Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Culture Diaries: The pre-baby days

Have you ever read The Paris Review's Culture Diaries? They were short guest posts from all manner of interesting literary types (writers, editors, publishers, agents, etc), keeping track of the culture they consume across a week. They offered curious glimpses into these people's personal and working lives. I am such a sucker for a peek into someone else's lived experience. The culture they came across in their days tended to be quite high brow, way higher brow than what I read for pleasure and what I watch on the telly, but I love the contrasts between the purposeful and incidental consumption, and what captivated each person, which connections to culture had interesting stories.
I just unearthed my own version from a few days back in 2010, back before Dear Boy was even a glimmer, back when there was time. So much time. I've kept a list of every single book I've read since Christmas 2001 and know I've read about a third of what I used to. I thought I'd share the pre-baby days (and maybe keep track of post-baby cultural consumption in the near future). Here's what I counted as culture (coming from my media/communication/cultural studies background, I count a lot):
  • The written word (books, magazines, journals, blogs, news, etc)
  • The screen (TV, film, docos, DVDs, etc)
  • The wall (art, street art, home art, craft, etc)
  • The performance (theatre, seminars, discussions of ideas, shared games, etc)
There's a fair smattering of work in here, otherwise I suspect it would have been much heavier in TV and fast food fiction.

Day 1 (13 Sept)
7am. Reading Liquid Gold (by Australian writer James Phelan) over breakfast, then watching Today while I get dressed: Darryl Hannah in Australia doing two-week permaculture course. Sudden urge to watch Splash again.

9am. At work, checking emails/blogs. Monday mornings also mean new secrets up on PostSecret.com. Some are 9/11 themed, because of the anniversary over the weekend. Don’t want to think about it. Still losing at Scrabble.
10am. Make myself a coffee and bury my face in a pile of marking.

10.45am. Head of Section hands me Council’s response to the research we did for them. Must get back to marking; Feel bored just thinking about it, though.

12.10pm. Lunch with Canada’s Next Top Model cycle 3, episode 2. It’s make-over day and girls are freaking out about their hair.

2pm. So bored by marking that I have fallen into a pattern of doing one or two and then browsing something interesting online so brain doesn’t go completely numb. Discover new Leigh Sales column up. She puts out a column anywhere from every week to every four weeks, called Well Readhead, with a little story about something that’s happened or caught her eye recently. Then she has a vaguely related list of 10 interesting things to read, watch or listen to. Today she linked to that dance compilation to the tune of 'Footloose' and the speech JK Rowling gave at a Harvard graduation. I had Bryce Courtenay at one of mine. This pattern of marking and browsing goes on until 5pm. Am short of my target for today’s marking (by 8) but I can’t be fucked doing any more.

8pm. Dinner in front of the TV after Pilates class. Pretty sure it’s the last episode of the season for True Blood and want to throw my plate across the room at how completely unsatisfying the episode is. Neither of us feels like getting up, so we end up watching an episode of Cops on free-to-air. Head to bed and watch a little West Wing.

Day 2 (14 Sept)
8.50am. At work, checking emails/blogs. Nothing particularly exciting or new on any of them. Several haven’t updated in about a week. I do some prep work for classes today, glance over the readings and last year’s notes, then try and figure out what we’re going to talk about for an hour.

11.30am. Go to Terry Flew seminar and it’s as boring as I thought it would be. Who gives a fuck about what Foucault thought about neo-liberalism and what the hell does that have to do with communication? Okay, I know what it has to do with communication. I skip out early and head to class.

4pm. Come back and check my pile of assignments for a poor student who handed his essay in at the wrong campus and now can’t find it. Totally his fault but still. It’s not here. This will be interesting.

4.15pm. Play my turn at Scrabble, which I forgot to do this morning when I checked Facebook. I have q’s and no u’s in both games.

6pm. 20 minutes early for my Zumba class so pull out my copy of Mindfood, that I still haven’t read yet. Try to do the cross word but brain is fried so do the sodoku instead. Am almost finished when I realise I’ve got two 9s in the one column. Fuck. Zumba makes me feel a little less dumb because there are plenty of other people in the class who can’t copy movement, move to a beat or avoid tripping over their own feet.

8pm. Lovely Husband cooked dinner. Sit down in front of Rizzoli and Isles, and it’s yet another unsatisfying season ender. Lovely Husband flicks watches latest episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation. They filmed it in Spain just after they won the World Cup and the food is heavy on the offal (tripe mainly) and pork products (ham central).

10.30pm. Have a late shower then catch about 5 minutes of West Wing before I’m out.

Day 3 (15 Sept)
7.30am. Nothing too dramatic on the news this morning, although one item caught my eye. Daniel Valerio’s killer is up for parole. He’s served 18 years of a 22 year sentence.

9.15am. Check emails, websites, play Scrabble (am slowing closing the gap, but probably not quickly enough to snatch victory). Have a look through a pile of newspaper pages that I’d collected two years ago and can’t for the life of me figure out why I saved half of them. I can’t even figure out for most of them which story on the page was the one that caught my attention. Figure this is a good enough reason to chuck them in the recycling box.

10.40am. Doing the reading for tonight’s class, looking at the movie industry, a comparison between Hollywood and Bollywood. Also need to mark their assignments on whether government should fund/support the creative industries/the arts.

11.30am. Interesting idea in first reading on economics of the movies and whether star actors are really worth $20 million. Apparently, movies with superstars often make less profit than those with lesser known stars because of the star fees and associated costs, but producers still make star-driven films because they get a better guarantee of some/any profit than they can get from films with lesser known stars that may risk no profit at all. They also talk about stars’ inflated prices actually being the producer’s curse. As in any bidding war, you don’t know beforehand what value other bidders have associated with the product and therefore the winner of the bid has most likely overvalued the item in the effort to win. Apparently the best strategy when going against multiple bidders is to undervalue slightly in order to keep prices lower. Economics makes my head hurt.

12pm. Models over lunch. Having pumpkin & carrot soup and the models are having a meltdown.

1pm. Quick check of emails before going back to reading and marking

5pm. Interesting discussion with student on the research project she wants to do next year on literature in China.
7.30pm. Watch episode of Covert Affairs (which I mistakingly called Undercover Lover a few times and the name has now stuck). Lovely Husband only half watches and spends the rest of the time muttering and swearing as he tries to install software on my new laptop. He’s still muttering when I head to bed.

What culture did you consume today? Did you do it on purpose?

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