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‘Funnier still…  a brutal demolition… a valuable glossary to corporate life’ — Spectator

‘Hauls the jargon words of business and bureaucracy out of context and interrogates them ruthlessly for meaning… he has linguistic sense and sensibility on his side’ — Times

‘Succeeds in being informative and enlightening on a vexing subject… A book based on laughing, even in exasperation, over office jargon in fact sheds light on the purpose and the psychological effect of office language as a whole’ — TLS

Do you hate going forward? Do you shudder when a colleague wants to reach out? Are you disgusted by low-hanging fruit, sick of being on the team, and reluctant to open the kimono? If modern business-speak makes you want to throw up, then my latest book is for you. It’s both a satirical deep dive and a come to Jesus moment for verbally downtrodden workers everywhere. You can order it here.

You can hear me talking about it on BBC R4’s Today programme here, and read some edited extracts at the Guardian. Good luck cascading the learnings down to your team. :(

Trigger Happy 2.0: The Art and Politics of Videogames

‘Wonderfully energising… focused literary joy’ — Eurogamer

Why can’t a wargame be anti-war? Why does “gamification” spit on the downtrodden? And why do so many videogames take the form of boring jobs? Investigating the aesthetics, politics, and psychology of modern videogames, the essays in this follow-up to 2000’s Trigger Happy are an edited and revised selection from my columns for Edge magazine. In it, you’ll find out why the Tomb Raider series is like the oeuvre of Mark Rothko, why Nietzsche might have enjoyed Donkey Kong, and what “self co-op”, “cognitive panic” and “unreliable agency” mean when you’re gripping a joypad or clawing at a mouse.

Available exclusively as an ebook through Amazon worldwide (can be read on any computer, smartphone or tablet using the free Kindle app) at £3.99 | €4.99 | $5.99 etc. Links: US, UK; search to find in European and other stores.

6 November 2012

Recent news suggests an internal war at Apple over its “skeuomorphic” interface designs: making software visually resemble real-world physical objects. I here republish my anti-skeuomorphist manifesto of February 2011, originally posted at 3 Quarks Daily.

Please tear your eyes away from this elegant and curiously seductive prose for a few seconds and look at what surrounds this webpage on your display. Unless you are browsing in full-screen “kiosk” mode or kicking it old-school with Lynx, chances are your browser program is designed to look like some sort of machine. It will have been crafted to resemble aluminium or translucent plastic of varying textures, with square or round or rhomboid buttons and widgets in delicate pseudo-3D gradients, so they look solid, and animate with a shadowed depth illusion when you click them. Me, I hate this stuff. I think it’s not only useless but pernicious and sometimes actively misleading. Won’t you please join me in declaring War on Chrome? Continued →

25 October 2012

In this week’s New Statesman comes more saddening evidence that foodists have trouble understanding any text longer than a menu or a recipe. Self-confessed foodist William Skidelsky’s review of my book, You Aren’t What You Eat, takes the rather courageous tack of actually denying that foodism is culturally omnipresent:

Modern-day Britain doesn’t strike me as a country obsessed by food.

What? Really?

A fast-growing minority of people, it’s true, take cooking and eating extremely seriously, perhaps to the point of overkill. Yet what this group has to do with the millions who tune into Gordon Ramsay’s or Jamie Oliver’s latest TV show, I don’t know.

Um, they are both obsessed with food? Continued →

12 October 2012

According to his bio, the Wall Street Journal writer and professional foodist Bruce Palling has “an intense relationship with food”, and “indulges his passion for fine food and wine in most continents”. In a spirit of collegial charity, I will suppose that only an unfortunate pre-deadline overindulgence in this dual passion, “in” at least one continent, can explain the style and content of his review of my book, You Aren’t What You Eat. Continued →

4 October 2012

An extract from my new book, You Aren’t What You Eat, was published in the Guardian; another one at Hazlitt magazine; and another in the Herald. It is out now in the UK & Eire, Australia, and North America. More information and reviews now at the book’s own page here. Bon appetit!

19 September 2012

A few of the appreciative commenters on my New Statesman essay about neuroscientism have concluded that popularized neuroscience is “the new phrenology” or “phrenology 2.0″. It didn’t make it into the final draft of my essay, but I had actually put this point to my interviewee, the neuroscientist Paul Fletcher, and his answer was rather interesting:

[P]eople are frequently a bit simplistic in using this criticism — after all phrenology, in considering the mind as consisting of dissociable cognitive faculties, was not altogether misguided. Continued →

CTRL-S   rescue child

SHIFT-CTRL-S   rescue child while wearing a certain superhero costume

CTRL-A   I want everything

CTRL-C, CTRL-V   become a renowned writer, like Johann Hari or Jonah Lehrer

CTRL-Q   leave job as renowned writer after previous shortcuts discovered Continued →

8 May 2012

Many allegorical readings of The Hunger Games have been essayed — most recently by no less an intellect than Stanley Fish in the New York Times today. But no one, as far as I’m aware, has understood the true meaning of the story, at least as presented in the first film. It’s obviously all about southern states’ hatred and resentment of the federal government in the US. Continued →

Some people are saddened at the abrupt removal of Google Reader’s sharing tools, and the social history that represented for those who used them. But this is only the latest example of a regular and predictable pattern of internet disappointment. Previously, folk have been distressed by the nuking of their messages on Hotmail, or gremlins deleting photos on their photo-sharing sites, or their thousands of Tweets not being lovingly archived, or being locked wholesale out of their Google Accounts, and so on and so forth. It’s always a real shame for those people affected, but by now it should no longer be a surprise. In case it helps, I hereby declare the following iron law of “free” internet services:

If you’re not paying for something, you have no reason to expect it to be there tomorrow.

Continued →

14 October 2011

Connoisseurs of the book review as magisterially persuasive demolition job ought right now to go and read Evgeny Morozov’s scintillating takedown of the new book by cyber-utopian1 Jeff Jarvis, because it contains, among many other excellent lines, the following glorious sentence:

This is how Sarah Palin would read Habermas if she could read Habermas.

Continued →

  1. Disclaimer: I have reviewed books by both Morozov (here) and another of the “Internet gurus” he names, Steven Johnson (here), and it is easy to see which I prefer. (I am also myself strangely misquoted in a book by Chris Anderson.)

9 September 2011

James Gleick’s article on Google for the NYRB is well worth reading, but it contains a strange error or obfuscation:

Somewhere along the line they gave people the impression that they didn’t care for advertising — that they scarcely had a business plan at all. In fact it’s clear that advertising was fundamental to their plan all along.

In fact, Page and Brin didn’t just accidentally give people that impression; they said it explicitly Continued →

31 August 2011

Venus DeLillo

22 August 2011