Two items today – one that is probably close to universal among people past a certain age, and a second that undoubtedly has a more limited audience. Doesn't matter – it's all good. Let's start with
CALVIN TRILLIN'S "ALL THUMBS" MEDITATION
Many of you know Calvin Trillin, the long-time New Yorker columnist, humorist, novelist, journalist, food writer, etc. extraordinaire.
About a week ago, The New York Times published Trillin's essay that began with our now-changing usage of our thumbs – both physically and in speech:
”I was on the subway, watching a teenager text on his smartphone," writes Trillin, "when I realized that the idiom 'all thumbs' might be doomed...
“As his thumbs danced over the tiny screen, I realized that 'all thumbs' cannot much longer mean clumsy with one’s hands. And I realized how much I’m going to miss it. It has always seemed to me a way of noting a deficit without being vicious about it...
“But how can that man be labeled all thumbs if the teenager sitting across from me can use his thumbs on his smartphone fast enough to take dictation from a cattle auctioneer?”
This line of thought led Trillin to wonder how many others in his subway car were, like him, wearing a wristwatch
”...as opposed to reading the time digitally on a small device. It was a warm autumn day, and a number of people were in short-sleeves. From what I could see, almost none of them wore a wristwatch.
“That got me to thinking about 'counterclockwise.' When all of the analog watches and clocks are gone, will there be generations of people who don’t know what it means when the instructions say, 'Turn the bolt counterclockwise'?”
Trillin made a related observation about newspapers – the hard-copy kind:
”The train was crowded, but I had a seat. I was the only person in the car who was reading a newspaper rather than staring at a small electronic device — a singularity that should have provided another hint about where I fit in demographically these days.
“At the 86th Street stop, a gray-haired gentleman entered the car and, locking his arm around one of the vertical poles, unfolded The New York Times. I noticed that he was wearing a wristwatch. Catching his eye as he held out the paper to turn a page, I nodded. He nodded. I nodded again and offered him my seat.”
As much as old folks are exhorted to keep up with current trends, there can be a comfort sometimes in recognition of our common experiences of a lifetime whether or not they are fading.
(Because I know many of you do not have a subscription to The Times, I offer these excerpts – unfair as they are compared to the entire essay - because it is such a touching, little tribute to old age (Trillin is 82) and to the memories and habits of a lifetime, some of which may disappear until no one knows what they mean anymore.)
MALCOLM NANCE'S BOOK DEFEATING ISIS
If you live in the U.S. and watch MSNBC now and then, you probably know Malcolm Nance, the widely-respected former cryptology analyst and counterterrorism expert who frequently lends his knowledge of terrorism, torture and insurgency to the cable news channel.
”I went across the mighty Hudson, and shook Malcolm Nance's hand at a farm which he and various backers are starting to benefit returning veterans of latter-day Republican adventures in foreign lands...
He did not give a talk on any political subjects, but mainly spoke about the project...I bought two copies of his latest tome, ISIS, which I had him sign...He's pretty good, as you probably know, having a steady job on the talk circuit, and he has something to say.”
And then Jim offered to let me give away his two signed copies to TGB readers. And so we will.
Instead, it is well organized and Nance has seen that it is enhanced will photographs, other illustrations, lists, historical context, descriptions of ISIS centers of influence throughout the world, and much more mostly broken up into short, clear sections.
In his review of the book in 2016, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations retired Colonel Millard E. Moon praised Nance's structure of the book as a reference source and further wrote,
"Nance has done a really good job of providing detailed information about the growth and activities of ISIS components...there is a wealth of factual information on ISIS".
It's a good read if you have an interest in current history, counterintelligence and terrorism in our modern world.
We'll do the giveaway of the two copies as we always do:
Just tell me in the comments below that, “Yes, I want to win one of the books.” Or, you could say, “Me, me, me.” or anything else that indicates your interest.
Winners (you can live in any country) are selected by a random number generator and I will have your email addresses from the comment form. I will then email the winners to get your snailmail addresses to send off the books.
The contest will remain open through 12 midnight Pacific Time on Wednesday 10 January 2018, and the winners will be announced on Friday morning's regular post, 12 January 2018.