Saturday, 3 March 2001
WWII was weird
Several James Bond characters were inspired by the S.O.E., including M, Moneypenny and Vespa Lynd (and probably Q). Ian Fleming was not himself a part of the SOE, but he joined the Naval Intelligence where he planned more-or-less insane operations. Amongst those not carried out were plans to steal the enigma codes (less insane) and to use Aleister Crowley to trick Rudolf Hess into contacting anti-Churhill Englishmen (more insane).
The S.O.E. was, amongst other things, responsible for Operation Gunnerside where Norwegian commandos snuck into a heavily guarded military plant and blew up the entire Nazi supply of heavy water, needed to make nuclear bombs (link). Some of the commandos fled to England and Sweden, but a few stayed behind. They would later be responsible for blowing up the boat carrying the remaining heavy water to Germany, killing eighteen (link).
After the war the S.O.E. was quickly disbanded, probably because their leader was less than willing to cooperate with including it into the Foreign Office ("To have SOE run by the Foreign Office would be like inviting an abbess to supervise a brothel").
Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer and the man responsible for cracking the enigma code during WWII, killed himself with a poisoned apple.
Herman Göring's brother Albert repeatedly went against the Nazi party by amongst other thing forging his brother's signature, sabotaging the factory he was given by his brother and sent trucks to concentration camps requesting labourers for his factories. These would then "break down" somewhere so the labourers could escape. (link)
Friday, 2 February 2001
Norwegian Huldrefolk - The Different Ways to Troll Norwegians
Footnotes, [?], are always in Norwegian, but included for those who can use them. The links always lead to English sources.
Trollfolk (troll-people) and huldrefolk (huldre-people)The story I always heard was that the "troll-people" or "huldre-people" were the children of Adam and Eve. One time Eve was washing her children before a visit from God, but she didn't have time to clean them all. Instead of showing God dirty children, she hid them away. God noticed, and told her that those hidden should remain hidden. Because of this, huldrefolk are also called "the hidden people" or "those living under ground" (de underjordiske).
Sometimes the huldrefolk are a wild bunch that kidnaps maidens, sneak into weddings or make mischief in other ways. They can be harmful or just annoying, but when they are harmful their methods are equal to that of åsgårdsreia (Norway's version of the Wild Hunt), where they can snatch people away from their homes or chase them into their deaths.
There are many different kinds of huldrefolk and they vary all over Norway and Scandinavia. The stories written here are those I've heard in Telemark, or read about. When I know of any differences, I will note them, but I'm always open to add more information to this. Just let me know about any variations in the comments!
TrollFirst of all, we have the common Troll. He's always male, always huge and pretty stupid. In the fairy tales, Askeladden can usually trick them into giving away their eyes or cutting up their stomachs, killing themselves. A troll can smell the blood of Christians, which he hates as people, but love to eat.
A common troll turns to stone in sunlight, and several Norwegian mountains are said to once have been trolls. Large boulders are usually said to be thrown there by trolls who fought each other.
They have extremely long noses, tend to kidnap women who either has to be saved by their beau or save themselves (one sends herself back in a barrel that's supposed to contain fish for her poor starving family, placing fish on top of herself and telling the troll that she can see him wherever he is, so when he tries to peak into the barrel, she tells him off and he thinks she's still at their home, keeping an eye on him.
Dovregubben in Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen and his daughter are good examples at later trolls. If you want to read more about trolls, please check out this blog post.
As for other huldrefolk, let's start with the Hulder herself.
HuldraHuldra is a gorgeous woman, a semi-benevolent succubus who can lure a man into the Blue Mountain (where the troll-people live) or just make love to him and have his children, which will later come back to torment him. Where I'm from she's known by being a beautiful woman with a cow's tail, but other places she also got a hollow back (all Swedish huldre has hollow backs, as far as I know), and some are also grotesquely ugly.
A hulder can be bound by a man throwing iron over her head. Usually he throws his dagger, as everyone wore daggers at that time, but anything goes. In some stories, shooting over the hulder's head works the same way, but this is not something I've heard in Telemark. An iron bound hulder will have to obey the man who bound her, and marry him. Most hulders are gorgeous creatures, while some look more trollish. Either way, an iron bound hulder has to marry the man who bound her, and he has no choice but to marry her either.
After being married by a priest, the hulder usually loses her tail. If he treats her well, he will be rich and succeed in everything he puts his hands to. But if he treats her bad she will maim him (often in the leg or thigh, giving him a permanent limp) and flee, taking all her riches with her. There are tales of a hulder straitening a red hot horseshoe and telling her abusive husband that she could have done the same to him, had she not loved him .
The hulder owns a flock of cows, that are the fattest and most beautiful cows you have ever seen.
You can recognize a hulder by her tail, which is that of a cow. If you meet a hulder and notice her tail, she will hate you for it. There are stories of men scratched in the face, or having their eyes clawed out, for seeing the tail and commenting on it. But there are also tales of a man who discreetly told her her tail was showing so she could hide it. He was thanked with a gift from the hulder, which was that he could aways see the huldrefolk.
ByttingThe most gruesome of all huldrefolk has to be the bytting, or "the swapped one". If you didn't protect your newborn, unbaptised child by carving crosses over the door and putting an iron scissor in his crib, he could be taken by the huldrefolk, to be replaced by a gruesome and ugly thing. Both boys and girls were taken in this way, and the only way to get your own child back was to either abuse the bytting until the huldrefolk swapped them back or to trick the bytting to speak. Baptising a bytting would do nothing to it, unlike other huldrefolk who would be transformed or harmed by holy water.
A bytting is ugly, he or she keeps screaming for more food, and never learn to walk. It doesn't take much imagination to see that this most likely was an explanation for how some children were born handicapped. Drowining or harming a bytting was common remedies, although some fairytales speak against this. In one a mother refuses to mistreat or leave her bytting child, even when her husband leaves her for it. After they seperate, she finds her own child in the forest, and he tells her that because she never abused the bytting, the huldrefolk never abused him, and because she was willing to leave her most precious husband to keep the bytting, that choice broke the spell the huldrefolk had over her son.
Another way to get rid of them was by trickery. Byttinger could speak while newborn children could not. I remember a fairytale where a mother pulled up a small spruce and used it to stir her porridge. The bytting watched her do this for a while, then he said "I've lived long and seen much, but never have I seen someone stir the porridge with a spruce." Once he'd said that, he was reviled and forced to give the woman her child back.
Wikipedia's entry on byttings is pretty close to those stories I've heard myself. Because both trolls and huldre are so different from what I've heard, and include all of Scandinavia when the stories vary so much from one place to another, I've usually chosen to ignore those articles.
NøkkenIf you swim amongst the water lillies (in Norwegian called "nøkken's roses"), the Nøkk might grab your feet and pull you under water, where he drowns you.
If you travel to the forest alone, and you're approached by a beautiful white horse, don't ride it. It might be nøkken, trying to lure you onto his back so he can ride you into the closest water and drown you.
Notice a similarity? Nøkken is more of a nature spirit than anything else. He lives in ponds or lakes of still water (never too close to the streams or waterfalls, that belongs to Fossekallen), where his main objective in life is to drown people. He's a shapeshifter, but in human form he's either completely gorgeous or a horrible beast covered in grass and mud from the lake. In that way, he resembles Draugen, a seafaring nature spirit known for his reign over the sea. (I will probably make a post on Draugen sometime later, both because he's a facinating monster and because it will take way too long to describe him here).
FossekallenFossekallen (the man of the stream) or Fossegrimen (the ugly man of the stream) is like Nøkken eiter completely gorgeous or completely horrendous. He lives in streams, usually beneath or inside a waterfall, and is in many ways more benevolent than Nøkken.
Where Nøkken wants nothing more than to be the cause of your drowning, Fossekallen might lure you into his stream to drown you, he might want to do more adult things to you. Where I come from, Fossekallen is usually gorgeous and completely naked, known for being a wonderful musician as well as a nature spirit in his own right. He lures musicians into bargains, where he demands blood or their first born as payment for teaching them to play so beautifully everyone has to dance and won't stop until the fiddler stops playing. In other stories, Fossekallen's music can stop the streams from flowing and the wind from blowing, just so the nature can hear his music.
The wikipedia article about the "Neck" blends Nøkk and Fossekall/Fossegrim, and doesn't seem to realize that Swedish and Norwegian tales aren't interchangeable, so take it with a shovelful of salt as it imo isn't a good resource.
Norwegian Trolls And Where To Find Them
Visual characteristicsWhat you need to know about trolls boils down to this: they are not a homogeneous group. They don't look the same, they don't speak the same and they certainly aren't equally smart. Just look at this paragraph from The White Cat: "So, when everything was ready, down came the trolls. Some were great, and some were small; some had long tails, and some had no tails at all; some, too, had long, long noses; and they ate and drank, and tasted everything."
Most are huge. They never stop growing, so the older the troll, the bigger it is. Some are stupid, or maybe "slow" is a better way of putting it. They can be brilliant and cruel, but need more time to think than a human. This is why they can be tricked by humans.
Most have cow's tails just like the Hulder (who it's said is related to the trolls, although no one knows quite how). In one tale you have three troll brothers who share one eye, and the hero survives them by making them quarrel over the eye. In most tales they turn to stone once the sun touches them (just like those in The Hobbit).
Habitat and dietTrolls live inside the mountains, and some mountains are old trolls who were touched by the sun's rays or just fell asleep one day and never woke up. Here they bring their victims, either to marry them (if they're female) or eat them (if they're male). Trolls are also known for stealing and eating cows and sheep, which is another reason for the hatred between trolls and humans.
In most of stories they are greedy, both for gold and property, which sometimes is what causes their downfall.
ResourcesI have made another blog post about trollfolk, which I recommend. As for other sources, this is by no means a definitive list, but a good start:
- Troll hunter will give you an idea of how many Norwegians think of trolls. I've yet to meet anyone who believes trolls still live today, though.
- Norwegian Folk Tales by Asbjørnsen and Moe. They gathered fairy tales in Norway just like the brothers Grimm did in Germany. You can find a translation of some of them here and here (I recommend "The Ashlad Who Ate A Match With The Troll" and "The Cat On The Dovrefjell"). Many of these stories are about trolls, so check them all out if you have the time (most of them are pretty short anyway).
- Theodor Kittelsen made several famous paintings of trolls, like this one here.
- John Bauer, a Swedish painter painted his trolls a bit differently from what I've grown up thinking trolls look like. Maybe Sweden's view of trolls is different, or maybe he just preferred to paint them like this. Anyways, his troll pictures can be found on google as well.
- In Norway there are stories about several mountains who used to be a troll. For example Torghatten in Nordland, Styggmann ("The Ugly Man") in Buskerud.
- Ibsen described trolls in Peer Gynt, where the Dovre-king and his daughter are important characters.
- Tolkien's trolls in The Hobbit and Rowling's trolls in the Harry Potter-series both have many similarities to Norwegian trolls.
Monday, 1 January 2001
TM, M, PA and the big M
If someone is the only manager of a band and follows them on tour, he probably won't have time to speak to his band at all during this trip, unless it's to usher them to the stage or bail them out of jail. His first request when they reach backstage will be an office with a phone and wireless internet, and he'll be spending his time there getting new gigs, finalizing contracts and discussing riders with venues the band's playing next month, or even next year. If he's a bad manager, or one with a way too high workload, he'll be finalizing the details of tomorrow's gig. This usually makes it hard for the venue to cooperate with him, be it for rider demands or changes in the set, as a lot of these things are finalized at least a month beforehand. Except from when he's knocking on their door when it's stage time, you won't see a sole manager touring along with the band. It's inefficient, but for beginning bands it's the only way unless one of the band members volunteers to manage every aspect of their tour (not fun, but it have been done successfully in the past, rarely by the lead member of the band, aka. lead guitar/vocals, because of ego issues as well as time issues (no one wants to interview the drummer, or bass player)).
If an artist is famous enough to warrant more than one manager, that means that a manager travelling with the band can dump some of his workload off on others while they're on tour and focus on the tour manager side of the job. The management team back home fixes the economy (they get the fees, they pay for the travel and stay and they make sure the band has everything they need). They will also be the ones to contact venues about riders and questions, and then let the tour manager or the band know what they should expect in every city. For obvious reasons (I work at the festivals) I rarely have contact with the management team. Whenever I do, it's to make them admit that they fucked up. The main problem is usually communication. The management team forgot to let the band know that the fee only covered their travels TO the festivals, they are now stuck in Norway. They forgot to let the band know that the festival is strictly non-alcoholic, refuses to get them hard spirits or cigarettes (because of a very convoluted set of laws making this too much hassle) or that you simply can't get Budweiser in Norway (because it tastes like cat piss).
A tour manager is always used to life on the road. I have yet to meet a fledging TM. Personally, I believe they grow somewhere east of London, and are harvested annually. The TM will want to be present at Get In to check that they got what they wanted on the technical rider and catering rider (check thesmokinggun.com for both kinds of riders, and this post about catering riders) and learn the layout of the venue. He'll be the one making sure everyone who should be on the guest list is on the guest list, lets security know how closed backstage is (just the band, just those with AAA-passes (access all areas, usually the festival/venue's production team, the band and the band liaison), by invite only or everyone on the guest list) and arranges lunch, interview and anything else that pops on. He will be the main contact between the venue and a band, and with a good TM the band never has to speak with the venue workers unless they wants to.
The job as a TM varies between cat herding and paperwork (if a band member is arrested, it's your job to get them out. If they disappear, it's your job to find them. If the instruments are gone, you're the one staying behind at the airport to argue with the airline until they magically reappear. If your singer is caught in customs with five grams of cocaine, you're the one to get the number to a good lawyer and/or bribe everyone in sight.) The list of what a TM does not do is a lot shorter than the one about what they do. This is why a lone manager has to be prepared to work hard.
As for a personal assistant, I find that bands rarely travel with one unless they have some special needs the TM can't cover. This can be because of different health problems (loss of hearing, social anxieties, old age, other handicaps), because the artist has side projects they need an assistant to handle while they and the TM focuses on the music or because the artist is a diva. In all cases, communication with the artist often goes from the venue to the TM to the assistant to the artist. I have very rarely worked with artists who had personal assistants, but find that their job is the same as the personal assistant of any celebrity. Mostly gruntwork, fetching and bringing, as well as keeping time for interviews and meetings and doing all the boring parts of travelling (if you travel with both a TM and an assistant, the assistant is the one who's left at the airport, looking for the lost luggage).
Rock N Roll Legends
Well, you have the famous Led Zeppelin mudshark + groupie story. Google that one yourself, I ain't telling.
Most of Almost Famous is based on real stories from the 70s, but most of the accidents were toned down for the film. [spoilers] Both the electrocution scene (happened to Stone the Crows, fatal in real life, not in the film) and the air plane trouble happened in teal life(Lynyrd Skynyrd lost three members to an air plane crash in '77). [/spoilers]
During the interviews several of the band members say things that are verbatim what 70s stars have said during interviews.
Airplanes are a source of trouble for musicians. So much so that you have a list over music fatalities here: http://listverse.com/2008/01/09/top-10-musician-plane-crash-deaths/. The song "American Pie" by Don McLean starts with the story of the trio on first place in that list.
Legends amongst those working in the business are maybe not so funny, but I have been told about the legendary Van Halen rider of '82 so many times (sometimes told with other famous bands of the time as the main characters, sometimes with red or green m&ms instead of brown) that it's something I feel needs mentioning. Full story here.
There are many legendary injuries, like the pyro blast James Hetfield got in the face in '92 that could have killed him or maimed him had it not been that his guitar was a solid body one. You also have the Great White's pyrom, which set fire to a club. A hundred people died, including their guitarist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Station_nightclub_fire). NME had a list over several less serious injuries here: http://www.nme.com/photos/rock-n-roll-injuries/124827/3/1.
You have the legendary Roger Waters spitting episode: http://www.angelfire.com/va/battersea/spit.html
And the time Leonard Cohen walked of the stage because he was "too depressed to play on". (Can't find anything about this, so that might just be a nasty rumour considering how Cohen is famous for being depressing.)
Anything Phil Spector (the man behind "the wall of sound") ever did, from threatening the Ramones at gunpoint, almost shooting John Lennon, threatening Leonard Cohen at gunpoint...
“He put his arm around my shoulder, pressed the muzzle into my neck and said, ‘Leonard, I love you.’ At which point I said: ‘I hope you really do, Phil.’”
That man was mad as a hatter and probably made more famous artists pray than any priest. There's even a list over his top ten moments.
You have the disappearance of Richey Edwards from the British band Manic Street Preachers in '94. He left his passport, parked his car by a bridge and was never seen again. Most of the people who knew him refuse to believe he killed himself, and his family told the press that they still believed he was alive when they declared him dead a few years ago, but needed to get the paperwork in order. The band still saves 1/4 of their earnings in case he returns.
For the more gory you have both Ozzie Osborne's bat eating incident (and his dove eating incident, and his "shooting all his dogs and hiding under the piano" incident)...
Twisted Sister's went to court to defend their songs from censorship (explicit lyrics, parental warning). The speech didn't help them win the case, but is pretty cool in its own right (calling Tipper Gore a pervert, amongst other things).
And while we're in court, Judas Priest who had to defend themselves from the accusation that their music made children kill themselves: http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/sevenages/events/heavy-metal/judas-priest-subliminal-message-suicide-trial/
All in a day's work - Artist Liason
I have written a lot about how the bands at a venue are treated and what they do, but not a single word about what my job was. That is what I want to do with this post. I welcome you to a day of the artist liaison at a small venue.
You start with unlocking the door, turning on the lights and checking that nothing disgusting from the night before is still in the band room or on the stage. You might find that whomever worked there yesterday cleaned the place perfectly and it is shining and sparkling as much as the worn-down stage and rotting wooden floor can shine, or that the artists' dressing rooms are filled with cigarette buts, popcorn and carrots and someone forgot their guitar, their jeans or even their drummer.
Kick out the drummer, put the guitar and jeans away in a closet and clean the dressing rooms. Before the band arrives, check their rider for any sign that they want get-in food. If something is mentioned, sigh and run to the nearest shop to buy hummus, vegan bread (or, since no shop in Norway carry anything like that, lie! lie like a politician!) and vegan butter. If you didn't get the rider five minutes before, you have already bought whatever you needed. More often than not, you will have less than 24 hours before the gig when you work at a small venue. You will never have the correct amount of towels from the hotel you cooperate with. Either you bring seventeen and one is used or you bring seven and they could have needed twice the amount.
While you are chopping the vegetables and trying to make the food you bought look edible (or the food left in the fridge from the day before... always check best before dates and sniff for mould) the band will arrive. Unlock the door (again), greet the band and their driver (the latter will like to know a million facts about driving that you will not know, having never driven a car in this city, but after a while in the biz you will have at least seven different people saved on your phone under the tag "driving advice". Call them, give the driver your phone and help the band carry their gear. It is not demanded from your job (your position is above mere lifting of instruments), but it feels off to walk besides someone carrying 50+ kilos worth of gear and not do anything to help (I'm odd like that).
This is when you will find out that the idiots playing the day before burnt out a circuit, or turned off the electricity to the stage instead of putting it on stand by. The correct solution to this problem is to give the band some coffee, get your phone back from the driver, give him his advisor's number and run back inside while you call someone who might know if the big red button is red because it should be pushed or because it should not under any circumstances be pushed.
After pushing the red button and finding that the world did not end and you now have lights, electricity and everything is well around the stage, you will learn that you are lacking two very important things: coffee, and a sound guy. The latter will mumble something about not yet being awake / being a bit late / not knowing it was a gig tonight. Stop yourself from pointing out that it's Friday and asking him whether that is the day we have concerts fifty out of fifty-two weeks a year, or if he thinks this is the day for the Bulgarian knitting circle? A hint... the guys brought guitars, not knitting needles.
Run to buy more coffee. Buy chocolate and bananas as well, to keep the band from noticing nothing is going to happen the next hour. The light guy will help you in this, distracting the band with questions about coloured filters and travel time. This is a good time for the band to draw something in the guest book, and for me to finish making the plates for their catering and remind them to eat. They will either be famished (which means you bought too little food) or not hungry at all. Awkward silences might enter her, or you might smoke and chat with them as if you've known them for years. It all depends on the band, your mood and how pissed they are that the sound guy is still in a taxi somewhere.
Sound guy will arrive. Ploinking from guitars will be heard, then the beating of a single sharp drum, bass drum, cymbal, rinse, lather repeat. Something won't be picked up properly by one of the monitors, one of the mics will be messed up or something else will have mysteriously broken during the night. Curse the gremlins, replace and move on. If everything goes perfect this is the time to start fearing for tonight's performance. Nothing can ever go that good without blowing up something spectacularly during the gig itself. Repeat your mantra of "it's all going to be ok" until you believe it. Check the first aid kit, just in case.
The band will leave for dinner once the sound check is done, but you can't. Soon the other workers will arrive (mostly bar staff and security), and since you have one of the two keys to the venue, you can't go anywhere. Sometimes you will ignore this and get some food, other times you will become a champion in solitaire until someone comes along to partner up with you for poker or blackjack. If you know you are going to be alone for a long time, you have probably already bought your working dinner: two bananas and a cola.
Sit down and play Plants vs. Zombies until someone rings the door bell. Take the verbal abuse from the idiot guitarist from the day before, still in his boxers, and point him in the direction of the band room. Smile as he leaves, calling you words you would like to use about whomever raised him to treat poor innocent venue workers in such a way. Then smile when you remember that bastards like him usually don't get far in life anyhow. Plus, he had to walk here wearing boxers with red hearts on them. That's something.
Chat with the first people to arrive, distracting them from their duties of counting beer bottles and cigarette packs, cleaning floors and replacing the posters on the walls. Make sure the barriers are in front of the stage before the doors open. Start to count heads and sweat.
This is where the tense waiting starts. What if the band is late? What if no one comes? What if everyone comes and the band is too late? What if no one comes and the band refuses to go on stage? There is nothing you can do, except postponing the gig for ten-fifteen minutes to allow for more people to arrive. This is usually only done to please the band, since it usually don't help at all.
Some bands handle this fine, some are ecstatic that for once there are more people in the room than on the stage, and others sulk and moan about it, loosing whichever fans they did have in the audience. But the moment they are on the stage, you can breathe for the first time in hours. Your job is as good as done. If they walk off, you need to be the one getting them back on the stage again, but for anything but that, you are free. They are on the stage, nothing can go wrong here (unless someone plugged their guitar into the light rig and the sound disappears every time the light guy dims the lights... happens more often than you think! At least it's not your problem if it does.)
This is the time for a victory cigarette, a quick clean of the band room, to listen to the gig if the band is good or to sit down and chat with your co-workers backstage if they are bad. After all, your job is done and you are still going to be the last one leaving the venue this night.