Slow reading on a Kindle

3PictureMarja-Leena-Rathje-paperwhites2014I live out essentially two notions of slow reading. One focuses meditatively over a verse’s or small passage’s phrasing. The other digs into an entire book through marginalia and multiple reads. One is meditation and the other is study, though, happily, the lines blur.

Over the past seven months, I’ve tried both kinds of close reading on the latest Kindle Paperwhite. Each morning I’m reading a psalm, or part of a psalm, depending on its length and how things are going, from an unfamiliar translation.  I’ve also tried to wear out two larger Kindle books. In the process, I typed 178 margin notes in one Kindle book and 452 margin notes in the other. (I love marginalia: my best writing is in my margin notes.) This post reflects on my experience of close reading these three texts on the Kindle.

By the way, the psalms translation is Robert Alter’s The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. The first of the two larger books is Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History, and the second is Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies.

While I was reading Niebuhr’s book on my Kindle, I was also alternately “reading” it by listening to an unabridged recording of it on my phone’s Audible app. I’d stop this performance on occasion to record notes, and a transcribed version of my recorded notes would collect along with my typed margin notes when the phone’s app synced.

I wasn’t reading these books just to test the Kindle, of course. But I was curious, as I went along, to see how close reading on a Kindle stacked up against close reading a physical book. I also wondered what a well-lived-in Kindle book would feel like. Here’s what I’ve discovered in terms of both function and feel.

1. Typing margin notes on a Kindle is slow, but that’s not all bad. More ideas sometimes occurred to me as I used a single finger to press the tiny keys at the bottom of my Kindle. In a way it was more tactile than writing notes with a pen in a paper book. I found that I reflected more on what I was writing.

2. With 452 margin notes in Open Society, I need a way to search them. The search function on the Kindle and on the computer’s Kindle app doesn’t search my marginalia; it searches only the book’s text. To search my notes, I log into on my laptop and click “Your Highlights.”

3. The “Your Highlights” page produces my few thousand notes on a single, slowly loading page. To search the page, I type Command-F, as I’d type to find something on any web page. Amazon hasn’t developed a serious research tool for Kindle yet, though any search function beats searching for marginalia in paper books, of course.

Lectio: snuggling inside a phrase

3PictureIlluminatedRicePsalterI’ve been reading Robert Alter’s The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary at about a psalm-every-two-days clip, and I’ve had to balance my excitement of reading an accurate and startlingly fresh translation with my goal of getting back into lectio divina. When the new translation’s freshness or the commentary’s new information unexpectedly leads me into lectio, as it did this morning, my usual balance board acts more like a launch pad.

Today is the first day of Psalm 26. Here are Alter’s versions of verses 2 and 3:

2 Test me, O LORD, and try me.
Burn pure my conscience and my heart.
3 For Your kindness is before my eyes
and I shall walk in Your truth.

Here’s part of his commentary regarding verse 3:

This is a clear instance of what some biblical scholars call a breakup pattern. The phrase “kindness and truth” esed-weemet, meaning something like “steadfast kindness,” is split between the two versets, standing as bookends at the beginning and end of the line. (Kindle Locations 2526-2529)

The psalmist seems to sandwich verse 3 between the two concepts the phrase esed-weemet holds together. Verse 3, then, can be read as an examination of the phrase. He suggests from it, I think, that the Lord’s kindness he insists on keeping before him is the only means of walking in the Lord’s truth (or, as the Revised English Bible and the margin note to the New American Standard have it, his “faithfulness”).

But it’s a personal examination, too, a prayerful consideration of himself inside the phrase. His amplification inserts himself between the phrase’s two meanings like a kid who snuggles between her parents in their bed. It’s the “prayerful reading” that “is the first moment of lectio divina” (Michael Casey, Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina, 61). It shows a ready and imaginative heart, one willing to pry with prayer into a single phrase’s meaning, willing to section a phrase’s fruit and eat its sections one at a time with slow attention.

(The illustration is a detail from the Rice Psalter.)

A goal of good lit crit: humanity

This post is from a letter I wrote a friend as part of correspondence we had in 2011 that touched on the purposes of literary criticism.

3PictureGeorgeSteinerOne of the things I love about [literary critic George] Steiner is how the development and state of language, and even the act of reading, are ultimately moral issues for him.  People who genuinely love Shakespeare can commit atrocities of twentieth century magnitude, he asserts.  So we have to be affected by what we read.  One of my favorite lines from one of the Language & Silence essays (“To Civilize our Gentlemen”):

In I. A. Richards’ Practical Criticism we find the following:

The question of belief or disbelief, in the intellectual sense, never arises when we are reading well.  If unfortunately it does arise, either through the poet’s fault or our own, we have for the moment ceased to be reading and have become astronomers, or theologians, or moralists, persons engaged in quite a different type of activity.

To which the answer should be: No, we have become men.

He sees a link between Calvinism and historicism (and positivism) in the field of literature that Harry Jaffa seems to intuit in the field of political science (and of course Steiner has lots to say about the relationship of literature and politics).  Calvinists and historicists (strange bedfellows . . .) don’t recognize what one might call a divine spark in human nature, and so projects such as self-government and even humanity (humane, human-ness) become impossible. (This is the irony of Calvinism, to me.)

3PictureBookSteinerLanguageSilenceSteiner seems to have struggled long and hard with his calling.  He is a critic who in some essays seems almost to apologize for his calling’s existence.  But that struggle, I think, won him a clearer notion of what a true critic does than I have yet read anywhere else.  (I celebrate his understanding of criticism, but I celebrate his own humanity even more, which gives me hope that my own struggle with the inconsistencies of writing and silence, while they may never make articulated sense, may transform something in me one day.)  He thinks good criticism can “show us what to reread, and how.”  (There are a lot of books out there; lots of first reads, even, to choose a second from among . . .)  “Secondly, criticism can connect.  In an age in which rapidity of technical communication in fact conceals obstinate ideological and political barriers, the critic can act as intermediary and custodian.”  And the third purpose makes a helpful distinction between a reviewer and a good critic:

There is a distinction between contemporary and immediate.  The immediate hounds the reviewer.  But, plainly, the critic has special responsibilities toward the art of his own age.  He must ask of it not only whether is represents a technical advance or refinement, whether it adds a twist of style or plays adroitly on the nerve of the moment, but what it contributes to or detracts from the dwindled reserves of moral intelligence.  What is the measure of man this work proposes?

And the final defense of lit crit in this same essay (“Humane Literacy” (1963)):

Because the community of traditional values is splintered, because words themselves have been twisted and cheapened, because the classic forms of statement and metaphor are yielding to complex, transitional modes, the art of reading, of true literacy, must be reconstituted.  It is the task of literary criticism to help us read as total human beings, by example of precision, fear, and delight.  Compared to the act of creation, that task is secondary.  But it has never counted more.  Without it, creation itself may fall upon silence.

I just want to stand up and shout.

I love what you say about practicing lit crit before embarrassing ourselves in public, and I think Steiner is with us there, too:

. . . what the critic hopes for is a qualified assent, a “Yes, but . . ” which will compel him to reexamine or refine his own response and lead to fruitful dialogue. . . .  No less than an artist — indeed, more so — the critic is in need of a public.  Without it the act of ideal reading, the attempt to re-create the work of art in the critical sensibility is doomed to becoming arbitrary impression or mere dictate.  There must exist or be trained within the community a body of readers seeking to achieve in vital concert a mature response to literature.  Only then can the critic work with that measure of consent which makes disagreement creative.  Language itself is the supreme act of community.  The poem has its particular existence in a “third realm,” at a complex, unstable distance between the poet’s private use of words and the shape of these same words in current speech.  To be realized critically the work of literature must find its complete reader; but that reader (the critic) can only quicken and verify his response if a comparable effort at insight is occurring somewhere around him.

(From his essay “F. R. Leavis.”) It reminds me of Calvino’s and Walter Ong’s thoughts on the reader’s essential role in creation.

Of commonplace books, journals, readers, & epigraphs

John Locke kept something called a commonplace book. It wasn’t a journal, and it wasn’t quite a scrapbook. It was a collection of excerpts he found significant from other people’s books. He’d copy out the passages by hand and then refer to them in his ever-expanding index so he could find them again.

3PictureFlowerGraffitiIf I were Locke, I’d leave lots of room in the margins for my notes and coloring. My journals for years have been part scrapbooks and part commonplace books, though I haven’t followed Locke’s lead in indexing them. I do number my journals’ pages and cross-reference with those numbers in the pages’ margins, which is about as much organization as I may ever need. Annie Dillard, by comparison, indexes her journals. But I don’t pretend to be Annie Dillard or John Locke, who both organized their private writings in part to help them write books they intended to publish. Wouldn’t it have been cool, though, to have been Thomas of Ireland, a fourteenth-century writer known only for his anthologizing?

Locke, for his part, didn’t pretend to have invented the commonplace book; things in this general genre have been written since antiquity. In Thomas’s time, monks copied excerpts of books into “florilegium.” Harvard’s library website reports that “The florilegium, or ‘gathering of flowers,’ of the Middle Ages and early modern era, collected excerpts primarily on religious and theological themes.” Locke, in fact, published a commonplace book organizing Bible verses into eighty-nine topics and many more subtopics.

Locke’s Commonplace Book to the Holy Bible reminds me of today’s books often called readers, which amount to a Whitman’s Sampler of an author’s work. A reader is often a good way for me to introduce myself to a writer or to a broader sampling of her work. My favorite readers include The Faulkner Reader, The Virginia Woolf Reader, A Thomas Merton Reader, and Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader. Of the four, only the Nouwen reader seems to be in the spirit of a florilegium: it’s organized by topic and includes short enough excerpts from the author’s works to resemble something someone might have first complied for his own edification.1 A more Middle Ages-style reader of Merton’s work might be Robert Inchausti’s compilation Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing, which contains very short, sometimes aphoristic passages and focuses only on what Merton wrote about writing.

Locke was moved to write about writing commonplace books. Locke had his own method for keeping his commonplace books, and his friends urged him to publish a letter he had written another friend on how to keep a commonplace book. A lot of the resulting book has to do with how to keep that running index.

Locke intended his commonplace books mainly as research tools, but I copy out others’ work to benefit my devotional practice and learning. There’s something digestive about copying out something that appeals to me. Writing something out slows me down enough to begin to think about the passage in new ways. I now buy the big art journals so I’ll have lots of room for marginalia that I sometimes break into while copying.

I do dream about writing a book, but the happiest part of my dream is selecting the book’s epigraphs. If I wrote a book, I’d audition hundreds of short passages and herald each of my chapters with around a dozen different epigraphs. I often find myself collecting quotes anyway, not to comment on them but simply to juxtapose them, to put them on the same page and watch them support, expatiate, refute, or qualify one another. A really good pairing seems to create an energy, and sometimes a friendship, much like imaginative and successful pairings among guests at a dinner party. And by the time my quotes have found their place cards, I find I have nothing to say and less reason to say it. My own book would end before it began, then, after a few extended sections of epigraphs. But I would have compiled a commonplace book.

Above: “Red graffiti drawing of flower on stone column” by Horia Varlan. Used by permission. Below: from my journal. Text in green ink is from Robert Lowell’s poem “Eye and Tooth.”


  1. I’m currently reading a similar reader – organized topically with shorter excerpts – entitled Basic Ideas of Montessori’s Education Theory.  It complies a good deal of what Montessori wrote in books, journals, and letters relative to her education theory.

What & how I read this year

The biggest change to my reading habits this year is Whispersync. The name sounds like some kind of vacuum cleaner or AC window unit from the 1950’s — “Frigidaire dishwashers, now with Whispersync.” Or “with Whispersync” written in a chrome and stylized cursive beneath “Ford Falcon” on the trunk. But it’s really Amazon’s new service syncing books on multiple devices, including audiobooks from Audible. I’ve gotten a lot of free Kindle books and gotten the excellent Audible recordings paired with them for 99 cents each. I can listen to C.K. Chesterton’s What’s Wrong with the World on my walk to school, and I can pick up where I left off listening when I read it during our silent reading time in class.

I find that, by combining my reading and listening times, I get immersed in a book. The reading-listening combination also gets me through some daunting books I’ve always wanted to read, such as All the King’s Men, which I’ve read twice now. I’m a consummate notetaker, and Whispersync satisfies there, too, pretty much. The notes I speak into my iPhone while listening to the book show up transcribed on my computer when I return to reading to the book. Nothing beats scribbling in a book, but for finding your notes short of building your own index in a book (which I’ve done many times), nothing beats digital books.

I used Whispersync for weeks for just 99 cents a classic. I didn’t buy a Kindle since I was satisfied reading the books on my computer. The complete 99-cent collection is here, along with a link to whatever free Kindle-Audible book combination Amazon is offering during a given month. (The wording on the linked page suggests that you can get only one Kindle-Audible book combination for 99 cents, but in fact you can get as many of the 104 combinations offered on that page as you’d like. I’ve gotten fifteen so far.

Once you’re hooked, you’ll find some other, newer books in the Kindle format for pretty good prices compared to print, and the Audio version will be for like $3.99 more. I remember the days online when you’d spend over $50 — sometimes over $100 — for good audiobooks.

I like the Whispersync combination so much that a month ago I bought my first e-reader, a Kindle Paperwhite. Because the screen is side-lit, I read it at night without having to worry that my lamp will keep Victoria up.

I have only a few complaints. First, you have to re-sync the last read page to keep the Whispersync coordinated if you access the footnotes on the Kindle app (but not the Kindle itself). Second, all the free books I get on in Kindle’s format won’t sync from my computer’s and phone’s Kindle apps to my Kindle.  And third, electronic versions, Kindle or otherwise, don’t exist for most of the books I read, as the list below might suggest. A lot of the books I read are out of print, anyway — an occurrence that should be progressively rarer in a century with growing percentages of print-on-demand publishing and digital books.

But, still, Whispersync’s a steal so far.

This spring I’m teaching Macbeth, a play I haven’t read in several years. I’m planning on reading and watching the WordPlay version, where “half the page is a stage,” as the WordPlay people say — a dramatization of the portion of the script opposite it. This innovation is in the spirit of Whispersync, I think.

So on to my reading this year. I think I’m posting a list of what books I’ve read this year for three reasons: (1) I like to think my books show part of where my head’s been this year. (2) It’ll be fun to learn if anyone else has recently picked up any of the books I’ve been reading. (3) I like looking back at 2012’s post by the same name and comparing my years in books.

My reading in 2012 was about as eclectic: a lot of good fiction, some political science and Chinese philosophy, a single bio, and a smattering of other books. I read a lot of books I hadn’t read since college. I love reading books I read in college. It’s like reincarnation.

This year’s books are weighted more to political science. I gave myself a crash course in natural law in preparing my video series and its annotated transcript this summer. I also had to read portions of a lot of old-friend books that aren’t listed below, so if you’re a teacher, give me credit for that, too. (I must be thoroughly institutionalized.)

My proudest moments as a reader? In 2012, Audible finally got me through Bleak House. This year, Whispersync finally got me through Don Quixote. It felt like it was over before it had done much more than start. “Reading” these luggers by listening to unabridged recordings of them is the only way to go. If you haven’t tried Peter Barker’s performance of Tristram Shandy, for instance, you’re in for a treat. At times, I had to stop lifting weights so I wouldn’t kill myself laughing.

The most beautiful thing I heard this year — more beautiful than music — is Bill Wallis’s performance of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Simon Armitage translation. Wallis and his wonderful cadences and accent are from Northern England, where the poem is supposed to have originated. Sir Gawain, you may know, is part of an alliterative revival that occurred in the late Middle Ages. The translation’s first-rate listening and a triumph of poetry over literality. Armitage’s introduction is also excellent. The second half of the recording is the poem in its original Middle English. You might listen to some of that to immerse yourself in our linguistic forebears’ cadences or just for the thrill of recognizing some Modern English words and phrases.

I’m using the same seven classifications below that I used last year to pigeonhole my reading. I’m counting lecture series from The Great Courses this year for the first time. (If you can put up with audio only and don’t mind not having even a written outline, you can now download almost any Great Courses lecture series for one credit ($15) if you’re an Audible member.)

1. I read it – the whole thing – either in print, through an audio performance, or both:

Jane Austen, Persuasion (second read)

Tinguely Museum Basel, Robert Lax

Cleanth Brooks, William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country

The Book of Job (umpteenth read)

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (second read)

Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World

Teju Cole, Open City (second read)

Sonail Deraniyagala, Wave

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (second read)

E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime

William Faulkner, The Mansion

William Faulkner, The Reivers (second read)

William Faulkner, The Town (second read)

David Hackett Fischer, Champlain’s Dream

Everett Fox, Give Us a King! (translation of I and II Samuel)

Adam Goodheart, 1861: The Civil War Awakening

Ruth Grant, John Locke’s Liberalism (second read)

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing

Alan C. Guelzo, The American Mind (The Great Courses)

Arthur Herman, The Cave and The Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization

Davie Johnson, John Randolph of Roanoke

Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers

C. S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet

Walter Lippmann, The Public Philosophy

John Locke, The Reasonable of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures

John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Paul’s Epistles (the umpteenth read)

The Pearl Poet, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Plato, Meno

Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

David Roochnik, An Introduction to Greek Philosophy (The Great Courses)

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (umpteenth read)

E. M. Standing, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

George Steiner, The Death of Tragedy

Peter Stephens, The Nature of Government: Lockean Liberalism for Our Next Civil Crisis (at least a dozen times, and I still found typos)

Morton White, The Philosophy of the American Revolution

Thomas Williams, Reason and Faith: Philosophy in the Middle Ages (The Great Courses)

Colin Woodard, Eleven Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

2. Reading currently, with an aim to finishing:

G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Knew Too Much

David Hackett Fischer, Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas

Charles de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws

Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

3. Read a good chunk of it before giving it a rest, though I liked what I read:

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England

Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students

Allan Bloom, Shakespeare’s Politics

Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

E. L. Doctorow, Creationists: Selected Essays 1993 – 2006

Robert Lax, Circus Days and Nights

Ronald Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century

4. Skimmed, bought, and hope to read next year:

Joyce Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination

Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution

Robert Lowry Clinton, God and Man in the Law: The Foundation of American Constitutionalism

Eric Foner, The Story of American Freedom

Rienhold Niebuhr, Selected Essays and Addresses

Rienhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

David Roochnick, Retrieving the Ancients: An Introduction to Greek Philosophy

Gary Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence

I’m not counting three other categories. They include (5) books I returned to for inspiration, reference, pleasure, or for a page or two’s read before conking out and (6) books I started but gave up on. I couldn’t keep track of books from either of these two categories anyway. (The former category is my favorite reading; the latter is my least favorite.) Of course, there are (7) non-books – mostly the Internet, print periodicals, and student essays – which probably made up a plurality of my reading.


On the Platform, Reading” by Mo Riza. Used by Permission.


On Prose to the Gettysburg Address’s poetry. “A writer’s new works are, more than most anything, new attempts to frame or answer old, nagging questions.” I wrote that in the context of Lincoln’s recurrent themes. Walter Lippmann, I just discovered, wrote the same thing in the context of philosophic writing:

Philosophies . . . are the very soul of the philosopher projected, and to the discerning critic they may tell more about him than he knows about himself. In this sense the man’s philosophy is his autobiography; you may read in it the story of his conflict with life.

And that’s what my “Marginal” writing is. I want to treat my blog like an ever-fattening book. I find new stuff that I would write in an old post’s margins. I can’t leave well enough alone.

Finding books online

Years ago I got a lot of helpful comments on a rather long post I wrote on finding used books online. (The comments are gone: Echo’s demise was also the demise of my blog’s old comments.) In yesterday’s post about a strain of political science books, I found myself veering into the same old territory. I think a single paragraph on book buying would be adequate now, and I reproduce it below from yesterday’s post. But I’m sure the paragraph is incomplete, and I suspect it’s inaccurate. Do you have any suggestions for improving this summary?

Three good steps for finding free or cheap books: (1) showroom Amazon (many would say it’s only fair) using its customer reviews and its “Look Inside” feature where available, or Google Books, to see what you want, (2) look for free e-book downloads at Project Gutenberg,’s texts sectionOpen Library, or Amazon’s Kindle store and the like (usually books out of copyright) (you can borrow many e-books at these sites, too), and, barring that, (3) shop for used hard-copy books, starting at and often shine there. And three guidelines for buying used books: (1) hardbacks are often way cheaper than paperbacks, (2) older editions are often way cheaper than newer editions, and (3) (contrary to all reason) well-marked books are often way cheaper than “clean” books.

(I thank Margaret, Julie, and Nancy for their helpful suggestions. I’ve amended the above paragraph with them.)

Copyright Thalita Carvalho. Used by permission.

Photo copyright Thalita Carvalho. Used by permission.


Many a deep glance, and often with unspeakable precision, has [Teufelsdrockh] cast into mysterious Nature, and the still more mysterious Life of Man. . . . Often after some such feat, he will play truant for long pages, and go dawdling and dreaming, and mumbling and meandering the merest commonplaces, as if he were asleep with eyes open, which indeed he is.

Sartor Resartus, Book 1, Chapter IV

But [Nate] Silver adds a crucial caveat: The flood of data means more noise (i.e., useless information) but not necessarily more signal (i.e., truth).

Fast Company (June 2013 print edition)

Music on paper

If Homer was really a poet’s guild reciting and refining a couple of great tales over centuries — a notion popularized in the 1960’s, and a notion that I’ve latched onto — then are we writing anything that way today?

Copyright laws and plagiarism rules keep us from improving on our forebears’ work. Yet nothing comes from nothing. Or nothing much.

Survey courses, maybe all of literary criticism, are attempts to hear a chorus instead of a simple series of solos. So instead of Homer, we hear Cleanth Brooks, Claude Levi-Strauss, etc. We hear music on paper.

Reading two or three novels at once is my single stand against this dark side of intellectual property law. When my simple mind conflates the characters and plots, and even the tones and themes, I feel like one of Zeus’ eagles sent to soar over the assembly.

Slow crux

This past month, in the process of changing my blog’s look and adjusting its focus, I uncovered a lot of essays on slow reading. An essay by Dave Bonta, another by Teju Cole, one by Fiona Robyn, and lots by me. I decided to put the best of them in one place.

I’ve done something like that before. Three essays I grouped two site renovations ago amounted to an introduction to slow reading. The ten essays I selected this month take on the subject from more angles and more writers’ perspectives.

Sorting through these old posts made me wonder why I had never asked John Miedema, a Canadian blogger and the author of Slow Reading, for an essay. John and I live just outside our respective nations’ capitals, and he represents to me a kind of slow reads completion, his yin (which, after all, literally means “north slope”) to my yang. We met online five years ago tomorrow when both of our sites landed on the same MetaFilter page celebrating the Slow Movement.

Today he said yes. “Slow reading” was his blog’s first post, and he feels it still summarizes his views on the subject. The post exemplifies John’s usual depth and succinctness, and I’m grateful he let me republish it here as part of the core.

Slow reading has its social, creative, educational, oral, literary, spiritual, poetic, and sensual aspects, and I hope the core posts open some eyes and ears. Links to the posts appear in the left margin’s slide-out side panel under “The specials.”