they behave more like a citizen’s oversight group than an advocacy group, cross-examining employees at their infrequent and unannounced meetings. Here is their Weebly website (note: not updated since November 2016) and here is a link to their Facebook page, though they have no record of official incorporation as a not-for-profit organization and again, they make no reference to the original Friends of DC Archives that was legitimately incorporated in 2006. See more here: The Founding of the Friends of the DC Archives.

When I worked part-time I missed being a part of a team. But now I am working full time and missing days off during the week to do other interesting things like long lunches with old friends, movies and museum/gallery visits with Filomena, grocery shopping when checkout lines are short, and the possibility of long weekend road trips whenever. Oh well, save those thrills for when I really retire!

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!

what does the agile librarian do between library jobs? Pt. 2

No longer between library jobs. Big Yay! Started a new part-time library job last week. But continuing the discussion of Agile application to HR issues.  (Don’t fret, we’ll bring the Agile discussion back to librarianship soon enough. In the meantime, taking this HR detour might eventually be instructive). Today, we are going to take a brief look at the history of Agile methodologies.  Later in the week we will look at some considerations when converting or transforming existing processes to Agile ones.

Agile History

It is easy to trace the history of Agile to the Agile Manifesto of 2001 and the twelve principles that followed in its wake.  Easy but far from sufficient.  We need to look at a few of the antecedents to that 2001 gathering to know what is really going on.

Lloyd Wilkinson, in Agile Development: A Brief History, traces the roots of agile project management thinking to Toyota process in the 1950’s, more specifically, kaizen, or continual improvement in automotive manufacturing processes.  In case you haven’t already clicked on the link, kaizen is a Japanese word that is translated as “continuous improvement.”  In lean, or just in time manufacturing systems, the process itself must “continuously change in order to deliver value to the customer.” Before we take a deep dive, it is necessary to say that one might make an argument that HR systems bound by rigid rules and regulations are not capable of continuous change.  I would argue (1) that the multiplicity of rules and regulations, all overlapping, is precisely what opens the door to flexibility and dynamism and (2) what manufacturing process was more rigid that automotive assembly line production, and yet, Toyota’s introduction of Kaizen practices made it a world leader in the automotive industry.  But back to the subject…

Kaizen has a few foci that are particularly relevant to HR processes.  First is the Kaizen 5S concept: sort, or removing anything from the space not needed for daily operations; straighten, or placing the essential things in the right place for optimum operations; sweep, or removing anything that is clutter and repairing anything broken; standardize, or codifying best practices; and sustain, or establishing new, more efficient standards and resisting the tendency to return to old ways of doing things.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 08.33.10

Second is the concept of employee involvement supported by employee trust. Specifically, this concept has as its antecedent, the work of Elton Mayo and the Hawthorne Effect (please click and read!).  Very briefly, Mayo concluded that

  • The aptitudes of individuals are imperfect predictors of job performance.
  • Informal organization affects productivity. The researchers discovered a group life among the workers.
  • Informal organization affects productivity. The researchers discovered a group life among the workers.
  • Work-group norms affect productivity.
  • The workplace is a social system.

A moment here on James Martin and Rapid Application Development (RAD). James Martin, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his 1977 book, The Wired Society: A Challenge for Tomorrow, introduced in 1991 an approach to RAD that involved iterative development and the construction of intermediate prototypes. These two elements would play a critical part in Agile project management thinking in subsequent years.

For extra reading, this article also looks at the history of Agile thinking: The roots of Agile project management.

Later in the week we will look at some of the challenges and possible pitfalls of adopting Agile thinking to existing processes.  And to raise eyebrows, we will call the next post: “The Road Less Taken, or, People are software in any production process.”

In the meanwhile, a bit of Sarah Vaughan for the Labor Day Weekend: