Bim Bam Boom
That’s what you’re getting today. Quick hits. Flash thoughts. Short attention span ruminations. Bim. Bam. Boom.
But first, a tribute.
Take It Easy, But Take It
Yesterday was the birthday of the late Louis Terkel, who turned in his key five years ago but, as far as I’m concerned, will live as long as I’m alive.
He was an actor, a radio and TV script writer, an author, and a compiler of oral histories. While a young man, he landed a role in a play in which another guy by the name of Louis also had a part. The director noticed Terkel was reading James T. Farrell’s trilogy about a young Irish-American tough named Studs Lonigan who is gradually beaten down by poverty and hopelessness. The director nicknamed Louis “Studs.”
It was the most fitting nickname in the world. Farrell’s three books about the youth, young manhood, and eventual moral and physical collapse of the fictional kid from the streets of the South Side of Chicago were exemplars of a dominating literary genre during the Great Depression that indicted the crushing inequities of capitalism. It would be the last time American capitalism would face a real and honest challenge. Brilliant works by John Steinbeck, Nathaniel West, James Agee, and Henry Miller were unsparing in savaging a national economic system that rewarded the rich and penalized the poor to the point of persecution. Sound familiar?
I wish Studs Terkel were around to interpret today’s obscenely top-heavy economy. He’d devoted his life to celebrating the little guy. A partial Terkel bibliography reads like an outline of a college course on the American descent into a winner-take-all economy:
- Division Street: America
- Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
- Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About It
- American Dreams: Lost and Found
- The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream
Americans get very itchy when confronted with a bill of particulars about the inherent unfairness of this holy land’s economic system. They don’t want their dreams and myths shattered. See, every American dreams that with hard work and a little bit of luck, she or he can become rich.
It doesn’t work that way. It has never worked that way.
Studs Terkel was one of the top two or three reasons I got into the journalism racket in the first place. I read his memoir, Talking to Myself and learned his most valuable tool was not his typewriter or his thesaurus but his Uher, his chosen brand of tape recorder. Studs listened to — and his Uher preserved — the stories of real human beings.
Studs Rode The Bus To Work Every Day Of His Life
Here’s how Nora Ephron described him in the 1977 New York Times review of Talking to Myself:
Louis Terkel, known as Studs, is of course the great listener, folk historian, troubadour, lover of life, good-humor man and maker of mischief; he is also, and not incidentally, citizen Chicago, disk jockey, activist and author…. In the course of what he modestly calls “a higgledy-piggledy uneventful life,” he has managed to enchant thousands of people into telling him who they are.
That’s what I wanted to do with my life when I went into the newspaper and magazine writing business — get people to tell me who they are.
I can’t tell you the brands and models of the recorders I’ve used these past 30 years. They were all, though, my Uhers. And, like Studs — Terkel, that is — I had an ear.
BTW: The head at the top of this item? That’s how Studs Terkel would sign off his WFMT radio program every day.
Winners & Losers
Modern Society is sick, sick, sick: Example No. 28,734,032,864,938.
An article this week in Business Insider, a journal of jungle capitalism, sez anybody who strives for work-life balance is, essentially, a loser.
Yup. The real winners of this world place slavish devotion to the office far above any other trivial distractions like children, spouses, hobbies, contemplation, decency, human-ness, agápe, philia and éros, and, well, anything. And that’s just peachy, acc’d’g to the great Biz Insider philosophers.
Swear to the god I don’t believe in.
As always, Wonkette has the angle:
Nothing says “winning” like abandoning your loved ones to make money for your corporate overlords, amiright guys?
I, for one, am proud to be a loser.
The World’s Oldest Professionals
I’ve received some 57,000 invitations to join LinkedIn over the years and have resisted said overtures every time.
Why? Oh, I suppose it’s because I consider myself superior to office drones who feel a compulsion to “network.” I don’t want to be a member of that club. Why I’d want to ask other people to help me find a cubicle in which my body and soul can putrefy for the rest of my working days is beyond me..
I know, I know, there’s a million ways LinkedIn could help me but, still, I just hate the whole idea.
And now, hah! I knew there was a good reason I loathe LinkedIn. Al Jazeera English reports that the interwebs’ top professional club is getting jittery about the number of sex workers who are signing up and, presumably, networking (wink, wink) on the site. LinkedIn is now banning said pros from its ranks of people who prostitute themselves in more socially acceptable ways.
On top of that, many LinkedIn members are very put out by this turn of affairs. One LinkedIn commenter posted, “Why did it take so long?”
As if sex workers are somehow inferior to people who, for instance, turn down your requests for health insurance coverage every working day of their lives.
Surely you’ve heard of the theoretical Higgs Boson, AKA “The God Particle.” You may even have heard that the brains on legs at the CERN particle physics lab recently have discovered evidence that it actually exists.
And it’s entirely likely that you, like me, have little idea what the hell the Higgs is. Trust me, I’ve been studying this stuff, albeit from a non-mathematical, layperson’s POV, for about 20 years now and I still haven’t got a grasp of the thing.
Well, good news. TED-Ed has put out a nifty little vid that explains the whole thing. Or not — it’s particle physics after all, ergo, it’s baffling by definition. Anyway, give this thing a try:
Now do you get it? I do. Sorta. Well, not really, okay?
Bim Bam Boom Redux