Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Let's Talk...

... About Christmas. And excuse me whilst I channel my inner Scrooge. From now on I won’t be so much the “A Cuban in London” as “the Cuban version of Ebenezer in London”. I bet you anything that the first comment left in the box below tonight will be “Bah, humbug”. Well, bah-humbug back to you, my friend!

When does Christmas really start? Is it when mince pies go on sale (I saw some on a display window in Shropshire back in August when I was there. I kid you not!), or perhaps when my weekend papers begin to assault my senses with endless John Lewis, PC World/Currys and M&S A5 catalogues? How about when the lights of your town centre are switched on? Mine have been beaming out their Christmassy electric energy since mid-November.

Let’s talk about Christmas indeed. More specifically about our modern notion of the birth of one of the most important figures in the history of mankind: Santa Claus.

Despite my previous words, I do not despise Christmas. But, not having been brought up with the tradition (we used to celebrate Christmas’ Eve back home. However, even that was hush-hush as Fidel’s government clamped down on all things religious), I find myself at a loss over what is considered proper Crimbo etiquette. What I have noticed is that there is an unhealthy commodification around this yearly celebration.

That is why I think that Scrooge was on to something. You might have thought I was joking when I invoked his spirit at the beginning but, in reality, Charles Dickens gave us a visionary in Ebenezer. A prophet who saw the shape of future Christmas to come. Or at least the ghost of them.

Miser or visionary?
Scrooge has always been accused of being tight-fisted. Yet what he really represented was the resistance to the market forces that were already making themselves felt in Victorian Britain. He was thrift versus future profligacy. He got labelled (undeservedly in my opinion) a miser. How unfair, I say! All he was doing was alerting the world to the Wongas of the noughties. The payday loan companies whose annual interest rates can reach up to 5,000%. True, Scrooge lost his fiancée Belle. His critics blame his procrastination. He wanted to hit the jackpot before saying “I do”. But what man does not want to provide for his beloved? Especially in those pre-feminism years when women still did not have the vote and marriage was just another way to keep them down? I think Scrooge was way ahead of his time here and by hoarding saving his money, he taught future generations how to administer their cash better.

Ebenezer did not despise the poor. He loved them! But he knew what was coming to them. He could smell it (God, he had a huge nose. At least in the screen versions). Bad credit cards habits, debts, round-the-clock advertising, mental and spiritual poisoning of the young, you name it, our modern version of the yuletide season covers them all.

Let’s talk about Christmas. Especially, let’s talk about the real meaning of it now that secularism has given the Overweight Citizen from the North Pole the heave-ho-ho-ho. Is it family time with Morecambe and Wise on telly? Clad in our new PJs and gorging on chocolates? Frantically and aggressively tearing up the impressively wrapped presents from friends and relatives? Taking a selfie? Discreetly putting aside one of the aforementioned presents? Checking your status on Facebook, whilst your mum goes to the kitchen to check on the turkey? Discussing the meaning of life? Having yet another chocolate and promising yourself that “no, no, this will be the last one”? Taking another selfie?

Scrooge’s intention was to rein in this excess. Maybe he went about it the wrong way. But his message of simplicity ought to be heeded in our current race to exterminate ourselves through shopping. In the meantime, pass us some mince pies, will you?

© 2013

Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 1st December at 10am (GMT)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

What to think of Russell Brand’s recent guest-editorial slot in The New Statesman? Or of his (now) famous interview with combative, impatient, veteran Newsnight anchor, Jeremy Paxman? The issue at stake was an important one, democracy, and how our current political representatives have failed it. Yet, in the end it was Russell Brand, the comedian, Russell Brand the actor and Russell Brand, the womaniser, who hogged the limelight. I’m not sure that was Russell’s intention, but like a bull terrier, whose reputation as an aggressive dog follows it everywhere, so is Brand punished for previous misdemeanours.

You can’t fault him for putting his agenda on the table from the word go when he took temporary charge of the political magazine The New Statesman. According to Brand, imagining the overthrow of the current political system is the only way I can be enthused about politics.

My problem, if I can call it problem, is that I am also enthused about politics. Whilst I agree with Brand’s core message that the status quo needs shaking and parts of it need dismantling, I disagree with his methods.

Politics has definitely taken a blow in recent years in the UK. I have (sadly) witnessed its downfall. From the euphoria that surrounded New Labour in 1997 when it came to power (I had just arrived in London) to the hundreds of thousands who marched against the illegal invasion of Iraq, I have had an almost front-row seat in all these events. At this point, British humour compels me to ask myself the question: and you’re still here? How come you haven’t taken the first flight back to Cuba?

Because it’s not that simple. Because politics – and politicians – are not that straightforward. If they were, we would have reached Utopia many centuries ago. We tend to see the political process as a system created by politicians and acted on by politicians. Democracy follows from that notion and therefore, when politicians fail, politics fail and, inevitably, democracy fails.

I believe that democracy is a system you create on a daily basis. This “you” is “us”, really, those of us who, through our attitude, alertness, morals, respect to each other and collective responsibility, take the bull by the horns, so to speak. We should never export these ingredients to politicians hoping they will make the soup for us. From that point of view, I agree with Russell Brand’s call to a “revolution of consciousness”. To me, however, this social movement would include the ballot as well.

I have lost count of how many times I have heard or read people saying that they can’t be bothered to vote because “all politicians are the same”. First of all, not all politicians are the same, just like not all police officers are the same, not all doctors are the same and not all athletes are the same. Some sportspeople even cheat, did you know that? Imagine if I were to say, based on the Armstrong case, that all cyclists are cheats. Why, then, do we change the language when talking about the people who are supposed to represent us?

Because they are an easy target. More importantly, they divert attention from the collective responsibility I mentioned before and our failure to act it out. This is not to excuse wrong behaviour. Members of parliament, prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, presidents and vice-presidents, must be held accountable for the decisions they make. However, they do not operate in isolation and they should never be allowed to do so. They are part of society and so are we.

That is one of the reasons why I still vote. Unlike Russell, I have not got the privilege of being apathetic. I know that the box I tick, the candidate I choose and the party I support might let me down, but I am willing to accept that as a side effect, if by my actions I can still keep our imperfect, deeply flawed and hypocrisy-ridden democracy alive.

The best case scenario of my decision to vote is a programme like Sure Start, guaranteeing every child in Great Britain the best beginning in life through a combination of family, education and health support. The worst case scenario is an illegal invasion like the one in Iraq in 2003. If I were to abstain one of the consequences would be the one I have already seen played out in other parts of the UK. What if by withdrawing my vote (which everyone is entitled to do), I brought in the kind of person I disliked so much that I would then try to vote him/her out of office? Ironic? Yes. Scary? Even more.

That is what Russell Brand conveniently forgets. He is in a position where the jackboot worn by the heavily tattooed, racist, fascist thug from the England Defence League or the British National Party will not reach him. I am not in that position, I am the one who will get his head kicked in because a member of parliament or councillor with racist views has been elected in my borough or ward. Even if they do not succeed in passing the laws they and their supporters want, they can create a very hostile environment for people like me. Yet, that would be, methinks, the last thing on Brand’s mind.

I do not disagree with Russell when he writes or talks about the disenfranchisement of young people in Britain today. I agree with him that the current political climate generates apathy. But apathy is breeding ground, not just for unpopular politicians, but for the ones with the nasty, hardcore right-wing views. I would like to believe that Russell hates them as much as I do.

Like many before him, Brand does not offer any solutions. Or he does, but they are of the wishy-washy, woolly type you find amongst adherents to the Socialist Workers’ Party, a body about which the less I write, the better for everybody. The way forward for him is a two-pronged one: spirituality leads one end, whilst politics (I thought he despised it!) leads the other. I must confess I lost faith in him a little when he explained how he had arrived at this spiritual Damascene conversion. To cut the story short, it involved a trip to a slum in Kenya, another trip weeks later to a fashion show in Paris and a guilty conscience. The political solution he mentioned before? Conspicuous by its absence.

Unlike his detractors, I like Russell Brand’s style. In fact, I still miss his weekly football column in The Guardian. In his essay in The New Statesman, he articulated very well the frustrations many of us feel. He also did it in his interview with Paxman. It is true that there is a bit of the cheeky-monkey about him, but at least he does not organise concerts on behalf of a whole continent and “forgets” to include musicians from that continent (Bob Geldoff, I’m talking to you). But democracy needs more than yet another namby-pamby manifesto. What democracy needs is a shot in the arm. What Russell Brand is suggesting is a shot in the head.

© 2013

Next Post: “Let’s Talk...”, to be published on Wednesday 27th November at 11:59pm (GMT)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Killer Opening Songs (Illusion by Gregory Porter)

Every now and then a singer comes along who, on first listen, knocks you off your feet. His voice sounds fresh and yet it also has a touch of the old classic about it, his compositions have a modern approach but with a strong nod to the past.

The artist Killer Opening Songs has in mind is LA-born, but currently Brooklyn-based, new jazz sensation Gregory Porter.

Porter’s blues-baritone voice has been ubiquitous in the last couple of years. Not just his voice, mind, but also his tremendous physical presence. A bear of a man, this gentle giant would have been a loss to the jazz world had a shoulder injury not put paid to his American football career. He had been offered a full scholarship to San Diego University based on his sporting prowess. This is one of those occasions when K.O.S. has to say to itself: “what if...?”

Luckily, there’s no “what if...?”. Porter’s debut album, Water, was released in 2010 and it immediately earned the newcomer a Grammy nomination. It is easy to imagine why. The Killer Opening Song, Illusion, slowly peels away the layers of Porter’s many talents from the outset. What renders the track poignant is the subject matter: heartbreak. Not just any heartbreak, this is heartbreak that burns inside, that leaves myriad unanswered questions behind: “I've been searching all the corners of my room/sweeping dust and memories beneath the carpet that we purchased/somewhere on some cool retreat, somewhere in Africa somewhere

That is just the start of what can be considered already a soul classic. As autumn songs go, this K.O.S. works perfectly for this time of the year, Porter’s articulate lyrics against a background of fallen yellow, orange and auburn leaves. In fact the weather plays an important part in this Killer Opening Song, with the singer building up a beautiful and yet painful simile based on his emotional paralysis: I've been checking for the weather and the time/I'm like a bag above that's dropped and drifting in the wind/that blows from hurricanes that comes just after grey clouds fill my eyes.

Honeyed tones, however, is not the only distinctive feature of Water. This is a very well-balanced album moving from musical brawn (1960 What?) to the title track, an invitation to address life’s essential questions using one of nature’s essential elements. The record closes with one of the better covers K.O.S. has heard recently, an a capella version of Feeling Good, a composition made famous by the inimitable Nina Simone. Well, Gregory Porter’s take on it is just as good.

If you are looking for a satisfying, all-round jazz CD with a dash of blues and old soul thrown in for good measure, Water is the album. And it all starts with Illusion, a monster of a Killer Opening Song.

© 2013

Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 24th November at 10am (GMT)

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Birthday post: no reflections, just music

I wanted to be witty and original today. I wanted to write about Russell Brand's recent slot as a guest-editor at The New Statesman and the brouhaha that ensued. That post should have actually come out tomorrow. But instead, I will celebrate my birthday today with just a beautiful and bluesy clip that says more about my zest for life than I could possibly summon up in a few paragraphs. I am that piano and keyboard at the beginning, I am Boz's soulful voice and I am his guitar. Have a great weekend!

Next Post: "Killer Opening Songs", to be published on Wednesday 20th November at 11:59pm (GMT)

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum

This is one of those rare occasions when I will be able to write about a recipe I cooked recently... as in last night. With leftovers for tonight, too, because I cooked enough for two days. I must confess that I was a bit apprehensive at first because I have never made risotto, but the way it came out was worth the effort (maybe next time I will add in a little bit more of water so that it’s less sticky. It wasn’t bad, but the grain wasn’t as loose as I normally like my rice to be). It there was a prize for pretty dishes, I would have entered this recipe when it came out of the oven. All credit goes to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Baked chicken with tomatoes and rice

This is a take on chicken cacciatore. Serves six.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 chicken, jointed into 6 pieces (or 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken portions)
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
125g risotto rice, such as arborio
150ml dry white wine
1 tbsp tomato purée
400g tinned tomatoes, crushed
500ml chicken stock
About 150g black or green olives (optional)
A little fresh thyme, to finish

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Put a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the oil. Season the chicken pieces well and, in two batches, brown in the hot pan. Transfer to a large oven dish, skin side up, and when all the chicken is browned, roast it for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn the heat right down under the frying pan. If need be, pour off any excess fat (you want only one to two tablespoons of fat left in the pan). Add the onions and sweat gently for 10 minutes, until soft, then add the garlic and oregano, and cook for a few minutes more.

Stir in the rice for a minute or two, then add the wine and increase the heat so it is bubbling. Simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the tomato purée, then add the tinned tomatoes and stock, and bring back to a boil. Season to taste.

All this should fill the chicken's initial 20 minutes' cooking. Tip the rice mix into the chicken dish, making sure no grains are left on top of the meat, where they won't cook. Scatter in the olives, if using, and roast for 30 minutes longer, by which time the rice should be swollen and tender. Leave to sit for 10-15 minutes, check the seasoning, scatter with thyme and serve.

The music to go with this dish must look and sound good. That’s why my first choice is Terence Trent D’Arby’s sultry Sign Your Name. 1988 was a good vintage year for pop music. Whilst Sting was trotting around New York like the Englishman he was, Manhattan-born D’Arby was releasing his debut album Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby. One of the hit singles was Sign Your Name, which in its own way makes me think of that lovely chicken getting browned on all sides.

We continue with Iron and Wine, the stage name of Samuel Beam, a Californian singer-songwriter. His songs, like Winter Prayers, are the sort of melodies that make autumn all the more beautiful and dishes like baked chicken with tomatoes and rice all the more enjoyable.

I don’t know about you but when I see chicken sizzling on the pan it makes think of Brazilian music, especially of percussion. USA-born but Rio de Janeiro resident Maga Bo is one of the better examples of what the phenomenon of globalisation can do to music as long as there is sharing and not conquest. No Balanço da Canoa is one of those tunes that will keep you tapping your feet and shaking your shoulders slowly.

I leave you tonight with a slow, beautifully crafted short blues number. John Lee Hooker’s Tupelo reminds me of that chicken, risotto and tomatoes baking nicely in the oven. I hope you enjoyed tonight’s mix of food and music.

Photo taken from The Guardian

Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 17th November at 10am (GMT)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

As I approach my sixteenth year of residence on these shores, memories arrive like the waves of a hurricane: gigantic, menacing and coiled up like a cobra ready to attack. One of them is that of Brits’ relationship with food. In 1997 I had just come from a country where both the economic crisis and the ensuing scarcity had sounded the death knell for meal choice (you basically ate whatever you got hold of).  My recollections in that last year in Cuba were of happier childhood times when sitting around a table to devour a roast hog was an occasion to celebrate. Not just from an alimentary point of view, mind, but also from a family-get-together perspective.

It was only when I travelled to the Basque country, in northern Spain, after living in the UK for more than a year, at the end of ’98 and tried their pub grub four or five times in my four days there that I realised that Brits had – in those years – an awkward relationship with food. My theory was backed up years later by comments made by some of my British acquaintances.

Before the advent of gourmet cuisine and the appearance of what seems on the outside to be a more sophisticated menu (possibly catering to a more sophisticated palate), I noticed that Brits saw food as something to get out of the way. Not all British people, by the way, and not in all settings. For instance urban London differed from rural Devon. I was in the latter in the year 2000 to attend a friend’s wedding. After the event my wife, our son (my daughter hadn’t been born yet) and I stayed in the area for a few extra days. We visited a restaurants and pubs and the natives’ approach to food was somewhat different to what I’d seen in The Big Smoke. Here, in the English countryside, I saw people who looked happy when they tucked into a juicy steak. In my mind this was a stark contrast to what I had experienced in outings with my colleagues of the travel agency at which I used to work. I remember going out to Indian restaurants, pizza parlours and pubs and the attitude of my confrères towards the sequence starter-main course-dessert was one of total nonchalance. There was no discrimination between apéritif and pudding. This wasn’t so much food for the soul but food for the stomach. To me both are important; food should be nourishment for our souls as well as for our tummies. The exception to this rule was the traditional Sunday roast which has, luckily, not disappeared completely (I don't think it ever will), even if its presence as a family-puller has somewhat been curtailed.

Does my burger look big in this?
This approach to food has changed over the years in Britain and I count myself lucky to have witnessed the transformation. I am not alone in thinking that. When I speak to people born and bred here they, too, express surprise that the British palate has become more discerning and perceptive when it comes to culinary matters. Yet, this metamorphosis has not arrived without new challenges.

The Britain I first saw in 1997 was still dominated by the Delia Smiths of this world. Delia has been a renowned cook writer and television presenter for over forty years. Her heart-warming recipes are what critics would describe as Middle-England cuisine. Delia was not really on my radar as I became acquainted with British food (I don’t just mean food sold in Britain but also traditional dishes. At this point I would like to add that British cuisine gets a bad, undeserved reputation. I think it should be celebrated more. Just my humble opinion, guv). I kept seeing her on telly but I was looking for something more exciting with which to experiment.

Enter Jamie Oliver. I know he is like Marmite, people either love him or hate him. But he did change the face of British food for better. And I mean food consumed both at home and outside in restaurants and pubs. From Jamie onwards I noticed that suddenly the change I mentioned before had not only taken place but it had also brought about side effects.

At least in London in the last ten or twelve years many people don’t just want to try new recipes but want to be seen tucking into new dishes. This has developed into a phenomenon I’ve come to call “foodshion” (that’s a mash-up between “food” and “fashion”, just in case you didn’t get it). Weekend newspapers have large cook supplement pull-outs, chefs’ autobiographies top bestsellers’ lists and make up the bulk of the upcoming Christmas present-buying frenzy and fast food joints have slowly transformed themselves into gourmet fash-food eateries (another mash-up there) without the negative greasy-spoon connotation.

To me that means that we have now gone over to the other side. Add in the mix of ingredients (sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun) a preoccupation with weight, dieting regimes and eating disorders and the current food scenario in the UK is very different to the one I saw when my plane landed in Gatwick sixteen years ago. On the plus side, we have more variety, even if this new range of food seems to respond more to a ruthless commoditisation under capitalist market forces. On the minus side, food is now yet another front on which people’s social and economic status is judged. Given the current financial climate, that picture hardly bodes well for the future. Meanwhile, we are having “toad in the hole” tonight for dinner. It doesn’t get more British than that and I couldn’t give two figs if it is upmarket grub or not. It is good, hearty, soul food and to me that’s all that counts.

© 2013

Next Post: “Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum”, to be published on Wednesday 13th November at 11:59pm (GMT)

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Urban Diary

The cloudless night lit by scarlet, glowing, flying embers. The smoke being pushed by a south-westerly wind into our back garden. The shattering noise of yet more fireworks going off.

It is Guy Fawkes Night.

Bonfire night eluded me by twelve days when I came to live in London in ‘97. It took me a whole calendar year to catch up with the costume of celebrating (or mourning, take your pick) the failed Gunpowder Plot concocted by Guy Fawkes and his Catholic compadres in 1605. The story goes that Guy was arrested on the night of 5th November of the same year, whilst looking after the explosives that his fellow collaborators had put beneath the House of Lords. King James I survived the attempt on his life and from then on bonfires have been lit in London as an act of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

In previous years it was normal to see fireworks displays much earlier. In fact, there was almost a seamless segue from Halloween to Guy Fawkes Night. The rich, golden colours of pumpkins are a perfect prologue to the blue and yellowish arcs exploding in the dark sky. This is followed the morning after by the customary foggy weather to dull our senses and make my cycling experience that little more perilous.

This year it has been different. Tonight there is only a twenty- or twenty-five minute spell during which the autumnal night resembles a summer carnival... in Rio de Janeiro, but minus the floats. Have we called time on marshmallow on sticks and potatoes wrapped in foil? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I go back to the kitchen window hoping to catch the last sight of an errant firework before I go to bed.

© 2013

Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 10th November at 10am (GMT)

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

When it comes to raising children there are a few theories with which it would be churlish to disagree. Support them with their school work from an early age, ensure they eat healthily, encourage them to look after the environment and prevent them from getting bored. Actually, that last one might be a bit contentious.

I used to think that boredom was the enemy of creativity. I was brought up to believe that you should never have a dull moment. An active mind was better than an idle one. That is the reason why, the minute I became a father, I made sure that my children always had something to do. However, a recent article by Evgeny Morozov (it was actually a review of three books) has made me rethink this specific parental strategy. It has also made me wonder whether sometimes a bout of ennui is good for the creative mind.

Morozov is the author of the Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. He has written extensively about the effects of modern technology on our social behaviour. So, I was interested in his opinion about what he called “the anti-boredom lobby”. The example he used in his article was Siegfried Kracauer, a renowned figure in the arts in the Weimar Republic in the 1920s. Siegfried remarked that the bourgeoisie of his time “are pushed deeper and deeper into the hustle and bustle until eventually they no longer know where their head is”. Replace “bourgeoisie” with “people nowadays” (regardless of class status) and “hustle and bustle” with “social media”, gadgets and ads and you will find yourself at the heart of Morozov’s theory.

For Morozov our lives today are lived in a “state of permament receptivity”. Smartphones and social networking sites have created a culture of “interestingness”. It is a world in which, according to Eric Schmidtm Google’s chairman, and whom Morozov quotes in his article, “you’re never lonely, because your friends are always reachable”. That is a scary thought. Sometimes I need to be away from my friends for a while. All friendships benefit from some breathing space, methinks. The cure for this lack of boredom, according to Morozov is the equivalent of what Kracauer suggested back in 1924: draw the curtains and get to know your sofa. In today’s modern world parlance that could be translated as unplug your computer, turn off your (smart)phone and forget about updating your profile on Facebook. One of the side-effects, according to Morozov, is a boost to your creative power.

Wait a second. Boredom as a conduit for creativity? Well, Evgeny has a point. By sheer coincidence at the same time I was reading Morozov’s feature, I was listening to Giant Steps, John Coltrane’s 1960 masterpiece. A few days before I had seen a documentary on Sky Arts on the American musician and this led me to dust off my Coltrane records and remind myself the reasons why I love jazz so much. The programme, narrated by the inimitable Morgan Freeman, was part of a series looking at key figures in the development of blues and jazz. Coltrane’s sound was highly influential – and controversial – at the time. His style was harmonic, but also very adventurous. When you listen to Giant Steps you’re confronted with the music of someone for whom, to quote Nat Hentoff, co-editor of The Jazz Review and who sang the album’s praises in that publication, there was an obsession “to play all he can hear or would like to hear”. This approach to composing chimes with Morozov’s ideas about information overload. One of the reasons why Coltrane was able to create his unique sound was that he wasn’t busy checking his Twitter feed or updating his Facebook profile, maybe because neither was around when the saxophonist was alive. Although I haven’t got any evidence to back my theory, I imagine Coltrane sitting down after a long, full-on session/concert playing with Miles Davis and just looking into space with  blank expression on his face, exhausted, still and silent. En brèf, I picture Coltrane feeling bored. Yet, it is from this idle state that we get the emotional strength of songs like Naima, the playfulness of a melody like Syeeda’s Song Flute and the loping bass hook of the title track, Giant Steps. Coltrane’s boredom was like a landing in a long set of stairs. The respite before the ascendance.

The form of boredom we suffer from nowadays, however, is of a different type. It is the kind that doesn’t give us time to reflect. It is the sort of ennui that provides us with so much information that we find ourselves slaves to it. In order to satiate this craving we, then, consume even more information. We are the hamsters on the wheel of modern technology. Of course, the antidote could be to draw one’s curtains and get acquainted a little bit more with our sofas. But what happens when we finally step outside? Just take a minute to glance through your window and imagine, if you can, that world out there with not hoardings, no billboard and no signs of any kind. Close your eyes, concentrate, see if you can really visualise it. I don’t think you will be able to. The irony is that many of the apps and devices developed to avoid this onslaught of information are provided by the same companies that created this unwelcome distraction in the first place. This is a point made by Evgeny in his article.

It is certainly amusing for me that having reached the “interestingness” stage of our development as a species, some of us want our boredom back. Amusing, because as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was raised to believe that dullness was equal to laziness and laziness was a trait to be found amongst the moneyed classes in capitalist, bourgeois societies. However, I look at my children now, especially my son with his smartphone, always checking his texts and e-mails (even when we are watching a film as a family) and I find myself wishing for a moment of non-activity, a lull in the constant, never-ending flow of information. Preferably accompanied by a loping bass hook.

© 2013

Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday 6th November at 11:59pm (GMT)


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