Dan’s Awards 2012

DSCF7883Person of the Year

Gabriel Almonacid for being a great mate in Colombia providing me with a bed, a guide in Bogota and the ‘nearby’ old towns and staying with his great family in Armenia. I even heard he and Claudia tried to call me the other night!

Comeback of the Year

Christine Leclerc. After living together for a year many years ago, I can say I have missed that big laugh and smiley face a lot.

DSCF1214Newcomer of the Year

Jan Thomas Ødegaard, the slightly eccentric Norwegian gets the nod.

My Christ Its Been a Long Time

Bobbi Coombs met me at the airport in Winnipeg after not seeing each other for about 3500 days (aka 9.5 years) and then had me to stay for a few days. We ate Easter dinner with her family, watched hockey together and I got well and truly plastered with her brother Doug.

DSCF8918Meal of the Year

Eating the freshly-caught fish in Colombia with Jenni and Kati.

Sushi with Ronnie and Debs in Ontario

Tapas and red wine with Gabrielle in Bilbao.

What the hell happened Last Night drunk night

3. The Sarajevo dancing night.

2. Post presentation with Oli Bigland in Oxford

1. Waking up in the morning in a Ukrainian mental hospital. I still don’t know what happened.

PANO_20120516_183803Sight of the Year

Kotor in Montenegro blew me away. Waking up in our house in Salento in Colombia. The sight of Venice from the train station. Its everything you’ve heard about.

Random Moment Award

Jumping off the NY subway to be with Bora.

The house gig with Em in Bavaria

Cultural Event of the Year

Taking part in the La Merce festival in Barcelona with Ilo. Fireworks, burns and dancing masks.

DSC_0392-1Sports event of the Year

Big year for games. I saw maybe 10 and 5 or 6 were football derbies, the Yankees and the Knicks play in New York but it has to go to the Belgrade derby. Red Star against Partizan Belgrade.

Films of the Year

Moonrise Kingdom or Cloud Atlas

Favourite album of the year

Japandroids

Moment of Violence Moment

Getting chased and hit with a truncheon by a rabid Bosnian policeman before the Sarajevo derby was pretty exciting.

Bar of the Year

Tijuana bar in Belgrade, the night of the French music with Mirjana and Jan.

Hospital Bar in Kiev with the flaming helmet

Scariest moment of the Year

Seeing Emmi somersault off her bike and land on her head in Bavaria. Luckily she was wearing a helmet and only broke two neck vertebrates.

Big Balls Moment

Heading back in a taxi from the beach with Jenni and Marioka in Santa Cruz, Colombia, we saw a neighbourhood street party. We changed in the hostel and walked there. the police were outside telling us not to go in as it was a cartel party. We looked at each other and walked over. After some drinks and flour thrown over us, we ended drinking the local firewater outside the convenience store with some truckers until the early hours.

Standing up to another huge, sneering policeman before the Sarajevo derby was fairly scary.

Would I do it all again?

Hell yeah. I’d like to thank everyone for helping me along the way 🙂

The Shah of Shahs/Minor Rant

The Shah of Shahs by Kapucinski

kapuscinskiBrilliant Polish journalist/storyteller Kapucinski wrote up his notes from the Iran revolution and gives a lesser- known insider track to the build up of frustration and fear under the Western-installed and backed Shah.

It’s incredible to think that for reasons of political, security and economic convenience, the leaders of coups can be deemed a natural leader a generation later. The Shah’s father was a military colonel who overthrew the government with the support of the British named himself Shah. After his downfall, again at the instigation of the British, the democratic government was overthrown by the CIA help and the Colonel’s son was installed as the new Shah, as some kind of rightful heir!

And after his overthrow from by the people, his family still get to swan around as the most shameful of aristocracies using the money the Shah stole from the country. I saw the grandson on CNN talking about democracy in Iran despite his very position, wealth and education was bought on the broken bones of the original democratic activists during his father’s regime. Absolutely fucking shameful.

On the same point, I’ve always wondered why Prince Philip is still mentioned as the Prince of Greece. Note to aristocracy and Hello magazine; if your country throws you out as a gluttonous abuser of the people with no productive role, you are no longer a prince of that country

Books Read Recently

401478_10152142233450602_1520990766_nThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

One of Ilo’s suggestions, this modern masterpiece is school reading across the Russian world. Essentially a massive surreal circus ride through Moscow, it features talking cats, magicans, Satan, flying lovelorn women, asylum inmates, assassins and a whole host of history’s deviants. A brief summary is Satan and his crew come to Moscow and cause havoc. It can be read many ways; Satan could be Stalin according to many. Its a long read and a good one. Confusing at times but ultimately satisfying.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Like CS Lewis and Tolkien, Lewis Carroll (pen name) must have been on mushrooms when he wrote this. Its bewildering and confusing, inventive and mystifying.

treasureislandcoverTreasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A fantastic read, a real rollicking adventure. I read it in two days.

Sahara: A History

I spotted this in the library after taking back my Bulgarian history book and thought why not! I love reading the histories of the cultures, countries and regions and this is a gap in my knowledge. What is clear from reading this is it remains a huge gap in historical knowledge and yet it still greatly informed me of the present conflicts and the past myths. Saying Sahara Desert means Desert Desert in Arabic and it used to be as green as Sri Lanka!

23 Things You Didn’t Know About Capitalism by Chang Ha-Joon

Ha Joon Chang rips into modern capitalism again dispelling many of the modern media mantra and a failing economic theory.

Books Read

The Life You Can Save – Peter Singer

Philosopher Singer discusses how we should give to charity and breaks down the numbers rather than just rationalises. It really costs very little. Though strangely i would have preferred more rationalising as I give monthly anyway to Cancer Research.

The Plundered Planet – Paul Collier

Oxford don Collier delivers cost/benefit analysis of resource extraction taking into account the unknown future as well as the best ways to invest that bonus. Its a good book with solid argument against the exploitation of resources and the rabid talk of some environmental groups. However his anslysis still falls slightly down on the side of big business failing to grasp the all-mighty structural issues involved.

A Concise History of Bulgaria

I saw it in the library and thought why not. Interesting read. Constant revolutions, long Ottoman dominance and a picture of a rural country under constant stress.

The Soccer War – Rychard Kapuscinski

I love Kapuscinski’s cultural and politcial journies throughout the world. This book written when he was the sole Polish foreign correspondent in the 1960s/1070s involves the wars in Somalia, Togo and later Honduras. Not only does he writes with a constant cultural reference, his isnide track, bravery and lyricism conjures up the sweat and fear brilliantly.

Derrida – Key Concepts

Nonsense.

Films Consumed

Films seen recently…

Tintin – it just sorta happens and then you move on. Slick and mildly uninteresting 3/5

Mission Impossible 4 – big budget, flashy and sometimes ridiculous, MI4’s gadgetry takes away from the modest story involving saving the world. It’ll never compete with the Bourne films but its entertaining. 4/5

The Treasure of Sierra Madre – Bogart in the Mexican desert searching for gold with his compatriots but the real story is about greed as Bogie becomes suspicious of everyone and everything in his quest to secure his wealth. Great, tough film. 5/5

Piranaha 3D – Ridiculous, cheap, silly, fun, gory. well worth it. 4/5

Hugo – Its endearing but strangely seems to take a long time to get nowhere in particular. You can’t help thinking if this was French-made it would be far funnier and cuter and with a more satisfying ending. French films always play out ‘in the now’ while US films tend to be about finding who you are by looking into the past for some reassurance. The French define themselves in this life. Americans in the past. Think Buddhism. 3/5

Tower Heist – I’m not sure this was meant to be funny. It succeeded. 1/5

Outrage – Takeshi Kitano shoots his way through the entire cast by the end but the beginnings of the film well-highlight the mundaneness of business even for the Yakuza. 3/5

Silent Running – a slightly odd 70s environmental film set in space with Bruce Dern killing off the crew in a bid to save his cultivated greenhouse. Some nice model work. 3/5

The Great Dictator – I’ll end on the best film I’ve seen for a while. Charlie Chaplin’s talkie satirising fascism, totalitarianism and Hitler long before anyone else saw the dangers. Its very funny but also deeply clever and sad and at times beautifully rendered especially the scenes involving the globe and the final speech. 5/5

The Ghost Writer

I’m gonna tell you a story about a story that’s never existed, written by a man I know who writes stories. Or that how the story’s been told. This man, someone I met through others has a publishing deal to write a children’s story to hit the book shelves next year. Its taken well over a year to get to this point but the book is written. Its now just a matter of of printing, packaging and publishing. Or that’s how the story goes.

So what does all this mean? What am I saying? Why am I questioning my own words? Am I trying to mislead you?

Well this is where I have to step back, hold up my hands and say I don’t know. For I truly don’t know. This upcoming publication by a friend of a friend has been taken as read by us all for a long time. We were all proud and looking forward to introducing our friend the author.

Our friend the author has been house-hunting with his girlfriend with the £60,000 advance. They’re both excited. Who wouldn’t be? have looked round numerous well-attired flats and houses, all with an extra room for guests and a nice flat-screen for the wall. We’re also awaiting the promised, lavish dinner when the publication is finally confirmed.

So why am I reading this you might ask?

The issue at hand is there is no book. There will be no dinner and consequentially there can be no house for a lack of advanced finance. Its only come to light recently and no one knows how to play it yet. I’m not tempted to say anything for he’s a friend’s friend. Its not my place.

My friend has simply dropped the book story, stopped asking questions to allow the story to be forgotten like drunken gossip. No one wants an open confrontation. The book has taken on a surreal life of it own. Its very absence, its non-existence has given it life. We’ve weaved it into our lives. We’re writing the idea of the book into our story. We’ll remember it as we age over whiskey and mull over times past. We’ll sip and smile.

But I couldn’t possible write that story. It may not occur. We’ll have to see where the narrative takes us.

Books & Music

I’ve been darn busy of late, running North to Nottingham for friends and parties, East to London for book launches, gigs, conferences and catch-up and South to Brighton to see Anna and West to Devon and Cardiff. At the same time, I’m working options but more about that later. I’m waiting for a few things to come through so I’ll hold fire from here.

Before the below, I’d like to thank Tiara for the birthday present. It arrived this week, precisely one month late and is entirely appropriate. I’ll be reading that over the next few months. Thanks x 🙂

New Music

Feist – Metals – I like this album. She can play, sing and feel.

Talking Heads – Yeah its not new but I’m back into them.

Daniel Johnston – Crazy, mentally and musically, Johnston is hugely gifted, his lyrics and music should be grating but you keep listening.

Tom Waits – Bad Like Me – Its basically Tom all over.

M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – Huge as ever.

Class Actress – more modern electronica a la Cults. Good though.

Books Read

We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver – They just made a film of it. Like the Stranger by Camus, modern people can understand the feelings of alienation and ambiguity.

Life is Elsewhere – Milan Kundera’s characters yet again love, get confused, hope for control and muse over life.

History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith – Gilbert Rist is one of the major names in development and is particularly critical of the structure within which it operates. This is his only book in English and its a very wry historical talk.

King Leopold’s Ghost is a detailed account of King Leopold’s take-over and exploitation of Congo at the end of the nineteenth century. Pretty shocking and brutal stuff. From an unclaimed territory to political mess it is now.

Promises Not Kept is another account of the West’s failure to fulfil its promises.

Africa Today: Culture, Economics, Religion and Security – a statistical and anthropological overview of modern Africa.

The Bottom Billion – Paul Collier is an Oxford economist explaining development failures through the traps of conflict, resources, aid and governance. Its fairly enlightening, to the degree I bought it though it does tend to take the situation as it is, a la Jeffrey Sachs, ignoring the structural systems of neo-liberalism.

See a pattern! 🙂