Friday, January 30, 2009

More Reading

The Plot Against America: Phillip Roth. A dark, brooding ominous book that considers what could have happened if Charles Lindburgh had become president in 1940 - given some of the openly anti-semetic statements he had been making in the months leading up the election and the rumours he was to stand for Republican party nomination. Told through the eyes of Roth himself, in that alternative past, as a nine-year-old, who watches as his family, and their world, is torn apart by the slow, creeping anti-semitism that broods in the country, as America refuses to become involved in Europe's war. The only disappointment was the ending felt very rushed and didn't seem to chime with the scene that had been set through 300 pages before; but it didn't ruin the book in anyway.

Black Swan Green: David Mitchell. A fabulous, dream-like work that charts 13 months in the life of an introverted 13-year-old schoolboy in 1980s Britain, who stammers and writes poetry, while trying to avoid these two things being discovered. All very coming-of-age but utterly beguiling, especially seeing how his opinions change from child to young-adult.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Hunter S. Thompson. Weird city man. Certainly different and one to say you've read, but is it great? I wasn't convinced that it was that great, but did enjoy its weird, tripped out style and the rash bravado of the central characters. The fact it's something of a semi-autobiographical piece of work makes it feel a more complete, purposeful work. But who am I to pass opinion on Hunter S Thompson?

Mortal Engines: Phillip Reeve. Okay this is technically a children's book - well it is, full stop a children's book, - but like Dark Materials or Harry Potter, it has an element that 'adults' can appreciate. A swash-buckling adventure story set in the future where cities move around and 'eat' smaller cities, to harvest them for materials and so forth. Lots of in-jokes for adults too - CDs being considered high-tech and spelt seedys. But it was just a children's book. What? After The Plot Against America I wanted something light. Jeez.

A Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toole. Intriguing background to this. The author killed himself because he couldn't get it published. Then his mother found it, championed it and it finally found its fame - winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 - 12 years after the author was dead. His frustration was, sort of, justified, as it's a fantastic, rambling, bizarre book, with one of the most outrageous lead characters ever put to page - Ignatius J. Reilly - and full of great comic turns to drive the plot. A plot that never explains itself to the reader, but trusts you to stick with it, as numerous side stories are brought in, that career into the main story, tearing off in their own direction before everything starts to converge together, in the most spectacular fashion, towards the end.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blogging made easier

I've just read this article: 10 Tools to Make Your Blog Smarter, Faster, Better | Hack Your Life | Fast Company and as a result installed this which is a nifty direct publisher that lets you blog direct from any page you find you want to blog about. Like this. Nifty.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A poem

One of my favourite poems was written by the recently deceased John Updike: I'll include it below.

I Missed His Book But I Read His Name
Though authors are a dreadful clan
To be avoided if you can,
I'd like to meet the Indian,
M. Anantanarayanan.

I picture him as short and tan.
We'd meet, perhaps, in Hindustan.
I'd say, with admirable elan,
"Ah, Anantanarayanan --

I've heard of you. The Times once ran
A notice on your novel, an
Unusual tale of God and Man."
And Anantanarayanan

Would seat me on a lush divan
And read his name -- that sumptuous span
Of 'a's and 'n's more lovely than
"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan" --

Aloud to me all day. I plan
Henceforth to be an ardent fan
of Anantanarayanan --
M. Anantanarayanan.

Monday, January 26, 2009

'What is it about Epsom skifflers that makes them so interested in research?'

The furore, or 'nowtrage' as Charlie Brooker is calling it, about Jonathan Ross puts me in mind of the way interviews used to be conducted: this is Jimmy Page, of Led Zeppelin fame, when he's about 13 in a skiffle band. The interviewer is like a weird hybrid of a creepy uncle and demon headmaster roled into one. Watch the way he takes the drummers sticks away at two minutes when the interview starts and then takes every answer they give with the same incredulity Paxman does when a student confuses Henry VII with Henry VIII.

Once he's done his intro (also stilted and strange) skip past the music, unless you love skiffle, once it starts to 1.55

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mashing it up

Internet wizardry: video of all presidents morphed.

Twitter feeds during inauguration that bring up the outline of the world: watch here.

Both of these found through Twitter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


If something good happens - look for the symbol of the hands clapping.

If it's something bad - look for the...skull and cross bones? Coffin?

Monday, January 19, 2009

What's in a name?

A fairly mundane piece on the BBC website in which people explain their various nicknames through the years - great. However, number 20 is quite a funny one, in a double take, melancolic comedy, sort of way, and runs as follows:

20. As a kid, my older friends called me Beverage. it came about as a transmutation of Steve-a-rino which became Bever-ino which became Beve then Bev and finally Beverage. I still hate all of these nicknames, especially Steve-a-rino.
Steve Ayres, Seattle, Washington, USA

Which demands the question - why are you telling the world about them then?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And more twittering

Not that this is my only topic of conversation at the moment, but...

Seems I wasn't the only one who thought the Daily Mail's article on Twitter was a bit poor. This post here tells the story, so just go there and read away.

Friday, January 09, 2009


The Daily Mail wrote a polemic recently, sorry article, about celebrities using Twitter to inform people about their 'mundane' lives. This doesn't mean they don't have a Twitter though of course - see. And you just know given the chance they'll be using it as the basis for some inane story about a celebrity.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Twittering away

I joined the micro-blogging world of Twitter a while back and have started to sort it out. You can follow me if you want by clicking here.

So far my favourite thing is reading the updates from famous people which is quite funny. Jonathan Ross has been in the headlines recently for outing a series of fake famous people on Twitter by simply ringing / texting the people and asking if it's them. A weird 21st centuryness to all that. See this recent update from Jonathan Ross 25 minutes ago:

Wossy I'll call Frankie Boyle and ask him to twitter for real. He came round before xmas to look at comics and I thrashed him at pool !

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Christmas Reading

The Christmas break is over. Shame. Still, it was a good chance for some reading. Here's an overview and some thoughts (well I did do English Literature):

Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You - Marcus Chown: Yes it bloody can. My mind was straining itself all the time (and space) trying to fathom the concepts here. However, despite this, it was a very interesting and enjoyable read and look at the world of the very small - atoms etc, and the very large - space / time / timetravel that took me back to my GCSE physics lessons.

The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger: A clever idea concerning time travel (coincidence with the above) as a disease that fell short of pulling everything together into a coherent novel. The main character was too inconsistent to care about. Prime example: he travels forward at one point and while there decides to win $8 million on the lottery to help him and his wife find their dream house. However, he does nothing to stop 9/11, despite knowing it will happen. Eh?

Coming Up For Air
- George Orwell: A classic Orwell, full of sparkling descriptions that evoke memories and feelings within yourself without ever making you conscious of it doing so. As a book it was concerned with trying to recapture the past, and specifically, youth, and covered familiar ground from many novels of a similar ilk - The Great Gatsby the best example. As it was set in 1938 there were also very interesting views (no doubt direct from Orwell) examining the build up to war, and most interestingly thoughts on the "after-war", parts of which would become eerily accurate.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - Paul Torday: Very enjoyable, funny book following the main character through the inception, realisation and the end of the 'madcap' scheme, masterminded by a Yemeni sheikh to bring Salmon finishing to Yemen. Written entirely through the use of various forms of documentation - emails, letters, diaries, newspaper reports etc - and told with a deft hand, and a with a nice level of pastiche of labour spin (without being heavy-handed) it's definitely worth a read.