Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good Morning Jeremy

Letter to my son
31 July, Tuesday

I used to get just the digital Wall Street Journal but I found that by paying a year's subscription in advance I could have access to the digital plus have the print edition delivered to me daily for virtually the same price. I've been getting the print edition now for about six weeks and I so much more enjoy having newsprint in my hand or spread out before me on the table. Certainly a part of it is that I am old and I've always enjoyed the feel and smell of newsprint laden with ink. I think there's more to it, though. I don't like focusing my attention on small screens. This may be because I am not proficient at using electronic reading devices so I don't take advantage of their optimal use.

I often think of the advantages of having a library of books condensed into a small electronic device. I'm sure there are amazing methods to storing, categorizing and retrieving highlighted information for purposes of serious research that would be of immense use to me. I constantly highlight passages and specific information as well as make notes to myself in the margins using red ink. I take additional notes using Microsoft Word. It is a very inefficient means of referral. Still, I like having several books covering the same topic simultaneously available and physically close at hand when I prepare to write. Were I to access these books on a hand-held screen I would be switching back and forth, my eyes narrowly focused on a small piece of real estate, dependent on battery strength or an annoying power cord.

I've mentioned this before but I think the biggest downside is the presumed unavailability of books in topics important to me. I can't imagine anyone investing money in digitizing Eisenhower's Mandate for Change written in 1963, or George Kennan's Memoirs 1925 - 1950. Also, I love maps - the bigger the better. When appropriate I like having a very large book of maps open to a page corresponding to what it is I may be reading about. I don't like scrolling about a screen or pulling back to see a minuscule overview. Pictures don't translate well to small screens, either.

I'm afraid I'm determined to continue lugging large, heavy stacks of priceless old books around. Some are rare first editions that might have some monetary value were they not so thoroughly marked up. Books keep me sane. They are my best friends. I hear the author's voice in the words I read. I hear his enthusiasms, his irritations and even the thoughts he chooses not to say. It's all there in what to me is a conversation. I respond. He just doesn't hear me.

What I like about Rupert Murdoch: he loves newspapers. They don't make him much money - nothing like Fox broadcasting contributes to his profits. Setting aside the newspaper's editorial politics, the Wall Street Journal is as satisfying a read as the New York Times. They compliment each other. I can't imagine reading one without also reading the other. I have to add the Washington Post to the mix because its reason for being is so tied to chronicling the daily activity of the Federal government.

It becomes more certain with time that I've permanently set aside art and, quite possibly, romantic love as well. I recently dabbled a bit with literature and it was useful in the manner in which it highlighted human drama and dilemma. Everything at its heart concerns only the human individual life. We can delve into the deepest realms of abstract scientific inquiry but it doesn't amount to anything of worth without a beating heart and a curious human mind.

I will leave you with my morning's thought. In spite of computers, the Internet and iPhones the nature of political debate hasn't moved from its fundamental focus first described in the writings of Plato or Locke. It's always about the tension between the individual and the State. It's about the value of the individual and the value produced by individuals. It's like the topic of love - it's worth endless stories and songs created to describe it. None of them quite get it totally right. We don't want it to. We don't want the discussion to ever end.