Wednesday, May 24

unread and half-remembered

everyone is talking about commencement speeches, it seems, and that got me curious about who the speaker must have been at Utah State University's spring 2006 commencement. in my searching I found this handy archive of the past 12 years of commencements, but there's no speaker listed for my year. I wonder why not.

I wonder many things. including what is this blogpost is going to be about, ultimately. there are various notes here in front of me now. links to this and that, references I half-remember adding when I opened this draft. now I'm sitting down on this mid-week evening to connect them all up with words. or at least try to. what may end up happening is that I replace all the things I thought I might blog about with completely new things, now that I'm here. such is my impetuous yet meandering writing-process.

I have not yet read any Neil Postman, but his name has been coming to my attention over and over and over again in recent days. he wrote a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death. Brooke Gladstone of NPR wrote a book of her own using Postman's work as a springboard. the Richard Lanham book I finally finished the other day quoted Postman, too. Gladstone and Lanham take very different approaches, using their very different lenses (pop journalism and literary philosophy, respectively). from these two second-hand servings of Postman's book, I see a theme of worrying about too much silliness + worrying about not enough silliness. nervous hand-wringing that our culture will stagnate into everything bland and flat and human-less. more nervous hand-wringing that our culture will dissolve into nothing at all meaningful or deep or serious.

probably, a little bit of both will happen. it'll all get mixed together and nobody will really know where to draw the lines between what's stagnant, cold, heartless and artless and what's only buzzy, frothy, sugary air bubbles and useless. it most likely depends too much on who you are.

Mr. Postman's title reminds me of another book's title: Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I started reading a copy half-borrowed from friend Tony. I say "half-borrowed" because I don't think I ever took it out of Tony's house--just read it while I was there dog-sitting the pugs several summers ago. according to my goodreads archive, where Infinite Jest is (perhaps fittingly?) still listed under "currently reading," I first opened the book on August 3, 2014.

someday I'll get back to it. I did finish that Lanham treatise after starting it even longer ago.

I'm sure Amusing Ourselves to Death and Infinite Jest would resonate rather grandly, were I to read them together. have any of you read them both? what were they like? do they talk to each other interestingly?

so many books I haven't read. did I mention yet this Ben Terrett fellow is posting reviews of books he's never read and never will read? with pictures? it seems a cool thing to do.

so many books I'm in the middle of reading. and non-books, too. this, for example, seems intriguing, at least from the twitter commentary and the first three sentences: "What It's Like to Use an Original Macintosh in 2017."

and a bunch of articles like this one over here.

well, I guess this blogpost is about mostly books and about the immortality of cultural crises. with a little dash of possible subtext about change writ large, and how we bolster each other for such changes in moments marked by speeches and such.

and only two or three of my original inspirational jottings for this post have been clipped out, to be saved for something else later on. there.

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