July 03, 2010

Various & Sundry

A curmudgeonly moment: Loud biplane passes by with a big sign advertising something. A trifecta: noise pollution, air pollution and sight pollution. End curmudgeonly moment.

Reading diet books is like reading economists's - they contradict themselves endlessly. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "there are lies, damn lies, and diet books." The best way to go about it is to read the book that most closely mirrors your present diet, much the way we read watch FOX or MSNBC depending on our political persuasion. At least with politics though I know I'm right, or at least that I'm on the right. 
The most persuasive chapter in "The Zone Diet" was on evolution and how man was not meant to live on bread alone, or pretty much at all.  It'ss a modern invention as a result of our move from hunter/gatherer society to an agricultural one about 10,000 years ago. Thus alcohol, so time-tested over the millenia, looks like a johnny-come-lately evolutionarily-speaking. So do grains and milk products, which compose about 65% of my current diet. Sigh. I often joke about how I'm still adjusting from the move from amniotic fluid to air, but actually we're all still adjusting from the move from hunter-gatherer to agricultural. Some historians believe that what gave man the impetus to become agricultural was the invention of beer.  The Zone on alcohol is that it's good for you in moderation but that some people simply have a genetic issue with alcohol that results in alcoholism. Something about the limited production of GLA in your brain. It's interesting how modern science is ever creating the case that our problems are less a matter of will power than of gene power. But what that says is that Christ's emphasis on forgiveness was so foreseeing, given that how pre-determined our behavior seems to be.
 There is, or was, in Irish culture a "don't ac above your station." A very unAmerican sentiment but I wonder how much I've caught of that bug. .

I recall a school mate who suddenly achieved noveau popularity, seemingly over night but perhaps over a summer. His popularity with the in-crowd was surely not to be trusted, anymore than old money trusts new wealth. And yet his rise, his seeming self-creation, was as American as it gets, right there in the tradition of Horatio Alger.  Perhaps he read a Dale Carnegie book over the summer, I don't know, but it's interesting how even back then I was uncomfortable with someone exceeding what appeared to be their station.  Perhaps I thought of popularity as preordained as the caste system in India and that it wasn't something you earned, not something you could aspire to. Ambition was to be suspected, even more so when the currency (popularity) was subjective rather than objective. A football player or great student could be objectively have earned their position, a popular person may've done nothing more than kiss up to the right people. Moreover, Glen's popularity suggested that anyone else might be able to break out of the low-ceiling'd edifice of status and thus it was a stinging rebuke of those not popular. 

Read a bit of the preface to Gone With the Wind and found it stirring and very reminiscent of Steven Riddle's reverence for the South and loathing of General Sherman. There are certain Southern cultural constructs that get handed down so faithfully, one being the absolute perfidiousness of one William Techumseh Sherman.

The author of the preface takes pains to tell us how the book was treated like Holy Writ in his household, how his mother read it to him when he was just 5, and continued re-reading aloud every year, and took him to the movies whenever it was re-released. What is it about the film/book that creates such obsessions in its viewers/readers? Why would my Mom, Irish but not Southern, appreciate it so much?

I think part of it is the characters are so well-defined. They are "types" but not hackneyed. They are as believable as flesh and blood, with Scarlett & Rhett symbolizing the New South, and Ashley and Melanie the Old South.

Also been gingerly sampling McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" and it's just too easy to buy it on Kindle and download it and yet, get this, I have a paperback copy! But perversely I've never read the paperback nor longed to, and yet it seems magical on the electronic reader, full of lyrical matter-of-factisms like: "Clouds were scarcer than cash money, and cash money was scarce enough."

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