Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Brokeback Mountain and Amusing Ourselves to Death. What does the Oscar-nominated movie and Neil Postman's seminal 20 year old book have in common? Perhaps for you, not much. But as I was driving to work I was listening to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) on satellite radio and the news announcer reported the Oscar-nominated films for best picture, among which was Brokeback Mountain and Capote. She pointed out that the former was filmed in Alberta and the latter in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Not surprising perhaps, as many Hollywood movies have been filmed in Canada, and many which require mountains, sweeping views of sky and plains and space are filmed near Calgary where I lived for 12 years.

So, it was serendipity then to come across this USA Today article from yesterday reporting that Brokeback Mountain is boosting tourism inquiries about....Wyoming. Now, of course, this is where the events of the movie happen...in fiction. In reality, the landscape people are admiring and desiring in the movie is in...Alberta. But never mind reality!

I came across the reference to Neil Postman's book at Jay Rosen's blog Press Think. He's posted an essay by Postman's son Andrew which is the introduction to a new edition of Amusing...
The subtitle of Postman's book is Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. And this was pre-Jon Stewart, pre-Tivo, pre-Google remember. His premise was that in the "age of show business" everything--tsunamis, judges' appointments, hurricanes, highway chases, elections, missing white girls--has become entertainment. Never mind reality.

And how does this relate to the library nature of this blog? I suspect that chasm between entertainment and reality (whatever this is in a "stringy" universe) will have to be addressed by us all as we ponder the meanings of the data from the OCLC Perceptions report, from discussions about what is constituted by "Library 2.0" and what services and content libraries offer their communities. Will it be "Wyoming" or Alberta?

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