Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Checking the Links

When I first advertised this blog to my friends, I asked any of them with HTML knowledge to help me add features to it. Well, my first modest experiment with HTML on my own reconnaissance is up and running: You'll see a new "Links" section on the sidebar, as well as a permanent link to yesterday's etymology-as-manifesto post.

These are links to sites I read regularly, which provide some sort of useful public information. (The less said about the other sites I frequent the better.)

I've grouped them into three categories: primary news sources (including two links to local news in Philadelphia), news and entertainment magazines, and entertainment and media sites.

The sites in the last category are often the most helpful. Keeping up with The New Yorker and the Times Op-Ed page might help your party talk become extra-splashy, but can tell you which all-weather tires or set of gourmet knives to buy. Chowhound is a great resource for finding restaurants and grocery stores in big metro areas, and Pitchfork keeps my CD collection (and indie rock credit) minty fresh.

I've noticed that many local news stations devote an inordinate amount of time to covering traffic and weather: local political intrigue could be getting hot national attention, but unless it's a full-blown sex-, corruption- and influence-peddling scandal (like with New Jersey Governor James McGreevey), most people are much more interested in how they'll get to work and whether they'll need to bring an umbrella.

This set of priorities can turn pernicious when people become so apolitical, disengaged, or anti-intellectual that they close themselves off to issues that are genuinely important and require their attention. (I'd much rather watch a good weather report than exposés of movie stars or political process stories -- at least on television.)

At its best, however, Americans' Franklinian pragmatism makes them shrewd, resistant to cant, and keenly attuned to their own interests. Likewise, I wouldn't feel my blog was worthwhile unless it gives its readers something they can use and enjoy. Ut docet, ut delectat, ut permovet.

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