Wednesday 25 February 2009

The future of newspapers or we are all pushing pixels now

I said in a previous post that I was witnessing a personal shift in reading habits away from print. But my love of books and newsprint is going to be difficult to shake. A morning read on the tube (with a seat to boot) can induce private moments of pure insight and offer up flights of fancy before the working day begins proper. These simple reading experiences seem locked into our love of paper-based information. But the very fact that I am thumbing out this thought on my BP (BlackBerry Pearl) with its fudged QWERTY keyboard layout (two letters per key) probably betrays a greater sea-change in my literary habits; I'm just writing more. I'm texting, blogging and even occasionally 'google chatting' and all the rest, and all this has a repeat effect on my reading - I'm even more hungry for ideas in the written down form than I have been in my life time. It's probably my age combined with the easy accessibility of cheap technology for sharing thoughts (eg blogging on the web) plus the impact of the recession (shall we ditch 'credit crunch' altogether now?) all mixed up to make one big stew of curiosity.

A blogger I enjoy reading, and was introduced to through his weekly column in Monday's Media Guardian section (the print version as it happens), is Jeff Jarvis and his Buzz Machine. His recent blog on the decline of The San Francisco Chronicle is a fascinating take on a newspaper in trouble situated in the wider context of a generalised decline in the business of making and selling printed newspapers. Jarvis has one clear message for papers like the Chronicle: reinvent yourselves and engage with the new technology of news distribution (the web) or die. As a former newspaper man himself this a tough message from someone who has made berating the world of print journalism a cause célèbre. Jarvis's blog offers up an angle on the technology and humanity of communication that is a joy to read even on my little BlackBerry Pearl screen on a cold and dank February morning.
Also read Goodbye to all this? about the future of subeditors. (Interesting that The Grandad choses to write 'subeditor' as one word when the rest of the world is quite happy with 'sub-editor'. Ahhh the power of house style over common sense and popular usage. There will be a reason for sure).

Sunday 22 February 2009

25 Random Things about my beard

1. I started growing it in early December 2008 after a week of not shaving.

2. The early stages of beard growth are the hardest because your face is not use to it and it's prickly.

3. Old friends pretend not to recognise you when they haven't seen you for a while...

4. ...but end up being polite and saying "Go for it!" and "Why not" whilst muttering under their breaths: "It must be something to do with his wife being pregnant..."

5. For a short while you feel more intelligent.

6. Glasses help with the academic image and also accentuate your eyes to the onlooker, stopping them being lost in two hairy craters that were your eye sockets.

7. Shopkeepers think you could be a homeless person, until you open your mouth and ask for a mineral water to go with your copy of The Guardian.

8. Even unkempt bushy beards (like mine) require some pruning if you are to avoid blocking the food access orifice (the mouth).

9. Sometimes you catch yourself in the mirror and you get a shock. Who is that man?

10. As a consequence of point 9 you spend more time in front of the mirror.

11. My kids are convinced that I store food inside my beard for unscheduled secret snacks. (I blame Roald Dahl's 'The Twits' for that. But they are not wrong).

12. My beard is particularly coarse just after being washed and I long for its greasy foodiness to return. OMG, this proves I am in a bad, beardy space.

13. As a personal rebranding exercise it has had limited success.

14. Intimacy with loved ones is severely compromised.

15. The temptation to stroke one's beard whilst thinking is overwhelming. This can lead, when in face to face conversation with someone, to people thinking that you are not really listening to them. (Useful in some situations; a problem in most).

16. Inspite of being a big supporter of the folk music revival movement - Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons etc... - I don't need to be a beardy to do that.

17. As Che Guevara once said to the American student wanting to help the Bolivian revolution: "Go back to your own country, have a good shave and fight your own ruling class. That's the best way you can help, beardy kid".

18. Witty references to Grizzly Adams, Chewbacca and ZZ Top become tiresome.

19. On the one occasion that I was mugged (in 1989) my street fighting capabilities were seriously compromised by my long hair. (My assailant grapped me by my moptop and spun me round and was about to kick me in the face when my, croptopped friend jumped on his back giving me a chance to run free. Thanks again, Graham). I fear my beard might be an easy grip point for potential muggers.

20. Surely man's inevitable evolutionary direction is towards less hirsutedness (including in the facial region).

21. My favourite aunt, my only grandma and my wife all disapproved of the beard on the same day (yesterday). This cannot be an historical accident, it's fate. The beard must go.

22. My newly born daughter (4 weeks old) might get to used to having a bearded dad and be traumatised when I shave it off.

23. My newly born daughter is not getting proper kisses (the type with varied cheek contact) because I am a prickly monster. This will not do (see point 14).

24. Vanity, although difficult to admit, is an issue. What I might gain with elevated academic gravitas in some circles, I lose in others by looking like an old git with a grey beard. The grey is in a strong 30% minority, flecked on top of the dark, brown 70% undergrowth. I am not about to start zapping the whiteness (as I prefer to call the greyness) on my head with Grecian 2000 but why let the whiteness spread like tangle weed to the lower reaches of your face.

25. Hairballs. No one ever tells you about hairballs but they are a permanent feature. Why? It's obvious isn't it? After eating you lick your lips to clean your chops (surely an evolutionary instinct?) resulting in beard hair collecting in the back of your throat. Unavoidable and quite disgusting.

The beard has just left the room.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Smart CCTV is dumb

I've always taken a strange pleasure in a private fantasy that CCTV cameras might reach a finite numerical saturation point because the state would simply be unable to employ enough people to watch the footage. And a private fantasy this must stay because "hundreds of PhD students around the world" are trying to make CCTV smarter. The aim is to fully automate the tracking process by developing sophisticated computer software that can model human behaviour patterns. Smart dumbness for any fellow fantasists who still crave freedom, I reckon.

Limmy again

Well I hope you caught the show, Limmy's Show that is. I'm not going to bore you with a long, windbaggy review, suffice to say I was smiling and laughing from ear to ear throughout the show. It felt like an old virtual friend had jumped from the small small screen to the small screen and was talking to me right in my front room (are you talking to me?). Quite a shock for someone (me), who like Brian Limond (aka Limmy) has probably has spent far too many hours over the last 10 years staring at cyberspace. And what have we got to show for it? Well, Brian's got Limmy's Show and good luck to him.

Fellow Blogger, Antonine Plato, caught one of Limmy's rare gigs in London back in 2007 and wrote a nice little prophetic piece about how we might see this fella on the box. Blogtastic crystal ball usage Antonine! It must be getting late...

Monday 16 February 2009

Comic genius Limmy on the telly

It is with great pleasure that I can announce the arrival of Limmy's Show to a telly (or Sky box) near you. Ever since I was sent a link by my brother to his Swearing Xylophone back in 2003, I have been a member of his fan club. Limmy, a Glasgow-based internet comedian, has a keen eye and ear for the absurd and plays with his audience's preconceptions of Glaswegian caricatures to hilarious effect. He had a brief outing on BBC's The Culture Show in 2007 and has performed at a few festivals, but now he is getting a long-awaited television series. Like all early-adopters of fringe artists, I hope he doesn't water down his material too much but I think in the current climate it might be unrealistic to expect a defensive BBC to let Limmy have full creative freedom. His website videos - - are truly out there and certainly not to everyone's tastes. I have favourites and here are two of them and if you don't like these, don't watch the show.

Yes or No - Ever wanted to get violent with a contributor from the floor? Watch this.

What would you do? - Under extreme pressure from work, your family or the bank? Have a taste of this.

Limmy's Show
Wednesday 18th February, 10pm
BBC2 Scotland (Sky 990 / Freesat 970)

And repeated...
Monday 23rd February, 11:15pm
BBC1 Scotland (Sky 971 / Freesat 960)

And, of course, BBC iPlayer.