Favourite albums of 2012

“You mean you actually liked that album?”
“This list sucks!”
“What sort of top ten doesn’t include album X by artist Y?”

Those are the kinds of gormless responses you’ll often find posted under lists of the year’s best albums on music websites. No wonder Pitchfork doesn’t bother with a comments section…

At the risk of being pelted with virtual tomatoes, then, here’s my personal top ten for the year (in random order). These are, plainly and simply, the new releases I played more than any others. (Click on each cover for a YouTube taster.) Continue reading


So, the newly re-elected POTUS was in Southeast Asia last week, and his trip included a much-discussed-and-dissected visit to Burma. Political ramifications aside, I think that country is going to need a whole lot more hotel rooms in the near future to accommodate the tourist boom. Lodgings were few and far between when I was there in late 2010, and with the recent “opening up”, plus the Lonely Planet stamp of approval, and the buzz about the first-ever US presidential visit to the place, I’m guessing that Yangon International Airport will only get busier and busier.

(I have a soft spot for that otherwise uninspiring airport, by the way, because it’s where I first heard that my book had been accepted for publication.) Continue reading

Little Red Dot

This morning I went jogging for the first time in yonks. It was the 10km Run For Hope, an event that raises money for cancer research; so, a very good reason to lace up the sneaks.

It was also a glorious morning, weather-wise. After yesterday’s deluge and minor flooding (I was fittingly at a screening of Skyfall when the heavens opened), Singapore turned on a show: vermillion sun rising over the Straits, deep-blue canopy above, rippling bottle-green water in the harbour, and other assorted colour-related cliches. It made me wish I had my camera with me. (It certainly couldn’t have made me jog any slower.) Continue reading

Outstanding! Hurrah! Thanks in your sweat!

Bad book review got you down? I suggest you start a blog. In no time at all, you’ll be on the receiving end of a whole bunch of relentlessly cheerful and laudatory spam messages. These messages are bound to lift your spirits, singling you out for your brilliant writing skills and giving you a great big virtual slap on the back. Sure, the English is stilted – even nonsensical at times – but the sentiment is clear. And here’s the great thing: no matter how vigilant you are about deleting these messages, they just keep stacking up, day after day, night after night. I’m told that this phenomenon is referred to in the industry as Black Hat SEO, but hey, whatever. It’s awesome! Hurrah!! Here, then, is just a small sample of the hundreds of exclamation-mark-laden eulogies I’ve received in recent weeks (because, you know, I deserved them): Continue reading

Megabytes of Mahal

Transcript of a discussion last weekend between my wife and me, concerning our recent trip to India (Delhi, Jaipur, Agra):

Gill: So, how many photos did you end up taking over there?
Shamus: Not sure.
Gill: I reckon you must have taken two thousand. At least.
Shamus: In one week? No chance!
Gill: But every time I saw you, you had that thing glued to your face, clicking away at something.
Shamus: Rubbish! I bet I didn’t even take a thousand.
Gill: [later, after she’d watched me empty my memory cards from camera to computer] So? How many was it?
Shamus: Um … two thousand and fifty. Continue reading

I came, I saw, I festivalled

So, I’m just back from a festival in Byron Bay. No, not Splendour in the Grass, though as a former regular attendee of Splendour, I’m sorry I missed that one – even with the three feet of diatomaceous ooze that apparently covered the site as a result of rain, mud, spilt beer and dunnies.

I’m talking instead of the fantastic Byron Bay Writers’ Festival. This was my first literary festival as one of the participating “artists”, for want of a much more appropriate word. It was a nice coincidence that it was in my home town. I took part in three panels, all of them enjoyable and all with big and appreciative crowds. (Thanks, folks.) Continue reading