I'm a little restless and struggling to produce decent copy from words bouncing around my head, being only two cups under in an inevitable four cup coffee binge, and feel like doing a little intentionally subjective all-in-good-taste trash talking.
The target is BBC Knowledge magazine, which I mistakenly bled out £3.99 for last weekend when I needed something to make me sleepy on a six hour coach journey back from Edinburgh. It's chock full of delightful questions and pseudo-explanations on topics that were researched to death years ago and news that came and went as fast as popular support for Kony2012.
To follow the style set by their own simplification of critical thought, I'm going to respond to some of the March issue's key questions using Betteridge's Law of Headlines.
Could we terraform Venus?
Can geoenineering [sic] fix the planet?
Can stars fight disease?
Did Columbus bring syphilis to Europe?
Have we beaten evolution?
I'd like to further expand on Betteridge with a realistic yet slightly generation-x approach to some of the more open-ended questions.
What's the north pole's time zone?
It doesn't matter.
What does the Higgs Boson mean for physics?
Less than you probably think.
What makes things cute?
The answer will not improve your quality of living.
Why can owls turn their head so far?
Even if you know, you will still have to go to work tomorrow.
Now I don't begrudge the writers or editors of this magazine for their hastily sculpted words and limited use of non-pronouns beyond three syllables, I begrudge the kind of reader to which they're pandering. The cover-borne claim that the content is "for the curious mind" is bullshit, since the snippets of information and meandering articles are much more likely to cause the fires of intellect to starve and die than blaze away.
The truly curious and inquisitive do not need to be fed scraps of "knowledge" since they already have the means of research at their disposal and are furiously going about utilising them.
The true audience are those revolting dinner-party intellectuals, they who will gather a few key points from each almost-synopsis and throw them out during the fish course, desperate to present a facade of education, thinking all the while that a spread of cross-topic soundbites and buzzwords outdoes a well researched enthusiasm in a few specific fields.
This isn't knowledge, it's bare bones information and a fistful of questions. I would have more respect for this magazine if it was called "Dinner Party Prompts" or "Jumping-off Points For Dummies" and if it didn't read like its audience considers it a valid alternative to a decent education or a personal gusto for research, perhaps viewing their subscriptions as sole evidence of their intellect, and sufficient laurels to rest on and prevent them from learning anything further.
Still. I bet they get more subscribers than I do.