intellectual vanities… about close to everything

US Nationwide Stinky Sneakers Competition

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On March 22, 2007 a 13-year-old Utah girl took home the top prize at a nationwide stinky sneakers competition in Montpelier, Vt. – a golden tennis shoe, $2,500 and a year’s worth of Odor Eaters from the National Odor Eaters Stinky Rotten Sneaker Competition.

She also won a trip to New York and tickets to see “The Lion King” on Broadway.

“I’m supportive and I’m so proud, even though she stinks,” her mother told The Salt Lake Tribune. She said her daughter is “normally really clean” but was able to overcome her neat impulses to keep her feet wallowing in filth.

The girl qualified for the competition by taking home the first prize for foul shoe odors at the 2006 Utah State Fair. Her brother took second place in the competition, the newspaper said.


The winner takes it all and The Salt Lake Tribune keeps reporting.It was Umberto Eco who called the media vehicles for magic culture. As such the media constitute a stumbling-block to the spreading of a culture based on critical thinking.

Over the last few years both a conceptual evolution (the commercialisation of the news and the ever-growing adherence to the principles of marketing) and a technical evolution (the assault of computer science and the increase in the amount of information processed in the same period of time) have significantly lowered the threshold of critical evaluation. In the end, this results in an almost automatic short cut from the cause to the effect (the event/news). Umberto Eco is absolutely right in saying that, for structural reasons, the media give us a magical view of the world.

In this magic representation of the world, in this unbearable lightness of the media, facts evaporate, and factual information tends to become pseudo-information while real life is void of meaning, as long as it is not present in the media. Hence, no means is odd enough to enter the magic mirror of media presence.

If this is how things really stand, then we are tempted to tell scientists (and professional journalists) to keep clear not only of talk-shows, as Eco recommends, but of all mass media. Otherwise not only might they end up communicating science next to some stinky sneaker competition, but they could even be seen as (modern) stink themselves.

Easier said than done. The presence of meaningful content in the media is no longer optional. It’s presence in the media, actually, has become an inescapable need. And the attention devoted to meaningful content by the media should become an inescapable social need, given the ever-increasing complexity in all aspects of our daily life. Whether we like it or not, facts, meaning and even science “have to” be present in the media. So this is the problem we humbly have to face (anyone who has a ready-made solution is asked to come forward): how to communicate reason (also) through the media at a time when the media are structurally inclined to communicate magic rather than facts.


Written by huehueteotl

March 22, 2007 at 4:25 pm

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