one more hour

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I have one more hour in which I am allowed to mope.

Therefore, I give you … Sam Phillips’s “I Can’t Stop Crying”. All at once a jagged, near-power-pop painful reminder of spring/summer 1989, a reminder of the wandering-through-Reykjavik spring of 2008 (my final months in Iceland) and a trigger for the current waves of disturbance in otherwise calm waters.

“I saw black and you saw red
Crawled to separate corners
the line went dead I closed my heart up tore your love
for me to shreds

Tangled wires, love can’t breathe
pulling tighter to my ruthless need
Don’t look down I want you unconsolably

I can’t stop crying
Stubborn distance closes in
with your assistance bitterly begin
To build a wall of silence cutting soul in two
Cloudy water in my eyes
I’m ashamed of words with secret knives
In dream I scream but you can’t
Hear me calling you

I know that this heartache is
A speck in the sky of love
But it’s all I feel around me”

Decayed Decade of Random Gum (2004-2014) + Part Past Part Fiction 2015

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Forty songs for my forty years of life (in June). And ten years of the Random Gum mix (2004-2014).

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Random Gum, I have selected songs from the mixes of the last ten years to include on this year-end mix as well as a couple of discoveries to usher in 2015. Everything is as random and impossible to plan as ever.

The whole playlist in Spotify (minus those songs not available on Spotify)…

1. The The – “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)”
A driving, prescient song with a message truer now than when it originally came out in the late 80s. Valid during the hubbub after the Danish cartoon incident several years ago and valid anew after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris

2. Dolly Parton – “Love and Learn”…each new love I find/turns out to be the wrong kind…
Not sure when I will ever learn – this song has been lingering in my head since 2nd grade (Dolly obsession era)

3. Kishi Bashi – “Manchester” …My favorite part’s when I die, in your arms like a movie…
The beauty of recommending music to people that they fall in love with. Here’s to Dr Ross

4. The Dø – “Stay (Just a Little Bit More)”
Perfect anthem for all the wasted years dealing with the Married Idiot. “He was a bore, a true chore, and I still wonder why I ever wanted to see him more…”

5. Melody Gardot – “Pretend I Don’t Exist
For Alex, someone from long ago but who was there when most desperately needed

6. The Aislers Set – “Jaime’s Song
Always true: “You get who you play for, not who you wait for”

7. Wilco – “How to Fight Loneliness”
The ultimate pretending. For S: “And the first thing that you want will be the last thing you ever need”

8. Lindstrøm & Christabelle – “Lovesick”

9. The Fall – “Cheetham Hill”
Nothing is complete without the indestructible sound of The Fall – it will make you drive more aggressively

10. The Jack Rubies – “Be With You”
One of those songs that remains a favorite (since 1989?) even if it’s rather silly

11. Circuit Object – “Voices Fill My Head”
Reminiscent of boundless but unfulfilled talent

12. Serge Gainsbourg – “Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’En Vais”
Memory of driving Hwy 18 with my old friend, Mike. It’s like we were in another life; I was another person

13. Rodriguez – “Crucify Your Mind”
RIP Malik Bendjelloul

14. Glasvegas – “Fuck You, It’s Over”
Again, those Scottish vowels. For a while I got to hear those vowels every day, as I used to dream of…

15. The Chills – “Part Past Part Fiction”
“You cannot drive and stare rear view.” Good advice

16. Foxygen – “San Francisco”
“My brother is a soldier now…”. A song for Annette; a song for Kyle

17. Diana Ross & the Supremes – “Remove This Doubt”
All those times when doubt is all there is

18. Simple Minds – “Don’t You Forget About Me”
Timeless classic – recently watched The Breakfast Club again (hard to hear this and not connect the two)

19. Tori Amos – “Strange”
“Woke up to a world that I am not a part except when I can play its stranger…”. The pain still rings true

20. Bertrand Belin – “La perdue”

21. Tatsuya Ogino and the Bunnies – “My Sweet and Bitter Days”
The Friday song – the good old days at Opera. Happened to hear on the Friday when I finally put this all together. Love to Janne, Lauren, Annette, Jennifer and everyone from the good old days

22. Sam Phillips – “Love Changes Everything” …I’m not sorry we loved, but I hope I didn’t keep you too long…
When things crashed before finally changing the trajectory of everything: “We can’t fix what’s broken, so let’s leave it here, and walk on – I’ll be right behind you”

23. John Grant – “Queen of Denmark” …I hope you know that all I want from you is sex, to be with someone who looks smashing in athletic wear, and if you’re haircut isn’t right you’ll be dismissed…
More reflection on wasted time with Married Idiot

24. Portishead – “The Rip” … and the tenderness I feel will send the dark underneath/will I follow?…
Feels like the painful but transformative spring of 2008

25. Crowded House – “Don’t Dream It’s Over” …there is freedom within, there is freedom without – try to catch the deluge in a paper cup…
This one never gets old.

26. Martha Wainwright – “Far Away”
Heartbreaking sentiment: “I have no children/I have no husband/I have no reason to be alive/oh, give me one”

27. Lia Ices – “Little Marriage” …I started minding not having it all/one little marriage or big love…
For Jane, for Lóa and everyone who has been enveloped by the lush, layered sounds of Lia Ices

28. Joan Armatrading – “Save Me” … immune or evasive – throw me a lifeline – save me…

29. Low – “Closer”
Being enveloped in something that makes you feel more remote and distant than ever and needing escape

30. The Magnetic Fields – “My Sentimental Melody” …cool and unfazed, you’re always amazed when someone gets hurt…
Used to love this song but now it seems whiny self-victimization now that there’s some backstory.

31. Arik Einstein – “Ro’eh Atzuv
Seltjarnarnes early 2000s, Israeli MTV commercials, marshmallow couches and taking years to identify Arik Einstein, who recently died. Love to Sarah and the old days in Iceland

32. Kristin Hersh – “Quick”
Cancer song; the recurring feeling like nothing will ever be solid or trustworthy again

33. Amalia Rodrigues – “Povo Que Lavas No Rio”
Ache. Somehow now makes me think of Kristie – who supplied me with Halloween goodies!

34. O + S – “The Fox”
The formidable, tricky fox is always making an appearance

35. Kazim Koyuncu – “Ben Seni Sevdugumi”
For Roxane, for all my Turkish friends, for Jill

36. Hector Zazou feat Björk – “Visur vatnsenda rosu”
Iceland, of course, and all my beloved friends there.

37. Pulp – “Roadkill”
The early and unfortunate Berlin visits and always painful trips to and from airports and little reminders that trigger memories

38. Roberta Flack – “To Love Somebody”

39. Cowboy Junkies – “200 More Miles”
The first feeling of real heartbreak, 1989

40. Blondie – “The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game”

2015 – Part Past Part Fiction

41. Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Trick Pony”
For Martina – more dog and pony shows, one trick ponies and all the rest.

42. Tomten – “You Won’t Be On My Mind”
Hometown Seattle music. Always lovely. How I wish I’d have my 40th birthday in Seattle this year featuring both Tomten and Tom Skerritt reading a poem! And here’s to all my beloved Seattle friends and acquaintances!

43. Lia Ices – “Magick
For Jane; layered bliss

44. Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle”
For long lost Terra, and our secret love for GNR. Duff! Duff! Duff!

45. The Association – “Never My Love”
I just like the sound

46. Poison – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”
For S and spontaneous, passionate renditions of this ridiculous song

47. Bryan Ferry – “This is Tomorrow” … Suddenly a voice I’m hearing/Sweet to my ear/This is tomorrow callin’/Wishin’ you were here…
For S, if only it could be yesterday or tomorrow and not a return to the darkest days

48. The Primitives – “Way Behind Me” …all those lies inside your head/took my hand and led me blindly…
For who I was in the 1980s – and all the people I knew then, and the continued need to know when to walk away. “I’m gonna try my best move/I’m gonna leave you way behind me”

49. Cameo – “Word Up”
For Tomislav; for S and his dancing career/codpiece uniform (ha!)

50. Teenage Fanclub – “Alcoholiday”… Went to bed but I’m not ready/Baby I’ve been fucked already/Falling into line but I’m doing nothing/We’ve got nothing worth discussing./Went to go but it’s all hazy/People say I’m going crazy…
S – the brief time between dark days turned out to be just an “alcoholiday” – never a more fitting song for almost anything. Never knowing what you’ve got til you’ve fucked it up for good. And now it remains to be seen whether the end is Leaving Las Vegas or Edgar Allan Poe

51. Mega Bog – “Aurora/99”
More Seattle gems. For Kyle, Naomi: “Goddammit, don’t take 99!”

52. Cate Le Bon – “I Think I Knew”
Thanks to Aurélien for the lovely recommendation, as always

53. St. Vincent – “Birth in Reverse”
Hard decisions that may close the door forever- a kind of birth in reverse. Love for Annette.

54. Sister Sledge – “Lost in Music” …responsibility to me is a tragedy/I’ll get a job some other time…
Get a job, you fucking disco cokeheads! For S

55. Laura Veirs – “Sun Song”
An Aurélien recommendation – thinking fondly of Malin (because of course I’m the sunshine of her work day!)

56. Jeff Beck – “Morning Dew”
Just has a cool sound

57. The Beatles – “Real Love”

58. The Preatures – “It Gets Better” … And all the times I had you near, through my fingers disappear/I see all that it could be, and it’s better than it ever could be…
S: “Only lonely in your arms again/I know you’re see-through but can we just pretend”

59. Tiny Ruins – “Night Owl”

60. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – “Xanadu” …she’s a lipstick anarchist…

61. Melody’s Echo Chamber – “Shirim”

62. St. Vincent – “Digital Witness” …digital witnesses/what’s the point of even sleeping?/if I can’t show it, you can’t see me/what’s the point of doing anything?…
For Martina and Jennie – the word “digital” is forever tainted for me.

63. Cyndi Lauper – “I Drove All Night”
Always stuck driving all night, through all kinds of treacherous conditions

64. The Dø – “Sparks”
“If someone comes & shows up at the door/No one will be there to answer anymore/We have it all on tape now”

65. Oyama – “Old Snow”
Iceland – represent

66. Mitski – “Texas Reznikoff”
Another one that makes me think of Jane

67. First Aid Kit – “Shattered & Hollow”

68. EMA – “So Blonde”

69. Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”
Jesus, this cynical song makes me ache. “Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways/I grow more disappointing to you as my beauty warps and fades/I suspect you feel the same/When I was young I dreamt of a passionate obligation to a roommate”

70. TOPS – “All the People Sleep”

71. Al Green – “Tired of Being Alone”
Can’t just be with someone because you’re tired of being alone. For S

72. Tom Waits – “Ruby’s Arms”
“Jesus Christ this goddamn rain, will someone put me on a train/I’ll never kiss your lips again, or break your heart/as I say goodbye I’ll say goodbye, say goodbye to Ruby’s arms”

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”

My political platform: Bringing back capes, gloves, postage stamps, anti-hypocrisy and flexible work options!

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It’s another one of those random days where random thoughts are weaseling their way into my brain too fast to keep track of them.

I’m not sorry we loved, but I hope I didn’t keep you too long.

First of all, I overthink. All the time. All weekend in between working and then taking breaks from that work to do other work, I was beating myself up over the realization that it is always just when you ease into a comfort level, feeling like you can let your guard down, that you are at your most vulnerable, a victim to be gutted. You know, gutted and chopped into pieces, not unlike a poor, hapless young giraffe minding his own business in a Copenhagen zoo (and see below). Trust me.

In other news (or non-news), what the hell is wrong with Fox News and other conservative talking heads? I cannot come up with words – nothing that has not already been said. They have started blabbing about how free healthcare disincentivizes working. Who says it best? Why, Jon Stewart, of course!

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-february-6-2014/terror-on-bulls–t-mountain

Writing (oh so seamless the segue) about disincentives to work and purported laziness, I was heartened to see a series of articles from Virgin on the future of flexwork (Richard Branson is a big supporter of flexible work solutions). Three cheers! It’s one thing for me to bang my own pots and pans on the subject of flexible, remote and virtual work (only I hear the ceaseless clanging – and maybe a handful of other folks who happen upon this blog). It is another thing entirely when someone as respected and well-known as Richard Branson puts his weight behind this flexibility.

The website covers different aspects of flexible work – which can include remote work, shared locations, next-gen workspaces and enabling “intrapreneurship”. Be still my heart.

Of course, another aspect of flexible work, as I have learned since the dawn of my professional life, is doing the most flexible kind of work there is (and that means you will get a lot of flexibility but you are going to have to be equally flexible in kind – and sometimes to your own detriment): freelancing. I find these days that when I apply for jobs that are not ideal for me but my skill set matches some other need a company has, I get calls on occasion offering me freelance projects, and I cannot complain.

On a slightly tangential note, I will never get used to how potential employers in Scandinavia, in formal interview settings, often use the word “shit” in interview conversation. This must be a failure to understand that “shit” is not quite the casual profanity that they imagine it to be. (It makes me laugh.)

As for the music and magic of hypocrisy, who embodies it better than my favorite punching bag, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! disaster fame? The Virgin remote work segment highlights the hypocrisy and head-scratching quality of Mayer’s decision to end distance-work options for her employees (“How odd that the head of a tech company that provides online communication tools doesn’t see the irony in that statement?”). Mayer has become the lightning rod for this issue, really. One article I read questioned the fairness of piling all the blame on Mayer when other large corporations scaled back or eliminated their distance work options at the same time (e.g. Best Buy). The hypocrisy of it – the real rub – is precisely what the Virgin article on supporting remote work points out – a tech company supposedly at the forefront (or wanting to believe it is still at the forefront) of innovation and online communication is taking the workplace back to horse-and-buggy days when most of the tech world is, I don’t know, driving a Tesla or taking a high-speed train.

Another nod to hypocrisy, even if not an entirely matching overlap, is the recent decision of a zoo in Copenhagen, Denmark to kill a perfectly healthy young giraffe in its care and feed it to the zoo’s lions. I posted something about this on my Facebook wall, which sparked an immediate argument between two people who are strangers across the world from each other. One argued that those of us who were lamenting the giraffe’s senseless death were hypocrites who cannot handle how nature works when it’s shown to us with transparency. While I can appreciate the argument on its surface, the bottom line is – this happened in a ZOO, not the wild. This took place, apparently, in front of zoo visitors (the killing and the feeding pieces to lions). Yeah, if a family went on safari somewhere or were out in the wild, maybe “nature” and its transparency would be expected. In the zoo? Not so much. The zoo has defended its decision and now is paying an unfortunate price (I saw on the news that the zoo’s employees are receiving death threats now).

Back to the flexwork thing – all the articles come down to one thing: trust. Flexwork is possible when you have trust and no need to micromanage. You would also think we could trust a zoo not to kill a juvenile giraffe, and maybe once upon a time, people would have thought Marissa Mayer would not take a giant tech company back to Little House on the Prairie.

The changing workscape: Secrecy v privacy / Pretty time bomb

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I respectfully decline to answer that question. It is, if not illegal to ask, rather inappropriate.

Sitting in a job interview, growing more awkward and uncomfortable by the minute, I felt as though I was backed right into a corner.

Quite a long while ago, I applied for a job, was invited to an interview and circumstances in my life changed quite rapidly, and I needed to cancel the interview. I called to cancel well in advance of the scheduled interview time and offered no other explanations – because I don’t think you owe any explanation to a potential employer if you’re not planning to work there.

When circumstances changed dramatically again a few weeks later, I contacted the company again because I noticed that the job was still advertised and rescheduled the interview. I knew that it was probably a bit unorthodox of me – and if they did not want to give me a chance, they could have refused to reschedule the interview. No harm, no foul. But they seemed happy to give me a new opportunity, so I went to a series of interviews.

In the first interview, the hiring manager and the HR director were sitting across from me, and the HR person asked me why I had cancelled the first interview. Fair enough. I anticipated that they would ask me something like that. I replied only that my personal circumstances had changed, the issues that prevented me from attending the original interview were behind me and that the reasons behind all of it were private.

Somehow this was not a good enough explanation, and the HR guy grabbed onto this like a dog with a bone. Throughout the interview, even though I think I defused the question tactfully enough (in a way that should have shut the question down). The HR guy continued to poke and prod, even long after I thought the question had been answered and put to rest. It was as though it would suddenly pop back up again, and some nagging feeling in his gut would jump to his mouth, and he was physically unable to stop asking.

He started questioning my statement about “privacy”, claiming that it felt as though I was “keeping secrets”. But there is a big difference between privacy and secrecy. Which I stated at the time. The questioning escalated in offensiveness and discomfort, making me consider – in the moment – that I was not sure I wanted to work somewhere where an HR professional was so hell-bent on knowing personal information that had no bearing on my potential as an employee that he would veer into very uncomfortable territory to get it.

My workplace experience has mostly happened in the US where this kind of prodding would be dead wrong under any circumstances. Whole articles are written about illegal job interview questions. To be frank, I don’t know what is illegal versus just awkward in a Swedish workplace – but I would think that someone in a managerial role in human resources should have the tact and sensitivity to stop pushing when something is clearly not work-related.

The worst thing – when I was called in for follow-up interviews the next week, I assumed that the issue was settled. But no, the same HR person brought up the same pushy questions the next time, and then I felt really backed into a corner. I tried to remain tactful in conveying that I felt the question was answered as much as it was ever going to be. But his continued insistence felt like lighting the fuse on a time bomb.

Eventually I was hired and accepted the job despite these misgivings. This whole scene sort of plays into my feelings about HR in general – how is it that the one department that is meant to be the most in tune with people and the legalities of hiring could be the worst at dealing with people?

“Get a grip; this is the world we live in”

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History is written to say/it wasn’t our fault” -Sam Phillips – “Love & Kisses”

Which side of the fence are you on?

I am going to start this post by writing that I am well-aware of the gross oversimplification of everything I am writing. It is a train of thought I am following without delving into any specific issues in a meaningful way. I just had a lot of thoughts following Nelson Mandela’s passing on the nature of justice, race and humanity that I wanted to express, however disjointed and surface-level they are.

In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death, and even during his life, he had achieved a kind of sainthood status, untouchable… which is fine except that he was human. A great human, yes. But, as some media outlets have reported, he had a lot of “non-mainstream” things to say that exposed the hypocrisies he saw in all kinds of things, such as, and perhaps most notably, American power/hegemony. Most of these key statements are left out of the soft version of his obituaries, and the powers-that-be who might be less than comfortable with that part of Mandela can easily ignore those things.

His death brings forth the question, for example, “Who is a terrorist?” It depends on who asks the question. Who defines what a terrorist is – and how does that change? When Nelson Mandela went to prison, he was seen as a terrorist. Many South Africans of all races went to jail and fought for his  cause and the cause of racial equality (making it something of a “badge of honor” – at least according to the South Africans I have known who had criminal records for political agitation and protesting) to have a criminal record within the apartheid system. What better evidence is there of the commitment to social justice or to any cause of conscience? The whole concept of a criminal record automatically carrying a negative connotation is flawed because the offense makes a difference.

Nelson Mandela was branded a terrorist. But then, the United States labels all kinds of countries, people/individuals and organizations as terrorist or as official sponsors of terrorism. The other day, out-of-touch old man US Senator John McCain threw a fit because President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuba’s Raul Castro at Mandela’s memorial services. SO WHAT? McCain shook hands with Qaddafi at some point. These labels assigned conveniently to people who are enemies of the state one day and the next are not are arbitrary and self-serving.

Many would cite Palestinian organizations and individuals as terrorists, and Israel certainly treats them like they all are. But who is the real terrorist in that scenario? How can a country occupied by people whose forebears went through something as ghastly as the Holocaust ever treat another people in the ways the Israelis treat the Palestinians? Isn’t that kind of treatment another form of terrorism? What is the difference between armed resistance and terrorism? Or even just resistance versus terrorism? We have seen history filled with people who resisted, armed or not, who seem to be called terrorists for their way of thinking, for their ideas. What about, for example, the Kosovo Liberation Army that sought independence from the Yugoslav union in the 1990s. Compared to the military apparatus of Serbia, from which it aimed to secede, you could hardly call the KLA a well-armed adversary. Serbs will tell stories about all the “terror” perpetrated by the KLA, but in the end it was the Serbs who were found guilty of violence and terror by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia.

That said, many people believe in causes, to the degree that they would die for them. At what point are those causes deemed morally just by the mainstream? That is not to say “majority” – but by a loud and vocal enough mainstream that whatever the cause is becomes bigger and favour for one side or the other of a cause tips in one direction or another. Apartheid is an easy one for the liberal, equality-minded person.  On the whole, it is wrong, and there are no two ways about it. On the surface, of course, the United States ended slavery and race becomes less divisive all the time. After all, the first African-American, truly multicultural president was elected to the highest political office in the nation. I personally did not think that would happen in my lifetime. But these strides do not mean that race is not still an issue. For some people, for reasons I cannot begin to understand, it is. Whether or not people in American society face a lack of opportunity or are more likely to experience poverty, etc. Is tied to race or is a multifaceted problem that is more socioeconomic in nature, with race playing one part in the bigger picture, I cannot say with any degree of expertise. It is always much more complicated than just one thing. But to say that there is equality would be complete and total bullshit.

The point, though, was to say that some issues carry a certain moral certitude (even if this is only in hindsight and the passage of much time). Slavery and apartheid are two such issues.

But then, something like gay marriage has been, at least in the United States and some of the more conservative parts of Europe, illegal without much to push the issue either way until recently. In 25 or 50 years (??) it may be that we can look back on the fight to love and marry whomever you want to and shake our heads at how it was ever a question. In 25 years, maybe this “moral certitude” will creep in. The tide in much of America has shifted away from trying to legislate gay marriage into non-existence and has been replaced in many cases by total indifference and in even more cases outright support. I am well aware that there are large swaths of the population who will never support it, never accept it and will fight until the day they die for a Constitutional amendment to try to ensure that marriage is a man-woman thing. But assuming that the current trend continues to move forward on the path it is currently on, at some point perhaps gay marriage will become passé. Wouldn’t that be something? It’s so common no one bothers to comment on it or think about it. (It’s a little bit like that in Scandinavia already – it just does not matter who you are paired up with. It’s your life.)

But many people believe in causes and take them to extremes. Some of those causes are questionable but clearly meant something to the people involved in them. As an example, I watched the film The Baader-Meinhof Complex, based on the true story of the Red Army Faction (or Baader-Meinhof Gang), which conducted its own acts of “protest”, mostly in the 1970s, in militant and violent opposition to the then-West German government (which they considered fascist). It was considered a terrorist organization, and most of its activities were indeed violent. But they did indeed believe in their cause. But cult leaders and their followers also believe in a cause. (Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and suicide-by-KoolAid in Guyana; David Koresh and the Branch Davidians who were killed by US federal agents at their compound in Waco, Texas, etc. The list could go on.) Did a cause like the Red Army Faction start off with such terrible intentions? Or is it just the tactics that eventually make the cause insupportable?

Anyway, back to race and the general state of affairs in the world we live in. Most alarming is that while we want to believe in the triumph of “racelessness” – Mandela “united” and reconciled a nation left in tatters thanks to apartheid; Obama became president in a fairly racist country… some of the (somehow) more unexpected racism comes from places that seem, at the same time, both improbable and common – beauty pageants. Not to start down the road of “what is beauty” (which is also a minefield) – but when an Indian-American woman won the Miss America title a few months ago, there was an uproar in social media channels that re-exposed the raw reality of American racism and the tendency toward discrimination. And why? Today I see that the newly crowned Miss France, who is mixed-race (white French and Beninese), is experiencing the very same hatred from all these anonymous sources who insist that she is “not French”.

But – short of exploring the complex questions of national identity (what makes someone a citizen and what makes them essentially that nationality or what makes them feel at home in that country?) – how is she any less French than any other? And in America, the “melting pot of the world” as is so often falsely cited, how is a woman of Indian origin any less American than someone of Irish origin or of Japanese origin or any other origin?

Basic questions because they demand basic answers. This kind of discrimination is so patently stupid and hateful that I cannot bring myself to analyze it further. All I want to do is slap the people who are most vocally hateful and say, “Get a grip – this is the world you live in.” I long for a day when all people are so obviously mixed in terms of race and nation that things are never obviously cut and dry.

Cleansed of the past – 2008 in soundtrack form

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