Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On McLuhan, Media, and Free Books

Marshall McLuhan is spinning in his grave.  

A recent Facebook conversation on children's literature had me remembering back to classes at the University of Louisville where I was bombarded with the writings of that particular communication theorist who famously stated "The medium is the message."  McLuhan predicted the end of the written/printed word.  He is credited with prophesying of the Worldwide Web before it came into being and of coining the term surfing, randomly moving from one thing to the next in research or, in our case, while playing on the www. -  World Wide Waste of Time.  

McLuhan suggested the electronic media would create a global tribal community where we would develop a collective identity instead of the fragmentation and individualism of the old print media which produced, he maintained, such concepts as capitalism, nationalism and democracy.  He even suggested Protestantism was brought about by the print media.  (This is probably true.  What would have come of Luther's 95 theses if a printing press hadn't been available to distribute them to the masses?)

While McLuhan maintained the digital world would produce a more collectivist mindset, I think the opposite is happening.  Print media hasn't disappeared; it has evolved.  Digital books still maintain their bookish essence in that you still "flip the page" of your Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc.  Digital books still support a democratization of sorts as eBooks are on the whole cheaper than their hard-copy cousins thus allowing access to more people. Digital lending libraries are beginning to pop up..   Individualism is still encouraged as each "ism", hobby, political view, etc., can cheaply and quickly spread its message to its particular segment of interested parties. And, last but not least, Protestantism, as well as other religious perspectives, is still being supported by the medium as the Web offers evangelistic opportunities in areas that may be politically forbidden to missionary efforts. 

Taking its cue from England, the literary world is shouting, "The Book is dead!  Long Live the Book!"  The written word continues.  The e-Readers have even made the activity cool again.  Sorry, Marshall.

To cheaply enjoy the evolved book, check out Amazon's free Kindle books here,   You can subscribe to a variety of clearinghouse sites for cheap e-books such as BookBub.  [Disclaimer:  I've found the occasional gem on BookBub, but most of the time its offerings are drivel. To subscribe, you have to have the patience to wait days for an interesting offer.]  There's also FreeBooks.com which offers a wide range of genres and includes some great books such as Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators and  Days of Vengeance.  A quick search of the web will reward you with lots of sources for digitized classics.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Cemeteries as Gardens

Nate Wilson's Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl needs to be re-read on a monthly basis.  It provides such a fresh, new perspective on the world and our part in it.  You can find more of my thoughts on the book here.

I was reminded of this recently while in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.  It's early spring and the first blooms are opening and spreading their colors over the city.  It may sound morbid, but one of the most pleasant things to do in spring whilst in the Derby City is to take a drive through Cave Hill Cemetery.

 The landscape of the cemetery is beautiful and many monuments are so intricate and lovely you may feel you've walked into a museum's sculpture court. I love to read the inscriptions on older monuments. (And you may recognize a few names.)

As we walked around, I noticed family sections.  Stone after stone carved with the same surname with burial dates spanning decades.  I was reminded of this passage from Wilson's book:
Spring - look to the sun.  I'm eating my lunch in a graveyard.  Human seeds have been planted in neat little rows.  Stone stakes label the crop.
What a wonderful truth that is.  What a comfort for Christians:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as those who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
~ I Thessalonians 4:13-14