Over at Strange Horizons, my thoughts on this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist have just been published. The second half follows on Wednesday, so I won’t offer any spoilers except to say that this year’s shortlist is worth your attention.

I’ve also been interviewing bands for London’s premier music festival, the Camden Crawl. Most recently, it was the improbably monikered Cerebral Ballzy.

I feel like I should cease to neglect this space, too – and so, for those of you still actually reading this blog, do look out in the next few days for some thoughts on Téa Obreht’s debut, and much hyped, novel, The Tiger’s Wife.

The short version: life continues to get in the way. The longer version: I’m not for want of things to write about, but the time since I experienced them flies by so fast it feels odd to return – blogging is, after all, meant to be an immediate medium. Mostly, this smacks of falling out of the habit. I need to get back into the saddle.

In the meantime, check the sidebars for new activity: Julian Barnes’s latest collection of short stories, Pulse, is a lovely, ruminative thing; A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s new record should find its way into everyone’s collection; and A Single Man, which we caught up on recently, deserved far more attention than it got at the time.

Finally, a review of mine just recently went up at Strange Horizons. Check out Zoran Živković, you’ll like his work.

Frustrated by my lack of blogging, but plenty of topics I could be writing about if I had the time: Josh Ritter’s new album, Frederik Pohl’s Gateway, Iain Duncan Smith referring to a former Secretary of State as ‘Ed Balls’s wife’, David Laws picking the wrong strategy when he decided to look positively excited by all his cuts, two television finales of shows I’ve either never watched or haven’t in years – Lost and Ashes to Ashes – actually interesting me; or, indeed, just plain old life (which is good, thanks!).

But, like I said, no time. Woes. Hope to pick up on some of these soon…

The Fourth Wall...

I’ve just joined Twitter, and I’ve ‘tweeted’ twice.  This is all part of my ‘great social media experiment’ for my museum studies course.  I want to get to grips with how art galleries use blogs and social networking sites to engage with audiences.

And engage they do, it’s a wide world out there, well beyond the four walls of many galleries.  I’m especially caught by the V&A’s resident bloggers: artists and professionals who embody the gallery’s messages as contemporary creators, and extend the gallery’s message from the past into the present.

I’ve been following Stuart Frost’s blog on the making of the Medieval and Renaissance galleries, which opened early last December, with interest.  I’m fascinated by how medieval and early modern objects can be exhibited and interpreted for modern audiences.  Also worth a look as is Concealed, Discovered, Revealed, Sue Lawty’s blog on how traditional and contemporary, historical and modern, textile techniques can be entwined to produce truly innovate designs.

This is search bait.

This is search bait.

The most popular post on this blog has for some time now been this one, about Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. Little did I know when I picked up their debut CD at Urban Outfitters in Manchester that, in posting about it, a Google image search would send legions of people here for what was not precisely the most content rich post ever. Stats, how I love thee for showing me that sometimes content != visits.

In case you’re wondering, the CD is still decent but not really mind-blowing. I pretty much still listen to their influences more than the band themselves. Good version of ‘Goin’ Up The Country‘, though.

Here’s my point: Early modern stuff matters. Books matter. The humanities matter. In a time when money is scarce and stupid ideas about universities and the humanities are flying about like nobody’s business, we should be speaking up and making the case for the value of reading and teaching and thinking.

Why Bother?

Why Bother?

Sarah at the very fab Wynken de Worde just recently posted the above in an inspiring reflection to mark the occassion of her blog’s first birthday. It’s already inspired at least one new blog which is worth following straight off the bat. We’ve been neglecting the history posts for a couple of weeks,  but Thursday was once the day for them so here’s an attempt at making an effort.

Sarah’s point that early modernists should be making their history matter is a pertinent one, and you might remember me going on about the dangers of inconclusiveness before now. It’s just as dangerous, of course, to feel the need to force relevance upon historical study: no one moment in time can be a perfect allegory for another. History doesn’t and shouldn’t work like that. But, by the same token, in my own particular area of interest it seems sad to insist that, as Blair Worden recently did, “The only lessons to be drawn from it are to do with the consequences of destructive enthusiasm.” I like Sarah’s distinction between academic writing and blogging: you can get away, perhaps, with a bit more immediacy in a blog than you might in the properly cautious fields of academe (and there’s some interesting discussion of the relationship between the two in the comments at Wynken de Worde).

To whit, I was struck today, on looking through some notes, by David Norbrook’s description of the trial and execution of Charles I: “The king had been brought down from the eminence of his mysteries of state and forced to engage with his people.” [Writing the English Republic, pg. 199] The blogger in me can’t help but see present-day parallels. Such superficial similarities with the latest headlines, of course, are not what make history important. But to ignore them entirely might not help in making the case it is. One pithy way, maybe, in which the blog can help the historian.


The US blogging site Huffington Post has its detractors, and it’s not hard to see why, but in its defense it is at least a direct and often intelligent attempt to engage with issues; where the HuffPo certainly covers all the personal stories and media froth of modern politics, it is also true that its writers post about substantive concerns in by and large reasonable ways. HuffPo is avowedly partisan, but very rarely is it peurile.

To wit, and expanding on yesterday’s fracas, it is a little sad that the most prominent sites in UK political blogosphere seem so often take the lower road. The relatively sedate Conservative Home is widely recognised as a success, but Guido Fawkes (itself modelled after US blog The Drudge Report, HuffPo’s evil muck-raking twin) remains the most (in)famous political blog in the UK, and Staines sets the pace. Via Bob Piper, this post at Next Left is essential reading, and details why the Fawkes-led blogging style is bad for UK politics: where is the UK’s more reasonable (if partisan) counterbalance to its own Drudge?

Much is made in the blogging community – and particularly by the ‘social media consultants’ who are increasingly advising on matters bloggy – of the idea of ‘authenticity’, the notion that blogs can be successful only if their readers believe the blogger is going to play straight with them. Where, though, is the UK’s political blog which will play better? Surely this sort of tawdry stuff isn’t the approach for which the UK’s Web 2.0 politics wants mostly to be known?

We won't be seeing this again.

We won't be seeing this again.

After Hain comes McBride – another scalp for Guido. (The Economist’s Bagehot has some useful background on the hole in Brown’s armour which he leaves behind.)

The inimitable Bob Piper, who sits on my council but alas does not represent my ward, is a hoot on the subject of Iain Dale’s Iaincentric world, and certainly this story is now far, far bigger than him. We expect more details of the contents of those emails tomorrow, and the next target will surely be Tom Watson, himself a noted political blogger. As Political Betting had it this morning:

Email, text bulletins and online donations played their part in Barack Obama’s campaign, and Ron Paul didn’t really leave the internet at all. But more than the use of these tools, the most important impact of New Media on the 2008 elections in the US (and the 2006 Midterms before them) was in breaking ‘Snipergate’ (Hillary’s remembrances of Bosnia), the George Allen ‘Macaca’ scandal that cost him his Senate seat in Virginia, the leaking of the Rev Wright sermons on YouTube, the ‘birth certificate’ questions, the Bristol Palin pregnancy, and Obama Girl. These were picked up by TV Networks and Newspapers, and characterised the campaign and drove its narrative.

It’s not the effect of a single blog which is most interesting and different here. It’s the interconnectedness of all these writers, and the combined weight of their comment – although it is also true that, like any blogosphere, there is also a sense of its own self-importance. Whatever, high times for the UK political blogosphere, which has before now been very much the poor relation compared to the US’s.


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