Saturday, June 5, 2010

For the love of reading

Old library A week since I updated! O the shame, O the horror, O the humanity, O...what the hell.

It's been for a good cause, though. I'm still reading plenty of stuff online, especially political stuff, paying special attention to the oil spill. I look at pictures of oil-covered birds, feebly flapping their heavy wings, struggling to move, and I feel incredible rage at all parties responsible. BP is obviously the biggest criminal here, but there are other problems. Why were they given free rein to drill deeply offshore without having a swift backup plan for just such a disaster? What sort of chicanery was going on at the MMS? Why did President Obama bow to the shortsighted opportunists playing upon the public's need for oil, the ones bleating "Drill, baby, drill!" like some mindless drones?

We all have our hot buttons. I love the people of New Orleans, and I feel heartsick at the thought of them suffering this so soon after Katrina; there are families whose livelihoods have been in the fishing business for decades, and they may not be able to continue their family tradition. But I'm also a birder and a nature lover, and I can tell you that the pictures of these dying birds makes me nauseous and so angry I can barely stand it. I read threads in which people continue to say that we need to "drill here, drill now." I guess it's not enough that we have befouled the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf coast for the foreseeable future. They would also love to see us risk areas like ANWR. I just don't understand the inability of some people to see the longterm consequences of some of these actions. Our ecosystems are fragile and must be protected. There is a domino effect when the natural order is interrupted, whether it's the massive influx of toxic oil into the Gulf or the eradication of natural predators to deer in areas like mine, allowing deer to overpopulate and strip the land of its natural flora.

It's all connected, people. Thinking that offshore drilling, or drilling in ANWR, is going to end our dependence on foreign oil is not just simplistic. It is simpleminded.

That's a mini-rant (rantette? rantini?) for now. I will probably revisit this soon. I didn't even write about the low-wattage Palin saying that this spill is because of "extreme greenies" not allowing drilling onshore. You do all realize that she's stupid, right? If not, I plan on reminding you.

What was I saying? Oh yes. I haven't updated for a while for a good reason. Yes, I stay busy with reading things on Facebook, but I also resolved to get back into real reading. You know...BOOKS. Yeah, baby! I finished a couple of books of short stories I had going (John Grisham and Joe Hill), then moved onto a book my brother-in-law loaned me. It's called Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle For America's Soul by Karen Abbott. It's about the vice trade in early 20th century Chicago, and specifically the famous brothel the Everleigh Club. It is fascinating! I was drawn in immediately. Growing up in close proximity to Chicago, I've been there often, and I've read quite a bit about its Mob involvement (everyone knows about Al Capone), but I don't think I realized just how depraved the place was for so many years. Everyone was on the take, from the cops on up to the judges. Brothels and taverns paid protection and operation fees to city officials, and everyone made a pretty good living off of graft for a while.

Although most of the houses in Chicago treated the women poorly, the Everleigh sisters, Minna and Ada, ran a pretty tight ship. No drug addicts or alcoholics, no drugging and robbing the customers, and a general sense of decorum. No, I'm not condoning it, but the sisters treated it as a business, and believed that happy workers were loyal workers, and the waiting list for girls to get on the roster at the Everleigh Club was a long one. The life of a common street whore was much shorter than that of an Everleigh girl, who received frequent medical examinations. It's just a really fascinating read, and I'm enjoying it very much.

I've also been watching a DVD my sister loaned me about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the Colombian Exposition. A few years ago, I read The Devil in the White City, a historical novel by Erik Larson. It was about the fair itself and its chief architect, Daniel Burnham (a big name in Chicago architecture), along with H. H. Holmes, who was one of America's first serial killers, and preyed upon young women coming into town for the fair, whether visiting for enjoyment or coming for employment in one of Chicago's "sporting" houses (see Everleigh Club, above).

Books and DVDs It's been very pleasant to step away from the computer for a chunk of time and sit outside and enjoy the nice weather as well as some actual books. I posted a story today (yes, on Facebook...shut up!) about a study that showed that kids with lots of books in their home generally did better in school and went on to pursue at least some higher education. I think that's probably accurate. My parents were both avid readers, and it wasn't unusual for us to sit around reading our respective books. I spent quite a bit of time going through our set of Collier's Encyclopedias, and reading was always encouraged in my house, and perhaps most importantly, I saw my parents reading often. I think it makes a huge difference if at least one parent exhibits a love of reading.

So I hope you'll forgive my frequent absences from Blogtropolis. If I'm lost, it's only in the printed page. (And yes…those are my bookcases in the picture above, and I’ve read most of the books within. This doesn’t include the bookcase upstairs with unread books.)

The article raised another point: is it important that the books be the printed kind, stacked into bookcases? Or are e-readers and iPads just as positive an influence? I feel that any way a person gets information and learns is important (except for ClusterFox, heehee!), so I don't know that one is more important than the other. I know that there is nothing for me like holding a book in my hands and turning the pages as I progress. I have read the occasional short story online, but I don't see myself reading a full novel here. I don't think I'll be the type of person that ridicules kids who only read online, though. I realize that, as Roland said, the world has moved on. Still, for me...I love the printed page, and would encourage any kid to read actual books.

What do you think? How do you feel about online vs printed books? How do you feel about kids and books? Do you think it's important that they read things other than online? How important is it to you that public libraries survive? Do you support such a socialist institution? Questions...I gots questions!