Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Etc.--The Value of Browsing, Plane Rides, Stevie Wonder

A few weeks ago, my friend introduced me to his Kindle, a nifty device that has brought him untold pleasures. It's a kick-ass device, but it left me with a weird feeling, like I was in a science-fiction story where the ending had yet to be written.

As an adult, I've always lived near terrific libraries. When I lived in Raritan Borough, the headquarters for the Somerset County Library System was in nearby Bridgewater. That cavernous, cozy library had no holes. East Brunswick's was first-rate and included a terrific DVD catalogue and an annual used book sale that was so big it had to be held at the town mall.

Libraries offer the pleasure of browsing. Everything now is about options and ease. You type in a title and get exactly what you want, or you download your entertainment. There's something to be said for not being paralyzed by limitless options, for being open to the process of discovery. So much of our lives is spent in a rush and IM, emails, and everything else ensure that. Being able to drift is quickly becoming a forgotten joy.

The other thing is this: Libraries provide an invaluable social component. Right now, a giant portion of my life is spent in my office where I sit in front of a laptop screen. A trip to the library breaks up my day, forces me to communicate with people, and reintroduces me to the outside world.

Th technological ease of entertainment, wonderful as it is, threatens to isolate us. As much as I like solitude, I don't want my books and my poetry to cocoon me.

*The only downside of my honeymoon was that I had to take a redeye flight back to Pennsylvania, which only reaffirmed my hatred for plane travel. I sat next to an obese woman whose gelatinous right thigh squirmed into my seat, and a guy who pushed his seat back before the flight took off.

During the trip, the aforementioned space-stealer pushed his seat all the way back, which made sleeping impossible since in order to be comfortable, I had to adjust my body to an angle only found in geometry books.

Maybe there's a better way to travel on airplanes, instead of feeling like being on a cattle car with wings, but I severely doubt it.

*Before boarding our cross-country bus with wings, the wife and I spotted Stevie Wonder at the airport, which easily became my number one celebrity encounter. We wanted to take a photo, but were shooed away by his escort.

It's actually better that we didn't meet him, because if I had mustered the ability to say anything it wouldn't have been something he hadn't heard before--unless I referenced some scene from his appearance on "The Cosby Show"? And the photograph would have been nice, but what would have been accomplished from the encounter?

Seeing Stevie Wonder at the airport was important, because it had been a long time since I'd seen a celebrity as a fan. It's nice to know that that my reporter's skeptical facade can be suspended every once in a while.

*Over the last two months, two friends of mine, Danny Fox and Sarah Donner, have released albums. What's even nicer is that the albums are really good. This is such a relief, because there's nothing worse than having to sugarcoat someone's misguided artistic endeavor right to their face. I probably spent half of my twenties suffering through people masquerading as artists when they should have been going to graduate school.

*If "What to Expect When You're Expecting" can be adapted into a movie, so should William Zinsser's "On Writing Well."

*Recommended reading: David Carr's "The Night of the Gun," Derf's "Punk Rock and Trailer Parks," and James S. Hirsch's biography of Willie Mays.

*Can someone tell me why the person who decided to mount televisions onto treadmills hasn't been awarded a Nobel Prize yet?

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