Behind the Curtain

It is much easier to consume than to create. When I started out blogging a decade ago it was as part of a wide community in the Wellington RPG scene, so that to an extent the people in my digital life matched the people in my real life. That fragmentation is now fairly well complete, replaced by Facebook and Google+ and Twitter. When I wrote for that community, I knew my audience, even if I didn’t know them well enough to predict their responses or anticipate their interests. Knowing my audience also meant I was able to do a certain amount of detailed writing about my private life and thoughts in relative comfort. Private has doubtless become a different concept since Wikileaks – I am aware now that virtually anything that makes its way online might be viewed in the “wrong” context. Anything might now have the possibility of being read by future employers, potential friends, lovers past and future, or nebulous loyalty monitors. Am I politically tenable, or will some stray communist-sounding blog post from years gone by derail my future self’s run at high political office? In a sense, I rely on the inherent ambivalence of impersonality and unreliability of rhetoric whenever straying from the safe past of Criticism ™.

This blog has approximately 110 “followers” within the WordPress ecosystem, and I know of at least another dozen real-life people who follow me in some kind of RSS architecture. My posts are cross-posted to Facebook and Google+, where almost all of the comments get made. About every other or every third post has someone “like” the post within the WordPress system, with the strike rate for +1s and Facebook “likes” being a little higher. The WordPress stats wizard tells me that on average I get 7ish views per post, which seems like it must be reporting somewhat on the low side, but even if we assume double that, it’s not a big audience. The most-viewed post remains my review of World War Z, peculiarly. It’s been viewed something a little over 100 times. In general, peak readership was while I was writing my thesis on Hammett and posting three times a week, which garnered in the order of 15-20 views per post. It’s dangerous to make assumptions, but at a guess, I do know most of the people reading this, just not that any particular individual does or doesn’t.

In my reviews, I generally try to remain impartial, to just look at it from an analytic stance that seems to offer something useful rather than recycling my emotional responses. There are two main problems with this, being the difficulty of finding a new angle, and the risk of over-using familiar analytic poses. Left to my own devices I don’t tend to penetrate into the emotional complexities and realities, favouring structuralist or formalist approaches. Partially as a result, I tend to find when discussing my reviews with others, that there is often a disconnection between how much or little I enjoyed a film. No case has been more extreme than my review of Superman Returns which prompted a couple of my friends who had been ambivalent to go see it. But, I spluttered, I hated that film! Yes, they replied, but we liked everything you didn’t. Actually most people form the view that I like hardly anything, whereas I tend to think I actually enjoy most things – why stick at watching and blogging about a film a week if it’s not fun? That is the other trap I have fallen into: shouting into the void is a bit easier if it’s around a semi-consistent topic and done in a semi-consistent way. I used to post about lots of things.

Today’s musings are brought to you by Gate B5 at Changi airport, returning to London after a month away. Holidays abroad are in some senses mostly imaginary spaces, stripped of most of the defining activities and places of “real” life. For me there was almost a total dislocation, since no person, place, or activity seemed to overlap with my real life. In many ways, it felt as if I were now actually someone else entirely, someone I perhaps used to be in the past, exacerbated by even having a different name in the two countries. I found myself almost editing out my London life entirely, finding myself speaking about a recent past that had a missing two-year period. With most of my close friends that illusion was very hard to shake entirely.

Airports and the concomitant long-distance plane flights are the ultimate liminal space where meaning and time break down into a completely homogenised and disassociated space. I arrived at Changi at a little after 5am, a time distinguishable from the present 9am only by the exterior light level, which is not significant for vast interior areas of the airport. At the “Hard Rock Cafe” I walked past people eating steak and people eating pancakes, drinking tea and drinking bourbon. Some of my surrounding passengers are crisp and fresh, embarking on a journey, some are comfortably resting, some are nearing the end of their tether. Any possible life outside the airport is completely disconnected by the separation of the airplane.

Trying to write reviews in this space should be easy, but it’s not. The cold impersonal world of the airport is anathema to deep thought, I’m finding. Impressions and memories skitter across my mind, of people I once knew, films I once saw, experiences that may as well have been someone else’s. The next score or so of reviews are thus a little less considered, a little less structured, a bit more review than critical appraisal and I hope that at the end of each, even if you don’t understand more about the film, you at least know whether I liked it. In keeping with my usual review length, I’m going to post about 1000 words a week, either one, two, or three reviews as required.

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2 Responses to Behind the Curtain

  1. repton says:

    I always wonder if you take pen & paper to the cinema with you.

    • alasdair101 says:

      Never, and it’s usually more than a month between watching the film and writing the review. I generally skim the IMDB page to ensure I’ve remembered all the character names and the wikipedia page to check I haven’t grossly misremembered. I didn’t have access to the internet while I was writing in NZ so that will be a bit sketchy in the next bunch of posts.

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