READING: When Money Dies: The Nightmare of the Weimar Hyper-Inflation by Adam Ferguson. Why yes, it is my idea of a good time. WMD was actually first published back in 1975 but was republished in 2010 (complete with a cracking cover illustration by James Nunn) no doubt thanks to the ongoing economic clusterfuck and a desire from many to get some context for what was happening, to get a sense of the history of such moneygeddons and hopefully to learn from it. As the title suggests, WMD is a history of Germany's post-WWI economy as it suffered a hyper-inflation that takes the breath away. For example, in December 1918 the exchange rate between the German mark and the British pound was 43 to 1 - by October 1923 it was 5,700,000,000 to 1. How the hell does that happen, and what does it even mean? This book does an excellent job of explaining, balancing the cold figures of economics with a broader view of the human aspect, of what this actually meant to peoples lives, and as such is rather terrifying at how quickly an economy and a society can fall apart. It's one thing to read statistics, quite another to read diary entries that tell of
"more fighting - daily, repeated, exasperated, demoralising, offensive and defensive fighting of man against man. I feel that my strength is deserting me. I cannot go on."
As such it's useful both in terms of having a greater appreciation for the context in which WWI eventually led to WWII and the circumstances which allowed Hitler to gain the support he did, and in considering how fragile modern societies are in the face of economic maladies that just don't make any sense. Fascinating stuff, but don't be surprised if you have an unsettling urge to stockpile food at the end of it.
LISTENING: Musically it's been the aforementioned Austra track, Metronomy, Wire's latest album (needs a few more listens but settling in nicely), Marc Riley on BBC 6Music (as usual) and this clobbering slab of sludge-metal from Witch Mountain, available for precisely nowt via Adult Swim's splendid 16 tracks compilation Metalswim.
Otherwise, there's been On Your Bike on Radio 4, a 10-part history of cycling. I'm five episodes in so far. While there's nothing particularly surprising in there if you've read books like It's All About The Bike, it's still an enjoyable way to spend 15 minutes and does a decent job of conveying the impact that the invention and use of the bicycle had on society over a hundred years ago.
WATCHING: Friday night's Reggae Britannia and the subsequent Barbican concert as part of the BBC4 Reggae Britannia season were hugely enjoyable. The documentary evoked the times and the personalities that brought reggae from the soundsystems to Top of the Pops, how the styles changed (dub, ska, rock steady, lovers rock) and mixed with other music styles, and what the music meant to people - it's always a pleasure to see people so passionate about music, and able to articulate that passion a hell of a lot better than I can. The concert is also great fun, performers and audience all clearly having a wonderful time and bopping cheerfully. You can watch a whole wodge of clips from them here, but really it's worth watching the whole shebang.