By Stephen Fry
October 30th, 2007
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I can’t tell you how much gloriously pedantic pleasure it gives me to correct you on one minor inconsequential point of fact:
Will be tuning in on Saturday…
Haha, so that’s the ultimate definition of a geek? Reading Pratchett? Oh dear God, I am a geek. I almost wrote “Greetings from a fellow sugar addict” but I forgot you’ve given up now. Loser! Doesn’t Hollywood always tell us to never give up? ;o) Just you wait till the next time you’re down! Ha! No, seriously: Congratulations on having conquered this vile habit. I wish I could.
all well and fine, but why did it have to be called “dork talk”?
I am often chastised for my well chosen and specific search criteria entries by my friends, and wish to seek a support group relating to such in my area. could anyone help me in that respect?
on a side note, the reason pratchett’s head may seem too close to his soup while lunching down the chelsea arts club, is because he is attempting to read the Guardian Newspaper, but his reading glasses are steamed up due to all the mouth breathing.
Why are all mackintosh owners seen as nerdy anoraks I’ll never know. (internal pun dictionary giving a chortle)
Stephen – Thank you.
I find your writings on the subject of technology refreshing. Being someone that reads nothing but technology and gadget blogs in my spare moments your beautiful prose is a nice change from the poor writing skills of some of the writers on this subject.
As a few have already commented, I am also a telecoms professional, and can say you are anything but lax or untechnical.
Your post about smartphone was an absolute pleasure to read, and you have also now given me a reason to once again start buying the Guardian on a Thursday.
Thank you and please keep it coming!
I can’t believe you dissed Terry Pratchett.
Knife. In. My. Heart.
Please go and read Lords and Ladies or Feet of Clay, and then we’ll talk. If you’ve only read The Colour of Magic, or The Light Fantastic, however, your ignorance is (barely) excusable.
PS. I have to breathe like this, I have sinus issues.
You provide a good example for the rest of us, Mr. Fry. Before, I was a lemming; I believed the handful of negative comments about Macintosh computers. Then, when I had to use a Macintosh to edit our itty-bitty documentary project, I was DELIGHTED! “Interacting with a digital device should be like interacting with a baby.” — that’s what happened when I was left alone in the editing room! Since then, I accept all criticisms with a grain of salt; I won’t judge until I tinker for myself.
I can’t wait for your next article. I know how to Google things (heck, I just Googled Second Life!), but I may pick up something new from you!
I’m an IT professional, I specialize in Messaging and Collaboration solutions so smart phones are something I tend to like. Although I use mainly Microsoft solutions, I am a Mac buff, so, naturally, I should like the iPhone. They don’t integrate well with my solutions at all – but I blame the random woman who just walked past my house for that.
Macs Rule… Simple as. An interesting watch which you may have already seen is the film, Pirates of Silicon valley. It’s all about the rise of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. It’s In a documentary form, steve jobs is played by Noel Thingamajig, who, played Carter from E.R. Good watch for any Geek.
I can’t believe Thingamajig was in my Dictionary (another reason why Apples are so cool)
Please, will all the Pratchett lovers stop taking the point too personally. Although despite my call for temperance, Pratchett has been turning out the same tired rehashes for years. I was a big fan, but you can only read the same plot so many times.
Soul Music is the same as Moving Pictures, and The Truth.
The Guards books: same, allowing for character development of Vimes and Carrot.
Reaper Man and Hogfather: Same story.
Witches Abroad and Maskerade: Same story.
Fifth Elephant and Night Watch (the last one I read – that was breaking point): Same story
Sorry folk, merely an opinion.
Mr Fry do you Have an xbox 360?Love to have a game of halo 3 with you.
Josef K: One could make a similar point about P.G. Wodehouse.
Josef K: while I’m not sure about the specifics of your examples, I’d note that The Star’s Tennis Balls has something in common with The Count of Monte Cristo, leading to the conclusion that there’s more to a book than the storyline…
As to the style/substance thing: _cost_ plays a big role, too. If a product gets the same job done with fewer grins but a cost of half that of a product that delivers more smiles, the cost may (for many people) be a deciding factor!
It’s a bit like art: most sane people agree it’s important, but it is a luxury and should come after the essentials of life, and to a degree that almost no-one can agree on. Some like a basic home stuffed to the gills with music, others have a small music collection but lavish all one their abode.
Quote: ‘Sick building syndrome exists, and so does sick hand-held device syndrome’
Off-topic, but, Mr Fry, you could not be more wrong about the former. Having professionally evaluated a large number of people who claim to suffer in ‘sick buildings’, the one thing that is almost never the problem is the building. There are nuisance problems of poor ventilation, badly placed air intakes, and low humidity for instance, but these do little more than irritate people. It is sometimes boldly declared by ‘experts’ that the odd building is infested with mould and that this makes the building sick. All too often, the facts show that there are a few mould spores per cubic metre of air, at most, while outdoor air in the summer can contain thousands of spores per cubic metre and be perceived to be exceedingly healthful. Outbreaks of illness form ‘sick building syndrome’ are almost always based on secondary gain or mass-hysteria.
One may also appreciate both smart phones and telegrams, Beethoven and the Beatles, Holbein and Hockney… why not Pratchett and Wodehouse? We’ve come full circle here. I certainly read both. I read Fry too, evidently, wise as he is to point out that it is possible to enjoy Terry Pratchett and not Star Trek (though not in so many words).
I am a student of art history and theory, and am capable of fixing a car. Have an iPod and a turntable. A lap-top and a fountain pen. I watch House MD and Stargate SG-1, Kingdom and Wire in the Blood. I drink coffee or tea, not one exclusively.
Mr. Fry was careful to point out all these possibilities before even mentioning Pratchett. And it really depends on the soup.
While I am a big fan of yours, Mr. Fry, I must admonish you for the following abuse of a verb:
I blogged on my website a few weeks ago
Actually, what you did was write on your website/blog. Why use this ugly noun transformed into a verb, when there is already a perfectly useful verb that is more appropriate?
You also referred to “Apple Computers”, the company was simply called “Apple Computer”. Although I believe that they are now just called “Apple”.
I’m impressed by the fact you’ve got almost every model of macs(or so I’ve heard)! I’m only on my 2nd (2007 iMac and a Powerbook G4 which sadly, I stepped on whilst looking for my glasses)! Great things, Apples.
Your spoil us, Sir!
If you intend commentary on some social networking sites, how about your views on “Genes Reunited” (having done the family tree *thang*)? I fear it may give the government ideas [perish the thought!] and we’ll see a database behind some palatable smoke screen entitled “DNA Reunited”.
I’m not paranoid…
I wonder if Stephen reads the comments? If so, what does he think of them? Sort of a weird experience I’d imagine, because the comments seem to have adopted a faux-Frysian style (“Mr Fry”, “I fear”, “perish the thought”) of their own. (See – I’m doing it too. What idiot would say something like ‘faux-Frysian’ anywhere else?) Then again, when I deliberately said “Stephen” just then, it felt a bit weird and over-familiar, where it doesn’t when I post to other blogs. Must be some sort of in-bred deference for people who’ve been to public school, and were clever enough deliberately to misquote Shakespeare at the age I was stupid enough to misquote Enid Blyton (sp?). Steve-oh has deservedly also attained a position close to the late lamentable Queen Mother and David Attenborough in public esteem, so perhaps it’s something to do with that.
@Harvard Irving. Just to kick off a bit of unnecessary controversy on a wonderfully friendly page. I don’t agree with the idea that you can’t use new words, or turn nouns into verbs. ‘Blog’ is a new word itself, but you have no argument with such a new noun? Are you in any doubt as to what ‘to blog’ means? What about ‘to editorialise’, which is respectable, but I presume a ‘verbification’ of the noun ‘editorial’.
I’ve got a recollection that Shakespeare was a fan of turning nouns into verbs, and he was certainly a fan of new words – allegedly creating many of his own (although it could be he was just the first to write them down). As Frysey seems to imply by his use of Blessays and Blisquisitions, he’s not averse to a bit of makey-uppy speaking ‘n stuff. Me I don’t have the vocabulary or imagination to have come up with a word as pleasingly foolish-sounding as ‘blog’, what with me being brung up all wrong ‘n that, squire.
Which brings me onto one of my favourite things in one of Stephen’s books: how a *lack* of linguistic imagination and invention destroys communication, not the other way (or something like that). It’s the story of how you simply can’t write down a large part of contemporary North American dialect, because of the double-meaning of words like ‘shit’. So you can write:
“I was eating fries and other things”.
But you can’t write
“I was eating fries and shit”, which usually represents exactly the same thing in spoken English, and not the self-outing of a coprophiliac.
I just want to point out that when I click on the “read full blessay” link, all I get is a little spinning wheel that spins all night and delivers no content.
The only way I can read your marvelous blessays is to click on the links under “archives”. It might be a Firefox thing.
Suggest you put your geek head on and suss it out.
Stephen, thank you, and I look forward to lots more. I’m not particularly a lover of either smartphones or Macs. In the case of the former, I fear I’m not smart enough for the smartphone. Where is the ‘getsalongokphone’, the ‘triesnottostandoutofthecrowdphone’? In re the latter, well, ditto, and also I get lost in what appears to me a filing system rather than a system of files. Nevertheless, it’s impressive to find that even one who’s erudite for England can find it within himself to write with great turgidity about ‘competing’ interface standards.
In the tradition of web arguments, I begin the rest of my time here with an ‘at’.
fred2, clearly you care deeply and for this I love you. However, while ‘to blog’ is clearly ‘to write (on) a blog’ (if only because a recent back-formed verb can’t really be thought to have acquired any extra meaning beyond the simplest reference to creating or obviating the noun from which it comes), ‘to editorialise’ is manifestly not limited to ‘to write an editorial’. On the subject of lack of linguistic imagination destroying communication, I’m often of the mind that homonyms are responsible for the decline of what I had always thought of, with a sort of boobish proprietorship, as English. I’m sure u think so 2. Amirite?
(None of the above, I grant you, excuses a 50-year-old for saying that anything â€œrocks his worldâ€; thatâ€™s just too horrid and must stop.) =D Lmao
Why is it that it’s so much cheaper to get your hands on a decent PC than it is an Apple Mac?! I would love a Mac, but I just can’t afford it, God damn, instead I find myself with Dell notebooks, as generously distributed by my dad’s work as anniversary gifts. Time to start saving I think.
Look forward to the column, although goodness only knows where I’ll be able to get the Guardian in Upholland, I struggle for Radio Times
much love xxxx
*sigh* Just read aloud the back of the cornflakes packet in your rich,mellifluous voice.That will suffice my wish list!
I see a bunch of people in the comments who are excited by the idea of an article about internet search.
It is a great topic to tackle, but I wonder if it breeches on a larger issue about how people relate to their computers and how they learn to use them.
I think some of us dive into their computers with reckless curiosity. We often click before we read, we flip through menu items at a blazing pace looking for key words, but mostly we experiment. We learn the language and the character of the computer. It is like going into a chain store. Even if you have never been in this particular store you have an idea of how things are placed and where you might find something, because they all have a similar pattern. Experimentation with the computer teaches you the words they like and the usual arrangement of things.
It is an easy thing to say all this, but we do this with an exceptional amount of bravery. I used to be so amazed by people who use computers on a daily basis and yet seem to be terrified of them. People see these machines as mysterious and fragile. They become fearful of them and it causes them to become dependent on others to feed them information every step of the way. They don’t learn cause they never seem to let themselves get to know the machine.
I wonder if it would help people to learn about their computers by changing their attitudes about them and encouraging them to be more reckless and experimental. Does it do more harm then good to keep feeding people with step-by-step information before teaching them to teach themselves? Maybe being comfortable with search is where you start with building that confidence.
I’ve clearly gone on to long, but I would love to see Stephen tackle this issue. I would also welcome anyone else’s thoughts.
I also want to know when Stephen will be in Denver! I am determined to spot the cab.
I’m so pleased that the Guardian have given you the opportunity to share with us your passion for all thing digital. Perhaps you’d like to pass on to your readers of that august publication (bear with me – I know it’s only the Grauniad, but hey! I’m trying to blag a plug here!) details of Bob Swipe and Stray Photon’s new ‘fusion’ podcast?
That’s right, we’re using the most up-to-date technology – erm….computers and stuff like that…to bring our listeners the finest tracks from our huge warped collection of old vinyl – or maybe that should read from our huge collection of warped vinyl. I can’t make out Stray’s handwriting. Whichever way you slice it Steve – I can call you Steve, I trust? – Stray and Bob’s Crackly Saturday Record Club will ‘Rock your world’!! Either that, or you’ll come away with a perforated eardrum or two; no one said it would be *easy* Stephen…
Thanks for your time – and can I just take this opportunity to tell you how much Ma Swipe and I enjoyed ‘House….
L.U.V. on ya,
Bob (& Stray)
This is another expression of gratitude for the additional entertainment you have taken the time to offer your acquired audience.
I find that reading the comments is nearly as amusing as reading your entries. You really did hit the nail on the head with your post “Let Fame” – one finds all categories described in the long scrolldown after your own words, each time. There are the fawning acolytes, the ones who take pleasure in correcting you, the ones who try to play up a passing or indirect acquaintance, the ones who try hard to cross your path so as to bask in/boast of your presence and the ones that might be fun to know. These are not mutually exclusive classifications, nor do I plead innocent to swelling the ranks. I’m sure even you get gaga in the presence of certain luminaries.
Anyhow, I’m looking forward to hearing more. Thank you again.
Ok, a question I’d like answered, completely off topic of the original post.
Is there any chance “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive” is going to be shown in Canada? If not, is there any way of getting hold of a copy? I’m not bi-polar but have had something approximating to hypomania, and get to take some of the funkier lithium-like pills. The gist seems to be that hypomania is like bipolar disorder but without the fun bits, if that’s not totally tasteless. Here’s a funny thing which goes through someone’s head when they’re depressed with hypomania: “Goddamit – I can’t even do manic depression right”. I’d really like to see Stephen Fry’s take on all this.
I was watching ‘crime and retribution’ (the Richard E Grant episode) the other day, where manic depression was described in the old way as implying violence and criminality, and where the mania was – as usual – confused with the depression, when it’s two very different sides of the same condition. It’s really appreciated when someone in the public eye says ‘I’ve got it and it’s nothing to be ashamed of’ and counters some of the stereotypes. I try not to treat my lesser condition like a deep dark secret for the same reasons, but I don’t exactly boast about it in job interviews. But it gets really boring explaining why I can’t drink much, can’t stay out too late … Good on Stephen for giving up the smokes. I rebel against an enforced healthy lifestyle by smoking like a lunatic and eating chocolate til I can’t sit still.
I’m not remotely intellectual. I have a Dell and my fiance has a Mac. I wish I’d met him before I purchased my lap top ‘COS IT’S SHITE.
I love you Stephen. I love your books, I love QI, I love your comedy but I must admit that my heart lies with Alan Davies. Cute beyond belief. My fiance taunts me that Alan is your secret lover. He senses some sexual chemistry on screen. Tell me it’s rubbish…please..
As the post before mine said, “completely off topic of the original post.”… But not really sure where I’d send this, so here goes:
I just wanted to tell you it was a wonderful treat to meet you yesterday at the Apple Store Soho where I work. I’m such a mac geek, that I had to figure out a way to get paid for it, so here i am.
I rarely, if ever, approach someone of status or a celebrity, and in this city I’ve had my share of opportunities. I feel it is rude to bother someone in their daily life. But I knew I had to at least say hello to someone who I admire, and truly feel that they have a voice that needs to be heard. You’re manic-depressive doc, made me re-evaluate my depression/epilepsy/mood swings with a new education as to what exactly Bi-Polar is. That coupled with the BBC education website for the show. Excellent.
Well, anyways, I once again appreciate your graciousness.
A request for a future – I’d be interested to hear your take on all the excitement generated recently by Google announcement of it’s plans for the future. The OHA, Android and all that.
Heh. I love a good automated solution, myself. Good system design can give me goosebumps.
But oh, Stephen, please tell me you don’t really think it’s spelled “woah”. Please tell me you know it’s really spelled “whoa”, and you were just being hip and edgy and digi-savvy.
Stephen, for the love of all that is geeky, *please* do a week (or even two) on TWiT (http://twit.tv/twit). Leo Laporte is in deeply enamoured with you and I for one would love to hear your voice talking tech to cheer my dreary commute.
It would also be fascinating to peek into a slice of your computing life via Wakoopa (http://wakoopa.com/). Be warned, though, it’s devilishly addictive.
I’ve had a lot of machines over the years, but design-wise my favourite is my laptop. It’s a Gateway convertable notebook that I’ve named Control (sidenote: do you name your gadgets? I LOVE naming my stuff…) with a large widescreen display, a black and silver colour scheme, and pleasant blue lights.
Tablet PCs are coming close to being a God-send for writers, not unlike myself, who prefer writing long hand first…but they’re not there yet. Helping the machine to translate the chicken scratch takes just about as long as transcribing it from a paper notebook, but it’s the illusion of ease that tickles me pink.
Actually, I am an IT professional (and have been for 15 years now. Wow, I seem to have become old), and I totally agree with you, with a couple of exceptions.
For daily use, and for just getting stuff done– whether that’s writing, making music, sending email, looking at web pages, organizing documents created while writing or so on, or general non-inherently-technical-stuff that just happens to work better with a computer involved, then windows, icons, and the rest are absolutely the way to go.
My problems, as a unix systems administrator, arise when people who only know that sort of interface try to impose it on fantastically complex tasks, like Domain Name Service, web server configuration, and so on. It’s true that Microsoft has created a few mostly-functional toy versions of these pieces of software, but in order to get to any really complex configuration options, well, it gets unweildy pretty quickly. (Tabbed dialogs were created by evil evil men and I hope they get punched for it, whoever they are.) If nothing else, it’s hard to search for specific parameters in large configuration dialogs. Apple has a start on making that workable with Spotlight in the System Preferences, but it’s still not nearly as simple as opening httpd.config in a text editor, searching for the line, and changing it.
Even as somebody who can explain things like how to fake virtual hosts using mod_rewrite rather than an actual VirtualHost paragraph on an apache server, when I sit down to write music or email or whatever on a computer, it’s vital that it simply work with a minimum of messing around. I often run into college students who are surprised to find that I use a Mac for day-to-day tasks and projects. “You’re a unix admin!” they say. “Why don’t you use unix!” (This has come up less often since OS X made the Mac cool again.) The simple response is that I get paid to mess around and do complicated stuff, and when I’m at home, I want to be able to relax and just not worry about it. No linux box at home, nope. I keep the fiddly stuff at work and work on the meat of my projects at home, rather than the infrastructure required to support those projects. And at work, I build that infrastructure so that other people can do the same. I do like building infrastructure, or I wouldn’t do it as a job, but my job is not my life, and I don’t want my technology toys to be like my job.
What I want to know is – do you still have that second ever Macintosh??
I sympathise with the pigeonholes of ‘if you like opera, you can’t possibly like video games’ and the like. Apparently I can’t enjoy both Megadeth and Maxim Vengerov. And the fact that I’m female and I actually LIKE gaming, gadgets and cars – well something is clearly wrong with me! But that’s nothing compared to the fact that I am in MENSA, and blonde! (it still amazes me that people carry these stereotypes so literally)
I’m afraid I have to throw you a blinder here though Stephen – I like Norman Douglas AND Terry Pratchett!!
First of all, I must ask you to forgive my english. I’m spanish, so I’ll be doing a bit of a mess with your lovely language here. So, Mr. Fry, as I admire you a lot and I love your brilliance with language, don’t be very critical with my writing– just the necessary deal.
Now coming to important things, I’d like to thank you very much for the time you’re spending in writting this fantastic blog. I really have a great deal of joy reading it, and I must say I quite understant your Macintosh love realtionship. I’m 20, and I still remember the day my father got home with that black-and-whiteish Mac Plus (I think it was in 1990). It was so easy to use, so ellegant, so lacking of a Hard Disk and still so perfect. I was 3, and still I was able to use it (mostly to play, because -Oh yes!- it had games. Some of the better computer games I’ve ever played, by the way, and I’m talking from the perspective of almost 20 years of delighted game-playing). Anyway, I was able to use it with my three-year-old brain and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER had a problem such as a system failure.
But then came the PC horror. I realized none of my nine-year-old friends had ever heard about Macintosh. They talked about Windows, and Word, and MS-Dos. What’s more, in the informatic lessons in the school they kept teaching how to use that crappy system, absolutely uncohomprensible for me -almost a Macintosh breather since my birth- making the kids assume that was all the informatic world that was there for them. For me it was like walking backwards, I could’nt see the point on that informatic lessons. They made no sense, Ms-Dos made no sense. Even windows was far away from Mac. And still, PC imposed it’s criteria.
Now I’m still a Mac lover (we still have that Mac Plus somewhere, well kept) but I have a PC in my room too. It seems it was clever to use messenger, and Microsoft Office, and Windows and all that loathesome systems just in order to be able to talk with people about computers. But on the other hand, for intelligent, easy, stylish and no system-failure tasks, I will always chose Mac.
Oof, having finally dug this article out of my overs-stuffed bag, I’m afraid I now come bearing tardy Pratchett chidings.
It just intrigued me that Senyor Fry got quite so much quiver into his condemnation, when surely the QI in him should have been intrigued by the Science of Discworld series. Their ‘thought experiment’ narratives are stuffed to the gills with scientific insights & mysteries. Redeemed TP’s hackeries a helluva a lot in my eyes
Dear mr Fry,
Next time you venture out into ‘Second Life’, please feel free to visit a little place called ‘The 1920s Berlin Project’.
Here I’ve tried to recreate the backstreets of the great city during this very exciting time.
To me that is the only reason Second Life is interesting, it enables me to share my passion for history, educate people and experience a tiny bit of time travel, something that seems to be rather tricky in Real Life.
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The new audio series of Professor Donald Trefusis.