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"You Better Think"


When I was growing up in New York, my family watched the “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. At school, the following day, the variety show’s jugglers, singers and dancers would be a topic of conversation because everyone else, irrespective of class, race or some other social denominator, also had seen it…in New York, in Arkansas, in the country.

When I was 12, my parents gave me a transistor radio. I listened to Cousin Brucie on WABC and the station’s string of AM hits. Everyone I knew did the same. We all pretended to sing like Diana Ross and the Supremes; we all waited for the next Aretha Franklin song, another inevitable hit. Again, we reaffirmed our view of the world and our place in it.

Books were another social glue. We read what our teachers recommended on summer reading lists. The lists were remarkably similar wherever you happened to live in the United States.

Today, we have choice.

Television viewers binge on popular series; they view on demand, and they channel surf for long passages of time because they are convinced that there must be something that they want to see on one of their hundreds of channels.

For music, listeners compile their personal play lists. They hear many of their “new”, often old, tunes on Spotify or some other music archive. Young people share their music with friends because their choice of music is not the same.

And, not only teachers make book recommendations. Hundreds of “book tubers”, who review books on You Tube, bloggers, who review books on Internet, podcasts, which do audio reviews, and Goodreads, which is an online book club, offer ideas of what book to read next. I am heartened that there are readers enough to proliferate these shows, blogs and audio broadcasts. However, my mind boggles at the number of bookish outlets on the Internet, much less the number of reviewed books.

Today, we have choice.

We can watch videos which have gone viral. We can listen to “Ted” lectures. We can read the “tweets”, or messages of no more than 140 characters, from the 45th president of the United States.

Today, we have choice.

Or do we?

Is there so much available on Internet that we have shut down? After all, we have minds, not microprocessors. We are meant to make more of data than merely store information. The wonder of the human condition is that we can think for ourselves.

As Aretha sang: “You better think.”

Find out how composer Angelica Morgan dealt with information overload in TURN ON, TUNE OUT, available from Amazon:

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