From Hypatia to Victor Hugo to Larry and Sergey

Leave a comment

imagesA lecture by visiting professor Jane Ginsburg.  Hypatia is the Librarian’s utopia, the Library of Alexandria with every text freely accessible.  Victor Hugo is the Author’s utopia: the author is renumerated for his or her work.  And the Google Brothers are the current personification of the clash of two Utopias, Google Books: Universal Library or Bookstore?

The Library of Alexandria has become our idea of the comprehensive library that embraces all knowledge.  Probably because it is lost in time and now irrecoverable.  Since the Sixteenth Century we have been trying to create the themetic catalogue, the universal book of all books: all knowledge, all information, accessed on a desk, an exodermic appendage of the mind.  Have we heard this before: the Internet, or the Matrix?

On the way we passed through the index card, and the micro-filme.  Seeing the plans for a Memex brought to mind the character Angleton from Charles Stross’s Laundry Files.  That helps to imagine that character.

As the metaphor of the memory supplement sits on our desks, and equally as often nowadays, carried in our pockets between two glass slides, the Library of Alexandria is superceded by the Digital Public Library.

The author wants to get paid for her work.  In the Nineteenth Century authors and other luminaries worked together to create multi-territorial privilege to publish.  The right of authorship extended to one territory and outside of that territory a publication’s protection was fair game.  This led to the first production of the Pirates of Penzance being performed in New York so its publication would not be pirated in America.  After 1878 the Berne Convention agreed on copyright protection in all but a handful of states around the world.

So is Google Books fair use or public benefit.  It can be an enhanced card catalogue of the world’s books.  Google is not a charitable institution.  No digital lending library yet.  We are still waiting for the balance between a universal free public library and authorial dissemination and renumeration.

The Song of the Earth

Leave a comment

Weekend round-up again.  I caught a concert on Saturday, the Berlin Philharmonic performing Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.  It’s a piece I had been wanting to see.  Mahler was once described to me with George Bernard Shaw’s quote about Wagner, He has wonderful moments, but long periods.  One of symphonies is still popular as repertoire which fits this description.  So it was nice to hear this piece.  They were songs of youth and age, spring-time and wine-drinking.  I believe that the songs come out of the Chinese humanist tradition.  I haven’t investigated them.  I do know a version of them was done in which they are sung in Chinese.  I haven’t found that version.  I would like to.  I suspect that they are influences in the Book of Songs in the Humanist Bible.  I survived the production although I was nodding off towards the end.

And I finished Indirections by Charles Brasch today.  I sat outon the verandah in the end of winter sun and read the last chapters.  It can go onto my shelves now.  I liked that he finalized it covering the first part of his life and then ends with the hint that his acconplishments lie ahead of him.  As it did with in his editorship of New Zealand’s longest running poetic journal.

So I’ve been to the library to get some things that I would like to finish.

The hits on this site are up again.  There does not appear to be an order to when they come in.  It’s interesting to see what angles people are coming in from, and to know the readers are out there, including the R. S. S. feeders.

Waiting for the moment, for the moment to arise


I think it is official now that I’m avoiding the Majellan Urban Tribe at the moment. I caused a scene at the last session I was at, which was over a month ago. Too hot, too tired, too frustrated. I wanted out in air where I could breathe. In the weeks that have followed I have found it easier to find other things to do, finding other peoples, reclaiming the time. The changed man is looking for me, perhaps in time I will answer him . . . but not now.

Today I went to the library. It took me nearly two months to finish the books I got out last time. Robin Fleming’s history of Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire to the Norman Conquest was my favorite, and the last that I finished. She combined archeaelogical research with historical records with some interesting observations. It was fascinating to read how production centres in Britain collapsed as Roman civilisation retreated. There was a period of 200 years when nails weren’t made in the West European Isles. As we enter a post-petroleum age what industries are going to collapse? What will be out of our grasp?

In comparison the history of Al-Andalus was disappointing because it was a document based history and acknowledged that there are gaps in the record.

I have got overly ambitious now and found five books to get out:

  • Old Malacca
  • Faith and Power: Religion and Politics in the Middle East by Bernard Lewis
  • A Web of Air by Philip Reeve
  • Stamping Butterflies by Jon Courteney Grimwood
  • Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • I’m reading a history of Christianity in Malaysia so I want to read more about the country’s history. It turns out that it’s a small collection in my local library, no general histories and mostly to do with the Emergency. The book by Bernard Lewis looked interesting. Philip Reeve is a young adult writer whose works I greatly admire. Grimwood’s book is the next of his that I could find in the library and I will puzzle my way through it after his Arabesk trilogy: Pashazade, Effendi and Felaheen; and Lindqvist jumped out at me and I felt I should read it to find out what not one but vampire movies (Swedish and American) are on about.

    At the harbour mouth the Lookout Head Light House; down the harbour, on the south shore the fortified island; then the port town Roundhouse Bay; beyond it Sea Bird Egg Island where the quarantined land; the harbour narrows under the Harbour Bridge joining the city of Lamborough to the dachas on the south shore of the wide bay beyond; after the bridge the ferries dock at the Dogs Ferry Station which opens into the city. The train goes under the Hythe Hills to join the city to the port.

    Library Services


    Per Crucem has blogged that Dunedin City Library as a cost-cutting initiative is going to reduce opening hours. I find it annoying that for the most part they are going to reduce opening hours to the working day. A stupid idea for people like me who don’t work in the central city and can only find time to use the library after hours. Per Crucem‘s protest is to encourage people to take out the maximum number of books and encourage the use of our library.

    It’s a tempting proposition. However my reading time is greatly reduced at the moment and I read through my library books in about five to six weeks, meaning I have to renew them at least once, which I can do online when they come overdue. I went in on Friday to get some new books out. I note that these new times could mark the end of an inter-generational tradition: the visit to the library to change one’s books.

    So my bed-time reading for the next month or so is three books from the library:

  • Felaheen by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, the third volume in his curious Arabesk trilogy
  • Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus by Hugh Kennedy
  • Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise 400-1070 by Robin Fleming
  • Two history books to broaden my imagination. That should be fun. It’s proving so as both are start off well written.

    Off house-sitting next week as a friend and his partner are overseas for four weeks and I get to look after their three cats. Three whole weeks of Fuzz Therapy! I need to start looking out things that I want to have on hand to take with me. At least I can walk back to Manono house to pick things up that I’ve forgotten, water plants, and go to the gym in town.

    Damn and Bugger

    Leave a comment

    I heard last night that the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin Library is to close. There will be a sale of books beginning 10am on Friday and going until Saturday. A shame, while I hadn’t been in a couple of years it was a nice little library. Mostly religious books, it held a couple of treasures.

    Karol Wojtyla mi alasharia la, shantih, shantih, shantih

    1 Comment

    At this time 2 million people are gathering in Rome. Italian organisation at its finest, or perhaps Roman. They have all gathered there to observe the burial of a human child in time. They don’t need to be there. Perhaps it is their Gallipoli, the same impulse that compells young anzacs to attend from half a world away. It is a place where a moment happened.

    Tessa followed me down to Hatfield Street when I left for GURPS last night. I didn’t find her when I came back. Perhaps she has followed someone else and can’t find her way home, I thought to myself before I went to bed. No – she met me at the gate when I returned from the archives today.

    The new Hewitson Librarian has been appointed, John Timmons who previously worked at the Settlers Museum. I don’t know if there is going to be a shake-up, certainly some cages will be rattled.