Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on November 19, 2008


typewriter2          When it comes right down to it, the human memory is a very strange beast.  For instance, I’m relatively certain that I watched other television stations while I was growing up (surely my parents made me watch PBS), but the only station that I can actively remember tuning into as a child was Chicago’s WGN, and the only programs I can specifically remember watching are the Bozo the Clown show, the Harry Carey and Steve Stone broadcasts of daytime Chicago Cubs games, and the Richard Pryor movie Brewster’s Millions.  What makes this all the weirder is that I have no idea, in actuality, whether WGN ever even aired the movie Brewster’s Millions, but in my mind, it played every day, all day long, except for the brief one hour interval in the morning where Bozo had his bucket-toss game and the three hour interval in the afternoon where Harry Carey got drunk and waxed philosophic about the unreal nature of Shawon Dunston’s throwing arm.  Weird, huh?  But this is the kind of shit that I have filed away in the corner of my brain devoted to remembering being ten years old, and not, unfortunately, what my Great-Grandma looked like – and I have a feeling that these memories are etched up there in stone.  In fact, if I had to guess what it is that I’ll be talking about when I’m old, decrepit, and riddled with Alzheimer’s disease, I’d put money on the fact that it will be some crazy mash-up of Harry Carey calling the fictional exhibition baseball game between Brewster’s Hackensack Devils and the New York Yankees, and Bozo the Clown encouraging all of us to vote for “None of the Above.”

          Now, what, you might find yourself asking, does this have to do with today’s lesson?  Well, allow me to explain.  You see, there’s a scene in Brewster’s Millions where Richard Pryor pays 1.25 million dollars for the famous “Inverted Jenny” stamp, then ingeniously uses it as legal tender to mail a postcard.  (The movie’s conceit was that Brewster had to spend 30 million dollars in 30 days, all without acquiring anything of material value, if he wanted to inherit his dead rich uncle’s much larger fortune.)  And I remember asking my Mom why anyone would pay over a million dollars for a stamp when you could buy, at the time, a perfectly good one for 21 cents.  She then went on to explain to me the concept of philately, or stamp-collecting – and ever since, philately has been connected in my brain to Brewster and his millions.

          Now, I’ve never gotten personally involved in philately, which literally translates from the Greek as “friend of things exempt from duties and taxes,” (evidently the Spartans and the Athenians didn’t have a postal service, or even the Pony Express), but I’m amazed at the number of people out there who really dig it.  In fact, stamp-collecting is such a popular pastime that the American Philatelic Society boasts over 44,000 members – and in the United States, we have not one, but two, museums devoted to the science of stamps.  The point that I’m driving towards is not that you should all join a campus philatelic society (would you believe that the Philatelic Club of Royal College is the largest student organization in Sri Lanka?), even though I have a deep appreciation for Benjamin Franklin (America’s most famous postmaster-general) and Karl Malone (America’s other most famous mailman and “postmaster”).  Rather, my point is to emphasize that there are a whole lot of people out there in the world who have some really strange hobbies, and no matter how weird your interests are, you can find other people out there who are into what you’re into.  Luckily for you, college is the perfect place to start on this quest.

          You see, one of the things that makes campus life so exciting and bizarre is that any self-respecting college has at least 200 sanctioned student organizations – and at least a dozen of them are bound to be so esoteric that they’d make good fodder for The Onion.  Did you know, for example, that Harvard has a club devoted to playing the children’s game Tiddlywinks (which sounds like it might be a euphemism for something sexual, but isn’t), or that Princeton has a club devoted to dressing up like Marcel Marceau and practicing the art of miming?  It’s true – look it up.  And…if that’s not your cup of tea…how about M.I.T.’s Assassins Club, which sponsors a never-ending game of paintball, only with Nerf darts, or the University of Chicago’s Shire of Grey Gargoyles of the Society for Creative Anachronism?  Again true, and a hell of a name.

          Now, truth be told, all four of these clubs sound fucking crazy to me, yet all four of these clubs boast multiple members, and are currently extremely active.  In fact, on second thought, I’d kind of like to go check them out – because I’m pretty sure most of these folks are incredibly interesting – and maybe you should too.  The bottom line of today’s lesson is that college is the time to try new things, and to actually do in your spare time what it is you like to do.  No more piano lessons, no more soccer practice – unless you like to play the piano or are attending SLU on a soccer scholarship.  Instead, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be really fond of stamps, and you’re the kind of person who likes to get out there, meet new people, and learn a little about the history of great mail, you can switch hobbies completely by becoming a philatelist.  No one’s there to tell you that you can’t try it out, and there’s no time like the present.  Unless, that is, you’re a member of the Shire of Grey Gargoyles, in which case there is evidently no time like the past, with a few random bits of the chronologically inaccurate present thrown in for good measure.  


10 Responses

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  1. Gina Palazzo said, on November 19, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    So, will that picture of the mimes show up again in “Cocaine = Not the Best Idea”? Because if they’re not on drugs, then they are just plain old…CREEPY.

  2. CS said, on November 20, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Gina, perhaps you will inspire Dr. Wiz to make a 76th lesson: Mimes = Not the Best Idea. Not sure how the undergrad experience fits in that, but the Wiz can spin that shit into gold.

  3. The Uncle Jesse Fan Club said, on November 20, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    David Robinson is 7-ft. tall and Tim Duncan is 6-10. Keep that in mind, and look at that picture of Karl Malone kicking him in the face. Now you know why The Mailman is the only true Postmaster General.

  4. Greece Lightning said, on November 20, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Wiz, in my opinion the last line of this post is without a doubt the funniest sentence that you’ve written so far. Awesome.

    And I wish those mimes would spend 3 seconds in the paint with Karl Malone. He’d give them a Jean-Claude van Damme round house to the face, slap an “Inverted Jenny” on their forehead, and mail them back to New Jersey faster then you can say “Marcel Marceau.”

  5. UVA Mike said, on November 20, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I used to have a stamp collection back in the good old days…maybe it’s time to reconnect with my roots.

    Suggestion: I know the world needs Electricians, but the world also needs people to take our blood. How about lesson 38: become a phlebotomist – let’s see how many in a row the Wiz can string together…

  6. Meghan Jansen said, on November 20, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Become a Philanderer? No wait, that kind of goes in the exact opposite direction of “why cheaters never prosper.”

  7. drwizard said, on November 20, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    In case you happen to be in the neighborhood…

    …the Royal Philatelic Club of Sri Lanka invites you to stop on by.

  8. MS said, on November 21, 2008 at 5:38 am

    This post reminds me of a crazy roommate I had after college. He was a philatelist, but is girlfriend was a filateist. Anyhow, he had this thing with foot fungus: he was always telling me to piss on my feet in the shower because it killed the 1% of foot fungus that traditional washing didn’t take care of – he heard this from Madonna of all sources (the pop singer, not the Madonna) (And now that I write that down, I realize this means he was pissing in my shower; why did that not register earlier?). In addition to his hankering for collecting stamps, he also had a thing for new socks (not so much a collection, I guess, but sort of). He was always going on about how one should always wear a new, not laundered, pair of socks in order to prevent unsavory foot fungus. And so, every morning, on my way out of the apartment he would exclaim, “I’m wearing new socks!” Though I never took to his ‘new pair of socks with each new day,’ I do get excited when a new pair makes the rotation.

    But it’s important to remember not everyday can be a new sock day. Were each day to greet our feet with a new pair of socks, we would be unable to punctuate “I’m wearing new socks!” with an exclamation mark. So that this slender vertical perched atop a daring point does not fall into disuse, it is our grammatical duty to suffer a worn argyle, a stretched stripe, a faded black, or a holy athletic. So if you’re wearing an old pair, today you prove your worth, good sir, rejoice!

    And if you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m wearing a faded black! Oh wait–was that not the right use of an exclamation point?” Fear not, your excitement concerning the greyish state of your black dress socks is both acceptable and encouraged. This is a dialectic system of sockary, which enables all wearers of previously worn socks to pride themselves on their commitment to heightening the enjoyment one gets when a new pair of socks makes the rotation: your willingness to wear black socks through their transition to gray increases our visual delight when we perceive the deepness of black that only an unworn pair can emit. Exclamation point approved!

    So…socks or stamps? Well, it’s kind of like eggs (free-range organic, of course) or pot (again, organic, of course); either will do in the end, but only one of the two deserves an exclamation point, and isn’t earning that most coveted of punctuation marks really what life is all about?

  9. Jonesin' For a Collegiate Fix said, on November 21, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    The only redeemable aspect about Karl Malone is the fact that he was excellent fodder for Dave Chapelle on Chapelle’s Show. I loved it when the fake mailman would say “I’m Karl Malone” in that impossibly deep voice. That was totally dope. The only other possibly redeeming quality about Karl Malone: he had the privilege of playing with Jeff Hornacek and Greg Ostertag (both of whom are infinitely more awesome than John Stockton).

  10. flandrumhill said, on December 16, 2008 at 4:17 am

    Stamp collecting can be very addictive. I got into it years ago while teaching at a private school. I had forgotten all about Brewster’s brilliant idea of using the inverted Jenny on a letter. Thanks for the memory 🙂

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