And then there was the Edinburgh festival! It was mazin. Many hangovers were carefully constructed and a record number of shows taken in, over one frantic week.
Then, I was lucky enough to get an insider’s tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral from our very own CJ. Check facebook for a few tantalising pictures, it was very cool.
Here’s a pano from the tippy-top high point, reachable after many minutes of climbing tiny ancient shoulder-crammed spiral steps. All the pano goodness after the jump! Check the old Italian biffer with excessive pairs of glasses.
So in August I got to spend a bit of time maundering around Soho and Covent Garden. I had a very pleasant time randomly splashing out on designed goods and wishing international data roaming wasn’t kidney-sellingly expensive.
Here’s a pano of the Seven Dials crossroads I took with the jesusphone. The resolution is decent so you can hit the plus sign (down the bottom) to zoom in if you like. Read the posters and such, admire the buffoonery. All the action after the jump!
Early in the year I have a bit of post-bonus disposable income, so I indulged in some wallet bukkake and ordered an iPad. Here is what happened.
I’ve used an iPhone for a couple of years now, so that gives you a certain perspective. The icons and such look very familiar. The first thing that hits you is: holy shit there is just a ridiculous amount of screen space. In reality it’s a modest 1024 by 768, but after using a phone it’s pretty striking. I think how you react to this device depends on what you compare it to: is it a big phone, or a small computer?
Although you have this expanse of screen, the icons and buttons are still iPhone-sized. They feel dwarfed, relatively speaking; you have to aim carefully with your fingers.
TypingThis is critical for me: the killer iPad use for me is lounging about on the sofa typing shit up.
At first typing is definitely weird. The reason: no tactile feedback. It is not possible to touch-type on a glass screen. This means you have to look at the keyboard most of the time, which is unnatural; the letters are appearing somewhere up there in hopefully the correct order.
After some time you get used to it, eyes flicking back and forth. I completely rely on landscape mode though (bigger keys to hit). The little keyboard clicks are indispensable.
Last bit of weirdness: an iPad forces you to cut your fingernails really short! Long-nailed typists just receive a series of clacky noises and nothing happens.
The good stuff
Things with big sweepy gestures are lovely. Google Maps is a whole new experience; it genuinely feels futuristic. You are holding a high-res atlas that comes to life in your hands; looking down, you sweep the world below you around, grinning like a retarded god.
The feel of the iBook is great. There’s a wee gimmick where you can grab the page and wave it around instead of just reading the fucking thing. The popup dictionary is beautifully styled and charming.
- IMDB is outstanding, very polished.
- Frotz uses all the space! Lovely.
- Evernote have made a decent effort but there’s no A-Z index of your notebooks.
- Netflix is magical: all your Instant Play films appear on the device, just like that.
- Wikipanion is good for WPing.
- Epicurious is great, swipe-able food and cocktail recipes.
- There are few ‘native’ Twitter apps yet (just Twitterific so far). The best Facebook interface is just using the website in Safari.
- Oddly enough, games that use virtual joysticks play much better! Critical Wave, Mini Squadron.
Pull on your Java pants, take a sip of coffee and hit the ‘read more’ link to see what Times Square looked like last weekend, standing proudly atop the crimson stair. It should scroll lefty/right and a wee bit up/down too.
A few weeks ago it was actually sunny for the first time in months, if still a bit crispy and cold. With glee I took the board out and recorded myself failing for educational purposes. It turned out to be an interesting wee clip so I youtubed it for your amusement.
I won’t embed it here, it’s better to go and watch it in proper HD glory, ideally in full screen.
I can now say with some enthusiasm that video editing is bananas fun. Making subtitles is a total pain in the arse, however.
It’s early Autumn, and still warm as the evening begins to draw over. You’re walking home from work, treading the last familiar steps westward on 22nd Street. Thinking about reaching for your keys, there in the bag slung over your shoulder.
Up ahead, a group of four men are approaching. Tanned white skin, neat haircuts, casual smiles, styled clothes, maybe in their forties. You guess they’ve been out somewhere.
As you clock this, from across the road a slim black guy steps into your view, also heading west, walking on intercept. Unseasonably heavy jacket, red baseball cap, a bulky backpack. Reaching the pavement ahead of you, he steps into the personal space of the group. He’s brandishing a spray of money; from their faces, he’s saying something. The group reflexes, convulsing away from him without eye contact, continues without slowing down. As they reach you they politely make a space and are gone to either side.
The lone guy has stopped, turned to watch; it’s only a few seconds before you are upon him. He looks you up and down and addresses you immediately, with evident frustration.
“These foreigners, they don’t even speak English. They think I’m gonna rob them, even though I got my own money,” he insists, conspicuously holding out the same bundle of notes. Folded length-ways; fifteen dollars, maybe.
“Where they from?” you ask, because you were curious yourself. You’re half-slowing, and listening to the neutral sound of the words coming out of your mouth.
“See I know you’re a New Yorker, cos you’re cool,” he asserts. He’s making a fairly safe bet: you’re looking preppy, smart shirt, white vest underneath, shoulder bag, walking confidently.
“Good night,” he offers as you pass.
“Cheers”, you conclude, demonstrating in one word how wrong he is.
Something harsh and insistent breaks your doze. It’s morning. Saturday.
The door is buzzing. You’re not expecting any packages and it has been a while; it must be that time again. In the studio apartment, your bedroom is the living room, the kitchen, the entranceway. You drag yourself up and pull on some jeans, topless, eyes half closed.
You open the door.
A man stands motionless on the other side. He is short, squat and appears to be made of lego. Smoothly squared and plastic underneath his navy-blue boiler suit, his scalp surely bearing a stubby cylinder of plastic to clip into headgear (today a navy cap). He is of recently Mexican descent.
“Morning. Exterminator. Any pro’lems boss?”In the shared hallway behind The Exterminator are faded plaques, dusty certificates, telling of the facilities once provided by the landlord – SHALL BE PROVIDED TRAPS, DUSTED ONCE A FORTNIGHT – now twenty years old and reduced to what ought to be. The artifacts serve only as a reminder of the dangers lurking within the walls.
Mice, bedbugs, rats, cockroaches… waterbugs.
Of all creatures, the waterbug is the most terrifying. You are not at all clear on: the appearance; speed; possibility of darting movement, or alarming colouration of the waterbug, and are content never to find out.
When The Exterminator asks – as he always does – you know what he wants to hear.
“No pro’lems? No… waterbugs?”
In remote Exterminator villages, when the young males come of age they are sent alone into the great communal basements, to survive for three nights in the rustling, scuttling darkness. To emerge on the fourth day, alive and of sound mind, grasping a furious waterbug – one great black/white antenna coiling in each hand – is a great omen for the tribe.
Today he bears a canister proudly before him, a hand-pumped relic from the 1960s, battered steel and thin rubber hose. Politely brushes past you – a liquid clang, the squeak of the pump.
You rub your eyebrows, make an effort to remember.
“I’ve seen maybe one cockroach this month. I think they get in behind the fridge.”
“Yeah big one, maybe like this.”
Beneath the cap his eyes fix on you. Or perhaps on something just behind you; antennae wave in currents of air.
“Like a… waterbug?”
“No. No… definitely a cockroach.”
His look fades.
The Exterminator sees into people’s mornings; the pale, vulnerable underplates of Saturday. He is not fazed by nudity, by embarrassment, by odours. Ignoring the darkness, the mess, he squirts a clear liquid carefully behind the kitchen units, behind the fridge, into the uncertain space beneath the kitchen sink.
You stand awkwardly until a pencil appears from behind a solid ear and the familiar form is offered to you. Then your scrawled and bleary signature, a barely disappointed
“Thank you boss, have a good day,”
and The Exterminator is gone.
My old high school sweetheart pinged me on pussbook with one of those ‘write twenty-five random things about yourself’ notes. It’s a fun exercise, a wee snapshot.
01. I love the exhilaration of snowboarding and skateboarding. Balance, acceleration, learned skills, nerves singing, muscles obeying, adrenalin, risk.
02. Science fiction is my crack cocaine. The feeling of having your imagination stretched in new directions and shaken out.
03. I’m a born problem solver. Unexpected adversity only gives me a blip of stress, quickly superseded by a calm, ‘how do we fix this’ response.
04. Loyalty is very important to me. Once I’m friends with someone, my resources are theirs indefinitely, irrespective of time and distance.
05. A colleague once said, “People are either collaborative, or confrontational.” I love cooperating on cool things – the feeling of combining talents to make something greater. I hate confrontation, and have difficulty with those people that pursue it for its own sake.
06. Making music with others is an amazing feeling, but for some reason I rarely find myself in situations where I can. I’d love to fix that.
07. I’m basically lazy and lack a strong work ethic, but the other genes I inherited make up for it.08. I love creating things, but have a hard time completing them (see 07). I’ve found my best finish-rate is with the written word. So that’s what I concentrate on.
09. I hate not being taken seriously. I make an effort to be honest and say what I mean; it’s frustrating when people don’t recognise that.
10. Lucid dreaming is one of my favourite things. When the opportunity arises, I’m a flyer.
11. I love the feeling of understanding complicated things. When they click into place and suddenly appear simple, integrated into a wider network of thought. So I get my kicks designing complex software, and at home reading about science of all flavours.
12. Minimising stress is important to me at all times. I’m pretty good at it now; my boss tells me my calm approach is infectious.
13. Having money has never been important to me. It’s useful to alleviate domestic stresses, but in itself has little appeal. Easy come, easy go.
14. I often think of how I would be with my kids, teaching and playing. For now the scenario still feels far-off.
15. I’m a solitary person by nature. Years ago I would have said, ‘a need for constant human contact demonstrates insecurity’, but…
16. …I’ve learned that wildly different personalities are valid, and effective in their own way. Your own perspective is not ‘correct’, it’s just yours.
17. I much prefer order to disorder, but I’m not OCD about it.
18. Moving to another country taught me the value of minimalism, travelling light. The only things I gladly hoard are books, with the hopeful notion that my kids will appreciate them one day.
19. Long-term monogamy is by far my preferred state. However I’ve become very demanding over the last few years, possibly to a self-defeating degree.
20. In my 30s, I fully appreciate the restorative powers of the ‘disco nap’.
21. One day – when my future wife helps pay the bills – I’ll go part-time on my day job and start writing on a larger scale.
22. I think human relationships are the most important things we have. Getting to know people always works out for the best: you either experience something admirable in another person that you can emulate, or learn a negative trait that you can avoid having yourself. The more you meet, the more you learn.
23. I dream about my Gran and Gramps all the time, and I’m happy about that. I dream about my Mum much less often, but it’s always very upsetting in a bittersweet way.
24. I’ve never broken any limbs, apart from fracturing my skull as a toddler, way before the dawn of memory. When I was 18 I did suffer partial hearing loss in my right ear. I’ve long since adjusted, but as a consequence I feel a creeping introversion in noisy places.
25. I try to keep in mind that some things will never, never stop happening: learning, finding ways to be a better person, being wrong.
Now so firmly far from the sun, the cold air outside is a dead, permanent threat to ears and fingers. So you like to look at this old picture here. Taken in July, in the New York summer. Back when you were
just getting used to the heat. With relief you find yourself accustomed – finally – to the stifling invariance.
Before this summer, a hot crush of air meant being at your Gramps’s house, with his fuzzy blanket of a living room glowing constantly in the low 80s. Keeping his old bones moving. You get yourself a drink if you want it, son.
Or that feeling of stepping into warm air. For those like you from a temperate country, the inescapable association of being on holiday. Freedom from time and anxiety, cities and hills and waves and lakes and bodies to explore.Or when drinking, a romantic vision of a limestone house in swampland. A lightly sweating stoic, a Hemingway, white linen and bronze liquid in sweating thick tumblers, bright light from a doorway or desklamp, pen or fingers poised to deliver something important through tobacco smoke. Sweat, lamps. The blur of fans. Distant night sounds. Stubble. Self-regard.
And not just the heat, but this new, real noise all along 22nd street. The anvil flood of sunlight crashes down into the trees, blasting green light from their veins and awakening a riot in the branches. Cicadas. The hot afternoon chorus pouring through your window, a wash of jagged noise, ten thousand knives shaken in a cement mixer. An encompassing racket with no evident source; just foliage, glaring and innocent. Jungle drums, smoke signals, beaten shields, out of sight. It could all be in your head, but for the way the sound echoes pinballing down the street.
On cooler nights, the tide of noise recedes to a single call, one timballing insomniac. Unlike the day’s constant call, this sound is intrusive. Chirrup, chirrup. Trying to sleep. Eyes closed, you try to use the noise as a percussion; in your mind’s ear, put a tune to the regular beat. To your dismay the wee fucker is the world’s worst soloist, first round and soundly in rhythm, then early, then hanging, lingering late.
Circadian rhythm, cicadian arhythm. You wish that words were sleep.