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I spent the last month listening to every REM studio album in chronological order - Why?

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Why did I do this? It is definitely not a topic, which attracts a lot of readers. I disappointed some people, who thought I was writing about sleep cycles (people tend to think I'm smarter and a lot less silly than I am). Another friend of mine was surprised anyone could have REM as their favourite band. So why did I spent this much time on silly blog posts about a band I had not thought about for the past 20 years (god, I'm old), which no one wanted to read about? And was it worth it?

Yes, it was worth it. When I started I was in a strange state of stress and boredom. Sitting around an empty work place with a pandemic raging. It is a natural reaction for people to escape into childhood nostalgia during times of great insecurity. I could have just listened to the albums I had brought from Germany last Christmas and in March and April last year, it was what I did. Once I started to write though, a way to communicate my thoughts out of my empty office, I found the therapeutic value in it. Consuming media passively is one thing, sitting down and actively letting your thoughts be occupied with a topic unrelated to all the anxiety inducing happenings around me ended up being occupational therapy. It helped me out of the anxiety spiral I tend to fall into, helped me get my focus back and last but not least, made me happy.

I feel a bit at a loss now, after a year of writing these posts I will miss it (only one playlist post left). They were a lot of fun to write. I had not really thought of REM for a long time and I'm glad to have rediscovered them. I had forgotten how deeply entwined their music was with my formative years.

Some notes:
  • During all the posts, I wrote REM instead of R.E.M. I know this is wrong, but laziness won out here. I think I saved myself from typing hundreds of ".".

  • I do not vouch for any of the "facts" in any of the posts. I'm already a lazy researcher for topics that matter and here I often relied on memories of things I thought I read 25 years years ago.

  • I learned in the little research I did that I hold some unpopular REM opinions: I seem to be the only REM fan, who does not like "Don't go back to Rockville". I also seem to be one of the few people who still likes "Reveal". Of course it all comes down to taste with music in the end, but I'm right everyone else is wrong.

  • There is something to be learned from their retirement. Bill Berry is the poster child here, but even the others seem just so content to have given up stardom and concentrate on things that make them happy.



  • Picture of the week - More volcano pictures!

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    Y'all didn't really think I was done with volcano related posts? I went last month for the second time. This time we could see the lava flow and made some perfect pictures:

    volcano_with_lava_colour

    olcano_with_lava_bw




    Eurovision!

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    It is the time of the year again, for tasteless music, ridiculous stage shows and an abundance of glitter. I was travelling with a friend, but of course we had to catch the show int he hotel (we missed the first few songs though, because having a nice dinner was more important). Here is my review:

    Portugal
    They were the first we saw. We were searching for the right channel and as soon as we came to Portugal's performance, we knew we had found Eurovision.

    UK
    The song is boring and the set design with the two big trumpets is just weird.

    Greece
    I always appreciate it when a country knows that Eurovision is all about a cool stage show. I find the triangular cutout on the catsuit of the singer strange, it does not add to the sexiness.

    Switzerland
    The guy has an amazing voice. Why does he wear a costume that matches the background though? And what are the random shapes doing on stage? I'm confused by the decisions in this stage show.

    Iceland
    Please don't win, I like my tax money to be used for other things than Eurovision. It is all very 101 Icelandic pop song, the song (think FM Belfast), the cutesy half ironic performance. To me it is grating, maybe I'm too old, but I never liked cutesy things.

    Spain
    I always like when they sing in their native language. A lot of countries did that this year. Why is the guy wearing black in front of a black background? I really find the stage shows disappointing this year.

    Moldavia
    Discount Lady Gaga forgot her pants, her background dancers forgot their shirts. Clothing equality!

    Germany
    Maybe he does not feel hate, but I do. Also embarrassment for being German. It has a big "hey, fellow kids" energy. I have a lot of questions about how this was chosen to be the German entry and what the other option were.

    Finland
    AKA Limping Park
    AKA Topshop metal
    AKA Not Lordie

    Bulgaria
    here we have all the female singers who have been popular in the last 10 years rolled into one: Emiliana Torrini, Adele, Billy Eilish...

    Lithuania
    I appreciate that they use yellow costumes in front of a purple background. Basic stage design: do not have the performers melt in the background. Fun choreography.

    Ukraine
    I'm afraid if I do not support Ukraine the singer is going to come out of my TV and kill me. I like the electro-folk music combo. What is going on with the stage shows this year? They all feel like a first draft of half baked ideas and make no sense.

    France
    Ultimate Frenchness has been acieved.

    Azerbaijan
    Eurovision 101 song and show. With all the bad stage shows I'm glad to see a typical one.

    Norway
    I love him! He has angel wings a (fake) fur coat and a glittery suit. The ridiculous stage show with the devils dancing around him is peak Eurovision and he even has the key change! 12 points from me.

    Netherlands
    I feel so sorry for him, wasting his sincere message on Eurovision. There should be a name for the type of embarrassment you feel when someone is showing emotional sincerity in a completely ridiculous forum.

    Italy
    This is what Finland would love to be. It actually seems to be a legit rock band.

    Sweden
    Same as Netherlands. His voice is super smooth.

    San Marino
    A classic Eurovision song, just like Azerbaijan. I appreciate the costume change, a Eurovision classic.

    Cyprus
    We are now deep in typical Eurovision fare.

    Albania
    A woman screaming her heart out in front of a wind machine. Eurovision bingo.

    Israel
    The song is called "set me free"... awkward...

    Belgium
    I missed it. My Dutch friend tells me the singer is well known and the song is good.

    Russia
    Are they performing a mystic ritual on stage?

    Random thoughts:

    - They are going to use the old computer game graphic gimmick in all advertisements in Iceland now...
    - There is a children's Eurovision????
    - The "not traditional European looking" participants, from usually strong Sweden and Netherlands are doing very badly, especially with the popular vote. Wonder why that is.

    Final thought: I'm postponing an REM post for this. I would be ok if this is always going to be just every two years.




    Picture of the week - Birds in Flight

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    Both pictures are 20 - 40 pictures combined to show the flight paths of birds in front of Reykjavik harbour.

    Birds_in_flight1

    Birds_in_flight2


    Cool German words - Zugzwang

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    Zugzwang (move compulsion) is a chess term. It is the tactic of taking advantage of the fact that you cannot skip your turn in chess, you are forced to move into a bad position, leading to your defeat. It usually occurs in endgames, which I'm terrible in. Here is the most famous example:

    .
    Black is forced to move from the promotion square, to the white square on 7th row, allowing the white king to move to 7th row and protect to the promotion square and then go on to promote the pawn and win.

    It was promoted from a technical chess term to a term used in the real world. Zugzwang might mean if you force someone to act, when it is in their best interest not to act.


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