Picks and Pans Review: Hot Topic

UPDATED 06/06/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/06/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

EVERYTHING BAD TOPIC IS GOOD FOR YOU This examination of pop culture by social critic Johnson contends that multidimensional TV shows, video games and other media give the mind a better workout than naysayers may believe.

HOW HAS TV BECOME MORE STIMULATING? A host of shows tell hypercomplex stories that stretch over multiple seasons. The Sopranos, for example, has many, many characters and many intersecting plotlines and does very little hand-holding. You really have to focus to understand what's happening.

IS THE SAME TRUE FOR VIDEO GAMES? As technology advances, more of it becomes participatory; video games force you to look at the variables, assess the information and make a decision. That's a huge part of what it means to be smart.

HOW DOES THE INTERNET HONE YOUR MIND? When you click on a link, you do that because something has piqued your interest and you want to see more. And it allows people to express their thoughts—there are more than 10 million blogs out there.

WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE FOR PARENTS? We should have a balanced media diet: If a child spends nine hours a day on video games, then make him read a book.

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