failin.gs (great name, thanks) is the worst idea on the web. Ever. In the entire history of the internet. Really. Trust me on this one. What is it? Well, it’s a service whereby your friends can anonymously leave “constructive feedback” about what’s wrong with you, in an effort to “improve your personal character”. It’s in beta at the moment, so one can only hope that it never sees the light of day, but if it does launch, be sure to set up a free account for anyone you know who suffers from paranoia and low self-esteem. Oh, and maybe buy them a bottle of whisky, some sleeping tablets and a shotgun while you’re at it.
“I worry sometimes that he wasn’t a happy recluse, but I like to think he was. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he actually felt like he said all he needed to say and then just called it a day (for four or five decades?). The strength of his convictions, in any case, serves as a model for us all.”—
Dave Eggers’ tribute to the late JD Salinger, in The Guardian.
And I couldn’t agree more. Salinger’s body is hardly cold, and yet I’ve already heard that his reclusive life was the behaviour of a “crank” or because he had mental health issues or because he couldn’t possibly face negative reviews or because he had a sneering view of the public’s appreciation or because … or because … or because. But what if he just decided, quite rationally, that he didn’t want to live as yet another cog in the world’s unrelenting machinery? What if he was quite content with his hermitic existence? And yes, what if he came to the conclusion - after a ground-breaking novel and a few other short stories - that he’d said all he wanted to say for public consumption? I truly believe that’s what lay behind Salinger’s decision on how he was going to live out the rest of his days, and I think we should be applauding him for it, rather than trying to find deep flaws in his character in order to provide some vague psychological reasoning for behaviour that wilfully refused to fall into line and comply with (literary) society’s traditional norms. Personally, I envy the man, and hope he rests in peace (even while the world he so wished to absent himself from wastes no time in picking over his bones).
Is anyone getting disturbing visions in their head as a result of reading this particular headline? No? Oh, just me then. (Reports that the parents gave their new offspring the charming name of iBaby could not be confirmed. But I hope they did.)
Garamond is officially the most ink-efficient of common typefaces, Impact the least. My favourite, Helvetica, is somewhere in the middle. Oh, and Comic Sans is fairly ink-hungry, so if you’re still using it, you not only lack any sense of good taste, but you’re also environmentally unfriendly. Or something. (Yes, you do need to know this stuff. It’s important. Wake up at the back.)
"One executive said they wanted to be seen to be exercising the restraint which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has sought from all bankers." Such self-sacrifice in these recession-hit times is too admirable for words. I’m on the verge of tears. Is there a hotline to donate money, just to make sure that millionaire bankers don’t go hungry this winter?
Eyeless in Gaza: Kodak Ghosts Run Amok (1980) - Incredibly cheap synthesizers. Check. Scratchy skeletal guitars. Check. Histrionic vocals. Check. Pretentious band name. Check. Even more pretentious song title. Check.
I remember playing this to someone in about 1999, and he pointed out that you could make - and I quote - “a really bangin’ dance tune out of that”.
As Adam Curtis says, an “extraordinary piece of film” from the BBC archives - “a live outside broadcast of a British army simulation of an attack on a train in Britain”. All too credible today, maybe. Except that this exercise took place in 1956 [via Adam Curtis]
It’s a long time since I’ve been quite so annoyed by a casual piece of journalistic commentary. Step forward, Mercedes Bunz, for you are the cause of my intense irritation on an already irritating Monday morning.
It’s a misguided enough piece of journalism in itself, but for a piece that is about her actual trade, it’s highly ironic that it’s also written with all the skill and artistry of a sledgehammer attempting to crack a nut, but missing and instead shattering a knuckle.
"One way will be to go out or pick up your phone and ask questions, find the correct information and write it up …" (No! Really? Is that what journalists do? Thanks for spelling it out for me. I would never have guessed otherwise. By the way, have you met my grandmother? She can teach you how to suck eggs.) "… another way will be to find the information and built [sic] a platform around it." (The use of the word ‘platform’ here clearly suggests that the writer has no real understanding of the term. So you’re going to build a whole web / mobile / PDA platform to deliver one piece of journalism, are you? Uh huh. Right.)
This is only one appalling section from a dreadfully-written article that comes across more like a hurriedly composed C-grade GCSE essay. Given the title, is there really any need to repeat, at the end of the short opening paragraph: “Now, if you want to become a journalist you need to be able to code”? Apparently there is. It might possibly have rammed home the point in a decisive but still forgiveable manner, if Miss Bunz then tempered her forthright statement by adding, mere moments later: “Do all journalists now have to learn how to code? Definitely not.” Then, one paragraph further on, she repeats her backtracking: “So not all journalists need to know how to code …” Er, thanks. Now I’m confused. Do they or don’t they?
You begin to wonder what on earth the point of this article actually is, and suspect that the truth might be that Mercedes Bunz learned a bit of elementary coding over the Christmas break and now wants to tell all her journalistic pals what an absolutely spiffing wheeze it all is. Either that, or she’s spotted a commercial opportunity: “Coding … is simply a way to hand out the information in the best way possible, and can sometimes lead to a multimillion-pound venture.” Oh yes, the pound signs are obviously spinning in her eyes. How I love it when people think that building a website or two is the way to make a fortune.
Scaling back her ambitions, I would hope (though I’m none too sure thanks to her confused argument, if I’m honest) that what Mercedes Bunz is suggesting is that journalists might benefit from learning some HTML. No question, that would be useful. After all, when applied to text, HTML is really little more than a form of typesetting and layout for the web. Fine. Having worked with people who, when they hand you a piece of text that needs to be placed online, include long-winded instructions about how it should be laid out, italicised, capitalised or whatever, it would certainly save a significant amount of time for it to contain some rudimentary tags.
But no, Miss Bunz mentions Python - “the key programming language used at Google”, she says, with all the authority of a statement that sounds as if it’s been copied from Google’s ‘about’ page - and so it becomes clear that she is actually talking about journos getting their hands dirty with code. The mind boggles. We’re all well aware that in today’s competitive business environment, multi-tasking is the key to success. That is, after all, how so many journalists have managed to transfer their print copy background to the new world of the web in recent years. But coding? Actual nuts and bolts, under-the-hood coding? That’s rather a leap of the imagination, not to mention the skills gap.
A wiser - not to mention safer - idea, in order to preserve both journalistic and technical accuracy, might be to leave the journalists doing the writing, and the programmers doing the coding. It won’t put people out of jobs, either. Though if Miss Bunz lost hers to a coder who fancied going in the opposite direction and dabbling, dilettante-like, in a spot of journalism, I don’t think it would be a very great loss.
"The official, easy-to-use punctuation mark to emphasize a sarcastic phrase, sentence or message. Once downloaded to your computer or cell phone, it’s a quick key-stroke or two to insert the [SarcMark] where you want, when you want, in your communications with the world." Yours for only $1.99, apparently. Please God let this be a joke. Civilisation is surely doomed if we need an emoticon to denote sarcasm.
“I like my job. Oh, I like it a lot. And I’m not depressed by it. And I don’t think the world is full of criminals and full of murderers because it isn’t. It’s full of nice people just like you. And if it wasn’t for my job I wouldn’t be getting to meet you like this. And I’ll tell you something else. Even with some of the murderers that I meet, I even like them too. Sometimes like them and even respect them. Not for what they did, certainly not for that. But for that part of them which is intelligent or funny or just nice. Because there’s niceness in everyone. A little bit anyhow. You can take a cop’s word for it.”—The always striking profundity of Lieutenant Columbo [via acceptanceworld]
For once, I think the screaming uppercase is necessary. Includes such gems as: “If you are more aware of your own dick or vagina than you are of what your breath sounds like when you are asleep, please go get a job in marketing instead” and “Don’t try to ‘write what you know.’ You don’t know anything. Me either”.