Friday, January 27, 2006

i've got more in common with a goldfish than you might think

"Your problem," said the Protestant (obviously not his real name) to
me this weekend, "your problem is that you have a two-second attention
span." He's right, of course, and the fact that he was trying to tell
me a long and extremely complicated story to do with Northern Irish
politics affords me no excuse.

For years, I've been trying to make the best of my total inability to
concentrate. I like to pretend to myself I have a quicksilver
intellect, quickly making connections and skipping on polymathically
to the next topic. Unfortunately, it's more the case that I'm just
totally unable to concentrate on anything for more than, I'd say, five
and a half minutes.

As you can imagine, this makes life very difficult. Now, we've all
heard evolutionary biologists tell us woman are genetically programmed
to be able to concentrate on more than one thing at once, whereas men
pour everything into one activity and become metaphorically deaf to
everything else (or, in the case of my dad watching television,
literally deaf to everything else, up to and including a smoke alarm)
. I can see that this is very useful when you have a baby, and it's
vitally important you don't get so wrapped up in Deal Or No Deal that
you are blissfully unaware that your pride and joy is bawling its
little lungs out in a cesspool. And has colic.

But until that time, it's just bloody annoying. And I'm hardly being
helped by today's media, who pander to my blink and you'll miss it
attention span by feeding me all my information and entertainment in
tasty, bite-sized pieces. I got an email yesterday offering to send me
the Guardian web site front page to my inbox every day, as if the
massive effort of scrolling down the web page itself might overload my
three remaining neurons.

A friend of mine is in the middle of reading War and Peace. I've got
to face up to the fact I'm never going to read that, just like I'm
sure deep down I'm never going to sit through Citizen Kane or
Battleship Potemkin, or any silent film. God, that makes me feel guilty. I haven't been to the cinema for months. Going to remedy that by seeing A Cock And Bull Story tomorrow. But that's only because I'm never going to be arsed to read Tristram Shandy. Argh...

My butterfly intellect has other secret repercussions, too. During my
English degree I very quickly realised I didn't have the dedication to
plough through any novelist's complete works, and a fair selection of
criticism, and write an essay, all in the space of a week. So I
focused on poets, and letter writers, and journalists. I realised,
reading Alexander Pope in the second year, that my ideal author would
exclusively write epigrams. That way, I could be a world expert after
about two hours.

Sadly, to the best of my knowledge no such author exists. e e cummings
is pretty pithy, I suppose, but I don't know what to do when it comes
to prose. I've been using my literary dilettantism to justify buying
short story collections - Tibor Fischer's Don't Read This Book If
You're Stupid and lots of Borges - and ploughing through the
collected journalism of The Hitch.

Anyway, I'm typing this while watching a very good Horizon documentary about intelligent design. So I, er, better give that my full attention...

13 Comments:

Blogger Paul B said...

Don't worry about not reading War and Peace. It's shit. Read Crime and Punishment instead, it's a zillion times better. "Tolstoy was a twat; Dostoevsky was a dude."

[Quote taken from Oxford 2005 FHS Modern Languages Paper XI, script of candidate 20505 (Paul B)]

1/27/2006 5:29 pm  
Anonymous Pizza eater said...

For information, both Citizen Kane and diatribes about Northern Irish politics are well worth listening to/watching.

1/28/2006 5:12 pm  
Anonymous Laura said...

Battleshop Potemkin is about 30 minutes long so fits with the attention span, but it's really not that important to watch in the greater scheme of things.

Watch Citizen Kane at christmas when there's nothing else on; it's about journalism, you'd probably like it. Hell, I might even get it you for your birthday if that would help....

1/28/2006 8:13 pm  
Blogger Paul B said...

30 minutes? Never. It's about an hour and a bit, from what I remember.

And yes, it's a brilliant piece of film-making, but it's pretty hard to fix your attention on, so as Laura says it's probably not worth making a priority. Watch The Shawshank Redemption or Cube instead.

1/30/2006 11:04 am  
Blogger Bourgeois Wife said...

The Shawshank Redemption? Yuck, cheesy.

1/30/2006 1:30 pm  
Anonymous doobyus said...

War and Peace v Crime and Punishment...? That's sort of like Mahler's 9th v A Day in the Life... both epochal, both hugely different, both magnificent.

1/30/2006 2:15 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

Ooh, ooh, I really want to see Cube. Also, Pi, which I have just found out is not the film adaptation of Yann Martell's Life of Pi, as I had always believed.

I reckon my lack of concentration is why I've always been a, er, social smoker. Gives you something to do with your hands while watching stuff, or talking, or reading, or having a bath. God, I'm going to have to take up knitting, cross stitch or quilting if I don't want to die early, aren't I?

1/30/2006 5:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EE Cummings should be spelled with capital letters. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken.

1/30/2006 5:02 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

funnily enough, I read an article on that very (sad) point just yesterday. But bollocks to it, frankly. I spend all day correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar, an d sometime I get a little tired of the pedantry, OK?

watch me free wheel: jane austen. charles dickens.

And even worse: there is no such thing as a 'split infinitive', I don't believe in them. I also quite like using the ampersand instead of 'and'.

But, if you are going to be pedantic, I should point out that the name appears in his signature (and this surely must be deemed the correct version) as E.E. Cummings, with full stops between the initials.

Oh. Yeah.

look at me, I'm tearing up the rule book....

1/30/2006 7:26 pm  
Anonymous doobyus said...

Don't you think "split infinitive" has a sort of Sid James ring to it?

"Wotch art, you almost split me infinitive."

You have earned the right to freely split any infinitive you bloomin' want.

2/01/2006 4:39 pm  
Anonymous LB said...

The ampersand used in the italic version of the Garamond font is a work of art, beating "and" hands down.

As for Tristram Shandy, read the Martin Rowson cartoon version, which makes the film's points a bit better and have anything to do with Steve Coogan's ego.

2/09/2006 1:49 pm  
Anonymous lb said...

Erm, "doesn't have".

2/09/2006 1:50 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

the best thing about the film is definitely Rob Brydon's impression of Steve Coogan. It made me want to watch Alan Partridge immediately.

All together: Do you like me, sex-wise?

2/09/2006 7:39 pm  

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