Good Good of Random Gum – Year-End Soundtrack 2013

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The Good Goo of Year-End – Queen Bee in the Hornet’s Nest
Random Gum / Year-End 2013

Complete playlist on Spotify.

1. SONIC CONTROL – “Broken Television on a Neukölln Street”
“I’m a broken television on a Neukölln street/that dog over there just pissed on me/my screen is cracked, my transformers are gone/I was state of the art until it all went wrong…” The dogs of corporate life. Thanks, ML and MS

2. Ladytron – “Mirage” …You don’t listen,/You do not exist…
“Happy not to notice/The room retracts the focus/Where you cannot see/Reflections from within”

3. Elton John – “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” …live for each second, without hesitation…
Song is a sad reminder of childhood & early years of music videos. “I simply love you more than I love life itself”

4. John Grant – “Leopard and Lamb” …Like learning how to crawl across a floor that’s covered with glass/Like learning how to look away and never to look back…
“Watch The Simpsons to remember how you’d laugh…”. For Ph. Friendship ending always hurts more than love

5. Ulali – “Mahk Jchi”
This is like being back in college again. Upon reflection, the most awkward, misguided time of my whole life

6. Royal Headache – “Distant and Vague”
One for wandering central Göteborg. And the title/theme… what/who isn’t “distant and vague”?

7. TV-Resistori – “Koputan puuta”
FUNland! ”But Ginsberg, my balls hurt!” Finnish music that sounds almost Japanese. Music for throwing away perfectly good shoes. For Naomi and ML.

8. Pepe Deluxé – “Lucky the Blind vs. Vacuum Cleaning Monster”
Thinking about Lóa, who loves vacuum cleaners.

9. Les Sans Culottes – “Tout va bien
All the French – Aurélien, Bruno, Tristan, Thierry, Valérie – and so on. All the cool people.

10. Cepia – “Ithaca”
Anything Ithaca, as much horror as it might give her, is for Jill.

11. John Grant – “I Hate This Town”
But then again you always made it clear/That you do not care either way/Which begs the question/How can I still claim to love you/You told me time and time again/That you don’t lose you always win/And that to make an effort would just be beneath you”. John Grant – hands down, one of my favorites

12. Throwing Muses – “Mexican Women” …love becomes a foreign substance…
For Martina and her reflections on Mexican women making piñatas that will just be destroyed – the fleeting nature of beauty. “Up yours, Bruno!” Also, I might as well be a man – I open doors for and bring flowers to women friends. What woman wouldn’t want to marry me? Hahaha. Pachanga! Free fika cake!

13. Yo La Tengo – “Nowhere Near” …everyone is here/but you’re nowhere near…
I have always loved this song, but love resurged when it appeared in the final episode of the US version of The Bridge this year.

14. Marianne Faithfull – “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” …at the age of 37, she realized she’d never ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair…
For a variety of reasons, I really dislike the name Lucy (cue up whiny, snotty British accent for starters). I am sure I had heard this song before (Lee Hazlewood version?) and even think I knew it was written by Shel Silverstein, but it appeared in the Dusan Makavejev film Montenegro, which I only saw recently despite its being made in 1980. I had no idea it was set in Stockholm (you’d never guess from the film’s title!), the dubious heroine a resident of posh island “suburb”, Lidingö. In the early 2000s I went to a film festival in Reykjavik at which Makavejev was the guest – they screened two of his weirder films (they’re all weird)… oh memories. For Leifur.

15. The National – “About Today” …you just walked away/and I just watched you…
What more can really be said about The National? “How close am I to losing you?”

16. The Rolling Stones – “Sympathy for the Devil”
Horrifying memories of hordes of Australians on bus trip; a memory of coming home from kindergarten. My dad was playing this, and it is the only time I remember him choosing willingly to play a record on his own. I was a bit scared/very intrigued by this song because of the title and the drum beat.

17. Martha Wainwright – “Matapedia” …I could not slow down/I was not afraid…
Martha doing one of her mother, Kate McGarrigle’s (RIP) songs – really lovely.

18. Kishi Bashi – “I Am the Antichrist to You” …I was always quick to admit defeat…
“And my heart it shook with fear/I’m a coward behind a shield and spear”

19. The Bee-Gees – “Stayin Alive”
A few years ago when Robin Gibb died, I could not bring myself to include a Bee-Gees song on my mix and instead chose “It Was Disco but Now It’s Over…”. Thanks to TV’s Sherlock and its use of “Stayin Alive”, its worming its way into my brain and all the back and forth with people about disco, Tony Manero (the Saturday Night Fever character and title character of eponymous Chilean film) AND learning that the song provides the right tempo for performing CPR, I could hardly not include it. For Elisa S, Krista H, Adrian K

20. Animotion – “Obsession”
Oh, the 80s. Makes me feel old but brings to mind obsessive statements à la “Nobody has driven me crazy like this for such a long time. Never.” For JKL

21. Run DMC/Aerosmith – “Walk This Way”
Thanks to Jill for the reminder of this song, which I like much better now than in the old days. Late-night, loud rain dance praying with love for Annette.

22. Lia Ices – “Little Marriage”
This song was included on another mix but it’s too beautiful not to use again. It inspires such emotion, bringing an emptiness that longs to be filled to the surface. With love for Jane as always.

23. Jean-Louis Murat – “Colin-Maillard” …Tu traverses le miroir/Ton désir ne veut plus patienter…
Another previous inclusion… the sound and the voice fills me with a kind of melancholy.

24. My Bloody Valentine – “Feed Me with Your Kiss”
MBV released their first album in 20+ years but I select a song from an old album. Nostalgia?

25. The Smiths – “A Rush and a Push”
“Let’s talk about poetry.” The seductive power of knowing a poem or two… stealing things from others’ imaginations.

26. OutKast – “Hey Ya!” …don’t try to fight the feeling/cause the thought alone is killing me right now…
To the joy of knowing Jill: “My baby don’t mess around”

27. Lay Low – “Last Time Around”
Something nice from Iceland, thinking of all my friends there (Alfa, Jane, Lóa, and so on…)

28. Iron & Wine – “Jesus the Mexican Boy”
One of the songs in a playlist I made chronicling dogs, dog and pony shows and Mexicans. For Martina.

29. Belle & Sebastian – “Legal Man” …L-O-V-E – it’s coming back, it’s coming back…
One to lose one’s mind dancing to. “Get out of the city/and into the sunshine/get out of the office/and into the springtime…”

30. Serge Gainsbourg – “Les Sucettes” …Elle est au paradis…
For Jean, who taught me so much, and for JKL, who makes plans he will never keep

31. New Order – “Love Vigilantes”
The confusion of mixing up conversations that started about rotten chuck roast and what I thought was “dal” (as in Indian food) but was actually “dal” as in “valley” (Norwegian). I was wondering, “Since when does dal have chuck roast in it?” But the conversation was really referring to Malala from that “dal” (Swat Valley). J Love my vigilante friend, Annette. And, for Naomi – “O blessed be – my favorite dal of all the dals!”

32. The Bee-Gees – “Night Fever”
Taken aback by the rampant popularity of Daft Punk’s latest offer – it’s good, but in light of the backlash against the Bee-Gees and their sound in the late 70s – it is interesting to hear these sounds make a resurgence.

33. Human League – “Don’t You Want Me?”
Neverending back & forth with ML, who never knows what he wants – just knows it’s whatever he doesn’t have

34. Don Dixon – “Praying Mantis”
For Naomi and the happiness of driving around in a different car.

35. Darker My Love – “Talking Words”
Sitting in the autumn-dark parking lot observing OCD-afflicted people check their doors five or six times

36. Lush – “For Love”
Another song that transports me to an exact time, feeling – making me want to run back to the present

37. Camera Obscura – “Anti-Western” …you’re too good looking, I’m always gonna put up a fight…
Anthem to those stunning but ultimately false moments when you believe (stupidly!) that interest is actually real. How eager even the cynic is to believe sometimes. Thanks to Jill as always.

38. Erasure – “Oh L’Amour”
This will always remind me of the late 80s, very late-night phone calls with JBB – alternate realities that allowed for the most complete and unfiltered feeling I can ever remember feeling

39. Cinerama – “Heels” …you crushed him with your heels/and I know exactly how he feels…
For Mathieu. “I don’t really care that you found another lover/cause I know he’ll be gone the moment that you get bored…”

40. Secret Machines – “Atomic Heels” …uncover your eyes/they’re bloodied in love/who’s staring back at yours, honey what have you missed?…

41. Ladytron – “Seventeen” …they only want you when you’re 17, when you’re 21, you’re no fun…
How to feel old…

42. Lana Del Ray – “Blue Jeans (RAC Mix)” …I will love you til the end of time…
Dislike Lana Del Ray but for some reason like this mix – here’s to new cars and departed Greek dentists.

43. Glen Campbell – “Wichita Lineman” …I need you more than want you
For Naomi – another sort of stalker song.

44. The Bee-Gees – “To Love Somebody”
I put the Roberta Flack version of this on the other part of this mix and knew it had sounded familiar but did not put two and two together until I reheard this version in the film 50/50. The Bee-Gees’ music (as done by other artists) is everywhere. It’s got a sad sort of feel – we’ve all been there, but the “you don’t know what it’s like” also sounds like the condescending sorts who rub your being alone in your face, “You just don’t know what it’s like to be in love…”

45. Blondie – “Faces”
I listened to this – and the whole Autoamerican album – over and over when I was five. No wonder I am so fucked. 🙂 “Rapture” does at least reference Subaru! Memories of Thanksgiving with Lóa (2013)

46. Lou Reed – “Satellite of Love”
Rest in peace and bon voyage.

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What does it take to be fearless and loving? Loving people requires a certain risk-taking fearlessness that I have never really embraced. When I say never, I mean never. But kindness – that can substitute.

I take a lot of risks and make a lot of changes but am still fearful of a lot of things. Perhaps I need to focus on these things before running off on another adventure undertaken for the sake of “change”.

Sudden, unexpected loss everywhere this year – there is no time like the present to do what one needs to do to feel healthy and happy. Happiest new year wishes, as arbitrary as that really is.

Work Life – Retreading the Repetitive Inertia – “My transformers are gone”

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“Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve –
Hope without an object cannot live.”
–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“I’m a broken television on a Neukölln street,
That dog over there just pissed on me.
My screen is cracked, my transformers are gone,
I was state-of-the-art until it all went wrong…”

-SONIC CONTROL “Broken Television on a Neukölln Street” (listen – loud!)

Corporate life without dynamism and real decisions made and implemented (that is, backed up with real action) makes one inert – the planning for planning for planning to change for a change that never really comes. A lot of processes, developing processes and storing these storied processes somewhere (where? Some barely functioning, buggy database? Some bespoke little system that the company pats itself on the back for contracting the creation of – not realizing it is not scalable, not usable, not changeable, not modular, not portable, not mobile, not user friendly, etc. etc. A system that was not only expensive but so individual to the company’s needs that it cannot be applied outside the system or the company and any upgrades have to be done by the same original developer – and what should the company have learned in these cases, given that they repeat this mistake again and again, except that the company is a cash cow being milked for all its technical naivete and lack of technical competence is worth?)

The inertia also comes from a lot of talk about change management – but what change are we actually managing? The churn of the upper execs brought in to “change” things? To talk endlessly about change and innovation that no one has a clue how to implement – talk is cheap. Innovation is a buzzword, and if it is really meant to exist throughout the organization, an organization needs (supposedly) to find ways to work differently, communicate differently, be leaner. But this is all too often just a lot of talk. The push to innovate adds an extra layer of talk, endless meetings, pressure to do something without any idea what while the true organizational structure, the way it works and the people it hires, is not leaner, is not better suited to the needs of the future, is less transparent and even the simplest of “yeses” are really “nos”. Usually no one person has the chutzpah or cojones to say yes, mean it and back it up or to just say no and stick to it. Reality is in the corporate netherworld in between where decisions are half-made in committees that then must present to another committee. All that is left to show for this endless process is months and years of wasted time and really crappy PowerPoint presentations that no one will ever look at again.

If a company, for example, is going to place all its eggs in the “future-oriented” basket – then IT probably needs to be woven into the whole organization – not just SAP and supply chain issues, for example. It actually needs to be integrated with every part of the business (at least relevant people need to know what effect business decisions will have on IT systems and needs and vice versa). That means that a company-wide change cannot be vague and “IT-oriented”, heralded loudly and visibly as a major priority and then in reality set adrift on a rickety raft, isolated from the rest of a company, guided by competent but unqualified and junior-level teams without any authority. Change cannot be something guided by an organization instructing: “Turn this raft into a luxurious cruise ship that everyone will want to board. Here’s 1,000 dollars to do it.” Creativity and ingenuity go a long way – even assigning people who do not necessarily come from the “right” background suited to these fields can be a smart asset – getting new perspectives and ways of doing things but not if these people are not provided the resources and support to really implement the change.

One colleague referred to much of this as herding cats. I also thought of the way things in the corporate world operate when I was watching the film My Week with Marilyn today, when Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier yells something like, “teaching Marilyn to act is like teaching Urdu to a badger”. Corporate life seems to be a lot about forcing people into roles that are just not made for them – or roles that no one could succeed in or giving roles that are absolutely beyond the knowledge, experience and expertise of those given the roles, but no one knows or cares because those filling the roles are “yes men” and “yes women”, who buy into the game, who speak the lingo and don’t really care if things really get done.

The frustrating part, which renders the people of such a corporation inert, is that they sink a lot of time and work into efforts that are ultimately thwarted because there is no “big plan” or at least nothing that is backed by real resources. It is just like running in a hamster wheel – or worse, a rat maze from which no one is quite sure there is an exit. If a company could employ clarity and honesty from the start – that might make a difference. As one person said to me, a company could just admit that they are a hot dog stand and aim to be the best hot dog stand instead of being a hot dog stand striving to be a fine-dining establishment. The company is just playing in the wrong league, the wrong ballpark – maybe even the wrong game. Possibly the wrong decade – management with traditional ideas that were state-of-the-art in the 1970s and IT solutions that were cutting edge in 1998.

The feeling of employees beaten down by this machine, beating their heads against the wall, can only create frustration, unhappiness and eventually apathy.

Maybe it is not apathy so much at that point as it is  – why would one do something that is the antithesis of what they want to do? One can survive and thrive in some other way without the daily sense that nothing they do is going to matter.

After watching the documentary Hit So Hard, I was inspired to reread an article about Generation X heading into middle age, and it struck me that most people in my generation are somewhat apathetic (even if they are smart, hard workers). They don’t want to step up somehow because the world during their lives presented one crisis after another – and this corporate “thing” just isn’t our thing. (“‘If anything,” says Wendy Fonarow, a social anthropologist and the author of the indie-rock chronicle Empire of Dirt, “our generation is characterized by not hitting a wall of midlife crisis but having crises throughout.’” Also: “‘The problem is, with adulthoods repeatedly shipwrecked by economic disasters, Xers might have neglected to track the crossing over. Susan Gregory Thomas, author of the resonant memoir In Spite of Everything, says that many Xers ‘are always living in a state of triage, always in a survivalist mode. We’re not thinking long-term.’”)

Many people in this generation have created their own businesses – many doing innovative things that enable working without compromising. Experience shows that we can find greater satisfaction if we have a certain amount of flexibility, if we are steering the ship – sometimes completely outside the confines of the “corporate box”. We can be compliant team players and prolific, engaged contributors – but not within a box.

For me individually, I don’t want to spend my life, my time, my effort contributing to hypocritical institutions that bow down to how things have always been done. I won’t give lip service to – and give my service to – something that is just sort of like putting a patch on a sinking raft. I want to get on a robust – even if small – ship and move full steam ahead (although I don’t mind the old-fashioned way of doing things and the knowledge and experience needed to do things in another or older way).

Maybe I am not thinking in the long-term because it has never done me any good to do so. No amount of planning can insulate one from economic reality or from disposability. I will undoubtedly always choose to do what is best for me personally and professionally, which for me has been a path toward freelancing or, ideally, full-time virtual/remote work. I have become a vocal proponent, near “activist” of sorts, for this. Sure, the virtual work concoction is one part selfish, i.e. I am more productive, healthier and happier working at home. But it is also another part driven by other considerations – our globalized world is under financial and environmental pressures, for one thing.

While this makes little difference perhaps for someone who lives in the same city as they work, it has become important to me as I have observed a large part of the “global” staff commute in from different countries on a weekly basis just to attend a few meetings and have a presence in the global HQ. Yes, people are literally flying in every single week. There is a tremendous environmental cost to this – and for what? These travel and housing expenses are covered by the company – so when the entire employee base is constantly prodded to think of smarter, more efficient, less expensive ways to work – this seems like an obvious, hitting-the-nail-on-the-head no-brainer. Technology has progressed to the point that I imagined telecommuting and virtual workforces would be a much more integrated and normal thing by now but it is instead working the other way. I don’t see the value if looking in a sheer cost-benefit manner in maintaining this commuting workforce, some of whom literally show up for one afternoon to attend one meeting. If the expertise of these staff is that valuable, fine. But how on earth does this excessive travel make sense? How is this lean or well-organized?

I was state-of-the-art until it all went wrong…” (SONIC CONTROL)