8. Nostalgia For Rust

May 16th, 2011 | spirit tracks

Nostalgia: Jack Schulze, who as part of the design unit BERG operates in an ill-defined but future-facing post-industrial space, is telling me (I think in 2009 — there was beer involved) of a meeting he was called to with a terrestrial network television broadcaster. He does lots of interesting work with lots of interesting people, in a range of digital and postdigital fields. But he was really kind of antsy about this meeting. He said to me: “Television? Broadcasting? That’s, like aerials and shit. Pylons and towers. Huge fucking chunks of rusting metal.” The strong implication was that he felt he was being drafted into a meeting about manual farming machinery. Having an iPhone meant that he really shouldn’t have to know about things like oxen and ploughshares. Jack had no nostalgia for all that. It was all ghosts and rust to him.

(I did mention there was beer involved.)

All this was in pursuit of a conversation about television, specifically British terrestrial tv and “common culture” (which is eight million people watching DOCTOR WHO and talking about it the next day, put reductively) (the final QUATERMASS serial averaged 11 million viewers and that number was considered soft), and why I want to write some. Why, in essence, I want to traffic with the likes of great rusting broadcast towers.

And I said to him, “I want to do some television before it, as we know it now, goes away. If only just to try it and feel what it’s like.”

Which is, I’ll allow, like taking a writing holiday in Portmeiron because Noel Coward wrote there, or working on a Smith-Corona because it has mythic resonance. But, you know, it might be instructive to sit in Dennis Potter’s chair for a while. Just as I once sat at a desk Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote at. It’s somehow quixotic. Tilting at ghosts.

It’s 1978. I’m at my grandmother’s house in Shoebury. The TV picture is all fucked up. My dad says, “the gasometers must be high. The picture’s ghosting.”


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  1. You can find Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis