Mind cleanup – Jan/Feb 2020

As January passed me by, I realized I had very little mind-rubbish to clean out. So I decided to wait until the end of February to go through my mental cobwebs.

I hope everyone had a wonderful leap day!

Musing: What is pride?

I’m not sure when, where or why it started, but something triggered me to try and decipher the concept of “pride”.

I know the word has somehow gotten entangled with the LGBTQ community, but that is not the aspect of it that has been on my mind.

What I have been gnawing on, is the feeling of pride in general.

How do you describe it? Does it have something to do with love? It usually has to do with an accomplishment, I guess.

You can be proud of yourself, which I kind of get.

But how is it that you can be proud of someone else? What is that and how does it work? If a mother is proud a child, you could say she feels pride for having created a being that is now accomplishing so-and-so. But how can I be proud of a friend? Is it the same as saying “I am happy for you”?

I’m still untangling that one… Insights are welcome!

Films / Series

I started watching ‘The Good Place‘, which I found wildly amusing. Such an interesting storyline!

Questions of morality and defining what makes someone “good” remind me of some of the episodes in Black Mirror. Contrary to Black Mirror though, the Good Place does not emphasize how shitty we are as a species and actually let’s you sleep comfortably at night.

I also watched A Monster Calls, which is a beautifully touching movie about grief. It reminded me of ‘Big Fish’. I definitely cried.

I also re-watched the Avatar (Last Aribender) TV series, which first aired 15 years ago. I have an odd fascination for the series. I admire the simpleness of the individual episodes and the intense complexity of the overall story. I started watching the Korra spinoff years ago but it didn’t quite have the same effect on me.

Music

My wonderful friend Zeef gave me tickets for Avi Kaplan‘s concert in Paradiso, Amsterdam on the 22nd of January. It was awesome. Anyone who has the chance to see him live, should go. His studio songs are good, but live he is breathtaking. My favorite song of the set is a song he hasn’t released yet, but I’m sure he will soon. It’s called Nature Girl. Once it’s available on Spotify or YouTube, I’ll be sure to post it.

If you’re into Avi’s music and also enjoy bands like Coldplay or Keane I’m sure you would also enjoy Dutch band Haevn. I was about to say they just released a new album, but it turns out it’s actually an old album that I’m only now discovering. It’s music that’s comfortable to have on in the background but also interesting enough to listen to on the foreground.

And for the true romantics among us, I recommend John Legend‘s song Conversations in the dark. I know, I should’ve mentioned it before Valentine’s day… But hey, there is always next year,

I just remembered I also recently stumbled upon a Youtube vid in which John Legend explains the lyrics and meaning of his song Penthouse Floor. If you didn’t already love him, you will now:

Other recent discoveries:

  • Shey Baba
  • Sam Brookes
  • Cynthia Erivo (yes, thanks to her Oscar performance)

I realize all of the above musicians are quite… eum… solemn? Apparently that was my mood these last two months.

Tech

At work our laptops run on Linux and I’ve been considering switching over at home as well. The only thing stopping me is that, at work, I can ask my IT-buddies to help me update or change things which makes me feel like I would completely fail with my own PC at home… I’ve watched a few tutorials. It’s a lot of Abracadabra lingo, but the steps seem doable. All I’ve got to do now is find the balls (and time, I guess)…

My list and taskmanager app of choice, Wunderlist, will be discontinued this May, after having been taken over by Microsoft. Booooo!

I tested a few non-Micorosoft ( I know, I’m childish that way) alternatives and came to the following conclusions:

  • ToDoist
    • It’s too strictly a planner thing.
    • It all revolves around what will I do today & tomorrow
    • It wants me to order everything in projects… So even my groceries are a project now?
    • In Wunderlist I have a lot of useless lists (names I would give a Cat, Places I want to go, Gift ideas for my mother, etc) which I wouldn’t know where to put in todoist.
    • CONCLUSION: Nope.
  • Any.do
    • Looks pretty basic, but turns out having a lot of different pages and views
    • I found it all kind of confusing , especially since you need the premium account for a lot of the options. It annoys me that all the stuff I can’t use are constantly in my face (Todoist did the same btw).
    • CONCLUSION: No
  • Ike
    • A bit rigid in its layout (every category always has to have the four priority blocks).
    • I did some experiments and could definitely work with it…
    • CONCLUSION: OK, but not quite.
  • Meistertask
    • I used it for a few weeks now and kind of of like it.
    • I am annoyed by the limits of the “free version” which makes me not want to switch to the Pro-version (because it makes me feel like I don’t have a choice).
    • CONCLUSION: It’s the one I’m sticking with for now
  • Trello
    • I’ve been recommended this one by several people.
    • CONCLUSION: Haven’t tried it yet.

Today is the 1st of March. It’s my dad’s birthday. Happy 73rd, daddyo!

UPDATE: WordPress tells me this is my 200th post on this blog. Congratulations to me!

Mind Cleanup Nov 19

The “wiggle room” I was anticipating in my previous mind cleanup didn’t fully materialize yet, but I have good hopes it is on its way (all though I do realize chilled-outness is not what Decembers are usually known for…).

Bee Family Day

November started out with a family reunion, thought out and partially organized by my dad. His health and energy level didn’t really allow him to be as involved as he might have liked, though. I did all “the online stuff”, prepared the slides for the presentations and did some of the small logistical stuff.

Because my name was at the bottom of all the invitations, confirmations and additional info I got a lot of credit for the whole day, which was nice, but perhaps not entirely justified. I just played along though. 😂

In the end, the day was a success and my dad was super happy. I met a lot of new family members and had a chance to re-evaluate some of our “typical family traits”.

After my father welcomed everyone, my aunt held a presentation about the family tree and what you can see on the My Heritage website. An uncle / cousin (several times removed) played a classical guitar piece he had composed himself. He also held a short speech about the finances of the family’s foundation that takes care of the family graves.

My hope that a third family member would come forward with some cool family stories, didn’t really come to fruition… so I decided to do it myself… which is actually atypical behavior for me… but it went well and it also means I get to strike “get better at public speaking” from my bucketlist. YAY!

Bolivia

Bolivia is the heart of South America and a notoriously complicated country. I lived there for eight years as a child and always joked with my brother that I would be the president one day, but that he had to be my front (as he was born in the country and I was not).

The current state of the country really breaks my heart. It angers me that Evo Morales clung to power in the way that he did and that he did nothing to make a smooth change of power possible. It saddens me to see the country so terribly divided (which in all truth it always kind of was).

I’d pray my heart out for Bolivia, if I believed in such things. It’s a country that has so much going for it but always relapses into self-destructive behavior.

Lines from the country’s national anthem have been ringing in my head the last few weeks (like a prayer?):

Al estruendo marcial que ayer fuera y al clamor de la guerra horroroso,
siguen hoy, en contraste armonioso, dulces himnos de paz y de unión.

The martial turmoil of yesterday and the horrible clamor of war are followed today, in harmonious contrast, by sweet hymns of peace and unity.

Vamos Bolivia, you can do it. I believe in you. I know you don’t need a white European girl telling you how to fix your shit but at least take the message in your own national anthem to heart and look up those sweet hymns of peace and unity!

Music

This new Jamie Cullum song struck a chord.

Rudi & Freddie Self Help tips

Earlier this year I heard a podcast episode from one of my favorite Dutch journalists that I have been recommending to anyone who might be (slightly) interested.

The podcast show is called the Rudi & Freddie Show, staring Rutger Bregman (Rudi) and Jesse Frederiks (Freddie). Officially they are a historian and economist but most of all, they are two smart dudes that can’t help but ask “why is that?” at every corner they turn.

Absolute facts make them suspicious and their skills as academics and modern day journalists give them the tools to disentangle the facts from the opinions, gut feelings and bullshit arguments. They don’t always agree with each other. Better even, they don’t always agree with their own (past) selves. I have tremendous respect for people that are able to admit they were wrong when presented with new facts or experiences and are willing to change.

I am sad to inform the majority of the planet that their podcasts are only available in Dutch, but if you ever needed a motivation to learn our impossible little language, being able to understand their discussions should help.

After having made fun of (the popularity of) self help books, they decided to embrace the “if you can’t beat them join them” philosophy, and come up with their own recommendations for a better life. In an episode that was posted online last April they discussed their ideas.

Starting in December I want to share a few of the R&F Self help tips. I will share one per post, perhaps continuing with the tradition with tips of my own, after the R&F ones run out.

Mind Cleanup – Sept ’19

NEWS

  • All though I have been trying (again) to lower my intake of Drumpf related news, I would be lying if I said the anticipation of a possible impeachment has not been on my mind. Small as the chance may be that he’s actually kicked out of office before his term ends, I do applaud the effort. At the same time, I also realize it will fuel an already polarized situation, with potentially violent outcomes.

  • Another news story I’ve been trying to keep track of is the Saudi Arabia – Iran conflict. This could possibly be the start of something major. I don’t want to say WWIII, but…. The additional tragedy is (once again) Yemen, that never seems to be taken seriously; not when they say they are starving and beg for help, nor when they say they have taken matters in their own hands and have bombed Saudi oil supplies. They are the angry child that quietly turns into a psychopathic killer while the parents are too busy making each other’s lives miserable…

MUSIC

Mayra Andrade is a fascinating singer. She’s from Cape Verde. As a Spanish speaker, I can understand a bit of Portuguese but when Mayra mixes it up with Cape Verdian creole all I have left to go on is the melody and her voice. And Oh my goodness, she is so pretty!!

Because I listen to her regularly YouTube recommended the above video to me, which in turn introduced me to the COLOR channel… which indeed added a bunch of colorful new tunes to my playlists. Look up the Teskey brothers, for example, that bring some pretty convincing blues from down under! And what about BJ the Chicago Kid (I’m guessing he’s from the windy city), Brazilian Luedji Kuna, French Angele or Cameroonian Blick Bassy. The list goes on and on!

MOVIES / TV

I started watching a Danish series called Rita. Remarkably entertaining. I’m not hooked in a way that I want to binge on it, but definitely amusing.

FOOD

Even though I am nearing the age of 35, my mother still doesn’t believe I can cook. I don’t blame her. Until quite recently, I didn’t believe I could either. Life is funny that way.

When I told my mom I wanted to cook for her for a change, she couldn’t help but laugh at me. Even when I started chopping away at her kitchen counter, she shook her head at me in affectionate ridicule. My dad was a bit apprehensive as well.

The sweet potato curry won them over in the end (even though my dad felt the need to mention it looked like something that had already been eaten and eeummm regurgitated by someone else).

The ingredients (for 2p):

  • 1 onion
  • grated or chopped ginger (approx 3 cm-ish)
  • 2 small (or 1 larger?) sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons of currypowder
  • tomato paste (I must say I have made this recipe several times, with different amounts of tomato paste each time and it always turns out OK. All I can say is that it should be somewhere between one and four tablespoons)
  • 250 ml of coconut milk
  • red lentils (again, superbad at estimating the right amount… but eummm… somewhere between one and two handfuls. :P)
  • fresh spinach (as much as you (and your pan) can handle)
  • fresh koriander
  • pumpkin seeds

It’s just a matter of chopping, mixing and cooking all of the above in one pan until everything is soft and yummy. The last two ingredients are nicest if you add them as a garnish.

Eummm yah, reading that back does explain why my mom was laughing at me, I guess… 😛

Mind Cleanup – 2019

My last Mind Cleanup blog dates back to October 2018. They used to be a regular thing and I had some fixed categories I could choose from, to help my cleaning session along, which I have included below (mostly to help me write the next one).

Mind Cleanup Categories:

  • NEWS
  • MUSIC
  • MOVIES / TV
  • FOOD
  • SELF REFLECTION
  • LOOKY HERE (pages, blogs or info you recommend others to check out)
  • THUMBS UP
  • THUMBS DOWN
  • EPIPHANIES

I am also thinking of adding one more category honoring a person, organization or story that “won the month”. This idea is inspired by Fivedotoh.com’s Fandango, who in turn was inspired by MSNBC’s Joy Reid (Who Won the Week).

So, if I were to do a quick mind cleanup of the first half of 2019, it might look a bit like this:

NEWS – people-on-the-streets edition

  • France in turmoil with yellow vest movement taking to the streets to express anger towards status quo. The 26 minute documentary below, explains what sparked it and what fuels it:
  • Venezuelan turmoil is so very different from the anger in France. And at the same time, it’s very much the same.
  • A heart-mending reaction to the sorrow felt after the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand:

MUSIC

Since it dropped I have been listening to songs from India Arie’s new album, which includes this meaningful gem:

Who won the first half of 2019?

  • My big bro had a little girl in March. Her name is Jasmina and I suppose you could say she is a winner for landing in a family with my brother and his awesome girlfriend. In all truth I think it is my brother who is actually the true winner in this equation.
  • Also, Boris Johnson did some big time winning and is now prime minister of the UK. Boo to that, but do check out John Oliver’s take on his persona.

Self reflection

Let me answer one question from my list of 195 questions:

What is a controversial opinion you have?

I am not a fan of Oprah’s. Actually she kind of annoys me (particularly her hysteric behavior when she enters a room). There, I said it.

Epilogue

  • I intend to pick up the habit once again of doing a mind cleanup blog every month.
  • Join me if you like and ping back to me when you do!

Lil heartbreakers

The other day I heard the Jason Mraz included below, called Have it All. In this song he expresses his generous wishes for you.

He lays out a rich banquet of positive scenario’s, varying from managing to “keep the chaos and the clutter off your desk” to being awarded “prizes shining like diamonds”.

It’s a sweet song with a carpe diem attitude (which I actually wrote a blog about once).

The line that got my little brain-wheels going into overdrive is the one he casually throws in there at the beginning of the chorus:

Here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it

Should everyone get the chance to break someone’s heart? Does anyone have that on their bucketlist?

I know cute kids are affectionately referred to as “little heart breakers” sometimes. This is meant to be a compliment. I suppose charming girls and boys can’t always help that people fall in love with them and breaking some hearts along the way is inevitable. More even, it may happen without them ever even knowing about it.

But getting back to the song; Is breaking a heart something you want everyone to experience at least once in a lifetime? Does mr Mraz actually mean to say “I hope someone opens their heart to you and loves you intensely (making heartbreak a possible outcome)”?

When I told my boyfriend, G, about this conundrum, he said something to confuse me even further. He said he didn’t believe that heartbreak could ever be the outcome of love… I asked him to explain it to me again just now and to be honest I still don’t understand it enough to be able to put it into words of my own.

His exact words were:

You are responsible for the condition of your heart. If your heart gets broken this means you have allowed it to be in a position where it could be broken.

I mean… yeah… I guess… but… wait… whut?

So then… we had to talk about what “being broken hearted” or “having your heart broken” really means.

Acoording to G, a broken hearted person is beyond despair. Lost, adrift and beyond reason. Inconsolable.

If I understand correctly, what G was trying to tell me (but I’ll check with him later) is that it has to do with caring for yourself enough to no be reckless with your heart. You can’t truly love someone else if you don’t love yourself first… That sort of thing(?).

I’ve actually never had it happen to me. I’ve been sad, but never heartbroken. I guess I’ve also never been that deeply in love (before my current relationship) and also… well… I was never actually on the receiving end of a breakup…

Did I ever break someone’s heart? Eummm… hard to say… but quite possibly…

Am I glad I got to go through that experience? No, most definitely not.

It was something I learned from though!

Uprising

This is Blog 21 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Uprising

This Muse songs turns ten years old this year and it has aged so well.

You really only need the first two seconds of that intro to know which song you are listening to.

And then, when the synthesizer kicks in after five seconds, it’s hard to not hum along.

The first thirty seconds in that ominous music video leave no room for doubt: this night is dark and moody and something is about to explode!

Tehneewh! (that’s my transcription of the unison bend guitar strum just before the vocals kick in)

Like all Muse songs, Uprising is an uneasy song.

Matt Bellamy’s vocals emit a sense of urgency that I find hard to explain.

The lyrics are rebellious and reek of anarchy.

The video is the stuff of nightmares.

And still, I love this song.

It’s the type of song that makes me (accidentally) break the speed limit when driving a car.

But even though I love this song, I must admit I don’t really know the lyrics and mostly sing along with the guitar bits and let Bellamy take care of the message…

Tehneewh !

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!