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Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda (Books 2018, 31)

Hey, I made it to 31, by reading the last chapter of this on the last day of the year.

This book, subtitled “Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs,” is written by the software engineer who worked on the original version of the iPhone’s software keyboard. It’s an interesting view into how things were for someone working at Apple at the time.

That’s not something we often get, with the company’s noted dedication to secrecy, so it’s good for that. But while I did get a sense of what it was like, I feel that there’s an awful lot more he could tell, especially about the people. We do get a sense of some of them, but not much insight. And especially not about he author himself. We learn next to nothing about him outside of his work.

Maybe that’s the way you have to be when you work at somewhere as high-pressure as Apple. Worth a read if you’re interested in Apple and their products.

Stormwatch by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney and Bryan Hitch (Books 2018, 30)

I don’t always include all comic-type things here. No particular reason why, except maybe that they sometimes feel too short and not substantial enough. I probably wouldn’t have included this, except that it conveniently gets my total for the year to thirty.

It’s a post-Watchmen story of superheroes handled in a vaguely realist fashion. At least in the sense that there’s some consideration of politics. Stormwatch is a UN body, an emergency response team. It has its base in a satellite, and superhuman beings who are tasked with dealing with incursions from other worlds, or other, nefarious, super-powered beings. The US is usually antagonistic to it, because of its UN status.

It’s not bad, but honestly not much to write home about.

The Drifters by James A Michener (Books 2018, 29)

I think I’ve read this more times than any other book except Illuminatus!, and maybe The Lord of the Rings. Which may be only three or four times. A friend got into Michener when we were teenagers. None of his books much interested me, until I looked at this.

It’s a tale of hippies and others in 1969. Six young people from various countries meet each other in Torremolinos, and drift around the Iberian Peninsula and parts of Africa. The narrator, seemingly detached third-person at first, turns out to be an older man who knows some of the young people, and arranges business trips so that he can hang out with them from time to time.

It’s about what was going on in the world — Vietnam, the Arab/Israeli conflict, drugs, music — and about the characters. They aren’t that well developed — indeed, he largely abandons character development after the first six chapters where he introduces each one — but those introductions are enough to see us through.

Actually, thinking about it now, I wish he had written more about some of them. A sequel would have been in order.

It’s partly, I suspect, Michener’s own struggle to come to terms with the way society is changing — he was born in 1907, so he’d have been 62 at the time this is set. It was published in 71, so maybe a tad older when he wrote it. The narrator, George Fairbanks, is younger than that, I think — probably in his fifties, maybe even forties, but people seemed to become old at a younger age back then.

Well worth a read.

I’m In A Book About The Clash

Joe Strummer died 16 years ago today. The Joe Strummer Foundation has a good memorial piece.

But for me it’s amusing or ironic or something, that it should be today of all days that, out shopping, I see (and buy) this book:

I’ve been waiting for this for around five years. You’ll recall, I don’t doubt for a second, that back in 2013 I posted a link to a Kickstarter that the authors were running to help them fund the writing of the book.

What I don’t seem to have posted about is that a year or so later, in June 2014, one of the authors visited the UK and interviewed me for the book. He didn’t come over just to interview me, I should stress. It was a research trip, and he visited various places and interviewed lots of people, some of my friends included.

We’ve exchanged emails a couple of times since then, when he had followup questions, so I kind of expected to hear when the book came out. Coincidentally I was recently thinking about emailing him, to talk about something on the Joe Strummer 001 collection of obscurities that came out a month or two back. Had I done so, I would of course have said, “So when’s the book coming out?”

But here it is. I am extensively quoted (well, quoted a couple of times) in the section on the busking tour’s visit to Edinburgh, which was mainly what he wanted me to talk about.

Here’s the publisher’s page on it. Here’s its GoodReads page, and its Amazon UK and US links. Probably too late to get it for Christmas. Try a bookshop.

Here’s a page with me:

I knew going In to the West End on the Saturday before Christmas was crazy. But first I couldn’t get on to the Piccadilly Line platform. And then, they’re queueing outside the Lego shop!

(Actually things aren’t too crowded so far.)