HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

April 21, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


Last week I promised you a follow-up report on my Kindle. So here goes.

Having had it for about a week and a half now, I can say:

(1) that it's a useful and enjoyable little machine.
(2) that it has not transformed my life.

One of its best features is that it allows one to get samples of all the books in the Kindle Library for free. And for about 95% of all books, a sample is all you would ever want.

Yesterday, for example, I got a sample of Seneca's treatise on benefits and beneficence. In this case, the sample was the first thirteen chapters. And since Seneca's chapters are fairly short, I sat and read all thirteen while I was watching a ball game on TV. I was glad to have read them but I don't need at the moment to read any more.

I found out that Seneca thinks insults sink deeper than kindnesses, which is probably true. And I found out also that:

It is the property of a great and good mind to covet, not the fruit of good deeds, but the good
deeds themselves, and to seek for a good man even after having met with a bad man.

In other words, goodness is its own reward, regardless of whatever else comes from it. I suppose I believe that also.

The question is whether I improved my mind by adding Seneca to the enjoyment of a ball game. I think, probably, I did -- a little bit anyway. And it's pretty clear to me that I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't had the Kindle sitting beside me on the couch. I could, of course, have gone to one of my bookshelves, pulled out a book, and sampled it to the same effect. But, truth is, I wouldn't have done that.

If I can reasonably anticipate a hundred such samplings over the course of the coming year, I figure that what the Kindle will have added to my experience is worth the price I paid for it.

I also skimmed through about a hundred titles on the Kindle Library's nonfiction list and read brief reviews of about five. I didn't learn much from doing it -- such stuff as that Mike Evans, the author of a fairly popular book titled The Final Move Beyond Iraq: The Final Solution While The World Sleeps, is a near-insane person and has written his book for near-insane readers. I suppose the main value I got out of that, mainly from the laudatory reviews readers sent to Amazon about the volume, was the lesson that attaining human mental health is a bigger problem than I thought it was. But, as I say, I wouldn't have learned even that -- while watching the ball game -- if I hadn't had the Kindle beside me.

The big issue of course is whether the worth of watching the game was diminished by these diversions. I have to say, I don't think so. I read mainly during the time between the innings when otherwise I would have been watching commercials I had already seen.  I enjoyed the game. I was happy for the Braves to beat the Dodgers 6-1, and I was interested to see that Andruw Jones, who now plays center field for the Dodgers, has not gained as much weight as some of Joe Torre's remarks had caused me to suppose.

Having now used this much space on how one might employ a Kindle, there's not much left for other things. I do want to mention, though, Michael Klare's book, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy. I saw Klare being interviewed by Tom Englehardt on You Tube, and was impressed with his argument that because of diminishing world energy reserves, the United States cannot reasonably expect to be the dominant global power and had best turn its attention to ways that it can cooperate intelligently with other nations.

I almost forgot to mention that I did give my lecture on "Scientific Advance and Death."  It's hard to know about a lecture that you, yourself, delivered. Did it go well, or not? People in the audience said it did, but they may just have been flattering me. If you want to make your own judgment about the content of the talk, you can find it on wordandimageofvermont.com.

Until next week.


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