Easter Weekend Fun

Kunskapens Pris: Balladen om den vilsne vandraren

Spring finally arrived over Easter, and I had a really fun long weekend!

  • Role-playing game: started a new campaign in Mutant: Year Zero. The characters are members of a small mutant community living in the centre of a bombed-out and almost depopulated Stockholm where the sea level has risen 8 metres. Our first session involved wolf people and a dangerous robot that had fallen from the sky…
  • Movie: At the suggestion of game group member Roland, we watched the fine Swedish short film Kunskapens Pris: Balladen om den vilsne vandraren (2007, “The Price of Knowledge: Ballad of the Lost Wanderer”). It’s set in the world of the Mutant RPG and was directed and designed by the brother-in-law of an old Tolkien Society buddy of mine. Neat!
  • Movie: Avatar 2: the Way of Water (2022). I enjoyed this movie for its consistently incredible visuals. Not for its characteristically American preoccupation with fatherhood, family, New Age Gaia Hypothesis environmentalism and the Vietnam War. Grade: good!
  • Book: Tolkien’s Silmarillion (1977). There were two important reasons that it couldn’t find a publisher until after The Lord of the Rings became a best-seller. One was that LotR created a genre and an audience for Sil. The other is that Sil is by far not as good a read as LotR or The Hobbit. Sil is not a novel and not an epic. It is part mythology, part heroic legendarium, all written by a young 20th century academic who would only later become a successful fantasy novelist. You need to approach it on its own decidedly odd terms. Much of it is beautiful, but some of it is just patently silly. Sil is an almost Biblical crazy-quilt of tangentially related writings, not all of which are even complete. Chapter 22 on the Ruin of Doriath abruptly breaks down into terse synopsis. This book does not reward a focused read-through. But any fantasy reader can enjoy picking it from the shelf every year or two and reading a chapter at random.
  • Movie: Sabrina (1954). Audrey Hepburn, 25, is the chauffeur’s daughter who can’t choose between the rich brothers William Holden, 36, and Humphrey Bogart, 55, and this really hasn’t aged well. Nor had Bogart, come to think of it. Grade: OK.
  • Geocaching: renovated a cache of mine that’s been in continuous operation since 2006! Strange how time flies.
  • Book: S.J. Gould’s Eight Little Piggies (1993). Re-reading an old favourite essay collection. Makes me curious to read more about current advances in palaeontology and evolutionary biology!
  • Boardgame: Mosaic: a Story of Civilization (2022). Good game but way too long. The deluxe edition that we played weighs 12.3 kilos!
  • Concert: Jayhawks at Nalen, supported by I’m Kingfisher. A great gig that was made even more enjoyable by my son accompanying me!

Dear Reader, what did you do for fun over the long Easter weekend?

Ethnicity and Religion Don’t Correlate Strongly With Gang Violence – Or Rapping

Successful young gangster rappers are making more or less successful attempts to murder each other around Stockholm for no very good reason. With the crypto-Fascists’ voters worrying about immigrants from outside Europe in general, and more specifically Muslims from the Near East, I found it instructive to look at some rappers in the news.

In October ’21 a Swedish Lutheran rapper was allegedly murdered by a Somali Muslim rapper, who was himself then shot several times this past autumn but survived. The other day, now, a Polish Roma Catholic rapper tried to blow the Somali Muslim rapper up and was soon arrested by the police. He is likely to have to… take the rap.

All in all, ethnic and religious affiliation does not seem to be quite the predictor of crime that poorly educated voters believe. The person you really don’t want to meet in a dark alleyway is in fact an elected representative of the crypto-Fascist party. That demographic is heavily overrepresented in the crime statistics.

London Vacation

Spent five happy days in London as a birthday present for myself. Urban vacations are so much more fun now with Google Maps! And a cotton tote bag was my entire luggage.

  • Desertfest 2022, a three-day doom metal festival in Camden Town. Well organised, good venues in fun surroundings, enthusiastic musicians, friendly and polite audience. There were about 80 bands to choose from, most of them quite obscure. I heard at least a few songs by 14 bands, but I only really enjoyed five: 1000 Mods (Greece), Earthless (California), Elephant Tree (UK), Parish (UK), Truckfighters (Sweden). My main complaints about the other nine bands was a) a lack of variation in tempo and loudness, b) tortured screaming. Part Chimp made me curious to hear some of their recordings, but their gig was so loud that I had to flee.
  • Visited Cousin E who is studying maths at Imperial College, going to lots of classical concerts, playing the piano, playing Magic the Gathering, making friends and generally enjoying life!
  • Enjoyed Regent’s Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Battersea Park and (for the first time) the magnificent Kew Gardens with its Victorian glass houses.
  • Checked out the little UCL Art Museum, the Museum of Freemasonry and the overwhelmingly vast Victoria & Albert Museum.
  • Visited book stores and DVD stores: FOPP, Forbidden Planet, Waterstones Piccadilly, Foyle’s, Skoob Books. Bought a single book and three DVDs, about which more in future blog entries. Strictly stuff that I can’t get easily online.
  • Bought a cap at Laird for this autumn.
  • Drank lots of tea and had many nice meals.
  • Stayed in a tiny worn room at an affordable hotel, conveniently located near Paddington Station, with nice breakfasts.
  • Walked a lot, rode the subway, rode a double decker bus.

Weekend Fun

Here’s what I did for fun over the weekend.

  • Watched the movie All Is True (2018). Star-studded Ben Elton-scripted family drama about Shakespeare’s last few years in Stratford after he left London and the stage. Gorgeous Tudor sets and costumes. Grade: good!
  • Saw an amazing exhibition of Travel To Scandinavia posters from 1900-1969 at the Nordic Museum. Highly recommended!
  • Attended a great gig with The Blind Boys of Alabama plus Amadou & Mariam at Stockholm Concert Hall. It was sold out and everyone was super enthusiastic. Gospel and blues stars teaming up with afrobeat stars, excellent musicians, good stuff!
  • Had a waffle and talked to a charming newlywed young Lesbian couple at my friend’s birthday party.
  • Cycled and walked a lot in the sun.
  • Played Orléans with gaming buddies in my dad’s guest house on a scarp by the sea.

Dear Reader, what did you do?

A Dristig & Drabanterna Retrospective

I recently reviewed Mattias Dristig’s card game NätTrollz. A man of many talents, he is also a band leader, and I have received three CD:s for review. There are 16 tracks total on these discs, which would in the age of vinyl have made them EPs unless some tracks had been super long. Much of the following will only be comprehensible to people familiar with Swedish folk rock, but I guess it’s never too late to go down that rabbit hole.

Dristig, I would guess, is a typical Swedish 19th century military name. When 300 new recruits showed up all named Svensson, Larsson or Nilsson, officers needed to be able to tell them apart. They would give the men short new surnames, many of which were manly adjectives. Dristig is an archaic word for ‘brave’. And his band Drabanterna are the ‘bodyguards’ or ‘henchmen’. So this band is pretty much named Braveheart & the Bodyguards.

A pair of musicians perform on all three discs: Mattias Dristig writes all lyrics and most tunes, sings his heart out and plays rhythm guitar; Kristoffer Åberg plays lead guitar, bass, banjo and more. Camilla Hederstedt sings backup beautifully on two of the discs. (Somebody give this woman a record deal!) Other members come and go, doing a fine job too.

The musical style is called progg in Sweden. It’s a 70s style, but it has nothing to do with virtuoso prog rock, odd time signatures or scifi cover art: it’s folk rock with politically progressive lyrics. On the 2017 sleeve, Dristig identifies four main enemies: neofascism, capitalism, patriarchy and the middle class! A graduate of Saltsjöbadens Samskola, your reviewer hunkers down a little self-consciously and becomes acutely aware that he’s a member of Sweden’s non-revolutionary Left.

I would compare this music primarily to Lars Winnerbäck, Stefan Sundström and Ulf Lundell, which may just be a sign of a life lived in Stockholm. Dristig & Drabanterna are based in Gothenburg, where the obvious references may be other ones. I don’t know the genre very well, so the reader beware: this is not an expert review.

  • 2008’s Kinesisk demokrati (yes, they appropriated the G’n’R album title) has four songs. #1 is about homelessness and sounds like The Clash. #2-3 are folk ballads in triple time, one about insomnia and depression, the other about media exhibitionism and quite similar to Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”. #4 is a piano ballad about depression and mental care facilities. Some fiery guitar solos here don’t recur on later discs.
  • The 2012 offering Fru K har kommit hem (“Mrs. K has come home”) ranges quite widely in style: it has two boogie tunes (#1, #4), two Swedish folk songs / visor (#3 in triple time, #6 in quadruple), one Greek-style folk song (#2) and one pop tune that reminds me of The Kooks (#5). Lyrical themes are anti-capitalism, alcohol, lost love, class hatred, environmental politics and childhood summer memories. Song title #5 translates as “The need for new environmental policies”, which is magnificently progg. Reminds me of the Norwegian metal parody band Black Debbath’s excellent tune “Åpent brev til sporveisdirektøren”, “Open letter to the director of public transport”!
  • The 2017 disc Kallt (“Cold”) with six tunes is the band’s latest release apart from two singles, as far as I can tell. It has two boogie tunes (#1, #5), three folk ballads in triple (#2, #3, #6) and one folk rock song. Lyrical themes are diminishing social solidarity, missing your loved one, loyalty to friends, political protest and breaking up.

All in all I’ll say that though it’s not my genre, I believe I recognise this as quality stuff in its genre. There’s a lot of boogie, a lot of folkie ballads in triple time and a lot of political agitation. I’ll be happy to buy a ticket the next time Dristig & Drabanterna play Stockholm.

Most of the band’s catalogue is available on Spotify and Deezer. As for information about them, they haven’t got a super focused internet presence, but you can check Dristig’s publishing website for news, and you can thumbs-up the band’s page on Facebook.

Ramel Spoofs Gothic Horror

Povel Ramel (1922-2007) was a huge presence in Swedish entertainment for half a century from his first hit song, “Johansson’s Boogie Woogie Waltz”, in 1944. Here’s a song of his from 1968, performed by the beloved comedienne Birgitta Andersson (born in 1933). As it spoofs Gothic horror, it will be interesting to see how my high school pupils react to it as part of our horror fiction course. Chances are they aren’t familiar with either Povel Ramel or Gothic horror.

The Ballad of One-Eyed Elin
[Original lyrics]

Da-di-dum in a raven-black night
Da-di-dum the sombre tower la da-di-dum
Hmm na poor Elin there
Upon her remaining eye doth swear
Da-di-dum her lover and brother

Da-di-dum proud Sir Oscar di-dum
Da-di-dum squarely in his breast
Blood oh hmm everywhere
Da-di-dum hem of her gown
Hmm na-na never to wake again

Da-di-dum little daughter Sophie
Golden chalice whoops oh no with hydrochloric acid
Na na rosy lips hmm da-di-dum as if in a trance
Raven-black night

Da-di-dum desecrating the tomb
Hmm na na white bones in a da-dum-di-dum
Da-di-da-di cranium whoopsie hey
Crawling little maggots doodie day
Hmm hmm resting in unhallowed ground

Da-di-da-di-dum… da-di humpback
Safe in his cell… da-di-dum
And eczema… And migraine

In the deepest of the vaults da-di-da
The chest na na di-da silver and gold
Guarded tralala by a slavering vampire
Raven-black night

Da-di-dum the great big axe la-di-da
Dum-di-dum oh my dismember his mother
Na-na legs and arms doobedy straight across the throat be-doo
Hmm lala a shiny black box

Suddenly pestilence spread de-da-di hmm in our little village
Leaden pustules da-di-dum…

My Soundtrack For 2018

Of all the stoner rock bands from Lviv in Ukraine, the Somali Yacht Club is the one you really need to listen to.

Deezer, the streaming music service I use, suddenly offered me an almost ready-made blog entry. Here are 40 songs that I’ve added and listened to frequently in the past year. The asterisks mark the tunes with the least general popularity on Deezer right now. You can take that to mean either that they’re the worst of the lot, or that they’re the choicest, deepest cuts that you need to listen to first. Or you can simply note that two are Swedish acts that aren’t widely known abroad.

Tell me which of the tunes you like! And merry Christmas everyone!

  • Alice in Chains: The One You Know
  • Allah-Las: Seven Point Five
  • Alvvays: Archie, Marry Me
  • Andrew Bird: Capsized
  • Aquilo: Thin
  • Arctic Monkeys: Arabella
  • Black Keys: Hell Of A Season
  • Black Keys: Tighten Up
  • Brian Jonestown Massacre: Panic In Babylon
  • Bright Eyes: First Day Of My Life
  • Connan Mockasin: Charlotte’s Thong
  • Delorentos: Secret *
  • Ebbot Lundberg & the Indigo Children: Where Are You Now? *
  • Elephant Tree: Wither
  • Elton John, Leon Russell: If It Wasn’t For Bad
  • Eurythmics: Aqua *
  • First Aid Kit: Fireworks
  • Florence & the Machine: Shake It Out
  • Foster the People: Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)
  • Graveyard: The Fox *
  • Greta Van Fleet: Highway Tune
  • James Bay: Sugar Drunk High
  • Jayhawks: Blue *
  • Little Hurricane: Isn’t It Great
  • of Montreal: Disconnect The Dots *
  • Parcels: Bemyself
  • Parcels: Overnight
  • Portugal The Man: Feel It Still
  • Remo Drive: Blue Ribbon
  • Shins: Name For You
  • Somali Yacht Club: Sightwaster
  • Soundgarden: Fell On Black Days
  • Sufjan Stevens: Mystery of Love
  • Sunshine Fix: That Ole Sun *
  • Teleman: Steam Train Girl
  • Weezer: Any Friend of Diane’s
  • Weezer: Island In The Sun
  • Welshly Arms: Legendary
  • Whiskeytown: 16 Days
  • White Denim: Magazin

The Bass of an Ancient King

Bill Black, the bass and the King

In 1995 the surviving three Beatles recorded “Real Love“, a song that Lennon had written and recorded in 1979. They used his vocal takes on the new recording and sang harmony with him. McCartney played a vintage double bass once owned by Bill Black who played the bass in Elvis’s original mid-1950s trio.

This choice of instrument is what archaeologists call symbolic re-use. It’s when runestones are found built into the walls of later churches. Or when Napoleon’s imperial coronation outfit referenced designs from the tomb of Childeric I. People reach back in time to take part of the essence of great ancestors.

“Real Love” is a pretty decent Beatles song, certainly not one of their weakest outings.

Weekend Fun

Space Wale
Space Whale

The past two weekends were a lot of fun.

  • The Royal Technical College’s orchestra and several combined student choirs from Sweden and Finland performed Giuseppe Verdi’s 1874 Requiem, an intricate and operatic farewell to fellow composer Gioachino Rossini and poet Alessandro Manzoni.

    Hallwyl House: carving in the doorway between the ladies' drawing room and the Golden Salon.
    Hallwyl House: carving in the doorway between the ladies’ drawing room and the Golden Salon.
  • Gig with King Khan and the Shrines. Imagine a tall, psychedelic, semi-nude, portly, Canadian Wilson Pickett of Indian extraction belting out soul rock with a band consisting of extremely enthusiastic Germans. First time I’ve seen a horn section playing to a microphone stuck down the front of the lead singer’s hot pants.
  • Played Elfenland and Plato 3000.
  • Watched the 1955 Brando-Simmons-Sinatra-Blaine movie version of the 1950 musical Guys and Dolls. Impressed by Brando, didn’t know he could sing. Ugly sets and boring dialogue though. The reason that we watched it was that Jrette is playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson in an upcoming school production. Made me want to read some Damon Runyon.
  • Gig organised by Undergången with three unsigned Swedish psych acts. Space Whale are four very young and very strong musicians with excellent songs. They really blew me away! Besvärjelsen are a heavier and more metal-oriented quintet that I would really like to hear studio work from. And the Magic Jove trio are basically Cream. Extremely proficient musicians!
  • Hallwyl House: Swedish logging magnate’s daughter marries Swiss count and has some of 1890s Stockholm’s best architects and artists build them a town palace, no expenses spared, which she proceeds to fill with Early Modern art and craft objects. All of this remains in place and is now a museum, large parts of which is free of charge, and which is located a short walk from the Central Station.

King Khan
King Khan