Quite a bit to catch up on, with little time to read over the last week but plenty of links to Pocket. First up, an essay by Sam Kinchin-Smith up at Drowned in Sound on the (ab)use of music in the 50 Shades books, the boggling success of which is both fascinating and disheartening even if (like me) you wouldn't touch the books with a barge pole:
...Which all begs the question, why is so much of the 50 Shades books’ blatantly misogynist (and materialist) project played out to, and through, music? And what does this say about the place and status of music, both popular and “classical”, in contemporary culture.
It’s questions like this which make reflecting seriously on 50 Shades of Grey a worthwhile activity: these three books have sold faster than any other novel in the history of novels. They have caused paper shortages in the US. Lumber mills in Canada have been forced to rehire laid-off workers. More people have read, and wanted to read, E.L. James’s prose, over a shorter period of time, than any equivalent narrative. All of which makes its depiction of a number of things significant. It would, indeed, be imprudent not to assume that it captures, reflects and makes sense of – and will to some extent now influence – a genuinely popular yearning, a cultural consensus, in a manner that perhaps no other book does. Just as the ridiculously widespread appetite for the romanticisation of public schools in Harry Potter revealed striking truths about an audience that, a few years later, was also willing to elect a cabal of Old Etonians into government, so the implications of the central role played by music in the 50 Shades phenomenon should not be underestimated. Or to put it another way: the presence of Snow Patrol in 50 Shades of Grey probably merits more urgent analysis than the presence of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 in The Corrections. More’s the pity.
A Scientific American article on friendship between heterosexual men & women - the When Harry Met Sally question - nails a misconception I often suffered from during teenhood and into the twenties, making a right plum of myself on numerous occasions. It's humbling, if a bit reassuring, to realise what a complete cliché I've been, and a relief not having to worry about such things any more - I fancy one of my friends like crazy, but thankfully I'm married to her.
The results suggest large gender differences in how men and women experience opposite-sex friendships. Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa. Men were also more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief. In fact, men’s estimates of how attractive they were to their female friends had virtually nothing to do with how these women actually felt, and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt—basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends. Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual. As a result, men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.
This piece in the Guardian, a general wail against too much culture to consume, features a nice quote from Simon Reynolds that rings true:
In the most heartfelt chapter of his book Retromania, the music critic Simon Reynolds admits to a strange nostalgia for the boredom of his youth. "Today's boredom is not hungry, a response to deprivation; it is a loss of cultural appetite, in response to the surfeit of claims on your attention and time." One of the many ways in which technology leaves the human brain gasping to keep up is in its provision of almost limitless choice, because time remains as limited as ever. "Life itself is a scarcity economy," writes Reynolds. "You only have so much time and energy."
A review by Will Wiles at Iconeye of the 50 years of Bond style exhibition has an absolute cracker of an opening paragraph, but the whole piece is worth a read:
If the semiotic scattercast of Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympics opening ceremony proved anything, it’s this: James Bond remains central to Britain’s national imagination. Peter Pan and Tim Berners-Lee didn’t get equal billing to the Queen. But there was Daniel Craig, Bond’s present vessel, with Her Maj herself, sharing with her a continued non-obsolescence that is equal parts mystifying, frustrating and marvellous. Now portrayed by half a dozen loyal subjects over the course of a round half-century, Bond is more idea than man – a set of tropes, traits, togs and toys, flexible, fun and repellent, swaddled in the highly distinctive anonymity of the world’s most famous codename, 007. This interchangeability, the near-irrelevance of the actor in the role (though they all have their merits and demerits), makes Bond a kind of design object himself, a dark instrument, a post-imperial fantasy of global power-projection. A weapon, a drone strike in a dinner jacket.
And finally, this from the Daily Mash has to be the funniest thing I read all week.
“People often ask me why I am so totally at ease with the world and I tell them it’s because I eat a load of bananas.
“It’s got very little to do with the nutritional value, it’s just such a brilliant word.
“Just before you take your first bite of a banana say the word ‘banana’ out loud. You will immediately feel a little bit better about everything.
“As will anyone who hears you say it.”
He added: “We should actually replace the words ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ with the word ‘banana’.”