strange_complex: (Me Mithraeum)
Dear Livejournal,

Happy birthday! It is ten years today since I first set you up. I didn't actually start writing entries here until the following April, but today is the day I joined the LJ community and started reading and commenting on other people's posts, so I think this is the date that counts.

You and I have changed a lot over the last ten years, and sadly not always in ways we probably would have chosen. Certainly, on my side, between parental health issues and appalling workplace mismanagement, the last six years of my life have been pretty shit, all things considered. I know it's naive to expect life to be in any way fair, and I have tried to make the best of things and not get angry and resentful about it all, but it's got to be said that I thought my thirties would be more about happiness and achievement than they have actually turned out to be. Still, you have been there for me all that time, whether I needed to write about the problems I've experienced directly, escape from them into various sorts of film- and television-related fantasy worlds, or (just occasionally) explore and express enthusiasm for new things. I wish there'd been more of the latter in particular, but I'm grateful for all of it.

As for you, the sad reality is that other social networks have chipped away at your userbase. Facebook offers ease of usage, other blogging platforms offer search engine visibility and a sense of professionalism, Pinterest makes sharing picture content quick and easy, Tumblr encourages collaborative discussions, and Twitter captures trends and breaking news and opinion in a way that you never could. As a ball-park figure, I think only about one quarter of the people on my friendslist are actually now active here in any way at all, and my stats tell me that my posts now rack up about 2/5 as many views apiece as they did five years ago. Inevitably, these things snowball, so that once people start drifting away there isn't as much left here to keep the remaining people interested, and in turn they drift too. What started as a slow but noticeable decline three or four years ago has definitely speeded up over the last two years.

And yet, somehow, here you still are in spite of it all. Just like me, in fact. What that tells me is that you still have something to offer which other social networks can't match. Obviously for any individual user, part of it is a combination of nostalgia, and the particular friendship connections we have here. But most of my LJ friendship connections are replicated on other social networks, and yet it obviously still seems worth it to me and to others to keep writing here. LJ allows long discursive writing and considered discussion threads, all of which other blog platforms can match. But where it has and keeps the edge, I think, is the ability to do all of that in a personalised format, addressed to a reciprocal audience of known and trusted friends - either pseudonymously or even completely privately.

Twitter and blogging platforms are largely predicated on the assumption that they are publicly visible and associated with known identities, while once-cool Facebook is now increasingly full of work colleagues and family members whose expectations of our personas may be restrictive - indeed, this is a recognised factor in driving teenagers off it. But LJ is both old enough and small enough to somehow have slipped under all of those nets. The fact that it is unknown territory to those who are anyway unlikely to 'get' it has always been part of its attraction. Certainly, I can write here about my parent and job woes in a way I wouldn't dream of on Facebook or Twitter, and I've seen many other LJ users coming here after long absences in similar circumstances. But it isn't just that. I can write long, self-indulgent film and TV reviews here which are about how I responded to a story, including expressions of extreme geekiness and digressions into my personal history, which I feel comfortable sharing here to a known (and often equally geekish) audience, but wouldn't want associated with my professional identity on a blog.

In short, I still love you LJ, and I don't intend to stop writing here any time soon. You are still an essential element in my online life, even if you're not the only one any more. In fact, I have made you a present in honour of our ten-year anniversary. See, I'm not saying everything I write here is cutting-edge essential content, but it matters to me and I do like writing it. I also think that one consequence of your drifting user-base is that there are people out there who might like to read some of it, but no longer even really know that I am posting here.

So I have finally done something I've been thinking I ought to do for a while. I have sifted through my Facebook friendslist, and put all the people who are or were once on LJ themselves, or who never were but whom I don't mind knowing about the sort of stuff I post here, onto a single 'LJ friendly' filter. From this entry onwards I am going to link to my public LJ posts from my Facebook feed, but filtered to that group only. Not, I think, the friendslocked stuff, but at least my film and TV reviews, and probably some general 'what I've been doing lately' updates too.

I hope you like it, and here's to the next ten years. I'll still be here if you are.

Lots of love,

Penny

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strange_complex: (Claudia Cardinale fan)
IMDb page here. Watched on DVD from Lovefilm.

This is a long, slow epic of a film; large and grandiose, but with a great deal of small detail and personal intimacy, too.

I watched it partly because one of the main characters is played by the delectable Claudia Cardinale. Indeed, many moons ago I made this icon of her character holding a fan to use when registering my appreciation of LJ posts which I sincerely liked but did not have anything specific to say about in a comment. (It fulfils, of course, the same role now served by the 'Like' button on Facebook - and oh I do wish they would get on and implement something similar for LJ!). But I also watched it because it deals with one of my favourite periods of Italian history, the Risorgimento, here seen specifically from the point of view of a noble Sicilian family.

The head of that family, Don Fabrizio - the 'leopard' of the title, somewhat surprisingly but very powerfully played by Burt Lancaster - takes a sanguine view of matters. He speaks a great deal about the antiquity of Sicily, very much focussing on the longue durée, and fundamentally believes that the unification of Italy will make little difference to the everyday experiences of the Sicilian people. But at the same time a clear contrast is drawn between the old ways which he represents and the new ways of his nephew Tancredi - an energetic and passionate young man, who fights actively for the revolution and willingly throws himself into the politics of the new regime. By the end of the film, Tancredi is deeply in love with Angelica (Claudia Cardinale's character), who is vital and spirited but distinctly ignoble. There is a frisson of attraction between Angelica and Don Fabrizio, too - but ultimately it is something which cannot be pursued. While she and Tancredi swirl ardently together at the ball which forms the climax of the film, Don Fabrizio, now tired and somewhat dejected, walks out into the streets of the small town beyond, finally disappearing from sight altogether into a dark archway. He has done his bit - but the future belongs to Tancredi and Angelica.

The cinematography and direction of the film are very typical of the 1960s. The colour palette revolves around Glorious Technicolor, while the direction is very much theatrical. This has its own charms, but I felt that the landscape of Sicily perhaps wasn't shown off to its best advantage as a result. A modern director would have given us lots of aerial shots of the landscape, capturing the rolling shapes of the hills and coastlines by flying over the scenery. Visconti, though, treats the landscape above all as a backdrop, always static behind scenes of human action. Perhaps that is what he wanted to capture - a sense of Sicily as still and unchanging while its people act out their small-scale human dramas. But I felt that something of its potential majesty was lost as a result.

I wouldn't recommend this film to everyone - it is slow-paced, and assumes a pre-existing interest in the circumstances of the characters rather than seeking to establish one. But if you happen to like 19th-century Italy, 1960s cinematography or indeed Claudia Cardinale, Burt Lancaster or Alain Delon (who plays Tancredi), it is definitely a fine example of its kind.

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