There’s a page on the Homeless Dave website called HD Washin’ Man, which is probably the most frequently visited page on the site. It documents a pedal-powered laundry spinner I cobbled together. It’s more popular than Bill Clinton’s teeter totter interview or even T. Casey Brennan’s. (T. Casey has a massive email contact list and he’s not bashful about using it.) I hear from T. Casey from time to time or else bump into him on my frequent trips through downtown Ann Arbor. Most recently, he told me that he’d been mentioned as a possible shooter in the J.F.K. assassination in a new book by Vincent Bugliosi: Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It’s checked out right now, but that link leads to the Ann Arbor District Library’s catalog entry for the volume.
T. Casey thinks it’s a big deal to be mentioned in a book. And I think he’s right. If not a big deal, then at least a medium deal. There’s something still magical about a book as opposed to anything that might be viewed on a screen. If there weren’t something special about it, the University of Michigan would not have installed a book printing machine in its undergraduate library. It prints out copies of books in its digital collection while patrons wait.
The question of which book that machine prints out – a scanned version, and if so, which edition, or if not scanned (OCR-ed instead), does that really count as printing “the book” – those are issues I’ll leave to others. For my purposes, whatever book comes out of that machine, it’s some book. And if you’re mentioned in it, it ought to count as being mentioned in a book. Whatever that’s worth. Probably not much. And maybe it shouldn’t be much, if Bill Tozier is right about the place our current understanding of print has taken us:
I want our understanding of print to die. Our mythology. The authority of texts and citations, the abusive misapprehension of what constitutes scholarship and knowledge in our global culture. The notion of fact, of “it’s true because it’s in a book” and “I don’t have to talk to you and explain what I mean because I cited the paper in my bibliography.” Lazy people talk about books they’ve never read, cite articles in journals they’ve never heard of, as signals of their status and erudition.
Yes, T. Casey will be able to trade on the laziness of folks who say, “T. Casey really could’ve shot J.F.K, and I know that, because it’s in Bugliosi’s book.” But even if we strip away the mythology, and the misappropriated authority afforded to printed texts, there’s something left still, I think, for the simple thrill someone might feel for being mentioned in a book. So I think T. Casey should at least be be appropriately thrilled for his mention in Bugliosi’s book.
Because … quite frankly, I feel thrilled to have been mentioned in a recently published book about human power. This past Saturday, I pedaled over to the Remodel Green Expo at Eastern Michigan University where the author of The Human-Powered Home, Tamara Dean, was selling and signing copies of her book. It can be purchased online as well. She had come to the event all the way from Viroqua, Wisconsin, where she lives a human-powered lifestyle in a rammed earth home. There’s a picture and description of my laundry spinner on page 201. And the only thing I had to shoot to get in there was a photograph.