Month: August 2008 Page 1 of 2


What kind of day has it been?

It’s been quite a day for fuck ups, all told

First I discover that I incorrectly spelt ‘Mefenamic acid’ as ‘Methanamic’ acid in the book (kudos to Zoe for spotting – no pun intended).

Then Aaron Sorkin’s researcher pointed out that I’d illustrated my Facebook The Movie post with someone who wasn’t Aaron Sorkin.

And finally, just as I was about to kick back and watch some DNC, I get a message from my little brother who is due to fly to Canada tomorrow. Turns out Zoom airlines have gone bust – less than 15 hours before his flight was due to leave.

Brilliant brother that I am, I’ve spent the last hour or so rescheduling him and ensuring that he’ll now land – albeit via Boston – just twenty minutes later than scheduled.

I knew all this technomadery would prove useful. I’m just disappointed that I couldn’t do it within my personal 35-minute flight planning and booking target. It’s more tricky when you’re scheduling someone else.

Hey ho. What a boring post. But what else are blogs for?

Now: Obama.


You talkin’ to me?

Do you know what’s weird? Working in a hotel room of a morning, streaming BBC 6 Music for the first time in ages, and suddenly realising that the radio people are talking about you.

That’s weird.

Still, ‘ Unlimited digital thumbs up.’ One for the sidebar quotes, eh?


Charlie Wilson’s Wall: the Aaron Sorkin Facebook movie

(Quick update: Aaron Sorkin’s researcher, Ian, just pointed out that “whoever that is on your website is not Aaron”. This is what happens when you rely on Google image search. Consider it corrected.)

According to a story on Valleywag (now confirmed), Aaron Sorkin has been asked by Sony to write a screenplay based on the history of… Facebook.

There’s just one problem: as Sorkin himself admits, he knows nothing about Facebook. In fact so desperate is his lack of knowledge that he’s set up a group on the site asking for help and advice from Facebook users, explaining “I figured a good first step in my preparation would be finding out what Facebook is.”

Now, regular readers will know that I’m a huge Sorkin fan. As I say on the About page of this very site, I would gladly have the man’s babies (although they’d probably be cancelled after eight months). And so it kills me that he’s heading for such an epic fail. Facebook the movie? Who exactly is that aimed at? People who thought Shattered Glass could do with a bit more exposition? People who loved the technology in Wargames but hated the high drama?

But Sorkin has asked for help, and so help he shall have.

The most important thing in a project like this is to get the characters and casting right. Mark Zuckerberg is a complex character – think Paulie Bleeker meets Rain Man – and miscasting the role of Peter Thiel would spell disaster for any project. With that in mind here’s my list of suggested key characters, and the actors to have in mind while writing them…

(In order of appearance)

Mark Zuckerberg: Michael Cera
Tyler Winklevoss: Jonah Hill
Peter Thiel: Nathan Lane
Max Levchin: Joshua Malina
Sean Parker: Matthew Lillard
Jonathan Abrams: Ben Stiller
Tom Anderson: Donald Sutherland
Larry Page: Ben Affleck
Sergey Brin: Matt Damon
Jason Calacanis: Joe Pesci
Michael Arrington: John Goodman
Nick Denton: Lily Tomlin
Owen Thomas: Tom Cruise
Sarah Lacy: Lindsay Lohan
Kevin Rose: Dulé Hill
Julia Allison: Katie Holmes
CEO of Hasbro: Allison Janney
Evan Williams: Matthew Perry
Rupert Murdoch: Tom Anderson
‘Danny’: Timothy Busfield

And then there’s the script itself. It seems to me that any Sorkin-penned Facebook screenplay must contain (at least) the following…

1) A seven minute ‘bounce and talk’ featuring Sergey Brin (Damon) and Larry Page (Affleck) space-hopping down the corridors of the Googleplex.

* * * *

Page: "Don't be evil? Don't be *evil*? We pay these guys       
       ten million dollars and that's what they come up
       with?"
Brin: "I believe there was also something involving
       elves."
Page: "Okay."
Brin: "So we have a problem with 'Don't be evil?'"
Page: "You mean apart from the fact that the alternative
       would be "be evil"? Which, by the way..."
Brin: "...has already been trademarked by Microsoft?"
Brin: "Has already been trademarked by Microsoft, and...
       please tell me we didn't just spend ten million
       dollars just to set up that joke."
Page: "I'm really not sure I can."
Brin: "Okay."
Page: "So I'm just going to bounce over there and tell
       them we'd like to hear a couple more ideas."
Brin: "Yeah. You should probably do that."
Page: (Calling back) "You want to hear the one with the
      elves?"
Brin: "BOUNCE."

* * * *

2) An emotional sub-plot involving Stanley Tucci as a CEO who is forced to admit to shareholders that he asked key members of his staff to cover up the true state of his health.

3) A game of Scrabulous between Peter Thiel (Lane) and Max Levchin (Malina) conducted entirely in latin.

3) A scene in which a screenwriter who admits to knowing “less about the Internet than my grandmother” is brought in to write a movie about an already-shark-jumped social network. Remarkably, by using whip-smart dialogue in lieu of factual accuracy, the screenwriter begins to make headway on the project. An Oscar – or at least a Webby – surely awaits, but will our hero walk down the red carpet alone or can he win the heart of his beautiful but ditzy assistant, Julia Allison?

4) A scene in which someone throws a sheep through a plate glass window.

What’s next?


Waterstone’s Q&A

Waterstone’s have just published a Q&A I did with them a couple of weeks ago. Here’s an extract. Follow the link for the whole thing…

They’ve published a slightly amusing profile of me too, here.

* * * *

Paul Carr – author Q and A

Paul Carr on the end of The Bible, whoring, and having a vague interest in the great Gonzo…

What was your favourite childhood book?

The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark. I mean, just consider that for a moment, an OWL who is afraid of the DARK! He’ll starve! I won’t spoil the ending, but sufficed to say, he doesn’t starve. The sequel, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, is worth a look too, but it’s aimed more at teenage readers.

Which book has made you laugh?

Lots of them, sometimes for reasons the author intended. Most recently I laughed out loud at a few of the jokes in Boomsday by Christopher Buckley, who also wrote Thank You For Smoking. It’s a really nice modern satire on how Washington works, quite light reading but great if you have a few hours on a train or plane. He’s also one of the few authors who can write about blogging without sounding like either my dad or Douglas Coupland.

Which book has made you cry?

The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark. I mean, seriously, he’ll STARVE.


W
hich book would you never have on your bookshelf?

Never? Ooh, tricky one. I’m not a big fan of banning books, either personally or on a wider scale. Every book has something to teach us, doesn’t it? No, just kidding. Hell in a Handcart by Richard Littlejohn. If I were an evil dictator, I’d start by burning that, just to get the liberals on side from day one.


Fear and freeloading in the authors yurt

Finally hooking up with the Champagne was a mini adventure in itself.

A gift from my (brilliant, lovely, etc) publisher to mark publication of The Book, it was originally delivered to me c/o Adam Street before embarking on a ridiculous up-country relay, ending up in a rather excellent Edinburgh restaurant where Richard O’Connor had thoughtfully arranged for it to be put on ice.

There really is no better start to a long weekend – or end to a long journey – than a bottle of decent Champagne on arrival follwed by a fine meal and excellent company. Especially when that company includes Richard, Robert, Stephanie, and a songwriter from D.Ream. Surely, Things Could Only not Get Better.

And yet they did. My Book Festival talk thing was a blast – and pretty well attended, especially given that James Harkin and I were programmed against Irvine Welsh. (”What are you two talkin’ about?” “Footba”” What are you two talkin’ about?” “Ideas and technology.”)

Specifically, James was talking about his excellent book, ‘Big Ideas‘, and how some big ideas (the Long Tail, metrosexuality, citizen journalism…) require the use of a finely tuned bullshit detector. I was talking about how all of my ideas require the very same. It was an hour-long gig ending with a signing, during which a nice chap called Paul asked me to sign a copy of London by London. You want meta? I got meta.

Aside from being a great chance to talk about The Book, and about ideas generally, the event also gave me access to the ‘authors’ yurt’ – a vast Bedouin tent full of whisky and wine and coffee and finger food and Will Self. Oh, and they booked me in to the Bonham, a rather splendid boutique hotel just a stone’s throw from Charlotte Square.

And did I mention it was a paid gig? Seriously – if I knew being an author was this much of a blast, I’d have spent less time learning to drink and more time learning to write.

But it wasn’t all ‘work’, ‘work’, ‘work’. With Rob, Stephanie and Richard in town, there was plenty of time for fun and culture. Highlights for me were an excellent talk on Ian Fleming by Charlie Higson and Ben McIntyre and a surprise appearance by Rich Hall at Best Of The Fest. It was Rob’s first time at the festival but I suspect it won’t be his last, especially as a certain girl is now living in town. I think I might try to arrange a trip back north for Hogmanay.

First, though, I have to get this bag mission finished. Thank you to the frankly astonishing number of people who emailed suggestions on the perfect hand luggage. I have some excellent leads from both ends of the luxury spectrum (I’m favouring leather at the moment because it looks prettiest) and, given that today is a bank holiday, I’m going to do some research and shopping tonight. Not least because – inshallah – I’m back on a plane at the end of next week.


A half year of living virtually

MacBook – check.

Blackberry – check.

iPod – check.

Hello there. You find me packing once again, this time to head north of the border to the Edinburgh Book festival (do come and see me if you’re around – details here).

With every new leg of the journey, it’s the same check list as I tuck everything into its proper pocket of my maroon suitcase on wheels, taking special care to make sure I don’t leave anything expensive and electronic under the hotel bed.

And not least because, when it comes to electronic devices – particularly costly ones – I don’t enjoy the best luck.

Sure, partying plays a part – somewhere in the region of a billion lost iPods and an equal number of credit cards still languishing in tumblers behind bars will testify to that – but even sober, I seem to have a knack of killing or losing expensive gadgets.

Take laptops. I’ve had three – THREE – stolen now. Including one from a bag resting between my feet while I was having a conversation with two lawyers. Then there was the MacBook hard drive that died on the exact same day that my Blackberry fell in a sink full of water, meaning I lost the originals and backups of all my contacts at once. The day before I flew to the US for three months (a trip which saw me lose two digital cameras and an iPod Touch on the very day I bought it)

Ah, yes, Blackberrys (Blackberries?). I’ve had nine now. Three lost, one left in a hotel, one stolen on a train in Dallas as I slept, one drowned in the sink, one filled with soy sauce by a Geisha in Los Angeles, one dead of natural causes and the one I currently have wrapped in cotton wool on my desk.

Considering all of the above, it’s perhaps not surprising that I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about how much data I need to carry with me at any given time.

When I set off for the US – at the very start of the technomad experiment – I put my books into storage, digitised all of my music on to iTunes (with iPod backup, having learned nothing), switched all of my mail to Gmail and routed my phone number (expect the mobile number I reserve for friends) through Skype. I switched all of my bills to paperless, delivered via Gmail and I did similar with tax and banking.

I was pretty pleased with myself. Not only was my entire life paperless, but the only locally stored data I had was my iTunes music, my digital photos, a whole bunch of Word documents and all those books in storage. And of course my passport.

But in the months that followed, there was still a feeling nagging away at me. The feeling that my data was still vulnerable. Sure my music was backed up to my iPod, but if I got mugged and lost my laptop and iPod at the same time, it would all be gone. My photos the same. And the Word documents. And my contacts. Oh, and my calendar. And those books in storage – what if there was a fire? Or – more importantly – what if I wanted to refer to one of them?

I was determined to solve those problems. And it seemed like the only real solution was to figure out how to virtualise absolutely everything but the passport. The dream scenario would be one where, if all of my possessions vanished at the same time, all I would need do is pick up an fresh laptop and a new Blackberry, click a couple of links and – bing – everything would back as it was.

ALSO – I wanted any thief who ended up with my stuff to be as far away from my data as possible. I’m not talking passwords and encryption – I’m talking about keeping my laptop actually empty of anything valuable. This is also useful at customs.

I’ve been working on the problem for six months now and this seems like as good a time as any for a progress report. I won’t go into two many of the specifics as that would be kind of a dumb move, privacy-wise. But as of this evening, there is just one file in my Documents folder: the Word document I’m working on right now.

All of my research material, notes, spreadsheets, notes, emails etc etc are safely stored in a location far, far away. Two locations actually. And when I need them, a click or three brings them into Google Docs /Gmail for me to start hacking away. Ah, yes – Goodle Docs – local Office apps are a thing of the past too.

My photos – same story. 99% are on Flickr anyway, but the few that I don’t want to share with the world are safe and sound, but just a Blackberry/Wireless click away. Nothing on the harddrive.

Music is a slightly more tricky proposition. It’s all backed up securely, but I still have to store tracks locally if I want to listen to playlists or listen when there’s no decent wireless access. This is annoying. My ideal is to subscribe to a streaming music service that supports playlists, but also to be able to connect my iPod and my Mac using Bluetooth so that when the connection drops out, the iPod automatically picks up the slack. Maybe I should get an iPhone and investigate the Last.fm for iPhone app. But I don’t want an iPhone; I have a Blackberry. Hmm. Suggestions welcome.

Books! Here’s a really interesting one. Books are fucking heavy and annoying. That’s why mine are all in storage. And that’s also why I’m so keen to get a Sony Reader or Kindle and start experimenting. I’d be delighted if I could give 99% of my library to a charity shop and just keep the books I received as gifts in a small box somewhere with my birth certificate and old tax returns. But until I get hold of the Reader, I don’t know whether that’s possible. It all depends on whether it’ll let me keep remote backups of my eBooks. Because if not, it’s useless to me.

Movies! I could tell you – but the Federation Against Copyright Theft would have to kill me. Will someone PLEASE offer a decent movie streaming service in the UK? I’m bored of buying £4.99 DVDs in Sainsbury’s to watch in hotel rooms and throwing them away the next day. It’s just a waste.

So that’s where I am. Everything off-shored except for music, books and my passport. And I’m working on those.

Now on to my next big challenge: reducing down the maroon suitcase on wheels that currently holds all of my possessions. By the end of next month, I want to get my entire life into carry on luggage without any drop in standard of living. I think it’s very, very do-able – but first I have to find the perfect beautiful – but functional – bag.

Any suggestions? Cost not necessarily an option as it will – in effect – be my home.

I want something that makes people go ‘oooh’.

But first, Edinburgh.


I mean…

…could they not find a dictionary?

In Borders, Charing Cross Road, my book is proudly displayed in the ‘Biograhpy’ [sic] section.

Awesmoe.


Official: my ‘limitless capacity’ is ‘utterly endearing’

From the Press Association review of Bringing Nothing that has just arrived in my inbox (thanks for the tip, Katya)…

“Although the title might sound slightly nauseating, author Paul Carr is a surprisingly witty writer. His tall tales about trying to start an internet company, nights spent on the tiles with dot com millionaires, and his limitless capacity for drink, work and web-related ideas, are utterly endearing. This is completely addictive reading.”

Just saying.


The Long Fail part one: Amazon pre-orders and other pointless exercises 15

Ask any author and they’ll tell you: one of the best feelings in the world is the first time you see your new book in an actual book shop.

It’s not an ego thing – not entirely, anyway – but rather much-needed proof that this thing; This Thing that you spent all those months working on, actually exists. It really is an actual book that strangers can actually buy and actually read.

It’s at about this point that you feel dizzy and sick and have to get out of the shop as fast as you can.

And now, thanks to technology, there’s another variation of this experience – the first time someone you don’t know emails you a photo of your book in situ. That’s an extra level of weird as it drives home even more firmly the fact that anyone can buy it and read it.

My own experience of this, with Bringing Nothing To The Party, came the day after the launch party, when Paul Farnell emailed me a photograph of the book piled up on a table in Waterstone’s, Edinburgh.

Since then, a steady stream of emails, texts and Twitters have come in, with sightings from the length and breath of the country.

Thanks to Patrick, I know I’m now sold out in Godalming; thanks to Kate, I know there are two piles on the Biography table of Waterstone’s Bridlesmith Gate (Nottingham) and a further outward-facing stack on the main shelf; thanks to Rob and Stephanie (above), I know that Waterstone’s on the Strand has gone the extra mile with the thing and thanks to Ben – well – read for yourself…

Paul,

Really enjoying the first half (so far) of your new book. I picked up a copy on Tuesday from the Waterstones next door to Tottenham Court Rd tube station. It took 20 minutes for one of the employees to track down a single copy of the book – they actually had 47 copies in the store but no one knew where they were all hiding. You should head down there and kick up a shit-storm (with the obligatory blog post)!

Cheers,

Ben

…and so on and so on and so on. In fact the High Street seems to be saturated with the damn things.

Unfortunately – and with pitch-perfect irony – the web hasn’t been quite so helpuful…

For the past couple of months, I’ve been plugging the book on the site and urging people to pre-order it on Amazon. “Get it as soon as it’s published!” I said. “Save yourself the hassle of the High Street,” I suggested.

Yeah – like bollocks.

For reasons that I’ve spent the past three days trying to fathom, not only have Amazon failed to dispatch any of the pre-orders, but they’re still showing delivery as being due some time in September. Of course Orion are on the case, as are various disgruntled pre-orderers who have emailed me (and Amazon) to ask WTF? This afternoon I sent my second mail to their enquiries address to try to get answers. So far nothing.

All I can say is that I’m sorry, and I’m doing all I can to establish the cause of the delay. We all know it’s a fucking database error somewhere. Fucking stupid technology. I just hope you think the book has been worth waiting for when it arrives.

And if anyone from Amazon is reading this, if you can press a button somewhere and fix this, I’ll be forever in your debt. After all, I did give you the bastards the benefit of the doubt.

Meantime: Waterstone’s guide to stock levels in individual stores is here. By all means cancel your Amazon pre-order and hit the High Street. Fuck ‘em, right?


The Long Fail part II: In which the author stabs himself in the Sales Rank

Further to this, Amazon have emailed me back…

“Mr Carr.

Thank you for contacting Amazon.co.uk,

Your book is in stock but it is coming from one of secondary warehouses. Because of this there is  currently an extended delivery date for your book. We expect to have your book in stock in one of our primary warehouses around the 28th of August.

Thank you for choosing Amazon.co.uk

Warmest regards

Kelvin S
Amazon.co.uk”

Well thank you kindly, Amazon.co.uk. But – hey – here’s an idea, why not display that information to customers before they order so they can take their business to I dunno – Play.com, who actually have it in stock, instead or buy it from Waterstone’s who have it in all of their stores?

Shit – I just answered my own question, didn’t I?

Oh – and while I’ve got you, where exactly is this ’secondary warehouse’? The fucking MOON? I only ask because on Wednesday I used Royal Mail to send some copies of the book to San Francisco and they’re estimating delivery tomorrow. Just saying.

Sorry once again to the pre-orderers. I made the recommendation to use Amazon in good faith; really I did. Your best option look like cancelling the order and using either Play or Waterstone’s instead. Or email Amazon and demand answers of your own.

Either way, fuck Amazon and their secondary warehouse all the way to the moon.

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