Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Please Don't Stop The Music

In another part of the world the people of two Gods are slaughtering each other like animals. All in the name of the patriarch Gods they believe watches over them. How come people are so quick to dismiss the humanitarian powers of religion, while they so easily embrace the destruction of their neighbours?

I have spent more time during 2008 listening to music than I can remember ever doing before, but I am struggling to put together a favorite list from the year. Most of the problem is caused by the fact that I've been buying truckloads of records, but they have been releases from previous years. So here goes:

Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
Kings of Leon - Only By The Night
The Raconteurs - Consolers Of The Lonely

Rihanna - Don't Stop The Music
Death Cab For Cutie - I Will Possess Your Heart
Ladytron - Ghosts
Coldplay - Viva La Vida
The Killers - Human
Scarlett Johansson - Falling Down

The Cure, Oslo
Editors, Helsinki
Death Cab for Cutie @ Arvika
Interpol @ Arvika
Kent @ Arvika
Robyn @ Arvika
Servoskudd @ Elektrostat
Bon Jovi, Helsinki
Bruce Springsteen, Helsinki
Monomen, Oslo

In other words, album-wise it's been a poor year for me because I simply haven't been paying attention to new releases. Concert-wise, it's been awesome :-)

Tomorrow I have to work for a couple of hours before I can hook up with friends at Richard's place to rid myself of 2008. I wish you all a great NYE and a wonderful start of 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

You Can Have What's Left Of Me

Sometimes I get caught without ever seeing it coming. It grabs a fistful of my hair and drags me in. Ok, so I'm a sucker for ballads, but I mean... Jessica Simpson's ex husband? I saw Employee of the Month during Christmas, by the way. Not the best of movies, that one.

Christmas is over, and in two days so is the year. In many ways 2008 has been a good one. New job, loads of new and brilliant friends, a lot of laughter and plenty of records, concerts, travels, movies and books. Still, off course, something's always wrong! People are this year's hang-up. People that are not what they seem to be, sometimes more, sometimes less. It's frustrating the hell out of me, and I suspect it'll grow worse every year. On a good note it must be said that this year has had more people being better than expected than vice versa.

I always blog a year summary list with best records, concerts and trips, but that'll have to wait for another day. Today I will hook up with Hanne after I leave the office, and expect to have a morally productive conversation with her. And a beer or two. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And We're Dancing...

Work is crazy at the moment - we have some kick-ass campaigns running and they have to be tracked on a daily basis. A lot of Excels flying around, as always :)

When reviewing books a couple of posts down I completely forgot about Milan Kundera's Slowness. I don't know whether I should be appalled or relieved that the genious that delivered The Unbearable Lightness of Being is also capable of producing such utter nonsense as this book, but I'll chew it over some more. I read it before I started McEwan's The Comfort of Strangers, and man, was that a change of pace. Kundera "follows" a real time couple staying in a French chateau hotel, where the man imagines up the story of two other couples, one real time and one from times long past. The story's feeble attempts on sensuality, eroticism and rawness fall dead at his feet, and it was a waste of time to read through. Don't spend money on it.

Following my week in London/Oslo I've spent a lot of good time with friends, and I've managed to plan my Christmas. I'll be going to Sweden to spend a week at the farm, and I am _so_ much looking forward to it! I will surely miss my dog who passed away last year, but it will be good to spend some time with my family.

Before going on holiday I finished The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas. Being a metaphysical exercise in supernatural disguise, this book was right down my alley and I was sad to turn the last page. The story follows a Ph.D. student who stumbles upon a book not meant for reading, and it throws her into a veritable whirlwind of issues to be handled in a matrix outside the normal level of consciousness. If you tend to go for real life, down to earth stories, this is not for you, but if your mind likes to dabble in more philosophical questions with a great story attached you should like it.

My first vacation read (of many) was The Dream of a Beast by Neil Jordan. Blah. Very hot summer in the city, greenery everywhere and soldiers in the streets. Boring office worker transforms into something different, something vile that causes his wife to throw him out of his home. Time overlaps and he's dating his daughter? Then he lives on a roof, sleeps in a rug and hangs out with bats in the elevator. Weirdness gets worse, he drowns a kid (I think) and suddenly he's back with his wife? I gave up on this story mid-way. Might make an interesting screenplay, but as a book it's somewhat of a waste of time and energy to try to figure out.

Better luck with The Lamplighter by Anthony O'Neill. My mother commented on the good looks of the author, and although I hardly think that has anything to do with the state of things I have to admit her right. He's a looker. The book is a good, old-fashioned detective story with a supernatural twist. The bodies of men slaughetered in the most wicked of ways keep turning up in 19th century Edinburgh, and the crimes are attempted solved by a pompous detective on one side, a metaphysics professor and his friend the graveyard watchman on the other. And sides is the main word here, as it becomes clear that the events can all be linked to the young Evelyn Todd and her long-time buddy Leerie. A good vacation read, and in particular one for long, cold winter nights.

Next stop on the reading bus route was Roddy Doyle's The Snapper. For an anglofile like myself, the dialogue of this book is spot on. If you have problems with reading Irish dialect, however, you'll stumble and fall from the get-go. The cover boasts that this book is "rip-snorting funny", and although I didn't really like the sound of that to begin with I have to sign myself up as a believer. Sharon Rabitte gets pregnant out of wedlock, and not entirely by own will. The book follows her in the process of relaying the information to her family and friends, and watches the mayhem that unfolds when speculation around the identity of the baby's father kicks off in the local community. Although the subject matter of the story is not something I'd normally recommend for a good read, I laughed out loud enough times in public places while reading this book to give it a good rate.

Visiting Porsgrunn I picked up a bunch of books from my mother's bookstore, Susan Hill's The Man in the Picture being one of them. I read her The Woman in Black last year, and _loved_ it. This woman can really write an old fashioned ghost story, like the ones I used to love as a child. The Man in the Picture is not as good as The Woman in Black, but still a good read about the powers of an old Venetian oil painting and the characters in it. It's a straight up, no fuzz, old style ghost story.


David Guterson's Our Lady of the Forest has been with me since my February London visit, and it now returned to the English capitol to finally be read. 16 year-old Ann Holmes is a rather messed up and unlikely candidate for Marian apparitions, but alas, she stumbles upon Our Good Lady on a mushroom picking walk. The mother of Jesus gives her a list of instructions, and the quest to make herself believed and to build a church in the woods begins. In the process she is helped (or is she?) by the non-believing, pot smoking Carolyn and the local Catholic priest, and you get an interesting view of how Catholic fundamentalists can go a bit overboard. I'm happy I read the book, but wouldn't recommend that you go out of your way to get it.

Hellraiser creator Clive Barker released his latest novel, Mr B Gone, in 2007. It's the first book by him I've read, and I started it on an extremely cold night at Holmen Fjordhotell in Asker. The setting was just right for Barker's story about the minor demon Jakabok, fished out of Hell by a group of vile demon hunters and launched into the wicked world of man. He falls in love, creates havoc, messes with angels, and it would seem he in the end gets trapped in a book. Well, shit happens. It's an entertaining read, but not much more than that.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Song From The Wrong Side Of Town

My 08 summer holiday took me to London for a week. In December. Well, better late than never, right? :)

I had plenty of chances to hang out with friends and my brother who lives there, and I had enough alone-time to be sufficiently introvert for my liking. Still, I can not help wish I'd stayed at home instead, because most of the time what I really wanted to do was to sit down in peace and quiet with a book and some good music! That said, I had a lovely time.

Definitive highlights were football and ale in Stanhope Arms Wednesday evening, beer with my brother and Mike in Ye Old Cheshire Cheese on Thursday, and expensive lunch in the best Italian ever on Friday. I only got around to find one open knitting shop (I Knit London), and apart from a lovely, bulky merino/cashmere blend I did not find much of interest. Also, the staff was a right disaster and I'd not recommend people to go out of their way to seek the place out.

I stayed in the Gallery Hotel in South Kensington, my standard area of residence whenever I go to London. I've never been to this particular hotel before, but it was good, clean and quiet, and fit me perfectly.

Before my trip I spent a couple of days at my mother's place in Porsgrunn, which was nice as I hadn't seen her for a while. We had some good food, and I finally brought her up to speed on how to use her internet banking. Coming back from London I've spent three nights at Holmen in Asker, which has more or less become my second home over the last months.

Sunday evening I was taken to see Monomen and Ladytron in Rockefeller as a belated birthday present. I've never seen either on stage before, and didn't really know what to expect. Monomen (think Joy Division, Interpol or ILYBICD) have been widely praised for their onstage performance, whereas the experience of watching Ladytron has been likened to "watching paint dry". I can easily sign off on Monomen, they were exceptionally brilliant and it's a right shame they were only the warm-up act. Rumours have it they'll be releasing a new album next spring (they played a new song, and it was _excellent_), so I'll definitely seek them out in concert again.

Ladytron were not at all as bad as I expected. One of the leading ladies did a weirdo Eastern European chant thing that turned me off completely, but the other one was quite all right, and all the songs I actually like by the band she performed well, if a bit still-standing. It was their last gig of an 8 month tour, and that might have helped on their willingness to give a bit more than usual. I don't know, but it was a good evening and I had fun.

Today Finnair will take me back home, and I have to say I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and rummaging around my own bathroom. Funny how, however ambivalent I might be at times with regards to living in Finland, home is still home and there is no place like it.