How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts and the literary world, to hear their answers. This is drawn from an email exchange with Jonathan Ames, author, amateur boxer, and creator of HBO's Bored to Death.
The first thing I look at in the morning is my phone, an Android of some sort, which I struggle to operate. I'm middle-aged but have the technical savvy of someone much older. I look at email, Facebook, and Twitter to see if any human beings known to me or not known to me have sent me some kind of message. I do this out of sense of needinesss and loneliness. By quickly glancing at these three things (I use AOL email which posts headlines of all sorts), I can get a sense if there's a world crisis that I should be aware of and frightened of before I head out for a coffee and go about my soft and frivolous day-to-day life in which no world crisis seems to have a visible impact, though I'm sure this won't always be the case so it's good practice to upset myself every morning in preparation for when I will need to flee, help someone, or genuinely panic.
When I head out for coffee and breakfast, I get a newspaper. By morning, I mean 11 a.m. or noon. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I get The New York Times because on those days I can do the crossword. On Wednesday's my I.Q. hits a wall puzzle-wise, but sometimes I pick up The Times anyway to see if I'm making progress -- I've been doing crosswords for two years now to prevent early Alzheimers and to waste time -- and sometimes I can actually finish a Wednesday puzzle, but mostly I can't and it's like scoring poorly all over again on the SAT's, and I regret the two dollars I spent on the paper.
So, for the most part, from Wednesday to Sunday, I buy either the New York Post or the Daily News. My preference is for the fictions of the Post to the fictions of the News, but sometimes the Post is sold out. Some days, depending on my level of non-achievement, I will read the fabulations and distortions of all three papers (morning, middle of the day, late at night), not really absorbing anything, but, primarily, scanning different accounts of the same sporting events and looking at pretty girls in the gossip pages.
At night, in a taxi or on the subway, on my way to the Russian baths in Manhattan, where I go almost nightly, I listen to my iPod. Lately it's been the modern, mournful collective oeuvre of Radiohead, which makes me feel properly apocalyptic and hopelessly imprisoned in my own broken heart and mind.
Lately, since I'm in search of a new author to read over and over, I don't read anything, and content myself with doing crosswords in books of "easy" New York Times puzzles. Sometimes I channel-surf looking for a good action film (rarely finding one) but mostly I watch ESPN. For the previous 16 months, I was happily reading and rereading all of the Parker books written by Richard Stark, a pseudonym for Donald Westlake. I wrote an essay about this for the December issue of Playboy. He wrote 24 books about a heroic sociopath named Parker and I started with the first book and worked my way to the last book (they were written over a 40-year period, starting in the 60's). Then I went back to the beginning and reread them all. Along the way, I read probably a dozen other genre novels by other authors as snacks between the Stark novels.
My parents kindly gave me a subscription to The New Yorker but I don't seem to read it any more. They just pile up. I'm so far behind -- there's an article from 2010 on the brain I've been meaning to read for almost two years -- that I've just given up on the magazine altogether.
I use Twitter and Facebook to shamelessly (actually I feel a lot of shame about it) promote my television show, not knowing what else to do to help the thing. In doing so, I glance at Twitter and Facebook and I half-read people's posts wondering about the meaning of it all, not really being nourished in any way that I can yet perceive. I don't know what Reddit is, but I guess I should look into it so that I can shamefully self-promote on that networking site.
I don't really use anything to survive. I don't seek information or guidance from media. I don't read magazines, go to websites, listen to podcasts, and I barely watch TV or movies. I read newspapers out of habit, but even then it's mostly, as I've stated, for the sports pages and the pictures of pretty girls. I guess I could live without newspapers, but as a bachelor who eats almost all of his meals alone, a newspaper is a boon companion. So is a paperback novel, but I tend to prefer to read newspapers while eating and I save novels for soothing my mind for sleep, putting a dream of fiction into my brain before it shuts its meaningless self down for the night.