Books,  monthly roundup,  Music

March 24 round up

It’s been a busy presentation month. I gave a metaphors talk for Rikke Toft Nørgård’s Digital Pedagogy and Learning special interest group. I like these more informal presentations, and we had a fun chat about Nordic metaphors afterwards. I hosted a session for the European Digital Education Hub, on learning environments. Preparing for this prompted me to think more about AI enhanced learning environments, so it was one of those presentations that help move along your own thinking. Dominic Orr joined me and gave an excellent overview of the work they do at Atingi. I’ve blogged about the OER24 experience, so won’t say more here except to say it warmed this cynical old man’s heart.

On the book front, I’ve been a bit immersed in horror and Stephen King this month. King was an author I read a lot as teen, the classic era of his writing. But then I put those childish things behind me and read “proper” literature. Returning to his writing some 40 years later I am chastened by that snobbish attitude, and also really able to appreciate his craft in creating characters you like spending time with. If he were less of a genre writer he would probably be feted more as serious literature (not that it bothers him I suspect). I enjoyed Nige Tassel’s odyssey to track down all of the artists who had appeared on the NME’s C86 tape. It’s a warm, humane book about what happens after brief brushes with fame. Many of the people he spoke to still play music in some form (and a surprising number seem to be into cycling), and it is that sense of creating music for its own sake that comes through (and also that the NME was pretty shitty to a lot of them having created this genre themselves).

It’s been a good vinyl purchasing month with the release of new albums from several artists whose previous albums had been firm favourites. Hurray for the Riff Raff’s new release, The Past is Still Alive was a more subdued affair than the “nature punk” of Last Days on Earth. On it Alynda Segarra’s chronicles their chaotic youth of being a teenage punk runaway, jumping trains and dumpster diving. As with the last album the sound is deceptively upbeat whether they are singing about ICE brutality, transphobia or fentanyl abuse. But that’s kind of the point, they find humanity in the tales of the dispossessed, in the tradition of Steinbeck. Brittany Howard’s new release, What Now, has a LOT going on. It’s a massive sound, with funk, soul, complex jazz rhythms & orchestration. Every track is a good album in itself. My favourite of the month is Waxahatchee’s Tiger’s Blood. I quite iked Waxahatchee’s last album, Saint Cloud, but her collaboration with Jess Williamson, as Plains was incredible. This album continues in that vein of country with the benefit of hindsight. If it was a person they would live in a trailer, drive a battered pick up, swear like “a dry county welder”, and be the smartest person you know.

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