Good morning, this is Geistlist: the aperiodical about time & spaces to be, compiled without schedule by Jacob Ford, for you.
I write from a suitcase-propped iPad on an uptown E train slouching toward JFK, where an AirBus 5 years and a week from its first flight is currently being refueled. It’s taking me most of the way to a former church where the organ pipes have been replaced by server racks: the Internet Archive. They run WayBackMachine, patron saint of deleted tweets.
The Archive is hosting the Library Leaders Forum, where through a butterfly’s flap of chaotic coincidences, I am presenting a little prototype of something I helped build called BRIET, named after Suzanne. Named by Paul Ford.
Led fearlessly by Maria Bustillos, David Moore, aforementioned Paul, and Brewster Kahle, BRIET’s mission is to convince authors they can sell and libraries they can buy—not license à la OverDrive or Kindle but actually good old-fashioned for-keeps sell and buy—digital books. You can borrow a one I designed now, which the Internet Archive bought from us for a $30 check, just as your library buys printed books. If someone else is reading it, wait an hour and it’s yours.
Beloved and obvious as libraries are, they are based on a legal concept called the doctrine of first sale which digital content has sneakily convinced us is no longer true: basically the obvious idea that if you buy a Thing (book, tape, DVD, etc.), you are free to keep it, resell it, give it away, destroy it, or—most frightening of all—lend it out. This is the radical basis of your local library, which if invented today would probably be HarperCollins’d into illegality. Copyright law is a contract: it grants rights to the reader, too.
While I’m on the other edge of America, please consider some machinations in NYC and others online, long in planning & germination, finally come to bloom:
A year and a month ago in a sauna covered in lottery tickets at the suggestion of Myriam Bloom, I met the theatermaker and philosopher of art & money Yannick Trapman O’Brien. I said I wanted to be friends, and he said he had an idea. It is a psychological thriller for an audience of one, and over the past year he and I have collaborated to bring it to the City Reliquary for its first public run. It’s intense in a thoughtful way: not a haunted house, but haunting. Zero jump scares, no loud sounds. In fact no sound at all beyond talking. I’m immensely proud of helping make this happen and I hope you’ll consider signing up. No Proscenium calls it “review pending.”
My former professor & host of really fun 2015 David Foster Wallace symposium managed to slampublish two books this year. One on TV & religion, and one on James Joyce & religion. Tuesday is a lecture on the latter, after which you can go dutch on some Guinnesses Greg and James Joyce Society VP Cathryn Piwinski. I’m really bummed to have to miss this: the stodgies in the room talking about dick jokes in academic deadpan often need some jostling.
Coachella for infrastructure nerds is finally back in full force. A couple hundred buildings, sewer plants, transit hubs, sanitation garages, architecture firms, and construction sites are open for you to explore. For every stamped brick and Neenah-cast manhole of our built environment you notice, there are a thousand decisions you didn’t. This weekend you get to meet the people who make them. I’m in charge of the lower west half of the Upper East Side, so hope to see you at the construction of the Wollman Rink, Bohemian National Hall, or (omg omg omg) the DSNY Roosevelt Island Automated Vacuum Collection System.
The bible is a library, chapters & verses are less than 500 years old, it’s probably incomplete, and it’s frustrating how many Christians are hackle-raised by instead of fascinated by all that. Adam Lewis Greene became my hero in 2017 when he crafted a new typeface, studied bookbinding, eliminated chapter/verse markers + “thou,” and tweaked a brand-new biblical translation to create Bibliotheca, a set of five of the most beautiful and sturdy books I own. Together they are a bible designed for exploring and studying, not memorizing or consulting. Adam & the gang (wife & kids & occasional friends) at Writ Press have just announced a reprint, and I have a discount/referral code for your Christmas gifting pleasure.
As declared in a previous issue, the monthly Open VCR Night I host with Brooklyn video game & film librarian FORT90 has now been scheduled for the next century or two, the last Monday of each month. This time that is Halloween, so I hope you’ll consider stopping by with your favorite middle school horror film, or one of the very few known copies of the recently-found 1995 Magic School Bus Halloween special. We end at 10:00pm sharp for your continued partying pleasure. I don’t do costumes but you can.
I was featured as a volunteer gumshoe on a podcast investigating what happened to McDonald’s pizza. We’re close to figuring it out.