Some People You’d Rather Not Meet In A Dark Alley…*

August 4, 2012

Then, there are people like Icelandic singer Bjork, who you’d rather not meet in a well-lit international airport. No, she hasn’t throttled another member of the paparazzi as she’s done a couple times in the past.

From what I’ve read, the beatdowns (one in Thailand in ’96, the other in New Zealand a few years ago) were justifiable, but every time I think of them or come across their mention, the mental picture that comes to my mind is alternately comical and frightening.

Personally, I find Bjork to be one of the more fascinating humans of my lifetime. There’s certainly a unique musical and artistic vision. She’s like a post-punk Neil Young in that you never know what you’ll get, but it’s mostly pretty stellar.

She’s also instilled in me – and, I suppose many other music fans – a curiosity about her Icelandic homeland. Based on what little I know, it’s got to be on the short-list for future destinations. If Bjork’s music and imaginative videos are any indication, Iceland must be the place in this world which most resembles a locale in a Dr. Seuss’ story.

I won’t give too much away as I fear creating an immigration problem for Iceland. Imagine if the mass of humanity that is reading this blog relocated to Iceland (the chaos which would certainly ensue!), but I’ve read that roads are rerouted to not disturb areas in which gnomes are said to inhabit.

Is there legislative debate on their version of C-SPAN regarding such matters?

(I’d truly pop popcorn and be enthralled by such a discussion)

I also recall that some poll once named Iceland as the second least likely country in the world to be hit by a terrorist attack (North Korea took top honor). Not that I really fret over such a possible event, but Iceland’s status – for what it’s worth – has to be considered a bonus.

For me, the idea of Iceland as the Dr. Seuss-like world which Bjork’s music conjures in me is compelling and it’s hard for me to choose a handful of her songs as favorites. Here are five of them…

Bjork – Human Behaviour
from Debut (1993)

“If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready be ready to get confused.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it all up.

Bjork – Army Of Me
from Post (1995)

Army Of Me would lead a listener to believe that Bjork runs a tight ship – she demands self-sufficience and doesn’t want to hear your bitching. If she has to tell you one more time…well, she’d better not have to tell you one more time.

Bjork – Hyper-Ballad
from Post (1995)

Now, as I’ve mentioned, the fisticuffs Bjork has engaged in in airports ’round the globe seem justified, but this lovely song also reveals her to be a mischief maker. She openly admits to tossing all kinds of items – “Car-parts, bottles and cutlery, or whatever I find lying around” – off the mountain top where she lives.

So, as delightful as she may seem, I suspect that it’s not always a picnic living in Bjork’s neighborhood.

Bjork – Joga
Bjork – Bachelorette
from Homogenic (1997)

A pair of songs from 1997’s Homogenic album. The former is skittering and twitchy, a bit of a nervous wreck of a song with the lyrics given a spoken word treatment.

The latter is more string-laden, adding to the sense of drama, and the beats are more fluid giving Bachelorette a dream-like, melancholy vibe.

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I’d Rather Let The House Burn Down And Sit Here In My Own Filth

February 5, 2011

As a kid, I wasted a lot of time hanging with an odd schoolmate whose mother taught bellydancing and father looked like Mike Brady mostly for the opportunity to play Pong.

I must have been ten or so and already blowing the little coin I had at that age on pinball and air hockey at the bowling alley, but Pong had all my friends boggle-eyed and hooked.

A cursor batted back and forth between two other cursors on the television screen in the den at Tony’s house had the same effect on us as that monolith had on the monkeys at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

We were all twelve or thirteen when the first wave of major arcade games – Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pac-Man – began to arrive and. like certain songs or albums, each of them would help define a period of months.

We all eventually had an Atari system at home and even a town as small as ours had an arcade that was a social hub for junior high and high school kids.

It all kind of ended for me in ’83 or so, around the time when we got our driver’s licenses. Cable and home video were also becoming available, so there were more options for entertainment.

And music had become my dominant interest.

By college, video games seemed like something from another era (even if it had only been five years since Pac-Man had become the Jaws of video games)

There was a brutal stretch of winter in February of ’89 when three housemates and I surrendered, embraced the weather-induced malaise and vowed to not leave the house unless no option existed to blow off work or class.

Instead, we hunkered down, ordered a lot of pizza and played computer baseball ’round the clock. Each of us had two teams and we played much of an entire season before March arrived.

One of my last brushes with videogames happened about a decade ago, coinciding with my first office gig. Though it was a relatively casual job, it was still a disorienting experience and I remembered what an escape videogames had once provided.

So, I snagged a copy of The Sims, “a simulation of the daily activities of one or more virtual persons (“Sims”) in a suburban household near SimCity.”

For a week or so, I was enthralled with the game as I attempted to maximize the happiness of my avatars. I was spending a lot the time when I wasn’t working sending my onscreen Sim to work so that it could acquire a home, pay bills, and buy stuff.

It quickly became exhausting.

I was spending my free time doing the very things in a virtual world – working, paying bills, cooking, taking out the trash – that I found mundane and unappealing in the real world.

Soon, the entertainment value of the game was simply when something went awry – the Rain Man-like behavior of my Sim when something caught fire or the Pig Pen-esque cloud that would develop when I’d neglect to have a character shower.

It was then that I realized that I had enough trouble being a human being in real life and, if I was going to escape from that world, I’d rather be blasting space rocks or eating a maze of dots.

Here are four songs which address the idea of being human…

White Zombie – More Human Than Human
from Astro Creep: 2000 – Songs of Love, Destruction And Other Synthetic Delusions Of The Electric Head

Science fiction fans recognize the title of White Zombie’s best-known song as the motto of the Tyrell Corporation from the classic flick Blade Runner. I’ve always found the supercharged track to be the sonic equivilant of a shot of adrenalin to the heart.

I met Rob Zombie at a record store where I worked and he seemed like a good guy – very polite, very soft spoken.

Michael Jackson – Human Nature
from Thriller

You only get to discover fire once, but, apparently, Jackson was obsessed with trying to recapture the unparalleled success of Thriller for the rest of his life.

Personally, I always thought that the lush, dreamy Human Nature, despite being a massive hit in the late summer of 1983, was the most underrated song on the album.

Rick Springfield – Human Touch
from Living In Oz

Even in 1983 – which, technologically speaking, now seems as advanced as 1883 – Rick Springfield was lamenting the disconnect between man and machine in Human Touch.

At the time, I was unaware that actors weren’t supposed to sing (and, usually, with good reason). Of course, I doubt that I was aware that Rick Springfield was a soap opera star aside from a DJ or Casey Kasem mentioning it.

But Springfield had a string of hits in the early ’80s that were undeniably catchy and still sound pretty good all of these years later.

Björk – Human Behaviour
from Debut

I find Iceland’s finest export to be utterly charming and completely fascinating while, at the same time, being respectfully terrified of the former Sugarcube.

It was impossible not to be drawn in by Human Behaviour‘s strking video, but the hypnotic song – which contains a sample of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Go Down Dying – is as equally arresting.

“If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready be ready to get confused.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it all up.


Some People You’d Rather Not Meet In A Dark Alley

August 24, 2008

Then, there are people like Icelandic singer Bjork, who you’d rather not meet in a well-lit international airport. No, she hasn’t throttled another member of the paparazzi as she’s done a couple times in the past.

From what I’ve read, the beatdowns (one in Thailand in ’96, the other in New Zealand this past January) were justifiable, but every time I think of them or come across their mention, the mental picture that comes to my mind is alternately comical and frightening.

Personally, I find Bjork to be one of the more fascinating humans of my lifetime. There’s certainly a unique musical and artistic vision. She’s like a post-punk Neil Young in that you never know what you’ll get, but it’s mostly pretty stellar.

She’s also instilled in me – and, I suppose many other music fans – a curiosity about her Icelandic homeland. Based on what little I know, it’s got to be on the short-list for future destinations. If Bjork’s music and imaginative videos are any indication, Iceland must be the place in this world which most resembles a locale in a Dr. Seuss’ story.

I won’t give too much away as I fear creating an immigration problem for Iceland. Imagine if the mass of humanity that is reading this blog relocated to Iceland (the chaos which would certainly ensue!), but I’ve read that roads are rerouted to not disturb areas in which gnomes are said to inhabit. Is there legislative debate on their version C-SPAN regarding such matters? I’d truly pop popcorn and be enthralled by such a discussion.

I also recall that some poll once named Iceland as the second least likely country in the world to be hit by a terrorist attack (North Korea took top honor). Not that I really fret such an event, but Iceland’s status – for what it’s worth – has to be considered a bonus.

For me, the idea of Iceland as the Dr. Seuss-like world which Bjork’s music conjures in me is compelling and it’s hard for me to choose a handful of songs as favorites (and as I’ve, unfortunately, lost track of her music over the past five years or so, who knows what I’ve missed).

Bjork – Human Behaviour
“If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready be ready to get confused.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it all up.

Bjork – Army Of Me
Army Of Me would lead a listener to believe that Bjork runs a tight ship – she demands self-sufficience and doesn’t want to hear your bitching. If she has to tell you one more time…well, she’d better not have to tell you one more time.

Bjork – Hyper-Ballad
Now, as I’ve mentioned, the fisticuffs Bjork has engaged in in airports ’round the globe seem justified, but this lovely song also reveals her to be a mischief maker. She openly admits to tossing all kinds of items – “Car-parts, bottles and cutlery, or whatever I find lying around” – off the mountain top where she lives. So, as delightful as she may seem, I suspect that it’s not always a picnic living in Bjork’s neighborhood.

Bjork – Joga

Bjork – Bachelorette
A pair of songs from 1997’s Homogenic album. The former is skittering and twitchy, a bit of a nervous wreck of a song with the lyrics given a spoken word treatment.

The latter is more string-laden, adding to the sense of drama, and the beats are more fluid giving Bachelorette a dream-like, melancholy vibe.