Sunday, March 3, 2024


I'm getting off to a very slow start for reading this March and hope to pick up my pace a little. I have a new biography of Carson McCullers and will also be getting a new book on the tech industry by Kara Swisher. I'm not sure how much I'll like the McCullers biography. I enjoyed The Heart is a Lonely Hunter but haven't read anything else my her. The biography, so far, is better-written than the Thoreau biography that I recently discussed. I had given up on American fiction but did try several other female writers, including Willa Cather, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Anne Tyler, Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore. McCullers, I think, was somewhat more interesting than this group. I heard Kara Swisher in a radio interview today, and she recounted how tech CEOs behaved submissively around Donald Trump. This confirms what I've thought for some time: they're great at being tech billionaires, but not necessarily at lots of other things. In my view, they are little different from previous generations of ultra-rich people and primarily like being rich. Once they become rich, they instinctively become risk-averse and focus on maintaining or increasing their personal wealth. From their point of view, they have little to gain by speaking out against Trump, for several reasons. A Trump presidency is a guarantee of government chaos, and for large corporations that means that regulations won't become more cumbersome and corporate taxes will remain low. It also means that income taxes for wealthy people will remain relatively low, and there won't be a wealth tax. In certain respects, they are spineless and cowardly, because, even though they know that Trump is a stupid, potentially dangerous buffoon, they think it's not their responsibility to deal with him. They are well aware that they already have billions of dollars, and they can spend that on gigantic luxury Armageddon bunkers and yachts in competition with each other. In some of their minds, space colonization is a great idea: life on earth may already be in a death spiral, so why waste money on it? The point is that, like all humans, the range of their skills is limited. In their little capitalist bubble, they have always been "the smartest guy in the room," and they would like to keep things that way. No doubt, their feeble mammalian brains would be exposed for what they were if they attempted to move out of their comfort zone.

Last night, for a change of pace, I attended a concert of Voces8, an English a cappella group, at Middlebury College. Their performance was definitely world-class, but their repertoire included a few crowd-pleasers that didn't appeal to me. I liked their Monteverdi madrigals, and their rendition of the classic Miserere Mei, Deus, by Gregorio Allegri, was excellent. Also relevant to me, some years ago I learned that just seeing and hearing English people has a calming effect on me. Although I've now lived in the U.S. for sixty-seven years, my brain is still English and thinks that I'm surrounded by heathens. The concert was sold out, and most of the audience consisted of sixty-year-old-plus Middlebury faculty. I've come to find their chatter a little tiresome after twelve years here. Another irritant for me is always the acoustics in Robison Hall. After having been to Bennett Gordon Hall at Ravinia a few times, Robison Hall sounds no better than a high school gymnasium. The sound is always muddy no matter where you sit.

I am gradually de-Middleburying myself, because I increasingly feel a reduced connection to the town. I've dropped my subscription to the Addison County Independent and have subscribed to the Brandon Reporter. Brandon is in Rutland County, and I now spend nearly all of my time here. Although I may check in occasionally on my former Middlebury neighbors, to some extent I no longer want to spend much time there. Addison County is much wealthier per capita than Rutland County, largely because of the college, and I generally find that wealthy people are boring and like to show off. I'm not sure how much I have in common with the people in Brandon, but they don't seem to get on my nerves as much.

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