Going off-grid – a necessity or a self-imposed exile?

Vacation time approaches.

This year, I’ve made the decision not to take the various items of personal computing technology that I normally use multiple times every day. No iPad, no MacBook Air, no movie library, ebooks, digital magazines, Ara subscription, Seinfeld episodes…* and my phone will be switched off except when I call my parents on my birthday. Real books? Yes. MP3 player? Yes. But that’s it. The aim is to achieve about 3 weeks of non-connectivity, what some people call going off-grid. Why? Because I spend so much time every day looking at and interacting with a screen of some sort that I really feel like it’ll benefit me to go all early 90s on my brain for a while.

Part of me feels a definite need for disconnection: sometimes I’m not sure I can take another day of reading asinine comments on Cif about how if the Spanish had worked a little harder, they wouldn’t be in crisis currently. I lack the self-discipline to disconnect on ordinary days and I do feel that I should take advantage of the time away to just not worry about that stuff so much.

But is that true or am I just imposing a sort of analog fast on myself for no reason other than I think it makes me feel clever? And would that be such a bad thing anyway? And wouldn’t I probably do my body and brain more good by simply giving up wine for three weeks (which isn’t going to happen… not on vaycay anyhow)?

Mention disconnecting for a few days at work and generally you get a knowing “Oh that sounds so amazing we really do spend all our time in front of computers, right?” sort of response. But one of my colleagues, tech blogger Elena, simply shrugged and asked me why? Why bother?

I read an essay (or rather, book review) a few months back that talked about the way our brains are physically changing thanks to the internet. That’s not as grave a thing as it sounds: our brains physically change thanks to all sorts of stimuli and systems we subject them to. But given that we, you and I, represent probably the last generations for a long time who’ll have spent at least some time growing up without ubiquitous computers, I think it’s interesting that I can even consider see-sawing back into my early internet-free headspace. I guess my little sisters wouldn’t understand the point. Elena doesn’t, so clearly her brain is younger and more advanced than mine. But I do feel there’s something to be said for at least experimenting in changing one’s habits from time to time. I think I’m the kind of person who can only do so radically.

I’m no luddite. I adore technology and my career is based on understanding, using and thinking about it all the time. So I don’t agree with Jonathan Franzen when he says that Twitter is stupid. I like Jonathan Franzen’s writing… and I do think that great writers have an important secondary role as geist critics. But I also love Twitter and blogs and the internet. That said, perhaps I actually am just a secret traditionalist trapped in the body of an information technologist? Perhaps when I warn colleagues not to get too nostalgic, I’m less worried about them confusing our readers and more worried that I’ll slip up and start writing about how great the old days were. Maybe I secretly yearn for a world without the internet? Maybe I really just think that I’m being way cleverer than you?

Is going off-grid then a sort of cultish fast that I’m just telling myself I should go through? Will it really benefit me to revert to pen and paper for the notes I’ll have to write, and just hard copies for the research I plan to start while in Menorca? Is self-imposed exile necessarily such a bad thing? You see, I already have too many questions to try and answer, and the internet won’t help with that.

I’m going to give it a try. If anything, maybe going off-grid for three weeks will help me focus and remember how to write in a way that doesn’t produce a jumbled mess like this blog post.

The apartment we’ve rented has a TV, anyway.


*Burglars: I will be depositing all said computer equipment in a safe place. So don’t even think about it.

Primavera Sound 2012 lineup

Primavera Sound 2012

The program’s probably pretty much complete now so as usual, here’s a list of the acts performing at this year’s Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona. The festival takes place from May 30th to June 3rd. The first and last days will be free events at Arc de Triomf. Get tickets here.

This year’s lineup is a bit of a mixed bag. If, like me, you’re sick of FUCKING WILCO, and you’re a bit sick of most British indie from the last 3 decades, you could be forgiven with thinking there’s little on offer. (I say ‘most’ because I obviously still love Spiritualized and Björk, who’s practically British). But take another look and you’ll find much to amuse you.

Take AarabMuzik, for example, who makes quite good music by sampling quite bad music. And how about Dominant Legs who have a sort of Tom Tom Club thing going on. Or the ‘chillwave’ (whatever that means) of Neon Indian. Or Redinho’s electro fun times. There’s plenty to be enjoying. I’ll see you where we can see the sea.

Primavera Sound 2012 lineup (my picks highlighted)

A$AP Rocky (US) A.A. Bondy (US) Aeroplane (BE) Afrocubism (CU) Anímic (ES) AraabMUZIK (US) Archers Of Loaf (US) Atlas Sound (US) Atleta (ES) Baxter Dury (UK) Beach Beach (ES) Beach House (US) Beirut (US)

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How I resolve to live in 2012

New Year resolutions are generally just a list of regrets from the year before: “actually quit smoking”, “lose weight”, “find a man”. A litany of past failures presented as optimistic hurdles that will ruin the year to come. Here’s my list of non-regret-fuelled resolutions for 2012.

  1. Learn Jazz. I’ve been listening to jazz for years and feel like I need to spend some quality time this year learning its history and how it works so that I can better enjoy it in years to come.
  2. Do poetry. I used to love reading and writing poetry and realised recently that it had been out of my life for a decade or more. I should fix that.
  3. No smoking indoors. While I haven’t yet smoked a cigarette this year, I now pledge not to do so in our flat. I will smoke in bars if Rajoy leaglises it, though.
  4. Read at least one book in Catalan and one in Castilian too.  2012 marks 10 years since I moved to Barcelona. I ought to progress beyond shoddy newspapers.
  5. Find new living quarters in Gràcia (or even Poblenou); swim regularly; eat less meat; visit Paris and Lisbon… (these items are perhaps the regret-laced resolutions I warned of).

 

Have a fun, safe and happy 2012.

Dennis Wilson – River Song (1977)

I’ve been listening to this album a lot in 2011. Dennis Wilson’s voice is considerably different to earlier recordings he did with the Beach Boys, mainly because he spent most of the time between 1968 and 1977 drinking, smoking and doing drugs. This album, Pacific Ocean Blue, is soulful and rhythmic and doesn’t sound much like anything else that I know. River Song is the opening track.

 

 

Oh, and here’s a bonus track: Mexico  

How to Explore Like a Real Victorian Adventurer

From this month’s The Believer, “HOW TO EXPLORE LIKE A REAL VICTORIAN ADVENTURER

Victorian adventurers rarely took a step into the wild without hauling a small library of how-to-explore books with them. Among the volumes Burton carried into East Africa was a heavily annotated copy of Francis Galton’s The Art of Travel: or, Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries. Originally conceived as a handbook for explorers, and sponsored by En-gland’s Royal Geographical Society, the book was required reading for any self-respecting Victorian traveler. Before rolling up his sleeves and getting down to the hard business of exploring, he could turn to page 134 to learn the best way to do exactly that:

When you have occasion to tuck up your shirt-sleeves, recollect that the way of doing so is, not to begin by turning the cuffs inside-out, but outside-in—the sleeves must be rolled up inwards, towards the arm, and not the reverse way. In the one case, the sleeves will remain tucked up for hours without being touched; in the other, they become loose every five minutes.

The amiably neurotic Galton left nothing to chance. His index is studded with gems like “bones as fuel” and “savages, management of.” If Burton couldn’t find the advice he was looking for in Galton, he could always consult one of the other books in his trunk that were written with explorers in mind.

I’m really into this stuff at the moment. As Trevor at Kalebeul has pointed out a million times, there is a ton of material like this to read over at Google Books.

See also: this Salon review of Wilfred Thesiger’s ‘Arabian Sands’ which is on my reading list RIGHT NOW. I’ll write more about exploration and travel soon.

L’Orchestre Antillais and Biguine

Various Artists – Vintage Caribbean Music

L’Orchestra Antillais – Serpent Maigre

[Both links require Spotify. feel free to comment with a better way of sharing music, as I'll be doing that a bit from now on]

I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz recently. Particularly pre-1950s. And as part of this, I’ve stumbled upon biguine, a type of jazz that originated in Martinique. It influenced Now Orleans jazz and sounds somewhat similar though with a lot more eerie fiddle. Listen to Serpent Maigre (link above) and look for Quand Meme on the VA album too. Great stuff.