All in all: well, that was better than 2009.
There was masses of output at BERG. The most sizable work for me was the launch of Schooloscope, which has been my main focus for the year. But! I also had hands in Dimensions/howbigreally.com, a new company website, a geriatric chatbot, a tiny part of the colossal team effort that was Mag+, and all manner of other things that you can’t link to because, really, they were just the being-in-a-room-ness. And then all the amazing work I had less to do with – Michel Thomas, Making Future Magic, Penki, the Media Surfaces films. Brilliant.
What else that wasn’t work?
Noticings closed, which I’m sad about but don’t regret; the site required more maintenance than we’d have liked, and people got understandably annoyed when their images didn’t always score. But: the game is still afoot; it’s a game you can play without a website scoring you, and I’m going to write something in the next few days about some of the ideas and influences that went into it that aren’t so visible.
I’ve dialled back speaking at conferences for a variety of reasons in the past years, but went to Interesting North to talk about Things Rules Do. In the end, I was very satisfied indeed with it. It’s a better talk than a piece of writing, but I’m going to have the transcript complete soon (I promise), as I’d very much like to share it.
I made a Twitter bot to take a joke to its logical conclusion. It became absurdly popular. It’s not been working for a while (and, sadly, I think I know why), but at the time, it very much hit a bunch of things I wanted to do on the head – mainly making jokes through software. Somebody complained that kanyejordan’s output should be edited so that only the really funny messages were posted. I disagree thoroughly (and not just because it’d be more work for me). The point of mechanized satire is that you make the system it works on completely transparent: in this case, that you add “Liz Lemon, ” to the start of every message. That means some are hilarious, and some are nonsensical. It also means you never forget that this is humour being made by a stupid computer; the fact that so much of its output is so funny is even more entertaining when the simplicity of the code behind it – the complete lack of anything resembling intelligence – is made clear.
I didn’t quite write enough, but as ever, will be working on that this year: primarily by overcoming my fear of textareas and structure and planning and perfection and instead just starting typing and see what happens. Which is what I did today.
I went on holiday to Wales – hiking in the Brecon beacons – and I still haven’t properly processed the photos, which is why it looks like I disappeared for a week. It was great – lots of reading, sitting, fresh air, going up hills and staring at the sky. The weather wasn’t great, but there were still a few glorious days, and it was a much-need holiday. Lessons learned for this year: I need to take more holidays. (I had a moment of being scared and depressed about my photography in general, which is one of several reasons I have a little backlog of pictures. I shall get them up asap. In the meantime, here’s a nice picture of a waterfall).
That holiday was enabled by my big significant achievement of 2010: learning to drive.
I had started learning when I was 18, and then a bunch of things – university, moving to London – happened, and I never really got around to finishing learning. So, whilst I knew how to operate a car, I’d forgotten almost everything. In January, I bit the bullet, and threw money at the problem. After I passed, I also ended up buying a car. Which might sound daft, but really: I can’t rent a car until I’ve had a license for a year, and I’d quite like to drive now, and I use it just about enough to make sense, although I’m aware it’s a slight luxury. But: it’s lead to trips to the seaside, and a holiday touring the Brecon Beacons, and giving friends lifts, and trips back to the Cotswolds without horrendous train delays, and so alltold it’s been a marvellous boost. It’s also an way to feel one more notch along the (admittedly irrelevant) “being a grownup” track; imaginary nonsense that I still manage to feel I’m doing badly at. Might sound mundane to have learned to drive at 27, but it’s turned out to be marvellous. As I’ve said many times before, it has genuinely changed the shape of the map – indeed, the shape of the country – for me.
And then: a smattering of weddings, a funeral, some fine parties, and a whole bunch of books and other media, which I’ll be writing about in a separate post.
2010. It was a pretty good year – not remarkable, but in comparison to 2009 it deserves many, many gold stars. And, in the best way: just enough momentum to push me over into 2011. Some plans, some ideas; now I just need to keep going. What’s to come: more writing, more making, more reflection, and some more trips to the swimming pool. I am not going to commit to more than that – but it’s enough to be thinking about for now.
Happy New Year.
Alex | 2 Jan 2011
Whether it’s ultimately a luxurious frippery or a powerfully enabling geography stretcher, I found the general idea that one must Learn To Drive hanging over me for most of my 20s. It was an enduring relief to finally get it done – in fact, that was five years ago now and I still get a little pleasurable buzz from remembering I can drive. Woo! Perhaps it’s actually better to do it later than sooner – maybe one appreciates it more.
Happy new year, Tom.