scraps from the last few days

So, the first thing that attempting to keep a cultural log is telling me is that I spend a lot of my time on digital ephemera and not that much time listening or reading at the moment. I hope to change that, and my other excuse is that I’m reading a book that I’m only quarter-enjoying at the moment. But more about that later.

Pretty slim pickings, then, for the last few days. But I did see a lovely poem on the tube that I thought was an interesting and mischievous choice for our Jubilee year (and now I come to think of it, I saw it on the Jubilee line too): I Sing of Change

Its talk of classical Athens also reminds me: there’s been a lot of talk about how good Meet the Romans was recently, and it was; I particularly liked the arriviste baker’s tomb, and Mary Beard sitting in the dust in a Roman block of flats, reminding another classicist that it might have been pretty bad coming back to a tiny flat with no windows after a hard day on the docks but bearing and bringing up babies in the same flat was unlikely to have been much fun either. So taking advantage of this topicality I’m going to mention one of my favourite books: A Very Short Introduction to the Classics, which Prof Beard co-wrote. It sounds a bit shallow to have a VSI as one of your favourite books, as if I might also recommend you read a Dummies Guide to Bicycle Repair as my next tip, but bear with me. The book takes the temple of Apollo at Bassae as a starting point for a discussion about how the classical world regarded itself, how we regard it, and what we owe to it. There’s a discussion about the phrase ‘Et in Arcadia ego’ which I found really enlightening and thought-provoking. It probably isn’t an ideal choice for you if you’re looking for a step by step description of the classical period or a set list of writers – and the reviews on Amazon and GoodReads bear this out – but I think it will make you want to find out more, and that counts for more with me. Another reason to love Mary Beard, then.

Under other cultural bits and bobs, these are the songs that I noticed I was listening to over the last few days:

The Waitresses – No Guilt

Spotify link – sorry, can’t find it anywhere else. Anyway, defiantly cheerful song about breaking up, with that 80s ‘sassy lady’ attitude.

P J Harvey – Working for the Man

Cos I am.

Stereolab – Diagonal

I’ve never made the effort to really listen to Stereolab (this is true of a lot of the music I’ve bought since my first iPod – I chuck everything on there and then listen in shuffle, hoping I’ll come across the new stuff eventually and skipping the 60% of songs I’m not in the mood for) but always love their songs when they do turn up.

Half Man Half Biscuit – 1966 and All That

Topical because of the spoken word part about Stan Mortensen and Bloomfield Road at the end – Blackpool FC are in the playoff finals again. Up the Pool!


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