I’ve read some excellent things this year, and I thought I’d share my favourites in a short blog post. These aren’t in any particular order, I would recommend all of them equally.
- Maddadam by Margaret Atwood
- Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts
- Radical Gardening: Power, Politics and Rebellion in the Garden by George MacKay
- The Carbon Cycle by Kate Rawles
- Incredible! Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution by Pam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson
- Queering Anarchism by various authors
- The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
- A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
- Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald
- Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity by Marc Augé
Bonus: my two favourite poetry books that I read this year were Hard Water by Jean Sprackland and The Tree House by Kathleen Jamie.
My stop-start-splutter-halt efforts to write more about the things I think about have failed recently. I’m increasingly wary of a culture which demands that everything must be shared; that there is no purpose in creative output if that output doesn’t create “content” which can be dispersed to interested parties looking for bite-size chunks of intellectual stimuli on a rainy day.
I recently finished A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit, a wonderful exploration of different ways of getting lost, different processes of knowing, the importance of the senses, and full of eloquent ideas about the nature of wandering and the self. I turned the final page of the book only to be struck with an advert for the publishing company which informed me that if I visited their website, there was loads more “great content” at my “fingertips”. Actually, content wasn’t what I wanted when I finished this book – I wanted to reflect and process, not ingest more. Continue reading A cautious return to content creation
I’ve never been to Boston. I don’t know anybody in Boston. But I know what it’s like to run a marathon, I know how it feels to come to the end of months of training and the feeling of finally crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles. 26.2 miles of pushing through pain, pushing through feeling sick, pushing past the wall and finally running over that finish line. 26.2 miles of being surrounded by cheering crowds, by countless other runners with countless different t-shirts showing charities they’re raising money for, friends they’re running in remembrance of. 26.2 miles of people handing out water and sweets and total strangers cheering you on – people you’ll never see again giving you that high-five that keeps you going, giving you their enthusiasm when all you want to do is stop and sit down for a while to recover. Marathon day is like no other. Marathon day is when people come together, when it doesn’t matter if you agree with somebody’s politics or taste in music – what matters is that you are all there, you’re there to do good and to set a personal achievement and to support each other. And when you finally reach the finish line, surrounded by others who share your feelings of elation and joy – well, it’s a feeling unlike any other. Marathon day has a party atmosphere, a celebration atmosphere. And I simply cannot imagine what yesterday must have been like. The bombs went off at around the equivalent time that I reached the final stretch and the finish line last year in London. My heart goes out to everyone there. Sport brings people together. Sport unites. And to have that destroyed – it’s unimaginable and makes me sick to my stomach. Continue reading To Boston, to people.
It’s #oct20 and this is a blog about why protest, campaigning and being loud pay off.
Last Thursday, Sheffield Students’ Union voted in a policy to end all dealings with arms companies, and to lobby the University to do the same. ‘Fund Education, Not War’ passed with a majority of over 1,000 votes – the total number of students who voted was less than 5,000. Thus, Sheffield SU now not only has an anti-arms policy, it has an anti-arms policy with an incredible strong mandate for action. Whilst the build-up to the referendum was intense, stressful and at time discouraging, the success of the end result proves that when you stand up for something that matters, eventually people are going to listen. Continue reading let’s be positive: campaigning works
Every so often, I will find myself reading the comments section of online newspaper articles. Every time this happens I will, without fail, immediately regret my decision as I become angrier and more astounded at the stupidity of the human race. However, there is something that draws me back; something almost addictive, perhaps founded on the naïve belief that people will one day engage in reasonable discussion and leave offensive, over-emotional, poorly spelt rhetoric behind them. Every time, my hope is in vain.
This is not just true of YouTube comments, Facebook discussions or the Daily Mail Online. The attitude behind offensive, irrational and angry responses to pretty much any piece of news or opinion published online extends into the wider realms of the Internet as well, seeping into long blog posts about the evils of government or religion or environmentalism. It is an attitude that the Internet, wonderful and vast vehicle of self-expression that it is, inevitably cultivates. Here is a forum where you can hide behind a computer screen, where the target of your abuse need never see your face (and you need never see theirs), and where emotionally-charged language and dodgy research are the norm. Continue reading the noisy majority
Sheffield, over the past couple of weeks, has paid testament to the enduring health of a consumer society despite the recessions, crashes and debt crises of recent years. With rising tuition fees, depressing job prospects and soaring costs of living, students have been one of the major groups in society affected by the government’s desperate scramble to cut spending in the belief that austerity measures will fix the struggling economy. An average student receiving base maintenance and tuition fee loans will now graduate with around £38,000 of debt. And yet retailers continue to target students in a way that would belie this financial burden, encouraging spiralling spending on commodities that a student budget simply can’t afford. Nowhere has this been more obvious recently than in the “student lock-in” event hosted by shopping centre Meadowhall last week.
Continue reading consumption and prosperity