Writing small blog entries has been satisfying largely because it has yielded the reward of completing things. However, it takes me a relatively large amount of time to blog, especially when weighed against the number of words involved. I wonder whether it makes more sense to concentrate on writing longer pieces.
Using today’s Gregorian calendar, we would say that Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 31, 1685 in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach. However, it is very common to commemorate JSB’s birthdate as March 21, 1685, the day of his birth in the Julian Calendar, the system in effect in central Germany in 1685. I say: let’s use both days to remember and enjoy the life and work of this most amazing composer and musician. Happy Birthday, Bach!
One of my favorite books in the Bible is the Book of Ruth. Laura and I read it to each other last night through the inevitable tears that spring from me when I contemplate the story of family devotion and divine providence. This book is also an inspiration for some of my favorite lines of poetry, found in the latter verse of John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale (text of poem):
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
I think often of Keats’ image of Ruth when I think of the journeys to foreign lands that my parents — and I — have made, when we too have been “sick for home, … [standing] in tears amid the alien corn.”
Laura and I had an invigorating and restorative weekend in Maryland and DC. On Friday and Saturday, I attended the MITH Workshop on APIs and the Digital Humanities, at which I gave an introductory talk on APIs. We took the workshop as a chance for the both of us to take a road trip to visit family, friends, and some of the big sites of the DC area. Here are some photos I took from the weekend:
Books pile up barely read beside my bed. They make their way from various places of origin: the bookshelf of my office next door, the new bookshelf of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and occasionally from the warehouses of amazon.com. I think to myself that I must read that book, yes, that book, right away and take it home with me. The problem is: I don’t have enough time dedicated to reading books to get through many pages, let alone, entire books. It takes only minutes before the book I chose for the night slips from my sleepy hands and falls thud on the floor. Sleep triumphs over even the most seductive book.
I just started reading Listen to This, a collection of edited essays by New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross. As I sit down to write a presentation for next week, with all of Bach’s music on shuffle, one quote from Ross’ introduction pricks my conscience: “For even as we worship our musical idols we also force them to produce particular emotions on cue.” Guilty as charged?
I’m caught in two worlds: I like both the paper books and the electronic books, but the battle being fought at a systemic level. I won’t be surprised that more and more books of interest to me will be made in digital form. Also the fact that we won’t be living in a big house (which makes me a bit sad) will increase the relative advantage of digital works for me. The portability of books is appealing. I’m even toying with the idea of buying books to run on the Kindle software, specifically Complexity : A Guided Tour. I thought Philip Ball’s Music Instinct was available in Kindle form, but not so.
I long for software to help me order my digital life but Gopnik reminds me that a potent way to feel more grounded is to limit the amount of digital media I consume.