Monday, December 17, 2007
Lunching yesterday with, among others, the great David Starkey, I found myself becoming competitive. David is one of the great raconteurs, he can make opening a window seem like the most exciting and naughty thing that has ever happened. I'm not in his league, but a few glasses down the line, I started to compete on content - stories about John Wayne Bobbitt etc. I may as well have insisted on a quick three-setter with Roger Federer - not that David played the game, he didn't need to. This vanity is a way of not living in the present, of failing to seize the moment. Listening to David would have been a lot more satisfying than listening to myself. But desperately asserting oneself is the way we live now. Apparently 47 per cent of Americans have sought information about themselves via Google. This survey is completely ridiculous as the correct figure is 100 per cent. The low figure is caused by two factors: people don't like to admit to using the internet as a mirror and a large number of people have either very common names - John Smith (33 million results) - that only work if attached to a search term that draws specific attention to yourself, or they have very famous names. Imagine the Google-misery of being called Steve Jobs (16 million) or Britney Spears (61 million). (I assume that eminent British Buddhist, Bryan Appleyard, is above all this. In fact, I'm above it all now. I (87,000) only look myself up in Google Blog Search. Ordinary Google is too depressing as the headline 'Page of Misery: Bryan Appleyard, Wanker and Chief Cultural Critic' still comes up at number six. I have complained about this before, but did any of you come up with a solution? No.) People look themselves up on Google because vanity is a safe haven. Since Google provides, in theory, everything, it provides nothing. To be confronted with the blank search box is to be confronted with a featureless desert or ocean. Fearing death by thirst or drowning, we type in our own names as if planting a flag or marker buoy. The higher the technology, the lower the uses to which it is put. Anyway, if you ever get a chance to hear David Starkey in full anecdotal flow, seize it and forget yourself. And, at last, I've managed a long post - with a few exceptions, I've only been able to do short ones lately. The trick is to start writing without knowing what you are going to say.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:20 am