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

easter

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I appreciate the long Easter break but am not sure I will ever get used to it. I managed to send out the tons and tons of packages before Easter (everyone needs to be a Norwegian chocolate convert), and now for a few days, most things will be closed. Actually that’s not totally true. In Norway everything closes, while in Sweden it’s all a bit relaxed, and not only are all Swedes out stocking up on liquor today, the Norwegians will undoubtedly have flooded across the border to do the same. They need their cartloads of liquor, soda, chicken, bacon and candy. (Even Norwegian candy is cheaper in Sweden than in Norway.)

Coffee?

Blissful torture

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He told me I would not be able to breathe for three days; I would not be able to move for three days thereafter. He was right. Blissful torture for every muscle and tendon and bodily hinge I never knew existed.

It sounds, after the fact, like he took me hostage and tortured me, but it was more an “I get to do this” kind of thing – I have this ability. Not an “I have to” kind of thing. Oddly these kinds of things become easier when you understand and feel the interconnectedness of everything on a subatomic level. If everything is just energy, the barriers, boundaries and physical limitations slip away. Feeling at one with everything (I know how that sounds) makes me ready for everything – and anything. I feel that my mind has been in that space for a long time but locked itself away for some more appropriate time. Is this that time?

A ‘crackpot psychic book’ has been like a gateway drug to physics books. After all, these subjects I avoided when young become clear now only because of the way they are presented. Because it feels there is real-life application and not just abstract ideas. My ex used to bring home physics books from the library to read for fun, and as much as I admired and loved that about him, I was not ready for such books at the time.

Beyond that, I live and work in the happiest places in the world, right? 🙂 At least not unhappy enough that I cannot overuse the word “everything” in this post.

subatomic particles (-david keig)
i dreamed i was a neutron
inside an atom’s heart
surrounded by electrons
their force pulling me apart
i met a pair of bosons
got assaulted by some quarks
found my quantum levels jumping
when something made me start
could i be sure of all this?
in my subatomic world
or would statistical mechanics
introduce a kind of blur
of uncertainty to all things
and so it wasn’t clear to me
if i really was a neutron
or just a probability.

a full deck & bad metaphors

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Later this month, I will already have lived in my house for seven years, which feels impossible. Coupled with the two years before that that I lived in Norway, I have already been in Norway/Sweden for longer than the entire period I spent living in Iceland, but somehow the Iceland period felt so much longer. How is it that I so often feel like I just got to Sweden, when in fact I have been there for ages – almost the longest I have been in one place since adulthood began?

On an entirely different note, it’s strange how people’s personalities and realities unfold to others with time.We might really connect with someone immediately when we meet them, and this can (partly) stymie our ability to really see them – to see the full deck of cards fanned out rather than being dazzled by a few face cards, hiding all the trumps and jokers. Or at least we don’t know that a couple of cards are missing at first. We will see them later. Not intentional hiding, of course – it is just, you know, a full deck of cards has a lot of cards. You’re not going to see every card right away. The most forthright, honest and open person still is not going to have an opportunity or reason to share every single thing immediately – some things they would never even think to share, other things don’t come up until something triggers them. And then it is a whole new hand dealt each time.

I don’t at all doubt the reality of instant reactions to people we meet – like the instant hatred/dislike, the instant connection with someone remarkable (this does not need to be romantic), the love at first sight, the whatever-inexplicable-alchemy that makes people click. But I also do not doubt – and do appreciate – the occasional feet-on-ground reminders of why, despite my love for spontaneous action, we should not jump in and do mad things and make mad declarations too soon. For someone like me, that temptation is great at times. I have tiny, split-second misfirings in the brain sometimes, admiring people for doing things like meeting and getting married in a week (or thinking how fun it would be to go to work on a Monday, announcing with no fanfare at all that I had gotten married or something similarly dramatic, after having had no plan to do so on the previous Friday). But I have also seen these pseudo-admirable risks fail on a grand and destructive scale (of course they do!) and have been around the block enough times to know that it’s a monumentally bad idea. Particularly if you’re going with this blind, trusting-the-gut, instant ramen feeling (you know, it’s warm, it’s filling, it’s quick and sort of delicious for a few bites. But it cools off and kind of congeals, starts to taste unpleasant, oversalted and then just toxic. Bad idea. Unhealthy. Just like an instant wedding! I used wedding/marriage because it is the most instant and dramatic thing I can think of that involves following the heart over the logical mind but there are undoubtedly other things… buying big-ticket items, moving to another country without thinking it through?).

I quickly return to my senses; I have never bothered to gamble.

Photo (c) 2012 Ivette de la Garza

Lunchtable TV Talk: Lilyhammer – No experience leaves you unchanged

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It’s been a long time since I watched Lilyhammer on Netflix. And a long time since I moved to Norway myself. It was not a crash-landing as rough as that experienced by protagonist “Johnny”, the alter ego of an American mobster, Frank Tagliano, who goes into witness protection in Lillehammer, Norway after testifying against his cronies. Knowing the reach of the mob and relying on his love for the “Lilyhammer” Olympics (most of us just remember the Tonya HardingNancy Kerrigan saga), Frank manages to get his witness protection assignment in Lillehammer, Norway – which turns out to be a major culture shock not just for him but for everyone he encounters in the community. That includes the police force, social services, his new girlfriend, the hospital system… and everyone else.

He makes a strange bunch of new friends/colleagues, opens a new nightclub and changes the rules to suit him. Through manipulation and brute force, he pushes through quite a lot of his own brand of corruption, intimidation and coercion to impose on the naive, fairness-loving Norwegians. He also forces the residents to look in the mirror (e.g., an episode that deals with racism, refugees and “inclusion” – which is timely now during the recent refugee crisis). Frank can be insensitive and totally politically incorrect (and sexist), but has his own sense of fairness that comes from living in a multicultural society – even if a very limited one like the mob – and this rubs off on everyone around him and comes full circle until he starts to realize new truths about himself as well.

But no experience leaves you unchanged. While the Norwegians eventually bend and comply – and learn – from Frank’s ways, Frank too is softened by Norwegian life.

Lilyhammer was cancelled, so no more of the fun we got for three seasons… but luckily three seasons is an easy binge watch.

Shifting perceptions: “Show some class”

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My feeling that Norway is living eternally in the second half of the 1980s is not going to change, even if all the rest of my perceptions shift constantly. Evidence to prove this: every time I get in my car and drive somewhere, Norwegian radio is playing Michael Jackson. Never the same song, but it’s Michael all the time. And when it’s not Michael, it’s Richard Marx, it’s Bryan Adams, it’s Berlin, it’s Billy Ocean or some other thing I don’t want to hear – in the 80s or now.

As a corollary to this everlasting musical 80s timewarp, I have become known as the harbinger of death because I seem to trip over news of celebrity deaths accidentally (am watching or listening to news almost constantly) or just know about past celeb deaths.

I was in the car the other day, and got immediate proof positive of this 1980s assertion: Jermaine Stewart‘s one-hit wonder, “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”, blasted from the radio. I listened to the lyrics as if for the first time and could not really figure our why a song like this would exist. And who the bloody hell would drink cherry wine?

My firewall and I spent the whole evening singing it and reveling in the cheesy nostalgia.

But then, being me, I just had to know: what became of Jermaine Stewart? One hit and then gone… well, DEAD is what he is. Apparently he died in 1997 of AIDS-related liver cancer. What? Maybe because he was not really that famous, his death came and went without much fanfare. Or I was just not paying attention.

Whether or not Stewart knew his infection status in 1986 when the song was a hit, knowing this information, I hear the song filtered through that mid-80s terror of AIDS. It is more a safe-sex anthem than anything else (like many songs of the era) but it had never once occurred to me that that song fit such a bill. But listening to it armed with this information, it’s like a completely different song.

But there are new filters and lenses for everything, really. I was listening to Jim Croce the other day, remembering listening to him and looking at an album cover (a close-up of his distinctive face) when I was 4 years old. My mom explained that Croce had died a few years earlier in a plane crash. He was 30. I recall even today what I was thinking when she gave me this background information, “So what? He was old. He did everything he needed to do.” The level of a 4-year-old kid’s reasoning: 30 seemed like a good, full life. Looking at it now, of course, I am taken aback reflecting on his youth, the promising career cut short, the 2-year-old son he left behind.

I admit it. I am feeling nostalgic, contemplative about the shifting filters and perceptions that come with age and time. I am feeling mortal.

Subtitled entertainment – Language realism on TV

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As a person who often multitasks while “watching” television, I don’t always pay close attention to every moment of action. (That is, I hear all the dialogue but don’t always catch the visuals going with it.) Particularly with some of the dumber shows I watch, such as The Following or The Slap, this does not bother me much. I pay closer attention to shows I enjoy. But then there is a growing middle category: subtitled entertainment.

When I watch a foreign (non-English-language) film, I already know there will be subtitles, and I don’t watch something like that until I am ready to focus. But television is starting to introduce more and more subtitled content. In a sense it’s an era of language realism. In most films and TV of the past, we’d be treated to unrealistic and frankly stupid dialogue in which the actors (English speakers) adopted some kind of vaguely similar regional accent representing the place they were supposed to be from… and very little of the actual local language would appear.

Now, in a further change to content development – language is adding to the realism of many TV shows. The Americans probably leads the way, with a liberal mix of English and Russian. An article has even been written on how the writers decide when to use Russian. Hint: The choice comes down to authenticity. In The Americans, it makes perfect sense. Russians working within a Soviet institution in the United States are not going to speak to each other in English.

Another show where the blend makes perfect sense is the US version of The Bridge. It takes place on the US-Mexico border, and US police and working closely with Mexican police.

It has appeared more and more in various shows recently, such as Allegiance and The Blacklist. Interesting, it appears in shows in which the plot involves a lot of international intrigue. No big surprise. Language realism also appears in shows like Jane the Virgin, in which the grandmother speaks exclusively in Spanish, but understands English perfectly. She always speaks Spanish with her daughter, Xiomara, and granddaughter, Jane, but they almost always answer her in English.

The same kind of mix has appeared in Netflix’s Lilyhammer. An American organized criminal, exiled in witness protection in Lillehammer, Norway, navigates Norwegian language and society – the longer the show goes on, the more it’s conducted in Norwegian, mirroring the main character’s “integration” (which never quite happens fully).

These are all one-hour dramas, and somehow the language realism feels more expected in that setting. But it’s also happening more and more in the half-hour sitcom format, which feels strange in that I can’t imagine people having the attention span required to read the screen. But strangely – they do. The best example of this I can come up with is Welcome to Sweden, in which a fairly typical American guy moves to Stockholm with his Swedish girlfriend. His comical trials feature prominently – often in Swedish (particularly interactions with his in-laws). I did not even think about it when I recommended it to someone who only speaks English. He was going to watch it using my Swedish Netflix account, which did not offer subtitles in English.

It seems remarkable that as foreign language is receiving less emphasis than ever in US schools, language and culture diversity is appearing in a bigger way than ever on America’s TV shows. And it has jumped from just the occasional bit of Spanish, which has arguably been the most common second language on US TV, to reflect a slightly wider range of language diversity.