November came at last – Random gum soundtrack 2017

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Giving thanks: “November came at last…”
“Eight billion zeroes is still zero/If you got no heart” Random gum – November 2017

Listen on Spotify. Find some of the tracks below for download (which are not available on Spotify). Or request a physical copy – I’m not doing the large-scale CD burning/package endeavor en masse any longer, but if anyone wants a physical copy and a package with some random candy in it, please comment (will leave the comment private).

1. This is the Kit – “Les Plus Beaux”
2. I Was a King – “Frozen Disease” …November came at last…
Discovered while seeing Robyn Hitchcock in Oslo in October. Lovely Norwegians
3. Michou – “Maloya ton tisane”
Maybe the only time I’ll include a singer from Réunion…
4. Jessie Ware – “Selfish Love” …why do I do these things/I break you down just to get my way/darling you do it too/you tell me lies and I bend the truth…
5. Marjan – “Kavire Del”
In Iran again
6. Whitesnake – “Here I Go Again”
Nothing I thought I would ever include, but – as he does – SD randomly added it to his ‘repertoire’ and started singing it on the regular to make me laugh… and well, here it is. And it truly is the right song for him.
7. Robyn Hitchcock – “The Abyss” …I don’t know what is true/but my compass points to you/when it’s quivering like this/in the abyss…
For J. Finally got to see Hitchcock in Oslo in October after 30 years of waiting and wanting…
8. Vorderhaus – “Minor Activity” …love and regret I’ll never truly forget… 
9. The Cry – “Alone” …With a piece of paper as blank as night and the words don’t seem to come out right and you ask yourself again is this for me?…
10. Mai Lệ Huyền – “Có Ai Trên Đời Mà Không Yêu
Seems to go along with all the Vietnam-related stuff around me now (the Ken Burns documentary, the fiction I read just before that by Bao Ninh and the memoir by Tim O’Brien earlier in the year)
11. Chastity Belt – “Caught in a Lie” …I’ll take a shot of whatever you’ve got/But it’s not going down that easily…
Walla Walla. Thoughts of M
12. Laser & bas – “Spela Shoreline”
Sweden, of course
13. Orange Juice – “Rip It Up” …I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out…
Glasgow classic
14. Velvet Condom – “Samt und Stein”
15. Throbbing Gristle – “Hot on the Heels of Love”
16. The Sonics – “Psycho” …Tell me baby/Am I just your clown?…
1960s Tacoma. For SD, cut-out marionette
17. Crybaby – “I Cherish the Heartbreak More than the Love that I Lost” …a happy ever after, well, baby/it just wasn’t us…
18. Ariel Pink, Weyes Blood – “On Another Day” …now the soft attraction has gone…
“She’ll swear some weak excuse/To gain more time/Changing sides like friends/To satisfy her quicksand ego/When life falls short again/She’ll crawl away”
19. Promised Land Sound – “She Takes Me There” …it seems she’ll never let me in/like emotion is a sin…
Nashville
20. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “Asshole” …she’ll do anything to make you feel like an asshole…
RIP Tom Petty; always think of the scene in the old sitcom Wings when the character Lowell claims that Tom Petty is the world’s handsomest man…
21. Cults – “I Can Hardly Make You Mine” …Still I lead on the days/like a loaded gun…
“But I know you’re not the one or the only/But we both know what it’s like to be lonely”
22. Jean-Louis Murat – “À mendiante rousse”*
I can never get enough of these musical treatments of Baudelaire
23. Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve – “Diagram Girl”
24. The Pastels – “Nothing to Be Done” …I’m ready for you, sweetheart/Now my mind is open wide…
More Glasgow, of course, and truth: “Remember what was meant to be this year/The past is a disaster/And the future’s coming faster now”
25. Otis Redding – “These Arms of Mine”
I dare you to not love Otis
26. Cigarettes After Sex – “I’m a Firefighter”
Wandering Oslo with Annette on a day when firefighters were everywhere; joking about chasing fireman cock for lunch, remembering Yoga Fireman from so many years ago
27. Alex Chilton – “Hey! Little Child”
28. Men I Trust – “Tailwhip” …I’m happy as I am/cause I’m leaving…
Montréal. “This country dog won’t die in the city”
29. Lia Pamina – “Cards on the Table” …I hide away from close encounters/I never let my feelings be known/I’d rather burrow deep into my hole…
Spain! What in the hell is going on in Spain? For J
30. Roy Orbison – “The Comedians” …it’s always something cruel that laughter drowns…
An Elvis Costello tune recorded by Roy Orbison; my mom and I have always joked about this song (especially the “who held the lever that could bring me down” lyric) even though it is quite sad
31. Bedřich Smetana, Wiener Philharmoniker – “The Bartered Bride, JB 1:100: Dance of the Comedians”
Czech Czech Czech. Love for Anne, Martina. Reminds me so much of Academic Decathlon in high school – love for Mike, Amanda, Terra, Leighanne, etc.
32. Nahid Akhtar – “Dil To Kya Cheez Hai”
33. Bubblegum Lemonade – “The Only Constant is Change”
Another constant: Glasgow
34. Camper Van Beethoven – “Sweethearts”
Like a slice of junior high school: “McDonnell-Douglas olive drab/They bear the names of our sweethearts/And the captain smiles, as we crash/Cause in the mind of Ronald Reagan/Wheels they turn and gears they grind/Buildings collapse in slow motion/And trains collide. Everything is fine”
35. Front 242 – “Tragedy >For You<” …With that skill that was hers alone/She drove her clutches into me/I was dumbfounded/She was hungry/She required me entirely…
Belgium. Reminds me of sophomore year in high school though I like this much better now than I did then. It’s great for staying awake during long, late-night drives
36. Danielle Dax – “Tomorrow Never Knows”
37. Jane’s Addiction – “I Would For You”
Another brand on the brain – junior high school, getting this album from my old friend Jeremy as a gift and not really appreciating it until much later, but isn’t that always the way?
38. LCD Soundsystem – “One Touch” …Complicated people never do what you’re told to…
39. Radial Spangle – “Patio Furniture” …it’s not gonna matter in a couple of days/it will all melt…
For my beloved, hardy, robust patio furniture
40. Aimee Mann – “Disappeared” …Somehow I wound up on your bad side/Til now, I guess I had a free ride…
41. Chaz Bundick Meets the Mattson 2 – “Star Stuff” …I could be wrong in saying/Everything falls into place…
42. Bunny Girls – “Why That Person?”
Korea
43. Hot Chocolate – “Heaven is in the Back Seat of My Cadillac”
I think this song is ridiculous. Right after I stumbled on it, I was at one of the Norway-Sweden border malls and saw this weird dude drive into the parking lot in a Cadillac (not a common car in Sweden) and then kept running into him inside the mall where he made a point of smiling creepily at me… ugh
44. St. Vincent – “Fear the Future” …In our bed, in our room/I come for you, come for me too…
45. Dolly Parton – “I Couldn’t Wait Forever”
46. Happyness – “Surfer Girl”
47. Kevin Morby – “Beautiful Strangers”
48. Martha Wainwright – “Ayoye”
49. On Dead Waves – “California” …The sun sets in California…
50. Monika – “Take Me With You”
51. Lea Porcelain – “Endlessly”
52. Onuma Singsiri – “Mae Kha Som Tam”
Thailand
53. Saint Etienne – “Out of My Mind” …Is this the end? I need to know/If it’s the start of something, where does it go?…
Love for Ben, Naomi
54. Jo Stafford – “The Gentleman is a Dope” …He’s somebody else’s problem/she’s welcome to the guy…
I do indeed enjoy cooking/baking while singing this at the top of my lungs
55. Jeremy Jay – “Airwalker” …Where can we go where the lights are low?…
56. Cabaret Voltaire – “Spies in the Wires” …ingenuity my secret rival…
57. Beck – “Up All Night”
Another good one for driving in the middle of the night
58. Heron Oblivion – “Beneath Fields” …Dreams from the days of suffering…
59. The Apostles – “Don’t Huzzle for Love”
Nigeria
60. Frank Zappa, The Mothers of Invention – “Trouble Every Day”
Timeless, thus timely, spot-on shit
61. Vincent Delerm – “Super Bowl”
Because who doesn’t pretend to like Joe Montana with ulterior motives?
62. Delicate Steve – “Don’t Get Stuck (Proud Elephants)”
For the dainty SD
63. Jessica Lea Mayfield, Dan Auerbach – “(David Bowie I Love You) Since I Was Six”
64. Laibach – “Sympathy for the Devil (Time for a Change)”
Another take on a classic… from Slovenia
65. Death in Vegas – “Dirt”
66. Dent May – “Face Down in the Gutter of Your Love”
67. Oumou Sangaré – “Koukoun”
Mali
68. Fiji Mermaid – “Lipsticked Lips of Yore” …transfixed by the lipsticked lips of yore…
For J.
69. Arik Einstein – “Beit Ha’arava”
Israel: the mystery man uncovered
70. Y La Bamba – “Orca”
Portland, Oregon
71. Jacky – “Dog and Pony Show”
For Martina; hoping she is not in a new dog-and-pony show
72. Eleftheria Arvanitaki – “Ta Schoinia”
Greece
73. Keren Ann – “My Name is Trouble” …My game is endless I tend to obsess/No game is up to my need to possess…
Worldly: Paris/New York/Tel Aviv
74. Echo & the Bunnymen – “Seven Seas”
Always loving the way “tor-TOYZ” gets pronounced; pretty sure this song will remind me of Halt & Catch Fire and Gordon Clark for the rest of my life
75. Death and Vanilla – “Moogskogen”
It will not surprise you that this is Swedish/from Malmö
76. Tropic of Cancer – “Distorted Horizon”
77. Maysa – “Vai Via Malinconia”
Brasil
78. Eivør – “Silvitni” …og eg gloymi mína óró/minnist aftur mína eydnu…
It won’t be often you’ll get something Faroese
79. Goat – “Talk to God”
A strange one from Sweden
80. Insecure Man – “Subaru Nights”
81. Mehrpouya – “Soul Raga”
Persian pop time
82. Part Time – “Honey Lips”
83. Googoosh – “Talagh”
Quite the mix: Iran-Azerbaijan
84. Robyn Hitchcock – “I Want to Tell You About What I Want” …I want a non-invasive kind of telepathy…
“You think I’m un-generous? Really? In what way?/The more you give someone the more they want from you”. “We’re replacing ourselves with artificial thought/And that could be our legacy/Before the feline dynasty/Scampers over history”
“Eight billion zeroes is still zero/If you got no heart”
85. Marching Church – “King of Song”
Denmark. Somehow this song also seems ideal for driving
86. Kleenex/LiLiPUT – “Die Matrosen”
Switzerland all-girl band, late 70s/early 80s; sadly the guitarist died last year
87. Jim James – “Same Old Lie”
Seems to be a social protest song of sorts; good timing
88. Reigning Sound – “Never Coming Home” …Upon each broken part of my heart/is the wear and tear of many years…
The American South. This sounds like something from many decades ago, maybe not only because of the sound but because of the reference to a “long-distance call”, which used to be such a big deal
89. Eleftheria Arvanitaki – “Fysa Psychi Mou”
One of those random discoveries in college
90. Holy Shit, Ariel Pink – “Written All Over Your Face” …Truth, it never really came between us…
“Keep every little scrap of paper/You never know what you’re gonna need/Your memories are sad distractions/Get so bright you can’t even see”
91. Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer” …Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire…
92. Jack Cooper – “North of Anywhere” …Too scared to say the wrong thing…
93. Takako Minekawa – “Fantastic Cat”
The Japanese and their cat love. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like cats
94. Rotary Connection, Minnie Riperton – “I Am the Black Gold of the Sun”
95. Natalia Lafourcade, Los Macorinos – “Mexicana Hermosa”
For Martina
96. Robyn Hitchcock – “Light Blue Afternoon” …and there’s no derailing destiny/she’s a single-minded girl…
“If you were not so aggressive/I’d feel pity in my heart/but your rage is so possessive/I just don’t know where to start”
97. Martina Topley-Bird – “Valentine” …they release you then you turn to see/Make it feel all right/The only thing is that I didn’t…
Somehow always makes me think of dear Jane. “I feel around and still you’re here”
98. St. Vincent – “Slow Disco”
Perfection: “Am I thinking what everybody’s thinkin’?/I’m so glad I came, but I can’t wait to leave”
99. Jean-Louis Murat, Morgane Imbeaud – “Héautontimorouménos”*
“Pour abreuver mon Saharah/Jaillir les eaux de la souffrance/Mon désir gonflé d’espérance/Sur tes pleurs salés nagera”
100. Broadcast – “Echo’s Answer …the message sent was of discontent/from incline to incline…

*Amazing songs but not available on Spotify.

Image (c) 2017 Stephen Donaghy

Random Gum – Anti-Valentine Signs – Spring Dump Soundtrack 2014

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As to what I think of the void that is Valentine’s Day

I and Thou
Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia)

Your lips have never kissed me, you’ve never
drunk snow. You melancholy moment, frigid
under these snowdrifts. Let me ask a cruel question –
do you still heat your igloo? I cast a spell on you

and tore your limbs off. And those creases deepening
in what was once a godlike brow, perhaps you’ve even lost
your right to them. You haven’t hurt me more, you haven’t.
Little mummy, aborted flower, the memory of you fades.

Oceans divide us, and you’re jaded. The hard stone
hopeless, smeared with silicate. We shall yet make love,
and I shall grease those beehives yet. My desire has weakened

now, you’ve won, you are indeed a void. And I,
the tree-lined path of countless others, contain your red heart,
gone rigid, too. I have gurgled with happiness only in you.

Valentine Signs – Spring Dump
Random Gum – Winter/Spring 2014

The complete Spotify playlist – where the songs exist (not all are available on Spotify)…

1. Brenton Wood – “Gimme Little Sign” …if you don’t want me/don’t lead me on, girl…
A great way to start. Driving the icy roads of the Swedish 172

2. Bill Withers – “Ain’t No Sunshine” …ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone/and she’s always gone too long…
My friend Terra and I used to laugh at this one for the repetitive “I know I know I know I know I know” lyric.

3. Robyn Hitchcock – “My Wife and My Dead Wife” …and I can’t decide which one I love the most/the flesh and blood or the pale, smiling ghost…
This has a bittersweet quality – does one’s long-lost love keep appearing after they’ve passed on? “You know I don’t take sugar”. Somehow makes me think with love of my friend Jared, and his late wife, Hulda. RIP

4. Mojo Nixon – “Elvis is Everywhere”
After writing about people’s tendency to quote Bill Gates (“content is king”) I set the record straight; “Elvis is still the king”.

5. Primal Scream – “Country Girl” …Country girl take my hand/Lead me through this diseased land/I am tired I am weak I am worn/I have stole I have sinned/Oh my soul is unclean/Country girl got to keep on keeping on…
January day in Oslo: mistakes, forgiveness, love. Thanks to Stephen. My Oslo-based Primal Scream connections.

6. The Legendary Pink Dots – “I Love You in Your Tragic Beauty” …You always wore the same dress/always bore the same expression/It’s a loveless world/So what’s the point of looking?…

7. Neutral Milk Hotel – “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” …and one day we will die, and our ashes will fly/from the aeroplane over the sea/but for now we are young/let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see…
Letting go of trying to control things that logic has no hand in. For SD, ZM

8. Cass McCombs – “Sooner Cheat Death than Fool Love”
“I wish I never met you, of that I’m sure, I ain’t any better off than I was before…”

9. Laurie Anderson – “It Tango”
For my dear Jill.

10. Amanda Palmer – “Runs in the Family” …business is business/and business runs in the family…
With love for Roxane.

11. Hot Chocolate – “Every1s a Winner”
Something relentless about the sound of this song that makes it impossible to stop listening. It is an “activity song”, whatever that means.

12. Liz Phair – “Fuck and Run”
Thinking about Lóa, and “Fuck Mattresses Anonymous” (an imaginary AA-like organization)

13. Calvin Harris – “Acceptable in the 80s”
As my brother wondered, what was acceptable in the 80s? Shoulder pads? Cocaine?

14. Tom Tom Club – “Genius of Love”
“All the weekend/Boyfriend was missing/I surely miss him/The way he’d hold me in his warm arms/We went insane when we took cocaine.”

15. Grace Jones – “Pull Up to the Bumper” …just pull up to my bumper baby/drive it in between…
We can blame Grace Jones for the fact that Dolph Lundgren has/had an acting career.

16. Robyn Hitchcock – “Your Head Here” …I walk a thousand miles to be alone…
“Everyone you care about/say you’d never do without/walk away, forsake or doubt/see them fade and flicker out/faces on the phone/Everything that you rely on/tentacles of blood and ??/pillows that you want to cry on/promises that you get by on/Life is all I own…”

17. Pulp– “Pencil Skirt” …when you raise your pencil skirt/like a veil before my eyes…
For Stephen, who knows what a pencil skirt and heels are all about. “Oh it’s turning me on”

18. Lyubov – “Fire” …but forever was a day/and we just ran out of time…

19. Stevie Wonder – “I Don’t Know Why” …I never knew how much love could hurt til I loved you, baby…
“Always treat me like a fool/kick me when I’m down/that’s your rule…”

20. Robyn Hitchcock – “Sixteen Years…Sixteen calendars with nothing in the frame/you said you’d pencil me in/but you don’t know my name…
“You pegged me for a fool/but I’m the one to blame/I played a pretty neat fool for you/but you don’t know my name”

21. The Everly Brothers – “Bye Bye Love” …Bye bye love, bye bye sweet caress, hello emptiness, I feel like I could die…
RIP Phil Everly

22. Gary Walker & the Boogie Kings – “Who Needs You So Bad?”
Bittersweet end of the tv show Treme.

23. Pascal Pinon – “Ekki vanmeta”
Missing Iceland and my friends there. “Hann á heima nær en þú heldur/Ekki vanmeta fjarlægðina”

24. Os Kiezos – “Saudades de Luanda
For Kristie and the inexplicable “saudades

25. Minor Alps – “If I Wanted Trouble” …this growing up it never ends/the same mistakes come back again…
Last days as a tram rider, ending the Gothenburg period. And repeated mistakes!

26. The Bluetones – “Slight Return”
For Stephen.

27. Robyn Hitchcock – “Old Man Weather”
Madly in love with Robyn Hitchcock – as usual, as always, hence the elaborate presence here.

28. John Lennon – “Nobody Told Me”
Reflecting on the fact that the Liverpool airport is named after Lennon.

29. The Smiths – “William, It Was Really Nothing”
For the Smiths-quoting, dirty storyteller. “How can you stay with a fat girl who’ll say, ‘Would you like to marry me? And if you’d like you can buy the ring…?’”

30. Thin Lizzy – “Bad Reputation”

31. Robyn Hitchcock – “Ordinary Millionaire” …I don’t know where you’ve gone from me/I know you don’t belong to me/I only know you’re there…
“I always find a reckoning/always find you beckoning…” A nice song from Hitchcock & brilliant Johnny Marr. “I’ve got no love/’Cause it’s not in my DNA”

32. Mekons – “Sheffield Park
One of the nicer memories of junior high/high school.

33. Terakaft – “Imgharen win ibda”

34. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” …I’ve got a love that keeps me waiting…
For Stephen. “I’m so above you, it is plain to see, but I came to love you anyway…”

35. Girls in Hawaii – “Switzerland”
For Jared and the love for Switzerland.

36. Sam Phillips – “Pretty Time Bomb” …it’s easy to change your name/but hard to change your life…
“Start counting, everybody/it’s gonna blow/Pretty time bomb/You’re a mirror of your time”

37. Big Summer – “Do It Alone

38. Sarah RabDAU – “Self-Employed Assassin…you should have loved me…

39. The Male Choir of Valaam Singing Culture Institute – “Riga Advising Stockholm
I can’t explain the presence of this song. Its sound just overpowers.

40. Cowboy Junkies – “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
For Stephen and the sad, longing sound of old country & cover versions that are even sadder than originals

41. Robyn Hitchcock – “Harry’s Song”…Nothing wants you like tomorrow…/Nothing tortures you like how it could have been…
“But I don’t know anything about you/Anymore”. The end of the Gothenburg li(f)e.

42. The The – “My Heart Would Know”
Dug out my old copy of The The’s album of Hank Williams covers – the marriage of two greats.

43. Os Kiezos – “Muxima”

44. Dionne Warwick – “Walk On By”
Song for coming to work on a holiday without knowing it was a holiday (set off all the alarms). Happy new year to me!

45. La Luz – “Easy Baby” …but in the evening/how things change…

46. Tanga – “Eme n’gongo iami”

47. ABBA – “Voulez Vous”
For Gary and the uncomfortable sexuality of the 1970s.

48. Paula Cole – “Feelin’ Love”
Probably the first song S. told me to listen to and I did not do it for weeks afterward; it’s fitting.

49. Peggy Lee – “Waitin’ for the Train to Come In”
All the songs that sound ridiculous – as in, my life can’t begin til my man comes home from the war. Opening the door to my would-be 1950s lifestyle.

50. Elvis Presley – “Love Me” …break my faithful heart, tear it all apart, but love me…
Reminds me of Kevin circa 1996 but no longer makes me sad. Memories of other lifetimes.

51. Patsy Cline – “Crazy”
For SD my Glaswegian firewall

52. Cowboy Junkies – “Mariner’s Song” …The last of man’s great unchained beasts lies/lapping at my door/I would give it what it wants, but I do know,/it would just ask for more…
For Mark and all the things we could not be. “In the storm you are my/destination, in the port you are my storm/But I would weather you my love, if you would be my guide,/if you would be my stars in the sky tonight”. I am no one’s port in a storm.

Random thoughts and cookie dough

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Grooving on loud music at 5 a.m. Hot Chocolate – Every 1s a Winner (not a whiner!)

I am going to make a bunch of cookie dough today and stick it in the freezer to bake next weekend. Time before the holidays is short. Must bake!

I am thinking about ways to give my 2014 the best possible chance for success, and more importantly, happiness and fulfillment. PLAY WITH BABY TIGERS! Build a treadmill desk! Knock down the superfluous upstairs walls! Fall in love with some lovely Parisian (even though s/he won’t have a Scottish accent!) and host next Thanksgiving in Paris! Go to more live shows – have more music in my life in general! Build my business up (either the web-based one or the bakery tank idea)! Find the perfect shade(s) of pink lipstick! (And I’m a sucker for the reds!) Learn more about wine! Finally take a real vacation somewhere far away that I often dream of! Get a Roomba! Take more walks in the forest, as gave me such joy two years ago! Enjoy every minute of being at home! When I worked at home, no matter how much I worked then, it always felt like I was on vacation – or at least that vacation did not matter. I was relaxed and organized. I miss that. I don’t know that all these things are possible, probable or even that they would contribute to elusive happiness. But they are fun ideas – it’s giving me some joy to think about it right now.

Soundtrack to giving in to the joy of now. Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

 “And one day we will die and our ashes will fly
From the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see
Love to be in the arms of all, I’m keepin’ here with me”

-Neutral Milk Hotel

More randomness

A friend posted an article on her Facebook wall that encouraged a return to some old-fashioned dating practices. When I reposted the article on my own Facebook wall, I stated that I might not need all the old-fashioned stuff (“I want all that stupid old shit, like letters and sodas…” Liz Phair, “Fuck and Run”), but one of the points touched a nerve – that we should call what we’re doing by what it is. Calling dating/courting/a relationship “hanging out” is an act of clinging to a juvenile and awkward period of not knowing who you are or what you want. I am almost 40. I might not want, as the letter says, to define a relationship as “exclusive” or a “Greg Brady-going steady” thing, but I am not “hanging out”. I don’t know when the shift happened between steps progressing into a relationship to this casual, non-committal, “we’re hanging out” vibe (and yes, it does seem like a “vibe” more than something grounded in reality).

As I lament the winding down of my vacation, I watched a handful of movies – mostly not memorable. But it was entertaining to rewatch a few – I am not normally someone who watches the same movies over and over, but I decided to watch Wall Street again after… 20+ years. Charlie Sheen had a sliver of talent then, beautiful, hopeful, full of vitality – all flushed away long ago to give way to the troll/demon he seems to have become. I loved all the “high-tech gadgets” that look so laughable now – the briefcase-sized cell phones and the two-inch-screen portable tv. Let’s not overlook Daryl Hannah’s ridiculous wardrobe or the unthinkable way she decorated the Sheen character’s apartment. Oh, the 80s.

A few weeks ago, a few women in my office and I took our young Spanish intern to lunch for his birthday. The women and I are all in the late-30s age bracket; the intern was turning 24. On our walk to the restaurant, the intern was questioning me about how I manage to walk around outside without covering my legs or wearing a real coat – +5C is cold for him. I don’t “winterize” until -20C. I did explain that I don’t keep my house like an icebox, saying, “In my house, the heat is on.” My three similarly aged female colleagues and I, in unison, burst into song, as if on cue, “The heat is on… it’s on the street…” Way to date ourselves, relics of a bygone era! The intern had never heard the song, apparently, but when we got back to the office, he wanted a full education in 80s music and all things American because I am, in his words, “his American bible”. Hmm.

As if it were not abundantly clear already, I am one of those nerds who holds on to details. While my colleagues could not remember who performed “The Heat is On”, I could immediately “(dis)credit” Glenn Frey and rattle off his career history with The Eagles (who blighted – yes, I exaggerate – 70s music about as much as Frey and his Eagle partner-in-crime Don Henley inflicted their solo careers on 80s music). I suppose “The Heat is On” was only as popular as it was because it was also associated with the Beverly Hills Cop film franchise, which is also a quintessential part of 80s pop culture. While schooling this intern in 80s horrors for the ears, I also managed to share the dubious 80s songs/hits of Starship while also sharing the history of how they came about – rising from the ashes of the drug-addled remnants of other related 60s and 70s has-been bands, much like a lot of the stuff that filled the 80s music charts. All supposedly reformed (in both senses of the word) and “Just Say No” – HA. (Starship managed also to supply one of the worst songs, as well as churning out mediocrity for much of the decade – for one of the era’s worst movies – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from Mannequin – highlight of Andrew McCarthy or Kim Cattrall’s careers? Almost no 80s movie could have been complete without Andrew or James Spader, who was in both Mannequin and the aforementioned Wall Street. Both also figured prominently in the 80s classic, Less than Zero, which was also a very true-to-life vehicle for the then very messed up Robert Downey, Jr. And both McCarthy and Spader were in 80s teen favorite, Pretty in Pink – along with Jon Cryer – who has not done much other than that and, of course, the role of the aforementioned Charlie Sheen’s brother on the dismal and crass TV show, Two and a Half Men.)

Nothing can make someone feel old like imparting all this “popular culture” knowledge – when the “popular” culture her reference points are attached to were popular 20 or 30 years ago.

The same young intern came and said to me, “Did you know they had a war in Croatia not that long ago?” when we were talking about football (my beloved Iceland was playing Croatia for a chance to get into the World Cup at the time. They lost, but at least my Icelandic underdogs gave it a go). Yes, Croatia did have a war, young man, when you were in diapers and learning to walk. I was there (well, in Bosnia anyway) monitoring post-war elections.

I can forgive a young boy for not knowing “The Heat is On” – but a major war that took place in recent history within Europe…? God save the Spanish education system?!

Then again, that is what life is for – you do learn something new every day. Sometimes totally useless stuff. I, for example, learned that Liverpool named its airport after John Lennon. I sort of doubt Lennon would have liked that (not that I know what he would have liked). I wonder what Yoko thinks. (Yoko’s Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland somehow strikes me as something both of them would have approved of more than an international airport that seems to primarily take British tourists to get drunk and sunburned in Spain.)

Anyway, I started that tangent to say that I was watching movies. I rewatched Brokeback Mountain again – this is probably the third time I saw it, and I am still moved by Heath Ledger’s performance. Actually all the performances were outstanding, especially when contrasting it with Wall Street, which I watched immediately before. Even the secondary characters in Brokeback seem to have some depth and reality – you can feel for the wives of the two main characters. They are more than just one-dimensional props. The girlfriend and wife – all secondary characters – in Wall Street are hollow.

I went in an entirely different direction after that – watching Rêves de poussière, a film from Burkina Faso – the cinematography was beautiful, the story simple and arresting.

As the remaining minutes of vacation tick by, I do laundry, get middle-of-night, belligerent phone calls and wonder how a drunken person I have not seen in a decade or more (but have known now for 20 years) thinks he misses me. How do you miss someone you have not seen in more than ten years? Especially when that feeling has always been a one-way street. You don’t. You’re smoking nostalgia, you’re drinking a memory of something that never was. It’s imaginary.

“What a beautiful face I have found in this place
That is circling all ’round the sun and when we meet on a cloud
I’ll be laughing out loud, I’ll be laughing with everyone I see
Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all”

-Neutral Milk Hotel

Besos de Suecia – Hot cocoa options from a chocolate hater

Standard

I am well aware that I am an oddity in that I really do not like chocolate. Every few months, I will have a bit (mostly tempted into it by people raving about how much they love chocolate), but it only confirms my dislike.

Clearly my baking activities involve a lot of chocolate (and people wonder how I manage to bake so much and not eat it myself – this is how. I have no problem at all resisting chocolate!). This is usually my only use for chocolate. However, I have on occasion needed to make hot chocolate/cocoa for guests to drink… and because I don’t have any disgusting packets of pre-made cocoa ready to go, I have to experiment with making hot chocolate from scratch.

As winter cold sweeps in, there is no better time to share the three most successful and different hot cocoa recipes I have used.

Dolled-up Hot Chocolate
1 liter milk
1 vanilla bean, split, with seeds scraped out into the milk (also throw the bean into the milk)
1 cinnamon stick
150 grams of chocolate broken into small pieces
Sugar, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to top

Heat the milk, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick to just boiling. Remove from heat, stir in the chocolate – whisk vigorously to make frothy. Add enough sugar to make as sweet as you prefer. Pour into mugs and dust top with grated nutmeg.

Simple Hot Chocolate
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cream

In a small saucepan, mix cocoa, sugar, salt and boiling water. Whisk constantly while simmering mixture for about two minutes. Stir in the milk and heat until very hot but do not boil.

Remove from heat, add vanilla. Add cream to the mixture. Serve. You can garnish with whipped cream, marshmallows, marshmallow cream, chocolate sprinkles, nutmeg, cinnamon or whatever you want.

The Third Way Hot Chocolate
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 cups hot water

In a large saucepan, combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa, vanilla and salt; mix well. Over medium heat, slowly stir in water; stir occasionally while heating through. Do not boil. Garnish with whipped cream, marshmallows or marshmallow fluff, if you wish.