Random Gum: Raising the Bar 2017

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Getting late & losing track of time – December 2016/early 2017

For no real reason except that I’ve been abnormally into music for a few months (yes, I always am, but even more than usual these days), I have already collected a new mix that makes up the soundtrack of my life for the last three months or so (since my last mix went out). The songs are all listed below; almost the entire playlist (minus the songs not available at all on Spotify, such as track 01, from Vorderhaus) can be found among my Spotify playlists. Those people whose addresses I have can trust that a physical copy is on its way to you as I write.

01. Vorderhaus – “Faintly …future’s looming in the afterglow…
02. Big Search – “Love in Return …river, the warmth has gone/the trail’s not been cold for long…
03. The Passions – “I’m in Love with a German Film Star” …playing the part of a real troublemaker/but I didn’t care – it really moved me…
When you fall out of love with the dream

04. Steve Mason – “Planet Sizes” …the universe makes me cry…
It could have been a ‘date’ in Oslo… or not. The fates only know

05. Wand – “Fire on the Mountain (I-II-III)”

06. The Fat Tulips – “Where’s Clare Grogan Now?”
Courtesy of lovely William; reminders/mentions of Enumclaw & Scotland all in one

07. The Fall – “Lost in Music”
For Naomi, for S. Put the original on a recent Halloween mix after hearing it on the dreadful show Looking. Made fun of it (i.e. “Get a job, dancing, music-obsessed losers”). What can take it all up a notch? A version from The Fall, of course!

08. Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me” …You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony…
What started as a casual recommendation led eventually to a little heartbreak every time this song came on: “We spend our days locked in a room content inside a bubble
And in the night time we go out and scour the streets for trouble”

09. British India – “I Thought We Knew Each Other”
“Fifteen years of fighting in the dark/Empty hands the only thing I’ve got/All the times I’ve tried to walk away” – it’s the words, not the generic sound

10. Cats on Fire – “Poor Students Dream of Marx …Hated London nightlife, so I’ve heard…
“Go on, get out/I am sharing your doubts”; “last words are for fools who haven’t said enough” (Oh, and it may interest some to know, like Naomi, that these dudes are FUNNISH)

11. The Crayon Fields – “Mirror Ball” …You are still my-y mirror ball/I look at you/and suddenly I’m a virgin/In a dance hall…
“Would it flatter you to know/That mostly it’s you/That makes me so slow”

12. Courtney Marie Andrews – “How Quickly Your Heart Mends”
“The jukebox is playing a sad country song,/For all the ugly Americans,/Now I feel like one of them,/Dancing alone and broken by the freedom”

13. Maud Lübeck – “J’oublie”
With thanks to Laurent S. When music is a conduit to escape dark times

14. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
Had been meaning to listen but didn’t until it got the “Travis seal of approval”. Love to Billy & Travis xox. And my god, is there anywhere that Donald Glover isn’t right now?

15. Junip – “Line of Fire” …No one else around you/No one to understand you/No one to hear your calls/Look through all your dark corners…
Gothenburg

16. The Church – “Under the Milky Way” …I think about the loveless fascination/
Under the Milky Way tonight…
I often forget how much I love the sound of The Church

17. Roosevelt – “Montreal”
Skåne del Sol adventures (no beheadings) w/ Kyle & musical influence of Mr Bridge

18. Dead or Alive – “You Spin Me Round” …I’ve got to have my way now, baby…
RIP Pete. If the losses of 2016 haven’t spun us all around, I don’t know what will

19. Margaret Glaspy – “You and I” …I think you might be harboring a heartache/I think you might be crying when I’m gone/You and I have been a mistake/I let it linger too long…
Endings that drag on; “I don’t want to see you cry/But it feels like a matter of time”

20. Foxygen – “Follow the Leader” …I know sometimes everyone wants to be someone else…

21. John Lennon – “Watching the Wheels” …when I say that I’m okay/well, they look at me kinda strange/surely you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game…

22. Lianne La Havas – “What You Don’t Do”
Thanks to Esteban and Ana

23. Kula Shaker – “Persephone”
Naming conventions, unconventions & the depth & meaning of a name. Not a Kula Shaker fan

24. Lia Ices – “After is Always Before” …I don’t know after and before’s almost gone…
Missing Jane

25. Grandaddy – “Clear Your History”

26. TV21 – “All Join Hands” …I feel so used or was I just your servant?…
Many thanks to William; thoughts racing while racing through Oslo outskirts

27. Leonard Cohen – “So Long, Marianne”
RIP Leonard Cohen. Generic Cohen to choose but has its reasons. Staple soundtrack of the Indian (why?!) place by my old office in Iceland where I spent so many lunches with old friends. And of course, the Norwegian namesake, Marianne, who preceded Cohen in death by only a few months

28. Diego Garcia – “You Were Never There” …Girl you never cared/You were never there…
“You hide yourself/behind a wall/and it shows”. Such truth

29. Cate le Bon – “Love is Not Love” …And the bars go/And it keeps me high/But I don’t know how to love you…
“I won’t let you, I won’t let you, sing my name again, love…”

30. Laura Marling – “Hope in the Air”
With manifold thanks to MP

31. Tomten – “Nothin’ Like Bein’ No One
Love for the little-known Seattle band. I will include them whenever I can
32. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle…you better pack up & run…
RIP Sharon. “Every dog has his day, uncle, and it just can’t go on this way…”
33. The Boo Radleys – “Wish I Was Skinny”
Love to Naomi – only Boo Radleys fan I know/can think of!

34. Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”
“If I could, I’d be your little spoon/And kiss your fingers forevermore/But, big spoon, you have so much to do/And I have nothing ahead of me”

35. U.S. Girls – “Island Song”

36. George Michael – “Freedom! ’90”
Holy shit – could 2016 be more brutal? RIP George. I was not a huge fan but what a piece of the 80s landscape and the collective memory of my generation

37. Os Mutantes – “Baby”
For R, always the wrong things to say at wrong times; on occasion knows the right things to do

38. Shonen Knife – “Elephant Pao Pao” とても悪いこと
Totemo warui koto/Japanese-language camp and those old days and ways

39. Low – “Just Like Christmas” …by the time we got to Oslo, the snow was gone/and we got lost, the beds were small, but we felt so young
Conjuring an unfathomably lovely future or a cocoon-like bubble? (Nevertheless, can’t go to Oslo without getting lost and finding an endless array of hi-fi stores)

40. The Verve – “History”
Poetry and history, with gratitude on many fronts to M

41. Nirvana – “Pennyroyal Tea” …Give me Leonard Cohen afterworld…
RIP Leonard Cohen – again

42. Martha Wainwright – “Take the Reins …if you take the reins, I will never look back…
43. Cowboy Junkies – “To Lay Me Down” …To lie with you/Once more to lie with you/With our dreams close together/To wake beside you…
Revival from illness in the cocoon of an illusory under-the-covers world “with our bodies entwined together”

44. Bess Atwell – “Cobbled Streets” …Should it be this hard?/Should it feel like disconnecting?…
“Well I’m afraid I’ve led you to believe I’m not what I am”

45. Steve Mason – “Run Away” …I know you’ll run away/But when I find this I don’t mind anyway…
“Will the love I think, I think I felt/Run away in a day or two?” O, to be pierced through the heart

46. Tori Amos – “Toast” …With a toast he’s telling me it’s time/To let you go…
Losing a brother, stories of toast. For Mom, RIP Paul, ML toastmonster and MP

The end of 2016 particularly was fraught with pain and fear. I can only do what I can: continue on my own path, offer sanctuary to those who have reasons to be fearful of what their current country may become, offer love and sympathy to my remaining family members (whose numbers are dwindling) and love unconditionally. The end also offered a glimpse of light and understanding, which remains unclear. The pain, uncertainty and momentum of all of it inexplicably motivates me as we stumble into 2017.

Photo by the incomparable late, great Paul Costanich.

Lunchtable TV Talk – Scorpion

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The best part of the show Scorpion -so far- has been hearing the gorgeous song “Under the Milky Way” by The Church. That having absolutely nothing to do with the show itself, I cannot really endorse the show as being anything more than a normal procedural show that has very little distinguishing it from similar, previous shows on network TV.

A lot like Leverage and Alphas before it, the show focuses on a group of misfit geniuses who work together as a team, using their unique individual strengths to solve crimes, save lives and so on. Maybe it is different that the group of geniuses works as a part of US Homeland Security, so they are not renegades running amok fixing things of their own accord. Unusual social underdogs coupled with overachieving IQs. It is not that this is unpleasant – it is a perfectly entertaining show, and I am watching – and continue to watch it. The slight difference in this show compared to some of the previously mentioned ones – the group (Scorpion – as the show is titled) has a government handler (Robert Patrick) and a kind of former waitress, mother of a misunderstood genius who becomes a social translator/handler for the group (universally recognized bad actress Katharine McPhee – just check out the soap opera mess that was Smash).

Occasionally there is a funny line or reference thrown in. It accounts for the second time this week that I heard a reference to Gavrilo Princip in a popular network TV show (okay, the other show was The Slap, so it is a big stretch and exaggeration to use the word “popular” in reference to it). The finale of The Slap and a recent episode of Scorpion referred to Princip, the Serbian assassin of Archduke Franz Ferninand – a seemingly small event that triggered World War I. Scorpion will not be triggering any wars or setting any fires (even though a recent episode included a giant fire started by the group crashing landing a helicopter).

The Guarded Cocoon

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I remember, entirely without fondness, those nights in childhood when my “friends” and I thought it was a great idea to spend the night at one another’s houses. What could be better than extending the illusion bought during recess and other stolen moments of playing together that we were such great friends that spending 24+ hours together would somehow enhance the “friendship”? My own participation in this ritual and seeming rite of passage was reluctant – at the time I really thought I wanted to do it, and that if I did it, I would somehow grow accustomed to it and how awkward and uncomfortable it always was, particularly for a person like me (shy, quiet, accommodating and always aiming to please – willing to endure hell for the sake of keeping peace). And endure I did. If I once went to someone’s house, I might have been suffering in silent misery, as I often did, but if I had decided I was staying there, I stayed. The only memorable exception to this happened much later, when I was in high school. I had been invited to someone’s overnight birthday party – a girl who was friends with friends, not really my friend directly. My discomfort outweighed my sense of wanting to preserve social harmony; I went home, mostly because it was time to acknowledge that even the friends in that situation were not really my friends.

But one of the strangest scenarios in these overnight adventures were the times when you would get a kid who was like an overeager puppy – so excited to come and stay with you, talking about all the things you would do together when they got there, how you were their best friend ever… and so on. And once they were there, and darkness started to fall, they also whimpered like a little puppy away from its mother for the first time, eventually the whole thing escalating into panic attacks and tears that no one but their mother could calm. This resulted in middle-of-the-night phone calls to their parents, who promptly came to pick them up, saying, “Maybe we can try this again next year when XXXXX is a bit more socially mature.”

I imagined that those kinds of events had ended when I became an adult. Imagine my surprise to find myself in a not entirely dissimilar situation with a full-grown adult who did everything short of calling mommy on the phone to come and get him (and he might have done had his mum been in the same country). I don’t really know how to apply words to this – to describe how jarring this is or how intensely it really takes me back to that awkward place in which I spent so much of my childhood. Really looking at the whole situation, though, all the same pieces were there, and had I not wanted to buy into the illusion now as much as I did when I was a child, I would have seen, understood and never let things reach this stage. I could have set aside the eager-to-make-friends kid I had been and let my inner, overreaching “parent” take over (since, as we know, I have always been a bit of a senior citizen) and be reasonable. Yes, reasonable. I could have seen that it was the same pattern playing out – the eager puppy, full of excited plans, grand words, high and undeserved praise – all empty, really. Not that nothing had been true in the friendship – just that it was applicable in a “limited-time-only” kind of way (not unlike the KFC Double Down sandwich. HA!). That is, when we were “at recess” together or spending time in our fertile imaginations, things were beautiful. But reality is different. Long-term reality is apparently worthy of panic and backpedaling and fearful apologies that cite all the reasons why I should not feel bad, i.e. because it’s “not about X, and it’s not about Y” – but I know, because these are the first and only things mentioned, that it is exactly about and mostly about X and Y.

I am not sure that I have ever been in a weirder situation. I have been in situations that I became a part of because I wanted to believe in them even if I knew it was a foolish idea because I always hope things will be different than reality has taught me. Sometimes someone – a friend on the playground or a casual wanderer through my life’s landscape – will pique my interest enough, show just enough understanding and enthusiasm – that I set aside the doubt and step furtively into the house constructed of walls that some other person built. I did not construct these illusions – I just watched and went along with it because it seemed like such a welcome respite from everything else. Because I wanted to believe maybe the walls they built would somehow, finally, stand – and be solid.

I get something even from the failures (something positive) and reinforcement that I really need to listen only to my instinct and absolutely nothing else – but ultimately the negative outweighs the positive and is always an expensive lesson (both literally and figuratively) – sending me further into the guarded cocoon where I live out most of my days.

From Portrait d’Une Femme

Pregnant with mandrakes, or with something else
That might prove useful and yet never proves,
That never fits a corner or shows use,
Or finds its hour upon the loom of days

-Ezra Pound