Sunday, December 31, 2023

About Scottish football

For no particular reason other than that tonight is a time to pretend to be Scottish, a selection of the names of lower league football teams. Poetry of sorts, ya wee radges. Have a bearable one. 

Strathspey Thistle

Civil Service Strollers 

Gala Fairydean Rovers 

Carnoustie Panmure 

Dundee Violet 

Lochee Harp 

Golspie Sutherland 

Banchory St Ternan 

Montrose Roselea 

Nairn St Ninian 

Stoneywood Parkvale 

Crossgates Primrose 

Dundonald Bluebell 

Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts 

Auchinleck Talbot 

Kirkintilloch Rob Roy

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

About adaptation

By Si├ón Ejwunmi-Le Berre, whose TV adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy starts tonight, and will probably annoy a) people who’ve read it and have a particular idea in their heads of how it should be be, which is fair enough, and b) people who haven’t read it but aargh, there’s a black man in it.

I’ve come to think of adaptation as a conversation between two writers, colliding at a specific moment in time like strangers at a dinner party... But the scriptwriter shouldn’t dive too deeply into the author’s opinions and beliefs – it’s a party after all, not an interrogation. Adaptation is not some kind of biography. How rude would that be? Like Googling your fellow guests under the dinner table... As an adaptor, there’s no need to become an expert in the writer behind The Book. I take them at their word, in the moment of writing, as expressed on the page alone. Their past, their future, are none of my concern.

PS: Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good. 

Saturday, December 23, 2023

About Christmas books

When I was in primary school, the first Friday afternoon after the Christmas holidays was a toy day, in which each of us was permitted to bring one thing we’d received from Santa and enjoy it with our friends and/or enemies. (It was a couple of years before I realised that the kids who regularly went down with diplomatic illnesses on these days were also the kids with holes in their shoes; I suspect these festivals of conspicuous consumption wouldn’t be permitted now.)

I wasn’t one of the deprived kids although I was at a slight disadvantage in that most of the things I wanted, and got, at Christmas were books. So while everyone else was mucking around with Buckaroo or Sindy or that wind-up Evel Knievel thing, I just sat and pored over some new tome about dinosaurs or pirates or cowboys or flags or clowns or Greek myths, or maybe the latest Raymond Briggs, or something Doctor Who-related. It wasn’t clear how I could adapt this to a shared activity, unless someone else was prepared to have me read to them. There was no hostility from my classmates as far as I recall; I just did my thing.

Fast-forward. Christmas as an event means even less to me now than it did when I was eight, and if I want a book I’ll usually buy it myself (although whether I read it is another matter; I’m the poster boy for tsundoku) but it still gives an unexpected pleasure to give or receive a book, the transaction being based around that very special feeling (do the Japanese have a word for it?), not of “I needed to buy you something because it’s December” but rather “I saw this and thought of you”. Which, as we ease into an ever more digital future of downloads on demand, gets rather lost. An unfortunate victim of progress or a conscious decision by those who stand to profit from a pervasive intellectual dullness and absence of curiosity? As one user of BlueSky (where we are unless or until Twitter lances its own boils) puts it:

(Pic by Tom Gauld)

Friday, December 15, 2023

About reading

A study at the University of Valencia has cheered up grumpy Luddites everywhere by concluding that reading printed texts improves comprehension more than reading digital matter does. But they’re not entirely sure why. One theory is that the “linguistic quality of digital texts tends to be lower than that traditionally found in printed texts.” In other words, to mangle McLuhan, it may be about the message rather than the medium; if I print out this blog post, it doesn’t miraculously get better. Or, as techies have asserted since the days of Babbage, garbage in, garbage out.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

About bloody cheek

I found this plea for financial assistance on a website that includes the full text of my book about Radiohead. I wonder how much they’re planning to pay me.

PS: Received an email from one Miles Wihrt (don’t know if he has any connection with Internet Archive), who asked:
Are you actually hurt about internet archive, or just blogging to blog?
To which I responded:
Hi Miles, 
Not hurt, just pointing out what I see as a paradox.
In 2007, I wrote a book. Back then, if people wanted to read it, they bought a copy and, in theory, some of the money made its way back to me. 
Now, I understand how notions of copyright and ownership have been upended since then, and I get that some people feel entitled to read and watch and hear content for free, so they have no qualms about going to Internet Archive and downloading it. Obviously, none of the money makes its way back to me. What does niggle just a little is that, presumably, some other people do feel some kind of obligation to pay money for this privilege; they just won't pay that money to the people who wrote or published the book in the first place.
And in answer to your question, yes, I do blog to blog. But my baby just loves to dance.

Monday, December 11, 2023

About stupidity

Searching for something else that I’ve now forgotten, I found something I wrote in 2007, responding to a very reasonable and polite suggestion that in this blog I was being a bit harsh to people who don’t read much and don’t know a lot about politics and philosophy and the like. And I’d probably tweak the phrasing today, but the sentiment still holds up after – bloody hell – getting on for 17 years:

Yes, it may be tiresome, even impolite to point out that some people are dim, but if we don't do it, we'll eventually lose the ability to discriminate between what is stupid and what isn't. And that matters.

I guess it’s the distinction between the “what” and the “who” that matters here. But maintain that we do need to call out the “what”, even if some of the “who” get caught up in the fracas.

PS: On similar-ish lines, someone put this up on BlueSky, to which I’ve slunk off because Elon Musk’s a colossal arse. From Neil Postman’s Technopoly:
...every teacher must be a history teacher. To teach, for example, what we know about biology today without also teaching what we once knew, or thought we knew, is to reduce knowledge to a mere consumer product. It is to deprive students of the sense of the meaning of what we know, and of how we know.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

About Wrapped

The years when your musical tastes truly mattered to your identity are long gone, we are constantly told. The younglings no longer define as metalheads or b-boys or goths or disco queens or indie shambles; they just leave themselves at the mercies of the blessed algorithm and let the music play, a title that only comes to mind because I heard Radcliffe and Maconie play it yesterday on their 6Music show, which shows how old I am, doesn’t it?

And yet... and yet. The continued success of Spotify’s annual Wrapped, which gives users a handy summary of their listening habits over the past year and – this is the important bit – encourages them to share it with everyone else, suggests that people think the things they listen to do actually matter, do actually express something about the listener, even if they happen accidentally. To this extent: