Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Early Summer 2012: Novels, Whiskey, Army, and more Whiskey

Lately, all of my friends have been coming up to me and asking what I’ve been doing with myself lately.  They want to know how my summer is going so far.  First of all, thanks, mom and dad, for asking.  Well, I’m barely two weeks into the summer of 2012 and it’s proving to be a busy, yet relaxing, time for me.  With the temperature getting up to the mid to high 90s with no respite in sight, I’ve nudged my snout into the whiskey trough not infrequently.  As it turns out, my spirits cabinet comes in handy for hot weather, as it does for cold as well, not to mention climates that happen to fall between extreme hot and extreme cold.  Who knew?

I just finished reading a couple of novels, George Orwell’s 1984 and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  I’ll be co-teaching a course on “society and technology” in the fall with a literature professor; she chose these two books for her part of the course requirements.  I’ve never read 1984 in its entirety, and I’m I glad I finally finished it.  It was an excellent read, right up my alley: very dark and suggestive of human nature.  We all know some of the buzzwords and phrases from the novel as part of our cultural lexicon, such as “Big Brother is watching you,” and “doublespeak,” but Orwell’s writing demands a careful read.  (I’ve never seen  the movie, but judging from the trailer and a few YouTube clips that I’ve sampled, I’m sure it doesn’t measure up to the book, as is usually the case for fine works of literature reduced to the silver screen.)  You’d think I would have read it earlier, given my interest in totalitarianism and genocidal regimes, but I just never got around to it.  You can’t read everything, right?

Twain’s novel was somewhat enjoyable, mostly for what it says about the author’s outlook on history and progress than for the details of the plot.  Remember, folks, I’m more of a non-fiction reader, so I tend to read novels with an eye toward the historical context in which they were written or for any concepts and ideas that feed off history, politics, and philosophy.  Such an approach to these novels will certainly be my contribution to the course, though the literature professor is great on the historical context of the novels as well.

On an unrelated topic, my duties in the Army Reserve these past few weeks have been quite burdensome and unpleasant at times, but I soldier on, looking forward to the end of my tenure as a company commander.  I find most of the officers and senior NCOs in my battalion, the full-timers in particular, to be rather lazy and cantankerous.  In May I attended a week-long course for reservist commanders in Atlanta, Georgia. Presumably I’ve gained some more training to help me become an effective military leader.  I say presumably, because I’m not so sure what “death by PowerPoint,” commingled with drivel and groupthink, not to mention a ridiculous amount of acronyms thrown in for apparent good measure, can do for me.  Like last year, my unit will be going to Kentucky this summer for annual training.

As of today, July 3, I submitted grades for what was probably my last course with Hexington College (a pseudonym), where I have been an adjunct instructor intermittently since 1998.  Coupled with having quit my longstanding security job last summer, it seems I’m pulling back in terms of employment, reducing from four to two sources of income.  I need to pull back somewhere, and make my life relatively simpler; I’m all over the place, driving from city to city to this, that, and the other. After all, in addition to teaching this summer for the University of Mantua (yet another pseudonym) and the aforementioned upcoming trip to Kentucky, I need to be a father to my daughters, all two or three or four of them.  See?  I don’t even remember how many daughters I have!  You know it’s bad when you can’t remember things like that.  Then again, I might be temporarily incapacitated.  Currently I’m sitting on my lawn in my favorite camping chair in 94-friggin’-degree heat at 8:15 pm, and my shot class is empty again.