Tuesday, December 30, 2008

circle the sun

With all of the up, down and around in 2008, there's little left to say at this point as we complete the circle on a year like no other. As the editor stamps his paw and signs us off into the promise of 2009, everyone here at felix's daily starfish and waffles wishes you the Happiest of New Years.

See you in January.


Strong, charismatic, and beautiful. As we sign off on 2008, we leave you with a snapshot of an Aleppo Pine, signature tree of the Mediterranean. Wied iż-Żurrieq, Malta. (2008).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

god jul från sjöstjärnor och våfflor

Just because we've taken our act across the pond, it doesn't mean we've left our old holiday traditions behind ... like the legendary starfish and waffles office Christmas party ... and, of course, the Christmas Pineapple!

The hard-working staff of felix's daily starfish and waffles wishes you the choicest of pineapple rings and the very best of the 2008 holiday season. Merry Christmas!


The esteemed Editor-in-Chief of felix's daily starfish and waffles - pictured here next to the 2008 Christmas Pineapple - celebrates the happy holiday season with cheer at the office Christmas party. (PS- Note the editor's Christmas colour-coordinated earwarmers!)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

solstice dog

Scientists define winter solstice as "the very moment at which the sun's position in the sky is at the greatest angular distance from the side opposite of the equatorial plane in the observer's given hemisphere." What?? All I know is that it's really dark and, at these northern Scandinavian latitudes, I'm watching the sun set at 3pm, sleeping approximately 20 hours a day, and not getting any work done. Bleh. Is there any respite in sight from this perpetual night? (Sidenote: hey, that rhymes!)


The ravenous editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles gets ready to gorge on a Five Alarm Ox-Chili Chorizo Dog. Lund, Sweden. (2008). And, in case you were wondering, no, the editor has not grown antlers. His ears are merely cold from the winter weather and he's using IKEA finger puppets as ear-warmers. (I will admit, however, he does look a bit like a reindeer).

One plus from all of the dark: it is causing me to eat more. And really, in the dead of winter, who doesn't enjoy relishing in a little gluttony? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Lucky for you, because starfish and waffles is now primarily a service website devoted to all matters philanthropic, we're going to kindly share another recipe from the dingobear kitchen in order to aid and abet your very own insatiable taste for overeating on this shortest day of the year. As the Scandies here say: hurra!

But bear in mind that this recipe isn't just any recipe. Our original Five Alarm Ox-Chili Chorizo Dogs have been carefully chef-ed (note: two syllables in the word "chef-ed") to combat the harsh conditions symptomatic of the winter solstice. Comfort food? Yes. Delicious? Yes. Heart healthy? HAHAHAHAHA! Good one. Sounds like you need an ox-chili chorizo dog, wise guy.

Five Alarm Ox-Chili Chorizo Dogs (Winter Solstice Edition)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
sea salt to taste
oregano to taste
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
500g lean ground ox (if ox is unavailable, ground beef is also acceptable - I guess.)
500g can of crushed tomatoes
400g can of organic baked beans
4 chorizo smokies
4 crusty kaiser rolls

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sweat them by adding several dashes of sea salt. Toss with a wooden spoon (can't in good conscience make real chili without using a wooden spoon) until the onions become coated with olive oil and start to become aromatic. Next, add in the ground ox. Cook and stir until the meat is no longer pink.

Stir in the beans, tomatoes, and red pepper. Season with chili powder and oregano. Bring your hot, hot, chili pot to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Mmmmm.

While the chili is simmering, in a separate pot, bring water to a boil over high heat and add the chorizo smokies. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer the dogs for 15 minutes or until they split, whichever comes first.

Serve the dogs inside fresh kaiser rolls and top with chili. Eat, enjoy, and then do it all over again!

***
For more original recipes from the dingobear kitchen, please refer to the corresponding section on the left sidebar of this webpage.

Monday, December 15, 2008

san andreas


A calm, peaceful file photo of some ivy leaves in October, on a day when there wasn't an earthquake that woke me up at 6am in the morning. Lund, Sweden. (2008).

***
Well, that was a first ... but I never really expected it would happen in Sweden. About an hour ago, I was awoken by the rattling of my bedroom windows. The culprit? An earthquake(!) registering about 4.7 on the Richter scale, according to this article in The Local, Sweden's English-language newspaper. Exciting!

But no worries, lest you be concerned, me and the editor are fine.

Friday, December 12, 2008

danish tom cruise

Back in the summer, I had scrawled about a spontaneous trip to Helsingør and sent the text up for review. Unfortunately, the piece never saw the light of day ... I guess it just didn't pass muster with the editor's exacting literary standards. What can I say? The bear usually knows best when it comes to decisions like this.

Given the related content of the last post, however, he's reconsidered his initial position and rescued this long-lost write-up from the cutting room floor. Imperfect as it may be, sometimes, completeness takes precedence.


The "Brohus" (I think that means "bridge house", in Danish), which guards the bridge leading over the moat to Kronberg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).

***
Guilty of guidebook travel, the Lonely Planet decides that we're not long for Helsingborg minutes upon boarding the Öresundtåg, the high speed train that races up, down, and around our corner of Scandinavia. Helsingborg - and I hate to say it - just sounds too boring.

"Well, we could take the ferry across to Helsingør on the Danish side, and go to the Hamlet castle," I nonchalantly suggest without looking up from the pages of said Lonely Planet.

"Give me that," Connie cuts in with impish smile, snatching the book away from me. I always did have something of a weakness for girls with impish smiles.

Before long, Connie nods.

Helsingør, it is.

***
For would-be tourists, the big drawing card of Helsingør, Denmark (population: 35,000) is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kronberg Slot, a castle that overlooks the narrowest point of the Öresund, a channel of sea that separates Denmark and Sweden. Although Kronberg's strategic importance seems an obvious consequence of geography, the castle isn't famous for its military exploits but, rather, literary ones. Indeed, Kronberg - or Elsinore Castle, as it is also known - is, in fact, the the setting for one of William Shakespeare's most famous tragedies: Hamlet.

Yet, for all of the rain, darkness, murder, vengeance, and insanity which defines Hamlet, I find it somewhat ironic that we get to discover Kronberg on a summery, blue sky day. I mean, this isn't right. Where's the doom and gloom? Where's the Tom Cruise crazy? Where's the 16th century Danish court delivering impassioned prose in English iambic pentameter? I want to see some drama break out in all of its Shakespearean glory, damn it!

Everything just seems so - pleasant. But I suppose it's just as well. Right now, there's enough going on in real life that no additional drama is necessary. So, instead, I just enjoy the day for what it is: some nice, quality time spent with someone who I can find happiness in spending some nice, quality time with. And, really, there's no tragedy in that.


Kronberg Slot - the Hamlet Castle itself - on a blue sky day in June. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).


Kronberg Slot's main banquet hall. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008). This is the scene of Hamlet's famous play-within-a-play, where the re-enactment of his father's murder is used by Prince Hamlet to gauge the reaction (and guilt) of his uncle and usurper of the throne, Claudius.


Kronberg Slot from beyond the moat. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).


Ubiquitous, middle-aged, Japanese tourists photographing Kronberg Slot. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).


The "Kulturcaféen," an icon of urban decay in North Zealand, is an eyesore of interest within earshot of Kronberg Slot. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).

Thursday, December 04, 2008

three violets and a rose


Connie at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. (2008).

First
The first time I was in the Swedish coastal city of Helsingborg, it was nothing more than a two-way pass-through. I was en route, with Connie, across the Öresund to Denmark and the Hamlet Castle of Helsingør. Later that night, we came back the same way. For all intents and purposes, it had been a fine day, like so many with Connie were.

That was almost six months ago, in the short space between midsummer and the moment she left. Onto greener pastures, Connie's in Hong Kong now. I haven't called. I'm not really sure why.

Second
Sarah's invited us to take the train up to Helsingborg for Julskyltning, the first day of Advent. Sure, why not? I take almost any excuse to spend time with members of the Berliner crew since it always seems to be good company, good times.

For all intents and purposes, it's a fine day. A walk along the seashore. Late lunch at a cozy café. Huddling with the crowds to to watch the crowning of this year's Santa Lucia, the lighting of the city Christmas tree, the loud fireworks.

That night, at some point over warm glögg, crunchy pepparkakor, and laughter amongst new friends, I shake my head at the apparent randomness of it all. 'Tis the season. Surely, there's something to be said for second chances when so many others don't have any.


Sean and Kajsa on the boardwalk along the shoreline of Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008). Fun fact: Helsingborg is home to the international corporate headquarters of IKEA, your favourite Swedish flat-packed furniture store.


Sean, Kajsa, and Sarah on the boardwalk in aquatone colours. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).


Sepia tones of Helsingborg Harbour. (2008).


Kajsa. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).


Sarah. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).


Julskyltning fireworks over the medieval tower of Kärnan. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).


Sarah takes a shot of the newly lit Christmas tree with her cell phone. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

cottage industry


Winter's early arrival in Lund, Sweden. (2008). Buy cards and wall art of this shot and many others at the dingobear photography online art store.

***
And now, a quick word from starfish and waffles corporate headquarters.

The revamped dingobear photography online art store is now open for business, just in time for the holiday season! Scientifically proven to be at least 33% better* than ever before, our popular e-store is your exclusive stop for archive-quality (we're actually serious about the quality) cards, posters, prints, and wall art of your favourite pictures seen here on starfish and waffles. To ensure shipping and delivery by Christmas, order now!

And, as usual, for those of you interested in stock photography, my work continues to be represented at Alamy Images and Corbis SnapVillage. All work listed there is available for licensing in a variety of commercial and editorial uses including books, billboards, newspapers, magazines, websites, and advertising.

If you have any questions or special requests, just drop us a line.

End communication.

* Real science may not have actually been used. Degrees of increased realized awesomeness may vary.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

six ways from sunday: fine lines


Lone pine on Palatine Hill in Rome, Italy. (2008).

***
In the faceless crush of the city, a man sits on a bench and stares into space while everything around him - sun, clouds, traffic, and crowds - speeds by in time-lapse fast forward. Is he the calm in the eye of an urban storm or an outcast outsider excluded from the hurry of the consensus normal? For all the artistic, split-toned cinematography, I don't know. But maybe any question which seeks to map the dominion of the normal is inherently unfair anyway. After all, these are things drawn and separated by fine lines.

So, about the man on the bench: sometimes, when life swirls at a clip unsynchronized with everything else, a tired and lonely mind results. But one has to figure, like the fleetingness of blue-sky rain, things look to get better from here.

This motion picture is in need of a soundtrack, which is why we're here. As is customary with our (now) regular Six Ways from Sunday music column, active links below lead to full-length, YouTube clips of a six-pack mix tape. Happy listening, wherever you are.


1. Let Go :: Frou Frou :: Details (2002). Imogen Heap's lush and expressive vocals layer Guy Sigsworth's ambient production values in Let Go, a track best known for its inclusion in the soundtrack of Garden State, a generation-defining independent film starring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman. (Rent it, if you haven't seen it yet). "So, let go ... so, let go / Jump in / Oh well, whatcha waiting for? / It's all right / 'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown."


2. Such Great Heights :: Iron & Wine :: Such Great Heights (2003). Samuel Beam's slowdown, heart-wrenching, acoustic cover of the Postal Service's very different electro-pop original (whose riffs scored several UPS TV commercials that aired in North America). "True, it may seem like a stretch / But it's thoughts like this / That catch my troubled head / When you're away, when I am missing you to death."


3. Breathe Me :: Sia :: Colour the Small One (2004). Once a backup singer for Jamiroquai, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Australian Sia Furler stuns centre stage with the piano-driven melody, Breathe Me. The track featured prominently in the finale of the cult-hit HBO series, Six Feet Under. "Help, I have done it again / I have been here many times before / Hurt myself again today / And, the worst part is there's no one else to blame."


4. In the Waiting Line :: Zero 7 :: Simple Things (2001). The soothing, soulful voice of Sophie Barker buttresses the jazzy, sophisticated, trip-hop of Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker. "Do you believe in what you see? / Motionless wheel, nothing is real / Wasting my time in the waiting line."


5. Pink Moon :: Nick Drake :: Pink Moon (1972). Nick Drake embodies the mood of this post more than any other on the list. Lonely, clinically depressed, and wildly talented, the English folk-rocker died from an overdose of anti-depressants in 1974. Like many an artist, posthumous success has found Drake. Volkswagen licensed Pink Moon for a well-received TV commercial around a decade ago, which added to Drake's growing legend. "I saw it written and I saw it say / Pink moon is on the way / And none of you stand so tall / Pink moon gonna get you all."


6. I Will Follow You Into the Dark :: Death Cab for Cutie :: Plans (2005). The Pacific Northwest, indie-rock stylings of Ben Gibbard and Company soundtrack an instant YouTube video classic. Everyone loves the rabbits. "If heaven and hell decide / That they both are satisfied / Illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs / If there's no one beside you / When your soul embarks / Then I'll follow you into the dark."

Friday, November 14, 2008

tilt / shift


After the rain in Marsaxlokk, Malta. (2008).

Tilt
Tilt your head around my way, we'll see this to the end;
Because I can no longer fight you where
Our thoughts and words leave little spared
But karmas bruised and hearts despaired
With nothing to defend.

So waste no time, let's float away
These high-wield hatchets, divisive ways;
To far-off places around the globe
Where tempests fade and harbours save
Our faint-lit hopes for better days.

Shift
Shift your green eyes onto mine, just think what we'll discover here;
Soul and silence, Swedish summer,
Sleepless dreams for one another
Resurrected without cover,
Soaring through our stratosphere.

We'll share broad vistas, perfect views
Of horizons lost in shades of blue,
Sunbeamed flowers after rain,
These cool-cleansed skies speak truth again,
Memories wax and moments wane, through all the years I'll still love you.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

compass notes


Big city, Legoland giraffe at Potsdamer Platz. Berlin, Germany. (2008). The giraffe was life-size, maybe about 15 feet (5 metres) tall. We didn't have time to actually go into Legoland, which is something I will deeply regret for years.

***
"That way," points Sarah, without even glancing once at the befuddling city map full of sidestreets, bus stops, and U-Bahn stations. See, the beautiful thing about traveling with a group of geographers is the uncanny sense of direction, the impossibility of getting lost. Now, this, is something I can get used to.

***
For a European city, Berlin sprawls like you wouldn't expect. In fact, the German capital covers nine(!) times more square mileage than Paris and, on this day, it feels like we've walked the surface nine times over. Not that I'm complaining though as, really, I wouldn't have it any other way. Transport on wheels is for losers.

***
We turn the corner at the British Embassy, and chase the setting sun through the Brandenburg Gate. Then it's up the elevator to the roof of the Bundestag, good for admiring night views and rubbing elbows with the moon. Nice.

***
"This way," motions Sarah. Double-decker bus to Alexanderplatz. U-bahn to Eberswalder Strauße. I shrug; the geographers, on the other hand, know the way. Let's run with it.

***
Classic gentrificaton? Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the inner city borough of Prenzlauer Berg has gone bohemian and upmarket. Pubs, cafés, restaurants, and boutique shops bracket the tree-lined streets. African is the choice for late-night dinner. Anna sticks to vegetarian. I opt for the ostrich. Joachim, who eats no red meat, does the same. I say nothing. Hehehe.

***
Last call is at a wine bar (still in Prenzlauer, I think?) where you buy the services of a glass for one euro and then help yourself to a wide selection white, red and rosé tipple until you're seeing double. The honour system applies: upon exit, you return your wine glass and make a "fair" donation. We're students, this seems like a good deal.

Skål!


One row behind the freshly renovated, street-facing facades of Prenzlauer Berg, lie apartment buildings more reminiscent of the pre-Berlin Wall period. Berlin, Germany. (2008).


Strange brew: urban geography students at an animal farm owned by squatters' in the inner city borough of Kreuzberg. Berlin, German. (2008). I never would have expected to see horses, goats, ducks and chickens in central Berlin. From left to right: Jan, Cécile, Ralitsa, Kerstin, Elisabeth, and Christophe.


Walking toward the setting sun behind the Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz. Berlin, Germany. (2008). From left to right: Kajsa, Sarah, Joachim, Anna, Kerstin, and Sean.


Joachim and Vanna over a couple of beers at a pub in Kreuzberg. Berlin, Germany. (2008).


Something of a rare shot of Sarah looking somewhat confused. Berlin, Germany. (2008).


Looking toward Potsdamer Platz from the roof of the Bundestag. Berlin, Germany. (2008).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

berliner bear


The night skyline of the new Berlin from the rooftop terrace of the Bundestag (German Parliament) on a chilly, October evening. (2008). The recognizable TV Tower stands proudly in the distance.

***
On a gorgeous Monday afternoon, I count seven of us seated on the six-person bike, peddling madly at low gear to move at a Sunday's pace down the Unter den Linden.

"Berlin's Champs-Élysées," smiles Pierre, the proud Frenchman who hails from no less than Versailles itself, to no one in particular.

Indeed, this is really something. Sight of sights, here we are, seven geography students from six different countries, making the two kilometre (1.2 mile) ride from the TV Tower in Alexanderplatz to the entrance of the Brandenburg Gate on a strange, cycling contraption. A mild commotion ensues: highly amused tourists wave and snap away with their cameras while annoyed, eye-rolling drivers stew stuck in their shiny VW's.

For a second, I think of the annals of life and history, the countless confluence of events that make this highly improbable occasion in the heart of the former East Berlin actually possible.

Unbelievable.

Yet, I'm not going to ruin this mood by over-thinking it ... reflection is for later. For now, I just enjoy my moment in the sun, knowing that there's nowhere else I would rather be.

More from Berlin to come.


Lit up to the blazes, the nighttime colours of the Brandenburg Gate, one of the most important landmarks in German and European history, make for a distinct memory. Berlin, Germany. (2008).


One of the last-remaining chunks of the Berlin Wall. (2008).


One American and five Swedes: Sean, Anna, Joachim, Vanna, Sarah, and Kajsa. Berlin, Germany. (2008). This great group of friends waited patiently in the cold with minimal complaints while I set up a multitude of night shots on the tripod throughout the evening. This particular photo was taken on the roof of the Bundestag. The Bundestag Dome, which overlooks the floor of the German Parliament, is in the background.


Bike and crew at journey's end, the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin, Germany. (2008).


The bike crew at the base of the 368-metre (1207-foot) TV Tower (or Fernsehturm, in German) in Alexanderplatz. Berlin, German. (2008). From left to right: Goya (Iran), Ralitsa (Bulgaria), Christophe (Germany), Iris (Hong Kong), Jan (Germany), and Pierre (France).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

king of prussia

Long gone are the days of lame school trips to the local museum, butcher shop, and cracker factory.

Berlin, Germany. Now that's a field trip. Yeah!


An outtake from summer, the reflection of the Universidad de Deusto and the Puente Pedro Arrupe on the Ría de Bilbao in Bilbao, Spain. (2008).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

decision 2008: deep dish

What? Another election? No, we don't mean the upcoming US Presidential election that everyone's supposedly an expert on, but rather today's Canadian mudslingin' of a vote. Well, yee-haw! And giddy-up.

Sorry if we sound a little jaded, but quite frankly, we here at the fiercely independent headquarters of starfish and waffles grow tired of the fast-talking politicians and the mindless partisans who blindly follow. Isn't there anyone out there who can give the good bears and citizens of this fine nation what they deserve? Good government! Fiscal prudence! Enlightened problem solving! Inspired political vision!

Or, barring these things, you'd think at least we could get a tasty slice of pizza.


Peanut, the famous editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles and a future Governor-General of the Dominion of Canada, enjoys a morning slice of his very own Political Pundit Pan Pizza with a customary shot of (Swedish!) Absolut vodka.

Thankfully, disgruntled electorate, starfish and waffles is in tune with the issues nearest and dearest to your democratically inclined heart. Skeptical? Please, look at our track record. Back in 2006, we candidly spoke out on the controversial soda vs. pop debate. Then, a year later, we came up with a lasting, consensus-building solution.

And, we implore, this year will be no different as we present you with ... (drum roll please) ... Peanut's Political Pundit Pan Pizza, a pizza pie so perfectly palatable, anyone on the political spectrum oughta be able to agree on it! Don't believe us? Well, if not, then you - sir or madam - are, quite frankly, some kind of fascist-commie. Yes, that's right, you heard me: fascist-commie. Yeah, I went there!

Peanut's Political Pundit Pan Pizza
3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2-1/4 cups of unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
several dashes of dried oregano
several dashes of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of honey
4 grams of quick-rise dry yeast
3/4 cups of hot water
150 mL of pizza sauce or puréed tomatoes
250 grams of mozzarella, grated
1 tomato, sliced
4-5 crimini brown mushrooms, sliced
1/8 of a green bell pepper, diced
1/8 of an orange bell pepper, diced
12-15 slices of pepperoni
12-15 slices of smoked ham
crushed pineapple chunks

Start with the olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Next, dump in 2 cups of the unbleached flour; reserve the remaining 1/4 cup in a separate bowl in case you need this extra flour to dust your pizza dough later. Then, add the salt, thyme, and oregano to the flour mixture.

Separately, measure out the dry yeast in a large coffee mug. Spoon in the honey. Next, pour in the hot water; make sure it is scalding merely very hot. Stir vigorously together. Once you're satisfied that the yeast is blended in with the water and honey, pour the entire concoction in your mixing bowl with the flour mixture.

Now, to the nitty-gritty of working the pizza dough. Using your bare hands, mix and meld the mixing bowl ingredients until a nice, consistent blob of pizza dough has formed. It shouldn't be too sticky (dust it with some flour if it is), nor should it be too dry. The dough should feel warm, soft and a bit moist.

After several minutes of mixing and melding, cover the mixing bowl for about 5 minutes to let the dough rise. Then, slowly pound-out and spread your the dough evenly onto a 12" pizza sheet. The crust at the edges of the pan should be shaped somewhat higher.

Preheat your oven to 400F or 200C. Spoon the pizza sauce on the dough. Layer on top of the sauce the pepperoni and ham; toss on the crimini brown mushrooms where there are gaps. Add the sliced tomatoes, diced green and red bell peppers, and the crushed pineapple. Next, add the mozzarella - and now you're essentially done the prepping.

Once the oven is ready, place your pizza in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is a nice, melted goldie-brown colour.

Take your pizza out of the oven. Slice, eat, enjoy, and go vote!

***
For more original recipes from the dingobear kitchen, please refer to the corresponding links on the left sidebar of this page.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

stumped


A reflection off the finely waxed floor of the sleek, Santiago Calatrava-designed Aeropuerto de Bilbao (Bilbao Airport). I turned my camera upside-down to get the reflection right-side up. Sondika, Spain. (2008).

***
Consider this your skill-testing question of the day.

Say, you live in a small, isolated town in the far, far north of Canada. You are in desperate need of a haircut. There are only two hairstylists in town. One has stunningly beautiful, gorgeous hair. The other has gag-inducing, hideous hair. Both have gonorrhea. Who do you choose to cut your hair, and why? (Assume you have stumps for hands due to an incident with a polar bear and, therefore, cannot cut your own hair).

Me and the editor await your reply.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

six ways from sunday: rainy adventures in lo-fi


Even in the midst of a torrential downpour, the wheels on the bus go round-and-round in Marsaxlokk, Malta. (2008).

***
In the opening lines of the hit film, High Fidelity, the main character who's played by John Cusack, asks himself in a spate of frustration:

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

We, here at felix's daily starfish and waffles, don't have immediate answers, but these sonic dilemmas somehow seem appropriate to ponder on stormy Swedish Sundays like today. What can you do? We say: just slip on your headphones, press play, and drift away. When the music stops, you'll be as right as rain - we promise.

With that, here's a sampler six-pack of indie pop fodder for your rainy day, euphonic pleasure; active links below turn on the volume for full-length YouTube clips. Enjoy or, as the case may be, wallow with all your heart's content.


1. Elevator Love Letter :: Stars :: Heart (2003). The opposing male-female vocals of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan front this clear-and-catchy number from the Montréal-based indie pop rockers. "Don't go / Say you'll stay / Spend a lazy Sunday in my arms / I won't take anything away."


2. Please Please Please :: Shout Out Louds :: Howl Howl Gaff Gaff (2005). Energetic arrangements, straight ahead rock-pop, and melodic hooks feature in this standout single from the Stockholm quintet. "But we're all happy 'cause the streets they're always there for us / And it's quite scary when you wake up in the same old clubs / It's getting darker and I know this time wasn't meant for us / So won't you please, please, please come back to me?"


3. Hand On Your Heart :: José González :: Stay in the Shade (2006). The Swedish singer-songwriter scores big in a stunning, acoustic rendition which sounds a world apart from the Kylie Minogue original. "You know it's one thing to say you love me / But another to mean it from the heart / And if you don't intend to see it through / Why did we ever start?"


4. Untouchable Face :: Ani DiFranco :: Dilate (1996). With 21 (and counting) albums released in the past 20 years, there isn't much that hasn't already been said about this prolific punk-folkie from Buffalo, New York. Delivering live performances like no other, Untouchable Face is vintage Ani. "You'll look like a photograph of yourself taken from far, far away / And I won't know what to do / And I won't know what to say / Except fuck you / And your untouchable face / And fuck you / For existing in the first place."


5. Long Lost Penpal :: Hello Saferide :: Introducing ... Hello Saferide (2005). Hailing from Östersund, Sweden, writer-singer-songwriter Annika Norlin is Hello Saferide, delivering quirky and ironic melodies wrapped in dry-humoured, Scandinavian style. Norlin blogs about some of her very own long lost penpals here. "Hello / Do you remember me / I am your long lost penpal / It must have been ten years ago we last wrote / I don't really know what happened / I guess life came in the way."


6. Pictures of You :: The Cure :: Disintegration (1989). Not so much indie rock as a throwback to 1980's post-punk pop revival, this obscure single from The Cure still sounds as good as the day it was first released. "I've been looking so long at these pictures of you / That I almost believe that they're real / I've been living so long with my pictures of you / That I almost believe, that the pictures are all I can feel."