Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Guest post – 500 Words of Summer – Derek O’Connor

We have reached the halfway point in OTR’s 500 Words of Summer series and here’s writer and ex-blogger Derek O’Connor on his slow-tech summer. It was somewhere outside of Strabane that the apathy kicked in. After two decades spent recklessly …

Wed, Aug 11, 2010, 09:30


We have reached the halfway point in OTR’s 500 Words of Summer series and here’s writer and ex-blogger Derek O’Connor on his slow-tech summer.

It was somewhere outside of Strabane that the apathy kicked in. After two decades spent recklessly freebasing copious amounts of popular culture in every imaginable shape and form, the thrill was finally gone. My daily blog-roll catch-up had become a joyless, mindless chore, an endless litany of newsy snark that my addled brain half-heartedly digested and filed away with all the other useless pseudo-information cluttering my scan-fried noodle.

Context: for the past decade, your Guest Poster (seriously bad move, Jim) has earned something occasionally resembling an income assembling words for a variety of media, including two curious years spent as a full-time blogger (Blogorrah/The Chancer), one of the most exhausting experiences imaginable for a certified soft lad who still types with one finger. Time spent on the virtual frontlines had taken their toll: so many new records to check out (and half-listen to), movies to stockpile (and never watch), books to blag (and never finish) and acclaimed TV shows to fall asleep to…

Where to begin? This is the bit where I admit that, while I’ve never actually seen an episode of The Wire, I can engage in informed and opinionated discourse concerning its merits for, ooh, at least a decent half hour. Everybody knows that you don’t need to actually experience the art in question any more to have an opinion on it; if anything, actual engagement can mess things up completely. What if your opinion completely flies in the face of the general consensus? This, then, is the bit where I admit that the last Animal Collective record bored the arse off me. I know, I know – next time, just read the flippin’ reviews.

So I stopped cold, knocked it all on the head and conducted a little social experiment with myself. For one month, the web was verboten, and remained that way, save the odd work-related lapse. Movies were a no-no, bar a single, ill-advised trip with the childer to see Shrek: The Third, the highlights of which were a pleasant half-hour kip in the middle and the bit afterwards when an eight-year old member of our party ran smack into a thick, shatter-proof glass door. Seriously, it was like something from a Looney Tune. The Sunday papers, which are specifically constructed to remind you at length how completely and utterly screwed we all are, went unpurchased.

Instead, a firm commitment was made to a single long-playing record – “Becoming A Jackal”, the debut album from Villagers – and a single book – “Skippy Dies”, the second novel from Paul Murray. It helped that the sun had his hi-hat on and, for once, the Irish summer wasn’t an oxymoron.

Slowly, steadily, the white noise began to subside, and an attention span debased by decades of Wiki-living reawakened, engaged by two beautiful artefacts, bold statements of quiet intensity from singular artists of note – and Irish artists at that. Villagers’ soothing white soul offered the perfect soundtrack to Murray’s achingly delicious prose, one complementing (nay, enhancing) the other somewhat perfectly – resulting in something resembling a nigh-upon-total reboot of the synapses. Call it a cultural colonic. Give it a try sometime.

Now: I’m going to go and un-do all the good by browsing Inception-related theories for an hour. Have you seen it yet? Now that’s what I call a Pop Culture colossus. Note: Neil Jordan should immediately hire Conor J. O’Brien to pen the soundtrack for his forthcoming big-screen adaptation of Murray’s book; alternately, he should do another film instead, as we really don’t need a movie of Skippy Dies. The book’s perfect. Leave it at that.

The credits: Derek O’Connor is a writer (allegedly) and filmmaker.

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