September 21, 2009

Various & Sundry

Am reading an anti-modern technology book on Kindle and transcribing quotes to my netbook. Ironic. I find myself agreeing with a lot of what he says. We go faster and faster with less purpose.

The author of Digital Barbarians, Mark Helprin, writes of the man on holiday near the turn of the 20th century:
"During your holiday you will climb hills, visit chapels, attend half a dozen formal dinners, and read several books, more than a thousand pages all told. If upon reading a classical history you come across a Greek phrase with an unfamiliar word you will have to wait until the library opens, walk there by the lakeside, and consult a Greek lexicon: one and one-half hours."
It sounds good, but I'm skeptical of our hindsight nostalgia. Maybe the best things about the "good old days" (besides the greater faith in God) include the fact that without electric lights and television you would sleep when it was dark. And the other thing was that people were so physically active (see Samuel Johnson quote on 'how much misery is escaped...').

Surely part of the reason non-fiction is more popular than fiction these days is that people want explicit direction, they want facts, they want you to get to the point. There's a lack of patience with nuance, but humans are nuanced creatures. "Necessitated by that, and by a life (my own) spent writing fiction, is an obliqueness uncommon in modern nonfiction, a trust that the reader can, according to Shakepeare's exhortation, 'by indirections find directions out.'" Helprin describes Flannery O'Connor's Convergence as "besting in a single short story the many erudite volumes of Teilhard de Chardin". Which would suggest that in all our desire for directness - for speed - we are actually taking the long cut.

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Patrick Kurp sagely opines on the sport of would-be kings, i.e. blogging:
How do you respond to this statement?: Blogging is just another hobby, like stamp collecting or hockey.

It would be easy to get defensive about this question (I did, and I wrote it). Some of us take blogging seriously but must be reminded not to take ourselves seriously. David Ferry writes in his poem “Rereading Old Writing,” “writing / Is a way of being happy.” Remember too that “hobby,” meaning a small horse, entered the language in the 13th century. In less than three centuries it morphed into a child’s toy horse. By the 17th century it meant a pastime or avocation, the connection being that both signify activities going nowhere.

Some say the golden age of blogging has already passed, that blogging has failed to fulfill its early promise; and the evidence which is given is that no one becomes famous from blogging any longer. Do you agree?

There are no golden ages, only golden moments. I once worked with a newspaper editor who said something like this: “You pay your dollar and read the paper. If you find one story that amuses you or teaches you something new, you got your money’s worth.” To read a blog costs nothing. Peruse the blog roll at Anecdotal Evidence. If you can’t find something there that moves or enlightens you, or drives you pleasingly irate, go check your pulse.
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The faint smell of leaf burnings tells us Fall is in the air. I've spent so much more time outdoors lately that I can scarcely remember a time when the thundering crickets weren't serenading us. Assuming we don't move to Florida, which I devoutly wish we would, I suppose we're going to have to move into a house and yard with a "Florida room". I think it's the law that any Ohioan over the age of 60 has to have a 3-season room, and I seem to be precociously fond of the idea.

I sit dry under the canopy as a steady but gentle rain falls. It's cool outside but very pleasant. I'm going to try holding off giving up on summer as long as possible although it's nice to know there's a comfy and private and quiet alternative: the book room. I should call it the "lost room" for how seldom I go in there these days. Mostly I just open the door and sniff and sigh.
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Am pondering potential trip ideas this fall, sort of the "last chance before winter" vacation sale. Get out while the gettin's still good, weather-wise. So far I like the idea of riding a bike down the Shenandoah parkway in the Appalachian mountains. I hear it's hilly. Read about it in the Dispatch last week. Also keen to the idea of heading to Salt Lake City and doing genealogy research in their mammoth library.
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An annoying thing about technology is that it incessantly requires battery rechargings (cell phone, Kindle, netbook anyway) and is constantly in danger of being outmoded. Pity the fool who built the world's largest library of 8-track tapes. Nothing is forever, but technology seems ever more transient and thus ever more expensive in terms of replacement costs, maintenance and hassle factors. But I've signed onto the technology gadget-goo's as long as I have a job. Then it's back to paper and frugality...or so I tell myself.
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When I was a kid, the scariest movies were not of ghosts or goblins or threats you could avoid if you could run fast enough or preserve your virginity (all the teen slasher movies seem to target the ones messing around), but those involving the loss of one's mind, since it is the brain that gives us our sense of control and I tend to be a control freak. The scariest part of the movie Gone With the Wind, which I saw at a tender age, was not the limbless soldiers (one can be in control with only one arm) but the insanity of Mr. O'Hara. Similarly the film Ordinary People. I remind myself that with God one need not have fears.
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Made a pleasing discovery of today by sheer happenstance photos of the pseudonymous blogger "Betty Duffy". A look-what-I-found-rebound and another for the "would've never guessed she looked like that" file. Pretty and younger than I'd imagined. (Same with Mrs. D btw.) It's always cool when you find a sort of "Easter egg", a loophole whereupon you found a secret blog that in this case includes photos. Naturally I won't link. Wild horses & all that wouldn't drag it out of me. Will protect anyone's pseudonymous identity to the death.
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So what else is happenin'? Oh yeah, the Great Pee War. Part of the appeal of the fight over keeping my old chair (by the way, the hilarious thing is that the company is willing to pay hundreds upon hundreds for a new chair but not half that price for a laptop, the latter which would actually be of real use), is the sheer cussedness it brings out in me, the desire to 'fight the man". Well I'm starting to feel the same impulse with respect to our cat. The other day I caught him him on a chair hunched over my gym bag spraying his urinous pee (how's that for redundancy? I say, how's that for re-...) all over it. One washing and two coats of Nature's Miracle later, the bag was mostly scent-free. But I didn't learn my lesson, in not being 100% diligent in keeping said gym bag at least eight feet off the floor at all times. He did the same thing with my running shoes, the little bastid. I don't have to tell you that it's irritating to have to keep all shoes and gym bags eight feet off the ground at all times. Shoes were made to be on the ground. It's personal: I can outthink a cat, I hope. I suggested to my wife that we decoy him by placing old clothes at strategic intervals in the basement, hoping he'll use those for target practice. She didn't like that idea much, and I don't think our cat would fall for it anyway.

9 comments:

Betty Duffy said...

"Snoop" (in your own words)

TS said...

Hey no I was just looking at a blogger who happened to comment on your blog and lo & behold you posted on that blog.

Ok yes I am a snoop.

Betty Duffy said...

I'm joking. It's not that hard to find.

mrsdarwin said...

Oh you dog!

I've seen Betty in person and can attest that she's not only quite a looker, but that her kids are adorable.

Betty Duffy said...

I should add: Some people have important reasons to protect their anonymity. I'm really only hiding from my mother-in-law.

TS said...

Oh yes her kids are adorable. Funny how I failed to mention that. (Typical male, in only seeing the female in any given picture.) :-)

sriddle415 said...

Dear TSO

IS nonfiction really more popular--it does not seem so with respect to numbers in PW. A bestseller in Fiction nearly always outsells a bestseller in nonfiction (except the isolated and nearly insane self-help book). But I don't have all the data and, of course I do have my own bias:-D

shalom,
Steven

TS said...

I did make that statement without any back-up didn't I? I emailed the Columbus Public Library reference desk and they said: "This may take a little research. We suggest that you call us at 614-645-2275, choose option 2 at first menu, then option 2 again. The staffer who answers will connect you."

And that's when I lost the desire to follow-thru. But your point is well-taken; I note that 4 of the top 10 amazon.com best-sellers are fiction.

sriddle415 said...

Dear TSO,

Yes, I must sympathize. Even in so great and literate a city as the one you occupy we do have our hang-ups.

Steven