Tonight we kick off Episode 9 of the weekly Guest Post series: Medium Cool with BGinCHI.
In case you missed the introduction to the series: Culture as a Hedge Against this Soul-Sucking Political Miasma We’re Living In
You can find the whole series here: Medium Cool with BGinCHI
Tonight’s Topic: What Helped Shape The Person You Became?
Take it away, BG!
We’re going to keep this week’s Medium Cool simple, as it’s been a trying, emotional week. I’d like this to be a space where we not only stretch ourselves and do some thinking, but also where we can just come together as a community and talk about the things we love and are passionate about.
So, for today’s Medium Cool, tell us about a book, or a movie, or a TV show that shaped how you see the world, how you treat people, or some other life lesson you learned that has always stuck with you.
Note: BG has a “thing” with kids in his neighborhood today – the dad of his son’s friend is a musician who is playing a neighborhood porch concert. Complete with social distancing and masks, of course! So we will be on our own much more than usual as BG will have to bail early and then come back to the thread later. ~WG
The Dr. is IN.
No piece of fiction has shaped me more than the Miss Bianca books by Margery Sharp. Anyone who has actually read them or any of Margery Sharp’s other books is now looking at me askance and edging away.
Okay, let me revise that. Anyone who has read them since they became an adult. One of the things that shaped me was her incredible skill at slipping things in under the radar.
Okay this is only one of a lotta lotta things, but I have always remembered something Julia said to Winston in 1984: “If you keep the little rules you can break the big ones”.
Trying to think of things other than depression.
I’d go with my grandfather. He was a retired teacher. Looked up to him like he was a giant*. A very caring man. Someone we all felt would always be with us, to help us with whatever problem we had.
* Even short people are much, much larger than you, when you are in your very young formative years, so I don’t think I can ever really look at them as small.
@Frankensteinbeck: I have not read them but am now Miss Bianca curious.
The Ugly American
1984 gave me a visceral hatred and fear of rats.
trek. my mom was an OG trekkie and i was raised on that shit.
For me it wasn’t just one book, or even one kind of book. It was (to link back to our previous topic on this) the world that allowed me to inhabit it. I needed to get out of the world I grew up in, and before I was old enough to actually leave, books and TV were the only option. And books had far more worlds than our 3 channels could offer.
Darrin Ziliak (formerly glocksman)
As much as I’m loathe to admit to it, Gordon Liddy’s autobiography Will was a huge influence on me when I read it in 8th grade.
For a long time I was practically a Nazi in everything but name and I’m still recovering from reading it.
It was a piece of music that I first heard in 8th grade, Arnold Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto, op. 36. That’s been my alpha and omega, my pole star, for over half a century. As for books, I’ll mention two: Moby Dick and John Barth’s LETTERS.
The books are not much like the Disney movies. ‘Disney buys the rights to a book, makes the exact opposite of the author’s intent’ is a long-established pattern. This is one of those cases where they grabbed the main characters’ names, the idea of ‘cute mice rescue prisoners’, and remade everything else from scratch. Among many other things, Bianca and Bernard are wildly different characters in the books.
Probably Dante’s Divine Comedy. The professor who taught a class on the book at my university had a huge influence on a lot of people. The consideration of sin and redemption and the beauty and pettiness of Dante’s work speaks to me (I try to avoid pettiness, but I appreciate it sometimes). It influenced what I study, where I went to grad school, whom I chose as my mentor and what I teach now. Specifically I think the Purgatorio is my favorite part – the Inferno is fun, but I appreciate the part of the work in which people are trying to atone for sins and not just being punished for them.
I read some Bertrand Russell in my twenties. I wouldn’t call myself a follower, but I reckon he shaped much of whatever passes for my thinking.
@Darrin Ziliak (formerly glocksman): I had an influential HS teacher like that, for Government. An ex-CIA dude, very charismatic, drew a lot of young men into his orbit.
I believed a lot of conservative bullshit until university when I pulled my head out of my ass.
@K488: I had no idea Barth and Moby Dick corresponded, but I’m gonna read the shit out of that.
Star Trek TOS, no question. I was like 7 when it originally aired. It was on later than I was supposed to be up. But my mom was working evenings at Penney’s and my dad worked rotating shifts, so he was often working second or third shift, so my older brothers and sisters were in charge. My bedroom door had a direct line of sight to the living room tv. My oldest brother knew how enamored I was by the space missions and he loved sci-fi, so he made me go to bed but left my bedroom door open so I could watch. I learned a lot about how you treat others, to value knowledge and science and to be curious. Gene Roddenberry was my North Star for many years after that
ETA: Also, Candide by Voltaire. Read it in high school and couldn’t believe they assigned such a radical book. Loved, loved, loved it. It very much shaped much of my teenage thinking.
@azelie: A good paraphrase of this blog, at the end.
I am not sure that there have been many books that directly influenced me. But the first novel I read as a kid on my own, without recommendation by parents or teachers was Huckleberry Finn. And years later, a passage from the book came back to me.
In Chapter 31, Huck has written a note that, if delivered, will deliver Jim back into slavery. Huck rehearses all the rationalizations for slavery and why it is his Christian duty to betray Jim. And then, Huck makes a decision about the note:
I felt a similar sense of defiance whenever people would talk to me about why gay and transgender people had no rights and should be viewed as lesser people. This kind of crap was especially galling when people would try to claim that discriminating against gay people was somehow a religious duty. And I feel the same whenever anyone suggests that I should hate or mistreat anyone just because of who they are or where they come from.
My rejection of this wicked notion is absolute and eternal.
I went on a long trip with my parents when I was 11 years old and all I had to read was Huckleberry Finn. The damn thing changed my life. Huck’s repeated decisions to go with his conscience and reject the ideologies of the day when his experiences advised him to pierced right through me and I have tried to follow his example as best I can ever since.
@Brachiator: whoa that was weird.
@Brachiator: Nice. Twain was such an ethical human being.
Same here. Books. School didn’t want to teach me to read as early as I wanted so I tried to teach myself. Not sure I was truly successful because I always tried to read right to left. Took me a bit to figure out that I’m lexdysic and learn to adjust. By then I was reading 4 to 5 books a week and getting lost in the stories.
@geg6: Both TOS and Dr Who. When Dad was home he was addicted to the Tom Baker series that was shown on PBS at that time. It was one of the few shows we could watch together. I was already a really creative kid, and between those two my mind expanded even further. That’s probably what led me to band, which literally saved my life in high school.
Oh and for those so inclined, there’s going to be one final episode of “The Sarah Jane Chronicles” airing today. I’m trying to steel my heart to watching,
@BGinCHI: Missed a comma, dammit. I like the idea, though.
James E Powell
Catch-22. It wasn’t so much that it made me into a Yossarian but more that I realized I already was a Yossarian and that it was okay to be like that.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Made questions re meaning of life central and permanent. A regular source of happiness and misery, satisfaction and frustration.
All those names of books are great, but there are too many of them to count! So I agree with BG, and I’ll just say that the public library was a major formative factor for me.
I related to Snuffleupagus.
@James E Powell: Catch-22 for me, too.
Also, a lot of Vietnam novels. I grew up with a lot of vets (in my family and amongst family friends) and the novels really helped me understand why those guys were so fucked up, drunk, mean, and very unpredictable. It didn’t make it OK, or any easier, but at least I had a context for it.
A Ghost to Most
Jethro Tull’s Aqualung.
The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.
Lost in Space (during original airings) and ST:TOS (in reruns). My parents deemed us to be too young for StarTrek (I was 5 when it premiered), so I got to watch it starting in about 7th grade. And the original Cattlecar Galactica in the 70s.
Books, mostly SF after the age of 10. Since I grew up in KC, we got a steady diet of Twain and Heinlein at our libraries, plus being shoehorned into a “Great Books” program by my crazy-ass airline parents (they both worked for TWA).
Musical training. We were all started on piano a week after our 6th birthdays; when we were 8-9, we were allowed to shift to a instrument that we’d actually want to play, within the constraints placed by our pediatrician. Since 3 of us are asthmatic, we all got wind instruments, though I started on Guitar at 8 and then Clarinet at 10 (and trombone at 15). I listened to more Jazz and Classical in HS than pop, since most pop in the late 70s was Disco or Arena Rock, and most radio stations locally were nascent Xtian Rock.
Being the minority religion (Jewish), and an absolute rejection of the BibleBelt in which I was being raised. At 8, I told my dad that when I got out of HS, I was moving to Chicago. “Why?” he asked. “Because this is a cow town fulla preachers” I replied. Instead I ended up in Indiana for Uni and then Boston. 1500 miles is barely far enough away.
I read “Roots” when I was a twelve year old white kid in South Georgia. It was unimaginable to me at the time that it was even possible for humans to be treated that way by other humans. Never looked at black people the same after that.. or a lot of white people either.
@Albatrossity: Right on. Meant to add that!
Russian literature of all shapes and sizes.
@BGinCHI: Say what??? :))))
@FlyingToaster: I was a complete nerd as a kid about the Mercury program. i read “We seven” as an eight year old before I could even figure out some of the words,
Actually, still kind of a Nerd about it,
J R in WV
Public library, where I was allowed, nay encouraged to delve everywhere.
Mark Twain also !!! Huck Finn was a great work in my history!
I learned to read early, and then read an article on “speed reading” in Newsweek, which included a brief instruction set from the very expensive classes being taught. After that I was reading a book a day of SFF – Lord of the Rings, Heinlein, Asimov, Van Vogt, Phillip Jose Farmer, etc. A little slower on history, science, etc.
Reading the King James Bible made me the cynic I am today. So many internal contradictions !!!
I came to the same conclusion but in a different way. I observed people. I noticed that really we are all the same. And then when I was 11 or 12 and my father’s business was just starting and I’d go with him to work and watch and learn. A gentleman that he employed, name of Richard, was a black man of about 40, burly guy, looked like he could have been a boxer, light heavyweight. Richard took me under his wing and treated me, not like a kid, but a fellow human. It wasn’t a revelation, it took me a few years to understand what he’d done for me, but he is one of those people who I fondly remember as a real, normal human being, who liked life, no matter how it treated him. I can still see his face and hear his voice after almost 60 yrs. And it helped me see that in my dad, that the important part was who you are, how you see the world, not what you look like.
Nothing impacted me like the Army. Boot camp was made up from people from the Chicago and Memphis Induction Centers. Militant brothers from the South Side and rednecks from the hills of Tennessee and Kentucky made for one hell of an education for a 17 year old punk from the suburbs. And that was just the beginning. . .
Ella in New Mexico
My maternal grandmother.
The the mid 1960’s thru the 1970’s.
Music was HUGE for me, and I read lots and lots and lots of books, too many to mention. TV was so much of an influence on all of us then. Life felt so much easier than it does now. So much in my childhood an teen years that was so good. It’s why I’m such a liberal softie, I think. ;-)
Favorites during this era: Twilight Zone, Bruce Springsteen, Carl Sagan’s Dragons of Eden.
Dorothy A. Winsor
Laboratory Life by Latour and Woolgar. It’s wonderfully entertaining and shaped my professional writing and life at a time when I was groping around for a direction. If you’ve never read it, it’s an ethnographic study of a science lab and how science happens.
@James E Powell:
Catch 22 and Something Happened.
Heller got you to think outside yourself, to see the bits and pieces, to have to think, not just breathe, eat and sleep.
West of the Rockies
I took a lot of cues about adult male behaviors from my father and old-school movie stars: Peck, Stewart, Grant, and Bogart.
Spock influenced me; I would often ask myself in a conundrum, what would Spock do?
And if you think the Tea Party and Trump fuckers are something recent pickup Travels With Charley and read the chapter about “The Cheerleaders”.
“live long and prosper.”
Music and literature in general, and All About Eve. I don’t think any of these things truly made me, if indeed anything has, but there’s a certain sensibility that I carry about.
@Ruckus: I’ve posted the picture of me and Ralph the dog fishing at sunset on the beach in Mexico. That’s the bay where they filmed Catch 22. It was empty then but the runway and buildings were there and the Mexicans that rode through on their horses loved to act out the plane crashing into the mountain. It’s condos now.
I’m ashamed to say I missed reading Catch-22. It’ll be next on my list.
Um, dude…I am literally *right here*. *Waves paw* Why do you *think*? : )
ETA: I read them and re-read them intensively from the time I was nine or ten for years afterwards, and I remember writing a whole long diary over at DKos years ago about what an effect “The Rescuers” had on me as a young one. Can’t find the diary now, alas…wonder if they’ve purged their archives?
@Baud: Help him, help HIM. . .
I got to spend 2 months in a navy hospital filled mostly with marines back from Vietnam, in 73. Up very close with quite a few who could not be allowed out in public, with wounds that you couldn’t see, and many that you could, but that they could feel every second of every day. We now call that PTSD. More education than I wanted but very valuable none the less.
OK, you’ve sold me. I did read the full The Grapes of Wrath back in the day, and remember having the feeling from it that some white people had really forgotten a lot of things.
“that’s some catch, that catch-22.”
@prostratedragon: Pick up “In Dubious Battle”.
The most important novel for me is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison which I read in college. The line “The world is possibility if only you’ll discover it” has stayed with me over all these years. Invisible Man provides the best depiction of someone experiencing alienation of any novel I’ve ever read.
I never stopped asking questions. Especially the question why.
It was access to books and a voracious appetite for reading and my parents and extended family who encouraged my intellectual curiosity
People who influenced me: My father, my grandmother, my paternal uncle.
Two books made an impact on me, both from my grandmother’s library.
Yayati by V. S. Khandekar.
And 1984 by Orwell.
@Albatrossity: So with you on this. My first library card in 1957, thanks, Mom, and all the books to follow from that day. I felt as if I had been given a treasure chest. Remember Steve Martin as Navin in The Jerk when the phone book with his name in it arrived? I am somebody! That’s how I felt. A weekly trip to the library has been my routine for decades, but our libraries have been closed for weeks and I am fucking jonesing.
I hope you don’t mind but that made me LOL. And I still have a smile on my face.
I am sort of embarrassed to admit this, but I would have to say that I was influenced as a child by the Pollyanna books. Her optimistic outlook was really attractive. And very easy for a middle class suburban girl to adopt. Then I grew up and became a historian. So much for that.
But while I am not optimistic about the world, I have remained optimistic about my own life, if that makes sense: that it would all turn out all right. And it mostly has. I have been blessed.
West of the Rockies
Oh, I will also say that as a Catholic schoolboy (and altar boy), I can remember an extremely transformational moment when the nun’s discussion of Noah’s Ark seemed like utter bullocks. So, an all-knowing God makes people, and they turn out exactly as he knew they would, so he drowns the whole damn show except for this one dude’s family (who somehow managed to round up two of every animal) in a cosmic hissy fit… Nah.
I would have to say Joni Mitchell, Hunter S. Thompson, and David Bowie. In one way or another they taught me to love words and that it is OK to see the world in a different way. Plus the library.
Read my comment at #52. And remember that I spend a lot of time at the LA VA hospital. I’ve seen some Vietnam vets who are very scary. Most are not at all, especially after this many decades, but I’ve run across a few who still are. 2 yrs ago I participated in a session with a man in a thing where we had to sit facing each other and not say anything for 2 minutes, just look at each other. So decades after the war, this is still a man with all of it inside, bursting to get out and seek revenge on who ever gets in his way for putting all that in there. You and I know that, because as you say, the army made a very lasting impression on you. The navy did that for me. A different impression I’m sure but still an impression. And the VA on a regular basis is a bit of a reminder, not that we need it.
@Ruckus: Recalibrate your snarkometer.
I enlisted in USAF back in the 1950s hoping to fly as aircrew. At the time they were full up on crew, so they sent me to Chinese language school. Not one thing in my life since then has been as I had though it would be.
Scholastic book club books. Read through the blurbs and pictures in the little catalog, put in an order. My favorites had a fantasy angle, e.g., Oliver Butterworth, The Enormous Egg; Alexander Key, The Forgotten Door.
Books like these led me to hope for strange and wonderful things to happen in life. And bemusement can be a reasonable reaction to almost any event or situation, depending on the surrounding circumstances.
I can’t say A Book, but books. Growing up in a house without many, Scholastic Books and the Bookmobile were FSM-sent.
The Thin Black Duke
One of the pivotal chapters in my life happened when I went to Antioch College in Baltimore in the early 1970s. Academically speaking, it was a disaster; I left after one semester. But near the YMCA where I lived, there was a library that had the best science-fiction section that I ever saw. It was there that I first read Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions, discovered Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and came across Robert Silverberg’s Born with the Dead when it was showcased in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. Those literary gems felt better than getting a diploma.
A Ghost to Most
As for a book, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, by Hunter S. Thompson.
@Ruckus: It doesn’t bother me in the least.
My youngest sister lives in the “other Cambridge”, so she’s like 4500 miles away. And she’s not sure that it’s far enough.
Weirdly, the 11th Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. My dad found it at a used book sale and brought it home when I was about eight. I could look up anything I wanted and also page through and read random shit that looked interesting.
I got the snark, just riffing on the concept that it brought up.
For many of us the short time we spent in the military was a game changer. For me I had thought up till then that the game changer was the library. And maybe it was, but the military was still more and different. At the library I could lose myself. With the navy, I could never forget.
Same giggle and same smile……
@Ruckus: Getting sober helped with my rage but it’s still here.
“Huckleberry Finn” and “Catch-22” for me, too. I read “Tom Sawyer” when I was about ten, and didn’t want to read his disreputable buddy’s book because Huck was so … dirty. At about 12 I gave it a try, and it changed everything: there was Twain’s language, Huck’s heart, Jim’s humanity; just … everything. For me it will always be the Great American Novel. As for “Catch-22,” I read it when I was 19 (see my nym?) and the whole time I was reading was vaguely pissed off that I hadn’t read it earlier. Would have made high school a lot more tolerable.
Oh, and Tom Sawyer is a jerk.
I too spent hours at the public library, but I was also a crossword puzzle obsessive, and still do them the way some people do meditation. At any rate, this combo of crosswords and books has made me read and reread the works of John LeCarre, beginning in high school. The other writer I found in high school and read many times was John Didion, although I only really liked the novels. I liked her style, I loved reading about California history, and I found her moral voice (even when I disagreed with it) to be clear. I still read LeCarre but not Didion. For me, at least, her voice timed out.
If you were a Didion enthusiast at any time in your life you might appreciate the essay that was written by Caitlin Flanagan about a speech that Didion gave at UC Berkeley, where she had gone as an undergraduate. Flanagan’s father was the chair of the English department, before he became famous and wealthy writing historical fiction with an Irish theme. I didn’t agree with her conclusions, but it was definitely a fun read. It’s only sort of behind a paywall. Source
ETA: To Kill a Mockingbird also had a big effect on me, at age 11.
My father had a home office with the walls lined with book shelves. As children we were allowed the freedom to read anything we could reach. I read my way through mystery and detective series, Western series, historical fiction, history. You name it – I read it. Never needed a library until I did research in high school. The book that stands out from my childhood, however, was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. From that look at life through the eyes of a horse, I gained a life long love for animals and a care for their welfare. A simple book, but with a really strong impact on me.
@Barbara: Just about anyone who goes to law school has TKAM in there somewhere.
Yeah, that’s why I stopped as well. I think it just made things stay there and stay the same. You can’t work on making things better if you are trying to drown yourself.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin. Adventure, gender bending, big questions about what is human nature, hope despite despair….
@RSA: Oh, what a wonderful memory! Scholastic Books! I loved them, too!
@Omnes Omnibus: For me it was the World Book Encyclopedia, which I used to read all the time in the back of the classroom in 4th, 5th and 6th grades. That experience also taught me that if you wanted to flout authority (ie, not do assigned work in class, for example), it was best to be sneaky, but above all, *quiet*, in order to get away with it. (ie, reading the encyclopedia was a civil disobedience the teacher didn’t mind, as opposed to cutting up in class).
It’s a lesson that didn’t stick, unfortunately, as I became a loudmouth and a rabble-rouser later in life, but for a while there, it was an ethos that served me well.
david bowie was a genius.
@BGinCHI: I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right. I’m mostly a lurker but have been following this blog for most of its existence, and I think this is one of the things I love about it.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
MASH did, but in a oddly counter initiative way; there is a lot of emotional manipulation in the show with the anti-war characters being painted as noble rebels and the pro-war crowd being portrayed as crazy idiots, and the Koreans being only incidental. Or to put it another way, sure war sucks, but then again so does being a citizen of North Korea. So it taught me that TV is just about pushing one’s buttons to what ever the agenda of the people who made it the show is.
@Miss Bianca: At the same time and in a different way, Ian Fleming’s Bond books with the loving catalogues of champagne brands, GT cars, and light night scrambled eggs definitely had an effect. For good or ill.
As it turns out, my inaugural theatre production as a playwright has been cancelled (though I’m chasing down possibilities).
For folks interested in what it could have been, I’ve posted the script at
Chinese pirate queen
A little sword and sorcery
And based on a fair amount of history (it turns out about 2/3 of the stuff I wrote about probably happened…)
Have fun if you want to read it.
So much writing, hard to choose. Freshman high school English class our teacher had us listen to a radio performance of Death of A Salesman (Jason Robards as Loman, I believe). It greatly influenced my ability to spot a con man later in life; and how I view the myth of the White Working Class. It definitely insulated me from the Randian bullshit my siblings got taken in by. On the positive side, the final passages of To Kill A Mockingbird, when Scout stands in Boo’s shoes and imagines the world from his point of view was a guidepost for a whole generation. Sometimes it took me time to remember it when I was confronted with a new viewpoint. But I think it’s a hallmark of my political leanings and the reason why I am now a recovering child of Republican parents.
Film. Ah what can I say. From 1984-1986 everything changed about how I looked at film. I give all the credit to the Athens Film Society and the Ohio University art department’s film nights in Seigfred Hall. In those two years I was introduced to Herzog, Lynch, Gilliam, Fellini, and more thru – Brazil, Fitzcaraldo, And The Ship Sails On, 8 1/2, Where the Green Ants Dream, Aguirre Der Zorn Gottes, Blue Velvet, and many, many more classics and new releases. So I can’t really choose one. They all prepped me to for the delights of Carol Reed, Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Angelopolous and the great Kurosawa.
@Yutsano: did you ever see Craig Ferguson’s cold open song about Dr Who? There’s a line toward the end that I’m not sure I would put the way he puts it but it expresses something about one of the things that many people value about the show” “Intellect and romance beat brute force and cynicism”. I’m not sure “romance” is the word I’d use but it’s great to think of a show about a powerful being whose adventures involve seeing the wonders of the universe and making things better.
@gwangung: I will check it out – my production of Much Ado got cancelled for this summer, so I will have a bit more time to peruse other people’s work than I had thought. : /
I overlooked the obvious. My mother, my family always had a thing for education and reading. Some of my relatives had a basket with magazines in their bath rooms.
But when I was a kid, my mother bought me a set of the World Book Encyclopedia, and the Childcraft supplement. For a time, she also bought yearly updates and supplements to the encyclopedia. I learned to read, cross reference and research with these books. And every subject under the sun was my domain.
I missed a chunk of the third grade because I successively got a case of measles and then the mumps, and later had my tonsils removed. During this period I largely stayed home with the encyclopedia.
One of the things I most enjoyed was jumping from topic to topic and finding unexpected but perfectly apt connections, and filling in stuff that was not taught in school, but right there if you looked for it.
Decades later, I got a contract job with a certain massively successful search engine company. During the interview, when they asked why I thought I would be good for the job (human evaluation of search), I honestly told them that in some ways I had been ready for a job like this since I was a child.
I don’t know if I can pick out one book. Yes, Catch-22 had a profound impact, Vonnegut, Crime and Punishment. But mostly, I think just the fact that books were a thing in the house. There were shelves of them in the den. My parents always had books out on the end tables that they were working on. I’m convinced that they didn’t even need to read them; they could just move the bookmark through them over time and eventually pick up another, and it still would have impressed me as a thing people do. Same for music. Dad never really learned guitar and Mom was a halting pianist, but there were instruments in the house.
Though, I suppose I should mention Gary Gygax. That guy validated my daydreams.
Lord of the Flies.
Oh yes. Of course. Lord of the Flies. It was assigned in my freshman comp course. Sure gave me new insights into human nature.
The Gulag Archipelago
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Lord of the Rings
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Yeah, happening to a lot of friends…
Curious to see if anybody who reads it can spot the references and influences. They’d certainly fit into to the nerd portion of the blog…
i saw that. it was great. (and hilarious.)
Several of the books that influenced me have already been mentioned. Politically, the True Believer, Baba Yar, 900 Days (about the siege of Leningrad) and Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee were formative. And any mystery or detective books I could read, since I was heavily influenced by my dad’s case notes as a homicide detective, which I would sneak out of his briefcase to read.
But honestly I read everything. Our encyclopedia too. Bouncing from subject to subject as the spirit moved me was a great activity for really cold winter days.
Reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy when I was 12 was life transforming. It was the first of many, many rereads.
i suppose you could say the pump was primed by all the issues of MAD Magazine I had read prior to it — it was probably even more formative I. Shaping my worldview and approach to seeing things.
Let’s throw Airplane! in there, while we’re at it.
Btw forgot to mention that I love this series.
Funny. The World Book Encyclopedia ended up in my bedroom because there was no other space in our house. I used to get up early on the weekends, but we were supposed to be quiet until our parents were up. I read just about every page of every volume as a way of passing the time.
If I had to point to one book, it would be Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants. Gave me a visceral understanding of consumerism and how the owner class puts no value on anyone beneath them.
@satby: I’ve been reading “The True Believer” for weeks now. I can only get through a few pages at a time. Not because I think it’s badly written or badly argued, but because it’s hitting a little too close to home for me right now to be read all at a gulp.
“Green Light” by Kenneth Fearing
Yeah, Mad Magazine and the Rocky and Bullwinkle tv show helped define my sense of humor and love of word play and satire.
Mad and Cracked both spoofed the bejeezus out of that. One was titled “Cattlecar Galactica”, the other “Battlestar Ponderosa.” Great minds etc. Could never remember which was which.
Children’s books Gone Away Lake and Return to Gone Away by Elizabeth Enright – they fostered a sense of wonder and discovery and the notion that the unexpected is everywhere.
Shirley Valentine – specifically this dialogue “why do we get so much life if we are not going to use it?” – made me want to live as deeply and broadly as possible.
AND Rocky and Bullwinkle, forgot about that show. Good for references as well, as witness Boris and Natasha, then* and later.
*Moment of fame in BJ calendar.
I’ve mentioned before that my Mom turned me onto science fiction: she read it a lot when she was young. I wound up reading many books I didn’t quite understand.
I’ve also mentioned that my family had a policy that we children could read anything we could find, but no one was obligated to explain what we didn’t comprehend. The adults would explain things if they wanted to. More likely – particularly after we got the World Book Encyclopedia – they’d say, “Go look it up.” (Or “Go to the library and look it up.”)
I think, in a strange way, that sort of conditioned me to be intellectually brave: ready and willing to dive into a new subject, not worry about what I don’t know, and when I hit something I can’t understand, find other sources of information to see if that helps illuminate anything. I think that also trained me to apply concepts from one area to another.
So my family’s “read whatever you want but we might not explain it” philosophy shaped how I regard and pursue knowledge.
I don’t think I ever put all this together before. I’ve never understood why some people don’t like to read, or don’t like to learn new ideas, or feel threatened by ideas/people/culture they’re unfamiliar with. It’s like “The universe is huge and is made up of a lot of cool stuff – why are you shutting the door to keep it out?”
It didn’t occur to me that something as basic and simple as my family’s turning us loose on reading had that big an impact!
Emma from FL
I harassed my great-uncle into teaching me to read when I was two and a half. He was an old bachelor, no idea of children’s books. So he taught me to read from Homer and Cervantes and Hugo. Then both him and my dad gave me free run of their bookcases. Nothing like the classics to give a young girl an oversize idea of heroism, justice, and — oh yes, anti-clericalism.
Under the heading of “how could I forget”, the arrival of the daughter unit, all those twenty-odd years ago, which feel like fifteen minutes ago. Shown here with her guardian watch cat.
@Ruckus: My uncle did two tours, army infantry. Saw a ton of shit, purple heart, etc.
He cam back when I was probably 6. My whole childhood we were never, ever allowed to say the word “Vietnam” in any family situation, nor were we allowed to ask about the war or anything related.
He had a LOT of demons, and is now a really calm, kind, generous man. It took a long time.
@BGinCHI: Cool, welcome home brother.
@The Thin Black Duke: Sometimes we just need to find the place that’s right for us.
@Omnes Omnibus: Kidz will never understand how amazing it was to have encyclopedias. We only had them at school, but I was a VERY devoted reader of them. They were like the internet, but not in a hurry.
@Miss Bianca: it’s a tough book to read even when it doesn’t seem so incredibly fucking prescient about the times we’re now living through.
Though his mind is not for rent
Don’t put him down as arrogant
His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day’s events…
@Miss Bianca: @Brachiator: @debbie: Well well. I had the World Book too, in my bedroom. Maybe we ought a start a Secret Society! Every now and then I find one in a thrift store and take a trip down memory lane.
@danielx: yes having kids is, for many of us, the fine-tuner of what shapes us.
This is a perfectly good spot to share my belief that Spock is the best sci-fi character of all time.
My mom was raised by a hateful, alcoholic woman who banished my mom’s sister and never spoke of her again. Mom became a head nurse, perfect, and a heroin addict/alcoholic. My dad came out of a violently abusive family and, after beating me and my brother when we were babies/tiny kids, forced himself to stop that behavior and bottled it and self-hate for the rest of his life.
I as the oldest and first to fail, first to screw everything up, got to be the scapegoat, which some family members are still used to seeing me as. I got into drugs too, but mostly I HAD to escape. it couldn’t be just ‘the world’ (as I knew it) making me who I was.
Music worked as an escape, especially combined with hippie drugs (pot, LSD, shrooms). I got heavy into Yes and Jethro Tull (somehow missed Genesis, all those years! I’ve remedied that now). Zappa, Tangerine Dream: anything out there, pretty or ugly didn’t matter as long as it was NOT of this world. That’s shaped my music to this day. But of course, I also read…
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was a ticket to imagination. I hadn’t imagined such notions, such humor, such freedom was possible. It was like a guy got to think whatever he wanted, and it was hilarious. I still have the paperback, from when I was a kid and we all waited for that second book. I was there.
I was also in the libraries. You could hunt down obscure stuff. Cary Memorial Library, if I remember correctly: in the technical stacks, I found a book on racing car suspension design, when I was still not even a teenager. Worked out what things like camber were, based on only the pictures as the math was college or grad level. I still don’t get math that much, but I still manage to grasp stuff that ought to be beyond me, and use it in practical ways.
And more than anything: there was a teacher, named Warren Carberg. I have no idea if he’s alive now. I took an English class and wrote for him, just a cowering abused child with all my expectations as the worst, just wanting to avoid shame and to not be attacked. Warren, the coolest teacher ever (like all good English teachers, he swore in class if he wanted!) took me aside one day and he told me, with great conviction, that I was a writer. I could do this… and I should. He saw a gift there.
And then I, too, had the freedom of Douglas Adams, and could write as I pleased :)
People here don’t usually get the good side of that: novelists make damned wordy blogsters. But that’s one of the things that made me who I am. Not only that… I have been able to pass it on, occasionally, when I see a writer or musician and recognize a spark in ’em. And there is nothing, NOTHING so worthwhile as passing that spark along to some younger and more innocent person.
‘cos I needed it more than I needed life. It was something to cling to, and it mattered more than I did.
Or so it appeared. <3
@Ivan X: Thank you.
@BGinCHI: You made me chuckle. Chuckles are good.
MAD magazine was a huge influence on me.
@Uncle Cosmo: I learned the word & idea of “parody” from MAD, and it’s never let me down.
My husband worships his World Book Encyclopedia and still consults it all the time.
Oh, that is so sweet.
Also, I probably don’t go more than a week or so without reciting some line from a Looney Tunes short to someone. The rest of you can now go sing “The Michigan Rag”. Because, everybody loves it.
@zhena gogolia: Another great thanks Mom memory for me. She bought them “on time”. A guy came to the door every week to collect his $!.75. She was a high school drop out, reasons, who taught me to read, love books, movies, and cooking.
@zhena gogolia: I too was an encyclopedia reader. I am tickled to find out how many of us were.
I first saw “It’s A Wonderful Life” at the age of 12, and it got inside me. As a young adult I started living by the “George Baily rule”: if I never existed, would the world be a better place, or worse?
And yeah, there’s a lot of times I’m on that bridge, looking down at that icy water, wishing to be plucked from space-time.
Ursula K. LeGuin
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe made a huge impression on me as a young lawyer. It helped me realize that the “truth” is a very elastic concept and sometimes is never revealed.
Balloon juice would be worse.
@Chris Johnson: Thanks for this. Damn, man, what a journey.
We need to do one of these on teachers, for sure.
@Baud: Dammit, the cabin fever must be getting to me because that made me get goosebumps all over…
My dad was an engineer with a great love of books. He had a subscription to National Geographic that was fabulous for a kid during the space race years. He was a very eclectic reader and had lots of history and culture type things – several of the Time-Life books on Leonardo and Michelangelo and so forth, also too. I remember reading a several of his Aesop Fables and Grimm’s Fairy Tales books. I also remember reading through one of his aeronautical engineering texts on airfoils and saying that it looked too complicated, and he said something like “I’m sure you can figure it out…” Although I never did, it stuck with me that it wasn’t magic or genius that enabled people to figure out complicated topics like that, it was more perseverance and interest.
So many books…
“What do you call someone who graduates at the bottom of their class in med school?”
@John Revolta: Another World Book fan. I remember reading about Albania with my mother for some god-knows-why reason.
It borders on the Adriatic.
@Baud: Yes, and it has a river called (if memory serves) the Shkumbie or something like that, which we found hysterical for some reason.
There are three things that immediately come to mind. Knowledge is a weapon that is often used against people to sadly, successfully keep them down.
I’ve known people who were told that they were stupid, that they couldn’t learn anything, that they would never amount to anything. Often they were told this by people who were ignorant themselves, or who just had been allowed a thin sliver of education. But if you beat this into people long enough, they will come to believe, and be reluctant to even try.
I hate it, for example, when I hear friends or children of friends say that they are no good at math. They have been suckered into believing a lie.
Then there are people who are discouraged from learning in order to keep them a part of their group. I have seen people bullied, threatened, belittled and made fun of when they seem to “get ahead of themselves.” I’ve known women who deliberately downplay their intelligence in order to keep peace in their households, because otherwise their sulky boyfriends or husbands will become sulky, or worse. And people lose friends if they challenge the conventional wisdom of the neighborhood.
Lastly, people hold themselves back because they are afraid that by learning something, they may have to give up a cherished belief that has previously sustained them. I used to think that religion made some people fearful or intolerant. But then I understood that some fearful and intolerant people seize onto religion as a convenient excuse to unleash their fear and anger. They are sustained by their beliefs and don’t know how to live without these crutches, even if it causes them pain or harm.
I ain’t perfect or brilliant, but I remember alarming a co-worker who asked how I could possibly live in the world without believing in the Bible, Jesus and the promise of heaven. They kept insisting that life was meaningless unless you believed strongly in God and had faith. For this person, religion was certainty, and held back chaos.
I responded that if I woke up one morning and picked up the newspaper and read the headline, “Everything you know is wrong,”** my response would be, “Cool. I wonder what might be true and how do I find out?”
** credit to the Firesign Theater for inspiration.
Creem (Boy Howdy!), Circus, National Lampoon, and Mad.
It’s land is mostly mountainous and its chief export is chrome.
Kids should not have to understand this. The encyclopedia was the precursor to the Internet.
But maybe people don’t realize the degree to which learning has been deliberately kept from people.
I didn’t realize how fortunate I was until my family had some success and moved to a relatively neighborhood which had been affluent and all white.
There was a set of encyclopedias not only in the library, but also in every home room. Every freaking home rule. Some of this may have been thanks to donations of parents, but the school district obviously realized the value of having these reference books, but did nothing to insure that at least some of this was available to all schools in the district.
Wikipedia is not a perfect reference, but I think that a few pennies from the sale of all tech should be given to the Wiki foundation. And it is one of the greatest assets of humankind that anyone with access to a laptop or a smartphone can surf the web in most countries and tap into a wealth of knowledge.
We should be doing more to make not only education, but access to information, a human right.
@Baud: Coach! Loved him. So much. I could not abide Diane.
Robert Heinlein’s “juveniles” and the works of James Branch Cabell.
@Brachiator: Still, you don’t have the random finds that make encyclopedias a joy. Efficiency isn’t a be all end all.
Went thru the thread and realised i must operate on a different time line…
For me it was the discovery of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and that smart and funny can go hand in hand. At the same time i was looking for my generational equivalent to The Monkees and The Beatles…and fell in love with the power chords and harmonies of Raspberries which graduated into the witty lyrics of Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello.
AND Rocky and Bullwinkle, forgot about that show. Good for references as well, as witness Boris and Natasha
I learned about puns from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” And then I learned about levels of puns.
I could figure out that Boris Badenov was a play on “Boris Bad Enough.” But it was years before I got the reference to the Russian historical figure Boris Godunov.
And don’t get me started on the Kirwood Derby, or Mr Peabody’s WABAC Machine.
Rocky and Bullwinkle was huge for me. I loved Bullwinkle’s poetry readings (still do!).
Do you remember Durward Kirby?
@Brachiator: Remember when if you wanted to know something you might have to wait a bit?
In the 80s you could phone the reference desk at the Boston Public Library and they’d look up nearly anything you had a question about. But that was only during library hours — if you wanted to know something on Sunday night before Labor Day, well, the anticipation…
The Internet can be as random as you want to be. And if you go to today’s home page of the Wikipedia, you can shoot off in a thousand different directions.
Did you know that on this day (April 19) in 1939, Billie Holiday recorded “Strange Fruit?”
@piratedan: I like the story of the first time I saw Python. I’m about 14, and I’m thumbing through TV Guide looking for something to watch, and all it says is “MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS.” I think to myself, “Cool! A circus!”
I flip it on and they’re in the middle of the Cardinal Richelieu in the courtroom sketch. And I’m like, “Okay, this is obviously not that circus thing, but whatever the heck it is, it’s amazing!”
Rabbit holes, man… rabbit holes everywhere you step…
@Brachiator: Yeah, having a set of encyclopedias at home meant that you were truly middle-class.
I still remember my mom having a door-to-door salesman for The Encyclopaedia Brittanica (“owned by the University of Chicago, so you know it’s of high quality!!”) come by. And you could get the Great Books series from them too! Sure, it’s expensive, but can you really put a price on knowledge?!?
Yeah, we could put a price on it. It was too much.
Now, something like 25% of students – still – don’t have the computer and connections necessary for remote learning. It’s a huge problem that isn’t going to go away on its own…
@Another Scott: What people are paying every month for internet and/or cell probably dwarfs the payments on an encyclopedia.
@different-church-lady: Rabbit holes are a different kind of thing. Sort of like threaded comments.
As my aunt told it, my oldest cousin walked into West Side Story with boots, jeans, chaps, a cowboy hat, a frilly shirt and a pair of little silver six-shooters.
He walked out with jeans and a white t-shirt and picked up a stick for his stiletto.
Still wears jeans and a white tee.
@different-church-lady: I wouldn’t doubt it.
It was something like $1200 for all 30 some odd volumes in the late 1970s. Way, way more than we could even think about spending, even if it was spread out over a couple of years. Too many people these days have to spend $200 a month or more for cell and internet service… :-(
Brachiator’s idea of kickbacks to Wikipedia and similar outfits dedicated to wide access of knowledge in all its forms is a good idea. But then I think of what the BBC has turned into lately and get a little nervous…
@Brachiator: Could not agree more.
Why would I want to wait if I don’t have to? I’m not seeing a nostalgia factor here.
This is like saying, “Remember how cool it was to have to pick up the phone and dial a number to get the correct time?”
Who would want to still have to do this?
If there were still long distance phone rates (I don’t remember), this is not something that I would ever do. Not sure if there was a local equivalent where I lived.
Can I have more future today?
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
@piratedan: I guess I came around this thread the hard way.
If it wasn’t for Ron Devillier at KERA Dallas, and a scratchy yagi antenna pulling that signal, the lot of us would probably be serial criminals.
The number of people I’ve met who have read the books is microscopic. I always assume that anyone who references Miss Bianca means the movie, since I know lots of people who adore the movies. They generally don’t like hearing just how wildly different the books are. To be honest, I admire the Miss Bianca from the books more, because she is utterly out of her depth from day one, an incompetent aristocrat who knows nothing of the world past garden parties and is aware of her weakness, but she is more resolutely determined to do the right thing than anyone else.
A Separate Peace, Catcher in the Rye, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, The Selling of the President, The Graduate.
I was raised in a house without books except Lives of the Saints. We did have a subscription to Time magazine, and Reader’s Digest. I had a library card for awhile, but I also had a habit of taking out 5 books at a time and never bringing them back … so after awhile I had to avoid the place. It wasn’t in my range to just show up and hand them over and beg for mercy.
I have a strong memory of sitting in the theater at 18, watching Katherine Ross playing a college student in The Graduate, walking across campus with her books in her arms and her hair long and shining. At that point I hadn’t met anyone who’d been to college, or been on a college campus myself, but it looked like heaven to me. I think that little bit of film is part of how I ended up making it happen for myself.
@hitchhiker: It’s amazing that’s what The Graduate meant to you.
A lot of “hip” pop culture went over my head before I was 18, but the part that stuck was the alternate life, that you could just go out and try to live that way.
Monty Python and National Lampoon Magazine came along later for me, long after Mad Magazine. But I can understand how important this was for a lot of people.
ETA: I am amazed at how many British comedians went to Cambridge.
James E Powell
Many people consider it one of his lesser works, but I love it and I’ve taught it a couple times.
Oh no no, I wasn’t being nostalgic for it; I was just saying the idea of having to wait for information is completely foreign to us now, even though it’s well within living memory. If we were dropped through a wormhole into, say, 1988 we’d probably completely freak out for two weeks not having everything at our fingertips before we adjusted down.
You of course remember Bullwinkle’s alma mater, Wassamatter U.?
@debbie: Just last night I was trying to explain to someone “The Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam.”
We need to find ways to accelerate access. My niece and nephew were incredibly fortunate to be in a school district which provided laptops for all students in, I think, middle school. And they had access to a computer at home.
But we have been fortunate in the West to see technology get cheaper and become widely available fairly quickly.
Radio and radio stations began established in 1920, and by 1934 60 percent of households had radio sets. And this was during the Depression.
About 90 percent of households had VCRs within a fairly short time span, and now these devices are antiques.
@Brachiator: Ba for ba, and thtub for thtub = bathtub!
J R in WV
My encyclopedia was really old. The modern technology was high-end steam engines. I don’t remember who published it, but I took a volume into the toilet every trip I made. They had great pictures of cut-away steam engines that ran those high-speed passenger trains from coast to coast back in the day.
Then in the last 1980s wife and I flew to Seattle, with reservations on Amtrak to Oregon, then to San Francisco, then to Glenwood Springs CO, then to Denver. Then we flew home.
It was great!
@Frankensteinbeck: Miss Bianca may have been a pampered aristo, but she was no dummy, just a bit of a naive – which got knocked out of her pretty quickly in the Black Castle. And her heart was always in the right place. And I loved how what appeared to be weaknesses at first – her refusal to think ill of people, her courtliness, her savoir-faire – often ended up saving everybody’s bacon in the end. I always admired her ability to be “ladylike” – according to her code – and still kick ass.
Do you know, I’ve never seen the movie? I was old enough by the time it came out to have some suspicion that I would hate what Disney had done to it.
I didn’t know what groaners some of these old gags were.
The world can be a daunting place for some. I think that may be why the world is going through a conservative spurt now. The world goes on, grows, humanity learns, but not everyone can grasp or hold on when it does. So they fight back any concept of change. And the world and humanity is changing more rapidly than it ever has in the past. And that change involves everyone, all 7-8 billion of us. Look at this virus. It has spread around the world very rapidly, because we now have world wide travel, if not in an instant, far faster than we’ve ever had before, it’s not even around the world in 80 hrs, let alone 80 days, you can do it in about a third of that 80 hrs. Some just aren’t ready for that amount of change in everything. And no, I have no answer.
@Brachiator: It took me *years* to get some of the puns and plays on words in Bullwinkle.
And to this day I find myself quoting it.
I wonder if “The Simpsons” filled the same kind of role for kids growing up in the 90s as Bullwinkle and Looney Tunes did for kids growing up in the 60s?
The printed word is grand, the World Book was amazing for it’s day. We had a set that I used all the time. But so much changes as new things are learned, that the World Book could be largely out dated by the time it was printed and delivered these days. Sure history maybe not so much but there is so much more than just history.
You’ve made a couple comments about knowledge and wealth and you are absolutely correct. Gaining knowledge takes effort and desire. Being poor makes that a lot tougher and is used as tool of racism to hold back groups of people. Look at our public schools. Now it’s been a few decades since I was a student so I’m not fully up to speed but looking at the current concept of the DeVos family I believe it is, who thinks that we shouldn’t have a proper, reasonable and free school system, because those people will benefit. And they won’t be able to make money off it. We have people so fucking stupid that they are running around in a pandemic worried about being able to embrace their stupidity.
Rolling Stone (to which I subscribed in high school; Dad would snag them to read Hunter Thompson
I use Wikipedia a lot, usually several times a day. I use them like I did the World Book, because inside each page there are always several links to further information and explanations. I often have several tabs open to different pages, differing bits of what I started looking for, definitions of words/phrases, etc. And Wikipedia is not the only information place on the web, there are a lot. Education and information has never been easier or in greater depth.
@Miss Bianca: You should probably avoid the movie then. If one recalls that P.J. Travers absolutely abhorred what Disney did to her beloved witch, then yeah definitely stay away. Except Eva Gabor was wonderful as Miss Bianca.
I agree. You can watch the movies if you want, but it is painful to me to see strong, loyal, broad-shouldered, rough-whiskered, resolutely honest and determined working class pantry mouse Bernard turned into an overweight schleb stereotype. And they get married in the second movie, and as you know that’s pretty much opposite the whole point of the books. Not that mid-20th century British class sexual politics would make any sense to an American audience.
I keep coming back to that wonderful PBS series, “Connections.” There have been many times in the past where change has been (relatively speaking) incredibly swift, and caused social revolutions. Before the invention of the printing press, the Church in the West had a monopoly on knowledge. This changed rapidly and also caused the firestorm of the Reformation and the Wars of Religion. And we went from William Tyndale being burnt at the stake for the crime of translating the Bible into English to the King James Version becoming the standard.
I also think that there is a perpetual battle between ignorance and enlightenment, bigotry and intolerance. There have always been two (or more) visions of what America should be. The idiots running around today are malignant descendants of the Know Nothings. But I don’t think we have every had a president who so openly encourages hate and ignorance.
But look at how much of this is also directed against knowledge elites, and the idea that we should let facts and science guide us, instead of what, gut feelings and white tribalism?
The Spanish Flu, for its time, spread rapidly, with the ships carrying soldiers and equipment around the world. The Great Plague followed sailing ships and trade routes. And yet, we were able to slow this current pandemic with social distancing because we did not have to worry about rats and fleas also moving fast through our streets and homes, or of livestock being nearby. The virus moved fast, but we were also able to move quickly to try to contain it. And without human sacrifice or begging for the intercession of unreliable deities.
And still we have the angry and ignorant mucking things up. Yeah, there are people who cannot deal with change, who fight it, and who embrace old revived stupidities. And there are other people who can’t wait to embrace something new and different.
@August West: “Invisible Man provides the best depiction of someone experiencing alienation of any novel I’ve ever read.”
Yes. Another is Michael Herr’s Dispatches.
In no certain order:
Reading the two Dallas newspapers (from late 60s through the 70s)
My dad, who could fix anything and who always told me “you have to know what you are talking about”
In high school English we had books to choose from and write about. I remember reading Intruder in the Dust, Walden, and The Power and the Glory. And Mrs. Ramay saying “there is nothing new under the sun.”
In college rereading Huckleberry Finn and discussing that line “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”
Working as a line cook at Coco’s as a smart-ass teenager with other people, from very different circumstances, who I had to quickly learn how to work with.
Being unchurched after the age of 12, which allowed me to think and read what interested me.
Riding my bike to the Park Forest library so I could wander among the nonfiction shelves.
Being able to be gone for hours and nobody knew where I was.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus on KERA in 1974 (I was 15 years old)
@Brachiator: Connections really was a genius show.
I wanted to be that girl casually going to class so much. The thing is that if you’re a kid who lacks role models or access to adults whose lives make sense, you come into adult life like a person facing a massive, shapeless white void.
All you know is what you don’t want, and imagining what you do want is impossible without some kind of guide. That scene hung in my mind like a distant bell, until I finally found my way to a city with a university 5 years later.
At that school I had a physics teacher who became the next signpost, a young dude with a calm clarity of mind that just knocked me out. I became a math teacher, eventually … my students would tell me that if I could just sit next to them during exams, they’d be able to relax and solve the problems.
@Ruckus: Jesus, I am not a fucking Luddite. We were asked in the OP to talk about a book, etc., that shaped the way one views the world. I mentioned the encyclopedia. The fact that physical encyclopedias are no longer really a thing means that young people will not learn from them the way I did. That there is more knowledge available in seconds on the internet doesn’t change the fact that coming across random shit that one would never have thought to look for while going through an encyclopedia was great fun and helped to develop my sort of magpie memory.
Villago Delenda Est
I know I’m late, but:
Star Trek: The Original Series
Which was just Star Trek when I watched in on Thursday and Friday nights on NBC.
Also, too, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And Monty Python and the Holy Grail
And Bridge over the River Kwai
Villago Delenda Est
@Omnes Omnibus: So true. My parents bought an Encyclopedia Americana when I was a kid and I wore it out.
~1977 I read Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich. I was at the end of a lot of schooling, probably too much, and his critique of the role of schooling in Western society really struck me. While the notion that schooling is only one form of education is common sense, he showed how schooling as the dominate form tended to enforce hierarchy and empower social elites. Illich was called a “radical humanist,” and although he wrote a couple of decades before the internet he was prescient in forecasting “convivial institutions” of like-minded people educating each other. He probably would call Balloon Juice a “convivial institution.” Not long after I read Illich I met Debbie, and then her friend Joan. Debbie was from Medford, Mass., Joan was from Chicago. They both came from large Catholic families, were rambunctious and cheerful, and while they had left the faith they had and still have the communitarian values I associate with liberal Catholics. They were also lesbians, and I learned of a different “radical humanist” take. They had an outsiders view of authority and heirarchy as well as patriarchy, and a fierce empathy for underdogs. We are still friends, and I still remember two things they often said: “People are people,” and “We’re all in this together.”
seconded. connections was a gem.
I was always kind of waiting for someone to show me where to go, and how. I didn’t have any way to know, or confidence in how to ask.
I’ve been really lucky that people have taken an interest and helped me out. Always trying to pay that forward.
@azelie: I’ll try to see if I can find that, but the show itself is never afraid to address that issue.
@Brachiator: I recall Wassamatta U, but I never got the SS Andalusia?
I think I may have made my point. Oh well can’t miss all the time.
I don’t think you are a Luddite. I was saying that the same process works with the internet, it’s up to the person doing the looking, in our lifetimes the information has been there, in print or in electrons. And that I did the same process with the World Book and I do the same decades later with an internet connection and a keypad. But I get more recent and plain just more information. The World Book was an amazing piece, today it’s better, faster and easier to be better informed.
No, never a president who is so unsuitable for the job. Hell he’s unsuitable for just being human. I’ve said here before that GWB got lucky, up until 3 yrs ago he was vying for being in the bottom 5 worst presidents. But trump has taken over all 5 bottom spots, he’s at least 5 times worse than anyone before him. And there have been at least a couple of very bad examples of bad presidents.
We have at least some things better than in past pandemics, one is health care, we have some. In my lifetime we have increased the average life span remarkably. I had a cousin die at 6 months old. And yes that still happens but far less than it did, not all that long ago. So far I’ve been cancer free for 3 yrs after a treatment that is around 20 yrs old, because of technology. Another is communications, at least even the morons understand what social distance and shutting down is, even if they think it’s stupid, remember, they are morons. So the technology of the second half of the 20th century gave us much more rapid mobility that we didn’t have before that, which allowed the much faster spread of the disease, technology/medicine has also given us the ability to create vaccines for many diseases that use to kill a lot of people. One thing technology hasn’t really done is change human nature. We still have people who work the system to make themselves wealthy far beyond any measurable need and to make a too large segment of the population hate any progress so much that they are willing to give their lives to stop it, thereby enhancing their wealth even more. Life is great isn’t it?
O. Felix Culpa
@azelie: Would that have been Robert Hollander by any chance?
Dead thread, but I had to chase this one down.
Apparently, an inside joke.
The Internet rocks!
Exposure to Bugs Bunny cartoons as a small child, and then again while in college the first time. I realized that Bugs’ philosophy of life is one to be admired and emulated – it is enough to while the day away in pursuit of carrots and associated leisure, but when existential danger presents itself you should pull out all the stops to make that danger look as ridiculous as possible, with mockery and scorn, until such danger either passes or gives up.
It can be difficult to remember, but a well-placed tripping leg can change the outcome of a joust from certain death to a world-record pole vault into a tower. And never let anyone insult your friends without threatening to get a can opener and opening them up like a can of solid-packed tomaahhhtoes.