Bulletin of a New England Library Scientist (BUNELS)

November, 2012 – Volume 1, Number 3


By Bill Uricchio, University of Connecticut Libraries

Like many librarians, I have great admiration for the Oxford English Dictionary.  My admiration is primarily for its scope and the historical roots of its contents, but also for the somewhat goofy characters who set out to make it happen in the first place.

Although I own one of the two-volume complete sets, replete with miniscule font and magnifying glass, and a more heavily used “shorter” version, I have never thought much about the OED’s parent organization.  So, I was recently surprised to discover that they have for a number of annums selected a “Word of the Year”.

Recent “winners” include unfriend (via Facebook, 2009), refudiate ( Sarah Palin’s blending of refuse and repudiate, 2010), squeezed middle (a phrase “word” which defines the current state  of the middle class …

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The irony of giving thanks today

Something bothers me about Thanksgiving. Not to tear apart a culturally significant and sacrosanct holiday, but I don’t think the holiday is any more about giving thanks than it is about materialism.

The question of whether Thanksgiving even originated with the Pilgrims is questionable. If it didn’t then how did food and shopping become so tangled up in the essence of the day? If it did, and they sat down to eat a feast immediately after slaughtering their fellow Native Americans, then here we have another holiday that rests on the premise of occupying and killing. (Columbus Day comes in second.)

If you listen to NPR today, you’ll hear lots of Thanksgiving programs. Some may even be about the kindness done in New York for victims of Sandy, who were given turkey and other items to help them celebrate. But most of the shows feature endless interviews about turkey recipes and deep frying and best techniques for getting that cornbread savory and soft.

G-d forbid it be crunchy around the edges.

At the gym the other day, people asked me where I was “doing” Thanksgiving. Not what I’m thankful for, and not what the holiday means to me, but essentially, where I’m eating tonight. It’s great that as a nation we have one or two days a year where uninhibited binging is encouraged, and truthfully the break is a relief, but should we label it a holiday? The holiday’s name itself seems a lame rationalization or excuse for eating. If we truly do want it to be about something more than food, then let’s show that.

Next question: why follow immediately with Black Friday? Stores are opening at eight p.m. tonight. This is hardly enough time for families to finish their valuable meals before they head out to hit the stores, evidence of rampant consumerism run amok in this country. I’m going Black Friday shopping myself, but I’m not pretending Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what I have. I should be thankful, and sometimes I am, and kudos to the people who truly celebrate the namesake of the holiday. I’m engaging in the materialism that Horkheimer and Adorno labeled the “mass culture industry,” which feeds us endless goods and makes us conform to a culture that fosters a loss of consciousness among its consumers. We shop and shop to fill a void that’s only exacerbated by our swapping material goods with hard work and values we cherish, because we want to take the easy way out. We’re only digging ourselves in deeper and making it more difficult in the long run.

It’s pretty ironic that we’re running out to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, right after we finish being thankful for what we do have.

Just some food (turkey and cornbread?) for thought.


What other country would tolerate this?


“What other country would tolerate this?”

What other sovereign nation in the world would allow such a blatant violation of its borders and its security without a full-scale response? Targeted reprisals are a start, but they fall short of the response such attacks require. Part of the reason for Israel’s measured actions is that Israel is held to a standard that no other country in the world is called upon to uphold, and Israel values the world’s opinion.

The world calls on Israel time and again to “exercise restraint” in the face of baseless attacks on its population, and to this I ask but one question: “Under what precedent?”

-Israeli soldier who wished to remain anonymous


(Daily Prompt) CNN: Corrupt, Nefarious News

Daily Prompt: CNN: Corrupt News


CNN makes me mad. Brutally and passionately angry.

By now, most of you have probably heard of the rockets that have rained down on Israel since the beginning of this week. In fact, maybe you’ve even heard of the 14,000+ rockets that have terrorized Israel since 2005, when Israel granted Gaza its own state.

Yesterday, Israel finally decided to defend itself. As Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “No country in the world would accept such a situation where rockets are fired at one fifth of its citizens.”

No one cared about the damage Hamas inflicted on Israeli civilians and infrastructure since they began firing rockets into southern Israel on Tuesday. And yet, when Israel defends itself, carefully targeting terrorists to avoid killing Palestinian civilians, the world gets worked up into a frenzy for the justice to Palestinian civilians. No innocent people should be killed, and I don’t deny that and I’m truly sorry for their losses. But why was no one sorry for the losses Israel endured until Obama and Tony Blair finally came out today and gave Israel the green light to defend itself?

Besides, what other country needs a green light to DEFEND itself against terrorists?

After these statements, CNN and Fox objectified their articles a little more, citing both sides and portraying their thoughts and feelings. Yet CNN is still mostly showing pictures of the damage inflicted to Palestinian infrastructure and citizens. Don’t tell me they couldn’t find a single shred of evidence from the hundreds of rockets fired into Israel this week.

They waited for someone to finally speak on the matter to objectify their articles. Why should they wait for celebrities to speak out their position to write an objective article on the middle east? Where do their moral and journalistic principles lie?

In what other discipline is inconsistency so valued?

CNN must have forgotten that SPJ dictates objective and unbiased reporting.

Oh wait. They just don’t care.


New Year’s in a new light

The following is a recent blog post I did for Chabad on Campus about an experience in Israel two years ago.

Anyone who’s spent a year in Israel knows the challenges of finding a host for Shabbat every week. One week I got hold of a phone number from a classmate, and I called them to request if they could host two friends and me for Shabbat. We were warned to bring casual clothes and sneakers, but nothing could have prepared us.

When we got there, our host showed us where we would be sleeping, which was, believe it or not, in a dusty old freight container, near the main house. We looked around, and finding ourselves surrounded by rugged wilderness with a donkey and a couple other trailers, began to panic. We tentatively ventured into our host’s main house, which was no bigger than a large shed, with a bathroom, bedroom, and a small main room for the kitchen and dining area. Fly tape graced the window above the kitchen sink.

As Shabbat arrived, it started raining, and we walked up the hill in the muck to the tiny shul, which didn’t have a minyan. During dinner we sat on thin Israeli mattresses on the floor in lieu of chairs.

The next day, we took a long, guided hike through the area, and saw the compost that neighbors created, as well as the lodgings that they had constructed with their bare hands.

We learned that originally, soldiers had camped out there, and the land turned into an outpost. It never took off as a city, but was still inhabited by a few close-knit families. Near there, Koby Mandell was brutally murdered by Palestinians. These families are committed to living out their lives there to maintain our land, despite the nearest grocery store being miles away. When my friends and I learned that, our perspectives reversed. They are our real heroes!