Issue 143 | April 2014
"So why learn things off when there's no actual need to? Why not keep that brain-space for something else? Now, maybe I'm being a little facetious, but actually I've been writing something about a world where the systems fail and very few people are left who actually know anything about anything. They become so crucial -- and potentially dangerous -- that they are rounded up. The last repositories of actual knowledge or expertise. If I can relate the question to my own job as a music broadcaster who programs his own music, yes, I agree that every piece of music that I keep on a shelf at home is also in some computer database somewhere but the reality is that you still need a human being to know that a certain piece of music actually exists in the first place. I guess I'm old school in this regard, but I place huge value in expertise, experience and study -- in knowing your onions.:
Let me put you in a box against your will. You read much and often. You have heard of Patrick White because when you're feeling desperate you browse the literature section of nobelprize.org and marvel that as an unpublished twenty-something you haven't won yet. Somehow you learned he was a homosexual Australian. You found The Solid Mandala in paperback at a used bookstore, but you put it back because suddenly there was Edith Wharton's The Decoration of Houses, which you've wanted to read since you can remember, and god, isn't The Solid Mandala a heavy title? (The Decoration of Houses was everything you wanted it to be and more. Good job, you tell yourself when you see it on the shelf.)
Now let's talk about Patrick White.
"I don't remember what propelled me to read Milton Berle's autobiography -- I think I came across a reference to his nose job -- but when I found out that he gave nose jobs as presents to friends who then dubbed him Santa Schnozo, a dialogue started to happen. A Jew giving other Jews nose jobs; the aptly coined Santa Schnozo. That's so wonderfully layered and irresistible, and says so much about the intersections between body, self-image, and American culture."
"My parents lived in a cabin without running water or electricity in northern Michigan when I was born. My dad hunted for food and my mom had a chicken coop and a huge garden. My parents eventually chose to live in town, but that subsistence way of life was stitched into the fabric of their shared history. I always liked to hear the stories of the mean rooster or the day my dad shot all the heads off the broccoli in the garden because he was so sick of eating it. When I moved to Alaska, it made sense to me on some cellular level to fish for food, to can what was abundant in the summer so that it would last all winter, to spend days and days hauling and chopping wood to heat the house once the weather closed in. I found the way those activities tied my life to the turning of each year deeply satisfying."