Archived entries for Thoughts

A Patagonian Playlist

I am on the bus from El Calafate driving around Lake Viedma on my way to Chalten.  I’m staring out the window looking at the lake and stunning mountains rising dramatically out of the barren sierra, it is an inspiring sight.  Coupled with the isolation here, it has a funny way of making you at peace.  Even the clouds here a uniquely dreamy quality, making different shapes with a slow grace “Oh look there’s a dog”, and after glancing away for a few minutes “now it’s a duck”. When you draw your eyes away from the scenery and the clouds and close them for a moment you can almost feel the galaxy spinning around you. A brief unity.

And what do you listen to while you enjoy this moment?  Although, admittedly limited to what is on my aging 4 gig iPod nano, I though I’d share with you my patagonian play list.  One of my more gadget orientated friends has commented, somewhat harshly in my view, that I should be thinking about upgrading. Mine still works and the battery life is about 8 hours more than his new nano in comparison.  No question of upgrade then. So let me begin…

The news that Pavement is reforming and touring has got me very excited so I am listening to some of their albums for the first time for many years, so let’s start with Newark WiIder off Crooked Rain.  What about the chord progressions in this?  Genius.  Perfect for a lazy hot afternoon.  And let’s follow that with another track off Crooked Rain, Gold Soundz.  This is the indie song template, perhaps not the first but certainly one of the best.

One thing you will always find on my iPod is Suede’s Dog Man Star. I never tire of it, and have spent many hours listening to it while contemplating my past and future.  And the track in the playlist today is We are the Pigs.

“Oh let the nuclear wind blow away my sins.”

Yes, I do know all the words.  Much to the amusement of some people I was once I card carrying member of the Suede fan club.  And I do very good interpretation of this song on air guitar, for those lucky few who have had the dubious privilege of hearing/seeing it.

I have been revisiting lots of things in my collection over the last few months and enjoying rediscovering and remembering the times that went with them.  After all you need to understand the sum of your past for your future whole to be greater than the sum of those past parts.

Next is Elliot Smith, an artist that I have felt, somewhat vainly, was a fellow traveller of mine.  Two tracks off Either/Or are on the list today Rose Parade and Say Yes.  Sweet Songs with inteligent lyrics, and yes I do think I am an exception:

“And I could be another fool or an exception to the rule.”

After watching a documentary that Steve Dangerfield gave me on parallel universes (E’s father was the physicist that came up with this theory), I have been listening to a lot of Eels of late.  And I can thoroughly recommend this popular science doco too, about the science behind quantum mechanics combined with E’s personal journey learning about his father.  I can be such a geek at times.  The song?  Last Stop: This town.

“What if I was your only friend in this world.  Can you take me where I’m going if your never coming back.”

I was surprised the other day to discover that the most played songs on my iPod were all off Beirut’s Album, The Flying Cup.  I don’t know if it is the effect of the tango canciones slowly seeping into my head and their use of the piano accordion, but I am clearly lovin’ this album.  Or perhaps it’s the french influences on the album clicking inside my head with all the french films I have been watching of late (Thanks, Antoine!).  On that note you should check out MR 73, Daniel Auteuil makes Rebus look like a shandy-drinking pussy.  Getting back to the music, this album is full of soaring songs with a gypsy feel, beautifully arranged, and clever improvised percussion.  And the 5 most played tracks: Nantes, A Sunday Smile, The Penalty, Cherbourg, St. Apollonia.

After chatting to Kathy Angelone (Looking forward to seeing you babe at Meredith!) recently about her ongoing obsession with Tim Rogers, I recently pulled out my favourite You Am I album, Hourly Daily.  Three tracks off this album for me today:  Hourly DailyTuesday, and Who Takes Who Home? The last track is on my favourite last album tracks playlist, and coincidentally one which I will be playing by this time next year as one of my new year’s resolution will be to move on from the bass onto guitar.  And I will be playing it, no question.  Every time I listen to this album, I remember Sunday night games of 500 at Meike and Matt’s: Meike cooking dinner, Matt, Phil, and I chatting about the weekend over some red wine,  Meike and Matt being super competitive with each other over the card game, while Phil and I furtively look at each other to see if the other saw the joker being clumsily dealt into the pot.  Good days.

And with the Meredith Music Festival firmly on my mind, the next track is Akron / Family’s Don’t Be Afraid, You’re Already Dead.  Why?

Because love is simple.”

I read some speculation the other day in NME about the headliners for Glastonbury next year, it being the 40th one and all.  U2 are headlining Friday night and the gist of the speculation was the Stones for Saturday night and Bowie or Dylan for Sunday.  A greatest hits set from David Bowie, one last time?  I think I will have to get past my vow of never setting foot in that muddy hellhole again.  I’m so excited at the thought of seeing my number one music hero that I’m going to have to pause here while I see if I can still register for a ticket just in case.  Right, that’s done.  The track?  Life on Mars.  Bowie has been a constant travelling companion for me, with Ziggy keeping me company in even the most obscure places.

What next?  Radiohead of course.  What better band to be lost in your thoughts to?  And the track?  High and DryThe Bends and OK Computer are back on rotation in my iPod, after a long absence.  In fact I think in Jacqui Pinge’s 2008 interview of me reflecting on the year gone by I nominated Reckoner as my favourite track from last year which might explain why In Rainbows has held it’s place for so long on my iPod.

And finally, R.E.M. Not because they are on my iPod but because I have been quietly singing Pretty Persuasion to myself for the last few days after listening to their live CD set Live at the Olympia, 39 songs recorded over 5 nights in Dublin in 2007.  The Olympia is a cool ye olde theatre and a great venue to see a band.  As well as trying out tracks for their new album, they also played a track of each of their albums and played 5 tracks off both Reckoning and Life’s Rich Pageant.  And they played with a raw energy that reminded me of how much I loved them.  For the record, I think their last album Accelerate is far away their best album for well over a decade.  Who says your best work is behind you?

So there you have it: Muscia es una metafora.  Perfecto.  Muy bien.

Footnote: When I started writing this post it was going to be about me revisiting my view that the Swiss are dull after a swiss girl flashed me in my dorm last night.  That and another anecdote about getting into the VIP bar at Prodigy in Santiago, with another swiss girl.

I think the music is where it is at.  Good call.

And on that note, Ray-Bans are cool too (again)

Yes I know Wayfarers and Club Masters have been having a come back of late and you can accuse me of being a bit slow here, but I’m on the bandwagon now.  Ray-Bans are cool.

Although I wisely decided not to revisit my 80’s ownership of Club Masters I have recently invested in a new pair of Ray-Ban T’s in Gunmetal/GreyGreen (T is for technology – lot’s of space age stuff in there!) and I’m lovin’ them.

I read the other day that another fossil from the 80’s, Phil Collins, is also “cool” again in an NME interview of Julian Casablancas, frontman of The Strokes.  If Julian thinks so it must be true (???).  Mind you he also said of his fashion inspiration:

“I always reference Mad Max when I think about what I want to wear. But it’s a fine line between that and Edward Scissorhands.”

I leave you to pass judgement.

CaixaForum and some Islamic exploration…

I have just been to an exhibition ForumCaixa in Madrid on The Worlds Of Islam, which reminded me to my shame that I am still yet to see the great Moorish cities in Spain (Cordoba, Seville, Toledo, Granada, etc).  I’ve always been fascinated by Spain heritage as both a Muslim and Christian country and been very interested in seeing the contrasts in these cities.  Yet still I haven’t gone.

A succession of Islamic dynasties ruled Spain from 711 to 1492, at a time where Islam was the face of civilisation in the world.  After the collapse of the Roman Empire and with Europe in the Dark Ages, it was the Islamic world that preserved and grew the great body of knowledge assembled by the Romans and Greeks.  Without these efforts much of the world’s collective knowledge of mathematics physics, medicine, philosophy and history would have been lost.  Great Islamic scholars and philosphers such as Avicenna (who wrote “the Book of Healing“) and Averroes )who wrote “The Incoherence of The Incoherence”) made massive contributions to the world’s scholarly efforts and both demonstrate the tolerance of the Muslim world, particularly when compared to the barbarism of the christian world of the time.

Enough of the history lesson, methinks.  The point is I think learning about Islamic Spain would be a good place to start to gain a respect for Islamic history, a history of which they are deservedly proud.  In the same vein as the Italians are very proud of Rome’s great age or Da Vinci’s work, Islamic peoples of the world have a right to be proud of theirs.  And I won’t even begin to start on extremism be it Christian, Islamic, or whatever!

Oldest Challenge

There was a really interesting article in The Guardian today on how the number of people in the world aged over 65 is going to pass the number of children under 5 for the first time.  This is a topic that I really interests me, not just because of the implications for governments in how they respond this (higher taxes to pay for more services to the aging population), but also to society and how many attitudes will be challenged which our societies will find difficult.

The challenges Japan is facing with one of the oldest populations in the world demonstrates what a challenge this is with the older generation leading a pensioner crime wave (see another Guardian article) as they struggle to live on their savings and the state pension.  It’s an interesting (and tragic) but unforeseen consequence of an ageing population.  Couple this with the mental health issues (depression, suicide, etc)and public health issues (delivering primary care in the home, eating healthy food after a lifetime of catering for a family, etc) of living alone after one partner leaves or dies and it makes for a very difficult problem given the sheer number of older people.  Have a look at Nutrition Australia for what they are doing in this space for more (A plug for you Luci!).

The other side of the debate is the share of resources between the generations with more of the tax take being spent on aged services versus services for the younger working population.  There is a clear need for compromise, but the baby boomer generation is yet to show much appetite for sacrificing their comforts and have been collectively the most selfish generation to date (controversial but I do think this!). Have a look I found the graphic below a little while ago on the Australian Bureau of Statistics site which is a nice illustration of generations and the names they have been given.  It’s hard to see Gen Y and iGeneration being keen to make sacrifices either given they’ve only known good times, plus Gen X’s lingering resentment of the baby boomers and the endless use of their demographic muscle to hog the public debate on issues of the time.

blah generation timeline 1 generation timeline 2

So where to from here for this issue?  I’d be very interested in what others think…

Breakfast, a statement of intent…

Bacon and eggs or the muesli with fruit and yoghurt?  I don’t know about anyone else but what I have for breakfast really makes a difference to what I do with my day.  The healthy option seems to lead to the run or the trip to the gym, and getting a lot done with the day.  Everything just seems easier.

Today is a case in point.  Fruit for breakfast leads to walk on the beach, a run up to the light house (I’m in Byron Bay), and a to-do list with everything crossed out.

Maybe it’s the good stuff going in me or my head telling me I may as well continue the good work now I’ve started.  I’m leaning towards it being a declaration of intent to myself and I really dislike inconsistent behaviour in myself, so I have to see it through.

That said I’d find it hard to turn down my favourite breakfast – spanish eggs.  Yum!

Consolation of tears

I’ve read two things in the last day that have made me think about the meaning behind happiness.

The first was a passage of Graham Greene’s Journey Without Maps.  The author is recalling a time when he saw a weeping girl in London at a bar, crying uncontrollably over her gin and tonic.  Greene observed:

“You don’t weep unless you’ve been happy first; tears always mean something enviable”.

Greene is one of my favourite authors of the 20th century.  He never wastes a word and I’m compelled to finish every book of his I’ve ever picked up.  As always, he has made me think about the human condition while telling a fascinating story.

The second was an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald by Caroline West, “Which kind of happiness to pursue?”, an except of which I’ve cut and pasted below:

“There are many diverse and competing conceptions of the nature of happiness. What one person means by “happiness” can be completely different to what the next person means, far more different than we commonly imagine.

If someone said they wanted to talk about momentary sensations, moods, desires, beliefs, achievements, activities, states of the world and what made for a flourishing human life, you might expect them to be talking for quite some time. You might also expect them to use different words to talk about each of these different subjects. Yet one word is often used to talk about all these things; and that word in English is “happiness”.

Happiness can be used to refer a momentary sensation, such as pleasure or enjoyment. Or it might refer to an enduring mood, such as tranquillity or contentment. Or believing that one’s desires are being achieved, or the actual achievement of one’s desires. Or believing one’s life as a whole is going well, in terms of one’s own priorities. Or leading a life that is considered to be – from some objective standpoint – worthwhile.

Not only are the things just listed extraordinarily different, they can and do come apart. Achieving one of these things is no guarantee of achieving any of the others – and, more importantly, it may sometimes preclude it. Some of life’s biggest decisions involve trade-offs between the different conceptions, forcing us to choose between them.”

So am I an achiever or in the moment?



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