Tag Archives: Blog 5

Thoughts on the Evolution of Stromae’s Music

I first heard the Belgian musician Stromae around 2012 when I was working at the Electric Fetus, a record store in South Minneapolis. The new album at the time was Racine Carrée, which translates from French as Square Root. My manager at the time told us her daughter’s French class had presented a performance piece for the parents at the end of the school year which featured a couple songs from this album, and while I still don’t really know much French (I instead took Japanese in high school), I was drawn to the overall feeling of the album. I bought it at the end of my shift and listened to it for weeks, looking up the translation of the lyrics to understand the language behind the emotions and complexities of his work.

Stromae is a Belgian national of Belgian and Rwandan descent. His father Pierre Rutare was killed during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, and the subject of his song “Papaoutai” (Dad, Where Are You?) is about the heartbreaking perspective of a child questioning the implications of losing his father, and what the fate of himself and others becoming fathers one day will be.

As someone who works in the human services field, I often think of the resilience theory; it’s not about the nature of adversity that is most important, but how each one of us deals with it. There are seemingly infinite examples of the resiliency theory in art and in music, and I am often drawn to narratives that express one’s own adverse experiences through these mediums. These are common themes in many of his songs.

I found Stromae’s new album “Multitude” on Tidal after one of his songs came up on my “suggested” playlists, and I realized I hadn’t thought about him and his music in depth for ten years now. I hadn’t noticed his absence that other fans and music critics did, and now there has been much to read about his return to music.

Something I found out while reading about his new album is the reason for his absence from the public eye; in 2015, he had taken an anti-malarial drug called Lariam, which caused him deep depression and debilitating panic attacks. In 2018, he began appearing in public more and talked about his experience with suicidal ideations, and the support system he had through his wife Coralie Barbier, who is also his stylist.


After listening to Multiverse the first time last week, I became more curious about the experiences he went through since I first heard Racine Carrée, and because I still don’t know French I wanted to look up the translation of his lyrics.

“Fils de Joie” (Son of Joy) struck me as being painful and heartfelt like Papaoutai before, and so when I saw the English lyrics in the music video for this song, I could see that he was singing from the perspective of a child again. I admire his capacity to connect with others who are often forgotten about, such as the children of sex workers, and to create art through music with those narratives. Perhaps it is because of the tragedies and threats to his own mental health he went through that he is able to empathize with these children, but it cannot be overlooked that he is also incredibly talented musically.

I am looking forward to hearing more of his work in the future, and in the meantime will be reading about his experiences and projects he continues to work on – and will not be waiting 10 years again to do so!

Scream Therapy

When I was 11, I sat down with my older neighbors and watched “The Haunting” – you know, that horror film with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones? Not the greatest horror film – low budget, the storyline itself is questionable – but my little 11-year-old self hadn’t been exposed to anything remotely scary…ever. I was a child who grew up on Disney and PG rated movies.  I hadn’t realized there were any other genre of films outside of my little Disney princess bubble, let alone any other content that was as atmospheric and intense as this film. To say I was changed, is an understatement. My heart rate increased, my palms got clammy, my eyes dilated in anticipation – but I was transformed. I relished in the fact that I had watched this horror film and survived to tell the tale. I wanted more.

I was 15 when a best friend of mine passed away from cancer. For months I wandered through life confused, upset, anxious, and afraid. I couldn’t sleep at night. I even started to feel afraid of the dark. The truth was, I was afraid of death. My stress was through the roof and there was no release.

Age 16 and I went over to a neighbor’s house to play video games and eat pizza. We ended up watching one of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. I hadn’t watched many horror films since “The Haunting” and I certainly didn’t think to try after last year and losing my best friend, but here I was, sitting and eating pizza watching a chainsaw-wielding psycho chase young teenagers to their death. You’re thinking, “This is probably a terrible idea, April… You are stressed out; you’re clearly still grieving. Not smart.”  And yet, there I was enjoying myself more than I had in the last year. There was a certain degree of comfort nestled in with those chills and horror. The surprising thing, and this is not for everyone obviously, the continual building and release of tension that is a core part of the horror-movie viewing experience, actually helped relieve my stress.

In a 2018 study researchers found that horror fans may enjoy being scared because it helps them gain a sense of mastery or control over their fears from the safety of living room couches or darkened movie theatres. “We often have a pleasurable feeling after a horror film based on the subsequent sense of relief,” says Zlatin Ivanov, a double-board certified psychiatrist. After watching a scary movie, the brain’s ability to calm itself down can be pleasurable neuro-chemically speaking, Ivanov says, “because the dopamine release related to the ‘rest and digest’ brain response causes an increased sense of well-being.”

Fast forward to 2020, a global pandemic hits. When the pandemic came to national attention, many people felt a sense of impending doom. But at the same time, the horror movies quickly became some of the most-watched movies in the U.S.  Horror films, researchers say, provide a simulated experience of threatening and dangerous situations. As a result, this provides “people a chance to experience a sense of mastery over negative experiences.” This then leads to being prepared for danger and the unexpected. Preparation for such events helps alleviate psychological distress should a negative, unexpected real-life situation arise.

In addition to helping me manage my stress levels, and indulging my curiosity, horror films also provide me with a certain sense of control over my emotions; they allow me to provide some distance and perspective that could otherwise be hard to access when I’m immersed in the everyday stress of life.


Redundancy in Media: Entertainment Journalists Get Called Out for Being Uninspired and the Internet Can’t Handle It!

What exactly do Tom Cruise, egg yolks, and the Disney+ show Hawkeye have in common? Well, not much, but each of them are the topic of their own article that exemplifies one of the biggest problems in modern journalism, particularly entertainment focused journalism.

The first article details the return of a fan favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe character in the most recent episode of Hawkeye (haven’t seen the show yet, heard it’s good) and many fans’ to-be-expected enthusiastic response to it on social media. The second article regards a viral Twitter video that shows a young man drinking his egg yolk through a straw at a restaurant and the disgusted replies and he received after doing so. The third article details Tom Cruise’s recent trip to a Giants v Dodgers baseball game, where fans were surprised to see such a high profile movie star simply enjoying the classic American sport in his free time like any other person would.

Still not seeing the connection between these three stories? Don’t worry, I wouldn’t expect you to just yet. Let me lay out the three headlines and see if you can spot it:

“Hawkeye episode 4 features a major cameo, and the internet can’t handle it”

“Someone Drank Eggs Through A Straw And The Internet Can’t Handle It”

“Tom Cruise Goes to Baseball Game, and the Internet Can’t Handle It”

The collective mental state of internet users must be fractured beyond repair at this point, as every article regarding something slightly shocking gets capped by the “and the internet can’t handle it” cliche. It’s a worldwide sensation that brings to mind the Buzzfeed audience, yet has found it’s way adorning articles being published by the likes of respected outlets such as Vanity Fair.

Kingsley Amis sums it up quite nicely (and with MUCH more brevity than myself)

While this can be chalked up to a simple trend in modern journalism that will likely be replaced by another in time, the implications are troubling. What headlines like this prove is that not only are journalists beginning to deplete their originality tanks, but that they are also moving in a more trendy, buzzword-y direction that may define the way the media operates going forward. Hard hitting headlines with clever wordplay are becoming more and more infrequent as modern journalists begin to fall back on cliches and clickbait headlines that place more importance on the view count rather than originality. Similar to the direction of entertainment industries like music and film, originality in journalism is slowly being replaced with trends and choices that have been focus group tested to earn the sites as much money and views as possible, leaving originality and norm-defying journalism in the dust.

Is this a major problem? The largest issue facing the world in this modern age? No, not really. But when one considers the state that it could leave journalism in a decade or two from now, it does cause a slight eyebrow raise of curiosity. I wonder if the internet will be able to handle a world where every article uses different variations of the same headline? I sure hope someone writes an article about it. Preferably one that tells me whether or not they were able to handle it right in the title. I need to know what I’m getting into before I click on it. Originality scares me. Buzzfeed headlines make me feel safe (along with Vanity Fair now, I guess). All I know for sure is this…

I CAN’T handle it anymore (someone get Vanity Fair on the phone, I think I’ve got a story for them)!

Challenges Being Hearing Impaired

Imagine waking up and not being able to hear absolutely nothing; everything sounds muffled. Your ears feel as though they are plugged from being on an airplane. You try to yawn to pop them, but yawning doesn’t work. Your love ones actually yelling at you for no apparent reason, and you’re wondering why? This happen to me in 2008. I was 35, and just had my youngest daughter a couple of months prior.

It was an unexplainable situation. The doctors told me I had an ear infection. They gave me amoxicillin to take for 10 days. After I finish taking it that, I still couldn’t hear. They prescribed me Sudafed 120 mg. After taking those for a week, still couldn’t hear. They couldn’t figure out what was going on with me.

Finally, they sent me to an audiologist and they told me I was losing my hearing. She tried to insure me that it was no big deal and hearing aids will help.

The type of hearing loss I have is called Cookie-bite hearing loss. It’s less common than other types of hearing loss. Cookie-bite hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss—that means it’s due to an impairment in the cochlea or auditory nerve and not caused by fluid or earwax.

Once you develop sensorineural hearing loss, you have it for the rest of your life. It can be mild, moderate, severe or profound. I have profound hearing loss. If you have profound hearing loss, you won’t hear most everyday sounds without amplification, just loud sounds but not someone calling you from behind. This is what was difficult for my family and friends to understand even with wearing hearing aids.

But I’ve found over the years, once I received my hearing aids, people judge me and told me that I was disrespectful, I was rude, or I was ignoring them when they were talking. Not knowing that even still having the hearing aids in my ear that, a person would have to be in my face; facing me in order for me to really hear. And that just because I have the hearing aids, you can whisper anything to me now, because you think that they’ll help me to hear your whisper. Struggling with family not understanding was hard, I went into a state of depression. I didn’t know what to do. All I knew that I hated wearing hearing aids for somebody who was not born death, and able to hear when I was born.

I loss my hearing at the age of 35. It was very traumatic and devastating. I stop going to seminars; I isolated myself. I didn’t want to be around people because half of the time, because I didn’t know what they were saying or what the conversation was about. I even stayed away from a lot of family functions, because they would get so impatient and when they spoke to me, they would yell or say things like, “I don’t like repeating myself, so you know, if you can’t hear…” just being very inconsiderate of my disability.

When the pandemic hit in 2020. That was another devastating thing because we all had to wear mask. And it was very hard for me to communicate, because people were talking and but their mouths were cover. So I couldn’t read their lips. Before if I couldn’t hear what they said, I could read their lips and get the gist of what they were saying. So, that was another very challenging time.

I’ve learned as someone with a disability, how people in the society and in our nation, how impatient they are when it comes to people with disabilities. I would have never guessed that even working in the health care field, I never really experienced how significant the inpatient of people in America has been. So I have learned that even in the midst of everything that I’m going through, that everyone will not be considerate of your disability.

What’s Your Learning Style?

I have not often thought about my learning style and how I can better my university journey. It feels a little too late to discover it now in a school sense, but I am still very interested in discovering my learning style so that I can take it with me after university. If you’re like me and you’re curious, then continue reading. If you already know your learning style, keep reading. If you don’t fully care about your learning style, I’d say keep reading and maybe you’ll be more interested after.

There are four main types of learning styles: Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, Kinesthetic Learners, and Reading/Writing Learners. I will be giving a brief description of each of the learning styles and a little quiz you can take after to discover your own!

Visual Learners

If you are a visual learner, it means you prefer to learn by seeing items. Whether this is visually looking at maps, graphs, diagrams, charts, or other types of visual representation, that is you. Visual learners do not mean that you respond best to photos or videos. Rather it can mean that you learn better by seeing patterns and shapes as a visual aid. 

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners are people that take in information and learn best when they are able to hear the information rather than seeing it. They are people that are more likely to speak their ideas and work out loud versus others that may write their thoughts down. These learners learn best when the information is presented to them in ways that involve talking or listening. If this is you, lecture-style classes may be the best for you!

Kinesthetic Learners

These kinesthetic learners learn best by doing. They enjoy a hands-on experience. Getting to physically work their way through a problem is best for them. Feeling connected to the experience helps them learn better than simply sitting in a room and listening to someone speak. Kinesthetic learners are people that want to experience the new work that they are learning. 

Reading/Writing Learners

Reading/Writing learners remember information better when they are able to write it down or read the information. Text is very powerful for this type of learner. They do best getting to read an instruction manual, taking notes as they read, and getting to write down their thoughts as they work. Written assignments are often a strong suit for these types of learners. If this is your style, keep a notebook with you so you are always able to write down new information!

For me, I am an auditory learner. I do well getting to listen to someone explain directions or a new problem. I like to talk out loud to my group about the assignments and discuss how we are going to accomplish the task. I won’t be attending university after this semester, but I will be able to take my learning style with me in my career. I am able to communicate with coworkers and inform them on how I learn and work best, hopefully, they will be able to do the same.

If you’re curious about your learning style, I suggest this quiz to take: http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml 

Technology Is Making Us Dumber.

Sure, there are plenty of examples of how technology has made life easier, more convenient, and has proven to be helpful, but has it made us smarter? I would like to argue that technology has, in fact, NOT made us smarter but the opposite.

Technology has made life too easy, too convenient, and too helpful. Yes, it helps us navigate unfamiliar streets, find that perfect cookie recipe, diagnose ourselves (often inaccurately) online, and it got us to the moon, but what effect has it had on us cognitively, physically, and psychologically?

The article “What is Brain Plasticity and Why is it so Important?” from the news organization called The Conversation talks about Neuroplasticity – or brain plasticity – which is the ability of the brain to modify its connections or re-wire itself. The article describes why neuroplasticity is important to the development of the brain, but the takeaway for the sake of this blog is – your brain is a muscle. Like our physical muscles, the motto “use it or lose it” applies.

For example, since our brain has the ability to rewire, we are losing that self-navigational ability. Raise your hand if you’ve consistently used the GPS to get to the same location.

Due to the over-use of technology, it has caused us to reduce physical activity (leading to obesity and related health issues), to have poorer posture (which can lead to musculoskeletal issues), sleep problems, and eye strain.

Jon Johnson wrote in his article published by the newsletter Medical News Today, “Negative Effects of Technology: What to Know”, that technology can lead to isolation. He wrote “A 2017 study in young adults aged 19–32 years found that people with higher social media use were more than three times as likely to feel socially isolated than those who did not use social media as often.”

“Smart phone depression 2” by Mirøslav Hristøff is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The convenience of technology has made us over-reliant on its use. In some cases, this has turned into an addiction. The use of technology can be addicting. It can be distracting. It can make us less productive. We retain less information. It affects our concentration. It has a negative impact on our social skills. It intrudes upon classroom learning.

Considering these factors, we can conclude that although technology can be useful, it is making us dumber.



The Pandemic’s Negative Impact on Mental Health

The overall mental health of plenty of individuals has deteriorated noticeably throughout the pandemic. KFF has an article outlining very alarming statistics in regards to it: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

4 in 10 adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, only 1 in 10 did. A poll KFF did found that “many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.”

Adults of all age groups have had their mental healthy negatively impacted from the pandemic. Young adults age 18-24 have the most reports of experiencing anxiety or depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey conducted by KFF “also found that substance use and suicidal ideation are particularly pronounced for young adults, with 25% reporting they started or increased substance use during the pandemic (compared to 13% of all adults), and 26% reporting serious thoughts of suicide (compared to 11% of all adults). Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, young adults were already at high risk of poor mental health and substance use disorder, yet many did not receive treatment.”

Getting help for mental health problems isn’t easy. Many people keep these issues to themselves, making it sometimes hard for loved ones to even realize that they are struggling inside. I encourage anyone struggling to reach out to someone. There are many resources outside of family members or friends that people can use.

Minneapolis’ 2040 Plan isn’t Enough

In January of 2020, the Minneapolis 2040 plan went into effect. This plan covers one-hundred various topics, from transportation to public health, and sets a framework for the city to follow for the next twenty years. While the plan was a large step for the city council to make, and was weighed in on by thousands of citizens, the plan does not actually do enough.

Why? Because the plan makes some large claims without a real sense of accountability. For example, under the page dedicated to homelessness, the plan claims it will “eliminate homelessness” in the 20-year time frame it has set for itself. This promise has been made to the city before, including by Mayor Jacob Frey. The plan includes eight action steps, but no information about how or when those steps are going to be taken. This is a serious issue that needs a serious response, something this City of Minneapolis does not seem to be doing.

It has been over a year since this plan went into effect, and yet we have seen no real movement on this front. In fact, between the response to encampments with Covid-19 and during the uprising, I think the problems with the cities responses to these issues has become even more clear to the public. The city needs to take a stronger stance and start making real moves if they actually want to address this issue and help residents like they say they do. With just 19 years left to eliminate homelessness, I am skeptical about the city’s capability to hold itself to such a large promise.

The 2040 plan does a good job at acknowledging the work that needs to be done in our city and could truly be used as the framework it set out to be. However, if the city doesn’t start making moves soon, the plan is going to fall apart. I know the amount of work that went into this plan and I don’t want to see that happen. Instead, I want the city to act on their plan, and to lay out for residents what exactly they actually plan to do to address the housing crisis in Minneapolis. The plan was good, but it is not enough.

Bearded dragons are great pets. Are you a great owner?

This article from PETA, “Bearded Dragons for Sale? They—Like All Other Reptiles—Are Not ‘Pets.’” Is missing so much valuable information.

I do agree that bearded dragons are not starter pets, and they require a lot of research before committing. That is where my agreement ends, however. The tone of this article is incredibly negative and only offers you two choices. Either you don’t own a bearded dragon and you’re responsible or you do and you’re a cruel person.

They include a list of 6 bearded dragon facts. The very first one is, “Bearded dragons eat crickets. As the guardian of a bearded dragon, your life will include many trips to the pet store to buy these crickets, who will often escape into your home and chirp all night.”

For starters, obviously, if you don’t want to deal with bugs don’t get a bearded dragon. If your only issue is crickets, don’t worry. They aren’t your only option. Bearded dragons love Dubai roaches, which are higher in protein and live a lot longer than crickets. Horned worms are an excellent source of hydration and super worms are a great source of protein. Super worms can be bought in larger quantities and they’re easier to keep alive. However, if you have super worms in your bearded dragon’s diet be sure you’re keeping them hydrated because their skin can be difficult to digest.

The next bullet point on the list says that they’re illegal to own in Hawaii. That only applies to people in Hawaii and doesn’t add to the argument on either side. The next point is that bearded dragons can lay eggs. There are ways that you can deal with this and make your bearded dragon comfortable. Typically, you’ll want to provide your female with a dig box. After she lays her eggs make sure you have some yummy bugs for her and give her some space. Some females enjoy taking a warm bath after they lay their eggs. 

Next, they bring up that there are foods that are toxic to bearded dragons. There are also foods that are toxic to dogs and cats. You need to do your research. There are plenty of foods that aren’t toxic. PETA mentions not feeding them avocado. That’s fine, you can feed them squash, zucchini, bell peppers, arugula, collard greens, swiss chard, radicchio, mustard greens, dandelion greens, wild dandelions, endives, romaine lettuce, and many other leafy greens and vegetables. There are even some fruits that bearded dragons enjoy, but fruit should be a treat for special occasions. Mine loves bananas and would probably eat them every day if I let him.

The rest of the list and the article discusses issues that you could easily fix by doing your research before buying a bearded dragon. That’s really what being a responsible owner comes down to, research. Not just research into bearded dragon care but also of the place you’re going to purchase them from. Places like PetSmart and Petco don’t have a great reputation when it comes to caring for bearded dragons, but they aren’t your only option. If you live in or around the Twin Cities, Twin Cities Reptiles in Saint Paul is amazing. They treat their animals with respect, and the employees are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

My last warning is that owning a bearded dragon can be expensive so consider whether you can take on the financial responsibility. Bearded dragons themselves aren’t expensive, but you have to factor in the cost of the enclosure, proper lighting, food, and veterinary bills. There’s a lot to know and that may feel overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for bearded dragons to live good lives as pets.

A Proud Minnesotan

I’m a fifth generation Minnesotan. My dad’s family immigrated to Minnesota from Northern and Eastern Europe in the 1800s. My great great grandparents established an urban homestead. They grew their own food and lived within walking distance of downtown St. Paul the state’s capital. My grandparents and parents continued the family tradition of growing and preserving our food, despite living in the post-war era nor living in St. Paul anymore. I have been lucky often to continue to be taught this valuable skills from my family.

My sister’s and I with the Easter bunny in St. Paul circa 1996.

I grow up in during my youngest years in St. Paul off Rice Street. Being able to participate in Rice Rec events and the Rice Street Parade were some of my fondest memories.

I was able to see the Mall of America be built. We were lucky enough to spend time at Camp Snoopy. And I grew up watching my favorite movie franchise filmed here as well… The Mighty Ducks.

Duluth, MN

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes so growing up I spent lots of time at our family cabin or at friend’s cabins. We would go fishing a lot. I would go jet skiing and wakeboarding. In the winter would go to neighborhood ponds to ice skate. Or go ice fishing on the lake.

I have developed a great connection to this state I call home for all these reasons. However, as I’ve gotten older I realize all the amazing benefits of living in Minnesota. Like the incredible access to healthcare and choice we have here. The expanded medicaid services that are offered within our state to support those with chronic medical condition. I have experienced the benefits of these programs after having my oldest daughter who is medically complex.

This past year has been another testament to the fondest I have for this state. Though not always favorable our state has shown great leadership throughout this pandemic. And with that it was announced today that the state will be expanding its vaccination qualification to all adults over the age of sixteen on Tuesday March 30, 2021. This is far ahead of schedule because at the beginning of the vaccination campaign it was estimated that having all adults of 16 in Minnesota be able to qualify for vaccination it would take until at least the end of the summer 2021. This is big deal and an important step for our state.

This is all to say I am a Proud Minnesotan born and raised!