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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Das Internet Boot (Sails On)

[Editor’s Note: The bookshelf thing got me wondering about Paul Johnson and William Manchester books. I hazily recalled they’d both been mentioned here, hazily, a couple of years ago.]
{Author’s Note: I can’t wait until the new Internet paradigm allows me to get rid of the editor, and the enormous support staff I have to carry to publish these items.}

My mind is a cobwebbed thing. When I was young, I was like a human filing cabinet. You could ask me almost any obscure worthless thing and I’d trot it out rat-a-tat. The Lusitania’s sister ship. The manufacturer of Richtofen’s plane. Churchill’s mother’s name. Who played Agarn on F Troop. The chemical name for silicone.

I’m not like that anymore, and I don’t want to be. It’s tiresome for everyone involved to be a Jeopardy contestant out on the street. No one knows very much, really; most people don’t know much of anything.

I now know the joy of “Not Going.” By that I mean, I am not willing to subject myself to the exertions of chasing the trivial I’m not interested in. I have no interest in many things others commonly do, and I’ve lost the desire to manufacture that interest or feign the concomittant enthusiasm. It’s certainly not any form of elitism. I have the most profound disdain for the supposedly highfalutin’. I still watch football on television. If you think I’m going to sit still and have Katie Couric read me a bad newspaper every evening, you’re nuts. And I’ll read Twain ten times before I’ll read ten sentences of Norman Mailer. And I’ll only read the ten sentences as a sort of chore, to allow me to mention he’s a lousy writer and a defective thinker over dinner, if called upon.

I’d rather watch SpongeBob -again- than Sixty Minutes, anytime. SpongeBob is rooted in reality, after all; there are sponges at the bottom of the sea. Mike Wallace is unmoored from reality, and what reality he has is of his own invention. He wants to give me an impression — and he does –just not the one he’s aiming at. They both make me laugh, but only one pleasantly.

The internet is a most dangerous and magical sea for us to navigate. I swim through it, and let its atoms wash over me, and get a kind of impression from it, like the ocean. Warm. Cold. Tepid. Dangerous. Limpid. Every sort of thing.

It is said that most people have their minds made up, and simply cast about for information that gibes with their static worldview. The internet is perfect for them, as there is no thing too lame or outrageous that you can not find it by the metric tonne, footnoted. And defended to the death elsewhere in the primordial soup, to the very horizon and beyond, if need be.

I am not a utilitarian. I have no ends, so I seek no means. I swim through the vast thing — the muck, the weeds, the pale green still water, the rush of the waves and the pounding of the hurricane — and it washes all around me and gives me an impression. Or more accurately –an ongoing impression.

There is a kind of bloodsport being played in the internet world, and I think people are getting way ahead of themselves in their assessment of how important they are in the scheme of things. They are like sailors in a leaking tin tube creaking with the pressure, sweating and whiffing stale air and listening to pings on the hull, all the while thinking they’ve got it all figured out. The game is played so ferociously because the stakes are so small. Me? I can’t help but notice that Neither Ned Lamont nor Joe Lieberman is Julius Caesar.

My cobwebby mind betrays me again. A tidbit comes to mind. Is it Paul Johnson? William Manchester? Paul Johnson writing about William Manchester? Manchester writing about Churchill? I think it’s Paul Johnson writing about Manchester writing about Churchill, but to tell you the truth, I don’t care. I could find it on my shelf, but not on the internet, and so it does not exist, according to many.

Anyway, one of them went into the heart of northern India after the British decided to skedaddle and let Gandhi do it. A million persons lost their lives then, give or take, as that simmering pot was unlidded. The vestiges of the Mughul Empire showed right through the modern fabric. The assignment was to go to remote parts of India, and ask the man in the unpaved street if it was a good or a bad thing that the British Empire had left India.

They did not even know that the British had come.

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