Junk mail or monthly bills

 Some people detest junk mail. I sort of like to look through it, because it’s about all the mail we get, except for the monthly bills.

I especially like the catalogs, even though I seldom order anything out of them. 

We get them on lots of topics from jigsaw puzzles to aquarium supplies. Somehow they figured out that we like puzzles and aquariums, I guess.

But one recent Friday when I got home from work, there was a different sort of catalog. It was wrapped in plastic and even had a CD inside. The title: “The Great Courses, taught by great professors.”

Inside were 50 pages of courses—science, math, art, music, literature and English language, history, philosophy, religion and economics—all available on DVDs and CDs.

And taught by professors from well-known universities, such as Oxford, Dartmouth, Stanford and Vanderbilt.

“They’ve got you confused with somebody who’s smart and rich,” my wife said, looking at the course prices.

Zing. I rationalized it away, though. At least she didn’t say somebody who’s smart or rich, I thought.

Anyway, I was kind of interested in some of the courses. It would be a chance to make up for some of my laziness while I was in college in the ‘60s.

I remember how surprised I was back then to find the professor actually expected us to buy—and read—all 13 books on the course syllabus for “The Foundations of Western Civilization.” Not as surprised as my parents, though, when my first semester grades report arrived at the house.

I had been able to make decent grades in high school without spending much time reading the text books and just assumed the same would hold true in college. Boy, was I wrong.

Anyway, in the catalog, I could get all 48 lectures by a professor at Notre Dame and 400 maps, photographs and drawings on the DVD for a new customer introductory price of $109.95. And I wouldn’t have to buy any books or write any of those Blue Book essays.

Or maybe I could learn about art or classical music, things I’ve always liked, but know little about.

I looked through course after course, and listened to the sample lecture, “Books that have made history,” on the CD that came with the catalog.

There’s even a course on “Building great sentences: Exploring the writer’s craft.” It may be too late for me on that one, I decided.

I browsed through the pages, quit daydreaming about all the stuff I could learn, and closed the catalog. That’s when I noticed the label on the back cover.

“Hey, Jenny, this catalog’s addressed to you,” I said.

Maybe I should add, “They’ve got you confused with somebody who’s smart and rich,” I thought.

Maybe not.


T. Wayne Mitchell, interim publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at publisher@newalbanygazette.com.