giovedì, luglio 09, 2009

Protestant liesure

It feels as though time is slowing down a bit as I get closer and closer to departing for the Med, where we're having a little writing retreat on the beach for a week. Still some hurdles to overleap at the office before I can leave it behind in good conscience, or else I'll be fucked when I get back. Dear oh dear. I may even have to write a to-do list. Blech.

It's rather provoking because I have to hot-foot it down there to deal with some angry-businessman crap this morning, a stressful enough situation that my eyelid was twitching by the end of the day yesterday, when all I want to do is go to the maison communale, submit my pass sheet and get my really-for-truly driver's licence. I like work - but it is seriously cramping my fucking style, man.

At the same time - beyond personal feelings of loyalty to my immediate management team, who I really like and who I would hate to screw over by being incompetent - I have a certain horror of joining the ranks of the unemployed. A totally irrational horror. I'm nowhere close to being sacked, and if I was, it would be awesome because of the big Belgian payout I would get and the 80%-of-my-wage pogey I'd receive for a two year period, or until we blew this fucking popsical stand of a country. But still that little horror is there, partly because it would definitely mean I couldn't move this job to Asia and then it would all be a big mystery, more exciting than intimidating but I'm a slave to the intimidation . . .

I think I have an uncomfortable combination of Protestant Work Ethic and Mezzogiorno Liesure-is-Success neurosisizing me up. That's right. Blame the parents.

I remember back in the dayz when I used to have to get my stroll on

Guess who passed her driving exam? Mistress La Spliffe, that's who! Oh sweet Jesus, the fucking relief of it all.

And you know what one of the best parts was? Riding to work afterwards in the urine-soaked, stinking, filthy subway with ugly bastards leering at me, and thinking 'from now on when I do this it's because I'm making an environmentally sound lifestyle decision, and not because I'm a fucking loser.' I think it'll help out with walking on rainy days, too.

martedì, luglio 07, 2009

The lone woman's playlist

Currently the F-word is in Berlin and I'm here. Next week I'll be in Dubrovnik and he'll be here. Soon after that we'll go away to Portugal together. Occasional seperate vacations are rather nice for all sorts of reasons, mostly having to do with mutual appreciation and personal space, but probably what I enjoy the most about it is getting the run of music I feel like listening to - things that are either too poppy or too whiny to bother playing around him when we both like Nick Cave, Tom Waits, pre-synthesizer R&B, orchestral, operatic and a bunch of other crap enough to not rub each other the wrong way. He's got his own things he listens to when I'm away, including Frank Zappa - yikes.

Anyways, that means right now I'm listening to:

Tricky, Maxinquaye. Probably the constant and fucking inescapable Michael Jackson playing everyfuckingwhere over the last week or so was what reminded me how much I miss this album. He samples "Bad" on "Brand New You're Retro" and I'm quite fond of it. And while this urge is already morphing into a desire to listen to a bunch of Massive Attack and some other Tricky abums, Maxinquaye is very dear to my heart. It was on constant rotation during the wonderful months that I went chronic, and it's really part of who Mistress La Spliffe is . . . but personal descent into drug dependency aside, really I just think it's so pretty, one of the prettiest albums I've ever heard. That's the thing about trip-hop, and it's why I get confused when people hate it. It's so pretty. To hate trip-hop, you've got to hate pretty. And who hates pretty? Assholes, that's who.

Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. My feelings are split on this album and even if the F-word could tolerate the whiny quality of Jeff Tweedy's vocals (which one would think he could, Radiohead being okay apparently) I would have to keep it on low rotation anyways. I've written before about the fucking pain of getting a five-second blast of "I'm the Man Who Loves You" stuck in one's head on a repetitive loop, and even now I'm wary of getting it lodged back in there - last time it took about five fucking days to get it to stop playing. That doesn't change the fact that it's a damn good song and that the makes-the-Cure-look-like-the-Pizzicato-Five lyrics are not only not stupid, but accompanied by - once more - pretty. It's a marvellously pretty album. And who doesn't like pretty? Assholes, that's who.

The surprising thing about Wilco, though, was that when I saw them live it was still awfully pretty, despite the album feeling very engineered and very trippy in its own way.

Speaking of pretty and the Pizzicato Five - The Pizzicato Five, Made in the USA. No excuses or explanations here. I just love it. Maki Nomiya could be singing "twiggy fuck yourself up the ass, you aging nineties hipster" and I'd still love it.

And the last one is rather a cheat, because I'm sure the F-word would be okay with it, though he does laugh about how heroin-y it all is - but it didn't occur to me to put him back on until I realized I'd need a stand-in boyfriend for a few days, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is Chet Baker, Chet Baker Sings. I fucking love this album. And love his voice. This song makes me feel like I'm being cuddled.

lunedì, luglio 06, 2009

Hommages shmommages

So last weekend Melbine and her man were visiting from Canada on their way between Paris and the 'Dam. It was lovely though all the unwholesome food made her sick. Anyways, I don't like going on about people: mentioning it because when we met up with another couple downtown, we stumbled across a Michael Jackson memorial in the Parc de Cinquentenaire. Almost everybody dressed in white, or else like Michael Jackson himself, while one of his lesser contributions to the pop music genre, Dangerous, played in the background. 800 people, I read later. While we watched they made a big circle, held hands, and started swaying gently back and forth to some music that was absolutely inappropriate for swaying gently back and forth to. Some were visibly upset, some had brought poster collages. It was all very earnest and there were tonnes of little kids running around.

Our reactions were interesting. The F-word was angry - as far as I could decipher, angry at the flagrant waste of emotion in a world where emotion could be so usefully applied elsewhere. "He's not Nelson Fucking Mandela," I believe he said at one point, which is an awfully good point when you think about it. Even if you're fucking daft enough to reckon contributions to music are as important as contributions to the relatively peaceful liberation of millions of oppressed South Africans, what has been his legacy - honestly? And I ask that as someone who likes the Jackson 5 and Off the Wall, but really - legacy-wise? Contributing to the final emasculation of soul and R&B music? Making that fucking smurf-voiced Justin Timberlake's career possible? Making our pop music scene about 20 degrees more tedious and anodyne than it was before? Putting out absolute shit in the 90's that made J-Pop look awesome when I was a teenager? Providing an all-too-often ignored cautionary tale about the consequences of abusive, megolomaniac parents flogging their talented children into fame?

And then the couple who had joined us were pre-occupied with getting an ice-cream for their daughter, despite a hell of a line. I think Melbine was a little touched. Her husband looked amused. I was creeped the fuck out. This was a man who had spent something like $30 million to make child abuse allegations go away, whatever one thinks about the upshot of his criminal trials (John Niven made a fairly unique, at the moment, critical evaluation of them in the Independent a few days ago).

I do find his life melancholy, I felt an emotion that was something like pity, but not exactly, when he died (the other week, we were discussing the paucity of emotional words in English with a Brazilian Portuguese friend - they have a word for every gradation of feeling, apparently - but that's a blog post for another time). But these recent outpourings of unmitigated grief and adulation are really starting to fuck me off. Not just because it's a waste of emotion in a world that needs emotion, though that's part of it - I just feel like in a week or two people are going to blink a few times, realize 'I've made a collage for a man who spent $30 million on civil payouts to make child abuse allegations go away, I've held hands and swayed back and forth for a man who might have managed an O.J., I've been publicly weeping for a dodgy stranger who may have caused hands-on life-long damage to several young boys", and then feel like creepy idiots. And if they don't . . . maybe they should.

domenica, luglio 05, 2009

Riding the moronic road

Practicing waking up early in preparation for my upcoming second-go-round of the driver's exam, which is scheduled early in the morning later this week. I'm nervous, but it's not as bad as last time - different rather - thinking that I'd be a real asshole if I failed twice, rather than thinking it's going to be very hard to pass. I feel a great deal more ready than last time, and honestly think I'm better than most of the other drivers circulating around Belgium, which sadly is saying very little (and is far from a guarantee that I'll pass the exam, as they tightened up their giveaway policies a lot over the last 20 years). For example, I don't box intersections and if there's a t-junction immediately preceding an intersection I brake a little earlier so I don't block that either. As far as I can tell about 1 in 3 Bruxellois drivers are intellectually capable of such a feat. They are real shitheads on the road - oblivious motherfuckers - and haven't really kept up with the changes in their own driving laws.

Pedestrian crossings are the most obvious example to visitors and new arrivals, most visitors and new arrivals being obliged to cross streets quite early on in the process. It's only been within the last ten years that the rules have been changed and that drivers are obliged to stop when people are using them, and of course they don't. Why would they? There are no fucking consequences if they fail to stop. There are no traffic cops hanging around with cameras. They can even buzz a crossing whilst talking on a cellphone and kill a fucking pensioner without any jailtime or even substantial loss-of-license time. And judging from some of the really fuckwitted behaviour I've seen and heard of here, either many drivers are utterly unaware of the change in the law, or else become such self-involved sociopaths when they get behind the wheel that it loses all meaning.

Three examples:

1. Some asshole in an Audi cuts me off on the way to work. In my classy North American way, I flip him a bird. The cunt stops mid-intersection, blocking traffic of course, and starts to get out of his car. I'm far more bark than bite but I'm sick of nearly getting killed by these troglodytes, so I start walking over, determined to get in some beats even if it means getting the shit kicked out of me. Either the asshole in the Audi notices that I'm a girl, or that I'm spoiling for a fight, or that the early morning rush-hour traffic has been blocked by his stopping the middle of a busy intersection and everybody is honking at him; he closes the door and speeds off.

2. Next to the Porte de Hal, which cars go about quite fast despite a liberal sprinkling of pedestrian crossings, we saw some fat old red-faced fuck in an expensive grey convertible - I believe it was also an Audi, they're beautiful cars but they get driven by goddamn incompetents - slam on the brakes and narrowly avoid hitting a skinny little teenage boy who was halfway across the road. Embolism gets out of his paused car, blocking traffic of course, and walks up with his dicky chest out to have it out with the kid, ignoring the horns behind him and shouted abuse from the many pedestrians all around, who'd been freaked out by nearly seeing a minor's guts splattered all over the cobblestones. The big fat cunt takes a swing at the boy for daring to get in his way and lands two or three; as we go over to intervene, the boy cleverly retaliates by repeatedly kicking the front of the Audi. The man realizes he has rather more to lose in this situation, gets back in his car, and speeds off.

3. A friend of ours, another Canadian, who lives here with his family was partway across a crosswalk when another cunt - he doesn't remember if it was in an Audi or not - cuts him off. He's a temperate man but as he was holding his infant daughter in his right arm at the time, he angrily shook his left fist in the air as the car sped away. The goddamn jackass reverses, blocks the intersection (of course - it's just not an incident unless you're getting in everyone's fucking way), gets out of his car despite the imprecations of the woman sitting in the passenger seat, walks over to our friend, and punches him in the face - swinging over the head of the baby girl. Once more - and this was the same in all three examples - he pulls this shit in a very crowded location absolutely stuffed with onlookers, and in this case, according to our friend, about 20 people immediately descended from the nearby cafe and sidewalks, shouting at the asshole and explaining what sort of human being he was for taking a swing at a guy holding a baby over the head of the baby. Punchy mainly looks baffled.

I know that every nationality drives stupidly in its own way, though I don't really know it on a practical, experiential level about any other country like I do about this one. I've heard the French are congenitally incapable of signalling a turn or a lane change, for example, and Italians have the supremest disregard for the lives and limbs of cyclists that I've ever witnessed. But Belgians - honestly, the way they drive makes me hate their fucking guts. It makes me think all of the stupid Belgian jokes I've ever heard are soundly based in fact. I know they don't enjoy their Newfie-of-Europe stereotype, but when they get behind the wheel, they're not fighting it too hard.