A tribute and a thank you

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I was truly saddened to hear of Chester Bennignton’s death. Linkin Park had a great impact on my life and got me through very hard times. Thank you CB for this. In the back of the car, unable to escape from yelling parents, day in day out, listening to Hybrid Theory was like listening to a sermon. All 12 tracks healed me in some way. CB’s voice, passion and rage helped me feel like I wasn’t alone. Since his death, the outpouring of love and stories from his fans who also felt his anguish, has been extraordinary. So many people were helped by their music. We all need need help, in one form or another, at some stage in our life. It’s so important to be open and let people in. CB did this through his music. Losing CB to his demons should be a wake-up call…Sadly, he had to battle with the worst of demons. We all have them. Some big, some small, some we conquer,some we don’t. We are all wired differently, and why wouldn’t we be. We all have our stories. What helps is to share them and in turn learn from others. I’ve learned so much from other people just by opening up about my own worries. It’s sad, but true, that in a lot of cases, the hardships we face in life are what connects us to others.

Our lives matter. Who we come into contact with, for however a long or brief a time, matters. Who we are to other people matters. It’s never easy. It’s true, by going to hell and back, you come out stronger in some ways. You can feel more equipped to deal with the shit that this universe throws at you. Still, it’s a chequered life that we lead. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to stay strong and to fight back. And when you feel like you can’t keep fighting, Keep Fighting. Don’t discard yourself. Don’t discard the people around you. Reach out.  Just as the sun rises everyday, so should we.

RIP Chester Bennington.

 

Voices that stay with me

 

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“You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” – Nina Simone

There are countless amazing strong female singers that aren’t famous for their naïve breakup songs or their gimmicks, but instead were pioneers of their art, have impressive vocals and range and who rampaged on for decades.  Here are some of my favourite female vocalists:

Stevie Nicks The Queen of Rock n’ Roll. The mystical singer has a voice unlike any other. There’s a sexy and powerful raspiness to Stevie’s voice that may not sound like a soothing lullaby, but for me, it calms me and takes me to where I need to go. Little known fact (… now not so much), I hope to have Crystal as the first song I dance to at my wedding. Watching youtube videos of Stevie belting Rhiannon live is mesmerising and enigmatic. Whether it is duets with Lindsey Buckingham or her solo work, Stevie Nicks is an ethereal and bewitching singer who is still performing her records 50 years on.

Patti Smith I absolutely love the singer-song writer poet and author that is Patti Smith. Birdland is a masterpiece and the perfect track to listen to when you are trying to mellow out or when you need something to open your mind and inspire you and Because the Night makes you fall ass over teacup in love or dance under streetlights. I read her book Just Kids and revelled in the crazy romantic rock star life Patti Smith led. Horses, Patti Smith’s debut studio album is volatile and revolutionary. Patti Smith’s voice is wild and soft at the same time in that it screams at you, it holds you tightly and lets you loose on the world.

Sia I heard Sia for the first time when I watched the trailer for Peaceful warrior and Breathe Me played and it was haunting and emotional. Sia music can pull at your heart strings and also make you dance and Move Your body (which has made its way onto my workout playlist). the songs that I listen to when I need a bit of a kick in the ass or when I need something to ignite me are AliveNever Give Up and Unstoppable. Sia has a truly powerful and roaring voice and her lyrics tend to go a lot deeper than most other current pop singers (really biting my tongue here).

Adele Everyone has heard of Adele. Everyone. Whether it is her nostalgic crooning on Hometown or being a badass on Rolling in the Deep, Adele’s voice is like no other. I caught a moment of her on Ellen and her spontaneous rendition of Hello was so unbelievably natural, that is pure talent.

Pat Benatar My favourite female power ballad ground-shaker. Belting out this rockers’ tunes is probably the closest I will ever get to being a rock star myself. I can strut to and howl Heartbreaker or Love is a Battlefield  in my living room or in my head on the way to an interview and I feel like a damn warrior. Pat Benatar’s more softer tunes like We Belong or Shadows of the Night whisk me away and transport me to my favourite 80’s Brat Pack movies.

Tracy Chapman I don’t know many people who don’t sing a long to Fast Car or Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution when they come on the radio. Suffice to say Tracy Chapman has a forceful yet tender voice and her music offers escapism and touches on the trials of violence and poverty and stands the test of time.

Nina Simone If I had the chance to see any female singer gone, it would be Nina Simone. The jazz and gospel high priestess has one of the strongest and most soulful voices I have ever heard. I wish I could have seen her live. Nina Simone was captivating and transfixing. I love listening to Nina Simone in the evening, with a glass of wine relaxing and swaying (very Hugo Boss ad-esque) listening to Black is the colour of my true love’s hair and the rest of her  collection.

Celine Dion I get a lot of flack for my love of Celine Dion. But I am totally unapologetic. No-one can say that she cannot sing. The famous theme to Titanic may make some cringe now, but there is no denying that the vocals are beautiful and heartbreaking. Celine Dion can fist bump her chest as often as she wants in my book, her singing is strong and powerful, brave and also very clean. If you listen really carefully you can hear how perfect her vocals are, not that I’m remotely an expert…. Still, the Canadian singer who has the added trick up her sleeve of being able to sing in another language, is without a doubt one of the greatest female vocalists. All you have to do is listen to All by myselfBecause you loved me or D’amour ou d’amitié…..

Other amazing singers that I am a die-hard fan of include Cher (obviously), Sarah Brightman, Tori Amos, Ella Fitzgerald, Kate Bush and Billie Holiday…

Fly me to the Moon or to Never Never Land

Of the many things I have been called in my life, “a dreamer” is one of the most confounding ones. My first boyfriend called me a dreamer and at the time I’m pretty sure I either shrugged it off or I just agreed, not really thinking about the word or what he meant. Now, as I navigate my way through life, the more I realise I am a dreamer, and although it’s somewhat freeing, it also means I always feel like something is missing.

I imagine, whilst I’m sitting on the tube on my daily commute to work, that I can’t be the only person daydreaming about taking a different path in life. I can’t be the only person thinking about what the hell is missing. I suppose that’s something that connects us to each other. We all strive for something, a goal or a dream,in our lives and try to make connections along the way. But that shared cause doesn’t tie me to this world or to my little life so far.

[I do know what is important to me and what is not missing, in fact what is constant; my brother and my friends] I think it’s important to dream and work towards finding that missing piece, but equally it’s important to cherish what we have and what matters.

I don’t know if what is missing is a person, or is it an achievement in work or in something else? Is it an experience I have yet to go through? Is it an experience in a place I haven’t been to yet? For me, I know one day, way waaaaay into the future, what will be a most precious connection that will undeniably tie me to this world will be when I become a mama.

Still, I believe that there is something else. Some other purpose, some other reason why I have been put on this earth. Truth be told, I don’t necessarily do myself any favours all the time. I yo-yo between trying to make connections of value and intentionally disconnecting myself from things or people. Sometimes it’s just easier to detach and live in a daydream, for a bit. Fairies, extra-terrestrials, ghosts, spirits…..I believe in almost everything to some extent. I don’t really believe I will see a fairy but not because I think they may not exist, but because I’m a grown-up and children can see fairies and grown-ups cant. I share the somewhat William Blake-ish view that children are innocent and  more pure and, follow my huge leap, they are more open to other-worldly, mystical beings and notions….. Queue eye-roll.

So, here is a dreamer  who is walking around, somewhat aimlessly amongst other dreamers….who also believes in fairies. To be honest, I give zero fucks. I like to leave my mind and heart open to the unexplained, the unknown, the missing and the magical glimmer to an otherwise ordinary and all too real life.

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Loved on Screen and off

Robin Williams

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Robin Williams as Peter Pan in Hook

I’m not one to mourn too much over “celebrity” deaths as although I may love their music/movies, ultimately, I didn’t know them. It’s sad but if you think how many other non-famous people died that particular day, I don’t tend to feel any worse just because of their stardom.

However, when Robin Williams passed, it hit me. Obviously, I didn’t know him, but my childhood certainly was flourished by a lot of his movies. Before he passed, I choked up watching Hook or Good Will Hunting, now, forget it, I just bawl. It must be a testament to Robin Williams that after he passed I didn’t read or hear anything negative about him. Virtually no-one had an unkind word to say. Murals of his work were painted across walls and videos of him entertaining the troops and playing with Koko the Gorilla were watched by thousands. He always had a sparkle in his eyes, even when he wasn’t ad-libbing hilarious lines, when he was just simply smiling, it was always a heart-warming and tender smile that made him glow.

I don’t want to go into his personal relationships or family but all I will say is his commercial for Zelda with his beautiful daughter of the same name breaks my heart every time.

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Whether RW was playing the quirky DJ in Good Morning, Vietnam, or Fosse dancing in The Birdcage or playing the dangerous game of Jumanji, Robin Williams was bewitching on and off-screen. He was inspirational in Dead Poets Society which served to be one of the most eminently quotable movies in Williams’ film career. Robin Williams and animation were made for each other in Disney’s Aladdin as he ad-libbed most of his work and infused magic into his iconic portrayal of Genie.

In spite of the internal struggles he battled with,  he was able to make so many people cry with laughter and that is truly a selfless gift.

Miyazaki & Murakami and more

 

Here I had no ties to anyone. Fact is, I’d come to reclaim myself

My favourite author, courtesy of my brother, is Haruki Murakami. During some work experience back in 2009, I asked my brother if I could borrow one of his books to read for when I wasn’t given work to do. I definitely spent more time during my week of work experience reading Dance, Dance, Dance by Murakami than doing work. I was completely transfixed by this book. I underlined by favourite quotes and wrote them in various notebooks (for what reason I don’t know..maybe to just remember them). I wanted to trade lives and be in this story and live in the Dolphion Hotel. This story is another example of trying to connect and feel like there’s more purpose to being here, at least that’s how this book made me feel. Since that summer of work expereinces, I have read many of his other works and have loved following each surreal and mysterious adventure.

Also thanks to my brother, I’ve seen a lot of beautiful and fun Japanese movies. A few of my favourite are:

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Spirited Way

Princess Mononoke

From up on Poppy Hill

The Boy and The Beast

Wolf Children

King of Thorn

Summer Wars

If you haven’t delved into these cute, chimeric and heartfelt movies, you should. The fun thing about these kinds of movies is, unlike non-animated movies (save for CGI etc) there are no boundaries. People can transform into pigs or powerful whales, you can escape into different worlds and kingdoms where virtually anything can and does happen.

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“Boy and The Beast” Image courtesy of Pinterest

7 Guilty pleasures that are just pleasures

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Image courtesy of Amazon, and also I had this (hopefully still do somewhere)

We all have guilty pleasures that we don’t really feel guilty about.

Here are just a few of mine…..

#1 Buffy the Vampire Slayer

7 years of this amazing show. I can’t imagine my life without it, without the posters on my wall, without the merchandise and without the vampire slayer as my idol. My best friend and I bonded over this show so many years ago and we still have regular buffy nights. I must have pestered my brother to buy me all things Buffy-related. I guess watching re-runs of BTVS isn’t so much a guilty pleasure so much as it is integrated in my life and childhood.

#2 KFC hot wings

There is something about those hot wings…..I can’t say I allow many people to see me eating KFC hot wings. That’s pure guilt. The less I say about this hot craving the better.

#3 Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

I know. It’s my escape. Yes there’s not much I can relate to in this show. Actually there is nothing. But watching the glitzy drama unfold is so much fun. Sometimes the screaming  ladies of BH gives me a headache, but I love it. I may or not be watching it right now as I write. Team Erika Jayne.

#4 Instant Noodles

I don’t cook. I can make basic meals, fish and vegetables, pasta….anything more and I’m just stumped. It stresses me out and I don’t totally understand what various ingredients add to a dish. X amount of herbs, this much salt…..Literally makes no sense to me. So my go-to dinner is the instant noodle. I don’t have the most sophisticated palate, though I have been to pretty great restaurants here in London (The Ledbury, Le Gavroche….) but I’m just if not more happy having my instant noodles with too much soy sauce, tabasco and bits of sliced meat….Heaven. Sit me with that in front of #1 or #3…you have a very content Ash.

 

#5 Silly music

Most of my favourite songs make me cry, however, there are a few ones that and just so silly and fun that even if people give me the side-eye, I’ll blast those tunes and carlton-dance my way through them. These include songs like Toto -AfricaRusted Root-Send me on my way or Disney’s The Spectrum Song (This one is truly silly). Which brings me to…

#6 Disney

I am never not in the mood for Disney. Disney music and movies are objectively amazing so I don’t know if this counts as a guilty pleasure, I’m only 27 so it’s still reasonable but nevertheless it’s here. I’ve always claimed Pocahontas to be my favourite Disney movie, but my heart also goes out to the hunchback and I seer with rage still that Esmerelda chose Phoebus. Lion King has Pumba. Aladdin has Robin Williams. Tarzan has Tantor and gorillas. I will never not love Disney.  Disney music is also amazing. I won’t go through all the Disney songs that make me love life, but anything from Tarzan, Hercules or Beauty and the Beast will instantly cheer me up.

#7 Playing with glitter

My arts and crafts section at home consists of stickers, funky tape, stamp pens, heart-shaped hole punchers and lots of glitter. I even have a small makeup bag full of tiny zip lock bags of glitter. It kind of resembles a secret drug stash if it weren’t so iridescent and multi-coloured. I dabble in clay-making and making cards for friends’ children which means lots of glitter! I’ve also recently reclaimed my love for body and face glitter. I wore face glitter to Lemaitre the other night and two nights ago I went to a bar in Portabello (Trailer Happiness) and was super excited to see that the female staff all had glitter on their faces! Then there was me, without my glitter. Note to self: travel with face glitter. You never know when you might need it.

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Image courtesy of Pinterest

The OA: as evocative as it is confusing

One of the two best shows I have seen in a while is The OA (the other is Stranger Things – I’m aware of the comparisons, but really they’re both great in their own right). My best friend asked me to describe what The OA was about the other night and I didn’t know how to start. I loved this show and the movements’ scene at the end still mesmerizes me after 50something viewings. That said, when asked to describe it I started by talking about how the show made me feel. It may sound very silly to be so affected by a tv show, that is not a documentary or based on true events (potentially….maybe) but I was. The OA consists of a mystery surrounding the discovery of Prairie, who was blind but now can see after being missing for 7 years. When Brit Marling’s character says “You asked me how I got my sight. The better story is how I lost it in the first place” I don’t think any viewer expected the surprising and surreal tale that unravelled. Well, unravelled to the extent that I still have a million questions I need answered. I’m awestruck by Brit Marling to be honest. Not only is her portrayal of Prairie/OA beautiful, but look at this show that she has written/co-created. In my head we’d totally get along…or I’d be her much less talented sidekick. I told my friend to definitely give it a watch, telling her either you’re the kind of person who is responsive to the kind of creature The OA is, or you’re not.

Some people may have laughed at the “cafeteria movements” scene – from what I’ve read some may have been offended by it even – or you’re like me and countless others who cried from the moment BBA uttered “my boys” until the very last scene. It’s disturbing yes, but it was depicted so beautifully if you are open to it. Brit Marling herself said this show was about people in trauma healing each other. I personally think the last moment, actually the whole show, completely embodies that. Credit to the 5 also. Funny how now I can’t see The Office’s Phyllis anymore and now only see BBA – Best fricking teacher ever. I personally want to adopt the character Buck. I loved seeing the growth in Steve. I won’t lie, I wanted to smack him one the first time he was on screen but then I fell in love with him and wanted to run after him running after OA. Suffice it to say, I cannot wait for season 2. I need to know what the braille in the building means (yes it’s Rachel, but why?!). I need to know what happens to the 5 without OA. I need to know why Elias was in OA’s house. I refuse to believe the theory or inference that OA made everything up. Just don’t even go there with me. (final note: is it bad that I want to take violin lessons purely so that I can play the main violin piece running through OA’s story?)