Why You Should Read This, And Everything, More Slowly

A visitor takes a book off a shelf at the The ...
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How much do you read every day? How quickly?

One writer makes an interesting, and I think, cogent argument for reading less, slowly. He links it to the slow food movement, the notion being that less is more, a life that is consumed with thoughtful, selective pleasure rather than enormous gulping bites and swallows, is one worth living.

I agree.

The only blogs are a a few I read here. I read three papers every day and about 20+ magazines a month. But if I am not also reading a book, or several, (let alone looking at art, listening to music, watching a performance), my brain is going dead. I see a large and crucial difference between being informed (news) and entertained/instructed/forced into reflection.

It does me, and many others, little good to just know a lot of stuff. When was the last time, regardless of medium, you read something that left you sitting there in awe at its power and beauty? What was it you read?

Here’s the interesting argument in Forbes, by writer Trevor Butterworth:

If the moral of this story is that media commentary is like navigating in fog, the crisis of journalism is, at this point, sufficiently real to be seen as part of a wider conceptual crisis brought about by new-media technology: a crisis that is located, primarily, in the cognitive effects of acceleration and its cultural backwash. In short, a relentless, endless free diet of fast media is bad for your brain. Generation Google ( GOOG news people )–those who have never known a world without the Internet–it turns out, not only cannot use Google effectively, they don’t even know enough about how to search for information to know they can’t use Google effectively. The idea that the kids are whizzes at multimedia tasking is a platitude confected by middle-aged techno gurus to peddle their expertise as explainers of generational difference. In fact, relentless multitasking erodes executive function. And while the brain may not be overloaded by 34 gigabytes of brute information a day, it appears that too many of these mental quanta are the equivalent of empty calories. PlayStation and texting need to be balanced out by reading novels, handwriting (for old-fashioned digital dexterity) and playing with other live people if you want your child to develop to be an effective, skill-acquiring, empathetic adult….

The idea of consuming less, but better, media–of a “slow word” or “slow media” movement–is a strategy journalism should adopt. It will be painful, as it involves thinking about media as something sustainable, local and (hardest of all for hard-bitten hacks) pleasurable. But as the historian Michael Schudson has argued, it’s simply unrealistic to expect the public to read newspapers as a daily personal moral commitment to democracy. Instead, look to what Dave Eggers has brilliantly shown with the San Francisco Panorama, namely that the physical quality of a newspaper and the aesthetic pleasure of reading can make people so excited about journalism that they’ll buy it–not just conceptually, but in terms of parting with cash.

Eggers could well be the Alice Waters (queen of American slow foodies) of the news media, McSweeny’s its Chez Panisse. But even more explicit in advocating principles of slow media is Monocle, a luxuriously bound and produced monthly by Tyler Brule, a journalist turned creative guru and, crossing Jane Jacobs with John Ruskin, an apostle of a 21st-century, globally aware aestheticism in everything from a cup of espresso to urban planning and airline uniforms.

Is 34 the New 14?

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Help me out here.

I just saw “Away We Go”, a new film by Sam Mendes about a hipster couple, both 34, who wander about trying to decide where to settle down and raise their baby. She’s a medical illustrator and he sells insurance over the phone — the perfectly mobile dyad (and how many of those are there really?) who have, for some, the ultimate luxury of choosing to live anywhere. So where to go? In their beater car, they start driving in literal and figurative circles, trying on fantasy lives in Phoenix, Tucson, Montreal (clearly not Montreal) and Miami. But it’s really a national tour of dysfunction. Everyone they visit in their search for a new home, (really more of a sad and somewhat desperate search for models of how to be[come] parents and partners) is worse than the next: her potty-mouthed ex-boss; his parents, about to move to Belgium; his old college pal whose wife has just miscarried their fifth child, the ditzy academic still breastfeeding her five-year-old. Could it get any more depressing? Or unrealistic?

I know, it’s a movie. But I so wanted to be charmed and amused. I was curious to see what Mendes, a smart and talented director, had come up with. Maybe knowing the writers were Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida should have tipped me off right there.

The first scene starts by her slapping him — an impulse I understood, and felt throughout almost the entire film. She plays an emotionally rootless Madonna, a halo of ringlets framing a face whose expression is most often one of bemusement or resignation. She’s 34, not 14. What’s up with this passivity? Continue reading “Is 34 the New 14?”