Thursday, 28 October 2010
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Distracted by David Cameron's speech in Westminster yesterday, the one announcing 8 per cent cuts in defence spending including the scrapping of the Nimrod and the Harrier, I posted on Facebook that I was having my own spending review.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Classic or Touch? You're probably an iPhone: everything in one slim unit. Very nice. Very now. But, oooops, it's over. Looks like we're moving on.
Technology as fashion? Who came up with that? Actually, its always been the case. Remember those TVs made to look like spaceman helmets? Remember the sandwich toaster? OK you can still get them, but there was a time when they were a covetable fad. It didn't last long, just a year or so, then they turned into greasy dusty objet de rubbish in the corner of the cupboard. As so many things do. But the idea of technology as fashion goes waaaay back.
In the 1840-50s, the well to do had cash like they'd never had cash before. At the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, there was a sort of ultimate expression of this. The Great Exhibition was intended as a scientific showcase, and in many respects it was. But really it was a great big shopping mall. A tribute to Britain's ability to sell stuff to people with money.
My favourite consumable from the GE has to be the folding piano. Piano makers had been going at each other for a while, upgrading the keys, coming up with increasingly elaborate engraving, pedals, sound. But then someone thought, let's make a piano you can fold up. There was this idea that you'd buy it for your yacht. It seems to have worked like a sort of concertina.... you pushed it against a wall and it collapsed/squeezed down. It was very expensive but it meant you could invite someone into your home and then, at some point in the evening, say, hey let's play the piano and they'd look round and say, but you don't have a piano and you'd go, yes I do, and you'd open a door or remove a curtain or whatever and you'd heave out....
To the Victorians the folding piano was just as exciting as having an app on your phone that allows you to read a barcode or map the night sky. Things that one day will sound equally ridiculous.
Monday, 18 October 2010
No, never seen it. Not all the way through, anyway. A bit here and there. A clip on YouTube. Sometimes I might stumble on it, watch for a few minutes... but usually my brain begins to seize up and I am gripped with nausea.
Admittedly I'm not really that into music. I like certain things. Increasingly I've been enjoying having classical or choral music on, loud, while I've been working. iTunes and Spotify are great little tools if you are working at a laptop. But pop music? Rock? Indie?
The last few months I've been working part time with the Big Issue in Scotland. This has involved regular days in their office... there's a couple there who used to work for NME. Another girl who probably should work for NME. Nothing wrong with that, but they really know the music scene. Really care about it. they don't just talk about bands I've never heard of, they talk about whole musical movements that haven't otherwise blipped on my horizon.
As a teenager and as a twentysomething I paid lipservice to poprockindie. But at uni I probably listened to as much John Coltrane as I did The Smiths. And actually I preferred Jimi Hendrix and the Doors, already 20 years old at the time. Britpop was fun. It felt like something important – funny how I prefer Blur now to Oasis, I remember reading a critic at the time who argued that everyone would. Who was that?
I digress. The point is, X Factor... It has been given three more years. A £100 million deal. Meaning more X Factor, and the other thing, Britain's Not Got Talent. I want to be nasty about both of them. I want to tear them to shreds, laugh at all the sad, overweight, hopeless screw ups that go on desperate to be singers, stars, somethings. But you know, I just can't be bothered. It's too dull, too corny, too uninteresting even to take a pop at. X Factor is final proof that pop culture is over, that it's had its moment. Diversity is all now. Elitism. Selectism. Personalism. Individualism. Cowell can celebrate, he's ridden that wave. But he may well have killed it for good. No seriously, his high point is a new beginning. People want more than the X Factor. They actually want stuff that's good, interesting and sophisticated. They don't want to be talked down to anymore.
As you get older you tend to need more. Harder books, more challenging drama, new experiences. Its all part of realising that you have a limited time on this Earth and you'd better make the most of it. and that making the most of it does not include frittering Saturday evenings away on X Factor karaoke.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
When I went to university I remember counting the books on my shelves. I had a tiny single room at a hall of residence and the library space amounted to, I think, three small shelves on the wall. I was studying English Lit, Politics and History and I made sure I bought all my listed texts new. Their spines sparkled with promise. Yes, really, that's what I thought. Even "Scottish Politics" by the department head, printed on what looked like bog paper, appeared to me at that time to be a shiny beacon of the future.
Over that year or so I added many paperbacks. Books I read because I wanted to. Books I bought because I thought I should. I have always bought more books than I read, however, which is partly why now - two decades later - I have a dining room table groaning under the weight of columns and columns of books.
We're doing out the front room (again... I won't bore you with the details) which means a temporary migration for the books to the back sitting room. I mention this because it is only when you move books around that you realise just how many you have and what a cumbersome load of stuff they amount to.
I'm not a fan of ebooks. I hate the idea of them, in fact. I fear that if we take away the physical side of writing then novels will become as much of the web has, this blog included, entirely disposable, throwaway and worthless. Writers are already paid a pittance, and now the publishers want to screw them even more by demanding larger than fair slices of royalties from ebook publications.
And yet, books... Lining the walls in neatly organised shelves they look fabulous. (Obviously I'm a fan, just look at the home page). But as people move into smaller and smaller apartments, as we move around more and more trying to keep down jobs and to maximise our worth in this most fragile of economies, you can see why an iPhone or an iPad or even a Kindle is so attractive. An entire library weighing no more than a bag of sugar? Cool.
I've already got over my CD collection. It's gone, in boxes, unloved and gathering dust. Will the books go the same way? I hope not. I really love reading books, turning pages and seeing them on the shelves. I was never good at sport, I was good at reading: these guys are my trophies. But I doubt my grandchildren will feel the same way about them. Indeed, they'll wonder how we survived under the weight of all this paper.
Monday, 11 October 2010
Once Upon a Time, at Harvard Culture: vanityfair.com
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
Are some books always good? Or do all books need to be read at a certain time in life?
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Lisi Harrison's new series for young teens, Monster High, isn't just a book series: its a multi media toy megabrand.
With its gothic make up and vamped up vampires Monster High is an hilarious counterpoint to the nicey-nice world of Barbie.
Harrison's first Monster High yarn was, I thought, weirdly brilliant - just as it should have been.