Please Twitter, continue to go forth and be trivial

Continue to stream sound and fury signifying nothing.

Twitter imageThere is a problem with the title of this piece of course. That it assumes there is a single if multi-headed multi-hearted multi-limbed multi – you get the picture – beast wandering about called Twitter. Who has a jealous rival in Facebook and an old now near-reclusive one called MySpace. Except non of these organisations – and did I forget Google Plus but that’s just the problem with Google Plus – everyone forgets about Google Plus – are not sinister shadowy corporations recruiting us against our will to partake in their services. We check in of our own will and we can check back out just as sharpish. Most of us so far at least have chosen to stay.

Most it seems taking pot-shots at Twitter and Facebook and the like – I am going to stick with the catch-all term ‘the like’ here as frankly there are an awful lot of social media sites and perhaps by using this term it might persuade you that I am familiar with each and everyone of them when I am in fact familiar with just a few more than the four already mentioned – are those without Twitter followers, without Facebook friends. But granted there are those who entered, tentatively tweeted and suspiciously begrudgingly updated their statuses, decided it was not for them, made their excuses and left. Their disinterest is understood. So is their disdain. What rankles though is the superior attitude – that because it was not for them it should not be for anyone.

I am reflecting on this following a recent article in the New York Times online by one of their correspondents Timothy Egan on their Opinionator Blog. It was called Please Stop Sharing – and I responded with a comment. This comment was published as one of the Top Picks. I know lights should be hidden firmly beneath bushels yet here I am with scant regard for bushels shining said light of mine before your eyes which are now too busy blinking for me to see whether any disapproval in them.

New York Times Top Pick CommentAs an aside and a nod to humility you will note that said comment saw two words ‘the Telephone’ fused together as one idiotic term. Damn New York Times not allowing me to endlessly edit my own comments after they have been published!

Okay that is not actually the reason for this blog piece – well perhaps a little! – rather to respond further to the assertion of this piece that new social media is obsessed with the trivial and peopled by those who being called a moron would be a compliment too.

Timothy Egan’s piece is quite long but certainly not as long as many pieces you will read in the New York Times. The unwritten old-media law is that with more words comes more weight, more gravitas, more authority. And Twitter with its 140 character limit must then by definition be light, frothy and insubstantial.

But there is no correlation with being wordy and being articulate? Of being verbose and being profound?

That it s always necessary to be profound when it is almost never necessary to be profound.

Twitter is an obvious antidote to verbosity. You have to be succinct – though as an aside that does not stop some Twitterers from scattering their thoughts on a subject across multiple tweets – get a blog already! – and with its strict character limit is an encouragement to clarity as much as to triviality.

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker - a tweeter before Twitter?

It is an encouragement too to the aphorism and the epigram – I am sure Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker would have been avid tweeters – though perhaps the opportunity to endlessly expound might have tired even their inexhaustible wit.

But even here there is the suggestion that Tweets must all be smart and significant. As if we should never make throwaway or meaningless remarks. Because that is the other undercurrent of pieces like this that writers of the old media live lives of continual high significance uttering spell-binding observations of the human condition in between their tea and toast, cruising the cultural Zeitgeist the rest of their waking hours before their palpitating head hits their pillow weary under the weight of so much existential exercise.

As if triviality and inconsequence were invented along with social media sites themselves. We – I am using the royal we here and I apologise if I have presumed against you and you yourself are one of those worthy hallow souls of the old apparently anti-social media but then I guess I am just a bit surprised to find you here reading this blog of mine – have always had a tendency for the trivial and the throwaway, of noting and commenting on small things as well as monumental things, and Twitter allows it a greater community, to share without restraint. And this will take on all shapes and forms – views that we don’t always hear or like intrude upon our protected worlds – where some would rather live in a world where their views are as echoes of everyone else’s.

But even then, at any time we can retreat and unfollow those whose insanities and inanities don’t match our own insanities and inanities. We can end up indeed in just the same circumspect carefully chosen company as in the non-digital domain. If that’s what we really want.

My response to the New York Times was nothing like this though – indeed the verboseness of this response would have been more fitting in a letter to that august journal in the days before the first spam Email had been sent (a second after the first Email had been sent)…whereas my actual response was succinct, not Tweeting succinct, but as good as.

What is also notable about it is that despite the Top Pick status accorded it, it has not elicited even one response – I would like to think the readers of the NYT were dumbstruck by my own revelatory brilliance and unsettling wit but alas more likely it was met with universal indifference as they stifled a yawn before quickly skipping onto the next – ahem! – non Top Pick comment.

And perhaps ironically, though it has had the recommendation of the Editors of the column it has had no recommendation from its readers. Pah! Perhaps the old asocial media high-bred hacks know better than their Hoi-polloi readers afterall!

A Good Woman – every saint has a past, every sinner has a future

A Good Woman - The Windermeres - Scarlett Johannson

A Good Woman – The Windermeres

Some women bring happiness wherever they go, others whenever they go.

And so this marital tale proceeds.

The dialogue crackling from start to finish with one-liners dispatching crisply and smartly and as movie script-writers are not usually this aphoristic I beginning to wonder if this was in fact a literary adaptation eventually cottoning on a little too belatedly that this is indeed being from the cup runneth over creative pen of Oscar Wilde, his ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan, a Play about a Good Woman‘. And it is quite clear who the good woman is and as notable that the bad woman gets far more of the best lines.

Scarlett Johansson is playing Meg Windermere but even then I did not make the immediate connection! In slight defence to myself the film is shifted in time and place – from its 1890’s original time-frame to 1930, their titles republicanized to Mr and Mrs Windermere and their origins Americanized to New York and their locations shifted from London to the Amalfi coast in Italy. Still a more die-hard Wildean than me would not have been I am sure deceived by these temporal and spacial liberties.

A Good Woman - Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter

Despite having read much of his works ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ I confess is not a play I have seen or read in its entirety instead familiar with it from oft told quipped quotes from the mouths of many others.

A Good Woman the 2004 Mike Barker film follows then as you would expect a similar trajectory as Lady Windermere’s Fan if taking its own celluloid contoured detours along its way. An apparently orphaned child who several decades later upon her twentieth birthday is visited upon again by her mother – and will the maternal secret be shared? – just how much of this tale can I spoil, just what are the chances that this tale is unknown to you anyway?! Likewise whether her masked motivation is maternal or material? She meets often and in private with her daughter’s husband Robert and we like the rest of the cast are left to buy in to the gossip and think the worst. (‘You’re so fond of gossip you don’t give the truth a chance to put its pants on’).

A Good Woman - Opera scene

Gossip is alright. It’s the moralizing that is in poor taste

They have been parted and nurture has overcome nature perhaps – like mother, like daughter does not appear to be so – daughter orthodox and moralistic, mother a law unto herself her own scruples fast and loose. And the bond between them too long rent asunder?

This Wildean tale explores a number of themes if primarily marriage and other romantic human relationships – can marriage endure, can men and women ever be friends. ‘Bigamy is having one wife too many.’ explains a character ‘So’s monogamy’ is the instant rejoinder from another, Lord Darlington. And following on ‘A man can be happy with any woman – so long as he does not love her’.

On love itself  ‘Undying love is like a ghost in a villa – everyone talks about it but no-one has seen it’ – you really cannot go wrong with Wilde!

On friendship ‘If everyone knew what everyone said about each other there would not be four friends in the world’. And I should add even less if we knew the thoughts of our friends!

A Good Woman

You know what I find worse than being talked about? Not being talked about at all.

The Wilde quotes are so good that I am trying very hard to resist shoe-horning them into this post!

So many humorous lines and no less insightful for their levity. Contrast the gravity of Nietzsche who warned to be careful looking into the abyss less the abyss looks back upon us – and which advice is why I do not read The Daily Mail – against Wilde who varies this equivocal aphorism to comment that we all straddle the abyss and if we never look down we can never know who we are. Mmm – do I really have to follow Sarah Palin on Twitter to get the measure of myself!

This 2004 film adaptation of this play stars Helen Hunt as The Lady Windermere absentee mother Mrs Erlynne and Scarlett Johansson the aforementioned Lady Windermere. Other notable performances are Lord Darlington played by Stephen Campbell Moore and Tuppy played by Tom Wilkinson – each romantically engaging and entangling with the mother and daughter Windermeres. Helen Hunt runs Stephen Campbell Moore close in being blessed with the character with the best lines but no character outshines the other I feel rather an ensemble acting performance prevails.

A Good Woman - Mrs Erlynne

Women don’t want to be understood. They want to be loved.

The difficult if enjoyable task of adapting the script was given to screenwriter Howard Himelstein, a new name to me. There are plenty laughs to be had but the film is not solely played to amuse us – it engages us cerebrally and viscerally too. Clearly the witty quick-fire exchanges are Wilde’s, the more prosaic slow-burn exchanges Himelstein’s. And this works taking the script off the stage and making it live and breathe on screen.

Many that are familiar with the play have disparaged the film. I though am not as familiar with the play and taking it on its own terms wonder at the purism and snobbery of such critics – most unWilde like.

It is sumptuously set and shot – it has the look and feel of a costume period drama but none of the sentimentality often associated with that genteel genre. The fashions and interior and exterior décor are a pleasure in themselves.

The film ends with a maternal exchange and a revelation, not to the daughter that she had a living mother standing there before her, but to the mother that her daughter had always been guided by her – if by an ideal of her. And the mother decides to leave the daughter with that ideal intact.

A sad if admirable choice. A satisfying literary ending perhaps but realistically believable too. A grown-up Hollywood ending.

A Good Woman - Mrs Erlynne and Tuppy

I like America. Name me another society that’s gone from barbarism to decadence without bothering to create a civilization in between.