Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products – review

“Quoting his subject’s words at the head of the chapter on the design and development of Apple’s iPhone, Leander Kahney makes Jony Ive sound oracular: “When we are at these early stages in design … often we’ll talk about the story for the product — we’re talking about perception. We’re talking about how you feel about the product, not in a physical sense, but in a perceptual sense.” Throughout his biography of Apple’s design magus for nigh on the past two decades, Kahney comes at Ive’s notion of the “narrative” of a product time and again, but it’s this formulation that most closely approaches the metaphysical, seemingly suggesting that all those iMacs, PowerBooks, iPods and iPads that Ive has been responsible for mind-birthing should be considered not as mere phenomena, but actual noumena; for, what else can he mean by “perceptual” — as  distinct from “physical” — if not some apprehension of how the iPhone is in itself, freed from the capacitive touch of our fingers?

‘A crowd of one nutter: Prince Harry’

Someone asked me to go to Antarctica in November – it was a press junket, an 11-day cruise leaving from southern Argentina. I don’t normally go a-junketing; to my way of thinking, it takes being a hack – which is bad enough – dangerously close to the icy and treacherous waters of marketing and public relations. I don’t have any objection to joining the 35,000 or so tourists who head for the Antarctic each year; it’s hardly that big a crowd and there’s nothing delusional about wanting to see for yourself one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, and it beats sitting in your cold, leaky gaff waiting for a private contractor to cut off your state benefits.

No, I only put on my judgemental hat for a crowd of one nutter: Prince Harry. He set off for the South Pole in early December, accompanied by the obligatory entourage of limbless ex-servicemen (and women), the aim being to show that limbless ex-servicemen (and women), and lame unemployed princes, are all capable of inspirational levels of achievement. It’s difficult to know where to begin when it comes to unpicking this giant bezoar – or should I say pseudo-bezoar – that’s stuck in the British gastrointestinal tract.

I love Germany

“The time comes in any upright British male’s life when he needs to have made his peace with all of the following: his homosexuality, his dress sense, and Germany. The first two of these I got out of the way decades ago (true, I still occasionally wake up in the morning and flirt with becoming a dandy for the few short seconds before the stiff denim of consciousness descends on me), but Germany has proved more problematic.

The Society of the Spectacle – introduction

Will Self has written a long introduction to Notting Hill Editions’ small and beautifully formed new hardback publication of Guy Debord’s Situationist masterpiece The Society of the Spectacle, originally published in 1967.

“Never before has Debord’s work seemed quite as relevant as it does now, in the permanent present that he so accurately foretold. Open it, read it, be amazed, pour yourself a glass of supermarket wine – as he would wish – and then forget all about it, which is what the Spectacle wants.”

You can buy a copy for £10 from the Notting Hill Edition website here.

Real meals: Mr Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers

On the dockside in Boston I spotted Fia’s Seafood – they were offering “twin lobsters” for $28.95; I ventured in and asked if the lobsters were identical or non-identical twins. “Why d’you wanna know?” the maître d’ snarled. “Because,” I replied, “I can only perform unnatural psychological experiments on them if they’re zygotic.”

The president was in town for a speech and the area around the State House was fraught with security: state cops on cliché Harleys, FBI agents in cliché letter jackets, and, most intimidating of all, those excessively polite men in pale yellow raincoats with pig’s tail antennae dangling from their ears. I gave them all a swerve and took the Red Line into Cambridge.

Real meals: Jamie Oliver’s Diner

Jamie Oliver – like the poor he so adores – seems always to be with us; to be with us and to have been with us always as well, although it’s only 14 years since he first thrust his meat and two veg at us in the television series The Naked Chef. Since then, not a year has passed without some new Oliver production: cookery books, more TV, many Sainsbury’s advertising campaigns, restaurants, delicatessens, food product ranges and latterly a number of campaigns aimed at improving the eating habits of the nation, specifically its children.

Snake Dance by Patrick Marnham – review

At the dead centre of this book’s snaking path down the friable face of human history stands Aby Warburg, a scion of the well-known banking family and a dilettante scholar at a time – and in a place – when to be so was still intellectually respectable. When Patrick Marnham writes that Warburg “mocked the keepers of academic purity as ‘border police’”, I suspect a strong sense of identification is at work. Michael P Steinberg, the translator of Warburg’s discipline-transgressing monographs on the snake dances of the Hopi, characterised his voice as one of “spiralling and endless mediation, between peoples, between pasts and presents, between the self that is known and the self that is secret”. I suspect that this, too, could be a description of Marnham’s own efforts in this book to which he would assent.