Interesting and inspiring this week

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Above, the beautiful video for the equally beautiful song by Low, Make it Stop. One of my favourite songs of the year so far, and one that (beware: unusual honesty ahead) I listened to a lot at the beginning of the year when I was going through a bit of a rough patch. Don’t know why I told you that, but there you go.

And talking of tough times (I’m a regular barrel of laughs this week aren’t I?) Riding motorcycles into storms, and other inefficient therapies is a terrific blog pot by Joel Johnson about the difference between running away from things and running into your future, no matter how terrifying that might be.

In this article for the NY Times David Carr writes an obituary for the ‘media bundle’. I know that sound a bit dull but trust me, it’s not. It’s about how digital audiences are destroying traditional, inefficient business models and what that means for the future of media content.

This i09 post is about fans of The Hunger Games discovering info about the next film by looking at the sets via Google Earth. I’m not a Hunger Games fan (hard to believe, I know), but put that next to the fact that in the past week various fans of Daft Punk have been creating ‘false’ versions of their new single by editing together snippets from around the Web, and there is definitely something interesting there about fanaticism, technology and hype… I’m just not entirely sure what it is yet.

Finally this week: Takashi Murakami is a mad genius, and his new film looks equally bonkers.

Interesting and inspiring this week

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A friend recommended the documentary Marwencol to me a few months ago (I tend to ask most people what their favourite documentaries are to see what kind of person they are and to get some good recommendations). So for a few weeks I just had the word ‘Marwencol’ written down somewhere and no idea what it referred to. And then I remembered, found it, watched it and fell in love. I’m not going to say much about it because I don’t want to spoil it (I’d even say maybe don’t watch the trailer), suffice to say it’s touching, funny and fascinating in equal measure.

Another documentary that I’m dying to see, but which isn’t out yet is the Ricky Jay documentary Deceptive Practice. I remember seeing Ricky Jay (alongside people like David Berglas and James RAndi) for the first time on a late night Channel 4 programme The Secret Cabaret when I was a kid and he made a massive impression on me then, and still does. Watch the trailer to find out why.

Every now and again FACT magazine upload old articles from their ink and paper day to their website. The latest is their Essential Arthur Russell feature. Really good stuff.

Just so you know, The Walking Dead and Toy Story are essentially the same story.

Books read in March

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Reading / Uncategorized

A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins

I think I was expecting too much from this book. I’d heard names like Palahniuk, Updike, and Hornby thrown about in relation to its author, and heard good things about the tone and the aims of the novel. And while I enjoyed the book, it’s not one that will stick with me and I wouldn’t necessarily go out and recommend it to everyone I know.

It should have struck a chord with me – it’s about thirty-something guy, working in tech (sort of), it’s about fathers and sons (a theme which I tend to gravitate towards), and it’s about proper grown up relationship stuff. It just felt a little diluted and a little arch and a little overlong for me to fall in love with it.

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story by D. T. Max

I am not that much of a David Foster Wallace fan. I appreciate his genius, and his style, and (now) his story, but his way of presenting fiction never connected with me as much as it did others (I actually preferred his non-fiction stuff).

This a good autobiography though. It rips along with a real sense of Wallace’s personality in every paragraph, and you always feel that Max has a good grasp of what happened and he’s spoken to the right people. It is flawed though, and I think its main flaw is that it concentrates almost entirely on Wallace’s work to the detriment of the rest of his life. Especially his relationships. When an autobiography chucks away a comment about the author attempting to push his ex-girlfriend out of a moving car as if he were tossing out a cigarette, then there’s something seriously wrong with its priorities I think.

Reality Hunger: A Manifesto by David Shields

I read this because I fell into a bit of a Wikipedia-hole after reading around Wallace and literary theory. It’s an incredible treatise on what modern fiction should and could be, and the way it’s written is just mesmerising and truly unique. It got me all fired up and I think I highlighted more passages in it than I have any other book I’ve read. Recommended.

The Private Eye by Marcos Martin and writer Brian K. Vaughan

I’m cheating a little bit here, because this isn’t even a full graphic novel, never mind a book, but I really really enjoyed this first issue of artist Marcos Martin and writer Brian K. Vaughan’s experiment to deliver this DRM-free story directly to readers and let them pay whatever they want for it.

It’s about a near future where every dirty little secret held online has spilled into the real world and, as a result, privacy is considered a sacred right and everyone has a secret identity. Go download it now. We need more brave little experiments like this.

Being interviewed about community management and transmedia

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Work

A few weeks Jonathan Kahn of Lucid Plot and Confab London, London Content Strategy Meetup, Dare conference and countless other interesting things, interviewed me for his podcast.

Over the course of about 40 minutes I say things like:

“Can you not just show the social media lovely unicorn dreams section.”

and…

“It was next to my face. That doesn’t mean I wrote it.”

But I also say some stuff that you might find interesting and useful.

You can listen to it here.

Inspiring and interesting this week

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Lots of music stuff to get to this week. But before we get into that, you have to watch the video embedded above. It’s one of the most moving things I’ve seen for a long time.

Are you back? Have you wiped the tears off your cheeks and taken a deep breath? Okay then…

I found that video via Mat Osman who also happens to be the bass player for Suede… who have a new album out. Bloodsports (Spotify link) is out now and is well worth a listen. I was dancing round my kitchen to it just this morning.

At another end of the musical spectrum we have Justin Timberlake and his new single Suit and Tie. And, of course, there’s a Four Tet remix of it, why wouldn’t there be?

Via the still brilliant Boing Boing comes this video, described simply as “College student asks if he can play piano for Billy Joel and Joel says OK. The results are fabulous!”

One of my favourite music blogs right now is Last Gas Station, and their weekly Off the Road show never fails to lift my Monday. The latest show is embedded below, you can get more here.

And finally something non-music-related. A fantastic blog post about true customer service: Why I cycled a hundred miles to meet my first customer.

Books read in February

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Reading

I only got through three books in February… and one of those was a comic. Also, I haven’t finished Will Self’s Umbrella, which I started in January. It’s been a rough-ish month with a lot going on, and the thought of immersing myself in a postmodern tale of locked-in syndrome while on a slow train from south east London at 7:30 in the morning somehow lost its appeal. I’ll pick it up again soon though.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Not the most fun book I’ve read so far this year (that title is still held by Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour book store), but definitely a close second. I heard so many good things about this book last year, and even bought it as a present for people that I thought would enjoy it, I just didn’t get round to buying it myself. I wish I’d read it sooner, it’s a great concept, well-written and begging to be turned into a movie. I’m just sad I didn’t read it into time to enter the Delorean competition.

Seven Deadly Sins – My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong by David Walsh

I’ve become a cycling fan in the past five years or so, which means my family and friends have a much easier time when it comes to buying me Christmas presents these days (I didn’t really have a favourite sport up until my early 30s). I was really looking forward to this account of the Times’ journalists obsessive attempts to expose and outwit Lance Armstrong, but unfortunately the book is a bit of a letdown. Looking at the Amazon reviews it seems that Walsh has used a lot of the material he has already used in his previous two books on the subjects (neither of which I’ve read) and there’s a definite sense that 7 Deadly Sins has been compiled quickly to take advantage of Armstrong’s recent confessions, and that the editing has suffered as a result.

The timelines in the book jump around a lot. There are numerous repetitions throughout, sometimes word for word. Walsh also repeats himself stylistically, using the same structure and phrases more than once. Even the layout of the book suffers. Towards the end of the book there’s a timeline (there obviously wasn’t enough time to pull the facts and quotes together into, you know… real paragraphs that make sense) that’s supplemented by pullquotes so the text is squeezed around the page, making it look ugly and tricky to follow.

It’s a shame, and maybe future editions will correct the mistakes to make this a less frustrating experience.

Batman: Death of the Family by Snott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Scott Snyder is turning into one of my favourite comic writers, and his work on the latest Batman series has done nothing to make me feel any less enamoured. In Death of the Family Snyder takes on the ultimate Batman vilian, The Joker and manages it with aplomb, bringing the requisite discomfort, creepiness and ink black humour to the character along with a new sense of postmodern self-awareness that lifts the plot above the usual “I’ll get you this time” hoakeyness. And the art is great too.

It’s so good I’m, going to go back and reread it very soon (I have a tendency to read comics too quickly so I try and make the effort with the good ones).

Inspiring and interesting this week

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I watched Room 237 this week and I was blown away by it (I also watched Oscar-winning Searching for Sugarman in the past few days but I’d say Room 237 would be the one I’d have voted for). It’s a documentary that “explores numerous theories about Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ and its hidden meanings,” and it’s fascinating to me because I don’t think I’ve ever seen an exhaustive, objective examination of this kind of pop culture deconstruction and obsession. And what makes it particularly interesting is the way that technology has enabled that obsessive deconstruction. We are the hi-res, frame-by-frame generation and that high definition leads to a whole new set of interpretations. Also: Stanley Kubrick helped fake the moon landings!

Achewood is (hopefully) getting animated! This is very exciting if you’ve been following the adventures of Ray, Philippe, Cornelius etc for a the past few years. And if you haven’t then you should go straight to Achewood and catch up right now. One question: why didn’t Chris Onstad didn’t Kickstart the series? Surely there’s enough of us out there to make this happen.

Fashion diversion ahead! I was made aware of Mamnick this week, a shirtmakers based in Sheffield (close to where I was brought up). A note to all brands: this is how you communicate with your audience. With pictures of your grandad. No, I’m serious. (Their shirts are nice too).

There’s a blog that’s all about literary and poetry publishing in London. I like this a lot.

Now something heart-wrenching to finish on. Someone has made a film about Edwyn Collin’s physical and creative recovery following a devastating strike in 2005. It’s called In Your Voice, In Your Heart and you can find out more and watch a short trailer here.

Inspiring and interesting this week

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I’ve always been a fan of Canongate. Back in the early-interweb days (when all this was just fields) I published a literary ‘zine (for two whole issues) and my first interview was Jamie Byng. I still think there’s a lot to learn from what he and his company are doing, and this interactive, multiplatform novel is a good example of that.

Staying on the same theme, there’s a good article over on Wired subtitled storytelling embarks on an interactive adventure that attempts to take stock of the various ways in which the industry is attempting to drag itself into the near future.

Over on the Web, Nick Denton’s Gawker empire is still experimenting, this time by allowing its readers to not just comment on stories, but to create personal micro sites and discussion areas independent of the site’s editorial staff. More on how it works here.

One of the best articles I’ve read in a long time: The Shooter (a cosy chat with the man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden). And another really good article I read this week: Cinema Tarantino, the making of Pulp Fiction.

Finally, as I’m in the midst of my Earwormery project, this article scared me a little bit.

Inspiring and interesting this week

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A little cheesy, undoubtedly, but also beautifully realised and undeniably uplifting, When I Grow Up is two minutes very well spent.

The Pulp-O-Mizer from Thrilling Tales is a thing of beauty that I could play with for hours.

This past week, Netflix released all 13 episodes of its drama House of Cards. According to top producer Peter Kosminsky the industry should be shitting itself, and I am inclined to agree with him.

Another organisation sublty subverting an industry is… Oreo cookies. No, really. Look what they did with their Superbowl twitter ad.

Music -wise this week, how better to spend two hours than in the company of Four Tet and his vinyl collection?

Inspiring and interesting this week

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Games: you don’t play any for months, and then two brilliant ones come along at once.

Actually, they don’t come along at once, you just get round to playing them at roughly the same time. The Walking Dead game has been around for quite a while now, gaining plaudits from everyone, and recommended to me personally countless time. I just find it tricky to sit down and give video games the time they deserve. I’m glad I did with this one though, it’s fantastic, with just the right ratio of chatty-decision-making-trust-building to brutally-smashing-skulls-of-loved-ones that makes the comic and TV series so great.

Different game entirely, but no less time-sucking: Stratego is out for the iPad. It will set you back about a fiver in the UK, but if your childhood was spent trading miners, spies, colonels and bombs then it’s definitely worth it. They’ve got it mostly right and I can only imagine it will get better as they fine tune it. Here’s a couple of reviews if you need a second opinion.

My beloved Fringe ended last week. I was so gutted that I wrote an article about how good it was. If you want to read something else in praise of the Fringe and how to get TV endings right, then this post by Lloyd Shepherd sums things up really nicely. I particularly like his description of the series as being “as satisfying as the last bite of a very good sandwich which wasn’t particularly healthy but you really, really enjoyed.”

These illustrated posters for this years BAFTAs are just beautiful. The one at the top of the post is for Zero Dark Thirty (found via Sizemore).

A rather brave but brilliant litle experiment by author Brandon (Wheel of Time) Sanderson to record himself writing a chapter of his new book.

And, finally this weeek, here’s the list of 102 spectacular non-fiction articles of last year.