The Best Of The Wired Jester

A list of some of the best posts from The Wired Jester’s two-and-a-half year career, based on popularity and my own personal preference. Like all best ofs, it is weighted towards the later stuff and inexplicably includes some new releases :p

PHOTOS / PHOTOGRAPHY
* Photographs of The Sedlec Ossuary (Bone Church) in the Czech Republic. Easily the most popular post, thanks to Boing Boinging linking to it.
* A trip to the world’s best army surplus store.
* Looking for a digital SLR for £500 or so? Quite a few choices aren’t there?!? I went for a Nikon D40. Here’s why.

LONGER PIECES
* The Inbox of Awesomeness. Five great e-mail newsletters that will improve your disposition towards your inbox.
* The guest list for my ideal New Year’s Eve party.
* Japanese reading. Books and blogs on the land of the rising sun, a favourite topic of mine.
* Would Flickr work as a dictionary? A look at that old phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”, through the lens of my fave Web2.0site.
* IPTV’s Biggest Problem.
* Why Web 2.0 is a bit like Bauhaus.

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If you still think Apple are cool…

….then I suggest you give their tech support line a call, and ask to be put on hold. It’s where I am right now, and here’s the music they’ve played at me so far:

1st – Horrible live version of "Every Breath You Take", featuring an extended bit where Sting does ‘shout outs’ to his band.
2nd – Sub Green Day American "punk" music. In fact, scrub that, it’s sub Good Charlotte.
3rd – Naff Euro disco music. Sounds a bit like "I Miss You" by Everything But The Girl, but twenty times worse. The mixing was probably done on an old Nokia.

IPTV’s biggest problem

Dead channel

IPTV, or to give it a name rather than an acronym, TV over the web, is currently a very hot topic – whether it’s industry / IP clashes (of which this is just the latest in what will certainly be a long and tedious series of legal maneuvers) or technology ideas like Joost, a lot of people are taking TV on the computer very seriously. As well they should. Who doesn’t love the idea of getting good TV when and where they want it, and on whatever device/viewing platform they prefer? Who doesn’t think there’s money to be made, cool new technology to be invented and fun to be had with it?

But.

There’s always a but. There is one problem which hasn’t been considered.

IPTV will ruin the best opening line of a novel in the last 30 years.

The novel is William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and this is how it begins:

‘The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’

It’s a brilliant opening: both gripping and detached, strange technical but still immediate and crucially for any description, tangible to the point that it has real emotion. A good opening line like this is like a good part of a pop song: a guitar crunch, a bass drum thump, a chord: it’s a moment that pulls itself out of normal time, a second that lasts longer than every other and acts as portal into what will follow.

IPTV has no static. In twenty years time, copies of Neuromancer are going to have a little 1 at the end of that line and young readers will immediately stop, flick to the notes at the bottom, and see a long, overly explanatory note that says “TVs used to get a signal through an aerial. When they were not tuned properly, they would display static, a strange commingling of white and black pixels. Gibson uses this image to immediately foreground a feeling of emotional deadness, of disconnection, of blah blah blah etc etc”

You get the picture (no pun intended). So, developers of IPTV – please put static in! At least as a little option. It could just pop up every now and then. Hello? Please!

Fantasy New Year’s Eve Party

Red Lamps

Gather round…

Philosophical journalist (Pop Philosopher? Celebrity Proust Fan? Oh, I don’t know) Writer Alain de Botton has a quick little post up on the Guardian’s Arts blog called ‘My Fantasy New Year’s Eve‘ where he picks out his ideal guests for NYE. Even better than Alain’s picks (Proust, Keira Knightley) are the comments:

"My ideal dinner guests would include Jonathan Ross, Catherine Tate,
Jade Goody, Pete Doherty, Posh Spice, Paris Hilton, and Dawn French.
Once they were all safely seated, I would make my excuses, leave the
building, and call in an air strike."

My own fantasy NYE list? In addition to friends and family, of course – it would be nice to unite my scattered tribe – I’d love some time to chat, drink and play Guitar Hero with the following… (all of them still alive, because if you’re going to go around collection dead people, you’re never gonna beat Bill n Ted):

John Squire

Slash
(Both fairly obvious really – I’m massively into Guitar Hero at the moment, so having two top guitarists on the list would make for some fun)

Gordon Bown (Hey, it makes sense to get in with the new boss!)

Hayao Miyazaki (Japan’s greatest living director. Need to convince him to make a movie of the novel I haven’t yet written, because he keeps threatening to retire. From the documentaries I’ve seen about him and his studio, he looks to be a fairly entertaining, if slightly cantankerous guy)

Mamoru Oshii (Director of both of the Ghost in the Shell movies, in interviews he’s fabulously uncompromising and challenging, particularly on the subject of humans, robots and AI)

David Mitchell (My favourite author. Would only be invited if I could control my jealousy.)

Chris Anderson (Wired editor. He’s an entertaining speaker – I saw him at the London launch of his Long Tail book – and who better to talk to about technology and magazines?)

Penguin’s new media/digital/technology team (Of all the big publishers, they seem to have been doing the best when it comes to the opportunities of new technology – I’m a big fan of their blog, of the Glass Books and their various other experiments online)

Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme (Creators of the West Wing, creators of superb drama and characters)

Courtney Love (She can come across as eminently hateable, but then you remember ‘Live Through This’; I’d love to talk to her face to face, see what she’s really like)

Richard Holmes (Biographer, writer. my ex-tutor at UEA, he was consistently thought-provoking and inspiring: "Everyone needs to talk about their own past, the forces and experiences that shaped them, and how rarely this constant need is satisfied in the competetive, pressurised world, except in moments of emotional crisis." – Footsteps, p207/8)

Nigel Slater (His cook books are great, and he’s an excellent writer, too)

Sir Howard Stringer (Head of Sony. Someone needs to ask him what the hell is going on what with that firm and tell him to make the most of the chance he’s got)

Will Wright (Creator of Sim City and the Sims, he’s an eloquent and thought provoking speaker: "The human imagination is an amazing thing. As
children, we spend much of our time in imaginary worlds, substituting
toys and make-believe for the real surroundings that we are just
beginning to explore and understand. As we play, we learn. And as we
grow, our play gets more complicated. We add rules and goals. The
result is something we call games.")

Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake (Founders of Flickr, the website that has, after Yahoo Mail, become the biggest online part of my real life)

Happy New Year everyone!

Some thoughts on keeping track of things

At the Custom PC Christmas lunch the other week, we ended up chatting about when we first came to regard internet access as an essential component of a PC. For me it was fairly late, as it took ages to get a broadband connection set up when I came to London after finishing my MA … (I remember having to let the BT engineer into the basement of the building I was living in to do the cabling; to my surprise, the room contained a roulette table and lots of boxes of beer and spirits – no wonder the owner of the shop on the ground floor was so reluctant to give me the key…)

Anyway, while net access was/is a big deal, I don’t think it is the change itself; it’s the conduit for the real changes, one of which will be this idea of always being on, and from this, a loss – or perhaps not loss, but a change in what’s considered private. When you use your PC to play music for instance, and it’s connected to the net, you can keep track of all the songs you’ve played via a service like Last.FM. I still have to manually upload my photos to Flickr, but if my camera had WiFi, it could do that more easily. This is the kind of data I don’t mind sharing; it’s stuff I want to share, and that I would, in the past, have shared in a more ‘analogue’ way – showing prints of my pictures to people when they came round, telling them about new CDs I’ve bought. This blog, too, is playing its part in recording things;  although I do occasionally write longer posts (like this one), most of the posts are short and sharp, written quickly and simply, and intended, primarily, to keep track of things; links, articles I’ve written, and books I’ve read. As much as people like to play up the ‘old vs new media’ aspect of the web, I think the biggest changes it makes (or will make) won’t be to the media world, but to people’s lives. The web’s most amazing potential is not to do with media or content, but is to do with community, with the links it makes. Links between people and other, links between people and events, links between people and their things, between, ultimately, people and their lives.

It’s something I’m interested in, so I’ve got myself some reading to do about it; I have two starting points, one a book called ‘Everyware‘ by Adam Greenfield, which is very directly about always-on computing and networked lives, and ‘The Human Touch‘, by Michael Frayn, which might initially seem only tangentially related to the topic; it’s philosophy, filtered via literature, but it’s about (so the reviews tell me), how the imagination constructs the world – a very fitting theory for an always on, virtual world…            

Christmas time, Pacman and wine

Pacman Card

Akane is making cards tonight – here’s Pacman wishing you a ghost-free Christmas and a dot filled new year!

(Factlet: Pacman is called Pacman because ‘pacu pacu’ is the Japanese way of describing the noise people make when eating)