Saturday, April 16, 2016

In Search of Cultural Vistas 

Written earlier in the week, but only just posting now:
I was struck last night by an increasing occurrence. Where you see an amusing little nugget on twitter and you smile in an appropriate manner. Then a day, or two, later, you see the same thing again. And again. Then you see that same little nugget being picked up by both Boing Boing and Jezebel, and being passed off as a cutting edge moment.

I’m not ahead of the curve. My finger is not in the pulse. So what does this say about “news” sites passing on information that is days old? On one hand, it has always been the case. But on the other, it probably speaks to an idea of saturation, particularly on twitter. Where the medium becomes so utterly saturated and repetitive that it becomes harder to see something for the first time, instead of seeing that thing again.

Another tweet I saw last night, from the magazine Huck, about a film being shown in Manchester about the erosion of culture in New York, and the people fighting back against it. Like many things, I didn’t look beyond that one tweet, so I don’t have any details on that particular node. But it is one dot in a persistent pattern – culture in New York is dead, or replace that with London, or replace that with. And wave a hand towards gentrification. Which flags another dot in my head, from reading an article the other night in an actual physical copy of Huck magazine which I have lying around. Which was a guide to Wellington in New Zealand, how it was a cultural hot spot, the starting point for many a visitor setting out on adventure. How that has transformed over the years due gentrification. Which in turns reminds me of a video I watched on YouTube, a group of artists talking about how much more difficult culture was becoming in Reykjavik for the same reason.

I've been reading the new edition of England’s Hidden Reverse that was released recently. An updated version of the book that came out 10 or so years ago? My memory should be better on that, given I was at the launch of the version when the author spoke about it in Glasgow’s Monorail records. Anyway, book and reading, in particular the section I was reading last night was wallowing in the London scene of the 80’s – post-punk/industrial music, pretentious art wankers and confrontational bastards. All living, as the saying goes, cheek by jowl, in squats. All playing dingy little venues, where violence would erupt, partly in protest and partly because folk were arseholes. Which ties into that idea of that film mentioned above – a lost New York to a lost London to a lost cultural past.

Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be some essay, just a note, observing a couple of things that catch the eye. By contrast, I was listening to a podcast on the drive to work this morning. I tend to vary depending on mood – a selection of music played at random or a podcast. Today I picked a conversation with Clive James, and I was struck (perhaps again, perhaps more lucidly) by why I enjoy certain podcasts. Listening to two men talk about books that I will never read and likely would not enjoy if I tried to read. Or on other occasions two people talk about music I’d never listen to. It is the listening to the enthusiasm and pleasure expressed by other people. Where you can appreciate where people are coming from, you can enjoy the intelligence and engagement. Occasionally there is that nugget in there, where you think actually that is something I should read, listen to, watch, appreciate and you make a discovery. I am undoubtedly a fan of discovery, of expanding my horizons.

Though, lets not get carried away, last week I stumbled upon the worst podcast ever. An episode of a show that I listen to periodically had hit on the perfect formula – five people sitting around and talking in the most academic terms about the nature of something only really of interest to the five people talking about it. I lasted 10 minutes, I was driving, before I started swearing and was forced to change to something resembling interesting. 

Though, of course, I’ll do my best to adhere to the idea of mentioning things I like while politely not naming things I am criticising. Though, I can have mixed feelings about that, particularly when everyone else is wrong. But I am only human.

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