Too many choices make selection tough

By Clyde Davis: Local columnist

There was one copy of this magazine sold from Hastings in Clovis last year. I know, because I am the one who bought it. The magazine is the Competition edition of Wildfowl Carving, which features the best of the previous year’s carving competitions, primarily in wood, for those who focus or include birds in their art.

Aside from carvers, only someone willing to pay a large amount of money to look at very fine three-dimensional art would purchase this magazine. So as no surprise to anyone, the magazine did not appear at our Hastings this year. Which leads me to something I have noticed, not just in magazines but in other areas. Is it a good idea, or a bad idea, to be as specialized as we have become?

For example, other magazines I noticed in Hastings that may not make a return trip after one issue include one for hotrod enthusiasts in Hawaii, a cross-country ski journal, another for pregnant women over 40 and a periodical for those who breed rare tropical saltwater fish.

These, like extremely advanced wildfowl carving, are wonderful subjects, but each is perhaps a little esoteric for any general slice of the population in a city our size. It’s one thing that makes the Hardback Cafe so much fun to hang out in.

The online chat room, in a similar vein, has opened us up to a whole new range of contacts previously unavailable. For example, I wrote in my column last week of an event I could only have known of because of a chat room that connects me with other outdoor activity lovers from Maine to Hawaii. I am also connected (though with no great frequency — it’s too depressing) with other esophageal cancer survivors in this and other countries. Chat rooms, I think, are a definite positive development.

We’re also aware of the revolution caused by satellite radio and TV. The purchaser can flip back and forth between French Canadian broadcast, the BBC in London, and six or seven varieties of any musical genre.

The same miracle affects television viewing, astounding to the large number of Americans, like myself, who grew up in the era of “three channels and Public Television.” (Yes, I remember the early advent of cable in Western Pennsylvania.)

Which brings me back to the main question: Is the overwhelming number of available choices a good thing, a bad thing, or a mixed blessing, and in what ways? With television, despite the number of channels, we seem to end up on the Food Network or Travel Channel, unless I have the remote, in which case ESPN rules.

Does quality go downhill when so many choices are offered? I love the presence of strange and unusual magazines, but are there enough readers to keep some of them in business?

I don’t propose, nor see, an easy answer. Certainly there are elements of positive and negative. I just want to encourage us to think about how to cope with this world we are creating.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at:
clyde_davis@yahoo.com