19 years to the day

How 19 years fly. 

From the morning Radio 4 woke me up with the news of Mercury’s passing. Blinked in the darkness of a cottage in Buckinghamshire. Wept.   

I was there… the last time the great man and Queen played live at Knebworth, August 9, 1986.  My brother Herman, then aged 16, spent the entire concert with his mouth wide open.  

Still feel the goosebumps.

We will never see anyone of Mercury’s ilk in our lifetime again.

Jacob’s Top 5 Muppet Clips

So he’s 8, and I’m 49, and Jim Henson was long gone by the time Jacob kicked into this planet.  But that hasn’t stopped us worshipping at the altar of Jim Henson.  Or being forever grateful to YouTube for immortalising our childhoods.

Here are Jacob’s Top 5 Muppet Clips.  I know.. it was tough to reduce it to five.  Maybe we’ll do another list soon.

1.  Hugga Wugga

I’m sure there’s a moral to this one.  

2.  Mahna Mahna

Don’t know how long the link is going to be active, as WMG are trying to close down all links on YouTube to the track.  Don’t you just love copyright kings? In the meantime, if you can watch it.. here’s the coolest dude with orange hair. Ever.

3.  Beaker’s Feelings

The original song was pretty horrible.  Now, it’s plain immortal.

4.  Swedish Chef’s Chicken in the Basket

Culinary delight meets slam dunking.

5.  Bohemian Rhapsody

OK, this is pretty much post-Henson.  But the great man and the greater Mercury floating somewhere in the outer blue would have both approved.

Dream on

It’s the end of summer, but the electric fan is still whirring.

The holiday in Provence has already ebbed away, but I still remember the light, the ochres, and the lovely rose’ wines.

I have cleaned the office in my farmhouse, but the papers and books are already building up around me.

Computers hum.  The neighbours have gone away.  My child is asleep by 8.30, clung to Pickles the bear with impossibly long arms and legs.

There is work to be done.  But my mind is elsewhere.


The joys of the Internet Archive

Perhaps I’m late to the party.  But the Internet Archive has everything from the lovely and useful to the weird and vaguely intoxicating.  

Here’s an entire Spoon concert, for instance:

Track Listing

1 Don’t Make Me a Target
2 The Mystery Zone
3 The Beast and Dragon, Adored
4 My Mathematical Mind
5 The Ghost of You Lingers
6 Is Love Forever?
7 Don’t You Evah
8 Small Stakes
9 Love Song
10 Written in Reverse
11 Who Makes Your Money
12 The Way We Get By
13 You Got Yr Cherry Bomb
14 They Never Got You
15 I Summon You
16 Rhthm & Soul
17 Got Nuffin
18 Black Like Me
19 The Underdog
20 Nobody Gets Me But You
21 I Turn My Camera On
22 Jonathon Fisk

Spoon Live at Camden Electric Ballroom on 2010-02-16 (February 16, 2010)

Beautiful noise

David Bowie is the soundtrack of my early life.  And that of my siblings, as it was impossible for them to get away from the noise from my battered cassette deck, and eventually, my glistening Yamaha hi-fi.

I only ever got to watch Bowie live once, at Wembley Stadium, on 19th June 1987 – and at a particularly distressed time in his career.  I just couldn’t relate to the whole, bloated show.  None of the stark theatrics of Ziggy or the hunger of the Thin White Duke.    

Mercifully, Bowie went on to deconstruct his music and his life.  I live in the hope that he may go back to touring, one day.  So I can finally reclaim the dangerous, restless Bowie of my growing years, for one night.





In 30 minutes I will be 49.  There’s nothing remarkable in that, other than the memory of a mildly embarrassing post I wrote 5 years ago, when I was 44.

So here’s my 49 list.  Simply to prove the man grows older, if not wiser.  


This much I know

1.  We tend to double our real age in our sleep.  To get a heads up of how much time we’ve still got left.  To do the stuff we want to do.  To have the freedom to be the people we were meant to be.  The maths doesn’t look so pretty for me these days. 

2.  I only have admiration for those who know what to tattoo on their body.  And who have no fear of humming needles.

3. There has to be a way to stop further suffering for AC Milan.  I could tolerate Berlusconi while he bank-rolled players like Kaka’ to the San Siro.  I increasingly share the rage of the poor chap who found an alternative use for a plastic statue of the Duomo.

4.  I’m running out of bands I want to watch.  I don’t know if that’s a slur on the current state of music, or my reluctance to mix with crowds and warm beer.  The person who is my music soul-mate lives on the other side of the world.

5.  There is freedom and anarchy under the bonnet of our social technologies.  Very few people understand that.

6.  When in doubt, study.  Like there’s no tomorrow.

7. It’s difficult for men and women to remain true soul mates.  It’s not always possible to avoid being men and women.

8. Now I’ve been to Rio, I understand what saudade really means.  

9. I can give up most habits.  Except the one that involves pacing and waiting for freshly-brewed, black coffee. 

10. Not having a salary can be surprisingly empowering.  Despite there being no credible alternatives to our cruel capitalist society

11. My father has taught me that it is never too late to push your life in a totally new direction. 

12. You can be a party-animal, even if you have nothing to say to anyone in a party.

13.  Build on your strengths, get others to cover your weaknesses.  Buckingham nailed it.

14.  Cowards will always have problems looking you in the eye. Especially those who are in a position to cause you material damage.

15.  Forget finding a real-life mentor.  Just google one.

16  A credible, hassle-free alternative to shaving is bound to be as successful as shaving gel was. 

17. Keeping your mouth shut becomes slightly easier as you get older.  But you still get bloodied lips.

18. It’s easy to frustrate people if you speak and think in hyper-links.

19. There used to be a time when we were all innocent.  

20. There is always beauty in curves.  Irrespective of age, texture or location.

21.  Rage against the machine would be a pretty good epitaph.  

22.  Great strategists are always outsiders.  They always know when it’s time for the emperor to find a new set of clothes.  A strategist should never try and be an emperor.

23.  A tag cloud is pretty representative.  Sometimes savagely so.

24.  Being a parent means you can shamelessly worship in the church of Pixar.

25.  Political and business tyrants have a shelf life.  Surviving either is not for the faint-hearted. 

26. Power corrupts the most well-meaning of people.  Once you start to explore the layers of hegemony, things start to unravel quickly.

27.  My country used to embarrass and intoxicate me in equal measures.  Not any more.

28.  Everyone needs to discover the poetry of Nick Drake, Jim Morrison, Pablo Neruda and Philip Larkin at some stage in life.  Just discovering poetry would be a start.

29.  There is no excuse for being ignorant if you have access to a computer with an Internet connection.  

30.  There is something mildly ironic in devoting time to academia, while the shadows of Wikipedia and Google Scholar continue to lengthen.

31.  Whatever advice I dispense will never be as timely as sunscreen.

32.  Getting older does not necessarily bring wisdom. It does bring a lot of deja vus, ghosts, yawns, raised eyebrows, giggles, ruffling of curls.  Memories of platforms, shoulder pads and big hair.  Tears.  Salt and pepper.

33.  PowerPoints with bullets should now be outlawed.

34.  Sometimes, you have to accept that some people will just not like you, despite your best intentions.  Move on.  

35.  It helps to have a little thick skin.  It tends to come in limitless quantities in those born with a certain stock of social capital.  

36.  There are some who can remember that Old Spice used to be an aftershave for teenagers and their uncool Dads.  No more.

37.  What is cool and innovative today will be passée tomorrow.  Sometimes we’re in too much of a hurry to embrace the new and discard the old.  It is inevitable that the new is always more alluring.

38.  Technology alone cannot change an island mindset.  If you cannot totally relate to what’s outside your door, you either need to change it or escape.  Change may be beyond one’s lifetime.  

39.  Regret needs to be dispatched to the darkness it needs to inhabit.  We had no crystal ball.  We never will.

40.  All that stuff about life beginning at 40 and grey hairs making a man look more attractive is the stuff of folklore therapy.  Treat it with contempt or the humour it deserves.  Things break, skin wrinkles, the back really does ache more than it used to.  And yet, we adapt.

41.  Travel, fly, sail, swim, surf, escape.  Get a bird’s eye view.  Even if it’s only virtual.  Virtual can sometimes break less hearts and banks. 

42.  Curiosity is not the domain of the young.  There is an animated e-card from my 81 year-old father-in-law in my mailbox.  Even he is hyper-linked.

43.  There is much joy to be found in Radio 4 and Desert Island Discs.

44.  Print may soon be dead.  But I still love to cradle a book in my lap.

45.  Someday, I’ll really write that book.  You may even be in it.   

46.  If you’ve decided to make a child, you’re a role model whether you like it or not.  

47.  Everything we say online is public.  The web means the end of forgetting.  I continue to hope that the good online outweighs the bad.  And that we’ll manage to find a way of managing what needs to remain private.

48.  It’s still about being able to look at yourself in the mirror.  And knowing you still haven’t sold out.

49.  I got one thing right in my life.  I knew it, before he even showed up.  This post is really for him

From Counterculture to Cyberculture: The Legacy of the Whole Earth Catalog

I keep meeting people who think that Internet culture, the web and social media in particular, is the exclusive domain of kids, new geeks, millenials.  Anyone who has read Fred Turner’s book understands that the interactive, social web that dominates our lives is the child of the sixties.  And that we owe a huge debt to Stewart Brand and to people like Howard Rheingold and Kevin Kelly, for helping us make sense of it all.