Discovering Stromae and Learning Languages

Buzzfeed featured this brilliantly crafted commentary on social media from Stromae, “Carmen.”

My significant other found the video on Facebook and thinking I would like the song, shared it with me. I enjoyed not only the music, but the full package of artwork and theme. Seeing it was written and directed by French animator and comic writer Sylvain Chomet (known largely for animated films: The Illusionist and The Triplets of Belleville) was a bonus, and won more points with me. “Carmen” piqued both our interests in Stromae, but I became distracted and didn’t look further. My SO did and before I knew it, linked me to another song this time, “Tous Les Mêmes.” This video served as the catalyst for me diving into his work as well as background. I assumed he was French, from both of these songs, but learned Stromae (a stage name) is instead Belgian and a lovely blend of Flemish and Rwandan that latter proving to be significant in how he approaches his music. I soon realized I didn’t know much about Belgium or how strong of a French presence it has. For whatever reasons, when I thought of the country, I thought German or Dutch and almost never French.
After my latest reading endeavor, this felt a little less happy coincidence and more dancing in the realm of uncanny, as if both the reading and my listening to his music were fate.

While “Carmen” is fantastic, my favorite song of Stromae’s is actually this one, “Papaoutai”

As it turns out, we both lost our fathers at young ages, anything touching on the relationship of father and child usually speaks to me. The video is done in such an illustrative fashion that those without French fluency, or any French understanding can still get an idea of what the song is about. I love the combination and all the videos I’ve watched so far use different styles of short film in the telling of stories. It’s refreshing to see someone in a more popular genres of music being an artist and not just an entertainer which has become so common in the United States. A few articles mentioned that scientists have gone into researching the decline of Pop Music over the years and it’s not just in our imaginations.  The genre has actually been dumbing down. I assume physical record sells have also declined resulting in a stronger push for record companies to make that money. Leaving us with commercialism and repetition over talent and artistry. Fortunately, not everyone interested in making music is behind the cheapening of it and continue to treat it as a craft.

I haven’t analyzed Stromae’s lyrical content, yet. But even if he didn’t have the most in depth lyrics, he’s singing in French (and quite possibly bits of other languages). By him doing this, English speaking listeners such as myself, or others who don’t know French can pick up pieces subconsciously. Many songs have catchy hooks, that are clear and repeated and it presents the language in a more interesting way. Since French happens to be one of the languages I’m learning, I plan to make a conscious effort of looking up his lyrics while listening to the songs and focusing on natural pronunciations. If I want to be really ambitious, I can work on translating them into English myself instead of shortcuts. This article highlights eight tips for learning language through songs and music. Even though it specifies English, most of the tips make sense and should be applicable to learning others.

So, while social media poses threats of doom and gloom if we let ourselves get too absorbed, it still has productive uses. Like introducing me to an array of artists I might not have discovered any time soon. And by being open to this discovery, much like reading, I can get sucked into new worlds giving me the opportunity to learn about myself and others along the way.


Remembering Llamas on the Lam

Image via and tweaked by L.A. Lanier

Image via and tweaked by L.A. Lanier

When I was still a teenager, I went to the zoo. I came upon some llamas, they were chillin’ in some shade of their habitat. I looked upon their placard of information and their Latin name. Reading this made me wonder to myself out loud: so is a llama really a yama? Those around me giggled and laughed. And that was that.

Je Suis Charlie Ou Suis-Je?

With an increase in the black and white avatars spreading across forums and social media, it’s difficult to miss #JeSuisCharlie.  Hopefully, by now, it’s equally difficult for most people to remain oblivious to the events that occurred and are ongoing in Paris, France.
While reading about the event as details unfolded, the news swirled around in my head for a few seconds waiting for my brain to actually grasp it and confirm that yes, this had happened. All I could think was wow, that really sucks*. Seeing how quickly word spread and the world responded by showing signs of support and solidarity for a city on edge and in mourning was almost moving**. The writer, cartoon lover, and Francophile in me was  eager to say something on Twitter and proudly include #JeSuisCharlie. But who was I kidding?
I vaguely knew anything about the satirical publication in question (Charlie Hebdo) and, at that time, hadn’t even seen the controversial cartoons that were at the core of the attack.

Je Suis
Social media is great at bringing people “together” in support of something.
Kind of like sports.
But it also makes it easy for telling pieces of stories and people picking sides without having  a full picture. The more developed the picture becomes, the more I  may think, “hmm do I really want to affiliate myself with that?” Also, I often have qualms drawing attention to myself, much less in the wake of another person or persons’ tragedy. Even further less inclined (to draw attention) if it could come across as an instance of  “Let the record show that hey, I was on team X when Y happened.” Most of this is because I know that when the media storm dies down, a great number of people will no longer give a shit, and everything will resume as it had before. And those that continue to give a shit will be passing around things by people who already agree with them signaling the head nod of united shit giving. One could say Kony 2012 left a very grapefruity*** taste in my mouth. Continue reading

Joining Society or How I Made Peace and Accepted the Smartphone

I’m neither a technophobe nor Neo-Luddite. I find technology fascinating, especially when the latest development goes beyond reducing “First World Problems,” and focuses on *gasps* the betterment or advancement of humanity. Most tech devices for consumers don’t immediately strike me as doing that, and thus I have a tendency to…let’s just say…take my time acquiring them.

iPods were intriguing when they came out, only a couple of friends actually had one. I oohed and awed at the ease of use and categorization (I’m a little obsessive with alphabetizing or chronological order), but I still had fully functional CD players. I also enjoyed flipping through my binders and selecting a few favorite albums to cycle through. Once I hit 200+ CDs, I realized I couldn’t listen to music whenever I had the urge, and sometimes CDs hid from me. An iPod or some sort of MP3 player made sense. In 2009, I opted for a 120 GB iPod Classic. No audio books, podcasts, or photos added. Just music. I was content. Until two months later when a 160 GB Classic was on sale somewhere else for the same price. Fortunately, I have yet to max mine out.

The same year, I purchased a laptop (necessary for hosting my iTunes and classes) for less than $300. No built-in webcam (I already had one), 2 GB memory and 160 GB HD. I’m using it to compose this entry, and while I’ve had some scares during its lifespan, I’m not immediately searching for a replacement. Prior to owning, I used an old Gateway desktop my family bought during my second year of high school. Every now and then, I would boot it up to move something to a flash drive or laptop. It’s kind of shocking that I was able to use it for so long, even with exposure to more advanced options, but I did. It may even still work. And now…I might have to find out. Continue reading