Songs linked to people

A blogpost I came across through WP’s “Discover” section posted on the Village Voice explored the realm of nostalgic songs that stop you in your tracks and catch you off guard with the wave of emotions they can unexpectedly summon.

All though the mentioned blogpost referred specifically to songs that brought up memories of deceased loved ones, the people I refer to in this post are (luckily) all still with me.

Forever tied to my first boyfriend: Last request

lyrics last requestA song that came out in the year I broke up with my very first boyfriend was Paolo Nutini’s Last request. It wasn’t a song or an artist I ever listened to with him or that I think he would enjoy in any way, but for me it’s the absolute summary of how that breakup went.

 

Forever tied to my brother: Speechless

I remember being drawn to tears once when my playlist threw Lady Gaga’s “Speechless” at me while I was cycling to work.Lyrics Speechless

I remember being confused by the sudden rush of emotions and my incapability to stop the tears from rolling down my face. I remember feeling stupid and being annoyed by the blotches my sadness was inevitably decorating my appearance with. I actually don’t remember if anybody noticed though, or if I did anything upon arrival to get my face back to normal…

A lot has happened in the life of my brother since that one day. He is still not completely out of the woods but both him and I have learned a lot since then. He has moved away from that most dangerous ledge he was balancing on and I have learned to love him in a way that is good and healthy for me as well.

Forever tied to my father: Tell her you belong to me

This bitter memory that Beth Hart describes so heartwrenchingly in “Tell her you belong to me” doesn’t apply to me in the same way as it does to her, but it still moves me deeply when I hear this song.

lyrics tell her

The first time I heard it was when she sung it live on a Dutch breakfast radio show and explained that what she describes in this song is the hurt she felt when her father got remarried to a woman Beth could not get along with. The pain she felt when her dad didn’t seem to be choosing her side is so evident and true that I can’t imagine it would leave anybody indifferent.

In my case, the above situation also took place, but with me as a witness and not so much on the receiving end of it all. For me, this song is a conversation that ( I think) never took place between my father and his son(s), but probably should have.

Forever tied to my boyfriend: Fanfarra

My boyfriend is the type of guy that holds his heart on his sleeve and can literally sob over things of beauty. I love this about him and sometimes wish I could be as open as he is.

One of the first times I witnessed such an explosion of emotion in him, was when we were driving through France and Sergio Mendes’ CD was put on.

I was driving so I couldn’t see his face, but through all of the drums and joyous singing I noticed a deafening silence coming from beside me… And when I looked over at him that’s when I saw them; tears. Lots of them.

I remember him saying he hadn’t heard that song before (it’s the opening track on Sergio Mendes’ album Brasileiro) and that it caught him off guard. He’s a percussion player himself, so the drums in the beginning obviously gave him the chills followed up by the joyous singing… I get it. On a rational level.

So yes, this song is forever tied to the tender soul of my bf, G-man.

What are the soundtracks to the story of your life?

 

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I have a little rebel in me

John Oliver’s recent “last week tonight” episode reminded me of a blog idea that has been in the back of my mind for a long time now. Let’s start with the clip that triggered this:

At the 7:07 mark, a man steps up to defend confederate statues by speaking about his family heritage at a community meeting in North Carolina. He says he always felt proud of his great grandfather’s involvement in the American civil war. His ancestor had stood up for his rights and was willing to fight and die for them. The man says it reminds him that he has “a little rebel” in him. You can tell he feels he is being robbed of this feeling now that the confederate statues are being shown in a different light.

As much as this makes me giggle, roll my eyes and shake my head, I do get it. Profoundly more so than I may care to admit, at first glance.

My own heritage is filled with adventurous globetrotters, standing for what they believed was right in the context of their time.

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My great grandfather, for example, was a preacher from the rural North of the Netherlands who travelled to the Dutch colonies (in current day Indonesia) at the beginning of the twentieth century for what I imagine would’ve been missionary work. I know very little about him or what he did there exactly, but as a colonizing power, you can imagine we Dutchies do not have clean hands in every aspect.

I hope to be able to find out more about him and what he did, some day. I am proud to be a descendant of a man willing to venture into the unknown. I can only hope he did more good than bad for the people of Magelang.

The preacher had a son, my grandfather, who was born in Palembang, Indonesia in 1915. All though I’m not sure about when exactly they returned to the Netherlands, I do know my grandfather was attending University  in the Dutch city of Delft, when  the Second World War was at its peak.

I can imagine his international upbringing made him more conscious of global issues and the miles he must have made at sea as a child traveling from Indonesia to the Netherlands, would have tempered his fear of open water. So, when faced with a possible Nazi labor deployment, he decided to flee the country by boat with two companions and his Belarussian wife, who refused to leave his side. Across the North Sea, in England, they joined our queen and the allied forces to fight fascism across the globe.

Foto+van+de+Dag++vaarkrant+2As I wrote a few years ago after my own tribute to their voyage, the so called “Engelandvaarders“, or England sailers, are an important part of Dutch WWII history and even have their own museum in the seaside town of Noordwijk to commemorate them. So yes, I am proud to be able to call myself a descendant of theirs.

At the same time, I know my grandparents chose to join the KNIL, or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, a military division that is not without controversy. As with my great grandfather’s deeds and position, I do not know the details of my grandparents’ role here (yet). What I do know is that following World War II, “the KNIL was used in two large military campaigns in 1947 and 1948 to re-establish Dutch control of Indonesia. The KNIL and its Ambonese auxiliaries have been accused of committing war crimes during this “police action”.”

So yes, still proud… but very conscious of the fact that the reality they were facing and that facts they were presented with at the time, must have made them feel the cause they were fighting for was a just one. If this is still the case today, now that we can zoom out and look at the end results, remains to be seen.

Next in line is my father, who was born in Indonesia in 1947 himself and has travelled the world during much of his life, doing development work in South America and the Middle East. How many people’s lives has he actually improved? How many people learnt how to fish themselves thanks to the projects he led and how many “merely” received a charity fish? How much money was wasted on corruption and how much was actually spent effectively? How many projects brought people what they really needed on the long term and how many were merely set up as short term tools in the Dutch political agenda?

So… I guess my point is, I am proud to say that I come from a lineage of adventurers and people wanting to make a difference in the world. If their cause or methods were always good, is up to debate. A debate I am willing to engage in.

“Give me a piece of your mind”

My parents are honest people with strong opinions for which they sometimes need loud words.

Even now that they have grandkids, I have seen them explaining matters of the world in a way some others may feel is not appropriate for such young kids. Some kids dig it and others zone out when being spoken to in this manner, but I always thought it was kind of cool that my dad never “dumbed things down” for me.

A request I got from my father on several occasions (and far too often, as far as I was concerned at the time) was “give me a piece of your mind”.  You can imagine it was something he did to get a sense of what his sulky adolescent daughter might be thinking. I never really knew what he meant and my answer never seemed to be what he was hoping to hear anyhow.

You could say honesty was valued highly in our household. And to express your honest opinions it was required to be eloquent. “Just because” was never a valid explanation for anything and I was allowed (up to a certain extent) to expect the same from them.

I remember my first boyfriend was quite overwhelmed by the in depth conversations we had over dinner.

The biggest liar and most truthful person, all in one

A line that I wrote down in my “ideas journal” the other day, is that my father is “one of the most honest people I know, as well as one of the least”.

He is one of the most honest because he doesn’t seem afraid to have an uncommon opinion. He will stand up for his beliefs, at the cost of being “the odd one” in a crowd. He is also unwillingly honest, as his face just gives away what he thinks about you and your explanation.

At the same time, he is one of the least honest people I know because as much as he tries to uphold the idea that he doesn’t care what others think of him, his fear of appearing to be weak always wins. He will say everything is going splendidly and that he has never felt better, until he reaches the point that the only one buying it is him.

Then again, does it count as lying if he lied to himself about it first?

Also, his stubbornness sometimes reaches truly absurd levels. He will stay on a chosen course even after being disproved by someone. Adjusting your course would be admitting you were wrong at some point and that apparently is not an option in his world.

He can also be very arrogant, in the sense that he will easily discard your idea as a lesser opinion if it is not in line with his. And not only is the opinion of low quality, so are you for coming up with it. He will use big, aggressive words to make you feel unsure about your line of thought, and make you back down. You might even accept his own idea at some point, just because he presents it with so much self confidence.

Intellectual & Emotional Honesty

What I figured out only recently is that the type of honesty I was taught to express was purely intellectual. That is the type of honesty that researchers and journalists apply in their work. It is the type of honesty that is based on logic, historical facts, knowledge, vocabulary and grammar.

This type of intellectual honesty is something that comes natural to me. I have never had trouble forming my opinion or pointing out to someone when they set off my bullshit radar and why.

Apparently the invisible, irrational, uncontrollable concepts of feelings are something you can be honest about too… You apparently don’t even need words to express them! Mind. Blown. And when it comes to being honest about those, I suck. I wonder why?

A child’s tears

This brings me to the final clue to my father’s dishonesty; he has never been able to handle my tears.

…Not that I even know how to cry anymore…

Unless some plant or tree is in bloom, or something.

And there’s some snot involved during these pollen allergies, as well.

But maybe they don’t actually qualify as tears.

Anyhoooooowww, see how awkward I get from talking about these things??

…where were we?

Ah yes, me crying.

Far before I reached an age that this was reasonable for, I was expected to be able to explain my behavior, especially when my behavior included tears. If I couldn’t come up with a “good” reason for my eye leakage, I was simply asked to stop doing that. And so I did.

All though my father told me years later that the crying prohibition was one of the few things he regretted in life, it did teach me to express myself pretty well. I know what I want and don’t want and am more capable than many others to express where my boundaries lie.

After analyzing the heck out of it during my long train ride home last week I came to a new theory. He saw my tears as criticism. Honest little wet mirrors rolling down a child’s cheek. And he couldn’t deal with that.

Time for a new lesson

Don’t get me wrong. My childhood was actually pretty awesome. Part of it was thanks to my parents, other parts were great despite of them. I hold no grudges. Or I try not to.

I am definitely thankful towards my parents for giving me the ability to discuss every possible topic, be it social, political or cultural in any crowd. When it comes to other forms of honesty however, I think I may have a lesson or two for them.

Mind Cleanup: Shedding indifference

All though 2016 ended with a slight whim of apocalyptic dystopia this new year is growing on me. There are actually more people that do think like me and they seem to be growing louder, which has put my desire to go into fullblown cocoon-mode to rest somewhat.

Self-reflection

mirror

When my boyfriend asked me how I looked back on 2016 and what I expected of the year to come I said 2016 was my Hobbes year and 2017 should be more of a Calvin year.

As many of you surely know, Hobbes is not only the surname of  “one of the founders of modern political philosophy”, but it is also the name that mr Bill Watterson gave the tiger that completes the legendary cartoon duo: Calvin & Hobbes.

Hobbes is the (extremely sarcastic) voice of reason in the equation, whereas Calvin is the type that “demands euphoria” and is shocked when his mother doesn’t honor the ritual of scooping out the peanut butter properly. He’s the kind of kid that does not take “because I say so” for an answer and will call you out on your bullshit. Every. Single. Time. Regardless of your status or position. He will cause a one-man-riot for causes that are important to him and will suffer the consequences of his actions with his head held high. Calvin, despite being named after 16th century theologian, John Calvin, is actually pretty much an atheist if you ask me.

Anyhow, the point of all this is that 2017 is a year in which I hope to be more vocal about what I feel is right and allow my outrage to be heard whenever values I hold dear are under threat. So there.

Time to answer some self-reflection questions from my list!

How quickly do you jump to conclusions about people?

I’m afraid I can actually be quite a judgmental person, all though I am getting better at this.

Which physical feature defines you?

As most of the members of my family I have quite a pronounced chin and tend to duckface a bit when I concentrate hard on something. I also have a relatively large nose. Sadly, no broomstick flying skills, ’cause yes, I would make a great witch. 😛

What is your star sign?

Sagittarius, all the way. And apparently, I am also a skunk.

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Not sure if any of this is true or whatever but it does fascinate me…

What are you good at and what would you like to improve?

Hmm… this is a hard one… I guess I’m a good listener (when I want to be?). I’m pretty good with most animals, does that count?

There was a time in my life when I thought I should improve my public speaking skills. I totally lose my cool in front of a group. As a matter of fact, I think I’m just not much of a group person. Small talk: also not my forte.

I would like to be less awkward in these type of situations, but would prefer to just upload this skill, a-la-matrix, and not have to go to some group therapy to achieve it. 😛

If you could choose anyone living or dead, who would you choose to go on a roadtrip with?

Not sure… Michelle Obama stole my heart big time in recent months, so maybe her? Actually, road tripping with my boyfriend has always been awesome, so he’s definitely also invited.

And…… after giving it some thought…. maybe our most-hated Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. There are so many things I don’t really understand about him and his rhetoric that I would like to ask him about in a chilled out environment. All though there is very little I can agree with him on, I do feel sorry for him as well, as he is forced to live in some bunker with constant protection. A roadtrip might mellow him right down…

Movies / Series

emoji film

Recent recommendations:

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: loved it more than I expected. Maybe even more than the Harry Potter series… better acting, if you ask me!
  • Sing: Watched the trailer and feared I had already seen the best bits, but there was more than enough goodness left for me to giggle at during the film itself. My boyfriend even got a bit emotional at some point… no joke…
  • The Bridge: Danish – Swedish detective series, that I enjoyed very much. Only watched the first season. I hope the following seasons are just as cool!

 

Music

I was introduced to Stevie Wonder’s 1995 album “Conversation Peace“, which sadly I didn’t know at all. The first song “Rain your love down” is a heart-warming, head-bobbing song that at first glance may sound like a love song but is actually a plea to god to rid the world of “hunger, hate, war, and greed”.

The song that gave the album it’s title is one that chokes me up just a little bit every time I hear it… When you listen to it, remember it was recorded in 1995…

 

If you are looking for a lighter song, listen to “Tomorrow Robins will sing“, which of course also does point out the world is pretty sucky but hey, tomorrow robins will sing!

(all though I must say the robin in my garden only kinda chirps and doesn’t really sing… but maybe Stevie can’t tell which one it was that he heard. Or maybe I really have to wait till tomorrow…)

Epilogue

emoji hourglass

To conclude this mind cleanup I would like to put in my two cents in honor of black history month, and leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

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Righteousness with a vengeance

Newschannel Euronews has an item they show in between programs called “no comment“. It always shows images of some event but with no commentary. No translation. No explanation. Just images. For a couple of minutes you get to decide what is going on and if you think that’s OK or not. I always thought it was kind of cool. Perhaps it’s the closest you can get to objective journalism.

If the internet taught me anything though, it is that there is no such thing as “the truth”, nor is anybody ever completely impartial. The fact that the camera is pointing this way and not that can change the whole story. I try to be conscious of this fact when I read / watch any narrative.

This morning however, the internet gave me a shocker when I encountered the image seen below, among the likes of one of my FB friends. It really took me a while to process what I was seeing and reading and my initial reaction was anger. I asked the person who had liked the image (and he’s a family member, for crying out loud!) if he really believed this to be true. I asked him this, with the intention of deleting him from my account and from my life if he declared to my (cyber)face that he stood behind this statement.

FB Jews

I felt offended. Personally. I felt the legacy of my grandparents was being spat on and I couldn’t believe people were giving such a message a thumbs up. I felt it was unfair to hold me accountable for something that happened long before I was born. I felt it was wrong to put the Nazi horrors in the same sentence with what is happening in Palestine as if these things are somehow related. I hated the fact that I was being asked to disagree with Germans killing jews but to condone jews killing muslims (or vice versa for that matter).

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit I am trying to see if I can find the nuance in there somewhere, but I’m finding it quite difficult. All I can come up with is that I do understand that everyone has the right to defend themselves. My inner Ghandi however keeps popping out and poking at me with his walking stick and repeating his famous quote like a mantra:

eye_for_eye_500

UPDATE: Nuance found! I also decided to change the title of this blog and share a bit of the discussion I had on FB with the people that posted the controversial image.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, actually, and I still feel that the way this South African jewish organization formulated their message was way too strong., -and I can’t believe I am actually going to admit it,- BUT, I do understand where they were coming from now.

In their very elaborate response to my angry, slightly defensive rant, they asked me to bare two things in mind:

1. The Allies were fighting the German/Italian/Japanese Axis not because of what Hitler was doing to the Jews but because they were invading other countries.
2. The incredibly brave individuals who put their lives on the line to save Jews during the Holocaust were a minuscule minority.

I can’t deny any of this. It’s painful and it’s true.

The thing is, that I actually do believe that the world stood by and watched atrocities happen for way too long. Individuals breathed a sigh of relief as the horrors passed by their front doors (in other words, they were not jewish) and politicians dared not speak up and risk turning up on the losing end.

The world was stunned, like a deer in headlights. There was no protocol for this. No precedents or lessons learnt from previous occurrences that we could fall back on. We were slow to act. There must have been denial and heaps of mixed messages, making it so difficult to take a strong stand for the masses.

So yes, that surviving jews held grudges for the world’s passiveness: I get it… We didn’t step up until the Nazis started making life difficult for the rest of us, the non-jews. That’s offensive and no apology or compensation will ever mend those wounds.

But I don’t see us giving the Tutsi’s in Rwanda a free pass, nor have I heard them ask for one (or have they…? not even sure about that one, as the world cared even less about what happened to them than the jews’ ordeal and I haven’t really heard of them since)…

Another thing that has been bugging me is how this statement is not about the world not allowing jews to stand up for themselves. This whole image, without mentioning it ONCE, is actually about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I always struggle with political correctness here. Can you use Jew as a synonym for Israeli? I can imagine there are many jews that would disagree. Or non jews, for that matter. As a matter of fact, I know quite a few muslims that have no issues with jews or their faith, but do whole heartedly dislike Israelis. And then there are those referred to as zionists, who are the one’s that believe in and actually persue “the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland

So in that sense, the first sentence in the image above refers to jews, but the second one refers to Israeli’s and more specifically, the zionists who are trying to establish their so called homeland on somebody else’s homeland.

So my conclusion is, I get it, but I still don’t think it’s OK at all…. but feel free to disagree!

Doubters alert

The Daily Post suggested an interesting topic to write about last week, titled: “Doubters Alert.”

It took me a couple of days, but I have decided to turn it into a list (again).

All though the items are numbered, the order is actually completely arbitrary. The numbering only helped me keep track of how far along I was and I guess I just like how it makes it look more listy. So, I hereby present you with my top ten denials of common accepted truths.

1. Men and women are equal
They’re not. Do I believe men and women should be given equal chances? Hell yes! I also agree that this isn’t always the case and I’m sure there are women with big ambitions who are held back because of their gender. The fact that more women choose a career as nurses and more men become firefighters however, is not because the opposite sex is being discriminated against. These career choices make biological sense. Don’t make me explain, I know you get it.

2. Disciplining your child is wrong
You’re right, I don’t have kids of my own but I don’t think it makes me any less credible. Even more, my observations are less likely to be tainted by emotions, instinctual protection hormones and unconditional love. I actually see that your kid is sneaky and that you are being played like a fool. I also see that not all kids are like that and that your parenting is to blame.
Loving your child and setting boundaries are not contradictory actions. I believe kids need to be shown right from wrong. I also believe they can cope with hard truths of life at quite an early age and that consequences of bad behavior must be in place. These consequences need to be clear, fair and unnegotiable. They also need to be unpleasant in order to be taken serious by the grown-up-in-training.

3. Praying helps
prayer-purposeI do not believe in prayer, unless it’s just to meditate and self reflect. If there is such a thing as a god I can’t imagine he (let’s just refer to this god-figure as a he from here on , for practicality, but you can read it as she if you prefer) needs people telling him how almighty he is. I also simply can not accept the idea that he would be such a fool that he would grant some ass wipe who prays daily access to his super cool heaven club and deny it to someone who is clearly an awesome person, but doesn’t mumble some words several times a day.

4. Self prescribed diets
I believe in moderation. Too much of anything can become a bad thing and it may differ from person what “too much” is. I’m going to sound like an old sock now, but in this day and age I think a lot of people are blaming nutrition for physical complaints that are actually caused by stress. I believe some types of foods are easier to digest than others but I don’t believe this means we are not supposed to eat the stuff that makes our intestines work hard. I believe it keeps them vital and yes, this means that sometimes you will fart more and the color and smell of your poo may vary.

If you’re on a diet on doctor’s orders: different story all together, obviously…

5. Giving money to the homeless is a bad idea
homeless handThere are many reasons why a person could end up living on the streets, all though mental illness and drug dependency will often play a roll. I know there is a big chance the money I put in the hand of that smelly figure in rags will go into sustaining a drug habit. Call me an enabler. I don’t believe that denying that person the couple of coins I have in my pocket will encourage them to get clean. You have to be truly desperate to walk over to a complete stranger and ask them for money, knowing what they must think of you.

My policy is as follows:

  • Never ignore someone who asks you something in the streets. Even if my answer is no, they deserve to be acknowledged at the least. This also applies to people trying to sell you something.
  • Be genuine in your response. I once said I didn’t have change on me, even though I did, and I felt crappy straight away. There is nothing wrong with saying: “Sorry, not today” or “I’m tight for cash myself at the moment”, rather than lying about it.
  • If I have an unopened bottle of soda or water on me, I will give them this rather than money.
  • If I have some spare change on me I hand it to them
  • In a rare case I could walk over to a nearby shop and buy them something.
  • When I do grocery shopping I sometimes buy something extra like a sandwich or a bottle of juice, with the homeless person I just saw in the back of my mind.
  • Wish them good luck.
  • Don’t let others change my mind about this.

6. Taking selfies is normal and OK

Again, old sock talking here, but this self absorbed modern day habit is so incredibly stupid, I don’t even know where to start. The eternal posing, the duckface, the angelic girlie look, the nonchalant glance out of the window, the looking up into the camera so they can look down into your cleavage, the confused frown, pointing at food, pointing at a friend, posing with a celebrity in the background trying to mind his own business, sticking out tongue, the peace sign… It all just makes me want to roll my eyes.

7. Plastic surgery is a healthy way to deal with low self esteem (and then lying about it)
My nose is crooked and relatively large, I have the typically protruding chin that runs through my family and have been mocked for my pointy knees. Sure, I have my insecurities. The fact that we can fix some (all?) of these features is admirable. I’m sure there are situations in which a visit to a plastic surgeon can be a great idea and improve lives in a major way. I also understand the growing old isn’t fun. I do. I don’t blame you for trying to fight it, but what’s up with all the denial?? And why take it to such an extreme that you stop looking like a human being all together ?

8. “The one”
love isForget the Matrix, there is no such thing as the One. The idea of there being one single person on the planet that matches with you for the full 100% is bull crap. First of all, everybody has their flaws and  in every relationship there are bound to be struggles. Besides charming your prince in shining armor will also have some ugly traits, as do you. This doesn’t mean you’re not good for each other. And if your individual traits clash more often than anticipated, there’s nothing wrong with calling it quits. Don’t worry, it’s not a sin or whatever you want to call it. There are billions of us on the planet. There are people in all shapes and sizes. There are bound to be several that fit your mold and chances are the person you end up loving the most, ticks none of the boxes you once fantasized your soulmate would have.

BTW, Tim Minchin wrote quite a cute song about this.

9. It is normal for love to fade
Despite the fact that I do not believe in “the one”, I do believe in true love. That this true love can be felt for different people throughout your life is beside the point here. What I want to debunk is the idea that it is OK to settle for a mediocre relationship and justify this to yourself by saying that every relationship loses its spark after a while. I disagree! Love changes, I’ll give you that. The passion might not be there with the same physical intensity it started out with, but it must still be in there somewhere. Staying with someone out of habit or pity or fear of change is a waste of your time. If you are not happy with the relationship you’re in, time to get up and leave!

no mediocre love 2

10. If you don’t have anything nice to say, better to say nothing at all.
Speaking your mind is never a bad idea!