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Read this ramble -- once over lightly

For the past couple of weeks, whenever you picked up a Sunday paper or a news or family magazine you would find a list for "light summer reading." The expression conjures up the image of a very casual reader in a hammock with a cold drink (lemonade or iced tea) at his or her side, reading a paperback of little or no practical or literary value. The unspoken message is, "It's summer -- don't tax your brain."

In order to understand what "light summer reading" is, there ought to be a list of "heavy winter reading," but I've never seen one. As for reading in the spring and fall, we are totally without guidance.

I'm not so sure this business of making just about everything you like "light" hasn't gotten out of hand. Did it start with beer? I had a beer once that had 76 calories in 12 ounces. It had the taste of 12 ounces of water poured into a beer mug that hadn't been washed out since a real beer had been in it. Forget it. Is that what light summer reading is all about?

When I was a kid we all drank whole milk, ate real butter, eggs with yolks, regular cottage cheese, regular salad dressing, regular hamburger (there was no extra lean), put cream on our strawberries, ate regular bread and cereal and genuine ice cream; the term low-cal had not yet been invented, and there were no cooking light magazines or cookbooks.

Another thing we didn't have: an obesity epidemic. Today we have the opposite. So we go out and order a double cheeseburger, a ton of French fries, and a diet coke. What is the point of the diet coke? Where have we gone wrong?

Why do we have childhood obesity? Because regular old running, jumping and random kids' play and games have been replaced by low sweat, or no sweat, activities like hours of TV (turning our kids into couch potatoes who watch reality TV, which has no literary or practical value) and computer games or at best, light workouts.

The point of having things light must be to avoid the strain of regular. We have hard rock music, but in case you think that's too loud or harsh to your sensitivities, we have light rock. Is it the same as soft rock? I don't know. And in case regular classical music is too, well, classical, for your taste, we have light classical.

Whenever we make something light, it's like we're apologizing for the real thing. If light could talk, it would say: "Oh, I'm sorry, was I coming on too strong? Let me water that down so it won't bother you so much. We want you to be totally satisfied. We'll squeeze some of the good taste out of this baby to make it easier for you to swallow. There now, is that better?" Light is like a race car not allowed to run over 55 mph.

Some things are not intended to have a light effect, they just turn out that way. For all the marvelous progress made by computers and cell phones, they have had the effect in personal relationships that has reduced communication between people in the direction of scratches on cave walls. Personal communication by e-mail, for example, does not have the depth and wallop of genuine letter writing. It's fine for business, but has the tendency to water down friendship with brevity, bad spelling and incomplete expression. And texting (I admit I have never texted) seems to be the current formula for low-cal friendship, or what I would call "friendship-light."

There now, for those of you who have read this entire ramble -- once over lightly -- you just had an example of light summer reading; nine paragraphs with no practical or literary value.