Category Archives: Words

I’m Back

When I started this blog, back in February 2001, its title meant something: Life – because it was a journal of mine – and Less Literary – because I didn’t want anything on it to be over-thought, over-worked. This was a very deliberate strategy, prompted by the fact that I’d spent the last couple of years intending to put more writing online, but was stymied by my own perfectionism.

In those early days the volume of stuff I wrote on here was, with hindsight, phenomenal. Often several posts per day, some of them surprisingly lengthy. I quickly built up an archive of stuff on diverse topics than in later years became the stuff of legend and mockery. I migrated from Blogger to some-other-platform-whose-name-I-forgot to WordPress, and moved servers at least a couple of times. I added various templates and plugins, most of which have died in some way or other over the years (any WordPress experts out there fancy helping me with some housekeeping?) And gradually, year by year, my written output slowed down. Until we reach the present day, where it seems hard for me to scrape together even one post per year – and even then it’s usually when someone dies.

Then last night, in a beer-fuelled conversation with Si Wilson and Emma Jane Hogbin Westby somebody suggested that I write blog posts to help firm up my thinking on technical topics. Which is something I’ve been meaning to do for yonks but, yeah, perfectionism. And then I was reminded of the original purpose of this blog, of the title of the bloody thing, and I thought “fuck it. It’s time to get less literary again”.

And so, here I go, again. I hope this will be the start of a renaissance of less-literaryism. I would love to post here every day, but I suspect that a couple of times per week would be a more realistic target. Please harass me if I don’t. The contents will be a little more technical than in the past (funnily enough, for somebody who has worked mainly as a developer for the last 20 years, I’ve managed to maintain this blog for 14 of those years with a surprisingly low level of pollution from overly-dry code samples and technical arguments; it was too good to last). But there will still be plenty of random shit. Enough, I hope, that I will be able to look back in ten years’ time and say, in response to a discussion on any topic under the sun, “oh, I wrote a blog post about that in 2015”.

social networking

For almost 18 months now, I’ve been meaning to blog about my “current situation” (admittedly a moving target over that period). But my blogging has gone stale: I only wrote 8 posts in 2008 – in the distant past there have been single days when I’ve almost managed this many (the period leading up to September 11 2001 seems to have been particularly fertile). But what’s even more obvious to me is that I didn’t write anything of substance in 2008, just quick status updates and links to photos I’d taken.
Continue reading social networking

Ones to Watch – Baby Long Legs

Published in this month’s Sandman Magazine:

For some thirty years now, the phrase “prog rock” has been a dirty term, uttered only in whispers or among clandestine groups. And while the sombre musical odysseys of Yes are still beyond the pale for most sane-thinking people, increasing cross-pollination of musical genres means that elements of prog have started to creep in through the back door. And about time too.

Enter Baby Long Legs. This band aren’t afraid to chuck the occasional obscure time-signature into their folk-tinged pop songs, but they always do so gently, and with a sense of humour: more reminiscent of Caravan and other Canterbury-scene bands than of more pompous and po-faced practitioners of “symphonic rock”. You couldn’t imagine Baby Long Legs ever composing hour-long paeans to imaginary oceans; instead they stick to three-minute pop songs with oodles of added quirkiness (“stick it where you like, it’s made of felt so it’ll stay there”), like a slightly crusty version of Ooberman.

Seeing Baby Long Legs live is always a treat. The whirling tunes and driving rhythms, the hotchpotch of instruments (it’s a given that, at some point in the evening, a trombone and a penny whistle will put in an appearance), the da-riddle-me-dee sing-alongs, the angelic clarity of the lead guitar-lines, the mullets (ahem), and the mischievous grins which show that the band are enjoying themselves every bit as much as their audience. Seasoned Sheffield gig goers will no-doubt spot a few familiar faces, among them past and present members of Chicken Legs Weaver, Rumpus and Monkey Swallows the Universe. Baby Long Legs has already acquired a devoted following in Sheffield, and truly deserves recognition on a wider scale.

Definition of the word “Luftmensch”

Jeez, I just posted that Merriam Webster entry while reading through my email, and then I open up the next day’s (today’s) word – even more fascinating, useful and, err, relevant to my current situation:

The Word of the Day for Jul 27 is:
luftmensch \LOOFT-mensh (“OO” as in “foot”)\ noun: an impractical contemplative person having no definite business or income

Example sentence:
“The son …,” wrote American author Irving Howe, “is leaving to be a luftmensch ” a starving poet, a painter without pictures, a radical leader without followers.”
Did you know?
Are you someone who always seems to have your head in the clouds? Do you have trouble getting down to the lowly business of earning a living? If so, you may deserve to be labeled a “luftmensch.” That airy appellation is an adaptation of the Yiddish “luftmentsh,” which breaks down into “luft” (a Germanic root that can be tied linguistically to the English words “loft” and “lofty”), meaning “air,” plus “mentsh,” meaning “human being.” “Luftmensch” was first introduced to English prose in 1907, when Israel Zangwill wrote “The word ‘Luftmensch’ flew into Barstein’s mind. Nehemiah was not an earth-man …. He was an air-man, floating on facile wings.”

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.



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