I like a good Frankenstein metaphor, and The Guardian’s recent review of Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy has a corker when summing up the story of the social media giant:
“Facebook was founded by an undergraduate with good intentions but little understanding of human nature. He thought that by creating a machine for ‘connecting’ people he might do some good for the world while also making himself some money. He wound up creating a corporate monster that is failing spectacularly at the former but succeeding brilliantly at the latter. Facebook is undermining democracy at the same time as it is making Mark Zuckerberg richer than Croesus. And it is now clear that this monster, like Dr Frankenstein’s, is beyond its creator’s control.”
Having not been on the platform myself for several years, I can honestly say that I don’t miss it. It’s not even the privacy issues that got to me (there’s no such thing as free!), it was the behaviour of people around me and their addiction to it. Apparently the stimulation it provides to the reward centre of the brain is akin to produced by sex, chocolate. Only with social media, you get endless ‘dopamine loops’ – constant itches that you have to scratch.
Yes, the monster’s out there alright. And, the irony of course is that in Shelley’s novel, what the monster craves most is the community and connection that he is constantly denied – exactly what most people seem to crave along with their neural pleasure hit.
So how do you kill the monster?
I just hope that Facebook isn’t as enduring as the the creature…
That bastion of progressive and informed thought, The Sun, has shot itself in the foot in its pursuit of ‘snowflake’ students: Snowflake students claim Frankenstein’s monster was ‘misunderstood’ — and is in fact a VICTIM.
The NewStatesman picked up on the story today, but The Times had made the same error a few days ago (it’s behind a paywall but you get the sense of the article).
Admittedly, I’ve read Frankenstein more times than I can remember, but even on the first reading, your sympathy is with the creature and you soon realise that Victor Frankenstein is indeed the real monster of the story. It’s one of the perverse pleasures of the book – especially if you come to it from having watched the Universal and Hammer movie monsters stomping around and smashing everything. The creature is scorned, misunderstood and tortured, but he learns to read and becomes more articulate, even poetic, in describing his dreadful plight.
Was there ever a gold age when journalists were well-read and educated? It seems now that whatever suits the editorial agenda will do – and I don’t suppose too many Sun readers will bother checking the facts for themselves. If they were concerned with such things, they would read The Sun…
Well, we’re all a bit weird aren’t we, but some seem to have explored new levels of eccentricity. Jack Milgram has put together another great infographic, this time detailing the idiosyncrasies of famous authors.
It’s one of those long scrolly ones, so click on the pic below to see it in all its glory:
Personally, I prefer to write with a fountain pen when getting down ideas, my notebooks are all Moleskines, and if I need to be really creative, I like a couple of drinks (no more!) to lubricate the cogs in my head.
This is as quirky as I get!
I took a day off and spent the late morning at the Royal Academy of Art’s Charles I: King and Collector exhibition.
You can read the reviews for yourself and I’m no art historian, but suffice to say that it’s an incredible collection. And, whatever the political and historical narrative of the fall of Charles I, there’s something incredible poignant about seeing him with his family in Van Dyke’s paintings. Indeed, the most striking thing is the initial confrontation with the king in his Charles I in Three Positions, which is the portrait that greets you as you enter.
It’s hung so that he’s slightly above eye-level and has the effect of making you feel as if he’s looking at you accusingly. You are after all about to walk around with the rest of the common folk and peer at his beloved art collection.
The guilt is only fleeting though. The anticipation of so many Holbeins, Titians, Rembrandts, Reubens and Gentileschis (to name but a few) in such close proximity for the first time in over 300 years is inclined to make you forget your manners and traipse on through…
I recently mentioned some friends trying to fund their literary podcast.
Now they’ve released a short preview on Soundcloud, featuring Stephen Fry along with various other luminaries (and yours truly!) talking about the author, Georgette Heyer.
I went with a friend to see the comedian Stewart Lee the other night at Leicester Square Theatre. This was perhaps the fourth time we’d been to see him at that venue, and was the best experience yet.
He doesn’t do jokes as such; he sets up a series of scenarios upon which to rant and rave against modern life. It’s almost performance art rather than comedy, but it leaves you in stitches. It’s fast, it’s clever and he takes aim at the most deserving targets, from the Daily Mail and Brexiteers to Donald Trump and obsession with social media.
I was a victim of unintended audience participation on two occasions. The first was when I couldn’t hold on to a bladder full of beer and had to dash to the loo (I was in the second row and couldn’t sneak out). He pointed me out and then accused me of taking people with me when someone followed me out. The second time was when I caught his eye when he recited part of the oath of the Night’s Watch from Game of Thrones – this time he had a dig at me watching the show and looking like I was over 40!
All good fun stuff, in which I didn’t mind taking bit of comedy flak.
I saw the man himself at the merch window after. I walked over and shook hands and told him how brilliant I thought the whole thing had been. Surprisingly, he recognised me and offered me a free poster as a ‘thanks for taking part’, which he then signed.
I don’t really have heroes, and I don’t gush at celebrity, but I have to admit to being chuffed when meeting a real artist for a very brief chat after seeing him perform at the height of his powers.
The most famous work of art in the history of the world resides in the Louvre. I got within 20 feet of her famously enigmatic smile, for perhaps 30 seconds of contemplation, before someone with an iPad above his head stepped in front of me to take a photo.
So, I retreated disdainfully to observe the scrum from a distance.
The Mona Lisa must also be the most photographed and reproduced artwork in the world, yet people had travelled hundreds – possibly thousands – of miles just to turn their back on her and to take a selfie.
I can’t believe that I was the only one who wanted to just stand there and take in her beauty for a few minutes. That’s all I wanted – not just to prove that I had been there, but to introduce myself to the old girl, to tell her how much I’d read about her and how much I admired her.
I left with Nat King Cole’s classic playing softly in my head:
“Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there and they die there…”