Saturday, February 10, 2007

Are We On the Same Page?

I finally caught up with my magazine reading. I've written before about my obsession with keeping up to date on a few selected periodicals, so you can understand how distressing it was to have a pile of eight Newsweeks, five Entertainment Weeklys, and two InStyles on my bedside, next to my unread books (Brainiac by Ken Jennings, Size 14 Is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot, and a photography tutorial, among others).

I try to read Newsweek cover to cover, so that I have a reasonable grasp of current events. It's too easy to ignore topics on which I have no interest when I do my news scans on the web. Don't want to read about the war? Just don't click. Do want to know about the latest priest/Boy Scout Leader/Congressman scandal? Just don't click.

Once upon a time, most people watched the evening news with a choice of three channels. With the advent of hundred of cable channels, the audience is scattered, and what I see is not what you see. In fact, you can avoid the news altogether and watch an all-puppies, all-the-time show instead. How does a society make good decisions when its members aren't getting the same information?

One of my favorite books, Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, talks about increasingly balkanized knowledge. In this future world, everyone receives a customized digital edition of pop culture stories – not a lot more extreme than the web today – displaying just sports, or just fashion, nothing one doesn't want to see. However, the culture's New Victorians have a different view.

One of the insights of the Victorian Revival was that it was not necessarily a good thing for everyone to read a completely different newspaper in the morning; so the higher one rose in the society, the more similar one's Times became to one's peers'.

In a world where almost everything is compiled using nanotechnology and little is physically made, Stephenson describes a shocking fact.

The top stratum of [of the society] actually got the Times on paper, printed out by a big antique press that did a run of a hundred or so, every morning at three A.M.

I'm not solving the world's problems by any means, but at the very least, I know that the world has an inordinate curiosity about Anna Nicole Smith.


Our troupe is performing at a grand ball on Friday, bringing up the question, "What to wear?" I used to plan my outfit months in advance for this event, choosing fabrics and designs with my costumer. This year, not so much. I was feeling kinda frumpy, when I went "shopping" in my closet today and found a 1930's style gown that I haven't worn in years.

This ol' thing? It'll do.


Mamacita Tina said...

Now that you mention it, it is scary how we pick out what news we want to hear. We really aren't seeing the global picture anymore, not unless we pursue it. Let's face it, only a scant few are probably doing that. Yikes! I'm as guilty as the next for not keeping up. I need to make a better effort.

That dress...absolutely beautiful!

bubandpie said...

There are certain types of news that I conscientiously turn away from - upsetting stories that will simply produce compassion fatigue. I think the news abuses our compassionate instincts, creates a sense of learned passivity... I tend to focus on news that has a specific purpose (i.e. around election time, reading about the candidates platforms).

Mayberry said...

Love the dress! And the book sounds fascinating.

Mir said...

You look stunning (if headless)!

Lara said...

oooh! i highly approve of the dress. this year, i'm going more swing style and less flowy-gown style. should be an interesting night! ;)

Jenny said...

I can't read the news or newsweek or any of that. I'm just too fragile. I wish I wasn't.

But that dress? It's beautiful!

Andrew's mommy said...

Love the dress. I hear you on being ridiculously behind on periodicals (among many other things). Every time a new mag comes in the mail I have a minor panic attack - eek! I need to finish the Nov 2006 issue and throw it in the recycle!

I recently found out that Ken Jennings is married to a friend of mine from high school (in Hong Kong!) whom I have fallen out of touch with. Small world. Didn't know he had written a book. Let me know how it is.

Lady M said...

Mamacita tina - I'm trying to feel less guilty for not reading the news, so don't let me add to your stressors!

And thanks everyone, for the dress compliments. :)

Bubandpie - Compassion fatigue - that is a great phrase. I must admit I avoid stories about missing or maimed children these days - too disturbing.

Mir - I'm headless in the picture because I didn't feel like doing makeup and hair just for the dress shot!

Lara - I'm looking forward to seeing your swing dress in person! It will indeed be an interesting night.

Andrew's Mommy - we have a lot in common - although I need to get a whole pile of things into the recycle bin sooner! I will let you know how the Jennings book turns out. It's great so far. What a coincidence about your classmate!