A mystery gift

Today when I got home from work, I noticed a package outside my door. Upon closer inspection, I noticed it was from Amazon, and was half open (half of the top was still taped down, the other half was not). I just received my order from Amazon today at the office, but my first instinct was that Amazon had messed up and sent me a duplicate order to my house.

But when I got inside and opened it up, I realized it was a book—Eeeee Eee Eeee by Tao Lin—that I had on my Amazon wish list. Again, I figured Amazon had screwed up and sent me something on my wish list that I hadn’t actually bought, but when I checked my Amazon account, I found I have not been charged for the book. Also, it’s showing up in the “purchased” section of my wish list.

And I have no idea who purchased it for me.

Also, the packing slip shows my home address for the shipping address, but the billing address has the author’s name and then an address. I’ve only received one thing ordered off my wish list before, and it was last Christmas from my mom, so I didn’t pay attention to the invoice. Is it the default to display the author of a book or the company name in the billing section of the invoice when it’s ordered anonymously?

Or did the author of the book send this to me???

I’m excited to receive the book, but since it’s not my birthday or any holiday coming up, I’m also a little bit weirded out. Either way, I want to know who to thank!

Update: After some Internet sleuthing, I discovered this. The author sent it to me. No shit.

It creeped me out at first, but I can see what he’s doing. I can dig it. So thanks, Tao Lin, for the book. I’m going to start reading it tonight, and will probably buy the other two of your books I’ve got saved on my wish list (as long as this one doesn’t suck ass).

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“Insanity is not the same for all times and places, but is culturally defined”

I am even more of a nerd than previously suspected

When I was in elementary, middle and high school, I hated history class. I did well enough to take the advanced classes, but I still hated it. I sucked at remembering dates, and I despised hearing about wars fought and lost from ancient times up through Desert Storm (not truly a war, but we still had to learn about that crap in high school some). War bored me, and to a certain extent it still does. I mean, aren’t we advanced enough to solve our differences without blowing each other to smitherines? Ok, that’s a different topic. Anyhoo…

The only thing that ever kept me going in history class was the social aspects. I loved the little vignettes in the books about how the people interacted, how they traded and bartered, what they wore, how they raised their children, etc. I was especially interested in medieval times; I think the sense of magic, mixed with the violence and nobility, drew me to it. In college I only had to take a couple general history courses, but I wish I would have had more money to spend on some medieval times courses. After I finished those two classes, I said good riddance to studying dates and boring wars for good.

But over the last year or so, I’ve found myself yearning to go back and re-study different periods in time. And I know exactly what triggered it–a book called The Social History of Western Civilization Ian found when we were going through our old textbooks, deciding which ones to sell and which to keep. We threw that book in the “sell” category (and I think it’s still on Half.com/Amazon, which I need to fix), but I grabbed it one day when I was looking for a book to read.

Well, I kept reading it off and on for the past year, and now that I’m about done with it I find myself wanting to read more. I discovered there was a volume two by the same author, and have found it listed on Amazon for about $10 including shipping.

But I wonder: Why didn’t I have a history class like Ian? He wasn’t a history major, so he must have just lucked out and had a teacher who chose to focus on the social history vs. warswarswarswarswars and other boring crap like mine did. I wonder if I had more teachers like his in grade school and high school, teachers who would have taken the time to figure out that hey, some students learn better when they have anectotes about the past to interest and stimulate them, would I have been a better student of history?

Because right now, as embarrassing as it is, I can not tell you the exact dates of WWI, WWII, when the battle of whateverthehellyouaretalkingabout was fought or who occupied certain countries at certain points in time. (I can tell you a little about Spanish and Mexican history because I had some awesome Spanish teachers, though.) But history that I’ve been supposedly learning, over and over, since birth? I haven’t retained much.

But I can tell you about swaddling, civil disorder, why people eschewed water and what they did with their insane in medieval Europe. And that makes for a whole hell of a lot better reading. To me, at least.