Luck of the lockdown – Random gum 2020

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Luck of the lockdown – Random gum 2020

Since my last playlist the world has turned upside-down. Travel has stopped; people have been quarantined. Probably no better time for some music. The latest playlist is here.

Follow along on Spotify if inclined…

I started compiling this early in 2020 and had originally intended it for March, so it had a lot of Irish and Scottish artists (still does), but the whole “luck of the Irish” thing won’t work now. Not just because it’s June but also because frivolity – though we need it – feels wildly out of place at the moment. As I write this the world is feeling prematurely hopeful about the coronavirus while the US’s decline into chaos accelerates. (The ‘future view’ of America, as foretold in the tv comedy Brockmire looks more and more likely every day.)

1. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
The times we live in.
2. Alien Sex Fiend – “Now I’m Feeling Zombiefied” …Show you faces and places that’ll make you terrified to be alive!…
How do we live without zombified numbness and fear?
3. Electronic – “Make It Happen” …I am a fraction/A part of a broken man…
4. Sharon Van Etten – “I Told You Everything” …We held hands as we parted…
Opening up to the dark and the light.
5. Cate le Bon – “Sisters”
6. The Prodigy – “Charly (Original Mix)”

charley

A complete UK experience must be accompanied by Charley the cat and his dead-eyed little boy owner cautioning you against all kinds of dangers.


7. Roy Orbison – “In Dreams” …A candy-colored clown they call the sandman/Tiptoes to my room every night…
Is anyone else creeped out by these lyrics? This sandman claims “everything is all right” – but is it? Is it?
8. Mazzy Star – “Roseblood” …Capture a smile and then that’s all/You won’t know her so it’s ok/Funny how things change…
RIP David Roback.
9. Michael Kiwanuka – “You Ain’t The Problem”
10. Primal Scream – “Rocks”
Must be played loud.
11. John Prine – “Angel of Montgomery” …just give me one thing that I can hold onto/to believe in this living is just a hard way to go…
RIP. What a huge loss; one victim of the COVID-19 virus that has gripped the world in 2020.
12. Weyes Blood– “Andromeda” …If you think you can save me/I dare you to try…
13. The Waterboys – “The Whole of the Moon”
The use of this song in the final bit of often-frustrating The Affair (and Fiona Apple’s cover) made me listen to this anew; I included it originally when this was going to be a St. Patrick’s Day/March mix (was mostly including Irish and Scottish stuff). But here we are in June.
14. Bedouin Soundclash, Coeur de Pirate – “Brutal Hearts”
15. Autobahn 86, Jokey – “National Health Service”
It’s Glasgow and it’s timely, don’t you know? People need and love their NHS.
16. Carl Hauck – “Pure Gold”
17. Kenny Rogers – “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”
RIP Kenny. Not my style but definitely a marker of childhood. I will always remember a classmate telling me that her Japanese father taught himself English with Kenny Rogers tunes. Don’t love the dubious lyric: “And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground”; also a fitting tribute via Glaswegian comedy Burnistoun.

18. Fleetwood Mac – “Go Your Own Way”
19. U.N.P.O.C. – “Here On My Own”
During this lockdown, we are all on our own. Especially those of us who live completely alone.
20. The Soup Dragons – “I’m Free”
The order in which the last few songs appear (go your own way, sad all on my own and now freedom) seems intentional but wasn’t. Weird. I doubt Sean Dickson of The Soup Dragons imagined during his Bellshill/Glasgow years or the early years of fame how prescient and prophetic recording this song would be for him. I watched a documentary thing in which he featured – I didn’t recognize him at all. But the guy looks healthy and happy (once he embraced who he really is). This YouTube clip isn’t the docu I saw – but you can see him here along with clips from the “I’m Free” video – a world of difference.


21. Echo & the Bunnymen – “Never Stop”
22. The Wild Reeds – “I Think We’re Alone Now”
For some reason this song is always going to make me think of Terra and miss her.
23. REM – “Nightswimming”
This song’s use in Pamela Adlon’s Better Things was so exquisite that I’ve had to play this often.
24. Jessie Buckley – “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)”
I’d never have guessed that this Buckley was the same girl who delivered a heartbreaking performance in Chernobyl, nor the same girl who turned up in Taboo. But there you go. Irish versatility! This tune from the soundtrack to Glasgow-based indie film Wild Rose was co-written by Mary Steenburgen. Yes, that Mary Steenburgen!
25. Peter, Paul and Mary – “500 Miles”
26. Noire – “Baby Blue”
27. U2 – “Love is Blindness” …Love is drowning/In a deep well/All the secrets/And no one to tell…
Oh, those youthful years of obsession with U2 and Ireland.
28. Brigid Mae Power – “On a City Night” …Before I could reply he said/I like the city lights instead/country trees in the night/their shadows give me a fright…
Brigid Mae Power (Irish, of course) continues to be one of my favorites. I love this song.
29. Moses Sumney – “Doomed” …When I expel/From this mortal shell/Will I die for living numb?…
And we are back to numbness.

Spring into action – Random gum 2020

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Spring into action – Random gum 2020

It was a good run, making monthly soundtracks to chronicle life’s ups and downs. But inevitably other priorities clashed with best intentions, and here we are. I’ve just added a few bits to a playlist I intended to share in February/March 2019 – a whole year ago. How much has changed in that year, even though on a day-by-day, drip-by-drip level, it feels numbingly same-same.

Follow along on Spotify if inclined… I was, once upon a time, burning CD copies of MP3 files of all this stuff, and mailing them out with various candy/sweets from different spots in the world, but this too has fizzled out.

Usually when I produce these lists in a timely fashion, I nod respectfully to the dearly departed by including a song from those no longer on this earthly plane. For some time, something by The Cars lingered in the playlist as a ‘remembering Ric Ocasek’ thing, but it was like a nagging splinter that’s visible but unextractable. I removed the song; it didn’t belong. But the same can be said of so many things: remove because it didn’t belong – whatever ‘it’ was.

1. Jeff Russo – Star Trek Picard Main Title
Because it’s the sound of a mild but windy winter turning to spring, and of inevitable moments of turning away from
2. Roxy Music – Both Ends Burning …do I have the speed to carry on/I’ll burn you out of my mind…
3. Julia Jacklin – Good Guy …tell me I’m the love of your life/just for a night/even if you don’t feel it…
Missing Julia in Glasgow in December. Big regret. “I don’t care for the truth when I’m lonely/I don’t care if you lie”
4. Pavement – Range Life
I have no idea why I stumbled on this and placed it here.
5. Stone Poneys – Different Drum …I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’/We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me…
How often this one pops up in life.
6. The Wild Reeds – Be the Change …conclude my story with a degrading phrase/because I never meant to be this way…
7. Fat White Family – Feet
8. Habib Koité – I Ka Barra
Always returning to Mali in some way, as one does
9. Angel Olsen – Lark …Hiding out inside my head, it’s me again, it’s no surprise I’m on my own now/Every time I turn to you, I see the past…
I missed out on Angel Olsen in Oslo in February. Ambitious, I bought tickets to all kinds of concerts in the autumn, and by winter, my ability to face crowds and noise withered
10. Sleater-Kinney – Hurry On Home …You got me used to loving you…
11. Maggie Rogers – Fallingwater …I never loved you fully in the way I could/I fought the current running just the way you would…
12. Karen O/Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
13. ALA.NI – Cherry Blossom …Blowing through the flowing of my heart…
14. Sharon Van Etten – Consolation Prize …The moral of the story is/don’t lie to me again/To find a better conversation/So I can be your consolation prize…
15. Jim Croce – I Got a Name …they can change their minds but they can’t change me…
I can’t hear Jim Croce without thinking of being a child, looking at an album my mom had that was just a close-up of Croce’s face, and my mom telling me that Croce died when he was 30. I was four so 30 sounded like a perfectly reasonable old age to die.
16. Dean Wareham, Britta Phillips – Mistress America
17. King Creosote – Surface …And now it’s my turn to hide, if not out here then inside/it’s both of us have run to ground…
Scotland, of course
18. Peter Schilling – Terra Titanic
For S and Deutschland love, and how Peter Schilling will always make me think of 1989 and college radio
19. Jane Weaver – You Are Dissolved …Even I am not amazed by you…
For Ade and the fights one can get into at Jane Weaver concerts
20. Heaven 17 – Temptation
21. New Order – Touched by the Hand of God
New Order, and more importantly, Kyle and Anne in Prague and seeing Naomi’s doppelganger. Will never forget the video for this song and how it entertained the adolescent Terra and me
22. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb …there is no pain/you are receding/a distant ship’s smoke on the horizon/you are only coming through in waves/your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying…
Because, according to S, I am the only person on earth who listens to Pink Floyd without being high
23. Ride – Vapour Trail …thirsty for your smile/I watch you for a while/you are a vapour trail/in a deep blue sky…
Still the nightly sleep filled with reawakening of old Terra memories
24. Belle & Sebastian – Meat and Potatoes
Dear Green Place music with a chuckle
25. Billie Eilish – all the good girls go to hell
Not normally my thing but this is a catchy one
26. Angel Olsen – Too Easy …one could make me laugh forever/I’d do anything for you…
27. Alvvays – Next of Kin …if I’d known you couldn’t swim/we would never have gone in…
Sometimes a band will just remind you of one specific moment, one specific person, and you can’t escape it
28. U2 – Red Hill Mining Town …A link is lost/the chain undone/we wait all day/for night to come…
Last year I listened to The Joshua Tree on repeat; my long-ago obsession with that was probably the last time I was ever that connected to such blind passion for something. It was also probably the last time it seemed like U2 wasn’t just going through the motions.
29. Nils Frahm – La
With love for Andreas; this one is best listened to in headphones
30. Vashti Bunyan – Train Song …What will I do if there’s someone with you/Maybe someone you’ve always known/How do I know I can come and give to you/Love with no warning and find you alone…
Another musician whose existence I trip over, so connected to discovery at a specific moment in time. Incidentally this also serves as the theme song for a tv show called Patriot, which I watched and forgot all about and started to watch again. Luckily I immediately realized I’d seen it. But we’re way beyond peak TV now…
31. Morphine – In Spite of Me …You seemed so close but yet so cold/For a long time I thought that you’d be coming back to me/Those kind of thoughts can be so cruel/So cruel/And I know you did it all in spite of me…
32. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors …I’ve been watchin’ all my past repeatin’…
33. Belle & Sebastian – The Party Line …I am on this morning quite distracted/The tug of war begins in our emotion/I am leaving many people feeling/worse than before…
I know I have included this song on another playlist before, but I don’t care. I love it that much.
34. Lana Del Rey – Mariners Apartment Complex
Also not my normal thing. I’m NOT a Lana Del Rey fan but at some point I listened to this particular song enough that it just became a part of this list, and I couldn’t remove it.
35. This Is the Kit – Bashed Out …and blessed are those who see and are silent…
36. The GoGos – Our Lips Are Sealed …there’s a weapon that we must choose in our defense/silence…
For S, J, and others. Somehow many people who should know better had never heard of this, and if they knew the song, they only knew the Fun Boy Three version. The two versions are tellingly different, but the GoGos’ version came first; the song was written by The GoGos’s Jane Wiedlin and Fun Boy Three’s Terry Hall.
37. Joe Fagin – That’s Livin’ Alright, end-credit theme, Auf Wiedersehen Pet
Um, yeah… thanks to S, this past year has been a learning experience about 80s-era UK television. This gem is the end-credits theme for a show about a bunch of unemployed English construction workers who go to Germany to get a job. Funny that with Brexit and its inevitable economic consequences, Germany and the rest of Europe won’t be an option for this type of out-of-work bloke any more
38. Tori Amos – Putting the Damage On …I’m just your ghost passing through…

amusing tongue of procrastination – Random gum of February 2019 soundtrack

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It’s been another city-to-city runaround for the last two months, and music has been one of the things fueling me as I overfill an endless to-do list, tend to my most basic needs and contemplate the impending doom of Brexit and Trumpdom. I know some of these are repeated of songs I’ve included in other mixes. At this point I don’t think it can be helped. I collect what keeps me going as I go… and that might be the same songs month after month…

amusing tongue of procrastination
Good Goo of Random Gum – January and February 2019

Follow along on Spotify.

01 Cameron AveryDance with Me …Sure, I’m a lonely fool and I ain’t that cool
But I’ll walk you through it…
Some Australian thing
02 PoliçaMarrow
Snowy walks in the dark
03 thanks – Your World
04 INXSKiss the Dirt (Falling Down a Mountain)
Hard to believe how long Hutchence has been gone; another Aussie representative
05 AlvvaysPlimsoll Punks
Sometimes things inexplicably and unexpectedly remind you of someone and you can’t figure out why they ever seemed so important
06 World PartyIs It Like Today?
World Party is one of those bands my best friend and I probably made fun of (no idea why) when we were adolescents. Now I listen to this during the snowy, dark morning walks and can’t separate it from the annoyances of public transportation
07 The CultFire Woman
The Cult was never my thing, and this song was something I suppose I made fun of in its heyday, but I recently sent it to my best friend when she offered to help me overcome my fear of fire in order to operate my dormant fireplace
08 LizzoJuice
Can’t get enough of this
09 U2Spanish Eyes
Another nod to adolescence and the old days when B-sides were so hard to come by
10 Phantastic FernitureBad Timing
Oh, how I love everything Julia Jacklin is involved in. “Maybe it’s not the timing/maybe we were never meant to be”
11 Lee HazlewoodPray Them Bars Away
12 Stone RosesMade of Stone
I think I include this song every time I am in a period of isolation and contemplation and walking long distances – since I first heard it in 1989, it has served this purpose
13 Bill CallahanJavelin Unlanding
14 Charlotte GainsbourgSuch a Remarkable Day
15 Townes van ZandtHigh, Low and In Between
16 Connie FrancisYou’re Gonna Miss Me
17 SantigoldCoo Coo Coo
18 Agnes ObelIt’s Happening Again
Denmark
19 Elvis Costello & The Imposters – Heart-Shaped Bruise
20 Julia JacklinHead Alone
“Come on, give me the room tonight/You know I’ve told you before that you hold me too tight”
21 Elvis CostelloThis Year’s Girl
Recently binged the second season of The Deuce – this was a perfect theme song for this season. “You want her broken with her mouth wide open cause she’s this year’s girl”
22 Clau Aniz, flávia cabral – Montanhesa
23 Dory PrevinThe Lady With the Braid
24 SwansBlind
25 Ludovic Alariewe’re a dream nobody wrote down

that season

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It’s that time of year again – autumn… and people’s kids are returning to school, so outlets like Facebook are covered in back-to-school/first-day-of-school photos. None of these bothered me until I saw someone’s “first day of kindergarten” pictures, and I was suddenly struck by the overwhelming sense of anxiety and daily dread I felt when I was in kindergarten. I really wanted to go to school, but I hated having to socialize, having to get myself up alone in the morning and get to the bus stop on time. Seeing these children in their kindergarten classrooms, I was overcome – yes, at my advanced age – by a wave of nausea, remembering that helpless, horrible feeling of being five. Being forced to play and take naps and things I hated. OH MY GOD I LOVE BEING AN ADULT.

I also love saying, “I am an adult.”

Even if being an adult has often brought little to no certainty to life or to me. Funny how certain we are of things when we are young and have absolutely no reason or experience informing our baffling certainty. We just know. Like I just knew when I was 12 that I would always be obsessed with U2 and Ireland. Hahahahahahaha. Um, no.

Oddly, many people go on living in those (naive?) certainties and are often no less happy or fulfilled for it. But I guess my mind was meant to work the other way… becoming less and less certain, more and more questioning over time.

As an adult it is also fun sometimes to buy stuff. Not too long ago I became obsessed with buying undergarments/lingerie… nothing particularly crazy. Just, you know, stuff one needs to wear anyway (most of the time). I stumbled on Lonely of New Zealand and LOVED their stuff, and even more loved the realism and diversity of their models. Just the website made me happy, so when I placed an order, I was glad to patronize the company. But I was even more elated when the parcel arrived, beautifully packaged in individual small boxes that serve as miniature drawers. Inside the garments are packed with care into individual ‘garment bags’ of sorts. It had such a careful, personal touch to it that I felt, as I unfolded everything, like ordering every item on their website. When I opened up the second box, I noticed that it even contained a handwritten note thanking me for my business. Yeah, so it might be a bit more expensive than the average store (but not by much, especially taking into account the exchange rate), but the attention and care paid to both the packaging and the products make it so worth it.

Yay. The one certainty: So fun to be an adult. Not a kid in kindergarten. With no kids in kindergarten. No anxiety, leaves falling and lovely matching undergarment sets. Haha.

And you give yourself away

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Birthdays are a funny time when you hear from people you never hear from; often people you have never heard from or actually talked to in your entire life, thanks to the wonders of invasive Facebook (of course it is only invasive because I let it be).

A guy with whom I had no actual acquaintance in junior high (and even less in high school), never sharing so much as a single one-on-one conversation but perhaps shared a handful of sarcastic group conversations, mostly arguing the (non-)merits of U2 (with whom I was abnormally preoccupied as an adolescent, steeped in the mania of the freshly released Joshua Tree album), popped up in my Facebook messages.

Back in junior high, my then-best friend and I were certifiably obsessed, and preached full-on religious zealotry like televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker at their zenith: Deliver U2 to the ignorant heathens: “THROW YOUR MONEY AT THESE IRISH LADS!” (I find these ‘lads’ in their past-middle-age incarnation to be rather sanctimonious, just as they were then – but a 12-year-old girl can’t see shit through the rose-colored glasses and distant, mystical music that plays silently when you mentally mythologize the Irish in any context.) That’s not to say that I don’t find The Joshua Tree to be an end-to-end marvel of aural achievement – only that my interest in U2 as a group dissipated along with most of the persistent drilling of teenage madness. Never again have I been as fervent a defender or ardent fan of anything, despite my wide-ranging passion for music. Perhaps after the U2 period, I moved fluidly into a ‘Madchester’ and shoegaze phase, but the musical palette continued to expand (and continues to this day), so U2 is a kind of speck on the horizon, even if they were the spark toward painting that multi-hued horizon. (And are, apparently, atop the list of anodyne sounds programmers report listening to while they work.)

But the point, though, was that this barely-an-acquaintance guy, who seems as an adult to be a genuine, cool and lovely person, but who had seemed in our youth, however vaguely I ‘knew’ him, like a too-cool, textbook-definition total dick (but this may well have been surface-level bravado; how many times have I written about the surface versus what’s underneath? We were all assholes at times, me included.), wrote to wish me a happy birthday and added: “U2 is still touring and playing the Joshua tree album, I was wrong in 8th grade and you were so right.”

In some weird way, I was touched, and this (here I am laughing) ‘vindication’ of my aggressive passion (he and his friends slagged off U2 at the time, but I don’t know if that was just to be contrary the way teenage boys are when they don’t have any idea how to actually communicate) was like its own happy little birthday present.

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.

Lunchtable TV Talk: The Knick

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Surgery has changed, and not changed, a lot through the years. But it’s hard to watch a riveting and harrowing show like The Knick and not think about how surgeons, despite how refined their art has seemingly become, are basically glorified butchers. The Knick makes this visually evident at every turn. They feel like they are the right hand of god – I think “innovative butcher”, looking for creative but ultimately untested ways to fix things. Not that there are not randomized controlled trials and other forms of evaluation to test the efficacy of procedures and their outcomes. But every procedure had to have a first time, right?

Yes, surgery, the O.R. – things have changed, but things are not that different. Look at the antiseptic issue – it evolved, even if we still have debates about single-use versus reusable textiles and microorganisms that can live on in multi-use drapes or gowns.

Or I think of the idea of cutting people open. It seems like a good idea – cut whatever ails someone out entirely. But when we look historically, some of the most radical cutting, which was until recently seen as the only course of action, has been unnecessary or at least did not lead to better outcomes. (Don’t miss the PBS documentary, Cancer: Emperor of All Maladies to get more insight on the changing face and understanding of cancer.) How much of medical science is not even understood?

When I think of, for example, the Star Trek film, Star Trek IV, much maligned for its “fluffy” environmental storyline and time travel premise, I am struck by the scene when the team goes to a hospital to rescue Chekhov. Dr McCoy goes nuts, railing against the idea that you could cut people open and think it would produce a good outcome. It could alternately be interpreted as new-agey mumbo jumbo, or a different look at “standard” medical practice.

This also makes me think of a recent article series (“Medicine without Blood”)  on bloodless medicine. It argues that, while Americans embraced the almighty, “life-giving” blood transfusion in WWII, followed by a wholesale, post-war adoption of transfusions as an accepted, mainstream tenet of modern medicine. But had the blood transfusion ever been subjected to the same level of scrutiny and testing that other procedures and treatments are?

“Yet, in the thrall of wartime transfusion, blood had never been treated like an experimental drug and subjected to rigorous, randomized clinical trials assessing risk and benefit. Its power was intuitive. Doctors observed that patients with anemia seemed to feel better following transfusion. “The patients looked rosy and felt full of energy,” one older doctor told me. No one was thinking yet about adverse effects.”

Or…

“Some bloodless medicine experts have also helped lead a national movement calling for more sparing use of transfusion. Donor blood comes with risks for all patients, including the potential for immune reactions and infections. And clinical trials have shown that, for a broad range of conditions, restrictive transfusion practices do not lead to worse outcomes than liberal ones. In recent years, the American Medical Association has listed transfusion as among the most overused therapies in medicine.”

The point of these diversions is only to highlight that what was accepted as life-saving, mainstream practice at one point becomes passe, restricted or even recognized as dangerous later. And some procedures come back into favor as more and more evidence is collected, as different diseases and bacteria are understood better, and so on. It’s not an exact science and always evolves.

And The Knick, set at the dawn of the 20th century and in the frenzied, competitive dawn of surgical practice, shines a light on these questions and contradictions. Clive Owen is outstanding (he usually is when he plays an arrogant, brilliant but self-destructive asshole). The supporting cast is also superb. I was particularly surprised by Eve Hewson (daughter of U2’s Bono) and her role as young but increasingly independent and fierce nurse, Lucy, a West Virginia native who cares for but enables Owen’s Dr Thackeray during his drug abuse.

As the show explores the expanding world of surgery, it also expands the worldview, in some ways defying the norms of the time. In the most obvious way – the hospital employs a new assistant chief surgeon – who happens to be black. In less obvious ways, The Knick gives us characters who and stories that defy their time. Women characters come to mind here, particularly in the form of the aforementioned nurse and also in the character of Cornelia Robertson, who is the head of the hospital’s social welfare office. She serves as a part of the hospital board of directors, and as such, is a working woman and an executive-level participant in decisionmaking. Of course this is all because of her family, not because of her qualifications. But she is expected to step away from these roles when she marries. And while I enjoyed the storylines involving this character, in particular her interracial relationship with the previously mentioned assistant chief and the abortion she has when she becomes pregnant with their child, I think maybe this story strains credibility.

The Knick isn’t perfect, and not everything comes together beautifully, but I don’t expect perfection from good TV. I expect ambition and striving for something. And this show isn’t lazy.

It proves that in medicine, and in gender roles, as in the rest of life, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Good goo of random gum: Halloween 2015 – Nearly lost you

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Random Gum 2015: Nearly Lost You

The full soundtrack (minus those songs that don’t exist on Spotify.)

1. Screaming Trees – “Nearly Lost You”
This year, I nearly lost, and in some cases, lost, so much. The nostalgia brought on by the song and that period in time makes the case for the centrality of loss as a recurring theme.

2. Dark Blue – “Hanging from the Chandelier”
A bit over-the-top but the dramatic sound evokes dark images of last-second glimpses of giant moose on the prowl during my long, wintry, middle-of-night drives. Every dark object in the distance a deer or moose – or a mailbox.

3. Hunx & His Punx – “The Curse of Being Young”
I used to curse my youth – now I wish I could have stood still at 33 forever.

4. Metronomy – “The Look” …you’re goin round in circles/and everyone knows you’re trouble…

5. Phantogram – “The Day You Died” …And I don’t care to say goodbye, cause you’re feeling nothing/I dug into your heart, we got nothing at all…

6. Matrimony – “Giant” …Does it feel good to leave me on my own?…

7. MGMT – “Electric Feel” …shock me like an electric eel…
“All along the eastern shore/Put your circuits in the sea/This is what the world is for/Making electricity/You can feel it in your mind/Oh you can do it all the time/Plug it in and change the world/You are my electric girl”. With love from the sea’s ugliest creature, the wolf eel

8. Cold War Kids – “Mexican Dogs” …flashlights go out/stars will light the way/like Mexican dogs/nobody gave us names…
For Martina, our love for top dogs, piñatas and the endless dog-and-pony show

9. Cowboy Junkies – “Lost My Driving Wheel” …I feel like some old engine/that’s lost my driving wheel…
The sense of losing your bearings, and having nowhere to fall, nowhere to turn, nowhere to rest. Calling out for love, for support, for something, but finding no one, nothing, there.

10. Sam Cooke – “You Send Me”

11. Charles & Eddie – “Would I Lie to You?”
“Ohhhh noooo!” I somehow managed never to know that this song existed until recently. S mentioned it, thinking it was common knowledge. We had a lot of laughs over it and my “death notice delivery” nature (every time he mentioned something, I had an, “Oh and I just found out he’s dead” moment). Suddenly, once I’d heard it, it was everywhere – even the Norwegian radio, perpetually stuck in the 80s and early 90s as it is. Check out the video if you get the chance: 90s music video amateur hour. And it’s all taken on a new life with my friends and me laughing at it. And poor Charles, RIP. For S, for Hayley my former colleague, for Alfa

12. Lesley Gore – “You Don’t Own Me”
RIP Lesley Gore

13. The Boomtown Rats – “Diamond Smiles” …love is for others, but me it destroys…
1970s: was it the coke that led everyone to sing about space, sparkles, glitter, diamonds and satellites? For S, for Angelika

14. J.D. McPherson – “Bridgebuilder
Another discovery sitting in a dark, cold parking lot in the middle of the night.

15. Spiritualized – “Soul on Fire”

16. Bebe Rexha – “I’m Gonna Show You” …tired of trying to be normal/I’m always overthinking/I’m driving myself crazy…
One of those annoying, cliché-filled songs- the whole “I’m such a crazy bitch you can’t handle me” trope… but still, here it is. It caught me off guard until it became catchy (one of the perils of listening to Norwegian radio…)

17. Garbage – “Push It”
Reminds me of the summer I spent dragging myself out of bed at 4 a.m. daily to go running – one of the songs that carried me through it. College days. And who in the world can get enough of Shirley Manson? Not me!

18. Nortec Collective: Bostich + Fussible – “Motel Baja” …life is like a piñata/filled with candy to the brim…
Middle-of-the-night drives through Sweden listening to Seattle’s KEXP and its Latin music show, El Sonido. One of my favorite songs all year long. “The bottles are all empty/and I can see the border/Goodbye, Tijuana, where the party never ends…”

19. TV on the Radio – “Happy Idiot”
Another one of my favorites this year. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you/ignorance is bliss/I’m a happy idiot/waving at cars…”

20. Kinky, Beto Zapata – “Para Poder Llegar a Ti”
El Sonido! Another one keeping me sane on the long commute.

21. Squeeze – “Up the Junction” …she left me when my drinking became a proper stinging…
I can’t listen to this without losing it, bursting into uncontrollable tears, for what it reminds me of. For S. “And when the time was ready/We had to sell the telly/Late evenings by the fire/With little kicks inside her”

22. Queen – “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
After a crazed listening and documentary fest digging into Freddie Mercury’s life, the history of Queen, couldn’t resist this. I was never a fan but no denying the unbelievable live charisma (see Live Aid if in doubt – pains me a bit to think of how long ago that was). For Roxane

23. Evans the Death – “Idiot Button …I’m an idiot for trying…
It is like there’s an “idiot button” that resets again and again, sending me back to the painful beginning, wringing out any last compassion I feel.

24. Dom La Nena – “Golondrina”
Too beautiful

25. Pond – “Holding Out for You” …I was only there for you…
The burden of sticking around to be there for someone, holding out hope…

26. Kevin Morby – “Parade”
“If I were to die today/Puppet in that great charade/The last thing that you’d hear me say/Is bury me in different shapes/Of the parade”

27. Mitski – “First Love/Late Spring”
“So please hurry leave me/I can’t breathe/Please don’t say you love me/Mune ga hachikire-sōde/One word from you and I would/Jump off of this/Ledge I’m on/Baby/Tell me “don’t,”/So I can/Crawl back in”

28. Courtney Barnett – “Dead Fox” …if you can’t see me/I can’t see you…
Love that the album this came from is called Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit. For my S. the lone wolf.

29. Perfume Genius – “Queen”
A certain atmosphere

30. The Platters – “Only You”
Just one of those things you have to love.

31. Eddy Grant – “Electric Avenue”
Reminds me of the 80s, being a kid with my brother, Kyle, and enjoying this video on USA Network’s NightFlight (decades before original programming!) or TBS SuperStation’s NightTracks or some other video show in the pre-MTV era (or rather before we had MTV)…

32. O Terno – “Ai, ai, Como Eu Me Iludo”
For all my Brazilian friends and acquaintances.

33. TV on the Radio – “Trouble”
I am in love with this song no matter how many times I hear it.

34. Ultravox – “Vienna”
Dead cold city (Oslo) at the holidays. Coffees at Deli De Luca (only thing open). For S.

35. Las Ketchup – “Asereje”
For Sarah. Back when I had pirated Israeli MTV in Seltjarnarnes and this song was everywhere annoying the crap out of everyone. Marshmallow couches, trips to the few restaurants with booths – it was like some other lifetime. The song still annoys – was shocked to hear it on KEXP’s El Sonido radio show this past spring.

36. Ros Sereysothea – “Shave Your Beard”
Reminded me of the Vietnamese music I used to hear with a long-ago boyfriend (from youth). And of course… no more beards. Clean-cut, new passport!. Fresh start, fresh face. For S.

37. The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ USA”
To new career endeavors and surfing the choppy waves of love. Waimea Bay and Five-0!

38. U2 – “An Cat Dubh” …yes, and I know the truth about you…
A rabid U2 fan back in my youth, it’s all been downhill for me since Achtung Baby (with The Joshua Tree being the pinnacle of their achievement). But listening anew to the back catalog, nothing they’ve done thrills me more than their first album, Boy. It’s so exuberant, not trying too hard, fresh (certainly for its time) and still sounds exciting, exploratory. I love it and the way the musicians’ youth explodes in sound. For Terra

39. OMD – “If You Leave”
Nostalgia, if for no other reason

40. Robyn Hitchcock – “The Ghost in You”
One of my favorite Psychedelic Furs songs only performed by one of my favorite musicians, the wild Robyn Hitchcock.

41. Leon Bridges – “Better Man” …what can I do to get back to your heart/I’d swim the Mississippi River if you would give me another start, girl…
When one requires and asks for too many chances, you care less and less every time.

42. Berlin – “No More Words”
At first included as an homage to the 80s, the lyrics took on special meaning as I kept being fed the same empty words over and over – only to face the same results (insanity?)

43. Crowded House – “Help is Coming”
Beautiful, underrated and understated Crowded House. Hard to choose a song, really, and at the end of the year as the refugee crisis hit peak levels, their gorgeous, longing tune “Help is Coming” became the anthem of offering refuge.

44. Jermaine Stewart – “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”
One of my ill-advised Norwegian radio-listening experiences yielded this old gem. I wondered, driving along, whatever happened to Jermaine Stewart and his cherry wine, only to come home and discover that he died ages ago. More of my grim-reaper nature. Poor guy – RIP.

45. The Maccabees – “Toothpaste Kisses”
“With heart shaped bruises/and late night kisses/divine”

46. Falco – “Der Kommissar”
Nothing like memories of Lufthansa flight watching Falco biopic

47. Glenn Medeiros – “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You”
I had never been a fan of this dude at all, this song or this style and had promptly, conveniently forgotten the existence of this. S heard it in a TV ad in Glasgow, proceeded to incorporate it into his musical repertoire, and this made me, ever-curious… curious. Glenn is now a wild-patterned-shirt wearing school administrator in Hawaii, where he grew up. We follow each other on Twitter. Strangely, lots of factors can change your love for someone.

48. Night Ranger – “Sister Christian”
I have always hated this song and find the name “Night Ranger” more than comical. But it sticks in the mind in a big way.

49. Lera Lynn – “My Least Favorite Life”
The only good part of the 2nd season of the bloated and pretentious True Detective.

50. Foreigner – “I Want to Know What Love Is”
Another cheesy piece of auditory crap, but I heard it as it closed out the most recent season of Orange is the New Black, and in my apparently weakened emotional state at the time, the song seemed to hit me rather hard.

**51. Vorderhaus – “Could I Run **bonus track**

Endless videotaping quest – “Stay vertical and don’t get shredded”

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Recently saw a film, 1000 Times Good Night, set mostly in Ireland (though it was technically a Norwegian film), and U2’s drummer Larry Mullen, Jr played a bit part.

Check this out – a little clip of the movie but also Mullen on a Norwegian talk show. Is this NOT the dorkiest thing you’ve ever seen? The film was good, if a bit preachy, and showcased the boundless talent of Juliette Binoche (and featured Game of Thrones’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Orphan Black’s Maria Doyle Kennedy). Mullen was an unexpected bonus. It’s not his first acting gig, but it’s the first one I had seen.

His surprise appearance triggered intense memories of youth and the perils of waiting for desired – and rare – content to appear on TV and attempting to videotape it before it was too late. It’s funny how these long hit-or-miss quests to capture videos ruled my sleepless nights, drove so much of my activity, caused me to invest so much in VHS technology. Never in my wildest dreams back then would I have dreamt that I could go to a computer, type something into a search engine and immediately find exactly the video I eagerly and desperately sought, along with hundreds of other similar videos. Oh, technology, how you have changed us.

This sense was triggered again when I saw footage of a recent U2 concert in which they played “Two Hearts Beat As One” – something they had not played live, according to them, in a quarter of a century. I have recently gone back to early U2 – the Boy and October albums in particular (“Two Hearts” comes from the third album, War). I recall the tension of spending long nights awake wanting to see and record specific U2 videos – but MTV rarely played the really old ones, so it was middle-of-the-night waiting, watching NightTracks on TBS (I shudder to think about what TV used to be like, when we received “SuperStation WTBS” broadcasts among one of very few non-cable channels available), where I was as likely to see the infrequently played “Two Hearts” as I was to see Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” (and even then I asked, “Why would anyone choose to listen to this?”… “How’d you get your pants so tight?”). I was always the one among my friends who was allowed to stay awake to all hours of the night so tried to see and record all the things my friends and I wanted to see.

One of the strangest things that I remember seeing, which I only saw three times in my entire life is a Yamaha PSA about motorcycle safety… starring Larry Mullen, Jr., on whom my best friend had the biggest crush.

I saw it once and waited literally for months to see it again with the sincere intent of recording it for her so she could see it too. I succeeded. She swooned upon hearing his voice. We shared the delusion that we would move to Ireland after high school. We had planned a kind of graduation “Ireland or bust” trip, but by the time we graduated, we were not close. She did go to Ireland, and I didn’t. She returned claiming to be disappointed by so-called mountains that amounted to little more than hills. I did not set foot in Ireland myself until many years later during the Celtic Tiger years – and my own “job interview tourism” period. I was equally disappointed – it was definitely no place I could, by that time, imagine living. Back in the late 80s, though, as foolish teenage girls, hearing an Irish accent made us weak in the knees (to the point that we would phone Aer Lingus to inquire about potential trips to Dublin, or go annually to St Patrick’s Day Irish festivals just to hear the accent), which cracks me up now. I look back at old U2 interviews and shake my head, thinking, “Drunk, high idiots!” But god forbid someone trying to tell me that back then. Haha.

And now, U2 is still out there playing (it had been my biggest dream back then to see them live, but I still haven’t!)… and who knows where my VHS tapes with Mullen and his motorbike-riding safety videos are… or where I might source a machine to play it even if the tapes could be found?

the things that excite-sadden-inspire-create-suffering in us

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Meeting a guy who professionally sold office supplies and offered me an endless supply of different pens on a regular basis. Yeah, back then, that was fab. But not the kind of guy I was going to, say, marry. But back then fistfuls of pens would get me really excited.

These triggers for excitement change a lot… strange to think that nowadays I get really fired up talking about infection control or antibiotic resistance or cutting-edge plastic surgery techniques.

Or that I am excited when new web browsers come into the world.

And then the things that make us inexpressibly sad. US Vice President Joe Biden and all the loss he has experienced. Reading an MIT commencement address delivered long ago by former politician Paul Tsongas (before he died, young). Lachrymose, feeling this mortality and the grief unfolding. More nostalgic than normal.

Seeing that Duran Duran will play the WA State Fair… igniting Duran nostalgia, reminding me of a third-grade field trip back when chaperone parents were still allowed to drive kids in private cars – I went with a guy whose mom had a new Camaro or something like that and we listened to Seven and the Ragged Tiger over and over. I envied that her car had a cassette deck and could automatically reverse and play the tapes. My parents’ car, which eventually became my car, had nothing of the sort.

In junior high my best friend and her “former” best friend from elementary school went to see Duran Duran on their sort of “comeback” tour in 1988 – funny to think of it being a comeback since they had not really gone anywhere. They had just gone quiet for a handful of years. I imagine that I protested and pretended to like Duran less than I did because I was jealous that my friend and her former friend (just because their parents would buy them tickets, of course) were going to the concert.

I write about this former friend a lot, especially in the throes of nostalgia, because so many things remind me of her. Hearing U2, Robyn Hitchcock, Crowded House, being in Scotland, seeing Starburst candy (which is not the norm here in Sweden), making snickerdoodle cookies or cinnamon rolls (she was always the one to make the glaze).

We drifted apart long before we actually lost touch entirely. For so many years I wanted to have closure or to know that she was okay. She really just disappeared from the face of the earth and there was no way for me to find her. She is one of the few people without a discernible web identity/presence. It’s almost impressive. I went out of my way trying to find out for a really long time, making a nuisance of myself at times.

I have mostly let go of that, and I have come to understand the selfishness of that need. Maybe she wasn’t okay and my demanding to know she was could have been just another nagging thing for her. Especially because her well-being is and was not my business. Our past friendship creates no obligation for her to share any of it. I still hope she is well, regardless. Sigh – the intensity of youth friendship and that compact worldview of youth make it hard to imagine a closer friendship even if, reflecting, there was very little to it.