Franklin Folger's Girls

I found this in the Cartoons section one day, (741.5), copyright 1962.

(From the preface.)
"People were not meant to be hurt."
Those seven words describe Franklin Folger's feelings toward his fellow men, or to be more exact and relevant to this book, toward the ladies he draws. And that's why, by reviewing their absurdities not with scorn but with gentle humor, Folger has made The Girls so delightful, engaging and winsome. You may shake your head over the naivete of the real-life counterparts of Folger's ladies but it's hard not to chuckle over the often subtle twist of their artless simplicity into downright cleverness, even wisdom. 
Before he conceived the idea of The Girls, Franklin Folger had prepared for his career by studying painting, commercial art and cartooning at the Cincinnati Art Academy. He was a successful free-lance illustrator and cartoonist and even now, in addition to his six-a-week cartoon of The Girls, he draws and sells a dozen or so cartoons a week. Cartooning is his vocation, his avocation, and he has no other hobby. 
Folger's gentle cartoons about his ladies are distributed by the Sun-Times—Daily News Syndicate and appear in over a hundred newspapers. His fan mail takes almost as much time as his cartooning. We hope this collection, the second in book form, will please his old fans and make many new ones.

Doubleday published seven collections of Folger's Girls cartoons over a decade, 1961-71.  Folger's "Girls" were middle-class housewives before the women's movement, who took home-ec and had high school diplomas:  Lucy Ricardo, June Cleaver, earnest and wide-eyed.  Women who wanted careers were expected not to marry.


Upgrading My Bible Study Tools

Every Tuesday night at 10 p.m. I spend an hour at Adoration of the Holy Eucharist in the chapel at my church.  Blessed Sacrament is the only church in the area to have Perpetual Adoration.

People do all kinds of things at Adoration:  contemplation of the Sacrament of the Altar, the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Stations of the Cross.  Bookish man that I am, most of my hour is devoted to study; of theology, scripture and church history, in the way that a Jew goes to his synagogue to study the Torah.

Having worked my way through the entire Catechism, a number of works by Pope Benedict, and several dense works of theology by Jean Daniélou, S.J., I found myself led to tackle what are known as the books of the Former Prophets, Joshua through Kings, also called the Deuteronomistic History.  They have always been mysterious and baffling to me.  Religious skeptics love to quote them, with their deeds of blood and wrathful judgments, as evidence for the prosecution of God in the dock.

I observed a couple of weeks ago that my reference books for Bible study were pretty old.  I bought many of them in the '80's when I was a new convert and an Episcopalian.  My Jerome Bible Commentary dates from 1968, and I have known for years that there is a newer edition (1990).  My Oxford Bible Atlas, (3rd edition, 1984), was superseded by a 4th edition in 2007.  Our RSV Catholic Edition Bible, which we've owned since the early '90's,  was copyrighted 1966, and a 2nd Catholic Edition was released in 2006, with maps of the Holy Land, which I've missed in the old edition.

So I splurged.  In these days of online book-selling, you don't usually have to pay full price for a new book once it has been out for a while.  I ordered the Ignatius RSV Study Bible, 2nd Catholic Edition, the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and the Oxford Bible Atlas, 4th Edition.  I also ordered a couple of study guides,  Reading the Old Testament:  An Introduction by Lawrence Boadt, C.S.P., and You Can Understand The Bible: A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible by Peter Kreeft.


Blogging Reference

10:00  Open.  Working with MK today, VB is Super.  FSU's away at Maryland, FAMU is playing at home at 2:30.  Quiet day?  Knock on wood.

Running clean-up, check-disk, defrag utilities on workroom PC's:    Have they ever been run before?  Literally gigs of files in recycling bins, temp folders.

PC for Monica.

PC hung at policy screen, reset.  Other PC freezing, give him another.

PC for Ronald.

Phone:  Betty wants Evanovich, 7,8,9.  Fetch them from bookmobile.

Paper comes back.

We've been getting calls from people who want to reach Representative-elect Steve Southerland, who beat incumbent Allen Boyd for a seat in the US House.  Problem is, he hasn't been seated yet.  The new members don't have offices yet.  All we can do is give them the number for his campaign.

Nice pb copy of Brideshead Revisited in the donation bin, in the 1999 Back Bay Books ed.

PC for JD. 15 min. wait.

11:00  Workroom PC's defragging.

Make round of 2nd floor, stopping to straighten shelves.  Deputy Marvin passes me on his own round.  All quiet.

Paper comes back.

Man got overdue notice for ILL copy of Juliette by de Sade.  Can he renew?  It's 2000 pages.  Send renewal request, tell him to call KF on Monday.

Boy wants Halo movies.  We don't appear to have any.  How about Halo books?  Find some, all lost, checked out or on hold.  Finally find one in YA Fiction.  Send him downstairs.

Betty comes w hubby and little daughter for her Evanovich books.  Sweet young family.

Phone:  the library gave away The Things They Carried by Tom O'Brien, (this year's Big Read selection), at the Veterans Day Parade.  Do we have any copies left?  I think so, tell him to call DC in Admin. on Monday.

Man wants a book with something about building a shelter for feral cats.  I'm doubtful, nothing indexed for "feral cats", but show him cat section.  Too late, I find lots of plans online, but he's left.

Betty again.  How to find books with "B" in call number.  Show her biographies.

12:09  L. not here yet.  Guess I will have lunch.

12:56  Back.  L., our volunteer, never showed.  No L, No L...

Woman wants some Left Behind, (by Tim LaHaye), books.

PC for Ron.

Took her to the shelf.  She wanted the later ones in the "Before They Were Left Behind" series.  She couldn't find The Rapture, though catalog shows 7 copies.

PC 64 hung at blue screen.  Hard power off/on.

Found The Rapture in overstock.  Observed that Left Behind section was heavily depleted, refreshed from overstock.

MK gone to lunch.

Where is Consumer Reports on cars?  Where are copy machines?

Sound trouble on PC 45.  Control Panel shows sound device installed.  Test w our phones, sound is there.  His headphones are the prob.

MK and I were talking about interest in the Left Behind books, and in religion generally, as an index of social anxiety.

Man says he got a "security threat" on PC 38.

Break a $5 for Consumer Reports woman.

Woman wants TABE test book.  Only one remains out of many original copies.  Place hold.  Wants books on writing biography, take to shelf.

How can she stop print job?

PC for Fatima.

Petite older woman w short silver hair in red Taoist Tai Chi Society sweatshirt says her reserve on Sizzling Sixteen disappeared.  Find copy on New shelves for her.  Lively trade in Evanovich today.

PC for Darryl, who wants to apply for a job online & needs help.

Young blond boy w grandfather wants Godzilla:  Fifty Years of the King of Monsters by William Tsutsui.  Take to shelf.

MK back.  Whoof!  I've been busy!

Can he turn in DVD's here?  Wants to watch them get checked in.  Send him down to Circulation.

Get Darryl to start page for Sam's Club job app.  He says he can type.

1:50  Smoke break.  When I get back, it's quiet.

Lunchtime reading is The Torch Bearers by Alexander Fullerton, book five in the Nicholas Everard WWII Saga.  Only one more...

Mom w daughter writing paper:  order The Elizabeth Cady Stanton-Susan B. Anthony Reader : Correspondence, Writings, Speeches from branch for her, show women's section in sociology.

She can't find A Thousand Years of Good Prayers : Stories by Yiyun Li on shelf.  I find it, misshelved.

Phone:  BJ at branch, pull Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat, hold for patron driving here.

Two high school girls want:  The Gilded Age : a history in documents by Janette Thomas Greenwood in reference coll.; America's Gilded Age : intimate portraits of an era of extravagance and change, 1850-1890 by Milton Rugoff, is out, they don't want hold; Unequal Democracy:  The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age by Larry M. Bartels, find on shelving cart.

Gone with the Wind on DVD, place hold.

Forgotten God:  Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan, place hold.

Hervé wants Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick.  Tells me about Dick cult in France.  Find copy on shelf.

2:44  Web is spotty, lots of users getting browser error pages.  BB from branch calls w same problems.  ML calls too, says they are down as well.  Make report to Super, need to call MIS.

Couple want adoption books, Dune Messiah.  Take to 362 for adoption, he'll pick up Dune Messiah at branch.

Phone:  Address & phone for Heritage Oaks retirement community.

Taken by Midnight by Lara Adrian.  Is available at branch, she'll go there.

PC for Mike

3:30  Library Web page is down, but users can navigate to other web sites.

How to find schools with dental hygienist programs?  Show directories of two-year and technical schools.

She says we're holding Boone's Lick by Larry McMurtry at the refdesk.

Directory of four-year colleges.

Today's paper.

PC 51 has blue screen.

Round up books on slavery and racism for college girl.  All "buffalo soldier" books missing.

She wants Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart in regular print.  Only large print here.  Reserve branch copy.  Is anxious about pickup,  will be gone for Thanksgiving.  Suspend hold for a few days to give her more time next week.

Phone:  MIS calls, want to talk to Media.

Out for a smoke.  4:25, it's almost over.  Mercy.  I think I'm done here.

Morning Catholic Must-Reads

Luke Coppen's Morning Catholic Must-Reads at the British Catholic Herald is an excellent source of Church-related news for faithful Catholics. Also, Sandro Magister's very fine site, Chiesa, (Italian for "Church").


Night of Bayonets

I've been busy this week with a request from a graduate student in North Carolina for articles in the local paper, the Tallahassee Democrat, from March of 1969, about a demonstration by the Students for a Democratic Society, (SDS).  He had read about it in a book by former FSU president Stanley Marshall, The Tumultuous Sixties: Campus Unrest and Student Life at a Southern University, (Sentry Press, 2006).  I found 10 articles, which I photocopied from the microfilm, scanned, created chronological file names for, and e-mailed to him.

In a nutshell:  the newly hired president Marshall said he wouldn't recognize an FSU chapter of the SDS.  The SDS brought in its national secretary to speak, which led to arrests by the Sheriff's homegrown, rifle and bayonet wielding riot squad.  The SDS protested the arrests, and called for a boycott of classes, which was pretty much ignored.  The Board of Regents confirmed Marshall's decision not to recognize the SDS as an organization at state universities.  Faculty and student parliamentary bodies challenged the decision, which nevertheless stood.  Denied the use of campus meeting space, an open air protest of the Regents' decision by the SDS was poorly attended due to rain.  The action moved to UF at Gainesville, with several FSU radicals involved in events there.

When I came up to FSU in 1974, I would hear how it had been the "Berkeley of the South".  But was it really?  The "Night of Bayonets" involved less than a hundred students, out of many thousands.  David Lee McMullen, a former editor of the student newspaper, the Flambeau, posted a contrarian review of The Tumultuous Sixties at H-Net, Was Florida State Really the "Berkeley of the South" in the 1960s and 1970s?


Got Drowned In The Sea One Day

Brother locking his bicycle on the first floor landing, singing to himself, "Pharaohs army... men got drowned in the sea one day".  Came in and borrowed two books by Stephen Hawking.  Had to find out what he was singing.  It was Mary Don't You Weep, a much-recorded spiritual.  Paul Simon credits one version of it with inspiring Bridge Over Troubled Water.


The Way of the Sneaker

It must have been military school that formed my taste in shoes.  For most of my adulthood, the cap-toed, leather soled oxford has been my shoe of choice for work or dress occasions.  The lace-up oxford, it seemed to me, was what grown men wore.

Ok, maybe loafers, if I was in a casual mood.  For yard work and picnics I wore Sperry Top-Siders, (basically cloth oxfords).

It was our first trip to Manhattan that broke my resistance.  My leather soled shoes were not up to long walks on city sidewalks.  I vowed to return with some serious walking shoes.  The next year, I equipped myself with a formidable pair of black Merrell Pulses.

They did the job.  I walked for miles, uptown, downtown, and I had happy feet.  But they were so massive and ugly.  I was embarrassed to enter a nice restaurant with them on.  It was like wearing a pair of zambonis.

Next I tried a pair of Ecco Dacapo Ties. Not exactly sleek, but not offensively grotesque:

These are just about ideal for big city streets: lots of support, but with decent lines.  At home, I started wearing them on Fridays at work, but in summertime they were too hot.

Meanwhile, I'd looked to replace a pair of worn-out Cole Haan leather soled tasseled loafers, and found the rubber-soled Cole Haan Pinch Air Cup Penny, which were so comfortable that I bought two pairs, black and tan.  Bye-bye, leather soles!
I was amazed at how much better I felt after a day on my feet at work, wearing these shoes.  I tossed my scuffed, hard-worn oxfords.  I was getting dangerously comfortable.

The moment of truth came standing outside the Chelsea Market in Manhattan last month.  I was wearing my Eccos.  I saw a man get into a taxi wearing a trim, light-weight, suede-looking pair of sneakers.  They stayed with me, and I scoured Zappos trying to find them.  They might have been Adidas, but I couldn't find a match.  The closest thing I found were Frye's Reed Runners, so I ordered a pair.

They arrived on Monday, and I wore them to work today, a "casual Friday".  I was well-pleased.  They were comfortable, light, cool.  They have a sort of golf/saddle shoe look with the two-tone suede.  Mary in Youth Services noticed them, and said how comfortable they looked.  I love my Reed Runners!

[Edit 11/14]  Martin comments that he wears sandals in warm weather, reminding me that I didn't think to mention that in the summer I wear the State Shoe of Florida, the Flip-flop, like everyone else, around the house.

After a couple of days in my Frye Reed Runners, I am thinking this may in fact have been the shoe I saw in New York.


Leon High Class Visits for History Fair Projects

A history teacher from Leon High School brought two of his classes in to work on their History Fair projects for three hours on Monday and Tuesday this week.  These are our busiest weekdays normally, so we had to make an extra effort to meet their needs, but it really was great for us.

We were able to introduce them to all the resources the library has to offer:  how to use a non-fiction book with table of contents, notes, bibliography and index;  how to use the Reader's Guide to Periodicals to find articles in bound volumes of newsweeklies; how to use microfilm newspaper archives.  They were in awe of the microfilm viewers, exclaiming as they read original news coverage of current events from forty and fifty years ago.  I've been using reference skills all my life, but here were research "newbies" who honestly didn't know what an index was for.  Yes, children, indexes are way cool!

In these days of full-text keyword searching in databases and Google Books searches, many students were frustrated trying to use our catalog.  Getting no results searching for "Shay's Rebellion", for example, doesn't mean the library doesn't have anything at all on the subject, only that there are no books in the collection wholly devoted to it.  Library catalog title records contain only the briefest of descriptors as to a book's contents.  I spent a lot of time showing them how to look in books with a broader scope for chapters on their topics, from Nixon's "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" to the Boston Tea Party to the history of school desegregation in Florida.

It was an exhausting reference workout, but I'm glad they came.  It was so good to see them working on their projects, and to be asked for help with library research skills.  And to give the library due credit, not once did a student go away empty-handed!  The collection was able to supply their needs in every case.


Sub-Prime Education

An article in the NYT today about Senate hearings on unethical business practices by for-profit colleges shocked me, but confirmed uneasy suspicions I've had for some time.  Scrutiny Takes Toll on For-Profit College Company, by Tamar Lewin, zeros in on Kaplan, a test-preparation company that was bought by the Washington Post, and then moved into the lucrative for-profit higher education business.

Using hidden cameras, investigators from the Government Accountability Office found deception or fraud at 15 for-profit colleges, including two Kaplan campuses.
The undercover videos showed Kaplan recruiters in Florida and California making false or questionable statements to prospective students - suggesting for example, that massage therapists earn $100 an hour, and that student loans need not be paid back...
Four whistle-blower suits against Kaplan under the federal False Claims Act have been made public in the last few years, all making accusations that the company used deceptive practices in its quest for profits, including enrolling unqualified students and paying recruiters for each student enrolled, a practice forbidden by federal law.
In addition, the suits allege, Kaplan kept students on the books after they dropped out, inflated students' grades and manipulated placement data to continue receiving financial aid.  
  An article in USA Today from September 29, For-profit colleges under fire over value, accreditation, by Mary Beth Marklein, gives a broader overview of the for-profit sector's problems.

Advocates of for-profit colleges say their programs, which often operate online or in rented office space, serve a key role in educating students who juggle work and family demands. But the U.S. government has stepped up its scrutiny amid growing concern that for-profits are reeling in billions of dollars in federal aid by using aggressive - some say deceptive - practices to lure students to programs that might not yield a useful education.
A parallel can be drawn with the recent sub-prime mortgage fiasco.  Schools, (and not only for-profit ones, mind you), knowingly enroll "high risk"students for courses of study leading to certifications or degrees that promise more than they can deliver in the way of high-paying jobs. The students borrow their tuition money with federal student aid.  The ones who complete their work may be unable to find any work at all in their field of study, and now owe many thousand of dollars.

Online, "distance education" has made these new diploma mills all the easier to operate.  A school need not even have public premises or its own library now.  Distance education can work very well if it meets high standards.  It can also be awful, and actually teach very little.  I spent my time in FSU's School of Library and Information Studies both in classrooms and online, and I came away feeling that a lot had been lost with the online experience, even at its best.

Where public libraries intersect with this world is in providing test preparation and proctoring exams.  Ten years ago, our test preparation books, which we shelve together, regardless of Dewey number, alphabetically by test, were relatively few:  ACT, ASVAB, CPA,GED, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, NCLEX, Postal, SAT, and TOEFL.

Since then, achievement, admission, and certification examinations have proliferated.  Companies develop tests, sell them to schools as a reliable way to handle admissions and certifications, and then sell test-prep books and courses to students.  In Florida there is the FCAT for students, the FTCE for teachers, the CJ-BAT, used by the Department of Corrections.  Tallahassee Community College uses the TABE.  There is another group of tests and test-prep books for Advanced Placement as freshmen.

Nursing school entrance exams are numerous, TEAS, HESI, NET, HOBET, and some schools require candidates to take several of them.  TEAS, (Test of Essential Academic Skills), one of the "Product Solutions" of ATI, (Assessment Technologies Institute), is particularly loathsome.  ATI won't sell its $42 study manual to libraries or college testing centers, and forbids students from sharing a copy.

The library has seen an appalling hemorrhage of test-prep materials.  Every year libraries purchase, and lose, many copies of test-prep books for the GED, (General Equivalency Diploma), and the ASVAB, (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery).  It's not so bad, as you go up the educational ladder.  Books for post-graduate admissions tests, (GRE, LSAT), don't disappear nearly as much.  Providing online test-prep through Learning Express is more efficient, but the poor often have no Internet access at home.  We are now, reluctantly, buying print test-prep materials for in-library use only.

It's a difficult situation.  If people don't understand the the basic social contract that they agree to when they get a library card, that they must return our books for others to use, then what is the likelihood that they will be able to honor a tuition loan?  It is what I come up against every day, this brokenness of the poor that makes them ideal victims.  I read a review of Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin:

Long before subprime lending and its role in the near-collapse of the U.S. financial system, a critical mass of businesses aimed at the working poor had been growing across the nation and exerting power in Washington. Award-winning reporter Rivlin chronicles the boom in the "fringe financial sector" as pawnshops, pay-day lenders, and rent-to-own stores have blossomed, gone public, and gained a measure of respectability, all by targeting their overpriced services to the working poor. Whether they have been exploiting their customers or merely providing them with desperately needed services is a matter of perspective to the gallery of characters Rivlin interviewed... (Booklist)
That debate has now extended to for-profit education as well.


I Know What It's Like To Be Dead


The teaching at today's Mass was about the mystery of the resurrection.  It was our third turn as Eucharistic ministers since we were invited to serve, beginning in September.  It's not an office involving any kind of ordination or particular distinction.  We are just extra hands for the priest, to help speed things up.  But what a blessing, to be given to witness the faithful receiving the sacrament so intimately.  I am so grateful.

There is a joke that I remember from the comic strip, The Wizard of Id, but which has also been attributed to Beat writer William S. Burroughs:
Wizard:  "Do you believe in life after death?"
Sir Rodney:  "Yes."
Wizard:  "How do you know you're not already dead?"
 It's kind of how I felt at the Parish Picnic this afternoon.  R. made her excellent apple salad with the sour cream/horse radish dressing to bring.  The Knights of Columbus put it on, grilling burgers and dogs.  We both had dogs, mine with mustard and onions.  I also had macaroni & cheese, potato chips, R's apple salad, cucumber slices and a brownie, with pink lemonade.

We sat with "Duffy" Norman, one of the Knights.  He is a Vietnam vet, and an old member of Blessed Sacrament.  He helped make the stained glass windows in the "new" church, and was one of the guys who put on the Christ Renews His Parish weekend retreat that I attended in the late '90's.

Then it was Bingo time, with prizes for the winners. Everyone got two boards.

After we ate, and before Bingo, I stepped out for a smoke.  Looking at the nondescript, boxy 1950's Parish Center in the golden autumn sunshine, (it used to be the church proper until the new church was built in the 1980's), I felt again such gratitude.

The Parish Center, as I said, was once the church itself.  When the new church was built, the old space was named the Parish Center, encompassing not only the old sanctuary, but a large kitchen, a nursery, a religious articles store, upstairs meeting rooms and bathrooms.  No one calls the old sanctuary, to which we repair after Mass for refreshments, the Parish Center.  Everyone calls it "The Hall", as in "The ladies are having a bake sale in the hall after mass".  Yet the weekly bulletin has always listed events there as taking place in the Parish Center, with a parenthetical nod to the popular usage.  So you get, "The Parish Picnic will be on Sunday from 2 to 5 in the Parish Center, (Hall)".  It always makes us laugh.  

I've been a convert for just over 20 years, but we didn't start showing up for  these events until about 10 years ago.  You don't have to say or do anything special to belong.  Eat together.  Stay for Bingo if you want to. 

Life after death, in such a funny old paradise.


Cold Front

On this FSU Homecoming weekend, Tallahassee is having it's first truly cold weather of the season, with lows at night in the 30's.  Gone are shorts, flip-flops, line-dried bedsheets.

Mr. Claudius the cat has a cold.  He is sneezing and wheezing and listless, poor thing.  He got on my lap any time I sat in my reading chair today.  We will take him to the vet on Monday to see what can be done.

A dead squirrel appeared on the front lawn yesterday, a mature female, quite large.  She looked unharmed, probably died of old age.  I buried her this morning.

We heard a critter up in our crawl space a couple of weeks ago, making a gnawing sound for several nights running.  A pest control guy blocked an outside metal duct for the pipes from the outside fan unit of our heating-a/c system with duct tape, and that seemed to stop it.  He was sure it was a squirrel.  I climbed up and found a snug little nest lined with paper/plastic bag scraps in the cellulose insulation, but no critter.

My sister A. posted on Facebook that the sale of my parents' lake-front house in west Orange County has been closed.  What do you say?  My other sister C. "liked" it, so I " liked" it too.

It was at the back of beyond when I came home on college breaks, a 45-minute drive to see my high school friends in Orlando.  In later years, we always felt a bit desperate staying there.  My parents' healthful regimen  had us conspiring to slip away for pizza, Mexican food and booze, like the old joke about why WASPs don't have cockroaches, (there's nothing to eat).


Franzen Again

I'm striding along through Freedom, almost halfway through its 562 pages.  (I have two interlibrary loans waiting, which I have to read by the end of November.)  It's clear now that Richard Katz is some version of Franzen himself.  When Katz finally achieves success with his music, he checks out.  When he is busted for DUI in Miami, he is sentenced to rehab in guess where?  Tallahassee!

For a guy as cool as Richard, being played on NPR and being nominated for a Grammy are devastating, much as Franzen recoiled when The Corrections was selected to be an Oprah reading club selection.  To have a bunch of uncool Oprah-watching women gushing about his book revolted him.  It is interesting to see him write honestly about this.

Walter, meanwhile, has painted himself into a strange corner in a house of ecological horrors.  His natural allies when he worked for the Nature Conservancy failed to see his big picture. Clinton and Gore have let him down.  Now he is involved in a convoluted scheme in which he is used by, and attempting in turn to use, powerful rich men to realize his Zero Population Growth fantasy.

I feel I know Walter very well.  I have met him many times, and have been him myself.  Any number of things can get him ranting:  SUV's, large families, (which are the Pope's fault), pet cats, grass lawns, television, malls, hamburgers.  I used to know a couple:  the husband was a Walter, always bummed out, always angry in this way.  His wife finally decided she'd had enough, and left him.

To be fair to the conservation movement, Walter's state of mind is ideology-neutral.  It is a state of anxiety and depression.  Someone else, in the same state of mind, might see all signs pointing to a totalitarian one-world government, rather than eco-catastrophe.  Either way, such world-views speak to me of a lack of trust in God.

Ok, it's late, and I'm going to stop now.  Freedom has got me tripping.  It's the good stuff.


Reading Franzen

Claudius the cat nudged me awake at 8 this morning.  I dozed another 45 minutes and got up, whereupon Claudius settled on my "warm spot" for his morning snooze.  I take Monday and Tuesday off after I work a weekend, and I had thought I would sleep later.  Oh well.

I sat on the bench on my front porch with a cup of coffee and a cigarette.  The sky was overcast.  I made my morning offering.  I showered, shaved, and cooked a breakfast of two fried eggs and a bialy with cream cheese.

I ran some errands on the Vespa.  I had finished Paul Murray's Skippy Dies, so I went to the library to get Franzen's  Freedom off my desk.  I went from there to Supercuts, where Bernadette gave me a haircut.  I proceeded to Walgreen's for two packs of Camel Lights and two small bags of cheese jalepeño Cheetos, stopping finally at New Leaf Grocery for vegetables to make dahl , an Indian bean soup, and then home.

I took Claudius out for a half hour or so at 12:30, with a load of jeans and dark underwear in the washing machine.  I followed him around the yard with a Pepsi, reading Freedom.  It is set largely in Minneapolis-St. Paul, with an eye to New York City, reminding me of the radio program, Prairie Home Companion, where host Garrison Keillor more or less alternates between the two places, missing the one while broadcasting from the other.

Our volunteer Ginny saw me carrying Freedom to read outside today during my lunch break, and asked me whether I liked it.  "I think so", I replied, which made her laugh.

A hundred pages in, I wasn't sure I wanted to get inside the heads of these northeastern counterculture characters:  Volvo-driving, whale-saving Patty and Walter Berglund, and Walter's cool, half-Jewish rock musician best friend, Richard Katz.  Patty is half-Jewish as well, her mother is Jewish, but her father's an old-money New England WASP, albeit one out of Seinfeld.

The counterculture  is my "ex-culture", though we are still friends.  Franzen soars when he writes about our modern quest for, and commodification of, coolness.  Walter milks his friend Richard for the names of cutting-edge bands, whose CD's he then plays for hip cred with his straighter friends.

I think of David Foster Wallace, Franzen's friend, who killed himself a couple of years ago.  I loved his very funny essay, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, which absolutely oozed cool.  But it seems to me that cool is what killed him.   Franzen is five years younger than me, Wallace eight years.  Cool became a kind of bohemian article of faith, to be pursued at all costs.  I've come to see the hipster with shades as a dark angel of our time, an enemy of love and innocence.