Sometimes it Snows in April

Not just a Prince reference; it actually did snow on the hills around Edinburgh yesterday, although in our part of the city it was merely wet and freezing.

Speaking of El Symbol: Prince memories. The oral history of Purple Rain. Prince’s low-profile generosity to green causes.


The sugar conspiracy.

Five insane things we believe about money, thanks to movies and TV.

What would happen if we just gave people money? The long history of basic income proposals is enlightening; nobody ever talked about it in the late 1980s, when I first thought it seemed a good way to go.

George Monbiot on neoliberalism.

Only 15–20 years before widespread loss of ocean oxygen.

And I know I said I don’t normally link technical how-tos, but I’m going to again. If you accidentally crack the screen of your Kindle 3, these replacement instructions (as simplified in the comment from Dave, dated 06/15/2015) are the business. A new screen, battery and keyboard cost me around twenty quid on eBay, and following the steps wasn’t hard.

30 April 2016 · Weblog

This year’s string of pop deaths means that my music archives threaten to become nothing but obituaries; I still haven’t done my recap of last year’s listening (or the year before’s). But Tom Ewing has kept ploughing through 2001’s UK number ones, and even though I wasn’t paying much attention to pop that year I’ve commented on a few—reproduced here as a useful stop-gap during marking season.

Read More · 26 April 2016 · Music

Computer Blue

Ur Man's Eyes

Even though I was starting to get used to 2016 as the year that Death started getting his groove on (I AM A BLACK STAR), the news about Prince was a shock. He hit his stride just as I was first getting into pop and rock as a teenager, and was as big in Australia as he was anywhere in the 1980s. The single-LP version of 1999 (missing “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “D.S.M.R.”) got a lot of play in our house, and Purple Rain made just as strong an impression. In a fit of pop treachery I swapped my LP of the latter for a Big Country tape (je ne regrette rien), but before long rectified the situation by buying CDs of both. My favourite Prince track, though, wasn’t “1999”, “When Doves Cry” or “Darling Nikki”, great though they were, but an album cut that never makes the compilations, “Mountains” from Parade.

Somewhere around Graffiti Bridge I lost track of the purple one, as my ear turned to indie. The contractual wrangles and triple-album sets didn’t make full-price album purchases tempting, and Princely radio singles in the mid-’90s were few and far between. So although I’ve embarked on a second marathon listen to a late artist’s back catalogue in the space of a few months, I might hit a wall a dozen albums in. Pitchfork’s guide to his late-period picks could come in handy.

Those early albums, though: what a run. What other pop star so totally owned the Eighties? Not Bowie, who went off the boil after Let’s Dance. Michael Jackson only released two albums in the 1980s, and Madonna four. Prince released an album every year of the decade but one, including two double-LPs, and they’re almost all great; and he can be forgiven the gap in 1983 because he was making a movie (and did that again twice that decade, too).

It was the purplest of purple patches. Prince may not have been the tallest bloke, but the man was a giant.

24 April 2016 · People

Heaven and Hell

Oliver Burkeman: Scheduling is the best way to get creative work done.

The largest ever analysis of film dialogue by gender.

Beware the grinning emoji, my son! The teeth that bite, the renderings that mismatch!

I don’t normally link technical how-tos, but this was a godsend when attempting to install Slack on my iPhone 4: How to download and install apps on older versions of iOS (entirely legitimately).

How Internet mapping turned a remote farm into a digital hell. How the Internet turned a remote town into a digital heaven.

How humanity first killed the dodo, then lost it.

Marine heatwave in Tasmania puts species at risk.

Dolphins have a language. Surely we knew that thirty years ago?

Clive James: “I’ve got a lot done since my death”, but “still being alive is embarrassing”. He’s writing for The Observer again and just reviewed Game of Thrones in The New Yorker, which might even prompt me to start watching it. Plus he has a new verse book about Proust out this week.

The world’s first Pastafarian wedding.

Here are the times I am typically free to meet.

24 April 2016 · Weblog

Which Way Do Ya Wanta Go?

Last week I had an unexpected urge to revisit some of my earliest programming efforts. Unfortunately, they’re stored on ancient 5¼" floppies which would probably be unreadable, even if I had a 5¼" drive and a way of converting it to USB. Fortunately, at the time I wrote them I also printed out my collection of Apple II and BBC Micro BASIC programs using our school’s dot-matrix printers, and after rummaging through some old boxes was able to find those printouts again.

Read More · 5 April 2016 · Memory

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