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Love for the ‘paper book’


by Aunt Clara –

Aunt Clara loves to go to the library, a place where the old and musty pen and paper books are housed with the newfangled computers, music CDs and reading devices. Although these reading devices have their place, Aunt Clara’s heart will always be with the old fashioned paper edition of any book.

Aunt Clara’s test for books is beach, bath, and bed. Paper books certainly are far superior to any electronic device in the bathtub. Many Graftonites will remember many years ago that Sally Trustman got badly burned while using a curling iron in the shower. Aunt Clara does not like to tell tales out of school, but there was one schoolteacher back in the day who was badly burned when his electric razor fell into the toilet. What this man was doing is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say that the man was never the same.

When going to the beach the paper book is also superior as one can leave it on a chair while swimming knowing it will be there when one returns. If the book gets a little wet while Aunt Clara is drying off it is none the worse for wear. With an electronic gadget it would behoove one to keep it dry and away from sand.

In bed an electronic edition of any book can be read and most e-readers have a built in backlight for reading in the dark. However there is something to be said for curling up with a book that you can smell and feel and one that allows you to turn the pages. You also would not have to worry about your batteries running out or finding an electric outlet.

Of course the content of the book also matters and I am sure that my dear readers will agree that they do not write books like they used to. Aunt Clara read the best-selling book, “The Girl on the Train” while riding on a train to Boston. This book deals with an alcoholic young lady who becomes entwined in the lives of a young married couple who she does not even know. Besides putting the reader through public displays of inebriation the book also deals with murder, mayhem and misogyny.

Not a book any young lady from a good family should be seen reading. Aunt Clara supposes that this is one benefit of the e-reader. Strangers on the train will not know if one is reading “Fifty Shades of Gray” or the Bible. Teachers, nuns and mothers could all be reading the most salacious material all while appearing as pious as a priest.

Back at the library, Aunt Clara finds most of the patrons are using the computers while she browses through stacks of books. Thoughts go back to time spent searching through the card catalog or “prehistoric Googling” as it is now called. The card catalog has been replaced by a computer catalog of books and one can search for any book in the whole state of Massachusetts. If the Grafton Library does not have the book on the shelves then a request will go out and the book will arrive within a few days. One would suppose that is progress of a certain sort.

The library used to be a place for a boy to meet a girl and fall in love over a good book. Now the kids at the library are either on the computer or on their phones. Aunt Clara wonders if they really feel that the virtual reality in hyperspace is more interesting than the reality right in front of them or are they missing out on experiences and life that were so much a part of our formative years back in the day?

Aunt Clara remembers sitting with a book at the Grafton Library when Tommy Sutton came up and said those words every girl yearns to hear, “If you are a book you must be overdue because you are so fine.” Now that is better than a text message any day.


Video games vs. Erector Sets

Erector Sets

by Aunt Clara –

Aunt Clara has some very elderly friends. In light of our existence in the 21st century (and the popularity of video games) she is no longer going to speak about age in terms of years. From now on, dear reader, it will behoove all of us to refer to years of age as game levels. The game of life! I now have a friend who is just defeated level 94. Now that is an accomplishment. She also has many of her health points left. The local teens are always bragging about how many levels of some game that they have defeated, but in the game of life they are only on level 15 or 17. Not much of an accomplishment considering that so many people have defeated level 70 or even 80.

And will any of these low level life gamers ever become architects or scientists? Hard to imagine when they are spending their hours playing games about killing reanimated human cannibals and racing in cars that they will never be able to afford. In Aunt Clara’s day, young boys played with Lincoln Logs, invented by the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which tells you that young minds in the early 1900s were much more active. Frank’s son was using his time in creating something that would last for many generations. Children of today only create YouTube videos that are forgotten 10 minutes after they are loaded onto the world wide computer web.

Lincoln Logs are notched so that logs may be laid at right angles to each other to form rectangles resembling buildings. Children who played with them were learning geometry and how to put things together. Children who play video games learn only how to destroy and annihilate. Over time Lincoln Log sets became more elaborate and led to the inventions of Tinker Toys and Erector Sets.

The child who played with Lincoln Logs became the pre-teen who worked with an Erector Set, which consisted of various metal beams with regular holes for assembly using nuts and bolts. Other mechanical parts such as pulleys, gears, wheels, and small electric motors were also part of the system. What distinguished construction sets like Erector, was the ability to build a model, then take it apart and build something else, over and over again. A child’s natural curiosity and imagination was all that was needed to build many elaborate structures using the Erector Set.

Bill Sewell was one such curious boy. Having built every conceivable model using his set (and then being admitted to the Yale School of Medicine) he built the first artificial heart, which, in 1949, he used to bypass the heart of a dog for over an hour. After being chased out of Yale by the dog’s owner (who was also Bill’s anatomy and physiology professor) he went on to create the precursor to the modern artificial heart. He could not have done that playing Atari 2600 or Nintendo.

Give a child a video game and they might be happy for an afternoon, let a child explore and create using Lincoln Logs and an Erector Set and that child will find lifelong happiness and one day move out of your basement.