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One in four read no books last year

If it's news, but not politics, then it goes here.

Postby wolfsbane » Thu Aug 23, 2007 11:59 am

Marvell wrote:It's overwhelmingly conservatives who are concerned about cultural decline - which they blame on liberals.


I don't know. I think plenty of liberals and even outright leftists are also concerned about cultural decline. This is not surprising because the decline in literacy is obvious, as is the increasing stupidity of mainstream media - entertainment and especially political discourse.

Conservatives tend to complain about cultural decline in terms of the rise of the countercultural values of the sixties, relativism, and taking other cultures seriously vs. culture remaining all about 'the western canon' and 'the great books'.

Liberals and leftists tend to complain about the fact that people have become so stupid that they can easily be persuaded by flimsy, moronic propaganda to support politicians and policies that screw themselves and the vast majority of the US population on behalf of the interests of the richest 1 to 5%. PW's post, and those of other such eager rubes all over the net, are a great example of how far this decline has gone.
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Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:15 pm

wolfsbane wrote:As for the movie/book comparison, I have to agree with the friends that movies don't remotely compare. When I get into a heavy fiction reading mode, movies seem superficial and uninteresting. The longest normal movie would barely make a 100 page book. There just isn't enough time or space to get into the kind of character development or complexity of stories and ideas that are possible with books.
See, this is snobbery, pure and simple, and there's no basis whatsoever for your assertions. I've read books with poorly developed characters and watched movies where I feel I've come to know them intimately. You simply prefer books, so you've elevated them in your head as being a "higher" art form.

A standard criticism of film is that it leaves less to the imagination than books. I strongly disagree. Sure, an author has to describe a mountain to you if they want it to appear vividly in your mind while a filmmaker can just show you. But when it comes to characterization, it's movies that make you think, not a book with an omniscient point-of-view that can simply tell you what's happening in a character's mind. Go watch Straw Dogs and tell me what the fuck Dustin Hoffman's character is thinking. In a film, you have to try to understand a character the same way you do in real life - by observing their behavior and listening to their words, without the benefit of some all-knowing tour guide telling you exactly what's going on. There's light years of difference between 2001: A Space Odyssey on film and on the printed page. All those mysteries which are what make the film both thought-provoking and impenetrable - Why did HAL malfunction? What is the monolith? What happens to Bowman at the end? - are simply spelled out for you by the omniscient narrator of the book. Is it really a valuable exercise to try to imagine a monolith of specific proportions when the images in the film are equally compelling and thought-provoking?

Film is also much better at conveying action.
Wouldn't you rather watch The Road Warrior then read about cars driving fast? Isn't swashbuckling just a tad more exciting onscreen then in print?

I'm not really trying to argue that film is a superior art form - I think making such a distinction is nonsense. I personally prefer film as a storytelling medium for a variety of reasons, but the important thing is that people like to tell and hear stories - what do you care if some folks prefer a different medium than you do?
Last edited by Prof. Wagstaff on Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Bwis53 » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:19 pm

I read so much on my computer for email, news, research and entertainment. By the time I'm done, about all I want to do, is sit back watch Robin Hood (the Errol Flynn version) Oh, I've got a few books I started...

If I knew I had time, my first interest would be more books about the American Revolution.
Last edited by Bwis53 on Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:21 pm

wolfsbane wrote: This is not surprising because the decline in literacy is obvious, as is the increasing stupidity of mainstream media - entertainment and especially political discourse.

Please back up any of these assertions.

People are far more literate today than they were 100 years ago. If you can cite a time when the mainstream media wasn't inundated with stupidity, I'd like to know about it. The majority of entertainment has always been aimed at the lowest common denominator, it just seems otherwise because of what we've chosen to elevate to the level of "classic" at the expense of ignoring those things we deem low-brow. And political discourse was nastier in 1800 then it's ever been in your lifetime.

So, please - get off your high horse.
You're merely confusing personal preference with an indication of quality.
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Postby white_rabbit » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:31 pm

wolfsbane wrote:
Liberals and leftists tend to complain about the fact that people have become so stupid that they can easily be persuaded by flimsy, moronic propaganda


Don't you get it? PW is arguing for an individual's right to be stupid and moronic. It's the evil elitist liberals that are trying to shove all this "education" down people's throats.
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Postby blunt » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:38 pm

For someone bemoaning no books read, he obviously hasn't seen the Book Section here on the Forum?
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Postby wolfsbane » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:08 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
wolfsbane wrote:As for the movie/book comparison, I have to agree with the friends that movies don't remotely compare. When I get into a heavy fiction reading mode, movies seem superficial and uninteresting. The longest normal movie would barely make a 100 page book. There just isn't enough time or space to get into the kind of character development or complexity of stories and ideas that are possible with books.
See, this is snobbery, pure and simple, and there's no basis whatsoever for your assertions. I've read books with poorly developed characters and watched movies where I feel I've come to know them intimately. You simply prefer books, so you've elevated them in your head as being a "higher" art form.

A standard criticism of film is that it leaves less to the imagination than books. I strongly disagree. Sure, an author has to describe a mountain to you if they want it to appear vividly in your mind while a filmmaker can just show you. But when it comes to characterization, it's movies that make you think, not a book with an omniscient point-of-view that can simply tell you what's happening in a character's mind. Go watch Straw Dogs and tell me what the fuck Dustin Hoffman's character is thinking. In a film, you have to try to understand a character the same way you do in real life - by observing their behavior and listening to their words, without the benefit of some all-knowing tour guide telling you exactly what's going on. There's light years of difference between 2001: A Space Odyssey on film and on the printed page. All those mysteries which are what make the film both thought-provoking and impenetrable - Why did HAL malfunction? What is the monolith? What happens to Bowman at the end? - are simply spelled out for you by the omniscient narrator of the book. Is it really a valuable exercise to try to imagine a monolith of specific proportions when the images in the film are equally compelling and thought-provoking?

Film is also much better at conveying action.
Wouldn't you rather watch The Road Warrior then read about cars driving fast? Isn't swashbuckling just a tad more exciting onscreen then in print?

I'm not really trying to argue that film is a superior art form - I think making such a distinction is nonsense. I personally prefer film as a storytelling medium for a variety of reasons, but the important thing is that people like to tell and hear stories - what do you care if some folks prefer a different medium than you do?


I didn't say books were better, or even that I liked them better. I said that you have to read a certain amount of them to develop thinking skills, and I said that fiction books can provide more overall complexity and better character development than movies. Films that leave more to your imagination... that's another way of saying they provide less - less character development especially. I enjoy that aspect of movies or short stories, but one of the reasons I read a long book or a series is to enter into someone else's imagination - to let them make up the characters and spin the concepts, in detail. Find me a 2 hour movie that delivers an Augustus McCrae (McMurtry) or a Phillip Carey (Maugham). Find me a movie that provides even a tiny fraction of the intricate imaginary worlds available in Herbert's Dune series or Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy. You can't. There isn't enough time. To pull off any of these in film would require many times as much screen time as a long movie.
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Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:12 pm

wolfsbane wrote:
I didn't say books were better, or even that I liked them better.

Riiiiiight... you just said that compared to books, movies "seem superficial and uninteresting." :roll:
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Postby pulsewidth modulation » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:13 pm

white_rabbit wrote:Don't you get it? PW is arguing for an individual's right to be stupid and moronic.


No he doesn't get it. He is a trained monkey, like many Madison liberals. As I note below, he repeats a common liberal talking point** which reiterates my previous comments. If people "choose" to consume non-elite material, they clearly need to be regulated because they are not "choosing" the "correct" media, thus these stupid people are enabling a "decline" in culture.

Actually, I defend individual's rights to be "stupid and moronic," as well as, individual's rights to acquire whatever knowledge they please from whatever source. Picking and choosing what is considered "intelligent" and "informed" vs. "stupid and moronic" is completely subjective.

Again, liberals look down onto those who don't consume what they do, which happens to be a higher proportion of 'bound literature' amongst their reading diet. According to left liberal dogma, anyone whose actions deviate from such a reading diet is by definition "stupid and moronic" as supported by this quote:

wolfsbane wrote:I think plenty of liberals and even outright leftists are also concerned about cultural decline. This is not surprising because the decline in literacy is obvious**, as is the increasing stupidity of mainstream media


Link please!

Literacy is increasing. Your statements are completely false.
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Postby green union terrace chair » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:20 pm

Print is dead.

Ah, the prescience of Harold Ramis.
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Postby Garimba » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:21 pm

pulsewidth modulation wrote:


Actually, I defend individual's rights to be "stupid and moronic,"


I for one applaud you for this and nominate you as their representative and poster boy.
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Postby wolfsbane » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:37 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
wolfsbane wrote: This is not surprising because the decline in literacy is obvious, as is the increasing stupidity of mainstream media - entertainment and especially political discourse.

Please back up any of these assertions.

People are far more literate today than they were 100 years ago. If you can cite a time when the mainstream media wasn't inundated with stupidity, I'd like to know about it. The majority of entertainment has always been aimed at the lowest common denominator, it just seems otherwise because of what we've chosen to elevate to the level of "classic" at the expense of ignoring those things we deem low-brow. And political discourse was nastier in 1800 then it's ever been in your lifetime.

So, please - get off your high horse.
You're merely confusing personal preference with an indication of quality.


If you can't see a big difference between the TV of today and that of even a few decades ago, I can't help you. If you can't see a big difference between the intelligence level of Zane Grey novels vs. American Idol or Jerry Springer, I can't help you.

I can help you with the issue of political discourse. Your argument is a straw man, just like a majority of your book arguments were. I did not say politics was nastier than ever, I said it was stupider than ever. There is a huge difference between an era of Crossfire, Fox News, and television commercials and an era of dueling newspaper editorials. There is a gigantic difference in literacy and intelligence level between the Bush-Gore debates and the Lincoln-Douglas debates, or even Nixon-Kennedy.

There used to be at least some semblance of argumentation in public discourse. Now it is all sound-bytes, talking points, and name-calling. A common characteristic to all this degenerated discourse is attention span - it's now all disjointed little bits, that usually only take a few minutes to read or watch, or even just seconds. Arguments require time and space to unfold, and they have to be approached in a way in which the reader can pause and consider, and look back at prior parts, etc... Reasoning is linear, slow, and deliberate. Rapid-fire TV and movie montage techniques stymie thinking because they are the opposite in virtually every sense. Spend too much time with this type of experience, and not enough with books, and the results should not be surprising.

While there may not be a decline in literacy according to broad statistics about minimum levels throughout the entire populous, it's obvious enough in the places where it counts.
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Postby wolfsbane » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:41 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
wolfsbane wrote:
I didn't say books were better, or even that I liked them better.

Riiiiiight... you just said that compared to books, movies "seem superficial and uninteresting." :roll:


You just can't stop with the misrepresentations and fallacies, can you? It's obvious that your motivations here are emotional. This is taken out of context. The missing clause is "when I'm in a heavy reading mode". When I'm in that mode, I'm interested in complexity of characters and ideas, and movies seem pretty simplistic. At other times, I don't read at all and watch TV series on DVD, or movies - sometimes up to 3 a day. I sure do hate them movies.
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Postby wolfsbane » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:52 pm

pulsewidth modulation wrote:
white_rabbit wrote:Don't you get it? PW is arguing for an individual's right to be stupid and moronic.


No he doesn't get it. He is a trained monkey, like many Madison liberals. As I note below, he repeats a common liberal talking point** which reiterates my previous comments. If people "choose" to consume non-elite material, they clearly need to be regulated because they are not "choosing" the "correct" media, thus these stupid people are enabling a "decline" in culture.

Actually, I defend individual's rights to be "stupid and moronic," as well as, individual's rights to acquire whatever knowledge they please from whatever source. Picking and choosing what is considered "intelligent" and "informed" vs. "stupid and moronic" is completely subjective.

Again, liberals look down onto those who don't consume what they do, which happens to be a higher proportion of 'bound literature' amongst their reading diet. According to left liberal dogma, anyone whose actions deviate from such a reading diet is by definition "stupid and moronic" as supported by this quote:

wolfsbane wrote:I think plenty of liberals and even outright leftists are also concerned about cultural decline. This is not surprising because the decline in literacy is obvious**, as is the increasing stupidity of mainstream media


Link please!

Literacy is increasing. Your statements are completely false.


I won't even try to deny all the stuff about "liberal elites". Everyone can see that our culture is being held hostage by a handful of ultra-powerful college professors and co-op employees. Hell, the US is practically a dictatorship run by bookworms driving used economy cars and pulling down mid five figure salaries. Damn them!

As for literacy - mischaracterization, once again, yes, according to studies, the most basic measures of the most minimal levels of literacy are increasing... slightly, perhaps even insignificantly. The level of literacy that brings one up from being barely able to read a classified ad to being able to read a typical magazine or newspaper is obviously not what I'm talking about.
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Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Aug 23, 2007 2:14 pm

wolfsbane wrote:If you can't see a big difference between the TV of today and that of even a few decades ago, I can't help you.

That's because it's all relative.
TV has been called stupid and anti-intellectual since the moment it was first broadcast. You're just the latest in a long line of detractors. "A few decades ago" The Love Boat, The Sonny and Cher Show and Project U.F.O. were among the highest rated programs on TV. A couple decades earlier, we had Strike It Rich, Amos 'n' Andy and boxing courtesy of The Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts.
wolfsbane wrote: If you can't see a big difference between the intelligence level of Zane Grey novels vs. American Idol or Jerry Springer, I can't help you.

Apples to oranges comparisons are rarely of any value, especially coming from the mouth of someone who accuses others of making straw man arguments.
I mean, you do know that American Idol is just the latest in a series of talent competitions that has existed since the earliest days of television, right? And what possible explanation can you provide for comparing Zane Grey to Jerry Springer? At least choose overlapping demographics!

wolfsbane wrote: There used to be at least some semblance of argumentation in public discourse. Now it is all sound-bytes, talking points, and name-calling.

I apologize for misrepresenting you by substituting "nastier" for "stupider", but you're simply wrong about what political discourse was like in the past. I again call your attention to The Election of 1800:
The campaign was bitter and characterized by slander and personal attacks on both sides. Federalists spread rumors that the Democratic-Republicans were radicals who would murder their opponents, burn churches, and destroy the country.

Those sure sound like talking points, sound bites (please note spelling, Mr. Literacy) and name-calling to me.
wolfsbane wrote:While there may not be a decline in literacy according to broad statistics about minimum levels throughout the entire populous, it's obvious enough in the places where it counts.
In other words, even though you're wrong, you still think you're right. That's some reasoned, slow, deliberate thinking you've done there. I guess the books that disprove your assertion aren't on your reading list, eh?
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