Thursday, January 17, 2008

'Peace Not War Japan' promo video

This is the official promotional video for the 'Peace Not War Japan' (PNWJ) compilation album, released in Japan in 2006 on Dynastic Records.

The video features clips from tracks featured on the album, including 'Hallelujah Jambo' by Cheryo & The Berovolas, 'Crevasse' by Hiroshima's And More, and 'Kaiki' by Hope - as well as some of the artwork featured in the collection. There's a few of my own photographs in there too.

Naturally, this would have been more effective to use as a promotional tool a year and a half ago, when the CD was released. However, when you're running a volunteer collective, a full-time job, a band, a writing gig and a whole bunch of travelling too, you don't always get the time to do everything that you want to do! As I'm leaving Japan very soon, this is part of my tying up all those loose ends before I go.

This clip was my first attempt at putting something together in Apple's iMovie and the first time I had the chance to do any video editing since 1995 - a long time away. Although I'm keen in future videos to try and steer away from Apple's obvious templates for slick-looking video effects, I'm still very impressed at what's possible with the program.

With a digital camera (a mobile phone even), a laptop and a YouTube account, anyone with the imagination to do so can make and distribute their own films. The democratisation of filmmaking - another moment brought to you by the digital age.

Learn about PNWJ here.

Shelf Life final Tokyo shows

After living in Tokyo for almost four and a half years, I will be leaving Japan next month to return to the UK. It is with some sadness that I leave this place, but also great excitement at the opportunities that lie ahead and a good sense of achievement at what I've done here. I'm sure that this blog will be leant on quite heavily as I deal with the transition.

To mark this departure, my band Shelf Life will be playing two final shows in Tokyo, one of which I'll also be supporting as Control K.

The first will be at Rubber Soul in Kokubunji on Saturday January 26th, the place where Shelf Life began. The Control K set will contain extracts from 'The Front Line (Redux)' album, along with some of my other work and a selection of tracks that I've heard and dug while I've been living here. Shelf Life will be playing material from our recently released 'Best Before End' album.

Entry is free. Doors open at 7pm, the music begins at 8pm. A link to a map for Rubber Soul can be found here.

The second and last show will be at Shinjuku Marz on Monday February 4th. Presented by Japonicus, there will be five bands in total playing, including Cassette from South Africa, and full DJ support. The show starts at 7pm. Tickets are available at 2,300 yen in advance and 2,800 yen (plus drink) on the door. Marz is near Seibu Shinjuku station and a link for a map for the venue is also available here (Japanese only).

Shelf Life's CD album 'Best Before End' will be on sale at both events.

If you're in town, come down and see the best before the end!

See you down the front...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New photo website launch

I'm pleased to be able to announce the launch of my new photos website - Globalism Pictures - containing images taken from my travels around the world over the last five years. Although some regular viewers of this site may be aware of it already and viewed some of the sets, I've finally completed work on it and got it up to date.

Since 2004, I had been using Sony ImageStation's services for displaying images from my travels. A few months ago, that service announced a pending closure, which encouraged me to switch to the far superior Flickr photo sharing service.

On the downside, this meant a lot of work transferring existing images and albums over to the new service. On the upside however, the new one is a much better service that allows far greater flexibility, display options and networking opportunities.

I have moved all existing albums over to Flickr now, updated a few albums with some new pictures and added seven new sets that cover some of my activities during 2007 - including the trip to Argentina (my first time in South America).

Below are some of the new images on display at the site. Clicking on the image will take you straight through to the relevant set on the new site.

If you are already a user of Flickr and would like to join Globalism Pictures' network, please add me to your Flickr Friends.

Iguazu Falls

Buenos Aires

Colonia, Uruguay

Toronto & the CN Tower

Yokohama Fireworks

Dance For Peace Japan

'A window seat, please'

Albums updated with new images are Images Of Britain, Tokyo and The West Pier.

All original albums can also be found at the site, including a large number of sets of photos of Japan, plus pictures from Korea, China, Barcelona, Dubai, Tanzania and Nepal.

'David Byrne's Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists...' (WN0009)

'What is called the music business today, however, is not the business of producing music. At some point it became the business of selling CDs in plastic cases, and that business will soon be over. But that's not bad news for music, and it's certainly not bad news for musicians. Indeed, with all the ways to reach an audience, there have never been more opportunities for artists.'

Former Talking Head David Byrne has written a fascinating article about the state of play in the music industry and opportunities for musicians today, published over at

In the article, he defines well what we mean when we talk about music, describes exactly what it is that record companies do and outlines six models of operation for musicians, including ways to look to the future.

These six models are as follows:
  • The 'equity deal', where the artist is wholeheartedly owned by the companies and managers.
  • The 'standard distribution deal', where the record company bankrolls the recording and retains the copyright forever.
  • The 'license deal', similar to the above yet where the artist retains the copyrights and ownership of the master recording.
  • The 'profit-sharing deal', where the artist gets a minimal advance from the label and profits are shared equally between the artist and the label.
  • The 'manufacturing and distribution deal', where the artist does everything bar the manufacturing and distribution.
  • The 'self-distribution model', where the music is self-produced, self-written, self-played, and self-marketed.
The article provides some invaluable advice for upcoming musicians and some very useful insights into the direction that the 'music industry' is heading. A worthwhile read for anybody interested in making a career somehow from music and many useful insights for those that already do.

The full article can be read here.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Solastalgia...or how our minds will be victims to climate change (WN0008)

The threats posed to the planet and its environment by human-induced climate change are now well documented. Rising sea levels leading to the disappearance of many coastal cities and nations, vast numbers of environmental refugees and mass extinctions are amongst the many perils we are said to be facing.

Wired magazine today reports on another danger to add to the pile-up: 'Solastalgia', or a form of homesickness that one gets when one is still at home.

Coined by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht and identified from the scores of interviews conducted with fellow Australians who have described 'their deep, wrenching sense of loss as they watch the landscape around them change', Albrecht believes that he has identified a new type of sadness.

Wired goes on to postulate:

'People are feeling displaced. They're suffering symptoms eerily similar to those of indigenous populations that are forcibly removed from their traditional homelands. But nobody is being relocated; they haven't moved anywhere. It's just that the familiar markers of their area, the physical and sensory signals that define home, are vanishing. Their environment is moving away from them, and they miss it terribly.'

For so long, humankind has distinguished itself from other species by adapting the environment to suit itself, unlike other species that adapt themselves to suit their environment. However, we mess with Mother Nature at our peril. Perhaps this is an indication of one of her means of fighting back - by attacking the Achilles Heel of our emotional responses to stimuli.

The rest of the article can be read here.

Illustration: Brandon Kavulla

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Back in the UK...for Xmas

Like old British buses, you wait for ages for one to come along and then two come at once - here we go, two blog posts in one day!

Here follows a small selection of pictures taken from a trip back to the UK over the festive season - some wintry, some funky, all Blighty.

These along with many others can be viewed in the 'Images Of Britain' set at my Flickr site.

Interior at Moshi Moshi, Brighton sushi restaurant

Brighton's Royal Pavilion at night

Brighton Pier sign

Tribute to The Godfather, on a Brighton wall

Original Banksy, on a Brighton pub wall

Village wall complete with lichen, Scarborough

Garden ice in winter

Dusk at Throxenby Mere, Scarborough

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

'No Man's Land'...and 'avoiding ourselves'

Although I seem to spend little time reading books these days, preferring to get most of my text from a screen instead, a stack of international flights over the past few months has provided me with a little space to wade through some of the backlist of titles awaiting reading on my book shelves.

One such tome, left in Tokyo by my mother when she visited last year, was George Monbiot's 'No Man's Land', which I managed to get through over the New Year break.

I know Monbiot more as a Guardian columnist than as a travel writer, but have read (and been inspired by) his manifesto for a world government for the people rather than against them, published as 'The Age Of Consent'.

Having been reading his columns for a number of years and traced some of his development as a writer, it was a pleasure to go back and check out one of his earlier works that was significant in establishing his reputation.

'No Man's Land' was a fascinating read for a number of reasons. Although it focuses much more on Kenya, a country that I have never visited other than a touchdown at Nairobi airport, it does cover quite a bit about Tanzania too, the country where I first came face to face with Maasai people whom are among the subjects of the book. It seems ironic timing to have picked this book up given that Kenya is experiencing extreme strife this week.

First published in 1994, the book is subtitled as 'an investigative journey through Kenya and Tanzania' and exposes how the nomadic peoples of East Africa are being systematically driven off their lands and forced to abandon their lifestyles, even being murdered simply for continuing their non-sedentary ways of life.

It shows how the nation state model does not allow some of the oldest cultures on earth to continue to exist as they have for thousands of years. Shockingly, it also uncovers the fact of conservation and the creation of Africa's great National Parks as having deeply racist undertones, excluding the very people that live in harmony amongst the wildlife.

Aside from the journalistic qualities of the book, I also found it very interesting from the point of view of the writer surrounding himself with people very different from those of his own culture and immersing himself in what he finds.

The passage quoted below was redolent in some ways of my experiences in Tokyo:

'On the steps of the Alakara Hotel in Kitale, a city in Kenya's north-western highlands, was a plump, red-faced white man with brown hair and blue eyes. I was a little suspicious of other wazungu ('tourists' or 'white people' in Swahili, also known as mzungu) in Kenya and, perhaps through some strange inverted racism, kept away from them...Whenever I met a European in Africa, we tended warily to circle each other, like jealous dogs, and pass on without speaking. What wazungu miss by such evasions, at home or abroad, I do not know, but wherever I travel I am reminded that Europeans, myself included, are perhaps the most anti-social of all the world's people.'

There is a tendency when in a place so utterly different from one's own original culture that makes the kind of person Monbiot describes (I too have been guilty of the same thing in the past) purposefully avoid all contact with anyone that might bear some similarity to themselves.

Perhaps it is the desire to revel in one's own 'difference'. Maybe encountering others like us in alien cultures reminds us that we are not quite as special as we are led to feel in such places. It could be a European thing, as I know of many people of Asian origin that specifically seek out others like them when in different cultures, eg Japanese, Chinese or Koreans in the US.

Nevertheless, whatever the reasons behind it, I thought it was curious to see the same experiences encountered amongst the nomadic peoples of East Africa as I've witnessed 'foreigners' doing around the urban Japanese.