Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Masters or Slaves

From Colin Brezicki of St. Catharines in an Ontario newspaper article titled 'Books not read': -

"As an English teacher, I sympathize with essayist Robert Costanzo’s  fear that 'deep, prolonged reading is losing its relevance'. My own take on students’ apathy to reading literary fiction is that they are now empowered by their technology, able to traverse the cyber universe with the swipe of a finger, while reading fiction has always required a surrender of the imagination to the writer. Empowered and entitled 'digital natives' are not hardwired for surrender.

In the new cyber culture of instant gratification, distraction and multitasking, the literary imagination takes too long, is too slow and unwavering, and so it will shrivel from lack of use. Or, at the least, become a vestigial organ, an appendix. 

The irony, of course, is that the masters of technology are also its slaves, a paradox that literary fiction has explored from many angles. But no one goes there any more."

Great books that require "deep and prolonged reading" may sometimes be made into movies. Sometimes the result works, like 'Lord of the Rings' or the 'Life of Pi'; other times it doesn't so well. It seemed to me that the recent release 'Midnight's Children' was in the latter camp. Salman Rushdie's droll, meandering prose doesn't really work as a picture. Much of the wit and whimsy is lost. One needs to linger over his text as with any great writing. Is the rising generation learning how to linger over anything? Devote single-minded attention to one thing for hours at a time?  Be master of their time and attention?

The Yawn of Flash and Dash

Have you noticed how advertising for 'performance' car and truck  is looking more and more like a James Bond movie?  Trucks pull enormous boulders or other behemoths across terrain the like of which no buyer will ever encounter. Cars race up snow-covered mountain pathways or tear down alpine hairpins at insane speeds.

The best car I ever owned was an Audi Quattro. It ran well and was the safest thing I've driven on our winter roads. But the current "Land of quattro" promotion, with its acres of deep wilderness snow which should never see anything mechanical that doesn't have tracked propulsion, is absurd. Gone are the ads for sensible Swedish Volvos which save you in that roll into the snowy ditch that we Northern drivers all face at some point. Instead we have Vorsprung durch Technik which resembles a Mars Lander on steroids.

To counter this Euro-Japanese souped-up-dodgem-car hutzpah, American manufacturers extoll the virtues of the automobile as infotainment centre. Anything your laptop/tablet/smartphone can do can be done en route in comfort. Never mind drugs and booze for getting high while you drive. You can get all the kicks you need from your dashboard. Connection is always in. No need to feel lonely or worry about what's going on outside.

Everyone knows today's road vehicles are reliable, durable and much safer. So what's left to say about them other than hyperbole...and 'Zoom, Zoom'?