CSotD: Disconnecting from the Moment

Loretta Lockhorn speaks wisdom, and, certainly, on a Monday morning, we can step back from current events for a bit.

As long as we check back once in a while to see what’s going on.

Every 10 minutes should be enough.


When I used to visit high schools to talk about political cartoons, I’d show Nast’s obituary cartoon for James Garfield, and point out that, in 1881, Columbia, an armored, steadfast warrior-goddess was the preferred symbol of America — but here she was an unarmed, helpless, grieving woman, which made the cartoon powerful and moving.

I’d also point out that the nation had been watching for nearly three months from the assassination to his final death, which made Columbia’s grief that much more painful.

However, I’d also note, this meant getting an update once a day in the newspapers, it being well before broadcasting at all, much less before cable TV would go into full-time death watch.

In 1881, nearly three-quarters of Americans lived in rural areas and so Washington was pretty distant and not just geographically: Most Americans were, like Candide, more concerned with cultivating their own gardens than with analyzing world issues.

Those are the Good Old Days we wanted to go back to in the Sixties, to go back to the country and live in geodesic domes and turn our backs on the hurly-burly and I know a few people who tried that for a few years.

But there’s no reverse gear in life and, while Alicia Bay Laurel carved herself out a little peace in Hawaii for several decades, even she is still very much a part of the world.

Most communards rejoined the mainstream on a lesser level; It’s not a matter of abandoning values but of finding ways to integrate them.

In 1881, it took an effort to know what was happening elsewhere in the world, but it takes even more of an effort today to avoid knowing, which reminds me of Dostoevsky’s challenge,

Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.

Which has created an entire school of psychological theory, but the bottom line is that the more you try to avoid thinking about something the more likely it is that you will, and that you’ll perhaps even obsess over it.


Joy of Tech suggests one remedy to overconnection, but given that I count on Facebook and Twitter for business contacts plus the fact that my family seems to have stopped communicating except on Facebook, simply flushing Zuck away seems impractical.

The other part of living in 1881 being that you all lived close enough together that in-person visits were part of life. Facebook makes it as if you still lived like that, except that the paterfamilias in whose home you gather is an abusive jerk.

But so was Ma Bell, and we managed to solve that problem with a little old fashioned trust-busting.

None of which is accomplishing my goal of lightening up for a change, so let’s think of this large white bear instead:

Arctic Circle having latched onto one of the more bizarre mysteries of the lockdown.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve worked from home for the past decade, but I’m genuinely flummoxed by the popular notion that not going into the office might preclude showering and shaving.

Though I very much appreciate Rico Schacherl’s cartoon, not from the point of personal hygiene but the point of casualness.

I’ve worked places where, having instituted Casual Fridays, management had to then clarify that this didn’t mean looking as though you were about to change the oil in your car.

But I do think, when we get back to the office, there could be a reconsideration of how much spit-and-polish is really required, and, for that matter, whether we all have to be there in the first place.

We’ll see which way the adjustments go.


Meanwhile, back on the sofa

Loretta suggested unplugging and reading a book, and Mr. Fitz has been using the lockdown as a chance to finally tackle “Moby Dick,” with mixed results.

His plight sent me back into the archives …

… for this classic Sheldon from 2008, which perfectly captures my collegiate experience with the book, one of the very few times I resorted to Cliff Notes.

However, I’ve just reread the entire Hornblower saga, plus a biography of Thomas Cochrane, plus a nautical novel by Captain Marryat, who was a midshipman on one of Cochrane’s ships, and I’m now knee-deep in the Memoirs of a Common Seaman and perhaps when I’m done with that I’ll take another crack at Melville’s discussion of rope and suchlike.

Though, I’ve still got Les Miserables hanging around.


And speaking of books …

Anne Morse-Hambrock recently moved to, or refocused upon, a website for her “Anne and God” mini-dialogues, which, as her banner both suggests and demonstrates, vary in tone and content but never fail to be interesting and more zen than liturgical.

She’s put together some books of them, so you can go sample her wares and support her efforts.


I’ve also got a review copy of “The Best of Alex: 2019” which has lots of Brexit fun, but I waited to review it because it wasn’t up on Amazon yet, only now it says it’s sold out, which I doubt because it’s still available at Alex’s own site and dealing with the international money and posting isn’t half so difficult as it was a generation ago.

Alex is one of those strips that does really well in a collection because it’s interconnected day-to-day and so reads like a good graphic novel when you have them all in one place.


I told you so

Finally, Zits hits a sweet spot, since, while toilet paper gags have become dated, we’re just beginning to hear that the gig economy is destroying restaurants.

Which confirms my original choice to refer to ride-sharers as “scabdrivers” and to suspect that the whole thing was a self-interested alternative to demanding better treatment, pay and benefits for actual employees.

Hence our song of the day:

6 thoughts on “CSotD: Disconnecting from the Moment

  1. I read Moby Dick while doing the Futile Cycle and Trudgemaster at the YMCA. Got about halfway through it, and then did other things for a year or two, and spent about a week estimating where I’d left off and reading several chapters a second time until I was sure I was into ‘new’ territory, and gradually polished it off. As they say, parts of it were excellent.

    The second time I read Atlas Shrugged, I gave myself permission to skip the bloody stupid monolog. Yeah, that one. I read it another time after that, attempting (and failing, I think) to really read those sixty or eighty pages of redundant blithering bluster, and after that, I visited the book once more just to read the few bits I’d actually enjoyed. It’s possible to read the book as escape fiction, provided one seriously disengages one’s common sense enough to accept the ground rules of the fairy tale.

  2. I guess I am just weird; I did not find reading “Moby Dick” tedious at all. I found the descriptions of the techniques of whaling both interesting and horrifying, especially the flensers.

  3. I listened to Moby Dick one recent summer – mostly while outdoors painting. All the parts about different types of whales, etc., could just glide past as I swabbed our deck. I was more or less attentive, but was surprised how much I liked the book I’d mostly avoided when it was assigned way too early in 10th grade. I could not have sat for it even now, however.

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