A Lévi-Strauss Mini-Reader

As structuralism / grand theory re-emerges in the context of the digital / quantitative humanities, I remembered that years ago I had compiled a small reader focused on Lévi-Strauss. I have scanned the items below to (OCRed) PDF if anyone is interested any of the individual pieces or the group as a whole. (I would link directly to the PDF[s], but these items are still under copyright, and I want to keep to fair use.)

Boon, James. 1985. Claude Lévi-Strauss. In The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences, 159-176. Ed. Quentin Skinner. Cambridge University Press.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1995. Myth and Meaning. Schocken Books.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1971. The Deduction of Crane. In Structural Analysis of Oral Tradition, 3-21. Ed. Pierre Maranda and Elli Köngäs Maranda. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1996. The Story of Lynx. Tr. Catherine Tihanyi. University of Chicago Press.

Nonfiction Books

A list of books I loaned out years ago, and apparently never got back, reminded me of some beloved non-fiction books that I am considering re-purchasing:

Trevor Corson’s Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean

Hayden Carruth’s Sitting in: Selected Writings on Jazz, Blues, and Related Topics

And one book listed as simply as Stonework, and while I remember the small paperback well, I do not remember more. Perhaps it is Charles McRaven’s Stonework: Techniques and Projects.

Jupyter Notebook Colored Boxes

Many thanks to Daniel Kotik for the following HTML that can be dropped into a Jupyter notebook markdown cell:

<div class="alert alert-block alert-info"> <b>NOTE</b> Use blue boxes for Tips and notes. </div>

<div class="alert alert-block alert-success"> Use green boxes sparingly, and only for some specific purpose that the other boxes can't cover. For example, if you have a lot of related content to link to, maybe you decide to use green boxes for related links from each section of a notebook. </div>

<div class="alert alert-block alert-warning"> Use yellow boxes for examples that are not inside code cells, or use for mathematical formulas if needed. </div>

<div class="alert alert-block alert-danger"> In general, just avoid the red boxes. </div>

Flattening a List of Lists in Python

Sometimes you have a list of lists and you just need a list. In my case, I have a list of texts within which is a list of sentences. But all I really need is the list of sentences. To peel off the additional layer of listiness, use the following list comprehension.

flattenedList = [[t for t in l if None not in t] for l in test]

And if that doesn’t work, try flattening:

import itertools
flat_list = list(itertools.chain(*regular_list))

UPDATE: some better code using itertools:

from itertools import chain

flattened = chain.from_iterable(iterable)

Denizens of a Rock

I am working on expanding an essay on repair shops for the Journal of American Folklore, and I’ve written hundreds of words and deleted hundreds of words. I think I finally have a working opening paragraph. I shared it with my partner, and her response was “I like denizens of a rock very much.”

It has been a quarter of a century since Henry Glassie observed in the pages of this journal that “tradition is the creation of the future out of the past” (1995: 395). In the consideration that follows, Glassie establishes the importance of continuity both for the human beings who make history, both in terms of actions but also representations. There can be no doubt that engaging in traditional forms of behavior is one way to defeat the one certainty available to denizens of a rock which never occupies the same space in the universe from moment to moment, change. Folklore in this model is that which we do in order to transcend such physical exigencies: meaning is produced through the interplay of change and the things we do that remain the same. Folklore studies is the study of this tension as realized in everyday interactions. The resulting definition of the vernacular is that it is found in those moments when people feel most empowered to create realities as they themselves understand them based on previous experience which is itself framed by an understanding that is permeated by the realities and experiences of others. It is the engine of culture harnessed to maximize meaning as an output.

Open Source Alternatives

I don’t know if it is possible at this point in time to avoid working in Microsoft applications. Given how many organizations now have some version of Office 365, it seems like all outputs are eventually a Word document, a PowerPoint slide deck, or an Excel spreadsheet. But those are outputs, not throughputs, and I don’t think any of those applications is terribly good to think with. Communicate to/with others who are used to things being packaged in a particular way? Okay, fine, here’s a Word document.

The process involved in getting to an outcome should be more flexible, more tuned to how individuals and teams work. For the record, Teams works well enough, but OneNote is a disaster. Personally, I use Devonthink and Scrivener for the iterative process of bigger projects, but neither of them is team-friendly. And neither is really all that iPhone-friendly, really. They have iPhone apps, which are really quite functional, but the true power of both apps is really best experienced on the Mac. (I only use two devices: a Mac and an iPhone, so the iPad version of both may very well be an incredible experience, but I decided a while ago that my version of techno-minimalism meant I only ever worked on, and worried about, a computer and a phone.)

The problem, for me, is that collaboration needs to occur across platforms, so it looks like I am stuck with web apps. That noted, there appear to be a range of open source alternatives that look pretty good. BTW has collected over 200 open source alternatives to a range of software tools that businesses use: from note-code databases to note-taking to kanban.

The Internecine Project

Any number of films have left lasting impressions on me. Certainly some have gone onto shape my imagination in various ways. A lot of them are films that I watched with my father, like The Man with No Name trilogy that featured Clint Eastwood, or any number of WW2 films — Kelly’s Heroes or The Dirty Dozen or The Longest Day to name just a few — that shaped the fiction I read and the movies I watched as I grew older.

Then there are the films I found myself and watched, some of which were either “made for television” or found their only real home there or on the nascent cable television channels. The Blonde with One Black Shoe certainly falls under the latter category, as does a host of British, or near-British, spy thrillers. Like the Harry Palmer trilogy, the original Italian Job, or The Internecine Project, a film that stayed in my head for as long as it has because I loved its hammered dulcimer soundtrack so much that I recorded it as it played on air onto a cassette tape which contained a host of other favorite soundtracks, most of which I can no longer remember.

It turns out that The Internecine Project is not only watchable again on Youtube, but its soundtrack is available on Apple Music.

Terry Talks Movies

I don’t know how the Youtube channel Terry Talks Movies made it into my stream, but it did and it’s turned up a number of older movies to watch. In a review of “1960s Science Fiction Movies You Should See,” Terry observes the following about the protagonists of Privilege, a film he describes as a didactic docudrama (worth watching):

They are innocents in a world where predatory men are turning the passions of young people into social cages in which to enslave them.