Entertain Me! (But from way over there)

The Dutch government has put strict isolation measures in place to control the spread of COVID19. As of last week all events with more than 100 people were closed – so no sports, no museums, no movies, no nightclubs. Even smaller venues started to cancel and close events as a precautionary measure. As of last Sunday night all restaurants and cafes were closed. For now I can leave the house, but we’re being asked to stay home as much as possible. I’m lucky, I can work from home, I have supplies in the house, and there are supermarkets nearby. My issues are isolation and boredom especially at the weekend – hence this list.

I’m going to focus on cultural entertainment because that’s the stuff I am missing most.


My number one favourite thing to do is curl up somewhere comfortable with a great book. Right now that’s providing me with a healthy measure of escapism. As it happens I have about 15 unread books on a shelf and 44 unread on my Kindle, so I’m good to about October.

First big tip – check your local library, the one near me is promoting ebook lending to help people entertain themselves. As a billboard near here says “luckily we can still read books”.

In the unlikely event that I do run out of books I will look at the Kindle deals – right now they’ve got David Balducci and Joanne Harris for 99 cents each.

And then I will check Gutenberg, for those that don’t know Gutenberg publishes books that have entered the public domain, meaning they are no longer under copyright, and lets you download them for free. they have several formats including pdf and kindle. It’s a great way to meet and read classic authors, it’s how I read most of Trollope one winter. (Caveat: Gutenberg is blocked in Germany).

UPDATE Scribd has a 30 day free offer for e-books.

There are also some authors reading books for children, this gets a bit tricky with timezones, but it could be a great way to distract kids who are home from school/day care while you need to work.


I love visiting museums and galleries when I go to another country, and now I don’t know when I will be able to leave my own city. But some museums have made virtual tours, which are fun to explore and might keep me going for now. Google has a partnership with loads of museums and is highlighting content we can’t get to see right now.

Anne Frank Museum has a range of online resources, including a sophisticated virtual experience, it’s a bit of a “count your blessing” reminderBe.

Berlin Museum Island has virtual tour and great video experiences.

The British Museum has a virtual World Museum, where you can move through artefacts from any era. It took me while to get good at the navigation, but once you pull an artefact there’s all the information about the source and history of the item. It’s like a treasure hunt!

The Rijsksmuseum goes one better – providing you with rights free access to use their works in your own creation, check out Rijksstudio.


If you’re into classical music have a look for #SongsOfComfort on Facebook, I believe it was started by Yo Yo Ma and he is playing a piece each day, and including a short dedication or uplifting message. Others have joined in, and it’s a wonderful sharing of music to sooth the soul.

Need more classical music? The Berlin Philharmonic has opened their digital platform for 30 days, the archive has everything from Daniel Barenboim Conducts the 1997 European Concert from Versailles to the March 12 concert that the orchestra played to an empty concert hall as the COVID19 curtain came down on large gatherings.

More a modern type? Follow Amanda Palmer, she’s performing live from wherever she can and linking to other artists who are streaming. Check her Insta to get the latest info.

Opera Buff? The Met is screening one opera per day for the duration of their close down. Their productions are arguably the best in the world, the singers, the costumes, the musicians, the production is lush. Even if you’re not an opera fan this is a visual and aural feast.

Check you local/national performing venues, I know that the ones here are working on ways to share their work, with at least one ballet troupe working on “training at home” sessions.

Bravo to all the musicians, performers and artists sharing their work. We’ll be back to support you live as soon as we can leave our houses.

Learn Something

There are online courses for all sorts of subjects, and some organisations are opening up free options to help us get through this.

If there’s a specific skill you want to learn check YouTube, I taught myself basic crochet in the Christmas break based on videos.

If you’re into Quizzes, you can spend days on Sporcle learning to name all 197 countries of the world.

If it’s a language you’re interested in download the DuoLingo app, and have fun learning how to say “stay home” in a dozen languages. Babbel has language courses and an insta account to please all language geeks.

We need art.

Lots of venues have had to close stuff, if you had ticket to an event that has been cancelled please – if you can afford it – don’t ask for a refund. We need art, and artists need to eat.

Lots of artists are finding new ways to share their art online, enjoy their work – but look for their patreon, donation or support pages, and support them as much as you can. We need art, and artists need to eat.

Image by annca from Pixabay

Pick a song

I’m sitting in my apartment listing to Jason Mraz singing “I’m Yours” and it occurs to me that I “discovered” him in an unusual way, via this clip.

More recently I discovered Charlie Winston while sitting at an Italian restaurant in Paris, where I’d been speaking Italian with the waiters and the song “Tongue Tied” came on which begins;

Now’s my chance, here in France, I’ve gotta give it a go.
How do you say I’m happy ? Estoy feliz contigo ? No ! No !
Désolé mon français est un petit peu confus
Possible que tout le temps si j’essaie
Hablo poco spanish – another stupid english boy !

Which seemed so appropriate for my situation, but the album wasn’t yet out in the Netherlands so I kept checking and a month or so later finally bought it.

These aren’t part of any traditional marketing strategy, in fact both men have full websites providing pictures, videos, lyrics and all sorts of giveaways, they run their own blogs (Jason Mraz is very active on his) and have well constructed facebook fan pages (Jason Mraz has a healthy 2.6 million fans).

Both have understood the value of word of mouth marketing, and how to use online tools to leverage it, neither is using (at least not visibly) the machinery of the record labels. Yet they’re getting attention.

Much has been written about the changes in the music industry, the decline of the studios, the rise of the power of individual musicians and the changing ways of distributing music – including U2’s live at the Rosebowl concert which was broadcast live -and free – via YouTube.

But the problem of attention has remained, how can a new artist gain an audience without a studio promoting him? It’s one thing to load a clip to YouTube but more than 20 hours of video are loaded every minute so how does your clip get attention? How can you build a following? How can you reach people like me, who like music, listen to it a lot, but never go in a record store?

The music industry has been through a period of disintermediation – which means the people between Jason Mraz/Charlie Winston (the producers) and me (the consumer) have been removed. They’ve shown that they can still promote their music and get a following using internet/social media tools. A new model for “getting attention” is emerging. How long before someone spots the opportunity to create a new “intermediary” and start providing that service? Well it’s probably already started, and not by the old record labels.

Music from Technology

You can now play your iPhone as if it were an ocarina. The ocarina dates back more than 12,000 years, it’s a vessel flute, and has a rounder sound than the transverse flute. You can hear an Ocarina on this website related to Mexican culture. I love that something so ancient is getting a new lease of life on something so modern.

Here’s a video of the ocarina iPhone version.


image music