DAVID MURDOCK: On fascinating things – Gadsden Times

By David MurdockSpecial to The Times

There are certain subjects that hold an inexplicable fascination for me. I have no idea why or where or when, for example, I became fascinated with rock strata. I am, though. Love em. Ive actually traveled just to see interesting rock strata. Luckily, Etowah County comes equipped with seemingly endless strata, so I stay pretty well satisfied in that department.

Some of these fascinations become subjects of columns. Ive written two columns on roadkill over the years, for example. How many times Ive rhapsodized about the sky night, cloudy or otherwise lies beyond easy recollection. How many times have I gone on about the birds and animals in my yard or the view from the front porch? I quit counting.

There are others I have never mentioned in the column my endless fascination with whaling, for example. That one, at least, makes some sense since Herman Melvilles Moby-Dick is not only one of my favorite novels, but one I teach several times a year. To mimic Melvilles phrasing, subjects like whaling have become fascinadoes to me seemingly unrelated subjects that trigger endless research. However, I recently decided to do something about some of the more odd ones that dont fit anywhere in the college classes I teach. I usually lead a class at the University of Alabamas Osher Lifelong Learning Institute every term, typically on a literary or cultural topic, but Ive decided to do something more quirky for the summer term. Were calling it Daves Summer Grab Bag, and the course begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday with one of my weirder topics, micronations.

A few years ago, I started tracking micronations in the press. A micronation is a legally non-existent country that has been formed for any of a variety of reasons by ... well ... dreamers, I guess. The most famous one near here is The Conch Republic. Back in the 1980s, the island of Key West seceded from the United States as a protest against a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint that the locals found burdensome. This protest was mostly for the sake of humor, a political satire, but it quickly became a tourist draw, and the Conch Republic currently issues souvenir passports that some people mistakenly believe are real.

Other micronations are sincere attempts to secede from host countries and form ideal governments, and still more were formed for a variety of other reasons (some not always benign). Anyway, I read any article on micronations I stumble across.

Well continue the next week with invasive species plants and animals either knowingly or unknowingly introduced to non-native environments that have since taken over or otherwise become an issue. Think kudzu.

Next up my fascinado with sleeping and dreaming. Im still pursuing the ideal, perfect nap, and I may be on the verge of a breakthrough in my research. Just the other day, I napped past my bedtime. I literally woke up 45 minutes after I usually go to sleep and didnt quite know what to do. So, I watched a movie and went back to sleep. I was just a little exhausted that day. Sleeping and dreaming has been a subject of interest for me since my days as a psychology student, so that ones quite old.

After that, a more recent one the city of Alexandria. Not the one down the highway, the one in Egypt. And not the Alexandria of today, but the Alexandria of antiquity, the one with the ancient worlds most impressive library.

From there, well look at ruins and abandoned places in general. Thats also a recent fascinado for me, dating back to a trip I took a couple of years ago when I stumbled across the Windsor Ruins during my meandering in Mississippi. That experience was profoundly moving, even spiritual, so I never pass up a good ruin or abandoned place now in my travels. Theres even a wish list of places to visit.

Lastly, the granddaddy of all my fascinados dating to my childhood Native American mounds. I wrote an article about them for Gadsden Style a while back, and Ill be giving a talk about my visits to all the nearby mound structures to finish the Grab Bag.

Please come out and join us at OLLI, which offers an opportunity to learn new things, meet new people and go to new places. There are no tests, no homework and no degrees required. For information on how to join OLLI and sign up for sessions, either call 205-348-6482 or contact Shirley Dupont at 256-442-3769. I hope to see yall there.

A correction to last weeks column on the Battle of Midway: Ensign George Gays squadron consisted of 15 Devastator torpedo bombers, not 10 as appeared in the article. Its odd, I had the correct number in the first draft and, for some reason, corrected it. The error is mine.

David Murdock is an English instructor at Gadsden State Community College. He can be contacted at murdockcolumn@yahoo.com. The opinions reflected are his own.

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