Monday, 12 October 2009

Thoughts on The New

I can only think of one person amongst my friends who might relish new beginnings more than I do. A few things over the past few days have turned my thoughts to 'the new' (typical academic prose gambit: take an adjective and turn it into a noun preceded by the definite article), so I thought a good way to start this new blog would be to try and work out what I want to say about them.

I went to a wedding this weekend - an event that simultaneously signals a new beginning and a formalisation and continuation of an existing commitment. Some of my friends commented that the number of traditional choices that had been made by the couple surprised them slightly - but at the same time, there were some fresh sparkly touches. (Something old, something new...)

It was a lovely day, and very relaxed, giving me the opportunity to catch up with some friends. I particularly enjoyed chatting with one of these friends about her job working in marketing for a large and prestigious newspaper, and about the way we might be headed. My automatic reaction to the accelerating changes we are seeing occur in the delivery of media 'content' (the very phrase itself indicating how quickly we've altered some of our vocabulary and mental mapping in relation to this area) is a negative one: I resist it, dismiss it as a gimmick or a cynical ploy, adopt David Simon's view that it is part of the destruction of in depth reporting (and, more broadly, complex thought), etc. etc.

It may be partly my recent experience of working in an office and absorbing myself in systems, efficiency, effective means of communication within a large institution, promotion through a website, and so on, that meant that when I spoke to someone whose job it is to adapt to and employ these new developments and possibilities, I found myself getting excited about the possibilities these developments might afford.

One thing I wanted to find out about was RSS feeds. They've registered with me, and the idea of not having to 'trawl', as the saying/selling goes, through my cycle of sites certainly appeals to me. A good and quick way to go nuts whilst unemployed is to bounce between job websites, e-mail accounts, and reports about the recession, in between googling phrases like 'need a job', 'why are there no jobs' (and darker things in darker moments) (does anyone else treat google like a new form of oracle?). So my friend and I talked a little about the benefits and possibilities of RSS feeds (and I saw some on a sexy phone), and I resolved to give my browsing a bit of a tidy-up next time I went online.

The next day I went to the cinema. Perhaps I was kidding myself, but I felt supersharp about spotting contemporary cultural symptoms in the trailers and adverts. Showcase, like the Odeon, are marketing a new loyalty card. Unlike the Odeon card though, the Showcase one is, in a particularly naked way, addressing its audience as one that is canny and clued in in relation to the private lives of celebrities. The card is called an 'Insider' card or something similar though. (I don't think the campaign pulls it off though. A title card before the ads began asking patrons to turn their pagers to silent didn't help.) A new Renee Zellwegger picture indicates the return of the diabolical child movie (I wonder how much the explanations offered and the ones that they're hiding differ from those identified by Andrew Britton in the 70s). Another apocalypse movie is on the horizon (aren't we all feeling a bit apocalyptic at the minute??).

The movie itself was District 9, something I've been waiting to see for a long time. It made a strong impression. I'll have to re-visit it to see how much of its impact was sound and fury, but I suspect it's a masterpiece or something close. I don't think it handles as well as Children of Men (the film that, for me, it most strongly recalls) its blend of a fascinating near-future realised through an overwhelming mise-en-scene and a captivating narrative premise that drives a recognisable popular-cinema plot. District 9 slightly outstays its welcome, loosening its grip slightly in the final half hour or so, but it still demands serious attention.

As someone who spends a lot of his time looking at old movies and (slowly!) constructing arguments about their value and sometimes their superiority to contemporary filmmaking, it was thrilling to have a cinema experience that made me want to go out and write about what I had just seen for positive reasons - not because what I had seen was evidence of creative bankruptcy or simply symptomatic of the contemporary moment.

Last night I spent a lot of time getting googled up. I set up Google Reader. As usual, there's a gap between what you expect and want the thing to be able to do and what it can do. I can get feeds from, but nothing that exactly replicates the 'film' search that I depress myself with about once an hour whilst online. No RSS there I'm afraid. Oh well. Perhaps it wouldn't really do for the official website of a sixty year old man to cater to shiny young things.

I also set up my blog - agonising for a long time over my url (is a statement too strident/cloying?; a clever thing would get old quite soon). A small example of new media not simply providing new bottles for old wine, but obliging one to make decisions about the 'container' that didn't hitherto exist. (I often find myself opting for the most unobtrusive, 'vanilla' layouts for customised pages, blogs, etc - itself, of course, a form of vanity.)

Today I set up a homepage that gathers together a fair amount of useful stuff. I feel quite good about it. We'll see how the 'to-do' 'gadget' works out. I suspect a piece of paper might do the job better. And Radio 4, listened to on the radio, will remain my principal source of news.

And I actually got around to writing the blog! Not as profound or articulate as the exciting little cluster of embryonic thoughts in my head, but it'll do. I'll save the polish for elsewhere. And there's another fresh start spent. Oh well.


  1. Oh, I like to think that every blog entry is a fresh start, of sorts. I have to think like that to cope with the fact that my clusters of thought never quite make it to print in a satisfactory way. I look forward to reading your thoughts in paragraphs!

  2. All things considered I am of the opinion we have become more interested in the means of communication and less about what we are actually communicating.

    We are adrift on a sea of communication and no one is saying anything.