The end of the 60s is now

Brian Eno, giving his prediction for 2009/the future in general, focusses not on a scientific, technological, political or economic breakthrough, but essentially, the end of optimism as being the default of the west. Unlike Bono’s blethering mass of words in the New York Times, it’s eloquently put, if briskly bleak:

“Human development thus far has been fueled and guided by the feeling that things could be, and are probably going to be, better. The world was rich compared to its human population; there were new lands to conquer, new thoughts to nurture, and new resources to fuel it all. The great migrations of human history grew from the feeling that there was a better place, and the institutions of civilisation grew out of the feeling that checks on pure individual selfishness would produce a better world for everyone involved in the long term.

What if this feeling changes? What if it comes to feel like there isn’t a long term—or not one to look forward to? What if, instead of feeling that we are standing at the edge of a wild new continent full of promise and hazard, we start to feel that we’re on an overcrowded lifeboat in hostile waters, fighting to stay on board, prepared to kill for the last scraps of food and water? Many of us grew up among the reverberations of the 1960’s. At that time there was a feeling that the world could be a better place, and that our responsibility was to make it real by living it. But suppose the feeling changes: that people start to anticipate the future world… as something more closely resembling [a] nightmare of desperation, fear and suspicion. What happens then?

The following: Humans fragment into tighter, more selfish bands. Big institutions, because they operate on longer time-scales and require structures of social trust, don’t cohere. There isn’t time for them. Long term projects are abandoned—their payoffs are too remote… Survivalism rules. Might will be right.”


43 was a pillock, 44 looks like he’ll be a lot better

Omaba OMG

Omaba OMG

I was with an American friend last night, and even at 11pm she didn’t dare believe it was going to happen.

It did though, it really did.

Writers with a firmer grasp on the issues, the times and the rhetoric you need for them have delivered the goods. And of course Obama himself did. His speech wasn’t as exuberant as it could have been, and it didn’t luxuriate in the achievement itself as an isolated moment of incredible success. Instead it was thoughtful and powerful. Touchingly, the language emphasises that this is bigger than one man. Bigger that one campaign, more important than one election and one choice. It echoes with repetition, it’s rich with patterns and has a solid structure which gives a sense that a chain of voices made this happen; that this moment is linked to many more and that what you do now matters to the future and that everything is connected:

“This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call.”

And then there’s what George W. Bush had to say to Obama:

“What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters. You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations and go enjoy yourself.”

Sounds more like what a parent says to someone who’s finished their A-Levels and is about to go on a gap year.

Picture via Waxy.

My Favourite Piece of Travel Writing

My favourite piece of travel writing is short and to the point, but it questions everything about ‘here’ and calls to mind perfectly the change of ‘there’ that is its lure.

It is a description of people in an airport, and how easily they strike up conversation with each other. They are:

‘Strangers rendered open-hearted from jet lag’
(Pico Iyer, The Global Soul)

We travel to be operated on; by the sun, by the sights, by there, the place we want to get to, and most of all, by the miles of distance between there and here, by the separation itself.

The nicest piece of technology I have used all week

Innocent Smoothie

I have a lovely Macbook Pro laptop, a decent camera, dual-core work PC and an iPod, but the nicest piece of technology I have used all week is this: a drinks bottle.

I picked it up on the way to work this morning (mostly because I’m getting over a cold and wanted something healthy, and I chose this in particular because it proudly describes itself as a “thickie”, nicely reclaiming a playground insult as a positive word!), and it turns out the whole bottle isn’t plastic, but corn. And it’s 100% corn – there is no plastic used whatsoever, amazingly.

According to the Innocent website, the bottle will decompose in about six weeks in the right composting conditions, and they even have the pictures to prove it.

All in all, a lovely piece of design and technology. And the drink was top too. Although I maintain it’s not breakfast in a bottle unless bacon is involved.

On the Todo list: Japanese Human Tetris

The Jesteress, the most expert YouTuber I know, just sent me this link to an exerpt from a Japanese TV game show, where contestants play “human tetris”. They’re the last block and must complete the game by fitting into the shape in the advancing wall. It’s a funny watch, but even funnier was what happened when I saved it to Delicious.

Delicious suggests the tags other users have used for any item you save; normally, it’s a very handy time saver, but as you can, its suggestion for this particularl video was…. “todo”.


Blimey. I know it’s something of a passe meme to browse the web and conclude some people have somer strange hobbies, but… human tetris? Really?

The importance of real things being nice things

Custom PC covers

In a previous post on bloggers vs mainstream media, I wrote that:

“When information is free and virtual, it’s important for real things to be nice things, to be good quality things, to be a guaranteed brilliant use of the reader’s very precious time.”

More and more I’m coming to think this really is the case; a lot of the praise for Tyler Brule’s recently launched Monocle magazine mentioned its use of four different paper stocks to create a really satisfying thing; when I look at the full price music I’ve bought in physical form recently, (as opposed to downloads from Emusic), it’s often been box-sets (this, this and this for instance), where the packaging, photos, liner notes etc are as important as the CD itself, which will of course be instantly ripped to MP3.

So with the mantra ‘REAL THINGS MUST BE NICE THINGS’ firmly in mind, we’ve been making some changes to Custom PC. There’s been an internal freshening up of the design, particularly the reviews section, to make it more appealing, but easily the most noticeable change is one seen only to subscribers: a special cover. Stripped of all the cover lines and blurbs, it really allows our excellent photography to stand out. Click on the picture above for an enlargement – although, of course, it looks and feels even better in real life.