Uncanny Note:
Neil Postman
28 May 2019

¶ Once upon a time, I decided that I’d been making soufflés from memory for too long, and that I’d better have another look at the Julia Child recipe that had taught me all I knew. There was no real reason for this caution; my soufflés were as good as they had ever been. But I felt sure that little variations must have crept into my procedure in the course of ten or fifteen years.

But they hadn’t. I had completely internalized Mrs Child’s instructions.

I’m having a similar experience re-reading Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985). I must confess that I remembered “entertainment” for “show business,” and I’m even now wondering which term is better. (I’ll probably stick with “entertainment.”) Otherwise, the first few pages of the book are so overwhelmingly familiar, even though I haven’t looked at them in more than twenty years, that I’m tempted to make a tongue-in-cheek observation: 

The Internet was invented for the SOLE purpose of demonstrating just how horribly right Neil Postman was, even though his book predated widespread Internet use by more than a decade.

In watching American television, one is reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s remark on his first seeing the glittering neon signs of Broadway and 42nd Street at night. It must be beautiful, he said, if you cannot read. (86)

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