Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflection on 2010, new hobbies, less bands.

Last day of the year, always a good one to look back right? It's the oldest cliché in the book of course, I'm trying to be a little original here but I'll probably fail.

isn't she pretty?Favourite new hobby:
Lomography. Analogue love if you please. I've always loved taking pictures. With my digital camera I already shot a lot of pictures and since a few months I finally have a mobile phone which takes excellent pictures as well. But Lomography is something else, taking pictures with an analogue camera, plastic cameras, replicas of the cheap models of the 60s which have no limits to your creativity. Where a digital camera will instantly adjust your image, analogue won't. With Lomography you shoot from unusual angels, use multiple exposures if you please, play with light, there are no rules! When my sister bought her Diana F+, which holds a 120mm film and produces breath-taking results, I bought a disposable camera with red flash. A new hobby is born. So far I own a Holga Pinhole camera (35mm), Diana F Mini (35mm), a Fisheye (35mm and my favourite toy at the moment, I must mention it's pink!) and a Diana F+ (120mm, the Edelweiss edition) and I always try to take a disposable camera with me. Bringing away the films and especially picking them up is a little party. Best new thing I took on this year and something I will take into the new year for sure.

Favourite new music discovery:
Of course there was the birth of Wild Flag and knowing that 2011 will produce at least two albums with Janet Weiss is something to be really excited about. But my favourite music discovery is Marina and the Diamonds. Her appearance this year went a little unnoticed by me. I knew she was out and about but that was about it. But it took a live concert to open my eyes, which happened a few years back with Kate Nash as well. The second Marina stepped on stage she got me. She is real, the songs are amazing, Marina is amazing.

Regret of the year:
Listening to new bands. There are thankfully exceptions to this, but do I regret to test-listen to a lot of new bands this year. This is the new shit, this is such a great band, so inventive and creative. Most of the times these descriptions caused my ears to bleed. I rather miss out on a good band than ruin my good mood with awful music. Stop thinking you're better than the 80s. Plug in your microphone. Label your music if you must with something that's actually true. Using drugs is not making your band appear cooler. Play music you actually like. Then we'll talk.

Music hero of the year:
This can't be any other than the person who's music and other work I love since a little girl and having seen for the first time this year. Ernst Jansz. His show was a big ode to Bob Dylan who's songs he had translated for his latest album. I do not like Dylan. But this show was interesting and entertaining just by the way he did it. And not just that, I met him. Meeting your childhood idol is something amazing. And he was amazing. One of the best moments of 2010.

2011 is looking good as wellFavourite reunion:
Reunions have been plenty this year but my favourite must have been Pavement. Seeing these guys play live was a true treat. It was still early enough in the year for them to at least display the joy they had in playing together again. To see the King of Slackers in action himself was a treat. Malkmus played his guitar with such ease and almost disinterest, just wow. Another happy reunion this year was the one of former Sleater Kinneys Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. New band but oh wow. Bring it on for 2011! Which is to say as well for Malkmus current band, the Jicks.

Favourite trip abroad to see a band:
It was only one this year but it was of the best. I went to London by myself in July taking the fast train. I had to start the trip a day early because on the actual travel day, the Dutch national football team was being honoured in Amsterdam and there was no way getting OUT of the town. Hmmpppfffff... In London I met up with my sister and we had an amazing time in London, I had forgotten how London is a great city with a lot of hidden secrets. The purpose of our trip were The Cribs who would play without Johnny, but the first two albums in its entirety. What a gig! Old skool to the bone, soaked in sweat, bounced as much as possible, like a Cribs gig should be.

guess who's a cat-person as well?Re-inventing the wheel moment of the year:
That wasn't such a long time ago. While listening to the radio, Top 2000 obviously, I made the most pointless statement of the year. "You know, just like you have cat-people and dog-people, you also have Rolling Stones-people and Beatles-people". At the time I said it I felt like I had just made the most clever comment ever, but of course even I had to admit that everyone knows (me included) that this is the case ever since the 60s, which makes this statement really pointless. I'm a Beatles-person, in case you're interested.

The Music I hate.

Listen, if you ever going to make a song that's about how much you love music, how much it means to you and how it is everything, which it is, you better do me and the rest of the population agreeing with this statement a favour - MAKE SURE IT ISN'T AS AWFULLY DREADFUL AND HORRIBLE AS 'MUSIC' BY JOHN MILES.

That's all I can say about this. 'Music' is the most painful song about something beautiful. Massive fail. Dear musicians, you can do better, do it!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

This is burning an Eternal Flame

If you read my blog before or if you are lucky enough (or not) to know me personally, you'll know that I'm a fan of the band The Bangles. The fab four of the eighties, those four women who had so many hits in the eighties, the band with lead-singer Susanna Hoffs, that band of the song 'Eternal Flame'. Of course 'Eternal Flame' is the highest entry of the Bangles in the top 2000 at 427 and has been in the top 100 in that very list once and of course it's a beautiful ballad. It was that song that made me fan of the band, even though I always sang the chorus of 'Manic Monday' unaware it was the same band and secretly (not even sure why that was a secret but young teenagers are even weirder than teenagers) loving their version of 'Hazy shade of winter'. I got their 'Everything' album, the album that features 'Eternal Flame' and I loved it. I played the single 'Eternal Flame' so many times it actually turned grey. The b-side of that 7" was the non-album track 'What I meant to say', a raw rock song, not sung by Susanna Hoffs but by the Peterson sisters Debbi and Vicki. Every Bangles fan will be able to tell you that Hoffs is not the lead singer of the Bangles, all the women sang. In 1989, 'Eternal Flame', my 'Eternal Flame' ended up being the biggest selling single of that year. And I was proud.

In 1989, the Bangles split up. The final straw in the friction between the members was the release of 'Eternal Flame'. That, however, is my version. The story of the split of the Bangles is not one to tell in one paragraph, there's a back story to be told. But, if you ever needed to tell this in one sentence, you'd use 'Eternal Flame'.

'Eternal Flame', even though it's the song that turned this girl a fan and glued to the television every time the video appeared on screen (which was an awful lot those days, we still had an MTV that played music videos), is by far not my favourite song by this fab four. It's not even because of the split association. It's a nice song, it's lovely, it's highly romantic. But on 'Everything' you'll find one song, which comes right before 'Eternal Flame' that is even more beautiful, romantic, heartbroken that that, it's Michael Steele sung 'Something to believe in'. That song is gorgeous. Steele's warm, bluesy voice is amazing, which is also evident in the first song of side B 'Glitter Years'. The Bangles are no matter what a rock band. They made fantastic pop songs, but their rock songs are so much better.

Still, I'm really pleased by 'Eternal Flame' featured in this List of All Lists here in the Netherlands. Be it the one that isn't their best and doesn't do the band justice for what they really were. It's the one people remembered and still cherish. People still remember the Bangles and that's great indeed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Riding the Bicycle Race during the Top 2000

According to my mother, and who would know better than her, my first ever favourite song was by Queen, 'Bicycle Race'. Things could be loads worse than that of course. The song was released in 1978 (I was 2 at the time) and my mother was a big fan of Queen, playing the album 'Jazz' a lot of times (also on that album, 'Fat bottomed girls' and 'Don't stop me now'). And according to my mother I always asked for the bicycle song and when she played it I was dancing in the living room, it were the bicycle bells in the song that appealed to me most probably.

Even though both my parents have an embarrassing record collection (my dad loves German Schlagers, think Heino and Udo Jürgens, my mother also owns records by Barbara Streisand), I think my love for rock music comes from my mother. I can recall sitting in front of the record player with my mom and playing LPs, mostly Queen, but also Janis Joplin, Bee Gees, Michael Jackson (Off the wall and later Thriller), Kate Bush and Kiss. I remember taking her singles to my room and rocking out to one of the Kiss songs and wondering about the men in make up on the sleeve.

When I started to develop my own taste (at the age of 5 or 6) I got into reggae and ska, considering I was crazy about the song 'Pass the Dutchie' by the Musical Youth and my unconditional adoration for Doe Maar. My mother was very supportive of that, getting me the albums and most notable the '4us' album which a lot of kids back then were told by their parents to take the album back to the store because of the swearing on the album. My mother however told me I had to keep it because the swearing was educational, noting that the swearing was placed in relation to heroin and the song is the biggest and most in your face anti-drugs anthem this country has ever known.

But my love for music started with Queen. Like I said, could have been worse. Loads worse.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Doe Maar in the Top2000

The Top 2000 is a trip down to memory and if there's several songs in the list by the first ever band you loved, you can't help but dust off the albums (or in my case desperately trying to get more songs on MP3 and loud them to my walkman) and enjoy them all over again. In my case I've spent plenty of time on my bicycle listening to Doe Maar. The Netherlands' most popular band ever. They played a mix of ska, reggea, pop and a bit of punk and sang their critical, free-thinking, relationship, political songs in Dutch. The band introduced merchandising in the Netherlands. They produced such a demand for the band that they had to call it a day. And when they did I sat crying in front of the television. I was 8 years old but I can still see them in the dressing room. For a very long time I had a serious gap in my music history, apparently I said goodbye to music when they split (must have been the time I read every book about the weather our library had in stock).

Doe Maar songs are a document of the early 80s in the Netherlands. I'm not here to give a national history lesson but we all know the phrase 'history repeats'. Their songs are relevant all over again. I could always relate to songs as 'Pa' (about how you're not like your dad wanted you to be) and 'Ruma Saja' (about how you're also a stranger in your father's country, I was able to tell this to the singer of the song, Ernst Jansz, earlier this year which was one of the best moments in my life), but songs such as 'Doe maar net alsof je neus bloed' (about closing your eyes for what's going on in the world) and 'De bom' (The bomb, chorus goes little as 'Come on drop it already, it's going to happen anyway, it doesn't matter if you run') are relevant again. They have timeless classics everyone older than 30 is able to sing along effortless. That's what makes a great band. I'm really not a fan of Dutch music, but Doe Maar, I have to admit this once and for all, is a part of me.

Here's 'De bom', a song that captures the main aspects of the band the best. Curiously it never appeared on an album.

Top 2000 songs - We All Stand Together (video)

It's Top 2000 time in the Netherlands and it's one long trip back to memory lane for the most time. As I was making my bed last night with of course the radio on, this came along and made me wonder why on earth this song was only at 1190 and why we have Coldplay twice in the top 10. If there's one pop song that has it all it's not Bohemian Rhapsody, Music (by John Miles) or even God only Knows (and it's certainly NOT Viva La Vida), it is this one. I chose to show the clip with Paul McCartney in it instead of the long version which featured in the Rupert film because even though the Beatles are featured most in the Top 2000 list (and very righteous so), their highest entry is only at 24 with Hey Jude. Enjoy this classic piece of music history.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The world's easiest tax-raise defence. We got 'em!

I've been relatively on the politic front. I spit out an occasional frustrating discontent but that's it, at least as far as I know. Dutch Politics is making me ill and I can't allow a bunch of idiots who somehow have to run the country ruin my health. What I have followed though is the tax raise on theatre and concert tickets, going up from 6 to 19%. That's quite a lot. This happens mid-season. No one had really the time to prepare themselves for it. The consumer will have to pay more which the theatres won't see. If a consumer has to pay more they might not spend their money on tickets. Well, it's a long list of arguments why this tax raise is the stupidest things since electing Bush jr. and I won't bore you with that. The reason why I'm writing about this in another anyway.

This raise is one of the most talked about issues in The Hague at the moment and today the government confirmed once more that they won't turn this back, the tax raise on tickets is definite. They're still confident it will make them 90 mln euros. Which is probably the calculation with current sales. But even that isn't what stirred me this time. No. Not even the fact that it's mainly the PVV of Geert Wilders who keeps hammering at this tax raise isn't it. Oh no. It's that one small little thing our minister of Finance has said to justify their moves.

"These plans were part of our election campaign all along."

The theatre and concert goers are for the larger part NOT THE ONES WHO HAVE VOTED FOR YOU! That's by far the easiest defence of 2010. Congratulations.

Here's the best edit of 2010: the tax raise on concert, festival and theatre tickets will be postponed until July 2011. Alright!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All I want for UK Christmas Number One is...

have you heard?I'm going to be very controversial here but I want Matt Cardle's 'When we collide' to be the UKs Christmas Number One. If only to piss off all the Christmas number one campaigns flocking the internet right now. The UK Christmas Number One seems holier than Jesus in the UK so it's a big deal. In the past novelty songs made it to number one, Westlife made it to number one and, you will not believe this one, Christmas songs made it to number one. But, the X Factor ends just before Christmas. So logically, the kiddies who voted their winner will spend more money for the winning song. It ends just before Christmas, just before the end of the year.

Now, I can understand people don't like X Factor, I'm not a big fan of the show myself and usually only watch the auditions. I can understand that you get fed up with an X Factor winner getting the holier than thou Christmas Number One. Is this music? Argue all you want about that. Is X Factor about music? No. X Factor is a competition between the judges who each have their own group to compete with, the female singers, the male singers, the over 25 singers and the bands. The contestants are their pawns. Their weapons if you want. And they use music. So saying that your not a music fan because you watch X Factor is a bit harsh. Back in the day people jumped through hoops and fell into a kiddie pool with dishwater to win a microwave, now people sing in order to win a record deal.

When Alexandra Burke killed Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah (I refuse to say Jeff Buckley, it's by LEONARD COHEN, if you don't understand that, you might want to check your music library) with which she won the X Factor in 2008. As a reaction people downloaded what they claimed the original by Jeff Buckley which made it to the top ten with Burke making it to number one. Cohen thankfully charted as well. In 2009, revolution! No more X Factor number one! Let's all download 'Killing in the name of' by Rage Against The Machine! Revolution indeed, RATM actually became that year's Christmas number one, ironically the key in that 90s classic revolution song (totally killed by this campaign) are the words 'Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me', and by doing exactly that it became a hit (and RATM riding the wave, shamefully). So, with that success, let's repeat that for 2010.

Bad idea.

The number of individual campaigns is insane, to make that work you got to work together. Every fanbase roots for their own band. Good on you and good for the band who will make an extra dime but stay realistic, a group of 50 will not make a Christmas number one. Matt Cardle won with 'When we collide' which is a over of 'Many of horror' by (shock oh horror) indie band Biffy Clyro. To download that song as a statement, be my guest. Biffy Clyro will be the very last to say anything, here's a band with a nice Christmas bonus. Ka-ching! Then there's John Cage ('cleverly' dubbed Cage Against The Machine. Yes, I yawned) 'Silent single' which is 4.33 minutes of musicians standing in the recording room, but not doing anything. I actually understand what you're trying to say but come on! Grow up! They mean this seriously and well, no. Just no. It's just dumb. These people do not understand X Factor. With an eye on the mid-charts, many people don't get the silent single either. And hallelujah for that.

This Christmas, buy what you LIKE. What song is good? Get that. And if you hate X Factor that much, do yourself this favour: buy 'Surfin' Bird' by The Trashmen. It's the one anti campaign that makes sense. Haven't you heard?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tour of Duty or For what it's worth (a flashback)

one of the reasons why I watched Tour of DutyAs a young teenager I enjoyed watching the US war TV series 'Tour of Duty'. It was the close friendship the Vietnam soldiers maintained that made the show what it was. Every week I sat in front of the television to watch the 'adventures' (it's a little wrong to call it adventures, this is war and not quite Indiana Jones) of Zeke Anderson, Danny Percell, Marcus Taylor, Ruiz, Duncan and, of course, Myron Goldman. The show didn't focus on the actual war cruelties on fight, but more on other issues such as racism, suicide, fragging, terrorism, civilian deaths and drug abuse. It made the series human.

What also heaviy featured was the music of the era. Sixties music. The theme song was 'Paint it black' by the Rolling Stones. This song will forever be connected with how the helicopters landed on the field and the actors jumping out with their shot guns and Zeke looking back over his shoulder, pausing and showing the name of the actor (Terence Knox, in case you're interested). A few years later I was at a Rolling Stones show and waited patiently until they played this song and went nuts for the few minutes it took. The show was a huge success in the Netherlands and was shown on Veronica, then still part of the Public Network. They knew how successful it was, not just the show but also the music and always being a music pioneer (Veronica originally started as a pirate radio network, making radio from a ship at sea, just outside Dutch waters), they released a few compilations, releasing the music from the TV series, a mighty fine collection of the most delicious sixties tracks. Even as a young teenager I wasn't too keen on 'modern music', so that cassette bought from my own money was played constantly. As always, the first part was better than the follow ups. And on that tape was Buffalo Springfield with 'For what it's worth'. I instantly fell in love with that song and I'm both surprised and worried about how valid the words still are today.

I had to think about that just now, as it played on the radio. I had to think of the TV series. I decided to share this song here. Very fitting to my sixties mood I'm in at the moment. Enjoy this (sadly) timeless classic.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Where Garage Girls come from

The raise of female fronted garage rock bands is great. Vivian Girls. Dum Dum Girls. Best Coast. Grass Widow. Girls at Dawn. Pens. Veronica Falls. Las Robertas. You may argue they kind of sound the same but if they would drop the reverberation imagine how great that would be. Sure, it might be exactly that what makes current garage rock (male voices are doing the same) garage rock but The Splinters don't use it and they sound genuine and absolutely great. What a band they are, the Splinters. Pure garage rock. But are the new generation garage rock bands, or lo-fi as they probably prefer, fronted by women something new and so 21st century? I'm sorry, but it's nothing new.

look familiar?Because, for instance in 1980, there were the Bangs. Not to be confused by the 90s band The Bangs, though in sound you'd love both. The 80s Bangs were three LA girls who shared their passion for 60s music. Beatles, Mamas & the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel (they would later in their career have a hit single with a cover), The Seed, The Byrds, the Randalls, these girls loved harmonies and they loved 60s garage. They released a fairly (underground) successful single 'Gettin' out of hand/Call on me' and were the darling of the Paisley Underground. They then did something the now generation garage rock bands don't - they got themselves a bassist. They rocked, they had fantastic voices which sang in harmonies and yes, they looked sexy too. If the Dum Dum Girls had been living at that time, they'd probably look and sound like the Bangs.

As the Bangs got more known, another band with the same name got aware and threatened to sue the girls. They renamed themselves and recorded a self-titled EP: The Bangles were born. Their debut EP was filled with 5 garage rock pearls and the future looked bright for the four, but not before firing their bassist and hiring a new one. With their new bassist they recorded a long player which was released in 1984, 'All over the place'. It sounded raw and sweet. The Paisley Underground was proud of their very own Fab Four as they were dubbed. The girls enjoyed their sweaty gigs and were giving their new bassist her very own moment, the Seeds 'Pushin' too hard'. It was a highlight of their shows.

Then something happened which might be typical for that time and probably wouldn't happen anymore, mainly because record labels will not spend their time and money into turning small bands into mainstream chart toppers. Record labels are not interested in that anymore. The Bangles were signed to a Big Label and damn you Prince for having an interest in the Paisley Underground and the Bangles.eye for marketingHe wrote them the power pop tune Manic Monday. Add a marketing campaign for Susanna Hoffs Big Brown Eyes and you have a more successful version of the Go-go's. The rest is history. The Bangles released 'Hazy shade of winter' an old-school Bangles version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic for the now cult movie 'Less than zero'. Also 'Everything', their 1988 album, featured heavier songs but also spawned their biggest hit 'Eternal Flame' which launched the band into a break up. The band had turned into a huge success but not the way the girls had wanted to, not to mention they agreed on.

But before all that, before it all was over, the Bangles were the pride and joy of the Paisley Underground, their jangle pop-folk-garage-rock with punkish hooks was a delight and it still is today. Whenever I hear the early Bangles stuff I sigh happily and wish reverberation was never invented. Sure, it gives a lo-fi 60s sound, but you can accomplish that without. Do it girls, I'm begging you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Play Live Wish List for 2011

Even though the ticket prices in the Netherlands will be considerably higher next year due to complete ignorance and misjudgement of our government, I'm still looking forward to gigs and shows to go to. Even though going to shows will mean I'm paying to pave another highway and other things not needed, I still love music and still want to experience the beauty of raw and pure music enjoyment. But, if I already have to pay more which won't go to the artists or the venues, I have but a few bands I really really want to see in 2011. So, here's my Live Wish List for 2011. The highly unlikely bands of course.

The Cribs
Thumbs up if you like a two-year-breakFour months ago the Cribs went on a 2 year break. I didn't believe it at the time but it kinda really looks like they're doing it. Never mind 50% of the band posting Global Words of Wisdom and Other Signs of Boredom on Twitter, 25% being bored in general (or so we could conclude from, again, Twitter) and the remaining 25%? We can only guess (no Twitter), but probably they are enjoying their break. I think it's fairly safe to say that 75% of the band wouldn't mind to cut down the 2-year-break and here's my plan: get yrselves (all 100% of you) to a god-lost barn in Oregon, lock yourself up and TOUR the outcome next year, in 2011. I don't neccesarily need a new album, I just want to see these guys play live again. I'm having bad withdrawels.

Wild Flag
My heart skipped a beat by reading this band plays Birmingham next year, but of course they meant the town in America, not England. But you know what, instead of playing in venues called 'Sticky Fingers Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack' (I'm not making this up! It's in Little Rock), can I suggest playing in 'Paradise', 'the Milky Way' or in 'Bittersweet' instead? Oh, and they're all in Amsterdam. The Netherlands - I didn't mean New York.

When does my plane to Amsterdam leave?Quasi
These guys are soooooo good, I really would love seeing them again. No indie kiddos around either, just perfect. Do the funds stretch? Let's hope so.

The Jicks
Apparently there's a new album in the works and halfway done since early 2010, I don't see why this band shouldn't make their way to the Netherlands.

So far I've given Janet Weiss three oppurtunities to go tour, she will love it.

Boston Spaceships
Look, this band hardly ever plays, they don't have the time as they are releasing album after album but I really wouldn't mind seeing them in Paradiso Kleine Zaal, it would be absolutely perfect.

Wild Nothing
Went to see them this year not knowing what they really sounded like and I got to say, I absolutely liked what I heard. I want to see them again. To see and hear if they can surprise me again. And if their record collection still primarely excists of records by The Smiths and The Cure.

Kate Nash & Marina & the Diamonds
Power women! Solo singers with something to say. You can't see enough of them, can you? I love going to a Kate Nash show, there's so much raw power coming from the stage. And Marina, she stole my heart. I need to see if she takes good care of it.

All Smiles
Seeing Jim Fairchild with Modest Mouse this year was an absolute treat. Such a joy to see this man play. If All Smiles makes it on tour and across the Atlantic, it would also be a good chance to have a good look at mister Joe Plummer. You can't hide on a small stage.

I refound my love for this Swedish rock band. I lost it because they forgot to rock. I would be absolutely delighted to see them play again, though they tour rarely now and only in Sweden. It's time El Cheapo takes it from Amsterdam to Gothenburg. Or Stockholm, I would even do that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

All the best albums lists in the world don't come close to this

As always in December, the Best Of This Year lists come out. I never agree with these lists but I always read them just to see what's supposed to be good or hip or whatever the standards are and if someone, if just one person, lists one of the albums I enjoyed so much this year.

Each and every list I read so far lacked my personal favourite and best album of 2010, Quasi's amazing 'American Gong'. Even the 'Overlooked' list.

Do I really have an exclusive taste? Or do people think my taste is shit? Where are The Corin Tucker Band? The Vaselines (yeah come on, they are quite known aren't they?)? The Thermals (big in the Netherlands? If you say so Thermals...)? Kate Nash? I'm not completely off this world when it comes to music or am I? Let me put one thing straight right here right now, I don't aim to be. It's completely irritating to go to a record store and not finding the records you like because they are too 'alternative'.

You can't help liking what you like can you? So whether my taste is exclusive, shit, difficult, edgy or whatever you want to call it, it's my taste. And my taste is good enough for me. And Quasi released the best album of 2010, that's one thing I will not argue about, it's simply the way it is.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Whistling through winter cold wonderland

Let's get one thing straight. It's cold outside. It's cold in my bedroom. It took me a lot of courage this morning to get out of bed, it wasn't all that pleasant. It then takes me a while to get dressed, with all the layers and then, after I had my morning coffee, it takes a while to put on my legwarmers, scarf, mittens (I'm currently considering putting gloves underneat) and my hat. And the Doc Martens of course. I'm wearing an incredibly warm workers safety jacket in bright orange with reflecting stripes. By that time I look like an orange Michelin woman. It's -6 degrees. Bring it on! One step outside and the wind blows straight through all layers of clothing. I knew -6 was supposed to feel like -15 today. Scratch that. It doesn't matter how cold it feels like. Freaking cold = freaking cold.

It's a challenge to battle the wind, not because it's freaking cold but the wind is heavy, very heavy. And because of the cold the acceleration on my bicycle doesn't work. I like to cycle heavy. So now, this is quite a struggle but you know, once you got some speed it's actually not so bad. Not bad at all. Sure it's cold but you keep warm regardless. Unless the wind blows straight through everything, you shiver and you keep going. And, there's my walkman and as we all know, music keeps you warm.

We used to be badd-ass and garage you knowIn summer I'm known to drive straight into a ditch being in total awe about the music on my walkman, apparently in winter I'm rocking out on my bicycle, whistling (I can't whistle so it's rather a bad idea) and singing along, bopping my head along. Where one should think it's best to pay attention to the road to avoid the slippery parts, I rather move like a groundkeeper in a video of Nirvana. Whether it's In Bloom, the teenage sound of the Rondelles, the Cribs' rage against society or the sweet garage rock of the Bangles (they used to have a life before the artist then primarely known as Prince wrote them a little tune about Mondays you know), I really get into the music and rock my way home. Weird. Shouldn't I not shiver my way home? Or is this a natural reaction to keep warm?

Either way, despite me fully appreciating the music on my walkman (mittens = not being able to use the skip button, you gotta deal with whatever song comes on), you may still feel sorry for me getting on my bicycle and driving through -6 but feels like -15. It's still cold.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Actually, her name is Marina

Yesterday I've been to the Melkweg in Amsterdam to see Marina & the Diamonds. On very strong recommendation of my sister who's seen her before and adores her. I don't question her taste for one second, in fact, of all the people I know she has the best taste in music. I knew who Marina was, what she looked like and heard her album twice (so don't expect me to know all song titles), but in all fairness I had no idea what to expect. All I knew that she wasn't an airhead like some of the women out there from Britain, supposingly being strong women but only riding the hype. Marina however I noticed, wasn't half as popular than some of them. In all, I was looking forward to it.

Marina, let me tell you something. That was pure alternative pop. That was a woman who stood to her work. That was some good vibes from the stage. That was some good vibes from the audience. Marina, she can sing, she can move, she has the words and she definitely has the looks. She photographes beautifully, which I, by lack of knowing the songs, enjoyed tremendously. With 104 shots I might have overdone it but come on, she moves fantastically, she looks amazing and the joy she brought on stage comes across on the pictures.

And with that last bit I want to say something else. Something that really amazed me. She is real. Whe she says she's amazed by the responds from the audience and is moved by it, you know she means it. She means every word she says and sings. There is nothing fake. This is 100% pure Marina and I like Marina very much. Despite not knowing the songs so well, she got me moving (which is an accomplishment for any band), I enjoyed this and what I also enjoyed was how my sister was enjoying it too. It's always wonderful to see someone genuinely having a good time.

But not just her. Marina managed to get the entire audience involved (balcony included), they were quiet (!! in case you don't know, the Dutch are known for talking all through the gig, not because they are bored but just because that's what they do) where desired and she got the crowd jumping, something my sister correctly explained as 'the last time I saw this happening was with the Kaiser Chiefs, amazing!'. The last time she saw the Kaiser Chiefs was in 2007, when they were still good and enjoyable and fun to jump around to. She was right. It was so much fun to see everyone from front to all the way to the back jump up and down to 'Champaign' (I happen to know that one song title). 'She got me convinced' I told my sister truthfully half way and she welcomed me into the wonderful world of Marina & the Diamonds. Sometimes you need to see it for yourself, I know exactly what the appeal of Marina & the Diamonds is. There's a bit of Tori Amos to it (my sister said), a bit of Kate Bush (that's what I said). Clever lyrics, pure reality, she's humble and funny, she can sing and yes, oh yes, she is drop dead gorgeous.

Marina is not a fake diamond but I real gem and played a new song as well which I also liked a lot (yes yes, I liked her music too) and she got herself a brand new fan, me! Welcome Marina.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Queen of Effing Everything and her new Throne

I have a new office chair. We used to have a boss who sat in the room next door, he had this boss-chair, but doesn't work here since about two years and no one ever sits there any longer so, long story short, after asking me four times and me answering with 'are you mad?' for four times if I wanted that chair, my colleague rolled in this boss-chair which flops back if you want to. It's of course a shame to leave this chair un-seated but most of all I got it because I'm the Queen of Fucking Everything. Coffee mugs don't lie. That's how my crap office chair was replaced by this quite fancy one. I moaned, of course, it was too low (you can't set it higher) but the truth is, it's comfy. And uhm, maybe a little too comfy.

I have suddenly gained full understanding why bosses and managers aren't doing so much. It's not their fault. It's the chair! The chair is built to flop back, feet on the table and 'think'. It's built to sink back and 'think' about what strategy is best used in the current situation. The chair is built to... lie back and close your eyes and to feel yourself softly slide away into a nice nap.

Lock the back of the chair! Eyes wide open and go! I'm not a manager! I'm not a boss. I'm the Queen Of Fucking Everything. And need to do a little. Coffee and other drinks however are still being brought, as always.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Top 3 gigs @ Paradiso Kleine Zaal Amsterdam

Am I one of these people who will moan when their favourite band gets this big they will be playing bigger venues? I have to admit I sort of am but not because I don't want the band to be successful and wouldn't want to share this with the rest of the world but simply because I love the smaller venues. Kaiser Chiefs in the 850 capacity Melkweg was much better than Kaiser Chiefs in the 5,000 capacity HMH (and this was not just because their songs had gone drastically down the drain ever since). These smaller venues are real. I just love them. Two of my top 3 gigs of this year have taken place in such a small venue, the little stage of the Paradiso in Amsterdam. And to honour just that, here's my top 3 of my favourite gigs from that very stage, Paradiso - kleine zaal.

3) Ernst Jansz (October 2010)
It was more the whole experience that made it. All seated with some honourable Dutch musicians in the audience, Jansz was playing Bob Dylan songs in Dutch, talked about Dylan songs, showed Dylan pictures. I don't even like Dylan! It was still amazing. Ernst Jansz means more to me than words can say. After the show, where we were all treated on cake and champagne, I tried to tell him anyway. The hug and kiss (on the cheek) I got in return are priceless. That combined with the great musician, singer and story teller he is made this unforgettable.

2) Quasi (May 2010)
Not knowing what to expect from this band they really blew me away. This is how God intended rock n roll to be. For me this show was also some kind of turning point. It was my definite goodbye from general frustration about 'nme-indie', isn't there anything else? Sure there is. And Quasi are the King and Queens of that. Ever since this gig I never felt too old for any show any longer. And let it be said that Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes are two of the most genuine and kindest musicians I've ever met.

1) The Cribs (September 2007)
If the microphone stand of Gary Jarman falls down straight into the plastic cup with beer of his brother Ryan you just know the stage is small. The Cribs (then still a 3-piece) are notoriously known for their raw and energy filled shows, this was no exception, far from it. Sweat literally dripped from them on us. And from us on them. The venue was boiling. Everyone was hyped. There was serious crowd surfing. It was amazing. One of the best gigs I've seen? Definitely. Best live band too.

All pictures on this post are made by me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(American) Gong!!!! Or, the best albums of 2010

The end of the year is near and without any further yadda yadda I'll present you (some) my favourite and absolute best albums on 2010 in no particular order (but the first). If you haven't heard them I'll suggest to update your current record collection, because 2010 was a good year for music.

Quasi - American Gong
When I heard leading single 'Repulsion' in January I classified it as the best single of 2010. This title it no longer holds (wait for it!). When I heard 'American Gong' for the first time early February I just knew it, this is the best album of 2010. This is rock n roll, this is rhythm, this is power. This is it! Best song of the album is without a doubt 'Bye bye blackbird' which is a long power rock song, it holds a lot of intelligent sound and noise in a box, rocking and pounding to roar out. Apperently this song is released as a single, or at least it appeared on a promo single which makes it the best single of 2010. And 'American Gong'? This album still holds the title of best album of 2010. Quality = quality no matter how old the record and how often you heard it. Congratulations Quasi!

Kate Nash - My Best Friend Is You
'Kate Nash V2.0' I read somewhere about this album. There's some truth about that. Nash got her inner riot grrrl out and it is sounding fabulous. She might or might not have borrowed a little Excuse 17 for teaser song 'I just love you more' but who cares. Kate Nash got out and delivered the sound to her beliefs. Her music and lyrics makes you not want to mess with this young woman but she also shows her soft and loving side which kinda makes you actually jealous of her boyfriend who she probably wrote these for. Rock on Kate!

The Thermals - Personal Life
Their 2009 album was only so-so. Not bad but not mindboggling great either. 'Personal Life' however is not just honest, it's raw to the bone. The bombastic sound of 'Now we can see' has been stripped down and the guitar, bass and drums sound almost naked. This album is pure, it still rocks and is still very much Thermals. Only better.

Kent - En Plats I Solen
Kent is the biggest rock band in Sweden ever. After ten years of making classic rock albums they changed their music adventures and took a more synth approach. Probably not bad albums but definitely not my cup of tea. Until En Plats I solen which brings amazing songs and not to underestimate the ultimate soundtrack for this summer, 'Gamla Ullevi' being the best song of this past summer, it really made me overly happy.

The Corin Tucker Band - 1,000 Years
Former Sleater-Kinney rebel releases her first solo album. For an album that's been called 'cool mom rock' and contains songs originally written for 'Twilight' (but did not make the cut) this album is pretty awesome. I'm not a cool mom (but at least a cool rock aunty in training) and I know nothing about Twilight but I really enjoyed this album. It's cool rock with a touch of Kindred Spirit, which might sound incredibly uncool to many but it's cool for me. Great album.

The Vaselines - Sex with an X
Not many bands get away with releasing their second album 20 years after delivering their fine debut album. The Vaselines however can. And this album sounds like it might just as well have been released two years later rather than 20. This is a good thing, a very good thing. This album is epic. If only Kurt was here to hear it, he'd love it too.

Pavement - Quarantine The Past
No new music from Pavement, we all know that. It's just a compilation. But if the music on the compilation is so incredibly good and powerful and actually important, it's easily one of the best releases of any year.

Marina & the Diamonds - The Family Jewels
Strong intelligent words, clever music, a voice which needs getting used to. This was a very slow grower but definitely deserves it's place in this list, she's one to keep your eyes on. Especially live these songs get their true power.

Boston Spaceships - Our Cubehouse Still Rocks
Their fourth longplayer since 2008. And why is this good? It's Boston Spaceships. Boston Spaceships. And that's all you need for a bit of out of space punk rocking. Short crazy songs from the genuis mind of Robert Pollard.

Grass Widow - Past Time
One might start to believe I'm being sponsored by Kill Rock Stars (free t-shirt is accepted) but this is another fine release. I love guitars. I love punk. But beware, they sing in united harmony. They might want to learn a new chord or two. It might be the only thing that is kind of bothering on this release, it's still pretty much nice.

Best Coast - Crazy for you
It's not that important what my opinion on singer Bethany Cosentino is of course. But there's something about her I don't like and something I can't stand. But despite that even I can't deny that she made a really nice album which stands out between all those lo-fi surfing bands that suddenly emerged.

And what's to look forward to and hopefully will make the 2011 list:
2011 is awaiting releases by The Decemberists, The Boxer Rebellion, WILD FLAG, All Smiles, Boston Spaceships, Kaizers Orchestra and who knows who else. Yummie!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And we party like it's 1983 (this is an Orwell reference indeed)

The gap between left and right hasn't been so big since the nazis invaded the former republic of Russia. It's a worrying climate the Netherlands are in and it is getting worse by the hour. Here's a recap in short about our government: largest party is VVD with Mark Rutte as our MP, together with CDA (4th largest party and biggest loser of our last elections). They are two mid-right parties. By no means they have the majority so after a four months (!!) coalition formation they decided to reign together with support of the PVV, the party of Geert Wilders who is notoriously known for his hatred against immigrants (I say it politically correct, he however does not) and the 3d largest party, 100% right-winged with no democracy whatsoever in the party structure. These three parties together have 76 seats, the opposition has 75.

You might wonder what happened to the second largest party, which is the workers party (left indeed) PvdA. They gained 32 seats during the last elections, against 33 of VVD. If this makes you scratch the back of your head right now, join the club.

Ever since the elections something happened, I didn't call it an attack at the time but I will call it that way now. Literally everything that is associated with left wing politics or even considered something only left wingers are interested in (culture (!!) being the top target) has been put into bad lighting. I had no idea where this suddenly came from, left is blamed for everything, the bad economy, the traffic jams, the immigrants, the lazy students, safety in trains, playing children, the weather, you name it, left did it. Question though: when did left reign this country? The former largest party was CDA, right, and they have been for 8 years with 4 different formations. Yes, you may scratch the back of your head again.

Left is blamed for helping the ill and the old and fragile, taking care for the asylum seekers, drinking tea with immigrants (this was one of the leading phrases during our last elections), wanting better care at elederly homes and hospitals, supporting useless goods such as music, theatre, performing arts and art. To compare, PVV is blamed for rasicm, spreading hate and having violent people in there party. Seems black and white and you might think this is left-propaganda. I wish it was. I would like to say something positive about the PVV because they do have some good points but so far all these points have been put aside and ignored. So much for sticking to their programm, it's all about power isn't it?

Let's get back to culture, which is suddenly called an unecessary good. Something you don't really need. People do not need to unwind. So, let's stop the allowance to the cultural section. We need to save right? Look, we all have to save up, and that you're cutting allowances, no big deal. But not as radically as they're planning to. As if culture relies on this allowance. As if we pay for the violist on the street corner. We don't. We do however pay collectively for the security of Wilders. But at least it saves a lot of money right? Well, it's enough to pave about 3 km of new highway... It comes down to an average cut of allowance of 8%, except for the cultural section, that depeartment will be cut with 20%. That's without taking the tax-raise on tickets in consideration.

This tax raise on concert, theatre tickets will be the end of a lot of venues as they won't get more money as the only thing that's raised is the taxes. It will lead to less income because less people will be able to even pay for this tickets. Which will lead to venues contracting less artists will lead to less culture in this country.

Success for those who want to kill culture. Success for the right winged barbarians. Who exactly is responsible for this tax raise anyway? Our PM? No, PM Rutte has given up STOPPING the tax raise for one reason: Geert Wilders wants the tax raise. And to stop the tax raise on tickets, reasons Wilders, you'll need an agreement of all three parties.

Wilders is the supporting party. Rutte is the PM. But Rutte is bowing down to Wilders. Wilders is having the power. Wilders is able to control and direct everything our government is supposed to to. Wilders is NOT part of the cabinet. But he CONTROLS the cabinet. What the fuck man, just, what the fuck.

Wilders and the PVV, which contains members who have been charged for violence (knocking down someone at a news conference for instance) and sexual offences are not just creating hatred against immigrants in this country, they are effectively tearing this country apart in left and right and putting all the blame on left. Say what you want, that guy is highly effective in what he's doing.

Isn't left doing anything? I doubt what PvdA will do, but the smaller ones, GroenLinks and D66 are barking loud. Which the media often doesn't portrait too nicely. The only left-winged party that seems to address this big dangerous issue with intelligence is the SP. Ooooh, the SP, scary! SP stands for Socialist Party. But right now it just seems that the entire future of this country is in the hands of the SP and their new and capable leader Emile Roemer. He speaks clearly and is determined. Also, it may not seem important but it is, this man has wit. For instance, this party fights for the socially disadvantaged such as the disabled, the elderly but also for the mailmen and this for years, because they'll lose their jobs due to ridiculous restructuring of the company caused by the government allowing other mail-companies in this country. But all these things are 'linkse hobbies' now, left-winged hobbies.

I'm a concert go-er. I'm a photographer. A blogger. A woman. I'm a member of the SP. I'm an immigrant. Though, my parents are German and as MP Rutte will reason, Germany is not Turkey. So maybe I have the right to lead a normal, carefree and not-hunted life after all, protected by Rutte. But I doubt it. If everything develops the way it does now, I'm pretty much screwed and might have to, eventually, fear for my safety.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Live Recordings and Wild Flag go together like Brownies and Whipped Cream

I hate live recordings. Whether they are official releases or shaky youtube clips, I'm not a fan. There's always someone screaming or whooo-ing through the entire song, whether it's a youtube or an official release. They belong to every live gig and I wouldn't want anything else while being at a gig (though please, not directly into my ear, thank you) - but it should stay inside the venue. I won't deny either that these youtube clips are heaven if you can't see that band yourself. But would I listen to these? No.

Until now.

I'm absorbing anything WILD FLAG. Pictures, youtubes, messages. I bow down in gratitude to the people who filmed these current shows. WILD FLAG has not recorded anything just yet (but I among many with me would blindly and immediately pre-order the CD if Merge Records would make this available right now) but Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole says enough to make the mouth water and for many this band is their New Favourite Band. For me, it's long since I had such an obsession for a band. It might be because I lived on Mars without wifi when riot grrrl was rolling, it might be because My Favourite Band is on a 2-year-break (and we're on month 3). For heaven's sake, I'm almost 35 but when I hear Carrie Brownstein roar "Racehorse" I get giddy. I want to jump up and down and I want to see that band.

This morning three ripped songs past by on my walkman while on my way to work, I got a bright grin on my face and loved it so much. I loved a live recording. I was able to listen to a live recording with my high tech headphones on. The first ever band who managed that was My Favourite Band On A Two Year Break a few years back. Tells you something? Tell me a lot. Favourite Band, there's a new Runner Up!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not so cool

I'm not sure what's worse: someone who openly tweets about his alcohol habits (it's not cool, it's really not cool) or the people who think they reply in a witty way thinking this is really cool (both the reply and the habit).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What is the sound of an avalanche taking out a dolphin?

I've been blogging lately without forcing it down the throats of my twitter followers (meaning me tweeting the link, not sure if my entire twitter following reads it but I don't expect them to). Not sure why really, I had something to say, the good and the bad, just to get it out of the system. Nothing wrong with that.

I'm currently more than just obsessed (I have no other word for that) with the band WILD FLAG. In case you lived under a rock, have no interest in whatever happens in the Portland music scene nor the post-riot-grrrl movement, do not care what pitchfork has to say, etc here's who's in WILD FLAG: Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, Mary Timony, Rebecca Cole. And if that doesn't make you just the slightest excited than you probably don't understand why I am so excited about a band who only formed a few months ago, has not recorded one single note, did not tell anything about what exactly they sound like. They do have a record deal and will be recording their first album (insert fan-girlish squeak here) and are currently on tour at the US West Coast. I am jealous of each person who is attending their shows. All of them. I mean, grrrr, I wanna be there too!!! But I'm here in Amsterdam and chances are that I probably will never see them (which I also thought with Quasi, so who knows) so what's left for me is hoping someone has recorded it and thankfully, there are 3 videos out there and my oh my! I hate live recordings but not these. It's all I got! And these women rock, like you'd expect them too. They all sing, which is fantastic news because Janet Weiss has a fantastic voice too, and they just sound fantastic. Most anticipated album of 2011? Yes! Best album of 2011? I have no idea who else will release albums in 2011 (apart from the Decemberists which first song from that album is amazing as well), but I can already tell they have a good chance! It's been a while since I was so excited about a new band. And you know what, I'm loving it.

It's November and crawling towards December and we all know what that means. Indeed, End Of The Year Lists. Oh yeah. I never agree with these lists by so-called experts and always wonder why they left out them and them and them. But I read them anyway, hoping someone will meet my standards. Will I make them as well? Of course. Will I force them through the throats of my twitter following? You bet I will! I've been thinking about my best albums, songs and live gigs of 2010 already and it's not as easy as one might think. It's not that I don't know what the best album of 2010 is (I know this since February) nor what the best song is (since January) but who else is in the list and in what order? It's time to get serious about this.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Disgusted by men

There are many reasons why our current government sucks. It's easy to say that something sucks but for now, it quite covers it. The newest fact why we have a terrible government are the latest revelations about one of the members of the chambers of the PVV, the party lead by Geert Wilders. This Erik Lucassen has a criminal record and certainly someone with a criminal record should not be part of any government, PVV is the party that supports our minority cabinet. With this criminal record he should be fired from the party, meaning that the cabinet with support of the PVV will no longer have the majority in the chamber as this majority was only one chair. Wilders now whines he had no money to backtrack the records of his people in the chamber. Only a look on this man's CV should have resulted in ringing alarm bells and worth the E30,05, which a backtrack costs, alone. This in short. Imagine the crisis in our government. I told you Rutte 1 would not live to see the end of 2010.

This all however is not the reason I fumed with rage reading the latest news about this. Lucassen's criminal record includes sexual offences, as a higher officer in the military. He is supposed to have had sex with two female cadets which is strictly forbidden as it implies abuse of military powers. As it now appears, things are a lot worse than a difference in class.

In 2000 someone within the military already warned that within the military school 30 'bastards' as he called them, have been threatening females cadets between the age of 17 and 20 to not hand them out their well-deserved diplomas unless they were having sex with them. These girls were used as (I translate the original quote) 'play balls' and passed around between these instructors and were named 'fuck dolls'. Whether Lucassen was one of these 30 remains unknown at the time I'm writing this, fact is he had to leave the military in 2002 due to 'sexual offences'.

What the fuck is going on? We can't trust priests because they are abusing little boys, we can't trust cops because they abuse their 13-year-old neighbour girl and killing her as well (this is a current trial in the Netherlands, apparently he has psychological problems and a 'troubled youth'. How this man made it into the police force is beyond me) and now the military is abusing women as well? What is this? Are men really these sex-obsessed monsters who will fuck any women within their reach and get extra high if they can use power and possibly violence? Am I, as a woman, the hunted every time I go on the streets? Are women really just 'fuck dolls' in the eyes of men? I don't want to generalise and surely the majority of the men knows it's perfectly normal to keep your dick in your pants for most of the time but you really start to doubt this. I start to doubt this. Sex is all a men wants and he is going to get it. He will take the weak (children and mentally handicapped, not overreacting on the later, a swim-instructor has admitted to 'take' the mentally handicapped because according to him they wouldn't remember so he would do no damage) and of course women because that's what women are for right? To lust over, to humiliate, to rule over, to have sex with whenever he wants it. Oh and to serve him of course. It disgusts me. 21st century and we still act like we're living in the stone age. Yes, I'm utterly disgusted. Again, thanks to the current government but this time in a way I least expected it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The ballad of the Dr Martens boots

For some reason of another I have a weakness for Dr. Martens boots since the early days of the 90s. Something about punk and grunge. During Spring and Summer I practically sleep in my green Converse, when the weather turns grey and therefore wet, kissing them goodbye isn't so hard as my Dr. Martens boots are waiting.

It's not that I have a complete rainbow of boots lying around in the house, it's been too long since they only cost 19.99 in the UK so quite frankly, I would refuse that. I'm a sales shopper, because money can only buy you so much so make the most of it. It doesn't mean I don't walk past windows and sigh to all the pretty colours on display. I'm really content with my pink boots, the most expensive pair I own. I bought them in Manchester and I felt like splashing out. Women are known for shoe-addictions, I don't really have that but those, I fell in love. I took my time fitting them and they're regulars on my feet. As are my white ones. These, I'll admit, are actually fakes but they have been mistaken for real and you know what, they are comfy, they are cool and they are white. Deal with it. And there's the purple ones I bought on sale, 80 euros off! Only that one pair! Of course they went home.

In case you never wore any Dr Martens boots, here's a few basic rules. The size you need is usually larger than what you're usually wearing (I have the smallest possible feet, it's a blessing and an ego-booster), you need to remember the number of eyes in case you're buying none-matching shoe-laces and every pair of Dr. Martens boots require a (at least) two week torment walking in the boots, making them fitting to your very own feet and soften the leather. Get the bandage! But you will not speak of it while walking, but everyone will tell by the look on your face and the way you walk, especially the way you walk. It's the Way of the Boots and we follow that.

These purple ones. They are half a size smaller than the pink ones. But, they fit. They honestly do. But still they hurt like having stone cropped around your feet. The leather seems to refuse to soften up. The right foot is fine, but then it's my smaller one (my feet have different shoe sizes) but the left. As if a knife cuts on top of it. The stitches feel like they left the needles in. It's the Way of the Dr Martens Boots. So you are brave, one day the left boot will be just as comfortable. Because, as we all know, once you've been through torture, those boots will be most comfortable and even if they're not they are. I'll get you purple boots!

There's total understanding in all of this if you're able to sing 'Dr Martens, Dr Martens, Dr Martens boots. No, don't you want me' perfectly out of tune and are able to perform the dance to it too. They send out a signal as well and especially now, in the grim dark Netherlands, I'm wearing them with more pride than ever before. Something about the repressed working class.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Things the world can live without, really!

This morning while cycling to work I was, of course, listening to my walkman. It happens more often but I was quite pleased with the tunes that came through the shuffle. Most of it this morning was 90s rock and as I was racing into the forest (really) I caught myself thinking how awesome the 90s rock scene was. Only to quickly note to self that this excludes Britpop. Britpop =/= rock. Britpop =/= awesome. And that's the end of that. I never liked Britpop when it hit MTV and I still don't like it.

The God of Britpop must have heard me and had arranged that today the news emerges that Pulp reformed. Just like Blur and Suede had done before. Does the world need this? The Twitter Trending Machine indicates it does. Good grief, I mean am I the only one who thinks it's a little bit ridiculous? I'm all for being a bit retro (I am in fact wearing my army trousers which hail truthfully directly from the Great Grunge Era. This could also tell you that things really used to be better back in the day - it still fits and is in one piece) but a shit band will still be a shit band even when the band reforms years later and gets everyone nostalgic.

Indeed, it's Monday.

Be my baby, baby, baby

There is something you should know if you don't know it already. I do not want children. It's the whole process of being pregnant (I watched too many sci-fi movies about Alien invasion and intergration), never mind the actual birth. Then it's pretty much losing your freedom, though you seem to get a lot in return, and the whole raising the child in a not so friendly environment. I do have my ideas about how to raise a child but I can't influence everyone around me from the paperboy to the wild man on the street preaching about the apocalypse so that's all too challenging for me. Maybe I don't even like children all that much. But then there's a first for everything. One of my best friends, someone who does share my views, had a baby. I visited her a few weeks after her live attendance of a horror movie (read: giving birth) and instantly had a fragile baby in my arms. I must have looked horrified and to be honest, I was a little. Little Alex was so fragile, so small, pooping a lot. I had no idea what to do with it. But somehow, I loved getting pictures of him, loved her stories (not the ones about not being able to go everywhere she likes so easily, though baby Alex has already been to Belgium and Norway and attended a barbecue at a Norwegian river in October) and I was really looking forward to seeing him again as my friend would come to Amsterdam to visit me.

She lives in a smaller town near Rotterdam and took the train. As the trains from her hometown didn't go this weekend due to railwork she had to rely on her husband taking her to another train station and as he had somewhere to go himself that day it was a bit early. Never mind the 08:15 (on Sunday!) train not going either. She decided to take the next train to the Hague, trying to get a train to Amsterdam there. While we were texting I checked the website of our national trainoperator whether there was more railworks. A whole dozen of them! And naturally another one on the track she had to take. "Whatever you do, don't go via Haarlem!" I texted. Because having a buggy in the train being alone seemed hard enough in itself, I didn't want her to get on busses either. In the end she hopped off halfway to get on the train to Amsterdam (I'm still impressed she managed) and we met at the central station.

I had offered earlier that I would like to get behind the buggy, all in the eye of revenge. Trying to to be run over by buggies is not a sport, it's survival. In my eyes, mothers with buggies are simply using their buggy to shamelessly marche their way through town or wherever they are. Really annoying. So, now it's my turn! And my friend let me because she always felt the same about that.

I got the full baby experience. I spent the entire day behind the buggy and it was great. I never walked through the Kalverstraat with such ease as this Sunday. I wasn't even going through town with my zero tolerance policy, I just walked and it's never been that easy. People do look differently at you with a buggy and are actually being nice to you. I know I might have been lucky but it's really a whole different experience. And my friend? She enjoyed walking around freely.
Our first challenge was Burger King. Don't expect anything else open in a Sunday morning in Amsterdam. We wanted a coffee and a draft free place to feed Alex. We carried the buggy upstairs and found a nice place. I instantly had baby Alex on my lap. The little man had grown quite a bit these 4 months and I actually dared to hold him and move at the same time. We caught up, talked and talked, he got a fresh diaper (that's actually the only thing I didn't do during this baby experience), I helped him getting into his jacket again and off we went, carrying the buggy down and into town. Getting in and out the shops. And I was amazed about just how easy that was. Alex didn't mind the bumpy roads, in fact he loved it. Whenever we didn't walk he opened his eyes as if he were to say 'hey come on and keep walking, I like that!'. Getting into the stores was a little challenging, some had a high entrance, but still it went well. People actually held the doors open for me. Wow! Of course he went into a record store where I told him he would be in these stores a whole lot in his life (he's going to be a rocker, of course) and getting into that small entrance wasn't as impossible I believed it was. There's something clever about how these buggies are wheeled. We also went into H&M to get the little man some clothes and I took a teddy polar bear off the shelf and held in in front of him, playing with it and buying it for him. Apparently it's his favourite toy right now. I also fed him at a restaurant later on and though he was quite heavy it was an experience.

It was time for her and him to go so I carried him to the rail station. Carried because he was getting a little moody at that time and started to cry a little. It's true, if the baby crying is yours it's way less annoying, in fact, I didn't think it was annoying at all and managed to make him stop a few times as well, which also included carrying him on my arms. With the elevator we went to her train and had to rush even, I helped her carrying the buggy inside and had time to say goodbye and off they went. Back home where she had to take a substitute rail bus which denied her because of the buggy (wtf man). And as I was walking to my tram I actually missed the little man. The buggy, the smile on his face. Damn.

Did this make me change my mind about having a child of my own? Hell no. It still involves something growing inside of me, it still involves birth and it still involves losing a piece of your freedom. My friend and I talked about this and it was something she found hard as well but the cliché was true, the smile of her baby made it worth it or at least easier. She would do everything for her baby, more for him as for her husband. And of course a 4 month old is a whole different child than a 2-year-old who is learning to walk and run and being naughty. But I did get a better insight on what it's like to have a baby, how it does limit you but also how rewarding that little smile is and that you really do not break a child in two when you move. The purpose of her visit was my birthday (don't worry, it's only next month) and one of her gifts was a Rock Bible. I think I want to be that child's cool aunty. Let's see what he thinks about it when he grows older but so far I think he likes me. And for someone who thinks she just can't handle and deal with children, that's quite something.

The only thing I worry about is if I have removed the cap of my camera while taking his picture or left it stupidly on.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vinegar pissing all the way to my grave

All my colleagues, both of them, had a bit of a conversation today about how it's not such a good idea to become a first class 'azijnpisser' (azijn = vinegar, pisser = well, a guy who pisses) as it only makes you bitter and not a pleasant person to be around with. I didn't take part in that conversation partly because I was actually doing some work but also because I don't own a badge saying 'voted most likely to piss and moan all the way to the grave' for no reason at all. With the work done, reading some news headlines and reading some tweets from respected musicians I got to say, today I'm really in top form when it comes down to be an edgy moaning bitter depressed human being. Marvin, eat your heart out!

For once it's not the grim politic climate the Netherlands is in, though it is a constant factor. For instance, yesterday I read that not just 60% of all Dutch venues are running the high risk of having to close if the ticket prices will really rise with at least 13%, it was something I was already aware of, but what I wasn't aware of or maybe didn't want to see (I'm a first class music doom-thinker, sadly I'm often right too) was that it would also result in less bands coming to the Netherlands. Even less! And whenever there is an article in the papers you can respond to, no matter what the subject is, there will always be people attacking left-wingers. Everything is the left-side fault. Whatever did we do? Have we been in charge lately? I feel like there's some propaganda going on. I feel extremely paranoid but if the (right sided) government wants to shut off the public broadcasting from the internet, because they have no business there, what else is going on? Since when do we FORBID people being online? Have they committed crimes? Are they offering illegal contents on their websites? When will the readers be fined? Come on! Has anyone read George Orwell's 1984?? In there the news and all history is systematically changed in favour of The Great Leader. Just saying.

Today's headlines yelled about a plane crashed in Cuba. They probably wouldn't have yelled so much if there hadn't been 3 Dutch people onboard and all 68 passengers had died. To be honest, I haven't really read the article, it was depressing enough in itself (lifting out the three Dutch people is one thing, like they matter more than the other 65 people who have lost their lives in this tragedy) plus the picture of a huge ball of fire, I think it was what is left of the plane, spoke for itself. Also, 20 people died in a plane crash in Pakistan. And a bomb has been found in a plane that departed from Schiphol. Slightly depressed I went to twitter, the number one resource for news. If there's a place news spreads like the plague it's Twitter. Every time I see a famous person trending I think that person died (which is the case half of the time). Surely the plane crashes are trending.

The world is coming to a dramatic end but fear not: the MacRib is back! Yes it's true, MacDonald's brings back the MacRib in all its top-trending glory. Of course people don't talk about planes and bombs! And people still wonder how one can be such a cynical bitch. If you got a mind of your own it's really not that difficult.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Season spirits

Hello Autumn, how have you been? I quite like this season. I love the colours of the leaves and how they make pretty pictures, but I don't like them wet and slippery on the bicycle lane, not being able to see if there's any branches underneath. I don't like the wind either, or let's call it storms. At night you can hear the wind blow against the building and makes me think of getting up and battle the wind on my bicycle. Don't underestimate the wind. Today I nearly ended up in a ditch with a garbage container when a nasty wind nearly blew me off the road. I was able to get my feet on the ground just in time or else I would have seriously crushed the cookies in my bag. Among other things.

I do love the bakery that's so typical for this season, Sinterklaas bakery. Sinterklaas is a bit like Christmas, but here the kids are getting small gifts and candy in their shoes two weeks prior to the actual day (December 5) and bigger gifts on the day itself. The arrival of Sinterklaas is a big event shown live on national television. Sinterklaas rides his white horse on the rooftops every night and is helped by Zwarte Pieten, Black Petes who are dressed in colourful playsuits. These Black Petes are well, black. Sinterklaas is also known as Friend of the Children and will give children who have been naughty some sticks on a rope so they can be hit with it and children who have been really naughty will be put into a sack and shipped to Spain, where the Turkish Saint lives. Confused? It's about the candy and the anticipation, once December 5 is here I've usually left the country and celebrate my birthday in a country they don't know about Sinterklaas and I can wander over Christmas markets and eat German Bratwurst.

I already wonder and fear whether I have enough films for my cameras (yes, plural) for when we are in Leeds again. My Diana Mini currently has about 19 pictures left on its current film and I have two 36/100ISO films and one 24/200ISO film. You'd think I shouldn't have to worry. Everyday I see so many great shots while on my bicycle but you don't want to constantly shoot the same things over and over again. That traffic sign is not going to look any different tomorrow, no matter how great it looks on a picture. I want a little stuffed bunny, preferally white, which I can take with me wherever I go and take a picture from it in every new place I get. Bunny in Amsterdam. Bunny in Alkmaar. Bunny on the train. Bunny in Rotterdam. Bunny in Vlaardingen. Bunny in Leeds. Bunny on the Arriva Bus. Bunny in Manchester. You get the drill. Just one silly picture. It would make a nice series.

And so I wrote about completely different things I intended to. But listen to Damaged by Erase Eratta. It's good!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Educate the person next to you"

It only seems like in recent years a lot of people I grew up with have passed away, so young, unknowingly a huge part of my life. It's long ago but so far what really made a big impression on me was the passing away of Frank Sinatra. He was one of these people who just was immortal. Frank Sinitra was supposed to be there forever. His voice and music lives on thankfully. What a voice! And only yesterday the news reached me that Tom Bosley had passed away. Better knows at the Dad in Happy Days. He too had a respectable age of 83 but still. Happy Days was and is one of my favourite TV series, he was such a fatherly type of person, he was (not really) The Fonz' dad! It's weird.

These past years people such as Michael Jackson, Corey Haim, Antonie Kamerling (Dutch actor who played in the nation's first ever soap serie), Solomon Burke, Piet Wijn (he drew a comic in Donals Duck which I had a subscription to as a kid), Miep Gies (she found the diary of Anne Frank), Ria Brieffies (she was a singer in the biggest Dutch girl group of the 80s), Les Paul, Patrick Swayze, Stephen Gately, Brittany Murphy, Jay Retard, Arjen Grolleman (he founded the only alternative radio station in the Netherlands, Kink FM), Malcolm McLaren, Gary Coleman, a couple of the Golden Girls, I think I better stop now.

Anyway, these days we don't hear it on the radio or from friends, we got twitter now. And so I sat a little dazed at work reading a blog someone tweeted about Ari Up. Ari Up had died. That kind of had me go wow. I'll be honest with you, I was not a big fan of her band the Slits, I like their punk stuff but not their reggae stuff but I liked them for being the band that they were. Last year on my birthday they were The Very Special Guests at the Cribs' show I visited in Doncaster (I probably would have passed this small tour by if it hadn't been for my birthday). I looked them up on the net and well, I wondered why. But then, it was quite impressive and special to have such an influential and strong all female group from the late 70s, early 80s to open for the Cribs. The Slits were really something. I knew it meant the world to the band, all four feminists themselves. And at least it wasn't as bland as the other two bands who played who's names I already forgot (was it Sky Larkin and some other band?).

The Slits took the stage and just by the way how, especially Ari Up came on as a strong woman, I kind of wondered if this crowd would appreciate this. The music was reggae mixed with dance hall but also punk (the latter I really enjoyed) and they put on a great show. But not everyone agreed because they were horribly treated by a group of male chauvenists pigs, a side effect of a band growing bigger and being in an unusual large venue, it's easier for them to get in. Beers were thrown on stage, they were boo-ed and in all it was a disgrace. But the women on stage stood brave and did their set, they verbally fought the idiots and were strong. That was admirable to see (at the side of the stage stood the Cribs' bassist fuming with anger and nearly ran on stage, it should have been a treat, and this was no way to receive a treat). In all, this show was unforgettable. And this is how I remember the Slits.

It's weird to see these people die who in one way or another were part of you growing up (and I'm still growing up), it gives you a feeling of mortallity, it's like damn! when they pass away. It also makes you feel like you're growing slowly older yourself. I'm not twenty anymore, no I'm not. But musicians dying who I only have seen under a year ago? That's a whole new chapter. R.I.P. Ari Up.

The title of this is brought to you by my sister who reminded me of what Ari Up told that crowd that night. Think about it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

On the train

Photography is contagious. When my sister bought her Diana F+ I bought a simple lomolitos disposable camera with red flash light. I just shot ahead, had them developped and to keep the story short, I'm now the proud owner of a Holga 35mm Pinhole camera. This sounds easier than it is. It not just takes patience and a steady hand but other skills such as removing the cap before taking a picture. I now have a gorgeous black photo, I'm sure.

I like the thrill of not having a single clue how these pictures turn out. But I also love my new freedom of not caring what anyone thinks when taking a picture. Today I was in Rotterdam (I'm writing this in the train hello technology!) and stood on the side of a tunnel in order to make a hopefully stunning picture of a sky high building Rotterdam is famous for. But I also plucked the courage to ask a funny dressed man which was for an exhibition of the city if I could take a picture of him and if he wanted to hold for at least 10 seconds, as it was a pinhole. He did not mind and showed interest which was really so very lovely of him. It was just a very nice meeting with this man in a tight red white striped catsuite, with hood, and black tie.

I really should thank my sister for this.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Someone who doesn't watch TV about TV - Modern Family

I'm not the world's biggest fan of US TV sitcoms. I know series such as Two and a half man, Seinfeld, Scrubs, Frasier, and whatever they are called are really popular but I just don't think they're funny. I don't like US comedies, I don't know if it's their (lack) of humor or something else, I usually avoid them or don't like them. The few I've enjoyed are eiher animated (The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad!, but NOT Futurama) or are in fact really funny, such as the Drew Carrey Show (I miss Mimi sometimes), The King of Queens and the flopped but amazing Get a Life about a 30-year-old paper boy living in the garage of his parents (and subsequently teaching me that REM had made records before 'Losing my Religion'). Now there's a show I'd like to see again. But considering the amount of American Sitcoms in this life, you can't say I'm a big fan, not by a long shot.

This is why I paid little attention to the announcement of a new TV series on Dutch TV, automatically assuming it's crap anyway but when it rolled on and I was being too lazy to change the channel I started to watch it with one eye as soon as I saw 'Al Bundy' (Ed O'Neill) sitting on a sofa (again) and I was actually quite charmed that they showed two episodes. Is it really? Is Modern Family one of the few sitcoms (actually it doesn't matter where they're from, I consider myself a funny person but my sense of funny does rarely match sitcom-funny) I like? Really, really? The concept is brilliant though also has all ingredients that spell fail. Nevertheless it has won some Emmy Awards. It's all about one family, the father (played by the brilliant Ed O'Neill) who has re-married a much younger woman and his two children who all have their families as well. There's a lot of stereotyping going on and typical family situations which is the successful factor. What I liked best, apart from Ed O'Neill, is the stereotypical gay behaviour of Cam Tucker, but he sure doesn't look like your stereotypical TV gay.

I hope I remember to watch more episodes. I don't watch TV but this I like. It takes a little effort to figure out the family relations but I don't mind this time. Well done.