Random Autumn Thoughts 2020


Every now and again I like to clear out my bookshelves, my reviewing backlog, and my brain. This column is one of the latter. Call it, if you will, a list of musings and low-level rants.


Literature seems to be the first place we notice that women are outstripping men in the brains department. The academic achievement level of girls has surpassed that of boys, too many of whom are shuttled into the brawn side of things. Visit a bookstore and you’ll see what I mean. The vast majority of new fiction titles come from female authors.


In a related vein, although I applaud women’s intellectual accomplishments, there are too many books from young female writers written about the same subjects. Two in particular are those dealing with motherhood and/or trying to settle into a career. The first is, for obvious reasons, not a subject to which I can relate; the second is way too often expressed from a whiny privileged Millennial POV. It’s not like Millennials invented 20s-something career anxiety. I miss having more male fiction writers on my to-read shelf. It would be nice to read some male scribblers who aren’t sportswriters or political pundits.


The guy who mows and plows for me has kids of various ages that he and his wife having been trying to help with their online schooling. He told me recently that they had no idea how hard it would be and would never again badmouth teachers. I hope others remember this the next time they’re tempted to vote down a school budget or use ludicrous statements such as, “Teachers only work six hours a day and they get their summers off.”


Thanks to all the folks who’ve been making home concerts available during the lockdown. One thing, though; for heaven’s sake, take Jim Henry’s advice and don’t start playing until you get the sound right. You won’t keep listeners if the vocals are as muddy a frog’s living room and the mix as lumpy as cookie dough.


I know people are getting antsy and feeling housebound. Here’s some easy advice: It’s October! If you can’t appreciate the beauty of fall foliage, you deserve to be cooped up. Go for a walk. Take a drive. Hike. Getting “out” means more than driving to the mall.


Is anyone beside me sick and tired of fools who think it’s their “right” not to wear masks? Who the #%!&$#! do you think you are to risk my health? Your “right” does not extend to endangering others.


I’m also exasperated with government officials and college administrators whose idea of protecting public health is to “educate” the public, perhaps even hire someone to “remind” people they need to wear masks. Educate? Jaysus, Mary and the goat! There are just three things to know: (a) wear a mask, (b) maintain at least six feet of distance from others, and (c) wash your damn hands. Anyone too dumb to do these things shouldn’t be allowed outside without a keeper. I suggest they sit inside with weak-kneed politicians.


 ☛ I typed the comment above before Donald Trump came down with COVID. I do not wish this virus on anyone, but there is an old adage that if you play with fire, you will get burned. Trump has consistently ridiculed the ideas of masks and social distancing by holding meetings and rallies in which he practiced none of the above precautions and made no demands of those around him. Another adage: Science is true whether you believe it or not. Enough said. 

Since when did a “church” become a building? Shame on ministers who fan faux discrimination flames, defy public meeting guidelines, and spread both hatred and the virus. Being a good Christian should mean respect for humankind. Insisting on opening the building doors just means you’re a jerk and a technophobe. Take a spoonful of WWJD and get a teenage parishioner to show you how to do online services.


Nine members of Tennessee’s NFL team tested positive for COVID. Gee, who could have seen that coming? I’d call the NFL season the dumbest idea in sports, were it not for the fact that UMass still has a football team.


 One of the few joys of aging is that you can stop trying to accumulate cultural capital and admit you don’t like things that supposedly make you a more “sophisticated” person. Here are a few things I just don’t like:


·      Opera: I appreciate its complexity, but if you give me a choice between operatic soprano and a herd of screeching cats raking their nails over a chalkboard, I’ll go with the felines.


·      Hip hop and rap: If music doesn’t have a melody, it’s not my thing. Once upon a time, rap and hip hop were the voice of the urban black experience. That time was the 1980s. Today it’s just processed pop that legitimizes antisocial behavior. If I want more bad verse, I’ll add to the rotten poetry I’ve written myself.


·      Shakespeare: This one drives some of my good friends crazy, but I don’t speak Elizabethan, okay. I don’t get why so many intellectuals who scoff at Biblical literalism treat every word from the Bard of Stratford as if it was pulled from the Gospel of St. Billy Shakes. Plus, do you have any idea how hard Shakespeare is for someone with hearing loss?


·      Comedy for idiots: One blessing of Covid-19 is that fewer “mainstream” comedies are being made. Can we legislate this as a permanent condition? Other than films with camouflaged Hollywood stars pretending to be warriors, nothing makes me slump in my seat with my fingers in my ears as often as a trailer for a “comedy” written for people with IQs of 60.


Rob Weir



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