Wave goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

permanent

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“Din’t I tell ya aboot that time I went doon the toon and got masel a perm?”

What has it come to when you discuss Tom Skerritt, and it ends up being a singing match – two people belting out Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” as if their lives depended on it?

“Turning and returning to some secret place to hide, watching in slow motion as you turn to me and say…”

Does erasing the “I” from the beginning of a personal statement make it impersonal? I am beginning to think so.

A few weeks ago, in the swarm of depressing inactivity, I watched the series Santa Clarita Diet; it held no interest for me at all – not my style. But still, Timothy Olyphant (I still miss Justified). He is the draw, right? Going mad seeking a cure for his zombified wife, the couple has this little exchange:

“You seem really manic, honey.” (Drew Barrymore, as his wife)
“I feel really manic.” (Timothy Olyphant, manic, excited and convincing)

“If only for today/I am unafraid…”

Softly into 40s: Where’s the party?

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An acquaintance recently turned 30 and fretted mildly about it. A mutual acquaintance and I chimed in immediately to reassure her that the thirties are by far the best decade. You finally know who you are – usually none of the anxiety and trying too hard to please others and finding your footing that shade your twenties. The mutual acquaintance and I are both on the threshold of 41. Neither of us felt one way or the other about turning 40, but somehow we’re both dreading 41 because it’s a nothing age.

I concocted a dream birthday party for 40 – maybe, despite not being a party person, I would invite everyone from all spheres of my life (Seattle, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, work, non-work, the past, the present) to one big event (in Seattle, in Iceland?). But the big trick would be to get 1. some bands I love that are still small enough to be able to do something like a big party (thinking here about stuff like The Wedding Present/Cinerama and Seattle band Tomten, for example), 2.the ubiquitous everywhere-man Tom Skerritt to choose his favorite poem and attend the party to recite it (haha – I know – crazy), and 3. a place big enough to accommodate all these dreams. And of course enough people agreeing to attend. It would be less a 40-year-old birthday for me and more a gathering of people who made the 40 years memorable, for better or worse.

In the end, I did nothing. Not a single celebratory thing. But now that I see 41 on the horizon, I wonder if I should aim for some big thing sometime this decade.

 

Lunchtable TV Talk: The Affair and Ballers

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Sometimes inspiration for writing about the TV I love does not come easily. Sometimes, for some shows, no inspiration comes at all. There’s no way to know what will hit the spot and what won’t. For example, there are many shows I watch(ed), love(d) and would recommend, but unless I think of some particular angle that I feel I want to express, I will never bother to write specifically about them.

Mad Men is one of those shows. It was analyzed, torn apart, beloved, criticized and everything else you can do to a TV show from the comfort of your couch (by professionals and amateurs alike). I don’t have anything to add to that discussion, apart from noting how Don Draper seemed to be something like a drunken traveling handyman there near the end. (And I was able to note the semi-subtle red Coca-Cola thread sewing the final season together, but I only did that in order to compare and contrast it to another already-dead series about ad men, HAPPYish, which also got into the ring with the Coca-Cola theme.)

There are others. It might not be that they were revered and torn limb from limb and sucked dry of all their marrow. It might just be that I would not know what to add. The upcoming second season of Fargo counts among these. The first season was untouchable, and my rambling about it would not do it justice or be a very good use of my time. (But who am I kidding? Is any of this a good use of my time?) What about stuff like Boardwalk Empire? Slow, simmering, complex, an acquired taste, not for everyone… what could I really write that could give that epic its due? No, there is nothing. Maybe one day I will feel some great urge to “unpack” (one of those overused-of-late terms I hate, which seems to have seeped from academia into corporate jargon) Bobby Cannavale’s performance in Boardwalk or Boardwalk’s courageous and unusual choice of offing one of the leads early (setting the “no one is safe” tone early) or effusing about Michael K Williams in yet another unforgettable and iconic HBO role. But probably not.

In fact, writing about things I love is considerably more challenging than writing disparagingly about content that just does not make the cut. The more disappointing something is, the easier it is to excoriate.

And that’s how I reach my tale of watching The Affair, and my increasing hostility toward it. The only good thing about it: Richard Schiff. Seriously. Actually in the first season, which started off with some promise and a lot of positive buzz, Joshua Jackson stood out as both a good performance and as a good character. Every other character was so unlikable and selfish – and I mean everyone, right down to the main guy, Noah’s and his wife, Helen’s, kids – particularly the oldest daughter. Maybe the self-centered nature of man (and woman) is what the story is meant to be about. Every man for himself. And the actors in the roles play that selfishness and the slivers of perspective we get (when they point of view shifts from one character to another) to a T. I have read plenty of analysis about this show and its squandered potential, so I won’t bother in that vein.

I mostly wanted a reason to write that Richard Schiff commands the screen even when he only appears for two minutes. I mean seriously – I watched the show Ballers the other day just on the strength of his being in it. He is not even in it that much, but again, his presence elevated the show. And, oddly, because I did not go into Ballers with any expectations except maybe believing I would find the show stupid, I was pleasantly surprised (particularly in the episode in which Michael Cudlitz shows up… because, you know, Cudlitz always shows up. He’s almost as everywhere as the frighteningly omnipresent Tom Skerritt and still has plenty of time to increase his presence – and maybe join a ballet production – to reach Skerritt-like levels).

All I can say for these things – TV expectations, letdowns and surprises – is go figure.

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”

Tom Skerritt is everywhere

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It does not matter how much I say it – or how often I think there is no way Tom Skerritt will show up in something, he always does! Overdosing on the mediocre TV show, White Collar, who shows up but Tom Skerritt! Goddamn, that man is everywhere! In this, he is “staring like a creepy doll” according to the character who is the son-in-law. Really, though, what could I have expected? The man is in his 70s and accepted a role in the Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s production of Don Quijote. BALLET! You should expect a man like that to turn up anywhere – and therefore always be on the lookout.