Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Blogging by iPad and Other Stories

I can be resistant to new technology, which is why I am writing my first blog from an iPad this morning. Overall the experience is going well. To be fair I have only written two lines, though.

The big transition is proving to be the one from clunky, touchable keys to on screen keys. I have always had a problem with this, being the kind of guy who is prone to fumbling and dropping. Don't meet me for lunch unless you fancy spending the rest of the day as a spaghetti hologram. I have no idea what a spaghetti hologram is but it sounds like fun. I fear I digressed again. The rather groovy thing about the Apple iPad is the fact it's great at correcting misspellings as you write them, which makes up for some of that fumbling. It even knows how to correct the spelling of groovy, a word which I always imagined anchored in the days when we hung out in VW campers, daubed with peace symbols, smoked pot and engaged in free lurve to the backdrop of San Francisco
Bay.  And suddenly I found a downside of the spell check - lurve became purveyors,

Come to think of it, I never had the chance to do that unwashed free love thing. I was born in the Summer of Love (yeah look it up, no clues) although I doubt if my parents realized it. They were too busy collecting Green Shield stamps to get money off tins of baked beans. I doubt if the hippies were rad enough to do that, which is probably just as we'll because you don't want a baked bean heavy diet if you are packed into a VW camper.

This brings me back to the march of technology, something the countermovement was keen to stifle. I am thinking back to the proud moment a teacher wheeled in a gigantic silver device and shoved a plastic brick in it. The school had invested more than $12000 in a video player. We watched the pre-mating ritual of hippos through the horizontal lines of Betamax. It was a great moment. It was the future. It felt awful, though.

I remember the time too when David C- he of the truly awful halitosis - set me up on the Worldwide Web for the first time, frightening me with names like Yahoo and Alta Vista. "Click through the categories," he implored.

"Can I do it later," I replied. I just wanted him to go away because his breath was about to make me pass out.

Colleagues crowded around me expressing amazement at this bold new world I had entered.

"Is there a category for pornography?" asked Willy Woodencock. "I'm doing an article about the effect of pornography on society and would like to see what's out there on the Information Super Highway."

"I doubt if it has that kind of thing," I replied. "It's the Information Super Highway, not the Smut Highway."

So, in some ways I was ahead of the curve and in some ways behind. I didn't get my hands on a BlackBerry until It was obsolete. It was like showing up in the age of gunpowder, boasting of my smart new weapon - the club. I will so be upgrading to an iPhone once I've sorted out those pesky parking fines.

Overall I'm thinking the transition to iPad is going quite well - it even adds apostrophes which is no mean thing in today's apostrophe illiterate society. This may catch on. At this rate I'll have to do something about my Sony recorder that comes equipped with real cassettes and 2x record time and tends to alarm people every time I pull it out.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Wedding That Went Down a Bomb

I'm not one for recommending anybody makes spurious bomb threats, but it's hard not to feel some sympathy for would-be bridegroom Neil McArdle.

The Liverpudlian for some inexplicable reason had decided to get married to a woman described in reports as his fiancee.

There was one small hitch. On the morning of the ceremony McArdle remembered he had forgotten to fill in the paperwork required for the wedding.

Such dilemmas suggest a number of possible courses

1 Jump off the eighth floor of a building
2 Leave your clothes on the beach and disappear for 200 years
3 Make a bomb threat at the aforementioned non marrying venue.

McArdle chose the latter, reports Britain's Guardian newspaper. He could not face telling his fiancee because she had been talking the hind legs off a donkey about the wedding for the last six months to anyone crazy enough to listen.

As she slipped into her white dress, he slipped into a phone box - one of those quaint red things they still have here and there in England.

He called Liverpool register office and said: "This is not a hoax call. There's a bomb in St George's Hall and it will go off in 45 minutes."

When McArdle, his bride and the happy families arrived at the building in the center of Liverpool, nobody was in the mood to throw flowers, although the police had thrown a cordon around the place.

Later when the staff tried to go ahead with the "delayed" ceremony, it came to light that no booking for the wedding had been made. McArdle's would-be in-laws were already suspicious about him. And this was before the couple had tied the knot. The bride's sister was overheard telling McArdle in fine Liverpudlian grammar: "You probably done the bomb scare yourself."

It didn't take long for police to trace the call and the hapless wannabe groom was arrested, confessing to his "embarrassment and shame."

McArdle has just been sentenced to a year in jail. Apparently he's still with his fiancee, but the story did not allude to any future wedding plans.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Excerpt from Reportage - Chad's Party

There really are times in our lives when we know the only solution is to have a great, messy out of control party where really bad but exciting things happen. Like the ones we had 10/20 years ago...fill in the blanks.

There's not to much point for me as the house usually looks like the aftermath of a party, anyhow. Defeats the object, really. Still there are a million party triggers and they do tend to go off with an alarming regularity.

Those were the days - reporters get a bit excited about the surrender of Japan - National Archives and Records Administration

My second novel Reportage has proved to be slow going, but I have been reassured by the fact that when I get down to writing I can churn out large chucks of maybe 2,000 words at a time. I have no idea really where I am going. That makes it more fun but at times leads to mental road blocks I fear. Ones patrolled by big hairy border guards who yell: "You shall not pass." I usually do but it can take a few weeks.

I am still thankful to have completed my first novel Red Savannah. Indeed if I can find out the makers of that cheap brandy I may write to them to thank them. My search for an agent has so far been unsuccessful and lackluster. If I continue to drag my feet any longer, agents may be abolished and I can hit on the new thing. There was a nice lady in New York who looked terribly well-to-do in her twinset and pearls who led me on - in a literary way only do dismiss me, but at least it was a polite dismissal. Wannabe writers will clutch at any straw.

This is a small snippet from Reportage.

Chad Schmultz tried not to get into arguments with his ex-wife on most days. This was not one of those days.

Usually in his dealings with Amanda,  Schmultz aimed to maintain an air of professional indifference. It was not always easy. On this particular Wednesday he hadn’t eaten much and had been disaffected by his daughter’s general indifference and her constant wittering about the softball team.

He was late picking her up which meant he was late dropping her off with her mother. Later that day he was to recall the scene as if in slow motion. He watched his hands turn the steering into West Thomas Street. He was in control of his car. He was perfectly in control of his neat reversing action into a space. But as soon as Amanda came out of the house and stood with her arms folded he knew he would no longer be in control of the scene because the gesture infuriated him.

There was no precursor before her onslaught. “Where have you been?”

“I would have thought that was obvious. Usual place.”

“But not usual time Chad.”

“I’m a bit late. Granted.”

Gary’s coming round to take use to the movies. I haven’t even washed my hair.

“Oh you’ll be fine. He works in a fast food place. He’s used to grease.”

Chad found the constant Gary name dropping was a surefire recipe for him to revert to sarcasm.

“Fuck Chad. I suppose you think you are funny. You play with words at your stupid newspaper and use them against people.”

“At least I use them Amanda.” It was clearly another dig at the monosyllabic Gary.

“You think so much of yourself don’t you Chad? Gary may only work at a restaurant but he’s made management now and he earns more than you ever did at your dumb paper. Look at you. You bum around doing God-knows-what, pick up Jessica and hang out at your paper all night. The same useless thing every day. At least Gary’s going places.”

“To the wholesaler to pick up more cancer burgers I suspect?”

A vein was bulging in Amanda’s forehead. Chad noticed with some satisfaction that her hair did look greasy but couldn’t find a way of weaving the observation back into the conversation.

“Just go back to your sad life and leave me along,” snapped Amanda, shooing Jessica back into the house.

Chad caught a tiny sad wave and a sheepish expression from the girl as he drove away. A small feeling of triumph rose inside him but it had subsided by the time he had driven two blocks.

As he joined the interstate to make his way to the newspaper the sense of having made this drive too many times hit him. He resolved to do something different to prove he wasn’t half dead. He resolved to have a party.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Robbie Williams is "Gutted" After Being Told He's Too Old for Radio 1

Call me old and all that. OK just call me old - wheel out a contraption that old people use and leave me alone in a corner to dribble on myself.

Yes the rather sobering news is Robbie Williams has been deemed too ancient for Radio 1.

Feel by Robbie Williams

You may not realize the importance of this if you are Stateside but when we grew up Radio 1 was the epitome of cool youf when I was growing up. So were HMV record stores and they have all closed down now.

Radio I embraced Take That when they emerged in the early 1990s as the first of a generation of manufactured boy bands. Even then I felt a tad old, looking down on Take That as lightweight, although they were far more accomplished than what followed.

Robbie Williams, now 39, was the most high profile member of the band and made a name through his bad boy antics. He fell out with the band, went solo, packed on the pounds and appeared to be destined to disappear into obscurity when his star unexpectedly soared.

He's since sold more than 70 million records and is Britain's biggest selling contemporary solo artist.

Nevertheless, Robbie is said to be "gutted" that he's no longer being played on Radio 1. Bosses have decided he's getting on a bit and have shoved him in the Perry Como file with the carpet slippers.

Radio 1's breakfast DJ Nick Grimshaw has said Williams, 39, was "not relevant" to his target audience of 15-29 year olds.

"I liked Take That when I was little, but I'm not little anymore," he told Five news.

So there you go. Robbie has a rather less impressive profile Stateside. I recall having a conversation with a colleague about him once.

Back for Good - Take That

"I've never found him funny," she said.

Erm. And then she went on to mention Good Morning Vietnam and I realized she was talking about Robin Williams.

I haven't listened to Radio 1 for a very long time, owing to my presence in a different country. Needless to say I wouldn't recognize the station anymore.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Chilling on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

It had been a while since I last drove to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, but I had to make the trip to attend a Harvest Festival this week. I have had worse working days - grazing as much seafood as you can eat in exchange for getting a few people to sign up to a newsletter and taking a video, beats a usual day in the office.

And after the festival was over I got the chance to drive around a bit and check out the scenery.

The Eastern Shore is connected to Hampton Roads by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel which is 20 miles long and is known as one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world. By the bridge's own website anyhow. The others include the Channel Tunnel, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Hoover Dam and Dolly Parton's bra.

The Eastern Shore seems to have eschewed the cutesiness of much of the coastline around these parts. It's known for hardy fisher folk, half abandoned villages and artists who toil away in fly filled cottages battling mental illness. As such it has a rustic charm that has been lost in much of the Outer Banks. There are deserted white beaches and historic taverns off the beaten track that can feel like a find when you stumble on them.

Only Chincoteague with its famous wild ponies embraces some of the trappings of tourism. Here are some of the places I checked out.

We love the giant love chairs at Kiptopeke State Park
House set back off the highway, Cape Charles
With a tug in tow
 Fishing pier in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay
A strange place for a souvenir shop - store on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

I Don't Queue : Does That Make Me Unpatriotic?

I'm bemused by the scenes from Westminster today. People are queuing for 24 hours to see a wooden box. OK, it's a fancy box surround...