Eavesreading Miles and Meatballs (ZiR)

Zeteo is Reading / 2-8 December 2012

Fritz Tucker

[N.B.: This is not part of the Fall issue of Zeteo, but one in an ongoing series of posts. For the full series see Zeteo is Reading.]

3 December 2012

I know I shouldn’t have, but I started reading the text messages that the woman next to me on the train was writing to Miles, who I assume was her boyfriend. She couldn’t wait for him to get to back to New York so that she could take him to the Meatball Shop, where she had apparently just come from. When the train went underground, she took a to-go menu out of her purse and started to transcribe it, word for word, via giant text message for her boyfriend to salivate over. While the menu is admittedly a fine work of literature, she could’ve saved herself plenty of time and effort by just texting him the menu: http://www.themeatballshop.com/index.php/menu.

4 December 2012

I was reading Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat today, and came across the story of “The Twins,” John and Michael, who can identify 20 digit prime numbers in their heads. Sacks Writes:
John would say a number––a six-figure number. Michael would catch the number, nod, smile and seem to savour it. Then he, in turn, would say another six-figure number, and now it was John who received, and appreciated it richly. They looked, at first, like two connoisseurs wine-tasting, sharing rare tastes, rare appreciations.

Sacks also mentions, “Sir Herbert Oakley, the nineteenth-century Edinburgh professor of music, that once, taken to a farm, he heard a pig squeak and instantly cried, ‘G sharp!'” Sacks believes that, instead of rapidly making countless associations, there is some one-ness in musical notes and prime numbers that these people comprehend, the same way that we comprehend the one-ness of each other’s faces. People whose right occipital cortex is damaged lose this ability to understand the one-ness and are forced to make lots of little associations, leading to mishaps like mistaking one’s wife’s face for a hat.

5 December 2012

So this is one of the worst things I’ve ever come across. An article in the feminist blog Jezebel today describes a London schoolteacher’s efforts to help her students understand the slave trade by having them create business plans for trafficking Africans. The article says:

Lesson materials included direction on how to carry out a “slave raid” and manipulate “African Chiefs” through bribes and lacing them with alcohol. Perhaps the most debased suggestions were that the “best” aspect of being a slave trader was having “an affair with a beautiful African girl,” and that adult male “mixed race” offspring could be sent to Africa to “run the slave business” while his white father sailed to America.

I find it interesting how involved in the slave trade the English were, but how sheltered they were from race relations, compared to Americans. On a less degrading note, I read an article the other day about how the Mason Dixon line is also the malaria line. Apparently, after trying and failing to use Native American and European slaves, the British resorted to enslaving West Africans, whose genetic makeup was superior when it came to fighting off malaria.

8 December 2012

In his autobiography, Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov writes of his uncle Ruka bringing him American comic books like “Buster Brown.”
Every episode ended in a tremendous spanking for Buster, which was administered by his wasp-waisted but powerful Ma… Since I had never been spanked, those pictures conveyed to me the impression of strange exotic torture not different from, say, the burying of a popeyed wretch up to his chin in the torrid sand of a desert[.] (Nabokov, p. 69-70)
Whenever I imagine a socialist or communist world, I imagine a world where the only time people experience violence is when they experience the art and history of today’s epoch, and are not just horrified by bombs and battles, but by Bugs Bunny.

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