If you really love yourself, you’d keep a journal

journal hand written

If you really love yourself, you’d keep a journal. Bold statement, I know, but I mean it.

The ultimate act of self-love is self-expression. It is confidently believing that your thoughts, both silly and serious, are worthy of note – no exceptions.

I assume I’m not alone in having spent a childhood and at least half an adolescence sporadically trying to keep a regular journal and failing at it consistently. Even as a little girl, when shame and inhibition should’ve been influencing exactly zero percent of my decisions, the act of keeping a diary filled with my daily thoughts and feelings felt frivolous and embarrassing and I never succeeded at writing more than one or two entries before I gave up.

I was perfectly fine dancing like a fool in the aisles at church or confidently yelling wrong answers out in class, but something about the act of journaling embarrassed me like nothing else could, which doesn’t make any sense, right?

Don’t we usually think of embarrassment as an emotion we only feel in a crowd, an emotion that comes as a direct product of being judged? Why then did the thought of keeping a journal, that was only ever meant for me, embarrass me to the point of giving up for most of my life? Why does the same thought still keep many adults from journaling to this day?

I think it’s because we judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else ever could. In our (at least ideally) merit-based society, we’re taught that the good ideas are worth sharing and the bad ones are worth keeping to ourselves, that the good songs should get on the album and the bad songs should get left on the cutting room floor. Now I’m not arguing that the bad songs should make it onto the album, I’m just saying that you’re never going to write a good song until you write a couple of bad ones. In your journal. Without being embarrassed about it.

We all deserve a place where we can be free to create without fear of judgment from anyone, including ourselves.

A journal is a place to keep all your bad songs, all your embarrassingly terrible love poems and all the mundane details of your day. It’s a place where you show yourself compassion by not holding yourself to a single standard other than production, a place where you make and document and keep and ramble – each word you write, a self-affirmation of your own right to be heard. Your journal can be notebook or a blog or a sketchbook or a bunch of voice memos on your phone – it doesn’t matter.

But whatever form it takes, journaling is a way to get to know the truest, most vulnerable iteration of yourself. It’s scary and intimate and weird but it’s all worth it. So much can be learned by taking the amorphous mush of thoughts and ideas and feelings and memories in your mind and materializing them in any way you can. And so much can be gained. Don’t believe me? Try it. I dare you.

I dare you to keep a journal that you write in every day. I dare you to love yourself one sentence at a time. I dare you to show yourself that your voice is worthy of being heard, even if the only person hearing it is you. I dare you to sit alone in a crowd and applaud for every one of your own bad songs, blissfully indifferent to their destiny to be left on the cutting room floor.

Boston: Dropkick Murphys Band Rep Says House of Blues Bar Fight Started Because A Man In The Crowd Was Hitting Women – by Dave Brooks (Billboard) 15 March 2019

Dropkick Murphys

Bassist Ken Casey was bloodied after being hit in the face with a can during the Boston show.

The Dropkick Murphys are speaking out about a bloody brawl during one of their hometown St. Patrick’s Day shows at Boston’s House of Blues on Friday (March 15).

A rep for the band tells Billboard that the fight started after bassist and Dropkick Murphys founder Ken Casey saw an inebriated fan elbowing and hitting women near the stage. Casey reportedly stopped the show and called for security to grab the offending fan and then jumped into a barricade and started shouting for the man to stop.

A video first shared by TMZ shows Casey with blood on his face, shouting at an individual in the audience and then jumping into the crowd. 

Billboard obtained a second video of the fight that shows Casey standing over the front section trying to break up the fight and then getting hit in the head with a beer can thrown from the crowd. After a brief tussle, Casey helps security bring one suspected troublemaker over the barricade, before the stage crew pull Casey away and security escorts the young man out the venue while fans jeer and cheer.

“Ken could see the guy wasn’t going to stop and that security was having a hard time getting to him, so he decided to handle it himself,” a source close to the band tells Billboard. “Ken is not afraid to stand up to anyone who is ruining the show for someone else and the band has been clear that they won’t tolerate abusive behavior.” 

The Boston punk rock band is known for its raucous concerts, and while fights are rare, the Dropkick Murphys and their fans have gotten into fights with racist skinheads and Neo Nazis who have tried to disrupt their concerts. In 2013, a skinhead tried to jump on the stage during the band’s show at Terminal 5 in New York.

“We’ve been doing this for a number of years, and having been here for 21 of those years, I can tell you this is not new,” lead singer Al Barr told the audience after the fight broke up. “When we invite you guys to come to one of our shows, it’s like were saying come to our house. And when someone disrespects us, you’re disrespecting us in our house.”

The Dropkick Murphys are currently finishing up their St. Patrick’s Day tour, playing five shows in five days in Boston, including today’s St. Patrick’s Clash 4 featuring a performance by the band and boxing matches promoted by Murphy’s Boston.

Reps for Casey say he is feeling fine and already back to performing. 

When The Boss Comes Calling – Dropkick Murphys

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Concerned Nation Gently Encourages Boston To Take It Easy This St. Patrick’s Day – 17 March 2019

BOSTON—Expressing concern for the well-being of the greater metropolitan area in light of their long history of irresponsible behavior, the populace of the United States gently suggested to Boston Thursday that perhaps they should take it easy this St. Patrick’s Day. “We want you guys to have fun and celebrate, but don’t go completely overboard this year, all right?” said the apprehensive U.S. populace, reminding the nation’s most outspoken bastion of both real and imagined Irish-American culture that they could celebrate the holiday without binge drinking, bare-knuckle boxing, or climbing on top of a car to drunkenly egg on bare-knuckle boxers. “By all means, you can drink a couple beers, even green beers, and have a good time, but maybe cool it with the Jameson shots and definitely no Irish coffee, okay? Remember, you racked up $42 million in medical bills last St. Patrick’s, and that’s before accounting for fire department overtime.” The nation further emphasized that it honestly wanted Boston to enjoy itself, and did not expect the city to maintain the quiet atmosphere of sullen, resentful drunkenness with which residents observed Black History Month. 

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Norther Ireland: 47 Years After British Troops Shot 13 Unarmed Protesters Dead – UK Government Still Can’t Figure Out If That Was Illegal – by Patrick Cockburn (The Independent) 9 March 2019

Norther Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley’s ‘Mistake’  About Derry’s “Bloody Sunday” Reveals Far More Than Just Her Ignorance

Bloody Sunday

The families of the 13 innocent people shot dead by the Parachute Regiment when they took part in a civil rights march against internment without trial in Londonderry in 1972 will learn in the coming week if soldiers, who are alleged to have carried out the killings, will be prosecuted.

There is no doubt about what happened on Bloody Sunday 47 years ago since Lord Saville’s report, 5,000 words long and the fruit of 12 years’ work, was published in 2010. It concluded that none of the casualties shot by the soldiers “were posing any threat of causing death or serious injury”. It said that all soldiers bar one responsible for the casualties “insisted that they had shot at gunmen or bombers, which they had not”. Saville added that “many of these soldiers have knowingly put forward false accounts in order to justify their firing”.

Saville said the report was “absolutely clear” and there were “no ambiguities” about events in the city on that day. David Cameron later told the House of Commons that “what happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.”

But eight years after Cameron had apologised, the Commons heard another story from the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, who said this week that the deaths caused by the British security services during the Troubles were “not crimes” but people acting “under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”.

This was so very different from Saville and Cameron that it was followed by a frantic row-back on the part of Bradley, followed by some some touchy-feely stuff about acknowledging the pain of the families of the dead who might be upset by her words.

Bradley’s original statement and confused apologies were greeted with derision by the media, which recalled her past gaffes, comparing her ineptitude to that of the transport secretary Chris Grayling whose pratfalls and failures – and unsackability because of Brexit – are notorious.

But Bradley’s incompetence and ignorance – her kinder critics say that “she is out of her depth” – are a diversion from a more serious failing on her part, one which has the potential to do real damage to the stability of Northern Ireland. This is simply that what she said and later apologised for reflects all too accurately the real thinking of much of the government, most Conservative MPs and the great majority of their party supporters.

Prominent Brexiteers have never liked the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), while others consider it a Labour project that they would be happy to see wither on the bough. Michael Gove compared the GFA to the appeasement of the Nazis. The former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson happily retweeted an article saying that the GFA had run its course and he supports a hard border with the Irish Republic. The “Get Back Control” slogan of the pro-Brexit campaign was aimed at the EU, but it can be rapidly adjusted for use against the GFA, which undoubtedly does dilute the formal authority of the British government in Northern Ireland though expanding its real influence.

Bradley’s statement in the Commons could be dismissed as the normal Conservative knee-jerk support for the British Army. But the problem here is that its tone is in keeping with Conservative actions since they won the general election in 2010. Since then they have ignored essential parts of the GFA, such as the central role of the nationalist population in the north and, until recently, of the Irish government. Cameron may have apologised for Bloody Sunday but he sent a right winger like Paterson to Belfast as secretary of state.

Bit by bit the preconditions for peace have been chipped away. A crucial element was the declaration by the British government under John Major in 1993 that it was neutral between unionists and nationalists. This enabled it to mediate successfully between the two communities. It also enabled it to act in concert with the Irish government if the two communities could not agree.

This neutrality was carelessly abandoned long before Theresa May finally knocked it on the head when she became dependent on the DUP for her parliamentary majority in 2017. DUP MPs are now treated as if they were the sole representatives of Northern Ireland, though its voters chose decisively by 56 to 44 per cent to stay in the EU. Moreover, demographers say that Catholics and nationalists now each make up half the population of the north and will be in the majority in two years’ time.

Contrary to criticism, Bradley’s repeated gaffes, automatic support for the British Army and open ignorance of the Northern Irish political terrain are nothing out of the ordinary for politicians holding her job. Perhaps it is unfair to blame this on the Conservatives alone: the British political class has a long tradition of ignoring Ireland until it blows up in their faces.

The fact that Bradley’s ill-considered remarks were made only days before there is to be a decision by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service about the prosecution of soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday is also par for the course.

A central reason why the Troubles went on for so long was that successive British governments from 1968-69 failed to realise the extent to which internment without trial, Bloody Sunday, the hunger strikes, the Birmingham Six and similar injustices delegitimised the British state in the eyes of the nationalist community. A myth was maintained that the IRA has only two or three per cent support in the nationalist community and that it was always on the verge of total defeat. But small guerrilla groups depend more on tolerance or support than they do on military capacity and this popular acceptance was underestimated by the British and Irish governments. Both were astonished when Sinn Fein started winning elections under their own name in the wake of the hunger strikes.

These grievances in Northern Ireland are often presented as “legacy” issues which are only kept alive by the historically obsessed Irish who ought to let the dead bury their dead and get on with their lives.

But this is exactly what Brexit – along with a prolonged failure by the British government to keep the GFA in good working order – is preventing people in Northern Ireland from doing. It is absurd for people in Britain to criticise anybody in Northern Ireland for undue interest in the past when Brexit is doing just that by resurrecting a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the elimination of which was central to the peace agreement. If Britain goes backward into the past, there is no reason why the Irish should not do the same thing.

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Russia: ‘Red Tourism’ Is Luring Wealthy Chinese Visitors Bored With Paris and Milan – by Jing Zhang (South China Post) 15 March 2019

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Moscow didn’t make a great first impression on experienced Chinese tourist Maggie Xu and the two friends she was travelling with. There was confusion at the airport terminal, difficulty finding their driver, and then crippling traffic jams en route to their hotel, the city’s Ritz-Carlton.

Friends Maggie Xu (centre), Yuki Dong (left) and Jenny Lu in St Petersburg.
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Once they had settled in, though, the trio found themselves charmed by the sparkling lights lining the pavements of Tverskaya Street – Moscow’s Champs-Elysees. “On that cold winter night, the city had the joyful atmosphere of an amusement park,” Xu says.

Xu, model Yuki Dong and education agency owner Jenny Lu had decided to travel to Russia this winter to celebrate Xu’s birthday. They are among a growing number of affluent, big-spending Chinese travellers looking for an alternative to the well-trodden paths of Paris, New York, London and Milan, instead heading to cities with less glamorous reputations such as Moscow and St Petersburg.

Both of these Russian destinations have acquired a glossy new allure, due at least in part to the “China Friendly” project launched by the government and industry in 2014. The project aims to accommodate more Chinese tourists through improved services, hotels, restaurants, tourist activities and – of course – shopping.

Winter decorations lighting Tverskaya Street in Moscow. Photo: AlamyWinter decorations lighting Tverskaya Street in Moscow.

The year following the project’s launch, Chinese tourists spent between US$800 million and US$1 billion in Moscow, according to the city’s tourism authorities. In 2016, about one million Chinese tourists visited Russia, reportedly spending in the region of US$2 billion. At the beginning of this year, the Russian government introduced tax-free shopping for tourists in a number of notable stores, hoping to attract even greater numbers.

“As someone who has travelled to over 45 countries and regions, Russia was a good option on the table. We know that the former Soviet Union, like China, is a socialist country with a long history,” Xu says. “China’s understanding of it might be economically polarised and historically charged – the power of its modern leader can be sensationalised – but we wanted to see the country for what it really is.”

The day after they arrived, Xu and her friends visited popular sites dusted with snow in and around Red Square, then browsed a dazzling array of goods at a street market. After Moscow, they headed to St Petersburg for more sightseeing, and skiing at a nearby resort.

Snow falls on Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.

“Red tourism”, with its traditional focus on visiting historical socialist or communist landmarks, has boomed in recent years. But it’s not only the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum and Red Square on the itinerary. Culture and lifestyle tours, fine food and drink, and shopping – the main pastime of Chinese travellers – have become hugely popular.

Research by the Hurun Report entitled “The Chinese Luxury Traveller 2017” found that wealthy Chinese tourists prefer to get out of their comfort zones, with “around the world travel, polar exploration and outdoor adventures” topping their wish lists.

“Many Chinese millennials are incredibly well-researched, savvy travellers. They are sophisticated and looking for experiences,” says Shanghai-based Chloe Reuter, founder of PR agency Reuter Communications, which has many luxury travel clients looking to tempt wealthy Chinese tourists.

Cafe Pushkin in Moscow.

Reuter explains that in her agency’s latest survey of Chinese millennials travelling to the US, a third of them opted for Airbnb over traditional hotels. “We coined an acronym for them: the EASTs, or Experience- and Adventure-Seeking Travellers. They do masses of research before leaving; they know exactly what they want to see and do, which little restaurants and cafes to explore, which markets to shop at.”

It was through Airbnb that Xu booked two cultural city tours: “Explore Moscow Secrets”, which started in front of the Bolshoi Theatre, and “City Rooftops”, which offers participants unparalleled views of the Russian capital. They were well worth the effort, she says.

“Looking at the city from an unconventional tourist perspective, I had more opportunities to learn about the history of the city and the people who live there,” she adds.

Snow covers St Petersburg’s Palace Square.

For many like Xu and her friends, a Russia trip is also about enjoying the high life: breakfast at the Cafe Pushkin, shopping, skiing at the Igora resort, a birthday dinner at Ruski (a restaurant 354 metres above ground level), watching Don Quixote at the Mariinsky Theatre, and sampling delicious fusion cuisine at the renowned White Rabbit.

The “China Friendly” project has arguably contributed greatly to the increasing number of Chinese tourists flocking to Russia. High-end stores have been hiring Chinese-speaking staff, and a visa-free policy is in place for Chinese tour groups. The depreciation of the rouble against the yuan has also helped attract those who love to shop.

Despite freezing winter temperatures, there is plenty of warmth for affluent tourists at major department stores such as Tsum, on Petrovka Street, and Gum, near Red Square, as Russia ups its retail game.

On a 250-metre-long strip along Red Square, Gum occupies an opulent historical building with twin galleries and a glass ceiling. It is possibly the grandest of Moscow department stores, though is slightly less fashion-forward than the 110-year-old Tsum. Few visitors will miss the irony that Gum, which sells luxury goods from brands such as Louis Vuitton and Piaget, faces Lenin’s Mausoleum.

Tsum has turned to competitive pricing to boost business. Two years ago it began to lower prices, which were traditionally higher than those of European department stores. The initiative has lured more native Russians, but also price-conscious Chinese luxury buyers.

“People don’t want to overpay, especially because there’s also e-commerce now,” says Alla Verber, Tsum’s fashion director. “Being overly expensive in Moscow, it doesn’t’ work.”

Christmas illuminations light up the Tsum department store in Moscow.

Verber was the first to bring brands including Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Fendi to Russia, and is responsible for turning a dowdy, storied, Soviet-era department store into a savvy, luxury operation. Despite the country’s shaky economy in the past three years, she points out that Tsum’s sales have grown steadily.

In Russia, Xu says she and her friends found some good luxury bargains. “[We found] a Balenciaga hoodie and Vetements high heels that are hard to find in China, and on sale … The discounts were great – both Gum and Tsum had ‘50 per cent off’ signs. You can’t even buy one pair of Jimmy Choos in Shanghai for the price of two there.”

Tourism now accounts for 10 per cent of sales at Tsum, with more than 80 per cent of overseas shoppers coming from China. The company’s early adoption of Alipay and UnionPay, both Chinese payment systems, as well as special promotions, displays, gifts and discounts during both the Chinese “Golden Week” holiday in October and Lunar New Year, all contribute to their willingness to spend.

“People today see the prices from all around the world on their phone, they check how much something is in London, Dubai, Milan and Paris,” Verber says. “As for Chinese customers, our China-focused payment options and Chinese-speaking staff all help.”

Maggie Xu outside the Gum department store in Moscow.

Verber’s team even track Chinese tastes and their preferred colours and sizes through what they buy each season. “I learned that Chinese women like pink, so I buy more of this colour,” she says. “It works, as Russian women really love pink too.”

The history and modernity of Moscow and St Petersburg are a fascinating blend for affluent Chinese tourists today. Security concerns after a spate of terrorist attacks in western Europe have also turned them away from more traditional destinations. Chinese travellers are also not as turned off by ongoing political strife between the West and Russia that has stemmed the flow of tourists into Russia from the US and Europe.

For others, it is simply a matter of being bored of the same sights and shopping in Paris, London and Milan. While these popular destinations are by no means off the map, Moscow and St Petersburg have more of a fresh, exciting and exotic appeal.

“The move to more ‘interesting’ destinations is simply a natural evolution or progression,” Reuter says. “After seeing the key cities, [Chinese tourists] are moving to more exotic destinations, off the beaten track: Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. These are all key destinations which offer a great mix of history, culture and, of course, some shopping thrown in for good measure.”

For Xu, it’s about taking a step into the unknown. “We wanted to experience a typical Russian winter and feel minus-30-degree-Celsius temperatures,” she says. “Like most Chinese, I have some knowledge of our neighbour, but there’s still a strangeness, a foreignness that I don’t understand. It’s this sense of mystery and discovery that fascinates me about Russia.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: A love affair with Russia