Monthly Archives: January 2006

Mortality, fallibility, electability

Death (all right, near death), addiction, conflict, betrayal, succession, loyalty, ambition… oblivion. Politics has it all. And it only takes a massive stroke or an intractable personality defect to take the story in a distinctly Shakespearian direction. Respect to tipsy Charles Kennedy and unconscious Ariel Sharon for the most gripping week in politics in years. Gripping enough, I’m sure the Channel 4 people will confirm, to make even the most postmodern Big Brother ever look a bit pedestrian.

Radio Fun

Heather Peyton in the Shop Talk studio, 5 January 2006
Went to the Beeb to talk about Web 2.0 on Heather Peyton’s estimable Radio 4 business programme called Shop Talk. Four of us in the studio plus three other contributors in various parts of the world, including Joe Krauss, Excite founder and now the man behind Jotspot. The last time I saw Joe was at Belgo in Covent Garden in 94 or 95. I think he still owes me dinner.

Also in the studio was Graham Hobson whose PhotoBox picture sharing and printing service has a million customers and £5M in turnover. I’d never tried PhotoBox but I checked it out last night and it’s a thing of beauty. Emphasis on printing with dozens of options and a superb UI. The Java uploader works and works really fast (I uploaded three files, one of which was over 12Mb, and barely noticed the upload). Ordering a panoramic print was a piece of cake – and you can pay with Paypal. Hope the print’s nice.

(The show goes out Tuesday 10 January at 1600. Here’s an MP3 and here are some more pics).

Update: the print arrived less than 48 hours after my order (ordered late Thursday evening, arrived Saturday morning) and is absolutely lovely.

Oh shit

This was always going to be the year of energy insecurity. I’m pretty sure that, if you gave me a minute, I could produce half a dozen authoritative predictions that in 2006 various (or all) Western economies would be damaged by failed or blocked supplies of oil or gas. We’re so short-sighted, so incapable of reading even our own most immediate history, though, that it’s still a surprise.

The logic of the current crisis (forgive me for a bit of out-of-character pessimism) is that we’ve just come to the end of our first (and presumably our only) century of energy plenty, a century during which we exploited cut-rate, externality-free energy to build up the planet’s productive capacity to something close to its theoretical maximum.

The energy market’s more robust than it used to be and this particular crisis will be short-lived but access to cheap energy will falter again and the awesome energy bubble we call the Twentieth Century will begin to look like the kind of final, catastrophic, overdone peak that came just before the collapse of various historic empires: Rome, Mesopotamia, Britain, Capitalism. Like I said, oh shit.

Bowbrick Country

A 1937 Vincent Rapide at Stevenage Museum
How did I manage to live in Stevenage (Saxon settlement and blighted Sixties new town) between the ages of seven and twenty without ever learning that E.M. Forster wrote Howards End there and that they call the country to the North of the town Forster Country? In the Seventies, when I was growing up there, The Sun called Stevenage ‘the glue sniffing capital of Great Britain’ which we all thought was pretty funny. Punk exotic John Cooper Clark lived opposite my school (why?) and they used to make gorgeous Vincents like the one in the picture in a shed next door (but they stopped doing that in the 1930s). I have Radio 4’s Open Country (which is rapidly becoming my favourite programme) to thank for this new knowledge about Stevenage’s spurious literary heritage.