Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saturday, January 30th, 2010:
Acting, performing, and
publishing recordings
in Helsingborg and Malmö

What I think:

All in all, January's been quite a cool month for me here in the beautiful south of Sweden. I could have done without the snow, but it is winter, so I can't really complain too much about that.

Here's a photo taken today from our rooftop terrace,
with the Turning Torso in the distance:
There's one thing that did annoy me this month though.

Did you read my post about the contempt I have for the town of Ängelholm, where my cover band (CSI: Helsingborg) played a couple of months ago? If not, it doesn't matter; suffice it to say that this town (in which one of main attractions is a UFO Memorial) is one place that I wouldn't miss if it got mistaken for Bin Laden's cave, and got blown to smithereens.

I went to a rehearsal in Helsingborg on January 10th (as we were booked to play at Telegrafen on the following Friday night). It was a good one, with lots of fun, energy, and beer. Quite a substantial amount of beer. I remember that we actually talked briefly about about our Ängelholm gig, and I vowed never to set foot there again.

Afterwards, I decided (in my wisest wisdom) to go to the Telegrafen pub for a beer, before getting the train home. I was feeling good.

Then I went to the station, got my ticket (here's how ->) and got on a train. I was just in time, as well; the train left about 30 seconds after I sat down. Cool.

Then it occurred to me that I got on the wrong train. This one was heading northwards, ending up in Gothenburg. I would have to get off at the next stop and catch a train back in the opposite direction. I looked up and saw that the first stop would be - you guessed it - Ängel-bloody-holm. Nooooo!!! Oh dear. Oh dear-oh-dear-oh-dear. And damn, even.

Just hours before, I vowed never to go there again. The Fates were being painfully unkind to me, and not even using lube whilst administering their unkindness.

In my even wiserest wisdom, I was actually contemplating going all the way to Gothenburg. I would get there before 23:00 (11:00 p.m.) and could stay with my friend VikingHumpingWitch.

I rang my girlfriend and explained the situation to her, but she'd obviously not drunk of the wisdom juice as I had, so convinced me that it would be better to get off at the next stop, and make my way home.

So there I was.
There would be a 45-minute wait for the train to Malmö, it was freezing out, and there was no pub nearby. There was an empty taxi rank and a bus stop. Great.

And the train heading back was an all-stations one, so there'd be three extra stops before even getting back to Helsingborg. Super.
But of course, I made it home and lived to tell the tale, so no real harm done. But I was pretty peeved, to say the least. Grrr, etc.

So now, on to the fun stuff.

A few months ago, a friend in Stockholm mentioned on his Facebook profile that he'd gotten a bit of work as an extra for some kind of film or TV production. I thought that was pretty cool, so I asked him how he got that gig. He said that he was signed up on a site called (statist is Swedish for "extra") which lists ads for extras (as you might have guessed).

After having a look and noticing that you have to pay to sign up, I asked him if all the "jobs" are Stockholm-based, to which he replied in the positively negative; there are a few down my way as well. So I paid the small sum of 99 Kronor (about US$13.50 / CAN$14.35 / UK £8.40 / €9.79 / 1,985 Kazakhstan Tenge) for a two month subscription, and had a look. Nothing suitable. Ah well, no great loss. Then I forgot about it.

On January 6th, completely out of the blue, I get this email from someone called Frida at a production company called Dansk Skalle, asking if I'd like audition for a small English-speaking part in a film (US/CAN: movie). Hhmm... OK. So it was arranged that I would go to their office for my audition on the 12th. It turned out that they're only about a ten-minute walk from my place, which was well handy.

I went and read the few lines, and the guys said they still had other auditions during the rest of the week, so they'd get back to me during the next week.

On the 19th, I got an email thanking me for my time, but informing me that I didn't get the part. This was followed immediately by an email apologising for the previous email, and saying that I did get the part. Sweet! Perhaps the Fates had now withdrawn their prickly implements.

Last Monday (the 25th), I went back to their office to meet Åsa, who's looking after costumes for the film. She's actually also an "Aerial Artist". If you want to see what this means, have a look at Åsa's MySpace page here ->. She looked at some shirts I'd brought, checked my size, etc. and said that she'd see if she could find something better suited to the character.

I also had a bit of a rehearsal with the directors (Martin and Emil), which was cool; I got a insight on how they wanted me to play it. We then we arranged to meet on Wednesday (the 27th) for filming. We'd do it at their office, as it was a more-than-adequate location for this particular scene.

At this point, I guess I should describe the character. Without giving too much away, he's a rather scary German pervert called Friedrich; so I get to have fun with a German accent. In this scene, I'm buying gay webcam sex off one of the main characters. (Note: If you wish to leave a comment at the end of this post, please try to keep it clean-ish, okay?)

I got there just before noon on Wednesday, had a coffee and some biscuits (US/CAN: cookies), after which Åsa got me ready. She gave me this shirt that I would normally not be caught dead in. I think it will take a few years for me to forgive her for that.

Then she smothered a bit of vaseline on my face, and a hint of dark eye shadow under my eyes - to give me that tired, sweaty, greasy German look. Ooh oui, c'est chic. Actually, it was quite subtle; nothing too over-the-top.

Here's me practicing my smoking - turns out I'm a natural:
The guys had cut some cigarettes in half, so that when I lit them, it'd look as though I'd been sitting there smoking for a while prior to being connected to my webcam bitch. That's an old movie trick (ah, the magic of Le Cinéma, eh?). Isn't that shirt just... Oh, I don't know. Some of you may even have one like it; if so, I apologise. It's just so not me. *Shudder*

So then we got down to filming my seven lines, and it went really well. We did a few takes, trying different movements and different variations on the lines that were scripted. Have a look in the view finder below - that's what I look like.
Pretty creepy, eh?

The film is called Odjuret, (which is Swedish for "The Beast"). I believe the English title will be "Savage". It's due out at some point after the summer; probably in September or October. The guys aren't sure of how widely it will be distributed, but I'll keep you posted on that.

It was great fun, and a brilliant experience. Now I just need an agent for all the job offers I'll be getting.

As I mentioned earlier, CSI: Helsingborg had a gig lined up at Telegrafen in Helsingborg on January 15th. We weren't too pleased with the date, as mid-January is not a time that we associate with "lots of people with loads of money coming out to party". Christmas and New Year's had just passed, and it was the middle of the month - exactly two weeks until most people here would get paid.

But we got on with it. We met up at the rehearsal space and loaded up, and guitarist CSI: Nils and I walked to the venue (there was limited room in the car, and Telegrafen is an easily-walkable distance).

On the way, I used some of our crime scene tape at a few choice locations. Here's a shot of an area near the guy-on-the-horse statue in front of City Hall:
And here's CSI: Nils waving the banner across from the Grand Hotel:
Unfortunately, not many of the people I'd invited on my Facebook "Event" could make it, but we ended up having a fair number of people there anyway. Bassist CSI: Per's wife had invited loads of her friends as well, which was very cool.

Here we are during our third set:
Some people even got the boogie-bug, and got up to dance.
Shake that thang!
The people I gave my camera to used it to get some video footage as well. I was surprised at how well it turned out. I mean, the performance wasn't sheer brilliance, but the quality of the sound could have been much worse. Have a look at this clip of Get Off My Cloud, and guffaw at my clumsiness:
I put some more stuff on YouTube (here->) if you're feeling particularly masochistic.

So anyway, in the end, that evening was another CSI success.

Publishing recordings
A few months back, I saw an ad for a company called Zimbalam. For a fee, they publish recordings for you, and distribute them to places like iTunes, Napster, Amazon, and other online mp3 "stores". I had a few songs hanging around, so I thought it would be fun to go for it.

I published an EP with four songs on it, and called it "Consenting Adults". This is because all the musicians I recorded with were of legal age, and they agreed to work with me without too much Rohypnol-I-mean-persuasion.

And here it is:
I wrote the first, third and fourth songs. "Wedding" was written by a good friend of mine when we were in the Montreal Goof Rock band Rude Guru, back in the late-80's. He goes by the name of Dr Trinidad. He's actually married to Professor Maggie who writes the blog, Something Up With Which I WIll Not Put. They live in Montreal.

I recorded "Anti-60's Protest Song" with a groovy German girl called Barbarella when I was living in London; we lived in the same area, and recorded a few songs together. She's a great pianist with a good ear for producing and arranging music. She now lives in (on?) Lanzarote, where she mainly does website stuff. Check out her photo blog and personal website here ->

I recorded Dr Trinidad's "Wedding" on a weekend visit in Germany. A chap called Reto did all instruments except guitar, which I did. The backing vocals were done by the girls in the house at the time.

The last two songs were recorded with Adam in Milton Keynes, England. Adam played lead guitar on both songs (those groovy solos are not mine, alas). Coincidentally, Adam's girlfriend is actually Dr Trinidad's sister. Small world, eh? Have a look at Adam & Nicole's websites - Whispering Back, and Born to Whisper - especially if you're into horses.

Sales of the EP are currently doing better in Europe than in North America, they're doing particularly well in Sweden. In fact, all sales of "Consenting Adults" have so far come from here. Yes, I am the only person to have purchased the EP, and it was by accident. I was testing out how the iTunes purchasing works, and I accidentally bought my own EP.

So, what I'm really hoping is that some of my readers in the US and/or Canada will buy it as well. If two people in the USA were to buy my EP, I could say that twice as many copies were sold over there than here, so I would be "big in America", relatively speaking. That would make my January complete.

So how 'bout it guys? Yeah, you two; you know who you are...

That about wraps it up for the fun stuff, I think.

As for what still annoys me: Ängelholm still exists. Why?

It's time that the Swedish government did something about it.

That's what I think - and Lucy Fur the cat agrees.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Saturday, January 9th, 2010:
Healthcare in Malmö, Sweden -
my foot!

What I think:

Happy New Year. May 2010 bring you lots of attractive things with elaborate frilly edges and modern, but artistically understated, motifs.

With the continued hub-bub about so-called "socialized" (UK: socialised) healthcare in the US, I thought I'd share my recent nightmarish experience here in Sweden.

About 15 months ago, I posted about how I broke some small bones in my right foot, in a very Rock 'n' Roll kind of way. At the time, I wasn't given any kind of treatment, and no X-rays were taken. The doctor I saw just felt my foot, established where bones were broken, and sent me on my merry way, telling me to try to walk on it as soon as possible.

I have since heard from others that more should have been done - maybe an X-ray to confirm her diagnosis, and possibly some kind of brace. At least a pair of crutches would have been nice.

In any case, time went by, and my foot eventually healed. I would get occasional discomfort, but nothing severe or long-lasting. Until about six weeks ago. I started getting pain again, and it seemed to be here to stay - and it was getting progressively worse. I've developed a bit of a limp; if I walk how I'm naturally supposed to, I'm in pain, so I often walk on the outer side of my foot. I look like a little criminal.

So, yesterday, I decided to do something about it. This is where my nightmare begins.

At about a quarter-past two, I rang a clinic here in Malmö, to see if I could arrange an appointment. I waited in the queue for five long minutes before I was answered. When I finally got through, I asked the lady on the line if she spoke English (contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Sweden speaks English). She said that she did.

This lady was annoyingly friendly on the phone. When I started explaining my problem, she interrupted me to ask me for my Personnummer (person number - Sweden's social security number). The rest of the conversation went like this:

Her: "I see you're registered in Stattena [an area of Helsingborg]."
Me: "Yes, I moved to Malmö in March."
Her: "Ah. Well you'll have to register here before we see you."
Me: "OK, so should I come in and fill in a form, and make an appointment after that?"
Her: "Well, what's your problem, exactly?"

I gave her a brief version of the story, and told her that I'm now pretty much in constant pain when I walk. Then she said, "Well, there's an appointment slot open for three o'clock."
Me: "That's in about half an hour!"
Her: "Yes. Just ask for the registration form when you get to reception."

I had been looking forward to a nice long wait of at least a few weeks to relish my delicious agony a while longer, but in one fell swoop, she completely ruined it. The nerve of that irritatingly polite woman.

About fifteen minutes minutes later, I got on my bike and cycled to the clinic (the first time I ever cycled when there was snow on the ground - it's pretty common here; looky here ->). I got there at about five-to, and checked in at reception.

I was given a very long and complicated form to fill in. It required all of the following information:
- My name (first and last),
- My address, including my post code,
- My Personnummer - all twelve digits, with a dash after the eighth digit (how complicated is that!?)
- Then I had to spend time writing down my signature (something that takes so much focus and concentration that my tongue automatically sticks out the side of my mouth), and the date (do I look like a calendar, or what?).

I just wanted someone to look at my foot; I didn't expect all this bureaucracy. Jeez.

I handed in the form, and then I had to pay for my visit. I was charged 200 Kronor (about US$28.30 / CAN$29.20 / UK £17.65 / €19.65)!! Highway robbery, or what!?

I sat in the waiting room for almost ten whole minutes before the doctor came to get me. He shook my hand and introduced himself as "Eric". Umm... Eric? That didn't sound very professional to me.

In the examination room, Eric asked me loads of boringly relevant questions in an aggravatingly affable manner. He looked at my foot, pressed around a bit, and said that if it happened 15 months ago, the bones will definitely have healed. But he was a bit surprised that an X-ray wasn't taken at the time, just to double-check that it wasn't more serious.

He said he suspected that a nerve was irritated, and that I should try using a padded insert in my boot (available from any sports store), to take the weight off the troubled area. He also prescribed a two-week course of anti-inflammatory tablets, and booked an X-ray for me, so that my problem would be properly documented, just in case I need to go down the route of orthopedic surgery later on. It was an open booking, meaning that I could go for my X-ray any time they're open, at my convenience. Well, that's something good, at least.

Eric said that I should let him know how things go after a few weeks. OK.

I went to the Apoteket nearby to get my prescription of anti-inflammatory tablets. I handed over my Swedish ID, and the cheerful woman behind the desk tapped in my Personnummer and got my prescription from the online system. Paper prescriptions are quickly becoming obsolete here in Sweden (if they still exist at all). My pills cost me a whopping 160 Kronor (about US$22.60 / CAN$23.35 / UK £14.10 / €15.70)! This was costing me a fortune.

I went to a sports store (something I would never normally do), and asked for a "pelotte", which is the little pad I was supposed to put in my boot. I'd never heard of it, but they knew exactly what it was. There goes another 100 Kronor (about US$14.15 / CAN$14.60 / UK £8.85 / €9.80).

I got home, placed my pelotte, popped my pill, and pondered my plight. Since the time I picked up the phone, I'd wasted a total of two whole hours of my life, and spent a gigantic 440 Kronor (about US$62.25 / CAN$64.20 / UK £38.85 / €43.20), just to get something done about my foot.

I think it's totally unacceptable that this type of thing is allowed to happen in any society. More should be done to warn innocent people of the dangers that Rock 'n' Roll can bring to their feet, especially in this day and age. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

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