Monkey magic


(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.


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


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.

Some old culture stuff


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)