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ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

Forum File

Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“As the last episodes of 'Breaking Bad' were counting down, AMC's promo pop-ups kept badgering viewers to partake of something called 'the two-screen experience.' Rather than sitting inert before a single 50-inch flat screen, you should log on to the show's website and participate in real-time chats and interactive razzle-dazzle. Me, I kept thinking: 'Breaking Bad' is the best show on television, a text well worth my undivided attention. What the heck do I want with distracting digital clutter? One screen is plenty.

“Increasingly, though, that is a minority opinion. For many viewers, critics and scholars, the second (and third, fourth, and fifth) screen is as good as the first. In some quarters, the decorative wraparound material – the term of art is 'paratext' – is outshining the prize in the box. The irritating distractions have morphed into the main attractions.

“The paratext is the satellite debris orbiting and radiating out from the core text: what the post-telecast chatfest 'Talking Dead' is to 'The Walking Dead,' what Madonna-vs.-Lady Gaga mashups are to the original music videos, what Wolverine action figures are to the X-Men franchise – what all the buzzing swarms of trailers, teasers, bloopers, tweets, swag, webisodes, podcasts, chat rooms, fanzines, geek conventions, DVD extras, synergistic tie-ins and branded merchandise, in all their infinite varieties, are to the mother ship.

" If the main text is the great white shark, the paratext is the pilot fish – and if the old-school film critic wanted to sink his teeth into a close textual analysis of Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws' (1975), the paratextual critic prefers to dissect the creation and marketing of Bruce, the mechanical shark at the Universal Studios tour.”

– From “The Paratext's the Thing” at chronicle.com

A quiz

Where in the U.S. did the most hurricanes hit in the 20th century?

Wisdom of the ages

“A man who uses a great many words to express his meaning is like a bad marksman who, instead of aiming a single stone at an object, takes up a handful and throws at it in hopes he may hit.” – Samuel Johnson

Current wisdom

“I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you gonna get. Don't you ever talk about me!” – Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman, in a postgame interview after he broke up a pass intended for San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree, preserving the Seahawks' 23-17 win in the NFC championship game Sunday.

Quiz answer

Florida was first with 57 hurricanes. Texas was second with 26. Louisiana and North Carolina each had 25.

Snob words

perspicuous (per-SPIK-yoo-uhs), adj. – clearly expressed or presented; lucid, as in: “Even the politician was impressed with the editorial writer's perspicuous presentation.”

Now you know

While Scotland has the highest proportion (13 percent) of redheads (followed by Ireland with 10 percent), the U.S. has the largest number of redheads, between 6 million and 18 million.