Monday, November 30, 2009

LTM retrieval

[If the world and all its books was destroyed and I was one of a small group of survivors on a desert island and we had to rebuild civilization out of our memories...]


From fairest creatures wee desire Increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die;
But, as the elder should by time decease,
His tender heire might bear his memorie.
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes
Feedst thy light’s flame with self-substantiall fuell:
Making a famine, where abundance lyes;
Thyself thy fooe, to thy sweet selfe too cruell.

………… the world’s fresh ornament,
And oonly heraude to the gaudie spring

And beautious Niggard, makst Waste in niggarding

*

When fourtie winteres shall besiege thie browe
And digge deep trenches in thie Beauties field
Thy youth’s fair livery, so gazed on now
Will be a tatterd Weed of small worthe heelde.
Then being asked where all thie Beautie lyes
Where all the treasure of thie lustie dayes
To say within thine own deepe sunken eyes
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless prayse.
How much more prayse deserved thie Beauties use
If couldst answer This fair sonne of mine
Shall summe my count and make mine old excuse
Proving his beautie, by succession, thine.
This were to be new made, when thou art old;
And see thy bloode warme, when thou feelst it cold.

*

Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou vewest,
Now is the time that face should form another.
Whose sweet - - if now thou not renewest,
Thou dooest ---- beguile some mother.
For where is shee so faire whose uneared wombe
Disdains the tillage of thie husbandrie?
Or who is shee [so proude?] …

Now stand you on the top of happy hours,
And many maiden gardens, yet unset,
With virtuous wish, would bear thy living flowres

*

Vnthriftie louelines, why dost thou spend
Vpon thyself thy Beauties treasurie?

*

Then were not summer’s distillation left
A liquid prisoner pent in walles of glass
Summer’s effect, with summer, were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembraunce what it was.

*
……………………… stars
And yet, methinks, I know Astronomie

…… prognostication


*

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art moore louelie, and moore temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair, from fair, sometime declines;
By Chance, or Nature’s changing course, untrimmed.
But thy Eternal Summer shall not fade;
Nor lose possession of that Fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag, thou wandrest in his shade,
When in Eternal Lines to Time thou growest!
So long as men can read and eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

*

Devouring Time, blunt thou the Lyones Paw

But I forbidde thee one moost heinous crime.
Oh carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor write no lines there with thy antique Pen…


*

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past

*

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of Princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme

…… War’s … broils… masonry

Besmear’d with sluttish time

*


That time of year thou mayst in me beholde
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
- - boughs - shake against the cold
Bare, ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birdes sang.

In mee thou seest
--- which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

*

Was it the proud full sail of his rich verse
Bound for the port of oh so precious you?

*

They that haue powre to hurte, and will do none,
They do not doe the thing they most doe show.

Lillies that fester smell far worse than weedes

*

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
That alters when it alteration finds
Or --- with the remover to remove.
Oh no it is an ever-fixèd mark, ….

*

….. Flow’rs with Flow’rs

------ the fooles of time
Who die for --- who have lived for crime.

*

Was it for this I bore the canopye

*

tender bodkin

And his quietus is to render thee.

*

My Mistris eyes are nothing like the sun
Corall is much more red than her lips red.
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun!
If haire be Wyre, BLACK Wyres grow on her head!!
….
And yet by Heaven I think my Love as rare
As any shee belied by false compare.


(Idea from Emma Kay’s Worldview, 1999

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Friday, November 27, 2009

lit ephem (andrew duncan)

I've never yet seen Andrew Duncan's The Failure of Conservatism in Modern British Poetry (2003) receive any hearty commendation, and reading it (after far too many years) it's easy to see why. Yet it's an essential book, anyone can see that too; but it's also a lashed-together rehashed makeshift which is dreary and ungrateful to read, looks horrible on the shelf, and generally creates far more misery than happiness. In its fans, I mean. (Contrariwise it has doubtless created joy among those too stupid or conservative to be concerned about the issues he addresses, joy at finding in Duncan's tenuous competence a built-in excuse for rejecting the book, its author, and all the sort of writing that the author admires.)

Failure (as its fans probably call it) is radically unsystematic, though it also proposes a mass of systems. Occasionally, it talks about poets; a rather random selection (extracted from reviews of various dates). Favourites like Ted Hughes and Maggie O'Sullivan are neglected; you get a load of stuff about Geoffrey Hill but only up to about thirty years ago - there's just about nothing in the book that shows knowledge of any poetry since the mid-1990s, or whenever Conductors of Chaos came out; Ireland is basically ignored (AD likes Ian Duhig and thinks he's different from Tony Harrison); but there's quite a lot on Wales and Scotland. The Welsh sections, however, say more (i.e. hardly anything) about R.S Thomas (whose poetry Duncan detests) - more, nevetheless, than the flat zero that is all we're told about Peter Finch or Chris Torrance or David Greenslade. Well, you get the idea. If there's a perverse and irritating way of not addressing a topic, then that's where Duncan leads us.

This methodology is evidently intended to be analogous to and justified by the new forms of the poetry that Duncan writes about, i.e. modernity poetry. That is my phrase, and sorry it's an ugly one and I hope it won't catch on. But the idea is that while huge vats of poetry pour down every day, and they are all modern by definition, in AD's view 98% is not written against a horizon of modernity, it is not thinking about that question and it is mostly employing forms that are years or even centuries out of date, mere manacles. But on the other hand modernity-poetry does not equal modernist or post-modernist poetry either (because when these are just period styles, they are no longer engaged with the question of modernity). In fact AD's vision isn't really invested in these familiar categories - he doesn't betray any great excitement over modernism per se (Stein, Zukofsky, Joyce and Bunting are just four names that don't, unless I've missed them, appear in the book); he's not unduly interested in US poetry; he doesn't rate Olson as a poet and he's pretty cool about Ashbery... no, what exploded on him some time back in the 1980s is, or was, contemporary British poetry. He keeps his eye steadily on that original conversion-experience and he rarely finds it helpful to bring in the international -isms. This could be confused with mainstream Little-Britainism but it really isn't, because unlike the mainstreamers he's totally engaged with the questions of what modern poetry is or should be. But he re-thinks it from scratch - or rather, from any source except the kind of literary history you learn at university - and this is refreshing.

However, every so often AD does begin to sound as if he doubts his own premiss and he starts to talk about merely-chronologically-modern poetry as if it must, in fact, be a negotiation with modernity - which you would think would indeed be a necessary consequence of his own sociological thinking. At those times you're aware of a flickering realization that folk poetry or amateur poetry or ignorant poetry might actually signify; but as this contradicts the concept of significance on which the book campaigns, he quickly stifles that realization.

The accent on modernity is one reason why AD is indispensable. He also makes great play (and great display) of intelligence as a vital aspect of poetry and on the social instantiation of intelligence in the act of being easily bored. (Darwin, you remember, wrote That Bloody Voyage On The 'Beagle', God, I Thought It Would Never End.) I think AD's conception of intelligence is too spangly, he writes really about brilliance, i.e. display-behaviour.

And what about Bob Cobbing? Isn't that where any treatment of modern British poetry must begin? (But I guess once you start asking questions like that, then it becomes immediately obvious that AD doesn't provide a treatment of his subject at all.)

NOTES: Real source of AD's critical thinking: NME (Ian Penman, Barney Hoskins, Richard Cook).- infinitely more influential on him than Deleuze or Benjamin. Added to unconfessedly-Leavisite moral judgmentalism. With enormous dose of British-gothic-Baudelairean romanticising of poetry and poets. Tragic/Ironic failure ennobles tales of true poets. Brilliant writers who become suddenly useless overnight (Jeremy Reed - according to AD). All of this is exactly the imaginative world in which the idealistic rock fan lives, c. 1978. Praise of woman writers (fairly often) and non-white writers (less often) are both unpersuasive of deep engagement- imaginatively, this is a white boy's Games Workshop epic combat zone. Tremble at those ugly rows of Larkins!

But it's much easier (copying his own manner) to attack AD's writing in a short space than to do justice to the enormous vistas it opens up on nearly every page. If you don't know his work then spend the next few days studying AD's long-since-quiesced site
http://www.pinko.org/
(which contains masses of writing that is as good as anything in Failure, maybe better). I have a contextless memory of reading some of Origins of the Underground (2008) online and being totally blown away by it, but this may have been a dream.

Anyway, another reason AD is indispensable is because he assumes that writing poetry that comes into contact with modernity is not easy and not many people do it and when they do manage to do it this state of affairs doesn't usually last very long. At one point he mentions writers who take "soft options" such as scholarship, curatorship of the noble poets of the past, - and translation. I thought of this today while skipping through the current Action, Yes. ( http://www.actionyes.org/ ) And what I thought was, Actually, the only things I'm interested in here are the translations (from Canadian-French and Japanese). It's as if, unless something has been through at least two languages, it doesn't carry enough freight. Because good poetry is, in fact, hard to write? (Well you know I don't agree with AD about that, because it isn't relativist.) - I think because of the shadow-imprint of Failure on my brain I'd just temporarily turned into someone who was bored with bratty thinness and I couldn't be bothered to read beyond that.

Then I thought about language death
(http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/2009%20-%20Fall/full-McWhorter-Fall-2009.html) and how good it will be to live in a world where people do understand each other, but poetry addressing modernity needs to mainline to what multi-language accidentally exposed.

AD's translations of German poetry are much more interesting to me than what I've seen of his own poems, proving yet again that translation is indeed a soft option, i.e. it has a much greater chance of encountering a gratified reader.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

nov ber

It must've just rained, and every car and truck on the motorway flared yellow lit by the early sun.

For miles. The blurred edge of the raincloud in the sky up ahead.

Cold shower in our faces, crossing the carpark, the footbridge over the fishpond, the alley under the road to the scabby stepford wives fake theme-pub/PO/TescoExpress/Takeaway Chinese-Chippy combo (on the map, this is called "local centre"). Returning, the shower was over, the fake theme-pub glittered along its edges, our shadows fell across the fishpond and the motionless gold carp all woke up and started to swim really quick and powerful so they weren't made of plastic after all.

These are compact-format prints: 5" x 3 1/2".

Stout bare nettle stalk with a green top-knot, whorled decay of parasol into soup, alder seeds (flute-tweet)

Energy of being inside, great time of year for being in a big open-plan well-lit office.

See where the rain is falling from the cloud, slanting down behind it. No, that doesn't make sense; the cloud must be moving in the same direction as the rain. So clouds don't trail rain, they lead with it. But how can that be, the rain must be more resistant to wind than the cloud, so how can it get ahead. It is windier beneath the cloud than where the cloud is. It is windier down here. But the rain brings the wind, doesn't it? Do clouds generate their own motion?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Welcome to all the garden bloggers!

For some reason I haven't quite fathomed yet, the last week has seen lots of visits from other bloggers who mostly seem to write about gardens. Which is a little embarrassing, since this isn't a gardening blog, or any other kind of blog either. It does have some entries about plants, but you might have to scroll down a bit - after all, it's late November...

Anyway, welcome, and I've checked out some of the blogs of the people who came by and I'm pretty stunned at how good they are. Here are three to make up for any disappointment with this one:

http://localfoodblog.blogspot.com/
http://nuncketest.blogspot.com/
http://intercontinentalgardener.blogspot.com/

In fact, I haven't even got a garden, only a couple of corners that I've surreptitiously nibbled out of common land because no-one else seemed very interested. And you possibly might not even notice them if you walked past because, well, for example the last plant I actually planted was creeping bent...! I do also have perennial sunflowers and penstemons.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Specimens of the literature of Sweden: Vårvindar friska

Vårvindar friska

[popular song in waltz-time, the basic rhythm is boom-dabba-dabba. Bar-lines indicated by capital letters. Armed with that information plus the notes as below, you'll have no trouble working out the tune if you want to.]

A-A-B-A-B
Am
Spring winds a-frisking
C-C-D-C-D
Am
Whispering, whisking
E-E-D-B-C
Am/E7*
Like lovers courting
A-A-G#-lowE
Am E7
Through the green trees;
A-A-B-A-B
Am
Stream-waters flow down,
C-C-D-C-D
Am
They never slow down,
E-E-D-B-C
Am/E7*
Till at the coast their
A-A-G#-A
Am (G)
Flow meets the sea's.
E-E-C-highG-E / D-D-C-B
C G
Mournful my heart is, Hearing dismayed
C-C-A-E-C / B-B-G#-E
Am E7
Clang of the horn in Hill-country fade...
A-A-B-A-B
Am
Stream-sprite's cadenzas
C-C-D-C-D
Am
Sorrowful listeners
E-E-D-C-B / A
Am E7 Am
Brood over hill and Dale.

*This means that you can throw in an E7 if the austerity of all-on-one-chord bothers you.

Verse 2 (often not sung) will follow if I get round to it, as will the drinking-song parodies. And this is my improvisation:

Persistence

There was an eye, a patna rice
forsaking night, receiving night, the harvest edges crop chemise
insensate eve, collision bronze

the birds flow over the ride...

I don't care about water...
a mild almond in mulled spice

she swam downstream, heavily waxing and waning:
all ray's waning:: of the coarsely coiled scuttering fence
went into the bank, water staked, catkin ashy.
Under the broca barge there must be stan and her children whistle

foam meets the mother current.
Bold lamentation .... to say
how Clang of the horn, dies away.
Stream-tresses scraping on a rusty kit
Shadows, stream yellow, sorrows

mouth pressed against mouth, voice raised against voice BECAUSE

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

lit ephem

I'm employed now.

I'm translating a Swedish popular song "Vårvindar friska" (spring breezes) and some snapsvise elaborations. Probably the song is popular more for the melody than the words. It's one of those aaba tunes where the "a" bit is in the minor and it switches dramatically and crescendoingly into the major at "b". (The funeral march in Chopin's sonata has the same format.)

I've read Catherine Daly's Vauxhall and I'll write about it soon. I had my doubts about Vauxhall after some quick dips and I looked askance at it for about a year or more untill I finally got the space to sit down and read it all through; when I got to the end I realized it's a kite that flies. Is it so evidently a step into the dark as, say, Papercraft or To Delite? Is it more a summation of "this is the things I can do", only better than ever? The latter is my first thought. I'm kind of surmising that the unexpected lack of new publications since Vauxhall (Daly had kept up a stream of pubs to that point) indicates a pause for new direction.

Also, Tony Lopez' Darwin. If Ron Silliman was talking about the cover when he hyperbolized that it "might just be" the most beautiful book of poetry ever (which he wasn't, not consciously at least), then I have to warn you that this cover does tend to flake off, because Acts of Language have printed it cheaply on an office colour printer, it isn't a proper book jacket. But anyway, it is a neat cover (Iceland mountain scenery with some dirty snow and a white streak of sky on the horizon). And this is another brilliant book, consisting of found sentences. Ron was right to draw attention to the formal aspect of the book and he drew out the variable paragraph lengths and called this a soft aspect, which it is, but there's a hard aspect too because the sentences in each of the ten sections add up to 55.

Some of the sentences can be Googled. E.g. the man in the beige or golden trousers was a description of a Maddy suspect in the Guardian. Surprisingly, Darwin's own writings, which provide a good many of the sentences, don't seem to be on the Internet. That can't be right, that must be Google being weird.

You know how Giles Goodland's Capital provides a reference for every sentence? Well, what I mean is it would be great if you did make a poem of this kind (i.e. not a flarf poem) in which Every sentence was Googlable, because then it would mean that if you read a sentence that you wanted to explore further, you could just go and do it straight away, leaving the poem for a moment in the same way that you leave a room. In this way the poem would perhaps have a generous transparency, it would no longer so tightly control what you did with its materials.

For me Darwin has a definite subject, I think Lopez's stuff always does, which in this case I guess you could define as the post-Darwinized world. A lot of the sentences are scientific, academic, or high-minded, quality journalism. There's a paucity of women's names - well it goes deeper than that, I feel a conspicuous lack of a female presence in the many-sourced writings. That builds a tension up. And a lack of conversation, of spontaneity, of frivolity. Is it even a conspicuous lack of real life altogether? You begin to feel stifled, as if the quoted sentences are doubly-written hence doubly distanced from the world in which we exist... You can't help noticing, also, how many of the undeniably highminded scientific extracts do involve animal testing. I think this is all deliberate and Darwin is possibly just as angry a poem as that one about bullimia in Conductors of Chaos. - I hear on the radio this morning a report that most bullimics have been bullied. A sort of feeling of being bullied is how I respond to the aggregated highminded sentences of the scientists and pundits. For it is not only faith schools (see below) that enforce a view of life.

So what's the relationship between a literary work like this and science? does it 1. seek to go on its own totally independent exploratory journey, using science as just one of its fuels 2. or try to register resonances in a world admittedly influenced by science 3. try to compose a critique of science, inevitably and necessarily from without? The latter is really what I'm interested in. I think you can criticize science as a social force by straightforward observation. Can you also erect an alternative methodology to go behind science? Such as collage in this case? or religion? or homeopathy?

Because I've also recently read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, which looked irresistible in the bookshop and was very OK in reality, though not the unprecedented masterpiece of thinking and literature that the gushers would have you think. Dawkins is indeed (as he hopes) consciousness-raising on religious labelling of children and on religious schools - i.e. I think differently about these things now than I did before I read the book: last week I didn't see either of these things as presenting a moral problem but now I do. And I like where he starts to go on the "by-product of evolutionary advantage" theory re why religion exists. His descriptions of the evils of religion are temperate and hence all the more overwhelming. But (talking about sectarian violence) it might well have been supplemented by a recognition that religion often becomes a place of last defence in response to the oppression of others.

His comments about the traditional arguments for God are suave dismissals rather than refutations. His own argument for the non-existence of God is likewise traditional and open to question (variant on the argument from improbability, or who made God? - basically an overturning of Paley in the light of Darwin). Open to question re relevance - for does this argument not concern a creator who is just part of nature? Surely the sort of religious people who are interested in philosophical proofs or disproofs of god all accept evolution as a matter of course, so whatever they mean by god doesn't mean a creator such as appears in Dawkins' argument - therefore it may seem to miss its target. Even so, it may be dead right. He seems to underplay fine tuning. He scornfully mentions "the argument from present ignorance", yet doesn't reveal any means of countering it. He analogizes the origin of language with genetic drift, but that's not a good analogy at all. He agrees with Boenhoeffer in his scorn for "a god of the gaps", but Boenhoffer was merely wrong. There is no other kind of god. If I was a believer I would glorify this god of the gaps. It is not a diminution of god, more a definition of god. False spatial analogy says that as science closes more and more gaps, god shrinks. But does "present ignorance" really shrink? Or does additional knowledge mean additional gaps that we never even imagined before? That's another false spatial analogy maybe, but I reckon it's a better one. Dawkins derides those who leap in with the god-answer whenever we temporarily don't understand things. But why not admit that it is (maybe temporarily, maybe not) the right answer? that god=gap? that god simply is the sort of solution we imagine when we can't see any other.

The real problem with the lack of relativism is that Dawkins doesn't understand how two contradictory things can be true at the same time. His truth is simple. At one point he asks guilelessly how religions can claim belief as virtuous when belief is obviously something involuntary - you cannot choose what to believe. I absolutely disagree: overwhelmingly people do decide what they're going to believe. That is, what they're going to say they believe and even think they believe ("belief" fragments into a million neurons when you try and pin it down). Surely after Freud you have no excuse for such innocence. So Dawkins is constantly taking the statements or beliefs of religious people and treating them to scientific demolition, but this is a category mistake. This approach, you might guess, is more appropriate to an argument against fundamentalism than the evasive slippery faithful in an Anglican church or a "mind body and spirit" bookshelf. And certainly US Christian fundamentalism is a tragedy waiting to happen. But do even fundamentalists believe the bible literally (in the scientific sense of literally)? That last parenthesis, in fact, suggests the frail relevance of Dawkins' attack. I think fundamentalists have their own non-scientific idea of what "literally" means. I suggest that in the real world (as opposed to a philosopher's thought experiment) it is not really Possible to believe that the bible is true (scientific sense). But it is all too possible to be a fundamentalist.

Dawkins of course gives me that "two cultures" feeling. He's very 19th-century and comically very like C.S. Lewis as if they are not diametrically opposed ideologists at all, but two quarrelsome boys in a large Victorian children's nursery in an Oxford suburb. [That sentence seems, I discover, to betray unconscious recollection of Eagleton's review] He only understands light literature, children's literature, and Shakespeare. He quotes A.A. Milne. Modernism doesn't mean anything to him, nor does relativism. This oughtn't to be a surprise. I've written before about the costs of being a scientist, how it seems to be very difficult to live both in the art world and the science world at the same time. But of course it DOES take me by surprise. And I think, well, I know you know a lot (I do tend to address authors in this silently hectoring way while I'm reading their books)..., but all the sociological markers that I really understand (i.e. the literary ones) tell me that you don't know anything at all. It's an optical illusion of mixed signals that the arty reader has to over-ride.

(Of course it's not just about lit v science, there are also chasms between artistic communities. I caught my breath yesterday to hear the violinist Lara St John on the radio talking about being Tolkien-mad - no, not so much that, but - extolling Tolkien's prose as wonderfully musical. Maybe she's even right, but that's not the point. It's just socially infantile (in the literary world). Then she played her arrangement - for violin - of Liszt's Totentanz, which was beyond amazing... Well anyhow, people are very various and I suppose communities like the various literature ones are just designed to paper over the cracks of how appallingly different people are. If we within the self-protecting community were honest, who would not turn out to be near-illiterate, stupidly misinformed, or grossly and heretically prejudiced?

I've also been reading Cobbett, whose own hyperboles come to a climax in the country around Warminster (e.g. Bishopstrow)- he never found better meat than at Warminster market - it was evidently then not so conspicuously an army town. My own idea of Warminster is chiefly connected with the Little Chef, Morrisons, the park and the nature reserve. Cobbett's anti-Semitism affects me as a new disturbance. With Chopin or Wagner, the problem was how to accept that a violent anti-Semite might nevertheless produce great art. But at least I could say, well they don't sound like the sort of people I'd have got on with personally. With Cobbett, the problem is more searching - violent anti-Semitism in someone I find thoroughly pleasant company, someone I think I'd have got on with really well. The truth is, we are never really safe from evil beliefs, if we don't have them it's just an accident. Or should I, as Richard Dawkins thinks, say thank-you to science for nurturing the enlightened beliefs that I hope I share? Maybe...

And Martin Chuzzlewit, which I'm reading with a somber critical face on me, occasionally cracking against its will into helpless laughter.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

IT book reviews

That should ensure I get some more hits!

As you know I've been retraining, so I've assembled quite a few of those big scary IT books that, for some reason, are always a different squarer shape from normal books (i.e. the kind of leisure book that the workplace symbolically kills by making that joke about "bedtime reading").

Scott Lowe, Mastering VMware vSphere 4. Let's start with this, because it's the benchmark, unreservedly the best IT book I've ever read. It absolutely is possible to read this extremely wide-ranging and uncompromisingly technical book for the sheer pleasure of understanding what you never understood before. The massive chapter on storage is I think by Chad Sakacs, and is in a denser style, not quite so limpidly aware of its audience's needs but nevertheless hugely informative. This is Scott's first book. Dare I suggest, a very good example of how the discipline of blogging will actually produce better writers and readers?

Brian Casselman, Tim Reeser, Steve Kaplan, Citrix XenApp Platinum Edition for Windows: The Official Guide. The excellence of Scott Lowe's book also reflects the missionary zeal for VMware that is irresistibly blowing through the IT industry. XenApp's (i.e. Metaframe, Presentation Server - hey, no wonder everyone just calls it Citrix...) glory days belong to a different era - I mean don't get me wrong, it's still a crucial and expanding technology but it's lost that sexiness, somehow. Even Citrix seem to want to merge it into XenDesktop... And perhaps it's unfair, but XenApp really suffers because no-one has written a decent book about it. OK, this one's not bad. But for a techie reader it's deeply frustrating because so much of it is aimed at CIOs (would they really read it? it's hard to believe) and it keeps selling application delivery to you, which you don't need to be sold. It's a ragbag that looks like it was pasted together from other, older books. You SHOULD be suspicious of why there is no version number in the title... Even when it gets a bit more technical, in Part III, it doesn't really give you solid enough specifics. You can't learn XenApp from this. It focuses very selectively on the Platinum Edition add-ons (which is useful), but where's the comprehensive general guide on XenApp? The answer to that, I suppose, is in the product Administration and Installation Guides (all available online) - Citrix do have a great website - , but you can't really read the product documentation as books. Plus, "Official" guides are a downer. It means you're going to hear a lot about XenServer (Citrix's virtualization product) and nothing about VMware or HyperV. This isn't the real world.

Jared Hoover and Shawn Tooley, et al, The Real Citrix CCA Exam Preparation Kit: Prepare for XenApp 5.0. I wrote about this before. It IS possible to prepare for your CCA from this: I did it, but I knew XenApp pretty well. It's hastily thrown together, doesn't take the trouble to explain things comprehensively, and is pretty dull reading, if I'm honest. Yet I got sort of fond of it by the end.

Elias N. Khnaser, VCP VMware Certified Professional (Exam Cram VCP-310). The Exam Cram series books are cheap and cheerful, and I've used them before and liked them. We all want to certify on the cheap. But as technology certifications become increasingly complex, the paradigm format is less and less able to encompass the content. I seriously doubt you could pass VCP-310 with just this. Incidentally this qualification will shortly pass into history. However, so far as I know there are as yet no exam preparation guides for vSphere's VCP-410. No doubt there are a bunch of furiously scribbling authors working on that right now.

Tom Negrino and Dori Smith, Javascript & Ajax Visual Quickstart Guide. I haven't really studied this yet, - I mean I haven't got as far as writing any scripts - but it's very well written and looks like a very useful book. When you start to see gimmicky rollovers on this blog, you'll know I've got started...

Rui Maximo et al, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 Resource Kit. This is seriously hard going. It has a pretty formidable subject to discuss, but surely there has got to be a better way. Somewhere in this book is the information you need, but you have to already be an OCS Master to extract it (I'm exaggerating a bit). OK, so OCS isn't mainstream yet. For the moment, your best bet is the blogs. One day someone will write a great book on OCS. Like, maybe one that starts with - what is OCS? What is unified communications? What is SIP? This book kind of assumes you have a background in telecommunications AND IT, and several years of running Live Communications Server - which is one hell of a big ask.

Fed up with IT yet? Then why not read my Intercapillary Space piece on Robert Browning's Strafford. It has pictures!

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