Hashing and rehashing the trends and crazes of the 21st century from the vantage point of its first five years has become the art of the commentator.
Daily, every trend that ever flourished in the yawning gap between the 'River of Fire' and the sale of the Millennium Dome last week (or whenever it really was) is being deconstructed, reconstructed and tuned to fit the century that began on 1 January 2001.
The only exceptions are trends so well established that they have become ingrained in our thinking to the point that we no longer recognise them for what they are. One such trend is the collecting of newspaper and magazine clippings against some real or imagined desperate need for something that someone doesn't want to see in print on some unspecified day in the future. A few extracts from my own collection will serve to show exactly what I mean.
Item: a clipping from The Times of 13 May 2004, insisting that 'Oil price fears are exaggerated'. Under a beer mug, another Times cutting on the problem of so-called 'medical miracles' that are not understood 'in public debate'. An A4 poster with a picture of Tony Blair and a caption reading: 'Act now or it's four more years of him.' An undated clipping from last year saying: 'Britain attracts more tourists but less of their cash.' Then: 'Business failures fall to a record low, ' followed by 'Prescott's £60,000 homes 'Pie in the Sky''.
Then, without explanation, a photo of the Chrysler building under construction, followed by a clipping from the International Herald Tribune: 'Germany will close 105 military bases.' Then from the Oxford Mail: 'Police planning new rush-hour crackdown on city's traffic cheats.' Followed by a much smaller snippet insisting that 'more roads can slow traffic'. Coming up is a big cutting attacking the second Bridget Jones movie and after that comes 'Le Pen provokes fresh outrage'.
The Herald Tribune then scores again with an impenetrable half page on a row in Ireland over an ancient burial ground, where 140 kings are interred, but which is threatened by a four-lane road. Next up comes 'Nightmare on the Tube', which needs no further elaboration. Then came a card from my friends at Skidmore Owings & Merrill, and then a copy of the Evening Standard with (by chance), a feature headed: 'Designer is proud to say: My house is pure rubbish.' And also: 'Hall - It's 'make or break' time for the Thames Gateway Barking Riverside masterplan.' Followed by: 'Mortgage approvals tumble to lowest level since 1995.' A folded Ingenhoven und Partner Christmas poster. A double-page Windward Banana advertisement. Some progress shots of work on Ground Zero.
Then another copy of Which magazine's article on 'arteryclogging fats' and a copy of the Fabian Society's pamphlet, The Last Rotten Borough (about the City of London). And now here comes the mother lode: 'Nuclear comeback stokes terror fears' (the Tribune again).
The BBC DVD of Dad's Army, the complete series one and two.
And a history of carrier pigeons, and a first alert of the next attempt to sell the Canary Wharf tower again. Coming to the end now: 'Future no longer safe as houses' admits The Times. And 'Buy a new home at your peril, warns the Bank of England'.
Having extracted these items at random from the heap on the six-and-a-half foot by three-foot door that serves as a desktop in my study, I find to my surprise that I have all but completed the task that I defined in the first paragraph of this column:
random selectivity is the trend of the 21st century.