June 22nd 2007
Another diary blog, covering in haphazard form the past few months. I have in fact at various times during these months felt capable of blogging, if only at a rudimentary level, but have desisted because I have felt that any blog should reach a certain standard, and also because I felt I should not blog unless I was living a ‘full’ intellectual life, in cyberspace at least. This is quite clearly an absurdity and a result of the false imposition of external judgements. If blogging helps me to cope with depression then it is, of itself, a good and useful thing to do irrespective of the intrinsic quality or otherwise of the blog. This is both a general and particular rule. General in as far as it applies to all blogs and answers those who from positions of privilege and self-satisfaction condemn the practise; if blogging helps people to cope with life, to extract even an ounce more satisfaction or enjoyment from their existence, then it is worthwhile. As it clearly does so it is therefore worthwhile. Which does not mean that the content of all or any blogs, including this one, is worthwhile or good. The good for the blogger, and for those who may or may not read the blogs (blogee?), are quite different and separate. In fact it is clear to me that a blog like Ellen’s is worthwhile, to say the least, in terms of its content; that it enhances the minds, and therefore lives, of those who read and appreciate it. So there are distinctive goods for both blogger and blogee. But the possibility of good for the blogger is one which should not be underestimated. It might be argued that this could be achieved through a private diary, but the public nature of blogging is qualitatively different in this respect. Regardless of whether a blog is read the blogger is always aware of this public nature and is therefore shaping their self-revelation. It is a test of honesty. No doubt everyone fails the test, and it is better that they should do so. However the very act of attempting the test may well have psychological value. Which is quite enough about blogging for now.
It is interesting when trying to review several months to see what comes to remembrance. As this fallow period began I know that I was in the middle of watching the ITV series of Austen adaptations, but to say anything about those would be otiose – I refer anyone interested to Ellen’s blog. What springs to mind? Two stadium concerts at Birmingham NEC – Dolly Parton and Meatloaf. Both were hugely enjoyable but in different ways, and the former was fascinating and moving in a way that the latter, great entertainer as he is, was not. At its heart lies the fact that Parton is a star. This is something impossible to define; one just knows it when one sees it. I have only seen two stars in my life – Liza Minelli and Dolly Parton. Their mere presence on stage is immensely exciting and leaves me vulnerable to the kind of emotional appeal which might well leave me cold in other circumstances. After all I am not a Dolly Parton fan in the way I am a Mary Chapin Carpenter or Nanci Griffiths fan. Her songs do not speak to me emotionally or politically or intellectually in the way their’s do. She is not even that great a singer. Her image is preposterous. But in her presence all those things are blown away and I end up crying like a baby. I mean she sang Me and Bobby McGee for heavens sake! Now Janis singing that song is about as good it gets for me. I would never dream of playing Parton’s version on CD. But live I was captivated. What makes a star? I have no idea and nor does anyone else. Like I say you just know it when you see it.
Movies? Saw Marie Antoinette on TV and watched in fascinated horror. I think I have rarely seen such a bad movie. I just couldn’t believe it. I kept saying it must get better soon – but it never did! What exactly it was trying to say I have absolutely no idea. Still it obviously made a deep impression as it is the only film which springs to mind. Perhaps you can argue this is success of a sort? TV? Well at the moment I am blown away by the return of Rome, the second series of which has just started in the UK. I think this isone of the best historical TV series I have ever seen. Its’ interweaving of the stories of the rulers and ruled is brilliant and it never for one minute allows the values or lives of the former to have a greater value (in its own terms that is) than of the latter. It is very funny, but also seems to me, given due allowances, to be accurate. The path to world empire is shown to be paved with blood. Much better than Shakespeare anyway (much less given to uncritical adulation of the rulers – the treatment of Cicero is especially funny). Great TV. Talking of which American Idol came and went – a disappointing series in the end, largely due to the fact that the best singer, Melinda Doolittle, was for some reason voted off at the semi-final stage. Simon Cowell then reappeared on British television screens with Britain’s Got Talent, which is his latest brainchild and is basically American Idol/X-Factor thrown open to all kinds of acts (singers, magicians, comedians etc.) – an old style variety show. Critically snubbed, it was of course a complete triumph. Cowell is a television genius. The show was won by Paul Potts a mobile phone salesman, who looked and looks like a mobile phone salesman. He walks on stage and the judges ask him what he is going to do. He replies ‘sing opera’. Cowell and Piers Morgan (another judge) exchange tired smirks. The guy opens his mouth and a glorious version of Nessun Dorma emerges. I cried like a baby (again! :)) and guess millions others did too. Anyway he went on to win, fighting off a winsome 6 year old singing Over the Rainbow. This was essential television. It is something which could not be conceived of in any other medium (film, literature, visual art whatever) so it is interesting to ask why? I suppose at heart it is a matter of the shared communal immediate experience. The knowledge that it is not merely oneself but millions of others who are sharing the same emotional reaction. This is indeed a kind of opium of the masses, a heart for a heartless world. Of course the product is to some extent manufactured. What does this matter? The question is what is being manufactured and why does it appeal or not appeal to millions. The fact that our appreciation and enjoyment of humility and the ordinary man is in part a self-satisfaction with ourselves for having those values does not matter either – what matters are those values themselves. Paul Potts had very bad teeth. Blair has perfect teeth. We hate Blair and love Paul Potts (at least for his television 15 minutes) – this is as it should be.
Well at least that has got me back blogging. And what is more, to return to my opening subject, it feels good.