Last year, a Ruby programmer called why the lucky stiff disappeared. Not being part of the Ruby community, the whole story still fascinated me; see the posts Eulogy to _why and The Impermanence, Karma, and Bad Behavior of Why The Lucky Stiff for two opposing views on the subject.
The other day, I decided to see whether there had been any sign of him. Short answer: no. Long answer: no, there hasn’t. But in my travels, I noticed this tweet from him, which a lot of people seem to like:
“when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.”
It’s such a deliciously seductive idea. And yet it’s so fundamentally wrong.
I have a friend. (I do. Really.) A friend who was shocked and disturbed when he found out how few films I’d actually seen. It’s not that I’d never watched any films at all – but I could easily say things like “I’ve never seen Ghostbusters. Or The Terminator. What? Why are you looking at me like that?” I’d never consciously avoided film – it just kinda happened. A combination of a love of telly crowding it out, and perhaps a matter of attention span. (Occasionally I’m rather too close to Godfrey Spry for comfort.)
After some intensive therapy, both those aforementioned omissions are now rectified. More importantly, I’m now at the point where a weekend of watching The Young Poisoner’s Handbook, Robocop, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Wicker Man – none of which I’d seen before – is an immense treat. I will now sit and make my way through a Hitchcock boxset – which I never would have done before. And indeed, I’ve now moved onto films that aren’t really to the taste of my cinematic mentor. A brand new world has opened up to me. A world which most other people were already part of, admittedly – but not a world I would have joined without somebody poking me in the ribs and shouting “Oi!”.
It’s just one example. An off-hand comment by my girlfriend that Chris Moyles was actually quite good, and I should give him a go, has ended up with some of my favourite radio ever. Or there’s another friend and The Micallef Program. Or Ed & Oucho. Or Derek and Clive. Or Look Around You. Or The Trap. Or Rutland Weekend Television. Or Skins. Or, bringing things full circle, every single Bond film – all of which I had skilfully managed to avoid every single Bank Holiday. (Which was a feat in itself.) Or a million and one other things.
And I hope it’s not just one way. One reason why I write things like this article is to share what was a brilliant half-hour of comedy with people who may have missed it. And whilst it’s not the only reason I write Transistorized, it’s certainly one of them. Mind you, then you start getting into how simplistic the comment is in the first place; writing about a show is a form of creation, after all.
Of course everyone who feels they have something to say should create. I don’t deny that. But sharing your tastes is important too – because you could be opening people up to worlds they’d never have found on their own.
If all your tastes do is narrow and exclude people, all it means is that you’re not very good at expressing them.