May 16, 2016
I admit that I don’t watch, or read, large amounts on improving my writing1, thinking that the most important factor is just doing more of it. This video by University of Chicago writing program leader Larry McEnerney, contains a few important lessons that I hadn’t even considered before, and are worth remembering, even if you’re not writing in academia.
Dec 21, 2015
As surely as night follows day and unlistenably long ‘best albums of …’ lists follow twelve months of music reviews, here is my contribution to stealing the last of your ear’s remaining music-free moments. In what is becoming a standard, below are my top six tracks, but the Spotify playlist also contains all those that almost made it; with a total length of a very reasonable 49 minutes. Future of the Left - Arming Eritrea
Aug 16, 2015
Between flights I lock my bag somewhere in depths of Schiphol Airport and take a yellow and blue train to the centre. The outlines of thousands of passengers are worn into the fabric of the seats, leaving a faded silhouette in the centre of each one. The train is well used and unglamorous, but seems to work to everyone’s satisfaction. I’ve changed planes here many times before, but never made it outside, beyond the concourse, the duty free shops and the sense that you should be queuing somewhere.
Dec 24, 2014
As usual I’m not limiting myself solely to what was released in the last twelve months, just to what was new to me. 2014 has been surprisingly difficult, so the Spotify playlist Best of Newly Heard in 2014 is longer than the six songs I’ve high-lighted below, but everything is worth a listen. Bass Drum of Death - I Wanna Be Forgotten What’s not to love in the unstoppable energy of the drum intro and garage rock riffs?
Nov 4, 2014
It took nine hours of driving to reach this chain of unhappy camels sat in the thick yellow light of the late afternoon. Ours was one of the many long-wheelbase white tourist Transit vans climbing through the winding roads of the High Atlas. We stopped, along with the others, at the bends with the most spectacular views and were sold packets of dates and dyed geodes by small groups of souvenir sellers who waited at even the most remote curves.
Nov 2, 2014
The crowds on the square move in eddies and whirls, dragged in arcs by the gravity of drummers, snake charmers, fortune tellers and food sellers. The square of Jemaa el-Fnaa is the heart of Marrakesh, surrounded by narrow twisting souks it sits in the middle of the old city. We watch the sun set from the Grand Balcon du Cafe Glacier. As the traders and crowds change from day to night the skeletons of food stalls rise, square steel frames hung with long sheets to cover rows of dining benches.
Oct 3, 2014
The compartment went black as the electricity failed. The emergency stops came on, filling the train with the hot bitter smell of brakes. The other occupants in our compartment barely reacted; the lady on left carried on texting, the white glow of her iPhone now the only light. The children opposite carried on sleeping on their mother. The young man on the right swore once in arabic, but he seemed in a hurry.
Sep 23, 2014
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,” Howl by Allen Ginsberg, 1955. I don’t read much poetry. I struggle with the density of meaning in verse and find it hard to hear the correct stresses and syllables that give meter. Each line needs long digestion and examination to expand the imagery and intent out of it, something I feel ill equipped for and takes more energy than I usually have.
Sep 19, 2014
Verona’s streets are a complete tangle; running around grand buildings and ancient stonework, overlapping, flowing, then snapping at right angles around an immovable church, little eddies of streets form courtyards without warning, run on and burst suddenly into a sunlight Piazza. Everything in the city shows you its age, ancient monuments or careworn apartments with crumbling plaster, peeling paint and worn wooden doors. The occasional freshly painted building seems alien and film set fake in its newness.
Sep 16, 2014
Eighteen months ago I joined the future and bought a shiny slab of technology, a 2012 WiFi Nexus 7. Since then many newer and shinier models have appeared on the market, so a long detailed review is less interesting than looking at the useful niche it has found in my everyday life: replacing paper. Still, for the curious, here’s the short opinion on the Nexus 7 itself: very nice screen, good battery life and a solid feel.