The increasingly inaccurately-named blog of journalist and futurist Chris Taylor. Either the most sporadically brilliant amateur blog, the most brilliantly amateur sporadic blog, or the most amateur sporadic brilliance on the Web since 2001.
I'm the newly-appointed Future editor at Business 2.0 and the former San Francisco correspondent for Time Magazine.
Wow, so does this mean everything you write reflects Time Inc's opinion? Or do you perhaps have some sort of standard disclaimer to the effect that it doesn't?
Naturally, the opinions contained in this blog are not those of my employers. In fact, some opinions may be the polar opposite of my employers. Some may be the same, for all I know. Hey, it's not like I ask my employers their opinions about everything in the news, okay? Let's just say that if this were a Venn diagram with one circle marked "my opinions" and the other one marked "my employers' opinions", there would doubtless be some overlap. But neither I nor my employers are able to pinpoint exactly where that overlap is.
What is this Daily Blah thing?
An experiment for a column I wrote about blogging back in December 2001. All these years later, I haven't been able to kick the habit.
Do you write any other blogs, by chance? Could that have something to do with the fact that Daily Blah isn't always Daily?
Yes -- the Future Boy blog for Business 2.0. And yes. If you want true, editorially-mandated daily coverage from me, that's probably the best place to look.
Mister, you talk funny. Are you one of them furrners?
Why yes I am, as it happens. I was born, raised and educated in Great Britain. I've been living in the U.S. since 1996 and identify as British.
I say, old chap, you forgot the "u" in "colour."
No I didn't. I may identify as British, but I am also an American journalist writing for an American audience about mostly American issues. These two different sides of me are a constant source of tension. Nevertheless, Daily Blah will adhere to American English grammar and spelling.
Praise for Daily Blah:
"It is fun to watch the author's navel-gazing joy." - Sunday Times (UK)
"It's really funny and informative." - Dave Eggers, author
"The Blah is becoming a daily destination for me." - Richard Marsh, Playwright
"I like it, and I don't." - Fiona Hogg, Teacher
"Better than Xanax." - Lessley Andersen, journalist
"Dude, lay off the crack pipe." - Souris Hong-Porretta, gamesmith
Friends, Bloggers, Countrymen ... lend your ears to these people. I come not to bury them, but praise them.
Get thee behind me, coffee?
Ever since I came to the states, I've been slowly turning into a coffee snob. This country -- the coasts especially -- will do that to you. And now, ever since I renounced lattes and a couple of friends bought us a coffee grinder as a wedding gift, I've been making black coffee from fresh beans first thing in the morning. Just like a real American.
This seems to be a good thing. After all, prior to my morning coffee, my brain tends to resemble cotton wool that has, after millennia of evolution, only just achieved sentience. Post-Joe, I'm ready to bend steel girders to my will. I couldn't give it up and expect to function, right?
Wrong, according to this blog post and (limited) self-study. Robin Barooah has been drinking coffee since age 10, and after he quit, it didn't take him too long to achieve increased productivity. So I should follow suit, right? Right. Let me brew a cup and think about that one.
David Rakoff at Newsweek takes a stab at alternate history with this essay on what would have happened under a two-term Gore presidency. It's quite an amusing take, but suffers from exactly what you'd expect in a mainstream pub: too much prodding us in the ribs and winking. The torturous route Rakoff takes to get Gore to say "heckuva job, Brownie" in a similar context to Bush is a typical example. Nevertheless, I'd like to read more stuff like this -- and needless to say, we need repeated reminders of just how much of a nightmare the last eight years were.
More Mad Science
Could we fix the climate crisis via absurdly cheap geo-engineering, such as filling the skies with sulphur (and turning them red in the process)? Yes we can -- and someone may do it soon, warns the Atlantic.
Ants on Stilts!
Did you know scientists have attached stilts to ants' legs, in order to prove that ants are able to count their steps? (They overshot their nests in proportion to the length of the stilts.) Did you know there's a giant colony of fire ants that now covers pretty much of the southern US? Neither did I, until I read this excellent piece on superorganisms. Well worth your time.
And thanks to a colleague's pop-inspired wit, I will never again be able to hear the Duran Duran track "Girls on Film" without hearing the line "Ants on Stilts."
Speaking of the Hyper-Organized
The NYT's David Pogue shares his productivity tips in this online-only column. I normally find Pogue a bit overbearing -- he has too much of the musical theater fanatic in him -- but in this piece he's a man after my own heart.
The Writing on the Page
It's official: on-demand publishing is the future. Last year was the first that the number of self-published titles outweighed the number distributed by traditional publishers, large and small. Meanwhile, the mighty Amazon is dipping a toe in the waters with its new on-demand imprint, AmazonEncore. True, the publishing industry still sells the most copies overall, by far. But if there's anything we have learned over the last decade about digital trends, it's that they ramp up fast. Little, Brown et al should savor their last couple of years of three-martini lunches.
This is New
This has been setting the Internets abuzz for a few weeks now: An album's worth of mashups from YouTube, created by Israeli artist Kutiman. And no wonder. Watching them is like being present at the birth of a new art form. This is the flashy opener that's been getting a lot of blogosphere love, "The Mother of All Funk Chords":
But for sheer listenability, I think, nothing beats Track 3, "I Am New":
I Think, Therefore I Twitter
A researcher in Wisconsin has been able to send a tweet using nothing but his thoughts, and a skullcap full of electrodes. (It was all external brain-pattern reading -- no nasty cerebral implants required.) Can the first blog by word of thought be far behind? We'd better get training an extra private inside voice, one that won't give away our innermost thoughts to every electrode that happens to be passing by.
Antarctica After Ice
We all know the ice at the North Pole will be gone (in summer, if not year round) within a few decades. But what about the South Pole? If the ice vanishes completely there too, we won't have as large a continent as we thought -- we'll have a series of islands at the bottom of the world. Check out this map, which shows how much of Antarctica is below sea level (and that's not counting the many extra inches of sea level we'll get from all that melting landbound ice). Those penguins had better get used to swimming a lot further, no?
My Latest Hero ...
literally latest, as in the late Father Theodore Heck, who died at the end of April at the age of 108. Why is he my hero? Because, according to this report, he set out to learn something new every year:
"Every year, he would take up a subject and read about it," DuVall said. "When he was 99, he decided he should learn Spanish, and when he was 100, he took up the computer."
Best Web video of 2009, May entry
Again, it's Star Wars-related. (See a pattern developing here?) The premise this time: what if you took James Earl Jones dialog from other movies and put them in Darth Vader's mouth? The result: brilliantly executed.
San Francisco: Serene, indifferent of fate, thou sittest at the Western gate
And now I know, the next lines are:
Thou seest the white seas fold their tents, Oh, warder of two continents; Thou drawest all things, small and great, To thee, beside the Western Gate.
Kipling, however, hated the city. He arrives on a steamer, and his first impression is that Fort Point could be handily destroyed by a couple of gunboats from Hong Kong -- in other words, the city is defenseless against British invasion. He then wanders around, being wowed by the cable cars, but like a lot of tourists looks for reasons to hate the locals. He even refuses to accept the beauty of the hills, deriding them as sand dunes pegged down by houses "today." Money quote:
"San Francisco is a mad city--inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people, whose women are of a remarkable beauty."
Fairy Tale as Infographic
There's no link here to the previous blog. Absolutely no connection between the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the financial crisis. My, Citigroup, what big collateralized teeth you have!
Maintain equanimity and proceed
Here's an excellent Laughing Squid blog from FOB (Friend of Blah) Aaron, detailing the various remixes of "keep calm and carry on," the British wartime propaganda sign. Which, according to this Guardian story, is only receiving wide release now -- written by some civil servant, whose name is lost to history, it was only meant to be posted in the case of an invasion. How odd to see it applied -- only half-jokingly, one suspects -- to the present crisis.
"Get excited and make things" is now my desktop background.