Saturday, May 14, 2011

Birthdays, Books, and Personality Tests


Birthdays are a hilarious enterprise. Celebrating that, yes, once again, we’re still here on a day that marks our initial entry into matter, manifested from energy particles. Well, when you say it that way, my mother would say.

In celebration of my birthday, my family knows exactly what makes me happy – more books!

For at my house, books are strewn around like leaves cluttering a windy, mountain trail. The majority of my collection from physics to philosophy, history to neuroscience, myths to cigar making, sit nestled together along bookshelves in my library, while others are stacked up on the coffee table next the couch where I read, write, and sip my early morning café au lait.

Still others have found homes in other sections of the house. Cookbooks, encyclopedias of fish, herbs, natural food remedies, wine and cheese, and the ethics of what we eat are swathed in a section of cabinetry in my kitchen.

A heap of language dictionaries, workbooks, early French readers, and notebooks are tucked out of sight inside a portion of the island cabinetry for quick reference when discussing language at the kitchen table. 

Books on artifacts and antiquity adorn the chimney cabinets in the living room – a room devoid of a television – along side some actual Mayan and Olmec artifacts you’ll find illuminating their pages.

Eiffel’s Tower, a little dictionary of sarcasm, La Belle France, Bergson’s essay on laughter, and a number of other random books are scattered across the other side of my bed with dog-eared pages, mechanical pencils, and actual bookmarks.

Upstairs, in the kids’ schoolroom are loads of books on every subject imaginable to kids. Picture books on Spyology and Wizardology garland the custom cabinets mocking the more serious classical readers, Latin textbooks, art books, and pull-out histories and timelines of the ancient world. This doesn’t count the hundreds of little kid books and educational workbooks packaged, labeled, and preserved for posterity in the garage cabinetry. I had the ultimate pleasure of teaching my children how to read prior to entering school. If you haven’t taught a child to read, it’s an amazing experience to watch language emerge from a young brain. Speaking of brains, these enterprising young children, who started a foundation and a blog on neuroscience for kids back when they were 9 & 12 respectively, have an entire collection of autographed books on Neuroscience from Oliver Saks to Steven Pinker.

My office in the front of the house is a bit dry in the reading area. Books on business, strategy, finance, investing, economics, and marketing are tucked away in the closet. Unless I’m looking for a specific piece of information, these books tend to go untouched after their initial reading (or skimming).

Returning to my birthday, my son bought me a book called This is a Book, by Demetri Martin, and decided it was too difficult to wait until next week to give it to me. The three of us; he, his sister, and I, sat huddled around the humor section at Barnes and Noble, which is surprisingly large compared to their philosophy or language section. An incredible collection of Calvin & Hobbes, a favorite, is displayed along with joke books, which have been popular since the time of Shakespeare. “I had my good wit out of the ‘Hundred Merry Tales,’” Beatrice declares in Much Ado About Nothing.

In Demetri’s book, you’ll find a number of sarcastic jokes, puns, and analogies. Some witty commentary, some funny line drawings, and an initial announcement thanking us readers for coming to the show, followed by a whole stream of do’s and don’ts you’d hear delivered to you at an amusement park, only these include things like no lip-syncing, journaling, documenting, making mental notes reminiscing, reviewing, or remembering anything at all, which brings about a whole new meaning to no flash photography or recording of any kind.

Toward the end of the book there’s a section called: Results of Your Personality Test and includes results like this:

Your personality is suspicious, noncompliant, introverted, sneaky, untrustworthy, vengeful, greedy, unreasonable, and dangerous. You are naturally uncooperative and do not work well with others, at all. You are not a leader. Nor are you a follower. You are a disruptor. In addition, you are snarky, mean, pessimistic, and extremely unpleasant to be around. You are also very focused, but mostly on yourself. You are best suited for work that does not involve other people, that is, if you had any capacity for work whatsoever, which you don’t. You are cranky, immature, insensitive, and extremely unforgiving. Considering these characteristics, aim for careers that relate to your top interests and compliment you as a person.

I laughed the hardest at this section. So much for the superiority theory, Hobbes!


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