New books, new launches and an old, but very good, observation from Michelle Obama

A big old gap since my last post, so by way of catching up…

I’ve made good progress on the latest book, about 11,000 words and some research to anchor some other sections. It’s another Spurs book, due out this autumn, for Vision Sports Publishing. I need to get the bulk of it researched and written before I start working for VSP on the series of books my effort forms a part of. As is often the case, research throws up some interesting angles for future books, so I’m working up a couple of proposals, as well as taking a fresh look at a major publishing project that has attracted some interest already. 

Wired UK launches

I picked up a copy of the most eagerly-anticipated magazine launches for some time last week. I remember Wired’s previous attempt to crack the UK market in the mid-90s, and the website of the US version frequently threw up interesting pieces. The UK launch promised intelligent writing and some depth for anyone interested in where we are going as a human race. 

I must confess I’m a little disappointed with the launch issue. Most of the analysis is stuck away at the back of the book, with a series of sections of bite-sized chunks and product-driven pieces running through the first 116 pages. There are some interesting snippets to be sure, but I wanted to read more on figures such as Oli Barrett and Blogger founder Evan Williams. There’s much advertiser-friendly stuff on products and gadgets, but little that suggests a new approach.

With the starters uninspiring, the main course also disappoints. There’s an interesting read on the gestation of iPlayer, and the futurology cover feature provides food for thought. But most of the features wouldn’t be out of place in a general men’s magazine, and articles on the iPlayer and the man whose economic formula broke the world market look back rather than forwards. I’ve set aside a chunky piece on the salvage operation for the freighter Cougar Ace for future reading, but again, why it’s in a magazine which claims to be specifically about “The Future as it happens” rather than a general interest read is a question that immediately comes to mind. 

I also found the writing style in some of the pieces a bit of an irritant – self-consciously weighty prose that teeters dangerously close to pseud’s corner. 

There’s much commentary but not as much insight as I’d expected. Features such as ‘The people who really run Britain’ don’t tell me more than I already knew, which is that some people do incredibly vital but unsung jobs. The trend continues on the website, with a piece by Peter Kirwan which takes the now-familiar route of pronouncing all existing media models dead without really detailing what comes next, and how it might be achieved. We do learn one thing that’s needed, though. The replacement of ageing baby-boomers in the media industry with people Peter’s, and my, age. 

If, as editor David Rowan says in his introductory letter, this is the magazine for people who “enjoy staying one step ahead” then there needs to be more informed comment and analysis on what may be ahead.

All this said, I know form my own experience on launches how incredibly irritating the pronouncements of self-appointed expert commentators can be, often coming from people more anxious to prove they could’ve done it all so much better and loathe, like too many media folk, to give anyone else credit where it’s due. So I’m not writing off Wired. I would like the magazine I think it could be to succeed, and I’m prepared to give it more than one issue to do so – especially as there is an extremely attractive subscription offer. Wired may develop as it goes along into something of real quality, rather like – and with no side intended in the comparison – a good sitcom. 

Jonathan Wilson’s history of football tactics

I also finished reading Inverting the Pyramid, Jonathan Wilson’s absorbing history of football tactics. It sounds as if it should be a very dull trainspotter volume, but is in fact a beautifully written and thought-provoking study of football tactics and the cultures that produce them. Recommended.

Michelle Obama’s speech

I know it’s very unoriginal to join in the general Obamamania, but I thought this was a great section from her speech to a group of London school girls last week.

“If you want to know the reason why I’m standing here, it’s because of education. I never cut class. Sorry I don’t know if anybody here is cutting class. I never did. I loved getting As. I liked being smart. I loved being on time. I loved getting my work done. I thought being smart was cooler than anything in the world.”

I think that’s a pretty important message. 

That Sunday Express article in full

The piece I wrote for the Sunday Express recently doesn’t seem to have gone online, so there’s a link to the copy on my Scribd account should anyone be interested.

That’s all for now, an appointment with a small boy, a football and a park awaits – it’s the Easter holidays.

#Books #MichelleObama #SundayExpress #WiredUK

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