By Caitlin Kelly
Every time I post here I wonder how many of the 22,000+ (?!) followers WordPress tells me read Broadside actually finds the time to pay attention to anything I’ve offered.
The highest counts these days are maybe 200 or so views.
I admit to envying fellow Canadian David Kanigan — whose blog and life are very different from mine — and who consistently gets a lot more likes and comments on his blog.
This can now feel like shouting into the wind — a fruitless waste of my time and limited energy trying to capture anyone’s fleeting and overwhelmed and pandemic-weary attention.
But I still enjoy it and I really appreciate those of you who do make time to read, comment and share, so onward!
I thought of this as I recently listened to a Doors song 11 minutes and 48 seconds in length.
And the Arlo Guthrie classic, from 1967, Alice’s Restaurant — 18:34!
I’m a huge fan of music and film and books and it’s fascinating to consume older media that assumed, rightly, a much longer — and much less distracted — attention span.
Different plot development.
For amusement, I once counted every single image in the introductory credits to the HBO series about journalism — The Newsroom.
The difference between its initial 2012 opening credits — with 53 separate images in 1:29 and the 45 images of the 2015 season, in 1:07 — are striking. The second set are super quick jump shots, much more emotional, much more compelling — with Ron Rosen the editor.
His list of credits is very long, and very current.
He’s shaping how we see and how we pay attention.
One of my favorite film directors is American Kelly Reichardt, whose films move slowly and beautifully, often through a rural, timeless Oregon landscape.
I keep re-watching the 1968 film “2001”, also intrigued by how slowly some scenes unfold and how very little dialogue it contains.
It demands our sustained, often mystified attention — and amply rewards it.
No doubt our brains were wired very differently before the ’90s when we all started moving online, let alone the daily deluge now on social media.
I find it more challenging than ever now sit still for hours and just read.
I often wonder what it was like to live in the 18th century where domestic amusements were embroidery — slow! — or reading or playing a musical instrument. When a letter sent, sealed with wax, took days or weeks or even months to reach its reader. Then the reply.
What different brain chemistry they must have had!
Living through a pandemic and the useless political “leadership” that’s killed so many is bad enough — add to this grief and anxiety that absolutely rob us of the ability to stay focused and pay attention and retain a damn thing.
Who has this much time now?
Who reads past the headline?