34. The Cascade Mountains

I used to dabble in science communication. I mean, I took it seriously – wrote songs about science, did talks, made videos, did podcasts, trained and helped other people to do all these things and more. But I wasn’t especially successful at it, only in part because I decided a long time ago that the world wasn’t in short supply of beardy white straight middle-aged men getting dewy-eyed over physics on screen or blowing shit up or whatever. Another reason is that I find the dewy-eyedness a bit boring and there is definitely an authorial style that people adopt when talking about science, and my preferred approach – let’s call it “morose and oblique” – doesn’t fit it well.

I thought it would be fun to do something in that mould, though. A sort of BBC4ish history of the Cascade Moutains, a range which extends from Northern California to Southern Canada, and I happened to be flying over just at the point that I needed a new song idea. I also liked the idea of a narration which blandly elided Physical Geography (volcanos and earthquakes) with Human Geography (Empire, Migration, Gentrification) with seemingly no acknowledgement at all that the confident voice of Mr BBC was really full of shit; although, there are gems of truth, the rapid development of Vancouver could arguably be linked to the industrial revolution via Hong Kong and the British Empire; there has been a lot of migration to the Pacific Northwest from California, but more because of house prices rather than fire; and those fires weren’t caused by volcanoes, and do affect the homes of people who work for tech firms with multi-billion dollar valuations. I hope no one’s upset by the broad brush strokes – in my estimation, Northern California has more to offer than kombucha and sourdough cultures (although, let’s be honest, those are huge draws), and I thought the fires at DIY performance venues like Ghost Ship were really heartbreaking. But not so much Rupert Murdoch’s house.

Next week, we get up in time to see the sun rise over Minneapolis – why not celebrate and preorder Year of The Bird Volume 4 – the final volume of Year of The Bird?