Archive for the ‘Humanities’ Category

A museum should be fun!

A museum should be fun. A place you want to go. A place where you learne about history, human thought and nature in a creative environment. Very few museums seems to realise this. However, all is not lost. Randers Kulturhistoriske Museum have put up a new rune display that seems to be fantastic. In a sparkling combo of modern technology and history, they’ve created an interactive experience around the Mejlby rune stone.

 

 

This is a perfect example of why, and how, the humanities should embrace tech and geekery. To make the experience enjoyable for “the straights”, ie. the public. They are used to HDTV, Wii games and the relative interactivity of the Internet. Why should they think you as a museum employee should get paid to do some dusting of old and to them boring artifacts? Please don’t get me wrong, I do think all these things have a tremendous worth in and of themselves, but we who are working within the humanities, whatever that may entail, must take as our responsibility to help people want to learn, and want to see, and even though few of us want to think about money, pay to have the privilege. I am not advocating that ie. all  museums should have an entrance fee, but rather that we in the business also remember that tax money is paid by someone…

 

Most convicted felons are just people who were not taken to museums or Broadway musicals as children.
Libby Gelman-Waxner quotes ~

 

Thobias

Book convention ’08

As previously stated, I attended the Book- & Library con in Gothenburg this Thursday. I thought I’d recount some of that experience here for the benefit of the ‘scryers’ of the TwilightShadows.

Staying the night with two girls…

The trip was paid for by the department I attend, the Department for Culture Studies, but of course we had to pay the entrance fee out of pocket. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of my self. I took forever to find out when the buss was to leave from Lund. At 7.15 am as it turned out… I quickly realised that it would not be practical, nor much fun, to get to Lund from Hässleholm at that hour. So I asked a dear friend of mine, Emma, if I could bunk up at her place. Thankfully she said yes, and I spent a lovely Wednesday evening with Emma and her sister Anna. On Thursday we were up at 6 and got dressed, downed a piece of bread each, and went off.

Travelling and arriving

The trip up was without much excitement, although we did make a pit-stop i Halmstad at Eurostop, and Emma and I shared a Club Sandwich and a clementine each. We arrived in Gothenburg around 11 and met up with some people and went in. OK, first unpleasant surprise; the price of admission turned out to be 180 SEK, not 120 as I had been told… But I paid, and we all went inside.

Rather imposing

Rather imposing

Walking through the door a wall of noise hit me. It wasn’t that it was extremely loud, I just was not ready for it. We stumbled straight into the theme of the the year, Lithuanian literature. They had a weird but prominent display made in brown cardboard… Didn’t really wet my appetite for Lithuania. C’est la Vie.

I found it rather sovietish…

I found it rather sovietish…

Awesomely expensive food!

After a little while we found FOOD, and realised that this whole due is interesting, yes, but somewhat of a scam. You pay 180 SEK to get in and pay a lot more money! Thought full, don’t you think? A sandwich cost me 65 SEK, roughly €7! And it wasn’t even a fancy one. Tasty yes, but small. We later found that a 33 cl cola cost a whopping 23 SEK. The same thing went for many of the books. Not all of them were particularly new, and many of them were definitely overpriced. It seemed most of them landed in the vicinity of 150 SEK, roughly €17 I think.
I was also slightly depressed by the lack of tech at this con. No sign of Adobe, Quark, Apple or even Microsoft!?! Without them today’s book world would not be possible. And Adobe just released CS4 the other day. There was not even a glimmer of a presence! What, why, how? That a convention this big and important doesn’t see any of the software makers is nothing but pitiful. I expected better. Also an e-book or two wouldn’t hurt…

ICAs publishing companies

ICA's publishing companies

The books I found

In spite of these minor hiccups, I managed to find a few worthy ones. The first one Emma found at the Alfabeta publishing booth. Ormstenens Gåta/The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin. (ISBN 978-91-501-0913-9) It’s a historical detective novel, and the edition we both got is a relatively nice one. At 150 SEK I did think it was slightly pricey for a convention though.

Walking down some isles I came by Man av Skugga förlag, which publishes comics and graphic novels. I bought Death Piglet by Johan C. Brandstedt. (ISBN 978-91-85253-04-3) Awesome series, apparently a web comic but I confess to have missed it. It’s “99% word free” in a strip format, and who can resist a seal saying “Official seal of warranty – NOT GAY” with an asterisk pointing to “may contain assrape”… 100 SEK for this comic seemed very reasonable.

Martina Haag gets interviewd

Martina Haag gets interviewd

Later on I picked up Skenet bedrar/Paint A’Licious by Joanne Gair (ISBN 91-32-33227-0). A nice photo book on body painting with people hiding things or them selves with the aid of really good body painting. This book was bargain priced at 39,90 SEK, and I did not hesitate to buy it.

The last book I picked up was from one of my favourite publishers; Taschen. It’s really a German company, but it was the British division visiting Sweden. Their art books are beautiful. Emma found some extremely nice books on Leonardo da Vinci and Salvador Dalí. Neither one of is bought any of those though. Partly due to price, 399 SEK I think, partly due to weight… I did pick up a very nice and fun book though: 1000 Pin-Up Girls (ISBN 978-3-8365-0505-5) at a very reasonable 95 SEK.

Other things I saw that I wanted was a cookbook called Paris which seemed very nice. Paris pictures, and if I understood it correctly it had recipes from all over modern day Paris. From Thai to baguettes.

The cook book I wanted

The cook book I wanted

There was also this address book with pictures by John Bauer (ISBN 91-638-2562-7). Quite beautiful and only costing a mere 10 SEK! I know for a fact that this book costs around 200-250 SEK in regular bookshops. This was the major bargain of the day, and I did by it for Lise.

Carl-Jan Granqvist och Leif Mannerström

Carl-Jan Granqvist och Leif Mannerström

Stargazing

Since this is the foremost con of its kind in Sweden there were a fair few “stars” there too. To mention some of them we saw the Princess Royal of Sweden, Victoria, Peter Stormare of Hollywood fame, writer and journalist Jan Guillou, Carl-Jan Granqvist and a couple of others. Personally I am not particularly star struck, but it’s fun to see people you’ve seen on the telly IRL so to speak. They are not just myths.

Peter Stormare gets a prise

Peter Stormare gets a prize

It’s a long way to go

By now we were quite ready to go home. We did stop by Lärarnas Riksförbund on the way out to get some wine. Technically you were not allowed unless you’d been invited, but some nice guy handed me an invite and I got a surprisingly nice cup of rouge. All’s well that ends well, I guess.
We headed out to the bus and sat chatting most of the way home. Most were pleased with the day, and that would have to include my self. Though the overall prices did cause some hubbub. We saw a few road accidents on the E6 on our way south, and I hope it wasn’t as serious as it looked, but thankfully we were without and arrived safely in Lund, though slightly later than scheduled.

End of an evening

Emma and I walked home to here place where I was to pick up my stuff and try and help Anna with some philosophy, positivism to be exact. If I did anything but confuse the poor girl it was pure luck… I am sorry Anna. We talked the day over, said our good byes, hugged and then I hurried of to the train. I caught the last one just in time.

These girls had an interesting fairy tale book about a lesbian princess.

These girls from Sagolikt Bokförlag had an interesting fairy tale book about a lesbian princess.

Once back in Hässleholm Lise met me with the car at the station. I was by now rather famished having only had a couple of sandwiches all day, so a kebab sounded really good. But wouldn’t you know it, all those joints were closed. After a bit of thinking I came to the conclusion that there really is only one place you can always count on; McDonald’s. So a Big Mac it was then. Funnily enough it tasted rather good, but in all honesty a dead horse with some cabbages boiled with vinegar would probably have been an appealing proposition at this time as well… So a strange end to a good day.

Some afterthought

The general impression of the con was that it was a very nice happening. But I think the publishers etc. need to rethink their pricing of goods. Also, almost no freebies? What’s that all about? Not even a sodding pen! Conventions are after all meant to be the industry equivalent of tarting your self up and head out to a bar. Be funny, be interesting and most important of all: give stuff away for free. It’s all about building a brand, and that you do by making sure people remember you and talk about you. Books should be like drugs, the first one should be free.

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

~Groucho Marx

Thobias

Ps Emma lended me Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment when I left. It’s awesome!

September Update

So, I thought maybe it was time for a general update of things. As you might have seen I recently went pro on Flickr and updated for the entire summer. Sorry about that, but my internet connection over the summer was really sucky…

Found it a bit lurky…

Found it a bit lurky…

In other news: I am attending the Book and Library con in Gothenburg this year. It should be a lot of fun, and hopefully the TwilightShadows will contain a full report soon! If I see anything really interesting I might tweet it and/or throw up some pictures on Flickr from the con, so check that out as well. Adding to this I am conscidering working at the LitteraLund childrens book festival. I think I might actually.

If you’ve lived in a bag for the last year or so you might have missed a new internet star called Jonathan Coulton, or JoCo. He is as indie as you get, since he is entirely self-published and adding insult to the RIAA’s injury, started by giving his music away as a podcast! If you haven’t checked him out you really should. Head on over to his site, or look him up in the iTunes Store. I recommend ‘Code Monkey’, ‘Creepy Doll’, ‘First of May’ and ‘Furry Lobster’. But there are many more! This is the new generation musicians, and man does it rock!

The Culture Night in Lund turned into somewhat of a fiasco for me. First of, my personal demons were acting up, and that didn’t help matters. But also, I’ve never been before so I did not realise that most of the western world would be there… So here’s a recipe for success: Look through the info and decide what you want to see or do. Next, show up in advance! Up to one hour in certain cases. The ‘Edith Piaf’ concert was sold out when I arrived 20 minutes in advance… I’m planning on attending next year to, but I will be more ready this time!

And finally; every last Sunday of the month ‘The Bishops Arms’ in Lund holds an Irish session. This is where Irish folk musicians come to the pub and sit around and play and sing together. Anyone can join in. Price of admission? The price of a drink in the bar! It’s awesome and it is truly recommended by The TwilightShadows.

In all institutions from which the cold wind of open criticism is excluded, an innocent corruption begins to grow like a mushroom – for example, in senates and learned societies.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Thobias

Why are Smileys not in the history books?

I recently began a course in the history of handwritten texts, and I must say it has made me think a lot about communication.

Throughout history we are inclined to think that we as a race have evolved into more and more advanced creatures, which in turn has led to more and more advanced communication. We learned to speak, rather than just use sounds. We learned to use pictogram’s, then cuneiform writing, which in turn evolved into the modern alphabet.

Making parchment

Following these remarkable feats we also figure out how to print the written word, using movable types, thus enabling us to do masscommunication. 

From our standpoint though, we tend to think of the past, say thirty years as the most significant in this process. The IT-revolution. Everything from widespread use of television, to the Google aided memory. This has enabled more people than ever before to communicate with more people, and in more diverse ways than ever before. I would not go as far as to say that it has meant a complete democratisation of communication, but we are drawing ever closer to it.

And here is where I find my self at a cross-roads. Should I as a blogger and Web 2.0 guy follow the line of “This is awesome! I’m gonna’ twitter it right now.” Or should I listen to the historian inside. The historian is much more cautious. 

The historian in me sees a problem here. As we said it is generally believed that we go from less advanced to more advanced. And to me that also seams to be intimately connected to the notion that we leave more to the generations to come. We learned how to write, we have some of that left. We learned how to use better and better materials to write on and with, so we have even more of those things. We learned to store and curate things, conserve them. Massproduction saw to that some things hang around purely because there is so damn much of it. But today’s texts, when we finally seem to have left the mandarin culture of yester ages, it hits us: no one will read it in times to come. I can’t even use my old diskettes from the nineties anymore, and even less so my Zip-disks. Not to mention my old Nisus Writer files… Some formats have lingered and standards help. Text-files, ASCII, Unicode and to a certain extent CD-ROMs are still useful, but for how long? Besides, none of that is even close to useful without electicity… With the possible exception of the Cd’s. They can be used as mirrors, mini Frisbee’s or any number of other things, but I digress.

Adobe Caslon letter A

So what? Most of what is written today is not important for more than a few minutes, a couple of months at the most. Then it’s old and useless. But we should consider this: historians generally say that cultures with few traces are not very advanced nor are they particularly rich. We cremate our dead and leave fewer and fewer traces in writing, and yet we would all suppose we are a reasonably advanced culture. This is troublesome.

The other issue to address is that the languages have started to show to lacks. Lack number one is that word and phrases takes to long to type out. Hence we use things like LOL, BTW and RTFM instead. But at the same time, and this is my second point, it is lacking in expressiveness, which has brought back the pictogram’s in active use, and those are the smileys.

Why is this? Well, I think the shortenings were to be expected. The means of writing have almost always dictated the way we write. Ergo the rather cumbersome task of writing on a QWERTY keyboard, specifically design to slow you down on a typewriter will create a new way of expression when “normal” people start using it to do their communication. This is echoed in the ancient times when the Phoenicians invented the alphabet because they needed something faster to write with to do their trade. The cuneiform writing had been OK for the Assyrians, Babylonians and Sumerians because they mainly used it for administrative purposes, and this, as we all know, does not require any particular speed. The hieroglyphs of Egypt similarly, were designed for propaganda and religion, also two rather no speedy tasks, at least in those days. But when the average Joe or Jane needed a writing system, they invented the much more efficient alphabet. The same thing is happening now. Regular people need something faster, so they invent it. But they are not capable of inventing new sorts of keyboards, so they change the way they write instead.

 

Smiley

 

The smileys are in a way more of a mystery. On the one hand it is rather straight forward. In a world where we use text instead of verbal communication, we need something to replace body language with. I mean fair enough, it is difficult to blush so someone understands it without being in the same room. No, the mystery to me is why we don’t seem to have needed these before. Surely bodytype language must have been needed from time to time before? Or is it a new thing thing? Are we the first ones to believe it is actually needed? Is it that people expressed feelings in writing better in times gone by? Maybe, but certainly not everyone.

Is there then a point to this rambling, other than creating more text that will be gone the day the power goes out? I’m not sure, but I think it is important to remember that we do not live for ever, and that we need to carefully consider what, and in that case how we want coming generations to remember us. I’ve heard that the Scientologists have had their important writings written on platinum plates to preserve them for when they come back after some great disaster. Maybe we all should start to think this way. Not perhaps writing our blog posts on metal, but at least give it a think!

If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.” 
Kingsley Amis

Thobias

Books for Twits

In listening to the latest episode of This Week in Tech, I was at first horrified that I would not get my normal weekly dose of half-arsed, funny but still very informative insights into the world of tech and Web 2.0. The tone was serious! Well, I still clung on, and in many ways this must have been one of the more interesting Twits in a long while.

Joining the regulars, this time Leo (of course) and Dvorak (.org/blog…) was the able hands of Denise Howell of This Week in Law fame; and a special guest: Brewster Kahle. Who is he? He’s none other than the guy behind archive.org and as such one of the first persons with foresight enough to realise that not all things are printed anymore, and what that will mean for the possibilities of future research.

Anyway, this time around the round table concerned among other things the FBI screwing up in their dealings with archive.org; dealings it’s very doubtful if they should have commenced with to begin with. But the really tasty bit was the scanning and distribution of printed works over the Internet. Archive.org have in conjunction with such big shots as Microsoft and Yahoo! scanned thousands of books and published them for free on the Internet. Now, recently MS and the big Y decided to pull out, but the project will go on as a public service instead. (Nothing but kudos to MS and Y in spite, they poured millions into a project that they from a business perspective shouldn’t have undertaken in the first place.)

And this is where it starts to get interesting for the rest of us. Where are the European initiatives to something of this kind? We, collectively, own some of the finest historical collections in the world in everything from books and manuscripts to records and art. Why is this not on archive.org or similar services? Why, since a lot of our stuff is owned and produced by the public, can’t the public get at it in a user friendly and informative way? Mind you, the few euro efforts you sometimes find often have a very tangy googlesk feel to them, meaning ugly and not very useful. (As we all know, Google Books is nothing short of a cruel joke on humanity.) But just think of the possibilities, the combined history of Europe (this is from a Euro perspective, but obviously other parts of the world would benefit from the same thing) all tagged and searchable on the Internet. It’s a wet dream for me as a historian.

Of course you already can get a lot of stuff via, for instance, archive.org and the fairly new project Open Library, but there is one snag: what’s on there is predominantly in English. As a Scandinavian I might find that of little or no use depending on what I am looking for. So, to concentrate on my neck of the woods, I urge the governments of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland to digitise books in the same general fashion as archive.org. Preferably add it to archive.org for free while you’re at it! It is a shame that we, as some of the most technological nations in the world, seem to have completely abandon our history just because it’s not in MS Word format. This needs to stop now! Our children, nay the world, deserves it. Otherwise, we will get a truly horrible generation; and we will thoroughly deserve…

For books are more than books, they are the life
The very heart and core of ages past,
The reason why men lived and worked and died,
The essence and quintessence of their lives. – Amy Lowell

Thobias

P.s. To show what can be done with these scans, I want to ask you to have a look at this Cinderella, or this edition of Alice in Wonderland. Both are with archive.org, but the latter found via Open Library. They are beautiful and nothing short of fantastic!

La Lynch de Lumière?

I am still undecided whether I am a fan of David Lynch or not, though I certainly dig some of his stuff. But this was quite beautiful and interesting I thought. It is Lynches contribution to a compilation made in the mid 90’s. Everyone had to only use the original Cinematographe invented by the Lumière Brothers and techniques therefore.

There were three rules: (1) The film could be no longer than 52 seconds, (2) no synchronized sound was permitted, and (3) no more than three takes. Remember while watching that all the effects are in-camera and there is no cutting for scenes.

So watch it and enjoy!

Thobias

Linotype FontExplorer X

People who are into design and layout tend to be FF; Font Fetishists. As such it after a while tends to get difficult to keep track of all the fonts. And even thought Mac OS X handles fonts in a better way than the good old classic Mac System, there is still room for improvement.

So what is a discerning font fanatic to do? In the old days we had Adobe TypeManager. But now? Enter Linotype FontExplorer X from Linotype, and old company in the world of typography. It is a comprehensive organising tool for fonts, and as an added bonus it connects directly to the Linotype font store. They have an amazing amount of pro fonts that you can easily purchase and download to your Mac. The app and the account (optional) is free, and you can just use it to organise your fonts in a very iApp sort of way. But it can also offer an easy access point to a very comprehensive font library for professionals.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

Thobias