Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

Have you heard George’s podcast?

George The Poet just won several British Podcast of the Year plaudits and deservedly so. “Everything you know is a story”, he explains in episode one of ‘Have you heard George’s podcast?’, “like how when I was at school Pluto was a planet”. The main story-tellers of his community – young, black, poor and urban – are rappers. Collectively they now provide the content for a multi-billion pound global enterprise and yet, he laments, their stories of poverty, violence and exclusion aren’t much different from those told by N.W.A. back when George was growing up. Why?

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What am I doing in Dubai?

“What am I doing in Dubai?”, asks Aldous Harding at the start of ‘Zoo Eyes’, the third track on her third album, ‘Designer’. It would be a good question for almost anyone, but seems particularly pertinent for a New Zeland born avant-garde singer-songwriter. We never find out the answer, it being Harding’s practice to sing in riddles (a latter section of the song goes something like “I drove my inner child to a show / We talked all the way home / In the nectar”). But if that’s a problem then it is the only one with this perfectly wonderful, constantly inventive, total ear-worm of a record.

Smoke and mirrors

I was briefly into performing magic as a kid, inspired by Paul Daniels on the telly if truth be told. A visit to the Wellcome Collection’s fascinating new exhibition, ‘Smoke and Mirrors – The Psychology of Magic’, has re-ignited my interest and reminded me just how malleable the human mind can be.

Goes West – an Album of the Week

On Thursday night I found myself in church. As someone who has been an atheist since starting to read science fiction at the age of twelve, St John’s in Bethnal Green was an unlikely venue for an evening’s entertainment, but William Tyler was playing and a church turned out to be the perfect venue for his beautiful acoustic guitar finger-picking. @williamtylertn

The Extinction Rebellion and an Uninhabitable Earth

Today and for the rest of the week normal business in London will be disrupted by Extinction Rebellion protestors trying to rouse their fellow citizens to face the climate emergency into which we have sleep-walked. Their tactics aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if shutting down a few streets is what it takes to draw attention to the fact that we are now in a battle against the clock to prevent the (still entirely avoidable) destruction of the eco-system that makes possible human life on Earth, then that seems like an entirely rational response to me.

The Three Body Problem

In The Three Body Problem trilogy, Cixin Liu has created an extraordinarily compelling vision of humanity’s near future, underpinned by a narrative that is as rich in philosophy as it is in science. While paced like a thriller, Liu’s prose is as packed with multi-layered insight as the plots of most other works of that genre are filled with holes. Perhaps it is the effect of altitude, as my old-technology airship glides over the Black Sea at 35,000 feet, but despite having only just finished reading the second in the series, The Dark Forest, I am ready to declare Cixin Liu the most exciting author of the twenty-first century so far.