Saturday, November 29, 2014

Where do we go from here? Start with watching BookTV!

All of man's troubles have arisen from the fact that we do not know what we are and do not agree on what we want to be.
That was what I read when I opened a page in random after the friend gifted me with E.O. Wilson's The Meaning of Human Existence.  A very strange i-ching reading, if there is anything at all in that divining practice!  But, hey, that is all I needed for that day--the observation that we humans are in a whole lot of trouble because we have no clue where we are and have no agreement on where we want to go.

If I had even a little bit of brain, I would love to be the kind of polymath intellectual that Wilson is.  He is up there in my preferred pantheon of intellectuals, along with Dyson, Feynman, Hitchens, ... too bad they simply don't make more like them.  Another reason for me to suspect that I am really made for a generation or two prior, and that I was accidentally born later ;)

The i-ching revelation of the world continued.  The day began with that random page, and ended with me watching Wilson on BookTV.  Bored out of my wits, and drooling for McDonald's French Fries, I picked up the fries, and turned on the telly to the BookTV channel.  There was Wilson chatting with the host about the very book.  Turned out that it was at the National Book Awards--a big time red carpet affair for the literati--ah, I so wish I were one!

Given that I was watching at a late hour in the night, it was obvious that the show was not live.  So, even as Wilson was responding to questions, I checked online for who the nominees and winners were.  And, was so excited that I immediately tweeted:
I doubt whether your life is as exciting, dear reader ;)

I have no idea about the book on Tennessee Williams.  The rest, I can vouch for them.  Awesome they are.
Last spring, I gifted Roz Chast to three.  Yep, three people.  And just last week I recommended to a fourth and she has also placed the order, she emailed me.
Earlier in the spring, after watching an hour-long interview with Osnos, I emailed the big time China admirer to watch the video and almost bought him that book as a gift.
I watched Gopal talk about his book in a BookTV program a few months ago.  I was doubly thrilled because, well, he is also an Indian-American and, ahem, of Tamil origin too!

Yet again, evidence that a tool--the television--depends on how we use it.  While BookTV is streamed online, I find more pleasure in watching it on the "idiot box."

If only those who watch television only for the idiotic and dumbing programs were forced to watch BookTV and C-Span for at least an hour every week!  Then, we will begin to understand how we got here, and we might even begin to develop a game plan on where to go from here :(


Anne in Salem said...

Fascinating reads, I am sure.

Reading social science or historical non-fiction and watching thought-provoking television seem to be increasingly rare these days. It seems many people don't want to think very much. Of what are they afraid? Will their ignorance show when they don't understand the concepts presented or when multi-syllabic words that don't need to be bleeped are used? (Part of the fun of reading this blog is the new words I learn.) My dearest friend is insatiably curious, and I respect him more for pursuing answers to his rare instances of ignorance on a topic. How different would the world be, especially US politics and dinner table conversations, if we all emulated him! And, he loves BookTV.

Ramesh said...

Thanks to you, I have read two of those books. Else, I wouldn't have even heard of them.

Yes, serious thought and consideration is getting rarer and rarer. Instant gratification and superficial awareness seems to be enough.

I am neither familiar enough with CSPAN or Book TV, but if the former is largely about your horrible governance system at work, then I am very happy to give it a wide miss.

Sriram Khé said...

I have long suspected that most humans have always preferred the option of not thinking, unless they are forced to. After all, it is the path of least resistance and least work. Which is why the contemporary apathy does not surprise me.

But, I suppose I wish for more involvement only because the contemporary world provides each and every one of us, wherever on this planet we might be, with immensely more information and ideas than the people in the past might have ever imagined in their wildest dreams. It is this contradiction, the sheer contrast, that I find difficult to understand, difficult to accept.

BTW, the horrible governance is all the more why C-Span ought to be a mandatory viewing--then Americans will quickly understand how broken the system is and we will have a grassroots revolution!!! ;)

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