Thursday, December 16, 2010

Seventh Annual Ralphies

Here we go ...

Best TV Show: First, I have to say a few words about Lost, which has won this award for several years. By the time the last minute of the show ticked off, the method of the creators had become clear: for five seasons, go as far out on a limb as you possibly can, and then, in the sixth season, cut the limb off. Then, as we watch you drop out of sight, call out "It's better to travel hopefully than it is to arriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!" Um, no, it's not. This was not a year for successful TV. Not only did Lost end with a whimper, but Flashforward and Rubicon, both great and fun shows, were cancelled after one season. However, Fringe had a great year, and has already succeeded where Lost, Heroes, and X-Files all failed. The Ralphie goes to Fringe, with enthusiasm.

Best Movie: Didn't see that many, just the biggest of the big, viz., Toy Story 3 and Inception. Neither one of these highly praised movies stuck in my mind for even 5 minutes after viewing, which is kind of a test I have for a good movie. The only movie that really did that for me was one I viewed on pay-per-view, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. It gets the Ralphie.

Best Record: A better year than last year, for sure. Although I didn't buy many records, thanks to YouTube, I heard a fair amount of new and good music. The Black Keys are great; the new Sufjan Stevens; a fictional group called Sex Bob-Omb (music by Beck) that was awesome. But the Ralphie goes to a song that, for 2 weeks this summer, I literally couldn't get out of my mind, namely Fireflies by Owl City. It was even there when I was dreaming, which just shows you that the music module of your brain is separate from the other modules. It took me a while before I finally figured out the song was actually about insomnia.

Best Non-Fiction Book: As you know, I read a truckload of linguistics books and articles; there's a lot of good stuff out there. I would have to put Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature at the top because of its accessibility and generally jaunty style.

Best Fiction Book: The award goes to Lev Grossman's The Magicians. The book is a compulsively readable fantasy that attempts to undermine the worlds of both Harry Potter and Narnia. Me, I love Narnia, but The Magicians is a tremendously fun read on its own terms (unlike, say, the works of the King of Boredom, Philip Pullman).

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Now We Are Six

On November 30, 2004, the first post of this blog appeared. The first year or so was quite active, and coincided approximately with the birth of biblioblogging, of which this blog was one of the first. But "Ralph" has never sought, or received, any factitious badge of approval or value-ranking from the world of biblioblogging (now firmly part of the Establishment) and I now question whether my blog is a part of that increasingly self-conscious and contentious world.

The last few years have been less active, as other activities have crowded out daily, or even weekly, blogging. Most particularly, I consciously decided a while back to devote most of the time I had for writing to preparing scholarly books and articles; and, this, I think, was a wise choice.

Still, writing for "Ralph" is always one of my greatest pleasures. Looking back, I see plenty of ephemeral matter, but nothing that embarrasses me. Several of the posts have in the past developed into lectures, presentations, or articles, and some may still do so. And, as far as I know, "Ralph" is still the only blog ever to be cited in a scholarly footnote in Revue de Qumran.

This year especially has been quiet for "Ralph," although the most famous post in Ralph's history was cited in two books about Bob Dylan. One of them is Sean Wilentz's Bob Dylan in America (Doubleday, 2010), pp. 303ff. Wilentz, professor of American Studies at Princeton, cites "Ralph," without giving the URL (how rude!) or the author (how clueless!). Indeed, he appears to believe that the name "Ralph" is my pseudonym, apparently without noticing that my name and email appear (and have always appeared) right there on the blog.

The other citation is in Alessandro Carrera, "Oh, the Streets of Rome: Dylan in Italy," which appeared in Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan's Road from Minnesota to the World (ed. C. J. Sheehy & T. Swiss; Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2009), where the author refers to me as "very puzzled." Sure, if by puzzled you mean outraged. I also was interviewed by phone by yet another author who is writing a book about Dylan. Not bad for a philologist whose expertise is in a wholly different area.

"Ralph" will continue, probably at the same slow pace. And yes, the Ralphies for 2010 will shortly appear. Watch this space.