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Snacktime: Bushfires and Books12:21

"On Fire" by u/DemitriSirenko
"On Fire" by u/DemitriSirenko

TL;DL (Too Long; Didn’t Listen)

Ben and Amory discuss a Reddit deep-dive about the Australian wildfires and one man's very, very long reading list.


-7 ways to help with victims of Australia's deadly wildfires right now [Fast Company]

-The video of two Australian firefighters not shaking hands with the Australian Prime Minister

-u/ennuinerdog details the Australian Prime Minister's response to the fires
-Jackkity's post of his grandfather's reading log
-The digitized record of the books Timothy Blodgett read
-Timothy Blodgett's obituary 

Thanks to Dmitri Serenko for the the cover image. You can find more of his work at his website and his Instagram @dimitrisirenko. 

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Full Transcript:

This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text.

Ben Brock Johnson: Hey y’all.

Amory Sivertson: It's a snacktime.

Ben: Snacktime!

Amory: But this is pretty weak that our first Snacktime of 2020 there are no snacks in sight.

Ben: Well, you know, we're in recovery.

Amory: Still.

Ben: Did you have a favorite snack you had over the holiday?

Amory: Yes.

Ben: Go on.

Amory: My mother in law makes something that she just calls crack. It's saltines covered in…

Ben: Pig's blood?

Amory: I think it's covered in like onion powder and garlic powder and some oil or something. I don't know.

Ben: I made a Baked Alaska for New Year's Eve. Do you know what that is?

Amory: Is it a fish? Does it involve a fish?

Ben: No it does not involve a fish.

Amory: Okay. No, I have no idea.

Ben: It is a pan of brownies with a melted and refrozen mountain of ice cream.

Amory: Whoa.

Ben: Covered in brownie.

Amory: What!?

Ben: All of which is covered in meringue. The top of which is slightly dug out and filled with a liqueur that you light on fire.

Amory: It's like the turducken of desserts.

Ben: Yeah, basically.

Amory: Wow.

Ben: All right. So my snacktime contribution this week is a little bit unorthodox. Are you ready?

Amory: Yes, I believe so.

Ben: Okay. It's not necessarily a story in the way that we usually tell stories, but it is a thing that is happening in the news right now, which connects to the beginning of why Reddit exists. So what was Reddit used for way in the beginning?

Amory: What was it used for?

Ben: Yeah.

Amory: Like the news? Like just a way to share the news?

Ben: Yeah. Yeah. You got it. So this happens a lot still. And some of Reddit's really well-sourced posts are some of the best posts that you can still find there. Another form of this is videos, gifs and photos of news events. Right. And so this video that I'm going to play for you now sort of shot up to the top of our feed just in the last few days. I don't know if you saw this, but I think we should watch this video together.

(video plays)

Amory: This guy says, oh, I don't really want to shake your hand, there's a guy wearing kind of all yellow. He looks like a like a service utility worker, maybe a firefighter or something. He's standing up with his coffee. There's another guy in a hat. He's being followed by cameras. Oh.

Ben: Do you know what this is?

Amory: Well, the caption gave it away a little bit.

Ben: What does the caption say?

Amory: “Firefighter refusing to shake Australia's Prime Minister's hand.”

Ben: Yeah.

Amory: Brutal.

Ben: It’s brutal right?

Amory: But, this is a tough time.

Ben: It’s a tough time. So because you and I have reported a little bit on the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison is part of our Hillsong episode. We know that he has connections to Evangelical Christians in that country. We also know that he's basically a climate change denier. And his response to the massive wildfires there have been received, we could say, pretty poorly. And poorly enough that they've reverberated here in the US. And so that video is showing him trying to shake the hand of a firefighter who apparently just lost his home to the fires, his own home, while fighting the fires. And that guy, it's hard to see, but that guy basically refuses to shake the Prime Minister's hand. And then the other firefighter, the Prime Minister goes to shake the other firefighters hand, and that guy picks up his coffee and says, time for a cuppa.

(video plays and guy says "time for a cuppa")

Ben: And that's him basically making it impossible for the Prime Minister to shake his hand as well. So this Prime Minister is getting iced super hard.

Amory: Yeah.

Ben: And there's a best of post that did also really well this week. And it was really sort of a comment about a news story talking about how the federal fire official in Australia didn't find out that the Prime Minister was deploying National Guard to fight fires from the PM's office, but from the media reporting it, which is also not a great look for the Prime Minister. But then this user does this interesting thing that users sometimes do in the "Best Of" subreddit, which is he does this really heavily sourced, link-laden post detailing how the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, has completely screwed up the response to the widespread brushfires in Australia since before they even started. OK, so this is like I'm sure, can you see this?

Amory: Yeah.

Ben: This is like twelve bullet points.

Amory: A novella.

Ben: It's a novella. So he talks about essentially a Prime Minister's climate change denial and how he, like the Prime Minister, brought coal into parliament and told people not to be afraid of coal. During the wildfires when they started out, he suggested Australians watch cricket instead of worrying about climate change or these brushfires. He also cut funding to fire services during his Prime Ministership. Of course, he sent thoughts and prayers, as you do. He also went on holiday to Hawaii a month into the brushfire crisis, and he stayed in a three thousand dollar per night room with a butler. I guess maybe that was on another holiday. But anyway, this guy is like, this Reddit user really just takes this Prime Minister's response to the brushfires apart, like piece by piece. There's probably like 50 links in this description. And it's just a really interesting thing that I think we come across on Reddit sometimes, where a really knowledgeable Redditor who's like super read in on a topic basically says, Oh really? You think that's interesting? Check this out. And we have some listeners in Australia and I wanted to like send them good vibes.

Amory: And thank you to the Redditors who you know, it's really easy to scroll through Reddit and just see gifs and pictures. But thank you to the Redditors who take the time to educate us all and break stuff down like that.

Ben: Yeah, it's pretty cool. Also, we will put a link to this on our website. It's a fast company article that basically details all the different ways that you can help from the U.S.. You can also donate to families of firefighters who have died while on duty. A lot of animals have died in the fires, as we know. And so you can support the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New South Wales. So we'll put a link on our site at wbur.org/endlessthread [HERE] so that if you want to contribute or support people in Australia, you can do that. One more story when we come back.

[Sponsor Break]

Ben: Okay, Amory, you've got a story for me, right?

Amory: Yeah. So this comes from about a year ago, a user with the username Jackkity, he posted in the books subreddit. And I don't know about you, Ben, but around the end of the year, beginning of the new year, I see a lot of people either celebrating how many books they read in the last year. I think that's a pretty common New Year's resolution, or they are setting that as their resolution for the following year. Like, I'm going to read a book a month or I'm going to read two books a month.

Ben: Or give me book suggestions for me to read over the holiday.

Amory: Yeah, a lot of people do that, too.

Ben: People ask for that too.

Amory: Yes, a lot of people come up with their like "Best Of 2019" lists. So here's someone who just blows everyone else out of the water. Not that it's a competition, but the subject line of this post in r/books from a year ago is, “My grandfather has kept a detailed list of every book he's read since 1949.”

Ben: Whoa.

Amory: The annotations on the right side are the genre. And then there are different codes for the books. So he says, you know, he uses the code F for fiction, PL if it was a play, PO for poetry, there's a nonfiction code. He also puts the average page count and the total number of pages read for that year.

Ben: Dang.

"Old Books" by u/SeizeTheMemes3103
"Old Books" by u/SeizeTheMemes3103

Amory: Yeah.

Ben: Does he highlight all the book? Does he use a highlighter and all the books underline stuff?

Amory: I don't think so. I printed out some pages like this.

Ben: Oh, middle school notebook paper.

Amory: Middle school notebook paper. Yep. It's handwritten. It says 1976 continued. And then he's going by month. So he's numbering the books and he's showing, you know, in the month of September he read books 30 through 33. And in the month of October he read books 34 through 37. And that's just for that year.

Ben: What does the inside of this guy's house look like, is a question I have.

Amory: Right? Yeah, does he rent all of these or does he have copies of all of these? And then he has, you know, the title of the book and the author. So it looks like he started out September with A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers by Henry David Thoreau. It was 410 pages. And by the time he completed that, he was up to 12,312 pages for the year.

Ben: When he when he walked into the library, would everyone just high five? Everyone like stands up from their chair to recognize and then puts out their hand for a high five?

"Book Depository" by u/BenjamintheFox. More at https://www.artstation.com/justinsadur and https://theshutteredcity.tumblr.com/
"Book Depository" by u/BenjamintheFox. More at https://www.artstation.com/justinsadur and https://theshutteredcity.tumblr.com/

Amory: Probably. I printed out another page that kind of made me tear up because my grandfather was a typewriter man. Everything he wrote to me was done on a typewriter.

Ben: Yeah I had similar grandfather vibes.

Amory: Yeah. And so this page happens to be from 1951. Same thing: numbering the books, going by month. But it's all in, you know, done on a typewriter. So people eat this up on Reddit, especially in the book subreddit. And not only that but he had scanned all of these handwritten and typewritten pages, but he didn't have a comprehensive digital copy of it. So he also said in that original post, like, if anyone wants to help me digitize this, I'd love your help. And two Redditors did jump in and help him digitize the whole list.

Ben: Wow.

Amory: So now there is a spreadsheet, which we will link to on our website where you can see all of the now 3,090 books that this man has read at least since 1949. The sad update to give is that he just passed away. His name was Timothy Blodgett. He just died this January, January 2nd. He was from Concord, Massachusetts. He was 90 years old.

Ben: I'm going to say this. If there is an afterlife.

Amory: Mmhmm.

Ben: Mr. Blodgett is in this sickest library of all-time right now with a huge stack of books.

"Forest Library" by u/allterlleringet
"Forest Library" by u/allterlleringet

Amory: Yep.

Ben: Just tucking in.

Amory: So either, you know, rest in peace, rest in power or read in peace. Read in power.

Ben: Read in peace.

Amory: And thank you to his grandson, Jackitty, for posting this and sharing his full list of 3,000 books.

Ben: Alright. That's our snack time for this week. We'll talk to you next week. Bye.

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