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ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

Forum File

Saturday, January 26, 2013 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“The first American phone booth was patented by William Gray in 1889 for a bank in Hartford, Connecticut. It replaced real people who would sit in a quiet area of a public space beside a telephone and collect money from people who wanted to use it. The first phone booths, like the first movie theaters, were acutely beautiful examples of craftsmanship. A phone booth was not just a convenient place to have a conversation – it was a significant place.

“By 1904 there were over 3 million phones and 81,000 phone booths across America. By 1946, only half of American homes contained phones; consequently, pay phones were nexus points for communities. For traveling salesmen and other insolvent entrepreneurs, telephone booths in the lobbies of public buildings were the only affordable places to do business. For these itinerant people, described by A. J. Liebling as the 'Telephone Booth Indians,' the phone booth was of material and emotional relevance, providing 'sustenance as well as shelter, as the buffalo did for the Arapahoe and Sioux.'

“Phone booths helped facilitate a growing belief among urban Americans that privacy was both necessary and desirable. They carved out a private space in the public sphere, allowing us to do for the first time what most of us unwittingly now do every day when we speak absorbedly into our personal devices or simply into the air, behavior that we once characterized as insane.”

– “From “The Phantom Phone Booth” at lareviewofbooks.org

A quiz

People with ------- earn about 60 percent more than people with -------, which adds up to about $800,000 over a lifetime

Wisdom of the ages

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.” – Phillip K. Dick

Current wisdom

“Not every woman makes a good soldier, but not every man makes a good soldier. So women will compete.” – Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., after the Pentagon lifted its ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs.

Quiz answer

Bachelors degrees and high school degrees.

Snob words

shindy (SHIN-dee), n. – a row; rumpus, as in: “The editorial writer suspected the debate between the pro-lifer and pro-choicer might turn into a public shindy of epic proportions.”

Today in history

On this day in 1890 Nellie Bly beat Phileas Fogg's time around the world by eight days, finishing in 72; probably a movie title in there somewhere, huh?

Now you know

Approximately one in three babies in the United States is now delivered by cesarean section, according to RandomHistory.com, a rise of nearly 46 percent since 1996.