Over the past few months, my interests have been all over the place. I haven’t made it a week without falling down a rabbit hole. Most of the fun comes from the free fall and getting lost in something new, but it’s also fascinating trying to figure out what led me to the fall, whether it’s a movie, a song on the radio or some random thought.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I watched “The Sandlot,” a movie about a group of neighborhood kids who love baseball and battle with a ball-hoarding beast. I first saw it almost thirty years ago, but I still find myself responding to people and inanimate objects with “You’re killing me, Smalls,” and I can’t hear the word “forever” without saying it in slow motion in my head.
As it turns out, rewatching the movie coincided with the start of baseball season, and I started getting recommendations for highlight clips online. I haven’t been interested in baseball since I collected cards as a kid, but I’ve now watched countless hours of highlights online and checked out multiple books from the library.
“Baseball Miscellany” by Matthew Silverman answers random questions about baseball, including the history of sandlots, how a curveball curves and the history of team names. A lot of teams are named after what their cities are famous for, like the Milwaukee Brewers or the Boston Beaneaters, a name once held by the Atlanta Braves when they were in Boston. But there are also teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, a name based on their team color, and the Chicago Cubs, based on how young their team was in 1902. The football team named themselves the Bears as a play on this in 1922.
Short stories about famous, infamous, and little-known players can be found in “The League of Outsider Baseball” by Gary Cieradkowski. One such story is about Nemesio Guilló, who is credited with bringing the first baseball bat and ball to Cuba in 1864. When the Spanish outlawed the game during the first Cuban War of Independence, it quickly went underground and became a way to peacefully protest the Spanish ban.
Another recent interest has been jazz music, initially sparked by watching videos of jazz drummers, like Larnell Lewis, who’s incredible. He plays with a group called Snarky Puppy, and we have its music on CD and Hoopla, one of the library’s online resources. Then, on my way to work one morning, I heard “Traffic Jam” by Artie Shaw, and it pushed me over the edge. You also can listen to his music through Hoopla. I’ve since started watching “Jazz” by Ken Burns, which we have as a DVD set but it’s also available to stream digitally through Hoopla and Kanopy. You can also check out the companion book for this documentary series, “Jazz: A History of America’s Music” by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns. It’s packed with information and pictures, including one of a young Arthur Arshawsky, better known as Artie Shaw, who apparently purposefully got kicked out of high school so he had more time to practice music.
“Dungeons & Dragons,” a fantasy role-playing game involving monsters, imagination, and a lot of dice, has always been on my radar, but I only recently got a chance to play. To create my character, a halfling rogue with a green jacket, I spent hours reading through the official “Player’s Handbook” by Mike Mearls. I also looked through “Dungeons & Dragon Art & Arcana: A Visual History” by Michael Witwer, which does exactly what it says, covering the history of the game from its beginning in the mid-1970s through the present. It’s filled with illustrations showing the evolution of the game, as well as pictures from old advertisements and scans of original documents used for the game. It’s a great visual archive for anyone interested in the game.
Most rabbit holes turn out to be more of a divot than a hole, only brief distractions, which is good if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands.
Every now and then, however, those rabbit holes open up to a whole new world. It’s important to follow those trails and see where they lead. You might only get a fun fact or two, but you might also pick up a new skill or find what you want to do with the rest of your life.
No pressure, but maybe indulge in some of those tangents and see where they take you.
Jared Richards is the learning and information services supervisor for Manhattan Public Library.