Thursday, February 28

Ah, I am re-living my teen years today. Writing a piece on the 90s; grunge, britpop, "Beverly Hills 90210" and "My So-Called Life".
I remember my beloved Doc Martens that were a size too big, my green army jacket with a Bad Religion patch and my long blonde hair. This was when Green Day released "Dookie" and Kurt Cobain had moved on to wherever you go when you shoot yourself in the head.
I kicked the brick walls of my school to make my docs look worn and cool. I still have the Nirvana t-shirt and the Green Day t-shirt I bought that year.

We had to do an oral presentation for my english class, and my friend Karin asked if we could do someting on Nirvana together. I loved Nirvana and Karin knew I would do most of the work while she could get easy credit. However, my teacher saw right through it. After we finished she told Karin "Good work, but I think they are more punk in writing's favourites than yours". HA!
Karin always did very well in school. Last I heard she was studying to become a doctor.

I listened to grunge, punk and britpop. I had a crush on Damon Albarn of Blur and I wanted to be as cool as Justine of Elastica, but Pulp was my favourite britpop band. I saw them play at Olympen in Lund in 1996.

Another birthday has come and gone, and as I get older I can celebrate another year as a vegetarian. That's twelve years without meat and I haven't died of malnutrition yet. Being vegetarian has definitely gotten a lot easier since 1996, and now I have discovered punk rock veggie cooking! The cookbook "Vegan with a Vengeance" is in my kitchen and you can find episodes of the post punk kitchen online.

And today I found the Hardcore Chef... A punk rock boy that cooks veggies, yayy!

He's cute, but what's up with the aggressively colorful kitchen and the shirt that's a size too small?

Wednesday, February 27

If you have a problem with bitching you shouldn't read any further. Because this post is all about the bitching, baby!

Have you ever felt the need to tell your boss to just fuck off? But you know you can't because you need that job or you need your employer on your list of references?
This must be the ultimate Catch 22. If you say anything bad about your previous employer when you're looking for a new job, you come across as a bad employee.
So even if your boss is a wanker you have to end things in a good way, or else you won't get a good reference or your bonus. And your boss/colleagues or whoever is making you miserable never get the telling off they deserve.

Life would be so much easier if I could tell people to fuck off when they deserve it. The again, life ain't fair and never was.

And working in the media business isn't glamorous. We work all kinds of crazy hours and have no job security. If you work as a temp long enough the company might be forced to hire you, so no matter how good you are you get the boot after a couple of months.
Working in insurance, engineering or teaching ain't that great either. All kinds of employers seem to treat their staff really bad these days.

Tuesday, February 19

I'm in the business of misery. In the current issue of "Journalisten" (the magazine published by the Swedish Union of Journalists) there is a short article about two interns at Avesta Tidnings advertising department who were asked to leave because they had been illojal to the paper. Their crime?
The two students were offended by derogatory comments about homosexuals made by two members of staff and wrote about it on their blog. The students witheld the names of the culprits but the ad department was still offended.
The girls removed the comment from their blog but were not allowed to finish their internship.

In this case, the head honchos at the ad department did the wrong thing. It was obviously more important to protect homophobic egos on the staff than making sure the company has a healthy working environment. Illojal to the company, yeah right!

As someone who works for the non-commersial side of newspapers I have had my share of run-ins with the ad department. Personally, I write for the readers and not the advertisers.
I have been forced to write articles for the advertisers at previous jobs, but I don't like it. I have no problem with straight up things like writing a press release or ad copy, where it is obvious to the reader that what you have in front of you is promo material or an ad.

At many papers there is tension between editorial and advertising, and there is constant arguing over which department is more essential to the survival of the paper.

What is more important to you? That you can trust what you read in your local newspaper or that everyone who buys ad space is satisfied with what we write about their them?

Monday, February 18

I love MTV's cheesy reality shows like "Meet the Barkers" and "Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen and Dave".
"Newlyweds" made me cringe. The world does not need more blondes, male or female, who think that acting stupid makes them look cute.

The MTV shows are equal parts fun and freak show but comparing them to "Bif Naked Bride" is like comparing your aunts tattoo of tweety bird to a full custom backpiece.
Bif Naked's show kicks ass.
The Canadian punk rock singer documented the four weeks before her wedding to extreme sports writer Ian Craig Walker.
The result is eight webisodes that are fun and honest. The couple shot most of the footage themselves and the editing is great. I guess Canadians just do it better, eh?

Last month Bif Naked announced that she has breast cancer. I really hope that she makes a full recovery.

Thursday, February 14

Valentine's Day. When I was in school I dreaded this day.
The popular girls always set up this thing where you could send a rose to anyone in the school, either anonymously or with a note. Red was for someone you loved and yellow for friendship. I think there were more options but those are the ones I remember.

On Valentine's Day the popular girls would hand out roses during lessons. I always hoped for a rose but I never got one. I should have known better, because most of the roses were delivered to the in-crowd.
Needless to say, I wasn't one of them. And apart from occasions like Valentine's Day I didn't want to be. But ever since then I am in two minds about the concept of Valentine's Day.
When you're single it's a reminder that you are alone, and when you are dating it just puts a strain on the relationship. Everything has to be so lovey-dovey and perfect.

In upper secondary school (that's gymnasiet to the Swedes) I started buying small chocolate hearts and handing them out to all my friends. That way no one was left out and everybody appriciated it. It made so much more sense to me than the popularity contest of the roses, and was much cheaper.

You try it! Buy some chocolate or make some cookies for your friends. Start a new tradition.
What do you mean you can't? Where do you think traditions come from? Yes, from people like you who decide that they would like to change things. But someone has to get the ball rolling. You can be that someone.

Here's a scene from "Some Like it Hot" one of my favourite movies. Two musicians witness the Valentine's Day massacre of 1929 and have to get out of town. But they are broke and the only way out of town is to dress upp i drag and join an all-girl band.
This is one of the best comedies ever made.

Monday, February 11

My body refused to get out of bed on time, I couldn't find my gloves as I was leaving for work and I didn't finish all the things I hoped to get done this weekend. It's Monday, and it's back with a vengeance.

Last Saturday I spent a few hours jumping around on a vacant industrial lot. For once I did the goofing around, aka modelling, so my friend Nils was behind the camera.
Or cameras I should say, because we used both my Nikon and Nils' Canon. I guess we looked a bit suspicious as we casually sneaked through the fence with two camera bags and a ladder.

I like the photo Jade of Shy Boys Win has on his blog, so I told Nils I wanted to do something similar, thus the ladder.

The industrial lot is full of debris, mainly from the homeless people who used to live there, so walking on stilts was out of the question.
But there is a lot of nice graffiti, an old skateboard ramp (complete with rainwater, a chair leg and an orange womens shoe) and a crumbling wall for me to climb, so Nils did a fine job when scouting for a location.
There is also a lot of old cables, tires and garbage. I stepped on what I thought was a cardboard box, but then it went "squish" under my foot. It was decomposing garbage. Yuck.

Unfortunately Nils' computer is feeling a bit under the weather so I won't see the pictures we took with his camera for another week or so. Bummer.

"Eye of the Tiger", anyone? I'm doing my best Rocky Balboa impression here, punching air and jumping up and down.

So how was your weekend?

Friday, February 8

Just because it's Friday, everything seems so much better than yesterday. My train was on time (well, kinda) and I got a decent seat so I could read.

I introduced one of my colleagues to the Bouncing Souls and he really dug "True Believers". He said it reminded him of the first wave of punk bands. The lucky bastard photographed the Sex Pistols and hung out with Johnny Rotten back in 1977, so he knows what he's talking about.
I promised to bring all my Bouncing Souls cds to work on Monday so he could check them out. Good taste should be rewarded.

My friend Rob who is the overworked and underpaid head honcho at HepTown Records just called and it sounded like he was standing in an airport, surrounded by preschoolers.
Turns out he's on his way to Stockholm and the Manifest Awards, surrounded by The Mockingbirds who are nominated in the punk/hardcore category. Hope they win, now that they've travelled all the way up to Stockholm.

Since it's Friday afternoon and you're not really working anyway, check out this clip from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Thursday, February 7

What an annoyingly awkward morning. I was on time but the train was more than half an hour late. Not only was I frozen solid by the time the train showed up, I was also late for work. Oh, the joys of commuting on public transport.

And on top of it all, I couldn't read while I waited because it was raining. Grrr.
But on the plus side, I am reading "Hairstyles Of The Damned" by Joe Meno and it's really good.

Today I had to come up with an internet-related piece on love for Valentine's Day. I write a lot of these for the entertainment section of the newspaper; a few hundred words and some links, on everything from 80s music to horror themed musicals.
I threw in scenes from "Some Like It Hot", a reference to Geoffrey Chaucer and music by Love and Rockets, Liz Phair and Bullet For My Valentine.
How's that for diversity?

I really wanted to include "Fuck and Run" but I chickened out and went with "Why Can't I".

Saturday, February 2

I don't feel like a new year has really kicked in until it reaches February. January seems so dark and bleak after all the Christmas lights are taken down. But in February the daylight slowly returns to us in the Nordic countries.
Today the is the Gaelic festival of Imbolc, the cross-quarter day on the solar calendar, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

I though I had lost this short story, but I discovered a copy of it in a dark corner of my old computer. It seems fitting to bring it back to life on a day that used to symbolize the beginning of spring.

What I remember most about James is his tattoo. It’s a bright green Celtic knot symbol with a black outline, on the inside of his left underarm. I have never seen another tattoo in that colour. When James played the guitar my eyes kept moving from his tattoo to the fingers on his left hand, moving rapidly across the neck of the guitar.

I met James at a house party a few months ago. He was leaving town the following day, and I had arrived a few days earlier. Anthony invited me to the party, along with some other international students. He was moving into James’ old room in the house that he had shared with three Irish lads. The house was located in the area behind “the Bot” just off Botanic Avenue in south Belfast.
Like a lot of houses inhabited solely by boys, the house had an impressive TV set and a nice stereo, while the kitchen and the bathrooms were… well, let’s just say that it was clear what was a priority in this house. But it was a nice house all the same, and what might have been lacking in curtains or cleaning was more than made up for by hospitality.

What started out as a conversation about rock music and alcohol ended with James breaking out his acoustic guitar and the lyric sheets. James had been in Belfast to study music at University, and he played at pubs around town to make a few extra pounds every now and then.
His parents were rebel singers that left Belfast for the US during the troubles, and like so many others with the same background, James had returned to the city his parents left behind. He played the guitar with the ease of years of practice and the touch of someone who loves what he is doing.

But what I remember most about the time I spent sitting on his right and singing everything from Green Day and Barenaked Ladies to traditional Irish songs is the way he looked me in the eyes when he talked to me, and the fact that he listened to what I said.
I sang in a choir when I was younger, but I hadn’t sung in public for years. Besides, I don’t exactly have the best voice in the family. But James encouraged me to sing, and actually listened like he liked the sound of my voice. There were several other people in the room, and almost all of us sang a song or two. A Canadian girl called Moira picked up the guitar and she and I sang Matchbox 20’s “3am”. Later on we sang 4 non blondes’ “What’s Up” in the small concrete area outside the kitchen that passed for a backyard.

It was a good night, and the atmosphere in that house was great. As was James’ performance of “four green fields”, a classic rebel song. Maybe it was the evening, the alcohol or just a feeling of being happy to be alive and right in that place at that very moment, but thinking of him singing that song in the sitting room on the first floor of that house on Andrew Street still sends shivers down my spine.

A group of people, made up of Moira, her fiancé Liam, James, another American guy called Tom and myself, continued on to a pub called Hatfield House. The walk from the house on Andrew Street took us across the Queen’s University campus and through the area behind the university known as the holy land, because of street names such as Jerusalem Street and Palestine Street. The houses in the holy land were mainly dark, and the walk was quite uneventful. I was still feeling bubbly from singing earlier on in the evening, and I must have been rambling on about it, as I tend to do when I’m happy and a bit drunk. I remember James turning around to face me and as we walked through the holy land. He looked my straight in the eye and said; you have a good voice. Stop putting yourself down like that. I mean it.

I can’t seem to recall anyone telling me anything like that before that night. At the time I didn’t fully realise how much that comment meant to me, or how much I would cherish those words. I was too caught up in the night, with talk, laughter and James’ acting as a tour guide for those of us who were new to the city back then. I just remember the feeling of happiness that seemed to soar through my veins at that very moment.

James was a regular at the Hatfield. It is a large pub, but unlike the flashier student pubs like the Bot and the Eg, it’s a local, with a different crowd. As this was James’ last night in town he was busy saying his goodbyes to people upstairs in the Hatfield. Moira, Liam, Tom and I were having a laugh at our table, with Tom asking Moira if she and Liam were getting married. Of course, was her reply. Liam put his beer down, and smiled.
– Well, this is the first I’m hearing about it.
Tom and Liam shared a fondness for Guinness, and Liam recommended three things to see in Dublin; the Guinness museum, the Guinness museum and, you guessed it, the Guinness museum.

But all nights come to an end sooner or later and it was time for Tom and me to head back home to our respective rooms in halls. So I said goodbye to Moira and Liam and Tom and I headed for the door.
– Hey, are you gonna leave without saying goodbye? It was James.
– Of course not. Bye, and have a safe trip back to the states.
As I hugged him goodbye he tried to kiss me and I turned my head. But he held my head gently and said; I just want to give you a kiss, please?
I agreed. He looked so sincere, and I thought, what’s the harm in a kiss? He gave me a light kiss on the lips, looked me in the eyes and said; thank you. And remember what I said. You have a great voice. Get yourself a guitar and keep singing. I mean it.

Time has blurred the memories of that night, and I can’t really remember what James looked like. I remember his green tattoo and his voice as he sang “four green fields”. But most of all I remember him looking at me, and listening. Whenever I begin to doubt my own ability to sing or get scared to pick up a guitar I remember what James said to me that night.