Thursday, 20 December 2012

not a photo essay

When The Kilburn Social Club was published, the Inspiring Photo Essay was born. (It's been much much too long since an Inspiring Photo Essay.) It was born out of me going to see the book being printed. I didn't go this time, because I was too busy.

Authors commonly talk of the excitement of seeing their book in physical form, especially their first book. I wasn't excited. It was a trade paperback - a size of book I hate reading - and the typesetting was apologetic and cramped. Pointlessly cramped, I thought, since the book was a long one - not very long but a book part of whose raison d'etre was to deal with time and do so by immersing the reader in a long story. I like reading long books.

The pages looked fine, don't get me wrong, but they could have looked nicer and no one thought it was a short book because it was 498 pages instead of 550.

And so, all told, I wasn't that excited. I didn't start writing novels because I'd feel validation at being published. I wrote one because I hoped I'd be good at it, and I expected to be published, maybe not immediately but after hard work, and then I wanted to make it my life, and get better at it, and so on. The first one wasn't published. I hope it will be in the future. TKSC was published, and I was very pleased with it in lots of ways, though there are things I'd do differently now. Then I wrote The Dazzle which I think is a significantly better book (I am biased).

The Dazzle hardback arrived yesterday. It is really, properly, a lovely artefact. It's exciting.

(I opened it and the first thing I noticed, in a passage outside the main text, were two absent commas.)

(I hope you enjoyed the last episode of Warhorses of Letters, Series 2 last night.)

(What is that picture at the top? It is a short photo essay of our Christmas tree, which heavily features biscuits in the shape of fish iced in dazzle patterns.)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Found this funny.

There have been some very good things in the New Yorker lately (who knew?). Adam Gopnik on geography and history, and John Cassidy on the useful effort George Osbourne is putting into showing the world that austerity economics is just as bad an idea as almost all economists think it is, however satisfying headlines like 'tighten our belts' and 'live within our means' are to people who have no idea of what it is like to have to seriously decide whether or not they can eat or heat their houses.

As a public service announcement: Robert Hudson completists who have read The Kilburn Social Club and Warhorses of Letters, and who have pre-ordered The Dazzle must just be satisfied that they can do no more. Don't go buying Beyond the Dragon Temple or The Christian Writer's Manual of Style or Memorials of a Warwickshire Parish. Ok, maybe buy Beyond the Dragon Temple, but don't do it because I wrote it.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Maybe I have been through this before. If so, sorry. When looking at movies, two things date them very quickly.

First: style of acting. When you watch an old movie, the star often looks like he could have made the movie yesterday; but it seems crazy that the supporting players were ever cast in anything. Acting goes in fashions and styles. Stars are always in style, because they are stars, but bit-players tend to act in fashion. Watching House of Cards, which is recent, it was striking that so many of the actors were wooden, weird and dated.

Second: hair. This is true even of period drama. Stylists sort of think they are doing period hair, but what they are doing is the currently fashionable version of it. It is seldom more obvious than in the above poster, but it is always obvious.

Stylists are a certain kind of person, and not a bad kind. They want people to look good and fashionable. Not many of them can see completely past this. Another for example: I was watching the first episode of Misfits the other day. The boy who is supposed to be geeky has what is really an incredibly fashionable Hoxton version of geeky.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

old snopes home

We all know this particular story, yes?
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a Collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln the second largest ship in the United States' Atlantic Fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that's one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.
It's transparently an urban legend. I was looking into it for reasons you needn't worry too much about. I found on Snopes that in March 2008, Mike McConnell told the Johns Hopkins Foreign Affairs Symposium that he had been in the signals business, and that he knew his stuff, and that this was an actual recording.

Mike McConnell had been Director of the National Security Agency and also the Director of National Intelligence. On the one hand, I find this story a bit disturbing. On the other hand, isn't it reassuring that the guys who are supposed to be running the conspiracies really are just these guys? No. Not entirely, no. Now I think of it, actually, definitely it is not reassuring. The Director of National Intelligence should be more aware of the shape of widely accepted mistruths than I am, and he should also be less willing to say they are true in public.