Sunday, October 7, 2012

Coffeeneuring #1 and Brave New World

Coffeeneuring is the practice of riding some distance on a bicycle for the primary purpose of imbibing in a beverage at a shop whose primary product is caffeinated beverages. Whether you ride two miles or 200 miles matters not, but you have to do it on your days off, and can only count one such trip in a calendar day toward several such trips over a series of weekends.

Today was my first trip out, a very short ride to check out a bicycle following a repair. Because I wasn't sure of the bike, and with there being no bus service to speak of on a Sunday for a backup, I played it safe and stuck close to home, riding only to Coffee Buddha, about 1.5 miles south on Perry Highway. My preferred shop, Perry Perk, is not open on Sundays, and I was anxious to try out this new shop.

To pass the time once I got there, I took a copy of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World with me to finish. Once that was done, I wrote the little essay that follows.

To imbibe, I invested in the Tea of the Day, an oolong blend that had some fancy name that I promptly forgot as soon as I walked away from the counter, and a yummy muffin whose name lasted about as long.


Just finished reading "Brave New World". I find in reading it that I put to use much of what I learned in past literature classes, notably Miss Harp's British Lit class in Spring 1976, my Shakespeare tragedies course at SUNY Geneseo, and my Chaucer class which, IIRC, I took the same semester as Shakespeare. To make the best sense of a work, one needs to study sources and backgrounds, understand where the story came from, and what was the world like at the time this was written. In 1931, the world was in depression, a nasty European war was just over a decade in the past, a nasty war was just about to get going in Japan and China, with unrest in Europe and Germany still. The TV had just been invented (1926) but commercial TV was still in the future (the first commercial would not be aired until 1939). Radio was dominant, including overseas broadcasts via shortwave. "Talking" motion pictures were only a couple of years old. Transportation: trolleys everywhere, cars taking over, rail was how you traveled between cities, no airlines to speak of yet, rocketry was the scientific frontier. Constant innovation in every form, everywhere. Women just got the vote in England and the U.S. in the recent past. Social stuff: The U.S. had Prohibition, recreational drugs were just being invented, penicillin had just been discovered. Political: We had socialism, fascism, and communism without the stigmas they have today, but we did have major political experimenting to try them out, in places like Russia, and as we were about to find out quite soon, Germany. The USSR's formation was well in the future. Meanwhile, Japan and China had monarchies whose forces were fomenting the next war.

I need to re-read (and read for the first time) much of Shakespeare, which is quoted extensively in BNW, sometimes in a direct quote, sometimes embedded in a phrase or thought. It's been 34 years since I made my way through Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and others, though I have never had the book far from my fingertips that whole time. But there are writings I never knew, like "The Phoenix and the Turtle", and while I've seen The Tempest, the acoustics were poor (an outdoor performance), I didn't much understand it. I know some scenes from many plays, having watched the annual monolog contest (, but that doesn't help with detailed understanding of all 36 plays, 154 sonnets, and various other poems, as quoted in BNW.

A banned book. Why? Probably all the sex; it's central to the plot. Nothing graphic, just the constantness of it, the idea that everyone's conditioned to copulate constantly with no preference to any one person, and no concern about childbearing, which is rare. Though the book was written decades prior to the Pill's invention, Huxley lived to know about it, and might have seen its effects before his 1963 death.

But as to banning the book itself: I can see both the wonders and the difficulty in reading this in a high school English class. That needs an essay in itself. To me, the issue comes down to one big unanswerable question. Kids who already have the ability to understand new ideas will find enormous ways to expand their minds, while those who have not will simply be horrified, thus begging the question, why learn anything? Are we doomed to all be Deltas and Epsilons, or merely wear green uniforms and perform mid-level tasks? Can only a few be Betas to get anything requiring thought done, and fewer still Alphas to figure out anything of consequence? Or is the Savage right, and the brave new world is itself a horror?

At the time of its writing, Huxley thought this might be 600 years in the future, but by the 1946 edition, he feared this might happen within the next century. Minus the methods of travel and a few other surface details, he might be right.


A couple of pictures, and a link to the video I took for part of the way there until my battery gave out.

Photo #1, the bike rack in front:

Photo #2, yummyfulness and a bike helmet.

And 5/6 of the trip there (yes, I know it's sideways, all the bike videos are):
And here's the rest of the ride.

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