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

How environmental destruction increases the risk of pandemics

“We disrupt eco-systems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” So argues David Quammen in We Made the Coronavirus Epidemic, New York Times, 28 January. There have been a number of similar articles pointing out the link between human destruction of biodiversity and the prevalence of viruses that cross the barrier between wild animals and humans. I have found it useful to summarise them and so am sharing here in case it is helpful for others also.

Why is the skylark shouting?

We’re doing a daily bird-watching hour as part of our family coronavirus WhatsApp group. Obviously there’s quite a big risk of repetition of sightings of sparrows, or the Groundhog Day magpie who learns anew each morning that it can’t hang onto the fat ball feeder long enough to get a bite in, so I was dead pleased yesterday to see a lark rising vertically up into the blue sky from the moorlands on the ascent of Tor y Foel (social distancing of at least 200m from the four other people I saw also out for a bit of exercise).

Isolation playlist

One of the upsides of Coronavirus home isolation is an increased chance to listen to music. In more normal times, I mostly discover new bands from chance attendance at concerts, and hear new tunes in record shops. In what might become a temporary/regular markontour feature, I offer up for collective enjoyment the bands and songs I have instead been introduced to in the last week via radio (mostly BBC Radio 6 Music and KEXP), Spotify and YouTube:

Sierra Ferrell at the Teragram Ballroom

It’s been a markontour rule to always make an effort to see the support act, ever since I ill-advisedly bought tickets to see Simply Red (it was about 1988) but was rewarded by being introduced to The La’s. It is an approach to gig-going that reaped rewards again on Friday night, when Sierra Ferrell stole the show at the Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles.

Stargazing in Hollywood

I have long intended to start a blog site dedicated to reviews of planetariums and observatories. It would have been even more niche than markontour’s usual output, so perhaps it’s just as well it never happened. But if I were to start such a stargazers blog, the Griffith Observatory and park in Los Angeles, which I visited this weekend, would have to be the first entry.

The Black Pumas

It has always been a markontour rule that while it is clearly wrong to assess a person by their looks, and generally an error to judge a book by its cover, it is completely acceptable to buy music on the basis of the album artwork alone. It is an approach that has stood me in good stead from London Calling to the Stone Roses, and is thoroughly vindicated in the case of the Black Pumas.

Gazing on the cosmic plughole

I wonder if Brandon Yoshizawa knew that the exhaust plume of a Falcon 9 rocket would take on the shape of a flower as its hot discharge made contact with colder air of the upper atmosphere? He was certainly in the right place at the right time and with the requisite skill to capture an extraordinary image. The result, Flower Power, is a perfect example of the blend of art and science that makes the annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Greenwich National Maritime Museum so special. 

The Festive Fifteen 2019

December is here, which means it is time for the annual markontour Festive Fifteen.  As usual, there’s nothing to do with Xmas here, and there has been so much great music this year that I have yet again failed to whittle my list down to fifteen tracks. But, caveats aside, herewith The Festive Fifteen of 2019..

London’s still calling forty years on

In a vital and captivating free new exhibition the Museum of London is celebrating forty-years since the release of London Calling by The Clash. It’s an album that is both precisely of its time and yet timeless, a spirit that the curators (working with the surviving members of the band) have managed to capture perfectly. Markontour has visited twice already in its first week and I’m sure I will be back a few more times before it closes in April.