I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.

--Orson Wells

Monday, September 6, 1999
References Redux, Reception, and Reading

Well, it turns out that I was partially wrong about the Merriam-Webster / Encyclopaedia Britannica thing.

On the one hand, the Britannica publishers do, indeed, own Merriam-Webster. In fact, they have for quite some time. That's not the bit I was wrong about. Rather, I was wrong in assuming that the Encyclopaedia Britannica was a British publication.

In point of fact, as their history page explains, while the company was originally founded in Scotland way back in 1768, they've been based in Chicago for some time now.

Now I just have to figure out how I feel about that. Seems I've traded one reference work concern for another.

Could be worse, I suppose; encyclopedias don't concern me anywhere near as much as dictionaries. But if I ever find out that the Oxford English Dictionary group has been bought by Funk and Wagnalls, I shall have no choice but to freak out. You have been warned.

In other news... I have now seen my very first Jerry Lewis telethon. Well, not the entire 22 hours, but bits of it, anyway. The station it appeared on in New York seems to be the station I have the best reception of, although that does depend on just how the antennae are adjusted. I've had to go through some contortions to pick up some of the other stations in my area, and it seems that I can't manage to get a halfway decent signal on more than three stations at a time.

Sadly, the public television station that broadcasts Sesame Street in the afternoon seems to be the one station I can't pick up at all, given my current setup. And the public station I can pick up broadcasts it too early in the morning. For me, anyway. But once I find the remote control for the VCR, which is currently somewhere back in the family home, I may have a way around that problem.

Or I could buy a new antenna, but I think I'd better take it easy on the unnecessary expenses. I'm zipping through my summer savings far too quickly at this point. Besides, I have doubts that it would help anyway, given the location of the transmitter of the station in question, which is out on Long Island.

Heavily backlogged item, dating back a couple of months, back when I was behind on updating this journal:

During the summer, I finally found and read Naked, by David Sedaris. I'd originally become aware of it when Amazon.Com recommended it to me, on the basis of my prior purchases. The reader reviews for it basically said that it was the most hysterical book they'd read in ages, and that they just couldn't stop laughing.

Shortly after I started reading the thing, I came to the conclusion that I'd gotten my titles mixed up, and that the book I'd read the reviews for had obviously been something else by Sedaris; one of his fiction books, no doubt. Because this was a perfectly serious, un-funny biography. This wasn't to say that it was falling flat; rather, it didn't read as if it were intended to be funny at all.

On the whole, reading the book made me appreciate my own family and childhood more. As bad as they got, they were nowhere near as dysfunctional as Sedaris's. I felt sorry for him, on the whole, although it was clear that by writing about it, he was taking control of his past and coming to terms with it. Or something like that; actually, he still seemed to be bearing the scars of it, but didn't quite seem to care. At any rate, the book wasn't the greatest, but was not without its moments of interest.

Then, after finishing the book, I double-checked at Amazon.Com. And, lo and behold, the reviews I'd read were, indeed, for the book I'd read. And, looking back at the book, I still found it to be sometimes poignant, but never funny. It was as if we really were reading two different books.

I don't get it. Or, rather, I do get it; humor is an insanely subjective thing, and this just serves as further evidence that there's nothing out there that's universally funny.

Still, considering that humor is my stock in trade, I think I can be pardoned for being unsettled by the reminder that there are jokes that I don't understand, too.