Things I learned this week #36

The cold snap in London is teasing us. Is it over? hopefully. But it will still be ~1C at night so don’t get too complacent. Still, the days already feel long. I can hardly remember it being dark at 4pm but I’m sure I’ll remember as soon as October comes. There’s a lot of spring, summer, and autumn between now and then though. Here’s some things I learned this week

  • This Breaking Bad character: Mike Ehrmantraut is one of my top three characters in Breaking Bad (Walter and Gus, in case you’re wondering). He almost wasn’t a significant character at all. Bob Odenkirk, who plays Saul, was needed on set during the filming of season two of Breaking Bad, and so the show writers Brough Mike’s character in to act as a go-between for information in the episode. It’s one of those happy little accidents that remind us that if we roll with an unexpected change or limitation, the we can create something lovely. Maybe it’s different to what we imagined at the beginning, but it can still be good. (source)
  • This one book: Lord of the Rings, the famous and seminal work for fantasy fiction by JRR Tolkien was written as one book. It was published as three, presumably because someone said to him “John, these four hundred and eighty thousand words will not fit in one book, you need three books or we’ll need to sell a magnifying glass to everyone who buys a copy” and then I presume John answered first with a poem or song and then gave his actual answer. Oh, he didn’t? Because that’s not how people speak? Sorry, sometimes I forget myself. Tolkien considered what we now now as “books” as simply “volumes” in the story. The crazy part about this fact is that Tolkien wrote every word of Lord of the Rings before he published them, and here I am in 2021 waiting for like a dozen fantasy authors to write book #2 or 3 in their trilogy. (source)
  • This demographic fact: About a third of new-born babies in the UK have at least one parent from outside the UK. London is a very multi-cultural city, and we’re carrying this figure heavily: 69% of babies are born to at least one parent from outside the UK here, with Newham topping out at 86%. I think that’s cool - the more children that grow up seeing people from different places, seeing different cultures to the one they’re surrounded by immediately… that’s only a good thing. In a very left-wing-can’t-we-all-just-get-along way: I’m happy to see this. (source)

What I’ve had on rotation

  • Something New King’s Disease by Nas (2020, Hip Hop). This album won the grammy for best hip hop album and I hadn’t heard that it even existed before. Whoops. Nas, of Illmatic fame, is undoubtedly one of the fathers of modern hip hop. Though, to quote Jay Z on Blueprint: he did put out one good album in ten years. Luckily it was good. Unfortunately I meant I had him written off as a forebear without being an active artist. King’s Disease is good. Like, actually good - not just good because I want it to be good. The beats are slick the vocals and tight, the themes are good. Having two good albums over several decades isn’t a great hit rate. As if I’ve not said enough to crucify myself in the eyes of the real Hip Hop Heads: this album reminds of Common in places, and that’s a good thing to me. (links)
  • Something Old Summer Suite, Vol 1 by Chad Lawson (2010, Classical). I go through phases of working in silence and to music. I’m emerging from a more silent phase at the moment, but the light and upbeat vibe of this album is a perfect transition piece for that. Pop it on when you don’t think you want sound but silence doesn’t feel right either. (links)

Cool Articles

  • Greta Thunberg: ‘It just spiralled out of control’ by Leslie Hook for The Irish Times. A few years ago, Greta was fully in the limelight - very publicly active and outspoken. She’s recently turned eighteen and is back at school in Sweden, studying full time. In this piece, Hook gives a humanising account of Thunberg’s current beliefs and attitudes. I was interested to learn that she doesn’t actively talk about solutions to the climate crisis, seeing that as the job of others with more knowledge and expertise. She’s reluctant to give answers to the big questions, which I have mixed feelings about. Give the article a read, Greta’s a cool person and I think we could all take a bit of her urgency.