Tag Archives: Outboard brain

Life after iPod

The night before I left for NYC my iPod died. It’s four years old so I suppose I should be grateful it lasted this long. It went to consumer appliance heaven with a horrible grinding and whining noise, finished off by the sort of goose-sucked-into-jet-turbine howl-and-crunch that you’d think would require an actual goose. Standing in the kitchen at 2 a.m. it was quite frightening…

Anyway, a return flight on a 25 year-old, filled-to-capacity Air India 747 (me: ‘what’s the capacity of this plane?’. Stewardess: ‘411’. Me: ‘how many on board today?’ Stewardess: ‘412 [giggles]’) with nothing to listen to (except the fascinating but inaudible Indian music coming though those crappy plastic tube headphones) left me with plenty of time to read.

So I read: the mighty Paul Johnson on the wickedness of the Darwinian fundamentalists in The Spectator. Simon Hoggart on Paxman vs. Blair in The Guardian (incidentally, Hoggart has Blair winning this particular punch-up, unlike some other outlets). Michela Wrong on The Pope (“He did more to spread Aids in Africa than prostitution and the trucking industry combined”) in the New Statesman.

From the same issue of The Spectator – and this time FREE – Germaine Greer’s entertaining invocation of Shakespeare as inventor of our shared fantasy of Englishness and Daniel Hannan’s provocative but authoritative analysis of French reasons to vote ‘no’ to the Euro constitution. Fred Vogelstein’s detailed analysis of Google vs. Gates from Fortune. Philip Roth’s unpublished interviews with Saul Bellow from the late nineties (this is what you buy The New Yorker for. Dazzling and inspiring). The Economist’s really quite persuasive special report on flat tax (plus the in-flight magazine, the menu, the emergency card and the Daily Mail – but I’ll keep those to myself).


Things I’d have read before if I hadn’t been so busy nodding off in front of Hell’s Kitchen. The Economist’s encouraging survey of eCommerce from a couple of weeks ago. Another nice piece from The Economist, this one about the imminent transit of Venus. Freeman Dyson on theoretical science and a fascinating review of a book about City rats, both from the NYRB. Simon Schama was booked to entertain passengers on the QM2’s maiden voyage, from The New Yorker. Another fascinating O’Reilly book, Spidering Hacks.

Finding fonts

Ivan Pope (yes, Ivan Pope) sent me a link to this very useful (and apparently infallible) typeface identifier. I could seriously have done with something like this about fifteen years ago when I was trying to make my living from ‘Desktop Publishing’ (remember ‘Desktop Publishing’?). It also reminds me of ageless Nico Macdonald, who worked in the same God-awful Desktop Publishing bureau and made an impression on me even then because he was the only person I’d ever met who organised the fonts on his Macintosh by historical period (he probably still does).

Things I’d have blogged if I’d been blogging properly lately

Like Freeman Dyson’s excellent review of Vaclav Smil’s ‘The Earth’s Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change‘ from the NYRB and Richard Florida’s Boho Britain report, ranking Manchester as Britain’s most creative city (I’m reading Florida’s ‘The Rise of the Creative Class‘) and The Observer’s nice piece about Paul Newman’s other great passion and The New Statesman’s handy guide to UK Neo-cons (David Aaronovitch, John Lloyd, Stephen Pollard, Danny Finkelstein, Michael Gove and Melanie Phillips, apparently – you need to pay for the article or subscribe to the print edition to see this) and The Ecologist on arm twisting at the WTO and The Independent on a new Parisian craze for the gourmet pique-nique.

Blunkett’s ‘coiled spring’ interview in The New Statesman

“Britain, says the Home Secretary, is now “like a coiled spring”, febrile and tense, and ominously on the lookout for scapegoats. David Blunkett interviewed by John Kampfner.
Pity anyone whose daily in-tray begins with terrorists making weapons in bedsits, continues with asylum-seekers being housed in hotels and ends with gangs on shooting sprees in city centres. David Blunkett is confronted with danger. But he has identified something worse – a danger coming from our minds…”