Gaming on the ZX Speccy, oceans, and harrumphing at the White House

I think I’ve managed to avoid doing any ‘short rounds’ posts this year, but three months in the streak ends. It’s not my fault, I swear. It’s the books.

First up is The Nostalgia Nerd’s Retro Tech, a mostly-graphic look at fifty computers and gaming devices from the United States, Britain, and Japan beginning with the Magnavox Odyssey and moving through to the Xbox, with some additional comments at the end on PC gaming and handhelds in general. This is a coffee-table book for aging gamers and tech nerds, I suppose: it’s largely graphic, with photos of the devices in question (including profile shots), a brief write-up on the machine’s source, potential, and reception, and then three featured games: a ‘must see’, a ‘must play’, and a ‘must avoid’. If you fall in its niche, I suppose it’s a fun book to have around:I can imagine guests coming over, rifling through it, and yelping, “Wow! Elite! I haven’t seen that game since I was a kid!”. The write-up on each machine is adequate, but given the amount of tech covered, not substantial, and the mix of machines is a little odd. The focus is on gaming machines, especially consoles, but multiuse computers like the Apple II and the ZX Spectrum appear — at first. The Macintosh and IBM PC and all that followed are no-shows. At the end, the author writes that handheld consoles and the PC market deserved their own books, and given that the Nerd has subsequently published a book on retro-gadget history, he may have such works in mind. I think this volume would appeal more to people (late Boomers to early Millenials, chiefly) who grew up with these machines and remember things like the Nintendo/Sega platform war more vividly. In my case, I only ever used Gameboys until I moved to PC gaming, so I never had a dog in the fight. I did learn a few things from this, though, like that Atari had a series of machines and not just “The Atari”.

Next up is Sarah Dry’s Waters of the World, which I have been poking through for the better part of two months. It’s a hard book to summarize, let alone review, because it tackles so much: beginning with attempts to understand glacial movement, Dry develops a story of how scientists from varying backgrounds have struggled to understand the enormous and entangled natural forces operating on Earth — we see meteorology giving rise to climatology, and then dive into the connections between climate and the oceans. Fluid dynamics and trying to understand what constitutes the oceans and makes them behave the way they do constitutes much of the latter half of the book. It should have been compelling, fascinating ,but the more it moved into discussing models the more I struggled to stay interested. I like the premise of the book — a mix of adventure and scientific enterprise, like The Ice at the End of the World, but I just couldn’t get in to it the way I do with most pop-science reads. Science survey slot: Geology & Oceanography, and especially appropriate because it took on both.

Lastly was an odd little book I spotted in a Little Free Library called Weep No More, My Lady, written by W.B. Debnam, a Carolina journalist, in response to Eleanor Roosevelt’s patronizing mentions of the South in her My Day column as a poor and unhappy place. It was published in 1950. Although the author opens with a defense of Roosevelt from her critics, who claim that she only has a place of prominence because she was married to one of ‘our greatest presidents’, the cover art and the author’s final comments hint that this defense is something of a ruse. Franklin Roosevelt was enormously popular in the south, in part because of programs like the TVA, but Eleanor’s civil rights boosterism was received altogether differently in areas that had just reasserted the dominance of the old plantation elite at the turn of the 20th century, only a few decades prior, disenfranchising blacks and poor whites. The book opens with the inarguable proposition that poverty existed everywhere in the United States, and then goes on to argue that it was worse in the north because of congested, filthy conditions — opposed to the more dispersed rural poverty, in which struggling tenant farmers might linger in debt but at least had clean air and no bullying organized crime. Shifting gears, Debnam points to the fact that the South’s poverty was new, born of of the Federal army’s wholescale destruction of its cities, farms, and men — and the Southerner quotes after-action reports from men like Sherman to illustrate the scale of the destruction they wrought, even in the last months of the war when it was clear the South’s bid for independence was lost and when such destruction was more gratuitous than anything else. The author continues with by pointing to the mercantilist exploitation of the South’s resources after the war during reconstruction. At the last, though, the author reveals the intentions of the book, when he accuses Roosevelt of hypocrisy for continuing to inveigh against segregation in the South while she practiced it within the White House, replacing a mixed-race kitchen staff with an all-black staff on the grounds that a group worked better together when its members were all from the same culture. I’ve not heard this before and would need to look into it further: Doris Kearns Goodwin may have mentioned it in her history of the Roosevelt White House. At any rate, once this line of thought appears, it makes the book appear to be less a defense of the South (and a celebration of its economic recovery) and more a masked admonition that the government stop meddling on the basis that its prior interventions in the area have led to starvation and poverty. Comparing the Federal army’s desolation of the Southland to ending segregation would have been a stretch in 1950, let alone today.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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1 Response to Gaming on the ZX Speccy, oceans, and harrumphing at the White House

  1. Pingback: March 2023 in Review | Reading Freely

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