At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Thursday, November 13, 2003


The cardinal temptation of collection development librarians, I'm discovering, is to buy books based on one's own interests rather than the needs of the library. I would love to get this study of Newman, but I doubt controversies in Victorian Anglicanism have that much relevance to a small Baptist institution...

Turner, Frank M. John Henry Newman: The Challenge to Evangelical Religion. Yale.

Expository Times: “Weighty and impressive…will be welcomed by historians and a wider general readership with an interest in the life of John Henry Newman…well researched and scholarly…an eminently readable and informative book, which provide[s] detailed and considered insight into John Henry Newman. It help[s] situate Newman and provide a wider framework of understanding and interpretation.” Church History: “detailed, meticulously researched…Even if one believes that Turner’s interpretation of Newman’s career at Oxford makes the future cardinal too calculating and perhaps even Machiavellian in his responses and strategies, this book will require many to take a new look at the complicated events of those years. No one writing about them will be able to avoid addressing Turner’s reinterpretation….Whilte Turner cites many of [his own] observations as ‘speculative and tendentious,’ they appear throughout the book.” Journal of Church and State: “Turner’s revisionist approach is intriguing, yet his psychological explanations of Newman’s religious journey as a search for authority and affection are not entirely convincing. Neither is the contention concerning Newman’s intellectual impact having moved England away from a Protestant mentality. Even so, the author presents valuable insight into Newman’s work before his conversion to Catholicism.” First Things: “overlong…empty speculations….an exasperating book.” Commonweal: “Turner’s great contribution is to see the young Newman in context…The most controversial and most problematic aspect of Turner’s portrait of Newman is certainly his psychological conjectures about his subject…and Turner’s hand is less sure here than it is in his situating of Newman within the context of party controversy.” Library Journal: “Persuasive, documented research…This provocative text is recommended for academic and large libraries.” National Review: “beautiful writing…a rare revival of profound cynicism toward Newman’s project…of [Catholic] culture the magisterial Turner seems at times quaintly innocent….Tuner lacks an ear for the wretched polemics hurled at Newman. He also lacks facts…What could have been a challenging exercise in revisionism becomes a curiosity when Turner joins the louche company of psychobiographers…” Publishers Weekly: “unlikely to sway Newman devotees and those promoting his cause for sainthood, but it is absorbing nonetheless and certainly will attract readers with a bent for revisionism.” Choice: “For an introduction to Newman, undergraduates would be best off with a standard work like Ian Ker’s John Henry Newman: A Biography. Optional.”


Good news for Guinness drinkers. But I'll find it hard to give up my Pilsner Urquell. [courtesy] Library tangent: a few days ago I heard that the famous Book of World Records was conceived by the director of Guinness brewery.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Competition heats up for site of George W. Bush Presidential Library. Sic 'em Bears!


More left-wing tolerance. Commendably, Andrew Sullivan recognizes the problem. [Courtesy, Right wing film geek.]

For the handful of us who are both conservative and interested in French culture, there's Merde in France, a bilingual blog written by a right-wing American living in France.

Sunday, November 09, 2003


I dreamed that I was interviewing for a library job at a university in upstate New York. While touring the campus I was taken with the beauty of the fall foliage and the 19th-century architecture. Yep, I think it's time I got out of west Texas. Our school has made, however, an interesting new faculty hire, an attractive young woman with an Ivy-league doctorate. Wonder how long she'll stay here.

Still buying used CDs with a vengeance. The reason is that rock music history effectively ended for me in 1991, when I entered grad school and began living on the subsistence wages of a teaching assistant. Now that I am a (modestly) salaried professional, I'm playing catch up. My happiest discovery so far has been the Flaming Lips, probably because they're so old-fashioned, something of a combination of mid-60s pop and early 70s prog rock. (The heartbeat as rhythm track in "What is the Light?" alludes to Dark Side of the Moon, of course, and that jumpy, distorted bass in "Buggin'" must have been inspired by "Lillywhite Lilith" from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.) It's great that someone is still making concept albums (even if I don't understand what the concepts are), and I'm impressed that they continue to live in their hometown of Oklahoma City and haven't relocated to someplace obvious like NYC or LA.

I've found a lot of Bjork discs in the used bin--which may be a sign of something. She isn't one of my favorites but each of her albums (one of my students made fun of me for using that term, by the way; guess it dates me) has enough quality tracks to be worth the six or seven bucks. Vespertine, though I found it boring at first, is now my favorite; Debut from 1993 sounds almost antique in comparison.

I love the cold, aloof, hynagogic beauty of Stereolab's Dots and Loops, the soundtrack for a trip into outer space. But much of their earlier work is noisier and less well-crafted, especially indulgent 10+ minute VU imitations like "Jenny Ondoline."

Beck's Odelay has a permanent place in my collection, but Mellow Gold and Midnite Vultures are too ugly and Mutations too boring.

Possibly for further investigation: Sigur Ros (another one from Iceland); Radiohead; Sonic Youth; P. J. Harvey. Any other suggestions? And who are these "Strokes"? They were on the cover of three difference music magazines last week.

In the library biz, I remain befuddled by the subjectivity of collection development. For instance, we're adding a Special Education class to our curriculum, so I needed to evaluate our current holdings in the subject and make additional acquisitions if need be. I spent all of one day looking through the suggested reading of syllabi for similar classes at thirty or so other universities and compiling a list of the ten most frequently cited titles; but all these items turned out to be introductory textbooks. So I went through our syllabus and looked up books in WorldCat dealing with each of the topics discussed (e.g. autism, communication disorders, ADHD, etc.) I more or less arbitrarily picked titles which were recently published and held by a large number of libraries. I tried to find reviews of them but either education books aren't reviewed or our databases don't index the journals which review them. The advantage of the job, perhaps, is that the lack of objective standards makes it hard to evaluate my performance negatively!

I finished Chrono Cross so I'm back to watching DVDs, at least until SquareSoft releases Final Fantasy X: Part 2. The Matrix Reloaded was pretty stupid. Characters spouting pseudo-philosophical hooey about fate and free will; ridiculous retro-70s garb; unsubtle use of CGI; visual gimmicks that border on self-parody; Lawrence Fishburne's insufferably smug sententiousness. The babe factor was also a toss-up: Monica Bellucci, though getting older, is still quite attractive, but Carrie-Anne Moss was too gaunt.

The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick was a big disappointment too, an extremely low-budget documentary which interviews a handful of acquaintances about Dick's mystical experiences in the early 70s. I guess Dick wasn't famous enough in his lifetime to have been on TV much, so all we hear from Dick himself is a few minutes of audiotape from a Rolling Stone interview, dubbed over a primitive computer animation of a cartoonish PKD seated at a typewriter. Not very informative, although in the "additional footage" section I was interested to learn that Dick became buddies with the heretical Episcopalian bishop James Pike due to their shared interest in Gnosticism. Dick soon began attending services at Bay Area parishes and calling himself an Anglican. Sadly, they don't call us "Episcopagans" for nothing.

Read A Confederacy of Dunces again, the second time this year and the sixth or seventh time all told. I just now noticed the similarities between Ignatius, Patrolman Mancuso, and Jones. All three have trouble at their low-paid, dead-end jobs, and are even forced by their bosses to wear humiliating costumes (Ignatius' pirate outfit as a Paradise hot dog vendor, Mancuso's series of none-too-convincing disguises, and the race-sensitive Jones' getup as a "Real Old South doorman"). They all complain with almost paranoid regularity of sinister forces outside of their control (the Wheel of Fortuna, the police sergeant, the White Man). Luck, it turns out, saves them all from a dreary fate, so I guess the constant references to Boethius have a point.