Tuesday, August 16, 2005

People of the Book

Not long after I dubbed the Annuario Pontificio (the church's statistical yearbook) as "The Bible" in a post a couple weeks back, I received a note from a veteran of curial warfare who said,
The annuario is NOT the Bible. Not here. It is, however, and more importantly... il libro della vita (THE BOOK OF LIFE). Naturally, the reasoning is that if you are not listed in it you are nobody.
He's right -- and I'm not listed in it. But for the more general news-junkie side of me, The New York Times is Il Libro Quotidiano della Vita -- The Daily Book of Life. And they're so good as to get it to me every morning by 7.

Two really fascinating pieces in it today that play to elements of this work. First, one on the blogger as exponent of performance art:
The Rude Pundit is a child of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and Hunter S. Thompson. Bruce and Richard Pryor were masters of stand-up comedy as political theater. Mr. Thompson was a master of journalism as performance art.

If you know their work you know that in the right hands, fantasy and obscenity are cathartic. They attack hypocrisy, because hypocrisy lulls us. Fantasy charms us and obscenity shocks us.

I've been called a "gonzo blogger" before, an accolade I take as a compliment, given its roots in the work of Hunter Thompson. But I've learned anew in recent days that given my emphases on accuracy, responsibility and professionalism in offering news (both breaking and analysis) and commentary, I'm less blogger than journalist. More on this in the days to come.

And there's something on why reading Whispers is good for you:
Gossip not only helps clarify and enforce the rules that keep people working well together, studies suggest, but it circulates crucial information about the behavior of others that cannot be published in an office manual. As often as it sullies reputations, psychologists say, gossip offers a foothold for newcomers in a group and a safety net for group members who feel in danger of falling out.

"There has been a tendency to denigrate gossip as sloppy and unreliable" and unworthy of serious study, said David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology at the State University of New York at Binghamton and the author of "Darwin's Cathedral," a book on evolution and group behavior. "But gossip appears to be a very sophisticated, multifunctional interaction which is important in policing behaviors in a group and defining group membership...."

Long-term studies of Pacific Islanders, American middle-school children and residents of rural Newfoundland and Mexico, among others, have confirmed that the content and frequency of gossip are universal: people devote anywhere from a fifth to two-thirds or more of their daily conversation to gossip, and men appear to be just as eager for the skinny as women.

Well, in this business, men want to know every nook and cranny way more than women do.



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