the m john harrison blog

Tag: media

who’s the fairest

In every move of the camera, every gesture of the presenter, every line of the script, you receive not what is being communicated but the discussions, arguments and decisions made in the production & directorial meetings. Fiction or nonfiction, what you view isn’t the apparent content, it’s the decisions of the makers expressed as a series of commentaries on the technical constraints & professional choices open to them when making the programme. What is communicated is only an excuse for this commentary, which seems more & more blatant, more & more part of each item. I am not trying to describe the result of ideology here, but the result of a profession’s self-absorption, the insiderism of having a professionalised view. The only trade with more sense of itself as its own subject matter, more awareness of the mirror, is that queen of sciences, politics.

vast pantomimic signage

I’m not in the least convinced by this. “…Scandinavian crime dramas–their dour sensibility chimes soddenly with our rain-soaked souls.” But however hard it tries, the BBC Wallander isn’t Scandi-crime. They’ve got the landscapes right, the photography right, the direction right, the script nearly right. But they can’t do anything about the acting. Branagh can’t leave well enough alone. He cues up the crux of every occasion with his eyes or a gesture, recluttering a clean text with the vast pantomimic signage we associate with British TV drama: “This moment is so important. We are so important: us actors, you viewers, this thing we know.” In Britain our souls aren’t “soaked with rain”, they are bloated with the theatricality of denied entitlement, self pity & –wherever the arts are concerned–mutual congratulation. I’d say “mutual self-congratulation” if that bore examination.

spring cannibalism

I heard an equivalence in tone between the words “the Leveson Inquiry” & Mark Danielewski’s phrase “the Navidson Record”. Instantly, Leveson fell whole into Danielewski’s arid self-flattering maze of layered & ultimately unproductive discourses; while in return the presiding void of House of Leaves gained for a second an authentic horror it hadn’t earned. Then the pair of them rustled, shifted & vanished into one another, cannibalising mutually as they went. Discourse space was empty again & I felt free.

lifestyling gadget earth

This object is rather beautiful. Realised topology. But somehow I can only envisage it as a sort of late 90s techno-pagan toy, a gadgetised Chinese lantern already heading downslope from the sublime to the banal after its fifteen minutes as an expensive Christmas present. & that’s before they crowdsource a way to use it to deliver surveillance. Which reminds me: this. Which is the most frightening: (a) little hummy birds ? (b) that this waffle was written by an adult ? (c) that we live in a world where the words “take-home pitch” have a meaning ? Oh, wow, Darpa will help us spy on everyone else from a distance! With little hummy birds! & bomb them in, what, can I believe this ?, a very short time! Wow, gosh, I have such a crush on the rocket scientist aspirational speaker.

karaoke culture

Karaoke Culture is a sharp piece of commentary. As ever, Ugresic sucks you in with wit & mad charm; cheekily sandbags you with her ability to merge her observations of cultural events, venues & styles; engineers cheerful hit & run connections between media. You think it’s a rat’s nest but it develops a sly inevitable logic, & it’s probably the only way to get away with some of the things she says. Meanwhile, I wonder if this is going to be anything like as sharp & honest as These Foolish Things, the Deborah Moggach novel on which it’s based, a TLS review of which I’ll put up here if I can ever find it again in my own rat’s nest. Thinking about: Shame, which struck me as little more than a dutiful turn round the relevant sections of DSM IV-TR. I like that smelly nourishing suet of dysfunctional & chaotic behaviour, but Shame didn’t seem an especially intense slice.

Sommer, Somerfield, Deakin

John Timberlake recommended Frederick Sommer’s photography & now I’m obsessed by this chicken. Some of John’s own work can be seen here.

Roger Deakin writes on page four of Waterlog (1999):

    “Most of us live in a world where more and more places and things are signposted, labelled, and officially ‘interpreted’. There is something about this that is turning the reality of things into virtual reality. It is the reason why walking and cycling and swimming will always be subversive activities.”

Within a decade, wholly driven by the success of Waterlog, the media cult of “wild swimming” had taken off & was well into the process of commodification & interpretation. Significant points along Deakin’s journey–easily-available pools, beaches & rivers–were becoming stations of the wild swimming cross. You could buy a wild swimming holiday, a score of wild swimming guides & DVDs. Stratification of ambition had set in: some wild swims were clearly wilder than others. Soon you could buy a logbook in which to record your wild swimming ticks. Waterlog abounds in so many sad ironies of this kind I’m not sure I can re-read it. (At date of first publication, he was already wrong about walking & cycling, which had become part of the signposted, packaged & commodified outdoors–the indoor outdoors–long before.)

Finally today, a very short story in the New Weird mode, from an observation of Claire Marshall’s: “It seems darker than other supermarkets.”

tattoo as brand

Steve Mosby at The Left Room reacts to H&M’s new “Lisbeth Salander” range of clothing, a predictable but still somehow astonishing act of exploitation. Steve makes some excellent points about just what is being exploited here, but I don’t know what to say, because I would only be repeating myself. See here, here, here & here, & the subsequent below-the-line dialogues. & also see Empty Space.

angels in the made world

Tanya Gold, the Guardian today.

safe from this constant obscene revelation of things

The best outcome here would be a few more glimpses then nothing. The sooner the pursuit is abandoned to loonies & internet obsessives the better; that way the mystery can slip behind its own bad reputation & vanish. Was there ever an orang pendek ? It won’t be possible to know. Only some kitschy meme will remain.

mars is just a place

That’s the beauty of it. It’s not a myth, it’s not a dream, it’s not a story, it’s not an investment opportunity: it’s some stones. It’s a place. That’s just so restful. It’s as semiotically empty as parts of the Lisbon underground. No one is shrieking at you to buy anything on Mars, not that I can see, & I’ve studied this picture long & hard. Can I get a ticket ? I’d really love to go. The problem is, by the time you or I get there it’ll be just like it is here. Every single piece of it will be talking to your head. There will be built environment everywhere, & every single riser of every single staircase in every single structure will have its ad. Every wall will have something to say to you. & you will have plenty to say too, because on Mars, by then, surely, comment will be free.

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