lukegilman.com : High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Favorite Near-Word of the Day: Pajamahadeen

Yes, Pajamahadeen, which I learned about in Sarah Boxer’s excellent article, Blogs in the New York Review of Books. Do not dwell on why I did not know about this word before hand (I am ashamed) but be glad I am sharing it with you now. It is a frightfully interesting mental image.

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Why I shop at Borders and buy on Amazon

and why when the time is right, I hope Amazon will buy them.

Borders is increasing the number of books that it displays with the cover facing out (rather than the spine facing out), even though this shelf-space-eating approach will require cutting inventory at each store up to 10%. Says one analyst: “Breakfast cereals are not stocked end-of-box out. […] It’s a little bizarre that it’s taken booksellers this long to realize that the point of self-service is to make the product as tempting as possible.”

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

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Wikipedia and Civic Duty

I read Nicholson Baker’s article The Charms of Wikipedia, took a look at the sparse and paltry edits in my own Wikipedia edit history and was ashamed. Civic-minded people everywhere will soon come to feel the obligation of adding to its borg-like hive of facts the way we now think of voting.

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S.O. Young’s Historical Collections of Houston Stories

Houston Chronicle Blogger J.R. Gonzales at Bayou City History clued us in to two classic titles in early Houston history being reissued in limited edition sets by Copano Bay Press. Dr. S.O. Young’s “A Thumbnail History of the City of Houston, Texas” and “True Stories of Old Houston and Houstonians.” Copano Bay is producing 500 beautiful, gift-worthy sets, priced at $124.95.

If that’s a little too rich for your taste, the Internet Archive has copies for download.

One of my favorite chapters so far begins…

EARLY HANGINGS IN HOUSTON.
It is an historical fact that at the first session of court held in Harrisburg County, as Harris was then called, two men were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. It is stated that those two men were hanged immediately because the jail was uncomfortably cold and the kind-hearted judge did not want the prisoners to suffer unduly.

I don’t mention this because I approve, of course, but as a rather graphic illustration that Houston’s love affair with rough justice has deep roots.

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Gladwell on FBI Profilers, new book on the workplace of the future

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point takes on the subject of FBI profilers in typical fashion in Dangerous Minds: Criminal profiling made easy.. Noting the successes of well-known profilers throughout the FBI’s history – James Brussel, Howard Teten, John Douglas and Robert Ressler – Gladwell turns to recent empirical research to question whether there’s really any predictive power behind these profiles or whether their techniques are closer to the cold reading techniques of astrologers and psychics.

It should also be noted that Gladwell’s recent, notable absence from blogging and from the pages of the New Yorker was to spent holed up writing his third book, which Kottke reveals as “the future of the workplace with subtopics of education and genius.”

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Oliver Sacks, Music and Amnesia

Oliver Sacks, the famous neurologist who authored Awakenings, about a group of patients he treated in the late 60′s, has continued to produce some of the most fascinating and intelligible books on the mysteries of the human mind. His most recent book is Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.

Sacks previews his work in The New Yorker, The Abyss: Music and amnesia, chronicling the chilling tale of Clive Wearing, a prominent musician reduced by encephalitis to a terrifying state of amnesia that has robbed him even of short term memory.

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What single book is the best introduction to your field

That’s the topic of a interesting discussion happening over at metafilter – What single book is the best introduction to your field or specialization for laypeople? – behold the aggregating power of the ‘internets’. Here are a few I picked out that I would read if I ever had the time… sigh…

  • Notes on Nursing by Florence Nightingale
  • The Problem’s of Philosophy by Bertrand Russel
  • Fundamentals of Microfabrication by Marc Madou
  • The Complete Modern Blacksmith by Alexander Weygers
  • Dictionaries, the Art and Craft of Lexicography by Sidney Landau
  • Practical Crime Scene Processing and Investigation by Ross Gardner
  • Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
  • How Children Learn by John Holt

It also made me wonder what fundamental texts I might recommend from those areas of thought I’m familiar enough with to know. Perhaps the following:

  • Cinematography Manual by David Samuelson (cinematography, film production)
  • A Preface to Paradise Lost by C.S. Lewis (Epic Poetry)
  • The Federalist Papers by Hamilton, Madison, Jay et al (American Gov’t and Constitutional Law)

More later if I think of anything else.

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Bees

Featured in a recent New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert’s Stung is about just that, bees. She begins:

Not long ago, I found myself sitting at the edge of a field with a bear and thirty or forty thousand very angry bees. The bear was there because of the bees. The bees were there because of me, and why I was there was a question I found myself unable to answer precisely.

launching into a lengthy and detailed thesis on nature and history of bees that is alternately fascinating …

Honeybees are the only animals besides humans known to have a representational language: they convey to one another the location of food by dancing.

… and unsettling…

Males, known as drones, perform no useful function except to mate. They are loutish and filthy, and the workers—sterile females—tolerate their presence for a few months a year, then systematically murder them.

ultimately focusing on the recent discovery of what is called ‘colony-collapse disorder’ in which commercial beekeepers were finding large percentages of hives 70% – 90% abandoned.

Such was the level of infection that van Engelsdorp and other researchers concluded that the bees’ immune systems had collapsed. It was as if an insect version of AIDS were sweeping through the hives.

I have only one bee story myself, from my childhood. It involves a water hose and a colony of bees living in the hollow tube of a clothesline frame in my backyard and it ended very badly.

Read: The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert, Stung

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Antonya Nelson’s glimpse of Houston in Shauntrelle

Houston is not, to my mind, a particularly literary town, that is to say, it defies one to write about it. It has no deficit of aspiration of course and has played host to many a worthy practitioner – minimalist kingpin Donald Barthelme, poets Mark Doty, Edward Hirsch, Cynthia MacDonald, Vassar Miller, and of course Larry McMurtry – and a whole flotilla of authors I’ve neglected or am not aware of.

Houstonist spotted the short story Shauntrelle by Houston-based author Antonya Nelson in last week’s New Yorker.

It isn’t just a husband you divorce but a life. A credit rating. Certain friends—sadly, some of them small children. A mother-in-law, that innocent bystander. And sometimes it seemed to Constance that she had divorced her own pronoun, I, and run away with another, she. She, she sometimes thought, of herself, and always in the present tense. As in Has she disconnected from her past so completely?

She hadn’t, however, divorced her city. Houston was still hers, although this part of it was new to her. Along with the novelty of the South Loop, she’d acquired a roommate, this after many years of the known quantity: husband, daughter. Dogs. She guessed she’d divorced them, too.

New Yorker Fiction: Shauntrelle

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Inprint Brown Reading Series 2007-08 season lineup announced

The Inprint Brown Reading Series season lineup has been announced. My personal highlights include Michael Chabon and Dave Eggers, founder of publishing house McSweeney’s whose Internet Tendency is a daily read. See the Inprint Houston website for more information.

Houston Chronicle: Inprint Brown Reading Series

• Oct. 15: Richard Powers and Jennifer Egan. Powers (The Gold Bug Variations; The Echo Maker) often incorporates science, medicine and technology into tales fraught with emotional and moral complexity. Egan’s novels include Look at Me and, most recently, The Keep.
• Nov. 12: Elizabeth Alexander and Taha Muhammad Ali. Alexander’s poetry collections include The Venus Hottentot and American Sublime. Ali is a leading figure on the contemporary Palestinian literary scene. His books include So What: New and Selected Poems.
• Jan. 21: Vikram Chandra and Mayra Montero. Indian-born Chandra, an alumnus of University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, is author most recently of Sacred Games, a 900-page epic of crime and corruption in contemporary Mumbai. Cuban-born Montero is author of nine novels, including Dancing to “Almendra,” set in Mafia-dominated, pre-Castro Havana.
• Feb. 17: Dave Eggers and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Eggers’ memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, launched his career in 2000. McSweeney’s, his literary journal and publishing house, has become a leading platform for up-and-coming writers. Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun won the 2007 Orange Prize. New York magazine described it as “like Gone With the Wind, except in Nigeria.” This reading will be at Cullen Theatre, Wortham Center.
• March 31: Alice McDermott and Laura Restrepo. McDermott won the National Book Award for her novel Charming Billy. Restrepo, from Colombia, is a leading figure in contemporary Latin American fiction. Delirium (2007) is her latest novel translated into English. This reading will be at Zilkha Hall, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
• April 12: Robert Hass. A former U.S. poet laureate, Hass has a new collection out in October, Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005.

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