Monday, October 01, 2018

São Paulo – 8 Must-Eats in The Concrete Jungle

Sampa has 12 million faces – the whole country and half the world are somehow crammed into one sprawling, seething mess. It can be daunting, but if you know where to look, you can find the culinary capital of Brazil or even South America here.

Açaí bowls
The fruit itself is born in the Amazon rainforest 3000 kilometres to the North, but the Brazilian Southeast has made açaí na tigela (açaí bowls) its own. With heaped-on sweet milk powder, honey, banana, granola, strawberries, mango, or basically anything else you want, açaí is a pervasive classic in summer. Try Frutaria Paulista, at the Western end of Av. Paulista for a true Sampa experience on a hot evening. You won’t need to look far: acaí options are on every street-corner boteco in the city.
Head Chef Alex Atala’s fame grew after his stand-out episode on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series. DOM, Atala’s main restaurant, offers adventures into novel Amazonian flavours, juxtaposed with unpretentious Brazilian classic dishes from all regions, in a Michelin-starred setting. Its price tag is medium-high for Brazil, but may not hurt too much in foreign currencies. DOM is great for a special occasion, like a first night of a trip or a date night.

Pinheiros and Vila Madalena are young, happening parts of town. Moderately priced dishes from the
Brazilian Northeast – moquecas, acarajé, sun-dried meat and seafood – are prepared to a high standard here.

A popular spot for the famous cuisine of Minas Gerais State located on the market square Praça Benedito Calixto. Mineira cuisine is basically comfort food: from the omnipresent pão de queijo to tutu beans, torresmo pork crackling, meat dishes like costelinha spare ribs, and lombo pork loin.

Arrepas and Patacones are done in an informal setting, also just off Praça Benedito Calixto. Sabores specializes in the cuisines of Northern South-America, focussing on Columbia. The waiters are imported and the food is satisfying, offering a refreshing change from day-to-day Brazilian cuisine.

Brazil has the biggest Japanese population outside of Japan, with the greatest numbers of nikkeis living in São Paulo, and especially in the Liberdade neighbourhood. The initial wave of immigration happened during the coffee boom years of the early 20th Century. Aska doesn’t take reservations and the queue on some nights can last an hour. You can’t sit down unless all members of your party have arrived, and service can be challenging, but this all becomes part of the charm when you are rewarded though with a bowl of authentic Japanese lamen.

Perfectly seasoned ceviches and hearty chicharrónes served in unpretentious surroundings, Rinconcito is going from strength to strength, especially among São Paulo’s Peruvian population – always a good sign. Edgar Villar, the Peruvian chef, and his team provide great service and value for money in São Paulo’s old centre, and now five other locations around the city.

You might not think of hamburgers and fries when you think of Brazilian food,  but Brazil is the world’s second biggest beef producer after the USA, and Paulistanos love hamburgers. Z Deli is currently ranked second on Guia do Hambúrguer’s best of 2017, so expect company. Book ahead, or get behind a long line of hipsters, bikers and couples.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Search

When I was a kid on a skateboard, I always strove to be free. That was the aim actually: I thought, if I can kickflip up the pavement in front of my house then that was it - the first step to freedom. But you need to be good, you need discipline, you need mastery to achieve it. 
And it's the same with music, with art, literature, with travel, with perhaps drugs: you need to be good at them for them to take you down their path, and for you to reach it. Reach what? 
I don't know, I'm not good enough. But if you follow these paths with enough discipline maybe you will "know how it feels to be free".
Am I failing at that? 
And these art forms they require many of the same things, the get up and go, the discipline, the vision, the courage, the strength, and the skill, to get there. 
 All I know was for me many of those guys were like gods, the amazing skaters from back in the day: Robbie Berg and Paul Rogers. 

I just woke up from a dream, a really nice dream where I was at a party with all the friends from Luxembourg... We played music, some blues and everyone who could got involved with a kazoo, a guy with the bongos, many others too, it was a good sound. Hannah Deasy was there and I said "hi Hannah", and she launched into something irrelevant, and I realised I missed her. 
Keyan had to leave early but he was ready despite the hangover, he goes, "now the day can begin". He said goodbye to Luan Oliveira who said, "better than leaving with the daisies unpushed" as a carpe diem. Yes you need to bring out the colour in your life while you can. 
Am I failing at this so far?
And I realised that dreams are what you bring to them, you can come in with a mind-state of fun, of harmony, and you will end up at this house party with your friends. Or the little white demon floating in a corner of all of us - which was the image that came to me, white and twisted as if diseased - can carry the day and he will take you wherever it is that he goes. 
Those are two options but there is also a third path: how many deviate from the path on their search, go off the rails, especially with alcohol. So you realise the key in all of those virtues i mentioned before is really just one: discipline. 
I went into the bathroom and saw the lights from paulista, and the enchanted atmosphere lingered on. 

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Strange Landing

That foggy Friday morning I would have clung to the pavement as I leaned deep into the second corner, on this route I could have done with my eyes closed. Making unusually good time on my way to the 07:11 from Liverpool Street, I would have let that surprising feeling of being awake sink in, taking the first sharp lungfuls of air in that cold winter of 2011 , as the armies of London cyclists must all do. The chain clanked into highest gear on my old grey Claud Butler, next to my black leather brogues, as I reached the straight from Camberwell Church Street to Brunswick Park, past the well-frequented Baptist Church where the ladies in their white dresses and head-garb looked like shining visions on a Sunday hangover.
I always thought of an obscure electronica song title, "Flying on 747", as I passed the old people's home, like I was programmed to do it. A car appeared from behind a gate on a blind corner and - with defiance and something like amusement - I knew that I would hit it.
My front wheel hit the wheel arch of the silver car and, as I skittered across the hood like a stone, I wasn't sure if I saw a child in the front passenger seat, who, had I been a lorry, I would surely have killed. I came gracefully to a stop, crumpled on the pavement above a drain.
The lady was already weeping copiously as she got out of the driver's seat, despite it being just seconds since the accident.
"I'm sorry baby", she said in a lilting Caribbean voice, "I was praying in the car", and she embraced me, impeding my hopping as I tried to make my hip feel right again.
"It's alright baby," I said, strangely, and rubbed the stranger's back, not voicing the Dawkins-esque thoughts flitting across my mind.
Looking around, I noticed the eight or more people staring at us, who had surfaced from the seemingly empty stereet. One was looking on from the second floor of a boxy council block, opposite the one that had made the news when it caught fire.
One Asian man on the pavement said, "I saw it my friend, you want to take my number?"
"It's alright," I said, with a dazed sense of Providence that seemed to be shared by the people surrounding us, an odd couple, still locked in tight embrace.
Struggling for the appropriate tone, I ventured, "do you know what that stop sign means?!"
"MMMhmmmmmm", affirmed a beaming grey-haired man to my left. But,
"I was praying in the car", was all the soggy mess wedged in my armpit could reply.
"God has blessed him, he's alright, the man," entoned a lady waving her farewell, "the good man". Although I wasn't so sure.
I went away with just a phone number and an appointment to meet at Iceland foodstore on Camberwell Road the next day, where the lady would give me some money for the buckled tire and the fatally bent front forks. The voice on the phone the next day said,
"I can't wait to see you're ok," on her way up to meet me with £60 in her pocket. This, and my still-beating heart, must have been enough for her, but not for my Claud Butler.

I felt a weird elation as my broken bike and I creaked up the now long remaining stretch of street, tainted only by the feeling that this was Claud's last ride. I wouldn't pass the silent congregation of black crows on the grass that day - I left my bike loosely chained to a sign-post. Let them steal it if they want to, I thought.
I caught a slow bus over Tower Bridge. At least now my excuse for being late would be genuine. Texting a girl who I had recently met on a sloshed East Dulwich Saturday, the drama was pleasing and seemed to fit with the unending arduousness of that year. Still not finding a job in my third year out of university, I took a paid teacher-training course to keep, as my dad put it, "body and soul together". My unsuitability for "the profession", along with my incorrigible and often ridiculous lateness, kept things on a knife edge. At the Bridge, London stretched along the misty river in that recession-blighted year. The chaos seemed barely contained below its concrete skin like the tubes.
On the South Bank was the unfittingly pleasant setting of the call-centre where I had spent a savage eleven months the previous year, the utter loss of the situation suppressed only by blind hope, thousands of job applications, and the nonchalant banter of the hundreds of other employees.
I limped in to the great vaulted structure of Liverpool Street, already bustling with the commuter belt's heroic determined, all going the opposite direction to me. After Hackney Wick, the urban huddle suddenly gives way to open fields, which usually found me gripped by a trainee-teacher's morning neuroses, or far away in a hoped-for future or irrecoverable past. Today they were golden and frosted in the mist.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Model No.2; Jesus On The Mountain

I have got back into drawing, especially attempts at realism with pencil, and have started using oil paints. Oils are fantastic, like Play-Do when you're a kid - you want to eat them. The Jesus picture wasn't my choice of subject matter, a guy at work asked me to do it for money (£17).
I've been thinking, since technology is so sick these days (Avatar), somebody really needs to explore realism in a cartoon with some kind of serious subject matter. Simpsons, Family Guy etc. are amazing and provide decades of entertainment, imagine what you could do with a cartoon adaptation of a novel like ... I don't know, The Catcher in The Rye springs to mind. Any good novel. I suppose there's Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly pioneering (as far as I know) this kind of thing, but it seems pretty rare.



Sunday, December 06, 2009

Daddy Loves You

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Summer Rain

Here's a tune. I don't think it quite made it where it wanted to go but I quite like the visuals.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Elephant Seal or Force of Nature

Even though I don't know it, I am a female Elephant Seal lying proud in a sea of penguins, my eyes aglint with something akin to panic - something I have never felt. I behold my surroundings in savage awe as my mate, six times my size and weight, puts the leathery fronds of his flipper around my bulging body in a way which a human observer, if any there were, might mistake for heartfelt affection. We, this odd community, are on that remotest of South Sea Islands, MacQuarie Island. Plus ultra. Isolate. Isolated. Isola.

But my mind is blank. If I were truly the author of this then it would be just that - blank - and it would not be. I am governed by those ebbing tides of hormones which, in some far far removed species of bidpedal primate, coalesce and multiply together to create an emergent and mystical multifaceted property known as love.

And as I lie in the rubbery embrace of my gargantuan lover, perhaps that is what I feel: love. Like two of those ultra-evolved primates of plastic behaviour feel across islands and continents in some parts of the world, the built up parts - in buldings, towers, pyramids, castles and agglomerations of dwellings constructed with hands working in concert, with the strength of numbers, as they have done throughout their ages. And, as they have felt sophisticatedly, I now feel primally - an urge which was the foundation of whole civilizations, cultures, worlds - the drive to mate and bear offspring, so that they might do so as well, and theirs as well, and so on. And on. Ever and anon. Perhaps into eternity.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

GM Article in Il Tamarindo

Monday, April 27, 2009

Você é o Verão

Você nunca me ligue antes do crepusculo,
Antes do inverno chegar.
Fico sozinho no meu castelo de concreto
E vidro, onde o sol nunca penetrar.
Sou surdo para as risadas e a luz não vejo,
Porque você não me ligar.
E o verão só chegue quando você me toque.

-02:18 am

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ateles Marginatus Shot

picture of the White-Whiskered Spider Monkey
, shot in Alta Floresta, Brazil, was recently used in the endangered species photo archive, ARKive .

Monday, January 12, 2009


He walks through the close, glowing atmosphere of the night club like a thing possessed. Months of unspent passion standing out on his forehead, shining like beads of blood in the warm light. That which was secluded in the confines of some space suddenly released. Someone is dancing next to his girlfriend, wrestling her like an assailant while she grins exquisitely. Is there a face more beautiful than this in this moment? Hunting one another in the darkness.
We court each other like hunter and prey in these kindling moments until, one day, perhaps, things take a turn. We stake out territorial boundaries, into which the other creature must not stray. The beauty of that moment stays, lives on in the mind of the one, yet is obscured for the other.
He walks out of the club as a man out of a fire. Into the frying pan. The cold air smoking around his goose-pimpling flesh, the too-large pupils dancing their ecstatic dance. Drinking in the moon and the raw sensation of that moment as it slips by. He's not going anywhere when he hears the scrabbling of claws and boots on cobbles, and the brash yell of the policeman. Under the visor the eyes are weary and strain to do their duty, almost against their will in the face of such steaming, righteous revelry.
His feet carry him away. Beating against the cobbles, faster than he'd ever imagined going. The dilated vessels carrying too much oxygen to every searing fiber in his lower body. And they vibrate in unison, chorusing their primal anaerobic symphony of wild enthusiasm.
Cornered in a suburban estate later, he almost laughs as the dog is thrown onto the lawn beneath the sweeping search lights, the radio communication buzzing theatrically about his last known whereabouts. There is a moment of recognition between them, a slight pause before he barks the signal to the officer. The quizzical, intelligent eyes of the German Shepherd seem to joke "we're both in this together". In the fires of his still pulsating brain, the look lingers like one of love. He's lifted up by the policeman, shouting the institutionalized hunter's call of victory. He accepts the the lawn's cold, wet embrace, as his hands are tightly secured behind his back, with absolute serenity.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prophecy In a Tesco

Two men, both in their late twenties, are standing near the fridges in a Tesco, where the air is colder than it is outside and the light is slightly yellow. One man looks purposefully at the other and it is as if the other’s attention is held in, cocooned away from the other people in the shop for an instant.
“You look like my father”.
He keeps looking.
“You will have a child that looks like me, is like me.”
The speaker’s face is gaunt and haggard, the strain of suffering passing over his expression.
“Take care of this child. Nourish his interests and make sure he immerses himself early.”
His words are esoteric, definitely, but his tone and his expression are measured, sane.
“There are two paths he can take.”
The piercing stare goes on for longer than it should between polite strangers, but his gaze doesn’t falter. They continue, locked in the time warp.
Longer, much longer.
The sound, like a bell, from the cash register breaks the spell, far off, as if it had broken through a membrane.
“Take care.” Says the speaker, and he looks down at his basket. The other pauses, almost irritated, but it is sinking in. When questions start coming to him, the speaker has already gone.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Amazon Travel Narrative

I’m sitting on a beach in a fork of the Teles Pires river feeling somewhat hypocritical. I’ve come on a project to map deforestation rates on ranches in the Amazon, but here I am chewing on strips of barbequed tropical cow - the production of which, I’ve learnt, is the overwhelming cause of rainforest clearance in this part of Brazil. The vegetation bordering the river, which is a tributary of the Amazon, is the exuberant, impenetrable mass of tropical forest. I’ve seen white-whiskered spider monkeys, a harpy eagle, troupes of capivaras, and a video of a two-day battle between a caiman and an anaconda. Nobody knew for sure which won, but a dead caiman washed up on shore the following day. Red macaws often pass silently overhead, always in pairs. I’ve forgotten my repellent and long trousers, both of which are a must in a tropical forest, and I’m providing a feast of exotic blood for the local gnat population. My body, increasingly vermillion from the irritation, provides some atonement for my consumption sins, as well as amusement for my colleagues. So, despite thoughts of anaconda vs. caiman, I go for a relieving swim in the river - one of those things you promised yourself not to do when you were lying in bed at home.

This is the Southern edge of the Amazon rainforest, the largest and single most
valuable forest ecosystem remaining to mankind today. It stores a volume of carbon equal to fifteen years of net anthropogenic emissions at current rates, it is the richest bank of biodiversity on the planet, and it is estimated to be cycling up to one fifth of the world’s water at any time. The cost of manufacturing any of those ecosystem services would be staggering, so why is the Amazon disappearing at faster rates than any other forest on earth and why are the people living around it so poor?
Alta Floresta is an end-of-the road town built around two avenues not more than three miles long. In the heat and dust of the afternoons, it feels empty and slow. But in the first few weeks of my stay, the big event of the agricultural fair is on every night. I’m surprised to find it solid with people in their finest hats, leather string ties and boots, babies on their shoulders, coming to watch the rodeo. But don’t call them ten-gallon hats, cowboy ties or boots, or indeed their kids “sonny”. You should know before you go that it’s ‘nothing at all like America’. They are vaqueiros, Caipiras and they’re here to stay.

So where did all these people come from? Despite having this vegetable version of Fort Knox on their doorsteps, the vast majority of the regional population is very poor. I’ve met farmers who have zero financial income, live in bare wooden constructions with only a few prayers on the walls, coffee, and home-grown crops to see them through. I imagine that most people spend their time out in the cerrado, the sprawling savannah and cleared pasture areas, only venturing to town for special occasions. But a minority of proprietors are both powerful and wealthy: their ranches sprawl over such enormous areas that, in the area known as the Amazon Portal, over 80% of the land is in the hands of just 20% of the people. In Alta Floresta for example, the mayor is also the largest landowner. Consequently, during the heated political gatherings which frequently empty the entire town, many politicians deride laws promoting eco-friendly practices as governmental tools of oppression.These large ranchers, and the soy producers in other states, have been singled out as the principal agents of Amazon deforestation. But past political drives aiming to colonize the Amazon ahead of the perceived foreign invasion (“integrar para não entregar”) assigned great prestige to land settlers, so the people are by no means to blame.

Those organic dishcloth-wielding, WOMAD festival-loving individuals such as myself cry out “why doesn’t somebody do something about this destruction?” Well, they do. Forest-conservation NGOs, governmental bodies, environmental police and ecotourism businesses are abundant all around the Amazon. But NGOs, governmental and international policies which create protected forest areas for conservation do so at a cost - locals lose rights to the land which has previously been at their disposal. During my stay, one particular European NGO made claims on their website to be investing in sustainable development projects run by my employers, but were shown to be lying. Loss of control over land is, for similar reasons, at the heart of Brazil’s refusal to take part in those mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol involving developed nations meeting their reduced emissions targets by purchasing them from developing ones.

Who, then, could blame the usually fantastically friendly Brazilians for the occasional bit of scepticism towards foreigners? In fact, even as a reeling drunk rancher put forward some unfounded claims about the sexual habits of my mother in the ‘80s in front of my entire dinner table and told me to get out of Brazil, I felt an unexpected amount of sympathy. The British ran out of timber for industry and had to start sending in trees from Norway as far back as Roman times. Generations later, their descendants get worried, fly west over the Atlantic wearing their bourgeois recycled pyjamas and start preaching conservation to people who are just trying to make a living. I felt sheepish.

But recent innovations in the Kyoto context, known as reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) policies, may be one source of light at the end of this tunnel. The concept is simple: pay individuals and companies for environmental services rendered. This could be good news for rainforest-rich countries because, as is true locally in Mato Grosso, economic poverty and ecological wealth are a common co-occurrence in the world’s rainforest-rich nations. Accordingly, although past experiences in alleviating poverty and curbing deforestation simultaneously have often been unsuccessful, nations such as Costa Rica, Papua-New Guinea, Indonesia, and many countries in Africa are interested.

There is a hope, then, that forest conservationists may cease to be regarded as a fly in the economic ointment in future, and come to represent an actually interesting business prospect. But try telling that to the soused rancher at my dinner table.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


*photo from, originally from Paul Statmet's website. Check them for a lot more that's connected to mycelium.

I heard a mycologist on describing how fungi evolved to be the earth's communication and monitoring system by passing information - about humidity or temperature, for example - organically through the netted mat of mycelium which spans the whole earth beneath our feet. He then likened this to the internet, people and vegetation communicate information in analogous ways, and these networks are emergent consequences of the earth's existence and might be its means to self-preservation. The earth is in some sense a living being with self-regulating systems, similar to the humans which populate it.
In this scheme we are all as nodes in an electric circuit through which current merely passes. This type of thinking where some kind of purpose is attributed to a higher level recalls James Lovelock's Gaia concept in which the living portion of the earth, Gaia, is alive and we are a part of the cells composing its "body".
But doesn't it also seem to echo past and present thinking in religious circles and lie somewhere outside the boundaries of current science? We are no longer just beings thinking and acting on our own account, but part of a larger sphere, subjects and manifestations of a higher order. Not only us, but mushrooms too. I don't know if this is knowledge or nonsense, but think about it next time you cook risotto.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Gold and Funerals

My friend's uncle used to own a clothes shop in the town of Paranaita, at the Southern edge of the Brazilian Amazon, during the time of the gold rush maybe twenty or thirty years ago. A steady flow of garimpeiros - gold-diggers - would come through with their clothes, which were made of the cheapest material, hanging from them in shreds. The uncle would invite them to make use of his bathroom, wash off the thick wet dust caking them, and leave their worthless rags in a corner.

Once the shop had closed in the evenings, the owner would collect the old clothes and burn them in the bath-tub. A sieve he had installed inside the plug collected the unnoticed gold fragments from the clothes, along with those the garimpeiros had washed off their bodies, which formed a clot of the precious metal. He quietly accumulated his fortune in this way.

On occasional days somebody would unearth a sudden explosion of wealth but, as most had no experience or skill with money, more often than not it would be gone the next. The entrepreneurial mentality was stubborn and hungry. The mines employed garimpeiros who descended underground, applying mercury to separate the coveted gold from the dirt, and he relied on a machine at the surface to supply him with air. After months of work an employer standing up above might choose to shut off the garimpeiro's air and so economize his salary.
The corpses wouldn't go to waste though. Becoming a currency of their own, they would pass through the funeral parlour in their scores. At that time the undertaker's house was the grandest in Paranaita.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Amazon Trip

I'm on the Amazon Frontier in Alta Floresta, Brazil at the moment. It's the middle of nowhere unless you're a rancher or an ecologist, you can see my pics via the link on the right. I'd like to hear from you.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Too much CO2 in the atmosphere?

Then pump it the hell out! I wondered if anyone else had thought of this so I googled it and professor Alfred Y. Wong gets the kudos. Global fame is not to be mine this time. Ionize CO2 molecules and get them to the right level to diffuse into space the man says. Y. Wong? Not wrong.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Some quirky, cheap digicam photos looking for a home. I gave them one.

Monday, March 17, 2008

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist @ Roundhouse, London 13th March 2008

This was much more than one of those put on a hoodie, bob your head and try not to get stabbed gigs. Playing break-fuelled old school soul and funk through to all kinds of esoteric sound bites, Shadow and Chemist did their epic musical journey thing where you're not sure if you're in an Asian Bazaar or a '70's high school disco. They loaded up their cutting & scratching skills and just blew everyone away. Much props to them, they successfully re-fueled the love I've had for this kind of hip-hop since first listening to Shadow, J5 & other stuff lost in the mists of the '90s.
Of high entertainment value also were Matt's loud comments on the tube about how miserable the British public is which I thought one irritated commuter was going to smack him for. I think he also completely lost some recently-arrived Brazilian ladies with his friendly Italian conversation.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Time Bending Dub


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Tree

Coming round a corner at speed, you skid towards the only tree on an empty grassy verge. If you could tear your eyes away, you might regain control. One solitary tree.


I met a man coming up the road - a traveller, a merchant. In his dark black eyes I discerned the clear light of recognition. Eyes black like a hole in the sky. We turned and continued our solitary paths.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bermuda: vaguely cheesy rejected competition entry

Sitting alone in the western Atlantic, looking as remote and pristine as the pirate refuge they once were, the Bermudian islands shimmer unexpectedly outside my plane window. There are stereotypical pictures of lush Caribbean tropics, the colonial Eastern seaboard of the US, and maybe a cereal packet cartoon of an island appearing in my flight-dazed head, but I'm just guessing at what my destination is going to be like. Such are the times of the super-cheap airline traveller, arriving at a destination with only a friend's invitation and some token snippets of local lingo to go by.

In this glorious stupor, I step out into the beautiful sunshine and don my aviators as the two-piece airport reggae band stir some life back into my soul. Perhaps this was a mistake as my look seems sufficiently contraband-esque to get me ushered into the "search" queue. In a slightly unfamiliar lilting accent, the customs lady excuses herself with a raised eyebrow. When she doesn't return for a while nervous thoughts of hands snapping on rubber gloves begin to come to mind. However, after a cursory glance at my stuff and discussing the heat and the mosquitoes at this time of year, she waves me through saying "you should come back in June-July time when it's reaaaal HAT!" She's my first taste of the famously chilled out Bermudian people who very often bear out the the national slogan: "feel the love".

Without giving me time to change out of my jeans and shoes, my girlfriend drives me to Horseshoe Bay, situated in Southampton Parish on the South shore. We cross the bridge over to the main island, driving past bays lined with immaculate white-roofed houses, designed to capture water, with walls of bright pastel colours. I find myself surprised by how bustling the streets feel, particularly the dense population of Peugeot cars and kids pulling tricks on scooters, but what was I expecting - a handful of wayward seamen and a fishing boat? Our destination is a lengthy stretch of sand, tinged slightly pink from crushed shells, flanked by dark rocks and palm trees on either side. The water is the blue of Bombay Sapphire gin bottles, melting into darker shades out towards the reef which surrounds the whole island. In high season it can get packed out by both locals and tourists here, and it's easy to see why, but we have it almost to ourselves this week in early September. Looking out to sea one gets the impression of an unending expanse of ocean and cloud, perhaps the same as those first Spaniards did when they were marooned here in the mid 16th century.

It was the Spaniards who first nicknamed this place 'Islas Demonios' due to the frequency of wrecks occurring as they sailed from the Americas to the Azores and Spain. One unknown sailor carved the date 1543 into a rock, which is the earliest known habitation of Bermuda. Later on, in the early 17th Century, the British began to settle on the islands lead by Admiral Sir George Somers of the Virginia Company, and with them they brought African and Native American slaves. This colonial history is a strong presence around the island, particularly in spots like Fort St Catherine, standing guard against the east, and nowhere more than in St George's - a beautiful historic town with cobbled streets and the striking oddity of Unfinished Church at the north end of Kent St. There are equally unmistakable aspects to modern Bermudian culture also, one of which one can't help but notice on a first visit to Hamilton. This is the distinctive men's formal dress consisting of shorts - typically in the trademark pink, green, or blue colours - worn with socks pulled up to just below knee level. It may surprise Brits to see locals observing familiar customs such as afternoon tea following the cricket or calling one another mate. The epitome of Bermudian culture, however, can be found any weekday between 5am and 10am standing on Crow Lane roundabout, just outside Hamilton city limits. He is Johnny Barnes, an octogenarian retired bus-driver who greets commuters with open arms every morning calling out "I love you", he is sometimes called Bermuda's "goodwill ambassador". In this country where the Queen of England is minted onto the back of their quarter dollar, one feels closer to the US geographically and economically, there are some strong cultural hints of the commonwealth, yet its charm is truly all its own.

For recreation outside of lying on the beach - which could easily take up a whole holiday or more - there is a wealth of nautical activities available. The sailing is fantastic with winds often high and seas inside the reef remarkably calm. On the flip side, good surfing is rare although the odd swell may appear on the tail of hurricanes. The reef, which is the world's most northerly, is home to many species of fish, turtles, sharks, and of course an abundance of shipwrecks, which makes for some intriguing scuba diving and possibly even bounty hunting. At night, there is a great variety of bars, pubs and restaurants which should not be missed. I had excellent American, Japanese sushi, and Jamaican jerk food and the seafood in particular is often excellent. Try out local black rum cocktails with foreboding names like dark n' stormy, after a couple of which you may well find yourself "full hot". If you want to keep the party going till late, there is a thriving reggae, r'n'b and hip-hop scene, which has been boosted by the recent success of the homegrown artist Collie Buddz. I caught "Nuff Love" mini festival at Somerset Cricket Club where the crowd consisted of everyone from the elderly and well dressed, young hip-hop crews, rastas, and the very young falling asleep in their mothers' arms. Local artists C'Danger and Troy Anthony drew much applause, while big-time Jamaican acts Gyptian, Alaine, and the legendary Buju Banton had everyone skanking till 3am. Driving home from "Nuff Love" we stopped at a small bay for some night swimming. The water was very calm and as we jumped in the phosphorescent plankton lit up making an illuminated trail behind us. This is certainly one of the best sobering-up experiences available in the world.

As I leave Bermuda behind, a flare of colour in this vast blue backdrop, I wonder why I didn't book myself another week's stay.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Response to Dan Dennett

This "science" of memetics which Dan Dennett is talking about, what does it actually consist of? In his chapter on memes Dawkins says something that can pretty much be summed up in one tiny sentence: ideas are passed from one host mind to another. And he suggests that, like genes, they may strive for their own survival. So how does this amount to a science? "Memes", unlike genes, do not necessarily combine in systematic ways, and they can appear out of nowhere: these "toxic ideas" which Dennett is talking about presumably haven't existed forever, they appeared spontaneously in the imagination of a given individual.
In many ways I agree with what Dawkins and Dennett have to say, but their throwing around of the term "science" and their attempts to apply it across the board - to ideas, to religion, to anything- is, frankly, unscientific. It has been the consensus of philosophers, up till now at least, to deal with God in the realm of metaphysics. That very term means "beyond physics": beyond science. Trying to analyse religion through science or vice versa is just chalk and cheese mate, rats and pyjamas.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Only girls blog about their dreams

. Wrong. I am constantly running away from some malignant figure of authority, often prison security guards or other stooges, in mine. This happens in a barren dreamscape of a prison with huge expanses across which you run but never really escape. Gates shut in front of you, there are enormous shower rooms full of attractive women but they don't like you. Despite your power to fly, or hover, across gothic roof tops, you never seem to shake that feeling in your stomach that they're right on your tail.

Terrible things happen. You hide behind open doors with heavy weights in your sock and, jumping wildly at your assailant, you realise he's actually your friend. But how do you know? Women with night gowns and a scarier zombie face than you could have imagined lurch towards your family with a razor. You scream but no sound comes out and you try to fight her off with a large maglite. And then you wake up.

These avatars, these fragmented manifestations of your self, why do they never do what you tell them to do, how do they know things that you don't know, complete your sentences when a word escapes you? In your own mind, why are you not the dominant power, why can't you control your own destiny? Which of these characters is you?

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Friday, April 20, 2007


I just had the misfortune of watching the video released by Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia killer. What good can possibly come of this video's broadcast? I'm sure many people would disagree with me on the grounds of freedom of speech, the right to information, and other principles which are applied indiscriminately. But where do you draw the line between the right to a free press and plain voyeurism, with broadcasting companies profiting from people's misery?

Cho himself admitted that he was a copycat killer, choosing the date as an homage to the Columbine shootings, so isn't it logical to assume, without wishing to promote hysteria, that this kind of thing could just snowball? Isn't the blind application of the right to information potentially just as dangerous and counter-productive as free access to guns and ammunition? Maybe supporting some censorship sounds old-fashioned, but compare that to the blithe and stubborn advocation of "freedom" of the man who sold Cho his weapon who, literally sticking to his guns, says "there were thousands of students there, not one of them was armed "(to take out Cho). Ridiculous.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Carbon Calculator

Many people will have realised that without the earth we won't have anywhere to live. This has recently struck me as well. In that vein, I'd like to draw your attention to this nifty carbon calculator for flight emissions. CO2 figures must, of course, be generalisations as different airlines have aircraft that vary greatly in fuel efficiency. Easyjet claim to be the greatest in this respect, and here is the IATAs environmental facts page . My flight from Edinburgh to Geneva apparently produced 0.29 Tonnes of CO2, which is probably more than I'll ever weigh.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Erotic Gibberish

My university email account receives a fair amount of SPAM in which some of the most amazing bullshit can be found. Unlike most SPAM though, this stuff makes for excellent reading. Here are a couple of my favourites.

"Subject:Small woody not big problem anymore!

Salute dude
I don't care why your thing is so small, but 81% of women do.


"Subject:Hei man - be a BIG MAN!
YO Dude
I don't care why your meat is so small, but 74% of women do."

Both of these have obviously been composed by the same person who is a master of the irresistible opening gambit. It leaves me wondering who is writing this, what they want from me, and how the hell they come up with such intriguing bullshit.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Facebook douche-bag

Some guy on facebook wrote a comment regarding Tony Blair's Trident nuclear programme which I found more than a little irritating. It reads thus:

"I could tear holes in this" (anti-trident argument) "a mile wide. Where to start? When you say "The only nuclear weapons ever dropped - at Hiroshima and Nagasaki" you mean to say "the only nuclear weapons used in anger". There have been many hundred uses of nuclear weapons in tests. A moot point, but accuracy is important. Do I even need to mention that the A-bombing of Japanese cities saved far, far more lives than it cost?

I very much doubt that replacing trident is costing £20bn a year, it seems more likely that that is the total cost and that you have misunderstood the figures (accuracy again). In any case, Trident is national security whereas tuition fees - or lack thereof - is about beer money. I went to uni, I got the graduate job and now I'm paying off the money I needed to get that advantage. I know some students have a hard time with this idea but *it isn't all about you*. There are other concerns. "

So I replied: "If you're going to advocate accuracy, shouldn't you be checking the figures yourself. "Highly doubting" has never been equivalent to scientific proof.
Stating that dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved lives is also complete fantasy, unless you can tell us exactly how many people Japanese armies would have killed after August 6, 1945 if the bombs had not been dropped. To correctly compute the comparative death toll you would also have to include the 30 or so years of leukemia and other diseases caused by nuclear waste, and the unknown impact of the environmental damage that the bombs incurred. Your comment was purely speculative and highly inaccurate. Good luck with your graduate job. x"

After replying, I highly agreed with myself and perhaps even ventured a slight glow of smugness. But then I found myself growing increasingly annoyed. How, through such petty and pedantic little arguments, can you try to defend something as ultimately destructive as the nuclear bomb. But, more to the point, what is the point of doing so, what is his agenda? Surely any person with even a trace of common sense can see that nuclear weaponry and the proliferation of nuclear armament is catastrophic for everyone? Think about it!

Thursday, November 23, 2006


He stood up and went to the door. She couldn’t throw him out now. The collection of ornamental cats on the dresser caught his eye, he paused, turned up his collar and stepped outside without bothering to say goodbye. It was over and they both knew it, she was stonewalling and he couldn’t take it any more. So much for that chapter of his life, time to move on.

The sun glistened on the water of Leith, a fine sheet of drizzle was falling but there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Scotland. Hangovers always seem to throw a new light on things. He thought it strange that destroying all those braincells somehow reconfigures them. Reboot. A new energy was coursing through his veins and although disheartened, embittered, and downtrodden, he felt a genuine exhiliration. The number twenty-three bus pulled up with still a good two hundred metres to the bus stop. Fuck. His heart and his head pounded, but his feet pounded faster. Scarf flailing, old lady staring at the sheer pointless zeal, caution to the wind.

He spread butter and jam on the croissant which, unusually, he had bothered to buy. They'd probably chuck him out for the crumbs he left on the floor. But the croissant was totally artificial- no crumbs. On an average day, mornings were agony. No spirit, no desire to live, just amazement at the horror-mask in the mirror. Throughout the day, his features might reassemble themselves into something vaguely acceptable, and he would hit the bars to destroy them again. Again and again: the cash register of life. Cash, change, repeat.

But today didn't seem average, he was looking at the world through a fresh pair of eyes: easily dazzled. Builder steps out into the road, bus passes dangerously close and clips his jacket, he steps neatly back onto the pavement, unphased. Hard hat, reflective waistcoat, such sang froid. This was the kind of man who probably knew how to move on when things didn't work out. If the bus had hit him, he would have joked about it on his hospital bed. There was a woman sitting across from him with her little kid in silence. The peroxide hair, the knee-high boots, and the Irn Bru made a perfect costume. So many characters, he wanted to plumb their depths like some manic interviewer on class-As- get their story out of them. How do they get through the day working the nine to five? He would graduate soon, and then there’d be no more contact. What would they do if they were him? Had they ever been in love?

The bus was crawling through traffic. What's the point? Stupid as it felt in a motionless vehicle, he pressed the ‘stop’ button and went to the door. They couldn't throw him off now.