Is there life on Mars?

Today would have been David Bowie’s 73rd birthday. As I read the news this morning (Iran, inane actions by a US president whose name I don’t even want to mention on my blog anymore and his son, horrible fires in Australia exacerbated by climate change), somehow this Bowie song springs to mind…

This is not the first time I think of this when I look at the news. Of course, if we humans could escape to Mars we’d eff it all up there too with wars and greed and destroying the environment. I know it is something of all ages to worry about the state of the world but my goodness, where is the good I wonder? That’s it, that’s my blog post – just a bit of exasperation on a Wednesday morning.

Balm for my soul

I’ve been a very bad blogger of late, too occupied with other things, just not moved to blog and also not really able to at times.

First off,  Anne with an E still holds me in its claws, I’m completely obsessed and feverishly await the next episode. I even made a new fan video that I put up on my Anne with an E video page (if you do happen to watch, beware of huge spoilers!). This past week gave us these scenes (episode 5 of season 3) that are also in the season 3 trailer (and so much more happened, which I won’t spoil here):

When not obsessing over Anne, I try to get life back on track. The dizziness/vertigo is still bothering me and I am only able to work half days. It is dispiriting to have to deal with this but it is what it is and has been improving slowly and will continue to do so more quickly, I hope. Anyway, I work some from home but I also try going to the office, which I have done twice last week by car. Driving is alright if I don’t have to throw looks over my shoulder too much (so I stick to a single lane as much as possible). Which brings me to the reason for this post.

Recently in the car I have been listening to Nina Simone and I have to say that she has become a balm for my soul this past week. Especially on my way back from work I feel frustrated for not being able to do more and this woman just reaches into my soul with her voice and her songs and calms me down. Nina Simone had a beautiful, warm voice full of feeling and meaning and she sang like she could look straight into your heart. I have liked her for a long time, have used a small part of her great song Sinnerman as the background music in my Richard-Armitage-says-Esther ringtone that I have installed on my phone…

… but I haven’t listened to her very much for a long time, until this past week during my drives to and from work.

I am not really a jazz fan, so the more full on jazzy numbers are less for me. However, she has sung some beautiful, melodic-jazzy songs as well and those are the ones that have been the balm during each 30-40 minute drive. One that has especially struck a chord is this one, “I wish I knew how to be free”:

Not that I don’t feel loved and free, but I think it touches on a longing for things to maybe be more carefree? I do realize I have a good life but every life has it’s cares and worries and so does mine.

Another one I adore is ” My baby just cares for me”. It’s the first song that introduced me to Nina Simone back in 1987 when it was used for a commercial.

It’s such a brilliant song and nowadays when I listen to it, it makes me smile because I associate the lyrics with Mr Esther as he too ‘just cares for me’. 🙂

And I really loved listening to this one this week – “I loves you Porgy” reminds me that I have never seen the musical Porgy and Bess and I need to watch it someday. If you only watch one of the videos I post here, watch this one. Simone’s intensity while she performs here hits you right in the heart:

I also loved listening to Mr Bojangles:

… and Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood:

I used The Look of Love in a fan video for A Place to Call Home and Marta Dusseldorp, the lead actress in that show, even tweeted her approval when I posted it last year.

And then there’s the very moving song “Blackbird”. You can hear Nina Simone’s excellent version here but a cover was sung by wonderful and gorgeous actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw in her excellent movie Beyond the Lights that I want to share here:

There are many more great Nina Simone songs (her version of “Feeling Good” may be my fave version out there) but especially these songs I mentioned have carried me this week. It’s good to be alive in world that, next to all the ugliness out there, also holds these treasures.

Rachid Taha : افعل شيئا

The newest Mach Was theme is to do someting with your favourite summer song. I don’t think I have a singular favourite summer song, I like very many songs, so I had no idea where to start. Then today I was in my car and I was playing the song Ya Rayah by an Algerian-French singer called Rachid Taha. It had been a while since I had last listened to it but I did today, it made me happy, and the song feels like summer to me:

So, I’m turnig this into my Mach Was theme, which is now about a few Rachid Taha songs that I enjoy, By the way, the title of this post contains the words “Do something” in Arabic, (according to Google Translate, in any case). 🙂

Like a lot of music I discover, I first discovered this song in a movie, some 7 or 8 years ago. I first heard it in this scene in this Simon Baker movie called Something New:

I really like that movie, by the way. It’s about a black woman falling for a white guy, trailer is here, but this post is about music and not movies, so I’m moving on.

I don’t listen to a lot of Arab music, but this one just caught me, I loved it. I’m thinking it’s got something to do with spending my childhood in Israel, something about it just sounded familiar and happy and sunny to me. I could just imagine this playing out loud from a car in sunny Jerusalem. To me this is a perfect summer song.

I went on to listen to more music by Rachid Taha and for at least one summer played it a lot in the car, until Mr Esther and the kids could tolerate it no more. The music is somewhat repetitive, some songs are quite long and it’s a bit like Arab music meets pop, dance and rock music. I have no idea what the songs are about, but here are a few more of Taha’s songs that I really like:

In this following song called Habina, the middle part of this song slows down (at just before 4 minutes) and sounds like a prayer chant:

One of my absolute faves of his is this one, which is basically trance music:

And this is him performing Barra Barra live. I am just now seeing that this song was apparently also used in the movie Black Hawk Down (I’ve never watched that movie). The lyrics have a bleak meaning, I see, which is I guess fitting for such a movie.

And some more songs:

Apparently Taha died last year (I didn’t know that, read it on Wikipedia). May he rest in peace!

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Thank you for the (summer) music, Rachid!

Muse in Nijmegen

This past week the date of June 27th was boldly highlighted in my calendar: Muse was coming for an open air concert to the Goffertpark in Nijmegen in the east of the Netherlands and I would be there! The same park I saw Eminem in last year and David Bowie oh so many years ago in the early 1990s. Tickets had already been purchased last fall and I was going with my lovely friend Suzy from the Silverbluelining blog, we were meeting up there.

Fast forward to last Tuesday, two days before the Muse concert. I was leaving work late because I was meeting two friends of mine for the cinema to see Rocketman (I did end up seeing it, despite what happened next, and really liked it). As I tucked away my metrocard I missed the last step of the stairs and crashed to the ground, twisting my ankle quite badly, so badly that for a minute or so I couldn’t stand. First thought flashing through my head was, “NOOOO! What about Muse on Thursday??!!??”  Long story short, ice pack on my ankle when I got home later that evening didn’t help much, doctor said I needed to have x-rays the next day but in the end luckily nothing broken.  However the ankle was thick and painful enough to need extra support and I could barely stand on it.

So yes, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go to the long awaited Muse concert! Only standing places for that concert and there was no way I could stand for two hours during the concert and all the time leading up to that. Then Mr. Esther came to the rescue. My hero! He wasn’t going to the concert but offered to take the afternoon off work to drive me there (a little over an hour away from where I live) and borrow my mother-in-law’s wheelchair (she only needs it occasionally). My older sister ended up coming to the concert with me as well (she’d also bought a ticket a while back and the person she was going with canceled at the last minute). Downside to these changed plans was that I couldn’t spend as much time with Suzy before the concert as I had wanted to.

The weather on Thursday was gorgeous: blue skies, mid 20 degrees Celsius, perfect weather for an open air concert. We finally arrived at the Kiss & Ride spot near the venue at just after 5.30 pm (drive had taken 2 hours due to traffic jams!) where Suzy was awaiting us. My sister and Suzy took turns pushing me in my wheelchair to the concert grounds. I’m forever grateful to them and to Mr Esther for bringing me there! I could stand and hobble about for short amounts of time, so that was something.

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We had a nice bite to eat at the venue and then went in search of a spot to enjoy the concert from. As I was in my wheelchair for most of the time we figured in the end it would be pointless for me to watch from the field, I’d be too small to be able to see anything. So, we found the wheelchair platform and there was enough space left over for me to have a spot there as well. The down side was that only one other person was allowed to accompany me there. Suzy came with me first and later changed places with my sister as she preferred to watch the concert in the crowd, and rightly so. The park filled up with some 66.000 people (I was told by another guy there). This slideshow shows some crowd overviews before the concert started, taken from the spot I was at:

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Andy Burrows, the second opening act, was good. He used to be part of a band called Razorlight with which he had scored this hit called America. Then, at just before 9 pm, Muse finally took the stage. And yes, yet again, I loved the concert from its first beat! The music is always excellent, the singing is always excellent and the show they give is always great too. Here some pictures, mostly screenshots from some short videos I took (click on images to enlarge):

The great part of being on the wheelchair podium is that the view is good, the downside is that wheelchair people (at least at this concert) don’t sit-dance that much. This means that I, and also my sister, were probably the most active hands in the air, fist bumpers and clappers there. Also, lots of coming and going on that platform which was somewhat distracting. Next time, I think I’d prefer to be in the crowd. 🙂 Nonetheless, I enjoyed the concert immensely with neon lights and laser lights and dancers with lightsabers and silver plated suits. Here is one of their most famous songs that someone filmed, Uprising, at the beginning of the concert…

… and a video of when a huge creature emerged on stage near the end of the concert…

Anyway, when Knights of Cydonia started playing (traditionally always their last song at concerts), I was bummed it was almost over. The crowd went wild (yet again) with that last song, it’s always a total crowd pleaser, but alas, Muse really was done after it ended.

We met up with Suzy after the concert and I was glad to hear that she had enjoyed it immensely as well! It was her first Muse concert, and my 4th or 5th, but I have a feeling there will be more Muse concerts for Suzy and me in our future. 🙂 And we need to meet up again extra to catch up some more as we didn’t get around to enough of that this time around. Muse in September in Amsterdam, Suzy? Might be tough, though, with that concert already sold out and my finances a little depleted, but we’ll see…

The London BTS weekend

My daughter and her friend are fans of the Korean pop band BTS and last weekend we were in London so the girls could go to their concert. It was stressful getting tickets a few months ago, but two tickets were secured and the girls were very excited to go. As a fangirl myself I was well able to empathize with their enthusiasm for BTS. 🙂

We flew to London from Amsterdam early on Friday morning. The girls wanted a pancakes breakfast (my daughter is the one with the ponytail)…

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… after which we boarded the plane and arrived at London Luton airport before we knew it. Took the bus to my brother’s house in Hampstead and met up with him and my niece. The weather was turning out to be gorgeous, so we had a picnic lunch in my brother’s garden!

The girls had heard that there would be some sort of BTS event at Piccadilly Circus at 6 pm, so we all went into town. We shopped a bit, then my brother and niece headed home again (my niece was leaving for the weekend to see her mum) and I went to Piccadilly Circus with the girls.  We got there just before 5.30 pm and it was crowded, as illustrated by these two tweets!

And also illustrated by my pictures:

As I can’t upload videos here, I made 3 gifs from a video I made of the crowd while we were waiting:

The fans are called “Army” (yeah, not the Armitage Army, though) and the atmosphere at Piccadilly was electric. Excited people, BTS chants, BTS singing and dancing. This tweet, while not filmed perfectly, does show you the joyful mood. It was filmed not far off from were the girls and I were standing.

Busses drove by and every time an open roof tourist bus passed, everyone started cheering and clapping and waving at the people on the bus, who were waving back at us. Someone on a bus filmed our crowd HERE and if you know where to look you can even spot me in the crowd with my sunglasses on. Anyway, at 6 pm on the dot a Hyundai commercial showed on the big screen, featuring BTS and everyone started screaming.  The girls were very pleased to see their favourites up on that huge screen.

OK, yeah, so it was much ado, apparently only about a commercial, but still it was really fun to be there. We watched the commercial on loop a few times and then left. As Wembley Stadium is on the same underground line as the station near my brother’s house, the girls on the way home decided to go on to Wembley and check out the merchandise store there before it closed at 8pm. My daughter sent me a picture of herself walking underneath the huge poster of her fave BTS member, if I recall correctly that is Jungkook…

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They bought tour t-shirts there and then came back home. Good thing they did, because the next day, on Saturday, they ventured into the city alone to find several BTS pop up stores. The one store had a  6 hour queue, the other store a 3,5 hour queue! They didn’t stand in line but did look on in amazement and also got to explore the city a bit on their own.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (i.e. my brother’s house), we spent a quiet morning at home as I had come down with a bad cold. But I didn’t want to waste my whole time in London with sickness so I looked into theatre tickets (preferably matinee) for my brother and I.  I could have gone to see Hugh Jackman again as he was in London with his show for the weekend and I could have gone to see Muse do their concert on Saturday as well.  But, as tempted as I was, I’ve already seen the Hugh show (although, if I had a money-tree I would have gone to see him again) and I’m seeing Muse here in The Netherlands in a few weeks. In the end I was able so score last minute tickets to see The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre, not far from Piccadilly. All I knew about the musical is that is has won many awards, is supposed to be funny, concerns itself with the Mormon religion and I had seen this video of the opening number…

So, on Saturday afternoon my brother and I were at the theatre, wondering what exactly was going to come our way.

… and boy, did we have a blast! I realize that the Mormon religion and Uganda, where the Mormons are sent to in the musical, are stereotyped and the language really is quite filthy at times but it was so very funny! We laughed all the way and when in the second half of the musical the Ugandan Mormons portray how they have come to understand the religion (due to very ‘creative’ missionizing from Elder Cunningham), I swear tears were running down my cheeks. It’s best not to reveal too much about this musical but if you like a spoof on taking religion literally that also doesn’t completely bash religion and is funny and uplifting, then go and watch this. I loved it.

Sunday was BTS day for the girls. My niece was back home again for a few hours before having to head back to her boardingschool, so we all went out to lunch. First time I ever ate a falafel burger, but it was good! At the end of the afternoon I accompanied the girls to Wembley, just so that I could see the venue for myself. The girls were wearing their new tour t-shirts proudly.

What I completely love about the BTS crowd is the diversity. People from all walks of life, all nationalities, all backgrounds were there, more diversity than I’ve ever seen in a pop or rock crowd. So cool! Dropped the girls off at the gate, I planned on going into the city afterwards but was feeling pretty bad so headed to my brother’s place instead. He was still out, driving his daughter to school. I curled up on the couch with a cup of tea and the last scone that was still in the house…

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Switching through the channels I saw that The Battle of the Five Armies was on, so I watched that…

… then watched and chatted with my brother after he came home. We waited for the girls, who came home at around 11.30 pm, totally exhausted and totally euphoric about the concert. Near the end of the concert the fans had a surprise for BTS, where the whole crowd chanted one of their songs back at them. My daughter said that they had teared up as well at that moment…

… and they so want to see BTS in concert again. Apparently they announed they’d be coming again next year.

On Monday morning we all slept in. My brother was working from home, he took us out to lunch before we made our way to the airport again for our fliight back home. I had been less productive on my weekend due to not feeling well (and I’m still sick now, ugh!) but still had fun and the girls had a blast – the full BTS experience for them! It’s been so fun to see them fangirl. 🙂