10.0853 things and ideas

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Mon, 14 Apr 1997 21:03:56 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 853.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (53)
Subject: no ideas but in things

[2] From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca> (35)
Subject: Re: all points addressibility (fwd)

Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 22:05:32 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: no ideas but in things

I sometimes worry (but not often, nor very long) that my enthusiasms and
meditations are a bit "over the top" (slowly, clumsily, toward a British
vernacular) for this group of learned professionals. The image that comes to
me from this first-floor perch in Mossford Street, Bow, London, is of
standing out on the rocks at Spear Point, Newfoundland, proclaiming into the
fog, toward Ireland -- in the very spot where Marconi, as I recall, once
stood with his wireless. The state of mind is, I suppose, a professional
hazard of the ex-pat, who grows more intensely affectionate for more places
rather than indifferent to place. It is, in any case, what I have to work
with, and perhaps some good may come of it for the matters we have to hand.

The immediate cause is a truly wonderful piece in the TLS for 4 April 1997,
the "Bywords" column by P. J. Kavanagh, a "tour of inspection" at the spring
equinox, somewhere in Gloucestershire. In particular, I was struck with his
observation about paying attention to the details:

"Someone said that 'description is revelation', and whether that is so or
not, it seems likely that the various dismays and excitements, inside and
outside us, the sense that everything most important in our lives finally
eludes explanation, could in some way be tackled by looking as closely as we
can at what is around us, this being the only 'revelation' we are likely to

Well, it is -- or can be -- a great revelation, and William Carlos Williams'
injunction to poets, "No ideas but in things!" comes to mind. "It can make
you giddy", Kavanagh goes on to say. Indeed. "For example: last week the
neighbour farmer ploughed up a pasture never disturbed in his lifetime.
'Min of War and Ag', he reckoned, was the last to do so, by which he meant
wartime Dig for Victory. After recent droughts the grass had become tired
and he wanted to refresh it, wondered if he would find some old clay
pipes, or flints. There is no flint in this part of Gloucestershire, so
any that is found had been brought in, for tools or weapons.

"The dizziness came because across this new-ploughed pasture there is an
ancient track and this he had left untouched, a broad strip of green turf
running straight through the gleaming waves of newly turned earth. Walking
along this, looking for flints on either side, you did not need to be
fanciful to involuntarily experience a sense of walking a green pier
surrounded by a brown immobile sea. There were currents in the waves,
because, ploughed lengthways, it was in some places ploughed across, so the
earth-waves pushed against each other and you felt a sort of motionless
heaving, even felt a kind of sea-sickness."

It goes on, and I would like to transcribe it all, especially the bit about
St. Augustine's agonizing over whether such revelations from the creation
were distractions from the creator. In any case, it strikes me that perhaps
here is the aesthetic basis of humanities computing, in the passion for
detail, for the stubborn evidence, and in the love for an environment in
which materiality and what's in but not of it come to struggle. (Ok, this
sounds like life in the flesh, but I suppose that should not be

Late on a Sunday night, in an empty house, the mind drifts after hours
of trying to explain why I've tagged one word this way, another that way.
End with a query: was it Mies van der Rohe who said, "Der lieber Gott lebt
im Detail", and if so, where?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
e-mail: Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk

Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 12:29:15 -0400 (EDT)
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Re: all points addressibility (fwd)


Here's my reply to the posting on the HTML Writers' Guild list. I
haven't got Rob Schulter's permission to circulate the posting but the
gist is cited in my reply which I do have permission to circulate...

> I was the original poster. After Harold Driscoll's reply which
> certainly explained the difficulties using line/character to target a
> link, I began thinking along the lines proposed by Rob below. I'm glad
> Rob kept the ball rolling.
> > thinking, why not make the text itself act as an anchor. I mean, why not let
> > the browser search for the given text inside the document and position to
> > that text, just like you tried to search for yourself after the page has
> > loaded. HTML could be something like this:
> >
> > <A HREF="file.html#text to find">Go to the text>/A>
> >
> > And with a new attribute for the A tag to position to another than the first
> > occurence, say OCCURENCE=FIRST|LAST|n with n being a number. Hey you could
> > even use NEXT or PREVIOUS to step though a page from another frame with an
> > index in it.
> >
> > This way you would not have to create anchors inside a document, but the
> > complete text of the document itself would be adressable.
> I really like the elegance of the attribute proposed. However, it
> needs to be tweeked since if a fragment identifier already exists on the page
> <A NAME="text to find"> ... I think the # needs to be different or
> supplemented with and other reserved character, for example the
> ampersand (&). This would help distinguish to a marked fragment
> identifier and one created by the Rob method.
> I'm thrilled. And will comb the archives as Harold suggested and get
> more discussion going on the Rob method.
> --
> Francois