Michael McKinney, bass player with local band Runabay and reviewer for The monthly writes about “What floats your boat?”

Admittedly, I was a little thrown when the editor of CAP Monthly asked me to write about things that have recently interested me, rather than asking me to review another show or album. Rather than gush endlessly about what I love, I have tried to think of several examples which, I hope, our readers will find enjoyable.

Books

It would be disingenuous of me to say that I have made a concerted effort to read more, rather I have rediscovered the joy of reading and losing myself in a wonderful book. Once of the most interesting and insightful books that I have read recently has to be ‘The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and how it’s Broken’. A fascinating insight into the UK’s tottering legal system. This insightful book explores the damage that years of short-sighted, vote grubbing policies have done to justice in the United Kingdom. Delving into topics including: the demographics of magistrates, the privatisation of social care, chronic underfunding of prison services and the use of the legal system to distort the truth, this book provides a thorough analysis of the difficulties in obtaining justice in the United Kingdom. Also, their blog is pretty excellent as well.

thesecretbarrister.com

Music

In the last month I’ve made a concerted effort to listen to music that I would have dismissed in the past. One of the most fun albums that I have recently heard has to be Scandinavian producer and DJ Todd Terje’s 2014 album, ‘It’s Album Time’. One of the most enjoyable collections of tracks that I have heard in a long time, combining 80’s pop with bossa nova grooves, as well as excellent synth bass and guitar work.

I have also stumbled across Manchester-based jazz trio ‘GoGo Penguin’. I have no idea how I have gone so long without their work appearing on my radar. Having aurally devoured their albums over the past two weeks. Combining free-form jazz and pseudo-classical styles with clever melodies and excellent technical abilities, I have found much to be inspired by in my own work.

Podcasts

Slowly, but surely, replacing my radio listening is being replaced by the cornucopia of podcasts that I have found. If you find yourself with a spare 30-40 minutes today, have a listen to ‘Ear Hustle’. This podcast, produced by artist Nigel Poor and former San Quentin inmate and now producer Earlonne Woods. This podcast offers a great insight into life in an American Prison. Dealing with issues such as: loneliness, cellmates and prison economics, this podcast explores, not only the reality of life in prison, it also confronts the harsh reality of life outside of prison and how this disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged in western society.

Also, tis the season for spooky. With that in mind, I have just finished ‘Alice isn’t Dead’. From the makers of the acclaimed ‘Welcome to Nightvale’, this podcast concerns the travels of a truck driver as she journeys across America to find her missing wife. It’s filled with horror, conspiracy and existential dread, I cannot recommend it enough. I found myself gripped by the mystery at the heart of the story, and lost in the meandering descriptions of the road. www.earhustlesq.com

Video Games

Games are art. The days of games existing solely as bleeping addiction machines are (somewhat) long gone. If you look beyond the larger developers there is a plethora of smaller studios creating some unusual and, above all, interesting, works. Currently I have been delving into ‘Sunless Skies’,  Failbetter Games’ sequel to ‘Sunless Sea’ and ‘Fallen London’. While the gameplay itself is fairly simplistic, the world is brilliantly weird and fully realised, supported by beautiful art and excellent writing.

The primary appeal of this game are its stories, which are constantly being updated. These include tales concerning a space-borne British Empire, a spa run by devils and a quest to murder a sun among some of its less strange fables. While you can get an idea of what is going on by just playing this game alone, I recommend trying out Failbetter’s earlier titles. While they aren’t as polished as ‘Sunless Skies’ they will help you understand what is going on in this strange game, or maybe not. This world does not let go of its secrets easily.

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