Friday, February 3, 2023

Reading and Righting.

I have nothing against sumps, really, but I am positively agape at the slurry that is popular culture. Accordingly, I engage with it with mighty infrequency. The only thing I watch on television is Jeopardy! And that too seems to ask questions only about television from the 80s (those are the hard questions) or music that has been auto-tuned into discord.

I can hardly imagine if the questions they asked were as demanding as a Junior Scholastic news quiz I had while I was growing up. Lest you think I am exaggerating, watch this episode of a game show from 1960, College Bowl, and you'll be flabbergasted.

Of course I also don't watch sports on TV. For one, I refuse to watch anything on Fox for the same reason I would have stayed out of a Woolworth's in 1960s Greensboro, North Carolina. I won't spent my time or money with racists, climate deniers and propagators of "alternative facts" under the guise of news. Further, given the brain-damage football causes, I'm not even sure why, like cock-fighting, it isn't banned or at least discouraged. 

That leaves me, whether I am in the wilds of Connecticut's Gingham Coast or in the wilds of New York's Rodent Respite with little to do with my scant spare time other than read. My therapist of 117 years, who trained with Freud, Owen, calls reading "my restorative niche." It puts back into my head what the world takes out. It gives me a form of escape that also stimulates--I suppose it's like a wicked roller-coaster for what's left of my mind after 42 years making my living in the advertising business.

With all that, let me share a couple of the books I've read of late. These are the things that often give me peace while provoking me. They make me think I am not alone while underscoring my existential alienation. They also make me a better writer, thinker, advertising person and person in general. All for pennies a page. Cheaper than either Psychiatry or Cable.

If you're like me and you consider "dad jokes" an apogee, not a perigee, or if you, like me, appreciate a pun and a groaner, you'll enjoy five minutes or ten with "Have a Little Pun." There's too little laughter in the world and too few one-liners. 

I'm reading now this on the imaginary world of human borders. Where we keep some out and let others in. Where we otherize most and form groups and hatreds as easily as we draw a line on a map. As often as not, these lines are human constructs and lead and have lead to untold bloodshed, deaths and millennia of hate.

If you ever accept the idea of human dominion over nature or consider nature somehow beneath mankind, you'd do well to read about the remarkable abilities and adaptations of the living and breathing things--the things we kill with hardly a second thought, or, for that matter, a first thought. Either of these two books will help open your mind. Though I think they're best read as two faces of the same coin.

The origins and spread of American white, make, christian supremacy through the history of Eufala, Alabama--which wiped out the Creeks, enslaved and re-enslaved more than half the population, and kept things that way, past the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments right through to today.

I dunno about you, but the battles between the people who became known as the Greeks and those who became known as the Persians are battles we keep fighting. After almost 3,000 years, I'm still not sure what we're fighting about. Unless it's borders, see above.

Another thing we're still fighting about is who will take-over Alexander's empire when he dies. Demetrius was kind of a George Bush type--a bumbler. But he appears to have come out ahead. At least from the viewpoint of 2,500 years.

What's that burning smell? 400 years ago all over New England it was people accused of being witches. Today, we find different, maybe crueler ways to punish outsiders and other-ness. I'm in Connecticut now, and all this happened on the frontier between Springfield, Mass and "Indian and Dutch" territory--just 66 miles from where I type this. Fear of the different hasn't diminished throughout human history. And punishment of the different may have gotten more severe.

The origins of dynastic wealth. From the opium trade to today. 

The spiritual predecessor of Sam Bankman-Fried, Elon Musk and countless other rapacious "job creators who pay no tax." Jay Gould cornered gold and built about one of every ten miles of rail in the United States.

Open with fun. Close with fun. Tom Gauld is someone to behauld.


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