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


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.

Radio FIP rules

One of the best things about the modern holiday is disconnection. Many of us spend our work days and nights tethered one way or another. So the holiday provides us with an old-fashioned life: we cook with gas, we suffer the small refrigerator (we still waste food, weirdly), we get our news from the papers or the radio, like in olden days.

This summer we spent a week in Brittany in July and a fortnight in Menorca in August. Neither house has television or internet.

The area around Josselin in Brittany is perfect for lazy cycling: the Nantes-Brest canal has lovely towpaths: I saw an otter on one bike ride, and only about two metres away too. We stayed in a village in the middle of nowhere, without street lights or other light pollution sources. We had two cloudless nights and had as good a view of the Milky Way as we’d had in ages. Loads of shooting stars too.

The three of us sat in the car bound for La Rochelle, but still in Brittany. Our car has a cassette deck for which we have a flimsy shop-bought device that also plugs into an iPod. Said device (the 4th we’ve bought) failed as soon as we departed. What this meant is that we discovered FIP radio. A radio station that plays Bach, then Gillespie, then JAE, then some country, then some funky shit, then tons more jazz. It took me hours back home to work out what station we’d been listening to.

FIP was a revelation. It still is. I know that tons of other people knew about it (particularly in Brighton) and this might seem like saying “I’ve discovered that I like air!”. Like it ought to, FIP provides good archives of its playlist. Which is mostly great. I’m working on having the station play permanently on this site. I think it’s only fair that I inflict this on as many people as possible.

In Menorca, we connected an Android phone to some speakers we bought and listened to FIP online. I listened to the World Service as I read my le Carré. We also listened to some Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. I like jazz, but don’t really know enough about it. I always love Coltrane, Davis, Bird, Ornette, and I adore the old-timey stuff you can find on Spotify.

We also listened to a fair bit of Magnetic Fields, tons of Talking Heads, and the odd Stones or Royal Trux song when in need of rock.


Some of the stuff I’ve been reading/doing recently:

Article is all wrong” – the Vietnam War remains a controversial topic for some, as this Wikipedia discussion illustrates

Babylon Falling – 60s counterculture, 90s hiphop, underground press – one of the best Tumblr sites I’ve seen in ages

Diaspora – this is the new Facebook, so they say. It’s early days, and I have no friends on there, but it has potential

A Visit From The Goon Squad – Pulitzer prizewinner, entertaining novel by Jennifer Egan. It’s about punk and time

Iran And The Bomb – by Seymour Hersh. The real enemy is Saudi Arabia

Menorca apartment reviews – summer vacation beckons