Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What could I do instead of watching X factor

“Wikipedia took the idea of peer review and applied it to volunteers on a global scale, becoming the most important English reference work in less than 10 years. Yet the cumulative time devoted to creating Wikipedia, something like 100 million hours of human thought, is expended by Americans every weekend, just watching ads.”
― Clay Shirky

I like watching the X factor particularly combined with the mockery that goes on on twitter. Something nags at me about the waste of time the X Factor is. There is nothing particularly wasteful about this program but it will do as an example.

The program consists of 31 episodes with a Running time of 60–80 minutes according to wikipedia. Taking the program as 70 minutes that is about 36 hours. I thought the Saturday program was longer than 80 minutes but I could be wrong. 'Saturday's edition of The X Factor averaged 9.6 million viewers, a 38.5% share of the audience, between 7.45pm and 9.55pm'. So lets say a series of the x factor is 40 hours of your time. a season of American Idol takes at least as long.

So what could I do in this time?

Read a book

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is 560,000 words. The average American adult reads prose text at 250 to 300 words per minute. So I could read that in about 31 hours reading. Great Expectations is 185000 words, about 12 hours. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust at 1,500,000 would be about two series of x factor.

These are famously big books the average fiction book is about 75000 words. Or about 5 hours of reading at 250wpm. So that is around 8 novels I could read instead of x factor.

Get Strong

The Starting strength program (described here) goes from someone who has never lifted before to quite strong in three months three days a week 45 minutes a day. Say an hour to shower and such. 3 times a week for 12 weeks is 36 hours similar to the x factor

Three months of this program wont make you wrestle a bear strong but it will make you useful when helping the bear move his fridge. Everyones progression will vary but this site Weightlifting Performance Standards says that after 3 months of training like this a man could expect to be able to pick up a weight of just under one and a half times bodyweight. A woman would be able to pick a weight of around her own bodyweight.

Most people fear that as soon as they touch weights they will end up with the Arnie condom filled with walnuts look. Besides they might not have the equipment. But if instead I went for doing pressups everyday? The Hundred Press up challenge says "this six week training program and you'll soon be on your way to completing 100 consecutive push ups!...about 30 minutes a week to achive this goal!" that is 3 hours. Double the time to 6 hours in case they are lying.

Run a Race

Couch to 5km plans are really popular. "Each session should take about 20 or 30 minutes, three times a week". the guide is 9 weeks but lets say it takes 12 weeks to get that fit. That is still at most 18 hours.

You won't outrun a bear after doing this you probably will outrun some of the other people the bear is chasing though. Besides you've helped the bear move his fridge so he probably won't chase you anyway. I could nearly train to run a race and do the starting strength program in the time I could spend watching x factor.



X factor is entertaining but so are books and many people after a while find exercise entertaining at least in retrospect. I have not included 'learn a language' in the list of other things you could do as few people actually find that entertaining.

That means I could train myself to run a 5km (18 hours), to do 100 pushups (6 hours) and read Great Expectations (12 hours) and still have some time left over. I probably wont do that but at least I know what I am feeling guilty about now. There is nothing particularly bad about X factor there are much worse ways I spend my time. I could watch 40 hours of youtubes finest cat videos.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Serious Business of Children's Books

There is a bit of a literary fight today about a new book of a children's story written by James Joyce
'Joyce children's story published in Dublin to dismay in Z├╝rich'
In a statement, the foundation said it “was left completely in the dark” about the Dublin publication and that “it never permitted, tolerated, condoned or connived in this publication, and it rigidly dissociates itself from it”.

It was “dismayed to learn that a copy of the letter to young Stephen Joyce of 1936 must have been used for its publication in book form. The foundation was never approached or informed, it was never asked for permission” and it had only just learned of the publication.

The book looks lovely. The issue reminds me of a bugbear I have where famous authors of adult literature's children's books are consigned to the trash heap of history.

For example I cannot find a new copy of
The Little Steamroller by Graham Greene

Virginia Woolf, The Widow and the Parrot

The Bed Book By Sylvia Plath


I love the Bed Book. The picture is of me reading it to my daughter. Yet many Plath fans do not even know of its existence.

Why is it that these books are not well known or in print? Could it be we do not like our serious authors to show their playful and family loving side? It could be there is no demand to pay for publishing these books. That Joyce's story needed to go out of copyright to get printed is evidence against this though.

A friend pointed out this great blog We Too Were Children 'a Compendium of Children’s Books by Twentieth Century “Adult” Authors Currently Out of Print'. Do you know of any more slightly hidden childrens books by 'serious' authors? Kafka's tale of the plucky mouse who rescues the circus or some such.