Miskatonic University Press

Radio Ecoshock

climate.change podcasts

Podcast recommendation: Radio Ecoshock. It’s an excellent podcast about climate change, and if you want to add it to your listening schedule then the 16 January 2019 episode Warming Faster Than We Think is a great place to start. I listen to the show every week and support it with a tenner a month.

Each week host Alex Smith (who lives in BC) interviews usually two experts on the environment and climate change. Most are working scientists who discuss a recent paper, and quite often they thank him for the quality of his questions or express surprise at how well informed he is. Because Smith knows so much about the topic, and because he’s doing longer interviews than one normally hears, he has time to ask deeper questions and to get the researcher to talk about their older work or what they think of work others are doing. This doesn’t happen on other climate change podcasts I’ve tried.

Also, he devotes most of the time on the science, and there are no hopeful chats with well-meaning people about how if we all chip in and try a little harder then we can prevent anything serious from happening. The science shows that’s not how it’s going to be, as this episode shows well.

An Ontario lake.
An Ontario lake.

David G. Victor is the first guest, talking about a comment piece in Nature he wrote with Yangyang Xu and Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Global warming will happen faster. than we think. Here’s a quote from it:

But the latest IPCC special report underplays another alarming fact: global warming is accelerating. Three trends — rising emissions, declining air pollution and natural climate cycles — will combine over the next 20 years to make climate change faster and more furious than anticipated. In our view, there’s a good chance that we could breach the 1.5 °C level by 2030, not by 2040 as projected in the special report (see ‘Accelerated warming’). The climate-modelling community has not grappled enough with the rapid changes that policymakers care most about, preferring to focus on longer-term trends and equilibria.

The comment is short but the interview goes for half an hour, and it’s all worth hearing. Here’s an excerpt:

Smith: From the arctic to India I see reports that large parts of the world have already warmed past 1.5 degrees C, for most of the year at least. Frankly, I feel the discussion of 1.5 as a target is almost a cruel joke. We will pass that quickly. Why bother with an impossible target?

Victor: That’s my view as well. We’re going to go through 1.5 degrees. It’s been a political rallying point but I don’t see how we’re feasibly going to stop warming at 1.5 degrees, and I think that’s the new reality of climate change. If you believe the science that warming is happening faster than people originally expected, and you look in a sober way at the last thirty years, we’ve been talking a lot but not doing very much. You’ve got to get ready for a world that’s going to be inconveniently—worse than inconveniently—a lot warmer, [with] impacts worse than we expected. That means that climate adaptation is going to be a bigger deal, it means we’re going to see more discussions around the concept of geoengineering … none of this is attractive, all of this is seriously fraught with problems, but that’s the world we’re in right now.

Moss in a moist Ontario forest.
Moss in a moist Ontario forest.

The second half of the show is an interview with Mike Davis about the forest fires in California, which are one of the many examples of climate change affecting the planet right now. Davis is a fascinating person, so much so that he’s the basis for the character Mike Lewis in John Shannon’s Jack Liffey crime novels. (I own two of them and haven’t read them in years, so I’m going to do a reread and then maybe get more from the library.) Davis’s 2000 work Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World is one of the most devastating books I’ve ever read.

I highly recommend Radio Ecoshock to anyone interested in knowing more about climate change.

Listening to Art in print


I’m delighted to announce that the first two volumes of Listening to Art are now collected in print in a special numbered, limited edition of 100 copies.


There’s a special offer to listeners that I’ll extend to any readers here. While I have supplies, copies are available at a special price: $20 Canadian for Canadians, $20 US for Americans, and €20 for people anywhere else in the world. Send the money to me (wtd@pobox.com) through PayPal or by an email transfer, and include your full mailing address.

Pliny the Younger and email


I’m slowly working my way through the letters of Pliny the Younger (in a very nice Oxford Classics edition translated by P.G. Walsh). As one so often finds when reading the ancients, here is a quote that is just as relevant today, from Book V Letter 7, to his friend Calvinius Rufus, where he was reporting on a problem about someone’s will (something that crops up fairly often in his letters). He is explaining why he didn’t send a letter to the town council and is asking Calvinius to do the talking in person:

Secondly, I was afraid that in a letter I might not appear to have maintained the judiciousness which it is easy for you to observe in conversation. For whereas one’s voice itself controls language, facial expressions, and gestures, a letter bereft of all such graces is exposed to malicious interpretation.

Surely we’ve all felt the same way when sending an email on a delicate subject, worrying that all the nuance and subtlety was lost.

Homes and haunts

libraries reviews

I just read The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice by Judith Mackrell, dance critic for The Guardian. It’s about the Marchesa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim, each of whom lived for a while in the same Venetian palazzo; the first two rented but Guggenheim bought it and it is now the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Book cover.
Book cover.

The three women all had remarkable lives, with a lot of money and affairs, but also more than the usual share of sadness. There’s a huge range of other people in the books, including many artists (some who painted Casati, and some who were friends with or collected by Guggenheim). It’s well written and well researched, and if you’re interested in wild lives or this period or those circles of people (or maybe like me you hope to visit Venice one day) then I highly recommend it.

I noticed that in my library’s catalogue entry for the book it was given a great Library of Congress Subject Heading: Homes and haunts.

Subject headings
Subject headings

I went on to read Daphne du Maurier’s Not After Midnight (recently republished by Penguin as Don’t Look Now), because the first story, “Don’t Look Now,” is set in Venice. (It’s the basis for the movie, which I haven’t seen.) This is a fine short story collection, and also well worth a look.

By the way, if you want to listen to two portraits of the Marchesa Casati, Listening to Art has Augustus John, Marchesa Casati (the most famous one of her) and Giovanni Boldini, Ritratto della Marchesa Casati con Piume di Pavone.

TPL bookplate


Here is a scan of a plate put into a Toronto Public Library book almost 100 years ago.

This book is Beauty and Life by Duncan Campbell Scott, and it’s from the collection of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, where I volunteer as librarian. Scott was a member.

There were two main sides to his life: he was a fine poet (which is why he was a member of the Club) and he orchestrated the terrible and destructive residential school system. As Wikipedia says:

Duncan Campbell Scott CMG (August 2, 1862 – December 19, 1947) was a Canadian bureaucrat, poet and prose writer. With Charles G.D. Roberts, Bliss Carman, and Archibald Lampman, he is classed as one of Canada’s Confederation Poets.

Scott was a Canadian lifetime civil servant who served as deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932, and is better known today for advocating the assimilation and genocide of Canada’s First Nations peoples in that capacity.

Bargaining Parity for Librarians and Archivists

code4lib libraries solidarity

Last month the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), an association of academic faculty associations and unions, released Bargaining Parity for Librarians and Archivists, an eight-page bargaining advisory that covers all the major issues for academic librarians and archivists in collective agreements, with examples of good language from different contracts across the country.

Here’s the announcement:

One of the greatest barriers to librarians and archivists accessing their academic rights is their definitional separation from the rest of the academic staff. This bargaining advisory, also available on-line in the members’ only section of the CAUT website, reviews current collective agreement language related to librarian and archivist terms and conditions of employment, including language that promotes parity with faculty and reflects the needs of librarians and archivists.

It will be of interest to any librarian or archivist involved in bargaining or revising collective agreements, and will be helpful to others who want to know more about these issues and how they affect us (especially professors on bargaining teams).

Snippet from the start of the advisory.
Snippet from the start of the advisory.

I am on the Librarians’ and Archivists’ Committee right now and helped write the advisory. It was a complex project and took a while, and I’m delighted it’s now out. Thanks to all the other committee members and the CAUT people involved. It’s a good committee, and CAUT does great work.

CAUT doesn’t make its bargaining advisories publicly available because it doesn’t want employers to have access to the expertise it provides to unions. I understand that point, and I’m never going to out of my way to help management in labour negotiations, but I don’t think this advisory should be restricted this way. It’s the only thing I’ve written in my professional career that isn’t freely available online somewhere. Perhaps we’ll be able to change CAUT policy one day!

Nevertheless the advisory is available to those who need it. Anyone in Canada who’s in an association or union that’s a CAUT member can get it on the web site (your union will have a username and password; just ask) and in the US I presume there’s a way to go through the AAUP to get it. Or just ask one of us on the committee. (Aussi disponsible en français.)

David Cannadine on Churchill and art


I follow the podcasts of the Royal Academy of Arts in London (feed). Recently they put up a recording of David Cannadine on Churchill and art, and I recommend it to anyone interested in art or Winston Churchill. Cannadine gives a marvellous lecture, full of insight into this side of Churchill’s life, with wonderful quotes.

Churchill’s Painting as a Pastime is also highly recommended. It’s a treasure.

Listening to Art now has an ISSN


I’m delighted to report that Listening to Art has an ISSN: 2562-2668. The International Standard Serial Number is for serial publications what ISBNs are for books: unique identifying numbers.

Getting one was surprisingly simple. Library and Archives Canada manages ISSN Canada, and the application form there is short. I applied; they pointed out something I was missing; I fixed it; they assigned an ISSN. Wonderful!

The site follows the guidelines for the presentation of serial publications:

To assist readers in finding, identifying and using your serial publication, we recommend the following information be presented clearly, explicitly, and consistently on each and every issue or part:

  • title
  • name of publisher
  • place of publication
  • numbering and/or chronological designation
  • frequency
  • ISSN

Observing this best practice will help users to easily discover your serial publication and to distinguish it from other serials.

Soon I will add some metadata inside the web pages so that the ISSN is embedded as a Uniform Resource Number.

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