Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Satire in context...

I heard a piece on npr's 'Talk of the Nation' the other day about The Onion, the "fake news" newspaper. Greg Beato, columnist of Reason magazine, wrote a column called: Amusing Ourselves to Death, (a nod to Neil Postman) about the rise in popularity of The Onion while all other major newspapers are losing readership at an alarming rate. Beato said: "The Onion recently achieved a 60 percent increase in print circulation and attracts more than two million online readers per week."

Here is a link to interview with Beato on NPR: Satirical 'Onion' Attracts Readers Online, in Print.

Having quite a bit of contact with students at a four year college in Massachusetts, I am fascinated by this trend. I find that my students sometimes find articles in The Onion funny, but often they don't have the facts or the context to truly understand the underlying piece of news. This is the same with The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert. If the readership does not have the background to understand the Iraq war, or the debate and eventual veto of the SChip program, then the humor often clouds the issue. For example, one recent article in The Onion was: Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man. This is clearly only funny if you know about trickle-down economics, and/or if you knew about the policies instituted during the Reagan presidency. Otherwise it just sounds like it should be funny.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Michael Chabon...

is a total literary stud. His writing is sublime and very cool. I just finished Yiddish Policemen's Union and I was in awe. His book is so full of yiddish idioms, and using Yiddish words in an unusual manner to replace words in the everyday lexicon. For example, he used the word 'shoyfer' to mean 'cell phone'. A shofar, as most Jews will know is an announcing tool made from a rams horn to 'call' people. However, I can't imagine most people who aren't Jewish knowing this, or being able to extrapolate this knowledge to mean slang for 'cell phone'. Chabon's novel is peppered throughout with this type of 'yiddish-ism'. I love it, it feels like being in on a really cool private joke. However, the Jewish population being what it is, probably less than 2% of the world population, I can't imagine that many people are going to be 'in' on the joke. That said, this was a great novel, and I was thrilled to have read it.

American Pastoral

I am a book queue fanatic. I pile books next to my bed, on the front of the bookshelf, on the table in the upstairs hallway. These are books I AM GOING TO READ! Sometimes I think they can act as a bunker to protect me from unwelcome intruders, ward off infection, etc. I have been thinking about starting a podcast where I interview people about what's in their book queue. Here's a link to a photo of my current book queue on flickr: book_queue
So, why am I telling you this. Because no matter how much I plan, pile and desire-- I do not actually read that much each day, maybe 20 minutes. So, I started this wonderful piece of American literature, one of the 20 best of the 20th century, and have yet to finish it. It does rock though.