Smells Like Brain Food

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I bought a treadmill.

Set it up in the garage.

Rarely used it.

 

Then I bought five heavy-duty steel shelving units.

Set them up in the garage

Filled them with books.

 

I am on that treadmill all the damn time now.

Lost 100 lbs in the last year.

Books forever.

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The Scouter’s New Friend

I still prefer my iPad mini as a Kindle reader, but this little thing goes where I have to travel light and use little power. Like campouts. Which is why I bought it.

That said, I’ve found another advantage: minimum-distraction reading. I power through more reading on this, as with my iPad I am constantly taking detours into maps, Wikipedia, etc. With the Paperwhite, it’s all about the text, and I zoom through.

Last Saturday, reading intermittently as I followed my wife around Westfield UTC, I shot through a full fifth of Max Hasting’s superb Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-1945. Next up: a book on Agile project management, then about a dozen articles and essays. That should cover me through the weekend.

Sabbatical Reading: Going to Joan’s Town

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This was my first book of Didion, and probably just as well that I started with Slouching. I am drawn to Didion’s work primarily because I see her as one of a chorus of Californian voices who have influenced American letters, and arguably for the better.

I find Didion has a permanent second-person detachment, the ability to be in a milieu without allowing herself – or being able – to be of it. She is the chameleon with the clear eye, who is able to blend in enough to get close to her subjects, but at the sme time never loses the detachment.

At some point, I almost wanted to shake her and ask “okay Joan, who are you and what do you care about?” Because, Lord knows, I looked, and all I found was the detachment, the curiosity, the wonder that borders on perpetually asking why? This makes for a damned good observer and a journalist. But Didion herself remains a cipher, at least here.

Perhaps this is why her later works, especially Blue Nights and The Year of Magical Thinking, are such important parts of her oeuvre. Maybe that’s where we find out if there is something more to Joan than her observations. There must be: the subtlety of her filter and the gentle way in which she chivvies us to her conclusions are hints at greater storms unseen.

Sabbatical Reading: Talking About a Revolution

Finishing Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France was a bit of a personal triumph for me, so bear with some short musings as catch my literary breath for a moment.

Despite a predilection for complex sentence structures and multi-page paragraphs, Burke is brilliant. At the very least, I walked away with an new appreciation of the French Revolution that contrasted with the neo-Jeffersonian interpretation of events.

Histories I had read emphasize the excesses of the Reign of Terror. Burke acknowledges and decries the atrocities but does not use them to weave a polemic. Instead he focuses on the fundamental shortcomings of the revolutionary government itself. He does not embark on the kind of ideological screed that fills political tracts today as much as he delivers a cogent practical critique of the revolution, and by extension all scorched-earth paroxysms of change. Progress is essential, Burke emphasizes, but change is not the same as progress. and while for true progress to take place there must be change, that change must be modest and incremental.

The phrase that hung above my head as I watched Burke dissect the National Assembly was “consequences unintended, unforeseen but not unforeseeable.” No doubt I will return to his work in the future, but other exponents of the matured values upon which Burke expounded, like Russell Kirk, Max Weber, Leo Strauss, and Irving Babbit, now call for my attention.

A final note: I find it fascinating that Burke, who stands at the center of the Anglo-American conservative pantheon, sounds less like a right-wing icon than he does a moderate conservative, and someone who might well be dubbed a RINO.