ME! By Taylor Swift (feat. Brendan Urie) – Top 5 Inspiring Moments

Much has been said, written and shared about this already, but the internet is forever and so is music, plus I prefer to let the storm die down a little (not that it really ever does in the case of the undeniable powerhouse that is Taylor Swift), and then pop out (no pun intended) my own musings after what might have been dozens of repeated perusals of whatever content is occupying my brain at the moment. And after all, to quote ME!…

I promise that nobody’s gonna love you like me

Yes, it’s poppy, catchy, colorful, possibly campy, easy to sing along to and does everything a successful pop song should, without sounding manufactured. It also echoes my support of spelling being fun. So among the many moments we can single out and scrutinize to our heart’s content, which 5 would I pick as especially inspiring? Well…

1. Taylor Swift is the mistress of transformation and she just goes for it, doing whatever she wants in expressing her creative ideas. Speak French in a totally unexpected acting scene at the beginning of the video? Mais oui! Insert some laugh-out-loud, disarmingly dorky comedy? Sure!

2. All that psychedelic, glittering dance glamour, bring it on.

3. Over-the-top theatrical romance that concludes with gifting a kitten (of course).

4. Strutting along in a pretty gown on your way to an epic musical flash mob in the street is always a good idea.

5. And of course staging the color-soaked twilight ending of your mini-musical extravaganza with huge splatters of paint raining down from the sky as you and another lovely gown become works of art.

As of right now the music video for ME! has over 164 million views, having broken the VEVO record for speediest leap to 100 million. The thoughtfully composed lyric video (for us written word and stationery geeks) is worth a look as well, currently standing at an also impressive 4.5 million views.

 

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Kate and William Wedding Nostalgia

Yeah, yeah, I’m one of those people. Deal with it.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently celebrated 8 years since they got married and seeing all the predictable photo galleries being pulled up online sent me on my own small trip down memory lane.

At the time I was I was doing an internship at an online women’s magazine which proved to be educational in many ways, and also provided valuable interactions with supervisors that I still remember clearly, and fondly. It was a special, formative time for me, and while I knew that when it ended, I would be facing most likely several months of looking for my first post-graduation job, I enjoyed my internship to the fullest.

April rolled around and everyone was excited about “the big day”. While I was definitely not a lazy intern, I won’t lie that I was more than pleased when I was told I was allowed to watch the Royal Wedding right there in the office. Basically all day long. My supervisors and colleagues had to work – tweeting, writing, editing photos, you name it. Meanwhile, I sat back and watched Kate Middleton arrive at Westminster Abbey, hoping all the while that our internet connection wouldn’t break.

When she exited the car and turned around, smiling, to wave in that first amazing moment, the whole office collectively sighed. I was sitting right opposite my boss and as I emitted my own “Ohhh”, searching for words, she quietly said, “Yes, she’s beautiful.”

Besides the excitement of watching an event I knew was being followed internationally, I suppose it also offered some natural respite from whatever sad things were going on in the world at that time, and of those there are always more than plenty. Aside from the pomp, the glamour, the jewels, the staggering media coverage all over the world, I think the refreshing part was that there were plenty of moments watching the bride in particular (and as a woman, I guess I looked  more at her than at anyone else at that wedding) that were relatable. I had been to several lovely weddings and seen my own sisters become brides, looked at various wedding pictures from my family – regardless of circumstances, that special bridal glow was the same everywhere.

I can’t not quote something about the Duchess of Cambridge’s unforgettable wedding gown, and Megan Hess said it especially well in her beautiful book The Dress. 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion: “Kate’s wedding dress was always going to have an impact on style history – seared into our minds and inspiring thousands of knock-offs. Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen designed the chosen gown, which, with its full skirt and long sleeves, was inevitably traditional.” Additionally, one commentator from this clip of the BBC coverage of Kate Middleton’s arrival expresses it accurately too: “I am beside myself, this is such a fashion moment, I can’t tell you <…> It’s exquisite. She…” Trailing off, she stops for a while, leaving us to fill in the blanks ourselves, and then she simply concludes with “That is a fabulous dress.” True!

 

 

 

You’ve Got The Power, Agathe Bauer

“There are whole websites devoted to what people heard wrongly in a song,” was what I started to say during a routine German workday lunch, when one of my buddies interjected, “Yes! Do you know Agathe Bauer?”

I was confused at first, because what I thought she said, in a mix of German and English, was “I got a Bauer”, which translates as “I got a farmer”.  The irony is that “Agathe Bauer” is apparently what scores of Germans heard instead of “I got the power” in the 1989 hit The Power by Snap! The cycle continues! Predictably, the gif inserted at this point of my post is…

After  I learned this piece of information, I couldn’t stop imagining what the fictitious Agathe Bauer would look like and making up what she did in life. I think she’s a sturdy German woman who lives on a farm with her three grown sons, and she wants them all to get married. But most likely none of the candidates the sons brought home would be good enough for her, my friend added firmly, and I felt like agreeing. I think that besides investing her thoughts and emotions in her sons’ future, Agathe would be great at making jam and would be very hands-on at the farm.

Nationally songs where people heard something wrong are affectionately referred to as Agathe Bauer songs and the interpretations are endless.  I would still like to add, though, that while I still have plenty to contribute myself, I never joined the Starbucks lovers team. One thing in life I can be certain of.

 

Sunday’s Little Moments

There is something special about Sundays in the springtime. Maybe because here in Hamburg we usually have to wait for ours – nature takes its time and blooming happens slowly, thoughtfully. But when the season is finally here, it’s glorious. It also feels earned!

It rained this morning first, but in the afternoon the sun came out and I seized my chance to take a short walk. I had one quick errand on my list and as I sped along underneath some lovely old trees the height of a four-storey building, a generous dollop of bird poo landed next to me with a plop, narrowly missing me. Or so I thought! A few minutes later I discovered part of it on my jeans. Yay, because I was worried – it’s considered a sign of good luck around these here parts.

Every café in sight has tables standing outside and people are clearly enjoying the conclusion of a (mostly) sunny weekend, stretching out the Sunday evening before next week begins. I get some ice cream and sit down on a bench to enjoy it. Within a minute there’s a long line out the door while I leisurely eat my dessert, so thanks to that bird.

Two small children, brother and sister, dart out, a cone with two scoops (like me) for each. Their mother instructs them in focused German on how to eat the thing: “Turn the cone and just lick all around the bottom.” Well! Now I finally know how it’s done! By this point it’s too late to test the technique, because I’ve already eaten my ice cream, but I’m certainly savouring (no pun intended) the moment.

In fact, I’d gotten my two scoops in a cone, and I’m actually wary of cones, even though I love them, because I worry about dripping or dropping, since the top scoop (if you get two) is usually  sitting above the rim of the cone and is therefore in more danger of toppling over if you don’t eat it carefully or lick away too much of the bottom scoop. This is an important topic! But it’s 2019, and my cone trust has grown a lot. May this year signal the arrival of a new era in ice cream consumption outside as well as more little Sunday moments.

Aunt of Two

Becoming an aunt for the first time both touched my heart and opened up the place where the new family member took up residence. It confirmed and strengthened a large part of my long-standing feelings about family as a whole, as well as giving me a new understanding of myself as an adult.

Like all relationships, being an aunt is a continuing process. I learn, I cry (not with the kid, I hold it in and let loose later), I laugh, I smile before I even know I’m doing so, I visit, I play, I run and I stop to look at flowers in the grass outside. I make up nicknames with lightning speed and my voice changes pitch when I praise.

Conversations with family have expanded to include this experience and I know for sure that they will feel the same way I do when we talk, with our individual perspectives chipping in. I am, in short, invested, and I care. You see your sibling, now a parent, in a new light, and as you observe them with respect and a full heart, you may get a glimpse of what it was like for your parents, now the newly minted grandparents, to care for you and your siblings before your memory began to form.

I have now become an aunt for a second time and as we say in the family, I’m immediately aware. Everything I knew my heart to do before has happened again, and it still feels new, infinite. There is room for everyone.

The most humbling part about this experience is that I keep thinking the children didn’t ask for an aunt who still cries during (well-acted) sad scenes in movies, to name just one example, who is obsessed with using gifs in all forms of chatting and texting, and loves to grab almost any kind of freebies just because they are free (take now, sort later!). In fact, they didn’t know one single thing about me until we met, just as I couldn’t know what they would be like until I saw them. But during that first-time meeting I knew that this was how it was supposed to be, then and there.

Acceptance as an aunt is not to be taken for granted. I feel strongly that everything that makes up my life, especially the parts connected to my ever-developing self-awareness, values, thoughts on what kind of person I want to be and how I treat family and friends – all this, so crucial already, takes on an added, life-affirming importance because of two growing people who will know what I’m up to, since we are included in each other’s lives.

I do want to be an example to myself, and if by doing so I will also contribute in a positive way to someone else watching me (in addition to going to their parents first) from their smaller height as their world gets bigger every day, that will be the best mutual gift that aunthood could give.

Notre Dame de Paris

My feelings after seeing the news that Notre Dame de Paris was on fire on April 15 are still quite raw and I have been finding it difficult to write this post. Even now I’m hesitating, because how can you wrap up your words in one not overdone package after decades of happily creating memories that have grown deep roots?

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the headlines. You think of Notre Dame and you see soaring, stalwart stone walls and towers that have stood the test of time. You remember the overwhelming impact of history, architecture and beauty that the cathedral produces and simply assume that it will always be there. Of course I know that buildings are not going to be around forever and things can happen. They have happened. But we reach out towards that which stays, welcomes, remains, inspires. And that is one of the reasons why what happened to Notre Dame de Paris is so incredibly sad.

Buildings do not speak, but they make us speak because they are witnesses to time. Anyone can walk in, sit down, look around, take pictures, take away impressions, read up on historic structures and open up stories of the people connected to them. Whether you are religious or not, a cathedral like Notre Dame de Paris, aside from obviously being a landmark of enormous cultural, historical and architectural significance, is a place of gathering. Not just inside the building, but around it – in the little square nearby with Paris’ oldest tree and metal arches covered with roses in the springtime, in front of the two-tower facade everyone recognizes and tries to take the best picture of.

Way back in the day my sister and I first visited Notre Dame de Paris on the heels of multiple viewings of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We knew all the songs by heart and we even knew about Victor Hugo’s novel, even if we were too young to read it. Feeling quite prepared with our knowledge, we were very eager to go inside and as high as possible. We wanted to follow Quasimodo’s footsteps and see it all: the bells, the stained-glass windows, the gargoyle statues, the view of Paris from above. I remember that afterwards, full to bursting with all our impressions, we went around a corner to get some ice-cream (mais oui) and there was a beautiful mime dressed as Esmeralda who pretended to read my palm. The experience was complete. As kids, we couldn’t have asked for more.

Since then I have been fortunate enough to go to Paris a lot and almost every time I stopped by Notre Dame, wherever I was coming from. Whether it was a longer sit-down with some relaxed people-watching or just a brief look, it has always been a part of my Paris. It was touching to see the same sentiments expressed online by people around the world, and the crowd singing Ave Maria as the cathedral burned is something that I don’t think I will ever forget. No riots, no violence, no fights, no pushing, shouting or discord of any kind (for a change), and thankfully no fatalities during the fire. Just pure, sincere acknowledgement of sadness and respect.

Nice Things People Ask or Say to You When They Find Out You’re Russian

Because they do! And while I have previously truthfully listed the rather typical things they ask (which tickle all my sarcastic scribbling instincts and love of the ridiculous hidden between the lines), I do always veer towards being positive in the end.

So, that conversation happens where you reveal the R word when people ask you where you’re from (sometimes they insistently ask you where you’re from “originally”, because your name sounds different, regardless of how long you’ve been living in your current non-Russian city). And you might hear one of the following:

Wow! That is a big country! (Yes. Depending on my mood, I might respond with, “Indeed, we have a lot of room” or “Go big or go home!”)

I love that stew, what’s it called…borscht! (Actually it’s pronounced borSCH, without a “t”, but I appreciate the effort and I have to restrain myself from asking if you’ve seen Miss Congeniality and if you might remember that scene in the dingy Russian restaurant, with Gracie Hart complimenting the waitress on that very stew…I’m getting carried away.)

What are those pretty Russian wooden dolls called, the ones you can stack up in each other? (Matryoshka. NOT babushka.)

 

Do you know that animated film, Anastasia? (Yes, I do, and I love it, though before you can ask, I’ll say myself that it’s a rather liberal interpretation of the Russian Revolution and the following years!)

I think you’re the first Russian I’ve ever met. (Honoured! Prepare to be amazed…)