Posted by: Gregg | October 3, 2006

Damn rhinovirus….

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.


  1. I… still can’t watch ‘reality’ TV. I have, now, even tried to watch The Amazing Race, since so many people I know are fans. But the crying and screaming and angst is annoying and then my attention wanders, and then before I know it, it’s over and I’ve ‘missed’ it.

    But I’m anti-social and hate ‘drama,’ so maybe it’s just me. But I will almost certainly never like ‘reality’ TV (scare quotes used to denote my disbelief that it’s really real… yeah, I’m a bit cynical, too!).

    Hope your cold gets better!

  2. Perhaps you need to watch TAR from the beginning. It’s really a relationship show at its heart – all the crazy stunts and exotic locales are just window dressing. The drama comes in when a couple is put under stress while trying to navigate their way by themselves in a foreign country with a swarm of cameramen following them around. It’s fascinating to see how different people handle it. You root for the good couples and watch the brittle ones self-destruct.
    The book talks a lot about using “Emotional Intelligence” while watching reality tv – noticing how people relate to each other while keeping all the friendships and alliances and lies in your head at the same time. It’s great stuff. Like all things, YMMV, but I’m all about it.
    If we don’t agree on reality television, at least tell me you’re going to watch the premiere of the third season of Veronica Mars tonight…..

  3. See, I think that’s part of the problem – I don’t care to watch other people interact, at least not in ‘real’ life. I’m not a… people person. Or something like that. I also can’t stand to see people humiliated or crying or failing (uh, yeah, even in completely fictional movies and tv shows, I still cringe). And I simply cannot stand watching people yell.

    I started watching TAR from the first episode this year. The whole ‘dad who can’t accept his gay daughter’ thing was a little annoying. So were the religious guys who wouldn’t shake the girls’ hands. I’m sort of rooting for the two Oriental brothers, because they seem the most ‘normal.’ No sob story or emotional crisis that I can see.

    I’ve never watched Veronica Mars, so probably not (ducks quickly). Dude – baseball playoffs! Plus, remember, I only watch like 2 shows at a time. It’s all I can remember. House is on hold until the playoffs are over, and Psych is out until January. I have the Friday night lineup on Sci-Fi… and that about does me in!

  4. See, that’s just yet another reason why everyone needs a TiVo. If I ever get Bill Gates rich I’m buying everybody one.

  5. I have a DVR. I just… don’t use it much. :/ I forget to watch what’s recorded and it fills up, or, in the case of things around sporting events, if the event runs over and they don’t update the guide (which they don’t) then it doesn’t record anything correctly, anyway.

    I have mine set to catch any episodes of Midsomer Murders that pop up, though!

  6. The first season of Veronica Mars is at the library, and absolutely worth placing a hold on. Think of it as Buffy, but who smacks bad guys with her mind instead of with her fu. And, y’know, no vampires.

    Having a DVR but not using it makes the baby Jesus cry.

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