World History

This week saw the launch of a fabulous programme from the BBC and British Museum, A History of the World in 100 Objects. Every day a new object is ‘released’ in the form of an item on the website and a podcast of just under 15 minutes. There’s also a blog and the introductory post by Neil MacGregor sums up the programme nicely:

Most of us learn history from books, but I think that it is physical objects – actual things – that most powerfully connect us to the past – things made by somebody with hands just like ours, for a purpose we can still hope to understand…
The objects I’ll be talking about in each programme tell us what people were doing, what they were thinking, how they lived and why they did what they did…
Along the way we look at the connections and contacts between societies that show how the story of the world is the story of the whole world.

As well as items from the British Museum’s collections there are items from other museums across the UK and the public are also encouraged to add their own objects to the website as well as commenting on objects. You can search objects by location, theme, culture, size, material and even colour. Today’s object was a carving of two swimming reindeer that is about 13,000 years-old.

Apart from the history angle (and I’ll confess to being a bit of a history geek) this presents a fascinating example of the kind of far-reaching, multi-dimensional, multi-partner project that we’re beginning to see particularly coming out of the UK. There’s just so many aspects to it:

Buy one, get 10 free …

In these trying times of economic uncertainty, many of us are looking for ways to maximise efficiency and return on investment, while minimising risk and limiting the possibility of failure.

How many of us have vivid memories of running into the library to grab that perfect summer read, only to discover once home again that the perfect book is not:  that all that time and energy and effort were for naught.  Not only that, but another trip to the library is now necessary, and with an increased fear of failure to grapple with.

Fear not, intrepid investors!  The library has the perfect solution – Short Stories.  That’s right, audience, you heard me.  For decades regarded as the poor cousin of ‘real books’, these polished little beauties offer all the excitement and intrigue of a novel, but with so many added advantages.  Let me explain.

Firstly, they’re short.  This means that instead of plowing your way through one hefty novel, taking days, weeks or even months, you can polish off a short story in your tea-break, a couple over dinner, and a few more before bedtime.  You can start, middle and finish a dozen or more tales in the time it would normally take you to get to chapter 6 of a ‘normal’ book.  Imagine the surprise and amazement of your friends and family when Continue reading

Thank you for the music

In 1976 it could be hard to find music to listen to if you didn’t like the hair and flares bands and felt a bit old for the super-glued spikes and straights; if the concept album was just too overblown but the three minute thrash didn’t appeal either.  

Brought up on Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, I covertly listened to Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, then someone who shared my guilty secret said “you should try the McGarrigle Sisters, they’re like Maria Muldaur only better.”

And so began thirty years of listening pleasure which came to an end this week with the death of Kate McGarrigle. Kate and Anna McGarrigle weren’t really like Maria Muldaur, in fact it was hard to pin them down as being like anyone else.  Folk singers, singer-songwriters, it didn’t matter what they were labelled, they just got on with making music of an elegant simplicity, music that features some of the sweetest harmonies ever. It’s sad to think there’ll be no new music, but the music Kate McGarrigle did make in her life is an enduring legacy any musician would be proud of.