Saturday, 24 December 2016


by Joni Mitchell as interpreted by Morgan James and Roy Dunlap

iTunes killed the album. People don’t listen to — let alone buy — the albums anymore. New generation don’t even know what the albums are.

What nonsense, I say, and that’s me being generous, what with the spirit of Christmas and such. Here we have Morgan James (vocal) and Roy Dunlap (piano) performing Joni Mitchell’s classic album in its entirety, live, in one take.

Incidentally, it is also available on iTunes.


  1. All I Want
  2. My Old Man
  3. Little Green
  4. Carey
  5. Blue
  6. California
  7. This Flight Tonight
  8. River
  9. A Case of You
  10. The Last Time I Saw Richard

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Black Fox

by Yuri

27 July 2008. While sifting through the piles and piles of schoolwork that kids brought home, I found this poem. By some reason, I took care to type it up. And a good thing too, since we didn’t keep most of those papers. Not a single character was changed.

21 December 2016. On the longest night of the year, found this poem again.

The Black Fox

Slipping over the rocks,
Creeping over the grass,
Silent and sleek as a cat,
The black fox watches the grass.
She jumps and snaps,
And gets up with a mouse in her jaws.
Silent as the dead mouse,
She skips back to the den.

Back at the den, safe and sound,
She feeds her cub and watches him play around.

On soft, padded paws she slips out again that day,
Walking silently along, ears pricked, all senses alert to find the way.

While she walks further from home, her baby waits,
waiting all alone.

Waiting all alone.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

A Distant Neighborhood

by Jiro Taniguchi

So. Travelling in time. Ah, to be fourteen-year old again. To find yourself in your family home, with your mum and dad and little sister and granny. To go to your old high school, seeing old friends, allowing yourself this time to fall in love with a beautiful classmate. Leaving behind, that is, far in the future, your wife and children. Wondering if they are worrying about you, whether you’ll ever see them or, indeed, whether you’ll ever have a wife and children.

Hiroshi tries to change his present by changing his past, and also doing his best not to change it. Naturally, you can’t do both things at the same time. You would need at least two time trips, and we all know how easy it is to hitch just one. More interesting dilemmas, apparently not involving any time travel, concern Hiroshi’s father. What happens if you live someone else’s life? It’s difficult to live, difficult — but not impossible — to escape.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

El mundo amarillo

by Albert Espinosa

Incidentally, in case anyone is interested, my favourite colour is yellow. Brandy-bottles, buttercups, cowslips, crocuses, daffodils, dandelions, sunflowers, yellow chrysanthemums and yellow roses. Sun and sand, lemons and bananas, beer and cider, honeycomb and corn on the cob, Cornish clotted cream and tortilla española, yellow leaves, chanterelles and, since we discovered them three years ago in Finland, yellowfoot mushrooms. Spanish post boxes; scooters that postmen and postwomen ride here; padded envelopes with new books and CDs that they deliver. Free rental bikes in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The smiley face. And this happy Chinese character:

Yellow Brick Road. Yellow Submarine. And now, The Yellow World.

I thought this book could make anyone happy, just by virtue of its name. For me, it turned out to be as frustrating as it was fascinating, with insightful and original sitting quite comfortably next to incredibly trite.

I have to note that I read it in original Spanish — by the way, very well written and easy to read — and I guess a lot of it is lost in translation. For example, the similarity of words amor, amistad and amarillo. The very concept of amarillos, those special people who touch our lives, might suffer from literal translation, not least because of all those negative/dangerous/derogatory connotations (yellow card, yellow fever, yellow journalism, yellow star, jaundice, ambulance, various hazard symbols, giallo films, жёлтый дом, жёлтый билет...) Tricky, tricky. I myself don’t particularly like the words yellow, gelb, jaune, giallo, жёлтый, žut... Amarillo is good though. Translators, leave it as is!

The most touching, funny and inspiring part of the book is the one describing the happy (!) ten years that Espinosa spent in hospitals fighting cancer. He divided his experience into 23 lessons — lessons for him, that is. There’s no guarantee that any single of them is applicable to anyone else’s life and death. Paradoxically, it was the chapter dedicated to the amarillos that really disappointed me. Where the author’s sense of humour has gone? But don’t take my word for it. Read the book, its flaws notwithstanding. It won’t be a waste of time, I promise.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Father Christmas: The Truth

by Grégoire Solotareff

Have you ever wondered why around this time of year bears are so unhappy? Don’t know what to do if the phone rings and the person on the line says, “Hello, this is Father Christmas”? Still unsure whether artichokes make good presents?

Let me tell you what makes a good present, Christmas or otherwise. A very good friend introduced us to this timeless classic * — first, as Dictionnaire du Père Noël that we saw at his house in Leeds, and then as an English version that he gave us as a gift. It has been our daily reference to the man in red (or, as Timur just put it, “the book of the most useless facts about anybody”) ever since. In the States, it was published by Chronicle Books under the extremely silly title The Secret Life of Santa Claus but this shouldn’t put you off. Enjoy (responsibly) and remember, Father Christmas is not just for Christmas.

* Dictionnaire du Père Noël, a timeless classic since 1991.

Monday, 5 December 2016


a film by Ron Clements and John Musker

Timur and I went to see Moana, renamed by some reason Vaiana in Spain and a number of other European countries. The Spanish reason is to avoid the potential trademark conflict, with Moana being a part of trade names for a deodorant and eau de toilette manufactured by Casa Margot, S.A. situated in, wait a minute, Calle de la Naval, 59, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

What can I say. It is good. But you would expect that from the duo behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and Treasure Planet, would you? Even so, the visuals are stunning and the heroine is, well — maybe not exctly an “ultimate anti-princess” but as cool and independent as Merida of Brave (with which there are many other parallels). The story, though, could have been a bit better, and I would give a miss to a few songs.

I should say that I like the name “Vaiana” (“Soy Vaiana de Motunui” etc.) better than “Moana” (she is not the one to moan about anything). Still, I’d like to watch it in the original English now, not least because I want to hear the voice of Auli’i Cravalho, apparently the last person to audition on the last day of casting — that’s the ultimate Disney princess story, no?

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Sex at Dawn

by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

I found it ridiculous that quite a number of academics took an issue with Sex at Dawn’s methodology and conclusions as if it were a standard peer-reviewed scientific publication. (In retrospect, it might be a good thing that the book was rejected by Oxford University Press. Their books are expensive for no good reason but the name.) Likewise, some readers felt offended by the authors being biased as if there is any unbiased popular science literature. If the authors’ (not so thinly) veiled political agenda is “make love, not war” and sex-positive feminism, I’m happy that so many people actually bought and read this book. Now, that we’ve got a pussy-grabbing bigot as the soon-to-be Leader of the Free World, this book is probably more important than six years ago.

Also, it’s a jolly good read.

Theorists supporting genital echo theory have noted that swellings like those of chimpanzees and bonobos would interfere with locomotion in a bipedal primate, so when our distant ancestors began walking upright, they reason that some of the female’s fertility signaling moved from the rear office, as it were, to the front showroom. In a bit of historical ping-pong, the dictates of fashion have moved the swelling back and forth over the centuries with high heels, Victorian bustles, and other derrière enhancements.
Though Darwin proved to be a very loving husband and father, these pros and cons of marriage suggest he very seriously considered opting for the companionship of a dog instead.
Maybe matriarchal societies are so difficult for Western male anthropologists to recognize because they expect a culture where men are suffering under the high heels of women — a reverse reflection of the long-standing male oppression of women in Western cultures. Instead, observing a society where most of the men are lounging about relaxed and happy, they conclude they’ve found yet another patriarchy, thereby missing the point entirely.