Meeting Matthew and Michael: the Faber Poetry Podcast

First time interviewing two poets at the same time; first time interviewing twins; first time interviewing identical twins; first time interviewing identical twin poets; first time interviewing two contributors to a tête-bêche (top-to-toe) edition, writing on the same theme – the death of their older brother – but in very different styles.

Matthew and Michael Dickman tactfully made my task much easier by periodically referring to each other by name, thereby making it clear to the listener who was talking.

Poets Matthew and Michael Dickman

Matthew (left) and Michael (right) at Faber offices, watched over by TS Eliot

Continue Reading · 11 October, 2016 · podcasts, poetry

Julian Baggini on the Edge of Reason

“We have lost our reason,” writes philosopher Julian Baggini in the introduction to his latest book, The Edge of Reason, “and our loss is no accident. Gradually, the contemporary West has become more and more dismissive of the power of reason. Caring for it less, we often find we have left it behind.”

baggini-edge-of-reason-coverThe book explores some of the causes and consequences of this loss, and suggests ways in which we can reclaim reason, perhaps counter-intuitively by making “deflationary” (i.e. quite modest, or at least qualified) claims for it. Baggini acknowledges that reason has its limitations, and cannot in the real world be reduced to some abstract model or algorithm. Human beings are irrational in a host of ways, he argues, but reason remains our most powerful tool to tackle the problems – political and ethical – that our complex modern societies face: reason is a means of finding common ground.

Baggini quotes psychologist Dan Ariely with approval: “We are limited, we are not perfect, we are irrational in all kinds of ways. But we can build a world that is compatible with this that gets us to make better decisions rather than worse decisions. That’s my hope.”

At several points in the book, Baggini emphasises the value of careful attending, in other words, listening, tuning in, rather than seeking to devise a knock-down argument. So listen in now to what he has to say about recovering reason. I recorded this podcast with Julian at home in Bristol a few weeks ago.

Continue Reading · 29 September, 2016 · podcasts, science and philosophy

Olympic Games, 388 BC style

Greek charioteerWhat would it have been like to spend five days attending the ancient Greek Olympics in 388 BC? That’s what Neil Faulkner‘s book sets out to explore. You can listen to the interview, which I recorded with Neil in the spring of 2012, shortly before the London games, by clicking on the media players above or below. And there’s more information about the book on Yale University Press’s website here.
In the interview, Neil tells me:

‘Ancient Greece is a highly divided and competitive world, and it’s a world that puts huge emphasis on sport, partly because all of Greece’s city states depend for their armed forces on a citizen militia made up of their adult male citizens. So there’s a sense in which Greek sport is war without the shooting. It’s preparation for war in a highly divided and competitive world.’ 

And we also produced a short video of Neil talking about the book:

Neil Faulkner on his Visitor's Guide to the Ancient Olympics from George Miller on Vimeo.

 

Continue Reading · 9 August, 2016 · history and politics, sport, video

Ted Nield on Supercontinent

Nield Supercontinent coverWith the same inevitability as the shifting tectonic plates perhaps, my podcast backlist seems to have drifted off iTunes and disappeared beneath the waves. So I am intending to use the opportunity, which did not initially come as welcome news, to gradually re-present all my interviews from the past ten years. They may not all arrive in chronological order, but this was definitely the first interview with which Podularity kicked off on Hallowe’en 2007.

Here’s what I said about the podcast first time round:

Ten billion years in the life of our planet. That’s the subject of this first Podularity podcast. And all in a little over 17 minutes … Alert readers may already object that it’s impossible to cover 10 billion years, as the Earth is only six billion years old. (If you are objecting that the Earth is a great deal younger than that, then this podcast is probably not going to appeal to you.) However, Ted Nield’s new book, Supercontinent, looks not only deep into the past by examining the geological record, but also peers into the planet’s far-distant future.

And here’s what Simon Winchester said about Ted’s book in his review of it:

The four-dimensional complexities of our happy little planet – “earth’s immeasurable surprise” – are made elegantly accessible by Ted Nield in this truly exceptional book. At least until the next major discovery it deserves to become the standard work, ideal for students of the subject, and hugely enjoyable to those for whom the world remains an unfathomable enigma.

Continue Reading · 7 June, 2016 · podcasts, science and philosophy

Zoë Anderson on The Ballet Lover’s Companion

My guest in this podcast is Zoë Anderson, ballet critic of the Independent and author of The Ballet Lover’s Companion, recently published by Yale University Press. Zoë’s book traces the history and development of ballet as an art form by focusing on 140 works in the repertoire: classics, revived rarities and modern masterpieces. Sarah Crompton, reviewing the book in the Sunday Times, called it authoritative and praised its ‘crisp ability to convey an affection for ballet and a clear-eyed view of its oddities’.

Continue Reading · 8 June, 2015 · art and music, podcasts
kobane

LMD podcast: Ed Emery on the Kurdish songbook project

My guest in the most recent podcast for Le Monde diplomatique was Ed Emery, who is an ethnomusicologist at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and also the presenter of Ed Emery’s Revolutionary Radio Show. Ed wrote a piece for Le Monde diplomatique in which he described the regular visits he and […]

Continue Reading · 22 May, 2015 · art and music, history and politics, podcasts
pat shipman

Of stones, bones, and wolf-dogs

In Pat Shipman’s recent book, The Invaders (Harvard University Press, 2015), she argues that our last close relative, the Neanderthals, were driven to extinction not solely by climate change – though that played its part – but by the incursion of an invasive species: homo sapiens. We modern humans – the invaders of Pat’s title […]

Continue Reading · 8 April, 2015 · anthropology, natural history, podcasts

From the archive: Kat Banyard on The Equality Illusion

Here’s a ten-minute video interview I did with Kat Banyard four years ago about her book, The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today. I’ve just watched it again and am reminded of how powerfully eloquent she is: Kat Banyard introduces The Equality Illusion from George Miller on Vimeo.

Continue Reading · 31 March, 2015 · history and politics, video
Akhil Sharma Family Life pb cover

Congratulations to Akhil Sharma

Last week Indian-American novelist Akhil Sharma won the Folio Prize for his novel Family Life. I met Akhil when he visited London last spring to talk about his eagerly awaited second book. Akhil was born in New Delhi and migrated to the US in the late seventies. Having initially pursued a career in investment banking, […]

Continue Reading · 30 March, 2015 · literature, podcasts
Anna Karenina Bartlett OUP

Anna Karenina revisited

“The text of Anna Karenina is like a Persian carpet of intricate symmetrical design, whose workmanship can only be appreciated by seeing the reverse side.” Rosamund Bartlett I had the pleasure of chairing Rosamund Bartlett‘s event at the Oxford Literary Festival yesterday afternoon in which she talked about Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, and the experience of […]

Continue Reading · 28 March, 2015 · literature, podcasts