Wednesday, March 14, 2012

This Week at the Library (14 March)

200 pages; © 2012

A family of four sits at a table in a nice restaurant, heads bowed. But they're not pausing for reflection or prayer; they're in the middle of a meal, and all attempting to check their email discretely. So much for family time. In Is It Just Me? actor and comedian Whoopie Goldberg takes on our age of declining social graces, where -- self-absorbed by our gadgets -- we give little thought to those around us. Goldberg writes conversationally; aside from the self-quizzes, where she invites readers to reflect on their own behavior, the text could very well be  collection of comedy sketches.Like all good comedy, Goldberg entertains us by pointing out the absurdity of it all...but behind the laughs, there's a genuine point. Though addressing topics as diverse as dining and parenting, the common theme of responsibility and respect prevails. As someone who is very grumpy about the obnoxious ever-presence of cellphones, whose whines seem to fill the air everywhere (even in libraries...), and keen on manners in general, I'm the ideal audience for this kind of grousing..but there's more substance here than I'd expected, especially in the section on parenting. Goldberg advocates treating children and teenagers with respect, instead of simply talking at them, but she's not a fan of the "parent as friend" approach. Someone has to be the adult. I would have also never considered how big a nuisance the ever-connected world is to celebrities. If she decides to visit a local store, someone will tweet her about her presence, and within minutes a crowd has arrived. Privacy, the simple act of respect in giving people their personal space, is gone altogether.  Is It Just Me is fun and pointed.

Currently Reading: Founding Rivals, Madison vs. Monroe: The Bill of Rights and the Election that Saved a Nation; Chris DeRose; A People's History of the Supreme Court, Peter Irons

Potentials: Murder in Vein, Sue Ann Jaffarian; as heard of on the Paralegal Voice. A...vampire mystery, but one which promises to be amusing based on the interview I listened to.

"I have discovered the secret of the philosopher's stone," [Law] wrote to a friend. "It is to make gold out of paper."

- The Ascent of Money

The ceremony then moved into the Senate chamber, where Washington would deliver the first inaugural address. He spoke quietly from prepared remarks, reading nervously. [...] Madison had to act interested and surprised while listening to a speech he himself had written. He had Washington's confidence -- an honor many men aspired to, but few had secured. Ironically, Madison was later asked by Congress to prepare a response to the president's address. Washington, in turn, asked him to draft his reply to the response. Madison's understated sense of humor was on full display in that reply, which included the line: "Your very affectionate address produces emotions which I know not how to express." The first formal communications between the president and Congress were essentially Madison talking to himself.

xi-xii, Founding Rivals.


  1. I've raised the whole thing about cell phones in meetings with my boss. Since when did it become OK to take phone calls whilst *in* a meeting? Why do people even bring their phones into meetings with them? I think its very rude.

  2. Goldberg likens it to a kind of addiction, which strikes a chord with me. I wonder what studies have been done on how cellphone use lights up our brain. We're basically getting instant little rewards for our actions every second we use them -- little sounds, lights changing, that sort of thing..

  3. I find it very strange that people feel the need to be connected at that level throughout the day. No wonder people are having problems sleeping and concentrating on things with that amount of interference going on!


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