Saturday, May 31, 2008


Day and night, there's always something for the curious at

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Magazine Roundup

Sign and Sight's Magazine Roundup is a nice way to scan current hot items in the periodical literature. It's a useful supplement to another great site, Brijit, which appears to be in financial straits, but is still accessible. (earlier post on Signandsight)

Darnton on libraries

Information is exploding so furiously around us and information technology is changing at such bewildering speed that we face a fundamental problem: How to orient ourselves in the new landscape? How to make sense of it all? I have no answer to that problem, but I can suggest an approach to it: look at the history of the ways information has been communicated.

Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library, shares his thoughts on The Library in the New Age in the NYRB.

Speaker program candidates...

Here is a list of the world's top 100 intellectuals, "the thinkers who are shaping the tenor of our time," according to Foreign Policy(U.S.) and Prospect (UK) magazines. The list is rather US-centric, with 37 of the candidates from the U.S. Results of a public poll to determine the top 5 candidates will be published on June 23. Compilations like this are always fun to pore over, but are really little more than celebrity ratings, according to Arno Widman's review of the 2005 poll.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

SEO Rapper on web design

Here is a modern training video on web design from the inimitable Search Engine Optimization Rapper. Make it real.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bad reviews

There's something petty and contemptible about people who take pleasure in reading - or writing - snarky, malicious book reviews, and something equally noble and commendable about the editorial policy of The Believer: "We will focus on writers and books we like. We will give people and books the benefit of the doubt." Nick Hornby manages to adhere to those admirable principles AND be entertaining/interesting in his Stuff I've Been Reading column, a year's worth of which are collected in the Polysyllabic Spree. So, it can be done. That said, I confess there are few things that give me more pleasure than a withering review of a book I really dislike. Indeed, for a while now I've been looking for a site that collects only bad reviews (talk about contemptible!) but the closest I've come is the Believer's now retired "Snarkwatch" page. There too the intent was noble: "This is a place to record enthusiasms, mystifications, as well as disgruntled reactions to critical activity.' If you think a book was reviewed unfairly, or if someone missed the point; if you think a reviewer did a splendid job worth praising; if you know of a worthy book receiving no review coverage" - a "sort of the suburban Neighborhood Watch program of the literary world" as one snarky critic put it. (more about all of this in Laura William's NYT article "The Hunting of the Snark" - or, to sample selected retired pages, enter at the Wayback Machine). The good thing about Snarkwatch, for bad people, was that it linked to the original, offending reviews. And let's be honest, no amount of praise is as fun to read as a good line like Dorothy Parker's "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force" or Robert Porson (on Robert Southey's poems) 'They will be read when Homer and Virgil are forgotten, but -- not till then.'' (the conoisseur will know that Dale Peck has made something of a name for himself with his consistently nasty reviews, but I detect a meanness for meanness's sake in his reviews that, I'm relieved to say, gives me no pleasure (read John Leonard on Dale Peck Anyway, to get to the point of all this rambling, I was looking the other day for a review that would give eloquent expression to the inarticulate grunts of fury that reading D.B. Pierre's Vernon God Little inspired in me. I didn't find it, but I did find which aggregates reviews, and let's you pick out only the ones that agree with you. Not exactly a perspective-broadening exercise, but sometimes - after being infuriated by a book or film that everyone else has been raving about- a little meanness does wonders.

Friday, May 2, 2008

What is everybody doing?

Following up on some recent cautionary posts about our activities these days, here's a source of information about collective doings that goes beyond mere opinionating; the Department of Labor's American Time Use website is chock full of of hard to argue with statistics on how Americans spend their time. The pie chart above shows what Americans do with their leisure time on an average day; 19 minutes relaxing and thinking, and 2.6 hours watching TV. I believe the activities represented in the chart are considered to be mutually exclusive.


Precydent is a new service that searches free U.S. legal documents. Still in beta, this version contains only U.S.Supreme Court and U.S Court of Appeals cases, but the ambitions it has set for itself are impressive (see nuggets from blurb, below). The focus is U.S. law, but curiously, 6 of the 8 members of the Precydent team are in Como and Catania.

(from the "about" info:) We have heard law students ask, as perhaps you have, about online legal research: "Why can't I just do my search with a few search words, like I do on Google?" PreCYdent has an answer to that question: Now you can. ...We believe judicial opinions and statutes must be in the public domain, in practice as well as in theory. To us this means that effective legal research in all of these materials should be free to the user -- not expensive, not inexpensive. Free. We believe this principle is of vital importance not only to the United States, but to all nations that practice or aspire to practice the rule of law....
...we want to go further the simple search. You can contribute and participate directly in our effort and our campaign. On our web site you can register and upload any kind of legal document, including judicial opinions that are in the public domain."