No comment

When I watch a video on youtube or read an article or blog, more often than not I find myself scrolling down to read some of the comments before I’ve finished. Sometimes I do this before I’ve even begun.

The quality of comments varies between websites, but usually the comments are either phatic or moronic. On youtube or the Guardian they often depress or anger me. So why do I read them?

Listening to Ben Abraham defend his decision to take comments off his blog on a podcast convinced me of something I’ve felt about comments for a while: that I kind of hate them.

Abraham’s aesthetic reasons are really what clinched it for me. He says that not only does he prefer the look of his blog without the comments, but the very fact that there are no comments changes the way he writes. For the better.

I have to admit that I regret every comment I’ve ever left.

The comment section is a bit like that game where one person puts out a hand and the other lays their hand on top, then the first person puts their other hand on top and so on until both parties are slapping each other’s hands wildly.

Things I write here usually get zero comments. A few posts have attracted attention and at first I responded to all the comments, but this quickly began to feel draining, a chore. I’ve noticed that I often feel the same way once I’ve got sucked in to reading the comment section on other sites. I might have spent 20 bewildering minutes before I realise I’m wasting my time.

So anyway – to sum up this ramble – I’ve decided to avoid comments for a while, sending and receiving. I doubt it’ll inconvenience anyone, but if it really bothers you, write a post about it.

~~~

edit

Comment on No Comment

In my malaise I forgot a few things. Something that wasn’t brought up in the podcast was that conversations needn’t be recorded to be important or worthwhile. Making a record changes things and being able to risk saying something wrong is important. Thinking that a wrong might be recorded would make one less likely to risk intellectual leaps.

The idea that we have to document our every move or thought is behind some of the pro-comment arguments. I’m reminded of Ralf Hütter’s observation that “Everybody is becoming like […] a Stasi agent, constantly observing himself or his friends.” But the defence of comments perhaps comes more from habit, from the feeling that this is just how things are done. No one in the podcast discussion used the phrase “information wants to be free” but an intimation that turning off comments was a form of censorship was constantly lurking in the background.

My main motivation for turning off comments is that I’d like to make a few mistakes in private. Off the record.

Listless

I was going to do a list of consumer products I liked that came out in 2010. Books, videogames, films, music, that sort of thing. Many people do it. I started writing it a while ago, to make sure I had consumed everything I wanted to mention before the end of the year. It wound up feeling contrived though. There was no connection between any of the products other than the release date. That doesn’t reflect the way I read/listen/watch/play and it probably doesn’t for most people. Usually one work causes me to stumble on another and these works can be in different media, different time periods and they in turn lead me onto the next, perhaps tenuously related work.

The other problem with end-of-year lists is time. I can’t say what my favourite videogames of 2010 are when I still haven’t played Minecraft, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Heavy Rain (although I’m not sure if I can be bothered), VVVVVV, Sword & Sworcery EP, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood or Amnesia: Dark Descent. Partly that’s because I wasted so much time on schlock like Castlevania, but also because – with games especially – there’s never enough time in the day to fit all the new stuff in.

The end of year list does have its place, especially when it highlights marginal or overlooked work, or when it is highly personal and therefore idiosyncratic. Dennis Cooper’s ‘Mine for yours’ is a good example. It’s probably a list like Dennis’ that I wanted to post – one with all the artwork and titles pleasingly laid out. But for whatever reason it didn’t work when I tried it.

So instead of giving you another list, I’ll recommend only one thing that I liked that came out in 2010.

I first came across Masaaki Yuasa when I bought the DVD of his 2004 movie Mind Game after it was recommended by the (now sadly dormant) Kurutta blog. I thought Mind Game was very creative and unique, but on the first watch it was a little bit too frenetic somehow. Yuasa seems to work better in the TV mini series format. Kemonozume (2006) looks a lot like Mind Game – bold colours with sketchy lines mixed with moments of colour-tinted live action – but has more space to breathe.

The Tatami Galaxy (2010) is the story of an immature university student who, at the beginning of every episode, joins a new extra-curricular club to find his “raven-haired maiden”. At the end of every episode he fails to see “the opportunity [that] is always dangling before [his] eyes” and a large clock strikes as time reverses back to the beginning. This structure enables the show to tell a complex story without needed to include those tedious “Previously on…” sections.

I don’t want to describe it in any more depth because when I do it doesn’t work very well. I’ve been trying for a while to write something about Kemonozume, but I can’t. Masaaki Yuasa’s films always fill me with joy and that seems to leave me with nothing much else to say.

I’ll end with this: His visual approach is variable but recognisable and he doesn’t stick within a particular genre of story. Mind Game is a kind of Bildungsroman, Kemonozume is a horror samurai tale (and features a brilliant neoliberal villain), Kaiba (2008) is a sedate “sci-fi love story” and The Tatami Galaxy is a many worlds romantic comedy. They’re all often funny, visually extraordinary (along with playing games for the eyes, the depiction of nude bodies is very well done) and truly unique.