The Modern World, Part II

In honour of the final voyage of the Travelling Post Office today:

Night Mail

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, the climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers' declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

— W.H. Auden, 1936

currently playing: Mint Royale — Dancehall Places

Munch Says Happy Birthday Bonnie!

currently playing: Stellastarr* — Somewhere Across Forever

The Modern World

Almost every telephone box I passed today had one of two notices attached to the outside: a notification of removal, or that the box was under review. Bah. All you mobile phone users, do you see what you’ve done? You’re destroying part of the fabric of British society! What will we do if the humble telephone box disappears?

Sorry, was channeling the Daily Mail there for a moment. It is a little sad to see the boxes being removed, although I doubt most people will care too much. I can't say I cared when people stopped sending telegrams…

Anyway, today I rejoined the library, after a considerable period of absence. Unfortunately, I didn't have the correct identification (a passport was all very well, but I needed something confirming my address, which sadly a passport doesn't have), so I can only take out two items until I provide something better. I did have a look for the books that have been recently recommended to me, but it appears that the library has had a refit recently, which has installed lots of new computers, DVDs, videos, and CDs, but removed most of the books. The books that remain are arranged in an interesting fashion, unless the placing of the Jack The Ripper books in the Careers section is a new tactic by the Government to wean the long-term unemployment back to work ("can't find conventional work? Why not try serial killing? Comes with Healthcare plan!").

I'll order the books when I go back with further id; this time, I left with a book on Dada and Jon Ronson's Them, a book about various conspiracy theorists and their views on the New World Order, government crackdowns, and twelve-feet high lizards. It has a great opening:

It was a balmy Saturday afternoon in Trafalgar Square in the summertime, and Omar Bakri Mohammed was declaring Holy War on Britain. He stood on a podium at the front of Nelson's Column and announced he would not rest until he saw the Black Flag of Islam flying over Downing Street. There was much cheering. The space had been rented out to him by Westminster Council.
Eventually, Ronson discovers that there's a common element to most of the conspiracies, a cabal known as the Bilderberg Group who meet once a year and decide the fate of the world. He sets off to find out more, only to find himself being followed on the streets of Portugal:
Sandra from the British Embassy called me on my mobile phone to inform me that she had spoken to the Bilderberg office at Caesar Park and they had said that nobody was following us and how could they call off someone who didn't exist?
'He is,' I said, in a staccato whisper, 'behind the tree.'
'The good news,' said Sandra, 'is if you know you're being followed, they're probably just trying to intimidate you. The dangerous one would be those you don't know are following you.'
But this was scant comfort. What if these men were the dangerous ones, and I just happened to be naturally good at spotting them? What if I was adept at this?
It's quite funny, although Ronson always reminds you that there's an edge to the people he's going around with; off-hand comments, visits to the ADL, people making martyrs out of others who have suffered tragedies, and so on. Definitely worth a checkout from the library, I think (Jon Ronson is currently writing a follow-up, which will be out at the end of the year, with a new Channel 4 series following at around the same time).

Haven't started the other book yet, but I imagine it'll be interesting, although I doubt there will be any appearances by the Brotherhood of Dada, the greatest supervillains of all time:

currently playing: Electrelane — The Valleys

Warning: Mac Owner Will Ramble About Keynote Address

That was a let down wasn’t it? The Internet rumours were just too good to be true: a small-sized 4GB iPod for between $100-$200. The announced iPod Mini is 4GB, and yes it’s small. But $249 seems a little steep, considering that Steve Jobs announced that the entry-level normal iPod would have its storage increased to 15GB, and it costs $299. Seems a little strange to me, but then that’s because I quite fancied the idea of a sub-$200 iPod. Oh well.

Also: quite impressed to see that they're charging for updates for previously-free programs. No, really. Okay, okay, $49 for a photo book, music player, DVD application, movie editor and music creation program isn't that bad, I suppose. Although if you buy an iMac from today it comes free, so they're only after money from the loyal userbase.

The Pepsi promotion sounds cool, though. If nothing else, it'll help the person who has currently spent $29,500 on the iTunes Music Store. That's a lot of music (Around 90GB, in fact). Interesting point for the music industry (especially those in Europe dragging their heels over licensing details): iTunes sells 2 million songs a week. Which is greater than the combined sales of the Top 40 for almost any week since the mid-1990s. The single is dead. The album is looking a bit poorly. The next few years are going to be very interesting…

currently playing: J Xaverre — Bingo

This Is Not An Obsession

KenickieMillionaire Sweeper.

And yes, if anybody was listening, I did get my name read out on her show…

currently playing: New Order — Sunrise

I Collect Links

I scored 1921, which says many things about me, I fear.

Ooooh. Ooooh. OOOOOOH.

Ah, sensible political discussion then. What next? "The Democrats Stink, Mummy!"? "George Bush is a Sissy! and Other Discourses on Third World Economics", or just getting right down to the root of it all "Yes, This Book Reinforces Your Political Opinion. Read It and Feel Good."


It just can't catch a break at the moment, can it?

The Wikipedia. A free encyclopedia edited by the Internet itself. Very cool.

Actors and actresses making fools of themselves in Japanese adverts.

currently playing: Saint Etienne — How We Used To Live

Take a Break, Flight 223

As you can see, the site is now back to something resembling normality. I suppose I should give it a new look for 2004, but I think it looks fine as it is for the moment (This is obviously a flimsy attempt to cover up the fact that I have no new layout ideas at the moment).

And now for an instrumental-heavy Friday…

  • Jim O’RourkeNot Sport, Martial Art

    Instrumental No.1. When I bought this single back in 1999, the nice people at Piccadilly Records in Manchester decided to put the album in the case as well. I returned it after the weekend, in a very quick I’m-rather-embarrassed-and-I-hope-you-don’t-think-I-stole-it
    -so-I’ll-give-it-back-and-leave-the-shop-swiftly fashion.

  • Courtney LoveMono

    Um, yes. I have something of an irrational soft spot concerning Courtney Love, so even though I know that this is little more than an updated version of ‘Violet’, I like it. Feel free to hurl abuse in the comments…

  • ManitobaHappy Ending

    Instrumental No. 2. This song reminds me of the General Election back in 2001. I was away in London on a course, and Lauren Laverne played this record many times on Xfm during that week.. By a sheer coincidence, Lauren’s radio show begins on Monday, and I encourage you all to tune in. That’s Monday, 5 January, 1600 GMT / 1100 EST, and for everyone outside London, you can go to the Xfm website, and listen to their Internet stream.

currently playing: Guided By Voices — The Official Ironmen Rally Song

Happy Public Domain Day!

In Canada: if an author passed away in 1953, his or her works have now passed into the public domain.

In the US and UK: if an author passed away in 1933, her or his works are now free for all to copy, modify, or adapt.

(extra UK info: all sound and TV recordings from 1953 or before are now common property, and all published articles from 1978 have also slipped into the public domain)

currently playing: Joss Stone — Fell In Love With A Boy

Welcome Back, Y'all!

Welcome back everyone! Hope you had a good Christmas.

Now for a Public Service Announcement.

Do you have a 2000-2001 series iBook? One with two USB ports, and imaginatively dubbed the “Dual USB” iBook?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it appears that there’s a design flaw with this machine. In order for the machine to send information to the screen, there’s a series of wires that pass through the hinge. Unfortunately, the wires aren’t strong enough to cope with the stress of repeated opening and closing of the cover; each time the hinge is moved, you wear out a wires a little further. After a year of this (just after the warranty has expired, naturally), you may notice a weird occurrence when you put the machine to sleep. As you pull the cover down, the screen blacks out for a second when the cover is 30? from the vertical, and then reappears as you continue bringing the cover down.

Again, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your iBook is living on borrowed time. The backlight cable has a break, and you will lose the backlight completely in a short while. If you have AppleCare, that congratulations. Phone Apple, get a replacement. Hurrah!

For those of us not on AppleCare, and not caring to spend > $500 to repair a faulty cable, then there is a way to repair it yourself. It’s not for the faint-hearted though, as it involves taking the iBook apart. Completely.

Okay, first you’ll need a copy of the iBook Service Manual. Lots of helpful diagrams, detailed instructions, and a list of all the screws used in the computer (this will become important if you don’t take care of where you put the screws when taking it apart!). In order to get at the backlight wires, you need to remove:

  • Bottom Case
  • Airport Card & Extra RAM </li>
  • Keyboard
  • Top Case
  • Top Shield
  • Display Module
  • Display Case
  • Clutch Cover
Yes, really. Keep the screws in separate groups, as this will make putting the iBook back together a less frustrating task, I assure you. When you’ve taken the machine apart, use a multimeter to determine which of the wires has broken if you can’t tell from looking at the cables (the cable that appears to be the most common to fail is the black wire that goes to the backlight to the right-hand side of the LCD panel). Get a responsible adult to cut the wire out, and replace it with a new length of wire that he just happens to have lying around (telephone and earphone wire appear to be popular choices); it helps if the new wire is longer than the old one, as this might help the stress issue when you rebuild the machine. Huzzah! You have just fixed your iBook. Now all you have to do is put it all back together. You did keep the screws separate, didn’t you? Oh dear.

(a word of advice: the clutch hinge has two plastic covers at both ends. These covers look quite small and could contribute to the stress that the cables undergo when the cover is closed. So don’t bother putting them back in)

An hour or so of reassembly later, and your backlight should now be as good as new. Curse Apple’s name for such a silly design error, and be on your way.

(more information can be found at Apple’s discussion forums, where Mac owners are not-so-quietly fuming about this problem)

currently playing: Sleater-Kinney - A Quarter to Three

"It was Christmas Eve, babe"

Time for one final entry before I disappear for Christmas.

Today's theme is, well, "all the junk I meant to post and would forget if I didn't do it now".

All Girl Summer Fun BandMillion Things

Rumours from Apple's Shiny Things Department.

I discovered yesterday that Tolkien started work on a sequel to The Lord of The Rings. He only managed a chapter or two before he abandoned it, but you can read it in the last history of Middle-Earth book, The Peoples of Middle-Earth, if you're interested. (It does sound rather dodgy, to be honest)

A website showcasing the work of a Japanese design company, with lots of fun images and free fonts.

The Onion is on a roll, with the Least Essential Albums of 2003, and a feature on toys your kids don't want.

Christmas music generated from old 8-bit computers.


Lauren LaverneIan

Happy Christmas everybody!

currently playing: The Pretenders — 2000 Miles

Best of 2003: Belle & Sebastian — Dear Catastrophe Waitress

“Step Into My Office, Baby” steals the drums from Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow; “Stay Loose” is New Romanticism writ large. Apart from that, though, Trevor Horn’s production is less intrusive than some people had feared (and the aforementioned songs are great anyway), just making the band sound tighter and louder than ever before. “If She Wants Me” is my favourite track from the album, with its lament of “If I could do just one near perfect thing I’d be happy” and the dismissal of such melancholy thinking with “On second thoughs, I’d rather hang about and be there with my best friend”. “I’m A Cuckoo” is pretty good as well, even if it does rhyme Thin Lizzy with Tokyo…