The Otterbury Incident

by Harry on February 24, 2009

Rereading a much-loved book from childhood is a bit like meeting an old childhood friend. There’s doubt, until you finally meet, whether the magic of friendship will still be there and I imagine that it can be quite a disaster (though this has never been my own experience, in fact I’ve found that the people I liked as a kid and have encountered since have turned into quite delightful adults). So it was with some trepidation that I read The Otterbury Incident (out of print, but available from US amazon here and UK amazon here) to my oldest girl a few years ago, especially because the edition that was in print then lacks the lovely Ardizzone cover from the Puffin edition otterbury-incident (the original Ardizzone illustrations are all inside though and here are some more). My dad read it to me when I was 8 (it was published when he was 8) and I loved it so much that I reread it several times, the last well into my teens. But, who knows, perhaps the magical world of bomb sites, spivs, boys brutalized by their guardians, and one kindly teacher, would no longer have any hold on me, let alone her.

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The News Quiz

by Harry on February 24, 2009

Some years ago a considerably younger friend tried to explain the (to me, and, I’m glad to say, to CB, elusive) appeal of Friends: “Look, its seeing people having the kind of life you’d like yourself — a group of nice, attractive friends, witty, never really stressed, who care for each other and seem to enjoy their relationships. Its like you and The News Quiz: you wish that you were surrounded by a bunch of unattractive middle-aged people who still belong in the world as it was before the Miners’ Strike was lost, and make old-people jokes. You’d like that life, with an old Tory who doesn’t fit in (AC was still alive), the odd young person to make you glad you’re not young, and a occasional cricket-loving Trotskyist ex-punk to make you feel like you belong” (actually, I made up the bit in italics). The analysis was plausible enough that I refrained from pointing out the disanalogies — like that the News Quiz team is composed of real people, who are genuinely witty, genuinely friends, and do it all for a transport allowance and the price of the cup of tea and the slice of genoa cake I’ve no doubt they have on the train. I also refrained from pointing out that its a good job we’ve known each other since she was 8, or I’d be unnerved by her insight into my character.

Anyway I was reminded of this by hearing The News Quiz, which was bloody brilliant this week. I was thrilled that Shappi Khorsandi was on because, contrary to my friend’s comment, I like young people (though I am glad I’m not one) and Khorsandi seems like a rising star; but right at the beginning the cricket-loving Trotskyist ex-punk stole the show. Listen here.

Promoting Creative Commons through a tweaked Facebook meme

by Eszter Hargittai on February 24, 2009

Facebook Album Cover meme resultIf you’re on Facebook then it’s unlikely that you haven’t been sucked into the meme phenomenon. It tends to involve writing something, mainly about yourself, and then tagging other people with a request to do the same. Most recently it got very popular with the “25 random things” meme (yeah, yeah, I don’t think you need to be a certified sociologist to know that those things are never truly random), that first circulated as 7 things then 16 things, but not surprisingly really went viral when it involved tagging 20+ people.

The most recent one I noticed concerns something much more random as you’re requested to create an album cover based on randomly-generated phrases for the band name and album title, and a randomly displayed “interesting” image from the photo-sharing site Flickr (details below the fold). That last bit about the image bothered me a bit though, because the photos people were grabbing and editing were not necessarily posted under a Creative Commons license. I didn’t like the idea of people grabbing images that their creators didn’t necessarily want reused by others thus my interest in finding those shared under a CC license.

I went searching for a way to browse CC-licensed photos from Flickr’s Explore pool (photos deemed especially “interesting” by the system), but found no such option on the site (the closest to it I saw was to browse popular tags of photos shared under CC). I posted a note on Twitter about this, but the best people could do was point me to the CC option on Flickr’s advanced search page, which doesn’t address this issue since you can’t restrict a search to photos in Explore nor is searching for something specific the same as random browsing. Finally, I posted a comment on a Facebook friend’s photo lamenting the fact that I had not managed to find such an option when one of his friend’s replied with a link to a page that Mike Lietz kindly put together to generate CC-licensed Flickr photos from Explore randomly! A note to Flickr though: I think this is an option they should offer on the site.

So now I present to you the updated meme (italics are my additions) promoting Creative Commons as well as free photo-editing software. If you’re going to participate in this meme, I invite you to do so using the tweaked instructions below so as to help spread CC love.
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