I’ve just finished reading Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin. Very short summary: le Guin writes a reality-bending Phillip K Dick novel – but this isn’t as great as it sounds which is why you probably haven’t heard of this book. Phil Dick wrote about reality and asked ‘what is the real?’, because as a mentally ill drug addicted creative genius who had regular religious visions he genuinely did not know what was real and what wasn’t. Le Guin is much more grounded. She doesn’t have the same stakes in the subject as Dick so her book on the ‘nature of reality’ becomes a vector for her interest in Daoism and other eastern faiths. It’s not terrible but its no VALIS.
But what really struck me while reading this book was the bibliography at the beginning. In the space of a handful of years Le Guin wrote:
- A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
- The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
- The Tombs of Atuan (1971)
- The Farthest Shore (1972)
- The Dispossessed (1974)
That’s an amazing streak. Two canonical sci-fi novels and three canonical fantasy novels in six years.
Also, I’ve been watching Deutschland 83, which is an excellent show in its own right, but also has a fine 1980s soundtrack. The second episode featured ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ which reminded me that I never ever listened to The Cure or New Order or any of that music until I was in my mid-to-late teens because I had heard – and genuinely believed – that listening to ‘gothic music’ made you commit suicide. This wasn’t an unusual thing to think in the early eighties, for a ten year old or even an adult. There was a lot of moral panic around youth sub-cultures. Serious media outlets wondered if Dungeons and Dragons taught children to worship the devil. The question of whether ‘gothic music’ somehow programmed people to kill themselves was an ongoing media obsession.
I remember wondering what this deadly music sounded like while also being terribly afraid that I would hear it, accidentally and then robotically kill myself. These were valid fears. Although I did also wonder how such music could be released and distributed without killing everyone involved. Ironically, despite the obsession with transgressive youth subcultures, mainstream pop culture was far more transgressive then than it is today.
Matt Nippert interviewed TV3 boss Mark Weldon. It is hilarious. My highlights: Judith Collins was considered as a Campbell Live co-host to rescue the show. Weldon explains that he was thinking ‘outside the building’. He’s supposed to be one of the most visionary geniuses of our business elite, and he’s also an Auckland National Party insider so I find it amusing that when he’s really using his brilliance to synergise and break paradigms his vision only runs as far as the nearest Auckland National MP. Also amusing: yes, ratings are down since Weldon took over. Way, way, way down – but, Weldon explains:
The strategy is a lot broader than pure ratings,” he says.
Weldon says other metrics, such as engagement and on-demand streaming, are also important, as are synergies with the company’s radio assets. Simon Barnett, a breakfast host at MediaWorks, won Dancing with the Stars, and Weldon says: “It’s been a great boost to MoreFM, a key brand for us.”
Story debuts tonight. I hope its good. These shows like to open with big stories and make a name for themselves – 3rd Degree broke some huge stories but never quite recovered from the humiliating ignominy of opening the show with a piece about a wheel clamper and following it up with an interview with Anna Guy, who was also a reporter for the show, somehow. Their ongoing challenge will be to break big stories in the climate of a network that is both desperate to arrest a ratings slide but is run by National Party hacks who shut the last show down because it was embarrassing the government. That’s gonna be a tricky tightrope to walk.