I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many films in such a short space of time as I have since arriving in Manchester – and that probably includes four years spent as an Undergrad at the University of Glasgow! Actually, my whole time here so far has marked something of a “cultural revival”. Just this weekend I went to see Steve McQueen’s “Shame” – a complex and difficult film which manages to be aesthetically cold and narratively detached at the same time as arousing deep sympathies for its two troubled lead characters; and then to a small exhibition of photographs by Kevin Cummins, in a little Northern Quarter gallery not far from me. The works on display were mostly of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, another troubled soul who died (by his own hand) at just 23 years old. There were also pictures of Curtis’s personal notebooks, his Vox Phantom – and a few of desolate 1980s Manchester roadways and streets. This was a striking reminder of how much regeneration work has gone on in UK cities in the decades since Joy Division were hanging around. Revealing in a different way was the fact that although each Cummins print was identically and expensively priced (£995 if you’re curious), the photographer has insisted that the dense, glossy hardcover book accompanying the exhibition be sold at only £25 a copy. Maybe that still seems a lot but this is a volume that would usually retail at say, £50, with a gorgeous design by a very hip Swedish studio. So at least fans and admirers are able to go home with something reasonable!
Back in the world of cinema, and I can report with great excitement that all the posters for this Term’s TRAUMA screenings are now “in the press”. My first ever season is all about Scottish cinema, but I must say that the last season – Impaired Cinema, presented by Tony Boffey – is going to be a tough act to follow! Still, I’ll try my best – and a little Whisky in advance of introducing the films to the audience seems only fitting, right? 😉 One of my new jobs is putting the Trauma posters up on various walls around the University and (of course) in our favourite post-screening pub, the Sandbar. Would you believe that the MMU Vice Chancellor has apparently taken an intense dislike to the putting up of “unofficial” and “untidy” posters? This makes finding places to position the very beautiful A3 sheets (designed by resident Graphics Guru, Ben Wissett) tricky. I wonder if in future the sense of a vibrant, colourful, culture-dominated University and city centre so prevalent in Manchester will be replaced by a sterile and polished pseudo-corporate environment where only adverts for “student experience surveys” and private sector recruitment fairs are granted visibility on campus?
At the moment, you often find yourself walking past multiple hoardings around the perimeters of city centre building sites. These are covered in quotes from famous Mancunians and are all about the city and what it means to them. Much of this council-approved street art comes from musicians, including Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown. But right now, I think this quote from a former Manchester University lecturer and one of the 20th century’s most “brilliant historians” is pretty appropriate:
“Manchester has everything but good looks…, the only place in England which escapes our characteristic vice of snobbery.” – AJP Taylor.
If you’ve not heard about the US House of Congress’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA), then you might be wondering what the black ribbon on the top right of my blog is all about.
Well, follow the link here to read all about how the United States might soon be gaining new powers allowing them to take down web content and interfere with services from one moment to the next, across international borders…and here to read some of the less well-reported technical and cultural implications of such legislation being enacted (this is written by a group of concerned experts). Obviously copyright law is rather complex; not least in relation to the modern, innovative modes of communication which most of us enjoy as a result of the internet. I won’t pretend that I can offer a cutting analysis but the basic message is that governments and corporations should NOT begin to gain tight and potentially damaging controls over the infrastructure and content of the web in the name of protecting outmoded business models. If you want to read the case FOR by the way, this letter from the Motion Picture Association of America and other big entertainment industry groups is interesting reading.
Naturally enough, WordPress is encouraging its users to register their alarm and concern at the negative implications of SOPA and PIPA, which is why I’ve opted for the banner. I doubt that a full blackout of this blog would particularly concern anyone! If you want a real sense of what tight control and regulation of content, links, and payment systems online might mean, take a look at Wikipedia over the next 24 hours. After thousands of their users actively participated in discussions on how the site should react to these proposed legislations, they decided to join the protest whole-heartedly: it’s a bit like the website has encountered its very own Clarence to remind us all why this debate matters. But before anybody says that Wikipedia are all about “open information” and the real power players will approve of the legislation, check out the Google.com homepage:
Okay, I admit to changing the background but the dissent is all their own.
It’s sad in a way, that the more you get used to a place, the less inclined you are to look around yourself. The walk home from MMU has now become so familiar that I’m sure someone’s been switching me on to autopilot. I barely realise I’m moving until – suddenly – half-way there! Navigating my way through most local supermarket aisles without missing a beat is similarly easy. Chocolate: Aisle 2 on the left. Red Wine: right at the back, pushing itself forward. The solution to this stultifying effect of habituation is to vary my route from time to time. After all, now that I’m a student again, what’s the big rush? 😉
The key is not being afraid to take the odd wrong turn. Getting ever-so-slightly lost now and then is as vital to staying connected with the world as becoming an expert at something is. Perhaps even more so.
Getting back to work on my thesis, I thought it might be time to be brave and
share some of my more academic musings with you. I am currently combining preparations for initial data gathering with exploration of the literature and an elucidation of my framework. I’ll not post anything on the data gathering for now. Clearly this brief extract is part of a work in progress; which makes comments especially welcome!1 🙂
They do say that Edinburgh can bring out your romantic side. At last night’s Trauma screening (many tears were shed by the audience for David Lynch’s Elephant Man) we were cheered up to discover that, during their Christmas break, Helen and Chris got engaged to be married. Heartfelt congratulations to them both…it’s clear they are very happy. 🙂
As an aside: maybe next season’s Trauma could include some appropriately themed films to mark the occasion? There have certainly been a lot of movie brides over the years; with films, heroines – and dresses – covering almost every genre, emotion, and style. Whether scary, deadly, fantastical, philosophical, comical, politically symbolic, or both ambitious and romantic, cinematic brides usually don’t have an easy time of it. But there’s no doubt that Helen and Chris will have a perfect day out in the real world.
Back in Manchester at last after a long and relaxing Winter break. Call me crazy – or just a nerd – but I am actually looking forward to getting stuck into my work again! I feel (slightly) bad for neglecting it this long; although naturally enough some renewed energy is often just what a project needs. 🙂
It’s a lot brighter and calmer down here than in Scotland, which was unfortunately hit by some of the worst weather in recent memory. On a happier note, the incredible gale force winds blowing around this week do offer some good news: to the country’s wind turbine fans – among which, by the way, I number. Yes! I would happily have one of these elegant, loud, and beautifully engineered functional sculptures in my backyard. Wouldn’t you?
In other news: over the holiday, I was excited to get a glimpse of the beautiful Onswipe and WordPress theme (designed to be “app-like” and touch-screen specific) that is now applied to WordPress blogs by default when they’re viewed on an iPad. Thanks for pointing that out, Jemster!