Thursday, June 25, 2009

You Tell 'Em Ray!

"[T]o hell with the internet!...It’s distracting...It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”

- Ray Bradbury

Old people are awesome. I can't wait until I am a cranky old dude who can say anything I want, to anybody, because I am old and I could give a rat's behind about what anyone else thinks...or am I like that already?

In any event!

Ray Bradbury is trying to save his local library. The story about this is interesting. I especially enjoyed reading how he met Bo Derek. How a fellow his age managed not to have a coronary when she said "I love you!" to his face, is a mystery for the ages.

Also noteworthy is some of the stuff that pops out of old Ray's mouth. One thing in particular he said has taken root inside me, something so true that it's truth smacks you over the head and makes you take notice.

“I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

Growing up I was a library fanatic. I'd go to the library several times a week, enough so that, even though my family seemed to move every year, wherever I was the librarians seemed to know me by name. And no matter what library I was at, I always managed to find one of those comfy chairs that allow you to sit back and just read, forgetting all concerns about time and space until someone tapped my shoulder to let me know that the library had just closed.

Like Bradbury, libraries were my real schools. Sure I sat in class at high school, but more often than not I'd just be propping up my textbook to hide the book I was actually reading, while waiting for the endless borning-ness to grind to a finish. Since I had the habit of reading the entire textbook in the first week of class, it was rare that my attention was pulled away by something new and interesting my teachers thought to get across to me.

I wasn't the best student, for sure, but I wasn't a disruptive student, and what I did not know, or had trouble with, I always knew I could find what I needed at the library, and where I lived, I could always find a local library.

Funny how quickly times change.

We really need a new Andrew Carnegie today, someone of means who makes not only the spread of knowledge, but founding permanent homes for knowledge their own personal crusade. If, instead of spending gadzillions on the "schools of the future," organizations like the Gates Foundation could spend it on local libraries, directed more towards hard assets like books, and less toward more nebulous and capital intensive things like "internet access," then maybe libraries would not be in such a state of crisis.

As someone who sues the internet everyday, and almost every waking hour at times, I'm far from being a luddite. And while I do not personally prefer to store thousands of books in my own home, I do feel that there does need to be a place, a public place, where those books are stored, and made accessible. E-books and the like may be low cost and easy to distribute, but any electronic information far more susceptible to loss, corruption, or tampering than a book can ever be. When the day comes when I access an e-book file that is as old as the 1952 high school English text I keep at my desk at work, then maybe I'll revisit that view.

But until then...

a few more bon mots from Bradbury!

"I have total recall...I remember being born. I remember being in the womb, I remember being inside. Coming out was great."

“The children ask me, ‘How can I live forever, too?’ ...I tell them do what you love and love what you do. That’s the story of my life.”

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