two Ballardian motifs

Books Rick Poynor considers whether what we understand to be Ballardian has as much to do with the book covers and other designs related to J.G. Ballard as his actual writing:
"Four covers published by Penguin in 1974 are among the most purely Ballardian images to be found on any of his books. David Pelham, art director of Penguin in the 1970s, designed them and created the airbrush illustrations. The Terminal Beach (first published in 1964), the strongest of the quartet in my view, unites two Ballardian motifs, the sand fused by weapons tests in the title story and the Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki, standing here for all atomic weapons. Graphic design is a form of rhetoric and one reason this image works so well is that it has been realized so perfectly. Pelham’s illustration is grounded, like Ballard’s prose, in meticulously precise observation, but he has given this scene of becalmed destructive power an intensified, hyper-real quality, most obviously in the use of color."
The most interesting point is that as Ballard became an increasingly mainstream figure (due to the popular success of film adaptations and whatnot) the level of surrealism on his book covers decreased. As ever the very interesting and original is blanded in a desperate attempt to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

Counselling sessions for BBC producers and casting directors begin as The Hobbit enters rehearsal period.

"You vicious mole of nature!"

Neatorama's new Shakespearean Insult Gum includes Hamlet:

"If thy breath stinks with eating toasted cheese and thy wit as thick as Tewkesbury mustard, then thou needest this: Shakespearean Insult Gum.

Get not one, nay, two fruit flavored gum balls inside each box, along with an eloquent Shakespearean Insult printed on the inside. Sure to offend the intellectuals and confuse the dimwitted."
There are plenty of options to chose from.

the things which interest her

Blog! I know it's unfashionable, but I still really like Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle newsletter which is considered by many, including the commenters under The Guardian article where this first appeared, to be a bit of a folly. Perhaps I'm easily pleased but I've even attempted a few of the recipes.

Part of the problem is the format. Paltrow is effectively blogging. She's writing about the things which interest her in the hopes that we'll be interested too the only difference is she writes about aspects of her life which granted isn't our life and her social circle which granted is other celebrities.

On that level it does that thing which personal blogging is very good at -- offering an insight into lives which aren't ours. I don't properly know anyone who lives in New York, but I wouldn't accuse them of being out of touch if they suggested some excellent restaurants in the area or nanny agencies.

I also like that, as often happens with bloggers who have the odd anonymous bully in their comments (and hello to the anonymous bully who seeds my comments who the rest of you don't see thanks to moderation) or again her version of it, after a slight existential crisis, she's decided to keep going.

Well done you.  Me too.

The List:
17. Walk like a ninja.

Life Tonight was another instalment of Social Media Week, this time the latest Social Media Café again held at John Moores University’s art academy. @petemc launched his new project #rezz a kind of Google Street View gathering the breadth of humanity rather than buildings, @mcknut took us through the process of creating an iPhone app, this iPhone app gathering information about the Social Media Café, @donmcallister interviewed @leolaporte about his podcast network and @wimpyking interviewed @Documentally via Skype (pictured above) all of whom are terribly creative.

The latter, Christian Payne, made a good point which confirmed something I’ve always thought – that your username, if you have a username, is your online brand – that it represents you online. My first, in the late nineties, was groovejet42 which is basically meaningless apart from the Sophie Ellis-Bexter/Douglas Adams reference. After I named this blog however (for reasons I last explained in detail here) it seemed only natural that I should adopt the same name when I signed up to Metafilter and I’ve continued using it through discussion boards and social media apparatus since. It’s my twitter name.

That was more than apparent when I got back home tonight. Because tonight I rather did the kind of thing I usually do. I finished work at 7pm on Thursday, the event began at 6(ish) so I was running later. When I reached the building and entered through the big glass doors the first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. The next was the sound of my shoes across the wooden floor. Clop, clop, clop. Given that they’re Rockstorm "Revolt" Men's Slip On Casuals, or slippers with delusions of grandeur, this was a bit surprising. Down the stairs they clopped, across the floor of the echoey basement towards the lecture theatre too. Clop, clop, clop, bloody clop.

Knowing how nervous I was when I gave my talk the other month and now not wanting to interrupt whoever it was speaking, I decided the best thing for it would be to take advantage of the main selling point of the Rockstorm "Revolt" Men's Slip On Casuals and slipped them off so that could enter silently in my stocking feet. In I came through the doors only then remembering that the only way to approach the stadium seating from this angle was to walk the length of them from the side, out in front and then up the stairs. I breathed deeply and began the journey.

@petemc was at the front with a volunteer in the midst of a demonstration. The assembled crowd were talking amongst themselves. I smiled at a couple of people then grabbed a seat half way up the stairs on the end of the isle. Pete's demonstration continued. I put my shoes back on and that was that. Until some time late in the Everyman afterwards when it became apparent, after it was explained to me, that for all my chivalrous intent, I’d still managed to draw attention to myself. Because though I hadn’t made much noise I’d entered the hall carrying my shoes this not being something that could really be missed.

Returning home I find the following tweets waiting for me (edited below for retweeted content):

@amcewen: @feelinglistless creeps into @smcliv like a ninja (so @MethodDan says anyway :-)

@Defnetmedia: No shoes on either

@clairelsutton: A NINJA WITH NO SHOES!!!

And after I offered a two hundred and eighty character long version of this blog post:

@rosiebunny: I heard about this. Quite a fuss you caused.

Well at least I can do this:

17. Walk like a ninja.

I love @feelinglistless sometimes.

yes, even Dan In Real Life

Technology In my ongoing mission to stay behind the rest of you interweb delegates for as long as I possibly can whilst still confirm my luddite credentials but before ceasing to exist, I finally have a touch screen mobile telephone, replacing my still relatively new but terribly old Samsung B130.

The Orange Vegas was released a couple of years ago to tap into the tappable market and as this rather detailed review explains, it has most of the mod cons -- camera, mp3 player, that kind of thing -- but with a much lower spec than most hipsters could countenance with a price to match.

Example:  it can barely access the web. There is no wi-fi, no 3G.  It's 2G all the way.

So when the accompanying literature suggests that it's good for social networking, what it actually means is if you can get online and if you can load the relevant mobile version of whichever website it is.

It's still faster to text my tweets, especially since the "quick" link on the Orange World front page still lists Bebo instead.

It was, as so many of these things are, an impulse buy via this offer at the Argos outlet on eBay, at just £16.99.  Which with all its features, however neutered seemed a good price to me.

Follow that link.  Look carefully at the phone.

Yes, it's pink, which amazingly, even in this metrosexual age, is apparently still a curious choice (according to family and friends) for this hetrosexual whose currently working through every available film Juliette Binoche has appeared in via Lovefilm (yes, even Dan In Real Life).

Someone last night even asked why I have "Barbie's phone".  Personally, I think it's more of a Paris Hilton (assuming she doesn't still have a Sidekick) (can you believe that happened in 2005?).

Not being a fashion intelligible person like Hadley Freeman whose always on the side of function over aesthetics (I knew it was off-pink when I bought it) I don't know how the colour of one's mobile reflects on their personality.  Does it make me seem sensitive or even a budding Dave Lizewski without the Kick-Ass costume or deathwish?

Either way, I'm content and it means I can take pictures when I'm out and about again without having to remember to carry my camera.  Which is good for this blog and you too I guess.  You wouldn't believe the things you've missed.

"He asked us to call him Jerry"

Books Blair Fuller recounts an evening with J.D. Salinger:
"Dinner was eaten from my parents’ best plates balanced on the guests’ knees. Wine glasses were filled and refilled. Book gossip was exchanged. Conversational companions changed often with the changing of dishes and drinks. For a considerable time Jill and Joe and Salinger and I were all sitting on the living room’s carpet. He asked us to call him Jerry, then asked some routine questions about what we were doing and why, but with a pleasing sympathetic intensity. He made several comments that put him on our side, the side of people starting out rather than the people settled in to lifelong careers. The conversation warmed, and we found that we could make each other laugh."
Keep reading.

within its inards

Liverpool Life This being Ignite Week or Social Media Week or whatever this collective online sharing of ideas across five or so days is called, tonight was Ignite Liverpool 5, this time held at John Moores University's shiny new Art and Design Academy, which I was excited to discover has a Tate Gallery Cafe within its inards.

As ever there was a wide variety of topics covered by a wide variety of speakers, but rather than simply regurgitating the content of their talks (which will be available to view online in due course) I thought I'd simply pull an enigmatic phrase or fact from each which I think best sums up said content.

Claire Sutton -- Swine Flu Epidemic -- "We should probably listen to mathematicians."
Siobhan Farmer -- Public Health -- Dr William Henry Duncan was born above the Blue Angel Club
Joe McNulty -- Universal Theory of Everything -- "Best not worry about these things, eh?"
Maria Barrett -- Working Class Experience of Theatre -- cultural habits are passed down
John McKerrell -- Open Source Software -- "Open source everything you do."
Christina McDermott -- Food Blogging -- "What we say matters."
John O'Shea -- Open Source Swan Pedalo -- "Now it's out in the world."
Neil McDonald -- Sci-fi pub crawl -- "Doctor on call."

With apologies if you sense that some of that only makes sense if you were there.

Afterwards we adjourned to the Everyman Bistro were, after discovering that the scones had sold out in the cafe decided on humus and bread instead.  I've never tasted humus before, not even from one of those platsic supermarket multipacks, a fact which made a few eyes around the table boggle rather and led to a moment of intense scrutiny as my reaction was read.  It was filling, tasty and I would again.  I'm now posthumus.

Shakespeare: A Pictoral Biography by F.E. Halliday

Despite having read a few biographies of Shakespeare over the past few years, for some reason I never quite tire of them because like productions of his plays, they all seem to contain at least one memorable element which separates it from the rest, be it some new discovery or stylistic decision or approach to the material. Turn to the dedication page of F. E. Halliday’s Shakespeare: a pictorial biography and we find “To: BARBARA HEPWORTH in Friendship And Admiration”. As well as a Shakespeare scholar, he was a close friend of the St Ives circle after spending a year there during the second world war, a residency he later made permanent.

So the book is perhaps as interesting now for the biography of the author as the contents. But originally published in 1956 (this is a later book club reprint) it’s still nonetheless a fascinating read, not least because it’s less interested in the writing of the actual plays (which can be a speculation frenzy in the wrong hands) and spends much of its pagination offering a detailed context of the world in which the plays were written and performed. Viewing the canon in isolation, it’s easy to forget that Shakespeare’s career began at just the moment Mary Queen of Scots lost her head and the Spanish Armada.

Halliday also lucidly explains how the form of theatre Shakespeare employed developed from the first definable comedy (Ralph Roister Doister) and first definable tragedy (Gorboduc), both originally written to be performed by the boys of Eton. He argues that the reason Shakespeare gained such notoriety was because at his peak, no one else was writing with his quality and that it wasn’t until he reached semi-retirement that other playwrights found their voice. He also explains with clarity why the Globe is the shape it is: a mix of the traditional circular auditorium used previously for religious plays and the yards at the back of inns with their balcony viewing.

What kept me reading though was the obvious enthusiasm Halliday has for his subject (which isn’t always the case with some scholars). “No other writer has ever created a comparable company of men and women, humble and exalted, grave and gay, comic and tragic, noble and ignoble” he says before filling out the rest of that paragraph with a list of names (which fails to include anyone from Measure for Measure but I’ll forgive him that). On a few occasions his textual analysis amounts to printing a chunk of verse and pointing a lot in the way that some DJs offer their favourite tune with little to no explanation because, as is so often with Shakespeare, none is necessary.

probably the most representative

Music I'm sometimes asked what kind of music I listened to as a teenager. In the process of having a clearout I found a 12" vinyl reminder. Accepting the Debbie Gibson thing and the Amy Grant thing (and the Kylie thing before that), this is probably the most representative:

Amazing how well adjusted I am now, isn't it? I have their Thicker Than Water album somewhere too. It peaked at an amazing no. 125 on the US album chart.

I've had a reply

About You might remember the email I posted to the British Library asking if they'd consider hosting the elements of the BBC's website that are being shut down and/or taken offline. I've had a reply, which I've posted at the bottom of the original post.

"so that it could be translated into English"

Film Something which has always slightly annoyed me about some film criticism is when what's quite obviously a choice by the film maker is assumed to be a failure due to perhaps their nationality, age or gender not fitting their vision of the material. Nicholas Roeg recounts a typical example of this from when he worked as cinematographer on Truffaut's Farenheit 451:
"I remember there was a lot of criticism of Fahrenheit to do with François’ knowledge of English. The critics complained that it was so stilted. But that had all been quite deliberate. He hadn’t even wanted to place it as an English film, or to suggest that the language was necessarily English. The script was written first in French, deliberately, so that it could be translated into English, then translated back into French, because he wanted to lose the English idiom completely, then finally translated back into English. He wanted it set- and I thought this was a marvellously futuristic idea – in a time when people had lost the use of language. After all, the whole premise of the film was to do with losing a literary background. And that was completely missed by the critics."
If only Roeg had worked on M Night's The Happening so that he could later explain what was going on with the script, the acting and the direction in that film.  "Central Park?  That's odd."


"Mr. Gick or Mr. Jick"

Language For those who still miss Balderdash and Piffle. What is the correct pronunciation of .gif?:
"It's embarrassing because you don't know if it's Mr. Gick or Mr. Jick," lamented William Labov, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. As Dr. Labov explained, in modern English, no hard and fast rule exists for the 'gi' combination. Some words take the hard sound, others take the soft sound -- it depends on the word's specific history. Compare gift and gin, for example -- same 'gi' combination, different 'gi' sound."
For me it's always been Mr. Gick without question. But I did meet someone who always prosaically spelt out these pronounceable file formats anyway. J-P-G, D-O-C and yes, G-I-F and to be fair to them it was at least consistent. R-S-S makes my jaw hurt.