Slow telly

Slow TV is making the leap across the Atlantic from its home in Norway to the USA, home of fast TV.

The Day of Slow

Today is the International Day of Slowness.

Switch off your Blackberry. Turn off the TV. Go for a walk. Share a long, leisurely meal with friends or family. Read a story to your children. Take a nap in the middle of the day. Do some yoga. Spend the afternoon with a friend that you normally just speak to on Facebook. Channel the Pointer Sisters by bringing a slow hand to your lovemaking.

Wander round a forest or park. Smell the roses.

Or just sit still and do nothing for a few minutes. When was the last time you did that? And didn’t feel restless or guilty?

Do whatever slides you into a slower gear.

Just don’t try to squeeze all the suggestions on the list into a single day. That would turn slowing down into another exercise in rushing to cram everything in. Remember that less is more.

The bottom line is that this is a day to set your inner tortoise free. Don’t fret and overanalyze. Just do it!

Slow Reading

Remember that old Woody Allen joke? “I took a speed reading course. We read War and Peace. It’s about Russia.”

Sounds horribly familiar, doesn’t it? These days we skim through thousands of words a day at high speed. But how much of that ‘reading’ do we actually take in? Or enjoy?

The bottom line is that faster isn’t always better. You don’t gulp down a glass of fine wine. You don’t put Mozart on fast-forward. Sure, there are times when whizzing through a piece of text is the only option. Or maybe even the best option: I certainly don’t linger over the prose in the free newspaper on the Tube. But surely Tolstoy deserves a bit more of our attention.

That’s why the Slow Reading Movement is gaining ground.

To tweet or not to tweet

The other day I spoke at a conference for the leading bloggers in Norway.

It was a little unnerving. Bloggers are a pretty fast bunch, so singing the praises of Slow to them felt like barbecuing a steak at a vegan retreat.

From the stage, I could see laptop screens glowing in the dark. An iPhone rang. Members of the audience tweeted my talk, their dispatches scrolling down a large screen behind me. In Norwegian.

Even so, the Slow message seemed to go down well. I was not booed, heckled or pelted with tomatoes. Okay, someone tweeted that I reminded him of Quentin Tarantino. But given the high geek content in the room, I’m going to take that as a compliment.

The surest sign that the Slow philosophy made sense to those Norwegian bloggers is that several of them will soon be blogging on Slow Planet.

But the conference left a mark on me, too. I lost my Twitter virginity there. I decided that the only way to balance all the tweets about me was to start tweeting back.

So what do I make of Twitter? It’s a question put to me a lot by journalists these days. My view is that, like all technology, Twitter is neither good nor bad. What matters is how we use it.

Twitter can be a fun, enriching and provocative way to air views and connect with people. It can even reshape the political landscape, as we’ve seen during the protests in Iran. Sometimes a heat-of-the-moment 140-character missive is just the ticket.

But I think Twitter is best enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. In other words, it should complement – rather than replace – other forms of communication.

The trouble is that it can be very tempting to do everything at the speed of a tweet. And I mean everything.

Two university students are now reducing some of the greatest works of English literature, such as James Joyce’s Ulysses, to 140-character tweets.

This strikes me as an amusing parlour game that might inspire some people to read the original books in their entirety. It might even add to our understanding of the English canon.

But it also plays into the cultural pressure to reduce all communication to high-speed sound bytes.

Already, research shows that millions of people are no longer bothering to update their blogs. Why? Because blogging is now too slow. It’s much easier (and quicker) to type a short update on Facebook or to fire of a tweet.

If the Slow revolution stands for anything, it stands for doing everything at the right speed. And that principle holds true for communication. There are times for a shoot-from-the-hip tweet, but there are also times for more reflective – or slower – forms of communication.

I’ll tweet from time to time when it feels right. But I’ll also continue writing blogs, emails, articles and even books.

If you want to follow my tweets, my username is carlhonore.

Slow news

There is nothing a news editor likes less than a slow news day. But maybe that’s exactly what the rest of us need a little more of. In her column in the London Times, Caitlin Moran recently called for a Slow News Movement. By that she means that daily bulletins should clear more space for less dramatic, but more upbeat, news stories: “Something to wean us off bad News Burgers and on to the far more beneficial fruit salad of cheerfulness.” Moran then suggests that the Slow News advocate seek out someone with whom to share the happy tidings. I think she may be stretching the definition of Slow a little here but that’s hardly the end of the world. I for one would definitely welcome less doom and gloom on the evening news.

Slow Big Brother

Argentina is one of the countries where In Praise of Slow has made a big splash. In the last few months I’ve twice been to Buenos Aires (my home in the early 1990s) to do television, radio and other interviews. In fact, I even sang a little ditty from the old days on national TV – long story . Anyway, a few moments ago my publisher sent me a photo from the latest incarnation of Big Brother Argentina. It shows two contestants. One is a bkini-clad bottle-blonde smoking a cigarette – very Buenos Aires. The other is a dashing young man with long curly hair – also very Buenos Aires. The guy is clutching a Spanish copy of In Praise of Slow. I’m not a big fan of Big Brother in any language but somehow this photo makes my day. I won’t dwell too long on why that is. But here’s a thought: Is life in a Big Brother house an example of good slow or bad slow?

A new leaf

Don’t be alarmed by the time on this blog entry. I am in London and it is the middle of the night but this nocturnal burst of writing is not the beginning of a descent into workaholism. I’m just jet-lagged. We returned yesterday from a long (and very happy) holiday in Canada and my body is still on Prairie time. So rather than toss and turn for hours on end, I figured I’d start on one of my resolutions for 2007: to spend more time with my blog. The first observation of the new year comes from our journey home. Two years ago I wrote a long piece about the joys of Slow for EnRoute, the inflight magazine of Air Canada. This month, EnRoute has a cover story entitled “Why Fast Is Good” or “Éloge De La Vitesse.” It’s a hymn to the joys of speed. The writer starts off lamenting that “Slow gets all the buzz” and then goes on to sing the praises of taking a high-velocity approach to everything from the arts to food to exercise. The paradox, of course, is that the whole feature is just further proof that the Slow movement is on the rise and that the forces of speed are on the defensive. And not surprisingly much of what EnRoute says makes sense. Just as there are moments that call for slowness, there are also times when switching into hare mode is the best policy. In fact, some of the pro-speed trends touted by EnRoute sound perfectly reasonable to me – high-quality fast-food and environmentally-friendly hybrid cars with a bit of oomph are two that spring to mind. Then again, others sound just downright silly. A drive-thru art exhibition, anyone?