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Little boys

November 25, 2010

Little boys, of five and six and seven…

What is it about little boys? I just enjoyed a book about one. I went to see a play about one based on a film I love yesterday, and several of my other favourite films are about them. Why boys? I don’t know. Maybe it’s that I’ve spent a lot more time with little girls, both as a teaching assistant at a girls school, and as a former little girl myself. They are, of course, wonderful – but they’re also quite familiar to me.

Without wishing to over-analyse this (it’s just a five-minute blog post), I’ve noticed the little boy stories I like are often concerned with some kind of brotherhood… Oliver and the pickpockets, Jamie and the Japanese soldiers in Empire of the Sun. Dancing aside, the story of Billy Elliot’s all-male family and the solidarity of the miners is pure kitchen sink. And there’s often a woman – often not the actual mum, but a mother figure. Oliver had Nancy, Billy Elliot his dance teacher, Jamie was taken under the wing of Mrs Victor. Even Donnie Darko had Drew Barrymore. Maybe that innocent cross-gender mentoring role is what I really enjoy about these stories. As a dynamic it tends to lose out to parent-child and lover-lover.

I’ve noticed the little girls in our stories are often so much fancier. Alice is already a lady of leisure. The Railway Children are ingenious and loveable, but they’re not poor, even when they think they are. Andrew Lloyd Webber wouldn’t cast a Dorothy who looks like she has a habit, but the tweenaged Jamie Bell and Christian Bale could’ve stepped out of Trainspotting. Of course, I’m comparing apples and pears somewhat. Heidi might be an exception. I always liked Heidi and her straw bed and simple life. Could take or leave Peter.

Things I love today

November 24, 2010

Today I’m getting all emotional looking at the very-nearly-final design of my newspaper. I can’t recommend Alex Parrott enough, if you need a very fast, very good designer. Also despite the fact that 90% of the people who said they’d do stuff in the end couldn’t be arsed, we’ve managed to stuff 12 pages full of interesting things. Best to just rely on yourself, I always suspected it. Not really complaining though, the fact that I’ve had to do so much of it myself (in the sense of interviews etc, rather than writing loads of columns) means it feels more legitimately my own… it certainly looks like a cross-section of my brain. I’d buy it. Oh and we’re not printing a whole load of them, so I’d recommend getting in touch and placing a preliminary order if you’re interested in one. It’s weird to think I’ve probably spent longer on this than either of my books. I’d like to do them four times a year, but that’ll only happen if people buy them. It should be all finished by next week.

Another thing I love is that I’ve just discovered, in the course of my research for another project, that Abbie Hoffman’s life-affirming “Steal This Book” is available as pdf. Abbie would approve.

Finally, I’m loving searching for pictures of French bulldog puppies, even though they kind of look like Julia Stiles.

A good book I read

November 23, 2010

I’m crap at reading, as you know. I never do it, and then, when I finally do, it takes me bloody ages. I was one of those kids sliding the ruler down the page and lip synching. But I read an entire novel over the weekend – I think the first time I’ve done that since the wonderful What Was Lost. I don’t usually understand the point of novels so I avoid them, but like What Was Lost, this one was really, really good. It just made perfect sense for it to be a book. And what a book.

It’s called Room, and it’s by Emma Donoghue. Don’t read anything about it. Don’t even read what’s written on the cover. Just don’t.

Honestly, don’t.


I’m going to link to the Amazon page now so you can buy and enjoy it too, but remember what I said.




Up for air – side channel attacks

November 17, 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy. It’s good, though, and some of it’s even paying money. For example, I’m writing something for WIRED UK at the moment – it’s involving reading a lot of technical documents, but I’m really enjoying them. The piece is going to be all about side channel attacks, which it turns out are fantastically interesting and cool. It’s great when this happens and you’re not actively hating every second of working on something. Yes. I love this shit. I knew there was a reason I pitched it. Anyway, if you’re bored, you could do worse than check out this LED thing and Markus Kuhn’s brilliant research on screen light (it’s a PDF but look at page 11 and 12). There are loads more but I’ve got to keep some surprises back for the article, haven’t I?


November 10, 2010

I was asked to cover the major retrogaming expo R3play last weekend in my professional capacity thing. That means interviewing and filming and all that stuff I love, so I knew it’d be fun anyway – but it was superb. SUPERB! I had such a great time. I’m not much of a gamer, and in fact, I wasn’t much of a one as a kid either. The only machines we had growing up were ones that could be used for something practical, like word processing. So dedicated consoles have always had a kind of alien allure for me, as have arcade machines, which were far too expensive for me to ever play on regularly at the time (of course, when we got a “PC Compatible” machine in the early 90s we immediately stacked it with arcade games).

But here was a giant, free amusement arcade, and as a favour to my deprived childhood self, I spent hours upon hours playing the old games very badly. I also hung out with Iain Lee, marvelled at tapes, floppy disks, new machines, old machines, new games for old machines (the Repton 4 guys were there, as was the Tweeting Spectrum). Risc OS, Commodore’s SID chip, The Domesday Project… all these things are forgotten but not gone.

I drank awful wine, I talked to loads of nerds. I touched things I haven’t touched in 25 years. It was an intense couple of days in a very big, very loud exhibition space, a space filled with noise, smells, and memories. Ah.

I’ll most definitely be back next year, in the meantime, here are some of our photos from the weekend…

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Shut up, we’re busy

October 27, 2010

I don’t mean to be mean. I know how hard it is to get the tone right on websites. But – as someone who spends at least a third of her time pitching ideas – it is increasingly hard to ignore the fact that publishers’ websites are really quite rude to writers. We’re their bread and butter! And yet, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT they come across as astonishingly condescending.

Don’t take my word for it, though – check out this collection of quotes I picked up today, while browsing the web for a publisher.

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In Wired again

October 27, 2010

I have a thing in this month’s issue of Wired and I’ve just noticed it’s up on their website as well hence the link. It’s a series of interviews themed on one of my interests, reformed hackers, and they gave it a whole page, which I’m very pleased about!

Needless to say I submitted many more words than they used in the end, but no complaints from me, it was all good fun and good research for my newspaper. Read the thing online, or buy a copy from your local newsstand – be quick though, it’s almost next month now.

Shift Run Stop 50 round-up

October 19, 2010

I don’t like using the word “lovely” too excessively, but come on. Yesterday was such a lovely day.

In the afternoon, we interviewed comedian Helen Keen for the podcast. I stalked her on Myspace a bit years ago, and since then she’s been given her own show on Radio 4, won awards, and just done loads of writing and performing. Helen talks at a hundred miles an hour because she has so many ideas in her head; she’s really funny about stuff you never thought was funny. We were a bit cautious about introducing her as a geek comedian in case it sounded offensive, but there’s no getting around the fact that she’s done two stand-up shows about rockets and a show about the North Pole.

I was very excited to learn that Helen’s dad is a postman, because (as anyone who’s read EOC will have deduced) I’m fascinated by the UK postal system. I told her my dad’s a rocket scientist, and we agreed we should do some kind of dad-swap. She’s so sweet. She even wrote us a little thank you note when she got home. She has the rosiest cheeks and loveliest skin, and I don’t know if I want to be her fan or her friend or WHAT.

Anyway. Then Roo and I had to rush to the Southwark Rooms, where we were hosting our live 50th episode party thing. I’m trying not to over-use the word lovely, really I am. But my god. What a crowd. What a night! I’m welling up just thinking about it.

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Shift Run Stop games night

October 13, 2010

Look, I don’t have birthday parties, ever. I don’t have anything else to celebrate regularly and probably never will. So please come to the Shift Run Stop games night on Monday and help me celebrate the only worthwhile thing I’ve ever been involved with, in my life.

Even if you hate me it’ll be worth it, because the loveable other half of Shift Run Stop will be there, as will our regular snacks testing guest, Dave, and quite a few former guests.

Answer Me This! Did you know my friends wrote a book?

October 12, 2010

My pals and podcasting cousins Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann have written a book based on their internet show Answer Me This!, and I have a received an early copy, and can report that it looks brilliant.

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