fine new year stuff 06-01-2011

1) a history of the world in 100 objects by neil macgregor, based on the acclaimed the radio 4 series as it says, accurately, on the cover. it's not intellectually taxing (i'd said about 0.8 on the in our time scale) and it has little slotted-in contributions from non-experts (grayson perry, tom bingham, richard rogers...) which were doubtless included on the radio to give a bit of audio variety but which are almost all fatuous on paper. nevertheless... it takes these ordinary, extraordinary, magical, numinous objects which sit at the crossing points of stories and cultures and trade routes and kingdoms and uses them to weave together, well, pretty much everything. i don't think i've ever read a book and learnt so many things or felt so many previously learnt things being connected at long last. the vikings, the abassid kingdoms, the tang dynasty... nor realised how many entire and sophisticated civilisations have vanished under the (metaphorical) sand and are known to us only by some chance discovery. the olmec, the oxus... the implication being that there are others out there which will never be known. which makes my hair stand on end.

2) glee. i'm a bit of a late convert to this on a/c of being mr boxed set who rarely sees tv as it comes down the pipe. and this is everything i hate. sentimentality, song 'n' dance, white white teeth, actors so cute they look as if they have a weird disney squirrel chromosomal mutation. and yet... the tightness of the performances, the script, the direction and the cinematography plus a leavening dose of barbed surreal earthiness (a hot tub is just the right temperature for sperm) turn it into a box of unputdownable chocolates.

3)  hipstamatic. the iphone app. all my holiday photos now come from 1968. see below (lantic bay, 2011). and the default camera now seems utterly characterless.