Bowie and religion

Like millions of other Bowie fans I find myself listening to his music more than ever since he died a year ago today.

And, as for them, it continues to offer consolation, not only for the hard fact that we shall hear no more from him, but for the particular challenges of my own life. Why should this music, so often abstract, glacial, detached, obscure and mockingly ironic, hold such a powerful emotional appeal for so many?

Bowie’s work delighted in illusion and artifice, his elliptical wordplay as elusive as the quicksilver music itself, with its shimmering surfaces and sudden, bracing chord changes. And perhaps it is that very weightlessness, that impressionistic quality, that gives his songs their power, an ability to communicate a sense of the perpetual Speed of Life, with its continual flux, contingency and strangeness.

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My favourite books of 2016

There are some chaps who are no good for anything but books. I plead guilty to being such a chap. EM Forster, A Room With A View

Indeed. Here are ten books I particularly appreciated this year – though not necessarily published in 2016 – listed in alphabetical order. I reviewed quite a few of them for various online magazines, and where applicable have provided links to the versions archived on this site.

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Yesterday evening I started to put together some notes for a short post about David Bowie’s new album Blackstar, released just last week.

Today I find myself writing, with great sadness, a few words about his death.

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London Overgrown

The evening sun gleams on The Shard’s highest glass walls, the last to rise above the ivy now enfolding the rest of the tower. Tangling branches weave a delicate lattice over Regent Street. Sparrows flit through the leafy avenues of Soho. A spreading oak breaks through a third floor Shoreditch window.

The visions of a London Overgrown that inspire a new collection of soundscapes by ambient musician John Foxx might appear at first sight to be just another set of images of an apocalyptic future dreamed by a culture fearful of impending ecological catastrophe via irreversible climate change.

The tsunamis, storms and hurricanes that in recent years have devastated the coastlines of Idonesia and Japan, and flooded great cities such as New Orleans and New York, may be harbingers of still greater disasters to come as global warming gathers momentum. Dystopian images saturate popular culture, most vividly in the millenarian landscapes of movies such as The Road, City of Men, I Am Legend and Mad Max.

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Introducing Sceptical Scot

Over the past few weeks I’ve been glad to help with the development of a new current affairs website, Sceptical Scot, which launched this week.

The site hopes to bring more light than heat to the ongoing, intense discussion over the future of Scotland in the wake of last year’s referendum. It will range widely, covering political, economic and cultural issues.

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