Monthly Archives: May 2009

review – yours truly, the commuter

lytle Jason Lytle will admit through his lyrics that this is not a triumphant return, but his reemergence back to the indie, alt-country, southwestern music scene is certainly redeeming.   Rather than further eulogizing the dissolution of Grandaddy, Jason has reified his talent through his new solo album Yours Truly, The Commuter.  Not only is it a lo-fi production continuing the Grandaddy vision of natural wonder surrounded with crunchy guitars and ethereal overtones, but it’s also a statement.  Lytle, in his pursuit of serenity, is here for the long-haul, not as a rock star, but as an artist.

The overall theme of the album is somewhat a continuation of Grandaddy’s What Happened to the Fambly Cat, where Lytle is not subtle about never being able to return to his Shangri-La, geographical or otherwise. The Commuter, however, stresses the classic idea of having the destination matter less than the actual journey, and it is in this journey that Lytle realizes the heroism of the ability to keep pushing on rather than cling to fleeting paradise.

As the album progresses the landscape changes from the typical earthy Grandaddy sound of intertwined guitar, synth and subtle percussion to the takeoff of ethereal chords and extended, up-close confessionals.  Plenty of standout tracks on this one; mine include Brand New Sun, Ghost of My Old Dog, Rollin’ Home Alone, Flying Thru Canyons and Here for Good.   It’s an album that gathers an emotional momentum, but soon dissipates, for it’s typical of Lytle: all his intention is to make an honest sound, watch it fly around, and then be on his way.

planet china

Very similar to what Troost has documented in his book.  In Guangzhou:

A man threatening to commit suicide by jumping from a Chinese bridge was approached by a passer-by who shoved him over the edge, local media say.

Mr Lai is said to have then broken through the police cordon, climbed to where Mr Chen sat, greeted him with a handshake – and then pushed him off the edge.

Things are different in China.

library time

There’s not enough of it:

Academic librarians are eager to offer sessions for students on what we call “research education.” But the mistaken assumption that students don’t need it means that many professors don’t ask us to meet with their students, or even respond to our enthusiastic offers to lead such sessions. Students don’t need to be taught anything about working online, because they were practically born digital, right?

Research education is not tools education. Research education involves getting students to understand how information is organized physically in libraries, as well as electronically in library catalogs and in powerful, sometimes highly specialized commercial databases. It means teaching students to search effectively online to identify the most relevant and highest-quality books, articles, microform sets, databases, even free Web resources.

Knowing how to Tweet doesn’t equate to knowing the LexisNexis interface.

review – lost on planet china

lostJ. Maarten Troost is a curious sort of traveler. Willing to endure the various waterborne intestinal afflictions encountered during his stay in the South Pacific, he’s not a typical tourist. So what better place to continue his exploits than in, say, China?  Specifically, his curiosity, like that of many, is to discern just exactly what the Chinese context is.  His latest book, Lost on Planet China, intriguingly relays his intrepid dispatches.

It is a wonderfully gonzo experience, one that readers may come away thinking how glad they are that someone other than themselves took the time to do this.  For readers will encounter, through Troost’s initial perceptions, that China is the preeminently overpopulated & polluted, tightly controlled yet super-industrialized nation in the world today.  That being said, all your perceptions of China are still wrong, because China is different.  It is the most complex, contradictory, and rapidly changing country in the world.  And because of this, it is impossible to gauge the Chinese experience from a Western perspective.

Troost surrenders himself to a China left un-traveled by most laowais (foreigners).  Some of his more curious destinations include the windy and dusty streets of Beijing (the Gobi is subtly encroaching), stumbling upon an endangered species black market in Guangzhou (incidentally where SARS is rumored to start), to the seemingly separate kingdoms of Shanghai, Hong Kong & Macau, to deathly day hikes at the Tiger Leaping Gorge, hearing karaoke in a state-sponsored Shangri-La, the frighteningly alien plateau of Tibet, and the frozen northern borders with Russia and North Korea.

Despite Troost’s unavoidable preoccupations with the crowds, unhealthy air and the ever-present Communist grip, his observations of China really point to the country as being otherworldly.  And despite there being so many diverse provinces and minorities adding to his inability to fully communicate, despite the harsh exertion of the ever-present big brother, Troost does discover the human connection, whether exchanging smiles with an old farmer on a crowded midnight train or being happily fed by a street vendor in Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter.

So as Troost’s Chinese experience starts to reach its conclusion, the reader may acknowledge in his writing a sense of fulfillment, perhaps harmony, as his sojourn winds down in the cold northern wilds of Harbin.  Despite the temperature, he feels the warmth in his visit to the local Siberian Tiger preserve; literally fishing for tigers with live chickens, his Chinese context slowly blooms upon a fascinating chance encounter within the North Korean neutral zone.  Everything, as the saying goes, is not only relative but foreign. Excellent read.

plagiarism via osmosis

Breaking news, infomaniacs!  Another virus affecting grey matter everywhere is potentially reaching pandemic proportions.  The predisposition to copy-and-paste has now entered the professional ranks of journalistic ethics and integrity.  In addition to recent actions of journalists unable to verify falsified wikipedia entries, a peculiar outbreak of  the “dragon-click” virus has afflicted the central processing unit of New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd, who plagiarised a political blogger for her latest column:

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has admitted to using a paragraph virtually word-for-word from a prominent liberal blogger without attribution.

In addition to having the excerpt taken virtually word-for word, the most peculiar aspect to Dowd’s thievery, fellow news freaks, is that her explanation suggests that she was a victim of osmosis.

Dowd, who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1990, told The Huffington Post that the mistake was unintentional. She claims she never read Marshall’s post last week and had heard the line from a friend who did not mention reading it in Marshall’s blog.

I emphasize the last line because, like the wikipedia scandal, she relied on an unverified source, a nameless “friend” if you will, who in effect had performed the plagiarism when speaking to her. That their conversation conveyed the exact contents of the blogger’s posting is, to quote Mr. Spock, fascinating.

knowledge is good

The University of Nottingham is definitely on to something.  What with their wildly popular and scientastic Periodic Table of Videos, it looks as if they’ve unveiled a new venture that’s rampaging through the Interweaves.  It’s called Sixty Symbols, “a channel devoted to those funny letters and squiggles used by physicists and astronomers.”

As evidenced by the rejuvenated popularity of Star Trek, I think people’s minds are melding to the idea that the 21st century is more about learning than it is about greed. Huzzah.

wikipedia & primary sources

You know the state of information literacy is bad when journalists are copying and pasting quotes that are in fact hoaxes:

When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he said he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news.

“The moral of this story is not that journalists should avoid Wikipedia, but that they shouldn’t use information they find there if it can’t be traced back to a reliable primary source,” said the readers’ editor at the Guardian, Siobhain Butterworth, in the May 4 column that revealed Fitzgerald as the quote author.

Oh my.