2014 Top Ten: Music

wyverncpI’m not sure what this list says about how well I seem to belong to a predictable going-backwards-Dad demographic. This is what has formed the backbone of the soundtrack to my life this year:

1). Jenny Lewis’s Voyager. I seem to discover new things to listen these days mainly by listening to David Byrne’s monthly playlist, which is where I first discovered this – I need to find better ways of keeping up.

2). Talking Heads, Real Live Wires. This is one of a number of live radio recordings from the late ’70s that are now available on CD; coming across this was a little bit like discovering previously unpublished lectures by Foucault.

3). Spoon, They Want My Soul. Lovely.

4). Bobby Darin’s Commitment.

5). Sibylle Baier’s Colour Green,  thanks to Robert Forster’s book.

6). Kristen Hersh, Murder, Misery, and Then Goodnight, because both of my daughters like it.

7). James Brown, Gold. I spent a week in Cape Town with this as the only thing to listen to in the car, so now I feel a lot more funky than I did before.

8). Court Yard Hounds, Amelita.

9). Taylor Swift, 1989. We have 2 tickets to see her in Hyde Park next summer, and I still haven’t given up hope of being the grown-up who gets to go.

10). Frozen, The Soundtrack. Obviously.

2014 Top Ten: Fun Books

IMG_2978Sometimes, in addition to the books I read for work, I also read things for less instrumental reasons, almost for pleasure, although the boundary is a bit fuzzy (in both directions). This is a list not so much of ‘best books’ of the year, more a list of the books associated with my favourite book-buying/book-reading experiences of the year.

1). Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacationbecause this is the kind of holiday I would like to take.

2). Let’s Talk About Love, by Carl Wilson, which is the best, and probably only, book about Celine Dion I am ever going to read.

3). Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavicmy favourite writer-whose-books-you-can-only-seem-to-buy-in-South-Africa.

4). The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll: Collected Music Writings 2005-09, by Robert Forster. I bought this for a couple of quid in Bristol, not knowing that he wrote music criticism, and discovered some new things to listen to as a result; I almost cried when reading his appreciation of co-Go Between, Grant McLennan.

5). James Salter’s Last Nightshort stories, no sentence of which can be read quickly, really good for reading in the bath.

6). Michael Tomasky’s Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, my first e-book, I read this in one sitting on a flight to New York city. There were not screaming crowds awaiting my arrival.

7). Gideon Haigh’s Ashes to Ashes. I have come to dislike most things about cricket, leaving one or two pleasures at the edges, like Mike Selvey in The Guardian, and Vic Marks on the radio, and Gideon Haigh; this is really only a collection of his daily newspaper columns of the 10 Ashes Tests of 2013-2014.

8). The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volumes 1, 2, and 3, by Robert Caro. This is a cheat, since I haven’t actually read all three of these this year, but I have been dipping in and out of each one, having read the fourth volume a couple of Christmas’s ago, and then seeing Bryan Cranston play LBJ in All the Way in March. The Bluecoat second-hand bookshop in Liverpool has had these three volumes sitting around for years, so I finally succumbed and got the lot for £20, a bargain).

9). The Portlandia Cook Book. I’ll give this a try, but nothing with pickles.

10). Simon Critchley’s Memory Theatre. I read this in two sittings, to and from Disneyland Paris on Eurostar, which seems appropriate in all sorts of ways.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2014 Top Ten: Theory Books

shoes’tis the season to make best-of-the-year lists, it seems. I read books for a living (which means not necessarily from start to finish, and generally by writing in them as I go along). These are my favourites from this year, ones which made me think the most, or confirmed my prejudices, or surprised me a little bit, and all of which also bought at least a little bit of pleasure.

1). Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling: The Function of Avowal in Justice – Michel Foucault (like discovering a lost record by Talking Heads from somewhere between 1978 and 1982).

2). Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon – edited by Barbara Cassin.

3). Sophistical Practice: Toward a Consistent Relativism – Barbara Cassin.

4). Genealogy as Critique: Foucault and the Problem of Modernity – Colin Koopman.

5). Keys to the City: How Economics, Institutions, Social Interaction, and Politics Shape Development – Michael Storper.

6). Democracy and Illusion: An Examination of Certain Aspects of Modern Democratic Theory – John Plamenatz (and oldie, bought by accident).

7). Making Human Geography – Kevin Cox (my favourite book by someone I know).

8). Africa’s Urban Revolution – edited by Sue Parnell and Edgar Pieterse (makes you think about cities and urbanization in new ways).

9). Justification and Critique: Towards a Critical Theory of Politics – Rainer Forst.

10). Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity – Charles Taylor (another oldie, and I’m not sure why I found myself reading this, but I did, and then I wondered why I hadn’t done so before).

Bite Size Theory: Lineages of Political Society

“Most scholars find everyday politics excruciatingly boring. This may be the result of our habit of following politics through the news headlines where only the extraordinary, the spectacular, and the sensational find a place. Further, those who set store by the political subject engaging in the heroic politics of the street can never fail to find it if they regularly follow the headlines.”

Partha Chatterjee, 2011, Lineages of Political Society: Studies in Postcolonial Democracy. Columbia University Press.

Bite Size Theory: Thinking in an Emergency

“Insofar as I am making an argument about finding and following good habits, I am also making an argument about finding and following, binding ourselves to, good constitutional procedures. Conversely, I am suggesting that our contempt for our laws, the suspension of constitutional requirements overseeing our entry into war, is in part based on our contempt for the habitual that is undeserved.

Elaine Scarry, 2011, Thinking in an Emergency, W.W. Norton.

Bite Size Theory: Democracy Past and Future

“The differentiation of the political today, then, follows from the fact that more and more modes of representation, types of supervision, procedures of monitoring, and manners of expression of preferences are becoming available and distinguishing themselves from one another. Paradoxically, democracy thus seems to be diluted precisely because the possibilities of relating to institutions and one another are multiplying.”

Pierre Rosanvallon, 2006. Democracy Past and Future, New York, Columbia University Press.