In a post about how twitter had changed my ALT-C experience I commented that we needed to find new social behaviours for when we meet people face to face who we know well on twitter. And Jim Groom is always saying how it's the personal element that makes blogs meaningful. So, in the spirit of those '7 things you didn't know about me' memes, although hopefully less annoying, I thought I'd give 7 conversation starters for occasions when I might meet people I know virtually, and we don't want to talk about blogging or twitter. I think everyone should have a social crib sheet, particularly with the advent of mobile devices now – if you're on your way to a meeting with someone, call up their conversation starters page and you instantly have grounds for a social connection.
- As a child I was a bit koumpounophobic – I had a fear of buttons. Couldn't stand them being separate, or to touch them. If someone said 'I've lost a button' then that room became a no-go zone. I was also not very keen on jewellery. Of course it doesn't bother me now, I can do up a shirt with the best of them. Interestingly, although I've never mentioned or displayed it, my daughter doesn't like buttons either and won't wear clothing that has them if she can help it. This is, to me, an example of the strange subtlety of genetics.
So I'm happy to talk about childhood phobias, genetics, nature versus nurture, etc.
- I like most non-offal based foods and am constantly amazed at how fussy a lot of grown-ups are. But I have never been able to stomach baked beans and hate the insidious way they infect a whole plate of food. And celery of course, but then no-one really likes celery do they?
We can chat about the nightmares of organising a dinner party with a range of fussy eaters, food dislikes, disgusting things you have eaten, etc.
- My favourite authors are Graham Greene, Martin Amis, Saul Bellow, Dickens, William Boyd, Nabokov, Conrad. The sharp ones amongst you will have spotted that this is an entirely male list. This is not the result of a deliberate policy – it's not as if I boycott women writers. I read and like a lot (Margaret Atwood, Iris Murdoch, George Eliot, Zadie Smith are all good, although Austen and the Brontes don't do much for me) but my favourites are all men. This can't just be coincidence can it? There must be something in their writing that appeals to me. So if we discount blatant sexism as the reason for my tastes (of course, you may not), it might be interesting to consider why this is so? You could maybe convince me away from my male preference in literary tastes.
- I grew up in the age of the home video-player, and this was probably the most significant technology in my formative years (far more than early computers). As a teenager there was a group of us who used to occasionally bunk off school and go to someone's house to watch a range of video nasties: Driller Killer, I Spit on your Grave, Rollerball (game scenes only), The Thing, Quadrophenia (we were mods), Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, My Bloody Valentine. These were the staple diet, and yet I didn't grow up a disturbed individual and later went onto be a fan of 'nicer' cinema (I cry at It's A Wonderful Life every year), so we can talk about the impact of violence in films, influential technologies, etc.
- I like to drink tea, beer and wine, not necessarily at the same time, and probably in that order of preference. I have a vague mistrust of people who drink 'flavoured tea'. I have the potential to become a beer bore. I once had an exchange with Alastair Campbell on the merits of tea over coffee (we were in agreement). I don't like spirits, except gin and tonic naturally. I thought when I reached 40 I would suddenly develop a taste for whisky. Recently someone poured me a very fine whisky but I had to concede defeat – every minuscule sip made me want to gag. I fully accept this proves I am a wimp.
- The first gig I went to was The Beat at the Rainbow Club in London. I
was thirteen and it was full of burly skinheads. When The Beat came on
it erupted and the whole floor was bouncing. I had grown up in the
suburbs and found it both exhilarating and frightening. I spent about 4 years going to lots of gigs after that, but now I don't get much from them. Martin Amis
once commented that at some age all men stop going to football games. I
disagree with that, but I do feel that about gigs – I don't want to
stand at the back and clap politely and I certainly don't want to be
down the front anymore, so I'm not sure I see the point in them. Good
bands I saw in that period: The Jam, New Order, Happy Mondays, Echo and
theBunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Billy Bragg, The Cure. Embarrassing acts: Ultravox, Toyah, King.
- I once won a film review competition judged by Mark Kermode. I wrote a critical piece on Rodriguez' Sin City.
My argument was that people loved it because it was 'stylish', but for
me it wore its style too obviously. Martin Scorsese once complained
that the Oscar for Best wardrobe or similar always went to a costume
drama, but as much detail went in to a film set in the 1950s. I think
the same is true of Sin City, other films have better style, it's just
not as blatant. I also argued that Hollywood continues to make the
mistake that graphic novels make good films because they have similar
elements – strong visual style, linear narrative, often based around
good vs evil, etc. But the results are nearly always poor, maybe
because as with traditional novels, the differences between the mediums
are underestimated, or because graphic novels are a bit rubbish to
start with (ducks).
Happy to discuss Sin City, novel adaptations or to have you defend graphic novels.
If none of those work for you, pick one from: Spurs, running, Wales/Cardiff, daughters.