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Book: Medium of the Past and Future?
Over time, a personal library may grow, require expansion of space or downsizing of the collection. A good book may be like a silent friend, but as often it speaks to one.
Technology Dependence. We usually just see how important technical equipment has become in our daily life, when it stops working. Helplessly cut off from electronic communication, all of a sudden, our existing dependency becomes obvious as if scales fell from our eyes or dandruff from our hair. When failure coincides, it may be twice as painful, as happening to me during a period of regular travel: At first my notebook would test my willingness to interim save data by bringing up the blue exception screen, frequently. Next my telephone would test my ability to keep conversations to a minimum by going dead in the middle of calls, unexpectedly. Ultimately, my colleague from the South would test my patience by concluding that not only was my equipment breaking down, but "to be honest, he doesn't look too good either..." This is when we may truly appreciate an analogue gimmick, a regular and reliable companion, ingeniously independent from charging challenges and other technical trouble: The good, old-fashioned book!
Book of Books. The French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere would trace back our respect for the book to the worship of the bible, commonly regarded as "the book of books", which is presented on a church altar as a truth that lies beyond mankind. Surprisingly enough, as a child he rediscovered a similar experience in a Laurel & Hardy movie, where Ollie asks Stan, how he could be so sure about something. And Stan replies that he knows for he has read it in a book. Period. Probably he saw their movie "Their First Mistake", where Stan convinces Ollie to adopt a baby to keep his wife occupied, while he goes out. Stan explains all the happiness in a home, when you have a baby: "It's a well known fact. I know, I've read about that!" As Ollie starts agreeing, Stan reassures him: "You bet your life, I'm right. You know I'm not as dumb as you look!"
Breakfast Paper. It is a given fact that a newspaper contains news from the previous day. The competitive advantage of its online copy is definitely the time-to-market, the currency of information, as breaking news come in. Video clips of events replace stills as bandwidth becomes a minor consideration in data volume exchange. The chance and the danger of the modern internet is that it provides a vast mass of unfiltered and also unreliable information. Where the written and printed word used to be regarded as fact, online acquired content needs to be carefully analyzed before being blindly trusted. Maybe long-term the newspaper will transform into a print media that specializes in providing background information on a weekend, when people have time to lay back and unfold the actual paper, while they slowly sip their coffee and take a bite of a croissant.
Life Long Learning. Looking back at a long line of civil servants from the days of the old monarchy, especially Austrians have the reputation to be over-fond of titles, be it academic, honorary, job-specific, certified or by marriage, including that famous earning of a Mrs Doctor's degree at the Justice of Peace's office. Formerly, graduation marked the end of a learning period. Knowledge that was absorbed in school could be applied throughout the entire life. These days, we live in constant need to prepare for the future. The period of learning doesn't stop with the entrance into adulthood any more. Knowledge needs to be permanently renewed in order to remain competitive in times of enormous medical and technical progress. One word is dominating our present and future, as we quickly leave our past behind: Change, which often comes with the fear of the unknown. The Italian author Umberto Ecco worked one of his most horrifying nightmare into his best-selling novel "The Name of the Rose". The burning library in the monastery expresses his personal fear of losing his very own book collection.
A good book is like an alligator. It can devour you as a whole and only spit you out again after you have turned the last page. Above picture was taken at the Cuba Libre bar in Orlando, Florida. The poor croco-baby was handed around for taking pictures like a human baby after baptism.
Outdated Format? The other day I read something unusual: A book about books. "The great future of the book" praises the qualities of the traditional paper book, as opposed to reading on the computer until the eyes become like tennis balls. Power-dependent devices cannot be easily read in bed or in the bathtub, where the book allows for higher flexibility in use. Ever-lasting media formats are probably as quickly outdated as floppy disks and video cassettes have vanished from the market and have been replaced by a follow-up model with increased capacity, speed or user-friendliness. Even file formats come and go with increasing speed. In case of danger to our living environment, which objects of cultural value would we bring to a safe place? Which data carrier would we choose? Why should we bother with things that will soon be outdated, silent and unreadable? The book on the other hand is easily transportable and has proven over centuries that it can withstand the test of time. One thing that remains of old and lost cultures is their writings.
Fast-Paced Action. The speed of technological renewal forces us to reorganize our mental habits in a sheer unbearable pace. Technique is developing its own language and forces us to continuously accelerate our life style. Every three seconds there is a cut in an American action movie to show a sequence from a different angel. When the film came up in the first place, reportedly in Spain around 1907 or 1908 there was an instructor with a pointer, who had to explain what was happening on the screen. The audience was not familiar yet with the new language of film, which is being refined and re-invented to this day.
Perfect Design. Reading can give so much joy, either through fascinating content or just by satisfying the pure passion for reading. However, if one wishes to be remembered, he or she has got to write. Come time, also the hardcopy book may redefine its status. And so we believe in times of Kindle, iPad and e-book that the old-fashioned and over centuries incorporated ritual of turning a page, while hearing the soft noise of paper rustling, the experience of closure when we shut a book cover after finishing reading, putting up the read piece of literature on the book shelf not unlike a trophy, all this will not permanently vanish. To some, the book - just like the wheel - is an invention of absolute perfection. Maybe in the future its pages won't be made of paper always, but in its substance it will remain what it has been.
Presentation: More than a Nice Present?
Top-Notch Performance. We all would like to be top, don't we? We want to be loved, praised and pointed out as an example, preferably for something that was well done. There are usually two ways to share information: We could build up tension "bottom up", use logical argumentation and step by step approach the point we want to make. Or, we may just go "top down" like a bull at a gate. "Mit der Tuer ins Haus fallen - fall into the house together with the door" is the German expression for it. The usage of whole sentences in slide titles helps to emphasize the key message and reduce misunderstanding. Which is preferable in circumstances of limited time, impatience or low attention.
Powerpoint Karaoke. We live in times of Powerpoint karaoke. More and more slide decks are thrown at us, some are more, others are less appealing. Many presenters try to impress with complex content rather than using nice, lean slides as visual prompts that allow the audience to focus on the speaker. Converting complicated content into an easily understandable form can be a lot of work, even though the result may look rather simple. As so often, "less is more" applies as a ground rule. Too often, presenters just read text off the slide instead of using a more professional "Touch Turn Talk" presentation technique. The job to understand the whole thing is usually given to the audience. "So, what's your point?" is a frequent response from tired listeners. Instead, content should talk to the audience and address the burning question: "What's in it for me?"
Story Teller. The Austrian chancellor Kreisky was a master of building little stories into his speeches, following patterns like: "Earlier today I met a woman, who said to me... but I tell you... and so on." Rod Steward, on the other hand, taught us: "Every picture tells a story." The same is true for slide decks: Good presentations tell a story. A heterogeneous audience can be best reached with a combination of pictures and text. Rational and analytical people - thinking more with the left side of the brain - respond to figures and bulleted points. Intuitive and creative people - right-brain thinkers - prefer pictures to support a message. We usually first recognize people, then animals, things, forms and only last text, which therefore should be carefully chosen and used sparingly.
Reading: Time to Come to Rest?
Bedtime Reading. Striving for an ambitious career can cause stress, which may not only have an impact on us but also on our loved ones. In his book "Let kids be kids again - Lasst Kinder wieder Kinder sein", Michael Winterhoff reminds us to treat children as what they are rather than filling up their calendar with numerous activities like a business manager. Reasons for sleep disorders with children were found in disturbance by light and noise, PC or TV consummation before going to bed, and last but not least, family stress. Especially, the nightly bedtime reading of children is a double ritual. Of course, children need this moment of togetherness with her mother and father, but in the same way reading aloud is an opportunity for the parent to come to rest with himself and the child.
Number Always Available. We get more and more stuck in the net of availability. Every call, every text message, every "ping"-sound of a new e-mail in the inbox may trigger a release of the happiness hormone endorphin: "Someone wants something from me. I am important!" (Admittedly, if one has ever been on-call duty, a ring from a mobile phone may bring up mixed feelings.) Work-life balance is just one of the hollow phrases, which we use to conceal this hamster wheel-reality. Numerous offers from the wellness industry pretend that they are helping us to calm down and come to ease. Unconsciously, we may just use many of these offers to stay on the same daily hamster wheel. They help us to find something to do in our free time that was supposed to just serve leisure.
Disturbing Silence. The silence of a walk in the park is accompanied by a sense of anxiety. How can we be offline, unproductive, not available and enjoy the bit of peace and quiet? Rest can also be found in a good a book. In situations, where reading does not only serve the purpose of a time filler, it can be most enjoyable. Opening up a book, because I am looking forward to it and I can fully and completely get involved in its fantasy world, is a wonderful way to relax. At first, the pages of a book (unless illustrated) may not appear as colourful as a TV show or a computer screen, but once the stimulated thoughts take off and imagination builds our very own dream castle in the air, it may be the more rewarding. In short: Books are better!