If It Was Green, Then I’ll Replace It

i-518f596ffdfc00b81ed3b54ba81d92ce-Eddie3.jpgHere’s a translation of one of my first brushes with absurdism, Swedish rocker Eddie Meduza’s 70s song “Va den grön så får du en ny” (original lyrics here with ugly popups).

If It Was Green, Then I’ll Replace It
By Eddie Meduza

I’d bought myself a vacuum flask
In a store down in Målilla
It was real pretty until I poured coffee into it
But then it broke into pieces

So I called Mr. Chin
He’s the man with the store
(You see, he’s got a really big chin)
And I told him, my flask is busted
Do they come with a guarantee?

Yeah, said Mr. Chin, gravelly and really slowly
He was speaking really slowly and gravelly
Son, if it was red, then you’re out of luck
But if it was green, then I’ll replace it
(You see, he only ever replaced green goods)

Then I told Mr. Chin
I grieve greatly and am forlorn (as they say)
The vacuum flask was green like a summer lawn
It was such a poetic thing to say that he started to cry

In a choking voice he told me, I’m gonna give you two new flasks
I’ve got a couple sitting around the store room
That they’ve paid me insurance money for
And both of them are green

You can’t get a replacement for red vacuum flasks but green ones will get replaced, replaced, replaced if you like if you buy them from Mr. Chin in Målilla that is.

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Tangerine Carousels and Marmalade Tapirs

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Invited by my wife’s employers we spent the day at Parken Zoo, a highly original amusement park outside Eskilstuna, an hour and a half by car from my country seat. Originally a Folkets Park (People’s Park) established by the victorious early 20th century Labour movement, it has a great big stage, two dance halls, much greenery and loads of bronze sculpture, including a bust of Hjalmar Branting right at the entrance. Since that time, it has also acquired a full complement of really tacky fairground attractions and sprouted a zoo to one side. The zoo specialises in threatened and unusual species: I could spend days there with the marabou storks, flamingoes, Komodo dragons, meerkats and tapirs.

One of the rides was unbelievably psychedelic. I find that the crappy camera in my handheld computer actually enhances the visual effect of this day-glo monstrosity. Fear and loathing in Eskilstuna! If you have a firm grip on reality or don’t mind losing whatever grip you have, see below the fold.
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Strawberry Parking Lot

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Dear Reader — let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to the Strawberry Parking Lot.

For the past century and a half, the naming of Swedish places has largely been taken out of the people’s hands and regulated by the authorities. New names of big important places are no longer negotiated organically among those who talk about them. Instead, county and municipal planners tell people what to call a certain place. Thus a number of new names in my home area: Saltsjöbaden, Solsidan, Jarlaberg. Fine names handed down from on high, meaning “Salt Sea Bathing Resort”, “Sunny Side” and “Earl’s Mountain”, names which have superseded quite different older names.

A few years ago, a conservative politician wanted to rename my housing project, Fisksätra, to Saltsjövik, “Salt Sea Inlet”, on the grounds that the current name allegedly had unpleasant connotations. My neighbour, the human geographer Mats Widgren, replied drily in the local paper that a) “Fisksätra” only has unpleasant connotations among people who don’t actually live there, such as conservative politicians with big houses, b) this unique name has worked fine at least since the 1590s.

But the Swedish language hasn’t been entirely stripped of its organic naming powers. Small places are still named the old way as and when need arises. Every day on my way to work I pass a good example: Jordgubbsparkeringen, “the Strawberry Parking Lot”.

Everyone in my area knows where it is, but you won’t find it on any map. It’s one of the two parking lots of Igelboda school, where I was a pupil in the early 80s and my kids are now. One parking lot is near the daycare centre and within sight of the school, and is called Dagisparkeringen or Skolparkeringen, “Daycare/School Parking Lot”. The other one is farther from the school and on the other side of the railroad, right beside the main road to Saltsjöbaden. For about 20 years, someone has been selling strawberries under an awning there in the summer. For several months a year, every time you pass the place you’re reminded of strawberries. And so it’s the Strawberry Parking Lot all year round. A beautiful name, and useful too as it denotes unambiguously a place everyone knows and passes frequently.

But you know, I know when it’s a dream.

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Album Review: Dungen, Tio Bitar

i-96998fb1182eeaff846f00e035f69606-tiobitar.jpgSay “Swedish psychedelic rock” to a musically inclined foreigner, and chances are they’ll think of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, an excellent stonesy outfit from Gothenburg. But in New York, a few people who shop at Other Music may think of Dungen instead.

Dungen (“the Grove”) combine psychedelic 70s prog rock with Swedish ethno, fiddle and flute. They just released their third album, <a href="Tio Bitar (“Ten Pieces/Songs”), and I’ve listened it through a few times.

In the age of the mp3 file, albums are once again less important than songs. (In fact, the word “album” originally referred to a physical album with pockets where you could stick your 45-rpm vinyl singles: my dad’s album mainly contained Elvis songs.) So I won’t moan about the album filler pieces. Instead I recommend all psych listeners to get (by whatever means you deem appropriate) the following four songs:

  • “Familj” (Family). A lush and dreamy piece with an ethno melody figure.
  • “C visar vägen” (C shows the way). A soft instrumental with classical violin and banjo.
  • “Du ska inte tro att det ordnar sig” (You shouldn’t think it’s gonna be OK). Groove rock with a folky march beat and lyrics alluding to Astrid Lindgren.
  • “Svart är himlen” (Black is the sky). Another soft song, this one with flute and grand piano.

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R.U. Sirius Show Turns 100

i-b01159603699d97c2032c85a94cd262e-rusirius-badge.jpgAnother one of my favourite podcasts hits 100 instalments: the R.U. Sirius show. It’s cyber-counterculture talk radio with ample references to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, but done in a geeky, distinctly literate manner. R.U. Sirius himself used to be the editor of seminal cyber-mag Mondo 2000 back in the day, and is now an elder statesman on the trippy fringe of technology. By his own admission, he likes to spend a Sunday afternoon reading a thick book while stoned, and him and his posse of witty co-chatterers are a delight to hear.

Among recent guests on the show we find security expert Bruce Schneier, sexpert and anthologist Suzie Bright, science fiction author and copyleft activist Cory Doctorow, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, comedian Will Franken and retired U.S. military psychedelics researcher James Ketchum.

The R.U. Sirius show is good, smart, addled leftie fun. Turn on your computer, tune in the podcast feed, and don’t let the earbuds of your mp3 player drop out.

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Zoolook

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I no longer listen much to the synth pop I loved in my teens. The artist that has perhaps dropped most dramatically in my affections is Jean-Michel Jarre, largely because I really dug him once. But I still listen to one of his albums with great pleasure: 1984’s Zoolook.

This disc sounds as if the bombastic and sentimental Frenchman has been slipped something ergotoid in his coffee by the sound-effects crew from the first Star Wars movie and then herded into the studio, tailed by Laurie Anderson and two dozen Ewoks. After a spacey opening dirge, things pick up: extraterrestrial party animals titter and croak madly in the background as vocoder and a truckload of primitive synthesizers meld and groove, neatly structured by acoustic percussion and funky slap bass, raï style. It’s psychedelic New Age synthesizer music from a galaxy far, far away: the perfect soundtrack to a Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent comic. On no other disc is Jean-Michel Jarre so charmingly and disarmingly playful.

Update 27 March: Three degrees of Jean-Michel Jarre! The other day I met my buddy Frédéric’s partner John and found out that he went to school with Jarre’s son in Paris back in the 80s!

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