Blogs! Remember them? With so much gibbering about social networking, good old-fashioned blogging seems to have fallen by the collective wayside, but there's still so much good stuff out there. I do most of my blog reading while commuting thanks to the splendid Byline app, but some posts just have to be savoured on a big computer screen. Adam Curtis - he of the awesome BBC documentaries - has turned out to be one of the best bloggers out there, making full use of the ability to embed video, to link and (like fellow Beeb types Robert Peston, Stephanie Flanders and Paul Mason) to use the format to take time to discuss subjects free of the time (and perhaps editorial) constraints of a broadcast slot, covering as diverse a range of topics as you can imagine. And, being Curtis, these are all researched to the nth degree, the embedded video footage having been dragged up from the archives and edited together with the same energy and unpredictability of his television work, free of the usual stock imagery or clichéd clips. For example, a five minute segment on Rupert Murdoch for Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe Review of the Year (posted below) was distilled down from a brilliant 45 minute 'rough cut' posted in July last year.
Just before Christmas he wrote a fascinating piece on a time when hauntings in suburbia - particularly poltergeists - became news items, leading to the mockumentary terror of Stephen Wolk's Ghostwatch (which, twenty years on, remains a genuinely scary piece of work and is available to watch in full here - here's a cracking 2003 article from Volk, and there's more on Ghostwatch to come later this year, it seems)
His latest blog post went up a couple of weeks ago, with the following introduction:
Everybody is always remarking about how stuck our society feels these days. The music doesn't change, the political parties are all exactly the same, and films and TV dramas are almost always set in the past.
We are also stuck with an economic system that is not delivering the paradise that it once promised - but is instead creating chaos and hardship. Yet no-one can imagine a better alternative, so we remain static - paralysed by a terrible political and cultural claustrophobia.
I want to tell the story of another time and another place not so long ago that was also stifled by the absence of novelty and lacking a convincing vision of the future. It was in the Soviet Union in the late 1970s and 1980s. At the time they called it "the years of stagnation".
What follows is a thrilling and eye-opening blast through Russia in the second half of the 20th century, as a system - The Plan - designed to plan and organise the whole of society started to collapse. It shows the despair this system wrought, and the desparate attempts made to paper over this through appropriating culture - see the sad story of Dean Reed, an American pop-rocker singing Soviet propaganda to American rock'n'roll - and invading Afghanistan.
But it also shows how protest movements grew through punk music and the avant garde - the clip where Curtis has cut a couple of these songs to 1989 footage of the collapse of the Soviet Union is particularly arresting - and then what happened to these movements protesting against a system that was no longer there. This leads to Lenin the mushroom, Serbian sniper rifles and Putin with a poodle. All in all, it's a thrilling reminder of the strength of proper blog-writing (as opposed to this one, which mainly exists for pointing at stuff other people have done) and well worth a good wodge of your time. Pour a cuppa, settle down and enjoy.