Relevant


This is Blog 18 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Relevant

Have you heard of Rutger Bregman?

He is the Dutch dude that called out tax avoiding millionaires at Davos and then drove Tucker Carlson into a hissy fit, which sounded like this:

After he went viral twice in a relatively short period of time Bregman dedicated a podcast episode to the events (in Dutch). In the podcast he gives us an insight into the type of conversations he had with his fellow journalists in the days before and after these media moments.

We live in a time where being relevant is all about clicks, views, shares and likes. How do you go viral on social media? And how do you prevent becoming “that guy that pissed off Tucker Carlson” for the rest of your life?

Bregman’s friends and colleagues expressed their concerns to him about what releasing the Tucker Carlson video would do to Rutger Bregman’s life and career. In addition they let him know they had their doubts about whether or not it was actually helping him bring across a message, or if it was actually distracting from it.

Bregman chose to come in “with an outstretched leg”. I’m not sure if this soccer metaphor is used in English at all, but in Dutch it’s a pretty common way to describe an aggressive discussion partner.

In this particular case, Rutger Bregman took out his opponents “for the greater good” and didn’t mind the injuries he may (or may not) have inflicted on the other.

All though it worked out pretty OK for Rutger Bregman I do think it’s a pity that shock-and-awe is becoming such a common thing in conversations and debates. People feel the need to say and do extremer things each time to get a point across, which isn’t exactly good for the atmosphere.

In his podcast Bregman explains that sometimes, to be relevant, you have to choose between being likeable yet forgettable or an asshole that leaves an impression.

A difficult choice.

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Questions


This is Blog 17 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Questions

The other day I watched a Dutch TV documentary with the title “Climate of Confusion” (those of you who understand Dutch can watch it here). A handful of people were interviewed with a varying set of ideas on climate change.

The documentary featured an interview with a wealthy Dutch real estate executive called Niek Sandmann. The point of interest was a substantial donation he had made to a skeptical thinktank (Climate Intelligence).

According to his alternative calculations even our maximum effort would only make 0,0003 of a degree difference, in the end. So, according to Sandmann the whole “climate crisis” and accompanying policies are really just “a storm in a glass of water”, as we say in Dutch, and therefore not worth pursuing.

Sandmann emphasized he is not interested in this for his own sake, as he is already making all his new buildings energy efficient thanks to state-of-the-art technology that he can easily afford.

It is true that for people with low incomes making the transition is not so simple. Also government measures may bring on additional costs in already extremely tight financial situations.

Niek Sandmann

So, Sandmann’s donation to Climate Intelligence is a form of philanthropy for those less fortunate, which is a thought I can appreciate.

By asking the questions he feels mainstream scientists don’t want to ask and digging on grounds that politicians have already built policy plans on top of, he hopes to find out if it is really worth it to continue down this path.

While watching the documentary I complained about mr Sandmann’s skepticism, making parallels with another tanned real estate mogul across the pond. The fact that his appearance would make for a very convincing villain (or white walker) means nothing for the point of this blog (or anywhere really), but I admit it took some effort to get past that as well…

Zombie movie villain or not, I must applaud mr Sandmann for asking unpopular questions and in truth I wish people would do so more often.

Asking questions is only a problem when you aren’t actually interested in the answer or when you only accept the outcome if it is convenient for you.

I will try to keep track of this Climate Intelligence investigation and look forward to reading its conclusions. I may have some questions of my own in return though!

P.C.


This is Blog 16 in my A-Z Blogseries:
P.C.

Urban Dictionary is a website I often turn to when trying to find creative ways to describe a word or when I hear a word being used in a way “on the street” that is unfamiliar to me.

Urban Dictionary is not so much a dictionary as it is a lexicology forum where people post and discuss definitions of words. As we have come to expect when people try to have online conversations, things can get heated very quickly though. Also there are plenty of trolls out there that create, fuel and feed off of online discord.

Political Correctness (or its abbreviation P.C.) is a term that is really interesting to analyze. The internet is hugely divided as to what it means and if it is a good or bad thing. It has become pretty hard to define it without picking a side. The Cambridge Dictionary made an attempt:

Definition according to the Cambridge Online Dictionary

In recent years being called P.C. has actually become an insult. I found this quite confusing at first (and I even wrote a blog about it back in 2016).

A quick scroll through Urban Dictionary produced the following results:

“PC” has come to refer to people who tell you which words you are and are not allowed to use.

A small part of me understands the complaint. It is very annoying to talk to someone who is focusing more on the individual words you are using, instead of the message you are actually trying to bring across.

Sometimes though, the message being conveyed is just as horrible as the words you have chosen to express it. In that case you just need to face it: you are a shitty specimen of a human being and the PC crew is actually right!

Oimoi


This is Blog 15 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Oimoi!

This alphabet challenge thing is messing with my brain…

After I wrote the blog on linguistics I remembered I had wanted to write about Louis CK.

And then when I was writing about Natalia Lafourcade for the letter N, I realized the blog I was writing was actually an ode to her album Musas, which would have made it more appropriate for one letter earlier…

And then, after I had published that blog I realized I totally wanted to dedicate a blog to the Notre Dame… But by then the N was already taken…

Why does it work that way??

So then I decided I would just make up a word (Pyromania) to talk about this Notre Dame situation…

This girl is on fiiiiirrre! (too soon?)

But I still had to do the letter O right, before I could move on to P. So much pressure (and so little result)! Oimoi!

I already started writing my hotheaded pyro-blog, describing my annoyance with the ginormous disproportionate donations that were being promised by billionaire companies and individuals, well before the fire was even under control.

My annoyance spread out into religious matters, global inequality and humanity’s messed up priorities.

Luckily, my thoughts turned out to be quite mainstream. In the following days, as I heard more people echoing the same thoughts I had been having, my anger subsided.

While I was walking home just now I decided I would chuck the angry blogpost I had started to write, straight into the trash…

…and that’s when I received a message from a friend (who had noticed I had been struggling with my O) reminding me that the cathedral’s name actually translates to “Our Lady”…

Is this karma at work?

Natalia Lafourcade

This is Blog 14 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Natalia Lafourcade

Spanish is my third language but it is definitely the most beautiful of the three (and it makes me wish it was my first).

Natalia Lafourcade writes and interprets songs that make me fall in love with the language all over again. The songs are poetic and clever, reintroducing traditional rhythms and instruments into modern day music.

In 2017 she released one of my favorite albums ever; “MUSAS”.

Hearing the songs and seeing the accompanying videos, makes me feel like I was there. Musas is more than just an album. Musas is a cultural project, a movement, a statement.

Someone said it quite well on social media: “We had a tremendous outstanding debt to traditional Latin American music that was expunged when the album Musas was made. ¡Gracias Natalia!”

On the album Natalia reinterprets well-known folkloric songs and introduces new ones, that will undoubtedly become classics as well. The tiny desk concert she did in 2017 gives us a small taste:

Anybody who’s learning Spanish should listen to her music as a mandatory language lesson. Her pronunciation is precise and clear. Also, the fact that her songs are relatively slow make it all easier to follow (and let’s face it, that can be a challenge with spoken Spanish).

The video below is a bonus video for Hispanohablantes that want to immerse themselves in Natalia’s folkloric universe for a bit longer or for Spanish students that are ready for a challenge (there are no subtitles).

She’s a delight, isn’t she? I’m such a huge fan!

Milk

This is Blog 13 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Milk

The Netherlands is a country of dairy producers, processors en consumers.

I am not a huge dairy addict myself, even though a milky-crunchy cereal breakfast is one of my favorite ways to start the day.

When I started to think of ways I could reduce my ecological footprint, dropping milk was actually one of the easiest things to do. Especially now that there are so many tasty alternatives.

First I switched to soy milk, because that was the one I heard about the most. Then I tried almond milk which I quickly decided was much tastier than soy milk. Then I tried a coconut based milk and… wow… that is just such a heavenly combination with cheerios (or its Dutch equivalent) that I now run the risk of not eating anything else ever again…

Then I read an article in which dairy alternatives were discussed and I realized that oat milk was actually the better option, environmentally speaking. The video below is a pretty good summary of what I found out:

I actually hadn’t tried oat milk yet and that wasn’t an accident. I imagined oat milk would be a watery version of oatmeal, which I don’t like the taste nor texture of.

Luckily oat milk turned out to be delicious and I totally recommend it to everyone as a dairy substitute.

Language

This is Blog 12 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Language

My boyfriend, G, and I share a love for language and linguistics.

It happens almost weekly that some odd expression, pronunciation or unusual word makes my ears perk up (and often it is something that I see is simultaneously happening in his mind, which is obviously a huge turn on).

We then tear the matter apart, googling the heck out of it (after we’ve agreed on the best search terms, which sometimes can be challenging enough).

The last word we dove into was “psychopath“, which I now know stems from the Greek words psykhe, meaning mind and the word pathos, meaning suffering.

So a psychopath is, in the purest sense of the word, somebody who has been diagnosed with suffering of the mind.

In modern times we envision a psychopath to be a manipulative charmer that spends his days fantasizing of all the ways he could make you disappear. We would say a psychopath is more often the cause of suffering than the victim of it, wouldn’t we? I suppose we have TV crime-series and horror stories to thank for that.

G and I debated on how much empathy a psychopath really would have. I decided that they actually could have some empathetic abilities in the sense that they recognize feelings and know how to respond to them convincingly. What they lack are soft feelings such as pity and compassion (making them perfect for politics or wall street).

Another word we tried to decipher was “discussion“. Not something you would normally need to look up the meaning of, right? We came to the conclusion however that our personal definitions were quite different, with his being much more negative than mine.

In his view, there is no such thing as a “good discussion”, given that there are always two (or more) people participating with opposed opinions and no real willingness to change that.

In my opinion a debate can be a tool to get closer to the truth and changing your mind about your argument is actually allowed.

This made me realize that being in (his definition of) a discussion is an experience he does not enjoy at all. Now that I know that, I can change the way I react to him when he mentions a discussion he’s had with this or that person.

These elaborate exploratory talks we have (often during breakfast) remind me of how important it is to check during conversations if we are actually talking about the same thing.

Even when your convo partner is using the same words as you are, you may be missing the point completely because you do not know the weight it has for the person across from you.

We are a species blessed with the ability to use language, in spoken form and also through gestures and posture. Putting a little effort into the way you communicate can make life so much easier!