Wave goodbye

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“So now you start to recognize
That every single path you see
Leads to a tear in your eye
So wave goodbye, wave goodbye”
Chris Cornell, “Wave Goodbye

The other day virtually everyone I ever knew in Seattle (okay, not everyone, but an awful lot of people) went to see U2 play their now 30-year-old album The Joshua Tree in its entirety. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder joined them on stage. I joked with my mom that Eddie Vedder is now the Tom Skerritt of music. See, Tom Skerritt constantly shows up everywhere – in film, in TV shows, in the fucking Pacific Northwest Ballet. He turns up in the big budget stuff, in tiny, no-budget indies, in large, memorable roles and in the tiniest roles ever. I mean, the guy appears in MASH (the film), Top Gun, Steel Magnolias, Picket Fences, Cheers, Huff and a whole compendium of other things. There were moments when I thought I was safe from Skerritt, and then, as if just to taunt me, he’d appear – for example, the little-known film, Smoke Signals, an adaptation of Sherman Alexie’s short story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” from his book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Or for example when he turns up in the film Singles for just a few minutes of screen time as the mayor of Seattle.

I could carry on almost endlessly listing off Tom Skerritt sightings, but my point: Eddie Vedder turns up on other musicians’ stages (frequently in Seattle but often in cities all over the world) so often that he rivals Skerritt’s ubiquity – only in the music realm.

It’s strange, then, today to think that Eddie Vedder is kind of … the last man standing of grunge-era frontmen. News broke today that Chris Cornell of Soundgarden had died at age 52 after playing a triumphant show in Detroit. Never quite “of” the grunge ‘movement’ (if you could really call it that), never quite getting his due as a songwriter (this has immediately changed upon posthumous evaluation). I’m guilty of underestimating the guy – I never cared a whole lot for the Soundgarden sound but have only, in Cornell’s death, taken a look at the songs and lyrics. I did not recognize the beauty or power of his talent (either the writing or the voice) fully until seen in another context (i.e., both in death and in hearing him in stripped-down versions of songs from other genres and sounds).

Of his own work, I honestly had no idea that Cornell’s writing was often so dark (even if that is not all it was). But I was certainly not alone in this errant and incomplete appraisal; masked by various labels and categorizations (“He was a cock-rocker in an era when everyone was supposed to be too depressed or doped up to fuck”, ‘grunge’ being but one of them, it’s almost as though many people just didn’t listen to what was beneath the sound. (One of the many articles on Cornell today cites, as an example, Johnny Cash’s cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” as an unlikely avenue through which people started to see Cornell’s writing genius.)

“It’s sort of a morbid exchange when somebody who is a writer like that dies, and then everyone starts picking through all their lyrics.”

What can you say about something like this? It’s a sad ending for someone who entertained, who evaded easy categorization, who defied labels and continued to reinvent and moreover brought solace and beauty to the lives of so many people. This is the best that can be said for most of us.

Photo (c) 2007 Guillermo Ruiz used under Creative Commons license.

Random Gum: Summer 2016 soundtrack

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Random Gum – Summer 2016 soundtrack: Alive and Kicking
Latent Love and the Pre-Internet Days

The whole playlist (minus the songs that don’t exist on Spotify…) on Spotify.

01. Simple Minds – “Alive and Kicking” …now it’s all or nothing/cause you said you follow through…

Appeared twice in the same week on primetime TV (The Goldbergs & Fresh Off the Boat), proving 80s/90s nostalgia is alive and kicking – Simple Minds and John Hughes, always leading the charge. For S, for Amber

02. Vorderhaus – “Stepping Off the Ghost Train” …You tell yourself you’re in love/I tell myself I don’t care/I’m stepping off the ghost train/I’m tired of loving you in vain…

03. INXS – “Never Tear Us Apart” …but if I hurt you, I’ll make wine from your tears…

A cover version of this with female vocal (Paloma Faith) appeared in L&O SVU and made me think of the original, and of the domino-like tragedy of HutchenceYatesGeldof. And after the “Alive and Kicking” appearances I also thought of former best friend Terra and her junior high crush on INXS’s Jon Farriss. She had gone to spend the summer in Aberdeen (Scotland, not WA), dreamt Farriss died and had written me a letter (yes – a real letter, as this all happened in the 1987-8 world before the internet) describing the nightmare, to which I replied, “Don’t worry – he’s alive… and kicking!” Which was only funny at all because INXS’s hit album was called KICK. For Terra. For S.

04. John Grant – “Geraldine” …we’re not like them, we’re not that strong/at least that’s what they have been telling us all along…

The gorgeousness of John Grant continues.

05. The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure” …When it all breaks down and we’re runaways/Standing in the wake of our pain…

06. Glenn Frey – “The Heat is On”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCoP2W4v2v8
This has been a particularly rough year so far for musical deaths. I’m no Glenn Frey/Eagles fan, but this song plays into 1980s memories as well as a more recent vignette when two of my colleagues and I took our young Spanish intern to lunch for his birthday, and he commented on how I can possibly wear dresses in the cold, and I replied, “In the office, the heat is on…” The three of us old lady colleagues, in unison, burst into song, ‘The heat is on…’, which perplexed the youthful Spaniard.

07. AaRON – “U-Turn (Lili)” …you know there’s still a place for people like us…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTKfrY4cQ9I
Many thanks to my colleague, Laurent. This popped up at a time that everyone and everything seemed to be named Aaron, and as Key & Peele ended on Comedy Central, and I inhaled all five seasons in a few days, and keep going back to the “Substitute Teacher” clip in which the sub pronounces it, “A-A-Ron”.

08. Beach House – “Days of Candy” …I know it comes too soon/The universe is riding off with you…

09. David Bowie – “Sound & Vision”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoDamvrfUbQ
I’ve never experienced anything like the collective outpouring of shared grief and mourning for a public figure – and felt a part of it – the way I did when Bowie unexpectedly died in January 2016. I had never been a huge fan, but his departure felt like the dimming of a bright light that guided our path through the modern cultural landscape. For weeks afterward, I cried if I listened to him (which I could not stop doing) or thought about him. In the end, mortality will come for the flesh, but the work, voice, sound and vision live forever.

10. Lush – “Lovelife” …in your concrete arms I adore you…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYzfT1zmAGg
Celebrating the resurrection of Lush, their 2016 tour and (possibly) seeing them in London in May (which, sadly, I could not). For all my Lush-loving friends (too numerous to count!). “Every door conceals a dream and a nightmare…”

11. Karen Elson – “Who’s Sorry Now?”

12. The Chills – “Soft Bomb Part One” …I’m tearing all my hair out with my hands/I know what they will never understand…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdI_xhB7bgY
For all the New Zealand-leaning ambitions and longing. For all the NZ friends (Trevor, Kimberley, Dan, Lauren)…

13. Los Blenders – “TJTQ”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXPvHOJFSWk
Tijuana! For Martina, as everything Mexican is.

14. Tennis – “Mean Streets” …Stay on your own/Or leave it alone…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ei2gXl203w
For Esteban and Ana, fellow Tennis fans.

15. KC & the Sunshine Band – “Boogie Shoes”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6m47EQtAMzI
I don’t know how this fits into the soundtrack, really. I watched a documentary about the 1970s and thought we could use a pause here to groove on the decade

16. 88 ULTRA – “Oceans”

17. Christine and the Queens – “No Harm is Done” …I can follow/Wanna take the lead/but I roam all alone/With a heart so hollow…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ6FYytu1pM
With more thanks to Laurent.

18. Damon Albarn – “Heavy Seas of Love”

19. The Ink Spots – “I’ll Get By”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dh4YlBKNZso
For S the Firewall

20. Elvis Costello – “Sweet Pear” …But there’s a void without your kiss/I wake on the precipice above the abyss/And though the touch of your lips these fears dismiss/Make no mistake there is an ache I have to live with…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ9bVpGLego
“Was my grip too loose, my grip too strong/That made you want to run away/And now you’re back where I pretend you belong/I wonder every night and day, how long?” For Roberto.

21. Dom La Nena – “Saudade” …E onde é que foi que vi voar aquele beija flor/Onde esta agora os restos de um amor que machucou/E o tempo passou, você não mudou/A quanto tempo foi que você não voltou…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OG8cpJCl7Mk
Brasil, so much in the news, so much in the thoughts, this year.

22. Soapkills – “Wadih”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoLA1tCLcBI
Many thanks to Aurélien and Catherine.

23. Sleeper – “What Do I Do Now?” …is there someone else, am I too familiar, was it when I said I wanted to have children…?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSe3dV7dPYw
I’ve always preferred Elvis Costello’s slower, sadder recording of this song. Every time I hear it, it seems to take on new depth and meaning. “What do I do now? Are we going under? What did I do wrong? I thought we had it sorted out the other day. Maybe I’m just stupid. Thought we’d try again. No one told me it was raining.”

24. Linda Mirada – “Lío en Río”

25. Crystal Castles – “Plague”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cx2lJIOTBjs
For and thanks to Roxane.

26. Saint Motel – “A Quick One While He’s Away” …It’s like a dream to be with you again…

27. Townes van Zandt – “Waitin’ Around to Die” …sometimes I don’t know where this dirty road is taking me…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbsMn476T2U
Never get enough of Townes. “Now I’m outta prison, got me a friend that lasts. Well he don’t drink or steal or cheat or lie, well, his name’s codeine, he’s the nicest thing I’ve seen, yeah, together we’re gonna wait around and die.”

28. Psycho Killer – “Road to Nowhere”
Stuff like this (the original anyway, and the Talking Heads in general) and The Pretenders – stuff I could not appreciate until on the cusp of being “aged” like cheese or wine.

29. Tom Jones – “The Young New Mexican Puppeteer”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvQHt5t7zkg
Of course I’m inspired by Martina (another Mexican thing) here and how kind of comical this song is, but also thinking of multiple discussions on the dislike for Welsh people (haha) and the recent passing of Tom Jones’s wife (RIP).

30. Salt Petal – “Cumbia de Billinghurst”

31. Wall of Voodoo – “Mexican Radio” …No comprende/it’s a riddle…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyCEexG9xjw
For Martina. “I wish I was in Tijuana/eating barbecued iguana”

32. Telefon Tel Aviv – “Helen of Troy” …Your face is the place/where it ends…

33. Clan of Xymox – “A Day”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiJ3KU0bme0
This certainly takes me back in time.

34. Ezra Furman – “Body Was Made” …Your body is yours at the end of the day
and don’t let the hateful try and take it away…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkEkjxX_YrM
Had not heard so much saxophone in a long time, and stumbled on this right after having multiple conversations about how the name “Ezra” isn’t one you hear often.

35. Lush & Jarvis Cocker – “Ciao!” …life is wonderful now that I’m rid of you…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0Jvo5_IrlI
This is 1996 for me, two of my favorites of the time, trying to break away from the grip of shitty relationships that seem to be the telltale sign of young adulthood.

36. Count Five – “Psychotic Reaction”

37. Mashrou’Leila – “Imm El Jacket”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsablD8vu0w
Thanks to Aurélien and Catherine.

38. Eddie Rabbitt – “Drivin’ My Life Away”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tvEvBUG8mY
Music my mom listened to a lot when my brother and I were children. My brother had an angry-looking, fluffy blue stuffed rabbit he named “Eddie Rabbit” thanks to our exposure to this. Wondering what happened to the little rabbit, as I made some of my last long-haul drives in the middle of the night between home & Gothenburg.

39. Irma Thomas – “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)”

40. Townes van Zandt – “Be Here to Love Me”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6NPj9M_p20
“Your eyes seek conclusion in all this confusion of mine/though you and I both know it’s only the warm glow of wine/that’s got you to feeling this way/but I don’t care I want you to stay/hold me and tell me you’ll be here to love me today”

41. Bertrand Belin – “Je parle en fou”

42. John Grant – “Down Here”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eViyPYJ2okc
“Cause what we got down here is oceans of longing/And guessing games, and no guarantees/And you work so hard to be in control/And now you’re laughing at yourself because you can’t let go”. For Roberto.

43. Still Corners – “Beginning to Blue”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgEB3rY8ZGI
Lovely song anyway but its placement in the stunning second season of You’re the Worst, when you’re hit with the realization that the main character is descending into a deep, dark depression was perfect.

44. Philip Selway – “Coming Up for Air”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMxXmW1pqeU
For Kyle. “You hafta come up for aih(s) sometime”. Ugh/puke.

45. Robyn Hitchcock – “1974” …And as Nixon left the White House you could hear people say/’they’ll never rehabilitate that mother, no way’…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVDDXFpVjNU
Robyn is just a magnificent storyteller, master of verbal imagery and a genius. Love! If “Boogie Shoes” was a grooveable 70s moment, this is a philosophical rumination on that ruinous and ugly decade.

46. Elvis Costello – “What Do I Do Now?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuJJBJHDUcY
Had to include this version, too, of course.

47. Alex Vargas – “Till Forever Runs Out”

48. The Cure – “A Strange Day” …Held for one moment I remember a song/An impression of sound/Then everything is gone/Forever…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4mym0EFKM8
For Gary, with whom it’s great to be back in contact. Here’s to the best moments of our teenage years.

49. New Edition – “Cool It Now”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZUq6N7Gx1c
I remember enjoying this video as a little kid – and then the tune turned up in the soundtrack to Master of None and I just had to include it.

50. Happyness – “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hcwZ9EptZs
“What do you do when you hate all your friends?”

51. Tobias Jesso Jr – “Without You”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ybYYKBd_40
“I can hardly breathe without you/There is no future I want to see without you/I just don’t know who I would be without you/There is nothing out there for me without you…”

52. Koudlam – “See You All”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYu3Y7JT810
I don’t know why, but this song is the right one for walking through the city and waiting in queues.

53. bigott – “Baby Lemonade”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So7IharnjCs
“Like in the movies, she wake up dreaming/nothing is hiding/if you can find it…”

54. Giant Sand – “Stranded Pearl” …every girl is like a pearl/hearts strung along and then left stranded…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcUKHnrTXzg
A great, visual, wordy song. “I lost me my eye in a battle/went there to rattle their cage/lost sight of the big picture/now this permanent fixture is my rage”. (Made me think a bit at the end of a Derek Walcott poem, “Codicil”, which ends, “All its indifference is a different rage.”)

55. The Staves – “Black & White”

56. Jordie Lane – “Fell Into Me”
Sounds very reminiscent of Neil Finn. Thanks to Nicki.

57. Ra Ra Riot – “Foreign Lovers”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unmaQzVS9lw
“Well the one in Chicago wasn’t there anymore, and because that thing in Berlin wasn’t anyone’s fault… I got no idea what’s fair but I knew before – you got foreign lovers”. An insanely fitting song, stumbled on by accident. All the foreign lovers (and hilarious that Chicago and Berlin are the cities referenced…).

58. Niyaz – “Beni Beni”

59. Jaakko Eino Kalevi – “No End” …I guess it’s useless to say/I want you to stay…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HT6dDiQBPPI
The Guardian described Jaakko thusly: “tram driver in Helsinki by day, weird-pop maestro by night”.

60. All We Are – “Keep Me Alive” …I hear nothing at all but your breathing…

61. Fairport Convention – “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?”

As an adolescent, my friend Terra and I ‘discovered’ Fairport Convention, and it’s still something nice to listen to. When I listened to this again and reflected on the time that’s passed by since we were friends, and particularly since we were close and finding new music together, the song was particularly poignant and bittersweet.

62. Núria Graham – “Dark Past” …everybody’s got a dark past/but mine is just about to start…

63. David Bowie – “Cat People” … Just be still with me/You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through…

64. Cousteau – “Last Good Day of the Year”

“When the summer’s light is fragrant/with scents of returning/you relent, you resent, now you’re burning/for nothing to change…”

65. Wire – “German Shepherds” …it’s beginning to and back again…

Song title made me think, in a very roundabout way, of the Paris attacks of November 2015. Following the attacks, the French government went on the offensive and a Belgian shepherd (like the one in the TV show Person of Interest) was killed during a raid, prompting the Russians to give a new dog to the French. Hmm. Then in March, of course, Belgium fell victim to yet another terror attack.

66. Pet Shop Boys – “Love is a Bourgeois Construct”

No sentiment could be truer. November 2015, driving around downtown Tacoma, with thanks to my brother, Kyle, on relationships: “That phase of my life is over.”

67. Vorderhaus – “Venus in Retrograde” …how do you really love/the truth is happening/it’s venus in retrograde/the dark affair within…
You know you want more: https://soundcloud.com/vorderhaus/

68. Townes van Zandt – “For the Sake of the Song” …nothing’s what it seems/maybe she’ll start someday to realize/if she abandons her dreams/then all the words she can say are only lies/when will she see that the gain is only to lose/all that she offers me are chains/and I got to refuse…

For ML. “Maybe she just has to sing for the sake of the song/who do I think that I am to decide that she’s wrong?”

69. The Paris Sisters – “I Love How You Love Me”

Dreamy.

70. Blur, Françoise Hardy – “To the End”

71. Primal Scream – “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” …I betrayed you, you trusted me, and I betrayed you…

Sometimes you realize that even when something is ostensibly done, you cannot fully move forward until you have let go completely of past things and people. The sad reminder of the last conversation, last realization/S.

72. Amanda Bergman – “Vintersaga”

For many reasons I put this here – it’s a Swedish story full of Swedish place, but it is also choice for its connection to dear Andreas, the value of musical recommendations, and to our many talks about ad copy and the fraudulent feeling of writing stuff without meaning, pop culture stuffing of ads & such.

73. David Bowie – “Where Are We Now?”

Constant striving for Berlin, which represents a constant striving for change.

74. Prince & the Revolution – “When Doves Cry”

What can I even say? If Bowie was a loss and a shock, the loss of Prince was an even greater shock. For me, Prince is always freshest, best and alive in the Purple Rain period. I fell in love with the first time I heard this one as a child. RIP.

75. Johnny Cash – “The Beast in Me”

A fitting ending, in many ways. For S. “God help the beast in me.”

Halloween Random Gum soundtrack – Better late than never

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Everyone who knows me knows that I put together at least one “soundtrack” of the songs (i.e. “random gum that holds the year together” – here’s a link to all the previous soundtracks on Spotify) that popped up in one meaningful way or another during the year, put them on a CD and send them out the old-fashioned way via postal mail. Some years, I am organized and get the things in the mail early – this year, I got them done just in time to go out on American Thanksgiving. I had the track listing done ages ago but never had time to deal with the rest of the process – burning CDs, making the simple but nevertheless handmade (thus time-consuming) Halloween cards, printing out all the notes and track listings and folding it all up and shipping them. It also did not help that in the early days of my November vacation, a time I planned to devote to this card-production process, my internet connection went dead for several days, making the songs for the soundtrack out of reach (needed to download a good proportion of them). But finally – finally – the whole thing is finished.

scottish spring – troubled summer – falling down – getting up
random gum – 2014

The full playlist on Spotify (except for songs that don’t exist on Spotify).

Nine Inch Nails – “We’re in this Together” if the world should break in two/until the very end of me, until the very end of you
Had no idea when this year began how true the sentiment would be. “We will make it through somehow” “Even after everything/you’re the queen and I’m the king/nothing else means anything”. For S.

Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Hey Joe”
We didn’t know we needed a breathy Charlotte-sung, Beck-produced version of this song, but we did!

Angel Olsen – “High and Wild” you’re here, you’re here, but your spirit’s disappeared/off to some place that i don’t know, some human thing has squashed your soul
Another dark Berlin summer, emerging in the light. “You might as well be blind, cause you don’t see me anymore/And you, you can’t tell me that you love me, when I’m standing in your way”

Dum Dum Girls – “Take Care of My Baby”
For S, and getting through all the rough times and worries. Takes on unforeseen depth.

Le Prince Miiaou – “Hawaiian Tree”
For Aurélien, who long ago won the battle, in quality and number, of track-listing mentions.

Tennis – “It All Feels the Same”
“We could be good but we don’t live the way that we should/Constantly told we’re imperfect and cannot be good/Tired of waiting around for you to intervene/Tired of wishing that you even knew what I mean”. Pain and strain of repeated mistakes

Wild Flag – “Romance We love the sound, the sound is what found us/Sound is the blood between me and you
“Back when I had no story, nothing to form me/You got under my skin/You were my maker/my re-creator/My reason to live”

The Saints – “(I’m) Stranded”
For Stephen and those half-hour conversations (“wee chats”) that never lasted less than all night.

Sonic Youth – “Kool Thing” I just want you to know that we can still be friends
High school. “Are you gonna liberate us girls from male, white, corporate oppression?”

Angelique Kidjo – “Lay, Lady, Lay”
Angelique from Benin, one of those countries in Africa I learned about only incrementally

Crowded House – “Not the Girl You Think You Arethe bathroom mirror makes you look tall/but it’s all in your head
Always loved this song; takes on new meaning as life passes into new phases. “He won’t deceive you or tell you the truth/he’ll be no trouble. He won’t write you letters, full of excuses…”

Circuit Object – “Hollow Words”
For and by ML. Sometimes things just change, and we can’t do anything about it.

Tamaryn—“Violet’s in a Pool” the sound is moving in
Soundscape for late-night drives in western Sweden – evokes Bengtsfors, of all places!

Aimee Mann – “Amateur” I was hoping that you’d know better than that

Angel Olsen – “Stars” I wish I had the voice of everything
“To scream the feeling til there’s nothing left”. Such beauty…

Patti Smith – “Don’t Smoke in Bed”
“Take care of everything; I’m leaving my wedding ring, don’t look for me – I’ll get ahead. Remember, darling – don’t smoke in bed”. Elegiac words for the sad endings of sad entanglements

Damien Jurado – “Amateur Night” It’s me who made you/It’s me who will take you
“I am not an evil man/I just have a habit I can’t kick/It starts with an urge and ends with this/Hang up the phone, I ain’t finished yet”. Another song whose meaning deepens w/experience

The Smiths – “I Won’t Share You”
Toasting the end of my rural man harem and W, the Smiths-quoting filth peddler

Tadpoles – “Sunrise Ocean Bender”
This makes me feel like I am in the 1990s again.

Glasser – “Shape”
“And I look out longingly/over the beach./There’s an ocean making life/beyond my reach,/and the vastness is/too much for me to stand.”

Warpaint – “Love is to Die” I found a way/To look towards this day/But it all hooked up/This could only go one way/I’m not alive, I’m not alive without you

The Fall – “Life Just Bounces” life just bounces so don’t you get worried at all
An unusually warm and bright February day. Watched a BBC show about the mad, inimitable Mark E. Smith. Blasting The Fall on high all the rest of the live long day. For Naomi

Sydney Wayser – “Geographer”
It’s just beautiful

INXS – “Don’t Change” I found a love I had lost/It was gone for too long/Hear no evil in all directions/Execution of bitterness/Message received loud and clear
Beautiful and bittersweet nostalgia – tangentially thinking of Michael Hutchence, his late wife Paula and Paula’s late daughter Peaches… will tragedy ever stop dogging that family?

Rolling Stones – “Miss You”
For obligatory naked pre-Mogambo balcony dancing

Sonic Youth – “Youth Against Fascism” I believe Anita Hill/that judge will rot in hell
I still believe Anita Hill; pop culture references – some timeless, some a flash in the pan, some culture/country specific, made immortal in song.

Cat’s Eyes – “Over You” I’m over you/Soon I’ll be rid of you and your ways/And I’ll forget all those/wasted days/And I wonder what took me so long/to finally let you know that I’ve begun

Lia Ices – “Thousand Eyes” We are a starry sky/Gazing down with a thousand eyes/And we know that we go on
Multilayered beauty. “Flash your flood, set your fire/You were born to overflow/And we know that we go on”

Buried Beds – “Stars”
For S. You may come upon the blackest stone/What passage lies beyond is still unknown/And sleep won’t come, cause you never close your eyes/Like stars above us we are on fire”

Hefner – “Love Inside the Stud Farm” Girl, you’re a teaser/what on earth did I just do to deserve a girl like you?
“You don’t know what you’ve done to me, with that voice, with those eyes, with that smile, and that smell…” All those auspicious beginnings when things are perfect, before the unraveling of reality

Miriam Makeba – “Liwa Wechi – Congolese Lament
Much love to Zaki

Neneh Cherry featuring Robyn – “Out of the Black” I fear what’s gone before will come right back and slap me

XVIII Eyes – “I’ll Keep You”

Otis Redding – “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember”
“Nobody knows what I feel inside/all I know – I walked away and cried…”

The Boxer Rebellion – “Both Sides are Even” You don’t need a reason/For I know that what I’ve done is wrong/No one there to warn you/About the way that our moment’s gone
“These are my suspicions/And I’ll never know how this was a lost cause/And both sides are even/They are even and alone/Yeah, it’s the same/Right or wrong”

Angel Olsen – “Unfucktheworld” Here’s to thinking that it all meant so much more/I kept my mouth shut & opened up the door
“I wanted nothing but for this to be the end/For this to never be a tied and empty hand/If all the trouble in my heart would only mend/I lost my dream I lost my reason all again”

The Doors – “Love Her Madly”
For S. and poetic comparisons.

Robyn Hitchcock – “Everything About YouI love everything about you/I love your crooked smile/The way I try to please you/And have done for a while

Sonic Youth – “Wish Fulfillment”

George Jones – “The Grand Tour”
For S and the riding lawn mower future. This type of twangy country tune makes me laugh – the “woe is me/she left me” whining, but I don’t think for one minute that “she” left without cause.

The Hat, feat. Father John Misty, S.I. Istwa – “The Angry River”
“The awful cost of all we lost/As we looked the other way/We’ve paid the price of this cruel device/Till we’ve nothing left to pay”

Angel Olsen – “Hi-Five” But I’m giving you my heart, my heart/Are you giving me your heart?

The Kinks – “You Really Got Me”
Meant for playing at insanely loud volume

Angel Haze – “New York” calls from overseas like a motherfucking crusade
For Jill – finally leading the New York life. And for Annette, the vigilante! “I run New York”

Pulp – “Lipgloss”
For M, my lipgloss and girly-stuff provider extraordinaire

Nirvana – “Love Buzz” Would you believe me when I tell you/That you’re the queen of my heart?
20 years since Kurt Cobain died – hits harder now, in middle age, than when it happened

Sondre Lerche – “Bad Law” When crimes are passionate/can love be separate?

Travis – “All I Want to Do is Rock”

Wild Flag – “Something Came Over Me”
“Yeah, you were always headed down the wrong path/But you’ll be back, you’ll be back around/Summer’s creeping up slowly/We’re gonna let the good times, let the good times roll”

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – “B.S.A.” it’s gonna be a long cold winter/but I feel so warm when I’m in her arms
“She goes off like a shotgun/she’s got me begging on my knees/she’s like a kiss from Jesus/make me forget my disease”. An S song

Merry Clayton – “Gimme Shelter”
Proves that this should have been a woman vocalist all along

Belle & Sebastian – “Your Cover’s Blown”
For Jill. For Inga and days in the poopbarn when Boring Guy did not want to “blow my cover”.

Trentemøller – “Still on Fire”
Cool sound + opening to TV show Halt and Catch Fire

Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians – “Queen Elvis” People get what they deserve,/Time is round and space is curved./Honey, have you got the nerve,/To be Queen Elvis?

Sam Phillips – “I Can’t Stop Crying” In dream I scream but you can’t hear me calling you
Floods of tears when circumstances tear something or someone from your hands, your life

Angel Olsen – “Forgiven/Forgotten” all is forgiven/all right, you are forgiven
“If there’s one thing I fear/it’s knowing you’re around, so close but not here”

The Platters – “Twilight Time”
Memories of the old pre-internet days when wild goose chases ensued looking for songs we could not quite place. What on earth did we do without Google?

Townes Van Zandt – “Lungs”
The late, great Townes.

Roxy Music – “More than This”

The Handsome Family – “Far From Any Road”
“And rise w/ me forever across the silent sand/the stars will be your eyes & the wind will be my hands”

Barbara Lewis – “Baby, I’m Yours”
For S.

Aaron Neville with Linda Ronstadt – “Don’t Know Much”
My joke song with S, who does not know where his face is going. “And that may be all I need to know”

Neil Diamond – “Love on the Rocks”Love on the rocks/ain’t no surprise/just pour me a drink/and I’ll tell you some lies
Top-floor flat in Berlin; drunken torture and misery – hatching an escape plan. Traumatic memories of high school teacher and her laminated Neil Diamond posters

The Go-Betweens – “Quiet Heart” And what did I say that made you cry?/Our dream won’t die/Doesn’t matter how far you come/You’ve always got further to go

A Fine Frenzy – “Almost Lover” shoulda known you’d bring me heartache/almost lovers always do

Angel Olsen – “Windows” won’t you open a window sometime?/what’s so wrong with the light?

Sinéad O’Connor – “Just Like U Said It Would B” when I lay down my head/at the end of my day/nothing would please me better/than I find that you’re there

Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris – “Love Hurts”
For S. and the tragic loss of the Gram Parsons shirt. At least there’s still “Yeah!” to wear.

Tomten – “Wednesday’s Children

Johnny Cash – “Hurt” And you could have it all/My empire of dirt/I will let you down/I will make you hurt
I don’t think I can listen to this again without crying; Berlin summer disaster and near endings

Moby with Damien Jurado – “Almost Home”

For the Philatelically Inclined: Homoerotic Finnish Postage Stamps

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Just hours before I saw that Finland had introduced these unusual and rather groundbreaking postage stamps featuring homoerotic images, I had a playful debate with someone about “the best stamps ever”.

Homoerotic philately in Finland

Homoerotic philately in Finland

Now, sure, I write and talk about stamps a lot – but I am no philatelist. I have never collected or thought about the value of stamps (other than when the price goes up and my postal costs – as a lifelong pen pal type – go up). I have always sought to get the most interesting or visually stimulating stamps because I assume that is the kind of stamps my pen pals (and anyone receiving mail from me) would want to see. Not patriotic row on row of American flags! No. Give me the Johnny Cash or the March on Washington! Or Harvey Milk or… Jimi Hendrix! Give me the Imagine Peace Tower or Eyjafjallajökull! Give me the cutest depictions of animals ever on Swedish Christmas stamps – or even Swedish luminaries (albeit from totally opposite ends of the cultural spectrum – Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer and footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic!). Give me heart-shaped French designer Valentine stamps! Just not something boring. So the playful argument ended up with a UK resident telling me he was going to outstamp my stamp prowess (I argued that my Swedish wildlife Christmas motif was the best ever, hands down). He claimed he could outdo it.

But before that could happen, I saw the breaking news – Finland had unleashed these stamps by influential artist Tom of Finland. Well, announced them, anyway. The real release, according to the Finnish post website, is in September.

Not that Finland has bored us too much with stamp design before (quite unlike Scandinavian nation, Norway – almost the world’s most boring stamps in my humble opinion. Bore-wegian stamps!) – they’ve given us Angry Birds, police cars, a whole lot of postal representations of Finnish design (and when it comes to design, is there any better?), an homage to their world-leading education system, Tove Jansson, teddy bears for Valentine’s Day (Teddy feels honored of course), Moomin, ice hockey, loads of nature – and that is just in the current lineup.

Postcards from Paradise” – Flesh for Lulu… “I fell under your spell…

Uniting Power of Hate – Ouagadougou to Timbuktu

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When I was an insolent adolescent, my father, in a period of midlife-crisis-enlightenment-seeking, went through a New Age phase, in which he adopted a New Age guru who walked him through past life regressions, chakra balancing and, perhaps his favorite activity of all, chanting. It was an awkward and transitional time, probably for everyone involved. During this hazy period, my father decided to try to address my permanent “Oscar the Grouch” take on life:

Dad: “Erika, why are you so hateful?”
Me: (rolling eyes, sarcastic tone) “Gee, I don’t know”
Dad: (enlightened tone) “Well, your mother and I could teach you some neat things.”
Me: (rolling eyes again) “Like?”
Dad: (even more enlightened) “Like… how to chant!
RAHHHHH-OHHHHHHM!

Check it out – “Nasty Dan” from Johnny Cash visiting my dear Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street! “Say, aren’t you Johnny Trash?” “Cash. – Have a rotten day.” “Wow, there goes my kinda guy.”

So, the hateful thing goes back a ways. While I won’t go so far as to say that I seriously hate anyone or anything, I readily admit that I am easily annoyed and enjoy sarcasm and complaint a great deal. I derive joy from this kind of casual and idle hatred and dismay/disdain. It is not often that I meet kindred hating spirits in the world; that is, people with sour attitudes who find something to dislike about almost everything but who still actually are quite sweet people who find a lot of things to like and even love as well.

I don’t look at my attitude as sheer, unproductive negativity the way many do – I think of myself as a realist and sometimes a pessimist. It’s hard to live in the world and see reality without rose-colored glasses and not be a bit pessimistic at times, even if there are always rays of bright sunlight here and there. This approach and attitude has been polarizing and divisive at times and has brought about the demise of a few friendships (and I won’t pretend that that didn’t hurt).

On rare occasions I met up with people with almost as dark a view on the world, with as many complaints and who reveled in sharing complaints, with similar dark senses of humor, with similar misanthropic and impatient tendencies. But I had never quite met my match until now. My heart – be still, dear heart – has been stolen by someone who told me that he makes mental lists of all the things he hates while he is walking to work.

Sigh.

I once advised a girl who had had rather iffy relationships and made iffy relationship choices to stop accepting and settling for stale crumbs and to only accept the “the whole cake”. I knew I had my whole cake already – but when I heard about this hate list – and knew that the person behind it could also laugh about all the annoyances on the list, I knew I had the icing on the cake as well.

All this is not to say that I think real, visceral hatred and anger is healthy. I don’t like to waste energy or in-depth thought on any of it, which is why I think it’s great to make a mental list or voice the little complaints here and there – it is a means of just letting them go and moving forward. Save the real anger and hatred for bigger stuff – the major injustices in the world. The sexism, racism, abuse and all the other real travesties. I mean, yes, a group of people walking side-by-side taking up the entire width of a sidewalk is really damn annoying and virtually impossible to get around without running into road traffic, but it’s not the end of the world or particularly destructive.

It’s a pick-your-battle kind of war, really. One man in my … sphere of influence (haha – I make myself sound so mesmerizing!) complained heartily about racism and racial stereotypes, and how he is so tired of them he might just move back to Africa one day so as to not hear these things any longer. And I thought, yeah, but I suspect you will hear different stupid things in Africa and maybe get Ebola. Okay. Probably not – that’s just one of my ignorant attempts at being funny. (I had been watching the news and saw that Guinea is facing its first-ever Ebola outbreak.) My serious point was that it makes little sense to abandon an otherwise comfortable life just because you don’t want to hear things that are unpleasant to live a less comfortable life and probably just hear a different set of annoying generalizations. Of course, I don’t have to bear the weight of racist (inadvertent or otherwise) commentary all the time, and it may well feel much more powerful and daunting than just being “unpleasant” to someone exposed to it all the time.

Naturally all of this made me think once more of the elusive idea of “Africa”. Mostly because I talked to someone about African place names that sound foreign to our western ears, and for example, as children, we scarcely know that they are real places – they sound so exotic that they could be figments of someone’s phonetically rich imagination. Timbuktu came up a lot when I was a kid – and when I ask people these days what they associate with the word “Timbuktu” now, they rarely name a place, mention Africa or – heaven forbid – mention the country of which it is actually a part (Mali). Same goes for Ouagadougou (capital of Burkina Faso). When I mentioned “Burkina Faso” to my mother, she too just said, “I don’t know what that is.”