Saturday, June 25, 2011


T.S. Eliot photographed one Sunday afternoon i...

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The  Huffington Post often tends to look as if it was edited by someone on roller skates zipping around a warehouse full of piles of potential material; and grabbing stuff at random.

It lacks the professional feel of a New York Times. That said, there is plenty of content in it, and every so often one finds a gem.

Besides, I admire what Arianna Huffington is trying to do, especially in the context of the massacre of the media that has been taking place over the past decade or so.

Big Media (as in big corporate media) has not served this sector well. It seems to have forgotten the vital role that the Constitution dictates for the press (in all its forms). Profit it a fine thing, but the role of the media has never been (should never be) just about profit.

There is also its mandate to keep the electorate informed. If the electorate is treated like mushrooms,  it will vote like them. I guess  you know what they say about mushrooms. The Son Tay raiders (you can Google this) had a badge made up which said, more or less: “Kept in the dark, and fed horse shit.”

One could apply that remark to the American public with one proviso: All too many of us seem to want to remain, if not in the dark, in a state of  legally drugged distraction. Prescription meds constitute our hit of choice. And we are worried about the Iranians getting The Bomb! We already have it; and apparently most of us are permanently high, or otherwise not in full command of our faculties. Am I joking? I wish I was. I would have thought that the fact that more than half the adult population is on drugs would be a source of concern, but apparently not.  I guess that is one of the primary effects of being drugged.

I have just been reading a book about the Son Tay action – The Raid – which I thoroughly recommend.

But, let me return to my finding, that veritable gem of erudition (made all the more so because I agree with it)..

Such a gem is a piece by Johann Hari, a columnist for the London Independent. It’s entitled In The Age of Distraction, We Need One Thing More Than Ever: Books Unfortunately, this hyperlink does not seem to work so go search manually.

The more important point is: Bully for Johann!  The following is an extract. The full piece – if you can track it down - is well worth reading.

A book has a different relationship to time than a TV show or a Facebook update. It says that something was worth taking from the endless torrent of data and laying down on an object that will still look the same a hundred years from now. The French writer Jean-Phillipe De Tonnac says "the true function of books is to safeguard the things that forgetfulness constantly threatens to destroy." It's precisely because it is not immediate -- because it doesn't know what happened five minutes ago in Kazakhstan, or in Charlie Sheen's apartment -- that the book matters.

That's why we need books, and why I believe they will survive. Because most humans have a desire to engage in deep thought and deep concentration. Those muscles are necessary for deep feeling and deep engagement. Most humans don't just want mental snacks forever; they also want meals. The twenty hours it takes to read a book require a sustained concentration it's hard to get anywhere else. Sure, you can do that with a DVD boxset too -- but your relationship to TV will always ultimately be that of a passive spectator. With any book, you are the co-creator, imagining it as you go. As Kurt Vonnegut put it, literature is the only art form in which the audience plays the score.

T.S. Eliot called books "the still point of the turning world." He was right. It turns out, in the age of super-speed broadband we need dead trees to have living minds.

If that  last paragraph doesn’t resonate from your gullet to your zatch, you’ve had one pill too many.




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