Death of a Disco Dancer

I came across this amazing video the other day. It is very grainy, early video footage from a club night called Shaboo, recorded about 25 years ago in Blackpool in 1990.

The DJ playing is Sasha. 25 years later he’s still around and remains one of the leading lights of the electronic music scene.

It’s a pretty incredible video. And not just because recordings of raves and club nights from this time are so rare. It’s incredible because it really cemented for me how shit iPhones and their kind have made things.

People are dancing. Really dancing. Totally inhibited – either naturally or as a result of the chemicals they’ve chosen to accompany their evening. Not only that, but the DJ isn’t the focus. People face every direction. They face each other. The music is what is driving them. Its what drives the connection between the people in the room and the room itself.Nothing like today. Nothing like the narcissistic need to be front and center. Not like the need to record everything you see so that you can share it online later, convincing your friends and yourself how fucking awesome a time you had.

Not like the fact we’ve never had so much to look at, but we barely see anything at all.

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Hollow Men

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

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Deal or No Deal

Full of cold, i’ve worked from home today.

Accompanied by a bowl of Tomato Soup I flicked through the channels, looking for something to watch as I ate. I settled on Channel 4, lured in by the lairy opening credits of gameshow Deal or No Deal.

I’ve not watched the programme in two years. Gone are the days when I used to work in TV and it was my job to keep an eye on daytime television. There are lots of the show’s elements that have changed. There are new elements to the game play. More interaction with the banker, more decisions make and an all new 23rd box that awaits each player at the end of the game.

It so happened that it was a terrible edition to watch, from the contestant’s perspective. He went away with a pound, having eliminated all the red (high value) amounts immediately.

The one constant though was the level of spiritualism exhibited by everyone; by Noel, by the contestant, by his co-contestants. There is an almost unbelievable level of belief that this game is tactical. That the player can impact the result and that faith in a system will prevail.

True, there are tactics. Knowing when to deal, for instance. But, the game is luck. You chose a box. You deal with the consequences. There is no skill. No greater force at play.

It reminded me of Jon Ronson’s killer article about the whole thing. How amazing the cult of Deal or No Deal is. What it does to people and how the producers create the camaraderie that we see on screen. Its remarkable. The article is one of my favourite pieces of journalism. Its always worth a re-read. Especially when confronted by Noel’s strange, spiritual spiel.

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Welcome to Ambridge

“A contemporary drama in a rural setting”

Something about the way my digital radio described Radio 4’s The Archers to me this morning made me smirk.

A ticker tape, words and a series of illuminated LEDs passing from right to left. I have no idea why it made me smile, nor why this is the first time i’ve noticed it.

Extremely accurate on the one hand, totally insufficient on the other.

What about the hay thief?

What about the amateur dramatics?

What about the flood?

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Delayed Gratification

My wife bought me a subscription to Delayed Gratification for my birthday, a magazine published by The Slow Journalism Company.

I’d never heard of it before and didnt know what to expect, but having read the explanation of the concept that I found on the inside front cover, I think it’ll be right up my street. This is what it says:

Slow Journalism matters

Why? Because today’s ultra fast news cycle rates being first above being right. It tells us what’s happening in real time but not what it means. It gives us the beginning of stories by never their end. It promotes kneejerk reactions and cut-and-paste journalism over context and perspective. It lends significance to Twitter storms, PR-driven stories and synthetic outrage.

It does not nourish. It does not inspire. It is not enough.

We believe in a slower, smarter approach and with your support we are taking a stand. Each purchase of Delayed Gratification is a vote for non-partisan, independent, intelligent slow journalism

Lovely.

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Stephen King – On Writing

In this case, actually the more globally famous Stephen King, rather than the one I normally find myself writing about.

A book a number of people have recommended to me in the last year is Stephen King’s ‘memoir of the craft’, On Writing. I’ve not read much of his work and am more than familiar with a couple of the films adapted from his work, so didnt know what to expect really.

It’s a fantastic book. He writes simply and clearly with an honesty which was almost refreshing. Who would have thought that both Misery and The Shining were about him dealing with addiction. But, whilst the ‘CV’ section – loosely a short and concise memoir of how he got into writing was interesting, amusing and enlightening, it was the section on how to write that was most rewarding. As discussed here, the way I write, especially with regards to my work has become a bit of a preoccupation recently.

Whilst there were a number of nice stylistic and formal tips for writers in the book – avoid adverbs, never use the word ‘very’, for starters – it was some of the more fundamental points he makes which I found myself agreeing with the most, normally whilst thinking that whilst they were basic tips for writing, I’m lazy and often forget…

Firstly : Kill your darlings . In other words – don’t be afraid of getting rid of something – an idea, an insight, a point, a strategy. Especially if it doesn’t fit or doesn’t work. Don’t get sentimental about your ideas.

Secondly, a loosely related to the point above: If a gun is on the mantel in Act 1, it has to go off in Act 3. Why set something up in a document if it never gets resolved?

Thirdly – what is your version of Edgar Wallace’s plot wheel? Basically an early version of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategy Cards: a way of muddling through problems when no obvious answer exists!

Lastly: write with the audience in mind. Obvious, but easily forgotten. Who are you presenting to. What will they comment on and what will they notice?

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Some books aren’t for reading

Reading this year is going well.

The latest book was Stephen J. Burn’s Infinite Jest: A Readers Guide.

A slightly unusual choice, perhaps. It is, after all, a book about a book and therefore operates in some sort of generic inter-zone; not quite biography or fiction, not quite non-fiction. I chose it because two years on, Infinite Jest continues to bother me.

I enjoyed parts of it, didn’t care for others and ultimately plodded through the vast journey to the end. Would I say i liked it, more generally? Perhaps. Would i recommend it to people? Probably not. Am I glad to say I have read it and does it usually start a conversation with people? Yes. I suppose it does.

I read Burn’s book to try and understand Foster Wallace’s epic more. Having finished it, I’m not sure I’ve achieved that aim. What I am sure of though is that fully understanding the book is perhaps beyond the realms of a normal reader (or at least beyond me, anyways).

By ‘normal reader’ I mean anyone who has a life, job and commitments which prevent them from erecting a huge pin-board based wall covered in images, cut outs and snippets from the book and linking the whole sorry mess together with a web of red twine.

This novel is dense with symbolism, clues, links and subtle references that help a reader unlock the clues hidden within. However, as Burn notices, without a hint of humour or shock – some of these clues are mentioned within the first 10 pages, and then only resolved near the books end. 800 pages or so later. Burn, having the advantage of studying the novel professionally, presumably can dedicate the time required for this sort of forensic analysis.

I, on the other hand, and I’m assuming most other people like me, will not have such a luxury. It strikes me that perhaps Infinite Jest is largely trying to demonstrate just how clever the author is. It is not fiction for the reader’s enjoyment, but fiction for the ego.

I’ve always been fairly neutral on the “masterpiece or bullshit” debate around DFW’s 900 page epic. Having read the guide though, i’m erring toward one camp now more than the other.

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