Thursday, August 27, 2020
A big 'ole Summer Update

I haven't written a thing here since May but writing is still very cathartic for me so I always drift back to it. Imo, blogs are really fading out now (correct me if I'm wrong). The world of bloggers has now become the world of influencers and all that's needed is an Instagram account, good captions and eye-catching photos - not the kind of time that goes into a blog, which is about double the amount of work an Instagram account requires. I don't even like or want to refer to this as a blog, or myself as a blogger, I just write stuff on the internet... anyway, I've been busy hence the hiatus and I've been thinking a lot about changing what I do online for the new year - more on that another time. We're closer to 2021 than we are to the start of 2020, which is probably a relief for most. However, I'm all too aware that just because it's a new year doesn't mean everything will miraculously be better or that covid will disappear - the new changes are going to be around for a while and will carry on with us into next year. 

I've moved, done an internship following my placement at a radio station and am awaiting a new start for the new year. I've seen family and friends, celebrated my nephews 2nd birthday and I've recently been on holiday as well.

Life in a nutshell...

Politics: The BLM movement has quite rightly reared its head in a time where it felt the world was at full capacity of breaking news and life-altering changes. I'm of course sickened and saddened with what's going on and it's definitely been revolutionary for me, at least mentally. I'm not racist, I've just realized that I've not been anti-racist enough in my life. I'll admit I have not spoken up when black people weren't present enough, I've overlooked comments or jokes, I've not realised these 'micro-aggressions' contribute to the bigger picture of racism. I've not acknowledged that my life has been privileged by my skin. So it has been a big wake up call for me and I'm motivated to help in any way I can. It's been a realisation that I always have a spare few minutes to sign an important petition, I always have some money to spare and donate to a helpful cause and I always have the time to speak up, share, retweet and tell people to be anti-racist too. 

Sustainability: I've been thinking about climate change too (oh how fun it is to be in my head!) and how I can help, how I can consume better, do better. A friend recommended an app to me called 'Yuka' which has been really useful and insightful - where you can scan and research products and see which rate best based on their ingredients. It's helping me consume better, more organic/bio based products. Next, if you're interested in a future career in climate change, there's a useful website where you can sign up for job updates here. I've recently signed up to this important campaign on Fridays For Future here and lastly, a useful bit of information I found on Instagram is to snip the straps when binning your disposable covid masks, to protect our wildlife. It REALLY frustrates me that people (myself included, not a saint) forget that I, and humans in general, aren't the only ones living here and I think we need to be constantly reminded, we are not the only ones here! I'm not talking about aliens, I mean who knows, but the plants, the animals. We really need to cooperate better and think of others and how our small actions (such as disposing of a mask) will ultimately affect the environment and ourselves.

TV/Film: This year has been a really good year for TV, for me anyway. I have sort of temporarily neglected the film studies nerd side of me and gone all-out Mike TV this year because there is just some cracking content and I've had all the more time to consume it all. I've finished Hollywood, Unorthodox, That 70's Show, Sex Education, Girl Boss, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, Dead to Me, Selling Sunset - all on Netflix and EXCELLENT. 

I succumbed to the hype and binged through Normal People on BBC Iplayer. What really, out of them ALL, knocked it out the park for me, was I May Destroy You by Michaela Coel, and I can assure you I have consumed all the content that goes with it - interviews, youtube videos, podcasts, reviews. It's not an easy watch but wow, is it good, is it intelligent, emotional, it's pure art at its finest and all at the same time, raising awareness of an important, sensitive topic. It spurred me onto watch Chewing Gum, by the same creator of the latter which I devoured in a day or so - it's laugh out loud funny and I highly recommend. I'm in the midst of re-watching Gossip Girl (I never made it past season 4 for some reason), where in costume design and drama, it can do no wrong!!! I'm obsessed.

As I said previously, film has really taken a back seat for me, and I've been a bit lazy. I still haven't been back to the cinema, as everyone I've mentioned it to, is not such a die hard cinema fan that they are willing to sit in a mask in a dark room for hours. However, to name a few films I've loved recently : The Talented Mr. Ripley (I'm obsessed with the costume/aesthetic of it), Vertigo, She's Gotta Have It, 13th, At Eternity's Gate and the 'Before' trilogy by Richard Linklater. Ok maybe I've seen more films than I thought...but my goal is to see MORE!

Mindfulness/spirituality: I've been doing so much work on myself over the past two years and sometimes I feel like I make a step forward then 10 back. But the important thing is to get back on the saddle and keep going ahead! A new habit I've quite recently picked up is 'morning pages' which I discovered via Youtuber Jenn Im. You basically write a stream of consciousness for three pages first thing in the morning (or later). I kept up a good streak for about 30 days then went on a holiday and didn't do it but I'm back at it and I'm finding it therapeutic to just purge out all my thoughts before I start the day. It really makes me feel like I'm starting on a clean slate. For more info and a better explanation of MP, look here.

I'm still meditating, not daily but at least weekly. I continue to use 'Yoga with Adriene's' meditation playlist, and have downloaded the 'Calm' app to my phone, but unfortunately you can't do very much with this app for free, so I'm on the lookout for something efficient and without a price tag. I really want to get a Transcendental Meditation teacher but I currently can't justify the cost so I just watch tons of videos with David Lynch talking about it and try to learn as much as I can on my own. 

I've taken up free style dancing, or sort of 'dancersising' lol. A recent TED talk I watched ft. the late Sir Ken Robinson inspired me, albeit long after I've decided to take up dancing, I recommend you watch it in full here. However, he reinforced what I've been thinking, and that so much of your life you use your head, when you study, work etc - you're so often up in your head, and that it's so important to move and use every other part of your body. I never regret it afterwards and it makes me feel good and energized.

Cooking and baking have been such a positive outlet for me lately and I've finally found enjoyment in it. It gives me energy and peace of mind and I love creating something for others, or sometimes just myself, to enjoy. I've gone quiche crazy and even tried my first ever garden focaccia. 

Travel: As I mentioned I've recently got back from holiday which was very last minute and spontaneous and I'm so glad I went. This year we've all felt a bit 'trapped' so getting away somewhere new can do the world of good. I went down south to the national park of Cevennes in France, where my friend grew up and I honestly couldn't believe my eyes. The views were incredible, the water clear and blue, towering green mountains, waterfalls - like something straight out of a Bob Ross painting (I recommend his show too, an anxiety cure). I did a fair bit of walking, a lot of eating, jumping in icy cold rock pools, climbed rocks and sat under a waterfall - truly magical! Me and my friend both agreed we felt like we had gone back to our natural state and remembered how simple yet important it is to eat delicious, natural food with good company. It's such a traditional, almost religious experience in culture, to have a sit down meal, and something that keeps you rooted and grateful in this crazy world.

Books: This year's been quite good on the reading front - but there's been a lot more reading of online articles than books for me. I've read roughly 12/15 in my book challenge on my Goodreads app. Honestly, I've not felt hugely motivated to read this year and have found it really hard to concentrate on a book and want to find a book that I don't want to end. Lately the books I've been reading, by about the last few chapters, I'm eager to finish it. If you're struggling with the same, I set a timer on my phone to force myself to read for a good hour or so.

And the rest: What else? It's been a good year for music but I miss live music so much. I don't think I've ever gone this long without going to a gig, in a long time. Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia album really lifted my mood during lockdown and got me dancing round my apartment - a great disco soundtrack for partying. I also really love Disco Volador by The Orielles to continue on with the disco theme. I've been revisiting lots of Madonna's albums and Kylie Minogue's too. I've unexpectedly been enjoying the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Harry Styles but also lots of indie music such as Altin Gun, Tame Impala and Khruangbin. Social life wise, I'm a lot happier with that. I've made new friends and I'm enjoying valuable family time and I feel I have all the right people in my life and I'm excited for what the future holds.

And that's the update... I have so many other recommendations, like Instagram accounts I like, Youtube videos I've enjoyed over lockdown, thoughts, ideas etc etc... and I will save them for another time.

See you in the next one.

Sunday, May 10, 2020
Recently On...Netflix

More than ever we're watching shows and movies online, being stuck at home day in, day out - like Groundhog Day. Here are some interesting documentaries, films and tv shows I've watched on Netflix lately. Maybe you'll find something you like too.

All The Bright Places

This romantic teen-drama is based on the bestselling novel of the same name - about Violet and Theodore, who meet a bit how Rose and Jack meet in Titanic - Violet, potentially about to jump from a bridge, following the grief and loss of her sister, but saved by Theodore before it's too late. Both are struggling with deep emotional scars of their past, but find a sense of healing as they both fall in love with one another. It's an intense story to watch but beautifully done, giving a fresh, true-to-life perspective on the experience of mental illness, grief, and how this impacts relationships. For fans of The Fault In Our Stars or To All The Boys I Loved Before - you may enjoy this!

Miss Americana

I always love getting a behind-the-scenes experience into the life of an artist or a prolific celebrity. I'm not a massive Swift fan but I actually enjoyed this. The documentary delves into the many facets of Taylor Swift's career - from the big decisions and board meetings with her managers and publicists to her more vulnerable side and struggle with her body image. We see the ups and downs of her career in the late 2010s from that Kanye scandal to her dazzling tour costumes and her early rise to stardom as a determined and eager-to-please teenager. I found it to be a very honest look into one of the biggest female pop stars of today and the kind of challenges she faces on a day-to-day basis. If you enjoyed 5 Foot 2 about Lady Gaga, then you may like this too.

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

I stumbled across this and the name Joan Didion rung a bell, but I didn't know exactly much about her. This documentary was a revelation to me and exposed me to this hugely talented woman. Throughout, we delve into an archive of her essays, novels, and screenplays - where Didion provides us with observations on her personal experiences and state of mind. Directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne, The Center Will Not Hold explores a treasure trove of footage and spends time talking with Joan about her eventful life - from writing for Vogue to her life in California, the writing of her books and marriage to the writer, John Gregory Dunne. If you want to be inspired, this documentary does a great job of honoring Didion's impactful career in the world of literature and culture.

Living With Yourself

Paul Rudd plays Miles, fed up with his life, and on the brink of burn-out in work and his love life. Miles heads to a 'spa' where he is promised a new, improved version of himself. The procedure doesn't quite go to plan, and Miles ends up having to live with his clone whilst trying to maintain normality at work with his colleagues and at home with his wife. There are only about 8 episodes at about 30 minutes max so this is what you would call a 'binge' worthy series if you're that way inclined. I really enjoyed this series and found it both funny and entertaining. It was an interesting look at how we view the self, and the desire for self-improvement - a dark, satirical but weird and bizarre comedy - if you like Black Mirror, this will be right up your street.

Camino A Roma

Whilst on lockdown, I've been trying to learn as much about filmmaking as I can. If you've seen Roma by Alfonso Cuaron, then you may just be interested to see what goes into the production of the movie in this insightful documentary. I genuinely sometimes find behind-the-scenes features more interesting than the films themselves - I just love seeing the cameras, the actors, and production design, and everything that goes into making a film. We get to see how the director works on set, and lots of little details you wouldn't know from just watching the film. For example, a lot of the cast aren't experienced actors, the story is about Cuaron's childhood growing up and a lot of it is pure memory and not a lot of research. Fascinating and insightful, a must-watch for film buffs!

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator

What stings the most about this documentary is the ending, where viewers are told that Bikram, the man, and focus of this whole documentary, is still teaching students today. Bikram rose to fame in the '70s for his 26-pose hot yoga classes and teacher training, which catapulted him to dizzying heights of success, wealth, and power. Not the first to do so, Bikram uses his status and abuses it, and throughout the documentary, former students reveal they were sexually abused by him. I found it both fascinating and scary how people, ie. the students, were so swept up by it all that his behavior was ignored, even tolerated. A man who lives in contradiction, promoting a peaceful and healthy lifestyle through yoga but his actions don't reflect those values.

Feminists: What Were They Thinking?

This documentary was really moving and emotional for me. Directed by Johanna Demetrakas, she revisits photos from a 1977 book capturing women shedding cultural restrictions. We meet the women from the book over 40 years later, such as Jane Fonda and Michelle Phillips (The Mamas & The Papas) who talk about what it was like growing up a feminist and their careers in the arts, music, acting, comedy, literature and more. Though the documentary is made over 40 years since the photographs were taken and assembled for the book, what I found so emotional is that women are still fighting the same fight today. Initially, I found it a little despairing but also motivating and inspiring to continue pushing for change and gender equality.

Thursday, April 23, 2020
38 Days Later
Spring blossoms on a daily walk!

38 is the number of days I've been at home now 'self-isolating'/on lockdown/quarantining - whatever you want to call it or 'confinement' as the French say. Also well done if you got the play on words! If you didn't, 28 Days Later is a post-apocalyptic horror film by Danny Boyle featuring the gooorge Cillian Murphy who wakes up in a hospital and goes outside to discover London is completely deserted -  I highly recommend.

My version, 38 Days Later, involves 0 actual zombies but the state of the supermarkets in the first couple of weeks wasn't far off looking like a set from the film though. Currently, outside my window cars are still driving by, people are out enjoying the sun, on their own though, I should add. However, normality feels like it could be in the hopefully not so distant future?

I've kept up the same attitude since my last post, enjoying the little things and mostly avoiding the news only when necessary. I tuned in for the most recent speech from Emmanuel Macron who then announced a further lockdown till the 11th of May. It's funny how I'd been going days without thinking about the news and the severity of the illness, and one speech put my mind in a negative space. The reality of what's going on hit me all over again like it was news I was hearing for the first time. Selfishly, I also noticed my 25th birthday will be spent at home.

To be honest, I didn't have plans yet but they most likely wouldn't have involved staying indoors but here we are! I like being home anyway and if staying in saves lives then I'm happy to do that. There'll be cake and I've booked time off work so it's shaping up alright for a 25th birthday.

Work has been keeping me busy. I've been researching new music and interviewing an Italian artist who's stuck in America for her quarantine. I find it fascinating how everyone's experience with this will be so unique. You can read the interview (in French) here if you like. It reminded me of how nice it was to talk to a stranger and share stories. It made me realize one of the things I've loved the most about my job is talking to people and asking questions (I like to do this in general so as a job it feels like a bonus).

Other things I've done include: painting my nails, cutting my own hair (it happened), watching documentaries, going for walks, playing my Nintendo, reading my book, making several quiches (some good, some epic failures) doing a 'Houseparty' app call with my cousins and doing two easter egg hunts in my flat and proceeding quickly to eat all of the chocolate. I've vacuumed several times and it actually helps calm my mind a lot so there's an obvious wellness tip for you if you ever needed one.

I've also got very into meditation, to the point where, if I'm feeling rubbish, my first thought now is 'I need to meditate'. If you'd told me a year ago, that meditation would be so beneficial if I just gave it a go, I would have made an excuse or said I'll just 'get round to it'. I've finally started making the effort and I couldn't imagine going without it.

38 days later and the start of all of this feels like a lifetime ago. I'm slightly apprehensive about when life goes 'back to normal' - how will it feel to be in a crowd again? On a crowded commute? I think in a weird way, there will be parts I miss about being at home. I especially like not having any FOMO (fear of missing out), but I realise that's on me, and not on others. I'm learning to enjoy going by my own schedule and timetable, and if being at home suits me more than going out, or if I simply can't then I'm learning to be at peace with that. I sometimes like working from home, having everything I need around me, and the ability to roll out of bed! It's great that once I 'clock off', I'm already home.

I like that I'm now making time to do things I would make excuses for before. I'm excited again to learn, to be creative, and to cook! Can you believe that I chopped a ton of veg and made my first ever homemade soup of... my life?!

I'm not sure who I'm writing this for exactly, or who will enjoy it, but mostly I'm writing this for my future self. When I'm an oldie, and hopefully still know how to find this part of the internet, I can look back at this and show it to family and say "This is what happened when I was in my 20's!".