A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
Some people never get ticked off, apparently. They smile sweetly and never argue or disagree. Or so I've heard, but never actually experienced. To keep you up to date, here are the Curmudgeonly Professor's Gripes of the Day:
The Los Angeles Lakers necktie my son gave me for Father's Day, knowing full well that I am an old man and that this gift would emotionally scar me.
The Utah Utes going to the Pac-however many. Glorious.
The fact that I have a nasty cold in mid-summer and spend all my time coughing, sneezing, blowing, hacking, trying to breathe minimal oxygen for life sustenance through a stuffy nose, cussing and whining. Courtesy of my wife.
The dearth of sports on TV and in the newspapers. I know, there's golf, whoopee. Also baseball, which I usually don't get interested in until the pennant race gets serious since I don't want to spend time watching all the losers.
I am getting sick to death of wasting an hour a day watching Matlock, since I can recite all of the lines to all of the episodes, and can actually predict with 100% certainty that the client will get off, unscathed, for a mere $100 grand. Actually, old Ben raised the fee to $150 grand the other day. Then why does he shine his own shoes and live like a pauper? And have you ever seen a hot-dog stand right outside the courtroom in your own court house? Bring back Leave it to Beaver and Three's Company and Happy Days.
The stock market. Come on consumers, belly up here and quit acting like deadbeats. Get yourselves to Costco, WalMart, the junk food emporiums, and show a little spunk here. It's the American thing to do.
Bloviators. Just take your millions and go away and shut up.
Rex Morgan, M.D. in the comics. Please remove. Along with Cathy and Prince Valiant. Help us out here.
The toxic political process. But probably hasn't changed a whole lot since the days of John Adams. New nasty people born every year. We just have to put up with them more in the era of cable TV.
The blue carpet at Boise State, now a member of the Mountain West. Boise State guy twittered me to explain they just had a new blue carpet and were ready to crush all comers. Nice.
I assume there are some nice things I could say but that would detract from the overall aura of gloom, doom, pessimism, negative thought, depression, and other manifestations of this blog post. Have a nice, nice day.
Dressed optimistically in sweatpants and a starry “Little Night Music” T-shirt, Patricia Morrisroe reported for guinea-pig duty at a Manhattan clinic for sleep disorders. She was there for a $3,200 overnight stay during which her insomnia would be monitored. As a technician hooked her up to 25 electrodes and sensors, he reassured her that if any of these became disconnected while she slept, he would return and reattach them without disturbing her.
“If I were the type of person who didn’t wake up when a strange man came into my room to reattach electrodes to my head, I wouldn’t be here,” she replied.
Ms. Morrisroe’s cheerfully anecdotal “Wide Awake” is full of such sleep-related absurdities. It describes her various forays into the world of insomnia remedies as she tried a plethora of would-be cures. Behavior modification, sleep-inducing drugs, artificial light, meditation, absinthe and orthodontia: these are all avenues she considered. Even the subject of uvulopalatopharyngoplasty as a cure for sleep apnea comes up, though perhaps only so that “Wide Awake” can include that word.
My daughter gave me a $25 gift certificate for Father's Day, so the challenge was on to see how many good books I could buy from B&N's bargain book dept. I did double the amount, and here is what came:
The top one which you can't see is a CD of "Winner Takes All: Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman and the Race to Own Las Vegas." List at $34.99, cost me $7.18.
America, America by Ethan Canin. The reviews for this novel are exceptional. Publisher's Weekly says: "Canin's marvelous tale of Corey sifter, a young working-class man who goes to work for a powerful family and ends up in a political debacle is marvelously realized. . ."
Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering, by Wendy Lesser. The publisher describes the book this way: "an inspired intellectual romp, part memoir, part criticism . . . Revisiting her favorite books after 30 years, Lesser is stirred by the changes she finds. . . a witty and humane exploration of what books can mean to our lives. . ."
Mornings on Horseback: the Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child who became Theodore Roosevelt, by David McCullough. David McCullough is simply the best. I have previously read Truman, The Path Between the Seas, and John Adams. His book 1776 sits on my unread pile and I need to acquire his other two books, Portraits in History and his story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. I have read several other TR biographies but, for some reason, never got this one so now I have it.
Hot Mahogany by Stuart Woods. Well you have to have some variety. According to the Synopsis, the book is about the cutthroat world of priceless antiques. I'll let you know.
The Go-Go Years: The Drama and Crashing Finale of Wall Street's Bullish 60s by John Brooks. Brooks is a superior chronicler of business and finance stories, and receives high praise for this book.
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies. Davies work is considered by reviewers to be significant and according to Jennifer Egan of the NYT, the book "invites us to question history's master narratives, which have a way of wiping out the contradictions and complications of real life . . ." A love story set in North Wales during the waning months of WWII.
Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, by Julie Andrews. Too stingy to buy the hardcover, but a bargain for $5.38. According to reviewers, "a warm, moving, and often humorous journey from a difficult upbringing to the brink of international stardom in America." And who doesn't love Julie Andrews?
Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson. A Young Adult novel about a 16 year old homesteader in Montana. I know a fair amount about homesteading, and I like to read stories like this one.
A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William J. Bernstein. Now for some economics. A narrative of how trade evolved from 3000 B.C. to today's globalization. Bernstein has a strong record of authoring outstanding books on finance and related topics.
There. I'm pretty proud of my ten new books. I need to find a place to put them. I have three new unassembled bookshelves in the furnace room, but no place to put them. I do have room on my dresser since there are only 4 large piles of books there and plenty of room remains in front of the mirror which I never look at anyway. If this list whets your appetite to check one or more of them out, let me know what you think. Happy reading.
The Curmudgeonly Professor has decided that it is time to raise the level of sophistication on his blog from visits to Walmart and Costco and general whines against nature. Thus, we announce the beginning of the Curmudgeonly Professor's Literary Identification Contest. The first person to correctly identify the first ten books will receive some kind of prize I will dream up as we go along, maybe a couple of photo cards. Requirements: You must finish the incomplete sentence. And you must identify the book.
Here is the first Literary Excerpt:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged . . . ."
P.S. No fair Googling. You have to do this on your own or it doesn't count!
One reason the Curmudgeonly Professor is Curmudgeonly and deficient in knowledge is that he always bought and saved more books he should have read but never got around to reading. Some of the most obvious candidates for this list of unread books are the following:
The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. I bought this paperback in high school, intending to read it immediately, recognizing that positive thinking is, indeed, a more productive and sublime way to look at the world than is negative thinking, which I excel at. I hauled this little paperback around with me through three graduate schools and five universities before I chucked it, recognizing that all I needed to know was "think positive" and that should cover it. Alas.
How to Overcome Procrastination. Are you kidding? Why would I read this polemic? Aren't procrastinators more creative and productive since they don't waste time on stuff that doesn't need to be done anyway?
How to Win Friends and Influence People. Another paperback I bought in high school and carted around the United States for decades. By the time I tossed it, I realized I had won very few friends since most people don't want to associate with liberal economists anyway, and that I had probably influenced very few people. Most of the 20,000 plus students I had taught still hated economics for years after the class, indicating my lack of ability to influence them with the knowledge that economics is, by far and without question, the most important and significant course they will ever take.
The manuals for a succession of cameras and computers. Computer and software manuals are expensive and take up a lot of shelf space. I just weeded out a bunch of big, fat, expensive manuals outdated with new versions of software. I have a box of vintage cameras, carefully saving all of the manuals in case I want to read them and use any of them. I remember well a sign at fall registration the first semester I attended the University of Michigan: "When all else fails, read the instructions." Amen to that.
A dozen or more grammar and word usage manuals. My goal was to become proficient in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the like, having been but on probation by Miss Harkins in 12th grade English for chewing gum (a cardinal sin), rigging the pencil sharpener to the window blind, and flipping the ear of Jason who sat in front of me. All I remember is that she thought all English grammar could be taught and learned with the sentence: "Earl shot the bear." I can still see the diagram on the blackboard: noun, subject, verb, predicate. Which reminds me of this little ditty which Miss Harkins would have loved: "Algy met the bear. The bear was bulgy. The bulge was Algy." Now I rely on the instinct method of grammar and punctuation: if it looks bad, fix it. If you're not sure, don't mess it up. No one expects a 77 year old retired economics professor to know how to read and write, let alone to use correct spelling and grammar.
A half dozen speed reading books, including, I think, Evelyn Wood. I always wanted to breeze through a book in 30 seconds flat, especially when I got around to reading War and Peace 20 years after my Master's thesis chairman told me to read it so I could learn how to write. I read a few pages and tried a few tricks and went back to my more comfortable plodding methodology. Besides, can you honestly say you have read War and Peace? Mercy. A plethora of Russians et. al. all ticked at each other with lots of shooting and an occasional ball (I know there was a ball because of Audrey Hepburn in the movie), but I read the whole thing. I expected bells to ring and lights to flash when I finished the last page. But no one cared. I couldn't stand up in church or class and say, "I have finished reading War and Peace. How many of you illiterates have done the same?" To this day I don't remember anything about it except a batch of Russians and frequent wars.
The list could go on, as they say, ad infinitum, since I have thousands of books my heirs will have to cart out and find something to do with. But space has been extinguished. If you have a bunch of important books you never got around to reading, use the "think" method instigated by Professor Harold Hill in Music Man: Put the book before you, or keep it in a prominent place, and Think, I mean really Think. If you can turn a batch of tone-deaf school kids into a world-class band by this method who knows, you might, through osmosis and ESP, become a real scholar and absorb the essence of your unread books effortlessly. I still, for example, remember that I am supposed to "think positively", don't put off till tomorrow what I should do today but most likely won't, and try not to offend others with my liberal philosophies so I can win over friends and influence people. All of that, and I never read a word. Happy reading. What are your favorite unread books that might have turned your miserable life around and made you happy, wealthy, and influential, besides not being a pain in the neck? I will elaborate further on more unread masterpieces in a future post. Happy reading.