Friday, July 22, 2005

Curmudgeonly Guide to Cultural Awareness

Curmudgeons are picky about media. They don’t just turn things on and let them run in the background. They develop opinions on what is trustworthy, thoughtful, and worth attending to. In our overly mediated culture, we need to develop some discernment over the media we use and how. This is nothing like a treatise on that subject, although one day I hope to write one. This essay simply lists some of my media sources and some brief commentary. I do not discuss books because I have written long annotated bibliographies on that subject. Books are my primary access to knowledge. These are the popular media outlets I frequent, for what it’s worth.

1. Television. I watch almost none—except some Ken Burns specials such as "Baseball" and "Jazz." These can be checked out from local libraries. I suggest engaging in guerilla warfare against television: unplug and unseat televisions wherever and whenever possible. TV-B-Gone is very helpful in this respect. It is a universal remote control that turns off many televisions.

2. Radio: KUVO-FM (89.3). This is Denver’s only genuine jazz station. It is listener-supported. They feature live performances by local artists and many worthwhile programs such as "Jazz Set," "Piano Jazz," and "Billy Taylor’s Jazz." Web page: I have been listening to National Public Radio since the mid-1970s. It is left of center politically, but takes jazz seriously and features some thoughtful, slower-paced news and commentary. Many of their programs are archived on their web page:

In the last few years, I have been listening to more "talk radio," but only when I’m in the car driving somewhere. The most balanced, congenial, and intelligent host is probably Dennis Prager, who is a conservative Jew and an adult convert to political conservatism. Michael Medved is also quite sharp, but a bit more acerbic than Prager. He, too, is a conservative Jew and, like Prager, is very friendly toward evangelicals. Some may write off Michael Savage as an extremist because of his anger and hyperbolic statements. Nevertheless, he is very witty and often courageous in the views he holds. He is not afraid to name evil for what it is (especially regarding the Islamic sources of terrorism) and is a theist of some sort. Sean Hannity strikes me as more of an ideologue than a thinker, although I often agree with him. Nevertheless, he is not very stimulating intellectually. Hugh Hewett is quite knowledgeable and an evangelical, but I find him to be too much of a stentorian and too hyperactive verbally.

3. Newspapers: The Rocky Mountain News and the Sunday Denver Post. I emphasize the editorials and check the "Spotlight" section of the News for popular culture events. My favorite columnists are Thomas Sowell, Mona Charin, Charles Krauthammer, Cal Thomas, and George Will. Norman Provizer has a column on jazz each Friday in The Rocky Mountain News. Dusty Sanders has a column every other week on jazz in The Denver Post, Sunday edition. I also check The New York Times web page almost daily.

4. Magazines: Christianity Today has declined recently in content (too trendy) and form (it is image-dominated), but is still the main organ of evangelicalism. Books and Culture attempts to the evangelical equivalent of the New York Times Book Review. The results are mixed, but there is some very thoughtful writing. My wife and I find that US News and World Report beats Time and Newsweek for content. John Leo’s regular column, "On Society," is worth the subscription. I also regularly check (but do not subscribe to) Harpers and The Atlantic Monthly for important cultural trends. The Chronicle of Higher Education is a key organ for college professors and administrators. First Things is a very thoughtful journal, which treats matters of religion and culture. The writers are usually orthodox Jews, Evangelicals, and Roman Catholics. The New York Times Review of Books is an important source on current books, but not as scholarly as The Times Literary Supplement. The Christian Research Journal is the best source for following and evaluating counterfeit religious movements.

5. Movies: I have seen very few recently—meaning the last 15 years—because they are either: (1) too stupid, (2) too sensual or (3) too violent—or all three or any two of the three. My favorite movies are: "Babbette’s Feast" (Danish, with subtitles) "Citizen Kane" (Orson Wells classic) and "It’s a Wonderful Life" (James Stewart classic).

6. Recorded interviews: Mars Hill Audio, hosted by Ken Myers (author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes): Myers interviews many thoughtful intellectuals and artists in a bi-monthly recording (CD or cassette).


Adam Omelianchuk said...

Michael Savage? You are way to conservative Doug. That man can't be taken seriously. Prager I can understand...but I could never tell anyone to listen to Savage in good conscience.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Mr. Savage is a savagely mixed bag. His rants can be ridiculous or insightful. He has broad interests and seems to intellectually improvise instead of relying on canned responses. On the other hand, he can be petty, egotistical, and meanspirited. I do agree with his insistence that we protect our borders, especially now with the terrorist threat. However, if one wants serious social commentary, I would not recommend his books. Some of his comments on the air are thought-provoking, nevertheless.

Concerning an overall philosophy of Christian engagement in politics I recommend, "The American Hour" by Os Guinness, "The Naked Public Square" by Richard John Neuhaus," and "God's Name in Vain" by Stephen Carter.

nancy said...

Adam - you must tune into Savage on a slow news day, he can be quite delightful. He had me doubled over in laughter (not a very safe position when you are driving) when he spent close to an hour lamenting the plague of the excessive growth of ear and nose hair which strikes men in their later it didn't qualify as High Culture :) !