Books: It's been three months since we last reviewed an audiobook here - what's the deal with that? We've actually had a single book on the boil for that whole period, but had to put it on pause on several occasions during that time because, well, we've been busy. Also, it's a pretty great book and we're kind of savouring it. Fancy Bear Goes Phishing by Scott Shapiro is a study of the history of cybercrime, built around a detailed analysis of five landmark incidents. It starts in the mid-1980s with the story of the student who crashed the internet before any of us knew what the internet was, and goes up to the Russian groups who've been meddling with US elections (including the Fancy Bear of the title, because Russian hacking groups tend to be codenamed as '[something] Bear'). Shapiro isn't afraid to dive into the weeds of how data breaches happen - you do feel sorry for audiobook reader Jonathan Todd Ross, who on a few occasions has to read out several lines of program code verbatim. But the clarity of the descriptions makes them work even for the most general reader. Besides, Shapiro's real interest is in the people who poke around in systems where they shouldn't be poking, and what makes them want to do that. Some of their reasons may make you want to hurl your audiobook device across the room because of their sheer pettiness, but that's people for you.
Food and Drink: As it's an August Month End Processing, this is usually the time of year where a simple list of beers can count as a valid post. At this year's Great British Beer Festival, we racked up the following between us: Blackjack's Early-Days Northern Porter, Lord's Sunshine State West Coast Pale, Thornbridge's Coltrane, Geipel's Hefeweizen, New River's Blind Poet, Dorking's Five Claw, Thornbridge's Tiramisu Lucaria, Beer Ink's On The Saison (getting our award for the best/worst pun of the night), and finishing up with Urbanaut's Tropical Imperial Stout. It should be noted that the above list was pulled from the GBBF app, which we used for the first time this year - no paper programme required, and the ability to log what you've been drinking at the touch of a button definitely helped. Apart from that technological breakthrough, not much has changed this year - the same layout, the same food and merch stalls. On reflection, maybe this year there was a slightly better integration of the craft beer scene into the proceedings, as opposed to the ghetto area marked off with key kegs that they've used previously. This year's guest band was Eddie And The Hot Rods, who improved quite a bit after some initially terrible sound, although you can't quite get over the fact that they've gone full Sugababes - there wasn't a single person on that stage that night who'd played on Do Anything You Wanna Do back in 1977. We all jumped around like nutters when they played it, regardless.
Music: Time for another Audio Lair playlist of newish stuff, available in both collected Spotify form and a bunch of YouTube links padded out with words.
- Given how much of YouTube is currently dedicated to shots of people reacting to Sindhu World videos, you get the feeling that The Northern Boys went into their video shoot thinking 'right, let's give these buggers something to react to...'
- Thanks to a combination of archaeology and reconstructive surgery, we now have new music from the late Vivian Stanshall. On the evidence of this lead single, it's all been done with sensitivity and love for the great man.
- Recorded at the Proms last year (which means I'm audible somewhere in the final seconds), Public Service Broadcasting show how it's possible to balance a rock band with a full orchestra without one of them drowning out the other.
- I'm not massively familiar with Killer Mike's stuff, but this single certainly grabs you by the ears when it comes on the radio, even with the awkward gaps caused by censorship.
- I got to know Akusmi's music last year through a Spotify algorithm recommendation, so I guess Spotify can't be too evil after all. This sort of minimalism/jazz/dance crossover stuff just presses my buttons like crazy.
- It's sad that it took so long for De La Soul's old material to get a digital release, but at least it's there now. I'm finding the re-emergence of non-album material like this remix just as much fun as the albums themselves.
- What, that Corinne Bailey Rae? Really? Girl, you can put as many records on as you like if they sound like this now.
- I feel I should be investigating CMAT more. I'll certainly give her forthcoming album a listen to see if she's got other choruses as stonking as this one.
- Not sure if Yard Act are deliberately trying to recreate the baggy feel of a 1980s-era 12" single re-edit, but it amuses me that this is exactly what it sounds like.
- I haven't really thought about David Bridie since we stumbled across him on our Australian trip 20 years ago. This album of spoken word pieces set to music is rather delightful, though.
In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for September 2023 is Funky Monkeys, a children's soft play centre with branches across the country! Well, as long as your country's Ireland: there are a couple of branches in Newport and West Bromwich, but the rest of them are split between Dublin and Belfast. Probably shouldn't have used the word 'country' in its singular form back there, really. Maybe just forget I mentioned it.
I'm only talking about an Irish soft play centre because we've just come back from a few days in Dublin: maybe at some point this month, you'll find out what we were doing there (although regular readers can probably make a decent guess). You should at least get the remaining parts of the writeup of our Italian honeymoon, plus possibly a bonus piece from some of the Pals who made it up to Edinburgh this year without us. That lot should keep you busy to the end of September, at which point we need to start thinking about this thing again. If any of you dare to use the comments box below to complain about a lack of content, I might have to say the odd rude word or two.