Important Things Off YouTube: This shit’s gone nuclear

A Time Lapse Map of every Nuclear Explosion 1945-1998, by Isao Hashimoto

This went viral a while ago, but is still worth a watch during a contemplative evening. If you know anything at all about nuclear explosions, you know they’re not considered good for your health. So watching this video, the oddly elegant beeps and hums of the explosions, the barely contained fireworks of these behemoth bombs, makes you sincerely worried for anyone living, say, around Mongolia, or in Nevada, or on those little islands in the Pacific that don’t even warrant a place on the map. I want someone to do a ‘Wear Sunscreen’ style poem over the top of this, it’s an oddly soothing backbeat.

But then, of course, it makes you worried for all of us, because there have been far more of these than we usually think about. This poor old planet’s taking a beating. If you want to know more about the impact of nuclear explosions, read Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill does his usual generous trick of making a subject that seems huge and distant and complicated into something that is meaningful for an individual. This video helps do the same thing, by simply presenting what happened between 1945-1998, the merest speck of time. If watching the whole thing seems like a drag, you can cut to the end where each countries efforts are shown one by one. There are 2053 individual explosions shown on this video, by the way. I’d say that’s too many by about 2053.

If you’re looking for a more personal and horrifying understanding of what this brave new tech is for, read Hiroshima Notes by Kenzaburo Oe. Even if you’re not, read it anyway. It’s one of those books you read because you have to, not because you’re going to like the story.

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An Evening In: The Food of Love

Anthony Cappella is hands-down one of my favourite authors, not least because he writes the most delicious scenery and doesn’t shy away from a detailed description of someone cooking, or preparing coffee, or eating ice cream, all hung around charming romances and believable characters. The first one I read remains my favourite, and I will therefore be recommending that everyone deals with this bland winter we’re having in the UK  by heading to Rome and Italian cooking, courtesy of Mr Cappella.

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The Food of Love is a masterpiece of sensory writing, somehow avoiding descriptive overkill while drawing you into the elegance and heat of Rome and a romance based on food. It’s a retelling of the love story of Cyrano de Bergerac, but instead of love letters written by the less handsome suitor, the lovely Laura is seduced by the meals cooked by Bruno and passed off as his own work by his best friend Tomasso. I defy anyone reading it not to fall in love with the descriptions of the traditional Roman food Bruno cooks while trying not to be in love with his best friend’s girl. Best of all, there are recipes in the back.

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The drink is tricky with this one. You want something light and fresh like an Italian morning, or flavoursome like white wine poured into a sauce to simmer, or thick and sticky-sweet like Marsala in a tiramisu. You want something perhaps with the kick of ristretti or some soft aperitivo to whet the palate.

After musing for a while, I’m going to offer up my favourite cocktail, a Bellini. Made of Prosecco and peach juice or puree, this is suitable for a few reasons. Firstly, the Prosecco, Italian, lively, but subtle and not intrusive on other flavours to be had or imagined. The peach gives it that summery twist and extra sweetness; The Food of Love  includes at least one recipe with peaches, and at one point even a peach schnapps-like drink. And lastly it works for me because I had my first deliciously memorable Bellini on my first visit to Italy, in Venice when I was eighteen. Since Harry’s Bar in Venice claims the invention of this delicious cocktail, it seemed a good place to start – although mine was rather less expensive than the ones served there, or so I hear.

It’s a luxury perhaps, but so is anything written by Anthony Cappella, and a little sunshine goes a long way in an English winter.

Book: Anthony Cappella, The Food of Love

Pair with: Bellini

Important Things Off YouTube

There’s a lot on Youtube. Some things are stupid (see: videos of video games, people singing and dancing in their bedrooms, clips from Conan – the man is made of wax, why is he on TV), some things are necessary (see: dogs rescuing other dogs, cats, baby animals taking baths).
Some are important to me. For example, this:

Jaaam, Pogo

If Pogo hasn’t happened to you yet, congratulations, you are welcome. Remixing the soundtracks of undeniable classics like Back to the Future, Disney movies or Pokemon, Pogo produces amazing, upbeat tracks that will get into your head and down your spine. This one in particular is one I genuinely dance to and sing along with, it’s genius, I love it, listen to it now. Then spend the next two hours flicking through everything else he’s done, and welcome to your Sunday mornings for the next three months.

An Evening In: The Masque of the Read Death

Under this heading, I will be combining two of my great loves: reading, and having a delicious drink. If there is a better way to spend an hour or two of life than with a good book and a beverage, I do not know it, and I do not care to.

poeLet’s kick this off with a classic. Or even better, twenty-five classics, like the twenty-five shots of gothic suspense in The Penguin Popular Classics selection of Edgar Allan Poe shorts. The Fall of the House of Usher and The Murders in the Rue Morgue are here, so are The Pit and the Pendulum and The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s a pretty solid tour through madness and guilt and Time and death.

My particular favourite in this collection is The Mask of the Red Death, and with this we’re going to pair, of course, red wine. Something deep and dark and thick, woody and smokey like an old cigar. A Cabernet Sauvignon would work well.  If you can actually smoke a cigar while reading this, all the better. Ideally, I would don a velvet smoking jacket, sit by a shelf of leather bound books and read this by the light of a single, guttering candle, and then preferably go mad and die with my face in a rictus of horror.

Failing this, it’s still a brilliant read; a grotesque bacchanalia in a grand abbey, gates of iron welded shut and the hideous disease of the Red Death stalking the kingdom outside while Prince Prospero and his wild court give themselves over to Dionysian extravagance. Anyone who’s ever been to a good old-fashioned death orgy will appreciate the need for one creepy room, and Poe has naturally placed a massive ebony clock in the creepy room, which ticks ominously and every hour puts a real damper on the party by tolling out doom. Guess what happens at the end.

The whole collection is atmospheric, artful and written with the rich intensity of black coffee, beautiful like a reflection in an old mirror.

Book: Edgar Allan Poe, Selected Tales

Pair with: Cabernet Sauvignon