Writing from January 2004

Bolero, Houston, R&B, The Office and Pop Idol

Sunday was a great day for stumbling across interesting shows. First, I came across a programme on Radio 4 that was nothing but orchestral musicians and conductors talking about playing Ravel's Bolero, intercut with relevant snippets of the music. I love hearing musicians discuss playing (like Alan Rusbridger's 2002 article on playing the piano) and this didn't disappoint: a slew of performers who dread playing the piece; how to get it to build in pace imperceptibly; and especially the percussionist who found it easier to play the repetetive beat with only one hand before dashing off for beers when it was all over. Unfortunately the show doesn't seem to exist on Radio 4's site.

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In Television on 6 January 2004. 1 comment. Permalink

The Sky at Night

That'll teach me to write stuff past midnight. In my previous ramble about Sunday's TV I completely forgot to mention The Sky at Night, which I stumbled onto at the end of the evening. I'm ashamed to admit that in its decades of broadcasting, and my decades of television viewing, I've never once watched it. It's quite something, and made me realise how few elderly people you see on TV. Not one -- Patrick Moore -- but also two colleagues, each of whom not only had wild white hair, but a bow tie. How often do you see three snowy-headed old men wearing bow ties on TV, eh? And how often do you see one of them get up and start singing, huh? So I probably shouldn't have kept thinking of The Fast Show's Bob Fleming, but I'll be tuning in again for sure.

In Television on 6 January 2004. 1 comment. Permalink

And then the bar code reader breaks

Having spent much of the holiday fortnight in computer-free peace and quiet, getting back to the relentless stream of email, spam, weblogs, etc, while listening to the road being dug up, is less than a joy. As I wait for the 60 spams that arrived overnight to download, I can't help thinking of Newman's rant in Seinfeld:

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In Personal on 7 January 2004. 4 comments. Permalink

This year’s non-resolutions

Having dinner with Mr Sofaville at the weekend, we got on to discussing New Year Resolutions. I said I didn't have any, which is usually the case; setting rarely-achieved goals on an arbitrary day seems like one step up from superstition and religion. But I soon realised that without calling them "resolutions", there are various things I've told myself:

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In Personal on 12 January 2004. 1 comment. Permalink

National Theatre vs Burning Man

On Saturday night I took a lovely stroll through a silent weekend City, and across the Thames to see a fire sculpture at the National Theatre. I wasn't sure what to expect, and wondered if it would in any way live up to the fire frenzy of Burning Man.

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On 12 January 2004. Permalink

The Poetics of Space

I spent much of the New Year reading The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, which had been on my reading list for a while: two friends highly recommended it and a third kindly bought it for me (for which I'm hugely grateful, however the rest of this sounds). Unfortunately I was disappointed and so I'd love to know why the book is so highly rated by people I admire.

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In Misc on 14 January 2004. 20 comments. Permalink

TrackBack problems at Pepys’ Diary

Over the past year I've been having big problems with TrackBack over at Pepys' Diary, due to the huge number of pings sent from diary entries to items in the Background Info section (for more on how it works, read 'Movable Type is Watching Me'). I posted a description of the problem to the Movable Type Support Forum, but here it is in case that disappears over time:

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In Movable Type, Pepys' Diary on 14 January 2004. Permalink

Pepys TrackBack: fixing the problems and a new layout

Because of the problem I had with TrackBacks at Pepys' Diary which I mentioned in my previous post I've had to do a lot of fixing.

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In Movable Type, Pepys' Diary on 14 January 2004. 2 comments. Permalink

Weblogs, unexplained

Once upon a time the word "Internet" had to be explained whenever it was used. At first the word would only appear in articles about Internet itself (it often occurred without its definite article), then it would crop up in gradually more mainstream stories, but still requiring explanation: "a world-wide network of computers". I'm now enjoying watching "weblog" or "blog" going through the same process.

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In Misc on 19 January 2004. 2 comments. Permalink

Bah, kids today…

When I was young I hoped that thirteen year olds might stop picking on me by the time I was, I don't know, twentyfive. (OK, I think I've been reading too much Richard Herring.)

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In Personal on 21 January 2004. 9 comments. Permalink

Back when 1KB was more than enough

My mum just found this photo of the family gathered round our new Sinclair ZX81 in 1982. My parents bought it for Christmas and I remember my mum had already learned enough to set it up with a message scrolling up the screen. It was a big event, big enough to send a copy of this photo to grandparents for grandad to capture the family in action. A year or so later we upgraded to a ZX Spectrum, which also meant buying a colour portable TV. Many happy hours spent in that corner of the dining room...

In Personal on 25 January 2004. 2 comments. Permalink

Their first movies

I'm halfway through My First Movie (Amazon US, UK), interviews with directors about making their first features, and it's great stuff. Their single-minded determination makes me realise I'll never make a movie myself. From the introduction:

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In Misc on 27 January 2004. Permalink

MapQuestster

Tim O'Reilly posted a question to the Geowanking list, and after a lot of responses I posted the following. I'm frustrated with endless social networking schemes, endless people going "ooh, we could annotate space!", lots of waffle about how difficult it is to do collaborative mapping and just wish all everyone would get together and do something useful. If such a thing is possible. Rambling follows...

Tim O'Reily wrote:
> If we were to envision a next generation, collaboratively-enhanced
> version of MapQuest, or Maps.yahoo.com, or mapinfo, how might we
> do it? What features would lead people to naturally annotate maps?

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In Misc on 27 January 2004. Permalink

Whither Ikeaphobia?

I've seen a couple of places applauding 'Ikeaphobia and its discontents' by Adam Greenfield in which he describes anti-Ikea and anti-Starbucks rants as "nonsensensical prejudices". While I agree with a few of his points, and dislike the ranters' attitudes that such companies are simply evil, I feel like standing up a little for the ranters, or at least providing an alternate slant on their rants.

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In Misc on 30 January 2004. 5 comments. Permalink