Newsletter No. 2: ‘Glorified monkeys’

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6 October 2016


Is it really October already? How on earth did that happen? It seems like only a month since September, when I was chilling out in my beloved Anglesey. If it turns out I’m spectacularly wrong and there really is such a place as heaven, I imagine it will be very much like the Anglesey coast:

Looking towards Puffin Island

I recently wrote an article about sitting on my favourite Anglesey rock, passively watching nature getting on with just being. It seems to have resonated with a few readers, so you might want to check it out. It’s entitled An irrelevance in the landscape.

Some stuff I thought worth sharing:

  1. Last month saw two lost exploration craft rediscovered in the frozen wastes. HMS Terror, one of two vessels abandoned during Sir John Franklin’s disastrous 1848 mission to find the Northwest Passage, was found beneath the Canadian Arctic. Even farther from home, the Philae lander was photographed on the surface of comet 67P by its mother ship, the Rosetta space probe, which was shortly later sent on a collision course with the comet. (We landed a spacecraft on a comet: for a bunch of glorified monkeys, Homo sapiens certainly has its moments.)
  2. I generally try to avoid articles with click-baity titles mentioning top-ten-type lists, but those offering writing advice from Rebecca Solnit are a must. How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit contains some fantastic advice for aspiring writers. A couple of her tips gave me real food for thought.
    See also: My review of Rebecca Solnit’s ‘Wanderlust’
  3. In one chapter of my book On the Moor, I briefly describe the phenomenon of volcanic sunsets. A recent article explained how vivid sunsets in the aftermath of volcanic eruptions [might have] inspired great works of art.
  4. Articles about the late Poet Laureate and local Calder Valley lad Ted Hughes are always of personal interest, so I was particularly pleased to discover an old interview with Hughes on the Paris Review website which mentions our local moors, two of which inspired On the Moor.
  5. Wondering how much I should indent the first lines of paragraphs in an ebook I was putting together, I found some useful typographical tips on the website Butterick’s Practical Typography. It’s important to get typography right.
  6. At school, I once heard of a strange way to estimate π involving pins dropped at random on to a surface covered in parallel lines. I spent several hours trying (and failing) to work out the maths behind the technique, then promptly forgot all about it for the next 3½ decades. This Numberphile video demonstrates and explains how the technique works.
  7. As a chap of a certain age who recently produced a photobook of local bridges, I was drawn to a charming video, Born to be Mild, about the Dull Men’s Club. The video features fellow Y-chromosome-bearing nerds whose passions include photographing roundabouts, collecting milk bottles, and riding escalators.
  8. Although I rarely practise it myself, I’m a big fan of street photography. In a new, apparently impromptu video, street photographer John Free analyses 86 of his own photographs while sitting on a street-side kerb.
  9. What are we allowed to say? ponders David Bromwich in a thoughtful London Review of Books piece on free speech and the perennial attraction of censorship.
  10. Andrea Wulf’s entertaining biography of my hero Charles Darwin’s hero Alexander von Humboldt recently won the Royal Society Science Book Prize. My pal GrrlScientist was one of the judges.
    See also: My review of Andrea Wulf’s book ‘The Invention of Nature’

… OK, so I totally knew referring to top-ten lists as ‘so 2015’ in my previous newsletter would come back to bite me.

Shameless plug

I’m delighted to have provided an article for a new anthology about wading birds from Dunlin Press.

As you might expect, my article involves a walk on my beloved Moor, there’s a bit of science, and Charles Darwin makes an appearance.

The Migrant Waders

So, that was issue two of the Rich Text newsletter… And to think they said it would never last!

Feel free to contact me with any feedback. And please forward this newsletter to any friends you think might enjoy it, urging them, for the sake of all that’s holy, subscribe!

Here’s to the next one.


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