Saturday, May 07, 2005


One of the funny things about living in new York - In Michigan, when I would get a bug bite, I would scratch and forget about it. Now I worry that it might be a tic. How gross is that? The last thing I need is to get lyme's disease. Fortunately there seems to be nothing connected to me, so I'm in the clear.

I went to my Mecca last night - the Apple Store in SOHO. *sigh* My drool did not short-circuit any of the equipment, so that was a relief. I was there to hear the author of "Everything Bad is Good For You", Stephen Johnson. I wanted validation that sitting on my ass watching countess hours of Alias was good for me. And I definitely got it.

His theories are interesting, but I have not yet decided if I agree with him. The basis of his hypothesis is that modern day TV shows and video games are exceptionally complex, multi-layered, and stimulating, causing the modern viewer/participant to engage in a regular basis in elaborate and creative problem resolutions and thought processes. He had terrific examples that very deftly demonstrated the advancements in media. Thing is, I don't necessarily believe that his examples proved increased intelligence.

When I was young, I was taught to increase my reading speed and maintain my comprehension with this projector like system that would literally highlight four or five words at a time in a sentence at a predetermined speed. With practice I could read pretty darn fast, and retain information. My cousin, who is blind, listens to audio books quite often, but speeds up the feed to where someone like me hearing it sounds like a foreign language. With any media as you become more accustomed to the medium you can add more to it.

Thus, as our society watches more TV and plays more games, our tolerance grows and to engage us more must be added. We started with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and now have graduated to multi-plot storylines like Sopranos.

Mr. Johnson's argument might then be that these skills will transfer over to everyday living. Does life imitate art or art imitate life?

I need to read the book to see if he has any examples as to how these skills translate. Ironic that the very media he is using to communicate this is in his own theory remedial. I consider myself to be very smart, smarter than say 80% of the population. I attribute that knowledge and wisdom to the fact that I read voraciously as a child.

I remember my father telling me the library rule was that you could only borrow as many books as you were years old. So I borrowed 12, and read them in two weeks. Then borrowed another 12, and so on.

Reading that much taught me how to think, how to observe, how to absorb and internalize information. It was like strength training for my brain. The question must then follow - what came first, the chicken or the egg? Nature or nurture? Am I smart because I read so much or did I read so much because I was smart?

Of course, I learned to read from Sesame Street. Point taken.

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