Failed on the first banana I tried.
Wow and Flutter — Stereolab
I’ve recently been digging this old Stereolab song. By chance, this Peel session was recorded 25 years ago today.
Lambie-Nairn’s idents returned in 2014. But they were originally developed in 1991. At the time, they were credited with transforming wider perceptions of the channel. It had been seen as dull and worthy, but became arty and exciting.
27 years is a hell of a long time for these idents to last, especially considering the subsequent shift to widescreen, then HD broadcasting. They have pretty much stood the test of time.
Later idents in the set became more complex and less focused. But I am especially fond of the very original idents from 1991, which were particularly pure and striking. The use of the Gill Sans 2, coloured with viridian, and backed with ethereal music, is such a simple idea, yet it was employed with remarkable versatility.
On the associations between playing cricket and playing music.
I’ve had the odd gig where I’ve been able to slow down my breathing and my heart-rate. I remember playing this show where I could divide the bar up, a four-beat bar into 32 or 64s, and play anywhere on that beat. It was the most intoxicating feeling. A batsman must have it. The great batsmen, they have all the time in the world. They’re able to stretch time with their breathing. All the chaos that might be in your own life is alleviated, it’s about being in the moment, being in the flow.
Alex and I took our friends Louise and Jamie to a bread making workshop as part of a wedding present.
Thank you to Colin at Bread in Fife, who led the class and was great fun to work with. Formerly based in Freuchie in Fife, he has since moved to Edinburgh — but remains called Bread in Fife.
We had fantastic fun making bread that we baked in a Dutch oven. We each had our own recipe to follow. I made a wholemeal loaf, Alex made a walnut boule, Louise made a white cob, and Jamie made a harvest loaf.
While waiting for the dough to prove, we made digestive biscuits. We also made a Russian bridie-like pie called a pirozhki, which contained an onion and egg filling.
Lunch for this week is sorted!
Brian Taylor reflects on Dundee’s resurgence.
But mostly this renaissance is driven by the collective will of the people.
It is marvellous to behold.
Together, they have decided to stop apologising for their city. They have decided to revisit her ancient history and, hopefully, pursue her proud future.
See also: The city with grand designs
A fantastic piece on the history of Dundee’s creative renaissance, which has been decades in the making.
Congratulations and good luck to everyone involved in the V&A Dundee, which opens this weekend. I will be visiting later this month.
In a sense, it’s no surprise to see women as front-runners to replace Chris Evans as BBC Radio 2 breakfast show presenter. It is a scandal that, until recently, no women had a regular slot during the day on Radio 2 since the 1990s.
Radio 2 always explained that the male presenters were hugely popular. And I can think of several people who would likely switch off the Radio 2 breakfast show if Sara Cox were to get the gig. But as Miranda Sawyer notes:
[Sara] Cox and [Zoë] Ball are considered the women most likely to break Radio 2’s all-male daytime club because many men still think of them as “one of the lads”.
I am a relatively reluctant listener to the Radio 2 breakfast show. I’m not averse to Sara Cox per se.
But regardless of who takes over, Alex and I have already decided we will listen instead to Lauren Laverne when she takes the helm of the BBC Radio 6 Music breakfast show in January. I have avoided its current host Shaun Keaveny because… I find it too blokey.
Light The Way — Africa Hitech
Always interesting to see an interview with Brian Eno. Here he talks to author David Mitchell. I was particularly interested on the section about why people like music.
And that is truly a mysterious question, which many learned books have utterly failed to answer. Why do I like one composer’s string quartet rather than another’s, when to a martian visitor they’d seem indistinguishable? What are the differences we’re hearing? What intrinsic wiring exists for having feelings about music?—and by intrinsic wiring I mean the kind of wiring that leads us to prefer symmetrical faces to asymmetrical ones, or to be frightened of spiders. I used to think that, given enough goodwill, anybody would be able to “get” any music, no matter how distant the culture from which it came. And then I heard Chinese opera.
I have never read what I would think of as a self-help book. I’m sceptical of them. But at the same time I am interested in self-improvement. Or at least, keeping check on yourself and learning generally, which I guess is a form of self-help.
In this article, Austin Kleon points out that:
…the problem with self-help today is that it has returned to the very quick-fix pseudoscientific snake-oil cures that [the first self-help book, written by Samuel] Smiles (what a perfect name) was reacting to…
I would argue that this isn’t necessarily just a problem for the self-help genre either. I am inherently wary of anything that claims to provide a one-size-fits-all silver bullet solution. Because it’s bound to be more complicated than that.
One of the worst things that self-help can do is convince you that you as an individual are to blame for all of your problems, and that if you’re struggling it’s just because you aren’t making the right moves.
Worst of all, some self-help books imply that if the book fails to help you, it’s not the book’s fault, it’s yours.
It’s a radical idea — interviewing extremists without pandering to their extremist ideas. It turns out that by asking them about their policy positions instead of just letting them bang on about their racist ideas, you can quickly show them up.
German television viewers found out Sunday night when the broadcaster ZDF ran a major interview with Alexander Gauland, a co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which capitalized on anti-refugee sentiment to earn its first-ever seats in the German Parliament last fall. Ahead of the interview, ZDF’s Twitter feed teased the interview as dealing with “climate change, retirement, digitalization—and without refugees.”
The resulting 19-minute interview, in which Gauland struggles to answer basic questions about his party’s positions on such issues, has been lauded by opponents of the AfD as masterful.
We have all heard the idea that there are only a handful of different stories. Now we can feed stories into computers to see the six different story arcs that exist — the extrapolation of an idea first expressed by Kurt Vonnegut.
This may not seem like anything special, Vonnegut says—his actual words are, “it certainly looks like trash”—until he notices another well known story that shares this shape. “Those steps at the beginning look like the creation myth of virtually every society on earth. And then I saw that the stroke of midnight looked exactly like the unique creation myth in the Old Testament.” Cinderella’s curfew was, if you look at it on Vonnegut’s chart, a mirror-image downfall to Adam and Eve’s ejection from the Garden of Eden. “And then I saw the rise to bliss at the end was identical with the expectation of redemption as expressed in primitive Christianity. The tales were identical.”
An analysis of content about design — why people write it, how they look for it, and why it needs to be better.
Last year, we published and shared 4,302 articles and links with the community …
That’s a lot of links.
Most of them 5-minute Medium articles.
Not as thorough as we would like them to be.
Not deep at all.
Not as honest as our industry deserves.
This makes me wonder if my own approach — blogging daily with a link to and short remark about a 5 minute read — is wrong.
We definitely need to find more ways to write and think more deeply about design, and spend less time with superficial, self-promotional clickbait.
See also: Platforms, agile, trust, teams and werewolves — on why we need to see more stories about failure.
Dinner at the Atomium.
A good interview with Autechre in which they reveal a little more about their techniques. It explains a fair bit about why their sound is so unique, and why other people can’t (or shouldn’t) emulate it.
It gets a bit hazy in terms of what’s a musical idea and what’s a piece of technology. If you make a sequencer that only makes one type of sequence, and you’ve used it twice, then I guess you’ve used the same musical idea twice…
Our system is great for making Autechre tracks, but I’m not sure if everybody else wants to do that. And if they do, I’m not sure I want them to.
Epic drive-through beer shop near Spa!
It’s called Drive-In Andrien, and it’s one of the most surreal places I’ve been to. You drive in through a garage door, and you’re basically in the Costco of Belgian beer. Many beers were purchased, and our wallets are not that much lighter…
One for the geeks. Formula 1 have released a fascinating video of the moment Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the German Grand Prix, including talkback from the FOM production team responsible for the main TV world feed.
This is a brilliant insight into the amount of work and split-second decision making that goes behind telling the story of a complex race while dramatic events are unfolding live. I generally admire the high quality standard of the FOM world feed. But this video shows that there is a even more going on behind the scenes than I imagined.
It is particularly interesting to see how aware the team are of relatively minor incidents like Carlos Sainz changing to intermediate tyres, but they opt not to reflect this on the broadcast for fear of distracting from the bigger picture: “This is the story.”
Google Maps made a small tweak to its interface so that the fully zoomed-out view displayed as a globe, rather than the Mercator projection it use before.
Peter Gasston noticed that the angle many news publications found was to cover the reaction from flat Earthers.
This gave ad-funded publishers their opportunity to get some attention money: a simple product update isn’t a story, but a manufactured controversy is…
The result is that a manufactured controversy about a minor product update has given false equivalency to the fringe views of a small band of crackpots so everyone can get a few pennies in advertising revenue. This is the attention economy in action, and it’s rotten.
Remember that repeating a lie — even while you make clear that it’s a lie — makes people more likely to believe it’s true.
This is how the media works these days. And it explains a lot about what’s going on in the world right now.
We first consume and then think if we really needed it… Have we not seen people who are constantly busy on their phones consuming stuff without moving a needle for anyone? We need to jump off the consumption treadmill.
The goal, then, is to consume mindfully…
This is part of the reason why I have committed to writing about a link each day. It gives me direction and focus for what I consume, and I find myself wasting less time on pointless content. (Goodbye Instagram, I miss you far less than I expected.)
As a result, I’m learning more, thinking more, and feeling sharper.
It’s no wonder newspaper websites are in trouble. Their latest scheme is to “lock” content by turning it into squiggles unless you watch at least 6 seconds of an advert. Needless to say, this is a horrible experience, and only makes it all the more likely that I’ll turn away from certain websites.
I’m afraid to say that I know I’m going to have a dreadful time any time I try to read anything on the Scotsman or any other Johnston Press website. Every time, I am bombarded with a cacophony of offensive adverts, which grind my computer to a halt. And when they deign to show me the content I came for, more often than not it’s badly written, and clearly a rush-job by a stressed-out writer being made to churn out any old crap in the name of volume.
Why would I bother following a link to the Scotsman website again?
The Today programme has lost 800,000 listeners in the past year. That’s about a tenth of its audience, gone.
I listen to the Today programme, but I want to stop. It is unmistakably weak at the moment. Sometimes it’s for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on. It just sounds uncomfortable and clumsy at the moment. Many recent features have felt contrived and uninteresting, almost like dad dancing. Certain presenters need to be put out to pasture (and Sarah Montague wasn’t one of them).
Then of course there are the manufactured polarised debates. These have always been a staple of the Today programme, and even the publicity shot in this Radio Times piece depicts the presenters having a debate at the breakfast table, complete with finger-pointing, as if that’s a selling point. In today’s highly charged political atmosphere, it is frankly the last thing we need more of.
All this means that I have found myself switching off the radio in disgust quite a lot recently.
I haven’t yet switched off completely — but only because I can’t think of what an alternative morning listen might be. Any suggestions?
This looks like a great initiative being driven by some journalists in the BBC.
It was in a conversation following the Grenfell Tower disaster, instigated by our former Director of News, James Harding, which brought about the In Plain Sight project.
In Plain Sight set out to get to those stories and tell them in a way that resonates with younger and more diverse audiences.
To do that, we’re not creating a new programme, platform or launching another BBC brand. We’re simply making sure sure that younger, more diverse members of staff are given a platform to pitch stories and then are producing and reporting those stories themselves across existing BBC outlets.
We have been running manager-free sessions, where we invite along staff from across the BBC to come and pitch ideas.
Soulwax at SWG3 in Glasgow, 15 July 2018.
Results from a study of users of Pandora has quantified the effect of shoving adverts in users’ faces. As part of the experiment, a section of users were served fewer ads than normal, and another section were served more ads than normal.
…after 1.5 years of being exposed to the experimental conditions, people did use the service more, the fewer ads they were served. At the end of the experiment:
- The low-ad group listened for 1.7% more hours weekly than the control group.
- The high-ad group listened for 2.8% fewer hours weekly than the control group.
The company’s annual report, which covers the 12 months to April 2018, shows the Guardian website attracted an average of 155m monthly unique browsers, up from 140m the year before, with an increased focus on retaining regular readers rather than chasing traffic by going viral on social networks.
Digital revenues — which include reader contributions and online advertising income — grew 15% to £108.6m, as income from the print newspaper and events business fell by 10% to £107.5m.
Could it be that — shock horror — focusing on quality rather than vapid clickbait is the sustainable business model journalism was looking for all along?
BBC News discovers how the 100th edition of Now That’s What I Call Music was compiled. Amazingly, the whole process seems to involve just three people, and takes only a day.
Like many people, Now That’s What I Call Music was a key gateway into music for me when I was young. I bought two of them.
The first was Now 30, which was released in April 1995. I don’t really remember why I bought it. I probably liked a handful of the songs, and I figured out that this was cheaper than buying all the singles.
Interestingly, it contains at least two tracks that I didn’t fully appreciate until I was much older — Protection by Massive Attack and Glory Box by Portishead. That they are hammocked between Eternal and Oasis speaks to the eclectic nature — and variable quality — of a Now album.
I had Now 30 on cassette, so I never digitised it. As such, the tracklist is less familiar to me than the other Now I bought.
That was Now 32, which came out in time for Christmas 1995, when I got a CD player. There are some seriously strong tracks on that album — but perhaps that’s my rose-tinted glasses.
The Independent provides a peek behind the curtain of football match reporting with a tight deadline. Here are two unused match reports written for completely different outcomes of the England v Colombia match.
It’s interesting how both examples almost completely fizzle out after what is deemed to be the pivotal moment of the match is dealt with:
…a scoreline they saw out comfortably over the rest of the second half.
That was the moment that England lost this game and were knocked out of the World Cup…
Adriaan Pels ran the popular Radiohead fan site At Ease for 20 years. The costs of running the website got out of control before his web host unexpectedly pulled the plug last year.
I used to be a very active participant on the At Ease forums, but that probably ended when I became a more active blogger / studies took over / I got a proper job / whatever. I stopped reading the website at some point as well. I still looked in occasionally, but I could tell that Adriaan didn’t seem to have as much time as he needed to look after it properly.
I didn’t even realise that At Ease had disappeared off the internet. It’s so long since I’ve tried to visit.
But it was good to see this update from Adriaan, although I’m sorry he’s lost the whole website.
Don’t look down.
At the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead.
Nick Barlow reflects on the meaning of “football’s coming home”, and the differences between the original version of the song Three Lions and the 1998 version. I enjoyed reading this because I had found myself getting annoyed about the way people were saying “football’s coming home”, completely forgetting that there was a second version with a different meaning.
When Three Lions came out the first time, I was already a fan of the Lightning Seeds, and I think I had been a viewer of Fantasy Football League. I thought Three Lions was a good song. Which it obviously is, because everyone is still singing it 22 years on. So despite being Scottish, I was determined to buy a copy of the single — to my dad’s great disappointment.
I barely remember the 1998 version. As Nick reflects, it seems to be inherently different, and more dislikeable.
Putting with pals in North Berwick yesterday evening
Phylactery — John Callaghan
This wonderful reinterpretation of Tilapia by Autechre appeared on Warp20, a box set celebrating the 20th anniversary of Warp Records. (Rather scarily, that occasion was itself almost 10 years ago.)
There were two CDs of Warp artists covering classic Warp tracks, and a lot of them are really good. But John Callaghan’s effort towers above everything else on it.
It probably takes a lot of guts to attempt to cover Autechre, never mind a track as strong as Tilapia. But Phylactery boldly reinvents it, and possibly ends up being even better than the original (although as John Callaghan says in the comments to this YouTube video, both have their place, for different reasons).
In case you’re not aware of the original, here you go: