How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts, and the literary world to hear their answers. This is drawn from a conversation with Kurt Loder, columnist, TV personality, and author of the recent film-review collection The Good, the Bad, and the Godawful.
I awake and go directly, pathetically, to my computer. Possibly with a glass of O.J. sitting in for breakfast; more likely a Coke. Drudge Report is my homepage, so I scan that first. I know that many consider Drudge to be Satan’s website, but apart from the occasional wildly rightward-slanted headline (“Lefties Riot” might turn out to be two Democrats having coffee together), the format is classic tabloid: high politics spiked with low doings among the nation’s ax murderers and celebrity drug-gobblers. Drudge also links to Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and other rioting lefties—a demonstration of his catholicity, I think—as well as the Islamic Republic Wire, which is Satan’s actual website. There was a time when I might have dropped in at Google News, but that was before I realized that Google is evil. (I am now a Bing person.)
My first morning stop is usually Europe. These folks have already been up and at it for five hours. I start with London: the Evening Standard (“Labour scorn allegations on Libor”), The Guardian (“How contraception is rocking Nepal”), the Express (something about a “killer playboy”). Then on to the continent: Der Spiegel (“‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’ Beauty Pageant Held in Israel”), Corriere della Sera (“Lusi Produces Rutelli’s Letters”), and France 24 (“Smoking Indonesian orangutan forced to quit”).
Refreshed by this jolt of Euro sophistication, I then proceed to waste more time than I should visiting a number of sites I track on a regular basis: Arts & Letters Daily, that smart aggregator run by the Chronicle of Higher Education; Jim Coudal’s coudal.com, another aggregator, one with a fond eye for the eccentric; and Tavi Gevinson’s wonderful rookiemag.com, which is aimed at clever teen girls but resonates beyond its target demo. (I love the “Ask a Grown Man” video feature, in which guys like Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd address pressing teen-girl concerns.) I’m also partial to Tom Sutpen’s If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger blog, a vast collection of vintage photos from the worlds of showbiz and crime, among others, which is altogether engrossing; and another excellent blog—davidthompson.typepad.com—run by a Brit (I think) of a libertarian bent, who posts links to various Internet oddities every Friday and spends the rest of the week very amusingly eviscerating the editorial windbags at The Guardian and other deserving fonts of political spew.
In the course of all this clicking around (when I should be doing other, more useful things), I’ll intermittently cut and paste any really interesting links into a standing document for eventual posting on Twitter. I never imagined I’d become a citizen of Twitter Nation; but about a year ago, with a pub date impending for my film-review book, The Good, the Bad and the Godawful, I was asked by my editor at St. Martin’s Press about the size of my “digital footprint”—the reason being that, in this post-genteel book-publishing age, sub-superstar authors are expected to do much of the promotional heavy lifting themselves. Fair enough. Unfortunately, I had no “digital footprint.” Facebook was suggested, but Facebook is evil, so that was out. I knew very little about Twitter, but soon learned. The Twitter universe, as everyone but me was already aware, is dangerously absorbing—filled with the expected quotient of free-floating moronery, but also wit and brio, and breaking news that’s breaking right now. (News of notable deaths blossoms on the Twitter vine before the relevant bodies have even begun to cool.) So I’m hooked.
About midday, I’ll venture outside to deal with whatever errands have accumulated. Along the way, I always pass a Korean deli outside of which the latest editions of the New York Post and the Daily News are stacked. I’ll briefly peruse the headlines for stories I’ve already seen online, then move along. Like a lot of people, I have a romantic conception of newspapering. Years ago, living in Europe, I worked for a tabloid that was very near its own printing plant, and at night, after work, I’d sometimes go over to watch the new edition come pouring out of the huge presses. It was a tremendously exciting world to feel a part of. So I love newspapers. But I haven’t felt the need to actually buy one in years. Which I agree is kind of sad.
At some point I’ll wind up at a favorite West Village trattoria, where I can be left in peace, over what sometimes amounts to several glasses of wine, to play with my iPhone. I’ll check my email accounts, responding to whatever seems semi-urgent or unignorable; guiltily log on to Twitter to see if I’ve lost any followers to boredom; maybe hit a news site or two—and that’s about it. I know the iPhone is stuffed with wonders, but I’m ignorant of most of them. Similarly, I bought an expensive Pro Tools program some years back (I futz around with a number of instruments) but have never been able to figure out how to work it. I wish I were smarter, but I don’t think there’s an app for that yet.
My afternoons and/or evenings are often taken up with watching new movies, usually at one of the industry screening rooms scattered around Times Square. I review films for Reason Online, the Internet outpost of the libertarian Reason magazine, a publication with whose philosophical views I am in harmony. I see three, maybe four movies a week (sometimes more on DVD screeners). Since I have a fetish about arriving early for screenings, and thus often have a half hour to kill while waiting for the movie to start, I always bring along my Kindle. I love this gadget, and being a loyal partisan of paper-and-ink books, I never thought I would. But the Kindle is so handy. True, it also opens up new horizons in impulse buying, to which I’m helplessly prone, but—is that so wrong?
I am heavily inclined toward genre fiction, new and old—period crime and espionage stuff by Alan Furst and Philip Kerr, Jo Nesbø’s nasty Norwegian cop novels, the really great fantasy work of Jasper Fforde and Bill Willingham. I seem to accrue most of this in book form, from the alternate impulse universe of Amazon overnight delivery. But that still involves a hateful wait. Not long ago—in a screening room, actually—I downloaded a very clever mystery novel called The List of 7, a book of whose existence I had been unaware for nearly 20 years, and I was ridiculously delighted to have it on my Kindle in, like, five seconds. I’ve also recently clicked down RJ Smith’s terrific James Brown bio, The One, and Anthony Horowitz’s must-read neo-Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk.
In among all this reading and a considerable amount of writing (I’m a very slow writer) and attendant research, there’s not a lot of time for television. I’m not a TV snob—who doesn’t know that some of the best filmmaking today is being done for cable? But I’ve found that if you fall behind on a show, it’s difficult to catch up, and in some cases hard to even want to. I make a point of watching every episode of Justified, because it’s so well-written, and Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are so gloriously right for their roles. I’m also still down with Dexter. I’ve surrendered to Castle (a Firefly thing, in part), and am occasionally persuaded to audit an episode of The Good Wife (how great is Matt Czuchry?). But I could never get into the Game of Thrones books, and while I marvel at the series’ gorgeous production, I’m afraid I’ve let it slide. Then there’s True Blood, of which I was an early adopter. What a great show it was. And I stayed with it right up to the point where it lost its mind. I mean, fairies? Really?