Donald Trump exhausts me. He’s the train wreck I saw coming but couldn’t look away from. His mind-numbing ignorance and faux-gravitas would be hilarious if he/we weren’t in a death spiral of his making. He may be time-limited, but four years is an eternity when Pudgy-Wudgy, the village idiot, has the keys to the nuclear launch codes.
Part of my exhaustion comes from my wife’s insatiable need to watch the scum circling the drain–all day every day on two television sets. She and I are different. She is able to work, read, and listen to the competing news sources without missing anything. I’m not good at tuning in and out. I’m too easily pulled into the breathless Breaking News on MSNBC. Ever watch your 8-year-old grandchild when the TV goes on. I’m like that. Or like Joseph Conrad, who used to have his wife, Jessie, lock him in his upstairs study in the morning and not let him out until lunch time. He didn’t have the will power to stay and write without restraint. Neither do I. I’m Conrad’s Mini-Me.
During the week, I have a strategy; I bus it to my downtown office or find a table at Diva Espresso in Kenmore Town Center. Both are perfect settings; I can write in a quiet setting where nobody interferes and there are no carpets to vacuum, bills to pay, or dishwashers to load. Unfortunately, my “during the week” strategy doesn’t hold up on the weekend. I end up wandering around the apartment trying to avoid the stereo confusion of competing cable stations.
Weekend news is like used food. It’s recycled, tasteless, and doesn’t nourish, so, in the hope of finding something fresh, I channel-surf. Weekend sports sometimes fill the void, but weekend channel-surfing offers an assortment of other choices too–Great Performances, Frontline and Masterpiece Theater are the gold standard. I’ve even settled for Antique Roadshow, but last Saturday, by accident I found another better option.
Instead of recycled MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News I landed on Nerd TV. At least I think of it as Nerd TV. See… I am falling into the name calling trap just like Trump. What I’m really talking is about C-Span2 which every weekend, all day, both days serves up Book TV.
I am Book TV’s target audience. It’s is right in my wheelhouse. As an unabashed, unselfconscious, unapologetic lover of books, I like nothing more than hearing authors interviewed or reading from their books. Many of the interviews take place at book fairs, and the format is fairly standard; a host and author sit in comfortable chairs on stage in front of an audience to talk about the book. The other form is a Skype-like interview with the author and interviewer at different locations.
I won’t bore you with all the good stuff I watched last weekend, but one interview was especially interesting to me. Both the interviewer and interviewee were women, both were former Marine Corps officers, and both have written books about their experience. As a former Marine myself, I was fascinated. Both women are still loyal to the Corps and proud of their service, but their critique of the misogyny and racism in the Marine Corps made me hope their words might lead to smarter, better deployment of women and better behavior on the part of their male counterparts.
Captain Anuradha Bhagwati’s Unbecoming: A Memoir of Disobedience was released two days ago (May 26, 2019) and she was interviewed over the weekend by Lt. Colonel Kate Germano, whose book Fight Like a Girl: The Truth Behind How Female Marines are Trained was a best seller last year.
Both women are underappreciated overachievers. After 20 years in the Corps, Lt. Colonel Germano was relieved of her command at the Fourth Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island, North Carolina, notwithstanding the fact that her female recruits improved dramatically over previous cohorts. Captain Bhagwati, the daughter of Indian immigrants, left the Marines after five years of disappointment, harassment, and combat to pursue an advanced degree at Yale.
The Marine Corps is a southern, macho-male culture. Historically, many of its officers were graduates of VMI (Virginia Military Institute). It is the only military service that still segregates the sexes during initial training. Both of these women challenged the wisdom of segregation and advocated for tougher physical standards and higher expectations for women recruits. Their stories are different, but both are compelling.
Book TV on C-Span2 was an eye-opener. When I think of C-Span I think of Congressmen slumped over hearing room desks bickering over line items in the budget. I never imagined myself glued to Nerd TV. It’s a good lesson. Keep your eyes and ears open. There’s a lot of good stuff out there and it’s not always where you expect to find it.
I confess, Rachel and Ari and Lawrence and Brian still draw me in. The government of the United States is in jeopardy. As citizens we have an obligation to stay on top of the news. We deserve better than what we’re getting from the White House, although we’re getting what we deserve. We didn’t pay attention and not enough of us voted. We didn’t see the warning signs. Trump and his posse are dismantling the progress of the last 70 years. But, Kate Germano and Anuradha Bhagwati deserve better too. Look them up and read their stories. You might even take some time to watch Nerd TV this weekend. Squeeze it in and feed your brain either before or after Golden State whups Toronto’s ass in the NBA finals.