Newsletter #4 – Scythians, Gods and Rogues

This is a big chunk of my latest newsletter. I’ll drop them in here from time to time so you can see the kind of things that my subscribers have agreed to be sent to their inbox, those lucky/weird people (delete as appropriate)… Continue reading Newsletter #4 – Scythians, Gods and Rogues

Newsletter #1

Here’s the contents of the first newsletter I sent out recently to my first couple of subscribers :)

If you’d like some of this in your inbox occasionally, you can sign up via the link on the left!

The future is quieter. Continue reading Newsletter #1

Every step you take…

…aka ‘Why I’ve decided to boycott Facebook and Google.’ Continue reading Every step you take…

Last week: Art, devils, witches and death

They’ve always seemed easy to parody, the Abstract Expressionists. ‘They just flicked paint about’, ‘can’t they draw?’ etc.

So I was as surprised as anyone to fall in love at the RA exhibition last weekend. Continue reading Last week: Art, devils, witches and death

Billie and Amy

Amy Winehouse had voice to burn, a sound burnished by a drunk god showing off, like He took a bet to make another Billie Holiday and won the bet with a sad contempt. Continue reading Billie and Amy

Frank Sobotka

David Simon’s The Wire is high on all lists of unmissable television.  I’ve heard many people describe season 2 as the weakest season. I completed it over the weekend and hope this is true, if only because it was riveting. Continue reading Frank Sobotka

Stannis Baratheon is not the Mayor of Casterbridge

This post contains Game of Thrones spoilers, for, well, almost all of it, along with the movie adaptation of The Mist and the opening of the Mayor of Casterbridge, oh and possibly King Lear.  Yep, I think that’s it. Continue reading Stannis Baratheon is not the Mayor of Casterbridge

Burning a million pounds

It had been a long time since I listened to The KLF’s ‘Chill Out’ album.  I was trying to drown out one of the many satirical teenage comedies on Nick Jr. my daughter loves in order to get a redraft of my novel finished.

It’s a beautiful album, but hearing it after so many years made me think once again about The KLF’s stunt/installation/work of art, which you can read about here, where they burned a million pounds, almost all of their wealth, back in 1994.

Was it art? Continue reading Burning a million pounds

Peter Jackson’s ‘Ring Cycle’ – a love letter

I’ve read a lot of complaints over Peter Jackson taking a short book and making a trilogy out of it merely to screw us all for extra cash.

Bullshit.  Well, mostly.

I don’t doubt it makes Time Warner a heap more money and I don’t doubt that to get all the big stars on board from the Lord of the Rings films he had to extend it for them as reports have suggested.

However, he did so by deciding to make three films that equate to George Lucas’s Episodes 1-3 for Star Wars.  Jackson hasn’t intended on merely and only telling the story of The Hobbit at all.  He has been far more (delightfully for me) ambitious than that. Continue reading Peter Jackson’s ‘Ring Cycle’ – a love letter

Proximity and the manipulation of moral feeling

News coverage of Isis and Gaza recently has reminded me of Henry Fonda.  Specifically, the Henry Fonda thought experiment in Judith Jarvis Thomson’s landmark (and quite brilliant) paper ‘A Defense of Abortion’.1

For Thomson it’s a quite ghastly aside, the rejection of which (proximity to a moral issue has a bearing on one’s moral feeling) supports her overall view. Continue reading Proximity and the manipulation of moral feeling

  1. Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 1, no. 1 (Fall 1971) []

Knowledge – a few helpful questions for the internet age

How do you know what to believe?

The internet has fragmented the ancient institutions that have shaped and disseminated knowledge and it has democratized facts in a way never before seen in human history.

When deciding what to believe, and by corollary what moral and practical courses of action derive from those beliefs, anyone with an internet connection can now cultivate a near endless hotpot of thought and opinion on almost any subject matter.

But, as argued by the author Mark Danielewski, in the field of images, moving or otherwise, the increasing fidelity of the recorded image has gone hand in hand with an increasing ability to convincingly manipulate those images. Continue reading Knowledge – a few helpful questions for the internet age


Ricky Gervais’s new series of Derek has once again divided viewers and critics.  The show is a sentimental ‘mockumentary’ following, principally, four characters in a nursing home for the elderly.  I loved the first series, the final episode being as moving as the christmas special of The Office.  Many of the criticisms stem from a frustration that it’s simply too sentimental; “the mush outweighs the wit, with episodes ending on tides of sentiment” moans the New York Times.  But is that a bad thing? Continue reading Sentimentality

Good coffee is easy

In the UK in the last ten to fifteen years, there has been an explosion in the amount of us buying coffee while we’re out and about.

With this boom, its headline acts being the big chains like Starbucks, Costas, Nero etc. the word ‘barista’ has reached the common lexicon, rarely confused now with the legal heterograph (I was going to use the word ‘homonym’ but I’d have been mistaken!  The things you learn….).

The tragedy is that for your £2.50+ for a medium latté, you needn’t have one that tastes like someone’s chewed a full ashtray up and spat it in your mouth.  Continue reading Good coffee is easy

Shouldn’t things be better?

“How is it that we have created so much mental and emotional suffering despite levels of wealth unprecedented in human history?” (The Spirit Level)

It’s not the sort of thing you can sort out in a blog entry, but there’s any number of things that don’t seem to add up when I think about British society now and twenty or thirty years ago.  Continue reading Shouldn’t things be better?

Ten of my favourite movie moments

Well, it’s my blog, I can do a ‘my favourite things’ if I want to.  What prompted it was this year’s christmas Radio Times.  For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed sitting down with it and reading through, picking out all the old films I’d like to watch, you know, ‘Meet Me in St.Louis’ mid-afternoon on BBC2, the Ealing comedies.  Then I never get round to it, that idyll in my head of some plummy old ham saying ‘my dear’ a lot while I’m sipping a Baileys and the christmas tree lights are reflecting back into the room from the window onto the darkening afternoon outside. Continue reading Ten of my favourite movie moments

Hard Copy

If our homes express who we are, what of the home where all of your literature and music is invisible to the casual eye; no trace of the stories and music that move you and define you represented alongside whatever art or furniture or decor you’ve put together to create a place that is special to you.

Through the ready availability of his books and records while I was growing up, I came to know some of what my dad loved, and so, some part of who my dad is.  My nascent exploration of his collections naturally then coloured my own interests.  Unquestionably, I was enriched. Continue reading Hard Copy

Why I love running

There’s an iron nail in my left knee the first half mile away from my front door, down the slope past the school, dozing in the silence of its lie-in on a bright Saturday morning.

The nail, where my iliotibial band sticks itself to my knee, warms and melts away as I turn onto the coast road and into the wind, fresh as mouthwash and ice, bumping and kicking me like students in a moshpit.

Across the road from where I run is a bus shelter.  It looks like all other bus stops; shabby, with a hangover.  Raindrops from last night’s downpour are splattered off its roof by the wind.  Sheltered by it are a girl in the shapeless lime green smock of a supermarket and a man that thinks a waistcoat over a tee shirt is cool.  Both stand with heads crooked and still like streetlights over their phones. Continue reading Why I love running

End Day

“Sit down son.”

Jerry’s mum and dad were on the sofa opposite him.  This was his End Day, his sixteenth birthday, and so the day he would be told how long he had to live, the day the law said he had a right to know.

His mum was biting her lip, her knuckles were white with the ferocity of her grip on his dad’s free hand.  His dad held up the piece of paper the government sent three weeks after Jerry was born, but his fingers were trembling, and tears sprang from Jerry’s eyes as he began to accept that their trembling grief was like the rumbling of a train that was about to smash him to ruin. Continue reading End Day

Love and brains and language games

I’m going philosophical in this post, so those of a disposition sensitive to pointless armchair theorising look away now.

I’ve long been interested in Philosophy, but particularly interested in the brain, the most complex thing in the known universe, as far as I’m aware.

In this post I want to explain why I think the mind is the brain and that love is indeed ‘just a bunch of neurons’.  To do this I need you to imagine that you have a PC, and that its hard disk drive has stopped working.

So, now you’re sat at a desk boiling with frustration, thinking “Why isn’t my PC working?”

There are a number of explanations, you think, but there are more you’re probably not considering.  Imagine that there is some kind of ‘ladder of explanations’ from the subatomic, through the ‘physical’ to the personal and social.  It’s a kind of ‘system hierarchy’. Continue reading Love and brains and language games