Friday Reading Still Eats Big Dinners S10E12

Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from the Guardian’s Martin Belam, covering journalism, media and technology, and other interesting nerdy things. It is also available as an email newsletter and still eats big dinners. Sign up here.

THIS WEEK’S ABSOLUTE MUST READ: How I Fixed Atari’s Awful Music by vintage game developer Gary Kitchen, and reader, I howled.

So much of journalism, especially the teaching of it, focuses on figuring out what the story is, who the right sources are, and how to get the story. The actual writing process is often given less emphasis and is generally thought of as the less exciting part.

I’m not actually sure this particularly applies to me – I love the writing. Hence doing n,000 words every day in live blogs, but nevertheless this is a conversation with Vinson Cunningham about how to go about doing big set-piece profiles and whatnot.

‘A person is the prism’: A conversation with Vinson Cunningham – Feven Merid, Columbia Journalism Review.

I very much enjoyed this from Marie Le Conte on not being able to write during lockdown. I’m not entirely sure that was the intended effect.

It is Wednesday afternoon and for the seventh time this week, I have had to tell myself that I cannot pitch a story on how I have no stories to pitch. That is not something people want to read about, and definitely not something publications would pay to publish.

Having said that her idle lockdown days may be over as Marie has subsequently announced that she will be running the Jackdaw newsletter for Mace Magazine; every week she’ll send you an email with an original piece from her a Q&A with an MP, and some analysis from a political expert – all for free. Sign up here:

I’m not sure anything has terrified me more in my career than listening to Federica Cocco absolutely not taking any shit from politicians/civil servants/spokespeople etc over the phone. Here she is with a rather less forthright set of interviews for the FT, talking to young people about how coronavirus has absolutely ruined their lives.

The kids aren’t alright: How Generation Covid is losing out – Federica Cocco

Also on Covid impacts, this about what it has been like to be a retail worker during the pandemic. As a former record shop-worker I will never ever leave the shopfloor union.

Customers were not happy. They didn’t take out their frustration on management. They took it out on us – the people behind the checkouts. We should have had more management on the shop floor all the time we were open and not just drafted them in when we thought we would get busy.

Frontline workers and Covid-19: the view from till two – Rep Pepper

Hannah Cooper here with a very good look at what new streaming services mean for those of us who like to watch super archived telly on physical medium. She points out that one advantage for us DVD/Blu-Ray nerds is:

Programmes may be edited or removed entirely and it’s impossible to predict the myriad reasons why all sorts of films and television programmes could disappear from streaming platforms in the future. iTunes users have already realised that digital purchases are not a worthwhile replacement – I’m personally bitter every December after losing songs from a NOW Xmas album.

If streaming starts to offer everything, should we finally give up the DVD? – Hannah Cooper

There’s been some reading between the lines that this blogpost here from Google, saying that they will be taking site performance signals into search that will allow “non-AMP content to become eligible to appear in the mobile Top Stories feature in Search” that it’s the end of the road for AMP.

I’ve always had VERY STRONG feelings about Google’s AMP and Facebook’s Instant Pages etc. They wiped out any competitive advantages sites had spent years working on by investing in site performance. It was always bonkers that I could just whack a couple of plug-ins onto WordPress and then these tech giants treated my tiny site as performing just as well as businesses that employed tens and hundreds of developers.

Plus it also forced businesses to maintain extra templates, and artificially restricted the amount of interactivity they could use and display.

Nothing says 2020 like the fact that – AT LAST! – you can buy racist tea. Well, I say that. Someone has launched a website for a new brand of British tea (lovely climate to grow the stuff) that is anti-Black Lives Matter and anti-woke and anti-virtual signalling, and it’s just so Poe’s Law that I don’t know what to do with the knowledge that it exists.

There are so many weird quirks* I’ve learnt about the electoral system in America, but the way that Senate representation is madly skewed is one of the oddest…

In the incoming Senate, Democratic senators will represent at least 20,314,962 more people than their Republican counterparts but be in the minority — and that’s if we assume that Republicans win both runoff elections in Georgia. If the two Georgia seats go to the Democrats, the Senate will be split 50-50, but the Democratic half will represent 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half.

America’s anti-democratic Senate, by the numbers – Ian Millhiser, Vox

[*Absolutely deliberately engineered situations]

We don’t know yet what Trump will tell the press when (or if) he finally admits defeat. We can predict that it will include some of Nixon’s self-pity, along with vitriol about how unfairly he has been treated and lies about how the election was stolen.

The more interesting questions, for journalists, are these: What will the press do without Trump? How will we function without a towering political figure to kick and be kicked around by? And, what will the press do about Trump? Once he’s out of office, how much longer will we allow him to set the news agenda?

“What will the press do without Trump?” – Bill Grueskin

This theoretical beast, called a “utility monster”, is a philosophical thought experiment, originally proposed in the 1970s. To reject its argument and stop it eating you, it asks you to discard a widely held and intuitive principle about how to weigh up right and wrong.

Long regarded as unlikely, if not impossible, the utility monster is usually considered the stuff of fanciful imagination. However, according to some researchers, we could be on a trajectory to building one – but it’ll be made of silicon, rather than flesh and claws.

The intelligent monster that you should let eat you – Richard Fisher

My old chum casmilus was possibly the last human being still using Facebook’s Notes as his exclusive means of internet scribbling. Facebook have shuttered it so he’s been forced to start a blog – Discontinued Notes. He writes about archive TV and music and found objects on the street and sitting on the top deck of the bus. I love it.

Fundamentally, it’s still an Assassin’s Creed game. There’s still a big map with stuff to do but by changing the way I discovered those points of interest on the map, by making them a bit more of a mystery, it made me enjoy the rote act of discovery just a little more.

This review has actually made me want to try this game now: ‘Valhalla’ Asks What Makes a Good King and a Great ‘Assassins Creed’ – Matthew Gault, Vice

I had this fearsomely detailed dream about a new animated Pokémon series called Coral 60M, which was a base in France where they sent out mega-evolved Pokémon like Torterra and Carracosta on rescue missions to help people, and I’m now furious that it doesn’t exist.

Are there any FB groups for sharing vintage pictures of where you live that don’t have a bunch of bitter old men sniping in the comments about how everything is rubbish these days?

It’s weird when something links to something you wrote and you basically don’t even remember having done it, but anyway my attention was drawn to this timeline of .uk internet usage that I made a few years back. Disappointed to note that it does not appear to include the word ‘Fenton’.

When I got the new laptop last month I thought at the same time, since I appear to be doing the music lark quite a lot, I’d trade up from GarageBand to Logic Pro X, and have to confess that when I first fired it up I was a bit underwhelmed because it looked waaaaaaay more like GarageBand than I expected. Anyway, a month later, now I’ve discovered that every single button has 1,057 other buttons hidden underneath it, it would be fair to say I’m in a bit of shell-shock trying to use it. Do not expect new tunes soon. 🙃

Having said that, I’m looking forward to this – I’m doing a special live stream on 23 November for the anniversary of Doctor Who with loads of tracks that I’ve never played before that I’m now in a fever dream trying to rebuild from 2001 using new software on a new laptop. Hahahahahahahaohgodwhy.