Ulysses

Written 14 March 2024 I made it through Ulysses, finishing it just before the beginning of Lent. I managed it through a combination of kindle, audiobook on Spotify and (once I’d reached my monthly usage limit) a librevox podcast. The kindle was fine and the audiobook was excellent, but perhaps the less said about the librevox podcast the better. With episodes being read by a variety of contributors, all with different accents, their renderings of the text were somewhat variable to say the least. Some were very good, but one was not a native English speaker, and Americans really struggled...

Poor Things

Written 02 February 2024 I saw this last night at Plymouth Arts Cinema. The cinema itself was much fuller than normal, possibly because the film is nominated for Best Picture, but it was good to watch a film in a great venue with lots of other people; about a dozen is a good turn out for the films we tend to go and see there! It’s a long film, about two hours and twenty minutes long and I have to say that for the first hour and three quarters I was not enjoying it at all. The film presents us...

Plan 75

Written 26 May 2023 I went with my wife to see this last night at the excellent Plymouth Arts Cinema. Described as “Japan’s submission for this year’s Oscars…set in a chilling, near future in which the country has gone to extreme lengths to manage its ageing population and consequent economic distress” I was very much looking forward to it. I’m interested in end of life and demographic questions as I see them growing in importance over the coming years as well as providing a real insight into fundamental shifts in societal values currently underway. Plan75 is a joint Japanese/French production....

Labour’s Churchill by Andrew Adonis

Written 26 July 2022 I have had John Bew’s biography of Clement Attlee (“Citizen Clem”) on my list of books to read for some time and will get round to it soon enough. But I was after something a bit shorter, saw this one pop up (it’s about half the length) and decided to give it a go. This is a biography of Ernest Bevin, a hero of the Labour Movement. I think there are likely to be more definitive biographies available, but for someone who wants to know the facts and to get a real sense of the man...

Where Is My Flying Car by David J. Storrs Hall

Written 24 June 2022 I heard about this book recently and thought it had a catchy title so read it this week. The book is written by a nanotechnologist and is really a stock take of how human progress and development appear in many ways to have substantially halted over the last half a century and to put forward reasons for why that’s happened. It does this through the story of the flying car. Or rather, it uses the stalling of the development of flying cars to illustrate why we haven’t got the “future we were promised”. It’s a pretty...

Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air by David J. C. MacKay

Written 05 June 2022 It’s become increasingly clear to me over the years that abundant, reliable and cheap energy is the cornerstone of progress we have enjoyed in the developed world for many years now. It also lies at the heart of environmental questions that are set to be at the centre of our political life for the rest of my life and so I’ve been looking to read more on Energy this year. I started with The Prize by Daniel Yergin which deals with the history of the oil industry (reviewed here), then Helen Thompson’s Disorder (which touches on...

Localism: Manifesto for a Twenty-First Century England by thelocalists.org

Written 27 December 2021 This is the fiftieth and probably the last book for me of 2021, and was unusual for a couple of reasons. First, it is one the very few books I have read recently that I have read as a physical book. I got a kindle a few years ago and while I know that many people just prefer physical books I prefer reading on a kindle nowadays and cleared most books out of the house about three years ago. Secondly, I bought the book directly from thelocalists.org via their twitter account @localmattersENG. The book is short,...

The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power by Daniel Yergin

Written 12 December I heard about this book rather in passing while listening to an an episode of Demitry Kafinas’s Hidden Forces podcast. It is a big read and took some time to get through. It covers the history of the oil industry from the second half of the nineteenth century. What a story it is, huge in scale, immense in its impact on humanity and central to any serious reading of economics and politics. Of course everyone professes to know how important oil is, but this book really does convey that its importance is far more foundational than we...

Aid and Other Dirty Business

Written 15 September I finished this a couple of weeks ago and as I found it pretty thought provoking thought I’d set down a few thoughts. The title is somewhat misleading: the book is by no means an anti-Aid screed but does describe well how Aid sometimes comes up short. It also sets out a realistic vision for what a more effective system of International Aid would look like. Giles Bolton is obviously a bright and highly motivated chap and wrote this in the mid-noughties following stints with DfID in Rwanda and Iraq. He comes across very much as an...

The End of the End of History

Written 28 July I enjoy podcasts and have tuned in occasionally to Aufhebunga Bunga, the “global politics podcast at the end of the end of history”, so I thought I’d pick up the book which has just recently been released by its founders. The podcast sets its stall out pretty clearly: it’s on the old-fashioned Left and against the Neoliberal settlement that started in the West in the late 1970s and has since conquered the world, so I wasn’t expecting a balanced take on politics. The book is easy to read (it’s only about 200 pages long) and for someone...