Friday, 2 July 2010

[355] A Summer Wasting...

Some insightful genius on my Twitter feed recently pointed out how school holidays have scarred us for life. With the lighter evenings and the sunnier days, it feels like we're due a summer break - just under two months of nothing at all. The sound of tennis balls being thwacked across Wimbledon lawns doesn't help. It's dangerously evocative. How can one work in this weather? Let's sit in beer gardens or lounge on park greens instead. I think Belle & Sebastian are to blame, partly.

Spring is a time of rebirth, and summer is a time of peaks. So it's no wonder that I usually attack the brighter months with hope. I'm going to do something! I have a few artefacts from these flashes of inspiration over the years, and a recent trip to Salford (for a friend's wedding; we're getting old) found me rooting through piles of shoeboxes full of... cinema tickets, an album recorded with my band, and notebooks filled with short story ideas and murmurings about my adventures in Manchester. I spent the summer wasting. The time was passed so easily.

Now, things are a little different. I don't have seven weeks to spend on these things. My cousin recently asked me when I was going back to Manchester 'for summer', obviously with a date in the middle of July in her mind, where people break up and forget about work until September. I may not have that privilege any more, but I still feel like something has to come out of these months.

I'm in awe of people who can work on big projects - Paul Rainey's 2000AD Prog Slog, or Matthew Sheret's threesixfivestart, or even Tom Humberstone's addition to the 100 Days Project, now back on track after a hiatus. They just need an idea and some dedication. Easy, right?

But I am going through an odd patch with my writing. I am enjoying what I do, and I am pleased to be contributing to the sites and publications with which I'm currently affiliated. I just need to think through my priorities, my competencies and specialisations. What am I good for? Why am I writing? What do I have to offer? And so on. I am finding myself more incensed by inadequate work from every corner of the media - podcasts, radio, television, journalism - and I'm equally astounded by good work. I'm not sure where I fit in that landscape, though.

So that's a summer project of one kind: sort my head out. I started a new notebook the other week, and gave a page or two over to puzzling out my thoughts on the five-star system for reviewing films. (Such things need clarifying.) I've started indulging in lists again. Some are for work (Cancelled PC Games), some are for potential pitches (Best middle-tier albums by Rock Dinosaurs), and others are personal (Films to cheer up a friend).

Then one day I woke up and tried to write a list of filmmakers whose work I've seen in their entirety. I was inspired in this mad endeavour by fellow Den of Geek writer Duncan Bowles, who wouldn't dare consider writing about a star or director unless he'd watched every film they'd touched. That's dedication of another kind - an authority that comes with intense research. And, therefore, if I ever had a question about Nicholas Cage, I'd know who to ask.

I have little to show. Maybe Chaplin if you only count post-Kid work, but that's cheating. And it's also improper to list those with only a few films under their belts (so no Jeunet, Fincher, P.T. Anderson). I've seen most Hitchcock, most Kore-eda, most Miyazaki, and pretty much everything by David Lynch. It's not all though, is it? That's a barmy sort of dedication, as you're vowing to stick with them in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, with little reward at the end.

So I wrote down all of the Woody Allen films I hadn't seen. It came to 21.

Before I knew it, I'd started a new rental list on LoveFilm and added most of them to it. I went back to the page and scribbled 'Summer Project' at the bottom.

And now, I have Anything Else staring back at me, and I realise this is going to be a slog - as, well, I've watched all of the generally-agreed 'good' Woody Allen films. I will let you know if anything interesting comes up in my viewing.

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