Opening lines to Mean Streets (1973), read by the film’s director, Martin Scorsese:
You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.
Splendid interview in The Times on Saturday with Dennis Bergkamp, an absolutely sublime footballer.
What Bergkamp cared most about wasn’t scoring goals.
He cared about control. Beautiful control might lead to a goal – but without the control, there could have been no goal.
He took delight in the process. Sometimes that is hard to do.
Slides from a talk I gave to the 3rd-year media students at Regent’s University in London a few days ago. Lots of examples from TV and from my own experience.
Aim is to offer advice to anyone who is working in / wants to work in a creative industry.
In short, data is important.
I was ten and at the county tennis trials. All the kids were lined up on the side of the court.
“Bounce the ball across these three courts, turn round when you reach the fence, then come back.
“But you can’t use the strings. You have to bounce it with the edge of the racket, on the side of the frame”.
Uh-oh. Never done this before.
“Ok – go!”
The other kids threw down their tennis balls and started bouncing them across the the courts.
I dropped mine, twisted my racket on its side, and tried to knock the ball down and forwards so that I could set off too.
Ding! My ball hit an edge on my racket and shot off to the left.
I chased it, grabbed it, and tried again.
Bing! This time I’d hit it squarely but too far back on the frame – it bounced back into my stomach.
The other kids had already crossed the first court.
Ok, and again – thock! I caught it too far forward on the frame and the ball whizzed ahead of me up the court. Phew, at least now I could move off the starting line.
The charade continued for what felt like an hour until someone merciful called a halt. I hadn’t yet made the fence, never mind turned around and come back.
Twenty years later, I still feel embarrassed about it.
You can’t prepare for everything, and you won’t always have the talent to wing it first time.
But that’s ok. I can bounce the ball with the side of the racket now.
I got there in the end.
Being messed around in a relationship is normal, until you meet someone you love and who loves you back.
Being in a job you hate is normal, until you find a job that’s interesting and fun.
Being in a miserable flat in a crappy area is normal, until you find a place you call home.
What’s normal changes – faster or slower, sooner or later.
I am a time traveller!
I went to an academic conference this summer and it was like going back to 2010. All the talk was of cookies, CRM, and targeted advertising… academic discourse can be little behind the times.
But there is loads of really interesting stuff to be found in academia too – like the journal article that helped me understand the strange user acquisition patterns in Scoreboard, and the quote I found in another article about Norwegians who liked to text in to TV shows that told me something new about viewers’ motivations.
And while I don’t want to be a full-time academic, I don’t want to be a full-time industry worker either if it means I don’t get to do academia too.
So I’ve decided to try to bridge the gap. I taught a course at a university last year, did a bunch of one-off lectures, and wrote an article that I hope will soon be published in a journal. But that isn’t quite enough – so I’m starting a new blog alongside this one.
It’s called mediademic – i.e. media + academia. In each post I look at something academic – an article, an essay, an idea – and analyse it in the context of my own experience in industry.
Academia offers depth and complexity, but sometimes it is dangerously disconnected from industry. Life in the media industry is fun and moves fast, but it can be difficult to see longer-term patterns or to think more deeply about what you’re working on.
Mediademic is my attempt to bridge the gap between the theory and the practice. I hope to do so in way that illuminates a little of both.
We’ll see :)
Check it out now – nine posts up so far – at mediademicblog.com
The bones of four thousand dead friars line the walls of this Capuchin Crypt in Rome.
They want to remind visitors of the brevity of life on Earth:
We were like you once. Soon you will be like us.
Cheery stuff, thanks lads! There’s lots of this kind of thing around – ‘Do it now, don’t wait’ / ‘Carpe diem’ / ‘YOLO baby!’.
It’s easy to scoff, because scoffing is easier than acknowledging it’s true. Tick-tock, time keeps marching on. Time never comes to an end, but you and I will.
The consequences of embracing this idea are unsettling: every second is precious, so every second is under pressure.
But this quickly becomes impractical. This had better be the best shit of my life!
The feeling of living on limited time might put getting older into perspective. Those years ain’t coming back, and my inevitable demise draws ever nearer.
So long as things like that keep happening, you’re all good. It’s only when they stop that you notice the time passing.
Today’s my 30th birthday. Can’t hear a ticking sound just yet…
Continual self-improvement! The self-help industry is eating the world.
Everyone seems to be writing ‘Experience Posts’ about learning.
Learning from everything, from everyone, from the bountiful world around us. Self-improvement by learning from experience. It’s like an existentialist’s wet dream – everyone is obsessed with learning from their own experiences, and then writing about them. Like a Human Centipede of second-hand experiences.
Maybe I don’t want to continually self-improve.
What am I improving for, anyway? My day at work tomorrow? World War III? My one shot at the champ?
Most ‘Here’s what I learnt from X’ posts are written as if from beyond the grave – the author writes like they have passed through some experience that separates them from the rest of us and has emerged, deified and purified, on the other side.
Three types of awful Experience Posts:
1. Crappy project posts, where the author writes about some project they did – usually one that was ill-conceived and poorly executed so they’re trying to salvage something from the wreckage
-> See 10 Things I Learnt From Me In TV
2. Celebrity ass-worship posts, in which the author writes about how someone famous/successful has deigned to provide them with valuable life lessons
-> See Lady Gaga, let me in!
3. Inspired by the little people posts, in which the author writes how they have found a deeper truth in the eyes of a starving child (no mention of how they left them for dead though)
-> See Why work experience doesn’t work
All three of those examples are my own posts.
Sorry about those. Please don’t actually read them. If I write any more I’m going to move to wherever they cut your hands off for stealing and go straight out on the rob.
It is possible to write interesting Experience Posts. But you have to share the lessons learned from moments of doubt and pain and fear. Those are the moments when you really learn. When hubris and ego are stripped bare and your ugly naked soul is exposed.
Take a picture of yourself right there and tell us what happened.
My first football match!
Fleetville Juniors vs Camp School. Aged 8, I was pretty excited. And I was picked to play in goal.
Don’t be the goalkeeper. If you don’t let any goals in, all you will have done is what’s expected of you. And if you do let in a goal, you’ll have failed and you’ll feel bad.
I did let in a goal… well, several actually. We were 4-1 down at half-time, so the PE teacher moved me outfield and put someone else in goal.
But I still remember that advice.
It’s more fun to be in situations where it’s possible to create something new, and to go beyond just aiming for zero.
And I hate being in situations where the max possible result is to do just what’s expected of me — to keep a clean sheet and not mess things up.
I’m still a crappy goalkeeper though.
Pretty sure that no motherly advice can change that!