Sophistication Without Reading

Students are reading less? Does it matter? “The college students who now show up in my classroom come with an informational sophistication unimaginable in my generation. They find what they want, they use what they find, and they discard immense amounts of information made available to them. Are they naïve about authority, methodology, logic and accuracy in these endless streams of information? Sure, they are. Who should teach them how to sort this stuff? We academics, sophisticated readers ourselves who all too frequently escape into trendy obscurantism rather than engage the real world information flow that constitutes the actual cultural context of our time. We, the literate part of the American population, need to reconnect with the actual cultural context, rather than fight micro-academic battles of almost no interest to people outside the elite tiers of the academy.”

Movies Out Of Reach

“Thousands of movies made in Hollywood before 1950 no longer exist. Some were destroyed by malice, others by negligence (90 percent of all silent films). And of those movies made since 1950, there are no guarantees. But such matters are the domain of film preservationists, and while their work should not be undervalued, just as significant is another species of movies you can’t see: movies that do exist, that may even be no more than a few years old, but that remain as elusive as those maligned masterpieces of von Stroheim and Welles. Movies, in other words, without distribution — or with distributors who, for one reason or another, refuse to release them.”

DVD Sales Slow To A Run

DVD sales are slowing from their torrid pace of the last few years. “Hollywood shipped 403m DVDs to America’s stores in the first quarter of this year—one-fifth more than in the first quarter of 2004. That is a healthy growth-rate, but far slower than in the whole of 2004, when nearly 50% more DVDs were sent to shops than in 2003—and much lower than previous years’ dizzier increases of 100% or more.”

Libraries Offer Audio Downloads

More and more American public libraries are offering audiobook downloads to be “borrowed”. “A patron with a valid library card visits a library Web site to borrow a title for, say, three weeks. When the audiobook is due, the patron must renew it or find it automatically ‘returned’ in a virtual sense: The file still sits on the patron’s computer, but encryption makes it unplayable beyond the borrowing period. The patron doesn’t have to do anything after the lending period. The file expires. It checks itself back into the collection. There’s no parts to lose. It’s never damaged. It can never be late.”

Broadway Invades Vegas

Avenue Q opens this week in Las Vegas, the first of several big-nman eBroadway shows to take up home in the gambling mecca. “In investing heavily in Broadway theater, Vegas hoteliers such as Steve Wynn, whose deal bars Avenue Q from touring in North America, are banking on the notion that at least some of the city’s 40 million tourists a year will embrace entertainment with plots, characters and — gasp! — life lessons. Wynn hopes the change of pace will mature the town and ‘add another dimension to the entertainment menu’.”

The New Communication (But What Are We Saying?)

“People hardly blink, anymore, at the potency and omnipresence of technology and its attendant powers of transformation. The information stream that was not so long ago channeled by newspapers, network television and radio, has become an unrestrained torrent that surges through cable and satellite television, cell phones cellphones, Internet blogs, podcasts and chat rooms chatrooms. It’s all changing faster than even the most keen-eyed futurists can predict. And so are we, in culturally pervasive ways, changing as well.”

The Clothing Lady, The Shopping Network, And 34,534 Books Sold

Jeanne Bice, a clothing entrepreneur, wrote a book. Instead of hyping it the conventional way, she went on the TV shopping network QVC. She sold 15,000 books in 8 minutes. “Then she sold roughly 9,000 and 10,000 more books this month during two more sessions on the channel, for a total of 34,534 books ordered in less than half an hour of accumulated air time.”

A Protest Against A New Berlin Castle

The German government wants to tear down the old East German parliament building and replace it with a castle. The government hopes to start construction by 2007 on the new building, which the study says could cost $650 million to $950 million. But a vocal group of artists and architects oppose the idea. “Arguing that the building should be preserved as a reminder of postwar history, about 160 artists and architects from around the world banded together this month to create a mountain inside the Palace of the Republic.”