The line between education and wankerdom


TBS Editor Mathew Mackie walks the Shostakovich line daily. The fine line between being ‘educated’ and being a ‘wanker’.


This week I’m turning 30, and I’ve noticed that since last birthday my tastes have become a bit less, well, you know, normal. I’ve discovered books can be about things other than what they claim; I’ve started to respect the anything goes free-for-all-pie-fight that is Jazz; And the wall-paper of my phone, which previously held the picture of my best mate, drunk, inhaling Potato Gems, has morphed into Cezanne’s Mont Sainte Victorie.

Which is a problem.

It’s not who I’m expected to be. I’ve been the gregarious, insult-slinging, binge drinking sports-fan for most of my life, who’s fun to have around, but never taken seriously. And in many ways I’m still that, it’s a shoe that fits snug. Even at Film-School, I made a conscientious effort to never come off as a Wanker. But now, I know all this stuff suddenly. As soon as the Full Moon of $4 Shiraz is upon me, I’m changed, rabid, howling in conversations; mouth disjointed from the brain as I watch myself in horror, jaw flapping completely out of context: “Did you know William Burroughs shot his wife?”


What am I to do with this knowledge? It’s fun to tell people stuff, and make them go “ooohhhhhhh” But there’s only so much you can get away with. A line. Which I named after Dimitri Shostakovich. I discovered I like his work, but I then realised Who do I tell? A theory indirectly seconded by the movies of Woody Allen. I’ve been watching more of his lately, and for some reason, he’s become less irritating. I was sailing high in the rigging of RMS Cranium, harmlessly watching Midnight in Paris, enjoying the jangly guitar of Django Reinhardt (He does that Parisian guitar that everyone knows, but doesn’t. Also has three fingers.) when it all went to shit. Michael Sheen (who was also David Frost in Frost/Nixon, and Brian Clough in The Damned United, I also saw him, indirectly as Tony Blair in….) Sheen’s character, who was a bearded douchebag of the toppest notch, a ‘pseudo intellectual’ elbowing his way in on every  topic with encyclopaedic verve, be it Rodin (Villain from Godzilla), Versailles or how Turner is the ‘true father of abstract expressionism’. I fell over in disgust. Is that how I sound? Is Owen Wilson a nervous mirror of those who I drunkenly harangue? Has the filthy metamorphosis that I’ve fought for so long happened, without me noticing?

But if has happened, it’s a question that begs the question:

When is it ok to admit these things in front of those you love?

 “…Hey Guys, I have something to admit, I figured out I’m wanker…”

“…I know all this stuff about Robert Johnson, but I don’t know how…Who’s Robert Johnson? Uhhh, Well, obviously…”

I hear what you’re saying, get new friends. But that’s easy to say, as they’re not your friends. Do I then seek the company of fellow like minded members of my tribe? Those hep-cat-dudes who appreciate how truly rad Neil Young is, and aren’t just saying so? But wouldn’t that just be marching over the Shostakovich Line? Alienating your true friends for a group of people I don’t know, who know me? How do I ankle my people, ignoring the lounges I’ve passed out on, and clothes I’ve stolen? Ohhh what happened to Mook? Oh. Yeah. He’s…. as they swiftly change subjects to something other than the sound of their golden hearts breaking.

So, what then? Education? Would I do the same for them? If they were massively keen on the workings of the complex, subtextually driven, inter-relationship drama of The Bachelor and decided to inform me suchly? Do I placate? Or do I be a real friend and just tell them that it’s complete schist?


Do I be two people? Be different around different people? That seems worse. These are my Art friends, I’d say, As people I know best vainly try and hover around conversations I try to shoehorn them into. Oh that Oldenburg…

Maybe it’s the coastal-one-collar-town upbringing, but the thing it boils down to most, is fear. Fear of being labelled a wanker. Being educated is fine, but I’m unsure how far it goes. I’m reticent to discuss anything about my work, because I can’t afford to cross that line, and earn that tag, the one that doesn’t wash off. There goes that Mackie, that wanker. I’ve crossed swords with the eight-legged beast named Pretension before, and I won’t be going back to its lair. But saying that, my brain longs to divulge all the stuff I’ve discovered for myself. Three fingers crossed, that on the career front, I’ll be able to be intellectual without ever admitting it. If pressed, I’ll deny it. Until that rosy day I’ll continue to walk along the Shostakovich Line without crossing either side of it, I’ll be a closeted wanker. That is, until people figure out for themselves, hey you know, that wanker was alright.







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