Thursday, November 30, 2006


Bravo - I managed to avoid doing the tango last night. This is a significant achievement , my tango lesson last November was singularly emasculating. Instead I joined a few new friends in a parrilla and plenty of drinks afterwards.

At one outside cafe, I bought four handmade cards, each with a quotation by a well-known author, poet or philosopher in Spanish. Thankfully, one of my new friends is fluent in Spanish, so he has provided translations :

...Nadie pierde sino lo que no tiene y no ha tenido nunca, pero no basta ser valiente para aprender el arte del olvido...
(No man loses except that which he doesn´t have an has never had, but being brave is not enough to learn the art of forgetting.)

No ha de ser el miedo a la locura lo que nos obligue a bajar la bndera de la imaginacion.
(It mustn´t be the fear of insanity which obliges us to lower the banner of the imagination.)

Hay hombres que luchan un año y son buenos , hay otros que luchan dos años y son mejores , hay quienes luchan mucho tiempo y son muy buenos, pero están los que luchn toda la vida , esos son los imprescindibles.
(There are men who fight for on year and they are good ; there are others who fight two years and they are better ; there are those who fight for a long time and they are great but those who fight their whole life - those are the indispensable ones.)

Andábamos sin buscarnos, pero sabiendo que andabamos para encontrarnos.
(We wander without searching, but knowing that we wander to discover ourselves.)


Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Here is a first for Homo Ludens : the first post I have written (for this blog at least) from foreign soils. I am sitting in an internet cafe in Buenos Aires, having just finished my first novel of the trip. Considering I am on this continent for five months and only brought four novels, perhaps I shouldn´t have burned all my bridges at once, but never mind.


My flights (London to Washington, then Washington to Buenos Aires) were uneventful. Flights always are ; bus journeys are little better in terms of excitement, and if the train service in South America was a little more modern, that is the way I would travel. You are guaranteed excitement on a train. The only incident of note was being chastised by an American customs officer because I had carried an aerosol deodorant spray in my luggage which was 75 ml over the allowed volume. A man behind me had a 6oz tub of balm confiscated (3oz is the maximum). Shortly afterwards he phoned his wife and noisily rued the inevitable dry skin he would suffer on his connecting flight.

Airports are always terribly tense places, I find. If there is one reaction people most dislike from others, it is implicit distrust. Everywhere you walk in an airport, you feel like a criminal. Anybody who thinks totalitarianism and latter-day capitalism are mutually exclusive should spend an hour in Washington Dulles.

I am staying for ten days in a gargantuan youth hostel in the San Telmo area. I stayed at the hostel this time last year, and one of the girls behind the desk recognised me. Whether deliberately or not, she has given me the exact same bed I slept in last year. As part of my package, I have free Spanish classes, a cycling tour and tango lessons to look forward to (the latter with some trepidation). It is an excellent hostel, full of people - a mixture of South American, European and the usual Britaustramericans, essential if your Spanish isn´t brilliant. A room-mate of mine last year saved money on his room by cooking the breakfast each morning. I may well try a similar tactic.


Time for my first book review : Graham Greene´s Travels with my Aunt. It is, as the Observer reviewer says on the back cover, a picaresque ; but it evokes well the self-consciousness of the tourist. The narrator, Henry Pulling, is a retired bank clerk, a stuck-in-the-mud, a bored suburbanite. He meets his aunt at his mother´s funeral, except that we quickly realise his aunt is actually his mother, his mother being his step-mother. In travelling across Europe and South America with his maverick "aunt," Henry realises the life he has failed to live : one of hotel bedrooms, war criminals, Latin politics and churches for dogs. His spirit of adventure is awoken, but a melancholy prevails. Pulling cannot work out his future, and cannot enjoy the present.

There are some wonderfully comic moments. First, when he leaves his step-mother´s remains at Aunt Augusta´s flat, he is only reminded by hearing a neighbour´s guttural yell : "`Peter can talk about nothing but cricket. All the summer it went on. Nothing but the fucking Ashes.´" And then Henry remembers the urn of ashes sitting in Augusta´s flat.

And this, one of many stories which Aunt Augusta tells Henry about her chequered life : "`The question of names´ my Aunt said, `is an interesting one. Your own Christian name is safe and colourless. It is better than being given a name like Ernest, which has to be lived up to. I once knew a girl called Comfort and her life was a very sad one. Unhappy men were constantly attracted to her simply by reason of her name, when all the time, poor dear, it was really she who needed the comfort from them. She fell unhappily in love with a man called Courage, who was desperately afraid of mice, but in the end she married a man called Payne and killed herself in what Americans call a comfort station. I would have thought it a funny story if I hadn´t known her.´"

But the reason I read this book first is because of the empathy one gets from reading about travelling when oneself is travelling, especially when one is alone. It is an experience which is by turns exhilirating, nerve-wracking, tedious and romantic. One´s every emotion is heightened. So why does one do it? Why does one keep coming back to it?

Tomorrow you may be shot in the street by a policeman because you haven´t understood Guarani, or a man may knife you in a cantina because you can´t speak Spanish and he thinks you are acting in a superior way. My dear Henry, if you live with us in Paraguay, you won´t be edging day by day across to any wall of death. The wall will find you of its own accord without your help, and every day you live will seem to you a kind of victory. "I was too sharp for it that time," you will say, when night comes, and afterwards you´ll sleep well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


A message from Paddington's official spokesman:

Paddington has now left his north London abode and is just 119 hours away from take-off. He will travel first to Washington, where he will take his passport from his battered old suitcase, and present it to customs, whereupon he will continue his journey to Buenos Aires.

Paddington does not have his itinerary set in stone ; he will be in South America for five months, so he can afford to be fairly leisurely. That said, he feels Santiago would be the place to stop for Christmas (he has heard Chile is particularly good for marmalade sandwiches and cocoa), and he also wishes to spend a good couple of months in Bolivia, where he hopes to discover a little more about the political situation. After that, he will return to his native land of Peru and will finish his journey in Quito, Ecuador.

As you can see, Paddington is extremely excited about his journey :

Paddington has agonised for several months about how many books he can fit in his luggage. Thankfully, he doesn't own all that many clothes (a hat, duffel-coat and wellington boots are really all a bear needs), which means he can fit in eight books.

The antagonism between Marxism and postmodernism has troubled and excited Paddington for some time, so an abridged version of Capital (Marx), Mythologies (Barthes) and The Metastases of Enjoyment (Zizek) should give him plenty to think and write about.

Detective fiction is good to fill all those hours spent waiting around for public transport / dates who have stood you up / something to happen, so Paddington is looking forward to reading Highsmith's This Sweet Sickness, especially after recently enjoying Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. For long bus journeys an epic novel is what you need, and since War and Peace was just a little too big to fit in a rucksack pocket, Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) got the nod. Speaking of epics, Greil Marcus spins a good cultural yarn - this year's The Shape of Things to Come got panned in a few of the reviews, but Paddington has already earmarked that one for the festive season.

Graham Greene's Travels with my Aunt is set in South America, but Paddington often prefers reading about countries other than those he is in - which is why Orhan Pamuk's The Black Book will also be well-thumbed during the next five months.

And now, I must return to Paddington, who is feeling a little dicky after his yellowfever vaccination. Good night.

Paddington will return to Homo Ludens later this week.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Apologies for the protracted absence : Paddington is off to Latin America next Monday, where hopefully the solace of being back in his native continent will inspire him to update his blog rather more frequently.

In the meantime, I ask you to indulge me a little. People who can write about music write about it ; those of us who can't make lists. What follows is a pretty much exhaustive list of what I believe every music fan should have on his or her ipod. Actually, I don't own an ipod - I only bought my first CD walkman last year - but the album has become such a staid format, and such a dull commodity, that I almost never listen to one from track 1 to track 13. Even new purchases get played on shuffle mode. So this selection, a mixture of essential albums, singles and album tracks - my top 350 musical monads, if you like - is to be played on a single ipod (or perhaps an iPad). Albums are in italics, singles in quotes, and for tracks which are either non-singles or better known as album tracks, I have indicated which album they are from. In fact, I am beginning to feel like a right old statto.

I was going to do a bit of a preamble, but tastes pretty much speak for themselves. In case it makes a difference, I am white, male and middle-class : each of those will probably be over-represented. I am also 26, though I think this makes less difference : the following list covers something like 80 years of music, though the first 40 and the last five are somewhat under-represented. I have completely ignored classical music, but have included some jazz (in retrospect, probably not enough). Please scatter your comments liberally. You will inevitably be wrong, but anything for a good barney.


althea and donna, “uptown top ranking”
american graffiti
angels, “my boyfriend’s back”

aphex twin, windowlicker ep
aretha franklin, queen of soul : the atlantic recordings
art blakey, ken burns jazz
artesians, “trick bag”
arto lindsay, mundo civilizado
associates, “white car in germany”
b-52s, “give me back my man”
b-52s, time capsule: the best of the b-52s
baby bird, the original lo-fi
band, the band
basement jaxx, “oh my gosh”
beach boys, “kiss me baby” (from beach boys today!)
beach boys, pet sounds
beach boys, “the trader” (from holland)
beach boys, “just once in my life” (from 15 big ones)
beach boys, “the night was so long” (from beach boys love you)
beach boys, sounds of summer: the very best of the beach boys
beastie boys, paul’s boutique

beatles, “there’s a place” (from please please me)
beatles, a hard day’s night
beatles, “rock and roll music” (from beatles for sale)
beatles, revolver
beatles, sgt peppers lonely hearts club band
beatles, the beatles
beatles, abbey road
beatles, “i’ve got a feeling”, “the one after 909” (from let it be)
beatles, 1962-66
beck, odelay!
billy bragg, “greetings to the new brunette” (from talking with the taxman about poetry)
billy bragg, “sexuality” (from don't try this at home)
bionic dub, “bionic dub”
bjork, “venus as a boy”

blackalicious, “the fall and rise of elliott brown” (from the craft)
blue nile, “tinseltown in the rain” (from a walk across the rooftops)
blue nile, “the downtown lights”, “saturday night” (from hats)
blue nile, “broken loves” (from high)
bob dylan, bringing it all back home
bob dylan, highway 61 revisited
bob dylan, “positively 4th street”

bob dylan, blonde on blonde
bob dylan, “new morning” (from new morning)
bob dylan, blood on the tracks
bob dylan / the band, the basement tapes
bob dylan, “not dark yet” (from time out of mind)
bob dylan, love and theft
bob marley & the wailers, “turn your lights down low” (from exodus)
bob marley & the wailers, kaya
bob marley & the wailers, legend
boogie down productions, “love’s gonna getcha”

brakes, “shut us down” (from ring a ding ding)
brave new world, “train kept a rollin’”
brian eno, “blank frank” (from here come the warm jets)
brian eno, another green world
brian wilson, smile!
b-rock and the bizz, “mybabydaddy”

bruce springsteen, tunnel of love
bruce springsteen, “streets of philadelphia”
bryan ferry, these foolish things
bryan ferry, “let’s stick together”
captain beefheart & the magic band, trout mask replica
carole king, “beautiful” (from tapestry)
chris bell, “i am the cosmos” (from i am the cosmos)
clash, the clash
clash, london calling
coasters, “charlie brown”
coasters, “yakety yak”
cocteau twins, “violaine” (from milk and kisses)
cornershop, “brimful of asha”
coumba gawlo, “miniyamba” (from the music in my head)
count five, “psychotic reaction”

coup, pick a bigger weapon
creedence clearwater revival, chronicle
culture, two sevens clash
david bowie, station to station
david bowie, 1:outside
de la soul, aoi: bionix
debarge, in a special way
debarge, “the rhythm of the night”
dillinger, “cocaine in my brain”
dinosaur jr, “little fury things” (from youre living all over me)
dizzee rascal, boy in da corner
dj shadow, endtroducing…
donald fagan, the nightfly

doors, “back door man” (from the doors)
dr buzzard’s original savannah band, dr buzzard’s original savannah band
duke ellington and his orchestra, the age of ellington
ella fitzgerald, the best of the songbooks
elton john, “madman across the water [demo]” (from remastered version of tumbleweed connection)
elton john, elton john’s greatest hits vol. 1
elton john, captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy
elton john, rock of the westies

elvis costello, this year’s model
elvis costello, imperial bedroom
elvis presley, #1s
emerson, lake and palmer, “jerusalem” (from brain salad surgery)
eminem, the marshall mathers lp
ernest ranglin, “surfin’”
etta james, the chess box
fall, 458489 a sides
fela-anikulapo kuti, the best best of fela kuti : the black president

first choice, “armed and extremely dangerous”
fleetwood mac, rumours
fleetwood mac, tusk
flying burrito brothers, “sin city” (from the gilded palace of sin)
freedy johnston, “this perfect world” (from this perfect world)
funkadelic, “maggot brain” (from maggot brain)
funkadelic, music for your mother : funkadelic 45s
funky 4+1, “that’s the joint”

gang of four, entertainment!
george harrison, “what is life” (from all things must pass)
gloria gaynor, “never can say goodbye”
go-betweens, “bye bye pride” (from tallulah)
go-betweens, ocean drive
grace jones, island life

grandmaster flash, “adventures on the wheels of steel”, “the message”
half man, half biscuit, “albert hammond bootleg” (from back in the dhss / trumpton riots ep)
half man, half biscuit, “a country practice” (from four lads who shook the wirral)
harmonia, “dino” (from musik von harmonia)
husker du, “celebrated summer” (from new day rising)
ian brown, “corpses in their mouths” (from unfinished monkey business)
ian dury and the blockheads, “jackshit george” (from mr love pants)
isley brothers, “it’s your thing”

jackie mittoo, “get up and get it” (from keyboard king of studio one)
jackson 5, “a.b.c.”
jackson 5, “i’ll be there”
jackson browne, “fountain of sorrow” (from late for the sky)
jah wobble, i could have been a contender
james brown, soul classics
james carr, “the dark end of the street”
jimi hendrix experience, electric ladyland
jimi hendrix experience, experience hendrix : the best of jimi hendrix
john cale, guts

john coltrane, my favourite things
john lennon, “oh yoko!” (from imagine)
john lennon, shaved fish
john martyn, “dancing” (from one world)
johnny cash, “san quentin”
johnny osbourne, “we need love”
joni mitchell, blue
joni mitchell, for the roses
joni mitchell, hejira
joni mitchell, “both sides now” (from both sides now)
joy division, “decades” (from closer)
kanye west, the college dropout

karen ramirez, “looking for love”
kate and anna mcgarrigle, dancer with bruised knees
kate bush, “get out of my house” (from the dreaming)
kate bush, hounds of love
kate bush, aerial
kay starr, “wheel of fortune”
kelis, kaleidoscope
king sunny ade & his african beats, “eje nlo gba ara mi” (from juju music)
king sunny ade & his african beats, “synchro system” (from synchro system)
kinks, the ultimate collection
kraftwerk, “franz schubert / endless endless” (from trans-europe express)
kraftwerk, “vitamin” (from minimum maximum)
kris kross, “jump”
laura nyro, “time and love”, “captain for dark mornings” (from new york tendaberry)
le tigre, le tigre

le tigre, “i’m so excited” (from this island)
led zeppelin, iv
leftfield, “melt” (from leftism)
lesley gore, “johnny angel”
lewis taylor, lewis taylor
linton kwesi johnson, straight to inglan’s head
little milton, “we’re gonna make it”
little richard, “rip it up”
ll cool j, mama said knock you out
los lobos, “don’t worry baby” (from how will the wolf survive?)
lou reed, “the gun” (from the blue mask)
lou reed, ecstacy

lou reed, nyc man
loudon wainwright iii, “motel blues” (from album 2)
loudon wainwright iii, “the swimming song” (from attempted moustache)
louis prima, “angelina / zooma zooma”
madness, “my girl”
madonna, the immaculate collection
mama cass, “make your own kind of music” (from mama's big ones)
marshall crenshaw, marshall crenshaw

martha wainwright, “bloody mother fucking asshole” (from martha wainwright)
marvis gaye, “stubborn kind of fellow”
massive attack, “risingson” (from mezzanine)
michael jackson, “got to be there”
michael jackson, off the wall
michigan and smiley, “nice up the dance”
miles davis, “boplicity” (from birth of the cool)
miles davis, a kind of blue
miles davis, a tribute to jack johnson
miles davis / bill laswell, panthalassa : the music of miles davis 1969-1974
millie small, “my boy lollipop”

mitch ryder and the detroit wheels, “jenny take a ride”
moondog, “enough about human rights!” (from viking of fifth avenue)
morrissey, your arsenal
motown : the classic years
naughty by nature, “everything’s gonna be alright (ghetto bastard)”
neil young, after the goldrush
neil young, tonight’s the night
neil young, “walk on”, “ambulance blues” (from on the beach)
neil young, “hey hey my my” (from rust never sleeps)
new musik, “straight lines” (from from a to b)

new order, substance
new york dolls, “personality crisis” (from new york dolls)
nick drake, “northern sky” (from bryter layter)
nilsson, “down” (from nilsson schmilsson)
nirvana, in utero
nirvana, unplugged in new york
notorious b.i.g., “mo’ money mo’ problems”
ocean of sound
oh romeo, “try it (i’m in love with a married man)”
ohio players, “fopp” (from honey)
orange juice, “rip it up and start again”
orb, “little fluffy clouds”
ornette coleman and prime time, tone dialling

otis redding, very best of otis redding
parliament, “flash light”, “bop gun (endangered species)” (from the best of parliament : give up the funk)
paul mccartney & wings, “the back seat of my car” (from ram)
paul simon, “peace like a river,” “50 ways to leave yr lover” (from greatest hits : shining like a national guitar)
paul simon, graceland
pavement, “trigger cut – kite at : 17” (from slanted and enchanted)
pavement, wowee zowee
pavement, brighten the corners
pavement, “folk jam” (from terror twilight)
pet shop boys, actually
pet shop boys, introspective
pet shop boys, very
pet shop boys, pop art
peter gabriel, peter gabriel i
peter gabriel, “sledgehammer”
pj harvey, rid of me
pj harvey, to bring you my love
pj harvey, stories from the city, stories from the sea
police, ghost in the machine
prefab sprout, steve mcqueen
prefab sprout, “the king of rock and roll”
prince, 1999
prince, purple rain
prince, “raspberry beret”
prince, sign o the times
prince, “the most beautiful girl in the world”, “eye hate u” (from the gold experience)
public enemy, apocalypse 91: the enemy strikes black
pulp, “common people”
r.e.m., murmur
r.e.m., out of time
r.e.m., “try not to breathe” (from automatic for the people)
r.e.m., new adventures in hi-fi

rachid taha, made in medina
radiohead, “fake plastic trees” (from the bends)
radiohead, “let down” (from ok computer)
randy newman, 12 songs
randy newman, good old boys
randy newman, lonely at the top: the best of randy newman
ray charles, “what’d i say”
ray price, “crazy arms”
replacements, let it be
richard and linda thompson, shoot out the lights
richard and linda thompson, “i want to see the bright lights tonight”, “hokey pokey”, “beat the retreat” (from the end of the rainbow : an introduction to richard and linda thompson)
robert wyatt, nothing can stop us

robert wyatt, “mister e” (from cuckooland)
rocket from the crypt, “on a rope”
rolling stones, “off the hook” (from rolling stones 2)
rolling stones, big hits (high tides and green grass)
rolling stones, big hits (through the past darkly)
rolling stones, let it bleed
rolling stones, sticky fingers
rolling stones, exile on main street
rolling stones, “start me up”
rolling stones, “rough justice” (from a bigger bang)
rotary connection, “i am the black gold of the sun”
roxanne shante, “big mama”
ruben gonzalez, “chanchullo” (from chanchullo)

rufus wainwright, “poses” (from poses)
rufus wainwright, “i don’t what it is” (from want one)
scott walker, “sleepwalkers woman” (from climate of hunter)
screamin’ jay hawkins, “heartattack and vine”
scritti politti, cupid and psyche ‘85
serge gainsbourg / brigitte bardot, “bonnie et clyde”
sex pistols, never mind the bollocks, here’s the sex pistols
shangri-las, “give him a great big kiss”
simon and garfunkel, “the only living boy in new york” (from bridge over troubled water)
sinead o’connor, “nothing compares 2 u”
slits, “typical girls” (from cut)
sly and the family stone, greatest hits

smiths, hatful of hollow
smokey robinson & the miracles, “ooh ooh baby”
sonic youth, “shadow of a doubt” (from evol)
sonic youth, daydream nation
sonic youth, “tunic (song for karen)” (from goo)
sonic youth, dirty
sonic youth, sonic nurse

sonny boy williamson, “bring it on home”
specials, singles
steely dan, “home at last” (from aja)
steely dan, showbiz kids: the best of steely dan
steve earle, “the galway girl” (from transcendental blues)
steve reich, music for 18 musicians
steve reich, “eight lines”
stevie wonder, innervisions
stevie wonder, “superstition” (from talking book)
stevie wonder, songs in the key of life
stevie wonder, looking back
stevie wonder, “so what the fuss” (from a time to love)
streets, original pirate material
suede, suede
sugarhill gang, “rapper’s delight”
suzanne vega, “luka” (from solitude standing)
swell maps, “blenheim shots” (from jane from occupied europe)
talk talk, spirit of eden
talking heads, more songs about buildings and food
talking heads, remain in light
talking heads, “making flippy floppy” (from speaking in tongues)
television, marquee moon
the indestructible beat of soweto

the kings and queens of township jive: modern roots of the indestructible beat of soweto
the rough guide to the music of the sahara
thelonious monk, criss cross
todd rundgren, “hello it’s me” (from something/anything?)
tom tom club, “genius of love”
tom waits, “martha” (from closing time)
tom waits, “16 shells from a thirty-ought 6” (from swordfishtrombones)
tom waits, “walking spanish” (from rain dogs)
tom waits, “goin’ out west” (from bone machine)
tom ze, “ogodô, ano 2000” (from brazil classics 5 : the return of tom ze : the hips of tradition)
tom ze, com defeito de fabricação

tricky, maxinquaye
trojan explosion

u2, achtung baby
velvet underground, peel slowly and see box-set
was (not was), “walk the dinosaur”
wayne shorter, speak no evil
whipping boy, heartworm
who, meaty, beaty, big and bouncy

wire, “map ref 41 north 93 west” (from 154)
wire, on returning 1977-79
xtc, skylarking
xtc, apple venus vol. 1

yarborough & peoples, “don’t stop the music”
yeah yeah yeahs, “pin” (from fever to tell)
yes, “survival” (from time and a word)
youssou n’dour et le super etoile dakar, “birima”
(from super fin d'annee plus)

Sunday, November 05, 2006


This summer I went swimming,
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around, I moved my arms around.

This summer I swam in the ocean,
And I swam in a swimming pool,
Salt my wounds, chlorine my eyes,
I'm a self-destructive fool, a self-destructive fool.

This summer I swam in a public place
And a reservoir, to boot,
At the latter I was informal,
At the former I wore my suit, I wore my swimming suit.

This summer I did the backstroke
And you know that's not all
I did the breast stroke and the butterfly
And the old Australian crawl, the old Australian crawl.

This summer I did swan dives
And jackknifes for you all
And once when you weren't looking
I did a cannonball, I did a cannonball.

Click here for the song.