182/2024 | “All That Really Counts Is How You Live Today”

Lyrics: “Tough To Be A Dreamer” – Felix Hagan & The Family, 2017

As you can gather from the lack of posts these past few weeks, I still have not quite the idea / plan what to do with this space. It might indeed end up being a place where I archive some of fangirling activities.

Fangirling | Possibly about books and movies but let’s be honest mostly about Frank Turner probably. I’m still working on my post on the other song from the last album, which resonates with me so deeply: “Somewhere Inbetween.” It’s going to take a few more days; hopefully not weeks. I got a bit distracted this weekend because another of my favourite (sadly still not well known) artists – Felix Hagan – did an Insta Live on Friday. Like in the “(not really so) good old days” of lockdown 2020/2021 where we gathered on his Facebook for Felix Friday to hear him play all the songs from everyone. It was nice to do that again and he shared exciting news about a new band and potential tour or at least gigs. If that works out I really hope I can make the trip over to the UK for that. I also had to have a good “listen to all the Felix songs” session yesterday.

It’s always funny in a nice way when my entertainment / media interests collide. I’ve been reading the sixth book in the The Chronicles of St. Mary’s series recently, on of my favourite book series at the moment. And I came across an historical event that sounded familiar! Because Frank used it in one of my (many) favourites metaphors in a song. That needs to be added to my Lyrical History of course.

Collage: excerpt of a novel mentioning the Bonfire of Vanieties and a screenshot of Frank Turner Lyrics

Funnily enough when I googled to fact-check, the first results lead me to the 1990 movie (and the novel it’s based on) with Bruce Willis, Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith. I knew of the movie, of course, though I hadn’t seen it. But I only knew it with the German title, because back in the day we only knew them with the German titles over here. So I never made the connection before.

Looking back know I feel like I chatted with another fan about that metaphor once and they mentioned the historical Bonfire of the Vanities to me, but it’s a very vague memory and it obviously didn’t come to my mind, when I first compiled the Lyrical History list.

Books & Language | I’ll try to post the “Books I’ve Read in June” post this evening, probably while watching the football. For some reason I planned to finally start with “James” by Percival Everett, which is a retelling of “Huckleberry Finn” from the point of view of the slave Jim, who is part of that story. I don’t always like retelling of classic stories, but this sounded interesting enough. I thought I should probably read the original first, because I have never done that. Now while I do, I vaguely recall some of the plot from what I now believe to have been a German translation for children (in a condensed form) of both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finns stories. Anyway, I started and am still reading Huckleberry Finn at the moment, but admit that I’m struggling with Twain’s writing a bit. I struggle with the meandering boy’s voice of the narrator and the – what I’ve learned from Wikipedia – vernacular language as the “informal, spoken, dialect” language. I admit I also struggle(d) with the regular use of racist terms, like the N-word, which I consider to be offensive even in the context of this “masterpiece of literature” (some call it). I know it was commonly used back then and I don’t say this novel should be revised to exclude the word now. I’m just telling you how I feel about it. I do think some (childrens) books could / should be revised thought to not use those offensive terms any more or at least should come with an explanation why they still do. But that’s just woke little me, I guess.

Football “Experts” | I’ve been watching the Germany – Denmark match last night with a bunch of guys in the room. I don’t care about football all that much to be honest and realized my main entertainment was hearing those armchair experts comment on the game, the moves, the players, the referees and so on. They had an opinion on everything and of course they were always right. To be fair, they also weren’t dead serious about it and knew their limits. But I was wondering if that is a football fan thing or a male thing? Do female football fans act the same in a group? Do fans of other sports do the same when they watch a game? I used to go to icehockey games for a while and it was similar: the men always had something to say about the the teams, the players, the moves etc. So maybe it’s a gender thing after all.

Mental Health | I’m doing mostly ok at the moment. Trying to practice a lot of self-compassion. Listening to some podcasts to help me get back on track with a more healthy behaviour or to just recap things I’ve learned before. Meditation. Self-care in form of doodling. One of the many postive aspects of that is, that I’ve learned to live and accept and just don’t give a fuck about imperfections. Mistakes. Messing up. We all do.

“All that really counts is how you live today…”

Colouring outside the lines and that’s fine

Musings on My “Pandemic PTSD” – Brought on by the Frank Turner Song. Obviously

Ever since Frank Turner’s “Undefeated” album came out in May I had been planning to write some kind of review. Part of the idea was to not to do a song by song review this time but focus on those songs that resonate with me more than others and to delve into why they do.

Each of Frank’s albums has some of those songs, which after more than a decade of following his career still baffles me a bit to be honest. Because we’ve both changed – and grown, I hope – in various ways. You would imagine that the paths each of us are on – emotionally in life – might have diverged to some extent and thus his songs might not speak to me as much as they did. But they still do! His way of writing about his experiences and his emotions still often feels congruent with my own experiences and emotions; sometimes eerily well so. It does help that Frank is comfortable with people coming up with their own interpretation of his work, because sometimes his words when I hear them might mean something different to me than they meant to him when he wrote them. In this instance though I think I don’t veer off too much from what I think Frank wants this song to mean.

That was a bit of tangent. Anyway, it’s in my nature to be too often and too easily

paralysed by decisions

and overwhelmed by perfectionism (and no ‘perfectionism’ actually is not a positive character trait). While I thought I might have to say a lot about some songs I also knew that an album “review” post shouldn’t turn into an essay of indeterminable length and how on earth would I be able to reconcile those two aspects? So I didn’t even try. Until the penny dropped and I realized that I do not have to write a post about the whole album, just because I did that for all the previous 9. I do not have to write about all those songs in one go. Duh!

It needed a trip to the mall yesterday to finally sit down and start typing.

But I didn’t use to be this agoraphobic

I had to pick up something at a store at that mall and while I expected Saturday shoppers, I obviously underestimated the amount of people out and about. When I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people around me, I was reminded of how since March 2020 any kind of crowd made me quite anxious for a long time.

This might need some context: I’ve always been easily anxious and worried about things. Due to a chronic neurological illness (Multiple Sclerosis) I’ve also been and still am part of the high-risk group for a COVID infection. Anxiety prone and especially vulnerable to a potentially deadly disease? Of course that would affect my mental health! I didn’t realize that for a long time though.

Panic attacks in the dentist car park,
Losing my temper in a Jersey sports bar –
Safe to say the twenties have been weird.

There were so many moments in 2020 / 2021 where I got anxious about and also pissed off at people. Back in the very early days when we thought every close contact even outdoors could be dangerous and we didn’t have the “several minutes / indoors” risk assessment yet, I always got so angry at all the runners who passed me without a wide berth when I was out walking on the rail path. In hindsight I know I was overreacting, but in that moment, I felt vulnerable and I was angry about the lack of consideration from other people.

Pandemic leftovers (signs of keep your distance, cheap COVID tests)
Leftovers of the pandemic years

I’ve got similar memories of trips to the supermarket, where I once got angry at a guy who I thought was pushing his cart to close into my path. Outrage when the pizza delivery staff didn’t just put the box on the stairwell as I had asked them to with my order, but rang the doorbell to hand the box over. In hindsight I know (again) that I was overcautious and not at any risk by that behaviour. But we didn’t know that in the early days, did we? And it made me so anxious and angry.

It’s not just you and it’s not just me
That has pandemic PTSD.

Post traumatic stress disorder
Is characterised by persistent trauma
Caused by severe psychological shock or else physical injury.

I know in general PTSD is more used for “Big T traumas” like having been in a war, accident, abuse of any kind. And I probably wouldn’t call my experience of the pandemic years PTSD as such. But the pandemic sure did a number on me to some degree. Many experiences but also the strangeness of these past years are still somehow seared into my brain and still pop up quite often when I return to some locations. Up until late 2022 / early 2023 those flashbacks to previous experiences were accompanied with the visceral reaction of feeling anxious. The latter lessened over time by now, but the memories as such still pop up from time to time even now another year later. Often just little things like being in this one particular mega store, where the checkout queue at one point went all the way to the back of the shop (40 metres or so). The checkout in another supermarket I regularly frequent is next to the entrance to the pharmacy where I had to get my first vaccination registered in my vaccination card in spring 2021. Returning to department stores which you were only allowed to enter when you had current proof of a negative COVID test. So many snapshots, which have quite faded by now but have not disappeared from my memory yet. I sometimes wonder if they ever will. And will I mind if they don’t?

Until it’s OK to admit that I don’t know how to feel
About the shit that we just lived through – it was kind of a big deal.

And one day it seemed like everybody decided
They were tired of trying and bored of hiding it,
Ready for the next adventure, next news cycle, next catastrophe. [….]

As you can gather from what I wrote so far it definitely was a big deal for me! It didn’t help my mental health that there was other negative stuff going on in my life in 2021. But I also was baffled and disappointed and pissed off how so many people wanted to move on from this very traumatic experience too soon for my taste. Moving on in the quite practical sense of not wearing masks and not keeping a distance anymore right away when any rules about it were lifted. Of not being considerate to take a test / stay home when they feel sick. Not to mention the blatant disregard of potential long term risk of repeated infections or the many, many people already suffering from Long COVID. I just recently read a magazine feature about two women (early 30s and early 40s) whose lives shut down because of that and about their struggle to get any kind of decent care and support. It’s horrific!

And we stood in the wreckage trying not to claim
That we had more than our fair share of the pain,

Part of the wreckage I stood in obviously was my anxiety gone through the roof due to my own personal health situation. The other part was, how I lost quite a bit of faith in my fellow human beings. Faith that most people in general are decent and have some common sense and empathy for others. My outlook on society might have been a bit naive / optimistic before that, but something definitely broke for me in 2020/2021. I’m aware that society has started to be more divisive even before that (culture wars and all), but I didn’t expect it to go as far as it has been during the pandemic years and since. I was baffled / shocked how people with a university degree (in science!) and especially health professionals decided to blatantly ignore science and instead shared misinformation and conspiracy theories. How toxic and violent the whole debate quickly turned online and offline. How ordinary people ignored rules and advice, because they either didn’t believe COVID was serious or because they just didn’t care. How our government and we as society so easily brushed over what 2 years of distant learning and contact restriction did to a huge part of children, teenagers, young adults.

I don’t have a solution for any of those things, which have been broken. I still struggle with the mental health side of it sometimes. But at least now I’ve got a song I can scream along to when my frustration with it all gets too overwhelming. And at any other time as well, because it’s a great song in general!

160/2024 – “Football’s Coming Home”

Lyrics: “Three Lions” – The Lightning Seeds, 1996

Less than a week from today this big sport event where 22 guys will be kicking a ball around is going to start here in Germany. I try to avoid naming it, because I’m not sure if I’m allowed to name it without having paid for the licence to name it. I’m only half kidding. From what I read in the news and magazines and what I hear from people who are more closely involved with this whole event, I know there are very strict rules. Not just about the EURO (vague enough, I hope), but about sponsorships and what is allowed to be seen and said and everything. As a progressive, left-leaning person, critical of mass consumerism and corruption and all that, I should be boycotting everything about this event. But I’m not. I’m not massively engaged either though, I’m sitting somewhere in the middle ground.

I live less than an hour away from 4 of the 10 host cities in a metropolitan region which has always liked to claim to be sort of “football central” in Germany, so for the next few weeks I claim that football is indeed coming home after all.

There must have been schedules about signage and advertising, because two days – a week before the opening match – it was all dialled up a bit around here. Small banners going up in the city centres. Very big banners going up on buildings. Ads on big screens and small screens.

In the supermarket it already started weeks ago. Sponsors and consumerism and all that.

Photo of football candy from HARIBO
Football related candy

Do we really need football / tournament related candy? I don’t know. I didn’t buy any of this, in case you were wondering.

I admit these days I am a tiny bit worried about safety / security in regard to this event. Not just from the usual suspects – Nazis, Islamist, left-wing nutcases – who might want to use this hugely televised event for some kind of attack. We’ve been there before. I also worry a bit about regular people to be honest. With society – not just here in Germany but everywhere – becoming more splintered and divisive  and with a growing lack of empathy and decency towards others combined with alcohol and emotions (because it’s football) I sometimes worry what might happen. We’ll have to wait and see.

More and more people in Germany openly show right-wing tendencies or at least don’t mind fascists in parliament or don’t care about the forementioned lack of empathy and decency. We do have a problem with racism in this country and football is no exception, on the contrary. There is a new TV documentary out about it, which I haven’t watched yet, but plan to do tonight. In a survey 20% of the people said they’d prefer less players of colour in the German team. 20%! Which sort of fits into of the 15-20% of votes the right-wing party AfD seems to be getting all over the country. But it scares me!

That was an unplanned tangent. The thing I still wanted to share / boast about is: I do have a ticket for a match! Connections, baby! I mean, with all the sponsors and cities involved there are many, many, many people who got a bit easier access to some tickets. I still had to pay full price after all! I am already mildly excited about it, because it will be a once in a lifetime experience, I think. I doubt I’ll get such an easy chance again.

Tickets are only available in digital form. Not as PDF to print out or to present as file on your phone. No, you need the official app. You need to register (with your passport ID) with the organizing entity. At least the tickets showed up in the app with enough time for the match next week, because I was starting to get a bit worried.

The ticket includes free travel on public transport on match day. Do you just show the digital ticket for that? Nooooo. You need to download ANOTHER app for that. Data collection for mass consumerism and all that. I try my best to be aware of that and reject cookies and such as best I can. But there is only so much you can do these days if you still want to participate in events like this one, right?

While I’ve been typing this I’ve been watching “Donots” in the free Rock am Ring live stream. I just logged in to see who I might want to have on in the background while typing this. I did neither know line-up nor timetable. I don’t consider myself a Donots fan as such, but it’s been fun to watch and listen.