(If you’re reading this and you’ve just come from kottke.org, let me take this opportunity to say hello and welcome, and please read on, because the following might be pertinent for you.)
I seem to be getting quite regular traffic (well, okay, by ‘regular traffic’ I mean like eight or nine hits, but that’s good for me!) from a comment I left last month on one of Jason Kottke’s remaindered links, regarding a photolog concerned with the lives of the homeless. Being in a cynical mood at the time, I spat out the following invective:
> This is basically Bumfights without the fighting. I’m sure he/she would have some petit bourgeois “artistic justification” for it, but that wouldn’t wash with me. It’s one thing capturing a fleeting moment for the sake of art, but making a dedicated project out of it is surely exploitative.
Nice, isn’t it? I impressed myself with that _”Bumfights without the fighting”_ quip. But you know what? It’s only rhetoric. I was more concerned at the time about how good the words looked than what I really felt about the issue. I did try to retract my statement (or at least take the venom out) a little further on in the discussion, but I suppose it was too little, too late, especially in an environment like this where first impressions matter so much more than in person. (It’s much easier to ignore the other side of the debate when you’re both hiding behind a computer.)
So what do I have to say about it now? Well firstly, I don’t believe that the photolog in question is exploitative, however I do think the disposability of the medium takes away from the seriousness of the issue.
Actually, I think the disposability of modern-day mass media takes away from the seriousness or the gravity of _most_ social issues. Whether it’s homelessness in America or Aids in Africa or riots in Australia or whatever, the medium abstracts the real, visceral event into little more than a few hundred words, a short video clip or a photograph, and some fancy graphics for decoration. It’s all too easy to look, say “that’s nice, somebody’s highlighting an important issue here” and then turn off the TV, close the paper or log off the website and forget about it.
I’m guilty of it myself. It’s not that I don’t care — I’m interested enough to read the paper or watch the news in the first place — it’s that I don’t care enough to do anything about it. Or I feel that it’s not my problem and other people will take care of it, though I know in the back of my mind that everyone else says the same thing to themselves, which means that no one takes any responsibility. I think that’s a pretty common trend.
To put it more bluntly, the problem isn’t lack of interest — it’s disinterest. And it was my perception of this disinterest in the weblogging community, where people hop onto the latest trends at the click of a mouse (and when they do get into a discussion, talk circles round each other), that prompted my harsh words, even though it was ultimately hypocritical of me to use them. (Hell, one could argue that my own linklog is little more than an exercise in disinterest!)
But hey, I was humbled, and at least I’m honest enough to say I was wrong. That was my first step; the next is to take my share of responsibility for society’s ills. The proprietor of the photolog is doing his part. Can the same be said for the people who view his photos?
Can the same be said for you? Let me know what you think.
I had an interview for a job this morning, my first for a while. I don’t want to go into details, since I’d rather keep employment specifics out of the weblog from now on; let’s just say that the line of work is right up my alley (I hesitate to use the phrase ‘dream job’, since that’s a long ways off yet), and my potential employer is both a company with a lot of history (it’s mentioned at least once in Joyce’s Ulysses) and one that I would love to work with. I said _love_.
The interview went well, I think. It wasn’t very formal, and most of it was spent going over the specifics of the work involved, the majority of which was familiar to me from my previous experience. I think they just want to get a feel for the applicants: to see the face behind the CV, that sort of thing; it was like that when I applied for the _large music store_ back in the day. Yet I’m never quite sure about these things, so I’m trying not to get too worked up about it.
I am anxious, though. I was anxious beforehand — I barely slept last night — and I’m anxious now, waiting for the phone call tomorrow morning that will tell me I’ve gotten the job. I’m still shocked that I was called for an interview in the first place, to be perfectly honest, so it’s no wonder I’m nervous.
And if I don’t get that phone call, you ask? Well, hopefully I impressed them enough today to secure a place in the call-back pile (it’s happened to me before).
But you know what? Even though I’m trying to be balanced and cool and calm and collected about it, and having my details kept in their records is better than nothing, that doesn’t change the fact that I really, _really_ want this job right now, and I’ll be gutted if I don’t get it. I said _gutted_.
*Update:* No phone call, so it looks like I didn’t get it. I was too needy, wasn’t I?
Roddy Doyle (who wouldn’t have become a writer if it weren’t for my old primary school principal Noel Kennedy) has courted controversy for his alleged confession at a birthday celebration for James Joyce in New York that he “can’t be bothered” with the work of Ireland’s most fêted literary paragon. Adding insult to injury, this comes in the year of the centenary of Bloomsday, the day on which the events in Ulysses take place. Unsurprisingly, his comments immediately raised the ire of everyone’s favourite Joycean scholar, David Norris:
> “A lot of people now try to make a reputation by attacking Joyce … These are people of medium talent who feel they can attack and challenge a global reputation. A lot of Irish writers of talent have felt threatened by Joyce. I think that’s part of it.”
Obviously Doyle is not the first to have voiced such criticism, even in such a blatantly controversialist manner. (Then again, _any_ criticism of this sort, constructive or not, is usually seen in the negative.) Joyce is after all notoriously difficult to read — though ultimately rewarding for me, I cannot say that Ulysses wasn’t a chore — and because of it he has always had his detractors:
> Begrudgery was nothing new to Joyce. He fled the city, where his books were effectively banned until the 1960s, because of the viciousness of its barstool critics. He famously wrote in 1909: “How sick, sick, sick I am of Dublin! It is the city of failure, of rancour and of unhappiness, I long to be out of it.”
That’s a fair point to make about this fair city; 95 years on, times really haven’t changed and I, too, long to be out of it.
But I digress. Doyle has a fair point of his own to make:
> “If you’re a writer in Dublin and you write a snatch of dialogue, everyone thinks you lifted it from Joyce. The whole idea that he owns language as it is spoken in Dublin is a nonsense. He didn’t invent the Dublin accent. It’s as if you’re encroaching on his area or it’s a given that he’s on your shoulder. It gets on my nerves.”
I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. On one hand, Joyce’s work _is_ better and more rewarding than Doyle gives it credit for (though to be fair, he’s picking on Joycean evangelism and the industry it has encouraged rather than the man himself). On the other, the spectre of Joyce that haunts Irish literature has without doubt put unfair expectations on the shoulders of generations of Irish writers — and Dublin writers in particular — so it’s hard to blame Roddy Doyle for being irked, or irksome, about it. (Even if it was a cheap-shot.)
This leads me to make a proposal from the top of my head: that James Joyce is the Bob Dylan of literature. (I’m sure it’s really vice versa, but for the sake of argument please bear with me.) Joyce, like Dylan, is venerated to such a degree that his fans/worshippers/whatever are often blinded to the existence or worth of anything else, independent of him, in its own right. And some of these people aren’t going to be convinced otherwise, no matter how hard you try.
So in the end of the day, does it really matter? Not really. Joyce will always have his legions of followers, and Doyle, whether he realises it or not, has made his indelible mark on the literary landscape both at home and abroad. Ultimately, all this bother is just passive-aggressive attention seeking, if you ask me.
Whatever the case, if he were alive today, it’s likely that Joyce would be chuckling with glee at the whole spectacle (as viewed from the safe distance of continental Europe, no doubt) and revelling in the plentiful royalties he’d receive by virtue of the massive publicity this year’s events will generate; being respected for your craft is one thing, but you’re kidding yourself if you think there’s nothing more.
Ben and Benjamin discuss the merits of Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love:
Ben: This is rock music but you could play it at a disco.
Benjamin: Yeah, at a dude disco.
There’s lots more where that came from.
Were you watching Txt, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll on MTV2 this afternoon? Did you happen to see the following message on the screen?:
Play some Meat Puppets! Free Cris Kirkwood!
If you did, that was me.
You can probably tell from the above map of the world (you can make your own travel map here) that I haven’t been around much. Even that big red splodge over North America is slightly misleading since I’ve only been to Ontario. (And those red flecks of islands dotted around? Those are just overseas territories of France or something, so don’t mind those.)
But I do feel lucky to have been to the places I’ve been. Besides, I’m still young, I’ll see lots more yet. And now that I have someone I can do it with, I’m even more determined.
To hell with the town; we’re gonna paint the _world_ red.