Wednesday, May 28, 2008


[In light of Schaeffer's discussions on how the media can manipulate us, I here post an essay I wrote on cultural awareness. I have updated is slightly.]

Curmudgeons are picky about media. They don’t just turn things on and let them run. 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--although in a narcissistic way--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. Rush Limbaugh is the king of conservative talk radio for good reason: he is smart, well-informed, and has a marvelous stentorian voice. The self-promotion is, I think, mostly tongue in check (but can be annoying, nevertheless).

3. Newspapers: 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 and watch for their book reviews.

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. [This discontinued a few years ago.] 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).

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