Cultivate a New Reading Habit Today

 

Reading is one of the most important things you can do every day. How do I know? First disclaimer: I am not a teacher, have nothing to do with the education industry, and yet I will give you an “expert” opinion. My opinion? The more you read, the more content and adaptable you will be. Cultivating a new reading habit, one that means you read intentionally every day, will give you lifelong benefits beyond pleasure. You will be more interesting and more easily entertained. You might even find some peace and calm in your life that is wholly unavailable to the television addicts. This business of reading is a new habit worth cultivating.

 

Read until your eyes pop

Now why would I write about this? The statistics about adult readers in the United States are abysmal. It seems that most adults, once they graduate college, don’t bother to read another book. How in the world is that possible? Don’t people go to college to become educated? To learn how to read and learn more? That might not be true anymore, as borne out by the statistics. People stop reading. But not all of us. I am an inveterate reader. That’s a nice way to say I can’t stop reading. My friends and I laugh about reading until our eyes feel like they will pop out of our heads. It turns out that makes us weird in this world, but we will keep reading.

Mark Twain’s observation

Mark Twain, no reading slouch in his time, said the man who won’t read is no better off than a man who can’t read. That should be chiseled above the doors of every school building in America, from preschool to university. What good does it do to learn how to read and then never read? You learned to read so you can use Instagram? Seriously? Okay, I’m being too snarky and offending you is not helpful.

What if Twain is right?

Yet, Twain was right. If you keep letting your mind rot by not reading, how can you adapt to a constantly changing world? How do you intend to keep a job, buy a home, a car, have a family, have a life? Reading and comprehending what you read is essential to life. And the future belongs totally to those who can read and understand how to do things to solve problems. It isn’t just mathematicians and scientists who have to know how to read in order to solve problems. Every high paying job, including blue-collar jobs, will require a high level of reading and comprehension skills.

The world spins toward complication

Everything that we use in life is becoming more complicated, especially as things are linked together. We have refrigerators that talk to us (ugh) and home security systems that want our attention, cars that run on our verbal commands, computer and software instructions that are ever more complex. Have you ever tried to put something together out of a box? You have to read the instructions because the pictures alone won’t tell the story. All of life is predicated upon reading and understanding. All of life, not just employment situations. We cannot afford to stop reading and a culture that won’t read won’t last very long.

Books are everywhere; where are the readers?

Now that you have had enough of the rant, why brings this on? As I read about who reads books, what kind of books, and then who buys books, I feel very discouraged. The number of readers is not encouraging. We need to read to increase our worth in the market place of work, but we don’t do it. We need to read to understand our world and make intelligent decisions about our lives. I keep reading the idea that if you read three or four books on a subject in a year, you will be an expert. An expert. That seems unlikely, yet I understand that when people do not read to better understand their field, if you read those three books on the subject, you will be light years ahead in the game. Pick up those books and read!

What does that have to do with kissing books?

People who read romance books and buy romance books to read are a hardy lot. As a group, romance readers outstrip average people. They read more books, in more subgenres of romance, than other readers. In other words, people want to read kissing books over and over and over again. Kissing books that are thrillers; kissing books that are historical, westerns, fantasy, sci-fi, whatever you can dream up. People who love romance books, LOVE romance books. They read them from the bookstore, the library, the swapping group, in hand or online, in paper or on electronic readers.

The point is they read all the time because they love their books. And that makes romance writers happy.

Keep reading

My advice is to keep reading. Then you can read some more. Whether you read books on gardening, gemstones, economics, history, art, music, or kissing books, you will learn something. You can be a more interesting person, always a plus, and have something intelligent to share outside of that awful subject of politics. Politics does not rule the world. People are interested in the big questions of life: who are we, where did we come from, where are going? The Bible can give us answers and we can buttress that with our reading in other areas.

What you read is not as important is that you actually spend the time reading. Your brain will thank you because it will help halt dementia. That should be enough justification to cultivate a reading habit. Enjoy your books and your calmer life. You will find the more you read, the more you can enjoy your life.

    Have a happy week reading!

Art Thefts, Pork Bellies and Big Money Deals

 

While you take the time to read this article, someone somewhere in the world is buying or selling stolen art. Every day is another opportunity for the thieves to increase their wealth while unscrupulous collectors add another work to their possessions. While these sales are illegitimate, unscrupulous and harmful to the art world, there are people behind the scenes trying to stop the transactions.

Van Gogh Vase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The arts as represented especially by paintings and sculpture top the list of things most easily stolen and sold underground to collectors. I wish we didn’t have to refer to them as collectors because I would prefer to call them criminal collectors. Or maybe just criminals. It seems that they shouldn’t be respected by calling them collectors. They live by their own rules with little concern for the long-term consequences of their criminal activities. What matters to them is an addition to their hoard of artworks that won’t be seen by the public.

Simon Houpt wrote The Museum of the Missing in 2006. The book is about stolen artwork and begins begins with a foreword by Julian Radcliffe, the chairman of the Art Loss Register, a world-wide organization based in London. The Register maintains a database of stolen artwork that is continually updated. Radcliffe notes, “Art theft has become a global problem.” He says, “It is a crime that affects all of us. Nearly half of all items recovered by the Art Loss Register are found outside the country where they were stolen. Great amounts of money are involved, there are links to organized crime, and the lost pieces of our cultural heritage are irreplaceable.”

Museum Room
Depicting Missing Artwork

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Houpt posits the theory that politicians are reluctant to spend money on retrieving the stolen items because most people don’t place a high priority on recovery. If people are ignorant of their heritage and history, they are not likely to think about the ramifications of the theft of art. It’s not that people actually dislike their heritage, but they might be among those who have never had the opportunity to learn about art and music.

As fewer schools teach classes in art and music, as the study of history is watered down or distorted out of recognition of the truth, people are not exposed to the importance of cultural items and historical significance. People who have never really listened to classical music might not appreciate Bach or Mozart, just as they missed the beauty of Renaissance Italian paintings or the French Impressionists.

My point here is not to belittle people who have little or no exposure to the arts. And this is not the article for a diatribe on the curriculum of public schools, although what is taught does affect the attitudes that people develop at an early age.

When I grew up we studied art and music from elementary school through college. I graduated with my undergraduate degree from a teacher’s college where our core curriculum included studying art, music and humanities. It was a shared belief in our nation at that time that well educated people meant people who were exposed to various expressions of our creative nature. Since that flew out the window some time ago, sadly we see the result is a lack of concern for our heritage in western society.

The Concert by Vermeer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The question for us to examine is why is there so much art theft? Art has become the currency du jour of the criminal underworld and terrorist groups. Art is easier to obtain (by stealing, naturally) than diamonds. Most of it can be made portable by cutting the paintings out of their frames and rolling them up or packing them into shipping cartons with other items. Art work can be held in escrow while transactions are being completed or stored safely in numerous places in the interim. Naturally the stolen work escapes the roving eyes of tax collectors so there will never be a public record of art for cash or weapons.

The fact that art prices have risen astronomically, to say the very least, makes all thefts that much more tempting. When the Masterpieces of art fetch millions of dollars each, people are much more willing to take extraordinary risks to obtain that work. Ergo, art has become a commodity not unlike pork belly futures. (I couldn’t resist a silly comparison to lighten up!) Art for dollars, or something more dangerous like weapons. A new methodology has entered the criminal world.

Art thefts and sales weren’t invented in the 20th century, of course. But the idea of trading a stolen Picasso or Caravaggio for a shipment of weapons brought a new seriousness and sinister atmosphere to the trades. It also brought in a higher level of policing. Stolen goods were one thing; swapping stolen art for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or fissionable material was a completely different situation. Now the intelligence services and security services have joined the local law enforcement constabulary in trying to find, track and capture the thieves, dealers, buyers and anyone else involved in the supply chain.

As Sherlock Holmes would say, the game is afoot. And it has become quite the game of risk worldwide. So far there is nothing to dissuade the thieves, so the loss prevention must happen at the site of the artwork exhibits. Sadly, that has been ineffectual many times. The thefts continue, the sales continue, and the weapons change hands so the worst among us can kill and destroy the best among us.

This is a moral problem on a huge scale. This criminal activity is the fourth highest ranking crime worldwide. Yes, fourth. I will continue to talk about this aspect of art theft in future blogs. Enjoy the paintings in your local museum and think what you would be missing if they were stolen.