What ho, world. Blessay or blissertation number three coming up in a moment. It has taken me a little longer than I had hoped to furnish the site with its third upload. There are reasons and I shall go through them quickly.
Why So Late? My first blog entry, Devices and Desires (see below) went some way towards expressing my extreme passion for things digital. It resulted in a very charming enquiry from the Guardian newspaper in London. Would I be interested in providing a weekly column on the subject of the gadget, the electronic doo-dad and the world of the gismoidal? I thought about this longish and hardish.
I wrote newspaper columns through much of the eighties and nineties, and enjoyed it greatly. But for all kinds of reasons I was more than happy to retire. Feeling stale, tiring of the deadlines, hating myself for manufacturing cheap, easy rants – the line of least resistance when you rack your brains for weekly copy is to think of something you hate. That way lies the death of the soul IM(not so)HO. All those feature columns with titles like J’Accuse, Bile, Spleen and so on. Nasty. Won’t Do. It all came to a head when an editor called me up and asked if I could do a “1200 word hate piece on Christmas”. Not a blush, not a murmur of apology. Time to reach for my hat and streak for the horizon, I felt. Plus, by this time I was pretty deeply into … ah, but wait, that’s for the main body of the blessay.
Anyway, the upshot of my longish and hardish thinking the other day was to reply with a ‘yes’. Five hundred or so words a week for the Saturday Guardian on the subject of geeky dorky toys, digital advances, lordly overviews of the online scene – just my bag. The ‘lead times’ for these magazines are bizarrely long, so I’ve had to provide a longer introductory article and the first two columns proper in advance. The writing of them has kept me from my blog table.
At the same time I have finished shooting the second series of Kingdom and now find myself in the United States of America on Day One of a great adventure: filming in every state of the union for a BBC documentary. My mode of transport of choice is a black London cab.
American Sunrise I was possibly the first person in America to see the sun this morning.
There’s a proud boast. I was standing on the harbour wall at Eastport, Maine staring out across the bay at a beautiful, beautiful sunrise. Eastport, Maine styles itself the easternmost city in America. The Lowestoft of the USA, if you will. There didn’t seem to be anyone else around so I allowed myself to believe that I was indeed the first to see the sun rise in America that day.
I took a picture to commemorate the event.
The land you see on the horizon there is actually Canada, where she twists round the topmost corner of Maine at Passamaquoddy Bay, so the picture is taken from as far east as you can go in the USA. Actually, that’s a moot point. Part of Alaskan territory (now water rather than ice) actually crosses the dateline or Antimeridian so in theory Alaska can be called the easternmost and westernmost state in America which is rather naughty of it, but there you are.
Meanwhile, back in Maine on the first day of my documentary filming, the Motel East, where the crew and I are staying, may be out of range of cellular phones but, mirabile dictu, it has wi-fi, so I am able to send this to my site. We start the actual filming this afternoon. I shall be hauling in lobster pots and looking stylish in a sou’wester. That’s the idea anyway. Probably heaving my guts up over the taff-rail, if they have such a thing.
I really enjoy making documentaries. Fearsome hard work, but deeply satisfying. After Manic Depression, HIV/AIDS and the life and work of Gutenberg (yet to be shown on BBC4 some time later in the year I think) a jaunt around every state of America may seem rather trivial or self-indulgent, but I hope that won’t be how it comes across. America is important. We have seen perhaps a little too much of British people going over to sneer at rednecks, laugh at freaks and wring their hands at nutters. The America I’ve visited (and I’ve crossed it before in traditional fashion; shiny red Mustang convertible, diner to diner, motel to motel. Very Bruce Dern) have always seemed to me to be more than ordinarily kind, friendly, hospitable, polite, thoughtful and honourable. Well, I’m visiting with an open mind but that has been my experience thus far. Maine for four nights, then New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York… you get the idea.