hedgehogs

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Half a Hedgehog
Miroslav Holub
The rear half had been run over,
leaving the head and thorax
and the front legs of the hedgehog shape.

A scream from a cramped-open
jaw. The scream of the mute is
more horrible than the silence after a flood,
when even black swans float
belly upwards.

And even if some hedgehog doctor were
to be found in a hollow trunk or under the leaves
in a beechwood there’d be no hope
for that mere half on Road E12.

In the name of logic,
in the name of the theory of pain,
in the name of the hedgehog god the father, the son
and the holy ghost amen,
in the name of games and unripe raspberries,
in the name of tumbling streams of love
ever different and ever bloody,
in the name of the roots which over-grow
the heads of aborted foetuses,
in the name of satanic beauty,
in the name of skin bearing human likeness,
in the name of all halves
and double helices, or purines
and pyrimidines

we tried to run over
the hedgehog’s head with the front wheel.

And it was like guiding a lunar module
from a planetary distance,
from a control centre seized
by a cataleptic sleep.

And the mission failed. I got out
and found a heavy piece of brick.
Half the hedgehog continued screaming. And now
the scream turned into speech,

prepared by
the vaults of our tombs:
Then death will come and it will have your eyes.

a love supreme – anti-valentine – random gum of february 2018 soundtrack

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a love supreme – anti-valentine
february 2018 – the good goo of random gum

01 The Supremes – Love is Like an Itching in My Heart
“Just an itching in my heart and I can’t scratch it”
02 Cate le Bon – Are You With Me Now?
03 Margo Price – Hands of Time
“Turn back the clock on the cruel hands of time”
04 Nana – Menino Carioca
05 Mary Lou Lord – I’m Ahead If I Can Quit While I’m Behind
06 BC Camplight – You Should’ve Gone to School
07 Sandie Shaw – (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me
08 Sibylle Baier – Softly
Here’s to hidden women making their belated mark
09 Grizzly Bear – Losing All Sense
“Like a rogue wave you/Wash right over me/Losing all sense of what my body could feel/I was able to drift away from here/I have lost all control”
10 Gingerlys – Incandescent
11 BRONCHO – What
12 Sofia Freire – Canção da Bruxa
13 Dita von Teese, Sébastien Tellier – Bird of Prey
14 Marta Kubišová – Už se léto schovává
…Hang up the Czech habit. Love to Anne, to Martina, to Mr MI
15 Claudine Longet – Medley: Jealous Guy/Don’t Let Me Down
16 Belle & Sebastian – I’ll Be Your Pilot
All the Glaswegians
17 Nap Eyes – Delirium and Persecution Paranoia
18 Angel Olsen – How Many Disasters
19 The Supremes – Forever Came Today
20 The Barry Sisters – Vyoch Tyoch Tyoch
Can’t resist a Yiddish song, now can we?
21 Tommy Allen – Ghosts in the Walls
22 The Fall – There’s a Ghost in My House
RIP Mark E. Smith – who seems like the type to linger as a ghost in another dimension, tormenting people for all eternity from the beyond.
23 Jenny O. – Lazy Jane …I’m feeling blue/Cause I can’t have you…
“I’m never gonna be a cheerleader/I can’t do tricks/And I ain’t that sick”. For all those so far away now I will never get them back
24 Emma Gatrill – Odd Ones Out
“Don’t judge a book by its cover/Its façade is simple, simple to see/But by twenty pages in/You’ll find the story is not what it first seemed”
25 Over the Rhine – Latter Days
26 Al Masrieen – Men Awel Deqiqa
27 The Fall – Feeling Numb
One can only feel numb at the passing of Mark E. Smith (RIP), knowing the end probably could easily have come earlier. Still, the only good thing about his death is that I have learned about so many more people in my circles who are fans of The Fall, and I might never otherwise have known.
28 Hollie Cook – Desdemona
29 Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou – The Homeless Wanderer
Ethiopia
30 The Fall – Big New Prinz
I didn’t think much about how The Fall served as a soundtrack thread through most of my life until the recent passing of the cantankerous Mark E. Smith. All the way back to my adolescence, when my friend Terra and I would be sucked in by the aggressive sounds of “Big New Prinz” (and the rest of the songs from the same album), and not too long thereafter when my bricklayer pen pal Peter in the north of England would send me mixed cassettes that included loads of The Fall. And then how Naomi and I would share this connection and even see The Fall together many, many years ago. The Fall continued to help me forge surprising connections through the years.
31 Renata Zeiguer – Follow Me Down
32 Duke Garwood – Blue
33 France Gall – Laisse tomber les filles
34 Mattiel – Whites of Their Eyes
35 Yo La Tengo – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
36 Slow Club – In Waves
“You can’t tell me you’re not like this/Staring down the pages of the shit you’ve missed/Hoping you’ll find a way to change/Days spent waiting in my living grave”
37 Julia Lucille – Darkening
Such pretty sounds “As I’m darkening I must go alone”
38 Brigitte Fontaine – Une fois mais pas deux
39 Ofege – It’s Not Easy
Nigeria
40 Luwten – Pinball
“I am the pinball/I am the deer/I hear the shot/I disappear”
41 Mogwai – I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
“Jim Morrison… Van Morrison more like!” For S (naturally with an additional nod to Glasgow in Mogwai)
42 Wooden Wand – Mexican Coke
Martina! You know if it’s Mexican I will tag you!
43 The Fall – British People in Hot Weather
I had been an avid anglophile as a kid/adolescent, and I don’t really know what happened to make me so negative on the English. Still, The Fall has been something of a ‘negative soundtrack’ all along.
44 De Lux – When Your Life Feels Like a Loss
45 Ramona Lisa – Dominic
“Forgive me if I was too forward too fast”
46 The Fall – Powder Keg
And what else is the world today than a powder keg?
47 Sexores – Bluish Lovers
Ecuador
48 The Supremes – Someday We’ll Be Together
…but will we?
49 The Psychedelic Furs – Sister Europe
“Words are all just useless sound” … for all my Furs friends
50 Tori Amos – Josephine
51 Cowboy Junkies – Cowboy Junkies Lament
Memories of college-era road trip with my Russian class, all long disappeared, all of us singing together in that fleeting moment of closeness. And the long, lost Townes van Zandt, who wrote this song for the Cowboy Junkies. “There’s a hole in heaven where some sin slips through/Close your eyes and dream real steady/Maybe just a little will spill on you”
52 Al Green – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?
“I could never see tomorrow/I was never told about the sorrow”
53 The Cranberries – No Need to Argue
RIP Dolores O’Riordan. I remember listening to this song on repeat one year during college – it had such a sad, resigned finality to it that resonated with me (as I greeted endings, particularly of relationships with this kind of sad resignation. I have never been the type to really “freak out” and go crazy). This seemed like the perfect anthem for that kind of sad acceptance. Much as we must go forward with sad acceptance when people die too soon.

Follow me on Spotify to find all my random gum soundtrack playlists.

Flakes like feathers

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How is it that I have never written about Prague before? Actually, this is not totally true. It got a brief mention in a recent post on 1999. Prague has not been a huge part of my life, but at the same time it has always been on the periphery. My Russian, eastern and central European studies years – all the literature, history and folk music. My brother and his friend making fun of my folk music purchases. The dear friends with Czech roots. Friendships and strange connections to this place. The memory of traveling to Prague for work in a change-infused period soon after I had left Iceland for Norway. The trip with colleagues to Prague for a photo shoot (and ending up, haphazardly, at a random restaurant we still refer to as “the old place” because we went in there first, left, wandered around aimlessly looking for somewhere else to eat, but ended up back in “the old place” – which was technically the first place. It was called U vejvodů, which I remember because I am that kind of person – the one who remembers the name of every place and street, even years later). The constant travel back to the Iceland for which I felt desperately homesick. The even more constant pull of Paris affairs. It’s no wonder that in those first dark months, Oslo felt more like hell than home. I was never even there.

How could all of that have been nine years ago already? How is it that it has taken nine years to find my way back to the old place?

Photo Ryan Lum

“Crimes against books” and “compacting human heads”…

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“Mounds of human heads wander into the distance.
I dwindle among them. Nobody sees me. But in books
much loved, and in children’s games, I shall rise
from the dead to say the sun is shining!”

Osip Mandelstam

It has been, rather forgotten by me, more than ten years since I first read Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude. I recall finding the book in a 1 dollar pile of discards in a bookstore south of Seattle. Having read I Served the King of England in the summer of 1999, on the tail end of my first visits to the Czech Republic and the eastern and central Europe I had been reading and writing about from afar, it had always been a struggle to find this literature. The Czechs I had met to that point seemed hell-bent on a kind of chip-on-the-shoulder arrogance about their superior intelligence and artistry, possessing a tortured soul and an impossible language for anyone but them to understand. Guarding it closely – almost jealously – as though it would diminish what they had if anyone else could get a glimpse of the brilliance. I imagine this attitude being more a Cold War-era hangover than anything else. But I don’t know. My path, which at that moment in 1999, was still at least partly paved with stones from the Slavic studies academic arena, did not wind in that direction.

“‘How much more beautiful it must have been in the days when the only place a thought could make its mark was the human brain and anybody wanting to squelch ideas had to compact human heads, but even that wouldn’t have helped because real thoughts come from outside and travel with us like the noodle soup we take to work; in other words, INQUISITORS BURN BOOKS IN VAIN. If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh…‘”

In my recent rereading of Too Loud a Solitude, I discovered an Amazon.com “review” (I won’t really call it that so much as I will call it a collection of notes about things that struck me while reading the book) that I posted in 2003. I had forgotten the review, but there were little bits I had remembered from my previous reading.

For example, quotes, such as “It is from books that I’ve learned the heavens are not humane”. Or better yet, the narrator referring to his tale as a “portrait of the artist as an old mushroom face” (which recently took on even more immediacy when a friend described someone’s morning face as looking like a “used teabag”). Reading the book again, the same imagery jumped out at me – the art and its destruction mixed among garbage. The onslaught of technology, wiping out a way of life or a particular job. Or a theme we discuss at work sometimes – the destruction of beauty. One colleague, who lived for some time in Mexico, marveled at the hard work and skill that Mexican women put into creating the most elaborate piñatas – only to see them destroyed, beaten violently until the candy hidden inside exploded out onto the ground. Perfect analogies for the transitory and temporary nature of beauty. It is only here for a moment. The ‘hero’ of Too Loud a Solitude spent his life operating a wastepaper compactor and extracted the lesson that there is beauty in destruction.

Even current events seem to touch upon the timeliness of the message and imagery – for example, the conscientious (if strange) dumpster divers who go looking for treasures in the garbage because we live in the kind of society when people throw away insane amounts of perfectly good things – food, furniture, appliances. Our throwaway society with its millions of starving people (in the US for example) disposes of and destroys everything. It is no wonder we see people as disposably.