Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

2

JUST AS THIS IS AN AGE OF GREAT WEALTH inequality, it is also an age of great inequality of knowledge or, more exactly, factual information. For all its democratic potential, the fact-filled internet has only heightened the pre-Google asymmetry between those, on one side, loyal to Baconian methods of patient, inductive gathering of facts — the ways of the card catalog and the archive, of the analysis and evaluation of empirical data — and those, on the other side, who didn’t need to read Foucault or the Frankfurt School to nurture a suspicion that positivist orders of knowledge mask a hierarchy of power in which they are meant to occupy the lowest rungs.

ooh i love the ending

—p.2 The Information Essay (2) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago

JUST AS THIS IS AN AGE OF GREAT WEALTH inequality, it is also an age of great inequality of knowledge or, more exactly, factual information. For all its democratic potential, the fact-filled internet has only heightened the pre-Google asymmetry between those, on one side, loyal to Baconian methods of patient, inductive gathering of facts — the ways of the card catalog and the archive, of the analysis and evaluation of empirical data — and those, on the other side, who didn’t need to read Foucault or the Frankfurt School to nurture a suspicion that positivist orders of knowledge mask a hierarchy of power in which they are meant to occupy the lowest rungs.

ooh i love the ending

—p.2 The Information Essay (2) by n+1 1 year, 6 months ago
20

THE DESERT’S a fertile place for internet scams:

Hossam works in the hotel; tall, suave, genuinely interested in why I’ve come. One morning he shyly shows me his correspondence with “The United State of America Lottery,” located on E. Post Road in White Plains, but headquartered in Nigeria. They told him he won $500,000.00, and after he inquired about it, they became increasingly importunate. Now they’re texting him demands for “good faith” money. They warn they’ve already informed the “Egyptian High Commissioner” of his winnings.

Up the road, in Bahariya, Essam has no prospects at all, whiles away his days in a dim, grimy internet café stocked with plodding PCs that appear to date from the Middle Kingdom. “Chatting” with “girls.” He’s also following up a promise for a job as a waiter in London, at the Ambassadors Hotel. He has to pay only for the immigration application. I look into it for him, and it too tracks back to Nigeria.

Both guys are smart and speak English, but it’s not their first language and they can’t identify the solecisms, in language and in assumptions about the way the world works, that would be ludicrous to a First World native speaker. Most of the world’s English speakers aren’t native; many are strivers marooned in places with few outlets for their ambitions. The internet and the English language are their only connections to the outside world. Hossam and Essam both are grievously disappointed when I tell them they’ve been scammed: another door closes. They feel foolish, possibly even humiliated by their gullibility, even more humiliated by their hopelessness.

arghhhhh

—p.20 Egypt Notebook (17) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago

THE DESERT’S a fertile place for internet scams:

Hossam works in the hotel; tall, suave, genuinely interested in why I’ve come. One morning he shyly shows me his correspondence with “The United State of America Lottery,” located on E. Post Road in White Plains, but headquartered in Nigeria. They told him he won $500,000.00, and after he inquired about it, they became increasingly importunate. Now they’re texting him demands for “good faith” money. They warn they’ve already informed the “Egyptian High Commissioner” of his winnings.

Up the road, in Bahariya, Essam has no prospects at all, whiles away his days in a dim, grimy internet café stocked with plodding PCs that appear to date from the Middle Kingdom. “Chatting” with “girls.” He’s also following up a promise for a job as a waiter in London, at the Ambassadors Hotel. He has to pay only for the immigration application. I look into it for him, and it too tracks back to Nigeria.

Both guys are smart and speak English, but it’s not their first language and they can’t identify the solecisms, in language and in assumptions about the way the world works, that would be ludicrous to a First World native speaker. Most of the world’s English speakers aren’t native; many are strivers marooned in places with few outlets for their ambitions. The internet and the English language are their only connections to the outside world. Hossam and Essam both are grievously disappointed when I tell them they’ve been scammed: another door closes. They feel foolish, possibly even humiliated by their gullibility, even more humiliated by their hopelessness.

arghhhhh

—p.20 Egypt Notebook (17) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago
27

Whatever the “real” motivations behind the effort, what is at stake, given the massive manufacturing exodus facilitated by NAFTA and everything after and the well-documented ravaging of the service industry unions, may be the very survival of American unionism itself.


THERE ARE A LOT of obvious things to be said about this, and some of them are probably worth saying. Unions built the American middle class. Perhaps it was never the greatest thing in the world, but as a friend whose parents work as union reps pointed out to me the other day, it at least has been a middle class. Then there’s the whole bit about the little guy versus the big guy, and how if the little guy can’t get together with all the other little guys to negotiate the terms of his labor, then the terms of that labor are always going to be the same: take it or leave it. And “take it or leave it” isn’t a choice: it’s an ultimatum. If you’re working under an ultimatum, you are being exploited. Or at the very least, you can be exploited, which in itself is a form of being exploited.

about scott walker's attempt to rollback public sector unions' ability to bargain collectively

—p.27 The Battle of Wisconsin (26) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago

Whatever the “real” motivations behind the effort, what is at stake, given the massive manufacturing exodus facilitated by NAFTA and everything after and the well-documented ravaging of the service industry unions, may be the very survival of American unionism itself.


THERE ARE A LOT of obvious things to be said about this, and some of them are probably worth saying. Unions built the American middle class. Perhaps it was never the greatest thing in the world, but as a friend whose parents work as union reps pointed out to me the other day, it at least has been a middle class. Then there’s the whole bit about the little guy versus the big guy, and how if the little guy can’t get together with all the other little guys to negotiate the terms of his labor, then the terms of that labor are always going to be the same: take it or leave it. And “take it or leave it” isn’t a choice: it’s an ultimatum. If you’re working under an ultimatum, you are being exploited. Or at the very least, you can be exploited, which in itself is a form of being exploited.

about scott walker's attempt to rollback public sector unions' ability to bargain collectively

—p.27 The Battle of Wisconsin (26) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago
89

[...] He differentiated between prose, where “there is generally a quite closely defined channel or corridor of sense-making,” and certain types of difficult poetry, where “this corridor of sense is much wider and more open, more like a network across the whole expanse of the text, with many loops and cross-links of semantic and referring activity which extend the boundaries of relevance, and of control by context, in many directions at once.” He said that when text is delinked and incoherent, when “extreme ambiguity displaces recognizable topic-focus” and references abruptly shift with no warning, “these features may begin to comprise a second-order strategy of pattern-making in a new way.” He compared this form of pattern-making to traditional rhyme forms — how a poem in which the words themselves do not link into a recognizable statement can be experienced as a unity through lines that end in rhyme. In the end the poetry forms a process of “pattern and pattern-violation generating their own tendencies of meaning — or perhaps we should call this ‘meaning,’ in some second-order sense.”

on J. H. Prynne

—p.89 That Room in Cambridge (73) by Emily Witt 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] He differentiated between prose, where “there is generally a quite closely defined channel or corridor of sense-making,” and certain types of difficult poetry, where “this corridor of sense is much wider and more open, more like a network across the whole expanse of the text, with many loops and cross-links of semantic and referring activity which extend the boundaries of relevance, and of control by context, in many directions at once.” He said that when text is delinked and incoherent, when “extreme ambiguity displaces recognizable topic-focus” and references abruptly shift with no warning, “these features may begin to comprise a second-order strategy of pattern-making in a new way.” He compared this form of pattern-making to traditional rhyme forms — how a poem in which the words themselves do not link into a recognizable statement can be experienced as a unity through lines that end in rhyme. In the end the poetry forms a process of “pattern and pattern-violation generating their own tendencies of meaning — or perhaps we should call this ‘meaning,’ in some second-order sense.”

on J. H. Prynne

—p.89 That Room in Cambridge (73) by Emily Witt 1 year, 6 months ago
96

[...] in the words of I. A. Richards, “As the finer parts of our emotional tradition relax in the expansion and dissolution of our communities, and as we discover how far out of our intellectual depth the flood-tide of science is carrying us — so far that not even the giants can still feel bottom — we shall increasingly need every strengthening discipline that can be devised.” Richards saw the study of poetry as such a strengthening discipline, and when I considered what might be elitist about Cambridge poetry it was the notion that they were keeping the flame of some greater truth alive against the perceived onslaught of popular culture. But to see the poets this way was to pit some concept of exclusive British culture practiced by wealthy dilettantes against more inclusive cultural practices. That would have been elitist, or at least haughty. But the poets were not doing that. What they were doing, together or as individuals, was merely a search, to try to use language in a way that did not remind us of someone trying to sell us something, that made words seem new, that gave us a way to describe the things we aspired to that did not echo the vocabulary that we could no longer trust. This did not feel elitist, just hopeless.

—p.96 That Room in Cambridge (73) by Emily Witt 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] in the words of I. A. Richards, “As the finer parts of our emotional tradition relax in the expansion and dissolution of our communities, and as we discover how far out of our intellectual depth the flood-tide of science is carrying us — so far that not even the giants can still feel bottom — we shall increasingly need every strengthening discipline that can be devised.” Richards saw the study of poetry as such a strengthening discipline, and when I considered what might be elitist about Cambridge poetry it was the notion that they were keeping the flame of some greater truth alive against the perceived onslaught of popular culture. But to see the poets this way was to pit some concept of exclusive British culture practiced by wealthy dilettantes against more inclusive cultural practices. That would have been elitist, or at least haughty. But the poets were not doing that. What they were doing, together or as individuals, was merely a search, to try to use language in a way that did not remind us of someone trying to sell us something, that made words seem new, that gave us a way to describe the things we aspired to that did not echo the vocabulary that we could no longer trust. This did not feel elitist, just hopeless.

—p.96 That Room in Cambridge (73) by Emily Witt 1 year, 6 months ago
117

We made fun of the world because of our ironclad belief that the world could not go on as it had before. With governments, schools, factories, police forces, brothels, militaries, armies, wars, judges, colonies, executives, madness, the misery of productive work, the seriousness of upper management (they were serious spirits, devoted, well-educated, powerful, full of experience and goodwill, sometimes criminals but always from the elite), and those speeches that incessantly repeated the obvious — reality as it was, reality as it couldn’t have been otherwise. (But with some “idealism” despite it all, you know, so we “wouldn’t lose hope.”) As well as hope — the claim that the worst had passed — they also still offered us some threats, so as to maintain a certain nervousness. The worst could return, we were told, if each of us didn’t do what he was made for; if, for example, the students stopped studying, the workers stopped working, women stopped having children, judges no longer passed judgment, and criminals ceased to commit the wrongdoing that makes us truly admire the police.

We didn’t believe them anymore. We no longer believed that the “biggest moments of our lives” were any different from ordeals — the competitions, the entrance exams, the medical exams to receive certificates, military service, decorations (or no decorations), citizenship (or no citizenship), careers (or no careers), the granting of credit (or no credit), et cetera. We no longer saw the need. All of a sudden, we no longer understood why the world had to be selective, that is to say, “meritocratic” — why selections were always prejudicial toward some and favorable toward others, why this should be a sign of good taste, talent, morals, progress. We understood nothing of “reality”; we felt it lied about our world.

And that was why we practiced sociology.

oh my god

—p.117 Making Reality Unacceptable (101) by Luc Boltanski 1 year, 6 months ago

We made fun of the world because of our ironclad belief that the world could not go on as it had before. With governments, schools, factories, police forces, brothels, militaries, armies, wars, judges, colonies, executives, madness, the misery of productive work, the seriousness of upper management (they were serious spirits, devoted, well-educated, powerful, full of experience and goodwill, sometimes criminals but always from the elite), and those speeches that incessantly repeated the obvious — reality as it was, reality as it couldn’t have been otherwise. (But with some “idealism” despite it all, you know, so we “wouldn’t lose hope.”) As well as hope — the claim that the worst had passed — they also still offered us some threats, so as to maintain a certain nervousness. The worst could return, we were told, if each of us didn’t do what he was made for; if, for example, the students stopped studying, the workers stopped working, women stopped having children, judges no longer passed judgment, and criminals ceased to commit the wrongdoing that makes us truly admire the police.

We didn’t believe them anymore. We no longer believed that the “biggest moments of our lives” were any different from ordeals — the competitions, the entrance exams, the medical exams to receive certificates, military service, decorations (or no decorations), citizenship (or no citizenship), careers (or no careers), the granting of credit (or no credit), et cetera. We no longer saw the need. All of a sudden, we no longer understood why the world had to be selective, that is to say, “meritocratic” — why selections were always prejudicial toward some and favorable toward others, why this should be a sign of good taste, talent, morals, progress. We understood nothing of “reality”; we felt it lied about our world.

And that was why we practiced sociology.

oh my god

—p.117 Making Reality Unacceptable (101) by Luc Boltanski 1 year, 6 months ago
165

Active cultivation of useful intellectual qualities — not, it should be noted, instruction in that all-too-troubling cognate, culture. This argument of Nussbaum’s steers entirely and successfully clear of the implied elitism of “culture”; anyone who calls the book elitist simply hasn’t read it. The problem is that this business-friendly argument sits uneasily next to her broader argument about alterity and sympathy. And in the gap between the two arguments lies the humanistic dilemma. Do the humanities teach “skills,” or do they lead us to critique the instrumentality of skills-as-such? Do they trouble our relation to economic activity, or do they equip us to be ideal technocratic employees? Picture, for a moment, a good student raised in a Dewey model. (Disclosure: I have children being educated, right now, in “progressive” schools on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which rivals Chicago’s Hyde Park as the American educational milieu most saturated in Dewey’s ideas. Not coincidentally, these were also the places Dewey lived and taught the longest.) This student is a good collaborator; she listens to others but offers her own solutions; she does not form cliques, but is socially adept enough to embrace difference on its own terms; she looks for practical solutions that her entire group could embrace. She is, in one way, the ideal of democratic citizenry. She is, in another way, training to become a management consultant.

Now picture one kind of “bad” student. This child is obsessive, inflexible, a bad listener. Prone to daydreaming, preferring her own company, idiosyncratic in her tastes, she is a solitary, possibly discontented child. In one way, she is a classroom problem, with disorders of attention or attachment. She is also an eccentric; an artist; perhaps a “genius”; in any case, an economic burden, a proto-elitist, with the capacity for generative unhappiness. One might go so far as to call her a natural humanities major.

These are caricatures, admittedly, but they embody real-world judgments constantly being made in schools and businesses, and they illuminate the gap in Nussbaum’s book. One part of Not for Profit, centering on an ethics of sympathy and alterity, suggests that the humanities contest the notion of “profit”; another part, centering on “skills,” suggests that even those things putatively not for profit are ultimately, for smart business managers, highly profitable. This may be less a conceptual confusion than an audience problem; Nussbaum’s book is aiming for a larger audience than most academics could ever reach. (The “Public Square,” a Habermasian fantasy, is its imprint.) It might be a tactical effort to outflank the enemy, to sell ethics to humanists and skills to gatekeepers of budgets. It is, I think, entirely possible that Nussbaum is being remarkably canny. It is also possible that she has restated, rather than resolved, the contemporary quandary of humanists.

i like the ending, though it could maybe use a scope clarification: under capitalism ?

—p.165 On Menand and Nussbaum (161) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago

Active cultivation of useful intellectual qualities — not, it should be noted, instruction in that all-too-troubling cognate, culture. This argument of Nussbaum’s steers entirely and successfully clear of the implied elitism of “culture”; anyone who calls the book elitist simply hasn’t read it. The problem is that this business-friendly argument sits uneasily next to her broader argument about alterity and sympathy. And in the gap between the two arguments lies the humanistic dilemma. Do the humanities teach “skills,” or do they lead us to critique the instrumentality of skills-as-such? Do they trouble our relation to economic activity, or do they equip us to be ideal technocratic employees? Picture, for a moment, a good student raised in a Dewey model. (Disclosure: I have children being educated, right now, in “progressive” schools on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which rivals Chicago’s Hyde Park as the American educational milieu most saturated in Dewey’s ideas. Not coincidentally, these were also the places Dewey lived and taught the longest.) This student is a good collaborator; she listens to others but offers her own solutions; she does not form cliques, but is socially adept enough to embrace difference on its own terms; she looks for practical solutions that her entire group could embrace. She is, in one way, the ideal of democratic citizenry. She is, in another way, training to become a management consultant.

Now picture one kind of “bad” student. This child is obsessive, inflexible, a bad listener. Prone to daydreaming, preferring her own company, idiosyncratic in her tastes, she is a solitary, possibly discontented child. In one way, she is a classroom problem, with disorders of attention or attachment. She is also an eccentric; an artist; perhaps a “genius”; in any case, an economic burden, a proto-elitist, with the capacity for generative unhappiness. One might go so far as to call her a natural humanities major.

These are caricatures, admittedly, but they embody real-world judgments constantly being made in schools and businesses, and they illuminate the gap in Nussbaum’s book. One part of Not for Profit, centering on an ethics of sympathy and alterity, suggests that the humanities contest the notion of “profit”; another part, centering on “skills,” suggests that even those things putatively not for profit are ultimately, for smart business managers, highly profitable. This may be less a conceptual confusion than an audience problem; Nussbaum’s book is aiming for a larger audience than most academics could ever reach. (The “Public Square,” a Habermasian fantasy, is its imprint.) It might be a tactical effort to outflank the enemy, to sell ethics to humanists and skills to gatekeepers of budgets. It is, I think, entirely possible that Nussbaum is being remarkably canny. It is also possible that she has restated, rather than resolved, the contemporary quandary of humanists.

i like the ending, though it could maybe use a scope clarification: under capitalism ?

—p.165 On Menand and Nussbaum (161) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago
167

[...] becoming an academic in the humanities means becoming humiliatingly prosaic about the things one loves. It means having to accept the ways in which the exalted realms of the Literary, the Philosophical, or the Historical are also means to a modest paycheck and an escape from what, in Castle’s example, was “familial dreariness and the general SoCal strip-mall stupor.” It’s a fairly conformist rebellion, but also a rebellious kind of conformism, and all of it is fueled, at some level, by eros, even if an eros longing for domestic security. The book’s longest and eponymous essay is a coruscating story about the overpowering charisma of intellectual mentors and intellectualism, which despite its period trappings (Castle’s descriptions of mid-1970s academic avant-gardism reveal her novelistic talent for wry attentiveness) narrates like nothing else I know the perennially heady mixture of longing and dissatisfaction and the promise of better, wiser elders and worlds.

The young humanist, as Castle depicts her, is necessarily perverse, and certainly “neurotically invested.” She is likely to be a prig, but is also a cynic, at least about some cultural norms. She disbelieves many hoary old narratives, but still thinks academic achievement earns love. (These days: she knows all the numbers, but still thinks she will get a job.) She is the bad child of Dewey’s progressive educational model — an introvert, a solitary, an obsessive — who can fake the moves of the good child. And by trying so sincerely to earn a way into the academic middle class while feeling uneasy about it she lives out a contemporary contradiction, in which “being middle-class these days means feeling freaky a lot of the time.” She is good, in other words, at inhabiting the gap between sincerity and irony, between cultural gatekeeper and cultural rebel, between grandiosity and humility. And she is good at making others feel similarly.

Richard Rorty once argued that Western culture needs the novel, in order to force us to imagine lives and destinies different from our own. Perhaps the humanities, in their current plight, need to be novelistic again. Not necessarily in their fictional mode, such as the moribund campus novel genre with its essentially demystifying comedy, but the novelistic ability to marshal narratives and details that give us back some sense of why the humanities exist for individuals — how, to put it bluntly, they still rescue lives. One doesn’t enter the academy to become a disillusioned professional (although that will happen along the way). One doesn’t enter it to equip businesses with flexible analytic intellects (although that will also happen). One enters it, shamefacedly and unhappily, perhaps, but enters it nonetheless, in order to devote oneself to something greater than personal resentments — to salvational or transformational modes of thought. Because, put another way, all the grievances that take aim at higher education express real suffering, and that suffering has causes and modes of expression older than most sufferers usually know. The humanities should be, if not their solace, then their weapons of choice. Prig and cynic and naïf she may be, but the newly minted academic knows this — after all, she most likely came from their midst — and one good way of explaining as much is to explain how that knowledge feels. Without such explanations, which might soften resentment into curiosity or sympathy, there may soon be very little left to be embarrassed about.

damn i like this

—p.167 On Menand and Nussbaum (161) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] becoming an academic in the humanities means becoming humiliatingly prosaic about the things one loves. It means having to accept the ways in which the exalted realms of the Literary, the Philosophical, or the Historical are also means to a modest paycheck and an escape from what, in Castle’s example, was “familial dreariness and the general SoCal strip-mall stupor.” It’s a fairly conformist rebellion, but also a rebellious kind of conformism, and all of it is fueled, at some level, by eros, even if an eros longing for domestic security. The book’s longest and eponymous essay is a coruscating story about the overpowering charisma of intellectual mentors and intellectualism, which despite its period trappings (Castle’s descriptions of mid-1970s academic avant-gardism reveal her novelistic talent for wry attentiveness) narrates like nothing else I know the perennially heady mixture of longing and dissatisfaction and the promise of better, wiser elders and worlds.

The young humanist, as Castle depicts her, is necessarily perverse, and certainly “neurotically invested.” She is likely to be a prig, but is also a cynic, at least about some cultural norms. She disbelieves many hoary old narratives, but still thinks academic achievement earns love. (These days: she knows all the numbers, but still thinks she will get a job.) She is the bad child of Dewey’s progressive educational model — an introvert, a solitary, an obsessive — who can fake the moves of the good child. And by trying so sincerely to earn a way into the academic middle class while feeling uneasy about it she lives out a contemporary contradiction, in which “being middle-class these days means feeling freaky a lot of the time.” She is good, in other words, at inhabiting the gap between sincerity and irony, between cultural gatekeeper and cultural rebel, between grandiosity and humility. And she is good at making others feel similarly.

Richard Rorty once argued that Western culture needs the novel, in order to force us to imagine lives and destinies different from our own. Perhaps the humanities, in their current plight, need to be novelistic again. Not necessarily in their fictional mode, such as the moribund campus novel genre with its essentially demystifying comedy, but the novelistic ability to marshal narratives and details that give us back some sense of why the humanities exist for individuals — how, to put it bluntly, they still rescue lives. One doesn’t enter the academy to become a disillusioned professional (although that will happen along the way). One doesn’t enter it to equip businesses with flexible analytic intellects (although that will also happen). One enters it, shamefacedly and unhappily, perhaps, but enters it nonetheless, in order to devote oneself to something greater than personal resentments — to salvational or transformational modes of thought. Because, put another way, all the grievances that take aim at higher education express real suffering, and that suffering has causes and modes of expression older than most sufferers usually know. The humanities should be, if not their solace, then their weapons of choice. Prig and cynic and naïf she may be, but the newly minted academic knows this — after all, she most likely came from their midst — and one good way of explaining as much is to explain how that knowledge feels. Without such explanations, which might soften resentment into curiosity or sympathy, there may soon be very little left to be embarrassed about.

damn i like this

—p.167 On Menand and Nussbaum (161) missing author 1 year, 6 months ago