Monday, August 31, 2009

Unfinished Business

The obsession of this summer has been White Lies, no doubt. I ignored them for months and months, even though all kinds of people (even Miia!) has been trying to push them on me. I guess I figured that they were yet another band that kind of sounded like Interpol and people thought I should like.

Well, shame on me. They're great. And thankfully for me, Dave offered to get me a ticket for the Flow Festival where they were playing in Helsinki a couple of weeks back. So I've even seen them live. The sound was a bit poor to start with, and it was a bit too easy to notice that they haven't got good live versions down of their studio tracks yet, so it was a bit like watching the CD being performed on stage. However, with vocals like that combined with a small festival where you get really close to the stage, I can hardly complain. It was brilliant :)

Deb and David are about to become proud parents in just a matter of days, and although that means that the date of their moving to Turku is also drawing near, I can not wait to meet their little addition to the expatriate community. It is positively fascinating to have a pregnancy happening this close to my daily life, usually my friends have dropped sprogs in Norway while I've been here in Finland and hence I've missed it all!

IKEA have decided to discontinue my brand of Billy - beech. Makes perfect sense, when you look at it. I bet that's where the karma gods are balancing it all out. Have to figure out what to do about this, but there's a pirate company producing IKEA lookalike gadgets that might have something to contribute with in my time of distress. As if this was not upsetting enough, Bar 9 has changed the recipe of my favorite dish. Discontinuations all over the place!

"You whispered "Where are you?",
I questioned your doubt,
but soon realised, you were talking to God now."
White Lies - Unfinished Business (To Lose My Life, 2009)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I Just Can't Seem To Get Enough

Books, books, books, books, the world is thankfully full of books. I've tried to do my share of reading them this summer, although I definitely could've done more.

First out was Paul Auster's Oracle Night. I have a thing for Auster, no need to dwelve into that again, but this book was not as good as some of the others I've read. Again he shows the astonishing ability his mind has to come up with story upon story upon story, but some of them never land. I want to know what happens to the guy in the shelter! Nevertheless it kept me entertained throughout.

Auster's Man in the Dark was next book out, and disappointingly it had a bit of the same problem. Don't get me wrong, both are still good books, they are just not _quite_ up there with what he can do. With this one I far preferred the initial spin on the story than the actual conclusion. Also, it's a bit too American for me, this one.

I then finally summoned the guts to finish James Bradley's The Resurrectionist. Christ, what a piece of sh*t book this was... I've even mooched it away since, that's how little I liked it. The story is thin, the characters inpossible to care for, and the end is simply a loose-end laughing matter. Where on earth critics get off calling this a gothic horror masterpiece is beyond me, they are probably friends of the author...

After moaning and whining about the poor quality of the previous book for several days, Florentin decided I should read The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger which he had just read and loved. This book I have avoided buying at several occassions because other books have caught my attention more and I have for some reason boxed it away in the same category as The Observations (by Jane Harris, which was to be fair quite good in the end), but I had no real issues with wanting to read it. Good girl! Very lovely, this book. It managed to keep me fully alerted throughout the story, and I cried at the end. That very rarely happens with me and books, so ten thumbs up and just go ahead and read it. Florentin loved it too, if you're worried it's a girls' book. And once you've read it we can discuss the one thing I _didn't_ like about it, but I won't spoil it for you by writing it here.

While I read about time-hoppers, Florentin plowed through one of the books I brought with me, Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida (neat name, huh?). This Finnish author living in America has written a story about a woman who follows her mother's history to the Sami areas of Finland and Norway, and by tracing her roots changes as a human being. Well... it's the first I've read by a Finnish author. I think that's about it. The main character did grow on me, but it took a long time and I still didn't get to love her enough for it to matter that the book ended. Ok'ish read, I'd say. It has a bit of a feministic twist to it that was quite interesting.

Sami stories gave way to Auster again. In The Country Of Last Things was the second of his novels I had with me on our roadtrip, and it didn't take me long to read. Here he's back with full force again, weaving his story in a straight, brutal line through an imagined city that may or may not exist not too far off in our future. If I could, I would happily have punched a couple of the characters the leading lady encounters along her way. Actually it's a shame this one wasn't longer.

In Zurich I found an English bookstore where I picked up Gaiman's Coraline, but I haven't started it yet. I also bought PopCo by Scarlett Thomas, the author of the previously hailed The End of Mr Y. I loved that one, and I loved this one. Similar in the manner of writing, the story is nevertheless quite different. Anti-corporation, pro-vegan, clever and funny, I'd definitely recommend it as a good read. I'd even say it might be the math version of Mr Y, which is more humanistic in it's twists and turns.

Having just finished PopCo a couple of days ago, I've now picked up The Gathering by Anne Enright. This one won the Booker prize in 07, and I got it for my birthday from a friend the same year, I've just been slow in picking it up. Doesn't seem quite like a book I'd normally love yet, but I'll review it after finishing.

"When I'm with you, baby,
I go out of my head.
I just can't get enough,
I just can't get enough."
Depeche Mode - Just Can't Get Enough (Speak And Spell, 1981)
Depeche Mode are playing Helsinki in February, and I've got tickets, baby :D

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You Get Me Closer To God

Another long overdue blog post coming up. The first weekend of July was spent in Arvika, as during the last seven years, with good friends and the Arvika music festival. Originally I had planned on not going this year, but the line-up had me sold quite early on, and even Richard had to break his festival virginity to catch what was to be three days of music madness in the Swedish forest.

As I am, as mentioned, a bit overdue with this post, some things have been forgotten and I will focus on the highlights. First of all, the company was excellent. In fact, the company was so good the music hardly would have mattered, but of course it didn't make things worse either :D

First up was Mars Volta, an act I never managed to like on record and they did not exactly get me much more convinced on stage. Quite on the contrary. However, good company got even better as we located Ståle and Makrellbekken (who no longer lives there and hence hardly earns the name, but still) in the beer area.

First up of the good stuff, however, was Röyksopp. They played in the tent, where temperatures got _very_ warm and clammy after a couple of songs. Hence, when the notes of the-nemesis-of-that-which-is-good-music Eple started penetrating my ears, I figured it was time to leave. Unfortunately this lead to me missing out on most of the tracks I actually love by the band, alongside several guest appearances on stage I'd have loved to catch. I did manage to get a NIN T-shirt before they sold out, however :)

Next up was Nine Inch Nails. I've been a die hard fan of Reznor's since 1998, when Eivind took my music taste under his wing and transformed it into something unrecognizeable. Trent... ok, I'll not let this post become a rant about the loveliness of this man, but let me just say that where he stood, looking like he was head-on challenging the whole world to just _dare_ to try to fuck things up even more, he was as much enough justification for me loving music as he has ever been.

I ended the night by watching some of Elegant Machinery, but they didn't exactly kick much ass after NIN, and they seemed to be painfully aware of it. Hence the night was cut a little short, but I fell asleep with a huge grin on my face!

Friday's music program started out with me hooking up with an old pop quiz buddy in the beer tent and jumping around to De/Vision. Not bad, not bad at all. It hardly got worse when Depeche Mode kicked off their concert on the main stage half an hour later. Oooh, Gahan is so the man, and if it weren't for Trent the night before this concert would have made the festival. Went home after, very tired.

On Saturday I was very lazy, and hence I missed Fleet Foxes (never liked them on record anyway, so probably not a big loss), and half of Thåström. I did arrive at the festival area just when he played my favorite, FanFanFan, though, so all was ok. Time was spent in the beer area, and I skipped most of DAF as I'd seen them before, but Korn turned out to be a very pleasant surprise on the main stage, and provided myself and Hanne with more than enough material for hours of drunken conversation on the balcony of our cabin back at the camping grounds.

All in all, a brilliant festival spent in the company of good people. I was in a very good mood throughout the weekend, and almost have a feeling of having been on speed when I look back on it... which would probably explain the extreme tempo of everything that happened. I think the arrangers will be hard pressed to follow this line-up with anything even remotely as good, but I'm looking forward to see what they come up with for next summer.

"You let me violate you.
You let me desecrate you.
You let me penetrate you.
You let me complicate you."
Nine Inch Nails - Closer (Downward Spiral, 1994)

A Place To Hide

I am so overdue with this post, but there has simply been too much going on for blogging to be high on the list of priorities.

Short on Croatia (the rest of it):
We didn't spend much more time in Croatia after the last post, as we left the country the next morning, heading for Trieste in Italy via Slovenia. Although the swimming was top notch I have no wish to return to the touristy parts of Croatia ever again. Perhaps if I could find a secluded island somewhere this country would be more down my alley.

Short on Slovenia:
Not much to report, I'm afraid. We took a wrong turn before exiting Croatia and hence entered the country a bit east of where we had planned, but it was easily corrected after a bit of fumbling around in a crossroads, and we crossed over into Italy within a couple of hours from entering.

Short on Italy:
I'd never been to Italy. Love Italian food, have always wanted to learn the language, have to admit to a certain weakness for the men... but had never been. And oh my, did it live up to expectations! The small shops, the narrow streets, the sensual language - ARGH! What am I doing in Finland again? We spent some time in Trieste before heading northwest in direction of our passage into Switzerland. Experienced a gorgeous rain storm that we could enjoy from bed looking out on the balcony in our room. I want to go back to Italy. ASAP.

Short on Switzerland:
Hm. Part 1 of this holiday's family check-up took us to Florentin's hood. We started out in Zurich where we hooked up with one of his girlfriends whom I enjoyed conversation with over beers while the young gentleman proceeded to get himself a little bit pickled :) The next morning we swam in the river that runs through the city, which I have to say was a thrilling experience! Mother, brother (x2) and father were visited over the next few days, and I met some brilliant people. We rounded it off with another night in Zurich where Florentin's friend Christian gave him a reprieve from the girlfriend while I worshipped Paul Auster in a local pub. Oh, and I found a dragon. And got a speeding ticket. :/

Short on Germany:
I've always liked Germany, but this time around we got ourselves into a bit of a spot as we entered the not-so-nice town of Kassel. If you ask me what was bad about it I'll be hard pressed to give you a concrete answer, but as with Moldova it rubbed me the wrong way in _every_ way. A big contributor was probably that we had been travelling for three weeks about this point, and were getting a little tired of it. We spent a night close to the Danish border in a town that was closer to the Germany I like, however.

Short on Denmark:
VROOOOM! Did we even stop in Denmark? Ah, yes, we had lunch at a roadside diner. Otherwise little to report, I had my eyes set on Örebro and Denmark is mostly flat anyway. Nice to see the windmills in the ocean between Denmark and Sweden, though.

Short on Sweden:
We pushed on a bit into the night to get to Örebro without stopping along the way, and yay! Back to the farm :) We spent a few days with my family, basically being lazy, going swimming, barbequing, drinking beer and simply having _holiday_! To say we both needed the rest would be an understatement. From there we drove on to Stockholm and took one of the party ferries over to Helsinki, where our roadtrip ended around 10:00 the next morning.

To sum it up, this road trip was a massive undertaking, no doubt about that. The reader stopped at 8 700 km, we used the spare tank of gas a couple of times, had a couple of rather hefty navigation conflicts, three and a half weeks with temperatures between 30 and 42 degrees C with very little access to water, mosquito bites de luxe, a sudden allergy attack that lasted for two weeks, and sometimes a definitive lack of relaxation and holiday. What we also had, however, were hundreds of hours spent in excellent company without conflicts, a car with AC and sunroof, great sights, good camping choices, good hotel choices, good food, good drink, functional systems, maps, loads of weirdness and a very, very good time.

Back in Espoo I'm now in my second week of being back to work, and since the end of April I have not only added 10 previously unseen countries to my list, I find myself living with a gorgeous young man and am contemplating getting my master's degree over and done with. Not quite sure yet how this came to be, but big thanks to karma for paying a lot of attention to me lately :)

"If I told you all the times that I'd done wrong,
could you bathe my soul and wash it all away?"
White Lies - A Place To Hide (To Lose My Life, 2009)