Monkey magic

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(Are chimps actually monkeys? They’re not, are they? Apes are different right? Damn you, Linnaean classification.)

Anyway. This week over at Shinyshelf I reviewed James Marsh’s Project Nim, a  documentary on an experiment to create the world’s first TALKING MONKEY:

Despite what Disney cartoons and breakfast cereals may have taught us, animals cannot talk. This is a more profound statement than it at first appears.

It isn’t just that they can’t make the vocal noises required to form words. There’s some evidence that speech and intelligence are intimately related, that it’s only language that allows us to formulate abstract ideas. There is a reason why your dog is quite capable of telling you it’s hungry, but has yet to reminisce about that walk in the park last Sunday.

You can read the rest here.

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The rage

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I seem to be getting angrier. A selection of rants:

  • For the love of god, can everyone please stop trying to triangulate everything Labour does against the ghost of Tony Blair? (Liberal Conspiracy, October 6th)
  • A cheap and effect solution to the problem of online misogyny (Liberal Conspiracy, November 8th)
  • And, sticking with all the big issues: why a Doctor Who movie is a horrible idea (New Statesman, November 17th)
  • Also, not really a rant, by a result of my rage nonetheless: Want to damage David Cameron? Go after his friends (Liberal Conspiracy, August 3rd)

The 50-foot update, part 1: the cultural stuff

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Look, I’ve been busy, alright? Since we last spoke, a mere 11 months ago, I have edited nine issues of the increasingly fabulous EducationInvestor magazine, raised six kittens, looked after sick loved ones, attempted to tutor a Zimbabwean teenager in English and Maths, walked in a circle all the way round London, composed half a novel that will almost certainly never see the light of day, and organised an awards do. So there.

As of last night, I’ve also finally got around to re-doing this website to make it a bit more user friendly. In future I’m going to post every new article individually, to make life a bit simpler. But to catch up, here’s the first of two giant posts to wrap up all the freelance stuff I’ve done over the last few months. This one covers the London and cultural stuff; the other will cover the education and politics stuff.

The London stuff:

  • A Ruislip by any other name: What Boris Johnson’s cycle scheme can tell us about the strangely changeable names of the city’s different neighbourhoods (Londonist, August 12th 2010)
  • Solving London’s drinking problem: some modest proposals to make us less bladdered (Londonist, October 27th 2010)
  • Brand new map, brand new mistakes: On how the rail companies care more about corporate identity than about actually helping us get places (Londonist, March 15th 2011)

Culture stuff:

  • A review of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps: if anyone can tell me what this film is meant to be about, I’d be glad to know (Shinyshelf, October 26th 2010)
  • A review of Burke and Hare: A film that deserves its own truth and reconciliation commission (Shinyshelf, November 8th 2010)
  • Doctor Who regenerates: Russell T Davies versus Steven Moffat (Shinyshelf, June 24th 2010)
  • Elisabeth Sladen obituary: on the death of Sarah Jane Smith (Shinyshelf, April 20th 2011)

I also contributed to Shinyshelf’s three christmas posts on the highlights of 2010 (Shinyshelf, December 24th-27th 2010). Just so you know.

What did you do in the great election, daddy?

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Er, bugger all of any real use, to be honest. But I did do a lot of blogging for Londonist.

First off there was my run down of some of the city’s key marginals. Then there was my report on the pitched battle between Labour and the LibDems in my own constituency of  Islington South and Finsbury. Perhaps most hubristically, on election day itself I predicted London’s election results – and, if I do say so myself, got them impressively wrong.

On election night itself, myself and Rachel Holdsworth (who blogs as Bagelmouse) spent the night liveblogging the results as they came in. Or, more accurately, didn’t. There are more cats in this liveblog than any election liveblog strictly speaking needs.

Away from the election, over at the First Post I’ve asked how we’re going to pay for the Tories’ free schools (May 26th).

And finally, at Liberal Conspiracy, the exciting tale of Dr Who and the homosexuals of doom (April 3rd).

Some old culture stuff

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Some reviews, some analysis and the odd bit of cultural naval-gazing:

  • How unpaid internships have made the media so middle class (The First Post, August 2009)
  • Blair, actually – a rather long and faintly bizarre essay exploring the age-old question: Why is Richard Curtis a bit like Tony Blair? (ak13, February 2004)
  • Stuck Still – a frustrated essay on the cultural wasteland that was 2004 (ak13, January 2005)
  • Fairytale of New York – some faintly feminist ranting on the overly romanticised let down that was the end of Sex and the City (ak13, March 2004)
  • Haunted – on the uncomfortable experience of watching Dr. Gunther von Hagens dissect someone’s daughter on Channel 4 (ak13, March 2005)
  • Artefacts was a column I devised for ak13 in 2003, as a format for examining the impact of various books/plays/films/other stuff. Despite it being my format, I contributed only two articles to the series: one on Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, the other on Ian McEwan’s 1987 novel The Child in Time.
  • On Home Alone (Shinyshelf, December 2006)
  • On christmas in The West Wing (Shinyshelf, December 2006)
  • A review of The Trial of Tony Blair (Shinyshelf, January 2007)
  • Two Doctor Who reviews: GridlockHuman Nature/The Family of Blood (Shinyshelf, 2007)

Flotsam and jetsam and odds and ends

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From 2003-6, I intermittently contributed to the New Statesman‘s New Media Awards blog, writing stories of textspeak death certificates and Korean karaoke phones. Very little of this, sadly, is still on the interweb. Try not to feel too downhearted.

Instead, here are some other oddities I have put into the world, thanks to ak13:

  • A Sicilian Message – Ten suspicious parallels between the War on Terror and the Godfather Trilogy (ak13, June 2004)
  • Ten reasons to love… global warming (ak13, September 2004)
  • Meaning frenzy – on how ‘objective journalism’ may reflect the views of a dominant class (ak13, July 2004)
  • Ten reasons to love… the rainy British summer (ak13, July 2004)
  • Ten reasons… why you don’t matter a damn – my classic work of existential despair (ak13, March 2004)