Response to Ebert’s article on Frisson
I took the novel on the flight to Cannes,. I was up to page 60-something. I started reading, and was drawn in and delighted.
You’re doing great! Personally, I’ve never been inclined toward books. Frequently they just bore me, mind mind wanders, all of a sudden I’ve gone through 10-odd pages, and I don’t remember a thing I’ve read. It’s always been that way, and an obnoxious pressure from other people to read more books has only strengthened my contempt for them. I read more on websites than I would ever have read otherwise. Yes, there is frisson (which is splitting atoms,) but there are also articles that deepen my understanding of things that interested me, so I’m not concerned.
With the invention of channel surfing, and then web surfing, have we all become rewired?
You know McLuhan would say we have. Hot media, cold media, the massage, books, TV and radio, the global village. He’d say each invention changed our evolution as an organism. And of course Cronenberg would take it further by putting VCRs in our chests and video game plugs in the backs of our knecks.
Has the national attention span dropped?
Andy Warhol would say we have. When he was alive, he said we were on our way to having atrophied attention spans that could only focus on any thing for 15 minutes. Of fame, just like he said.
Is that why kids like shallow action pictures and why episodic television is losing to reality shows?
I think part of it is the pay-for-play market. The commercials keep people trained to obey and jump on command. The medium is the massage, remember? (As opposed to “the message,” which McLuhan also said.) It massages the brains of impressionable people into whatever shape the media desire, giving them an audience of mindless consumers. Besides that, the schools don’t encourage people to think or evaluate ideas for themselves. Hence your next point:
Is that why slogans are replacing reasoning in our political arena?
Schools could and should be teaching people critical thinking skills so that they can evaluate ideas, catch argument fallacies, escape propaganda, reject buzzwords, and act in enlightened self-interest. These things are not unrealistic dreams. They are real and attainable goals. If people had these simple skills, they might think, regarding politics, “Wait, A does not follow from B. Just because he defends the man does not mean he endorses the man’s crimes.” “I don’t really know what socialism is. I’m going to research it.” “If we provoke that nation filled with short-tempered idealists, it might blow up in our faces. Maybe we shouldn’t poke the hornet’s nest. If they attack us, of course we will defend ourselves. But otherwise, we should just leave them alone.” “The world cannot possibly be as simple as a comic book. The president talks about evil-doers who hate our freedom, but I think it’s more complex than that.” “Our government isn’t always right, and some of their actions may be harmful to the nation. I better watch them carfully and make sure they don’t bully people around.” “When I think about it, homosexuality doesn’t really affect me directly. I just feel uncomfortable thinking about it. Maybe I should learn to be more tolerant.” There is no reason schools can’t have classes to teach critical thinking!