Birthday

I turned 39 yesterday.

My birthday also coincides with a public holiday here in SA, so it’s always nice to have the day off work and not feel too guilty!

I had a super day with my family. I painted ceramics with the girls, and ate cake and good food with my wife. I got a ‘cruiser’ skateboard and a warm jacket as presents (young at heart).

We took a drive to Simons Town, taking the long way through Hout Bay and over Chapman’s peak. It is a beautiful city we live in. Climbing up cliffs of brown rock, we hit bird’s eye views of Hout Bay. We wound our way along the edge of the ocean until eventually the broad, sandy beach of Noordhoek spread out in front of us. The road falls down into the farms and houses of Noordhoek where horses and coffee shops are there to welcome you. The sea is ever present, the sun shone and the air was perfectly cool.

I consider myself so very lucky. I have more than I ever dreamed of.

Here’s to the 40th year.

New look, new promise

Chimpwithcans.com has a new look and a new promise. There is now a home page to welcome you, a blog page, and a podcast page. There will be a podcast episode released each week.

The podcast may not be the most polished production in the world, and it may not be very long, but in the name of taming my inner chimp through creativity I will publish an episode weekly. Please see the new ‘podcast’ page in the menu above for details on how to listen.

If you look up the podcast on your phone, you will find an old episode “On Lemons and Nappies” which I created over a year ago. Listening to this afresh makes me cringe, but it’s a good baseline to work with.

The new, weekly episodes will start this Thursday. This should be fun.

Syncing to Apple music

I have now made my chimpwithcans playlist available on Apple music as well as Spotify.

See the following link: https://music.apple.com/za/playlist/chimpwithcans/pl.u-r2yBBvqC3Exe1

This will sync with the Spotify playlist when I update it each week. Something that’s not so easy to do…. But for you dear readers/listeners, anything…. Actually I did this four my mum who can’t get Spotify in Kenya, but that’s another story.

Happy Thursday chimps!

Songs on a Monday

Every week I add a few new songs to my playlist on Spotify (See the link to the playlist here: link).

Choosing the songs is the end of a rather convoluted process:

  • On Spotify, I ‘Like’ all songs and albums (I’m about half way through) included in the following book: link
  • I listen to the resulting recommendations from Spotify in my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist.
  • I Pick a few standout songs and add them to my chimpwithcans playlist (link here).

The results are broad in their musical genre. It has turned into a pretty chilled playlist and I really enjoy pressing shuffle now. It has so many songs I never would have heard. Importantly I feel like I have had a say in training and filtering the Spotify algorithm to spit out something interesting.

This week, my Discover Weekly gave me the following standout tracks:

  • Fela Kuti – “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”. Below is a great review of the song:

Released as part of a quartet of albums from the most productive year of Fela’s career, “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” has all the hallmarks of a classic Fela single, a languid, self determined instrumental warm up that goes on for several minutes, putting the listener in the right frame of mind, and setting up a tonal theme for the rest of the performance, a choral style, call and response chorus in conjunction with Fela’s omnipresent band, and long winding verse that defy the laws of composition and march at a tempo that only Fela decides. But what really distinguishes this song from the rest of the master’s oeuvre, is the masterful storytelling that Fela employs. Fela had always understood that at the core of his sway over his fans was his ability to empathize with their terribly oppressed lives, and the skill with which he consumed their stories, ruminated on them and regurgitated them back, defiance milled into the broth.

“Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” is brimming with defiance, delivered subtly as an exchange, reflected through a lens of righteous justice. Fela sings of the oppressed, and personifies the oppression of Nigerian people. He asks through a direct chorus and series of vignettes, that the suffering of oppressed be respected and that if it is not, then the oppressed is justified in their decision to revolt, to take arms against the persons who mock their suffering and remain unempathetic to their oppression. He substitutes the government for smaller, more relatable avatars of power, like the landlord who wields the power to deny shelter, or the policeman who can take away a man’s freedom, or even closer. Never to look away from intrigue when the opportunity presents itself, Fela subverts his own theme in the third vignette about a husband, citing that sometimes it is our own avarice and pride, not an external agitator that puts us in trouble.

https://thenativemag.com/music/shuffle-trouble-sleep-yanga-wake-fela-succinct/
  • Sidney Bechet – “Blue Horizon”. Holy moly please listen to this man play a clarinet! I remember when I was about 11years old my Mum tried to get me to play an instrument and I tried clarinet. I had zero idea it could sound like this. My efforts sounded more like a strangled ibis making an escape from the torture chamber…..But this man…..The control, the wary tension of the small group surrounding him. The sharp tone, a vigorous vibrato. This is an absolute master and I had NEVER heard of him until today. More fool me. Have a listen, just beautiful.

That’s it for this week. Happy Monday chimps!

SOSN Post 1 – A remake

Something Old.

Cat Stevens’ ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ was the fourth studio album from the songwriter, released in November 1970. This was the album that gained Stevens a global audience and mega-hits. When I decided to write this piece, I listened through the old album (something old….see what I did there?) and I felt like I knew the songs well. This was a little disconcerting because I have never been a huge fan of Stevens’ music. Even when you factor in the radio play of the old hit singles (everyone knows ‘Father and Son’) I couldn’t figure out why I recognised all the songs, the tunes the lyrics – so well. And then it hit me.

When I was at university 13 years ago, I shared a house with a guy who did two things all day – he played tennis and listened to Cat Stevens. This album was seared into my unconscious memory thanks to Room-Mate-Rowan. This is for you Rowan – where ever you are I hope the racket strings are holding up well. And I hope your musical taste has diversified!…..but i digress.

Listening back on the album today, its simplicity of tune and depth of message is as clear as ever. With sensitivity and poignant songs on pressing issues of the time – diverse topics such as spirituality, family, gender – it is easy to see the linkages and the lineage of Stevens to more modern artists such as Coldplay, James Blunt, or Luka Bloom.

On the downside – Stevens had a less soothing vocal tone than someone like James Taylor. Listening through the album all the way is sometimes a little laboured and slow. The production on ‘Tea For the Tillerman’ is also a little flat and monotonous. Stevens was at his best when roused to stretch his voice and give us some volume – Some dynamism to his singing. See ‘Miles From Nowhere’ for example.

The hits remain truly great songs though. Fine structure, melody and a searching for spiritual clarity resulted in such radio friendly songs as ‘Father and Son’, ‘I Might Die Tonight’ and ‘On The Way To Find Out’.

Once he found his devotion to Islam, Stevens changed his name and quit the music business – the newly named Yusuf Islam stopped making music for a long time. Until now.

Something New.

Flash forward to September 2020 and Yusuf Islam is back making music. Yusuf has reimagined the album as ‘Tea For The Tillerman2‘.

The old songs are given new life through the singer’s more weary voice and the new production. The reimagined songs highlight a love of the blues and North African influences. Some of the bluesy modifications are simply inspired – for example see the lead guitar on ‘Hard Headed Woman’ and the slide on ‘Miles From Nowhere’. ‘Wild World’ swings delightfully and on ‘Father And Son’ Yusuf sings with his younger recorded self to dramatic effect.

This is a new take on a classic which is well worth visiting. Even if you didn’t have Room-Mate-Rowan as a Cat Stevens drill sergeant in your impressionable university years, you’ll likely relate to both of the album versions well. The original album was so solid that Yusuf is able to use it as a fine launching pad to express himself today. I’m a fan of the new version over the older one. Listening to the two in close succession is fascinating and well worth the effort, as is looking up the new eco-themed music videos (simply beautiful animation) and album cover modification.

Home screen

I’ve had to buy a new iPhone. The old one died in a fit of convulsions. Dead battery, slow performance and broken screen – after four years it all seems to happen at once.

In setting up the new Beast, I’ve become interested in the layout and settings on my phone. In particular I’m concerned about how the default settings on an iPhone drive certain behaviours. Notifications, constant sharing of information and confinement to the Apple ecosystem are all worth considering, I feel.

And so I found myself at this site: Link

“Exhaustive” is the word I’d use for the article, but I also found it fascinating. It has resulted in the below home screen for my phone which I am liking very much.

I’m sure of every app here except for zero. Curious about fasting though.

These phones are running our lives more and more. From work to social interactions. As Ben Evans says, The smartphone is the Sun in our digital solar system. Everything else revolves around the phone. This being the case, it’s worth thinking about how we set up the phone and interact with it.

I’m very easily hooked into social media Buti am trying to set up the phone to make it easier to drive more productive and healthier habits than scrolling Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp all day.

A work in progress then. Happy Thursday chimps.

Hyperion update

Hyperion has become a sleeping aid for me. That sounds like a poor review of a book sending me to sleep, but that is not what I mean.

For various reasons I have had to get up a lot at night recently. This is fine, but lately my mind has begun to race around, skipping from one thought to another which keeps me awake. Hyperion is what calms me down and focuses my mind on just one thing. The stories are so great and eventually I nod off to fantastic images of talking dolphins and portals across time and space. It’s kind of trippy to have so many nights with those stories running through my head.

Usually I am able to turn of audible before I fall asleep. Otherwise the story just keeps playing in my head and the next night I am hours behind and completely lost! I can mostly figure out what has happened, but after twenty hours of narration and a few nights leaving the story running on my headphones whilst I snore away, I definitely have some gaps.

Last night I finished the sixth and final chapter and I just have the prologue to go tonight.

Still highly recommended.

Happy Thursday chimps.

Impetus

It is often the big events which give new impetus to a project or a lagging goal.

I was busy before the pandemic and now I have a very busy life. So far COVID 19 related lockdown has been a blur of work, babysitting, house cleaning, logistics. I know I am not alone and many people have even more to do than me. I also know some people are going through this lockdown with no work and no children to worry over. I wonder what that’s like??…..But I digress.

Impetus itself is a mid 17th century word from Latin. It comes from impetere ‘assail’, from in- ‘towards’ + petere ‘seek’. This suggests a searching and overcoming of obstacles. Impetus is often an externally generated thing in my life. I wish it was more internally driven.

Start of a new streak. Here’s hoping I have the impetus to keep it going for at least 30 days.

Keep well and happy Monday chimps.

Sci-fi views

We are in lockdown in a beautiful location. We are lucky. There are regular scenes resembling a cover of a sci-fi novel.

Peach and pink sunset over the bay, the sea was perfectly still as a navy submarine, half submerged and performing a routine drill, cruised past like an alien ship in the evening. All the while a bright white moon hung in the pink sky. La Luna smiled down on us from the other side of the bay, almost scraping the pastel colored mountains which surround us like one of Mars’ orbital rocks.

On another morning, further out to sea a pod of hundreds of dolphins were in a feeding frenzy. They gorged themselves on a huge shoal of smaller fish which they had trapped. A boiling, choppy circular mass moved along through the water until the feeding was done. From high up here it looked like one of Jupiter’s storms passing by.

Now at night time the darkness of the water fills up space from our viewpoint to the city. Far on the other side of the bay is where the water ends and the city starts. I see an amber glow and winking, yellow lights floating on the blackness of the sea. The city is like a huge mothership hovering on the ocean.

Look for the sci-fi around you because it’s surely there.

Happy Tuesday chimps.

Developing a concept

The addition of ‘escape the jungle’ to my blog’s main menu is taking shape. I plan to add a few sub menus to cater for all the things in life that help me to escape the jungle – to be less chimp and more rational being. Less anxious and more free.

So far I have art, design, productivity and psychology.

Within these categories I will post my favorite stuff. There will be subcategories too I guess…sport goes somewhere. This is the stuff I love and enjoy. The stuff that makes my life better.

Happy Sunday chimps.