Monthly Archives: August 2009

It’s For Research, Honest

This article from Vanity Fair got me thinking about how we use books to accessories ourselves, and well it might, that is after all the subject of the article, so well done James Wolcott.

When the Harry Potter novels first broke through from primary school reading time to mainstream public consumption (before the transition from there to blockbuster movies to toe-breaking tomes to “is it over yet?”-style spoilery tedium in need of closure), the publishers did a clever thing and releasing a run  of the books with a very plain, “adult friendly” covers – one I remember was a black and white photo of a steam locomotive, nice and innocuous – so that Mum or Dad could read on the train without fear of silent invisible ridicule. After a while, people got more confident and just damn well read the original versions in full view, complete with cartoony action painting covers , and the hell with you if you didn’t like it. Literally, according to some people.

I remember a train journey once when I did some work in Leeds. I was at a table for four, with three strangers, all doing our own thing. As the journey wore on, one person brought out their Harry Potter book, and
started reading. With a smirk of camaraderie, another passenger brought out their copy of the same Rowling slab. They exchanged the smiles of the support network, and read. The third stranger then reached into her
bag, produced the same volume yet again, and this time the smiles were broader and someone may even have made a satisfied sound. Then they all looked at me.

I reached into my bag, and brought out my copy of American Psycho, and *to this day* I regret not having had post-it notes stuck in the good bits.

How 37-Year Olds Consume Media

By Matthew Petty (37 years and 2 months)

This has been a bit of a thing recently (read: “about 3 weeks ago”), although my delay in posting this means I’ve missed the boatwagon a bit, but never mind eh? Caveat – the fact I disagreed with the previous attempts at this tells me to state that despite my use of the word “we” throughout, I actually mean “me”. YMMV. We Are All Individualsâ„¢

We have nicked (quite) a few of the sentences from this chap – he hit the nail on the head and we see no need to change what we agree with. Yes, yes, laziness and plagiarism, piss off.

Radio
Since we grew out of the demographic that Radio 1 is aimed at approximately 13 years ago, and since we don’t want to submit ourselves to the reactionary mitherings of Wogan and so on (he’s the voice of our parents after all), Radio 4 is the way to go. We listen to the radio a lot, but generally only talk radio like Radio 4 and NPR (now that we live in the US). We have plenty of music to listen to otherwise, and there’s always Last.fm and Pandora for around the house. We let our car’s Sirius satellite radio subscription lapse when we realized we didn’t need (or want to pay for) 150 channels of highly-focused music, talk and sport that we never listened to. Even if Patriot Radio is hilarious, and even if she wanted me to keep it just so she could listen to the Grateful Dead channel on the freeway.

Television
We don’t watch that much television. Sometimes a series comes along which grabs us, but we can rarely be bothered to play catch up with everything. Others seem to like “keeping up” with DVD box sets and Tivos, but we feel that if we miss out, it’s not the end of the world. We watch several cooking and lifestyle shows if they happen to be on when we’re relaxing and in need of distraction and kid ourselves that it isn’t their aspirational qualities that attract us. We can’t use iPlayer because we live in the US, but it’s not so much of a problem.

Newspapers
We buy newspapers when we move house, to use as wrapping, but otherwise all our news is got from the radio, and from online sources. We no longer feel that print media has any inherent advantage over electronic, especially given their compromised position on advertising and the powerful political and business influences of their owners. We feel that the free sheets were a blight on the landscape, physically, intellectually and aesthetically.

Music
We’re tired of all the bullshit about labels and DRM and people being treated like criminals for wanting to listen to stuff in their own way. We advise people not to buy from iTunes, but to buy a physical object and rip it. We’ve bought music on vinyl, tape, CD and downloaded it too – and we’ve downloaded from P2P to get hold of the stuff we already own on tape and vinyl, to avoid having to pay for it again. We’ve bought a few odds and ends from DRM-ridden shops like iTunes, and we regret it. We still have the remains of our collections of vinyl, and tape compilations that friends made for us many years ago. We no longer own a dedicated CD player, but our amp and speakers are still god for piping noise from iPods and PCs. We own a last-generation smartphone and a current-generation iPod, as well as a little SanDisk gadget for clipping to the shirt.

Telecommunications
We are wary of the “walled garden with barbed wire fences, a gator moat, sentry towers and opaque immigration policy” that the iPhone represents, despite the attractive face it presents. We would like to go the open route – when the is current contract is up, we may get a G1 (but we hear stuff about that too). We remember when our town had the area code 0234, then when it changed to 01234. We remember when London’s code changed from 01, to 0171 and 0181, then to just 020 (and we can’t understand why some people still think it’s 0207 and 0208). We absorbed the changes without too much fuss, because we knew that technology and expansion and progress means change. We remember answering the phone with the number. We remember leaving messages for friends with their parents or roommates. We remember not having a phone at all in one college house, an incoming-calls-only phone in another, and a payphone in a third.

Internet
37 years olds are adept at using the internet. Many are victims or veterans of the dotcom bubble. Friends Reunited introduced us to social media and reconnected us with everyone we ever lost touch with from school. We deserted Friends Reunited when it became clear that it was just the same people we didn’t regret losing touch with in the first place. We tried each new network when it arrived. MySpace is a mess full of hipsters with the same old sleeve tats. However, it’s useful for keeping up with friend’s bands and other stuff like that. We don’t believe that there will be many more “MySpace Bands” who break through using the site for grassroots support, but won’t be surprised when the print media trumpets it when it does happen.

Facebook is for baby photos, wedding photos and party photos. People who put up baby photos seem to get most of their adult interaction via Facebook. Women who put up wedding photos look forward to the day when they can put up baby photos of their own. Married men have more married friends to hang out with. People who post party photos keep a close eye on the relationship status and are keenly aware that their profile picture makes them look better than in real life.

The above is lifted almost directly from Dan Wilson – thanks Dan – but I would add this. We are a bit exasperated that people seem to believe that Facebook is the internet. There were all the tools that Facebook provides before Facebook existed, they just weren’t all in one place for easy access. But now everyone is in there, and it’s great at first. This means that we have many friends in Facebook, which is like a big bright room with harsh lighting, salesmen watching everything you do, billboards everywhere, and people clamoring for your attention everywhere you look. We also have a smaller group of friends outside of Facebook, in various forums, blogs, and independent sites everywhere, and we wish we could take our Facebook friends by the hand and show them the “real” web.

Twitter is great. It is the most immediate form of semi-interactive communications we use at the moment.

Gaming
We have (board) game nights with friends, which started with Trivial Pursuit, but when that got a bit tedious and tense, we switched to Taboo, which is much more fun. As children we had Sinclair ZX81s and ZX Spectrums, Texas Instruments TI99/4As, Commodore VIC20s and C64s, BBC As, Bs, Electrons and Masters. The song “Hey Hey 16K” was written for us. We have MAME set up, and play many old games with hearty helpings of rose-tinted hindsight – Defender, Robotron, Smash TV, Strike Force, Galaxian, Galaga, Asteroids, Bombjack – many of them for about 30 seconds before realizing how unreliable a reviewer nostalgia can be.
Modern games are great, but we don’t have a powerful enough PC to do them much justice, and we can’t justify a full-on console. We may get a Wii, which we will invite our friends round to play.

Mathew Robson
We have no idea why a lad who should be w*nking, drinking Merrydown cider in a graveyard and listening to Radiohead is writing plausible memos for an evil merchant bank. At his age we hated Thatcher and thought that a Labour government would make everything better – and now we are in the unpleasant situation of being an expat watching the Labour government go under, while the unutterably smug filth of the Tories wait in the wings to take their place. We did our work experience at Halliburton Geophysical (truth) and a local screw and bolt merchant. We still listen to acid house when we need the energy to do the laundry.

In a later post, perhaps I’ll address all the gaps in this, and analyse what these statements actually say about me. No TV, hardly any radio? A bit true, but not that true. Add this to the increasingly voluminous “To Be Continued” file.

A Reason, Not The Other

Post are a bit sparse here right now because I’m moving from San Diego to San Francisco, and Cassie is coming with me! My company are moving us both, the movers are coming this Thursday, and this time next week (hopefully) we will have all our stuff set up in the new apartment in Noe Valley.

I’ll write more about the search for a place, and what else I’ve been up to recently, but right now I ought to go to bed. The other problem has been that some tweaking of the proxy servers at work mean that I can’t access my website from work – a real pain because it means I can’t add posts when the mood strikes, and then when I get home there’s always something else to do. I think there may be a text file in my Dropbox which I could just stick up. Yeah, I’ll do that.