Saturday, May 31, 2014

Failures and Disasters - the tale of Elections 2014 in Aachen!

 The place the magic (didn't) happen!
Where to start, where to start? I have been working for the local and European election for two months now and I love the job. Unfortunately, after the runoff election in two weeks, that job is going to be over. I want to write down everything that happened (or better: that didn't happen) and every lesson I learned but these two months were genuinely filled with more stuff than I could ever remember. Therefore, I don't really know where to start. Other than being my favorite job ever, mainly because I'm obsessed with politics and loved every member of that team, this election was a huge disaster. Nothing worked out! It felt as if higher powers were trying to prevent this election. Well, lower powers were also sabotaging. In a nutshell, about everything went wrong. I wished I was a journalist sometimes because a genuine report of this election could have made some awesome reading. As I'm not a journalist, I'm going to try to just give a little impression on how a seemingly awesome job almost broke us! At least nobody died (yet!).

As I mentioned in an earlier blog the employment of 40 people to conduct three elections on the same day was pure insanity already. That alone would have caused enough problems to threaten a successful execution. At the Federal Election, when I was still on the postal vote team, we had 20 people. This time they hired an additional 4 although the work that needed to be done at least tripled. Additionally, the ballots came out of print late, knocking off about a week of preparation for the team. So within two weeks 24 individuals had to prepare the postal vote for over 40,000 people. Instead of one ballot voters would now receive six, sometimes seven. That many ballots hardly fit in their matching envelopes. The postal vote team had hundreds of applications every day and no time to work on them as vot ers were wanting to vote at our offices up until at least 3pm every day when the office closed to the public. Once all voters had left real work only started. A 4pm end was inconceivable.

So one of my co-workers was texting me at 11pm one night from the office. I had left at 7pm after 12 hours because I felt I had deserved it. Needless to say, I felt really bad for leaving "early". The next morning, as soon as he came back, a new pile of applications was on his desk. From that day on I stayed as long as I physically could every night because the work never stopped. Ever. If someone finished their pile, there were at least 10 team members who had enough work left for two weeks. I wasn't on postal vote this time but my work was largely done so whenever I had a minute it was back to the ballots. These applications had to be processed at least a week before the election to give voters enough time to send them back. With normal working hours we would still be processing. Therefore, no work days finished on time. Our extra hours were piling up. All employees, whether they were on the postal vote team or not, were folding ballots and stuffing envelopes, even the boss. It was incredible team work, I was very proud of everyone.

No, wait a minute, I was not. There was outstanding team work and a few people sacrificing all of their time for this to happen. However, probably the biggest disaster on the postal vote team was a few individuals who took the job for the money, thought they'd be working 7,48 hours a day and not a second later (if that) and get paid for being present, not necessarily working. Those black sheep obviously exist sometimes, however, the work they were hired to do obviously didn't disappear when they found it unnecessary to show up, leave with thousands of applications on their desk or "didn't feel like" working. Their work had to be done by the select few who were responsible, hard-working people who realized that there would be no election if the whole team acted that way. The boss, a lovely man who was stressed out of his mind, didn't realize how the postal vote was falling behind to the extent where it was impossible to catch up anymore.

In the midst of this reality one of my co-workers came into my office on Thursday, three days before the election, and dropped the bomb. He had accidentally put the wrong ballot into 164 envelopes. Not only did we have up to seven ballots but they were different from neighborhood to neighborhood, and he had confused them. This could have happened to everyone, and I'm surprised it didn't. As if we weren't drowning in work already this mistake had to be remedied. Unfortunately, that meant all 164 had to be called and the correct ballot had to be delivered to the affected personally. At 2am my boss and his wife were stomping through the affected neighborhood with a flash light to deliver the new ballots. On Friday before the election I then came to work, looking forward to the first day after the storm, tired from not sleeping for weeks, only to find the electoral registry that I was in charge of over the last two months printed in my office. Not bound, not revised, just printed. After having done everybody's job over the past few weeks on our last general day it was me who needed everyone's help. I had 23 hours to do the task (who needs sleep eh?), instead it took six people a 12 hour work day to finish. Good planning! Thank you, team!

So we started into the election weekend with a lack of sleep, frustration, health issues in many cases and mainly fear. The press was all over us and it felt very much like the election would have to be called off if news of any more disasters would break. Saturday and Sunday were expectedly busy but we managed to get through them without any low-points. On Sunday at 6pm we then got ready to receive the counted ballots back at the Council, archive them and communicate them to the press and administration. Counting had only started at 6pm so no ballots were back before 9pm at the earliest. I'd been at work since 7am so naturally, I was dying. I kid you not, I have no idea what would have happened without coffee. I was shaking but at least I wasn't falling asleep. The phone did not stop ringing with bad news from the headquarters, and at one point we thought we might as well call it a day and do a reelection tomorrow. The last ballots reached us shortly after 2am so we basically hadn't even been paid for the last two hours because contracts ended at midnight. With the result we also knew that the malarkey would continue for three more weeks as a runoff election would have to take place.

Exceptional people!!!!!
I have now abandoned my job at the register and am back on the postal vote permanently as only 4 out of 24 decided to sign follow-up contracts. A team of four people will not be able to successfully execute this runoff election. People have stopped doing the jobs they're assigned to. At this point we all have to do whatever needs to be done. The boss is on sick leave (as he should be because he's more dead than alive), another boss started crying in front of me on Wednesday and the third one is unable to communicate and in a constant state of shock. My health has gotten away a lot better. Firstly, I'm 35 years younger. Secondly, I'm alright with stress. But most importantly, I still enjoyed the job a lot. However stressful it was I feel very accomplished and it's been fantastic experience for me. Additionally, I love that team! But I'd always rather work a horrible job than no job at all. So in the end I'm still very thankful! Tonight the team is celebrating on our first Saturday sans work! No spoilers but I think it's gonna be epic...

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bullies in Brussels - The far-right, left and populists in a parliament near you!

Before I will dedicate the next dozen blogs to the past three weeks of my life and how the election ruined it (temporarily) I am now going to comment on its results. Not enough time has passed since the election for me to be able to talk about it. I love politics, democracy and the job but the last few weeks were murder and although it was fantastic experience I am half a person right now. Therefore, I cannot physically allow myself to think about it just yet and all the disasters that have been happening. One of the most significant disasters of the election, however, is my personal dismay with the outcome (as usual, although the trend is pointing in a right direction). Especially the far-right vote is something I won’t and will never want to be silent about. 

An American friend of mine commented on facebook yesterday that he couldn’t believe that far-right parties got the results they did on a continent where the 1930s and 40s have not been forgotten yet. Apparently they have. Populists and Far-right parties would be the third biggest faction if they were to come together. They base their program on hate: they either hate certain people living within the European Union or the Union itself. I’m appalled that it’s been spread everywhere that their presences are worrying, yet so many people not only neglect the danger associated with these parties but vote for them. You make that mistake once, Europe, and it was in the 1930s. Not now! How can we forget what happened when most of our grandparents’ lives were destroyed as the consequence of such neglect?

I’m not even calling anyone Hitler. Just because we have such parties arising I’m not seeing another Holocaust happening (at least not around here because God knows they still happen!). However, we all saw where hate got us (and continues to get people every day). Not just on this continent but on pretty much all of them, over centuries. Extremism is our favorite thing to complain about, whether it comes from the right or the left or a religious belief. In a community centralization is the key. Part of compromising is accepting each other and if we want to sit on the same table a certain amount of love is just simply necessary. Or at least not hate. I find it hard to understand that people see the key to resolving Europe's problems in electing such parties forfor them to send out people who are willing to fight, not compromise. That is not what they made the EU for. Wake up, Europe!

Frans Timmermanns, the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, spoke at Martin Schulz’ campaign on Saturday. I’m usually in front row when Martin Schulz comes anywhere close to where I’m staying. Timmermanns said that it is always dangerous when people start blaming other people for their misfortunes. And that is exactly what racism, xenophobia and all these are. The roma don’t physically make someone unemployed but I suppose people find it easier to blame them for economic disadvantages than actual causes for them. I don’t have a job and many immigrants do. The reason I don’t have one is not that they have my job. I still expect my country to work for both me and the immigrants to have a job. In the end, I could have studied civil engineering and I would most likely be employed right now even if this country was owned by immigrants. Insanity!

The bottom line is that I believe in freedom of expression, even if this expression is against a different group of society. I might not agree but everyone gets to say freely how they feel. Obviously many people thought these parties solve Europe’s problems best and therefore elected them. That’s what you’re supposed to do. How voters think that hate and confrontation is going to solve a single problem, whether in real life or in a plenary, is beyond me though. Either people are really bad at fighting and don't get how interaction works or they don't get how problems are supposed to be solved in Brussels. Voting for delegates that are trying to crush the institution and its processes doesn’t make a voter of these parties appear very smart or compassionate; I don’t know which is worse. It’s not a very good idea, and I hope by 2019 people have increasingly realized that!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Election Job 2k14, a nightmare in words

Where to even start with this election business? I could genuinely write a book. The times of "Sina, you have no work experience, you know nothing about politics in practice and you have never worked hard outside of uni" are definitely over. So over it almost cost me my sanity. In fact, it cost my boss, his two assistants and various other people their sanity. Of 24 employees at the postal vote department four decided to return for the runoff election, the boss is close to burnout and most people have cried at this point, including grown men! IT WAS A NIGHTMARE! Don't get me wrong, it was fantastic experience but it was very tough. Someone rightly said the other day "If we can do this job, we can do anything!"

Everything started out so smooth. I was at the job for three weeks before the real work hit. Quickly it became obvious that the postal vote department would be screwed for numerous reasons: A. The ballots came out of print about a week late, B. There were 7 different ballots instead of the usual ONE, and C. half the employees were useless. Additionally, only two people from last year returned and the useless new staff failed to recognize the importance of their work as half of them disappeared at 4pm sharp although tons of work was left. The unlucky few that attempted to leave the office last were left with everybody's work because it simply had to be done. I wasn't even at the postal vote department but after I heard that one of my co-workers had to stay until 11pm one night to finish everybody else's work me and a few others stayed longer to help out as well. In the last week that meant that the earliest I was home was 10pm, back at 7am the next morning.

Desperate times call for desperate measures...
You can skip a night's sleep or go with little sleep for a week maybe but once you also work weekends, and don't get to sleep even then, your body simply stops working. I loved this job but I was just exhausted. Sunday, on Election Day, I came to work at 7am and finished at 2am the next morning. While we were waiting for the counted ballots to be returned to us more and more disasters hit and we finally thought "All the hard work we put into making this election work is finally NOT paying off, this is going to fail, we need a reelection!" Throughout the entire week things got worse and worse. We thought we had hit rock bottom about ten times, and then things just got more complicated, less things worked out and my boss went more insane. That poor man! I have no idea who came up with it but the person who decided to have three elections on one day needs a Human Resources crash course. That election needed about 100 employees, we were 40.

So altogether this is an introduction to what I'm going to be talking about for the next year or so. This election was genuinely the craziest work experience ever. My first post with massive responsibility and a schedule that makes you want to vomit. I regret nothing though, I feel like I could manage running for President of the Comission or mayor myself now. Also, going crazy together makes people bond quite nicely. I saw these people every day and every night for two months even when I was sleeping because obviously I dreamed of ballots, politicians and these freaking co-workers like every night. I can't believe two months ago the majority of these posts used to be about boredom. Boredom? What exactly is that again? The next few posts will be about the complete opposite of boredom: my job at the Council 2014! For now, I need to get my well-deserved sleep. I'm aiming for a full 7 hours tonight... booomb!

Friday, May 23, 2014

European Parliament Elections 2014 - Preach it, Sina!

In the past seven days I already worked 90 hours. Why? Because I work for an election, and apparently democracy doesn't sleep. The European Elections are coming up in Germany and the team and I are currently being raped by all kinds of evil forces that evidently want to screw up a smooth administration. I will be able to write a dozen blogs on what has been happening at this job which is amazing in many ways but since I worked 14 hours today, rode my bike home, and barely slept all week I will refrain yet again from writing all the posts I have lined up in my head. One post can't wait though, and that is the "Jesus, people go vote because it is important for so many reasons!" post!

Firstly, don't make me repeat the depressing number of work hours I just gave you. Is anyone really that cruel as to make all this effort be in vain? Granted, I get paid for this work but I also believe it is awesome that the people in my country can vote and that it is being made so easy for them. In 2011, when Kenya voted and I was fortunate enough to witness it, the Kenyan people lined up for eight hours in front of the polling stations to cast their vote. These people realized what a great gift it is to be able to have a voice even though we're individually too insignificant to make it heard.

This points me to the principle of Europe. Individually, we're all great but together we can kick ass. The same applies to the parliament we're electing on Sunday. Not to believe in Europe is forgetting everything that has happened on this continent for the past 3000 years. War is all there ever was, and now, we've been living peacefully, helping each other, sitting at the same tables, paying with the same money and sending students like me abroad to get an interbational education for the past few decades. We're no longer historic Europe, we're a community. And we now have the chance to decide where we're all going together. 

I'm not going to lie, in a pool of millions of votes a single vote doesn't count for much. However, if someone gives you a lottery ticket free of charge you play even though your odds are most definitely way too bad to consider a win. If you don't play you will have even worse chances of winning, namely zero percent. So you play. You are given this vote so you might as well use it and possibly decide what path Europe will go. You will have a preference, and thousands of others will share it. If all of you are too lazy to express it nobody wins. It is a gift, and it should be regarded as such. Don't make me go on, please!

Having said that I will have to conclude in expressing what I believe is the best choice. I was never a big enthusiast of European Politics until I met the man that is Martin Schulz. It is possible that Europe will one day fail miserably (which I don't believe in the slightest) but if it does I know for a fact that this man tried everything to stop it. I have never met anyone who believes in and works so hard for Europe. And more importantly, he has the ability to make others see why he loves it so much. What we need in Europe is more enthusiasm, a stronger belief and the patience to make the changes that are necessary because they sure as hell will take forever to come about with 751 delegates. Europe is far from over though so I encourage everyone to believe, cast their vote, and see how the results change our lives for the better, not the worse!

Monday, May 19, 2014

I could not be more obsessed with politics...

Sina Stieding, representing Germany at the EU Parliament! #girlsgottadream
This past weekend I had the pleasure to be back in Brussels once again. Nine out of ten times I'm in Brussels I go for the best possible reason: to get my fix of politics! And truly, Brussels is to politics what Philadelphia or Rome is to history, and I just love to be surrounded by politics. I don't know too many languages, or a lot of maths but I know my politics, and I know exactly why. There is simply nothing else I could ever call my passion but this. Last saturday I visited the European Parliament. I'd been before and did not need to go. However, nowhere in the world do you find as many people to discuss your passion with as in Brussels, and so I go to network, talk to people who actually know what they're talking about and revive my desire to change this world in the only way possible.

I started out my politics degree as an enthusiast but by no means a connisseur. The only subject in school besides English I was ever the best at in my class was politics because I had always had a keen interest. I had no idea though I would turn out to be a fanatic. I was the kid in third year that went for pints with my lecturers after class because I had too many questions left. I didn't even have a shot to improve my grade through such behavior; I just actually couldn't stand the end of class. My friends in class were three lads that had Russian nicknames because we were obsessed with Soviet politics. We thought it'd be fun to call our study group "the Politburo" in memory of Mikhail Gorbachev. As if having a study group alone wouldn't make me sound like an insuffrable dweeb already. I am such a terrible, awful geek when it comes to politics, it is actually quite embarrassing.

I am a completely different person when it comes to politics. I would never describe myself as an ass kisser or know it all but in politics, I want to be all that. I want to kiss Vladimir Putin's ass so I can know all about him. There is no such thing as enough knowledge when it comes to politics. I have been unsuccessful in finding something I'm as obsessed with. Sure, I love food but I don't want to read about food all the time. And yeah, I love sports but I don't want to talk about sports with everyone all the time. I also love boys, but I'm quite happy not to know everything about them. Politics, however, have failed to disappoint me. There is always something I want to read, talk about or learn. And it ever stops because things change every day, and then there's more to read, talk about and learn.

Brussels in particular has become my favorite place to be because it fulfils all these aspirations. Granted, the chat is very eurocentric which a couple of years ago would have turned me off a bit but Brussels did not fail me and has turned my euro-frown upside down. Europe, what a great idea! Only a politics fan like me could assess if the European Union is really working or not and considering how freaking ridiculous the concept is I want to salute to whoever works on it. They sure couldn't have a harder job, those delegates. Without knowing how insanely complicated the processes within that institution are I consider it impossible to be a friend of the EU amidst headlines of regulations about cucumbers and rising figures of youth unemployment. I personally don't want to know where we would be if it wasn't for the EU though. I would certainly not be going to get my Belgian fries with Samurai sauce at 1 am on a Saturday night which are sold three minutes from my house... behind the border!

In conclusion I must say that politics have taught me everything I wanted to know from life. I could defintely be more knowledgible about maths, or music, or Renaissance art but I simplay have no interest in that. When God gave out interest he did not divide my portion up a whole lot and gave it all to politics. Fortunately, he also gave all my talent to it simultaneously. Writing, speaking to people, discussing and persuading people are definitely my biggest talents and they happen to be what will hopefully make me a respected scholar, politician or citizen. Whatever I'm going to do in life, I cannot see this obsession fade as it gets regularly reignited when I come within a mile of any government building. I simply can't think of anything better than politics. And although I'm earning zero money with the two beatiful degrees I have I don't regret a single day of my education.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Painting Aachen red aka "Next time I wanna have fun I'll bathe in acid!"

I went out last night. What a bummer... it was horrendous! Quelle surprise! I tend to trash talk Germany and although I'm becoming a bigger fan every day I do not see my attitude towards a party in Germany change. After 25 years in this world I have seldom experienced a good party in Aachen. All the exceptions had a foreign influence, like the night out with the British Rugby team, the one with the three random Belgians and numerous nights with my friends from Scotland or America. And last night is living proof again that it's in fact not the music, or the venues, or the flow of alcohol that makes a German party pish. It is the German people!

Not too distant are the memories of Greg and Conor taking their shirts off at a party in Germany last summer and being stared like they just got naked. It's a summer night, why were they the only ones? When I was on club trip in Cologne with 40 Scottish volleyball players they were rejected from every club because the guys were in kilts. The things I consider outstanding banter are nothing but an annoyance to the diverse and fun-loving people of Aachen. Then again, am I surprised? I live in a city with 90% men, 150% of them being mechanical engineers who probably hate life! We have two clubs, no good restaurants and our best shot at fun is the movie theater. This kind of place needs good energy to feed from because there's no places that provides it. Don't go look for positive energy at the club I went to last night though. Or any other one, on any other night...

German people appear to hate good times. Instead, they love hating on a person having a good time. I always have a good time, even when I'm really not, and I am tired or being bullied for dancing or laughing. Yesterday I had had a million coffees and was blabbering like a maniac only to be stared at by everyone attending the house party I was at. I like to talk to strangers and warm to people easily. With these attributes living in Germany is not ideal. The only explanation I have is that I'm just a really crap person because no stranger wants to talk to me. However, I know for a fact I'm not a crap person, I'm really really nice, and it doesn't really make sense that nobody talks to me. I met no strangers last night...

Why it's impossible to meet people around here? It seems that talking to people who are not the friends you came with is not popular. Maybe it's not accepted, sure seems like it. All groups "dance" in a circle, and it cannot be broken. If you attempt to break into the circle, whether it is because you are wasted and consider it a good idea or because you are trying to be social, people are appalled by it. Hence, my presence at a German party is a match made in hell. I am way too happy for a party like that. If they play Missy I want to go insane and to be completely honest I want everyone else to do the same. Or at least nod their heads, swing their arms around a bit maybe, or blink in sync to the music if you physically can't stand to express joy. Please join me in insanity, I like all people! I am, however, asking for too much with that.

At the party I was standing on an elevated platform for a few minutes looking over the dance floor. Actually, I would think twice whether I want to call it that. For a second I considered making a video of the dance floor to capture the lameness of this crowd. Then I thought I might as well just take a picture because it would make virtually no difference as nobody was moving anyways. I was wondering if I was at a funeral or a party. I knew these people were drunk and the music was amazing but 99% of that posse appeared to have thrown some Valium instead of Ecstasy. I do not condone drug use but I am considering making junkie friends so I can go to a party and not be the only one moving. Is it a party if you feel bad for having a good time?

Additionally, I'm over parties anyways. There's a place and time for drinking, partying, flirting and everything a club is designed for and I'm not interested in any of these activities. However, a night out dancing with fun people should never be a bad idea and cause frustration, boredom or anger. Seeing a lame crowd that binge-drinks and still shows no sign of a good time actually makes me angry. It scares me to imagine these people without drink because how much more boring, closed off and lame can someone be? I truly hope this is an Aachen problem and I will ceased to have it once I leave. Alternatively, I hope that London Rugby teams come to visit more often so I can have a good time again...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Top 50 favorite songs of all time!

My old friend Pat came up with this awesome idea of making a Top 50 of all my favorite songs. He introduced the idea to me in 2008, having made his own Top 50 in the year and a half prior, and it took me almost a year to come up with mine. I am not hugely into music. Of course I like a good tune but I wouldn't call myself an enthusiast. In fact, since I made my Top 50 I have largely stopped listening to any other songs but those 50. What makes a favorite song? For me it was the ability to listen to it without being annoyed past the first few weeks after release. It turned out, however, that songs get to be my favorite without being good. The majority of my Top 50 would not make it on just that list today. It is the connecting memory I have to most songs that makes me like to listen to them for weeks, sometimes months, in these cases years. I revised my list over the years and remained with these songs and memories.

  1. Haerts- Wings This song recently became number one after I realized I've been listening to it every day for a year  without getting tired of it. 
  2. Alphaville – Forever Young First song I remember being my favorite so it takes me back to being 4, arguably the best memory a person could have. Besides, the evanescence of youth makes a good song. 
  3. Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy (ACOUSTIC)
  4. Christmas Canon
  5.  MGMT – Electric Feel
  6. Frank Ocean – Thinking about you Other than being an incredible song it reminds me of summer 2013 which was the best I ever had.
  7. The shins – New Slang 
  8. Burning Hearts - Into the Wilderness
  9. Lion King – Kann es wirklich Liebe seiN
  10. Gigi d’Agostini – L’amour toujours
  11. Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell - Leave the world behind Summer 2011 memories: India and Ibiza where this song obviously rocked!
  12. Keane – Try again On my 18th birthday I was driving home through the countryside at night when it started snowing and this song was on. One of the best moments of my life. The song stuck...
  13. Band of Horses – The Funeral In October 2008 this song randomly came on when I was sitting on a bench in front of the city hall in Denver, CO. That day I was very happy...
  14. Lana del Rey – Bel-Air One of the few songs I get negative memories with. I was hardly ever feeling as bad as I was in December 2012 when I was in Israel. The Newtown shooting had happened a few days prior. I was sitting in the old city of Jerusalem, listening to this song, and had to start crying. 
  15. Adrian Lux - Teenage Crime After I came home from from Ibiza I had post-holiday blues to the max. This song was torture!
  16. Mumford and Sons – Below my Feet This song is a prayer!
  17. Haim – Don’t save me I can't tell why this song is so awesome but it's different and it reminds me of my favorite job ever, being a waitress at Ketchup, rocking out with my lovers Beth and Geri to this...
  18. UB 40 - Red Red Wine This is a song that reminds me of my friend Jake who I love. I went to see him in London one time and he only had this song on a CD so we put it on and listened to it all night. 
  19. Paolo Nutini- Jenny don’t be hasty Who could have known that the lyrics of this song will become so relevant to me when I saw Paolo in March 2007? These days, I'm Jenny...
  20. Regina Spektor – Samson "You are my swetest downfall, I loved you first!" Unfortunately, for a long time I knew exactly what she was siging about
  21. Don Omar – Danza Kudoro The moment they open the vault at the end of "Fast Five" is epic. The time of my life when that movie came out was no less epic...
  22. David Gray – This year’s love
  23. The Panics – Don’t fight it My first week in Dundee I was hanging out with this guy one night after a party and we were talking for like 7 hours. Then he put this song on. I was in love (with the song but later, obviously, with him as well)
  24. Braveheart – Sad Theme Perfect song set in the perfect country!
  25. Paolo Nutini – Autumn Another bad memory. After my dad passed away this was my alarm clock for weeks, resulting in me having a casual cry to start the day with every day.
  26. Bl├╝mchen – Herz an Herz
  27. Mumford and Sons - Winter Winds This song came on when I was driving to my friend Tina's funeral. It fit the day like a glove.
  28. Coldplay - Paradise This was my favorite song when I first started dating my ex-boyfriend. The beginning of that experience was pretty awesome, I love to think back to that (the end, not so much!)
  29. Fun. - Some Nights In Summer 2013 a boy I liked came to visit me from Scotland. One day, my friends Conor and Becca also came to visit from Brussels. The day we all hung out in my hometown was one of the best days of my life. It was super sunny, warm and we were driving to a party with the windows down, shouting along to this song. Sweet, sweet memory!
  30. Apocalyptica – Bittersweet
  31. Mumford and Sons - After the Storm
  32. Leona Lewis - I see you
  33. Chris Brown - Forever
  34. Alicia Keys – Try sleeping with a broken heart I was in love with a guy "a million miles away" and imagined "I'd still feel him in my bed"
  35. Hillsong United – Oceans Phew this song saved my life once or twice because life sucks and this song turns that around!
  36. One Republic - Good Life
  37. Tiesto and Busta – C’mon
  38. Aqualung – Strange and Beautiful
  39. Coldplay – Swallowed in the Sea For some reason I'm reminded of getting a Starbucks in Laguna Beach in October 2005.
  40. Beach Boys - I get around
  41. REM – Let me in Another summer lover of mine left back home without "letting me in". However, I love to think back to this guy, still one of the best guys I ever met and another one I didn't marry because he was too far away
  42. Kings of Leon – Closer
  43. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Road Trippin’
  44. U96 - Heaven
  45. Ich & Ich – So soll es bleiben In April 2008 I was driving home from an awesome party, this song came on and I realized that everything in my life was perfect and should in fact stay like this forever. It didn't but one day I hope I'll feel this song again. 
  46. Lykke Li - I follow rivers Budapest Anthem, reminding me of my friend Krisztina and I dancing in her flat to this song. 
  47. Girls Aloud – Call the Shots
  48. Incubus – Kiss to send us off
  49. Ben Harper & Jack Johnson – High Tide or Low Tide
  50. Ginuwine – Differences I was 13, crushing on a boy on the bus I'd never talked to. I also spoke no English so had no idea what this song was about, and didn't get the name Ginuwine!

The mandatory Eurovision post

This might become my least read post ever because it's already been twelve hours since Conchita Wurst won Eurovision and I'm pretty sure in another two everybody will be sick of the talk already. All I know is that my enthusiasm about her win is going to carry over to Monday, possibly Tuesday, and maybe far beyond. I am exstatic! There's a number of reasons why someone like her winning arguably one of the biggest prizes you can win for your country in Europe is awesome, one of the best being the fact that this someone is neither a she, or a he, or an it. For a person like me who's looking at it from an entertainment, personality and political angle it was a great result. And since I'm grossly average I assume that Europe shares my angle.

Like most people in my generation I am a passionate supporter of the LGBT community not only because I have less than zero problems with Lesbian, Gay, Bi or Transgender people but because I welcome freedom of expression and appreciate people who are different. And even in transgender circles Conchita Wurst is probably quite unique. I first heard of her when she was on a reality show in Germany last summer in which she was living in a Namibian tribe for three weeks. The people in that tribe asked her WHAT she was so she placed a man on her right and a woman on her left and said "Look, he's a man, she's a woman, and I'm in the middle of both." Because why the frick not?

Of course my generation does not lead society just yet. Without knowing Conchita Wurst, or the guy she also identifies with, we all know she has experienced more hate than most of us. Homophobia, xenophbia or racism might be a smaller problem in my generation but these issues still very much exist. Prior to this competition her own country hated on her, never mind Belarus and Russia who unsurprisingly aren't big fans. With this result, however, Europeans have shown that they are not big fans of Belarus and Russia and their matching dedication to homophobia. Her win is an expression of acceptance and a welcome to everybody who dares to be different. I was happy for the individual who was being celebrated for being herself although being able to do that probably took a whole of a lot of time.

While position two and three were the better songs in my eyes my heart was beating for Conchita as well. Her vocal performance was awesome and based on talent it was a justified win. The song was horrendously cheesy but the drama is working for me. Gay men being dramatic might actually be my favorite thing about them. It was the showcasing of some talent while being well aware that the person behind the voice will probably not be accepted by everyone that impressed me. And Europe. No other contestant was more aware of having haters. A whole participating country is universally known for public denunciation of people like Conchita. Unfortunately for that country it's the bully in the classroom right now, and all the other classmates turned against it and embraced the fat kid!

Conchita was my favorite since I heard she was participating, however, I had no synapse in my brain that believed she could win it. The lack of points by countries such as Russia and Belarus would make a win impossible, I thought. I certainly didn't see 12 points from Israel coming. My actual favorites were Sweden and Holland so I suppose I have shown I am a true European, picking the Top 3 as my three best. I am so average, it's embarrassing. I am the opposite of Conchita and that's why I'm happy she won and I didn't. Being different is a good thing, and loving yourself despite hate from some will also earn you a lot of love. This is the message that won, and arguably not a song...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

An attempt to explain why Star Wars rocks... by me...!

May the Forth is upon us and I went to a Star Wars Marathon at the movies. I kid you not, running an actual marathon could not have been harder, I was fighting sleep throughout and it was the first time in my life I couldn't wait for Star Wars to end. Why people do this to "celebrate" Star Wars is beyond me. Celebration, however, is due. That franchise deserves all the glory. I'm neither the first nor the last person to ever say that but STAR WARS IS FREAKING EPIC! What's puzzling to me is why. I have not been able to detect why I, a 25-year-old female One Direction enthusiast, loves Star Wars. I am the opposite of Lucas' demographic. Nevertheless, I am obsessed!

I'm too young to have grown up with the old films and too old to have grown up with the new ones. Also, I am a girl. However, I'd like to believe that I'm just as much in awe when I see a lightsaber fight as my colleague who is ten years my senior and doesn't have boobs. He grew up with Start Wars, as did almost every kid his age, and his love for it derives from childhood memories, boys' desires to see people fighting and their affiliation with science fiction. But what about me? Why the hell was Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi fighting on Mustafar one of the most amazing moments I can recall from hundreds of movies I've seen?

People widely agree the acting in Star Wars, old and new, isn't great. Also, of course it's a big budget movie but special effects of any kind wouldn't capture an audience for 40 years. Star Wars movies never really focus too much on proper character development either so it's definitely not the emotional side of it that made Star Wars a phenomenon (although I was properly in pieces when Obi Wan shouted "You were the chosen one!" at the end of above mentioned battle). I have to assume that it is the imagination of one single man, in this case George Lucas, that just happened to hold an idea that was so great most people like it. It's not just a movie, it's a different reality. Still, things happening in these different realities succeed in relating to the audience.

Now none of us will be around long enough to witness space travel being a common thing. Heck, it will probably never happen as long as homo sapiens rule. Some people watch movies to escape their realities, make them dream, hope for better things. Star Wars will never happen! However, I'd like to believe that if such a scenario would ever arise things could play out like they did in Star Wars. If you transfer what happens in Tatooine to our life you could say Luke Skywalker is just a fantastic example of the "American Dream". God knows I can relate to Padme Amidala for liking younger guys! And excuse me for saying this but being a Jedi is as good a religion as any, and I dig it. So although Star Wars has nothing to do with any of our lives it manages to make us feel for it.

This May the Forth is a special one indeed because the cast for Episode VII was released this week. Can I get a "Thank God, no Zac Efron!" In two years today Star Wars Day could have a whole new meaning. Either I'm still going to be paralyzed because Episode VII managed to meet expectations that are probably quite low after Episode I or Abrams failed on a massive scale. I can't say I'm not concerned but so far it looks like it could work out. Since story, characters, actors and other things have been flawed sometimes along the way I am, however, confident that as long as the Star Wars reality can be upheld we will be celebrating May 4 for a long time to come...

Friday, May 2, 2014

The corruption of love by the German tradition of the "Maibaum"

The only thing that's left of Hitler in this country is May 1 being Labor Day. When exactly the "tradition" of cutting trees, putting ribbons on them, and tieing them to a house in the night leading to May 1 became a thing is a riddle to me. I could easily google it but then I'd get that gut-wrenching feeling again. So the idea is that boys can express their affection to a girl if they give them one of those trees but obviously that's about the last thing that happens. All this really does is scream "look world, I have a boyfriend!" The only thing that's worse than the actual trees is pictures of them on the internet. So, so embarrassing! When I expressed my indifference to this tradition in the last couple of weeks all I got from people was "oh you're just bitter cause YOU ain't getting one!" First of all, I would be getting one if I cared. Second, I'm 25 years old, I do not need "the world" to see my boyfriend likes me. And thirdly, is it really a sign of affection if boyfriends are forced to do this by their girlfriends? I came to realize that it's not the tradition I hate but the relationships these people are in.

I haven't always been the way I am now about relationships. When I was younger I quite enjoyed people's jealousy that I was with the guy I was with or if people thought a cool guy liked me. Back in the day association with certain people actually meant something to me. Today it's the total opposite. I somehow enjoy that nobody knows what's up with me. When people see me with my boyfriend, or a friend they didn't think I had, they will be surprised and wonder about me. The few times I had a boyfriend not too many people knew about it because I didn't need them to know. Also I don't need for people to know who my best friends are and how much they mean to me because, frankly, the only one who should know is them. I'm pretty confident people are completely speechless about me, the Barbie, being close with a hairy Irish hippie every day! If there was public ways of expressing feelings towards the people I love I'm not sure I'd take them because if everybody watches how will my loved ones know I'm doing it for them and not to show off on my wonderful relationships?

In that way I'm just not the right person for our May tradition. If my hunky, bearded lumberjack boyfriend would cut a tree for me I'd be turned on because it sounds pretty hot. I'd also be flattered if he would put this effort into showing me what he feels. Flattery is not what I'm looking for in my relationships though. I've had a lot of guys showing big efforts and gestures but none of them made me feel it. But I'd rather feel it. I'm not against PDA, I just don't understand why people need to showcase their relationships. I don't mean an occasional peck, or picture, or post; I mean bribery to receive a tree on the first of May so that the world can see that girl is not alone. The only person I care about not feeling alone is me. If the world thinks I am but I'm not I'm very ok with that. A boy I want to be with should prevent me from feeling alone. If he wants a big gesture he can buy me food, I like curries! A tree with ribbons will make me feel as special as a box of chocolates will... not at all!

I can identify with superficiality because I haven't always felt this easy about this. I might never have wanted a tree on the first of May but I cannot deny that last year, when things ended with some guy I was seeing, the reasons for my annoyance were rather ridiculous in retrospect. The true reason the end itched was that I realized he was a wanted guy and for a while he wanted me which felt good. My friends who met him loved him and I felt pretty good about being the girl that was with a guy that's loved by everyone. I enjoyed thinking that people would be impressed by my choice. On a personal level we were not going to work out, starting at long distance and age. Because he was so loved though I started to think he would be too good to let go. I did so because of people's perceptions. I was upset because he seemed to be everybody's dream man and I had him for a while. Now I mean zero disrespect, I still think he's awesome and I did really like him but I do think I wasn't in it for entirely the right reason. 

That's changed now. Drastically. I need no trees, or link on facebook, or big gestures to be happy with someone. To be honest I never needed that. I enjoy people don't know why I like the people around me and why we love each other. If my boyfriend was super ugly I'd say they'd have even more reason to be jealous because it's obvious it's not some kind of infatuated mingling. Valentine's Day, Anniversaries, a tree on the first of May or any of these things that are making singles feel bad since the beginning of time are therefore by no means measurements for relationships. I'd prefer a kiss or a hug I didn't ask for any day. Because only those who love me would ever do that.