This, too, shall pass

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 39 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

When I started think­ing about this col­umn, I was par­tic­u­larly tired.

Tired of writ­ing, tired of read­ing.

I thought I’d start it with the catchy line, “Stop the in­for­ma­tion train — I want to get off.”

Now, though, I think it would be more apt to say, “The in­for­ma­tion train’s go­ing to stop. And then we’re all go­ing to be off.” (And not be­cause the Earth’s mag­netic poles are poised to flip, ei­ther. More on that later.)

I spend a fair amount of my work­ing days writ­ing — with a work­load at my home news­pa­per of four columns and four editorials a week, I have to be. But I spend far more time read­ing and re­search­ing, and there has never been a bet­ter time, or a longer reach, for that read­ing.

We are in a golden age for in­for­ma­tion: in one day, for ex­am­ple, I got to read a 3,800word piece in Quil­lette on why so­cial sham­ing could ac­tu­ally cre­ate the kind of hate­ful ide­olo­gies the sham­ing wants to halt (“In De­fense of Of­fense”), al­most 8,000 words from Mother Jones (pub­lished in 2014) on the takeover of Newsweek mag­a­zine by a Chris­tian sect called The Com­mu­nity “Who’s be­hind Newsweek?”), and a some­thing-over-2,300-word New York Times piece on older Amer­i­cans leav­ing tra­di­tional liv­ing ar­range­ments to travel the coun­try, liv­ing full time in con­verted vans and buses (“The Real Burn­ing Man: What it’s like to be a ‘full-time hobo — and why peo­ple do it”).

I made my way through 1,100 words of a trea­tise on how the philoso­pher Arthur Schopen­hauer’s think­ing can ex­plain the dol­drums of midlife (“How Schopen­hauer’s thought can il­lu­mi­nate a midlife cri­sis”) and agreed in many ways with 2,700 words’ worth of “Look at me: why at­ten­tion-seek­ing is the defin­ing need of our times” in The Guardian.

In all, my web his­tory from one day lists 53 ar­ti­cles I read, from the in­volved to the ridicu­lous.

I learned not only that a Don­key Kong player classed as one of the best in the world had been stripped of his high­est scores af­ter it was de­ter­mined he hadn’t been play­ing on the video game, but on a Don­key Kong emu­la­tor — and why us­ing a game emu­la­tor would al­low for cheat­ing and higher scores.

And I learned that, in the video game Su­per Mario, the out­landish red and white ball atop the char­ac­ter Toad is, in fact, part of his head, not a hat. But these riches can’t last. It all makes me think of an ar­ti­cle on sin­gle malt Scotch and the sup­ply and de­mand equa­tion I read in in the Na­tional Post in early Jan­uary 2016 (“Drink ’em while you got ’em: It’s last call for the old whiskies, a vic­tim of their own suc­cess”) by Adam McDow­ell.

The ar­gu­ment? That this is the golden age of sin­gle malts, but that it can’t last. With so many peo­ple seek­ing out rare whiskies, and with lim­ited stocks and long lead-times to ma­ture the spir­its, whiskies that are af­ford­able now will dis­ap­pear from the mar­ket, as those with money drive up prices.

I think some­thing of the re­verse could hap­pen in the golden age of in­for­ma­tion.

In­for­ma­tion may have more reach than ever be­fore, but peo­ple are of­ten loath to pay even pen­nies for work that costs real money to pro­duce. And without that money, the same kind of work can’t con­tinue to be done.

Oh, and back to the Earth’s mag­netic poles flip­ping?

I also read this week about the im­pend­ing switch of the north and south mag­netic poles — along with the sug­ges­tion that a com­ing switch could weaken the Earth’s mag­netic field and al­low so­lar flares to dis­rupt ev­ery­thing from longterm com­mu­ni­ca­tion to power grids.

So maybe it’s all moot, any­way. But keep read­ing.

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