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To finally finish one of those songs I've been so slowly working on...
I'm a bit of a nomad. Not by choice or design, simply by the way that life has taken me. Since October 2003, I've only been back in the UK about 2 years. Again, not by design, but I've lived in three quite different Catholic cultures during this time: Poland (Warsaw), Spain (Granada) and Portugal (Lisbon). I feel that the experience has given me an amazing and rich perspective on those other cultures, an opportunity to meet people from all over Europe, to learn other languages - and quite above all - perspective on my own culture and an amazing insight into myself.
Moving around has its downsides, and I've felt quite disconnected from people and place for the last few years. I've finally managed to find a place that I think I'll settle (for a little while, at least) in Brighton, and hope to make many friends and have a rich, fulfilling live here, full of life, love, laughter and other things beginning with L, like lemon sherberts, lovely lederhosen and lesser spotted lyre birds.
The Grizzly Details
-Unpack your adjectives. Although my English anti-vanity/self-description warning sensors are buzzing while I write this, I would describe myself thus:
boisterous, breezy, calm, cheerful, complex, delicate, dreamy, eccentric, fun, gentle, happy, hedonistic, humourous, ironic, mellow, literate, melancholy, nocturnal, passionate, reflective, romantic, sarcastic, silly, sweet, thoughtful, whimsical.
(depending on the weather, stars, how the tea leaves arrange themselves in my sink, how much I've had to drink etc)
-I'm open and honest. Sometimes this works against me, but I believe that telling the truth to yourself and others and acting with openness is key to happiness and successful coexistence.
-I'm a bit of a freak of nature: I was born with six fingers on my left hand, I'm left-handed, suffer epileptic fits from flashing lights (the last of which left me with 3rd degree burns on my foot), am double-jointed in both my thumbs, and have four nipples (two of them no bigger than moles).
-I love when a song makes my stomach tingle and the hairs on my back rise like a frightened cat, it makes me feel like I'm flying instead of walking.
-I have spent weeks and weeks organising my music collection, if that makes me obsessive then I'm guilty as charged?
-If I burn bread I think it's the end of the world. Especially when it's sourdough as they take about four days or so to produce.
-I can't stop eating chocolate even though I worked at a nutritional organisation. It makes me feel good when I eat it.
-I used to cycle to work every day without a helmet listening to my ipod - how irresponsible. Now I just walk.
-I have a tendency to buy more books than I can read. Knowledge is better than clothes, I suppose.
-I'm not religious but not convinced that we're living in an ordered, structured universe without any magic.
-Magic may exist, it may not, but I'm not about to jump on the next self-improvement/spiritual healing/gong-bashing/crystal-divination bandwagon just because it sounds nice to me. I'm a open-minded scientist who needs to see something to believe it.
-I've not quite yet found a niche for myself and as such, don't feel like I belong anywhere at the moment. But actually, I'm kind of taking it easy on the whole niche front and concentrating on enjoying myself.
-A friend of mine said that 'You've got to trust that life will give you what you want.' It's been a rough ride, these last couple of years but it's slowly coming to me.
Some Indian civil rights dude (Ghandi) said:
"Live like you're going to die tomorrow, learn like you're going to live forever".
That stuck with me.
I'm a little more savvy about my own philosophy these days and would describe myself as open-minded, self-critical, liberal, pragmatic, empathic, emotionally aware and grounded (with a tuft of hair in the clouds).
Why I’m on Couchsurfing
HOW I PARTICIPATE IN COUCHSURFING
I really started being an active local CS member when I moved to Granada a couple of years back. I was a moderator of two of the Granada groups, I also attended and co-organised weekly language exchange meetings hosted people while I was there. I then moved to Lisbon where I started a weekly meet for Lisbon Couchsurfers. It's still going strong even though I'm not there any more - with 40-50 members attending every week.
Now I'm in Brighton, I've also been quite active in the local group, I'm moderating the forum and have also started to organise weekly meetings to get the CS community a little more active in my new town. I'm also living in a bigger house so am able to host a little more.
The best kind of experiences I've had have all been personal. Meeting great people on the CS network, both in the town where I live and those that I've hosted.
So far I've hosted:
Agnieszka from Poland
Anu from Estonia
Livia and friend from Brazil
Melanie and friend from Scotland
Amelie and friend from Paris
Shiri from Israel
Victoria from England
Reto and Solmaz from Germany and Iran
Klara and friends from Germany
Simona and friend from Italy
Karie from the US
Patrick from the US
Adriana from Barcelona
Kwang Yang from Korea
Susana from Colombia
I was very active in the Granada CS and organised and attended the weekly meetings regularly.
During my time in Lisbon, after being inspired by my Granada CS experience I started a weekly meet in January 2010 in a local cultural collective, which to my knowledge, is still going.
I'm now moderating the Brighton group and trying to kick-start things locally here for the CS group.
Cooking, photography, cheese and beer making, writing, computing, music (writing and listening), film (watching and making), participating, community living, web 2.0, nature and wildlife, walking, cycling, mushroom hunting, artisan food...
I have been on a bit of a break, but now am resuming composing and singing music on an acoustic guitar. For some stuff I recorded a few years ago, check out my myspace page here: www.myspace.com/jamestorr
I made a documentary film during my time in Warsaw about an English teacher who believed he was being poisoned by a group of friends, so left the country and informed them by a third party that he'd died. I'm very proud of the results, although it isn't quite finished.
Watch the first minutes of the film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl9BBHEL964
And more clips from it here:
For some youtube films (some silly some serious) have a look at my profile:
For more photos, I'm putting stuff up on trekearth: www.trekearth.com/members/jamestorr/
My music taste, laid out bare for all to see:
Music, Movies, and Books
Good movies, TV and music are my things, and I pride myself on having good taste in all of them. Although taste and pride aren't exactly virtues, it's better to have them than to not - as long as one doesn't look down on others for having any less.
All the greats, particularly Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Gene Clark, CSN, Dr John, Fleetwood Mac, The Clash, The Faces, Rod Stewart, Creedence, The Milennium, The Zombies, Love, Big Star, Van Morrison, Dennis Wilson.
Modern Alternative Rock - my main passion
Joy Division, The Replacements, The Pixies, Yo La Tengo, Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, Wilco, Grizzly Bear, Department of Eagles, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Beirut, Doves, Elbow, The Cure, Dinosaur Jr, Gang of Four, Lavender Diamond, Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Mogwai, Morphine, M Ward, Stereolab, The Clientele, Teenage Fanclub, The High Llamas, TV on the Radio, Jeff Buckley, Whiskeytown, Elliott Smith
Fred Neil, Tim Buckley, Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Espers, Vashti Bunyan, Gillian Welch, Linda Perhacs, Anne Briggs, Nick Drake.
Django, Miles, Coltrane, Mingus, Ellington. Chet Baker, Billie Holiday.
Phew! Where to start... Caetano Veloso, Jorge Ben, Gal Costa, Baden Powell, Secos e Molhados, Os Mutantes, Erasmo Carlos, Tim Maia, Gilberto Gil, Marcos Valle, Tom Ze, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento, Lo Borges, Quarteto Novo, Egberto Gismonti, Os Novos Baianos, Antonio Jobim, Elis Regina, Marisa Monte and her Tribalistas...
Latin America - Spanish Speaking
Astor Piazzolla, Juana Molina, Violeta Parra, Lila Downs, Almendra, Arco Iris, Color Humano, Crucis, Gustavo Cerati, Invisible, Martia Gris, Mercedes Sosa, La Maquina de Hacer Pajaros, Moris, Pescado Rabioso, Sui Generis, Los Jaivas, Victor Jara, Quilapayun, Congregacion, Piero, Aterciopelados, La Revolucion de Emiliano Zapata, Dug Dug's, Lhasa, Traffic Sound, El Kinto, Los Tres.
Camaron (mostly the La Leyenda del Tiempo album), Los Brincos, Albert Pla, Amparanoia, Bambino, Bebo y Cigala, Barrabas, Cecilia, Dolores Vargas, El Guincho, Lole y Manuel, Las Grecas, Los Canarios, Kiko Veneno, Medina Azahara, Musica Dispersa, Nacho Vegas, Peret, Standstill, Triana, Vainica Doble, Sisa, Picnic.
5'nizza (Ukranian Reggae/Folk - amazing stuff!), Marley, Burning Spear, Culture, Ernest Ranglin, Freddie McGregor, Jimmy cliff, Keith Hudson, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mishka, Lee Perry, Yabby You, Steel Pulse, The Abyssinians, The Congos, The Heptones, The Mighty Diamonds, Toots and the Maytals.
Al Green, Betty Wright, Curtis Mayfield, Darondo, Donny Hathaway, James Brown, KC & the Sunshine Band, OV Wright, Nina Simone, Minnie Riperton, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, The Isley Brothers, The Neville Brothers, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis, any Atlantic, Stax or Eccentric Soul compilations - Motown is OK but I prefer something a little rawer.
Portugal Just getting into some great music from Portugal, but I'm liking so far:
JP Simoes, Rodrigo Leao, Egyptian Kings, Pluto, Mler Ife Dada, The Weatherman, Banda Do Casaco, Carlos Paredes, Jose Mario Branco, Saturnia, Quarteto 1111, Filarmonica Fraude, Sergio Godinho, Cla, Jorge Palma... Watch this space.
Super Mama Djombo (my new love), Ali Farka Toure, Amadou and Mariam, Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Mulatu Astatke, Orchestra Baobab, Toumani Diabate. Compilations like: Angola 70's, Ethiopiques series, Desert Blues, Golden Afrique, Nigeria 70, The Psychedelic Sounds of West Africa.
Aphex Twin, Plaid, DJ Shadow, UNKLE, KLF, Mouse on Mars, One Dove, Orbital, Four Tet, The Aloof, The Beta Band. Warp compilations...
Films - Where to start!
Some of the highlights with, hopefully, a good mix representing my general tastes: Wicker Man, Evil Dead 2, Harold and Maude, The Apartment, The Big Lebowski, North by Northwest, Raiders of the Lost Ark, It's a Wonderful Life, There Will Be Blood, Princess Mononoke, Donnie Darko, Life of Brian, Princess Bride, Withnail and I, Spinal Tap, Harvey, Once, Spirited Away, Persepolis, Laputa Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa Valley of the Wind, The Exterminating Angel, Jaws...enough?
TV - This one's a little easier to do.
I'm not going to apologise, but I love trashy US entertainment - so consider that a forewarning. Lost (not series 2 or the first half of 3), Heroes, Buffy, Angel, 24 (series 1 - before it became neo-con/facist/Gulf war pre-emptive strike propaganda), Family Guy, South Park, Dexter, Doctor Who (occassionally). On the less trashy side: Six Feet Under, The Wire, West Wing, River Cottage, anything with Keith Floyd from the 80s, Northern Exposure, 30 Rock, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Father Ted, Arrested Development, Deadwood and The News. Actually I don't really watch news any more.
The main thing for me is depth. I love rich, emotionally deep art that isn't just about happy or sad, consonant or disonant. I love art that describes all of the shades of grey in between the human experience. Art should enhance my emotional and intellectual life - not just sit in the background simmering away, or put on for dancing (although I appreciate both of those too). But then sometimes I just need to stop thinking and turn my brain off for a little bit.
One Amazing Thing I’ve Done
I don't believe that superlatives have to be grand. The world is big and small at the same time. So here are some small things that have amazed me recently.
Playing guitar in the park on Sunny afternoons watching the world come and go. Writing my first new song after four years of retirement.
Drinking fresh orange juice and coffee for breakfast every day.
Listening to jazz jam sessions and dancing my funky ass in Booga on Sunday nights in Granada.
Finding that my sister is one of the most amazing people I'll ever know after going through a family tragedy together.
Connecting to the Spanish and Portuguese cultures through their music. Then sharing it with all my friends, song by song on Facebook.
Spending an afternoon hanging out in the front of a cave watching the world go by, donkeys bray, dogs bark and cockerels crowing.
Doing an exercise in a documentary filmmaking book sitting in a cafe in Granada one afternoon to discover my 'artistic identity' and uncovering so much more about myself.
Teach, Learn, Share
I've spent three years teaching English, so would be happy to exchange language skills.
I know a little bit about mushrooms, so would love to show people some of that.
I'm a good photographer and could help anyone to take better photos.
I've got a great understanding of computers and many applications for use on them - film/photo editing, blogs, CMSs.
I love cooking and would be happy to learn/teach anyone anything I can. I specialise in bread baking and Indian cuisine, but know a little about Polish, British and Italian cooking too.
I'm fascinated by evolutionary biology/psychology and am grateful that this world was opened up to me during my studies. Even though I'm not following that profession any more. I have quite a good understanding of how the mind works, though I'm still learning. I'd like to share my ideas on emotions, intuitions, rationality and the relationship between these three areas of consciousness with anyone who'll listen and even give me some ideas on expanding my theories.
Countries I’ve Visited
Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine, United States
Countries I’ve Lived In
Poland, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom