Said and Read – March 2018

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February and early March were months of grave loss and anxiety. I was only peripheral to the losses, but central to the ‘support offensive’ in all cases. Thus when my reading steered me toward thinking on grief and consolation, it hit nerves (this applies to at least half the things I read).

The last part of March felt a bit like a lonely waiting game, stale waiting rooms in familiar outposts, always with the Kindle in hand because… who knows how long one has to wait anywhere she goes? People often ask me how I manage to read so much, and this is how. I never go anywhere without my fully loaded Kindle. I never know when I’m going to be forced to wait… for some office to open, for a delayed plane, taking a long train journey… even five or ten minutes when my companions excuse themselves to discipline or put their children to bed or take a phone call. Every single minute is one in which I can immerse, for however short a time, myself in some other world, some facts I didn’t know before. I am obsessive in this way, and when I am not feeling like a slug, I tend to the extreme: ultra-productivity and speed.

It is in this way that, as March comes to an end, I’ve read 115 books so far this year. Sure, I am a bit behind on my stated original goal of only reading non-English-language books (or at least reading 26 such books alongside all the others), but I am still making progress on that front as well. Some languages read more slowly than others (for example, I read a very short German-language play, and it took time because, well, German is not actually a language I know. With a background in linguistics and Scandinavian languages and English as well as a rudimentary course called “German for reading knowledge” that was a requirement during my university years, in which I did not learn German for reading – or any other kind of – knowledge, I can piece together the language in written form, spurred on by my late-in-life enthusiasm for contemporary German television (Babylon Berlin, Deutschland 83) and German/Berlin-themed tv (Berlin Station, Counterpart) and my own on/off Berlin-based life).

And that brings me to my reading recommendations for March:

*Betriebsunfall im Olymp” – Roxane Schwandt
Yes, the aforementioned German-language drama mentioned above. If you don’t know/read German, this probably isn’t for you, but it’s a timely, satirical take on the geopolitics of our time and the underlying valuelessness of humanity while at the same time assigning a price tag to the commoditization and automation of life (devoid of humanity). I didn’t know what to expect but was impressed by its incisive grasp on and illustration of the absurdity we live in today.

“Die Freiheit, sich mit der Waffe seiner Wahl umzubringen.”

*One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich/Один день Ивана ДенисовичаAleksandr Solzhenitsyn/Александр Солженицын
Ivan Denisovich might not be the most original choice, but it’s one that I took up in its original Russian (having read it once in English about 20 years ago and skimmed it again just before reading it in Russian this time). It’s fascinating to compare originals to their translations (something I ramble about at length frequently); in this case, many of the sentences in the English translation feel much more convoluted than the somewhat stripped-down and direct quality of the Russian ones. I think this takes away from what is much more powerful in the original – embellishing the simplicity of the language does not add to what is essentially a gritty and brutal story of life in a Soviet gulag. Had I read the original Russian in college when I should have, I’d have seen the unfamiliar word contextualized appropriately and would have learned that no, in fact, “посудомойка” is not a dishwashing machine, as my hapless fellow students and I learned when our Russian instructor laughed at us for thinking such an abjectly foolish and improbable thing.

Translation is a funny thing, and not unlike a form of lying, or at the very least a (wildly) subjective interpretation of something. I’ve long considered its implications, and attempt, when possible, to avoid translations (which isn’t always realistic). This partly explains my drive to read more original-language works this year. Thinking back to the university years, I am reminded of how professors referenced specific “authoritative” translations of specific works; reading Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman – which I recommended without reservation last month – this same theme recurs. Its prickly protagonist is a translator and complains about the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of some translations and the particular contexts in which certain translators come to render their versions of the translated reality. What stuck with me was that this narrator uses the well-known Constance Garnett as the primary representation of these failings, and Garnett was always the go-to translation of specific Russian-language works back in college. I often wondered back then about how and why a translation eventually becomes the ‘anointed’ one. Alameddine expresses perfectly how it ends up playing out:

“The memory seems both real and unreal, reliable and tenuous, solid and insubstantial. I wasn’t even two when he died. I must have configured these images much later. Childhood is played out in a foreign language and our memory of it is a Constance Garnett translation.” (from –An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine)

*The Master of Insomnia: Selected PoemsBoris A. Novak
Along with Tomaž Šalamun, Novak is one of two poets from Slovenia that I have never been able to get enough of.

“My only home is my throat.”

*Bright, Dusky, BrightEeva-Liisa Manner
I’m a poetry hoarder. What can I say? The lean, spare imagery of Finnish poetry always gets me.

*Giovanni’s RoomJames Baldwin
How beautiful this book is. At once simple and complex, it’s somehow a perfect marriage of so many themes alongside elegant but not overwrought language.

*Fugitive PiecesAnne Michaels
Often my favorite poets, whose work I can revisit repeatedly and always find something new, write prose that I can’t stand. This is true of Marge Piercy, whose poetry is so vital that I can’t imagine a life without having read it, but whose prose books are tremendous labors to get through (with, I must say, no payoff). But Anne Michaels? She extends her command of the language from poetry to poetic prose and weaves such a beautiful and sad story.

Good – really good – but not great

*They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill UsHanif Abdurraqib

“America, so frequently, is excited about the stories of black people but not the black people themselves. Everything is a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, or a march where no one was beaten or killed.”

*Gjennom nattenStig Sæterbakken
It’s in Norwegian and the final book Sæterbakken wrote before he took his own life. Contemplation on grief and loss. It’s available in English translation.

*Kaddish for an Unborn Child Imre Kertész
Difficult but beautiful reading. For so many reasons.

“common knowledge that we don’t know, and can never know, what causes the cause of our presence, we are not acquainted with the purpose of our presence, nor do we know why we must disappear from here once we have appeared, I wrote. I don’t know why, I wrote, instead of living a life that may, perhaps, exist somewhere, I am obliged to live merely that fragment which happens to have been given to me: this gender, this body, this consciousness, this geographical arena, this fate, language, history and subtenancy”

*Sadness is a White Bird Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Beautifully written story of a young Israeli man, recounting in ongoing-letter format his close friendship with two Palestinian siblings, and his own conflicting feelings about his service in the Israeli military.

“’Does Darwish have any poems that aren’t so political?’ Nimreen took a deep drag, and when she spoke, her voice was wrapped in a cloud: ‘There is nothing ‘not political’ in Palestine, habibi.’”

*VisitationJenny Erpenbeck
Conceptually interesting but didn’t grab me the way Erpenbeck’s other works have.

*SepharadAntonio Muñoz Molina

Entertaining/informative/thoughtful or some combination thereof

*Dead People Suck: A Guide for Survivors of the Newly DepartedLaurie Kilmartin

“REMEMBER: If you are a Late Orphan, check your Old Parent privilege. Yes, you have suffered a loss, but if you had your parent for more than three decades, you still won.”

*IndependenceAlasdair Gray

“A lower standard of living combined with a higher standard of education explains why so many Scottish emigrants have settled successfully abroad.”

Not everyone is going to be into this one; as Gray himself writes, it’s a kind of ‘pamphlet’ by a Scot written for other Scots on the subject of Scottish independence and related matters.

*Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and SexMary Roach

“It didn’t matter. Testicle madness was in full bloom.”

A somewhat humorous Sunday drive through many different topics as subjects of scientific studies on sex, sexual behavior, response and sexuality. It is surprising how many conversations one can innocently stumble into on the subjects covered in this book – everything from length of ejaculatory trajectory to penile implants.

Coincidences

*The AttackYasmina Khadra
I mention this one because I got about 20% into it, thinking, “This is so familiar. Did I read this before?” And then I remembered that I’d seen a film adaptation, L’attentat. That explains it. I preferred the film for some reason – might just be because I saw it first. But ultimately, I read the book the same day I stumbled on an episode of NPR’s Invisibilia podcast that deals with the subject “We All Think We Know The People We Love. We’re All Deluded“. And this is at the heart of The Attack‘s protagonist and how he didn’t know his wife at all.

*We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesKaren Joy Fowler
This is another one that I was speeding my way through without thinking much of it, but I hit a certain point when there’s a surprise/reveal, and I realized I was reading a book some guy told me about sometime in 2016. He had never told me the title or much about the story, but he had expressed with considerable anger about how “betrayed” or “misled” (things he seems to have been obsessed with in every facet of his life) he felt by the story’s twist. Now having accidentally stumbled into the book, which I could have taken or left, I think less about the book itself and more about his ‘bewildering’ (to use one of his choice height-of-condescension words) reaction to it. At the time it seemed awfully reactionary, but in hindsight, so much about him seems that way.

Biggest disappointment

*Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisJ.D. Vance
I don’t know what I was expecting. I didn’t find this particularly compelling, maybe because this is in many ways so close to what I can observe in some of my own distant family. Beyond which, I am never impressed or taken in by anything that rests on the conclusion that a hard-won triumph against all odds is only possible in America, “the greatest country in the world”. No, not true. When stories or memoirs go down the lazy patriotism path, I stop paying attention.

Happily, I didn’t hate anything I read this month.

Press(ure) button: love

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Sometimes the squeeze you feel is like being in a trap, and all the mind can focus on is running – both figurative and literal. Running away, to anywhere, and literally … running there. Being unable to focus and fix oneself to one place, one destiny – to commit to one nature, one path. Jenny Erpenbeck writes in Visitation, which focuses on one single property that has changed hands over many decades:

“Someone who builds something is affixing his life to the earth. Embodying the act of staying put is his profession. Creating an interior. Digging deeper and deeper in a place where there is nothing.”

I thought about this a lot after reading the book, feeling closer to the idea that I could, rather than dig deep and plant roots, fill holes and run toward ever-greater nothingness. It could well be a case of feeling down, and thus inappropriately feeling sorry for myself. This will pass.

For a long time, my idea of running toward nothingness, or possibly emptiness, was to numb my mind with television. I mostly quit this vice, but there are still things I consume in this way – either as a process of multitasking or to disconnect briefly. Part of distancing myself from the unmemorable haze of visual opiates was the sense that I should reconnect with feeling, wherever that took me.

Perhaps, though, this sometimes makes me feel too much. Sometimes this is not a bad thing, and oddly, the ‘messages’ delivered are entirely unexpected. A show I am currently viewing, Counterpart, is a kind of sci-fi-ish thing that, while enjoyable and entertaining, has not offered a single episode that hasn’t in one way or another dealt with the concept of love and how unconditional love should be. Many characters have been playing roles with each other, hiding significant aspects of who they really are, and living lies. The recurring theme, though, is that to truly love someone, maybe you have to (learn to) love the lie.

The person you love is someone you may not truly know at all. Maybe you love the person they wanted you to love, the person they want to be, the person you want them to be. You may know the whole truth, live with some variation on that, but (choose to) love anyway.

“She’s human. She made mistakes. We worked through them. … I love her. I love her for everything she is and I love her for everything she isn’t. An in the end that capacity for love, the ability to love someone unselfishly is the only thing that will separate me from you.” (Counterpart)

This theme, weaving itself persuasively into the body of the show, is what makes me keep coming back for another episode. It’s thinking about this ability to love – and commit – to someone no matter what – and stick around for what happens, whatever unfolds, that brings me back to my first points. I do love unselfishly and unconditionally, but my own selfish desire to run, not to dig deeper and deeper into one place, that keeps me from sticking around for what happens.

 

February action

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February has historically been a month of inaction and hibernation for me – this one has been no exception. Last year I did jump on a plane to Berlin on a whim just to see a movie, and ended up in a mild debate with someone about the Holocaust while I was having lunch in a Jewish restaurant. Hmm. Seriously. It was a cold but bright day, and I was glad I had broken out of my routine to do something completely different, unexpected and spontaneous.

I had no intention of doing anything similar this year, but today I happened to see that Belle & Sebastian is in Oslo, so I quickly bought a ticket, got a train ticket and head over to Oslo in the afternoon. It’s not quite the distance of Berlin or somewhere further afield, but it’s still something (a band) I’ve wanted to see forever, especially as I have Glasgow so much on my mind these days. Bonus: Jane Weaver opens! Brilliant. Two birds, you know…

Any other day I might have ignored this urge to go, but I had a dream last night in which I kept wanting to do things but kept putting them off, and I started writing a poem in the dream, which I never had a chance to finish before someone would interrupt and drag me off somewhere:

If I light a fire, I will stay warm.
If I light a fire around myself, there will be no way back.

In dreams, never going where I want to go, but always with a fistful of melting popsicles.

Photo by Lindsay Moe on Unsplash

Random gum: Halloween 2017

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The Good Goo of Random Gum – Halloween 2017
The Last Toast to the World & Cosmos

So, even though we are a full month out from Halloween, I have been extraordinarily organized and have finished putting together my Halloween CD mix for this year quite early. The mailings have begun going out in the post.

And, as I have written in the note that accompanies the CD, the time has come at last – this will be the last of my random gum CD mixes. At least of the physical, postal-mail variety. As technology has rendered the CD a useless would-be Frisbee, I am looking for another solution for sharing music (other than Spotify playlists at least). I may still send cards/greetings by post because I’m still old-fashioned like that. But continuing this effort is fruitless. It has been a roller coaster of randomness these 13 years that I’ve been making and sending these mixes. And to reflect an end as random as this gum has always been, I’ve chosen fittingly strange and random music.

Although I have not expressed these sentiments in the letter I included with the CD, I do feel like I am shedding a skin – or some kind of layer(s) – again – as though I am preparing for something else. I don’t know what it is. But I have largely left behind my TV addiction, my baking addiction, and now this (and most of my postal letter writing in general). I don’t know why these things no longer interest me the way they used to, except to say that my disconnection from feeling and indeed, often, from actually living, has dissipated. The end of the embargo against living, I suppose, means that new things and new people occupy my time and, more importantly, my heart.

Until I do find a better and personal sharing solution, you can follow me on Spotify and also find the full track listings and descriptions on my blog. Normally I seek out and post the YouTube video of these tracks, but instead… here is the list.

01 Aliza Gabbai – “Mimigdal Shalom”
Israeli pop from the 1960s. Too cute
02 Rola Saad – “Min Bein Alkoul”
Because Lebanon
03 DIANA – “What You Get” …Echo comes back to your lonely room/Said my head, my heart, I can’t take it anymore…
Stuck so much in 2017 on the concept of place – real, imagined; in the world or in the mind
04 Savoy Motel – “Souvenir Shop Rock”
Nashville is for dancing
05 Tindersticks – “My Sister” …Here I am, this is me/I am yours and everything about me,/everything you see,/If only you look hard enough/I never could…
Had this spun up but was unsure til I talked to a Norwegian in the mountains who was listening to Tindersticks. “Our life was a pillow fight…”
06 Trio Esperança – “Filme Triste”
Yummy 50s-60s Brazilian pop. Can you see where we’re going here?
07 Dean & Britta – “Night Nurse” …I am the night nurse, I am the most/I am the visitor, you are the host…
08 Blouse – “1000 Years” …I move the furniture around/And trick you into lying down…
“I would never hurt you/Or disappear/I’ll love you for a thousand years”
09 Jillian & the Giants – “Mr Airplane” …I don’t even mind…
Up in the air. “Here we go again, sure was nice for a little while/That rosy pink glow/turns red hot when you go/Too high into the other side”
10 Aquaserge – “Virage sud”
Vive la France
11 Connie Kim – “Lý Luận Tình Yêu”
Vietnam. The 70s. What more can one say?
12 Snail Mail – “Thinning” …I don’t think there’s anything wrong…
13 The Horrors – “Sea Within a Sea” …So you might say/The path we share is one of danger/And of fear/Until the end…
For J, the sea within my sea – a sea of constant gentle waves interrupted with the occasional giant waves
14 Lindstrøm – “I Feel Space”
For me, it’s Norway meets Chicago
15 Melike Demirağ – “Hasret”
Türkiye!
16 Meshell Ndegeocello, Sinéad O’Connor – “Don’t Take All Night”
For the love of all that is good in the world
17 Weyes Blood – “Names of Stars”
Places like beauty, simplicity and the cosmos
18 U.N.P.O.C. – “Beautiful to Me” …From time to time I think I must be going blind…
The dear, green place that is Glasgow
19 Evinha – “Vou Seguindo”
Year 2000! Goin’ to Rio! (Naomi)… and our ears take us back to some other time (SD: “I’ll get a job some other time!”)
20 Palace Winter – “Soft Machine”
Not frequent that I get to include Denmark (especially with a dose of Australia). “Acting so obscene/Well by all means/Now that you and I are free/And I’m off my knees”
21 Kristin Hersh – “Nerve Endings” …We’re idiotic optimistics/Rubbing salt into my wrists/Till I feel almost nothing…
So far from soft-eject beige
22 Damien Jurado – “QACHINA”
Seattle. “I lost my mind, so I stepped out for a time/Went for a walk on a long road to unwind”
23 Khruangbin – “Ma Be Ham Nemiresim”
Texas, if you can believe it
24 Destroyer – “Hey, Snow White” …When the company goes public, you’ve got to learn to love what you own…
Oh, Canada…
25 Solar Bears – “Cosmic Runner”
Ireland
26 First Hate – “The One” …You treated me so carelessly/You kept imagining the one…
Copenhagen… another Danish set… so much like the 80s
27 Lea Porcelain – “Out Is In”
My sort of cities (Berlin/London)
28 Moon Duo – “Cold Fear”
Portland
29 Monomono – “Tire Loma Da Nigbehin”
Nigeria… and memories of Billy, Travis and me in happening Årjäng
30 Luna – “Chinatown”
Winter 2017
31 Suburban Lawns – “Flavor Crystals”
Sounds sort of fresh but is almost as old as I am; everything old is new again
32 The Breeders – “Fortunately Gone” …I wait for you in heaven/On this perfect string of love…
It’s so good those days are gone. The past, too, is a place. Both distant and near
33 Richard & Linda Thompson – “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight”
34 Mary Timony – “Return to Pirates”
Lost in the particular Mary Timony sound. “I cannot love you more/Said the doctor to the whore/I wanna be in the garden of love/Led by a lamb and a little white dove/I know you can/But I don’t think I can/Swim in your river/And sleep on your sand”
35 Miss Universum – “Fertilize” …I need a man, I need him quick/I need his sperm, I need his dick/I do not need to be seduced/I just need to be reproduced…
When I first heard this, I didn’t really expect it to be Swedish.
36 Hand Habits – “All the While”
“Bring me to the deepest pit/You can push me right off the edge/And when I show up in your dreams/You got away with it”
37 Eefje de Visser – “Ongeveer”
Dutched up. Almost convinced Dutch could be pretty…
38 Mark Eitzel – “The Last Ten Years” …Spent the last ten years/Trying to waste half an hour…
39 Aimee Mann – “Labrador”
“Daisy, you/shouldn’t do the things you do/but you’re just so incapable of changing/you lie so well/I could never even tell/what were facts in your artful rearranging”
40 Joel Alme – “The Way We Used to Beg”
Göteborg. “You were a cold hard stone/But how does it feel to be alone”
41 Teleman – “Glory Hallelujah” …However do you haunt me…
42 San Mei – “Until You Feel Good”
Thank you to Travis
43 Mallu Magalhães – “Culpa do Amor”
Gone back to Brazil, yet again
44 Mazzy Star – “Blue Flower”
Kitchen singalongs and traumatic high-school-era memories
45 Wooden Shjips – “Everybody Knows” …The longing for home/We’re only alone…
46 Aamina Camaari – “Rag waa Nacab iyo Nasteexo”
Bet you couldn’t have guessed I’d take us to Somalia?
47 Blonde Redhead – “Where Your Mind Wants to Go” …If it’s not me or you, then why?…
48 Jane Weaver – “The Architect”
Be the architect of your spaces and places
49 The Bombay Royale – “I Love You Love You”
Melbourne
50 Yma Sumac – “Karibe Taki”
51 Feist – “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You” …I was so disappointed I didn’t know what to do…
52 Young Marble Giants – “Brand – New – Life”
Cymru am byth
53 Eerie Wanda – “I Am Over Here” …And I found you and we make/Sweetest memories/Now I’m here and you are overseas…
We are the world: Dutch band, Dutch-Croatian singer
54 Hater – “Cry Later”
Malmö
55 Richard Hawley – “Tonight the Streets are Ours”
56 Tennis – “Night Vision”
Can’t listen to Tennis without thinking of Esteban
57 Guided by Voices – “Game of Pricks”
“Prick with fork” – love to my mom and to Naomi
58 The Novacs – “Found”
Airdrie! (The Scottish one, not the weird, middle-of-nowhere Airdrie in the Edmonton-Calgary, Alberta corridor)
59 Haifa Wehbe – “Albi Habb”
もう少し Lebanon
60 The Kills – “Monkey 23”
61 Big Thief – “Shark Smile” …she said woo/baby take me…
“She held us, gunning out 90 miles down the road of a dead end dream
she looked over with her part smile, caught up in the twinkle it could take awhile”
62 Linda McCartney – “I Got Up”
Getting up is also a place, a real place
63 Haley Bonar – “Kismet Kill”
“I was impossible when I was beautiful and now/Cartoon deaths just don’t seem so funny”
64 Blouse – “Trust Me”
Famous last words: “Trust me, I’m the one who loves you”
65 Globelamp – “Washington Moon” …I want a California sun/And a Washington moon…
66 Jessica Pratt – “Bushel Hyde” …Words mean more that they did before/In that other place…
67 Robyn Hitchcock – “Sayonara Judge”
October in Oslo
68 Linda Perhacs – “Chimacum Rain”
Lichen. Lichen. Lichen. Oh, dear T’Pow
69 Amália Rodrigues – “Abril”
I love Amália Rodrigues and was surprised to see that that particular tune was one of the least-ever listened to on Spotify. I decided to remedy that all on my own
70 Life Without Buildings – “Sorrow” …Difficult people slip away…
Glesga Glesga Glesga (Glasgow for those not in-the-know)
71 J&L Defer – “Hard Fiction Road”
For SD: Refer to theme song of Canadian children’s show “The Littlest Hobo” at this time. How’s that for random? Even though this is a band from Winterthur, Switzerland, y’know?
72 Wand – “Melted Rope”
“Desire, I barely thinking/In the dark/And life, life is what you wanted/It’s what you are”
73 Koncz Zsuzsa – “Keresem a szót”
Hungarian. And had to choose… for the name Zsuzsa. Just for Martina.
74 She-Devils – “I Wanna Touch You” …can you read my mind?…
Montréal
75 Kikagaku Moyo (幾何学模様)- “Kogarashi”
Tokyo
76 The Limiñanas feat Peter Hook – “Garden of Love”
To France and beyond
77 Yasmine Hamdan – “Samar – Oriental Skeee Remix”
No escape from Lebanon
78 Cold Beat – “62 Moons” …It’s cold but I don’t mind/I’m accustomed to ice…
The Bay Area…
79 Kerem Güney – “Sicak Bir Sevda”
Istanbul grooves
80 Alvvays – “In Undertow” …You made a mistake you’d like to erase and I understand
“What’s left for you and me?”…
On, on Toronto – pulled in and pulled under
81 The Magnetic Fields – “Strange Powers”
Song is so New York, so Las Vegas, so outer space
82 Cults – “Go Outside” …I think I want to live my life and you’re just in my way…
83 ShitKid – “Sugar Town”
Sweden remakes
84 Santo & Johnny – “Pineapple Princess”
Aloha from this arctic hula doll
85 Sam Cohen – “Kepler 62”
“Strange neighbors as you know/They come and go/They live in a world without you”
86 Imarhan – “Assossamagh”
Algeria/Tuareg
87 Whyte Horses – “The Snowfalls”
Manchester
88 Rana Alagöz – “Vah Bacim Vah Mehmedim”
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks…
89 EL VY – “Paul is Alive” …Nobody stays above/Out in the waves of love…
90 Carla dal Forno – “What You Gonna Do Now?”
Aussie. Transcends
91 Sanisah Huri – “Joget Malam Berinai”
Singapore/Malaysia. I said I’d show you the world, baby. I just didn’t say it’d be through your ears
92 Monument Valley – “Dear John Letters”
93 Lea Porcelain – “The Love”
94 Grizzly Bear – “Mourning Sound” …Let love age/And watch it burn out and die…
“I stare at the face/Looking through my eyes/I move at a pace/That I cannot survive”
95 Marjan – “Kee Seda Kard Mano”
Iran
96 Heavens to Betsy – “Axemen”
Like being in a high school gym pep rally (as in the song) or first miserable year of uni
97 Mia Doi Todd – “Pancho and Lefty”
A pretty version of best-songwriter-ever (and now-near-ubiquitous) Townes van Zandt tune
98 Pridjevi – “Ako Je”
Hrvatska
99 Widowspeak – “When I Tried” …I was more alive when I tried…
100 The Proper Ornaments – “Cremated (Blown Away)”
London. “I would like to be cremated and blown away…”
101 Věra Příkazská, Plzeňský lidový soubor, Lidová chodská, Zdenek Blaha – “Ó radost má”
Czech check. Love to Martina, Anne
102 Cigarettes after Sex – “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby”
“Whispered something in your ear/It was a perverted thing to say/But I said it anyway/Made you smile and look away”. Lovely but also sounds like it belongs in an 80s John Hughes romance
103 Adia Victoria – “Mortimer’s Blues” …Heaven help me how it hurts…
Back to Nashville
104 Patti Smith – “My Madrigal” …You pledged me your heart/Till death do us part…
“We waltzed beneath motionless skies/All heaven’s glory turned in your eyes”

Image by S Donaghy 2017

Random Gum: April Fools – April Skies 2017

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Random Gum – April Fools – April Skies – Q2-2017

The banditry of collecting music continued all winter and into spring. It was a strange time, a collection of moments, lasting no longer than that.

Moment
Adam Zagajewski
Clear moments are so short.
There is much darkness. More
ocean than firm land. More
shadow than form.

The postal versions (to those for whom I have postal addresses) are going out in the mail this week.

(Almost) complete track listing available on Spotify (as are all previous Random Gum mixes by accessing my Spotify profile). You can access all the past track listings, etc. here.

01 Ghada ShbeirToubayk’iidto
Such a beautiful, haunting start from Chants Syriaques album

02 Victoria WilliamsPoetry …Be sweet, be free, every day is poetry…
Introduced by William, who put this on a cassette mix 20+ years ago; I lost my copy of the CD & this was kind of a bitch to find because it exists seemingly nowhere (or very few places) digitally. Needed again as every day for me is poetry.

03 The Spencer Davis Group – Waltz for Lumumba
Finally read a book on Congo I’d been trying to get to for years. The chaos. Thoughts of Zaki ❤️.

04 His Clancyness – Pale Fear …sometimes I feel like a failure…

05 Tashaki Miyaki – Girls on T.V. …I’ll be the girl you made up in your head…
“I didn’t hear a word you said/But I love Kurt Cobain” Huh? Mention 1 of Kurt Cobain…

06 Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White – Grease
It’s like being a kid all over again only … updated

07 Television – 1880 or So
It’s always in the 80s – the French Revolution; Congo, Dunlop & his rubber tires; Tiananmen Square. SD❤️

08 VorderhausCatacombs …Have I the right to want you/Have I the right to love you?…
Listening loud on repeat ❤️: “Have I the right to want you, to say I love when I don’t see you?” Danke, ML

09 Lijadu Sisters – Life’s Gone Down Low …but it’s not too late for you and me if we hurry…
Can you resist Nigerian identical twin sisters doing tunes like this?

10 King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Billabong Valley …Outlaws on the run/Faster than a stolen gun…
Prolific Melbourne band – can only think of Jane❤️ when Melbourne comes up

11 Kate Tempest – Perfect Coffee …We’re Sisyphus pushing his boulder/the kids are all right but the kids’ll get older…
Only thanks to MP that I gave this a fair shake. Glad I did, eventually. Took a while.

12 The Breeders – No Aloha …Motherhood means mental freeze…
And goodbye, aloha, (no) thank you.

13 Broken Social Scene – Handjobs for the Holidays …It kinda takes the joy away, we don’t come at all…
“We’ve got eyes that leave us in places we don’t see”

14 Lovers – Igloos for Ojos
“Your breath is a voice, wet purring/A kiss on the mouth’s like an elegy/when you slide down next to me and say, ‘By morning this will just feel like a dream’/Your eyes are some cold home”

15 Jealous of the Birds – Tonight I Feel Like Kafka …And it scares me to think that nobody/Looks at me that way…
How did I end up with two songs that mention Kurt Cobain so prominently?

16 Amanda BergmanQuestions …I can find in my way baby knowing that this will be over too…
Still an Andreas ❤️recommendation that pays off again and again

17 Mega Bog – London

18 LUST – Mémoire
I love how the sound starts to melt, like relationships or events that devolve and dissolve into nothingness

19 Loose Meat, CibelleDaisy Chain

20 Omni – Wire …I’m nameless on hour twenty-four…
“You don’t get tired/As far as I can see/I’ve lost my sense of time & debut/I don’t require more than you could be”

21 Cherry Glazerr – Nurse Ratched …You’re so cold master, where do I begin?…
Thanks MP

22 Jaakko Eino Kalevi – Macho …Elle en a marre des machos/des machos ringards/des machos clichés/des macho men…
One from Helsinki’s favorite tram driver.

23 Blond Ambition – Shasta

24 Pictish Trail – After Life
Scotland, of course

25 Yasmine Hamdan – La Ba’den
Can’t resist a bit of Yasmine

26 Fabienne DelSol – I’m Gonna Haunt You …So softly I remind you/Of the ways you let me down…

27 Malcolm Middleton – Ballad of Fuck All …Oh I’m locked inside/Trapped inside this body/I can’t get out, and there’s not enough room/I’m glued to the back of this bone mask…
“Oh won’t you come for me/Comfort me in the night/I’m so tired of feeling sick and tired/Dying at life’s door all the time”. More Scotland. Who would I be without that particular overdose?

28 Scott Hirsch – Loss of Forgetfulness
Modern music with sounds from another time (sneaking suspicion that this is why Spotify started recommending Gram Parsons to me suddenly)…

29 Alexandra Savior – Shades …I’m always happy to be leaving/could be the company I’m keeping…
“Shouldn’t have come back/shouldn’t have switched it on at all/didn’t mean to hold you so close/but you know how it goes”

30 Fairuz – Salimleh Alayh
No words to say about the incomparable Fairuz

31 Mark Kozelek – Float On …and we’ll all float on okay…
“I backed my car into cop car the other day…” Somehow vaguely reminded me of the “African Arm taxi driver” story from ❤️Martina and Anthony❤️

32 Wire – Outdoor Miner …No blind spots in the leopard’s eyes/Can only help to jeopardize/The lives of lambs, the shepherd cries…

33 Chris Spedding – Video Life
“Meet myself on the action replay/Hope I get there right on time”

34 Angel Olsen – Woman …With no promise of the future/Am I not allowed/To think kindly of a stranger/Who reflects the sound/Of my heartache/As it’s beating/My life to the ground…
“You can leave now if you want to/I’ll still be around/This parade is almost over/And I’m still your clown”

35 Chromatics – Shadow …Can you hear me?…

36 Lambchop – When You Were Mine
A Prince cover; still seems strange that he’s dead

37 She Drew the Gun – Since You Were Not Mine …and to my lips too cold to speak/of a love just out of reach…
“Time refused to pass/though sand filled up the glass/each grain became the last/suggestion of our past”

38 The Yearning – When I Lost You
“But the world doesn’t know how I feel now you/Are out of my life, now you’re gone”

39 Elena Frolova  (Елена Фролова) – Mezhdu voskresnyem i subbotoy (Между воскресеньем и субботой)

40 Dougie PooleLess Young but as Dumb …Could you see that I haven’t learned a thing?…
“Cause I can see you now/Though I’m not sure I can handle the sight/The arms of a stranger, the light in your eyes/That’s making me wonder if I’m on your mind/See?/I’m less young but as dumb as the day that you left me”

41 Ulrika Spacek – There’s a Little Passing Cloud in You

42 Ruby Haunt – Crave
This song explains it all. It’s March, and I depart the station, heartbroken. “Listen to the girl, who waits by your side, in a simple world, no need to ask why, nothing’s gonna change, the people pass by, you feel no pain, as she starts to cry. Craving, craving some comfort. You can’t explain, the things on your mind, you’re on your way, you won’t rewind. It’s over with, no need to lie, you’re just a myth, but you know it’s fine. Craving, craving some comfort.”

43 The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Bout des doigts
❤️❤️❤️

44 California Snow StoryRailway Station
Bring on more Scotland

45 The Besnard Lakes – Albatross …Oh you showed me so much/Those days are now long gone…
“And I have to admit/Things got weird for a bit/And I scream for you/There goes my man…”

46 Lisa O’Neill – England Has My Man …England’s so lucky/I’m not sure they know/I’m feeling bold with ideas of us…
“Now I am calmer than ever before/He opened the grand can of beautiful worms/I waive my fears and I face the chance/No one got near when we first danced”

47 Dean Blunt – 100 …But we keep it going on/Feelings coming on/But the bullshit got too long, yeah…

48 Soft Hair – Lying Has to Stop …Our lives they never seem to coincide/But if it’s all right with you/I try to focus on another life…
For Jane❤️, with her infectious laugh and tantalizingly soft hair

49 Lucy Dacus – I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore

50 The Animals – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood …I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood…

51 Makthaverskan – Antabus
Yeah, it’s Antabus, not Antiabus! For SD❤️. Go on with your bad self, Göteborg music (even if some of it’s happening in Berlin)

52 BeverlyBulldozer …Cat is a machine pushing the rocks around/Bulldozer sleeping, dreaming up buildings…
For Annette❤️, loving human bulldozer, and her little Norm❤️ and his obsession with earth-moving machines

53 Ten Fé – Twist Your Arm
“And I give you love unconditionally/I give you love, what do you give me/I give you love, so I don’t understand/Why I gotta twist your arm/To hold your hand”

54 Archie Bell & the Drells – Tighten Up

55 The Holy – Ramses the Evil Brother
Finns from Funland!

56 Wild Nothing – To Know You …This is the circle that we live in/These are the people that we’ve been…
“So you gave a quiet light/My one chance at order/I won’t toss your way aside/For any corner of the world”

57 The Smoking Trees – Home in the Morning

58 Twin Peaks – I Don’t Wanna Miss You
“I could talk a girl right out of her clothes/I could talk myself into kissing your ghost/but you’re always on my mind”

59 Swim Mountain – Yesterday …Nothing could make us last this long/I wouldn’t have done it for anyone/Leaning forward to hear you say/ ‘I only wanted you yesterday.’…
“You said I live in my head/Never listen to the things you said/’Cause in love there’s always one/One who suffers and one who’s done”

60 Bill Patton – Alchemy …History tells us you don’t want to be native/but you don’t want to leave home either…
Seattle ❤. “If I make it to the fountain of youth/I will come home ridiculous and bearing syphilis/Travelling back in time has never been my strong suit/It’s just taken up all my time”

61 Ibrahim Maalouf – Will Soon Be a Woman (live at Babylon Istanbul)
The sound, movement, moment of the crowd carries you away

62 Ted Hawkins – The Lost Ones …We are the lost ones/seeking help from you…

63 Shallou – Motion Picture Soundtrack …I will see you in the next life…
“Stop sending letters/Letters always get burned/It’s not like the movies/They fed us on little white lies” (Radiohead)

64 Emel – Ensen Dhaif

65 Molly Burch – Try …Wouldn’t it be so nice if we felt the same/I wish you would try…

66 Frida Hyvönen – Amors förkastliga pilar
“Om jag mot förmodan blir kär igen/då ska jag inte agera/Bara andas väldigt lugnt/å låta det passera”. Tack så mycket, Andreas ❤️

67 The Dø – A Mess Like This …Are you a curse?/From bad to worse/Our affair/Helpless as I’m/Trying to react/You were the worst idea I ever had…
“Sometimes I wonder how I landed in a mess like this…”. Always thanking Bruno for the intro to The Dø

68 Allison CrutchfieldMile Away …Self-congratulatory mess/Yeah, you keep sleeping good at night/’Cause you’re inherently right…
“You’re acquaintances on a loaded train/You were spared rejection and it’s a dangerous thing/So you wake up confident every single day/You retire your own decency, you exonerate/And you’re blaring ‘Nebraska’ while she tortures you from a mile away, mile away”

69 Brigid Mae Power – Sometimes …Sometimes I just want to collapse into you, you/But I don’t know if you want me to/Or, if I should?…
“Shouldn’t I be okay out here on my own?/Living in my little home? No needs from others, doing it all by myself”. God, this makes me ridiculously sad.

70 Jesca Hoop – Memories Are Now …I fell for that light, shame on you/You’ve got this idea, I can be fooled/Again with the light shame on me…
There is only now. “If you’re not here to help/Go find some other life to ruin”

71 Elvis CostelloRadio Silence …he’ll tell you anything you want to hear…
“Libraries filled up with failed ideas/There’s nothing more for me there/I trust in tender ink and gentle airs”

72 Jesus & Mary Chain – April Skies

Photo (c) 2016 Anders Sandberg used under Creative Commons license.

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“Din’t I tell ya aboot that time I went doon the toon and got masel a perm?”

What has it come to when you discuss Tom Skerritt, and it ends up being a singing match – two people belting out Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” as if their lives depended on it?

“Turning and returning to some secret place to hide, watching in slow motion as you turn to me and say…”

Does erasing the “I” from the beginning of a personal statement make it impersonal? I am beginning to think so.

A few weeks ago, in the swarm of depressing inactivity, I watched the series Santa Clarita Diet; it held no interest for me at all – not my style. But still, Timothy Olyphant (I still miss Justified). He is the draw, right? Going mad seeking a cure for his zombified wife, the couple has this little exchange:

“You seem really manic, honey.” (Drew Barrymore, as his wife)
“I feel really manic.” (Timothy Olyphant, manic, excited and convincing)

“If only for today/I am unafraid…”

Dubbing needs drubbing

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I confirmed and reconfirmed no fewer than three times that the film I went to Berlin to see would be in English (its original language) with German subtitles. But you just can’t trust the Germans when it comes to dubbing versus subtitling. Turns out it was dubbed into German – except for the songs, which were subtitled. Yes, it’s a musical, and therefore primarily music.

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But that doesn’t mean you have actually subtitled the movie when all the dialogue is forcing Ryan Gosling to speak unnatural German. In that sense, it was a hilarious footnote to this adventure – I would not, as I told someone afterwards, watch a dubbed movie at home if someone paid me to do it, but today I spent considerable time, effort and money just to get to and watch a dubbed movie. However, it is a testament to the power of the film that I could still leave feeling moved and crying. I didn’t expect to – with all the hype, it being a musical (two strikes, automatically), not being particularly fond of Emma Stone either way and not that keen on what appeared to be a love story. Not to mention that it didn’t grab me the first minute or even in the first 20 minutes (especially, of course, because it was in German haha). But even in English it really wasn’t doing it for me. I don’t know when or how it changed, but there were small moments that started to win me over.

But again I can’t even be irritated about the dubbing. The experience of just running off and doing something different and virtually unplanned was enough. Uneventful flight, gorgeous but bitterly cold Berlin weather, visiting some favorite sites, everything running smoothly and on time, nice lunch at Jewish restaurant, Masel Topf, in Prenzlauer Berg, watching the police assigned to guard the synagogue pace back and forth.

And good film, if a bit strange – like the time I saw a Norwegian film in Mexico before I ever lived in Norway or gave Norway or Norwegian a second thought. As soon as I sat down in the cinema, I thought, “Hmmmm.” Norwegian voice, Spanish subtitles. Brilliant.

I did figure out finally what made me feel I had fallen out of love with Berlin when I was considering moving there last year. It was that for me it is not a city to do by myself/by oneself. It has always been something I explored or wanted to explore with someone, so wandering around alone actually felt empty. I had forgotten that I felt that way sometimes when I was working there. Other cities have not been like that – Swedish cities don’t feel that way to me, for example. But I feel a bit lost – not literally – but emotionally untethered without a Berlin companion, strange as that sounds.

And now it is definitely and desperately time for sleep – only about six hours to go until I can achieve that.