Monthly Archives: May 2005

Hitchens action

If Andrew Marr continues to produce Start The Weeks (MP3) of this quality on his departure from the big politics job at the Beeb it’ll all be worth it. William Shawcross, Christopher Hitchens and Germaine Greer on great form. Speaking of Hitchens, you’ve got to read this mind-blowing double-interview: Christopher and his estranged brother Peter with The Guardian’s Ian Katz at the Hay Festival (they also made it onto Today this morning). What a pair.

iPhoto attempts to ruin my life

I upgraded to iLife 05 (still using Panther). iPhoto 5.02 seemed to be quite happy but then my gorgeous 2 year-old girl switched off the external firewire drive the iPhoto library lives on and… So, on restart, every single one of the 16,000-odd photos in my library is gone – replaced by a neat, grey outline. All photos are intact on the hard drive and keywords, cropping and titles are all retained in iPhoto. Just no actual images. Holding down a complicated key combination to rebuild my library (which took 18 hours!) didn’t work. Still lots of neat, grey outlines (worse, since then iPhoto has crashed and, on force quit, returned with albums (hundreds of them) all gone. I am utterly stumped. Sort of dreading the prospect of rebuilding the whole thing from scratch… Oh God. Any ideas?

A blogging mini-conference in June

Listen, if it’s raining in the afternoon on Tuesday 28 June and you’re in the West End, drop into this NMK blogging conference. I’m chairing the event, divided into two themed parts: ‘Is nano-publishing a new communications paradigm?’ and ‘Are blogs the new voices of authority?’ which would seem to bracket the blogging debate nicely. Bring 60 quid with you and you’ll hear some prominent and interesting speakers and probably get a free cup of coffee.

Titter ye not

Can’t beat a 21st Century Eurovision Song Contest for lessons on the dynamics of the new Europe. Talk about New vs. Old. Fringe vs. centre. East vs. West. Anyway, the fringe is obviously where it’s at now. Those picturesque Eastern European capitals with their glistening waterfronts and their pretty mediaeval old towns and their flat taxes are the new centre.

Slow, old, slow growth Western Europe nicely filled out the bottom four places (Britain at least made it off the bottom). Swirling, folk-inflected ‘Eastern’ sounds dominated the competition, from Greece to Moldova. Self-confident, good looking, aspirational, enthusiastically-English speaking artists made all the running. Greece may have won but the real competition was between the new nations of the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Get your hat, Europe’s going East.

Kids’ media we like

The front cover of Lauren Child's Clarice Bean Spells Trouble
I’m reading the kids the hilarious and wise Clarice Bean Spells Trouble – cleverly illustrated, contemporary and cheeky – and Lauren Child, the brilliant author/illustrator behind the series, covers the waterfront, with picture books for 3–6s and story books for the older kids. We all really look forward to bedtime while we’re reading a Clarice Bean.

Improbably, we love the music from the TV series based on Sendak & Minarik’s Little Bear books – what is it? A string trio plus piano? Beautiful, anyway (and better than the stories themselves, which are soporific – and how come Little Bear’s completely naked but his parents are fully-clothed anyway?). Olly (6) is reading an Elmore Leonard book! Seriously, Leonard’s written his first kids’ book and, not incidentally, the UK edition’s illustrated by Lauren Child. It’s called A Coyote’s In the House and it’s got the same terrific characters (only this time they’re dogs) and convincing, convoluted vernacular we love in Leonard’s grown-up books.

Sue ‘Cowboy Baby‘ Heap and Nick ‘The Time it Took Tom‘ Sharratt – together at last! Two of our absolute favourite picture book authors have jointly created Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly, which is a beautiful collision of styles for 3–6s. We often listen again to BBC 7′s seven day archive of the Little Toe Radio Show which is a consistently excellent story-packed hour (every day of the week) for the youngest kids (and we also burn CDs for the car, which is a very nice way of filling a journey with stories without buying expensive audio books).

High water mark for 4x4s?

In the news pages of yesterday’s Independent the ‘jump-suited environmentalists‘ from Greenpeace are chaining themselves to the Range Rover production line in Solihull and in the Motoring pull-out John Simister is embarrassed to be seen driving its latest product, the impressively ridiculous Range Rover Sport.

I’m still pretty sure that the 4×4 era is nearly over – these extreme examples of the form (Hummers and Navigators and Cayennes) are the final, ultra-decadent expression of the gas guzzler gene line. The market will switch its attention to new forms. The next big thing at the school gate might just be a hybrid.

Businesses I like

The excellent Kall Kwik franchise in Watford
Kall Kwik in Watford. My favourite kind of business: bustling, friendly, helpful, cheap and right, slap bang in the middle of the local economy. Making things happen for other businesses, almost all of them small or tiny. I wonder if there’s a metric for ‘contribution to the local business ecology’? If Watford’s economy is a network (well, everything else seems to be…) then this little business must be a critical node – so many businesses must depend on its existence for their own survival (or at least their sanity). It also happens to be staffed by a gaggle of super-professional, super-friendly ladies who will make you a cup of tea while they run out your print job. Heart warming.

The Algerian Coffee Stores. An Old Compton Street fixture. I’m no coffee expert (just an addict) and I reckon you can get coffee as good elsewhere, but this place has always felt to me like Soho’s dead centre and the place smells like heaven, not least because of the huge range of fragrant odds-and-ends they sell alongside the coffee, like cinnamon sticks and amazing spiced North African Coffee and big slabs of Chinese compressed tea (what do you do with that, then?). They’ve recently fancied up their web site but they still do a charming and eccentric paper newsletter you should sign up for next time you’re in there and they’ll mail order to anywhere in the world.

From the storage unit

bowwowwow_360.jpg
It’s 1980. Malcolm McLaren’s making his first, difficult post-punk career change. Lots of fuss in the tabloids (and in the NME) about under-age singer Annabella Lwin. Brief Walkman frenzy (do you remember there was an effort to name them ‘stowaways’?) – lots of cassette-only releases. ‘Cassette culture’, which was a bit like podcasting, I suppose – DIY media plus cheap, accessible distribution. Bow Wow Wow‘s very knowing, very Pop Art concept – distinctly PoMo. Cool, pointless flip-top packaging. Funny to think that an audio cassette could be the very limit of cool 25 years ago. Wish I had a cassette player to play it on now…

Danny’s got a proper job!

Legendary large-brained stand-up geek celebrity and super-rich libertarian hi-tech pressure group – together at last. Danny O’Brien has gone to work at the EFF. He’s going to be coordinating activists (or, possibly, he’s going to be a coordinated activist). He’s also going to carry on with NTK – still practically the only thing I read front-to-back every week – and with a barely comprehensible column for developers at oreilly.com (what is he on about?). Congratulations Danny!