The Social Network

Everyone else appears to have had their say, so I might as well add one.  May sound as if I’m courting controversy or heresy merely for the sake of it.  I’m not.

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“It was a good story,” I heard a passer by say of The Social Network as I walked down the street.

Was it?  I questioned in my head.  Despite the raft of gushing about it I hadn’t actually questioned whether or not it was a good story.  Now I did.

Brilliant nerdy techie bloke invests a massively popular website.  Two posh kids get all huffy because they think their idea was stolen.  Legal shit happens.  What else happens of any import?  Friends fall out.  Boo bloody hoo.

If it had explored in more depth how culturally significant the website was, how generation-defining it had become, how habitually integrated it was: ok, forgiven.  This was only alluded to though, through central characters I didn’t care much for.

Not caring was the crux of my disappointment.  The Social Network made me feel nothing.  A good handful of strong, chucklesome one-liners aside, it failed to emote anything at all for me.  It rippled its pecs and batted its eyelids, self consciously preening at how whipsmart and stylish it was.  The film was sort of embodied for me in Justin Timberlake’s character.

Did I care about any of it?  I wanted to but no, I didn’t.  I could appreciate the script was tight and dizzingly fast at points – unrealistically so given the stammering, faltering nature of the real-life Facebook CEO, Zuckerberg.  But where this clever fast pace was forgivable in a film like Juno because it has such a massive heart, here it seemed empty and directionless, without any real message.

I can watch a dumbass flick without any “deep” message providing it entertains and there some familiar linear narrative of interest.  Here though, the whole thing was built on this lavish Harvard style and the LOOK AT ME culture, knowing winks and nods aplenty.

Did it make me happy, sad or hysterical?  Did I learn anything significant?  Was it a good story?  None of the above.  Yet conversely I wasn’t ever bored and was reasonably compelled throughout – in the main because of aforementioned script and excellent performances.

When the credits rolled I didn’t know what to take away.  Nothing in the film was anywhere near as staggering as the music featured in an early trailer, that choral reworking of Radiohead’s outsider anthem, “Creep.”

 

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Marriages rocked (p2)

You know when you hear true stories that are so gobsmackingly dramatic you can’t help writing them down?  Like an irresistibly hot, freshly baked roll.  Sort of..

No?

Well anyway, here’s an ethically questionable sequel to this post from July about a friend’s flailing marriage, tragically all factual (besides names and locations).

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Ben

I knew it had to be the end for us and our marriage.  It had become too much.  We were barely speaking, Claire suspected and so I was sleeping on the sofa, still completely crazy about Flic, who said she was going to leave her husband.

First I had August to get through.  An August which I’d spend mostly in America, partly on business and partly on what should have been pleasure.  Except it never looked like being pleasure, not really; not with how we were with each other at the time and what we both knew was about to happen.  And so it turned out.

The night before the wedding in New York, Claire discovered a half written note on my iPhone, which I’d forgotten to copy/paste over into my email.  The night of the wedding we badly pretended to everyone around us.  It wasn’t much fun for her, her best friend’s wedding.  I spoiled it, ruined her life.  The next day I drove back, deposited the hire car at the airport and flew back to London.  Claire stayed and went onto California alone, like we’d planned to.  The in-flight romantic comedies didn’t help.

I went back to work, sad but sure I’d made the right decision for me.  I was still nuts about Flic, and not so crazy about Claire.  These things happen, don’t they?  I’d always be the villain, but what are you going to do?  Sit tight in a jaded young marriage and allow someone who has turned your life upside down to just walk away?  The thing was Claire had told her friends back home to tell Flic’s husband, which they did.  He was understandably upset, read a load of her emails, discovered bad stuff and she had to move out.

And I moved out too.  We stayed with random friends, sometimes together, sometimes apart, she took a break to Egypt to clear her head for a while, without me.   When she returned I managed to persuade her to share a room, as much for financial reasons.  That’s for the last few months of the time she’s in the UK, before moving back to America.

We found a small, dingey, ex-council flat in the middle of Camden: a brilliant location if nothing else.  It wasn’t all bad.

But then something happened which was unequivocally ALL bad.  Flic’s husband didn’t wake up on Monday morning.  His friend found him later in the day and they still don’t know what happened.  His family are on the way over here now.

I feel so sorry for Flic, for her husband and his family.  Is it all my fault?  How should I react?  At school they don’t teach you what to say to your girlfriend when her husband tragically passes away: a bloke she was still living with only a month before, a bloke who you basically fucked over.

The weakness of thrift

Attitudes towards spending money can seem directly connected to outlooks on life, often in strangely distorted ways.

One of my oldest friends has always been open about his less than healthy bank balance, being up against overdraft limits when we were students and still regularly in his overdraft today, despite a reasonably well paid civil servant job he’s had for the best part of ten years.

I have, comparatively, always been healthier in my balances, throughout student days and working life.  Mostly due to nurture (those painful holiday evenings spent hiking from restaurant door to restaurant door for an offer that would strike my father as reasonable), combined with a natural reticence towards risk, my in-built frugality has been evident for as long as I can remember.

But the marked difference is that I generally spend little, worry more and enjoy less – in the broadest possible sense.  Whereas my friend spends more, worries less – at least ostensibly – and has more fun.  He says that he and his fiancée live lifestyles they can’t really afford.  So what though?   His credit rating might not be sky high, but his happiness rating seems enviable.

Will old men look back over their lives and think, I was a miserable bastard for most of that lifetime but hey: my bank balance was always fat and my credit rating kicked arse?

Doubt it.

Relying on clients to supply me with work and then pay me money is not conducive to financial security.  I have no guaranteed income or salary.  Yet for the last eighteen months it’s gone ok and my balances have largely been as good, if not better than when I was in regular paid employment.

So much fretting and paranoia about the work roadmap and the next payment can make you forget to Live, do things, see things, to spend money on things that can genuinely enrich and give new, authentic experience: more than a new record or a book.  If you have no Other to prod you too, to say: can we go here or do this? – then you mightn’t spend much money on anything.  It’s less of a risk to sit and moan about being a boring man with no life.  But infinitely more depressing.

Petrol, car maintenance, rent and bills, moderate alcohol and coffee: that’s about it.  By purchasing that pricey packet of honey-glazed roasted cashew nuts (over TWO POUNDS!), you’re really bloody pushing the boat out.

You surf on the wedge of balance, just in case there’s a delay in the next payment, or the one after that, or if the work suddenly dries up, or or or..  Careful now.  The News says we’re all doomed and should batten down the hatches, do nothing, stay still, don’t move.

From time to time you muffle a small voice in the back of your head, perhaps while browsing someone’s Facebook pictures.

You could do something too, you know, if you wanted..  More than just a day trip in the car.
Yeah but what if..?
*Fuck* what if.

This was the altercation I had with myself whilst in bed reading last night: an urgent, hedonistic tale of a young man apparently on the brink of suicide.

Morning brought an alien sensation of faint optimism, the idea somehow survived through sleep and dream.  I was buoyed by the levity of fuck-it fatalism.

The early ‘core working hours’ of today were squandered on expedia.co.uk, then I took a breath and booked a week in Chicago over New Year.