Thursday, February 02, 2006

'Now this...'

I don't own a cell phone.

I say that, frankly, with a little bit of pride and a little bit of embarrassment. And, every year that goes by such an admission feels even more alien, more absurd — even though it's been perhaps only a decade or so since it became a mainstream must-have.

But enough about my dinosaur technology know-how. Now this...

There's a great post over at PressThink, the weblog of New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen. The post comes from Andrew Postman, son of the late Neil Postman, who wrote my absolute most favorite book from college, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Like the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Postman's circa-1985 book was way ahead of its time. Interesting aside: Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, named his solo album, Amused to Death, after Postman's book. And, Pink Floyd nearly recorded the soundtrack for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but backed out at the last minute. And, Pink Floyd's song "Echoes" plays relatively in sync with the last 20-minute act of 2001. Anyway, now this...

As Andrew Postman points out in his post at PressThink, who then would have imagined a media landscape that included the Internet, cable television, TiVo, DVDs, blogs, ipods, PDAs, HDTV, call-waiting, instant messaging and, yes, cell phones? Certainly Postman didn't imagine all those things, and yet 20 years later his words ring amazingly true. His "Now this" concept — in which the reporting of rape and murder on the 6 o'clock news is segued into a story about a local event featuring silly dog tricks, which is followed by commercials for Viagra, Ford trucks and Capital One no hassle credit cards. The sequence of ideas is so random — some would argue insane — and yet it's something we've all grown accustomed to, especially with television.

But we see it in all media, too. If you're reading these words right now, you probably got here through a link from the Stowe Reporter Web site, and to get there you might have googled "Stowe." Diversity of opinion, or information overload? Fragments instead of whole sentences. Sound bites in place of context. Spliced images over words. He said this. She said that. Breaking news scrolls — the suicide bomb in Israel, Jennifer Aniston's latest date, how not to gain weight by eating raw meat, a squirrel on water skis, the budget deficit, outrage over a Vermont's judge's sentence for a sex offender, bird flue is coming, Seahawks won 26-17 in overtime.

Anyway, Postman's book is a great read, and I'd recommend it to everyone. And now a word from our sponsors...

— Scott Monroe


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