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The Vanishing of Scale in an Over-the-Top Nation

Ronald Bishop

Publication Year: 2011

Gone are the days of enjoying life’s simple pleasures for pleasure’s sake. Twenty-first-century Americans are on a mission to cram every second of their earthly existence with significant accomplishments and momentous events. Even the most mundane undertaking must be approached with zeal, gusto, and expertise, or so the media persuade us to believe.

Are we capable of doing anything casually anymore?

In this first book-length treatment of media’s obsession with triviality, cultural critic Ronald Bishop calls into focus the role of media in the demise of scale—the amount of effort, intensity, and significance with which we live—in contemporary culture. Bishop argues that American audiences are assaulted with messages that the ordinary, and often private, aspects of our lives—family, childhood, parenting, education, food, sports, home improvement—must be showcased publicly and with extreme passion.

Playfully mixing personal narratives with an abundance of examples from television shows, news stories, editorials, advertisements, books, and movies, Bishop demonstrates how media promote the idea that the notion of scale must be abandoned to achieve success and happiness in modern society.

Written with originality, intellectual acumen, and wit, More is a must-read for anyone obsessed with being obsessed and for others interested in media’s contribution to society’s out-of-scale behavior.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. vii


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. 1-16

On roughly the same day every November during the 1960s and 1970s, our neighbor from across the street, Mrs. Zipse, put up her Christmas lights. The configuration was simple: a single strand of large GE outdoor bulbs in assorted colors intertwined with a strand of garland and positioned so they outlined the cupola-shaped outer front door of the three-bedroom house she shared with her five children...

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1 Go Forth and Multiply

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pp. 17-44

Despite the fact that video cameras, now featured in a range of devices, seem surgically attached to our hands, we typically share the birth of our children only with immediate family and close friends. Birth announcements still find their way to local newspapers, and we may hop on Facebook to make the happy announcement to our technologically expanded circle of friends...

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2 Is Breast Best?

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pp. 45-74

The push to parent with intensity begins before kids actually make the scene. In the celebrated movie Juno, for example, a young affluent couple played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman overzealously overprepare—at least Vanessa, Garner’s character, does—as the teenaged Juno, played by Oscar nominee Ellen Page, carries the child Vanessa will adopt after splitting up with Mark...

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3 Is Zero Tolerance Tolerable?

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pp. 75-104

Abraham Lincoln goes in for a job interview. He’s applying for a position that requires a college degree, something our sixteenth president never obtained. A very disinterested, not to mention rumpled, interviewer munches on a sandwich. He perfunctorily grills Lincoln about his education level. “I’ve done a lot of reading and studying, sort of on my own,”...

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4 Only Experts and Fanatics Need Apply

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pp. 105-130

I have been a New York Mets fan since roughly the age of eight. The team captured my imagination the day Anne Sentivan, my third grade teacher, convinced Frank Ritzer, the wonderful principal of Fielding School in Maplewood, New Jersey, to allow her to roll a huge, antiquated, cart-bound television into our classroom so we could watch the Mets...

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5 My Drug of Choice

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pp. 131-158

In late June 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives, by a narrow seven-vote margin, passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act. At the heart of the bill is a provision that would require reduction of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and by half by 2050. In the months leading up to the vote, House Democrats and Republicans vigorously debated the true costs of the bill to Americans...

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6 The Tyranny of Talking Points

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pp. 159-186

Folks in my line of work have a complex relationship with Jon Stewart, satirist and host of the wildly popular Comedy Central program The Daily Show. For some of us, the finding that young people claim they learn more about politics from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report than from newspapers...

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7 Does Anthony Bourdain Hate Rachael Ray?

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pp. 187-214

Before I left home to attend Temple University in the fall of 1979, I underwent the required physical examination, conducted by our family doctor. The exam was at first uneventful, and I was about to be cleared for my journey to Philadelphia when I learned I weighed nearly three hundred pounds, not a healthy figure, even for someone of my height (6-5). Dr. Early, a timid man with exceptionally cold hands...

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8 The Museum of Me

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pp. 215-240

In the early 1970s, when Sears was the center of the design universe, at least for middle-class families in northern New Jersey, my parents renovated our living and dining rooms. With a little financial help from my godmother, they had bought our white three-bedroom colonial in Maplewood in 1963 for $20,000. I have predominantly warm memories of growing up there, punctuated by typical examples of bullying (received, not dished out)...

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Conclusions: Thanks a Lot, Tim McGraw

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pp. 241-250

The idea that “life is too short”—older readers may prefer “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” from the movie Auntie Mame, or maybe “Live! Live! Live!” the title of Mame Dennis’ celebrated fictional autobiography—now seems quaint. It just doesn’t state with sufficient conviction the need to wring every last drop of living out of life. Country music star, McGraw dedicated the enormously popular award-winning song “Live Like You Were Dying”...


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pp. 251-280


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pp. 281-286

E-ISBN-13: 9781602584457
E-ISBN-10: 1602584451
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602582583
Print-ISBN-10: 1602582580

Page Count: 298
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1st