Image above taken from this article about a recently discovered treasure trove of 1960s photos of London’s East End. They’re being exhibited at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives until 5 May.
This blog post from iA Writer (the app I’m using to write this very blog post) says an awful lot of things that I’ve been feeling for the past 18 months or so. For example,
…in practice, the Internet is as far from a distributed, diverse network of independent publishers as Radio and in its main streams, as far from intelligent communication as TV. It is possible to do your thing, but it requires muscle. It is possible to find a thinking audience, but it will be small. The Internet has imploded into Facebook, Amazon, Google, some local players and a mirror Web of twin players dominating the Chinese Market. For new stars to be born we need to get ourselves out of these black holes. How? Why? And do we have a chance?
Send the Barbarian in First is a rather beautifully written tribute to Dungeons and Dragons (and its power to bring generations together) by George Murray. As someone who played D&D through his early teens (normally in a vacant geography classroom, at lunchtimes) it made me very nostalgic indeed.
The rest of the week has been spent reading A Question of Upbringing, the first volume of A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell. I’ve agreed to try and read one volume a month for the whole year (there are twelve volumes, duh), inspired by Andy Miller of the Backlisted podcast (and my friend John who is a Backlisted devotee and who is embarking on the same challenge).
Went to see The Post and, as predicted, I loved it. It’s definitely flawed, but not very. And the fact that it seems to have been made specifically for me (a self-confessed Ben Bradlee nerd) helps a lot. If you have seen and enjoyed The Post, then you should seek out the HBO documentary The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee (that’s the trailer above).
I also watched Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, the story of Dr. William Marston, the Harvard psychologist who helped invent the lie detector test and created Wonder Woman and his polyamorous relationship with his wife and their student. This is more flawed than The Post, mainly because it tries to cram an awful lot in to a 100 minutes and has to skip over a lot to tell the story it wants to tell. But what is there is nicely shot and it’s just great to see a love story like this told in a Hollywood move (and, my god, Rebecca Hall is magnificent).
Embedded above is the trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s Mosaic, a six-part miniseries that I’m two episodes into. So far it’s very watchable and just the right side of intriguing.
I haven’t been watching a lot of films recently, mainly because I’m still working my way through the incredible Twin Peaks. But Nina was away with work this week so I sat down and watched something I knew she wasn’t that bothered about: It. I enjoyed it, but it never got close to reaching the heights of the book. I think maybe something like last year’s Gerald’s Game worked better thanks to the concise story and limited setting. It (like The Stand for instance) is just too big for the big sceen, I’ll still watch the sequel though.
Also fromt he NY Times, a brilliant article about The Hyman Magazine Archive, an incredible project that’s housed in Woolwich. I would kill to spend a day in there.
Esquire published an oral history of Breaking Bad to mark the ten year anniversary of its TV premiere. Worth the read for this Aaron Paul quote: “I get called ‘bitch’ every single day. I have been called ‘bitch’ more than anyone on the planet, and that is very exciting. I’m very proud of that fact.”
Longreads sums up a spate of recent articles looking at the social media backlash. The bit which resonated most with me was: “Paul Constant, at the Seattle Review of Books, urges readers to stop getting their news (and opinions) from social media feeds and instead populate an RSS reader with the blogs and news sites they value and trust: ‘When we allow someone else to control our media intake, we’re giving up a tremendous amount of power. We’ve got to take that power back.'” Amen to that (my RSS feed has been the first thing I read when I sit down at my desk for over ten years…and it is curated to within an inch of its life).
Watched this week: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Nina enjoyed this a little more than I did. What Kermode called the “rejection of clear-cut moral certainties” made me a little queasy. Still an impressive film though.
I wrote a work thing for Venture Beat. It’s about our efforts to personalise digital experiences and how that might be having the opposite effect.
“In our attempt to engage everyone individually we are unwittingly creating a beige web, a homogenous echo chamber that is aesthetically and tonally normalized. And so we have to ask ourselves the question: when did personalization become so important? Who asked us for an individual experience? When did this become our mission?”
There were some absolutely fantastic talks at yesterday’s Interesting conference (I hesitate to call it a conference really, but I can’t think of a suitable synonym), but the one that really resonated with me for all sorts of reasons was Kim Plowright’s, called “try and explain what it feels like to preserve memories and talk about dementia and death on social media, whilst still occasionally making people laugh (and how her Mum would’ve had her guts for garters if she’d realised what she was up to)”.
One thing that Kim said during the five or ten minutes she was on stage was “Without memories we kind of disappear”. As much as she was talking about how dementia robs us of so much of what we call our ‘real selves’, she was also talking about why she felt the need to record the last few years of her parents’ lives in a series of very candid photos.
I’ve always struggled a bit with my motives for doing what I’m doing right now: writing down tiny chunks of my life, and yet I’ve found myself doing it again and again for about a decade and a half. Even with the opportunity that social media gives us to ‘over share’ today, I still want something that is somehow mine, something that’s not part of a larger network and feels cohesive and has some meat to it.
I want to have a bit of control over my memories.
(Strangely as I’m writing this I’m listening to Adam Buxton interview Michael Palin about his diaries, proving there is nothing new in the world.)
With a background in advertising, working at big firms and on accounts such as Tesco, Roberts became interested in the history of advertising outdoors, and the ethical issues it raises. Big billboards, he says, “trespass on people’s field of vision… Now takes on commissions from advertising agencies and interior designers, many of whom ask him to recreate the weathered, old designs and create “faux” ghost signs, using the illusion of historical authenticity for marketing purposes.
Fair enough, it sounds like Sam himself discourages the creation of artificial ghost signs, but the very fact that there’s agencies out there who think this that ‘the illusion of historical authenticity’ is a good thing, is a little terrifying.