If you’re searching for an answer, books are pretty trustworthy, but less likely to answer your question. The Internet makes answers easy to find, but they’re of dubious quality. Actual human interaction — asking someone who knows — is a happy medium from the oldest of schools, but who has time for human interaction? The Free Library is making time this Wednesday, June 20, with Living Library. They’ve recruited dozens of experts on various topics who will be making themselves available for 15-minute “checkout” slots during the free evening.
We spoke to some of the available “living books,” including a homicide detective, a nontheist activist, a master homebrewer, a musician and teacher, a photographer and a scientist who studies smell and taste. Each was so much more interesting than fits in this space, but here are a few excerpts, along with a book recommendation for someone who wants to know what each person’s job is really like. Or you could just go check them out yourself.
What do you do, Nancy Rigberg?
I own Home Sweet Homebrew and I teach people to make beer.
Where does that skunky taste come from?
You know when you go to a bottle shop and you see those big cases with the fluorescent lighting and the clear glass? (The bottle shops are going to hate me for this.) When you’re buying takeout beer from a case, don’t ever take the front six-pack. Take the ones that aren’t directly exposed to the light, because light is the enemy — light and heat. Beer, while sturdy, is not indestructible.
Is it gauche to bring a nice bottle of beer to an expensive BYO?
There are a lot of food pairings that don’t match up with wine at all where beer marries beautifully! Salads, anything with acidity, asparagus, chocolate — beer goes better with chocolate than red wine does.
Read: Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery by Sam Calagione
We remember Sam when he was just a little Dogfish, not the big Dogfish he is now! [Laughs.] Otherwise, Where the Wild Things Are! It’s kind of like herding cats, herding brewers.
What do you do, Margaret Downey?
I’m a social activist representing the nontheist community [atheists, agnostics and more] and the founder of the Freethought Society.
You had a near-death experience that didn’t affect your lack of belief in a higher power?
Yes — I was deprived of oxygen after a surgical procedure. I floated above the bed and saw the nurse’s station and looked back and I was there, choking. I started walking toward a bright light, and at the end of the tunnel was my dear departed Uncle Floyd. He died when I was 16; he had been my mentor through my teenage years and taught me to ask a lot of questions about the world. [He was also an atheist.] As I was walking toward him, I was revived.
Rather than thinking of it as super-natural, I started researching and it boiled down to this: We are human animals that all experience the same thing when we are deprived of oxygen. That sense of floating is a symptom of what’s happening to your brain. When you see someone you’ve missed, who has died … your brain has a memory, and of course you want to see that person again. I never had any mystical attachment to it; I knew science could — and did — explain it.
Read: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
I’d also recommend One Woman’s Fight by Vashti McCollum, who fought to get the reading of the Bible stopped in schools all the way to the Supreme Court. The book was written in the 1940s, but it’s still compelling and wonderful.
What do you do, Tim Scally?
I’m a detective in the Philadelphia Police Department assigned to the homicide unit.
Is the “CSI effect” real?
We deal with it all the time with juries. All the time. They want to see it projected on a big screen, they want fingerprints, they want DNA, they want the smoking gun — most of the time, we don’t have that. We have a lot of witness testimony, and we don’t get our witnesses out of central casting.
Does any show get some details right?
The First 48 is the closest to what we do. But they have their own desk, their own car — that’s a reality show, but we’re a bigger department, we don’t have the same things. Another is The Wire, when two [detectives] get a car key and go out to the car lot, and the car’s not there. And that is so true.
Why do you think some people talk to you instead of a lawyer after you’ve read them their rights?
[Deadpan.] I think it’s my bubbly personality. No, I think it’s conscience.