February 8, 2015
I don’t normally take requests on my blog. But a good friend of mine who has been watching me play at this piano for the last six years, and who has more than once thrown encouragement in my tip cup, says he wants me to write about beauty. My beauty.
“I keep talking about beauty and its effects on the world with people, most of whom aren’t beautiful,” he said to me in an email back in 2009.
“These people find the interaction of too much beauty and too many brains of great interest.”
For context sake, this friend is a fellow writer, 25 years my senior, and male.
In 2010, he picked up the thread again and wrote:
“As you know, Alison, I keep wondering how you deal/have dealt with the issue of being a beautiful woman. That is, did you ever wake up in the morning thinking, Geez, I wish I wasn’t so pretty so that guys could more easily relate to me as a human being and not a creature in an objectified dream. A constant theme in Hollywood movies — for example, Pretty Woman — is a guy learning to see beyond a woman’s beauty. What I can’t tell is if this mental reconfiguration really happens, particularly in the work world?”
I read my friend’s emails with interest, but didn’t follow up on my blog because I wasn’t sure what to say.
Then my friend had the actual experience of not being able to concentrate on a women’s ideas because her beauty got in the way. He immediately fired off another email to me:
“Alison, I was just at a conference. The sessions were on how public health has dealt with swine flu and one of the speakers was this incredibly beautiful, slim, sexy, Bollywoody woman. What she presented was data and facts and lots of technical things, but you couldn’t hear them very clearly because what you saw was beauty and its transcendently loud voice. I wondered if she found her attractiveness actually got in the way of her professional life. If she some times wished she was somewhat less pretty so people could hear her science and not her allure. This might be a good freelance piece for you. Could get you a name if you were interested.”
And early last month, after I wrote about my experiences in grad school, this note landed in my inbox. Same friend, same subject:
“I would love to read about your sense of how physical beauty has shaped your life. I say that because one of the other things I have always been struck with is how you didn’t use beauty as a kind of common currency in your life. It was there. It undoubtedly helped you get certain jobs – Elle, for instance – but you didn’t market yourself as a beautiful person. And you could have.”
OK, friend, I give up.
Here’s the thing. Since my teens, when the air started swirling around me and model scouts in malls started handing me their business cards, I knew I wanted to be a creator, not a creation. Big difference. It’s the difference between Being and actually Doing.
I’m one of millions of women around the world who want to change the whole Men Do/Women Just Are paradigm. This paradigm still persists in the workplace, but not the home where women Do way too much, while also holding down day jobs. Luckily, I have lived my whole life on the side of the world where such a goal — to be a Creator, not a creation — is slightly more possible.
Even as a 16 year old girl, I was acutely aware of the fact that my intelligence would outlast my brown hair, so cultivating something that could grow and last seemed like a pretty worthy mission to me.
I started spending all my spare time in libraries, poring through biographies (my road maps), atlases, art books and sitting on the floor next to rows and rows of National Geographics. When I wasn’t in libraries, I was hanging out in watch stores testing out my favourite fountain pens. I know my high school friends remember that girl. I walked around with a cripplingly heavy book bag over one shoulder and a black art porfolio in the other hand that was stuffed with my pencil sketches and watercolours. Living inside my head was such an amazing place to be! I deliberately ignored boys to gain footing in that world. Luckily, my height (6’1″) kept most of them away. My plan was working. I had breathing room and time. While they got on with the business of growing up, I got on with the business of exploring the world as if I had no restrictions on me and, really, I didn’t because I ignored restrictions.
Had I been born 20 years earlier, the pressure to lead an entirely different life would have derailed me. My acute awareness of this arbitrary stroke of luck only made me more determined to hunker down and push back against expectations.
Through my twenties, even my thirties, I continued my private campaign to live from the inside out. That was no small feat when cat calls and genuine compliments were coming at me like a spray of bullets. All of them, whether deliberate or not, were attempts to bring my concsiousness back to my outsides. My goal continued to be self-development. It still is. I didn’t get an agent for my looks. What on earth for?
Then came the warnings: as I was approaching “the peak of my beauty” (not my term), I was told I better act soon. I was 27. What did that mean? Did they want me to mount some kind of variety show with a dance number for the guys? I suspected they wanted me give in and let them drink me up in advance that so-called Best Before date stamped on women the world over. During this time, one guy even said to me, “What a waste,” when he found out I wasn’t modelling or married. This was yet another social force I found completely unacceptable.
It’s funny, but I’m only just piecing this together in my forties. The extent to which I deflected sexist and negative comments was huge. My life has been proof that to be the person you want to be, you have to “ignore everybody.”That’s how cartoonist Hugh MacLeod described it in his book by the same name. I lived in a headspace where sexism didn’t exist because I didn’t accept it. I moved right through it and past it. I’m guessing the way I looked helped me get away with that kind of defiance without having to raise a placard or my voice. At the same time, though, I had enough good sense and humility that I didn’t act entitled, just hyper focused. And grateful.
I’m sure I created plenty of confusion in my wake. The most confused and annoyed guys threw the word “frigid” at me. I said nothing because enlightening them felt as pointless as enlightening the anti-vaxxers. I kept going. For the record, I wasn’t frigid — scared maybe, disenchanted by guys who would say that, most definitely. Overall, I was stubborn, as stubborn as a salmon swimming upstream.
This is where I cue up Nick Hornby, author of About a Boy, High Fidelity and most recently, Funny Girl. My respect for Hornby went through the roof last week when I heard him tell Daniel Richler on the CBC Radio program Q that he found the journeys of young women far more moving than young men’s:
“I think a lot of male characters, the reasons they’re not allowed to do the things that they want to do is because of what’s going on in their own heads. Let’s face it, if you’re male there isn’t an awful lot stopping you. Whereas young women, in previous times, had all kinds of obstacles placed in their way. And to overcome those obstacles shows, of necessity, courage and heart and intelligence and drive. And those are pretty interesting qualities to write about.”
Acceptance of women’s creativity, drive and opinions, whether these women are considered physically beautiful or not, is still a work in progress. It will only be normalized by doing. I continue to say, be twice as good, be kind and ignore everybody. And make sure your story is really good, especially to you.
February 5, 2015
News organizations that have been focused on their online real estate — i.e. stuff they own, like their websites — need to start thinking more like train-hopping vagabonds.
This means going homeless and filling their rucksacks with original stories formatted for mobile-only apps, then hitting the road and stopping at a variety of destinations along the way that are boom towns now, but could very well be crossed with tumbleweed by next year.
Instead of worrying about permanence and stability — as in, “We’re dropping our bags in this oil/mining/car town, building a homestead and working until we can retire in comfort” — they must be willing and able to skip town at a moment’s notice. Creating story packages that travel well and adapt to the next place everyone is headed to is a must.
Right now, SnapChat is one of those places. For the last two years, people have been predicting that messaging and chat apps would be the next area of growth for online news. Now it’s finally happening in a big way.
Last week SnapChat introduced Discover, a go-to news source for mobile-formatted stories. So far, ten publishers are on board including Vice, Yahoo News, The Daily Mail, National Geographic, CNN, People, MTV, Cosmopolitan, b/r (Bleacher Report) and The Food Network. It remains to be seen if The New York Times and The Guardian will sign on. Stories are packaged in a variety of ways, including looping videos, 15-minute docs on hard news topics, silly animations and text-based articles. What’s more, advertisers are coming along for the ride. Here’s a screen shot from my phone of Discover’s home page.
To my surprise, there’s some fairly substantive reporting. Take this February 3rd story on Obama’s budget. It was a whopping 1073 words and because it sat on a native app, making it completely independent of the web and search, there was no link back to Yahoo’s home page. In fact, there was no direct tie between this Discover story and the stories on Yahoo’s main hub, only similar stories. Like all things SnapChat, the story disappeared 24 hours later and was replaced by a fresh news cycle.
The message is clear: the real story, the “complete” story on Obama’s budget, is where you are right now. We don’t take hostages and force them to back to our homepage.
In another example, a February 3rd CNN Supreme Court story called “Judgement Days,” a web throw at the end of the piece invited readers to visit CNN.com/Politics, but, again, because it sits on an app it was NOT a live link and so the chances of folks going to the homepage are slim. When I checked, the exact same story did not appear on CNN’s website. Other journalists have reported that stories prepared for Discover by The Daily Mail were cut-and-paste jobs from stories on their homepage page. So far, that hasn’t been my experience. News organization are adapting to the space and not pushing hard for their own way.
Takeaway No. 1:
SnapChat’s news delivery format has finally forced the detachment between print and digital. For much too long, digital has been sitting way too tightly next to print. They’re like siamese twins whose parents know they need to be separated because one of them will die eventually. But the parents keep putting off booking the operation because the surgery will be bloody and complicated and death to one or both will come very fast since they share organs. So the parents stall.
Takeaway No. 2:
By creating app-only stories that are formatted with the same design as updates from friends, which are just a few thumb swipes away, these first ten news organizations on Discover are finally acknowledging that they need to go where people are, not where they want them to be or arrogantly think they should be (i.e. their homepage) – h/t Joshua Benton. Millennials trust social media to keep up to date on what’s happening around the world and generally don’t give a second thought to the homepages of news organizations. In fact a recent poll conducted by SkyNews in the UK found that only 18% of 16-24 year olds turn to mainstream media for current events. The rest use social media.
Does this now mean that news organizations should shutter their homepages — like shuttering the family homestead — and only become app jumping vagabonds? Maybe. Time will tell. The homestead may just become one big storage locker whose visitors are a smaller band of rabid news and context geeks.
For now, I think Discover may prove to be the better way to get your news than the Facebook feed. The latter relies way too heavily on what the algorithms determine is news and a whole lot of accidental osmosis. And if it’s true that Facebook is dead to Millennials, then apps are the only immediate hope for news organizations for placement of their work. At least Discover isn’t aggregating like Facebook. It has editorial control, content ownership and ad placements so discrete I couldn’t even find them.
All of the hand-drawn illustrations in this post are by the Canadian-born artist, Jay Hambidge (1867-1924), and were commissioned by the now defunct, Century Illustrated Magazine (1881-1906). From my research, they appear to be in the public domain. If that is not the case, please let me know at alison(dot)garwoodjones(at)gmail(dot)com.
January 26, 2015
What a find! This is the first time I’ve ever heard Virginia Woolf‘s spoken voice.
Her written voice is very familiar to me.
Her book, A Room of One’s Own, is a Bible to me and most of my friends.
A Room of One’s Own, Silk Screen Print by Alanna Cavanagh. From a fifth edition of 20 prints. Signed and Numbered. Printed on Acid Free 100% Rag paper. Stained with Coffee and Tea.
Hearing Virginia read her own words wasn’t something I was expecting while sitting around in my apartment on some random weekend in January (h/t The Paris Review).
Woolf recorded this essay on “Craftsmanship,” the only known recording of her voice, at the BBC’s London studios back in 1937. No doubt, she spoke into one of the broadcaster’s iconic Type A Marconi microphones.
Here she describes the challenges of capturing the essence of life through words. ”Words don’t live in dictionaries,” she said, “they live in the mind.” The challenge is knowing how “to combine old words in new orders so they create beauty and tell the truth.”
As her particular vocal tone soaked into and spread across her sentences, plumping out each word, I felt like I was being presented with even more answers to life’s Big Questions. Some women’s minds do that —Virginia, Gloria, Maya, Joni— they make you stop everything and listen hard.
Imagine that: a random find on Facebook was bringing all the disparate thought lines in my head together to a single point. Rocks that that usually felt heavy, were light. It coloured the rest of my Sunday.
As you listen to this, I recommend not focusing on the aristocratic roll of Woolf’s r’s, or the way she trills so primly like Eleanor Roosevelt or Julia Child (judging from the comments on the Paris Review’s website, lots of readers couldn’t get past that).
Every generation and social class has had its particular vocabulary and way of speaking. That shouldn’t distract you from the universals Virginia lays out. Humming below the surface of her posh elocution is the sound of a mind painfully receptive to the ups and downs of work and existence. She reads her own writing with so much conviction. By the end of the recording, you may find, like me, that you’ve gone beyond the ideas she expressed and are reacting equally to the tensile strength and frequency of her presence, which is decidedly more tuning fork than talking head.
Now imagine if Jane Austen’s voice was suddenly available to us?
January 23, 2015
Just before Christmas I attended an ACI artist’s talk at Massey College. At the end of it, I turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, “Wasn’t that good?” She agreed and we shared our favourite ah ha moments in the life and career of Paul Kane.
Kane was born 150 years before Neil Young, Bob Dylan and the rise of sixties counter culture, but there was something about the experimental and itinerant life of this buckskin-wearing bon vivant that felt modern. And relevant to today.
Holding back his personality behind a frozen pose — the limitations of Victorian photography insisted upon that — I sense a guy with the same energy as some of the artist bartenders, lumbersexuals and guitar pickers I work with. Blame the bedhead, the buckskin and the sleepy “Cho, dude” vibe in his expression. Here’s a guy who clearly smells of unwashed hair, suede and wind. Beyond the lens, his studio is the experimental mess of a serial entrepreneur, I’m sure of it.
Kane was not the kind of man you’d expect to see walking in downtown Toronto in the 1850s and ’60s. He lived at Isabella and Church, future hub of individuality and misfit pride. If you knew Toronto then, it was not the cool Guardian and New York Times-stamped city it is now. Artistically, it was mute and inward-looking. English writer Wyndam Lewis dubbed it “a sanctimonious ice box.” (h/t Robert Fulford). Vast and distant colonies were like that at the height of Britain’s power. They didn’t assert themselves and they didn’t feel entitled to their own adventures. Originality was feared and frowned upon. You can confirm that with Australia. The books by the late Robert Hughes reveal many cultural parallels between our two nations.
Kane either forgot or ignored all that. He looks like a man who burned and inhaled all manner of plant life to maintain his chosen take on life. Historians describe him as ”one of the first ‘tourists’ — as opposed to explorer, trapper or surveyor — to travel the northern fur-trade route from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean.” His goal: to record his perceptions of North America’s Aboriginal communities. No one sent him. He sent himself. He saw a need to understand the people who populated a significant swath of this land before the rest of us arrived by boat. Kane funded his adventures painting society portraits every time he was back in Toronto.
Kane’s highly unorthodox goals and determination to do as he saw fit resonated with me and my seat mate on that snowy night last month. I think it’s why our conversation went the way it did. On discovering we were both bon vivants crossing this new digital frontier (I write, she edits), she told me, “We have more security than most people.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Because we know every project we take on has an expiration date. We’re not psychologically crushed when opportunities dry up or people stop needing us.”
“We just tap into our contacts and find something else,” she said, almost with glee.
That was just what I needed to hear as I search for my next opportunity. Along the way, I hope I smell like big sky, prairie wild flowers and lots of glee.
January 7, 2015
For writers, social media is like a hole in a tire. It’s a drain on your energy, productivity and ability to sustain a thought.
Sometimes the leak is slow and silent (like the daily Facebook checkin). Other times (Rob Ford), it’s this giant fucking “POP!” Afterwards, you’re left with a big flabby thing that won’t turn. Not the ex-mayor, silly, your inspiration.
All of this would explain the parade of writers who publicly announce their impending estrangement from Twitter. It’s like giving up chicken wings. Or sex. Many of them conduct farewell tours, but are back online in a month.
Their jitters during withdrawal were bad. One can only conclude that being unhappy online is preferable to being unhappy offline.
January 5, 2015
My energy reserves are more precious than oil.
I don’t know if it’s a female thing? The men I know and love and don’t love don’t share the nitty gritty details of their energy metrics. For all I know, they’re concealing some wild fluctuations.
Productivity is what we’re all chasing. It’s the gold standard and only proof, these days, of a life well lived. And it’s a killer.
For women, productivity—corporate/biological/creative/social—has surpassed a sense of duty, although that hasn’t entirely disappeared. More on that in a second. Women go ahead and have children because they can (science hasn’t equalized that, yet), then they layer everything else on top of that because not doing so would mean never knowing what it feels like to exercise their full rights and potential as humans. This idea of ”having it all,” was the biggest false promise feminism served up, argues Jennifer Szalai.
Women are tired. But so are men. But it’s a different kind of tired; more fed up than bone deep. All this change is destabilizing to the guys. The difference is: many men tend to ignore how tired they’re feeling for the “greater good,” or, more probably, to stay ahead and still be #1. And the dishes pile up.
Meanwhile, female duty, that Victorian throwback, is still with us but it’s more subtle today. Same with blatant sexism of the “Females need not apply” sort. We can’t say that stuff out loud anymore, but it percolates beneath the surface in ways that are a lot harder to deal with or refute head on.
I’d argue that many men’s abiding belief in female duty is what’s holding them back from participating fully in meeting the needs of their households — from booking dentist appointments to assembling birthday party loot bags to buying new socks and underwear for their kids. All those tiny, energy-depleting details are what women still seem to anticipate first. As important as those things are to the health and happiness of others, men still see them as distractions from grander goals. And this refusal to split their energy at home is hurting women (who also harbour grander goals). Like Gloria said, “Women won’t be equal outside the home until men are equal inside it.”
As the world commits more and more to ecological sustainability, I think we need to push for “female sustainability”: that quality of not being willfully harmful by depleting the natural and spiritual resources of a wife/partner/girlfriend, and thereby supporting long-term balance in the home environment.
January 3, 2015
When I met Stewart, he was standing outside the coffee shop I’d suggested with his hands pushed deep inside his pants pockets.
“It’s closed, isn’t it?” I said, walking up to him.
“Yup,” he said, and we gave each other a hey-how-ya-doing hug.
“Sorry about that. I called ahead and their message didn’t say they were closed. New Year’s Day is so hit and miss.”
“Yeah.” He grimaced and I wondered if he was mad about waiting in the cold.
“There’s a Starbucks up on Dundas,” I said, pointing north. He nodded and we walked against the wind to get there.
“Does Detroit get this cold?” I asked, realizing that was a pretty loaded question.
“Sometimes,” he said, trudging with his head down. The lines in his face were more pronounced since the last time I saw him. They didn’t look like trails cut by laughter. His eyes sat deep in their sockets. They always had. In fairness, my hair was threaded with a lot more grey than his.
Stewart and I were grad school classmates. We were never intellectual compadres, or even friends, just associates who’d simultaneously put down money so we could study in the same building for two years. Twenty years had passed since we got our degrees (M.A.s in art history). In fact, we hadn’t even acknowledged each other until now. He went his way. I went mine.
Before Christmas, out of the blue, Stewart emailed me to express his surprise over how I’d turned out. It was a nice note: “I heard your name on the Canadaland podcast, so couldn’t resist looking you up. Let me just say … Wow! Your work (your blog) is so much more rich & compelling than most art history careers.”
He gave me his synopsis. After our M.A.s, Stewart had gone off to Yale to do a Ph.D, then a post-doc at Harvard. For the next dozen or so years he’d zigzagged through the U.S. assuming a string of senior curatorial positions: five years at the Kimbell in Fort Worth, six at the National Gallery in Washington and another five at the Detroit Institute of the Arts — that is, until an operating budget came down and eliminated his position altogether.
That was four years ago, just before the city declared bankruptcy. Stewart is still out of work. “There are no historian jobs in town any more,” he said. But he won’t move; he wants to be near his kids.
To make ends meet, Stewart has been teaching, building a website on sustainable living, testing his chops at blogging, and cobbling together a patchwork of disparate editing opportunities. I nodded while he talked because that was my life too. The economy had leveled us all. As we approached Starbucks, I could tell he was still floored that two Ivy League degrees hadn’t shielded him from the worst. I didn’t tell him about another Harvard alum I knew who was living above a bikini shop on Queen West and giving workshops on confident body language.
Back in grad school, Stewart and I only crossed paths in one class, a museology course we took with two other students. As a group, we were put in charge of curating an exhibition at the university art center. I ended up being assigned a bunch of wall panels to write. After I submitted them, word got back to me that my work sounded plagiarized. It probably was. I couldn’t tell. I was too tied up in knots trying to figure out how to sound like an art historian — you know, long-winded, abstruse, patronizing, full of Art Speak and Voice of God intonations, none of which suited me. (My natural writing voice took years to unearth).
I’m guessing this is what Stewart remembered about me because as soon as we walked into Starbucks and assumed our place in line, he announced, “You weren’t a very talented art historian. I mean you were sweet and a lovely person, but …” I had put my order in because the barista was waiting.
I admit, my record of achievement was erratic and contradictory. I soared and swan-dived from A’s to C’s (again, C’s in anything that pressured me to be abstruse). And, despite the Governor General’s medal on my bookshelf, I still managed to fail my final thesis, a 200-page romp on Cézanne’s drawings.
I should say, none of that effort was plagiarized. In fact, I whittled and polished and researched the heck out of my topic just to find an undiscovered patch that I could present in a fresh way.
As I wrote and surrounded myself with xeroxed Cézanne drawings, I delighted in providing a lively social and cultural context for my reader whom I imagined living far off campus. For the first time in my life, I was envisioning scenes and setting them. Art history had become cinematic. I described Cézanne’s creative inspiration and his determined pursuit to give the world an order he knew it didn’t have, and how grumpy that made him. I was proud of the result. So was my supervisor, who is my friend to this day.
Later, I found out I’d received a failing grade from the Head of the Department, in part, because he thought my chapters read “too much like a series of magazine articles,” and not a Master’s thesis. Stewart asked me why I hadn’t written more about this epic failure on my blog. I thought I had, but here it is again.
You’d think this particular episode would have been a penny-drop moment for me. It wasn’t. Reacting appropriately to signs and those ding, ding, ding moments in life can take years. So I soldiered on and rewrote the goddam thesis to meet the expectations of the Department Head. “It’s just an exercise,” he kept telling me. Well, it wasn’t for me. I envisioned and delivered so much more than that. Before I had submitted I’d even won a fellowship to do research at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris so I could delve deeper into my subject and add the kind of insights I knew I’d only get standing in front of the art.
The same Department Head reacted to the news of my museum fellowship, saying, “Getting this won’t get you into a better Ph.D program.” It was bizarre. I wasn’t even thinking about that. Jockeying and departmental politics were the last thing on my mind. I was living in the moment, thinking, “Oh my God, I get to see all of this art in person, walk in Cézanne’s footsteps and sip French coffee on someone else’s dime!”
Stewart knew none of this. His eyes were practically falling out of his head as I talked. He never guessed I had failed. Back then, I didn’t think I had to tell him. I figured departmental gossip would fill him in in no time. “Failing must have felt like a death,” he said with the kind of horror saved for German Requiem Masses.
There was something else Stewart didn’t know. I found out I had failed my thesis the weekend after I had returned from a trip to Cambridge, Mass. After Paris, I’d been shortlisted for a fellowship to Harvard and had spent the weekend in interviews. “I didn’t know that!” Stewart gasped. “What happened next?”
“Well, I didn’t go. I had to rewrite my thesis.” That took another year, much of it spent pounding my head on my desk because I was convinced that my work was already good and why did I have to change it? Politics is such a bitch.
Thesis aside, I still wouldn’t have gone to Harvard. When one of the interviewers, a lovely man named William Robinson who was the Fogg’s curator of drawings, asked me why I wanted this fellowship, I replied,
“I don’t.” That’s right, folks. I told Harvard to go away.
After I had said that, Robinson and his colleague, Miriam Stewart, looked at each other, shuffled their papers together and pushed their seats away from the table before holding out their hands to wish me a fond farewell. I left the Fogg and I walked through the storied campus on my way back to my B&B, letting out this half-confident/half-crazed laugh a couple of times. I knew what I had just done and it felt right. And I knew it was right because I felt good.
I let out the same laugh as I was walking home after my coffee with Stewart on New Year’s Day and going over his seriously lacklustre opinion of me as an art historian. It was so different to the high praise he was now showering on me. In his last email to me, Stewart had this to say:
“Alison, what you’re doing — or, more accurately, who you’re being — is a hell of a lot more vital and compelling than anything that either of us were up when we were beavering away on our art historical careers. By risking something personal, by getting in the habit of putting your true self out there as if it matters, by being, in whatever ways, the artist as distinct from the mere commentator on art or life you are engaging in the Nietzschean project of becoming what you are. By making room for that self in a way that is not just high quality (good thinking, writing, design) but also coherent, honest, vulnerable, self-critical and compassionate, you make room for the rest of us, and inspire us to realize our own selves.”
Sooner or later my failures had to bear fruit. I had no idea it would take this long. I want to thank Stewart for not holding back on any of his impressions of me.
December 3, 2014
New technology has always been forcing us to change. Here is a priceless vignette by Doris Lessing about the introduction of the television set to the row houses of post-war London.
It was the summer of 1950. Before I left Denbigh Road I saw the end of an era, the death of a culture: television arrived. Before, when the men came back from work, the tea was already on the table, a fire was roaring, the radio emitted words or music softly in a corner, they washed and sat down at their places, with the woman, the child, and whoever else in the house could be inveigled downstairs. Food began emerging from the oven, dish after dish, tea was brewed, beer appeared, off went the jerseys or jackets, the men sat in their shirtsleeves, glistening with well-being. They all talked, they sang, they told what had happened in their day, they talked dirty — a ritual; they quarrelled, they shouted, they kissed and made up and went to bed at twelve or one, after six or so hours of energetic conviviality. I suppose that this level of emotional intensity was not unusual in the households of Britain: I was witnessing an extreme. And then, from one day to the next — but literally from one evening to the next — came the end of good times, for television had arrived and sat like a toad in the corner of the kitchen. Soon the big kitchen table had been pushed along the wall, chairs were installed in a semi-circle, and on the chair arms, the swivelling supper trays. It was the end of an exuberant verbal culture.
Walking the Shade 1949-1962, pp. 17-18
It makes me want to write a paragraph about Netflix, “The Before and After” …