055. How To Eat

Richard A. Lanham wrote a wonderful book a few years ago called The Economics of Attention, which can be summed up with a few sentences from the preface:

information is not in short supply in the information economy. We’re drowning in it. What we lack is the human attention needed to make sense of it all.

Lanham touches on an interesting paradox of our species’ evolutionary success: where once our struggle was about scarcity (of calories, reproduction, our vulnerability to the environment), many of us are now struggling with abundance (of calories, reproduction options, the environment’s vulnerability to us). MrsDavy ruefully observes, for example, that I have a famine metabolism that puts on a kilo if I even think about a cream doughnut. Doh! There’s three kilos just there.

The answer is to learn new habits that are adapted to feast rather than famine.

That is, we need to select deliberately what we consume rather than just gobble everything that appears in front of us, whether it is food or media or status or forests. And we need to work not to consume those things that are low-value or harmful.

Lanham came to mind this week when Sheep, a loyal follower of the Order of the Black Heart, commented about my witterings on Quality Over Quantity:

I would be interested in occasional links to some of sites you visit that ‘don’t let the shark jump’.

As far as I know there’s only one site on the whole of the interwebthingy that has unimpeachable coverage and opinions, and you’re reading it right now. But there are many sites that have occasionally excellent articles and, as MrsDavy points out frequently, I seem to spend an awful lot of time looking for them.

When I go out hunting and gathering my media, I have four criteria:

  1.  Tell me something I didn’t know
  2. Challenge something I thought I knew
  3. Articulate something I was reaching for
  4. Reveal something beautiful and/or true

So, for Sheep and MrsDavy, I have decided to introduce a regular spot to share some ideas about what’s good and what’s not. But, you know, it’s your life, so feel free to agree, disagree or ignore what follows.

What caught my attention last week

New Zealand politics is well into the silly season. There are structural reasons why you won’t get any clarity from the MSM (they’re selling anxiety not understanding), and most of the bloggers seem not so much one-eyed as no-eyed.  For a reminder that the reality of democracy is better than the headlines would have you believe, take a curve through this week’s valedictories from retiring politicians. They often give an honest, thoughtful, kind and humorous reflection on why people got into the game and what they feel they have achieved.

I once presented a carved waka to the Captain Cook Museum in Middlesborough. I was just about to ask where he was buried. Then I remembered.

For a considered review of how social media is being used and abused in the election, keep an eye on Matthew Beveridge’s blog.

Karen Armstrong has been studying and writing about Judaism, Christianity and Islam for over forty years. Here’s the introduction to her book The Battle for God. Key point: this book was published in 2000 – that is, before 9/11 – which makes her analysis of the origins and problems of religious fundamentalism more impressive and poignant.

Fundamentalists feel that they are battling against forces that threaten their most sacred values.  We shall find that modernization has led to a polarization of society, but sometimes, to prevent an escalation of the conflict, we must try to understand the pain and perceptions of the other side.

Andrew Sullivan is an English-American HIV-positive Catholic gay conservative trying to reinvent the business model of quality media at The Dish. (Seems enough to be going on with.) He has a short reflection on Michael Oakeshott’s idea of conservatism as disposition rather than doctrine here.

Finally, a video of Tom Standage (digital editor of The Economist) at a TED show in Oxford drawing from his book Writing On The Wall. A learned and charming reminder that social media is nothing new.

What I’m trying to ignore next week

  • Whaleoil, The Standard and The Daily Blog – shouting, not listening.
  • Kim Dotcom – narcissism and dollops of money are rarely a good combination.
  • Jamie Whyte – desperate for attention. Not getting mine.
  • Reality TV – it isn’t.

About Ned Davy

By hokey, the big fella’s tipped into his 50s. A rangy loose forward in his prime, good with the ball in hand, but rarely up with the play any more.
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6 Responses to 055. How To Eat

  1. Phil Wild says:

    “There are structural reasons why you won’t get any clarity from the MSM (they’re selling anxiety not understanding)” So therefore that is exactly why I read WhateOil.

    • Ned Davy says:

      Gidday Phil. Great to hear from you again.

      I’ve been following Whaleoil for four or five years now. He’s done some valuable and important things in that time, such as breaking the Len Brown story and challenging Mr Dotcom’s version of events. He’s got a point of view that he’s open about, and he articulates a voice that is not well-represented in the MSM. Of course I don’t agree with every or even most positions he takes: hell, I don’t even agree with myself all the time. And I work hard to track down other voices that I don’t necessarily agree. It helps me think about what I think.

      What I have perceived recently, however, is that the site’s tone has shifted: it’s more about telling the audience what to think, rather than telling the audience what he thinks. Maybe that’s the danger of popularity, such as when Lenny Bruce started ranting at his audience rather than drawing them in with laughter. It’s a big part of where the MSM has gone wrong in the last few years: they thought they owned the audience and could tell it what to do.

      Put it another way: I’m a big All Blacks fan, and part of that is about gently poking the borax at every other international team. I expect them to do it back, and there’s the joy of it. Civility and respect is at the very heart of that engagement, at the very heart of sport: playing hard
      and shaking hands afterwards.

      The three blogs I referred to in the article all have a civility deficit, and that’s before you even get to the comments sections.

      Anyway, as I said, great to hear from you again. And bugger about last night’s result. More on that tomorrow.

  2. Pingback: 063. How to Eat | Ned Davy and The Order of The Black Heart

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