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Sunday, 13 April 2014

A FRAGILE TRUST

It's 7pm and I have no plans for the evening. So I look up what movies are playing. See a documentary I'm intrigued by, 'A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times.' It's starting at 7.30pm at the Quad so I jump on the Q train and head into Manhattan.


Just as the movie's starting I leave my seat near the front and head to the back, because this couple down the front just won't shut their mouths.

The film stops after three minutes and the screen goes black. A woman next to me says, "they're gonna fix the sync right?" and an older Jewish guy down the front deadpans, "it's over?"


We sit for five minutes then the movie starts up again. And it's exactly the type of documentary I'm intrigued by. It's about Jayson Blair, the infamous New York Times journalist who fabricated most of his stories. He made up quotes, he wrote about places he'd never been to and people he'd never met. These were front page NY Times stories.



It's like the recent doc 'The Armstrong Lie', you sit there in awe of Lance Armstrong, how did he have the balls? Jayson Blair was different, it was just as hard to fabricate as it was to tell the truth. He wasn't just taking himself down but he was corrupting the hierarchy of the Times too.

Jayson Blair is a fascinating subject. But the documentary frustrated me at times because it was so content to sit on the fence. In one moment it's carefully and hilariously detailing the incredible deceit, and the next we're seeing Jayson blame it all on drugs, alcohol and mental illness. The film spends the bulk of it's time jittering back and forth between condemning the guy and offering up his excuses, never once daring to have a thought of its own.


The film ends and the director and her publicist are there for a Q&A, I didn't even know this was happening. 


There are 16 of us in the audience. The old Jewish guy offers up some questions along with various witty quips. The guy across the isle is one of the ones I've moved away from due to the chattering. Turns out he works for the New York Times himself.


We spent what must have been an hour in a fascinating and intimate question and answer session. It was full of opinion and conflict in a way the film itself so carefully avoided. Fair play to the director, Samantha Grant, she wanted the film to evoke discussion, which it did. And the old Jewish guy is clashing with the authoritative and condescending tone of the NY Times reporter, who amusingly calls his employer a 'smug' organisation without realising the word perfectly describes himself, too. Ain't that ironic!


I'm in the midst of a wonderful event. An engaged audience that cares about the topics at hand: journalism and ethics. People think the important audiences are the ones with paparazzi and red carpets, but the real joy of cinema is when a handful of strangers come together on the Lower East Side to discuss a documentary.


I leave the cinema and I hear the Jewish guy talking to the NY Times guy. He says, "I'm a documentary filmmaker too", and I could swear he says, "my name is Irving Fields". I know that name?


I Google him. Irving Fields is a 97 year old pianist. Is that who this Jewish guy was? Surely he wasn't that old? Maybe this guy is making a documentary about Fields. I probably just heard things wrong.


Who knows.


Who knows anything? That's what I take from 'A Fragile Trust' and that's what I took from 'The Armstrong Lie'. Some people cheat. Some people get caught. In the end, what price did these individuals pay? I guess that's what most interests me. Apparently, Jayson Blair now works as a life coach. What? I wish the documentary had delved into that side of things, to really see where this guy is now. Deception is one thing. Getting caught is another. But the important thing is, what happens after? 



I remember watching a documentary years ago about Auschwitz. It was horrifying; and you clamber to make sense of it all, to grasp where the fairness is in everything. At the end, there was a stat; it said that 7200 people worked at Auschwitz concentration camp during war-time, and of those 7200 only 15% ever stood trial for their crimes. 

HUH? 

We are taught to be good people, to stand up straight, play by the rules, and for the most part, we do. These documentaries show the flip side of that - they show people who don't play by the rules. What makes them interesting is that their subjects all kind of get away with it. Sure, they're found out, but so what? If Jayson or Lance or the Nazis can live with themselves, then they haven't really suffered. We need a documentary about THAT.

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Saturday, 29 March 2014

We Make Art Because

What else is there? 

We make art because everything else is temporary. 

We make art because it's hard. 

We make art because sometimes we can create something that is better than ourselves. 

We make art because we want to impress people.

We make art because we don't care what anyone thinks. 

We make art because of that empty feeling. 

We make art because it fills us up.

We make art because it impresses the opposite sex.

We make art despite the fact the opposite sex couldn't care less. 

We make art to capture these things we feel.

We make art to remember. 

We make art to forget. 

We make art for the people who loved us. 

We make art for the people who were never around. 

We make art because YEAH YES THAT FEELING THAT FEELING THAT YOU GET WHEN YOU MAKE ART. 

We make art because it helps the world make a little more sense. 

We make art because we don't understand a thing that is going on. 

We make art for other people. 

We make art for ourselves. 

We make art. 

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Monday, 10 February 2014

Right Now

When someone dies, you look back at the text messages, the emails, the tweets, the everything. You get wrapped up in this fight to find out -- did you get it right? Did you respond to messages? Did you initiate messages? Did you turn up or did you constantly reschedule?

When it comes down to it, all that matters are the things that mattered -- and you either succeeded or you failed.

And if you failed, you failed. It happens. Life is busy and work is hard and you gotta do what you gotta do, but a feeling will always eat away at you.

But if you passed, it fills you up with a good feeling. Because despite everything you lost, you're comforted by all you found, everything you was present for.

We have this habit of thinking we'll be better further down the line. When we have more time, or more money, or less stress, it'll be easier to make time, to see loved ones, to find space for those people you cherish.

But that time is undoubtedly this very second. Whoever you're thinking about right now, if they were gone, how would you feel? Did you give that person the right amount of your time? Did you appreciate them for who they are? Did you know the problems they're going through or was you far too focused on yourself?

If your answers are mostly no's, then you only have yourself to blame. Take comfort in the fact that, so far as you know, they're still breathing. You can be a better you.

Little else matters. We can chase money, careers and beaches but ultimately, there's someone out there you love who isn't feeling it right now. And that's because either they're a draining nuisance you need to cut loose from or, more likely, they're gold and you're lazy.

Next month won't do, next week might not even come. You will be taught this lesson eventually, but in the harshest of ways. Instead, be a better you, and start right this moment.

Care to share?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Conversation with a Ghost

Suddenly, floating into my head, came the lyrics 'where have you been have you been to the races' and 'is your sister in braces' -- and I felt the urge to listen to the song again. 

Only problem was - I had no idea what the track was or who sang it (sung it? someone please teach me English), just a memory of that part of a song, about going to the races and the sister in braces. I wasn't even sure if I had the lyrics right. 

So I googled it. 

And there it was. The song 'Conversation with a Ghost' by Ellis Paul. 

But I thought the only song I knew of his was 'The World Ain't Slowing Down', but I KNEW this song! I vaguely vaguely recognized the title 'Conversation with a Ghost' -- was it the Ellis Paul version I knew, or a cover version? 

I'm not sure, but I think I knew it as an Ellis Paul version but maybe as an acoustic version I got from napster or some place back in the day. I have no idea. 

But I do know I haven't heard this song in years, maybe ten years. 

Yet the lyrics flowed into my mind today. It was so familiar, as if it's a song I listen to all the time. 

Except that it's not. I didn't remember that I remembered this song. If you'd said to me yesterday, 'do you know the song 'Conversation with a Ghost' by Ellis Paul? I'd probably have said no. Or maybe there would be some vague vague vague recollection. 

And now I've listened to the song five times in a row. I'm not really sure what it's about, or what it means to me - but it's right there in my mind, and all because it came swimming back to me for a hello after so many years at sea.  

I don't know much about Ellis Paul. I don't know what kind of career he has, or even if he's making a living from it (people like me potentially discovering him on Napster probably didn't help). But his music reached me somehow, through the silence of a Sunday afternoon, by flowing into my mind a decade after I last heard it. There's something magic about that - and it's a credit to Ellis for creating such a great track. 


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Saturday, 18 January 2014

Social Media Basics

1. You have to be authentic. Be yourself. Everybody is being marketed at all the time, but now with so many choices, people look for what's real.

2. You have to be specific. Nobody wants to hire someone who can do everything, they want someone who can do one thing really well.

And you need to be able to prove it. Everyone speaks a good game, but how is your track record? 

3. Blog. Give away your expertise. How do people know to trust you? When you give everything away. Your unique insight makes you appealing.

4. Don't register a 'Facebook Page', we were duped! We thought it was a way to build an audience, but it's not. If you have 1000 'fans' on your Facebook page, only around 30 of them will see your posts. If a social media guru is telling you to get a Facebook Page, they're not a guru at all.

Facebook gave us the Pages function for free but then took away everything they're good for. Now you have to pay to reach your own 'fans' through promoted posts. 

5. Don't be automated. If I'm getting the same tweets or emails as other people, I know you're not giving me any of your personal time. So why should I give you mine?

6. It's too easy to be against a new platform. Most people waste years berating Google+, Instagram and Vine, and then... they join them.

7. Don't read too much into the numbers. Someone may not have many Twitter followers, but maybe the 50 people who do follow them are industry insiders. Likewise, they could have 30,000 Instagram followers, but none of them are paying attention. The numbers rarely mean what you think they mean. 

8. Nobody is listening on Twitter. You can have a million followers, but they probably won't care about your latest project. People are reluctant to click through. And it's virtually impossible to know what your followers want.

9. Quit while you're behind. If no-one is interested in your project or product, quit badgering them. Make a better product. Get better at your art. 

10. Don't waste your time trying to go viral. If you can't make something that connects with 10 people, how will you connect with 10 million?

Greatness spreads. If your content isn't being shared, it isn't good enough. Period.

Care to share?