This beautiful video short of the famous Asch experiment perhaps has something to say about why certain films, musicians and, yes, books are mystifyingly popular. Via Tim Harford — Article — The Asch Conformity Experiment.
I’m just back from the orthodontist with my daughter. She has just been discharged for the final time. Her teeth are, to all intents and purposes, perfect.
So, that’s one more thing she doesn’t need me for.
It’s easy to be racked by self-pity as these little milestones roll by, and she gains another measure of independence from the rapidly deteriorating creature who drives her from place to place. I suppose society demands that I replace my ability to be of use to her with a kind of permanent place on the substitute’s bench, ready to spring into action down the line when she runs out of cash, or splits up with a boyfriend, or has an essay crisis.
All those things are to come. But for tonight I’m just watching her smile at me and thinking how nice her teeth are. That’ll do for now.
There’s another new tattoo parlour opened between my house and my daughter’s school. They seem to be springing up on every High Street.
Is this a function of demand for tattoos? Judging by the European Championships, no modern footballer is complete without at least one limb etched in ink. Are so many people having tats now that the parlours can afford to be on the High Street?
Or is it simply that High Street retail space is so fabulously degraded now that tattoo parlours can afford it?
And does that suggest that people are having more tats because tattoo parlours are both more numerous and more visible, thus suggesting that skin art is now socially acceptable and even desirable?
If so, tattoo omnipresence is a function of the rise of online shopping. And is therefore another thing to blame on Amazon.
I’m going to be taking part in a session called Explore History Mysteries at Lewisham Library on Saturday June 16th at 11am. Also appearing will be historical novelist Linda Stratmann. We’ll be talking about our books, the research that went into them and doing some readings. More information here.
Later in the month, on June 28th, I’m appearing at an event organised by The Mystery People, at Heffers bookshop in Cambridge. It starts at 6.30, and will also feature writers Ruth Dudley Edwards, Linda Regan, Kate Rhodes and Michael Ridpath. For details contact Richard Reynolds on 01223 568532.
Hope to see you at one of these!
I’ve only just got round to reading this extraordinary interview with Wayne Rooney, in which the writer’s starting point is that Wayne Rooney is not an idiot savant or talented thug; he is actually a genius. I was as sceptical as you, until I read this paragraph:
“Part of my preparation is I go and ask the kit man what color we’re wearing — if it’s red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks,” he says. “Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualize myself scoring goals or doing well. You’re trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a memory before the game. I don’t know if you’d call it visualizing or dreaming, but I’ve always done it, my whole life.”
And then, later in the interview, this:
”When a cross comes into a box,” Rooney says, his eyes darting back and forth as he works the play over again, making little feints with his head as if trying to bewilder a defender, “there’s so many things that go through your mind in a split second, like five or six different things you can do with the ball. You’re asking yourself six questions in a split second. Maybe you’ve got time to bring it down on the chest and shoot, or you have to head it first-time. If the defender is there, you’ve obviously got to try and hit it first-time. If he’s farther back, you’ve got space to take a touch. You get the decision made. Then it’s obviously about the execution.”
This is Wayne Rooney. And I contend, your honour, that there are vanishingly few modern footballers who could speak so articulately about what they do.
Last week I went to an Undisclosed Urban Corporate Environment to record a podcast with the Off the Wall crew, and last night they put it online. You can listen here.
While talking, I referred to a peerless presentation given by David Lowery of Camper van Beethoven (among a great many other things), titled Meet the new boss, worse than the old boss? I urge anyone interested in the economics of making culture to read it; it says some hard things and some unpalatable things, but personally I think it has the overall ring of truth.
One of the things I bang on about in the podcast is that, if the record companies and publishers go to the wall, who will fund cultural creation at a level large enough for significant amounts of new stuff to be made. I accuse the tech companies of failing to do that, the fruit-based ones in particular. But this morning comes news that Amazon is setting up a publishing arm in Britain – so perhaps I’m wrong about that as well. Though it seems like just another well-funded monopolistic land-grab to me.
Now, off to the Genius Bar to see if my expensive piece of kit produced by the not-investing-in-new-culture Cupertino giant can be saved. Irony ahoy.
- A smashing review in the Times Literary Supplement for The English Monster. The TLS content is behind a paywall, but here’s a snippet:
- “His achievement, in presenting a panorama which stretches from the beginnings of the Elizabethan era to the Regency period, is undoubtedly an impressive one. The English Monster is an original, imaginative investigation into some of the most disturbing aspects of the nation’s history.”
- Thanks to Tom Williams for an insightful and thoughtful review – he rightly pointed out that the Monster might be something rather more abstract than just a, well, Monster.
- I’ve written a thing for The Transmitter, the South-East London lifestyle and culture magazine which is the best such thing I’ve ever seen. You can view it online here or pick the mag up free from dozens of places in and around Crystal Palace. Here’s a snippet from my piece, Station to Station, about the line between Crystal Palace and Wapping rail stations:
- “The East London line from Crystal Palace is, by common consent, a wonderful thing. Not the least of its wonders is Crystal Palace station itself. This Victorian slice of raging brickwork is as solid as a hill and as soaring as a cathedral. It is a monument to a particular kind of Victorian construction, the kind that crosses valleys and tames mountains, and it connects to another type of Victorian project altogether, one which crosses rivers and tames water.”
A young magician wrote to Teller (of Penn and…) to ask for advice about creating his own style, and what he got back was a manifesto for anyone who wants to create, perform or entertain. It’s blockbuster stuff, for which I am an absolute sucker…
We made a solemn vow not to take any job outside of show business. We borrowed money from parents and friends, rather than take that lethal job waiting tables. This forced us to take any job offered to us. Anything. We once did a show in the middle of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia as part of a fashion show on a hot July night while all around our stage, a race-riot was fully underway. That’s how serious we were about our vow.
Japan’s been stagnating for two decades, right? Well, not according to Eamonn Fingleton, it hasn’t. He argues that Japan’s been doing very nicely indeed, thank you. It’s just that Japan doesn’t want you to know that:
If we believe the evidence of our eyes, we necessarily must look again at those economic growth figures. Preposterous though it may seem to an unacclimatized Western observer, it appears that Japanese officials have been deliberately understating the nations growth. But why would they do such a thing? For those who know Japanese history, a clue lies in trade policy. The fact is that, constantly since the 1870s with the exception of a brief interlude in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Japans pre-eminent policy objective has been to keep ramping up exports. That policy came very close to derailment in the late 1980s as a groundswell of opposition built up in the West. By the early 1990s, however, the opposition had largely evaporated as news of the crash led Western policymakers to pity rather than fear the “humbled juggernaut.” It is a short jump from this to the conclusion that Japanese officials have decided to put a negative spin on much of the economic news ever since.