In the most recent issue of The New York Review of Books Robert Darnton discusses the 18 April 2013 launch of the Digital Public Library of America. As Darnton describes the goals of this project, “The Digital Public Library of America [. . .] is a project to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans–and eventually to everyone in the world–online and free of charge.” Wow, total access to the (hyper)archive for anyone. This is an amazing project.
Bryan Bender at the Boston Globe reports how Lieutenant Colonel Jenns Robertson has assembled a report on every bomb the US has ever dropped since WWI(!!!), “a compilation that, at the click of a mouse and a few keystrokes, reveals for the first time the sheer magnitude of destruction inflicted by the US and its allies from the air in the last century.” Going by the name: Theater History of Operations Reports (or THOR), this hyperarchive of US military violence is truly staggering. “One particularly relevant example: From October 1965 to May 1975, at least 456,365 cluster bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, according to the records analyzed.”
See this fantastic article from Berfrois by Jesse Miksic, “Digital Disquiet: How 8- and 16-bit Games Taught me the Power of Dread.”
Literature has examined the burdens of immortality (Melmoth, Dorian Gray, Tuck Everlasting), and films have reflected upon death’s brutal banality (Antonioni, Haneke). But film and literature can’t do this. Even the most shocking torture-porn or the most unexpected termination (Marvin in Pulp Fiction) don’t amount to the meaninglessness of a main character’s life in these golden-age electronic games. Even when they’re bizarre, or out of left field, movie-deaths at least register as events and turning points in the narrative flow. In the nihilistic early side-scrollers, your death was one of hundreds, endlessly repeatable, and the world was indifferent to it. Everyone else else came back in the appointed role in every cycle, just like you.
Are you living in a hyperarchive?: a French supercomputer has modeled the entire observable universe.
So, it looks like the time has come when late-90s–early-00s hardcore is hitting the archival stage. I picked up the quite excellent Building a Better Robot: 10 Years of the Mr. Roboto Project, which, to my mind, reads like a mini handbook to quite a bit of the hardcore/indie scene of the first part of the last decade. Even though I experienced it in Tucson, Pgh doesn’t really seem that far away. . . .
Mr. Al Burian is revolving in the same orbit in his review, “Nicely Dressed Noise,” of the hyperarchival Touchable Sound: A Collection of 7-inch Records from the USA. (Is this is the state of hardcore? needing to emphasize how it is now just an entry into the[/our own personal] archive? Could be worse. They could be mashing up Drive Like Jehu. Oh, wait.)
There is a blog that seriously just shows bookshelves. It is called Bookshelf Porn. Ah, bookshelves. A sample.
Wow, check out the 25 most beautiful university libraries in the world over at flavorwire. Wow. My univ. library at Pitt, well, let’s just say it didn’t make the list by a long shot. A sample.
At Nature, Eugenie Samuel Reich reports on a major breakthrough in quantum physics. “But the new paper, by a trio of physicists led by Matthew Pusey at Imperial College London, presents a theorem showing that if a quantum wavefunction were purely a statistical tool, then even quantum states that are unconnected across space and time would be able to communicate with each other. As that seems very unlikely to be true, the researchers conclude that the wavefunction must be physically real after all.”
“Why are Apocalyptic Narratives So Popular?” Why, I don’t know. . . .
My colleague Adriana Ramirez is having her students blog for her class “Narrative and Technology: We Might Be Gadgets.” The class just got done playing World of Warcraft (Blizzard: 2004-2011), and I had the great privilege to deliver a guest lecture a few days ago. Check out the blog here.
And a nice discussion of the archival “Etymology” and “Extracts” section of Moby-Dick (which I’m teaching right now).
A nice little article on the Smithsonian’s Andrew Robison, and his 30 year project to protect art after a catastrophe. The fact that the boxes are all labeled WW3, and that the project not only assumes some sort of disaster, but that all the works included are, in some way, already post-apocalyptic, probably deserves some commentary.
So, I’ve been moving for a week and haven’t really had a chance to post much here (nor do anything else), but my new library in my new residence is fully assembled. I finally have a proper office. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little boy. (The best part, I finally have all my shelves in one place, and b/c of that, I can’t even fit all my books in the shot.)