Be kind & active

2016 has been in general, a pretty crappy year so far when reviewing newspaper – website – headlines. Besides all the attacks on innocent people from Baghdad to Brussels, from Paris to Istanbul and then everything in the United States on top of that. And I’m probably forgetting several wars going on right now. In first world problems, we lost several popular culture icons (I guess that trend will continue for the forseeable future, seeing as most of the 60s, 70s and 80s stars are approaching old age now) and as the European Union, we lost a bit of ourselves as well. Even today, tragedy hit in Italy, where there was train crash that took 20 human lives. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better right? You gotta go there to come back, the Stereophonics would sing. I’ve never really listened to that album, but as album titles go, I’d call that a pretty good one.

Now, I don’t wanna say “ignore all tragedy” or make light of it in any way, but the reason we’re all hearing and seeing about this so intensely is because of the media and Internet. I’m not saying anything revolutionary here, but 100 years ago, news travelled less fast, and we couldn’t live-broadcast institutionalized racism on Facebook to everyone we know – and then some. 100 years ago, before Internet, tv and radio, our worlds were much smaller.

If I were to kill all technology in my life and zoom in to the impact of all this tragedy on my daily life: that impact is rather small. I had a friend in Brussels the day of the attacks there, so I’d have heard about that. And I would see the armed forces in Belgium when visiting that same friend. So there’s that. And by now I’ve met only a couple of refugees from Syria, so it’s not as if my entire world has been changed by that either. And when reading about the sh•tstorm that is the world right now and how angry people get, I see nothing of that in my little privileged world. Nothing, unless I actively go and look for it and reach out.

So this is why I don’t get all the anger going round, all the hatred. A lot of people seem to respond with fear and anger. But the refugees who came here haven’t destroyed our country, most of the problems are being caused by the people who are already living here. And those problems, are once again, the things the media are focusing on. Yes, I do get that things that are wrong in the world need a spotlight so that they get put right, hopefully. But when you are reporting for the cause, and when are you a sensationalist throwing gasoline on the fire and encouraging behaviour. Look at your life: is there when it comes down to your location, your place in society any reason to get properly upset about anything right now? So why are we letting media and Internet get us upset and act angry towards people who have done nothing wrong.

I’m blessed with friends who are incredibly kind, incredibly nice. When I celebrated my birthday last month, people were so kind to me, by simply telling me that they care, by showing up to my party, by giving extremely thoughtful gifts, by letting me know: we’re here for you. Even today, I received an EP I bought by singer/songwriter who wrote a nice little message in the sleeve. Little acts of kindness.

It’s been making me think that yes: kindness and calmness are probably the recipe for life right now, to make the world a little better. So I’ve been trying to be a bit kinder in everyday life. I don’t know if it’s working, but I try. Like I said: in my life there’s no real reason to be angry, so I’m trying not to be angry, despite all the crazy stuff happening all over the world right now. I refuse to believe that these are the end times.

And I don’t mean that I, you or we shouldn’t get upset about issues that we care about. Or shouldn’t be sad for the people in Italy, Iraq, France or the United States. We totally should. Or angry about the fact that this violence is happening every single day. I think we should also try to fix the world. And I do honestly believe  that the only way we can do this, is by stepping up and doing our bit in making it better. With both the kindness I mentioned, as well as taking meaningful action to make change happen. If the whole Brexit-scenario and the gun control laws in the USA have taught us one thing, it’s that the people who shout hard are being heard. But unless we all turn up to decide, or in other ways use the tools that our democracy has given us, that’s the only way we really get a say. By staying silent (or only speaking in the media and nothing else), we don’t really do enough. We may sometimes feel better than the angry mob who votes against stuff, but unless we all counter that mob with votes in favor, that mob is still the smarter group. See also this bit by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight.

So yea, I’m not trying to preach here, but what it boils down to. You don’t have no opinion in this world. You have one. Even if you’re a bored teenager snapchatting the day away, you have an opinion. You can decide the future and you can stop things from happening and make other things come to pass. Approach people with kindness, and issues with activism. Even activism to keep things the way they are now. Or to make things a little better. Uninformed little me is probably wrong about some issues I do have an opinion about, but it’s also okay to change your mind.

So, on (social) media, that window in the big world that feels impossible to change, I’m gonna be kind. I’m also gonna to try to take a stand. Cos int the end I’m an optimist. And it might get worse. But it’ll definitely, eventually, get better.

2016 so far

  • I’ve started a 4-day-workweek in an attempt to do more personal projects. Fulltime employment is sooo 2015. It feels liberating to have more time available that you can decide what to do with. But also: OPTIONS OPTIONS OPTIONS!
  • Turin Brakes have released an excellent new album. It is called Lost PropertyRead my thoughts about it here. This weekend I’ll see them live in London. I am excited.
  • I also properly discovered music by Tom Speight, his EP Little Love is definitely worth checking out.
  • No real winter here in The Netherlands, apart from the last few days it’s been mostly mild and wet. Rainy and windy is not a good combination I find.
  • Lots of sitting in trains for work these past weeks, using mobile hotspot to get things done. I like 4G, but I don’t like the speed of my data once I reach the monthly limit.
  • iPhone 6S: pretty sweet, fast, awesome. Not using 3D Touch etc a lot yet. Also the Plus doesn’t seem that much bigger anymore.
  • Hope everybody’s happy with their Myspace Profile Design choices. Time owns the social network site now.
  • I’ve been trying to get into Snapchat, but not a big user yet.
  • Also trying to up my languages game. So far investing in my French skills. Not disappointed with the things I remember from secondary school.
  • This RollingStone article on the CD is pretty good. Even I’m kind of mean to the CD as a medium. I will almost always pick a LP over a CD these days when given the choice. Maybe we need to work on presenting CDs in a nicer way? Like better casing etc?
  • Read Slade House by David Mitchel and Looking For Alaska. Now I’m reading Les Particules élémentaires but I can’t say I’m enjoying it so far.
  • Best tweet ever?

I’m starting a mailinglist soon

I’m starting a mailinglist soon. You can sign up at the bottom of this page. I don’t want to say too much about it, other then that it will appear irregularly (but about once a month max.) and it will be personal and honest. I don’t know how long it will run but feel free to sign up if you’re interested. I don’t like the blog format or posting a lot on Facebook, so I want to try this for a while.

Taylor Swift inspires a generation, doesn’t she?

I’m not gonna lie. I’m an appreciator of all things Taylor Swift. I have been for years, ever since my friends and I saw the video for Love Story on a Dutch music channel way back when that was a hit. Of course, it started out as a joke. We had never heard of Taylor Swift before when we saw that video, and suddenly she was in a fairytale video singing very direct lyrics about – indeed – a love story. After that we got You Belong With Me, for which the video ticked all the right (cliché) boxes, and was a nice danceable song to boot. Sure, my friends and I were not the target audience for her earliest work, but it still featured an acoustic guitar (like a lot of good music does) and heartfelt lyrics.

Continue reading “Taylor Swift inspires a generation, doesn’t she?”

Everybody’s gonna die

I know I’m not particularly original in joking that “everybody’s gonna die” as a spoiler whenever I get the chance. But Susanne Sundfør talking about Game Of Thrones and replying that phrase to Dermot O’Leary’s question “What’s gonna happen?” still made me laugh out loud. And then she breaks into song, a beautiful rendition of Moon River (13 minutes in). So beautiful, it is to die for. Her new album 10 Love Songs is out next week. Live she is absolutely amazing, I can confirm. Hope to see her play live again in Amsterdam next month.

 

Love is Coal – about the slow build-up

This week I had a discussion with a couple of colleagues. You see, To Kill A King is somewhat of a staple in our office and they have quickly turned into ‘our office band’. However, not everyone is a convert yet, so when we were discussing how many of us should go see To Kill A King when they return to Amsterdam, we didn’t reach a decision yet (3 people are definitely in, the others need a little more convincing, but eventually they’ll come around!). It’s not a quality thing, but a matter of taste.

During our discussion that we should go see the band again (I went with a colleague last time they came to Amsterdam and I saw the incarnation called Kid Id many moons ago, but that’s arguably a different band), one of my not-so convinced colleagues argued that she likes the songs but they’re hard to get into.

This I do not understand. To me, in fact, To Kill A King is one of the easiest bands to get into. Yes, the new material seems of the dark romantic kind that allows for slow building and you need to be patient for that, but for every slow builder there’s a Funeral: a catchy song with a likable chorus, produced well enough and it even allows for some dancing. And those choruses are also present in the slow-building songs.

I know the slow build-up will be rewarding. And that’s why, to me, it’s beautiful that To Kill A King take the time to slowly build up their songs. Letters To My Lover, The Dylan Fan is one of my favourite songs of their debut.

Take Love is Coal, from the recent EP Exit, Pursued By A Bear. This song starts of with a slow guitar part. And yes, your mind might wander if you’re not fully in the moment when hearing it first. But once it blooms, it blooms beautifully. You can only just appreciate it.

All this is exemplified even more by the music video. It starts off as a lyric video like many we’ve seen before, even the fan submitted artwork idea we’ve seen before, but then again I’d argue it’s also a proper music video starting a couple and a peak into their life. From Game of Thrones-inspired posters to postcards to little scribblings on a piece of paper to a The Guardian webpage… As the camera pans round while the song slowly builds we get a nice melancholy view into the lives of the people who just went to sleep.

And then the drums kick in and we rewind in high-speed and the video ends beautifully somehow, once again with some lyrics here and there, but more than that. You now get what they’re singing about: and we’ll bare these marks as reminders / with the dirt on our clothes as you find us / we two miners, but love is not like diamonds, love is coal to keep you warm… 

Nicely done. The beauty of the build-up. And all you can do is go back and play it again.

Exit, Pursued By A Bear is available now. The band are touring Europe in early 2015.

Mailbox versus Inbox by Gmail

When Google launched Inbox by Gmail last week, they released a video for it. In it, “your friends at Gmail” claim they “love” e-mail. They show happy people using their phones and laptops, presumably e-mailing. But let’s face it, hardly anyone smiles when checking their inbox. I have some friends I e-mail with, but most of my personal inbox is filled with newsletters that I can’t really cancel because once in a blue moon they DO seem relevant (but often they’re not). And then there are the order and sign-up confirmations, social notifications and Google Alerts I’ve signed up for. And the personal messages I do get, I usually answer pretty quickly. They’re usually not the ones that get stuck in my inbox.

Continue reading at Medium >>

I know we are supposed to hate Amsterdam, but…

2014-08-07 15.27.51

I have a love/hate relationship with Amsterdam. Because to be honest, I’ve been in very few places in Amsterdam where I felt at home. I love staying there, going to museums, gigs and plays, but I’ve not fallen in love with it as I have with some other cities (as I have explained here)… You can do so much fun and amazing stuff there, but I have yet to find evidence that I could make it my home. Of course, the only way to be sure is to actually try. But yeah, for now, I don’t mind not living there.

Still, Amsterdam SHOULD have something. After all, it’s the biggest city in The Netherlands. And it captivates the minds of hundreds of artists throughout history. For example, there’s this beautiful song by Gregory Alan Isakov. It has a beautiful video too with Dutch canals and windmills in paper-form, so I recommend you watch and listen to this several times:

Another great song about Amsterdam is Cayman Islands by Kings of Convenience, although you’d think it’s about the islands in the title, in fact the title refers to a bearded man in the song who looks as if he has come all the way from the Cayman Islands.

I know we’re supposed to hate Amsterdam, but… I said to friend while sending her the first song… Because the songs are both beautiful. In fact, they make me question whether I’ve just been unlucky with my experiences in the Dutch capital (and too influenced by the places I grew up and the way they view Amsterdam). It’s not that I never had a fun time there, quite the opposite. I want to give the city a fair chance at winning me over, I guess. Right now, Amsterdam is just a city I’ve not fallen in love with yet. Perhaps a prolonged stay will change that. Or maybe I should idealize it in a song?

Month of Music Madness

I’ve dubbed October as my Month of Music Madness. But it got off to a rocky start. In hindsight, starting your October Music Month on 29 September is cheating anyway, but I was so excited about First Aid Kit that I ignored my body protesting for most of the night. I had feeling less than well since the weekend before and despite a very busy Monday and Tuesday I tried to do it all anyway. I dragged myself to the First Aid Kit gig, hoping that the music would magically (madly) make me feel better. It did for a while – the gig was really excellent and I don’t regret going to it, but I had to leave before the encore to drag myself home, to a bed, and get a good night’s sleep. I wasn’t sure whether it was stress, a cold or something else but it didn’t feel good and I had resigned myself to calling in sick for work the next day.

Only, I felt better the next day and I saw out the week despite the initial symptoms of just feeling crappy evolving into a proper cold, which I’m nursing as we speak, over one week later. I’m hoping it will go away soon and I’ve been on a strict regime of early nights and mostly decent food hoping I’m recovered before the next stretch kicks off…

Continue reading at Ether Site (even though this technically isn’t a Turin Brakes blog)…

About loving a city, finding a home

2014-05-10 18.15.39-2

For a long time, London has been my favourite city. I can’t really explain why. And that made me wonder whether I just like it because I’ve been there many times and thus had a chance to fall in love with it, or whether I love it for something in it.

It’s true, I have never been to supposedly beautiful cities like Valencia, Barcelona, Roma, Madrid and various other Southern-European towns. I’ve never been to Istanbul, to Vienna or to Marseille and I last visited Paris when I was just a little too old to still be collecting all the signatures from the Disney characters in the amusement park next door. And I’ve never even left Europe, though I visited the relative outskirts of Reykjavik and Rhodos (which both aren’t really big cities, but yeah, you catch my drift).

I’ve also been to cities like Amsterdam (living in The Netherlands, that makes sense), Prague, Berlin, Porto, Verona and Glasgow. And many more… And all those cities have their ‘beautiful parts of town’. But that’s not the point. Because all these cities also have ugly parts. And London definitely has those. I’ve been in truly disgusting back alleys in cities in Belgium, dodgy streets in Berlin. While a city can be aesthetically pleasing, I wouldn’t say that’s any more important than the people living in it. If a town is beautiful but dead, you can still live a sorry life there…

Some people love Paris. I might love Paris. I definitely love the idea of Paris. The idea that this city full of little streets and old buildings, where romance itself is the most prominent habitant… But Paris is no more Midnight in Paris than any other city really. I recently walked down the riverside of Nijmegen with the sun going down and it was absolutely perfect. Absolutely perfect.

What matters is not just whether a city has a rich cultural life, or must-visit museums or nice restaurants. It’s not even the people, though knowing you have great friends nearby can be the greatest feeling in the world. It’s that thing about the sum being greater than its parts. For example I love Nijmegen too and it’s way smaller than London. Despite living in Nijmegen for many years, I feel I haven’t even tried half of the things that city has to offer me.

I guess I can fall in love with a place if it feels like home. It doesn’t have to be home, but it has to be a place that I could consider home. Because it’s making me feel safe yet challenged. Surroundings to thrive, so to speak. Not every city gives me this feeling anymore. But London does. And some other cities do too. Berlin did. Amsterdam didn’t. Gent did. Reykjavik didn’t. Verona did. Venice didn’t. I loved those cities, but I didn’t fall in love with them. And perhaps I can grow to love them, like I did with Nijmegen, but for now it’s simply not the same.

Still, Nijmegen is my home, and wherever my future will take me – Nijmegen, Amsterdam or elsewhere. I hope the feeling of coming home will always be there where I live.

2014-07-23 22.24.10