So, at the risk of being embarrassing by trumpeting it myself, it’s my birthday today. No, thank you, really, the pleasure is all mine, you shouldn’t have, etc etc. I’m 43, a father of two school-age kids and run my own business, but my Mum seems to think I’m still 10: she sent me a very sweet card featuring a cartoon footballer child lifting a piece of minor silverware atop a podium.
Of my presents, I’m hoping four publications I’ve received will give my brain a good Shake ‘n’ Vac (and put the freshness back):
- Michael Sandel – What Money Can’t Buy. Subtitled, The Moral Limits of Markets. Sandel is Professor of Government at Harvard and you may have heard or seen him on the BBC this year bringing a cool, moral philosophical approach to the issues facing society, business and politics.
His thrust is that we have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society (he writes about the US where this is more advanced than in Britain, but it’s a point about Western economies generally).
He simply asks us to pause and think through which areas of life we can usefully use markets in and which it could be damaging to do so.
- Michael Michalko – Thinkertoys. Ignore the blurb aimed at morons, promising to ‘help you think like a genius’, the book is a resource full of techniques and ideas for challenging your thinking, getting other people thinking and fired up.
Thanks to the ICG email forum for alerting me to this one.
I’m planning to draw on it to spice up creative groups and workshops. Not literally draw all over the book, I mean take the ideas from it. Though, hey, there’s an idea …
- Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder – Thinking the Twentieth Century. This promises to ‘unite the conflicted intellectual history of an epoch into a soaring narrative.’ I’m a keen reader of history, despite or perhaps because of being married to a historian.
The late Tony Judt’s book has had amazing reviews and its appeal to me is that, like Sandel’s book, it promises not to shy away from examining the fundamentals of how human societies work: questions of what is a good life and what kind of things can help as many of us as possible us live life in a ‘mindful’, happy and satisfying way. With a bit (or rather a lot) of evidence, detailed argument and intellectual oomph.
- A subscription to The Wire magazine. My pop music references are getting a bit Daddish, to be honest.
My obsession with Half Man Half Biscuit over the past couple of years has sucked the life out of the rest of my music collection. And my old skool hiphop has been put into Special Measures, after I became obsessed with two tracks to the exclusion of all else for about a decade: Wu Tang: 7th Chamber (15 years old now) and NWA’s Parental Discretion Iz Advised (celebrating its silver jubilee next year). A few months ago I sacked my old self as A&R, after a string of semi-whelming experiments with new music. I appointed in my place a fresh broom by the name of Simon Riley to rise above the deluge of landfill indie that has blighted the musical landscape and find the next Stereolab, Bowie, The Fall, Arctic Monkeys, Can or PJ Harvey. The Wire can be my mid-life crisis magazine, for a man who will never afford a red Ferrari.
But the most useful present award goes to the Thinsulate woolly hat. I’m a balding man and it’s Baltic out there. (It’s a sign of my middle age that I now cling to the descriptor ‘balding’ as a trophy, as pretty soon I’m going to have to give up the ‘-ing’.)