The start of September Scantiness (until final deadline is met) begins with a long read, lately rendered in journalese as “longread.” It’s a classic holiday-weekend package, thousands and thousands of words and a front-page presentation that jumps to two inside pages AND a video, all on… a man learning to swim.

But of course, it’s about much more than that: Conquering fear, how we try to heal ourselves, the challenges we take on when we’re old enough to know better. The sort of thing you read on a holiday weekend, but what the hell, you might enjoy it on Sept. 2.

More longreads and tasty morsels coming, as I find them. A fine day to all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' |

13 responses to “Scanty.”

  1. Wim said on September 2, 2014 at 8:14 am

    I had never really learned to swim as a boy, thanks in some great part to a father who freaked out if I got into water deeper than my ankles. You can drown in an inch of water, he would say. You can drown in a dishpan. Talk about your implanted fears. I finally braced up to the challenge in college and took a course.

    My fear of water, however, was a small, small thing in contrast to my fear of spiders. That was an utterly irrational, primal panic. I think maybe I watched that movie where the guy shrinks down and has to fight a spider at a very impressionable age. It wasn’t like a spider ever did anything to me. One evening in my mid-twenties I was in a mall pet store and looked down and there were these freaking tarantulas squatting in little Plexiglas cases and I just about died on the spot. And then, out of somewhere, there rose an angry determination. I bought one. I took him home. I named him Bucephalus. I would sit on my couch gibbering and sweating while the fucker crawled on me. People would come over and be like, ‘Oh, you’ve got a pet spider’ in a tone of voice like, of course you have a pet spider, you freak. ‘Aw yeah,’ I’d say. ‘Want to hold him?’ Then I’d take him out of the tank and they’d be running around screeching ‘Get that fucking thing away from me!’ Just about the time I thought I had it licked, Bucephalus got up onto my shoulder without my awareness and I caught a peripheral glimpse of those hairy legs waving and batted him off with fatal force. Sad, but I can face a spider today without running away, so he did not die in vain.

    I loved that guy’s swim cap, by the way.

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  2. beb said on September 2, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Most have been a long day for Dexter, he went to bed without commenting. Well, good luck with the book.

    All I’ve got in terms of daily outrage, I mean news, is a report that the cop who hit a man while texting will not be charged because departmental regulations mandated him to text and drive. Well, no, the regulation is to respond rapidly to requests for inform from colleagues. That should involve pulling off the road to reply, not typing while driving.

    Also journalist videotaping a political rally was ejected and then arrested … for resisting arrest. She kept asking to go back for her purse. That was the resisting.

    And in happier news, California passed a couple good laws. One mandates that employers give their employees up to three paid sick days a year. Because you don’t want a sick cook sneezing over your food. The other is a detailed definition of consent when it comes to sexual congress. So no more arguing that the unconscious wooman didn’t object to being raped. Good for California.

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  3. brian stouder said on September 2, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Wim, you’re a braver person than I am. (no hairy spiders for me, ever!)

    I can’t swim a lick, but I’ve no particular fear of water. This would be an example of ‘invincible ignorance’ on my part, except I suppose it is quite ‘vincible’

    The long weekend was marvelous, yes? Chloe wasn’t in the mood for school this morning, and I wasn’t in the mood for work – but onward we went

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  4. Heather said on September 2, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Great story. I only started swimming regularly about four or five years ago–I wasn’t afraid of the water but I had some anxiety. A couple of months ago someone training for a triathlon asked me a question because I “look like a swimmer.” I was pretty happy about that!

    On the other hand I have become annoyingly afraid of heights. We visited some friends at Marina City a while ago (the famous “corncob” buildings, for non-Chicagoans) and I couldn’t even really stand on the balcony. Bummer, because those are some great views.

    I felt like this weekend was the first “true” summer weekend, what with the heat and the cicadas. Beau and I biked down to a beach on the south side not patrolled by lifeguards, so you can go as deep as you like. It’s very clear there because of a natural shoal–you could see the bottom even from four feet. There are even the remains of a shipwreck a few hundred feet offshore and I guess there are a lot of fish around. Rain and storms predicted for Labor Day itself but other than a five-minute downpour, they never happened! A successful holiday weekend for sure, but I’m planning to stretch summer out through the end of the month.

    I was not in the mood to come back to work either, especially with the back-to-school traffic.

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  5. Julie Robinson said on September 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I read this after coming back from the hotel pool! Mom was afraid of swimming so she made sure we had lessons every summer, and today swimming is pure joy, because nothing hurts in the pool. I will not want to go to work when I get back either, if that makes anyone feel better. Also, Florida is too darn hot.

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  6. Sherri said on September 2, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Putting my face in water is one of several things that makes me feel claustrophobic, and while I can push through that if sufficiently motivated enough (like when I went snorkeling in Hawaii), swimming is not something I enjoy. I’m not afraid of water per se, just of having my face covered or feeling too closed in. I once had a panic attack in the dentist chair and had to stop the procedure for a few minutes to recover, just because of having two people right in my face and that piece of rubber they use to isolate the tooth covering my mouth. Now I have them cut a hole in the piece of rubber, just so I know in my mind that I can get air through it.

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  7. Deborah said on September 2, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    I grew up in Miami, FL (which I know I’ve said here many times) everyone swims there. Both of my parents were non-swimmers and were determined that my sister and I would learn to swim. But alas, every summer we took swimming lessons and every year I had to start over in beginners class. I don’t like swimming much. I wanted Little Bird to learn to swim and be comfortable in water when she was a kid so I got her a good teacher and in one summer she learned how and loves it still.

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  8. Jolene said on September 2, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    As a kid, I took swimming lessons at the Y. Was doing fine until they forced us to jump into the deep end of the pool. I was afraid to do it and panicked under the water. They pulled me out with one of those long poles with a hook at the end. Very bad teaching. For years afterward, I was afraid to swim in water that was over my head.

    I took swimming lessons again after college and actually became a halfway decent swimmer. Swam for exercise off and on when I was younger, though have gotten away from it now. Should take it up again. As Julie said, nothing hurts in the pool. Good for my aging knees.

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  9. Jolene said on September 2, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    By now, you must all have heard the news of Steven Sotloff’s horrible execution. I can only imagine the mindset of someone who could do such a thing–the hatred, contempt, and coldness. Yet, it seems to be happening more or less everyday. Many Syrians and Iraqis have died. That only two Americans have died in this way merely reflects the fact that there aren’t more in the neighborhood. Apparently, they are holding two or three others, so there may be more of these terrible events.

    Was listening to Ayman Mohyeldin earlier today. He is an an Arab American who reports for NBC. Spent much of the summer in Gaza and came away disheartened by the reality that, in 2014, we are still killing each other as a way of resolving political conflicts. Not exactly an unusual insight, but, in the voice of this young, handsome, hopeful guy, it seemed especially sad.

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 2, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Lord have mercy.

    The key factor, of course, is video. Ten million died in the Second Congo War, but they pretty much all failed to expire where cameras were running, so they’re unknown and unmourned . . . as are the casualties of the First Congo War, which you were probably just now wondering about.

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  11. alex said on September 2, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Ah, to expire with cameras running while looking like the work of a mortician. Sorry. Just channeling her spirit as I prepare to mourn.

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  12. Dexter said on September 3, 2014 at 12:12 am

    Sherri, I had a bad experience in the dentist’s chair in August. The A/C was malfunctioning in the office and I felt uncomfortably warm/hot and began sweating and feeling really sick. This was not even a procedure, just my 6 month cleaning, but the hygienist kept talking to her friends and doing paperwork and making me sit under that bright light that they are supposed to shut off when they step away. I began to breathe rapidly and my heart began racing and it was time to abort the mission. I apologized and then, oh yes, then I got the attention, oh boy did I. Dentists and assistants and hygienists came by asking me if I was dizzy, did I need an orange juice, did I need a taxi called, did I need to go to the hospital to be checked out…when if I had not had to sit under that fucking broiler lamp in a 90 degree dentist office , and the woman would have just done her job, everything would have been peachy keen. But NO-O-O-O!

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  13. charllotte said on September 3, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Charles Bowden, one of the great writers of the fa West, has died:

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