book review – the life-changing magic of tidying up by marie kondō

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i have seen so many people raving about marie kondō’s the life-changing magic of tidying up, i had to read it myself. the summaries they gave sounded promising. i bought the e-book last night & i read the whole of it today. it’s a nice short read. at first it really put me off though. in the beginning kondō came across very elitist & she made it sound like no one had learned to tidy properly, they were all going wrong about it, except her, & she was here to show you The Way. i almost put it down, but i trudged on & it became better.

this tiny book is full of interesting ideas. i love kondō’s approach to possessions, although i can see why some people would write this off as insane. she is very adamant about being grateful for what you own & treating them with respect, even the things you get rid of. as someone who has a really hard time getting rid of things, this really spoke to me. i believe her that being grateful for what those things have done for you & realising that they have served their purpose will make this a lot easier.

another thing i loved was how she wrote that the only criteria for getting rid of or keeping things is essentially personal. for this you need to ask yourself whether a thing gives you joy or not. she is not going to tell you exactly how to go about it or give you exact guidelines, but wants you to hone & trust you own intuition & decision-making skills. she wants you to find out for yourself what you’re comfortable with. the goal is to only have what you truly love & this differs from person to person.

i also like how she stressed that ‘solutions’ for storage are no solutions at all. she writes that the first step is getting rid of the excess, then you’ll find that storage is no longer a problem. however, she also provides some small, useful tips. the tidbits from her own life & her clients’ experiences were interesting & amusing too.

one criticism i have is that it could get rather repetitive. then again, how much different things can one really say about tidying? another thing that bothered me was how selective the categories she discussed were. these were: clothing, books, miscellaneous items & things with sentimental value. the first two are concrete, but the last two are very vague. she leaves a lot of things out (although you could theoretically take ‘miscellaneous’ as broadly as you like), which takes away from the credibility of her statement that that konmari method will totally make & keep your whole house tidy forever. she also completely ignores creative people & their material needs. of course, with that second point you could argue that practically no artist is interested in these sort of books, so these books are not written for them. it’s probably a criticism very personal to me.

this is not a book for everyone, but if this book piqued your interest & you are interested in both living  & improving your life, & you are open to unconventional ideas, you will probably love it. if you’re not already interested in these things, or you’re only looking for a quick fix, or thinking about objects as living things with feelings sounds too ‘woo-woo’ for you, don’t bother.

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book review – the art of asking by amanda palmer

this week amanda palmer’s the art of asking was released in paperback. like when it first came out last year, she asked her fans to spread the word about it. i was already meaning to do a review on it, so here it is.

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i have been following amanda palmer & her work for years & years now. from the dresden dolls, to her solo album, evelyn evelyn, the grand theft orchestra, ukelele madness, ted talk… she has done so many wonderful things. i don’t love everything that she’s done, but this book is definitely one of the many things that i do.

the art of asking is basically about amanda’s experiences with asking & what she has learned from those experiences. it could be categorised as a self-help book, but it is so much more. it is also a meditation on human relationships, vulnerability, trust & art & all its facets. then it is partially a memoir of one of the greatest artists of our time.

in the art of asking amanda questions a lot of notions that most of us in the western world probably grew up with. like how we are supposed to be independent & never need help & distrust everyone else. how we think artists are supposed to earn money. fundamentally, how we are supposed to be embarrassed by asking for help. she shows that there is another way. she shows a glimpse of a better, more open & loving world.

the whole book filled me with such inspiration. it made me want to be better to other people, allow myself to be vulnerable, create more art. it changed my views on certain things, for the better. i would recommend everyone to read this.

some of the passages that i highlighted while reading the book:

Everybody struggles with asking.
From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us–it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.
It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.
American culture in particular has instilled in us the bizarre notion that to ask for help amounts to an admission of failure. But some of the most powerful, successful, admired people in the world seem, to me, to have something in common: they ask constantly, creatively, compassionately, and gracefully.”

“Those who can ask without shame are viewing themselves in collaboration with-rather than in competition with–the world.
Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.”

“Seeing each other is hard.
But I think when we truly see each other, we want to help each other.
I think human beings are fundamentally generous, but our instinct to be generous gets broken down.”

“I think the real risk is the choice to disconnect. To be afraid of one another.
We make countless choices every day whether to ask or to turn away from one another. Wondering whether it’s too much to ask the neighbor to feed the cat. The decision to turn away from a partner, to turn off the light instead of asking what’s wrong.
Asking for help requires authenticity, and vulnerability.
Those who ask without fear learn to say two things, with or without words, to those they are facing:
I deserve to ask
and
You are welcome to say no.
Because the ask that is conditional cannot be a gift.”

i think i need to go re-read this…

if you want to read it too, you can buy the paperback at amazon, barnes & noble, books-a-million, indiebound or porter square books. you can find a bunch of links for the hardcover, audiobook & ebook here.

music review – metanoia by iamx

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i wanted to wait until i had listened to the physical cd to write something about this, but it is taking longer than i expected, so the download it is.

i’ve already listened to metanoia a couple of times & it is nowhere near enough. it is such a hypnotic, addictive album. i can listen to this over & over & over again. every time i’ve listened to it so far i’ve been amazed by how good it is. definitely iamx’s best so far. also their most consistent to date. all the songs go together so perfectly; not one of them sounds out of place. yet they all have their own unique sound. it is clear that a lot of experimentation went into this album.

another one of the album’s great strengths is the rawness of it. the honesty. for example in the song ‘happiness’, in which both longing for & apprehension of happiness are expressed. content-wise i also find ‘look outside’ especially beautiful. that one is about looking beyond your own suffering & choosing to look at the beauty of the world around you.
then there is also the usual debauchery & questioning. ‘the background noise’ is a powerful example of the last. if i had to describe that in one word it would be haunting. the fragile vocal delivery & the toned down music & the celestial-sounding “oohoo” over it… amazing.
i’ve only mentioned slower songs so far, but of course there is more to metanoia. it has some fantastic catchy, danceable songs too, as one would expect from iamx. like their latest single, ‘oh cruel darkness embrace me’.

& lastly, i have to say something about the visual side. all of it, the album art, the promotional photos, the outfits, the makeup, the videoclips, even iamx’s website, forms a complete package around the album. visually iamx is also the most consistent they’ve ever been. it’s wonderful to behold.

i would give metanoia 9 stars out of 10. & strongly urge you to check it out.

live music review – rolo tomassi, the fall of troy + chon

or, a love letter to eva spence

picture taken from rolo tomassi's facebook page
picture taken from rolo tomassi’s facebook page

last night i saw rolo tomassi for the third time this year. the fall of troy were headlining & chon opened. the show was in the club dynamo. rolo tomassi was the band i was there for, & also the only i was familiar with, so this review will mostly be focused on them.

i will start with chon. they’re an instrumental band from san diego. even before they said where they were from i thought i could hear their home state in the music. their show was pretty nice. after a while i thought their music all sounded the same though. not my cup of tea, but a surprisingly large amount of the crowd got really into it. a lot of people were banging their heads like it was much more intense music & a couple of them even ballroom-danced a little.

after chon we had to wait half an hour for rolo tomassi to start. standing at the front & watching how they set up & the minutes crawl by could make one very impatient, haha. & once they finally started, it was one big explosion. the band has so much infectious energy. there were also a lot more enthusiastic fans up front than the last two times i saw them. & the vocalist, eva spence… she is quickly becoming one of my favourite vocalists & biggest inspirations. her performance is utterly captivating. she doesn’t just sing, but puts her whole body into it. she is almost constantly jumping or dancing around the stage, shifting between a ferocious beast & an elegant lady. & then when she’s talking in-between songs, or you speak to her off stage, she is so sweet & cute. & she also makes things like hair ties & adorable pillows, which i couldn’t afford, which they sell at the merch stand. god, i love her.

…to go back to the band & performance, the other members were also amazing; it’s just that i pay the closest attention to vocalists because i’m learning to sing myself. i would love to become a vocalist like eva at some point. anyway. the band mostly played songs off their brilliant new album, grievances, starting with ‘funereal’ & ending with ‘stage knives’. i think my favourite of the songs they played is ‘opalescent’. the build-up of that song sounds amazing how they play it live. i experienced it three times now & it gave me goosebumps every time. unfortunately, since they were not the main act they had a pretty short set. still well worth the trip to eindhoven though.

the fall of troy also gave a great show. i hadn’t heard their music before, & i didn’t entirely love it, but their show itself was great. they also gave a very passionate performance. the crowd went wild. from the front to the back people were banging their heads & jumping & singing & screaming. at least half of them were constantly moshing. on a sidenote, i thought it was interesting how many different people there were at the show. quite a variety in age, gender, race, & fashion preferences. it was nice to see. i’ve noticed that in general mathcore seems to attract a more varied audience than other -core bands. also bands that have at least one member who is not a white male.

overall, i had a great time last night. if you like any of the bands mentioned, i would highly recommend checking them out live.