Apple being Apple

  • Wireless EarPods: never ever have my earbuds / headphones stopped working due to anything other than the cable breaking. Wires will have to go at some point. Magic also means an effortless experience of using them and trying them for a few days will tell whether the whole charging thing is manageable. And whether the stereo speakers are good enough to use instead of your headphones in some situations.
    For its price, however, they’d better be pretty decent sound quality too. But at least Apple is trying something new. And you can still buy a 6s if you really want a headphone jack. I don’t really see a problem. You can always buy Android if you truly want to boycot Apple. It will be interesting to see if sales slow down for this model.
  • Mario to iOS. Nintendo realizes how to quickly make cash. If this becomes only 50% of the Go-hype, it means a whole lot of money for them. Shame it’s an endless scroller, but hopefully it captures some of the magic of old-school Mario.
  • iPhone: new camera looks fun to try. Not fun enough to upgrade from a 6s though. Let’s see whether there’ll be any nice new Macs later this year.
  • Still not gonna buy an Apple Watch, even though I really like the fact that I could swim with it. I really want a cheaper fitness tracker though. Currently waiting for the TomTom Touch.

 

Go see Kubo & The Two Strings

I saw Kubo & The Two Strings last Saturday, a great stop-motion animated film by Laika (who also did the wonderful Coraline). It’s a pretty amazing story combining a ‘Legend of Zelda’-type quest, the stories that make a life and a wonderful fairytale all in one.

It’s a beautiful world to get lost in, full of magic, melancholy and stories beyond the fairytale being told. It’s been a while since I looked at a screen for the first hour thinking: “This is so nice. I don’t want this to end.”

Probably my favourite film of the year so far. Go see it while you can, in cinemas now.

Apple tax

Letter from Tim Cook / Apple:

The Commission’s move is unprecedented and it has serious, wide-reaching implications. It is effectively proposing to replace Irish tax laws with a view of what the Commission thinks the law should have been. This would strike a devastating blow to the sovereignty of EU member states over their own tax matters, and to the principle of certainty of law in Europe.

As much as I would like tax laws to properly tax companies (something The Dutch can do better too!), right now tax laws aren’t doing that. And if you make Apple pay for that, you have to make thousands of other companies do the same really. More importantly, this goes to show yet again that the EU isn’t perfect. Either we go all in and let the EU dictate all economic decisions for Europe as a whole (which, mind you, would be very difficult considering all the different countries with different levels of wealth…), or we don’t (which is probably what many people would prefer).

I think it’s weird to retroactively change the tax rules, if that’s what’s happening now. We could make different rules for the future. But is the EU the right body to do that? Do we agree with that?

The thing is, even if we in Europe change the rules, the companies would just move to countries where the rules are better. Companies will always try to find ways to maximize earnings and avoid giving too much of them away. You can’t take that out of companies. What we could try is rebuild our tax system so companies can’t avoid them or pay them in other countries where you can pay less.

Tax reform doesn’t seem to be a particular hot topic yet. Lower taxes, yes. So to be honest, I see world peace happening sooner.

What is Fionn Regan up to?

I’ve enjoyed Fionn Regan’s music ever since a fellow member of a forum I posted a lot on, send me his Hotel Room EP as a ‘Thank You’ for some bootlegs (read: live recordings of a band) I sent him. After releasing his excellent debut The End of History in 2006 (10 years ago, wow!) he released a couple of more albums, the more electrified The Shadow of an Empire and the drowning-in-strings 100 Acres of Sycamore. Sometimes, to my taste, this record feels a bit too lush. It’s a beautiful set of recordings, but I didn’t connect with it as much as the previous two albums.

However, after that album, Fionn Regan returned back to basics with his 2012 release The Bunkhouse Sessions, vol. 1: Anchor Black Tattoo. This album was recorded in a most basic fashion and this means the songs are intimately presented to your ears.

 

Also, check out this live version with another favourite of mine, The Staves:

I would call it a return to form, where it not that I don’t think he ever ‘lost’ it. Still, it made me very excited for future Fionn Regan releases, especially because of the vol. 1 in the title of this 2012 record. Sadly, that has been the last music he has released on his own. Apparently, he played on the Helsinki album released last year, but besides that it’s been awful quiet in Fionn Regan land. Which is not uncommon in between albums for Mr Regan.

However.

Fionn Regan has turned into one of the more prolific Instagram users I follow. He posts multiple photos every week, mostly black and white to a following of 1200+. They are nice photos, usually lacking any words or comments from the man himself. Sometimes he also posts art work and sometimes you can see him in or near a recording studio.

In an interview with the excellent website ForFolkssake.com he says:

I find sometimes that in the world of the singer-songwriter I don’t know where I fit in…I find that I’m kind of at odds with a lot – well, I’m always going against the world and challenging it, especially the more commercial end of the singer-songwriter spectrum. I don’t understand it! I don’t feel that that’s where my stuff’s the strongest – it’s at odds with the time period maybe. When it comes to words I have a great love for words and I think that will become more of interest to me – at some point I’d love to just concentrate on words.

He meant as a lyricist or poet. Interestingly, for his audience at least, he’s now concentrating on images, not words. I like his pictures, which show a keen eye for the beautiful in the mundane, and are sometimes funny. Besides the occasional selfie of course.

Now, earlier this year Fionn Regan performed live for the first time in years, supporting Richard Hawley at Meltdown Festival. There was, according to fans on the RH Forum, no mention of a new album or new EP. But, having never seen the man play a live show, keep hoping for a new record.

We can see what Fionn Regan is up to on Instagram. But it offers, sadly, no explanation why he hasn’t made another album. Yes, there are plenty of singer/songwriters around, but Fionn’s music, with its delicate guitar parts and its poetic, cryptic yet touching lyrics offers something most of those singer/songwriters’ don’t. So whatever Fionn Regan is up to, I hope he’s also making new music. And that we’ll be hearing it soon.

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?

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?”

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.

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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?