A week ago I began a two week experiment to see what it would be like not to read see or hear news. Could I capture some of that holiday happiness you feel when you’re out of touch in far off places? 7 days in and I definitely feel different. More relaxed, more focused, less general background anxiety. I’ve been surprised at how domestic I’ve become. The cooker has never been so clean and I’ve recycled everything recyclable within sight. Is this displacement? I’ve realised how very difficult it is not to pick up news during the course of daily living. Newspapers on display in shops and petrol stations, often right next to the till. Background radio in public places. Annoying TV screens on trains and stations. Web tickers and headline summaries on all sorts of pages where you wouldn’t expect to see news. Not to mention all the oblique references on blogs. As a result, I’ve a fair idea of the major news events of the last week. I’m not terribly bothered though at the moment. Just writing that somehow feels wrong – but it’s true nonentheless. All this newsification of the environment is testimony to our obsession with remaining in touch with ‘whats going on’. Why? For most people what is going on in other parts of the world or even the other end of the country only has marginal bearing on their lives. I’d be interested to know more about the social functions of news. So, there are seven more days of news avoidance ahead. I’ve already learnt that having a less obsessive attitude to news makes for a more centred daily life. I’ll have to start on the bathroom next.
Archive for July, 2005
Did I ever tell you about the time I saw Nureyev dance?
I decided to invite a friend I worked with to accompany me to the ballet – as you do. I knew nothing much about ballet. It’s not really my thang but I admire the athleticism and singular dedication that it takes to become a dancer. I was going through a cultural phase – which has never really ended – but at that time was quite recently begun. I looked up Time Out for something vaguely exotic and saw that there was a ballet at the Festival Hall choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev. Concluding that, with such provenance, it must be a safe bet I issued my invitation in a casual manner and was accepted. We both got suitably glammed up. I wore a dynastyesque number with shoulderpads which have since been listed by English Heritage. My companion wore a stunning red polka dot ensemble. This, together with her amazonian frame and stunning blond hair, ensured the heads turned as we passed. We were a vision of upward mobility as we sipped our Pimms on the river terrace before the performance. Things got off to a shaky start as the curtain went up – or tried to go up. It was all a bit Acorn Antiques as the overture ended, the curtains twitched but refused to open. Eventually an embarrassed stage manager came out to explain that the ‘tabs had fouled’ and they were working on the problem. After a bit of manual tugging they finally got the show on the road. Ten minutes in, the audience erupted in applause as Nureyev took to the stage in a surprise appearance. The atmosphere was electric as everyone present realised what a special moment this was. He looked relaxed and was clearly enjoying himself. To my untrained eye he was quite casual in his movements but had great presence and connected with the audience who were entranced by what was happening. There were moments of humour as Nureyev played with the other dancers and applauded them from the side of the stage when they completed impressive solo pieces before launching back into his own performance with gusto. My companion was, by now, thrilled to bits. She confided later that seeing Nureyev dance was one of her life’s ambitions and, as he’d virtually retired by the time we saw him, she’d resigned herself to never realising her dream. It was a magical evening in so many ways and one I’ll never forget. Nureyev died not long after. We had been privileged to see one of his last ever performances. I’ve not heard from my friend for many years – despite both of us vowing to always keep in touch. I wonder what she’s doing now?
Did I ever tell you about the first time I believed I had a talent?
It was when I was nine and I painted a picture at school and my teacher put it on display. Every time a new visitor came into the room she would point it out to them and mention that I had done it. I would purr inwardly but also be unbelieving that what I had done was worthy of such praise – nonetheless I loved the attention. From then on I realised that I could do things that would make other people admire me. I loved being in that teacher’s class. I felt we had a special bond. Other classmates loved her too. She was a very good teacher – she made everyone feel that they were special and valuable. That’s one of the best lessons you can teach any child and it is transforming. I met up with my old teacher about fifteen years ago – she remembered me but we didn’t talk much as there were quite a lot of people there. I wish I’d been able to say to her what I’ve written above but, at the time, I’d not yet realised how important she’d been in my life. I know, through the grapevine that she is still alive but that’s all I know. I wonder what she’s doing now?
Did I ever tell you about the time I went pony trekking in the Brecon Beacons? My transport for the week was called ‘Queenie’. Queenie had attitude. A bad one. Didn’t like being groomed and needed correctional treatment from the resident cromagnon trekmeisters. Didn’t like being saddled and took 3 times longer than any other horse to get ready of a mornin. Didn’t like lolloping alongside all the other nice ponies but preferred to rush to the front or hang around delinquently at the back or not go anywhere and eat grass whilst everyone else lolloped off into the mist. Her speciality, though like all royalty, was to take the higher path. Whilst all the other nice ponies trekked obediently along the designated trek trak, Queenie with her attitude also needed altitude. She would, at a moments notice, turn and launch herself up the mountain at 90Â° to the trak with me clinging on for dear life. There would then follow behind us shouting at Queenie, Captain Trek who, on more than one occasion, had to cut her off in a pincer movement with his trusty assistant, Bronwyn, before I was lost forever in the mountains, doomed to trek endlessly atop my psychotic steed. One day Queenie’s bit fell from between her teeth as she was breaking into a canter whilst making for the front as usual. I realised something was wrong when the apple I was carrying in my cagoule pocket flew out and hit my mate on the head as we went past. Queenie was now galloping, with me on the back trying to garrotte her to a standstill using the bit which was now round her neck. It was all too much. The poor thing needed treatment, not some half witted urban nit cramping her style, not to mention her windpipe. We parted company soon after – I shed a tear as the minibus took us away from Queenie’s kingdom. I wonder what she’s doing now?
Welcome to Big n juicy
Hi there. Thanks for stopping by [again?].
My secret squirrel system tells me that many people like yourself stop by here.
Sometimes you come looking for Juicy things [ 7 today ].
or big things [ 7 today ].
Makosi is popular [ 5 of you so far looking for her ].
Well there are Juicy, Big and Makosi things here – feel free to wander about.
There’s also a little quiz I’m trying to get finished – only 6 questions remaining.
Could I ask you to consider lingering a moment and having a go?
It’s fun and it’ll distract you from whatever tedium you may have to go back to shortly.
Honestly, I’ll do a deal – once the six questions are done [ only 1 each mind you! ] I’ll post a Big Juicy Makosi just for you. Can’t say fairer than that can we? Cmon now clicky clicky..
The English summer has begun
Did I ever tell you about the time a stripping nunogram confronted me as I was leaving an exam hall? She was dressed in thigh high boots, a black basque and fishnet stockings. I was dressed in sweatshirt and jeans and was barely registering the spectacle I was part of having just disgorged the contents of my mind for the previous 3 hours. Large numbers of people gathered to watch and cheered as Sister Crutchless recited a personalised poem before landing a big smackerooni on yours truly. I wonder what she’s doing now?
As a dedicated Firefox user I was tempted and downloaded the Google toolbar for Firefox. Shuddenly I’m not half the man I used to be. My pop ups are severely stunted, taking upwards of 60 seconds to open. My current quiz – [ unashamed plug > 6 questions remaining cmon cmon u lurkers ] – proved worthy of a comatose lifetime achievement award with a popup within a popup. So I’ve uninstalled the bleedin toolbar and all is now well. NOT recommended. It’s a beta version – [ ie crap ].
Did I ever tell you about the time when my, then, best mate and I pursued our teacher through the local shopping centre like demented groupies? We saw her coming from a distance. She saw us and began to retreat [ there was a bit of previous ]. Sensing our prey we accelerated, nostrils flaring, whooping with delight in a mÃªlÃ©e of teenage abandon. Oblivious to the startled shoppers around us and in the days before cromagnon security was rife, we caught up with her and prostrated ourselves at her feet, howling our adoration in a wholly unselfconscious way. She, meantime, well used to our shenanigans, told us smartly to, “fuck off”. She said it quietly though – she did have her public reputation to think about of course. I wonder where she is now? She was a right laugh.
I’m into my second day without news. My passive intake has been slight today, a bit of involuntary reading of the local headlines at the petrol station [ they put the papers right next to the till ] and another fingers in ears moment when a weirdly timed radio bulletin caught me on the hop. I’m feeling pretty good not knowing if world war three has broken out. Reading blogs is a bit hazardous though as many, like me, rely on the odd topical snippet thrown in. This, in itself is interesting beause I’m, ever so slightly, finding out what’s happening via the viewpoints of the bloggers and their commenters. Must be a bit like news travelled in pre-media times. Various versions and interpretations of events, subtly changing as they passed from one person to the next.
Does the Chattanooga choo choo through Chicago I wonder?
More zippy places in the fantabulous zip code quiz – 7 zips still to be zapped.
It may be an illusion, but already I’m feeling a bit more focused on what I have to do today.
I’ve managed to avoid hearing the radio bulletins first thing. Having removed my web ticker and disabled the browser shortcut buttons to my favoured news outlets, my instinctive early morning clickfest was much shorter earlier. So far I’ve managed to avoid hearing any news – apart from looking at the Big Brother news pages which are my only concession. Eugene’s stock is rising. The Craig & Anthony thing is heading for trouble. Hell hath no fury like a hairdresser scorned…
Still going pretty well, though I’ve had a couple of near misses.
Found myself inadvertently reading the Bignjuicy Gazette earlier, which just happened to be lying around. Unthinkingly, I was thumbing through it and was distracted by an article on obese pigeons before realising what I was doing and hurriedly throwing it down. Shortly after, I had to stick my fingers in my ears and hum Craig McClachlan’s greatest hits when the radio news bulletin came on.
Ten hours so far with no news.
It’s evening news time. But I’m not interested. No really. I know I usually tune in with a cuppa but tonight I’ve no time for that. I’m busy finishing some work. Honestly, I was only looking at the BB site in passing..
Another news watershed reached and I still don’t know what the hell is going on in the world. Today I’ve felt a bit isolated and disconnected. I’ve noticed that my thoughts are more centred on practical things I’ve been meaning to do for a long time and have been putting off. I’ve felt tempted at times to visit the BBC News site but so far I’ve been good and resisted. Don’t know if I can keep it up for two weeks. Maybe best not to see it as something forbidden – that will only strengthen the feeling of deprivation.
I’m obsessed, I admit it.
I get twitchy if I’m without it for a few minutes and feel the need for regular fixes throughout the day. If it’s not turning on the radio first thing in the morning, it’s scanning the constantly tickering..er.. ticker I’ve installed on my PC. I’m a news junky.
I’ve noticed in the past that when I’ve been out of touch with the news for a week or more I feel better, more content and at ease with the world.
Now, that might be because these periods happened to coincide with sojourns in more agreeable parts of the world, plenty of alternative mental stimulation, good company, food and wine. I’ve a feeling, though, it’s more than that. Not having my thoughts constantly drawn to external and distant events beyond my control or personal experience. Not feeling powerless in the face of such overwhelming sadness or tragedy. Not having to listen to Fiona Bruce do that throaty, self satisfied caring ‘thing’ with added eyebrow semaphores.
Enjoying the moments of an ordinary life – blessedly free of the horrors endured by much of humanity. Taking the focus to a more domestic and less distracted level. I want to find out what that would be like, even if only for a short time. It’s actually very difficult to avoid news. It gets inserted in all sorts of places – like some kind of societal glue. Material around which people can unite and have their individuality subsumed. I’m wondering if removing this would allow a person to focus on the realities of life. The things one is able to affect and to take more pleasure in the everyday.
“If I am a sponge, an assemblage of images, sounds and influences, always looking out for my 15 minutes of fame, always rehearsing what I’ll say if a camera pokes its head round my doorway or a producer from reality television comes knocking with a contract, then where is the real me, the inner core, not the outer show?”
Framing our experience in the terms provided by media is something unknown to even our recent ancestors. As a more self referential development, Blogging takes this to a new level. I know that my own horizons have been expanded by writing and reading of blogs. Connections impossible to achieve in any other way have been made and sustained. This in itself I hope to explore in time. For now, though, my objective is simpler. I’ve decided to go cold turkey and give up news for two weeks.
I don’t think it will be possible to entirely eliminate any exposure to news because I’m bound to pick it up indirectly. My plan is to not actively seek it out through deliberate use of radio, tv, web or print. I’m going to document my experience here for the next two weeks. It’ll be highly subjective but, I hope, interesting for me and for you dear reader. See you tomorrow for a round up of the days non-news highlights.
Why not try the zip code quiz?
An inspirational piece of work by Ben Fry at the MIT Media Lab has produced this exquisite zip code map.
It dances before your eyes as you type in the code and zooms precisely down on the exact location as you enter the last digit. There’s a certain sensuality about it and the fact that you can gain an insight into the way in which the zip code system works nationally is an added bonus. It’s the the kind of marriage between aesthetics, technology and information display which adds new meaning – I admire.
So inspirational, I thought I’d make a little quiz based on zip codes. By using Ben’s map you can decode the zips I’ve provided or if you already know your way round the zip system you might be able to get one straight away.
[Other zip decoders are available]
Each zip code translates to a location that features in a fairly well known song.
The answer required is the artist/s associated with that song.
Only one answer each please. I’ll run the quiz until all the answers have been found.
Try as I might I couldn’t find suitable progenitors for our Euge in my recent BB6 featurette. The man is a legend in the making. I’m beginning to hope he might win.
Titter ye not
“An unnamed minister of state at the Foreign Office was presented with a pearl necklace by Sheika Fatima of Abu Dhabi.”
Quite. Those BBC hacks are mischievous.