Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
Er sorry, that should have read: fame's eternal beadroll. ( Spenser ...probably) Never mind. It really does seem true that those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad -- or at least put on prime-time TV and then feature in the tabloids for a while. I have been ragging this idea around recently, like a Jack Russell terrier with an old towel, in a council house garden, say, somewhere in the Surrey, at about 3.02 of a November afternoon...just before the kids come home from school... with gunshot wounds.
"Why aren't you on Facebook?" I have been asked. This, with some hint of indignation and incredulity from those who have searched and yet, still not found me. Last night a colleague asked me the same question. He seemed concerned. "It would help you sell things. Websites are a bit old hat now. Everyone's on Facebook. You could soon build up 1000 'friends.'.You're missing out."
Yes, I thought. I could build up 1000 friends, two stalkers, some very boring correspondence and could disrupt my working day even more than it already is disrupted. I could sit at my desk saying," Here's a picture of me Frenching the letterbox down the road. Boy, was I trolleyed last night.". Then I could give all my preferences to market researchers, thereby saving them the job of polling me. After that I can give away all of my political leanings to the CIA, MI5, MI6 and voluntarily provide enough information for anyone to perpetrate a very elaborate series of cons or practical jokes on me. Why do it again though, when you can get all the info on my website? " But why am I not on Facebook?
I thought of the most arrogant answer I could come up with on the spot:
" Because." I said. "Facebook is for civilians."
Now I considered, as I have so many times before, the nature of Fame and its gauche brother, Celebrity.
Fame: That which accrues as the result of doing something well and becoming acknowledged for it.
Celebrity: The set of clothes that goes with your Fame and: "Hi! Did you know I have a measure of fame?" You don't have to put the clothes on though. No more than you need to put on a mortar-board and gown, just because you can read difficult books and do hard sums.
Now let us give thanks to God for these unlikely aids to the sanity of the journeyman writer or musician.
The X-Factor. I am thoroughly in favour of the X-Factor. Simon Cowell has provided an opportunity for all the civilians, pub-singers, bathtime singers and other members of the public previously known as 'the audience' to get up onstage and have a piece of the wedding cake, thereby freeing up the quieter backwaters of the arts for unpowered clinker-built vessels such as my own.
Big Brother: As above but for people who don't even sing or play anything.
Google: Google is great. If you are a medium range, working artist, musician or writer who is not particularly famous but who does have something of a track record, you no longer have to brandish your yellowed press-cuttings, old exhibitions, or records at a prospective interested party. You merely trust that they will Google you, to prove that you're not bullshitting. Similarly, people in say a pub, who may wish to find out exactly how much of a big-shot or never-were you are ...or never-weren't... can now go and do so at home. Because other people put you there. And you can get on with your lager in peace.
MySpace. MySpace allows everyone in a band, or with a musical axe to grind to go and 'sell their stuff on the Internet' thereby 'bypassing the system.' I myself only have a MySpace because someone put me there. I can't discuss anything on there because I'm not a member. Not only that, but because someone's already used my name first, I can't use it. Or not without a load of kerfuffle anyway.
Facebook is billed as a social networking site. I know a much better one though. It's called 'the pub.' And usually, if you haven't done anything too ghastly, the CIA and the marketing researchers aren't watching you in it.
Fame is useful in small measures. It gets you more work sometimes and reminds potential employers that you're still alive. Otherwise, it seems to be a fairly useless sort of thing. Celebrity is even worse. There is a poor young celebrity in the UK who is currently dying in the spotlight. She is front page stuff. It is decadence on a par with the last days of the Roman empire. And yet, as we sometimes say, there are no victims --only volunteers.
Listen: I write stuff. I play stuff. I sell a few records and books. Sometimes I broadcast or perform stuff. It all makes me under 20k a year. I don't owe any money to anyone. I'm quite right-wing first thing in the morning. I'm about Lib-dem by lunchtime. I'm Old Labour by the time I've had my first drink. I'm a raving anarchist if I stay too long in the pub and haven't had any food and I'm a 'don't know' once I fall asleep.I'm nearly 56 years old I'm just about rich and famous enough for me. I'm not on Facebook. I wasn't in the telephone directory for years, either. Now: Can we all get on please?
Julie Andrews, yesterday.