28.2.05

Might as well comment...

Usually Terry Teachout is right on the money about modern life in America. Then I read his recent post about obsolete items - I'm still shaking my head at this one. Despite coming from Smalltown USA, Terry seems to have moved past what most Americans are doing and headed into a life that only the rich, indolent and technohungry can enjoy. My advice? Slow down.

Here are some of the things he wrote:
Toothpaste in tubes. I bought my last tube three years ago. Now my toothpaste comes out of a squeeze bottle.

The brand I use doesn't come in a squeeze bottle, and I see a lot of tubes on the shelves, perhaps he shops at a different store than I?


Newspapers and magazines on paper. I can’t remember the last time I read one (except for a couple of the magazines for which I write). If I can’t read it on line, I don’t read it.

Don't get me wrong, I like the ease of finding things on-line but reading a newspaper or magazine? No thanks. Even long blog posts get printed out (and Terry, see your optometrist - the damage you're doing to your eyes staring at the screen reading will buy him a nice vacation house or two).

Going to the post office to mail packages. I use FedEx and UPS almost exclusively.

I guess published authors don't have to worry about expenses. I do, and USPS is as fast, and cheaper then either of the above!

Stationery. …but since I rarely write personal letters on paper, it follows that I rarely address envelopes. Nor do I have fancy stationery with an elegant-looking letterhead. I used to, but that was three addresses ago. When I feel the occasional need to write a letter by hand, I use cards decorated with reproductions of paintings I like (I favor the Morandi notecards sold by the Phillips Collection).

I have several pen-pals. Yep, pen-pals. I have a beautiful Cross fountain pen and stationary, as well as notecards from all over. The joy I feel when I open my mailbox to find more than just junk mail and bills, but an actual letter from someone that took the time to write is unbelievable. As I try to unbustle my life, I find that sitting down and actually writing about things, sharing my life one-on-one with people I care about helps. E-mail's great, but the anticipation and the process are not.

Going to the library. I don’t even have a library card anymore. If I really need a book I don’t own, I order a cheap used copy through amazon.com.

Without going into all the reasons why you shouldn't use Amazon (Powells is a much better choice - but if you must get it immediately, use B&N), let me just say that libraries are so much more than just places with books on the shelves. NYPL, for example, has digital collections and a host of wonderful databases that might be good for Terry's research. Not to mention, not every book is available for purchase because it's out of print - but I'll bet you can find it in a library.

Dinner parties. I didn’t go to more than two or three last year.

Well, I think that's a lack in friends, not because it's becoming obsolete. No, people don't entertain the way they used to, but dining in still has a special quality that dining out doesn't. Again, it's part of that unbustling thing: taking the time to cook, talking with friends as you're cooking and serving, the care that goes into the whole process and the satisfaction of knowing that you've given your friends something they can't get at their favorite restaurant is, as the commercial says, priceless.

Some of the things Terry hasn't used have ridden off into that great sunset, and that's ok. But it seems a little hasty to write off everything on his list. I haven't, and I hope you haven't either.

2 comments:

Aravis said...

I agree with you on all of it, but especially the hand-written letters and cards. Though I communicate mostly by email, hand-written letters are far more special to give and receive. Getting one can completely make my day!

As for the library issue, there's another argument for using a library. When you've finished a library book, it returns to the library. Less clutter and weeding of books later. These days I prefer to only buy the odd book I want to keep.

Karmon said...

- I prefer my toothpaste in a tube.
- I read newspaper headlines online, and I click to the article if I need more. I'm not a big magazine person.
- I don't mail anything and buy about 2 stamps a year. I do read books on the screen. I think our eyes will evolve over time to screen reading, but it may take a couple of generations.
- I have letterhead at work; it is set up in Word and is part of the print out.
- I don't use the library because I can't handle the due dates. I never turn in books on time, so it is actually cheaper for me to buy the book.
- I have dinner with friends, but no one in my circle really throws "dinner parties." Maybe it is a generational thing?

Thanks for sharing. It is always fun to compare our habits with one another.