Wednesday 28 September 2011


I am squeakily excited about Claire Tomalin's forthcoming biography of Dickens - her book on Samuel Pepys is one of my favourite reads of the past two years.

In anticipation, I am reading both my first Dickens since 'A Christmas Carol' as a kid (Great Expectations) and Tomalin's own first biography, of Mary Wollstonecraft. Also in anticipation, the Guardian has gone on a Dickens/Tomalin spree, including:

Monday 26 September 2011


There is nothing better than having an articulate expert break something down for you. In that vein, here's broadcaster Ira Glass on the genius of the RadioLab podcast.*

Most journalism in our country lacks the sense of joyous discovery one gets in Radiolab. There’s none of the enthusiastic “Yes!” “No!” “Yes!” “You heard me right!” “Get outta here!”

I tend to have big pretentious, tiresome thoughts about how important that is. Real journalism – and by that I mean fact-based reporting – is getting trounced by commentary and opinion in all its forms, from Fox News to the political blogs to Jon Stewart. Everyone knows newspapers are in horrible trouble. TV news continually loses ratings. And one way we broadcast journalists can fight back and hold our audience is to sound like human beings on the air. Not know-it-all stiffs. One way the opinion guys kick our ass and appeal to an audience is that they talk like normal people, not like news robots speaking their stentorian news-speak. So I wish more broadcast journalism had such human narrators at its center. I think that would help fact-based journalism survive. But like I say, I’m kind of a nut on this subject.
I've posted this before, but if you haven't read it yet, and any part of what you do involves trying to tell people a story that they will be moved by and remember, you should: Ira Glass's radio manifesto.

*On the podcast note - can anyone recommend a really good art-specific one?

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Full heart

Because I am fully, deeply, overwhelmingly immersed in Friday Nights Lights* right now, I can find an article like this, which concludes like this, not cheesy but moving, even mythical:

In Muck City, the children have nervously followed their fathers and grandfathers into the mud and the fire and emerged with a fearlessness that most of us cannot understand. Soon we will gather in front of our televisions and watch receivers run over the middle and linebackers dive headfirst at loose footballs. We will tell ourselves we could do this too, if we were paid millions, or if we were famous, or if we took steroids. But we'll forget how the game of football is born out of hunger, and courage, and desperation, and community, and hope. And how sometimes it's played in spite of everything else.

So, yes - the tv series. It is breaking my heart into little sentimental pieces every night, and I don't give a damn who knows it. Then again, I read the book too, and it broke my heart just as effectively, if in a very different way. 

Monday 19 September 2011

Web muster

Test your colour acuity with this hue-grading exercise (I felt pretty good about my score until the designers at work, unsurprisingly, got perfect results0.

I've been asking for someone to bring Blue Poles over for years - The Art Newspaper on exhibitions of just one work.

Mashable covers mobile technologies at the Powerhouse, Smithsonian and Museum of Jewish Heritage (and Seb Chan posts a couple of Q&As left out of the article) .

The Economist on beautiful functional design, sparked by the shortlist being announced for the British Pylon Design competition (really - how awesome is that? I love power pylons).

Thursday 15 September 2011

Science and poetry

Inspired by my love for Richard Holmes The Age of Wonder, I'm heading along next Tuesday to Professor Kathryn Wall's inaugural lecture at Victoria University, looking at the mix of emotions with with the arts viewed science in the 18th century:

In the lecture, titled "God said, Let Newton Be": Alexander Pope and the Scientific Revolution Professor Walls will explain that Pope, like his contemporary Jonathan Swift, mercilessly satirised scientists.
"They were part of a reactionary movement—science was seen as a fad, an addiction and as a waste of time. It didn’t seem to be producing any practical benefits."
Professor Walls says it is not surprising that poets were opposed to science. "Poetry plays with words. It delights in paradox and ambiguity. Scientists value precision and clarity—the mentality is utterly different."
However, Professor Walls believes Pope's attitude to science was complex. "Pope attended a series of lectures given by one of Newton's disciples, and the scientific discoveries of the day clearly influenced his thought."

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Talking about someone else's generation

I feel a strange sense of relief when I see the dates for the V&A's upcoming show Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 - like I've been exempted from something. So much of my university education was dedicated to post-this and ism-that, that it's nice to see someone draw a line back when I was still at primary school.

Apparently artists asked to take part in the exhibition have an even more complicated relationship with this particular period-label:

“It is a real issue that so few people identify positively with postmodernism,” said Mr. Adamson [co-curator of the exhibition]. “And a whole list of people do not want to be identified with it.” Among them is the American architect Frank Gehry, although the V&A eventually persuaded him to participate.

Meanwhile, in other preview media pieces, the Independent manages to go from postmodernism to Facebook and 'postwhateverism', the Financial Times asks whether the exhibition can rescue the 'movement's' reputation, Prospect Magazine asks if this exhibition seals postmodernism's tomb, and Jonathan Jones asks if it all started with Close Encounters of the Third Kind.