After reading this post, please wash your hands thoroughly. I’ve been suffering through a particularly nasty cold since Friday, and I wouldn’t want to pass it along.
Recommended by a friend, I finished Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, by Steven Johnson. As a longtime pop culture freak who is still somewhat ashamed of my obsessions, I assumed this book would be merely a snark-filled defense of the lowest common denominator. In truth, Johnson has put forth a excellent book that doesn’t defend pop culture; wasting hours in front of “Grand Theft Auto” is still not High Art we’re talking about, here. The book proves how complex modern pop culture is compared with earlier generations’ pop culture. For example, we’re using far more of our brains while watching “Lost” and “24” than previous generations did when watching “The Dukes of Hazzard” or “The Love Boat”. Modern popular entertainment has become far more complicated than it was just a handful of years ago, and it’s making more of a demand on us mentally. The book also has a fabulous chapter on the intellectual and emotional complexity of reality television, too, for all those haters out there who still think Survivor and The Amazing Race are shows for mouthbreathers.
It is compelling, readable, and handy to have at the ready the next time an uncle at a holiday gathering breaks into the ‘kids in my day’ speech. Or when you come across a George Will op-ed.