Thursday, June 28, 2012

Comfort Zone

I read the wikipedia article about Comfort Food recently - I have no idea how I stumbled upon it. I wanted to add German comfort food, but haven't gotten round to it.
Then yesterday I had a really bad day; stress, TBE vaccination, the hot weather, and whatever else, taking it's toll and I did something incredibly stupid at work. I kept thinking about how embarrassing it was and was shocked at how and why I had such a mental black-out. But later that evening, after watching some anime and listening to some music, I felt much better.
So I realized there's not only Comfort Food, there's other "Comfort stuff", too.

Comfort Food
I grew up with my Canadian relations, so Mac & Cheese (or Kraft Dinner, how's it called in Canada) is definitely comfort food for me. (Unless I eat too much of it.) Then there's also Lasagne - made by my mum, of course.
Chicken Soup is a favourite, too (this one seems to be nearly international), especially chicken noodle soup.
Something that always reminds me of my childhood is bread and gravy, it's basically just dipping good bread (without butter) into good gravy. It's something you only get in a family home, with left-over gravy.

Now over to the sweet stuff. Hot chocolate of course! Ice cream in summer.
Then there's "Pudding" which in German means something else than what you'd probably think of in English. It's a creamy dessert. Hot chocolate pudding - that one's probably my number one sweet comfort food. Followed by Grießbrei (a sweet semolina pudding) and sweet rice pudding - hot or cold.

I can't cook, so either these foods I only get at home, or they're convenient food. Mac & Cheese only counts as the convenience food by Kraft.

Comfort Movies, TV and books
The publishing company who publishes Bollywood movies in Germany has "Bollywood macht glücklich" (Bollywood makes you happy) as a slogan. And it is true - if you have enough time to spare for a traditional Bollywood movie, which usually last about 3 hours. The average Bollywood movie is a "masala movie, which means it has a bit of everything, and probably a happy ending. My favourites are probably Main Hoon Na and Paheli.
Then there's a couple of fantasy movies from my childhood, like Labyrinth and Willow, the one or other odd newer movie (like Penelope) and a few Ghibli movies, especially Howl's Moving Castle (you can read about the movie and the book in my recent blog post, too).

A few years back, when I was suffering from depression, one of the only things that made me laugh was Ranma 1/2. I got to the TV everyday in time to watch it, and dearly missed it on the weekend. It was my first anime. but nowadays other series took its place: I'm currently re-watching and enjoying Saiunkoku Monogatari. Ah, who wouldn't love some Seiran in their life?
I've also been thinking about watching Star Trek - The Next Generation. I only have one DVD box, so I've been thinking about buying the complete series. Star Trek TNG is a special TV series, one in a million. Not only is it Star Trek and has great actors like Patrick Stewart. I really appreciate the philosophy behind it (and agree with much of it) and the wisdom it countain; and what makes it a comfort TV series is the underlying positive attitude.

Then there's books. The perfect way to flee from reality.
Lord of the Rings: long enough to get you through some serious troubled times. That one helped me a lot when I was suffering from depression and living far from my home and family. Sometimes I think it saved my life. I got through the day because then I could go home and read.
Howl's Moving Castle is another one of these books. And books by Terry Pratchett; not all, but many.

Comfort Music
Queen of course. Queen has been with me all my life - it's hard to describe what their music means to me. When I hear Freddie's voice, I feel my shoulders relax and it all doesn't seem half that bad. It reminds me of my childhood, safe, carefree times.
Then there's Bruce Springsteen - he's also connceted to happy childhood memories. But also some of his newer songs have that uprising "Yes, we can" spirit.
Also, maybe Marillion.

Read more on this article...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to find friends - not

I got anothe rone of these newsletters: "Finding Friends".

So what tipps do they give?
- Visit events that make you talk to other people, e.g. flea markets.
- Talk with random people on the street, e.g. don't bring a watch and ask people what time it is.
- Do smalltalk. Like talking about the weather.
- Don't be hard to approach, look people in the eye.
- Invite acquaintences to something.

I wonder do these people ever read what they wrote? It's so obviously written by someone who never had to try to find friends. Flea markets? Seriously? And how many have ever made a best friend by asking what time it is?
People complain that nowadays you can make friends online by clicking on a button - and they claim they're not really friends. Yeah, but the person you talked with on a flea market counts as a friend? Why do people think that the medium plays such a big role (and face-to-face is superior per se) and not the content or the value?

Why don't they understand that "friend-less" people are not all so shy that they can't talk to anyone?
I've been in many yoga courses - I never made a friend there. I've met people at concerts (some even repeatedly) and chatted with them - none of them are my friends. Just recently I talked with an elderly woman on a packed train about where she lives and where I live and about the train service - but we'll never be friends.

I'm afraid that the further you stray away from the mainstream, the harder it is to find like-minded people.
But the mainstream won't understand that. Read more on this article...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Howl's Moving Castle

I just spend the whole day reading the book. Again. I just love this book, it's fantastic!

It's a shame that a lot of people don't know that there's actually a book. They only know the anime movie by Hayao Miyazaki.
I was like that, too, but then I learned that there was a book written by Diana Wynne Jones, I read it and I loved it. I read the two sequels, too. And the Chronicles of Chrestomanci by the same author (another great set of books). There's still many books by her that I haven't read, and I'm looking forward to reading them all.
In March 2011 Diana Wynne Jones sadly passed away.

I love the disctinct British touch about Howl's Moving Castle (like with Pratchett and Rowling). It's witty and funny. Things don't turn out like you'd expect them to, so it's not your usual fantasy story.
There's romance. This part is a bit cliché, with them seeming to dislike each other at first. But I enjoyed their fights too much.
The best part is the characters. Especially Howl - he's impossible in so many ways, but you can't not like him. The main characters have their bad habits, weak points and flaws. Actually a lot of things in the story happen because of them making mistakes. And even Sophie's sister and stepmother have distinct personalities, even though they're not mentioned that much.

I can't really put into words how awesome this book is. I think it's one of the best I ever read (and I read quite a few).

By the way, I love the movie, too.
A lot of people always complain about the movie being so different from the books. But it has to be! It's a completely different medium.
The movie has a very Miyazaki touch to it. You have the beautiful, detailed backgrounds, the steampunk-like fantasy setting, the wonderful soundtrack. And the pacifist morale. Miyazaki added a war that was only imminent in the book. The plot is simplified and altered quite a bit, so that even if you know the movie, you'll still be surprised by the book.
Howl's all the charming, handsome, vain young man he's supposed to be, and really like his voice. I love the scene where he meets Sophie - I like it better than in the book, actually. The castle is great, too, but it doesn't look too much like you think a castle would.
Except for the war, the movie is very much "chibi-fied", made more fitting for children. Calcifer, the fire demon, is more cute than frightening (but I love this Calcifer!). Michael, Howl's assistant, is a lot younger, and as such of course doesn't get engaged. Howl's womanizer character isn't mentioned. Then there's the dog and the scarecrow. And the biggest difference is probably the other wizards, especially Witch of the Waste, who is not the beautiful, powerful, cunning heartless person she's in the book, but rather a fat, old lady - and her fate is much better, too. This is one thing that bugs me a bit: everyone was afraid of her, but the anime movie kind of makes you wonder why. The whole end of the plot seemed kind of strange.
But Howl's Moving Caslte still one of my favourite Miyazaki movies.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Do you think you're better ev'ry day? No, I just think I'm two steps nearer to my grave.

I was told a million times
Of all the troubles in my way
How I had to keep on trying
Little better ev'ry day
But if I crossed a million rivers
And I rode a million miles
Then I'd still be where I started

I've already blogged on my opinion about the pressure to be ambitious and "great" here, and Keep Yourself Alive fits nicely into this (though of course Queen and Freddie Mercury are a bad example).
Well they say your folks are telling you
To be a super star
But I tell you just be satisfied
To stay right where you are
The rest of the first Queen album is great, too. It's not what you'd expect from Queen if you only know their Greatest Hits, I guess. But there's many great songs like Liar, Doing All Right, The Night comes Down and the very metal Modern times Rock 'n' Roll.
To me it's a very "fantasy" kind of album (though not as much as Queen II) and of course there's a great deal of nostalgia and childhood happiness involved (as with most of the Queen albums).
Read more on this article...