Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
Imagine that all the media you consume in a typical week -- magazines, TV programmes, newspapers, CDs -- could, like a website, send cookies. Or, like the Japanese e mail software PostPet, could write e mail messages to other PostPets about you behind your back.
What if this gossip began to define your life better than 'real' events like the death of your granny or your wife signing your divorce papers?
If Douglas Coupland rewrote Camus' novel 'The Outsider', he might begin it 'Granny died last week' then switch right into data from a file of consumption patterns.
Here's what the media products I bought in the last seven days would say if they could all talk to each other...
The Momus website says: Momus doesn't cry about the death of his Granny until he spends an hour today scanning photos of her as a little girl and updating me with a tribute to her. Only when he reads it back off the screen is he moved by her actual death.
TV network Arte reports: Tonight he watches a documentary about Bjork I'm broadcasting. He's very moved and inspired and hangs on every word, ignoring the person sitting next to him on the sofa.
The Franco-German culture network Arte again: Momus stays in this evening and watches a long documentary via satellite about the french singer Dalida. He knows nothing about this artist who, at various times in the 50s, 60s and 70s was the world's biggest selling recording artist. He finds fascinating her trajectory from chunky, somewhat androgynous, pseudo-Italian transistor diva to sophisticated Montmartre recluse whose anguish following the death of her lover, an Italian singer-songwriter obsessed with the writer Cesare Pavese, led to her suicide.
A book called 'Visual Display: Culture Beyond Appearances' (edited by Peter Wollen) grumbles: As Momus and I both knew would happen, he packs me as reading matter for a two-day trip to Paris then doesn't read a page. Instead he runs into his brother's ex-girlfriend on the Eurostar train and spends the three hour trip trying to glean from her what his brother thinks of him. At one moment he confides to her 'I'm actually more interested in media than I am in people.' A confession of almost Vulcan coldness.
Another book called 'Wreckers Of Civilisation: The Story Of Coum Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle' shouts 'You should've taken me!'
French culture magazine Technicart: Momus buys me the moment he steps off the train at the Gare Du Nord and spends several metro journeys reading 'Pourquoi Le Cinema Francais Est Nul' (Why French cinema is crap).
Les Inrockuptibles and Magic, French music magazines: Momus buys us and feels mixed feelings... respect for our thorough coverage of the sensitive, auteurist end of the pop spectrum combined with relief that the tyranny of our 'good taste' doesn't go beyond the borders of France. He appreciates our feature on Blur's lack of originality and our exasperation at the hype surrounding Gay Dad. He reads all the Dominique A articles and decides that the new album Moue sounds too gloomy. Instead he buys the excellent, lighthearted first album by new French Moogy funsters Le Tone.
Nova magazine: Yo! Momus reads our multimedia supplement because photos of digital cameras and brightly-coloured sofas in organic shapes are the new pornography.
French newspaper Liberation: Momus reads me sitting in the front of the Bar Du Marche on the Rue De Buci, just next to his hotel the Buci Latin. He drinks Japanese green tea he has brought in his own bag and seems most interested in an article about the Asian film festival at Deauville. When he comes to an article about how Microsoft spies on Windows 98 users, sending details of software registration to Seattle without users knowing it, he mutters 'Scandalous! Gates is done for now!' as he chomps on a tartine spread with pate de fois gras.
Later in the day he sits with his wife Shazna as she signs their divorce papers.
Newsflash on French cable channel MCM: Momus spends the evening at a concert we're recording for transmission next month during which his friend GIlles performs. Momus is with the girlfriend of Malcolm McLaren, who is currently writing his autobiography.
The Momus song 'A White Oriental Flower' butts in: Is that the girl I'm about?
Toog's new songs: Momus listens to us in the tiny room of our author, Gilles Weinzaepflen, in Pigalle. Half of us he adores, the other half he says are a little too 'abstract'.
Three copies of bi-lingual Japanese graphic design magazine Plus 81: Momus buys us, along with a copy of the new Purple and a photocopied Japanese artist's manga, at Collette. He's just been downstairs with his friends Gilles and Flo and Laila France. He asks Laila the kind of questions a journalist would, practical stuff about her record contract, her collaborations. When he catches the train back to London, he reads Plus 81 with particular fervour, enjoying particularily our Japanese attention to detail, the plethora of tiny photographs. He particularily enjoys the guided tour of graphic design team Tomato's offices.
NME, Melody Maker and Time Out say: Momus buys us the moment he arrives back in Britain. He's keen to see the advertisement he's bought in the NME, and finds it on the electronica page next to another advert depicting Space Invaders. He's a bit embarrassed that the website ad boasts 'fresh thoughts for the future... every day' when in fact all that's been up this week is an appreciation of his granny. But what the hell, Einstein tells us that time is curved.
We can't compete with the glamour of the publications he's bought in Paris, and, stuffed in his bag with them, pretend to snub them, though in fact they're snubbing us.
Later in the day a novel by Kenzaburo Oe called 'The SIlent Cry' reports: Momus packs me for a two day trip to Scotland and then finds my Sartrean despair too much to handle, so he turns instead to a copy of T3, a magazine about gadgets and technology, which this month tells us 'The CD Is Dead'. Frankly, as a Nobel prize-winning novel about life, death, sex and despair, I'm disappointed by Momus's superficiality. I feel like a bluestocking chucked for a bimbo.
A copy of the Sunday Herald, a new Sunday paper for which Momus writes regular reviews, pipes up in an attractive Scots brogue: On the way back from his Granny's cremation at the Clydebank Crematorium, Momus calls Pat Kane, editor of the Salon section, to hear that his review of CD ROM Sim City 3000 was in fact printed last Sunday (nobody saw it!). He's given a range of new cultural products to review. The world is further cluttered with commentaries on commentaries.
The new Squarepusher album 'Budakhan Mindphone' slaps and rattles out the message: Momus buys me at Avalanche Records on Cockburn Street, Edinburgh.
Mojo Magazine: Momus spends a four hour train trip from Edinburgh to London reading articles in my new edition about Jeff Beck and Tom Waits. Jeff Beck seems to appall him, Tom Waits, his fabulous beat articulacy as sharp as ever, to enthrall him.
The poems of Angus McKechnie, Momus's great grandfather: Momus reads our lament for the ruination of the Scottish glens off the back of a digital camera on a train travelling at 100 mph away from Scotland.
The David Bowie, Shuttle Japan and 10 Downing Street websites: Momus checks out Bowie's journal, and decides that it's descending into mumbly reminiscence about the pop of yesteryear rather than what he's up to now. Then he looks at some pictures of Japanese girls on Shuttle in a section called 'Sperm Drinkin' Gokkun Princess' before depositing guilty cookies at the 10 Downing Street website, where he takes a brief virtual tour of the prime minister's house.
The Barbican Library computer system reports to Microsoft: Momus pays fines for a bunch of books he hasn't read (History Of Jewish Costume, the Life Of Paul Celan etc) then borrows the movie '2010' (because that's the title of his favourite Cornelius track) and Fellini's 'Juliette Of The Spirits' (because that's his favourite Nino Rota piece).
The Safeway supermarket computer also reports to Microsoft: Bill, Momus just bought some nectarines, apples, chick peas, petits filous... do you want us to keep sending this stuff?
Blueprint magazine: Momus buys me and reads polemical articles 'In Praise Of Suburbia' and about how it's time to change our conservative idea of private living space.
i-D Magazine: Although Momus flipped through me in L'Epicerie earlier in the week (where the gallery curator told him the Space Invaders project decorating the walls of Paris was made by an artist of Jewish, if not extraterrestrial, origin) he bought me too. I'm one of his favourite British magazines.
New Scientist: Momus buys me because on the cover I trail two articles, 'You Don't Exist: It's Just A Trick Of The Memes' and 'Brain Power: Why we need the holes in our head'. He reflects that he needs several holes in his head just to shake out all the media memes he consumes in a typical week.