Some friends came over yesterday. The suggested we look at the moon through my telescope. It wasn’t a full moon, but it was wonderful to see some of the craters at the pole (south, I assume). I don’t have any astrophotography gear (except for a telescope and a cheap camera or two), but that didn’t stop us trying. Duncan took this photo by holding his Sony point and shoot up to the optic. The haziness doesn’t do justice to the clarity of what you can actually see, even with a modest scope like mine, but it does get across, I think, the main pleasure of having a telescope: you can see things that you otherwise couldn’t.
These guys have written a nice little children’s book, and this promo‘s a bit of fun.
Found this in a second-hand bookshop somewhere. It’s a collection of writing about writing from the early 80s, and though it’s a bit hit and miss, there are many high points.
Architect talk isn’t an orderly string of words, but a field. It’s a landscape.
Lucid writing about architecture is rare and difficult, and, writing about buildings as I do, I’ve often despaired at the press releases I’ve received from architects that talk endlessly of “fusing the interior and the exterior” and what have you, but don’t say much that actually means anything.
It’s easy for me to moan, though. As a sort of tech blogger, I’m not expected to describe the buildings themselves, just the way they use technology. I should be talking to engineers, not architects (but only Arup seem willing to talk to journalists).
Silver’s essay made me realise I’ve been too harsh. I still think a lot of architects’ copy is awful, but I can at least accept the job of describing an architectural concept is bloody difficult. The best artists avoid talking about their work for exactly this reason. Architects don’t have that luxury.
Giles has made some prompt cards to prod creative types out of mind-ruts. Good idea, I think. I might make some too.
The happy tipping point is when you notice a certain number of credible people praise a thing so that it becomes impossible not to see/read/listen to it. I reckon it’s at five or six people. They might be people you know, or journalists or critics. But any significant criticism completely wipes it out – the credible feedback you hear has to be universally positive for it to apply. And you’re not allowed to go looking for it, it has to come to you.
This is why I went to see the Lego Movie, and I’m very glad I did.
Look out for the happy tipping point (no, we don’t have to call it that. I know I won’t). I think it’s real.
I read Chris Hadfield’s book. Early on, I was worried it was going to turn into some sort of motivational/getting-things-done type affair. And it did. But it was brilliant. The bloke’s an astronaut for crying out loud.
One thing that struck me was when he points out that astronauts is one of the few careers without an inexorably upward career path. People are, er, peak astronaut when they’re in space. But when they come back down to Earth, they’re thrown back into the throng of support staff – people who do crucial and brilliant work but behind the scenes1.
This made me think of serial web entrepreneurs, especially those who have had exceptional success building a web thing, have sold it, and are trying to repeat the feat. It can be tricky to do that. It’s one thing to float a half-idea with a few mates in a garage, but the next time around it seems people start out with a staff, premises and funding on reputation alone, even if they’re building a service no one wants or needs, a game that isn’t fun, or a mildly different version of something that already exists.
I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to be a bit more astronauty about it. Or a bit more freelancy. I have this utopian ideal where everyone’s a freelancer. People work on projects, not jobs, and move around as their particular skills are needed, or their current interests suggest.
So, while you’re waiting for your next killer idea, rather than build something of dubious requirement in the meantime, why not go and help someone out with their killer idea? I think that’s what the world and the web needs: fewer ideas, done better.
1 – One of my favourite things returning astronauts do is act as proxy spouses and parents for astronauts currently in space. They support families by answering their questions, standing with them at launches and what have you. I love that.
It wasn’t till the second time I heard the promo clip of the new RoboCop film that it struck me, so last night I watched the original again to make sure.
If you haven’t seen or heard the one I mean, the clip has Gary Oldman’s bio-robo-engineery-science bod telling Michael Keaton’s corporate boss that if you put a human inside a machine, you’re going to end up with something part-human, to some extent which will presumably be determined over the course of the film.
The old writer’s mantra is show, don’t tell. You know the sort of thing: don’t tell your audience your protagonist is an alcoholic, have him pour gin on his cornflakes. But this is the opposite.
The joy of the still-excellent original is that you see for yourself that RoboCop is still Murphy. It isn’t subtle. There’s the spinning gun holstering, to the way his rear bumper kisses the tar when he over-zealously hits the exit ramp out of the police precinct, to “dead or alive, you’re coming with me”. But it’s shown to you through his actions, not sky-written in block capitals.
I haven’t seen the new RoboCop, but having followed some of the reviews, it seems this question of RoboCop’s humanity is still absolutely the point. So it’s disappointing to me for it to have to be spelled out. Or is this sort of micro-encapsulation of the nub the way you get people interested in your story now?
Side note: other than the odd haircut, it’s only the over-the-top gore that dates the original. In all other respects it’s aged terrifically, and is in no need of a remake (even if they do add in some drones). See it if you haven’t, and see it again if it’s been a while.
It’s getting on for March, and I’ve been listening to audibooks since new year. Perhaps I’ve developed a habit. The only difficulty: how to blog about them? If you read ebooks, it’s easy to take hyper-bloggable notes as you go by selecting passages of text that take your interest. That’s not so easy with audibooks, especially if you listen to them when you’re about town, which I do.
Think I’m onto something, though. I think blogging books from Kindle notes might be a thing because it’s the path of least resistance to writing about books at all – rather than, say, reviewing them. I think the audibook equivalent is tweeting about them, which, it turns out, I’ve been doing anyway. I don’t think it’s worth turning into a routine, but when a bit of a book stands out in some way, paraphrase it into a tweet. Then, when you’ve finished the book, shove those tweets into a blog post, with some words in between if needed. I might try this.
While I’m on the subject, a few notes on audibooks themselves. Because you have to pay someone to pay voice talent, production companies and the digital distribution, there’s a set of extra expenses which have to be met. So, only the most economically viable books will be recorded. This limits your options a bit, and the choices can seem a little… lightweight. That’s not a big deal to me, because I’m listening to audibooks to increase the amount of books I “read”. I still save the best stuff for my Kindle. In fact, my Kindle feels like a lovely sanctuary for a bit of escapism, and I’m no longer filling it with stuff I think I should read, but don’t really want to. So yeah, I’m pretty please with audibooks.
I’m enjoying carrying a camera around town again. I’m trying to get out of the habit of carrying a bag, so that it’s in my coat pocket where I’m more likely to reach for it. I might try relying on a phone instead of a compact. I suspect I’ll be just as happy. It’s never been about the camera for me. It’s about noticing, and seeing things. Everyone knows that by now. But you can’t get out of the habit of stopping. Or rather, into the habit of not stopping. Boo to the habit of not stopping. Booooooo.
Went to look at United Visual Artists’ Momentum installation at the Barbican – no, I don’t only go to look at art when it’s about lighting. It was good, though. At first glance, a bunch of lights swing back and forth like pendulums in an otherwise pitch black room. But sometimes they pause or rotate. Sometimes the lights are downward beams, other times rings throwing light out sideways. But there’s always noise: tones, buzzes and cracks by Mira Calix.
I was again struck by people’s hesitance to walking in the light (I’ve seen this sort of thing before), instead preferring edges of the Curve, the arc-shaped room at the Barbican hosting the exhibition. When light is the only thing in a room, it can seem almost physical.
By the way, I’ve started a scrapbooky Tumblr for lighting stuff that catches my eye. I’ve changed the name and url since I tweeted about it, too, sorry. It’s here now.